Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, December 24 through Friday, December 30, 2022 [Vol.4 No.24]
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
The last week of a, arguably for most people, mish mash of a year. The pandemic was over, but not really. Inflation was making life harder for millions, but the economy was statistically doing quite well. The midterm elections were something of a triumph for Democrats and progressives, but the Republicans still took over the House and are poised to launch a shxtshow of retribution and relentless propaganda. The Big Lie is becoming unpopular, which means Trump is diminishing, but he’s also apparently devolving into Q-Anon madness. Yet he still controls the base of the Republican party. And so forth. No wonder it’s reported that New Year’s celebrations in the U.S. were somewhat muted.
Then there’s the global view, also not a happy picture. The Ukraine war continues lurching toward a second year. Climate change and weather disasters take up more and more attention – as well they should, but the reporting belies the lack of progress in dealing with the underlying problems. The global economy, which once was the international just-in-time commercial miracle, is fragmenting, creating shortages and workforce misalignment. The global energy system is in the process of reorganization, which will be confusing, painful, and ultimately more expensive. And so forth.
The natural reaction to all of this seems to be to just hunker-down. You only have to believe that hiding between a brick wall and a raging dumpster-fire is perfectly safe. Or, make a resolution for 2023 (and beyond). Try, “Do what you can, when you can.” They say, “The future belongs to those who show up.” Perhaps true, but it doesn’t pose the question “show up for what, and when.” For each person, the answer is a personal choice – set the priority, set the time (or interval). Then stick with it. It doesn’t matter if this is about politics, community service, religious participation, or any form of social support – the point is to help, when you can. End of a progressive’s pep-talk.
Oh, it gets worse. The case of George Santos (R-NY). Thanks in recent times to Trump (for the most part), the ancient political skill of lying has been augmented in the public perception to the point of blanket disbelief. Outrageous lying – or telling a wildly false narrative – has become a routine practice. The politician tells a story and all or great parts of it are untrue. The goal is to get acceptance of the politician, or to convey the emotional thrust of an issue, and not the validity of the specific stories. In the case of George Santos, the Republican party got a fictional political character; almost every element of his resumé is false (he is not Jewish, he didn’t go to the schools he claims, he didn’t work for Goldman Sachs). He is slightly remindful of the Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can that features the adventures of a semi-successful con-artist. “Adventures” is key word here; Spielberg exploits the American love for rogues, scoundrels, and yes, con-artists. Only, in this case, Santos got elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He is now under investigation by several state and federal agencies. This does not look like it will end well. For the media, he is a font of “would you believe” falsehood revelation that feeds the public taste for the bizarre during the inter-holiday doldrums. For House Republicans he is one vote in five of their “majority” – if he goes AWOL, well, they can count. Besides, his level of fabulist is not a good look (although not all that different from Trump’s). Put it this way: George Santos is unlikely to be in the public eye this time next year.
Saturday, December 24 Christmas Eve
[Immigration] Texas Gov. Abbott Busses 130 Immigrants to Frigid Maryland for Christmas Eve – It really does look like cruelty is the point. Otherwise, the optics of hapless people dumped into 18⁰ F weather near the house of Vice President Harris late on Christmas Eve seems not only unchristian but deeply wrong. Who thinks this “message” doesn’t obliterate the stated point of illustrating that Biden should do more to help people at the border?
Sunday, December 25 Christmas Day
[Coronavirus] COVID Breaks out in China with a Vengeance – American and world medical sources put the current deaths by COVID in China at 7,000 a day. Chinese sources are mum or grossly unreliable. The Chinese government placed a huge bet that current medical resources, effective propaganda, and tight social controls could manage the COVID wave after nearly all official mitigation ended. So far, it looks like that was a bad bet. China did not switch to a vaccine-based policy, largely because they do not have access to MRNA vaccines and domestic vaccines have proven to be questionably effective. They also chose to mitigate most heavily among working age people, leaving the elderly nearly out of attention; that approach appears to be having drastic results. Projections putting Chinese COVID deaths over a million in 2023 – mostly among the elderly – seem to be probable. Long COVID and the effects of nearly half the Chinese population infected – 700 million! – will have a profound effect on the economy, which is already down to a growth rate of 2.9%, the worst in three decades. It looks like 2023 with be a bad year economically for China, and that usually implies political repercussions. None of this will help an out-of-balance world economy.
