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)
Rule of Law
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.
Sunday, September 4
[Climate Change] Record Heat, Drought, Fires Throughout the West – For September, temperatures in the 100s all over the west are unusual. The usual corollary, fires, are particularly prevalent in Northern California and Oregon. [Update: Southern California heatwave (110⁰F – 115⁰F), followed by flash flooding on Tuesday.]
[Chile] Voters in Chile Were Given the Opportunity for a Progressive New Constitution. They Rejected It – It was intended to finish the clean-up of Pinochet-era authoritarianism and institute a batch of progressive additions – universal healthcare, abortion rights, indigenous rights, and much more. It was pointedly environmentally oriented. It failed; well-funded propaganda works, especially when the sprawling document was hard enough to understand and evaluate.
Monday, September 5 LABOR DAY
[UK] Conservatives Choose Liz Truss as Prime Minister of Great Britain – It wasn’t a resounding approval, 81,326 to 60,339 for Rishi Sunak, but her win was expected. Truss replaces scandal-ridden Boris Johnson after a lengthy campaign. She is expected to meet with the Queen on Tuesday, the obligatory inauguration of her Prime Ministry. Truss faces a number of pending crises – mainly excruciatingly high energy prices and general inflation. It’s widely believed that Johnson will linger in the background, waiting for her to fail.
[Mar-a-Lago] Judge Calls for a Special Master, Halts Investigation –Judge Eileen Cannon astounded the DOJ and most federal legal practitioners by ordering a special master in a way that uniformly favors Trump – assuming endless delay is Trump’s goal. Then she went a step further, enjoining the use of evidence so far gathered. She explicitly did allow the ODNI investigation of risk and harm caused by the exposure of so much classified material to continue – but that investigation may be moot or hampered because it relies on evidence provided by the FBI and DOJ. Her order was instantly and vociferously attacked by most knowledgeable lawyers, but unless that accelerates into a credible call for the judge’s censure (not bloody likely), nothing will come of that. The DOJ, faced with a lose-lose decision – if they appeal, the issue goes to a long process through unfriendly courts, if they accept a special master, it’s likely to be a slow and highly contentious process (opposition from Trump’s lawyers and the judge).
[Ukraine] Zelensky Announces Capture of Towns Near Kherson – It’s part of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in that region, which is having modest success. Actually, most troops are stuck on the wrong side of the Dnipro River.
Tuesday, September 6
[Mar-a-Lago] Washington Post Publishes Story of Nuclear Secrets Among Documents – This seems to be an extension or confirmation of previous Post reporting. It adds that one document is apparently about the nuclear capability of another country. If verified, it should end the Trump/GOP line of argument that the document issue is much ado about nothing. More than that, it’s a dynamic lever, calling for continued serious investigation.
[Ukraine] Russia Buys Military Hardware from North Korea – According to U.S. intelligence, Russia has been buying significant amounts of North Korean artillery and ammunition to fill holes in its own supply caused by the Ukraine war. While most information about “how Russia is doing in the war” is often propaganda, this kind of factoid is actually quite revealing: Russia is not doing all that well if they’re buying weapons from North Korea and Iran.
Wednesday, September 7
[Texas Law] Texas Judge Rules Against HIV Drug Coverage Mandate – It’s worth remembering the name: U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor is perhaps the most radical-right judge currently on the federal bench. His most notorious ruling was that the ACA was unconstitutional, which the Supreme Court rejected. This case involves allowing a group of Christian conservatives to not cover HIV prevention, because “it encourages homosexual behavior.” The case is heading straight for appeal.
[Insurrection] Oath Keepers Membership List has 100s of Public Officials – The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism leaked the membership list to begin a campaign of exposure of insurrectionists working in government, military, and law enforcement. It’s part of a trend in anti-fascist pushback of groups that have long operated in the shadows.
Thursday, September 8
[UK] Queen Elizabeth II Dies After 70 Years of Rule – Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor: Gracious woman, successful mother of four, tolerant wife, myth maker, pragmatic, disciplined beyond understanding, clever, witty, shrewd businesswoman, perplexed by public vagaries, beloved by millions in a way only a true icon can be, superb at her job, stubborn, gifted diplomat, mother of the British Commonwealth, the soul of Great Britain – The Queen.
For the record, she had the second longest reign in history – 70 years, 214 days, exceeded only by Louis XIV – 72 years, 110 days – a long time to do any job.
