Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1, Week of July16 – 22, 2022 (Jan. 6 Hearing #8 – 187 Minutes)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 16 through Friday, July 22, 2022 [Vol.4 No.1]

Jan. 6 Hearing #8 – 187 Minutes 

Ongoing issues

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Democracy

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

It was not the end of story, but the eighth public hearing of the January 9 Committee provided a fitting dénouement. It recounted in words and images, live testimony, and a surprising level of magisterial authenticity that Donald Trump planned the final event, called his people together, exhorted them to anger and violence, and sent them to the Capitol where havoc reigned. The hearing provided an extraordinary narrative, unique in the history of American government, of an attempted coup orchestrated by the president. As the committee was at pains to point out, the “coup” is ongoing, its markers, expression of the Big Lie in the rearrangement of American voting practices to make it possible to have the outcome of the presidential election dictated by legislatures rather than the popular vote. Emerging from the nearly 3 hours of testimony and evidence was an absolute billboard of appeal to the U.S. Attorney General – INDICTMENT WANTED. During the week – and it was another heckuva week for the U.S. and the world – Merrick Garland in effect replied, “I hear you, I get it, but I’m not going to rush it.”

Meanwhile, the committee investigation opened a new can of worms: the Secret Service deleted phone data from January 5 and 6, which – along with continuing new testimony – provides more than enough material to research and present in a series of hearings in September. The hearings are a hit, must-see TV, that has triggered penetrating word-of-mouth. Republicans’ worst nightmare. They have provided Democrats with a tangible public image and the opportunity to link many other issues, not the least of which are the end of Roe, the incessant mass shootings, the increasingly destructive eruptions of climate change, and all the other instances of Republican right-wing extremism.

World on fire. This seems true in parts of the U.S. and certainly in Europe, where wildfires have displaced tens of thousands of people and already killed more than 2,000. All-time record high temperatures were broken in many European locations, but nowhere more noticeably than in the UK, which is not accustomed to or prepared for the unrelenting heat. For many years, talk of the effects of climate change remained just that, talk. Increasingly, it’s becoming evidence – fire, flood, wind, mass extinction – happening more often and with greater intensity. So much so, that right-wing troglodytes and trolls are being paid by the fossil fuel propagandists no longer to deny climate change, but to talk about transitions, “realistic measures,” maintaining continuity (of who’s in charge, presumably).

Saturday, July 16

[Same-Sex Marriage] Ted Cruz Signals the Coming Attack on Obergefell – In his concurrence with Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that several other key decisions should be reviewed, among them Obergefell, which set the legal foundation for same-sex marriage. At the time, which was only a few weeks ago, Thomas was treated as if he were an outlier. Now Ted Cruz, noted for his bullish opportunism, said for media consumption that the Obergefell decision was “clearly wrong.” There should be no doubt that the radical Christian Republicans are going for same-sex marriage and contraception; all that’s unsure is the timetable.

[Saudi Arabia] Biden at the Arab Summit in Saudi Arabia – In a world that’s rapidly realigning, mostly along the lines of power demarcated by petroleum production, Biden was in Saudi Arabia to strike deals, form alliances, and jiggle the fragile lines of support between Arab countries, the U.S., and Israel. By most accounts, he was not overtly successful. But then he represents the U.S. government, and most countries of the Middle East are reluctant to tie their barrels to specific governments. What they might do is hook up with the various commercial outfits that are in Biden’s entourage, for example, Jared Kushner’s operation. It can get very complicated, and dicey; but even the big players must have skin in this game. As a footnote, Biden did his due diligence and scolded Mohammed bin Salman for the “Khashoggi affair”; in return he was reminded of America’s involvement in Abu Ghraib.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.52, Week of July 9 – 15, 2022 (Jan. 6 Hearing #7 – American Carnage)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 9 through Friday, July 15, 2022 [Vol.3 No.52]