Monday, December 26
[Climate Change] Winter Storm Elliott: 56 Dead, 17,000 Flights Grounded – For Western New York it was even worse than forecast. Elliott, the “storm of a generation” featured more than four feet of snow, deep sub-zero temperatures, and paralyzed transportation, and similar conditions (just not so much snow) grabbed nearly half the country – at the worst possible time, during Christmas holiday travel. Insofar as misery is memorable, this Christmas storm will be remembered for a long time.
[GOP Scandal] NY Congressman-elect George Santos Admits to “Embellishing” His Resumé – This story has been “breaking” for more than a week, as Santos slides deeper into a never-never-land of a fantasy biography, fraudulent political claims, and potential financial violations. His admissions at a news conference did nothing but raise more questions. Republicans (except Marjorie Taylor Greene) avoid his mention; Democrats are building the case that he is the perfect avatar of the Republican Party. He will probably be seated in Congress before some jurisdiction indicts him, or the Republicans make even a gesture to censure him.
Tuesday, December 27
[Supreme Court] Full Supreme Court Extends Hold on End of Title 42 – Last week Chief Justice Roberts imposed a hold on the case seeking to maintain the Title 42 restriction of immigrants due to COVID dangers. This week the full court in a 5-4 decision agreed, pending a formal court procedure and decision in the future (possibly in the spring). Nominally this was a Biden “loss” but in practice neither party wants Title 42 to end soon – the country is not prepared to handle the flood of immigrants.
[Tesla] Tesla Shares in a Tailspin – Twitter in a twist and Tesla tumbles could be the headlines, as the rhetorical and business decisions of Elon Musk continue to gyrate and drive away supporters and investors. Tesla stock dopped 11% on Tuesday alone, to a two-year low, losing cumulatively half its value. As a global recession threatens, Tesla seems poorly positioned to see it through.
[Russian Oil] Russia Will Not Sell Oil to Countries Honoring $60 Price Cap – Some time ago the G7 countries agreed to force traders to limit the price of Russian oil to $60 a barrel, as of Dec. 5, to cut Russia’s war-funding profit margin. The Russian response seems something of a pucker snitch, since the $60 price is nearly the current market price. It may reveal more weakness than counterstroke.
Wednesday, December 28
[Coronavirus] China to Begin Issuing Passports – After more than two years of pandemic enforced travel ban, the Chinese government is lifting a wide array of COVID mitigation measures, including the ability to travel abroad. This is expected to send a wave of Chinese tourists back into the world. Unfortunately, this coincides with the new wave of COVID in China, which some predict will infect half the population (700 million people) in less than a year. Not coincidentally, the U.S. and several other countries will require travelers from China to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test (as of Jan. 5).
[Airlines] Collapse of Southwest Airlines Service Provokes Congressional Oversight – On the heels of winter storm Elliott and the cancellation of tens of thousands of its flights, Southwest faces the wrath of customers and serious questions from Congress and the Dept. of Transportation. The storm exposed three major problems with Southwest’s organization and business model: It uses “point-to-point” routes instead of “hub-and-spoke,” which limits its ability to marshal people and planes in nationwide emergencies; it has an outdated IT system for managing personnel; and it doesn’t have agreements for alternative booking with other airlines. All of this fit its “low cost” approach but added up to a near-total system failure under extraordinary stress. Southwest may be in for some serious reorg.
