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
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.
Sunday, July 31
[Al Qaeda] CIA Snuffs Al Qaeda’s Second-Top Guy, Ayman al-Zawahiri – He was the key planner behind the Twin Towers attack; it took the CIA two decades to track him and find the right opportunity. One day he stood on his balcony in central Kabul and the U.S. drone struck. Apparently, no collateral damage. Al Zawahiri was 71 and no longer a leadership factor, but his death settled a big score and helps Biden, although other than tough-guy cred, perhaps little electoral payback. It was also part of a “Biden Renaissance” week: for one thing, senile sleepy Joe can still kill terrorists.
[Wildfire] California McKinney Fire Explodes, Emergency Declared – So far consuming about 60,000 acres with 0% containment, the fire along the Oregon border is the biggest of the year. Something over 2,000 people have already been evacuated.
Bill Russell [1934 – 2022 (88)] Basketball player (Boston Celtics, 11 NBA championships, NBA Hall of Fame, one of the greatest basketball players of all time), coach, spokesperson, widely respected black activist.
Monday, August 1
[Ukraine] U.S. to Send Ukraine Another $550 Million in Military Aid – This latest tranche brings the total U.S. commitment to more than $8 billion. Among the equipment in this package will be ammunition for the highly effective HIMARS rocket launchers and for 155-mm howitzers. The equipment was released from stocks by the State Department and may indicate an administration being careful with allocations to Ukraine – an increasingly sensitive subject.
Tuesday, August 2
[Kansas Referendum] Kansas Voters Massively Approve Keeping Abortion in State Constitution – On record turnout in 100◦F heat, in a deep red state: 58% – 41%: Stunning, unexpected results that will change political calculations nation-wide.
[Taiwan] Pelosi Visits Taiwan – In China and the U.S, this eccentric visit is garnering a ton of coverage. In all likelihood, that’s the point. The Taiwanese seem a tad befuddled, “Is she here to cause trouble?” The solid bet is this has very little to do with Taiwan, and a lot to do with Chinese and American domestic politics. Its symbolism can be used to hook on heavy-duty saber rattling and tougher-than-thou rhetoric. Both Biden and Xi want stern foreign relations postures. The posturing is safe enough.
[Idaho- Abortion] DOJ Brings Suit Against Idaho – The newly installed Idaho antiabortion legislation includes disciplining and prosecuting doctors for performing abortions – of any kind. The DOJ claims this is in violation of federal law; as AG Garland put it, “If a [pregnant] patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient’s life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient.” This is the first of many expected fights over the limitation of abortion rights following Dobbs.
[Burn Pits] Senate Passes Burn Pits Legislation – The vote was 86-11. Remember this from a week ago? Jon Stewart’s issue, Republicans denying support for vets maimed by toxic waste, Ted Cruz and Steve Daines fist-bumping on the Senate floor for defeating the bill, idiotic Republican rationales by Cruz. All dumpster bound. The PACT Act, a $280 billion bundle of veteran-oriented support will soon pass the House and be on Biden’s desk. Jon Stewart wept for joy with vets who were in the Senate gallery.
[Primary Elections] Arizona GOP Turns MAGA – In Arizona the GOP will have a full slate of MAGA zealots – election deniers. Some of the primary results were close, but in the end from governor to senator, all the candidates are Trump endorsees. In Michigan, Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the 10 Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment, lost to John Gibbs, a former Trump official. [Update: GOP gubernatorial candidate, Trump hugger, Kari Lake declared winner.]
Wednesday, August 3
[NATO] Senate Approves (95-1) Sweden and Finland Entry into NATO – Despite the ongoing partisan rancor, it’s worth noting that when the Senate takes up legislation involving policy against Russia, there is near unanimity. It’s also characteristic that even in a 95-1 environment, there is always a hold-out or two – in this case, wait for it: Josh Hawley.
[Ukraine – Grain] Shipment of Ukrainian Grain Proceeds Unimpeded – There had been rumors the Russian Navy would try to intercept or otherwise hinder the movement of Ukrainian ships carrying grain to Turkey and beyond. So far, nothing happened as the first grain ships cleared their inspection in Turkey and have moved on toward Lebanon.
[Abortion] Biden Signs Executive Order Using Medicaid to Cover Abortion Travel Expenses – This will be challenged in court, but it shows that the administration is actively looking for ways to shore-up or facilitate interstate abortion travel.
