Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.11, Week of September 24 – 30, 2022 (Hurricane Ian)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 24 through Friday, September 30, 2022 [Vol.4 No.11]

Hurricane Ian

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

In the U.S. it was a week where events were dominated by one storm, Hurricane Ian. That doesn’t happen all that often, but Ian was no ordinary storm. Although it hit Cuba early in the week, Florida by midweek, and South Carolina by the end of the week; days later authorities are still trying to get an estimate of the number of people it killed and the damage it did: perhaps more than $100 billion in damage, and 100 or more dead. It may take longer than a week to get just approximate data. Ian was that bad; one of the worst ever, almost Katrina level.

Hurricanes each have their own story, sometimes even a unique “personality.” Ian wasn’t the windiest, or had the highest storm surge, or the most rain; but it was in the top five of all those things and it was huge – as much as 500 miles across – and it spent the entire week ravaging densely populated areas, destroying retirement dreams, and upending the lives of millions.

It has become almost standard to blame big storms on climate change, which might serve as a second order approximation of the truth, but not in this case. Ian was the spawn of climate change in the form of exceptionally high surface water temperatures. Warmer sea-water provides energy and moisture, like steam out of a tea pot. While 79⁰F is generally considered warm enough to sustain a hurricane, the eastern Gulf of Mexico waters are currently above 84⁰F. In the critical region just before it made landfall between the Florida Keyes and Fort Myers, the water was just a shade under 90⁰F. Warm water fuels hurricanes, 90⁰F is rocket-fuel. It’s what kicked a bad Category 3 storm into a stupendous, almost Category 5 storm in under 24 hours. The result wasn’t just damage but near obliteration for parts of the Sanibel Islands and Lee County (Fort Myers).

The response to Ian is going to be long, expensive, painful, and yes, controversial. More than two million people need to return from evacuation; many will find no home to return to. Power needs to be restored to millions. Full rebuilding, especially big infrastructure like bridges, will literally take years. There are still climate change deniers even in Florida who will fight climate change-oriented legislation, although none of them stood at the edge of Fort Myers Beach watching a 16-foot storm surge arrive. While billions will be spent, assuming the looming mess over flood insurance is settled (Florida lost eight flood insurers just this year), how many billions will be spent on adequately preparing for the next storm, or developing the environmental policies that will actually save lives? Unfortunately, we’re forcing nature to throw us crises, but we just don’t learn how to play catch.

The sight of pomp and circumstance in the Kremlin as Putin and his cronies celebrated the international illegality of annexing a chunk of Ukraine into Russia was sickening. In this case, it dovetailed with the almost perfect irony of losing an important chunk of the newly annexed Donetsk province around Lyman to Ukrainian forces. This wasn’t the only example of significant incongruities in Russian actions. For example, the new draft. Putin came back from a meeting in Uzbekistan of “friends,” including China, where he was made to wait before entering the meeting and then informed that none of the countries present supported his Ukrainian campaign. When he returned to Moscow, vowing as he had at the meeting, to “set everything straight,” he immediately instituted his “partial draft;” his second big mistake of the war. It was, and is, a disaster – setting the Russian population off balance with anger and distrust, driving an entire cohort of the most able young men out of the country, and forcing the military to deal with a horde of untrained, unwilling, and bad tempered “soldiers” for whom they have few munitions, no leadership, and no plan of attack (or point at all). As is said, this cannot end well.

At the moment, the Russian elite and the ruling cadre of the intelligence services are not only flummoxed but enfeebled by Putin’s leadership. Yet they seem a long way from a coup. However, IF Russian forces suffer more decisive defeats, such as at Kherson and/or Lyman, the situation could take on a coup-like volatility. IF the Russians come out of winter as an even more dysfunctional military, society, and economy; THEN Putin may opt to try tactical nuclear weapons.   Such an action would be unpredictable both in use and outcome. In particular, the U.S. and NATO would be forced to test the bounds of a restrained response. What more can be said?

Saturday, September 24

[Hurricane Fiona] Fiona: Exit Stage North – All but forgotten in the U.S., Hurricane Fiona is leaving Canada as its worst storm in decades, with heavily damaged communities and nearly half-a million people without power. Meanwhile Puerto Rico, visited earlier by Fiona, is just beginning to pick up the pieces with 16 dead and billions in damage. 

[Abortion] Arizona 1864 Abortion Ban Goes into Effect – Following the Friday ruling by a local Pima County judge, a fifteen-week limit for legal abortion has immediately gone into effect statewide. The long-standing conflict about this law has now resolved into more confusion and lawsuits; the judge’s decision will be appealed.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.10, Week of September 17 – 23, 2022 (Trump Sued by State of New York)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 17 through Friday, September 23, 2022 [Vol.4 No.10]

Trump Sued by State of New York

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

A Week with a “Red-Letter Day” Doesn’t Come Along Very Often. This past Wednesday was jammed with significant events, none actual or final outcomes, but signaling major changes.

The legal cases against Trump clarified and amplified. The big event was the civil suit filed by Letitia James, AG of New York State, on a variety of business fraud-related charges. There are more than 200 individual instances of evidence that the Trump family, corporation, and employees fraudulently used various forms of financial evaluation to gain tax and property advantages. This behavior actually goes back decades, but this case covers mainly the last 10 years.

Then there is the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Trump lawyers sought out and found a sympathetic Trump-appointed judge, Eileen Cannon, who granted them a diversionary tactic called a special master, assigned to sort through all documentation seized at Mar-a-Lago which halted investigation in the case, which unfortunately also included the national risk assessment. The DOJ immediately appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of Judge Cannon’s order. The Court of Appeals replied immediately, rebuked Judge Cannon, and reinstated the DOJ investigation.

Both cases are in relatively early stages. The New York civil case is very strong but ultimately will be played out not in a criminal conviction but a potentially severe financial penalty. Trump personally will still be standing, but his corporation may not be. The Mar-a-Lago case doesn’t have the heft of the January 6 (pending) case – unless FBI investigators can find incontestable proof of what Trump was doing with 323 classified documents, such as selling them, using them for personal advantage, etc.

