Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, April 2 through Friday, April 8, 2022 [Vol.3 No.38]
The Week’s Most Notable
Discovered this week, a body that lay in the street for about a month, one of twenty: It was in Bucha, one small town in Ukraine near Kyiv that had been occupied by the Russians. The body fell on or about March 5. It was a woman, Iryna Filkina. Her story: Mother, age 52, aspiring manicurist, returning home on her bike from volunteer refugee food service. Gunned down by a Russian military vehicle. Unusually, the murder was recorded by a passing drone. Separately, the picture of her hand, with red fingernails, went viral around the world. One indelible image of civilian massacre, war crime.
There are many, many such stories in Ukraine, almost all undocumented. Bucha was an early example, but other cities – especially Mariupol – will be much worse. Bucha will remain focal; it was and is being documented, its scale and details comprehensible, its context deeply human and inhuman.
Military: Even the Russians now admit to many casualties. More comprehensive observers say the battle for Kyiv was one of the most profound military disasters in Russian history; that’s saying a lot. There is no cease-fire, but the tempo of battle has decreased while the Russians retreat and regroup back in Russia and in Eastern Ukraine. Nearly everybody thinks the ferocious ground fighting will soon resume. The battle for Donbas and the south coast: Some military analysts believe Russia could lose this battle. That would have been unthinkable a month ago. However, it’s a battle that could easily drag on for months and leave all Donbas and Black Sea towns a pile of rubble. It could also be pivotal.
Endgame? Many analysts believe only a clear defeat in Donbas can “change Putin’s mind.” Interpretation: To preserve his power, Putin will negotiate (disguising terms in Ukraine’s favor) or he will resort to ultimate measures to win (chemical, biological, or nuclear). Without defeat, Putin will try to force concessions. Concurrently, a serious dilemma has arisen: Russian atrocities – executed with practiced impunity – have infuriated Ukrainians, and most of the world, to the point where essentially only a Russian surrender, loss of territory, and subsequent war crimes tribunals are acceptable. Putin’s and Ukraine’s positions are not good starting points for negotiations. Up to six months from now, as winter looms, Russia’s economy skids into misery, Europe deals with millions of refugees, and the U.S. reels from political divisions, the possible outcomes are many, most of them not good.
Ukrainian refugees: Europe is coping. The unpredicted success of the Ukrainian forces staunched the flow of refugees at around four million and is even causing some to return home. The refugees become a political problem, likely by next year.
Saturday, April 2
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 81,852,657; Deaths: 1,008,342
[Ukraine] Mass Grave, Body-Strewn Street Found in Bucha – As the Russian military depart the suburbs of Kyiv, they’re leaving behind grisly evidence of massacre and war crimes. The town of Bucha revealed city streets cluttered with bodies, and a mass grave believed to hold as many as 300 people. Eyewitnesses and drone recordings are documenting scenes of terror and butchery. Although Bucha will hardly be alone, it is among the first and appalling.
[Ukraine] Russia Threatens Space Station Cooperation – For the first time Russia may be seriously challenging the maintenance of the International Space Station. Unless “illegal sanctions” are lifted, Russia threatens to pull out, which would effectively end the project – a good example of the ripple effects of the Ukraine invasion.
Sunday, April 3
[Hungary] Orbán Wins in a Landslide – The vote for president of Hungary was not close. With the final tally not yet in Viktor Orbán was reelected to term number four by roughly 53% to 34% against a collection of united opposition parties. There had been some hope for a close election, but in the end the combination of rural voter patronage, sophisticated gerrymandering, and a total lock on propaganda proved unstoppable. Given that Orbán is now going to be aggressively right wing, anti-Ukraine, pro-Putin, and anti-EU, he represents a probably unavoidable confrontation for Europe.
[Pakistan] Pakistani Prime Minister Blocks No-Confidence Vote – Imran Khan is calling for early elections and proclaiming the U.S. to be the instigator behind his attempted removal. This was all kicked off by the onset of the Ukrainian invasion, as Russia supported Khan in Pakistan, while the U.S. is a close ally of the Pakistani military – therein lie the tensions. [Update: A vote of no confidence was held, Khan is out, elections will follow,]
[Mass Shooting] Six Dead, Twelve Injured in Sacramento Mass Shooting – It was a nightclub associated shooting.