Jan. 6 Hearing #7 – American Carnage

The Week’s Most Notable

Another week, another significant January 6 hearing. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Insurrection may be accomplishing what many (most) thought impossible – changing the attitude of the nation about the January 6 insurrection and Trump’s role in it. This week’s seventh installment of the serial political thriller, “Trump Did It,” made it clear that the ultimate responsibility for the violence at the Capitol – the dead, the scores of injured, the hundreds convicted, the attack on democracy – belongs to Donald Trump. The hearing went into detail about how Trump knew that the rally on January 6 had strong potential for violence, that people in the crowd were armed. More importantly, the attack on the Capitol building was planned weeks if not months before conspiring with the Proud Boys, OathKeepers, and other right-wing militias. Then there was the astonishing six-hour meeting in the Oval Office on December 18, 2021 which is a solid bet to become a movie (farce, tragedy, or both). The cast, featuring such characters as the Kraken lady (Sidney Powell) and Rudy Giuliani, had a document ready to declare a national emergency and have the military collect voting machines. Pat Cipollone, White House counsel, stepped into the meeting to quash its insanity. Immediately, as in minutes after that meeting, Trump issued his now infamous tweet calling upon his followers to show up on January 6 because “it will be wild.”

Personal testimony at the hearing by Jason Van Tatenhove (former OathKeeper), and Stephen Ayres (convicted Capitol rioter) nailed-down the concept that people came to the rally and went to the Capitol because of Trump. He called them; he riled them up; he sent them to the Capitol. The next hearing, currently scheduled for Thursday, July 21 at 8 PM (prime time) may close the circle of insurrection by documenting what Trump did or did not do (dereliction of duty) during the violence on that afternoon. (It might be a footnote, but Vice Chairperson Cheney’s warning to Trump about tampering with witnesses, which came at the end of the session, sent the media off in a frenzy.)

Janus-faced Inflation. Two-faced Janus, Roman god of beginnings and endings, seems appropriate for the current U.S. economy. The June economic figures show inflation has hit 9.1%, another recent record, with energy costs (read, gasoline) the driving force. Janus-face: angry, scowling. But July has another story, gasoline prices are down 15% and the threat of recession seems to be putting a damper on some of the inflationary pressures. Janus-face: smiling (almost). Are economic conditions better or worse? Depends on whom you ask. Recent surveys have shown that Americans tend to say money is tight, but that they’re OK; the national economy, on the other hand, is a disaster. Economists know it’s not a disaster and doing better, but perception is 90% of conviction in these cases. The excellent unemployment figures are not enough to compensate. Will any positive news affect the midterm elections for Democrats? Not if pessimistic propaganda can help it.

Rotten egg on face. With lightning speed, the Dobbs decision produced this week one of the most terrible/bizarre/archetypal stories we may hear for a while: The raped, pregnant ten-year old resident of Ohio that had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. Fox News and a number of right-wing commentators immediately yelled “Hoax!”, accusing the 10-year-old of lying. This included the Wall Street Journal. Problem: Columbus Ohio police recorded the rape. Just recently the rapist was caught and confessed. Right-wing solution: Praise the Columbus police. Rant about the immigrant rapist. (Nobody apologized to the family for anything.) Then, the Indiana AG attacked the doctor who performed the abortion – for not registering. Only she did register. Now the doctor is suing the AG. This is one incident, albeit the first, in what will become a steady stream of legal and moral perversion. How long will it be before some police enforce a new law making it illegal to travel across state lines for abortion? There are two words, at least, that apply: authoritarian and sadistic.

Saturday, July 9

[Ukraine] Russians Prepare to Move on Donetsk Province – The summer campaign is to capture the remaining lands in Donetsk province, which will consolidate Russian control of Eastern Ukraine. Like the campaign in Luhansk, this will be grinding, slow, and bloody. [Update: Russia continued a pattern of random shelling and missile attacks on various parts of Ukraine, so far with more than 100 casualties, typically occurring in civilian buildings.]

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.51, Week of June 2 – 8, 2022 (July 4 Parade Massacre)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 2 through Friday, July 8, 2022 [Vol.3 No.51]

July 4 Parade Massacre

The Week’s Most Notable

Another week where guns and killing form the bookends of major stories: the Fourth of July massacre in Illinois and the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan. For the U.S. it was the 309th gun-related mass murder of the year; for Japan it was the first gun-related fatality of 2022 – there were 10 incidents and one death in 2021. The mass murderer in Illinois could walk into any gun store and buy the equivalent of a military machine gun. In Japan the perpetrator had to build the gun from scratch. Why can’t the U.S. be like Japan?  For starters, the U.S. tradition with guns grew out of the Wild West; with Japan a kind of aversion to guns grew out of their being “Western” in origin. Two very different cultures.  In the U.S., guns have been promoted as part of our identity. Most other countries, not so much.