Russia and the Ukraine war have a new look and feel. One defeat is an unfortunate loss, two defeats are a trend. The Ukrainian breakthrough of the counteroffensive, reclaiming more than 3,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory in the Northeast, shook the Russian military, Kremlin, and Russian elites. Putin responded Wednesday with an emergency partial mobilization, which in some respects is like being partially pregnant, but in fact belies a new atmosphere in Moscow that all is not going well. Russian losses in men and matériel are staggering and have spooked important allies such as China and India. It was also a huge morale boost not only for Ukraine but the American and European allies. It’s still going to be a long tough winter, but the landscape has changed. The unpredictable is more likely.

Coincidentally, the United Nations General Assembly provided a platform for both Biden and Zelensky. On Wednesday they created a kind of tag-team of speeches attacking Russia for war crimes, “trying to erase the sovereign state from the map,” (Biden), and warning about the threats to use nuclear arms. The most interesting part might be the relative acquiescence from the majority of members in the General Assembly, although Russian foreign secretary Lavrov did walk out. There is a sense that world opinion, which does affect world trade attitudes, is turning against the Russians.

Iran does demonstrations and protests, it’s an old story. Every time it happens, the world wonders if it’s the end of the current regime, some version of the Ayatollah controlled Islamic Republic that is usually repressive and intensely disliked. These may be the largest protests since 2009, but most of the participants are young people and a few women; it doesn’t look like men, and particularly businessmen, are backing this particular round.

Inflation (a bit like COVID) is reducing, but hardly gone. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has “got religion” and attacked the inflation problem on Wednesday with yet another 0.75-point increase in the Fed interest rate. The cost of money is going up, hopefully to discourage inflation; but as most economists know, tight money can provoke a slump in consumer demand that can translate into a recession. Democrats are hoping for only good news between now and November 8.

Saturday, September 17

[Trump Rally] Trump Holds Rally in Ohio Featuring Q-Anon – Trump rallies have had Q-Anon elements for a long time, but this was the first where an important thematic, visual, and rhetorical emphasis was Q-Anon oriented. Incidentally, the event was held to support Ohio GOP Senate candidate, J.D. Vance. The rally was marked by some of Trump’s most extreme rhetoric, reflected Q-Anon deep-state themes, accompanied by music imitating the Q-Anon anthem, and participants using the synchronized Q-Anon index finger in the air. The event illustrated Trump’s increasing integration with Q-Anon, while still retaining his own campaign identity.  

[Alaska] Typhoon Merbok Strikes Western Alaska – One of the strongest storms in decades fortunately crossed sparsely populated coastline. There have been some evacuations but no injuries or deaths.

[Japan] Super-Typhoon Nanmadol Begins Its Run Across Japan – Considered the most dangerous storm in decades, Nanmadol hit the beaches of southern Japan (Kyushu) forcing evacuations and storm warnings along the western regions. [Update: It could have been worse. So far 4 dead and 114 injured with thousands of structures damaged, but the storm missed the largest population centers, especially Tokyo, and turned into mainly a destructive rain event.]

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.9, Week of September 10 – 16 (The New Judiciary)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 10 through Friday, September 16, 2022 [Vol.4 No.9]

The New Judiciary

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

The Mar-a-Lago documents case got a lot of media play this week. However, for perspective, keep in mind it is just one of five very active cases against Trump. It might not even be the case of highest legal priority (Jan. 6 sedition, for example). Still, it’s unfolding in an unusually public way, involves national security, espionage, and other dramatic elements. It also exposes the public to the “new judiciary” as it is being shaped along the lines of Poland, Hungary, and Russia. Unfortunately, at this early stage, though heavily documented, this development may still sound like a conspiracy theory – for which only further evidence and corroboration may be convincing.

As a quick reminder, here are the hallmarks of the new judiciary as practiced by Judge Cannon, Justices Thomas, Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, and Cavanaugh – among other Federalist Society acolytes already in the federal judiciary:

  1. The end of judicial neutrality
  2. Disregard of precedent when expedient
  3. Blatant selectivity in the use of evidence
  4. Conformity of legal reasoning to achieve political or religious outcomes

This may seem like an outrageous list, but unfortunately it increasingly fits the facts (e.g., Dobbs). Consider the Mar-a-Lago case and Judge Cannon. A Federalist Society member and Leonard Leo (Federalist Society guru) approved; she was appointed to the federal bench by Trump. She opened the proceedings allowing Trump lawyers’ request for a special master, which should not have been in her court (venue shopping, another story), by declaring “As a function of the plaintiff’s former position as president of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own. . . .” That is, the president is unique and should receive special consideration (unlike every other citizen). Judge Cannon then inserted herself into the ongoing DOJ/FBI investigation by enjoining (halting) it until a special master has ruled. This broke a couple of centuries of various precedents. It also ignored that most of the documents, especially classified ones, are evidence that does not belong to Trump. In fact, in a later ruling she questioned the legitimacy of the documents as classified, implying potential fraud on the part of the DOJ/FBI – a statement Trump’s lawyers might as well have provided.

Without re-tracing every egregiously bad legal rationale, so far, a special master, the impeccable Judge Raymond Dearie, has been appointed and goes into action next Tuesday. Meanwhile, the DOJ filed a bluntly worded emergency appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that 103 selected classified documents be exempted from Cannon’s orders on national security grounds to enable immediate resumption of its investigation, without being seen by the special master. A reply to that appeal by a three-judge panel should come soon, like next week. Legal observers are quick to observe that the Eleventh Circuit has 6 of 11 judges appointed by Trump, and a conservative reputation – but “old-school” conservative.

Ukraine changes the script, again. It took several days for the world to accept and comprehend that, yet again, Ukraine had won a major battle against the Russians. In a remarkably surprise counteroffensive, the Ukrainians had managed to win back the entire province of Kharkiv, capturing an enormous amount of Russian materiel, and routing Russian soldiers to a degree not believed possible. This week, the pace of battle diminished. Ukrainians needed to consolidate what they accomplished. The victory does not signal the end of the war, but the timing was superb. Around the world, especially in Europe, leaders were looking at the coming winter and wondering if Ukraine had the economic and military stamina for a war of attrition. At least on the military side, that question is gone. In fact, NATO ally countries promised greater resolve – and resources. The U.S. has taken on responsibility for the military side and, less officially, Germany will lead the economic side. Germany has quietly underwritten the Ukraine economy for some time.

