Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 28 through Friday, June 3, 2022 [Vol.3 No.46]
Gun Control Redux
The Week’s Most Notable
All week there were strenuous efforts to heave the issue of gun control into the eye of the public. If ever there was a moment in the awfulness of ongoing events – mass murder in Buffalo, California, Texas, Oklahoma, to name a few – this is the time to make the narrative. As Biden said, “There are too many schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields, here in America. . .. This is not about taking away anyone’s guns, it’s not about vilifying gun owners; let’s meet the moment, let us finally do something.” All signs are that this message has been received. According to the polls most Americans (70% – 90%) agree that something should be done.
Legislatively, in states as well as at the federal level, bills have been drafted. Even the House, which already has a gun control bill before the Senate, crafted a revised version. Notably, however, it contains nothing about limiting military style assault weapons (or specifically the AR-15, which has been used in recent weeks for a dozen mass murders). The old pattern appears to be reappearing: Republicans express thoughts and prayers, offer a few shreds of gun control, and for the most part refuse to pass anything pertaining to assault weapons. It is their bottom line; the Trump-Republican base knows military-level guns are necessary for any kind of “defense of freedom,” and right now the politicians follow the base. As ever, it appears Republicans are counting on this issue to weaken over time. But perhaps not this time, because one: midterm elections are coming and Americans are genuinely sick of the massacres, and two: the massacres are not going to stop between now and November.
(BTW: The Supreme Court is about to unload a decision on open-carry of firearms that is not going to calm the waters.)
Saturday, May 28
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 85,885,539; Deaths: 1,032,071
[Ukraine] Battle for Sievierodonetsk – The big shift in Russian strategy – ceding Kyiv and Kharkiv to the Ukrainians and concentrating forces in the eastern provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk – for the time being seems to be coming down to a struggle over a smallish rail hub town with the stumble-easy name of Sievierodonetsk (see-ev-ay’-ro- do-netzk). Compared to the previous grand strategies, this battle epitomizes the limited scale but desperate intensity as block by block, house by house, Russian and Ukrainian forces surge one way or another. Essentially, it’s a stalemate, which many see as representative of the war itself for at least the next several months.
Sunday, May 29
[Uvalde] Biden Visits Uvalde – This visit, while essentially symbolic, highlights Biden’s genuine milewide streak of empathy, especially in contrast to the attitudes of Texas officials and the people at the NRA convention in Houston.
[Coronavirus] China Relaxes Shanghai COVID Lockdowns – Balancing its extremely strict, almost paranoid, treatment of COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant, with the social, political, and economic pressures of a lockdown in a city of 25 million, has been difficult for the government of China. The latest move, which largely ends the lockdown on June 1, signals that Shanghai will be “returning to normal” but not without “supervision.”
[Gun Control] Democratic Governors Focus on AR- 15 – It’s apparent that federal legislation limiting the assault rifle AR -15 is not going to pass Congress (the Senate). As a result, a group of Democratic governors (New Jersey, New York, California) are proposing tougher legislation at the state level. Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey is proposing raising the minimum age for purchasing assault rifles from 18 to 21. Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York similarly wants to make purchasing an AR-15-style gun illegal for anyone under 21. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California wants legislation to allow victims of gun violence to sue gun makers and sellers. Unfortunately, Republicans, and the right-wing generally, currently consider unfettered private ownership of military grade assault weapons the ultimate defense of freedom, meaning without stating it clearly that the ability to take up arms that kill people efficiently is necessary to prevent illegitimate governments and marauding foreigners from taking over the country. No legislation, state or federal, that infringes this entitlement will be passed.
Monday, May 30
[Gun Control] Memorial Holiday Weekend Sees 12 Mass Shootings, 8 Dead, 55 Injured – Returning from his visit to Uvalde, Texas, Biden repeated his call for tougher gun control laws, saying that banning assault-style weapons would be a rational place to start.
[Gun Control] Canadian Government Seeks Ban on Military Style Rifles, Handgun Sales – The legislation includes a buyback scheme, similar to the one implemented in Australia. Passage of the bill is problematic, but Canada already has relatively strict gun control laws passed after the 2020 Nova Scotia incident where 22 people were killed.