It’s estimated that the U.S. has 390 million guns and 330 million people, or statistically 120.5 guns per 100 people. Statistically the only comparable countries are Yemen (52.8 per 100) and Serbia (39.1 per 100). In 2020, 45,222 people in the U.S. died from gun related deaths: of those, 24,292 by suicide and 19,384 by homicide.  As to homicide, 79% of all U.S. homicides are committed with a gun; in other countries, Canada for example, the number is 37% and in the UK 4%. Bottom line: more guns, more incidents; it doesn’t take statistics to work that out.

The gap between the U.S. and almost every other country in the world in terms of “gun management for the safety and security of society,” is so great that we have to be realistic. With so many guns available, in a culture that continues to emphasize their use (with a strong preference for those that are most lethal), changing that culture would require a legal and propaganda effort far greater than the one that got us to this point. Even if we wanted to be more like the rest of the world, and at least half the country does not want to, reducing the number of guns and convincing people not to use them would be a decades-long process.

However, realism is not all that is at work here. Nor is absolutism; nobody (sane) is suggesting we get rid of all guns. Americans, speaking generally, don’t want to live in a militarized, gun-filled society. To that end it would be mostly sufficient not to have society flooded with military grade assault weapons. We had a ban on assault weapons from 1994 to 2004. It could be done again, except that roughly 30% of the voting population looks upon an assault weapon ban as if it were the end of their freedom and the end of America as we know it. That’s a fact and it will be very difficult to walk back. However, is there any other way to realistically address the mass gun shootings epidemic in the United States?

Will Trump be indicted? Remember the song and TV series, “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” A lot of speculation these past weeks about the chances of Trump being indicted. There’s the state district attorney of Fulton County Georgia, Fani Willis, who this week subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham for grand jury testimony about vote-count influence. Meanwhile, it’s clear the January 6 House Committee is marshaling evidence of Trump’s criminal involvement, which is being passed on to the Department of Justice. Finally, New York’s AG, Letitia James, is corralling the evidence for a civil (business) case against the Trump family and organization.

The criminal cases, Georgia and DOJ, are and will always be problematic. Criminal cases must prove intent, the state of mind (mens rea). Without making a joke about it, this will be difficult to do for Trump. On top of that, there’s no getting around it – it would be the first time in history that a president of the United States would be indicted for criminal charges. Anybody who thinks this is easy is likely to have a short career in prosecution. Yet, it could happen. More probable, as in the case of Chicago mob boss Al Capone, who was convicted for tax fraud, not murder, state tax laws could be the net that brings in the Trumps. None of this is going to happen quickly; certainly not by the midterms.

 

Saturday, July 2

[Ukraine] Russia Seals Victory in Luhansk – The final capture of the city of Lysychansk gives the Russians control of the Luhansk region, roughly half of the eastern provinces of Ukraine. By all accounts fighting in this area was brutal with both sides suffering heavy casualties. For Putin, control of Eastern Ukraine will supposedly give him the upper hand in negotiations.

[U.S. Airlines] Bedlam in U.S. Air Service – Just as the holiday weekend brought out U.S. travelers at numbers exceeding those before the pandemic, airlines suffered bad weather, crew and pilot shortages because of reduced labor force and illness (COVID), shortage of planes (too many mothballed during the pandemic), and the usual holiday weekend snafu. The result was literally thousands of cancellations and delayed flights, with a few major airports descending into near chaos.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.50, Week of June 25 – July 1, 2022 (Supreme Court Remodeled // Jan. 6 Hearing – Cassidy Hutchinson)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, June 25 through Friday, July 1, 2022 [Vol.3 No.50]

Supreme Court Remodeled // Jan. 6 Hearing – Cassidy Hutchinson

The Week’s Most Notable

It was a pivotal week in U.S. history. This observation is obviously premature, still. . . .