Meanwhile in Russia news of the Ukrainian counteroffensive has more than is usual leaked to the public. Some political rumblings are heard, though these are generally of the “Putin permitted” variety. The military, trying to keep a low profile, is busy just digging in, especially in South Ukraine. What really counts in Russia can be summarized in one word: shortages. Military manpower, spare parts, and ammunition, are among many things stretched thin. The Russians did not have a fallback line in Kharkiv, because those troops had been sent to Kherson in the South. Russians do not have enough flight-ready military planes to cover its vast territory and dodge antiaircraft missiles in Ukraine. Debatably, this shortage problem could be fixed by declaring an official war and putting the country on a war footing; but there are two big problems. One: a real military draft will be intensely unpopular, as well as tacitly admitting that all the bragging about the short Ukraine war was a lie. Two: some of the Russian shortage problems are so endemic that even a war footing might not cover the problem. Between sanctions, the war, and doubts about the military situation – Russia’s economic condition, while not as dire as Ukraine’s, continues to deteriorate.

China and India go wobbly on Putin. During the week, both China and India indicated they were not overconfident about Russia’s chances in Ukraine. In a meeting with China’s Xi Jinping, Putin was assured that the Chinese were fully behind Russia – just that they would not be providing any military hardware for the Ukraine war. Then India’s, Modi told Putin it wasn’t a good time for a war. China and India are currently the two largest customers for Russian gas and oil. Diplomatically, this was an oh-no moment – largely created by the Ukrainian victory. Short-term, it will be difficult to see any change in Russian policy; long-term, next year may be a different story.

Saturday, September 10

[Ukraine] Russia Officially Withdraws from the Kharkiv Region – This confirmed the scope of the Ukrainian attack and another stunning victory, which will affect Russia and beyond. Strategically, it means that Ukraine will be able to consolidate its control of Izyum, the key depot and transportation center for Russian efforts in the Donbas.          

[Ukraine] Last Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Unit Shut Down – Normally, the six units of Europe’s largest nuclear facility provide about 20% of Ukraine’s electricity. As of this weekend, out of concern for safety while the area is under repeated shelling, it produces 0%. It was also down to one backup generator. Given that the Russians are now targeting civilian infrastructure in reprisal for losses in Kharkiv province, it seems doubtful the facility will be back online for winter.

[Climate Change] Fire and Flood in Southern California – Tropical Storm Kay streaked across Southern California, dumping huge amounts of rain on dry and fire ridden areas, while taking out power lines and causing local flooding.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal Vol4. No.8, Week of September 3 – 9, 2022 (Queen Elizabeth II, 1926 – 2022)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 3 through Friday, September 9, 2022 [Vol.4 No.8]

Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022)

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

At 96, the Queen’s death was not unexpected. She had been noticeably weaker in recent weeks, but in the event, it was a shock to the UK and the world. After 70 years, the longest reign in UK history, the queen leaves her mark. Notably, she ranks among the three great English queens: Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II, who account for in effect 300 years of history and some of the most prosperous centuries, at least for England. Clichés abound, such as “End of an era.” Most of them are fitting for Elizabeth II, most of them are true.

It will take weeks to run through the requisite pomp and circumstance, but as of immediately, Prince Charles became King Charles III – dragging with him the past (Dianna) and a somewhat cool relationship with the British public. Will he enjoy what he waited so long to attain? More to the point, will he do a good job; not his mother’s way, but his way? Will he initiate a reform of the House of Windsor?

Mar-a-Lago: A saga in the making. At the public level: So far, at issue are the illegal possession/mishandling of classified documents, national security, and Trump being above the law, or not. Most recently, there’s a standoff over a special master, which seems to be a Trumpian delay tactic. It sounds like a spy story, but really slow paced.

At the legal level: For those interested in American law, and not just lawyers, this case is rapidly becoming one of the most revealing and consequential in recent history. It already has a special feature: Many usually internal/court-only issues are surfacing in filings that are publicly available and widely analyzed; there’s lots to see and learn. Among other things, the case is revealing a nascent form of judiciary, first widely seen in the opinion of Justice Alito in Dobbs:  the end of judicial neutrality, disregard of precedent when convenient, blatant selectivity in the use of evidence, and conformity of legal reasoning to achieve political or religious outcomes. In this case, the saga went down a whole new journey when District Court Judge Aileen Cannon was (serendipitously, as it were) brought in by team Trump to rule on a special master to untangle evidence. She revealed herself on day-one, before any evidence or arguments, to have all her Federalist Society creds aligned with pro-Trump legal thinking. The DOJ, appalled by the type of free-form “law” on display, came down hard – attempting to school this new kind of judge, while preparing a hard-ball appeal – has put Judge Cannon on notice to reply to a partial stay request of her order by the 15th (Thursday).

Meanwhile, the judge’s order not only stymied the immediate Mar-a-Lago investigation, it also meant the national security risk assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) ground to halt. Not a good look for national security. Unfortunately, while the DOJ might have the right legal chops, the “new judiciary” might not care. If the DOJ appeals, it goes to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, where 6 of the 11 judges are Trump appointees.

Meanwhile on Friday, Trump and the DOJ revealed there is no agreement on a special master, much less the rules of engagement. Almost certainly this will, eventually, default to “judge’s choice.”

The stakes are extremely high in this case: Not to mention potential indictment and conviction of a former president, it also includes rule of law, national security, presidential authority, separation of powers, and when it comes to prosecution, among other things, it may be just inside the fringe of conspiracy, where lingers a pungent whiff of possible espionage and treason. It’s enough to keep would-be legal eagles engaged.