[Mar-a-Lago] DOJ Reveals Appeal of Judge’s Special Master Order – In one of the most unusual and striking filings in recent memory, the DOJ came back hard against the special master order by Judge Aileen Cannon. It tells the judge what to do, politely but unmistakably: (1) partially stay her order enjoining them from using classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago. Not only is the DOJ investigation frozen, but with it the ability of the ODNI to conduct a national security risk assessment – a top national priority. (2) Approximately 100 classified documents should be exempted from all third-party examination, including a special master. The documents are so sensitive and vital to national interests that access must be extraordinarily limited. The stinger is a deadline of Sept. 15 for the judge’s ruling, or an appeal will be formally filed with the appeals court. Judges don’t like being told what to do; DOJ knows that. But the issues here are grave and time sensitive, so the DOJ rolled out the heavy gun – national security.
[Abortion] Michigan Supreme Court Orders Abortion Amendment onto State Ballot – First, reproductive freedom (pro-choice) advocates prepared an amendment to the Michigan state constitution. Then they hustled 750,000 signatures (a state record) to put their amendment on the 2022 ballot. Then they submitted all of it to the Michigan Board of State Canvassers for approval. The two Republicans on the board (of 3) rejected it for “confusing spacing and formatting.” The issue was then trundled over to the State Supreme Court, which acknowledged the urgency and the frivolous nature of the complaint, and ordered the amendment put on the ballot. Basta.
[Bannon – Fraud] Steve Bannon Does Another Perp-Walk – This time before the State of New York under indictment for money-laundering and criminal fraud. If convicted he faces 6-12 years; no plea bargain, no pardon, plus additional time for contempt of Congress.
[Ukraine] Blinken Meets with Zelensky, $2.6 billion in Hand – Why was he, unannounced, in Ukraine? We now know it was part of a diplomatic tour to keep Europe solidly behind the war. He came with big dollars, suggestions, and insider information about the ongoing success of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. The best kind of pep-talk.
Friday, September 9
[Ukraine] Ukrainian Counteroffensive around Kharkiv Has the Feel of a Rout – In just a few days, Ukraine has rolled up more than 1,000 square miles of Russian controlled territory and recaptured the key transportation and depot hub cities of Balakliya, Izyum, and Kupiansk. Ukrainian movement appears aimed at cutting off supplies from Russia into the Donbas region. The element of surprise was stunning as the Russian military either did not see this coming, or was unable to react. As is usually the case with rapid advance, there is a danger of running ahead of supply or falling into a trap. To avoid this, the Ukrainians are using NATO/U.S. satellites to observe Russian movements, coupled with advanced mobility tactics learned from NATO. At the moment no Russian counterattack is visible; in fact, the shock to Russian troops and leaders has already been felt in Moscow. Some are already calling this a turning point in the war.
[Mar-a-Lago] DOJ and Trump Lawyers Submit Special Master Candidates – They agree on nothing; neither the special master nor, crucially, the rules for the special master. Typical of the divergent strategies, the DOJ wants resolution of special master issues asap; Trump lawyers want 90 days. Both sides said they would negotiate over the weekend and report. Ultimately, if there is no consensus, Judge Cannon will make the final decisions.
[Trump v. Clinton Lawsuit] Judge Dismisses Trump 2016 Election Lawsuit Against Clinton – Judge Donald Middlebrooks, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, said of Trump’s filing: “Trump is seeking to flaunt a 200-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him. And this court is not the appropriate forum.” The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice and the judge reserved the right to sanction the Trump lawyers involved. The irate dismissal was not unexpected; however, perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that Trump has been ordering his lawyers to make filings that reflect his internal turmoil, not the actual legal situation.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
The new Democrats: Biden spent much of the Labor Day weekend not just touting unions (standard fare) but he also continued to shape and hone the Trump-MAGA radicals meme; other Democrats are paying attention. For once, the Democrats are using aggressive (Republican style!) tactics effectively – it works because the Trump-MAGA crowd are vulnerable – they ARE that radical, ugly, violence prone, and undemocratic. They also make that impression among moderate Republicans and independents. Biden may not be the ideal avatar for the in-your-right-wing-face Democrats, but equipped with his aviator glasses and a sharp tongue (which he’s always had), he’s getting the ball rolling. No wonder Trump calls Biden “the enemy of the state” and “Dark Brandon” is a thing.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
In the end, MAGA is nothing but a scam with hate in its heart and other people’s money in its pockets.
Andrew Gawthorpe, The Guardian, 9/9/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]