Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, November 12 through Friday, November 18, 2022 [Vol.4 No.18]
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
The results of the U.S. midterm elections were unusual enough to create at least a week of bewildering reactions. Not to mention that control of the House wasn’t decided until mid-week and still doesn’t have final numbers. Republicans have majority control at 218 seats with 2-3 more possible but given GOP fractiousness this is absolutely minimal. Overall, Democrats did better than expected, from an historical perspective, but not well enough considering that the fate of democracy was at stake. Abortion, defense of democracy, and inflation poked through as the salient issues for Democrats and most Independents, while inflation, crime, and immigration stuck out from exit polls for Republicans – when “beating the libs” wasn’t the real motivator. MAGA and election denial candidates, the signposts for authoritarianism, didn’t do very well, but more than 170 card-carrying election-denialists won office, and Republican control of the House guarantees a roiling brouhaha of high-pitched antidemocracy whining from the “Freedom Caucus” for the next two years.
In fact, much of the week’s media time was consumed by Republican chaos and infighting, and not victory laps by Democrats or by Nancy Pelosi stepping down as House Democratic leader. Republicans seemed to take the midterm under-performance (debacle) seriously, when not simultaneously finger-pointing in multiple directions. The House will be the site of endless pitched battles, starting with who gets to be Speaker, and who gets to investigate Hunter Biden. Then there was Trump’s announcement of his presidential campaign, which was the centerpiece of pundit speculation, partly because the event had the shock excitement of a six-volt battery, and partly because it evoked the nascent conflict between Trump and DeSantis. The key point of interest seems to be how nasty the rivalry will become, not its relevance to national issues. For his part, Trump seems to be generating a 24-7-365 attack mode highlighted by as much name-calling and anti- everything word salad as possible. Not all that different from before, just more of it. It remains to be seen how much spew is tolerated, first by the media, and then by voters.
8,000,000,000. It was declared this week that the population of planet Earth just exceeded eight billion. Don’t try counting it out loud, unless you’ve got about 280 days (nonstop). It’s a very large number. These are people all living at the same time: moving, eating, sleeping, breathing, defecating, and everything human beings do on the relatively small area of land that sustains human life. The number is, of course, getting bigger all the time. Roughly fifty years ago, we were panicking about that fact. Overpopulation was the theme – the Malthusian endgame for humanity. Today we are more likely to hear economists complain that we don’t have enough new population in some areas to sustain growth. What happened to the overpopulation catastrophe? Short answer, agricultural technology. We can feed, clothe, and house most people, climate change permitting. Fact: Although the incessantly shrinking amount of arable land means that even modern technology will not be able to keep pace, we keep shoving-off the idea of overpopulation. There’s a word for that – perilous.
Saturday, November 12
[Midterms] Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto Wins in Nevada, Democrats Retain Senate Control – It was a tight race (48.7% to 48.2%), but the incumbent prevailed over her MAGA opponent, Adam Laxalt. Her win means Democrats will control the Senate with or without Sen. Raphael Warnock winning in Georgia. If Warnock wins the Dec. 6 runoff against Herschel Walker, the Dems will have the Senate 51-49 and deeper control of Senate committees. The conventional political wisdom is that without control of the Senate at stake, Republicans will be less motivated to vote (and spend) for the spectacularly unfit-for-office Walker.
[Korea] N. Korea Test Lobs Missiles, S. Korea Seeks Allies – Nothing much new here except increased provocation, and risk.
Sunday, November 13
[Mass Shooting] U. Virginia Shooter Kills 3 – UVA students on lockdown during search for assailant. Football players targeted in what appears to be a student crime of envy.
[Ukraine] War Crimes in Kherson – President Zelensky charged Russia with multiple incidents of war crimes against citizens in the recently recaptured city of Kherson. “Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes.” This fits a pattern for all Ukrainian cities held by the Russians.
Monday, November 14
[G20 Conference] Bali G20 Meeting Opens – The annual summit of the world’s powerful, and no Putin. Biden is there, on a bit of a roll from the U.S midterms.
[Biden – Xi] Biden and Xi in First In-Person Talks – They’ve spoken and met over the years, so this meeting was more than a howdy-do. The situation is somewhat novel. Both countries use conflict threats to make domestic political points, while at the same time they need each other as vital commercial partners, and the “world order” is undergoing tectonic realignment, mainly over food and energy. It’s a good bet that U.S., China, and Russian relations were the most substantive discussions. Although nominally a strong ally of Russia, China has been hedging lately and Biden will be exploring opportunities. Biden and Xi must walk the line between being aggressive competitors and deadly enemies.