Ukraine breakthrough news: About three weeks ago Ukraine announced it was launching a counteroffensive in the south, aimed at retaking the pivotal city of Kherson.  Two weeks later some progress was announced, a couple of towns retaken:  it’s a war of attrition. This week it sounds like there’s a new counter-offensive, but nobody’s paying much attention. Friday – BOOM! Kherson was a distraction, a feint. The real attack is near Kharkiv in the northeast. The Ukrainians rolled up 1,000 square miles of territory and retook two key military supply cities, Izyum and Balakliya. It’s the biggest setback for the Russian military since the battle of Kyiv. Ripples from this roll all the way back to Moscow. But the U.S. media, with exception of The New York Times and a handful of others, seemed largely unimpressed.  Fox News website didn’t even mention the Ukrainian Kharkiv breakthrough. Well, after all, the queen died.

Saturday, September 3

[Mar-a-Lago] DOJ Ups the Ante on Documents Missing from Empty Folders – Last week, in a detailed inventory of documents found in the August 5 search, were listed 48 empty folders with classified banners. No comment was provided, but speculation was that the folders did, at one time, have contents; If so, what happened to them? This week, in the filing outlining its appeal to the judge’s special master order, the DOJ indicated finding the missing documents was of the highest priority and a major reason the DOJ/FBI investigation must continue.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal Vol.4 No.7, Week of August 27 – September 2, 2022 (More Mar-a-Lago Evidence)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 27 through Friday, September 2, 2022 [Vol.4 No.7]

More Mar-a-Lago Evidence

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

It’s axiomatic that prosecutors let their filings speak for them, ditto the DOJ. They don’t do social media legal announcements. But when clueless Trump attorneys set up the situation for a judge to grant the DOJ a 36-page written rebuttal to an appallingly bad defense motion for a special master? That doesn’t happen every week. Especially when the case involves the potential indictment of a former president. The DOJ, in a rare moment of situational savvy, grabbed this opportunity to file a brilliant work of legal advocacy in a unique moment in U.S. jurisprudence.

Let’s unpack the last sentence. In a nutshell, Trump (his lawyers) invited the DOJ response by requesting a special master. The DOJ responded (oh goody!) with a 36-page description of what they did for the search – including a rarely publicly used – outside of a trial – device: a picture. (A picture is indeed worth a thousand words for a public that’s never seen official secrets covers.) This new DOJ filing, and picture, hit the court of public opinion hard. It was also linked to Trump’s office, which his lawyers didn’t mention. Three classified documents were found in a drawer in Trump’s desk, along with three (two expired) passports. It’s highly unlikely Trump didn’t know about them. The new DOJ filing went off like a flash-bang in legal and pro-Trump circles. But did it, as intended, convince the judge against a special master? We don’t know. (Maybe after the Labor Day weekend?)

There is a proto-constitutional crisis lurking here. Special masters are usually appointed to filter through huge numbers of documents from lawyers’ offices, looking for client/attorney privilege conflicts. In this case, however, Trump’s lawyers are asking for the same function regarding executive privilege. This has never been done because (1) Only the current president can declare executive privilege and (2) Classified documents don’t fall under the privilege. However, this has never been contested. Perhaps this judge would like her name in the history books? Instant chain of appeals, a major legal brouhaha, and of course, delay. Supplicate before a statue of lady justice that this doesn’t go there.

What chain of custody? The DOJ has identified 300+ classified documents found at various locations in Mar-a-Lago – repeat: 300+ – totaling thousands of pages at all levels of classification. That’s not casual or accidental. On Friday it was revealed that the FBI found 48 empty classified document folders, begging the questions of what documents were in those folders and where are they now? There should be a chain of custody. By law, every step of the way, from where the classified documents were stored to where they were found by the FBI in Mar-a-Lago and who touched them, and when, should have been recorded. The FBI must track and verify every document. Any bets there are breaks in the chain of custody? In this line of investigation, there may be a clue/answer to the keystone question: What was Trump doing by taking, storing, hiding, lying about, reading, and annotating these hundreds of documents? This end of the story seems to be metastasizing.

Americans are not inclined to take the threat to democracy seriously: In an official speech, The President of the United States identified a leader and a group of supporters as an imminent threat to the democracy and ultimately the security of the U.S. He provided the ID of the cause: Trump and his MAGA base. Despite the historical and “real world” circumstances, none of the national broadcast networks covered the speech live – “Too partisan.”

There’s a strange political landscape these days. Roughly 50 million voters believe (more or less) the narrative that Trump is the greatest hope for America; his election was stolen; Jan.6 is a hoax; Mar-a-Lago secret documents are DOJ overreach, and overall Trump is the victim of persecution. When Trump screamed via his social media – “Immediate reinstatement as president; or a new election, now!” most of MAGA agreed; reason: Hunter Biden’s laptop, which supposedly contained information that should’ve won Trump the 2020 election. Obviously, these folks don’t take Biden seriously because all they hear is that he is the one destroying democracy.

Then there is the other, bigger half of voters, roughly 70 million, who hear snippets of the right-wing/GOP narrative and have a hard time believing anyone takes it seriously. Consequently, many of these voters don’t take Biden’s warning all that seriously either. For the most part, the media is content to fall back into “both siderism,” Big Lie be damned. This has been identified at other times and places as the “bridge to fascism.”

Two months to midterms: Voting is the ultimate defense of democracy.

Saturday, August 27

[Mar-a-Lago] Judge Signals Intent to Appoint Special Master – U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, without hearing arguments, favored a special master to sort through the Mar-a-Lago documents for attorney/client privilege or executive privilege conflicts. (Executive privilege oversight would be highly controversial.) Trump lawyers filed a second “improved” request for the special master. The DOJ can now file a response, which may be an excellent opportunity to state part of their case and reveal new information.

[Social Media] Trump’s Truth Social Platform in Financial Distress – Citing inability to pay debts in a timely manner, a report by Digital World Acquisition outlines the weak growth of membership and the reliance on a single source of attraction (Trump) as financial trouble spots. [Update: Trump vastly increased his posts and increased his cross-posting of Q-Anon originated articles and vows he has plenty of money to cover Truth Social.]