Monday, April 4
[Climate Change] IPCC Report: Last Chance for 1.5°C – After 2025, it will be too late to hold the world’s temperature rise to 1.5°C, the tipping point for massive changes in global climate. This was the bottom line for what should have been a major U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Unfortunately, most of the world didn’t hear it, and won’t read about it. After all, there’s a war in Europe, the pandemic isn’t over, everything costs more, and people are in a bad mood. Our children and our children’s children may have a different opinion about what failed to happen here.
[Ukraine] Biden Sees Vindication of Putin War Crime Allegation – The new massacres and war crime atrocities left behind by retreating Russian military around Kyiv have appeared to vindicate Biden’s much castigated gaffe, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Unscripted it may have been; undiplomatic it certainly was; but the world’s reaction to the most recent set of war crimes has seriously opened the question of whether peace negotiations with the Russians can be authentic while Putin is still in power.
[Abortion] Colorado Law Guarantees Abortion Rights – These days, when the states instituting various anti-abortion laws dominate the news, it should be noted that Colorado’s governor just signed a law guaranteeing rights to access reproductive health care; declares that fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses have no independent rights; and prohibits local governments from enacting their own abortion restrictions. Given that the upcoming Supreme Court modification of Roe v. Wade will leave abortion laws in the hands of states, Colorado may retain its pro-choice status.
Tuesday, April 5
[Ukraine] Bucha Massacre Forces Emergency UN Meeting – Ukrainian Pres. Zelensky addressed the United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting to protest Russian atrocities. He called for kicking Russia off the Security Council, which is not going to happen, but he does have a knack for framing the core issue. The Russian UN Ambassador just said, “fake news.”
[Abortion] Oklahoma Approves Near-Total Abortion Ban, Abortion Becomes a Felony – All abortions, other than to save the life of a pregnant mother in medical emergency, carry up to a 10-year prison term and $100,000 fine. Governor Kevin Stitt (R] is expected to sign the bill into law. It will join the long chain of such laws heading for the Supreme Court.
[Jan.6 Investigation] Ivanka Trump Testifies – She and her husband, Jared Kushner, testified before the House committee, considered significant given their presence during many of the discussions before, during, and after January 6. In particular, Ivanka is said to have made several attempts to convince her father to do something about the riot at the Capitol building.
Wednesday, April 6
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS Ruling Reinstates Trump Era Pro-Pollution – Despite the objections of the three liberal votes and Chief Justice Roberts, the court majority used the “shadow docket” technique to avoid providing any rationale for its decision making it harder for states to block projects that pollute rivers and streams. This is probably a prelude to a number of anti-environmental rulings.
[Contempt of Congress] House Votes to Hold Navarro and Scavino in Contempt of Congress – The two former Trump aides have refused to respond to subpoenas, claiming executive privilege. The stall tactics are well-recognized, as is their belief that Republicans will be in charge of the House before their cases work their way through the courts.
[Ukraine] China Calls for Investigation of Bucha Massacre – This represented China’s somewhat Solomonic approach: The Russians may have done wrong, but it’s too early to tell; so, let’s have an investigation. This way, China gets credit for proactive interest, while at the same time not exactly condemning Russia.
[Ukraine] Zelensky Warns of a New “Bloody Wave” of Attacks – It appears that the Russian military have regrouped and are soon to launch a new attack in the Donbas region and probably along the Black Sea coast as well. Mariupol remains key to Russia’s plans in the South. According to the mayor of Mariupol more than 5,000 civilians have been killed, including 210 children, and 90% of the city’s infrastructure has been destroyed.
Thursday, April 7
[Supreme Court] Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court – The vote was 53-47 with Republicans Romney, Collins, and Murkowski joining all Democrats. The rest of the Republicans made a big show of saying that Justice Jackson was eminently qualified but they couldn’t vote for her because of her “judicial approach.” Nevertheless, the U.S. has its first black female Supreme Court justice. She won’t actually take the position until Justice Breyer steps down after the court adjourns in summer.