[Michigan] Mastermind of Gov. Whitmer Kidnap Plot Sentenced to Almost 20 Years – At the time the failed plot seemed almost surreal – but not to the law. Success in a crime is not a pre-requisite for prosecution. Barry Croft Jr. planned the crime to start a national rebellion; the jury agreed to his guilt; the judge gave him 235 months behind bars.
Thursday, December 29
[Ukraine] Russia Continues Air and Missile Attacks on Ukrainian Infrastructure – Maximum civilian misery is the “strategy,” despite its condemnation under international law. The attacks continued throughout the week. Knowing that Ukrainians, government and people, respond to the brutal tactics with greater resolve, the only explanation is “cruelty is the point.” Actually, the cruelty and destruction demand more resources from NATO – mission accomplished.
[U.S. Government] Biden Signs $1.7 Trillion Government Funding Package – In the end, Biden avoided a pointless showdown with radical Republicans in the House. Next year may be a different story.
[Economy] Mortgage Rates Hit Largest Year-on-Year Increase Ever – Jumping from 3.11% last year to 6.42% at the end of this year (passing for a time above 7%), the impact on the housing market is dramatic, and part of the Fed’s anti-inflation policy.
Pelé [1940 – 2022] (82) Born: Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Inspiration for the phrase “the beautiful game” for football (soccer), he led his Brazilian team to an unmatched three World Cup championships. One of the greatest athletes of all time who transcended sports achievement to inspire his country and most of the world. He appeared at the dawn of the television age in sports and became its leading superstar, a new concept at the time.
Friday, December 30
[Trump Taxes] Six Years of Trump Tax Returns Released to Public – After years of court process, the six years (2014 – 2020) cover the time of presidency. It will require days to fully analyze the tax information, but a few quick takes reveal that Trump used questionable “losses” to massively reduce taxes from 2018-2022, paying no taxes at all in 2020, and that despite promises, Trump donated almost nothing to charity.
[Idaho Murders] After Weeks of Mystery, Police Arrest College Student for Murder of Four – Garnering international notoriety, the mysterious case may be resolved with the arrest of Bryan Christopher Kohberger in Pennsylvania. Kohberger is a Ph.D. student in criminal justice at Washington State University.
[Abortion] Arizona Court Rejects Pre-Statehood Abortion Ban – The law, on the books since 1864, has been disallowed for years, but was exhumed by the Arizona State AG. This ruling closes the books, pending appeal, of course.
[China – Russia] Xi and Putin Meet to Affirm Partnership Pact – Actually, it was more like a bit of reassurance hand-holding (via teleconference) that China’s overtures to the U.S. and EU don’t mean a loss of love for Russia. On the other hand, Xi might have mentioned China’s disconcertion by the Ukraine war. China wants Russian petrol resources, but also requires U.S. and EU customers. The war is a big, fat, unwanted complication.
Barbara Walters [1929 – 2022] (93) Pioneer female American journalist, news anchorperson, interviewer of the powerful and of celebrity. Host of numerous television programs, including Today, The View, 20/20, and the ABC Evening News, she was iconic as a TV personality.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Jan. 3 approaches, hold on to your tookus: It won’t take long, days, maybe even hours, but the House Republican radical “Liberty Caucus” can hardly wait to rip into juicy liberal-baiting topics – “the sins of Hunter Biden” high on the list. The next two years will probably be excruciating, with nothing but echoes to show for it. Maybe after the first round of bizarre accusations and gratuitous committee hearings, public disgust (or indifference) will submerge some of the noise, permitting attempts to actually legislate. Or maybe not. The media may be enjoying the weirdity too much. In any case, arm your B.S. filters and be prepared for some kind of counter-attack by the Democrats. (Or like most Americans, just tune it out.)
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
‘As somebody who has helped plan coups d’état — not here but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work, and that’s not what [Trump] did,’ Bolton, who served as the top national security official in the Trump administration for 17 months, told [CNN’s Jake] Tapper.
- Taylor and A. Herrero, “John Bolton Said He Planned Foreign Coups. The Global Outcry Was Swift,” The Washington Post, 12/27/2022.
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