[Pakistan] Massive Flooding Continues throughout Pakistan – More than 180,000 fled their homes as a major northern bridge collapsed. About 1,000 people have been killed, many more deaths expected. The heavier than normal monsoonal rains continue.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal Vol.4 No.6, Week of August 20 – 26, 2022 (Mar-a-Lago Search Affidavit)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 20 through Friday, August 26, 2022 [Vol.4 No.6]

Mar-a-Lago Search Affidavit

 

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

The week ended with yet another Mar-a-Lago reveal. This time it was the 38-page, mostly redacted, affidavit for the search warrant. What do these pieces add up to? Or, to cut to the chase, is this going to be the case that ends in the world’s most famous perp walk? As of the end of the week, the legal consensus is that it could be the crime(s) that get Teflon Don indicted and convicted. However, only IF that’s where the DOJ/Merrick Garland go with it. Still a big if.

Back up a bit: Timeline details are readily available, but for a quick overview:  May 2021-National Archives requested document boxes be removed from Mar-a-Lago. Correspondence continued through 2021. Jan. 18 2022, 15 boxes arrive at Archives. Archives immediately spots that docs are missing. Early spring 2022, Archives alerts DOJ. FBI and Trump lawyer notified in May. May 16-18, FBI examines docs. DOJ and White House agree executive privilege does not apply. May 11, Trump receives grand jury subpoena for docs “bearing classification markings.” May 25, Trump lawyers assert he has “absolute authority to declassify docs.” June 3, Trump meets DOJ Chief of Counterintelligence and surrenders some docs. Trump lawyer Christina Bobb signs statement that DOJ has everything and subpoena is fulfilled. June 8, DOJ requests storage room be secured. June, 2022 – FBI interviews Trump staff. June 22, grand jury subpoenas surveillance footage. DOJ is convinced that more documents exist. Aug. 5, warrant for search is drawn and approved by federal magistrate. Aug.8, warrant is executed.

The DOJ (at minimum) knows that Trump illegally removed, improperly stored, hid, and lied about 300+ sensitive national or classified documents. Several laws were apparently violated, including those involving espionage and obstruction. Subsequent public revelations of the search warrant, items list, and now probable cause affidavit confirm the legal grounds for the search and ongoing investigation.

Trump’s various legal responses were late, weak to non-credible, constantly changing, and often more PR than legal argument. The claim of universal declassification powers is fictitious and pointless as the relevant laws are not connected to classification. The media uproar caused by Trump’s initial lies and mischaracterization of the document retrieval process reflect the argument for obstruction.

Where does the DOJ go from here? More interviews. The DOJ and FBI need to find answers to questions: Who handled the documents? Are there more docs, in other places? Were any docs copied, transferred, or transmitted? Why so many documents (300+)? Finally, the big questions: Why did Trump take the documents, search through them, lie about them, and avoid the required legal handling? Answers to these questions are not entirely required for prosecution, but in both courts – legal and public opinion – the Trump “why” questions may be decisive for the DOJ to pursue indictment.

Biden’s Student Debt Forgiveness Program. Based on a campaign promise, this is one of those actions that will be instantaneously controversial, with praise and criticism at high volume coming from all directions; and then almost abruptly disappear from the political discourse. It may or may not help the Democrats in November, but barring some drastic event that correlates to it, it’s not likely to be a big issue – or even an issue at all. What it will be is a squall of lawsuits, most of which will take many months to resolve, with at least one winding up at the Supreme Court. Ten years from now, give or take, there are going to be splendid reports summarizing the political, economic, and judicial results. Until then, this becomes what sociologists and economists call a “natural experiment.”

 

Saturday, August 20

[Russia] Darya Dugina Assassinated with Car Bomb – Though virtually unknown outside Russia, she was an outspoken media propagandist in favor of Putin’s War. She was the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a.k.a. Putin’s Brain, and one of the early architects of the return to authoritarian–imperial style Russia. It’s widely believed that her father was the actual target, although she was better known because of her media exposure. She will be a martyr for the right and a symbol of the uncertainty about Putin’s future in the broader scheme of Russian politics. [Update: Russia blames Ukraine with likely fabricated evidence.]

[U.S. Politics] Trump and McConnell Have Hissy Fit – Normally this is not news, as the two were never kissy-kissy, but Trump’s attack on McConnell (“broken-down hack”) and his wife came after McConnell observed the trend in favor of the Democrats, especially in the Senate, and among other things said, “candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.” Trump took that personally, as he selected most of the Senate candidates who are currently in the deepest trouble.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.5, Week of August 13 – 19, 2022 (In the Kingdom of Lies, the Truth is Unrecognizable)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 13 through Friday, August 19, 2022 [Vol.4 No.5]

In the Kingdom of Lies, the Truth is Unrecognizable

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

Rep. Liz Cheney was successfully “primaried” in Wyoming this week. Strangely, her political demise was not celebrated by her primal adversary, the Democrats. That’s because of her new heroine of democracy status; her landslide defeat was Trump’s triumph, his ticket back into the center ring. Or it would have sufficed for that, if it weren’t for the continuing bathetic saga of “Trump’s Martyrdom at Mar-a-Lago.” This was playing out almost daily, to the exclusion of many other things political in the media, including Joe Biden’s legislative successes. All pretty much according to Trump’s playbook.

Trump’s playbook is like the food on the menu at McDonald’s. You know what to expect; and its predictability is just a bit gratifying. The media is addicted to it; they devour and regurgitate every item as it appears. Here are a few examples: Denial (doesn’t exist, fake news); Might exist (maybe existed, but I didn’t know about it); Known but unimportant (I knew, but didn’t take it seriously); Deflection (somebody else did it [too], e.g., Obama); Distraction (the FBI stole my passports). The past week was like a round-robin of variably implausible excuses. Net result: information fog, confusion, contradiction, and chaos. Just what the playbook predicts.

The unfolding Mar-a-Lago saga is remindful of the Mueller Report; Mueller dumps his findings and before anybody can react, Barr steps in and deliberately misinterprets everything. “No conspiracy, no collusion.” That’s what sticks with the majority of the public. It’s called “first mover advantage.” In the Mar-a-Lago case the FBI does a search, and before anybody official can explain, or any facts are available, Trump, Fox News, and a slug of GOP-pols call it a “Gestapo-like deep state raid,” and so forth for two days. When real and true explanations arrived (over the week), 40% of the public and all of Trump’s base are convinced the problem is the FBI. (Even some of the mainstream media bought it for a while.) After that, most of those minds are inoculated against any other explanation. Thus, Big Lie 3 was born: Mar-a-Lago raid = FBI overreach.