[Oil and Gas] EU Agrees to Install Stricter Russian Oil Embargo – This may seem to be yet another incremental step, possibly affecting the Ukraine war, but in reality, it’s much more than that. It represents a monumental shift, a recognition by most of the states in the EU that energy from Russia is no longer a reliable source. There is going to be a massive realignment, worldwide, between suppliers and purchasers of oil and gas, with the EU driving most of the initial change. Immediately and in the foreseeable future, this will make the petroleum market desperately unpredictable, which in turn will lead to instability in pricing and more inflation. [Update: The EU formally approved the embargo on Friday.]
[Hurricane Season] Hurricane Agatha Strikes Mexican Pacific Coast – The Category 2 storm is the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May on the Pacific coast. It’s the first named storm of the season. [Update: Agatha continued across Mexico into the Caribbean and by week’s end brought massive rainfall to Florida.]
Tuesday, May 31
[Ukraine] Biden to Send Ukraine Advanced Rocket System – The Russians consider it “an escalation” of the war since the weapon, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, will provide greater range for Ukrainian artillery. Biden’s move comes during a week in which the gaslighting about “the unwinnable war” and similar criticism of U.S. and NATO involvement substantially increased.
[Durham Investigation] Durham Target Michael Sussman Acquitted – Sussman was a Clinton campaign lawyer and a focus of the Durham investigation into the origins of allegations of Russian collaboration with the Trump campaign. In fact, Sussman’s was the only active trial after more than two years of investigation. He was charged with lying to the FBI; the jury took less than six hours to acquit him. This is a major setback for Durham and indirectly for Trump and former AG Barr, as their claim that the Mueller investigation was a hoax hinged on Durham’s efforts.
[Uvalde] Uvalde School Police Stop Cooperation with the Investigation – The malfeasance and pending investigation of the entire police handling of the shooting has caused the Uvalde police to lawyer-up and develop a defensive posture reminiscent of a political trial. Obviously, the Republican mantra needs modification: we need not “more guns” but “more lawyers.”
[Social Media] Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Texas Law Restricting Social Media – This is another small-coverage case with massive implications. The Texas law, HP 20, prevents large social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube from blocking posts and accounts based on their content. Without going into details, this is one of the more fundamental issues of the 21st century, involving not only First Amendment rights but also interstate commerce and the role of the courts, the legislature, the media, and other businesses in controlling information. The court itself was split, 5-4, a premonition of the titanic arguments in the offing.
Wednesday, June 1
[Gun Massacre] Gunman Kills Four in Tulsa Hospital – This gets added to the debate. The lone gunman, armed with an assault rifle and pistol, killed two doctors, a receptionist, a patient, and injured many others before killing himself. Apparently, he bought the rifle mere hours before the event. The motive seems to be revenge for an “unsuccessful” surgery.
[Climate Change] California Begins Severe Drought Rules – Following the driest January, February, and March in California history, more than 6 million people will be affected by the roughly 35% cut in water use for Southern California. More than 97% of the state is under severe to exceptional drought.
[Student Debt] Biden Does Debt Forgiveness for Students of Corinthian Colleges – The move is not trivial, although Corinthian Colleges folded in April 2015 while under investigation for fraud. More than 560,000 students with about $5.8 billion in student loans are affected.
[Facebook] Iconic Facebook (Meta) Executive Sheryl Sandberg Is Stepping Down – She’d worked for the company for 14 years, primarily as chief operating officer, and was second in command of the explosive growth of Facebook. She became one of the most prominent and influential women executives of the era, noted for the phrase “leaning in”.
Thursday, June 2
[Platinum Jubilee] Three Cheers for Queen Elizabeth II – The English celebrated the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, and not incidentally her 96 years of life. It is indeed circumstance with pomp, and it may be for the last time.
