Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, September 24 through Friday, September 30, 2022 [Vol.4 No.11]
Rule of Law
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.
Sunday, September 25
[Italy] Brothers of Italy Party Wins, Forms Right-Wing Government – The former fascist party took 26% of the vote, which, when added to its partners, The League (Matteo Salvini) and Forza Italia (Benito Berlusconi), totals 41%- – enough to control parliament. The leader of the Brothers Party, Giorgia Meloni, will become the next, and first, female prime minister. It is not a stable coalition (too many big egos), but coalitions seldom are solid in Italy. Meanwhile, given the growing recession, energy shortages, and the Ukrainian war, it will be difficult for this Putin-friendly government to stay ahead of developments on the ground.
[Nuclear War] U.S. Officially Warns Russia about Use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine – Although preoccupied with human-augmented weather disaster (Hurricane Ian), Americans should note that nuclear warfare has reappeared on the “it could happen” list of disasters. That an official warning was needed, taking Putin’s threats seriously, should be a clue that the military situation in Ukraine/Russia could be approaching a tipping point.
[Mass Shooting] Another Uvalde, This Time in Russia – A school, 11 dead children and 2 dead teachers, 17 in all with 24 injured by a lone gunman (male 34), former student, and Nazi sympathizer from a nearby psychiatric facility.
Monday, September 26
[Hurricane Ian] Ian Makes Landfall in Cuba as Category 3 Storm – Among other things, it shut down power for the entire country. It is a harbinger of what’s to come for Florida.
[Britain] Pound Falls to Record Low Against the Dollar – Reaching $1.035 against the dollar was not only a sign of the declining British economy, but one in a series of economic disasters brought on by the new budget introduced last week by Prime Minister Truss and her Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng. Their proposed budget is an extreme right-wing, supply-side, trickle-down gift to the wealthiest 1%, almost universally panned by economists, the IMF, and even some Conservative members of Parliament. This week the British economy and government are in near-freefall, requiring intervention by the Bank of England. Truss has been in office scarcely three weeks and the Conservatives are wondering, out loud, how to dump her. Americans should add Great Britain, especially the current government, to the list of the endangered.
[NASA] NASA Hits Asteroid in Space to Test Possible Defense Technique – Asteroids striking earth are popular in science fiction movies; not so popular if they should really happen. NASA tested the theory that instead of blowing-up a threat, creating a lot more smaller threats, maybe nudging an asteroid out of its path would be better. So, it just successfully tapped the tiny 525-foot asteroid Didymos by crashing into it (the easy part). Now comes weeks of data analysis to see how well it worked.
[Climate Change] Typhoon Noru Explodes into Category 5 Super Typhoon as It Hits Philippines – It’s a pattern seen all-too often lately (e.g., Florida) – an average hurricane crosses hot seawater near land and within 24 hours grows into a monster. Noru’s top winds went from 60 mph to 160 mph in the fastest 24-hour intensification of a storm on record.
[Snowden] Putin Grants Edward Snowden Russian Citizenship – Snowden stole state secrets (like Trump), and took asylum in Russia. U.S. sought extradition for years and now Russia flips the bird to the U.S.
Tuesday, September 27
[Congress] McConnell Blesses Electoral Count Act – It isn’t law yet, but Mitch’s imprimatur means it will pass the Senate, and the Democrats in the House will pass it (with much bitching by the rump ultra-conservative faction). Hopefully, the new law will prevent another Jan.6-like attempt to subvert a presidential election.
Wednesday, September 28
[Hurricane Ian] Ian, Full Category 4 Hurricane, Comes Ashore Near Ft. Myers – This could well be one of the worst storms in U.S. history. Five hundred miles across, with up to 18-foot sea-surge, up to 150 mph winds, and 20 to 36 inches of rain, it will cross Florida and then enter the Atlantic, leaving behind a devastated shoreline, shattered infrastructure, and flooded cities. [Update: the damage is so severe it may take more than a week just to locate the bodies among the wreckage. Ian will spend a couple of days at sea, probably rebuilding from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane. It’s heading for the South Carolina coast and another landfall.]