[Ukraine] Russia Suspended from U.N. Human Rights Council – It was a rare rebuke for a member of the Security Council. Russia contended that it resigned before it was expelled; a remarkably childish PR gambit.
[Ukraine] U.S. Congress Approves Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia – The bill also bans Russian oil imports. Within hours the EU approved phasing out all Russian coal imports. Overall, the U.S. and Europe, along with a few other countries, continue tweaking their sanctions, which are meant to work as a complete package of Russian cultural ostracization, political isolation, and economic strangulation.
[Trump – Court] N.Y. Attorney General Asks the Court to Hold Trump in Contempt – The request resulted from Trump’s refusal to hand over requested documents (which request was approved by the Supreme Court). Trump’s attorney said they couldn’t find the documents (the dog probably ate them); AG Letitia James asked the judge to levy a $10,000 per day fine until Trump provides the documents.
Friday, April 8
[Ukraine] Russian Missile Hits Railway Station, Killing More Than 50, Injuring 80+ – The Kramatorsk station has a purely civilian depot that was being used by several thousand people to evacuate from Eastern Ukraine. The morning attack was by two missiles, one of which appears to have had anti-personnel cluster bombs. The station is situated such that no other facility could have been the target. One shell, part of which was embedded in the depot lawn, carried in white hand-painted Russian words, “Za Detei” – for the children.
[Coronavirus] COVID-19 Pounces on Politicians – The pandemic may be “over” but tell that to Nancy Pelosi, Merrick Garland, Jen Psaki, Gina Raimondo, Adam Schiff, Joaquin Castro, Raphael Warnock, Tom Vilsack, and several others who have recently contracted the virus.
[Whitmer Kidnap] Michigan Governor Kidnap Case: Jury Acquits Two, Hung on Two – Remember the outrageous plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer (D) that was foiled by the FBI? It seems the FBI overplayed its hand and defense lawyers were able to convince the jury this was a case of entrapment. In short, the four defendants did what they did and it was pretty crazy, but the FBI fouled the legal process. This case is a bad signal and a bad precedent.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 82,053,657; Deaths: 1,011,976
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Congress is back in session and the bipartisan breather appears over. Agreement over coronavirus and Ukraine could still pop up, but total partisanship is quickly returning. Wrangling over border issues, or from the Democrats’ point of view, immigration in general, seems to be at the top of the list – with no more prospect for solutions than before. The Democrats in particular are in trouble with Biden’s announcement he will end the Trump policy of limiting asylum at the border under Title 42 (health reasons, e.g., COVID). Democrats are rumbling about resurrecting some kind of infrastructure plan, a.k.a. Biden’s revised social safety net repair, but support by Manchin and Sinema seems no more reliable now than before. In short, Congress does not seem likely to pass any significant legislation prior to the midterm elections.
Are Democrats doomed in the midterms? Has anybody heard anything more positive? The best, or most optimistic comment, is something along the lines of “the Democrats still have a chance.” That’s mostly for the Senate. On the one hand there is conventional wisdom, which says almost all the time the party that holds the presidency loses ground in the midterms. On the other hand, today’s Republicans are historically radical – reminiscent of the political split before the Civil War. In this case the Big Lie, the Capitol insurrection, pro-Putinism, and authoritarian beliefs, along with the number of other egregious issues, should disqualify many Republicans from office. But that, according to most observers, isn’t going to happen. The Republican majority in most states is held together by glue of identity and propaganda. It doesn’t seem like the Democrats have the energy or creativity to overcome it.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Former president Donald Trump voiced regret Wednesday over not marching to the U.S. Capitol the day his supporters stormed the building, and he defended his long silence during the attack by claiming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others were responsible for ending the deadly violence.
Josh Dawsey, “Trump Deflects Blame for Jan. 6 Silence, Says He Wanted to March to Capitol,” The Washington Post, 4/7/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]