Thursday, August 4
[Inflation Reduction Act] Sinema Says OK to IRA, Gets Her Pound of (Tax) Flesh – There should not have been a collective sigh of relief (it should have been a done deal long before) but when it was announced that the classically legislative rogue Kyrsten Sinema would support the Inflation Reduction Act, normal breathing resumed. Her cooperation had a price, but it was interesting. She had long been in favor of keeping the carried interest tax loophole providing capital gains deductions for certain Wall Street workers. The loophole was removed in the IRA legislation. Now the loophole is back, and Sinema is on board. (New language with a 1% excise tax on stock buyback was inserted to compensate for the loss of revenue.) She got other, smaller, concessions but it’s easy to suspect that this path was well marked. The Senate will now continue the process, which includes passing or mostly rejecting amendments, voting down various procedural obstructions by Republicans and, assuming rulings by the Senate parliamentarian can be tweaked, the bill should pass if not this weekend at least by early next week and go on for rapid passage in the House.
[Griner] Russian Court Sentences Griner to 9 years in Prison – The WNBA star could sit in a gulag; the Russians don’t care – except they do care about the international attention and an ultimate deal. Consequently, word is (from Moscow), as the Russians said, negotiations get serious after conviction and sentencing. Unfortunately, the Russians are in no hurry. This is not a legal situation; it’s a hostage situation.
[Louisville Police] DOJ Charges Four Police in Breonna Taylor Death – In March 2020 the story of police charging into a Louisville Kentucky apartment and killing one of the sleeping occupants – by mistake – dominated media coverage for many weeks; but officially little was done about it. Now the charges are federal: falsifying a search warrant. It seems late, but this is a major step by the DOJ.
[Monkeypox] U.S. Declares a Public Health Emergency for Monkeypox – The outbreak is spreading and while it is far less contagious than any of the coronavirus variants and for the most part nonlethal, about 7,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. The emergency declaration ensures proper administration of vaccines and drugs for a disease that has a long quarantine (14 – 28 days) and intense symptoms.
[CPAC] Viktor Orbán Woos/Wows CPAC Convention – As one attendee said, “This is what we want.” The GOP and its radical right-wing are convinced America will love authoritarian, racist, homophobic Hungarian ghoulash (sic). Odd, really. Right-wingers are notoriously xenophobic. But Orbán, the proto-dictator of Hungary knows his American script: “Don’t worry, a Christian politician cannot be racist.”
[Alex Jones] Jones Trial: Jury Levies $4.1 Million Compensation Award to Sandy Hook Parents – The infinite con is finding its price. Alex Jones made millions, and continues to make millions, by claiming that the deaths of children is a hoax. In this trial, he admitted that there was a hoax – and that he was the perpetrator. [Update: The next day the jury made a punishment award of $45.2 million. This was the first of three such trials.]
Friday, August 5
[Economy] Labor Department Reports 528,000 New Jobs Last Month – Another stunner to close out the week: economists had said the economy would add about 250,000 jobs; it more than doubled that. Meanwhile the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, the same as before the pandemic began in February 2020. Americans are still switching jobs, to the tune of several million a month. Employers report unflagging retail business, which is driving the demand for labor. Observers continue to say, “What a strange economy! Boom-time employment; frustrating inflation.” Is this a recession? What a strange recession.
[Abortion] Indiana Bans Nearly All Abortions – In the new law, there is no gestational limit (i.e., legally, everything begins with fertilization). On the other hand, exceptions for rape, incest, lethal fetal abnormality, and serious health risk to the mother were written into the law. When signing the bill, the governor all but admitted that the exceptions were hotly debated and modified (in light of the voters’ reaction in Kansas).
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Have the Democrats got momentum? It’s a legitimate question. Thank you, Kansas. In a few days (fingers crossed) there should be a new law: the Inflation Reduction Act. For Democrats this should be a double whammy. Freedom and rights for women, breaking the old Roe v. Wade compromise in the name of states’ rights, and a fundamentalist theological point of view that is going to create legal chaos and a very bitter reaction from most women. It’s a negative response, but genuine and damned important. On the other hand, there are so many positive things in the new IRA law – both big time and nuanced climate change legislation, taxing the rich and big corporations, negotiating Medicare drug prices, $300 billion in debt reduction. Democrats need to spell these things out and sing their praises. Then there is inflation. Gas prices are dropping, will that be sustained? Will be it be enough? Will other prices at least level out or start coming down? Three months to go: More economic information, more January 6 committee television, DOJ indictments, Republicans on a steady diet of shoe leather? Who knows?
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
The Pentagon erased a potential trove of material related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol from the phones of senior defense officials in the Trump administration, according to legal filings. Court records indicate that the Pentagon “wiped” the government-issued phones of senior Defense Department and Army officials who were in charge of mobilizing the National Guard . . . including then-acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
- Demirjian and J. Aleman, “Phones of Top Pentagon Officials Were Wiped of Jan. 6 Messages,” The Washington Post, 8/2/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]