[Arizona Governor] Katie Hobbs Wins Arizona Governorship Over Charismatic Opponent – The former Secretary of State did nothing special but win. The upset win over former TV anchor Kari Lake surprised many in both parties. Apparently, the voters of Arizona, having seen Lake for decades, were not so surprised. BTW: As a MAGA acolyte, Lake is refusing to concede and crying “stolen election.” She was tagged as VP potential; maybe not so much now.
[Social Media] Google Nailed for Record $391.5 Million in Tracking Privacy Settlement – Google routinely tracked people who turned off their location tracker, among other violations. As one state attorney general put it, “For years Google has prioritized profits over their user’s privacy.” Google says they are already much better. (Put another way, if you don’t watch social media, they steal your watch.)
[Giuliani] Giuliani Not to Be Charged in Ukrainian Foreign Agent Probe – It was back before 2018, when Giuliani worked the Ukraine–Trump lobbying circuit; it was widely thought he was acting as an undeclared foreign agent in the U.S. Then the DOJ stepped in and began an investigation, which The New York Times warned would not lead to indictment. That appears correct, and the agency backdown is both excruciating and gives great succor to Giuliani and the right-wing “witch hunt” claims. This sort of snafu is what makes all potential Trumpist prosecutors pause.
Tuesday, November 15
[U.S. House] Kevin McCarthy Wins Preliminary Speaker Vote – Looking rosy for McCarthy (R-CA)? Not really; he does not have the 218 votes needed and opposition from the Freedom Caucus under uncrowned leader Marjorie Taylor Greene signals a rough patch in Republican leadership.
[Election 2024] Trump Announces Campaign for Presidency – It may be harder running for president without Murdoch (Fox News doing half-hearted support mode), without enthusiastic approval from many GOP leaders, with bad midterm results, with ongoing investigations/pending indictments, with DeSantis leading him in some polls, and despite a growing sense of his being unstable. But his base, at least 20-30 million voters, have faith in him. This is the earliest declaration of a presidential candidacy in history, probably made for PR advantage and, as they say, to stay ahead of the sheriff.
[Abortion] Fulton County (GA) Judge Rules Against State 6-Week Abortion Ban – Essentially the ruling hinged on the state ban being put into effect before Roe v. Wade was struck down. The ruling was instantly appealed, but the ban is in at least temporary abeyance.
[Ukraine] Biden Tees-Up Another $37.5 Billion for Ukraine in Lame-Duck Session – This should pass with only rhetorical opposition. After Jan. 3, 2023, when Republicans rule the House, similar bills will have substantive difficulty.
[Immigration] Judge Rules Pandemic Is Over, No Longer Valid Excuse to Deport Migrants – U.S. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the D.C. District Court ruled the infamous CDC Title 42 to be “arbitrary and capricious.” Both Trump and Biden administrations used Title 42 for rapid deportation of migrants as carriers of COVID-19. Now that will stop. It leaves Biden holding the ball on what to do next; given Republican control of the House, noisy opposition to any approach is inevitable.
Wednesday, November 16
[Ukraine] Missile, Probably Ukrainian, Hits Poland – In a text book case of knee-jerk finger pointing, nobody knew what country hit a rural farm processing facility in Poland, killing two, but that didn’t stop instant recriminations. A couple of days and teams of forensic investigators later, it appeared probable the cause was an errant Ukraine air-defense missile. In other words, an oops, with apologies to the dead and their families. The fortunes of war, don’tcha know.
[House Election] The House Declared under Republican Control – This signals the GOP has at least 218 seats, after the midterm elections. It means, among other things, that Republicans will chair all committees, giving them the platform from which to attack their favorite hates about Democrats – Hunter Biden, Anthony Fauci, Nancy Pelosi, and so forth. They might even try an impeachment or two. On the other hand, their margin of control will be 1 to 3 votes, a legislative nightmare. Even if pieces of legislation pass out of the House, the new Democratic Senate can likely reject it, and Biden also stands ready with his veto. This makes the lower chamber “Havoc House,” origin of sound and fury but little else.
[Senate] Protection of Same-Sex Marriage Bill Escapes Filibuster and Passes Senate – Sugar coated with “religious freedom” language it passed 62-37 and must go back to the House during the lame-duck session. Nevertheless, in anticipation of Supreme Court rulings, even Republicans realize ending gay marriage would be a disaster.