On one hand we have the federal government doing an investigation, albeit under unusual circumstances, but almost obsessively by the book. On the other hand, we have a seething cauldron of outrage, stirred regularly by every right-wing media outlet and poohbah, and more than a random smattering of Republican politicians. For example, Sen. Hawley, “The raid by Joe Biden’s FBI on the home of a former president who is also Biden’s chief political opponent is an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and the rule of law. Biden has taken our republic into dangerous waters. At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached.” Take a passel of stirred-up weekend-patriots, a hot and ugly summer, plenty of lurid crime stories nationwide, and it’s easy to see how the impression of a violent, reactive America becomes easy to sell. Sell the chaos, it’s the bleeding heart of fascist fundraising – and eventually armed insurrection.

So far, the big violence hasn’t surfaced, but the right-wing propaganda machine is ratcheting-up the potential. Case in point, the coordinated GOP attack on the $80 billion IRS provision in the new Inflation Reduction Act. They have created a flurry of pure lies, emphasizing the IRS hiring “86,000 agents,” as the aged Sen. Grassley put it, “[They] Are going to have a strike force that goes in with AK-15s [sic] already loaded, all ready to shoot some small-business person in Iowa with these? Because I think they’re going after middle-class and small-business people.”  The image of Biden shaping an IRS to rob little people – the exact opposite of what was said and intended (enough money to finally go after the big corporate and wealthy tax-avoiders) – was echoed all week. The attack was also representative of a new genre – the routine and systematized use of the bald-faced lie. The idea is to use a lie that almost everybody knows is a lie, but still carries an emotional impact. As in this case, most people don’t have a warm feeling about the IRS, so accusing it of coming up with hit squads to torment the middle class and small businesses might be instantly recognizable as a fiction, a bald-faced lie, but people just shrug at the exaggeration and walk away with the impression that the IRS is up something bad. The approach must be effective, as it’s being used in some form of ads, such as click-bait that indicates that some famous celebrity has died (they haven’t) but it gets people to click on the ad. Trump has been using this kind of lie for quite a while, but it’s only recently that it spread to the more prominent members of the GOP for routine use. It’s a new level of unalloyed dishonesty, even in the realm of U.S. politics.

Saturday, August 13

[Ukraine] Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Facility is Focus of Attacks and Concern – All week, the question of whether the largest nuclear plant in Europe would become the center of fighting – and a risk of a nuclear incident – kept diplomatic circles in the EU, UN, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey spinning. In a way it’s a little like the situation involving Taiwan, a ready-made circumstance for threats, blackmail, dark PR, fearmongering, and empty rhetoric. Nobody wants the plant to spew radiation, but it’s in Putin’s interests (his forces hold the plant) to make everyone think he could do the unthinkable. Mostly it’s all about PR leverage, but always carrying the possibility of a “mistake.” [Update: UN calls for demilitarized zone around nuclear plant; it could happen. End of week: Putin offers to negotiate for plant inspection.]

[Ukraine] Ukrainian Forces Isolate Kherson – It may be a month or two, but it does look like the Ukrainian military will be able to retake the city of Kherson, effectively splitting the east and west of the Black Sea coast. This would disrupt Russian plans to link Crimea to Odessa. There is a general sense that the Russian offensive in the East and South is sputtering; though not played out, they’re not making progress.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.4, Week of August 6 – 12, 2022 (FBI Searches Mar-a-Lago)

 

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, August 6 through Friday, August 12, 2022 [Vol.4 No.4]

FBI Searches Mar-a-Lago

 

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule-of-law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

The week the Inflation Reduction Act passed: Pity the Democrats; all the time, effort, and achievement, and they get upstaged by a pseudo spy thriller. Worse, the espionage plays out dramatically but quickly. Somebody died, state secrets imperiled, crimes committed, lots of political hubbub, and indignantly ignorant chest-beating; but in the end, only a chance of indictment. * The passage of the IRA will be far more important, short term, midterm, long term.

For one thing, the new law changes the tax code – the wealthiest corporations must pay at least a minimum tax of 15%. (No more behemoth corporations with a -0- tax bill on their bottom line.) It also has $80 billion for revitalizing the Internal Revenue Service, expressly enabling it to pursue wealthy tax avoiders. For health care, Medicare can now negotiate for lower drug prices (on some drugs) and there is a yearly $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket drug costs. The pandemic-era extension of the Affordable Care Act is retained. However, the crown jewels of the act are a string of elements that add up to $370 billion and the most far-reaching climate-change legislation in U.S. history. Key pieces are $161 billion in new tax credits to incentivize clean electricity, $80 billion to encourage purchase of electric vehicles, and $1.5 billion to cut down on methane. The goal of the legislation is to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 40% at the end of the decade.

The various elements of the act will develop across a 10-year period. Most of the impact will take years to be noticeable. As a “budget reconciliation” act, by definition all the expenditures are supposed to be “budget neutral”, that is, balanced by measurable government income or benefit. This is always controversial but Republicans have established a line of propaganda claiming that the act is wholly disruptive (“socialist”) and will harm everyone’s prosperity (“radical tax-and-spend”). Historically, Republicans have invested billions in these tired objections – they signal lack of interest.

The Republican response to the legislation was to approve “none of the above” with zero votes.

This week or the next few weeks, what will it be for the Mar-a-Lago search: a lit fuse, a remarkable incident, just more fascist rhetoric? What follows is something of a chronicle as it was experienced, and is a departure from the usual format.

[Monday 11PM EDT] When the FBI entered Mar-a-Lago, they (and the DOJ) knew, must have known, that a probable or even inevitable line was being crossed. If Trump was ever going to be indicted on criminal charges (for anything), then at some point an action would have to be taken that would piss off his supporters and quite possibly lead to violence. Trump set it up that way. What the FBI could do was choose when, how, and over what. They chose Monday, August 8 and a federal judiciary search warrant, looking for important classified documents illegally, knowingly, and deceitfully held by Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Trump wasn’t there, so no picturesque confrontation. Just a routine, hot, South Florida summer morning. It was a complete surprise, by the book, systematic, well ahead of the mid-terms, casual dress, no guns, and without comment. The first such official and public search for criminal evidence in what must be a targeted investigation of a former President of the United States. History.