[Ukraine] Biden Announces Another Aid Package of $1.1 Billion – This is the 22nd such package, bringing the total since February to $16.2 billion. The package is almost entirely military and features the much-appreciated HMARS rocket system. Biden joined the EU President, Ursula von der Leyen, in attacking Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian provinces.
Thursday, September 29
[Mar-a-Lago] Judge Cannon Once Again Sides with Trump – Trump (through his lawyers) didn’t want to comply with the order of the special master to provide a list of documents “planted by the FBI” and he wanted a lot more time. The judge didn’t say “ask and you shall receive,” but true to her “new judge” form, she ruled that Trump didn’t need to verify his claims about the FBI and could take up to Christmas to finish the special master process. The DOJ and special master, Judge Dearie, are likely howling at the legal malpractice in private; but what will happen in public is the DOJ has requested [on Friday] acceleration of its original full appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which among other things would remove Judge Cannon’s claim to the case. Keep in mind that this is now a sideshow, albeit with perhaps importance for precedence, since the DOJ already has the most relevant documents and the investigation continues.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Ginni Thomas Testifies to the Jan. 6 Committee – After a long see-saw over conditions, the ultra-right activist wife of Justice Clarence Thomas spent four hours in testimony with the Jan.6 investigation. She was questioned about her lobbying for the Big Lie in Wisconsin and Arizona, and her text exchanges with Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. We may never see or hear what she told the committee, other than that she still loves the Big Lie.
[Student Loans] Six GOP States Sue to Block Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan – This is, or will be, one among several such attempts. As a result, the Biden administration is proactively cutting a type of loan to avoid possible legal challenge. (FFEL – Federal Family Education Loans, about 2 million affected.) Overall, the right-wing is using the big number (an estimated $400 billion over 10 years) to win political points, whether they win in court or not. They are also betting that the notoriously blasé “students” involved will not make any difference when it comes to voting.
Friday, September 30
[Ukraine] Transportation Hub City of Lyman Abandoned to Ukrainian Troops – Just days, or hours, after the Kremlin officially made Donetsk one of its newly annexed provinces, Ukrainian troops took control of a key city there, which the Russian army had just abandoned. This is a major defeat – the leader of Chechnya called upon Putin to use low-yield nuclear weapons in retaliation. Whether it’s that significant militarily or not, this doesn’t look good, and in a time when countries are choosing sides, this does not make Putin look strong.
[Hurricane Ian] Ian Makes Landfall Again in South Carolina – It struck as a Category 1 hurricane and did some storm surge damage, but was quickly downgraded to an extra-tropical storm – a rainmaker – that will cause flooding as it sloshes its way north into Maryland and Virginia. Even so, it will add more to the total cost of this massive storm, already estimated at around $100 billion in damage to Florida alone.
[Stock Market] Wall Street Down 10% for the Month – Dow-Jones was off 500 points, lowest since 2020, and the S&P 500 was down 1.51 %. The exchanges closed the third-quarter on the downside. Markets worldwide are spooked by rising interest rates, energy uncertainty, and weakness in key countries, e.g., China.
[Presidency] Jimmy Carter is 98, the Longest-living President in History
Election Evolution Note: Six months ago: Dems were set to lose both the House and Senate to the “red wave.” Four months ago: Dems might hold Senate but House is gone. Two months ago: Dems have good chance to hold Senate, gaining in House. One month ago: Dems will hold Senate, might even gain seats. House remains unlikely but closer. This week: Dems might have 54 Senate seats, House just about even. Today: Omigod the polls must be wrong!
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
The political machine around McCarthy has spent millions of dollars this year in a sometimes-secretive effort to systematically weed out GOP candidates who could either cause McCarthy trouble if he becomes House speaker or jeopardize GOP victories in districts where a more moderate candidate might have a better chance at winning.
- Scherer et al., “How Kevin McCarthy’s Political Machine Worked to Sway the GOP Field,” The Washington Post, 9/27/2922.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]