[Heard – Depp Trial] Jury Splits Defamation Award but Favors Depp – This began as a relatively conventional celebrity defamation slugfest, she-said he-said, between two relatively unappealing personalities. Then an interesting thing happened, and the right-wing propaganda machine decided that there was potential to gain political advantage, and over a period of several months literally millions of dollars were pumped into planted coverage, professional gaslighting, image assassination (misogynistic), and even paid advertising. They succeeded in making this an “important event” in which women suffered a grievous defeat of wokeness/me too. Perception of the narrative is everything.
[Uvalde Massacre] Biden Addresses the Nation on Gun Control – Biden is good at being consoler-in-chief, and that came across in his prime-time appeal. Then he turned activist, “one message for all of us: Do something; just do something, for God’s sake do something.” Specifically, he called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and probably realizing this is the least likely thing Republicans would approve, he amended it to “raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21.”
Friday, June 3
[Jan.6 Investigation] Peter Navarro Arrested for Contempt of Congress – The former White House advisor continues to claim that all his planning for the attack on the Capitol was covered by executive privilege. Apparently, the Department of Justice disagrees, and for once took the recommendation of the House Select Committee. Navarro was publicly arrested by the FBI and promptly produced one of the most cringeworthy “how dare they!” moments in recent history. Poor privileged soul, days of whine and poses indeed. Meanwhile, the DOJ announced it would not be indicting Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff, or Dan Scavino, formerly Deputy Chief of Staff. Unofficially, it appears that their cooperation in at least providing some testimony and documents, along with their possibly more legitimate claims for executive privilege, may have influenced the decision.
[Economy] U.S. Labor Market Continues Unusually Strong – The U.S. added 390,000 jobs in May and unemployment held at 3.6% – both figures representing a continuing strong labor market, which for the first time in many decades favors the worker/employee – witness the increase of 5.2% in hourly earnings for the year up to May. Meanwhile, Biden was huddling with the head of the Fed, Jerome Powell, sharing notes about how they intend to approach inflation. Unfortunately, although whatever they do has minimal impact on inflation – especially things like gas prices and food commodities that are largely at the whim of international commerce – Biden will get all the blame for any lack of improvement, and nary a mention if things improve.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 86,456,877; Deaths: 1,033,457
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
House Select Committee Jan. 06 Investigation – Public Sessions: Every Democrat should anticipate next week with trepidation. This is the one and likely only chance for the legislative branch of the American system for electing a president to make a massive national appeal for the rule-of-law and democracy as our form of government. This is not hyperbole. Beginning with the broadcast networks on Tuesday, June 7, the committee has the opportunity to outline the meaning of events leading to, during, and from the insurrection attempt of January 6, 2021. The first session is when the largest audience is expected. If the insurrection narrative does not make its point, the following sessions running into July are likely to sink into the memory hole created by Trump-Republican-right wing counter programming. On the other hand, if the committee is successful in making the story – and dramatizing probable consequences as an issue for the upcoming midterm elections and especially 2024 – then Trump’s Big Lie and the attack on the Capitol can join gun control, abortion, the Ukraine war, and inflation as part of a potentially definitive assault on Republican nihilism and nascent fascism.
Glimpses of the Republican strategy to screw with the vote, especially for 2024, showed up this week in the form of a Republican National Committee plan to hire thousands of poll operatives who would be connected to attorneys with the express purpose of challenging ballots in key districts and precincts (all Democratic of course). Voter suppression, vote manipulation, and circumventing election laws through secretaries of state and the like form an evolving and complicated Republican plan, which unfortunately will be difficult to describe with any force before the event.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Barr, unmasked, now claims the federal jurors in Durham’s failed case violated their oaths by following political biases. ‘A D.C. jury,’ he said, ‘is a very favorable jury for anyone named Clinton and the Clinton campaign. Those are the facts of life. There are two standards of the law, and we have had to struggle with that.’ So, now, Barr is trying to discredit the centuries-old American jury system. It’s just one more ‘story’ he tells to replace the rule of law with the reign of innuendo.
Dana Milbank, “Bill Barr’s Reign of Innuendo, Unmasked,” The Washington Post, 6/3/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]