Yes, the DOJ is fully engaged with the Donald Trump saga. (In case anybody was wondering.) As is customary, evidence was seized and documented. From there the evidence goes back to Washington for processing and eventually to the grand jury overseeing this investigation. As expected, Trump, all GOP officials, right-wing media, and a whole cluster of MAGA folk hit the UPROAR! button. The big questions: Will this mean mass demonstrations? A mustering of armed militias? Violence in the streets? Random acts of violence? Or a lot of painfully empty but bellicose rhetoric? The FBI/DOJ have calculated the probabilities; let’s hope they got it right – that the lid stays on the violence.

[Update Wednesday 3PM EDT: Since the first reporting: No mass demonstrations. No pseudo-soldiers strutting. No violence (except to the truth), so far. What developed looks like Big Lie 3 (Big Lie – 2020 election stolen, Big Lie 2 – Capitol attack, Big Lie 3 – Trump’s home vandalized by Gestapo-Deep State). Right-wing/GOP media are screaming FBI/DOJ hatred, mad-dog level. Most likely future: nothing more officially will be heard of the search for months, way after the mid-terms.]

[Update Thursday 7PM EDT: So much for not hearing anything more about the search. AG Garland takes the podium Thursday AM and announces the DOJ has applied to unseal the search warrant and the list of seized items – and oh by the way – as a courtesy, Trump has been given 24 hours (3 PM EDT Friday) to decide if he wants the search documents released or not.  Meanwhile, an obvious MAGA supporter, already identified as a Jan 6. participant, has attacked the Cincinnati FBI office with a nail gun (while also carrying an AR15). Six hours later he is dead, the first casualty of yet another Trump incitement to violence. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that at least some of the illegal documents at Mar-a-Lago concern nuclear issues and national security. Events are moving so fast, media newsrooms at even the largest outlets can’t keep up.]

[Update Friday 1 AM EDT: Intentional or not, Garland has called Trump’s bluff. The entire GOP/right-wing is caught spluttering with their mouths full of anti-FBI/DOJ BS. (Careful what you wish for.) Garland said he – with Trump’s permission – will provide the transparency the public wants. By 1AM EDT, Trump notes in his social media platform that it’s ok for DOJ to release the search documents. Friday will be an interesting day.]

[Update Friday 9 PM EDT: Republicans/right-wing media are reduced to throwing s* (doesn’t rhyme with spaghetti) against the wall approach. First it was “the FBI planted evidence” (somehow that didn’t show up on the CCTV of the search, which the Trumps watched); then GOP politicos chimed in, “show us the warrant and receipts,” (Garland did that), then it was, “nothing-burger classifications” (many of the documents seized were of the highest secrecy classification), then they tried “Trump declassified everything” (there is no record of it, and there is protocol), then oh, well; Obama took records too (National Archives: “No he didn’t. We have it all.”)

*Will this be the one? Will Trump be indicted for something involving documents? After the court-ordered search, it turns out that Trump had a lot of documents, 20 boxes worth. He, and his lawyers, had provably and consistently lied about having un-surrendered documents. Why? The facts seem iron-clad, but the motivation is mostly a big question. In most cases, the mere fact of having the documents illegally and jeopardizing national security would be enough to send most people to prison. But this involves a former president, and Trump is not a person who acts in good faith. He has already used lies about these documents and the FBI search to incite his followers, resulting in the death of one of them. Could this alone be like the January 6 insurrection, grounds for indictment? Will it be necessary for DOJ to link Trump to some illegal activity involving the documents – espionage, profiteering, fraud, blackmail? Do they have to prove nefarious intent? Is this where the Department of Justice and Merrick Garland choose to make their stand (or at least one of them)? Keep in mind that the legal stakes are so high, an indictment must be tantamount to a conviction. Anything else imperils the rule of law and threatens major violence. Also, remember – this is all new territory.

Saturday, August 6

[Israel – Palestine] Israeli Army and Palestinian Militants Continue Rocket Warfare – Given all the things going on in the world, and the U.S. in particular, it’s not surprising that a low-level war in Israel continues more or less without the world’s attention. Yet everyday people die – recently 32 Palestinians, including six children. [Update: Shaky cease-fire goes into effect on Sunday and is in trouble by Friday.]

[Death Valley] Record Rains in Death Valley Strand More Than a Thousand Visitors – Receiving 1.46 inches of rain was 70% of the yearly total and resulted in flash floods throughout Death Valley National Park, washing out roads and stranding vehicles.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.3, Week of July 30 – August 5, 2022 (Kansas Abortion Vote: Keep It)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 30 through Friday, August 5, 2022 [Vol.4 No.3]

Kansas Abortion Vote: Keep It

 

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Democracy

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

In any given week, seldom does any off-election referendum carry so much weight. But this was a showdown, the first referendum directly about abortion following the Dobbs decision, though not many outside of Kansas seemed to know about it – only the New York Times reported that about $12 million was spent on the campaign, a huge amount for a state referendum. The donors went roughly 50-50, with $4.7 million of the “Yes” promotion coming from the Catholic Church. Everybody, including a paucity of pollsters, said it could go either way.

The midsummer date, coupling a referendum to a mostly Republican primary vote, and the confusing language of the Kansas constitutional referendum were designed to suppress turnout. It didn’t work. The turnout even beat the primary vote records of 2018 and 2020. People really cared. The final margin was 58% No and 41% Yes. As many as 80,000 Republicans voted No. Substantial No votes came from nearly every county in the state. The turnout and the results sent political shockwaves throughout the country.

All those people and organizations that labored for months (if not years) to respond to the end of Roe, hoping, feeling, but not knowing if the majority of Americans agreed it was a mistake and an overreach – now they know. Even in the deep red state of Kansas. That’s empowerment.