The U.S. Supreme Court completed its current session on Friday. In the chaos of the week, few seemed to realize that the court finished with a flourish. In a sentence: Congratulations, our Supreme Court has been remodeled! There are now six justices plenipotentiary (all-powerful), and three closet justices. While there were a few cheers for the first black female justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, she will be quickly hustled into the liberal closet where she can be heard occasionally but is essentially irrelevant.

The remodeled Supreme Court, three or four decades in the making, sports a new all-corporate look, is indifferent to precedent, ultimately makes most decisions based on whether it keeps corporations profitable and the Republican party in power, harbors deep theocratic inclinations, and has a strong tendency to avoid supporting democracy or anything that has to do with the hoi polloi. Its authority rests on numbers, 6-3 or 5-4, and its motto is simple, “We got the power.”

Incidentally, this new model of court often suggests that it bases decisions on “originalism” – only things originally in the Constitution and that for the most part were historically true in the period before 1800 have constitutional standing. The history of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the 13th, 14th, and 15thh Amendments be damned and marginalized.

Perhaps everything written above sounds like hyperbole and sarcasm – if only. This remodeled court has an agenda, which the justices plenipotentiary have in part verbalized (especially Justice Thomas) and a modus operandi. The Dobbs anti-abortion decision set one legal pattern, but in terms of public relations was exceptional; it was a noisy excision of a constitutional right, a brutal one-fell-swoop judicial exercise with the blood and pain yet to come. From here on, most decisions will be deliberately made to seem more “routine.” The main legal mechanism will be to minimize federal government and send as much decision-making as possible to the states. Sometimes the six will make unilateral decisions, like Citizens United, often without tested evidential foundations, and sometimes, like Dobbs, they will simply kick the issue to the states. This works best for the court because most of the state legislatures are under Republican control and are in the thrall of corporate-wealthy donors.

In the two sessions before the 2024 elections, the remodeled court will nurture and cherry-pick cases that fit the agenda. The pattern will look much like it did this year. Here are some of the key decisions this session:

Abortion: Dobbs is now the word of reference; it used to be Roe (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization). The anti-abortion ruling is now fact and the states are free to gin-up any bloody-minded anti-abortion laws they like (as long as they are female hostile and look like they originated pre-1800). At least 25 states are going there. Conservative poll sages are betting abortion will not be a big factor by November. They believe women will get used to the restrictions, which will be cleverly obscured by an absolutely confusing morass of state laws, legal challenges, and misleading rhetoric – better known as Fox News propaganda. However, the fallout from the ruling is just beginning. It’s more likely that at least 60% of the population is not going there. Among women – voters especially – it will be far more than that. Some polls are already showing a 10% shift toward Democrats (possibly a touch premature) as a harbinger.

Climate Change: WV v. FDA We don’t need no stinkin’ regulations! As a first slice in gutting the EPA, the court rolled back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce the carbon output of existing power plants. More fundamentally, the ruling set up the challenge to federal agencies having regulatory authority. The conservative bloc wants to send most regulatory issues on environment to the states. In short, it’s the new playbook where nominally states are free to have stronger or weaker regulations, but in practice because most states are more easily manipulated by corporate money, most regulations will fall to the weak side. The future: Look for many new cases, for example in October 2022, there will be cases challenging the Clean Water Act, where the court will side with deregulation and/or punt the issue to state legislatures or courts. Without EPA resources and knowledge, the state regulations, such as they may be, will be weaker, poorly formed, and often unenforceable. Just what we need to handle climate change.

Religion: Makin Church and state go hand in hand (Carson v. Makin). Your taxes for my religion. The Unholy Grail of the court’s conservative majority invalidated a Maine tuition program, ruling that the state cannot bar religious schools from receiving public grants extended to other private schools. Roberts, writing for the majority, said the tuition program “promotes stricter separation of church and state” than the Constitution requires. The future: Every session will have numerous cases involving payment of public funds for private and religious education, which in practice means a slow measured shift of public funding for Catholic schools.