[Senate] McConnell Squelches Opposition and Is Reelected Minority Leader – He doesn’t get challenged often, but the Rick Scott faction had its feeble say. Failing to control the Senate, Republicans opted for McConnell’s experienced hand.
[LA Mayor] Karen Bass Elected First Black Woman Mayor of Los Angeles – She overcame billionaire Nick Caruso and his $100 million mostly self-funded campaign, 53.1% to 49.6% (70% counted).
[NASA] NASA Launches Artemis I to the Moon – Ascending the way back to man on the moon, Artemis rides the newest and most powerful U.S. rocket. This is a test run with dummies instead of astronauts. Artemis II in 2025 will put real people on the rocket and Artemis III in 2030 plans to put people back on the moon.
Thursday, November 17
[House] Pelosi Steps Down as House Leader – “The hour has come for a new generation,” said the 82-year-old Pelosi – arguably one of the most powerful and successful Speakers of the House in history. She was re-elected to her seat in the midterms and plans to continue. Her likely successor will be Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). The second ranked Democrat, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), is 83 and also stepping down.
[UK Budget] Chancellor of the Exchequer Hunt Presents New and True Tory Budget – For the opening action of the new Sunak regime, an old conservative move reappeared – austerity – take from the poor and give to the rich. This will be a hard sell in an environment when even conservative districts are polling in favor of Labour. The idea is to cut programs (most of which have nothing left to cut), lower or hold taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and let the Brexit-based decline of the economy “work itself out.”
[Woke Florida] Federal Judge Stops “Stop WOKE” Education Law – Calling it “positively dystopian” and in violation of the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker struck down the DeSantis promoted 2022 law that gave just about anybody in academia the right to sue just about anything that “exposed them to uncomfortable material.” Hopelessly vague but popular with the far-right, the case will be appealed eventually to the Supreme Court.
[Trump Legal] Trump Corp. CFO Cops to Fraud but Says Trumps Were Uninformed – Allen Weisselberg, decades-long gatekeeper and bookkeeper to the family Trump businesses, fulfilled his guilty plea testimony but carefully excluded the Trumps from culpability in the tax-fraud scheme. As if the Don had no idea. But family involvement is not the target in this Manhattan DA’s trial, it’s Trump Corporation. Prosecutors must convince the jury that Weisselberg acted on behalf of the company, not solely on his own; then the company becomes liable for huge criminal penalties.
Friday, November 18
[DOJ] AG Garland Appoints Special Counsel for Trump Cases – Jack Smith, a thirty-year criminal prosecutor and registered political independent, has been called back from The Hague International Criminal Court to oversee both of the DOJ’s lead Trump investigations: Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6 insurrection. It’s a controversial move, at least among lawyers, as it poses risks of delay and distraction (special counsels have a decidedly mixed record). Smith’s professionalism and neutrality are supposed to help deflect the inevitable attacks on the politics of the process, especially if he recommends indictment (Garland makes the ultimate decisions). The current guessing-logic is that Garland would not have brought Smith on if there wasn’t a high probability of indictment. There is also now a higher probability House Republicans will mount an investigation of the DOJ and impeachment of Garland. Little imagination is required to envision the resulting PR circus.
[Climate Change] Record Lake-Effect Snow Buries Western New York – Already 50” of snow in some places and it’s not over yet.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Can the Republicans survive the next election without Trump? Notice the question isn’t win the next election, but survive it – as in permanent decline of the party. As in losing the state of Texas in perpetuity. The midterm elections set up this question, without providing a clear answer. It does look like Trump is waning and that the Big Lie in its old and new forms (Trump, Kari Lake) is losing popularity; but it clearly isn’t over. The next two years are likely to be extraordinarily messy for Republican politics, especially with the House going hog-wild anti everything. Currently DeSantis looks like an option. An election without Trump is now conceivable, but could Republican voters, especially the MAGA faithful, get around the bend? Probably not, and therein lies the peril for the GOP, and perhaps the country.
Pinned Point: Until we seriously confront – and deal with – the media conundrum created by disinformation and the First Amendment (here’s looking at Fox News, Twitter et al.), the information chaos will get worse.
Quote of the Week
Karl Marx, of all people, anticipated the Donald Trump of 2022, when he noted that great personages of history occur twice, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”. . . Only a fool would count Trump out. If past is prologue, GOP leaders who criticize him now will embrace him anew in about a week.
Dana Milbank, “At Trump’s Angry Announcement, the Magic Is Gone,” The Washington Post, 11/15/2022.
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