The biggest effect will to energize not only Democrats but independents. The Republican’s radical abortion theology is deeply unpopular. To repeat, this vote, coming when it did and with such force, will energize the already gathering groundswell of opposition. If only the Democrats can stay focused on turning this into votes for Democrats. . ..

If it happens, passing the $800+ billion Inflation Reduction Bill will be a big deal. However, in this case, as ironic and lame as it might be, the news that Kyrsten Sinema will vote for the bill – thus enabling the whole damn thing to pass (50-50 vote with the VP breaking the tie) – was actually the biggest news of the week. How so? Because when the Democrats pass the bill in the Senate, with zero GOP votes, they will not only have passed an outstanding piece of legislation, but they will have put in place a crucial piece of the mid-term election. They can add, “Democrats get things done!” to “Redo-Dobbs,” declining inflation, “Climate change is not cool,” “Vote for Democracy”, “Muzzle Guns,” and the wind-up of the Jan. 6 investigations (“Lock them Up!”). That’s a lot of campaign firepower, especially for Democrats – and they only need to pick up 3-4% of marginal votes in a few key states to retain control of House and Senate.

War over Taiwan? No, Diplomatic shadow Kung Fu, yes. A bit of perspective: Both the People’s Republic of China (mainland) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) consider themselves to be “one-China,” but for more than 70 years they have exercised separate sovereignty. During that time, with approximately 1.4 billion people China grew into the second most powerful economy in the world, and Taiwan with only 24 million people became a major economic power. Taiwan provides more than 90% of the worlds’ semiconductors, the chips that enable almost everything in the digital economy. Taiwan is also China’s sixth largest trading partner. So, whatever the rhetoric and proto-violent military display, trade goes on unabated. Most military analysts agree that China is neither militarily ready nor economically positioned to suddenly take over Taiwan. In fact, crushing Taiwan would almost inevitably take down the world economy. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi is up for reaffirmation in the fall, Biden’s trying to survive as a candidate in the U.S., and Taiwan is wondering how to manage the fuss. So, the current diplomatic didoes are mostly for domestic consumption. Not that some kind of screwup couldn’t lead to something serious.

Saturday, July 30

[Ukraine] Zelensky Orders Evacuation of Donetsk Province – It was a tacit admission that Ukraine has lost Eastern Ukraine, specifically Donetsk. Fighting continues, but for the Russians it’s consolidation. Ukraine’s attention is now more on the south coast and the city of Kherson.

[Coronavirus] Biden Has COVID-19 Rebound – Testing positive for COVID-19 again, just days after having been cleared from another bout, sent Biden back into quarantine. Apparently, this is a fairly common occurrence with anybody who was treated with Paxlovid. He has very mild symptoms and supposedly this will affect his work even less than the first time. Still, when the American president is less than 100%, the world tends to hold its breath. [Update: By the end of the week Biden tested negative and was given the all-clear.]

Nichelle Nichols [1932 – 2022 (89)] Actress, (“Uhura” Star Trek), trailblazing black actress.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.2, Week of July 23 – 29, 2022 (Manchin and Schumer Have a Deal (?))

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 23 through Friday, July 29, 2022 [Vol.4 No.2]

Manchin and Schumer Have a Deal (?)

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Democracy

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

SHOCK Deal Week? The media had fun with it – Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin hammering out a far-reaching $800+ billion piece of legislation (Inflation Reduction Act) in secret. It contains elements large and small that will affect the economy – and people – for at least the next 10 years. Highlights: Foremost – a real climate change package of $385 billion that includes clean manufacturing tax credits, Medicare negotiating drug prices, drug price inflation cap, new 15% corporate minimum tax, IRS budget and collections increases, $300 billion in deficit reduction. The healthcare and climate change elements are, relatively speaking, groundbreaking. A legislative act this big was considered dead and buried at the hands of Joe Manchin only two weeks ago. Yet here we are. Despite all of Manchin’s previous perfidy, this one had Republicans muttering “My God, Joe Manchin is a Democrat!” Of course, the inevitable question: Can the Democrats actually pass the bill?

Yes, they can – almost forgotten in the hubbub of the preceding months, the Democrats still have a budget reconciliation bill available for this year. As long as the legislation fits the reconciliation model and the Senate parliamentarian approves it, Democrats only need 50 votes, plus the VP as tiebreaker, to pass it in the Senate. House approval, though not automatic, is almost a sure thing. Yeah – but can the Democrats get all 50 votes in the Senate? This time they got Manchin, of course, but what about Sinema? The bill contains an end to the carried-interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers and the like to have their earnings taxed at the 15% capital gains rate instead of at much higher rates for normal income. Sinema has been vociferously in favor of preserving the loophole, Manchin adamantly against it. Sinema’s position on anything is unknown at the moment, which is nerve-racking. It’s hard to imagine that the Democrats would once again walk so publicly to the legislative brink without knowing if Sinema will or won’t jump over it. A misjudgment here would be utterly disastrous.

The response from the media, the GOP, economists, and even Democrats is somewhere between flabbergasted and indecent outrage. In short, loud and messy, which behooves the Democrats to move as quickly as possible, which means wrapping up before summer recess on August 5. Besides, they desperately want this legislation to register with the public ahead of the midterm elections. It’s a monumental piece of work and just clarifying what it will do, especially against the likely frenzied Republican response, will be a challenge of historical proportions for the Democrats. Fasten your fanny, we’re in for a ride.

Saturday, July 23

[Ukraine] Ukraine Launches Counteroffensive in Kherson Region – Russia claims it has designs on the entire southern coast of Ukraine, from Crimea to Odessa. Ukraine is about to attempt cutting that objective in half by retaking the port city of Kherson, which fell in the earliest phase of the war. Rumors persist that the Russians are having difficulty sustaining momentum and that the Ukrainians are beginning to use the heavy munition supplied by NATO. But this is wartime, and propaganda is the norm.

[Climate Change] California Wildfire Nears Yosemite – The fire in Mariposa County is the largest in the state, so far having burned 12,000 acres and forcing 6,000 people to evacuate. A state of emergency has been declared for the area, and forest fire specialists are being rushed to the sequoia forest in Yosemite National Park. The fire has been 0% contained.

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