Kennedy–- Religious football (Kennedy v. Bremerton School District). The court sided with a former high school football coach who was fired after leading postgame prayers on the 50-yard line. Gorsuch, writing for the conservative majority, said the coach’s prayers at the public-school event were protected by the Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and religious exercise and did not violate the prohibition on government endorsement of religion. The future: This decision was based on very sketchy facts. In the new scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Expect many more cases affirming the right of religious practice, that is, Christian religious practice, during official school time.

Gun Control: Bruen Guns are good, guns everywhere are better (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen). New York’s open carry limitation (registration required) goes down. In this decision the court said that law-abiding Americans have an unobstructed right to carry unconcealed handguns outside the home for self-defense. Five other states with similar laws are now targeted. Of course, the plenipotentiary court knows about the mass shooting crisis, Uvalde et al. – the dissents from the closet court made it clear what was at stake. However, as it is with their Republican laypeople, the Second Amendment takes precedence over lives; the prevailing attitude is “deal with it.” The future: Expect numerous cases over the next two or three years to undo various gun owning/handling restrictions.

Election Rights: North Virginia v. U.S.  At the heart of this case set to be heard in 2023 is an idea gaining support among conservatives (like Trump and John Eastman) known as the independent legislature theory: the notion that state legislatures have the sole power to set the rules for elections and that their decisions cannot be reviewed by state courts. Previously, since this completely undoes American democracy, the concept was always DOA, however, with the newly remodeled SCOTUS?

[Note: Most people have a kind of innate aversion to legal thinking and terminology (resembles math anxiety). Very understandable. Get over it. Please. The U.S. is entering a period of years, maybe decades, where some very serious issues are going to wind up before the Supreme Court. A lot of good legislation is going to die at the hands of the justices plenipotentiary. The only counter is to have a lot of people – especially voters – engaged with what’s going on.]

Jan. 6 Committee: Hearing VI, Cassidy Hutchinson Testimony

Bombshell. The crater left in the Trump-Republican-right-wing façade caused by the surprise Jan. 6 Committee hearing continues to widen – and they haven’t been able to backfill it with mud and dirt. Trump, Fox News, and reactionary radio rolled out their well-greased smear machine against the heroine of the two hours on a Tuesday afternoon, Cassidy Hutchinson – but too little too late. (This hearing really was a surprise.) Hutchinson had the courage, looks, demeanor, authenticity, and eloquence to deliver some of the most stunning testimony in congressional history: Trump wanted guns at the Capitol; he wanted to lead the mob in person; he thought Pence deserved hanging; he did nothing to stop it.

(Parenthetically, it should be noted that what seems to have had the most impact on the public – and the media – was her testimony about Trump throwing food (ketchup on the wall) and the reported wrestling match in the presidential limo. It’s often these relatable details that really catch people’s imagination.)

She was asked about Trump’s 2:24 tweet targeting in real-time an attack on VP Pence. “As a staffer… I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, and really it felt personal. It was really sad. As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We’re watching the capitol building get defaced over a lie. And it was something that was really hard in that moment to digest… I still struggle to work through the emotions of that.”

Her testimony and the viral media coverage that followed may have tipped a political balance; over time making it far more difficult to shamelessly espouse the Big Lie, Trump’s good intentions, or the innocence of violently sacking the Capitol. She may have foreshadowed grounds for DOJ legal investigation, even indictments. She made Trump seem like a wild-man, Mark Meadows seem catatonic, and all the men around her moral pygmies in the face of a constitutional crisis.

The committee hearings resume after July 11 with hints that there are more revelations to come, maybe not as explosive as the Hutchinson testimony, but also important.

Saturday, June 25

[Ukraine] Russia Again Uses Belarus as Launching Pad – Aircraft originating in Belarus fired missiles into central Ukraine. It was the first of several incursions during the week, mostly intended to show that Russia could still strike at will. That’s part of the set up for future negotiations, each side trying to prove itself with the upper hand. [Update: Missiles struck Kyiv on Sunday, timed with the G7 meeting in Germany. Monday: 18 killed by missiles aimed at Ukrainian shopping mall. Thursday: 21 killed by missiles striking near Odessa.]

[Gun Control] Biden Signs Bipartisan Gun Control Bill – The bill closes some loopholes and calls upon states to pass red flag laws. Better than nothing, and it was bipartisan. Biden noted, “God willing, it’s going to save a lot of lives.”

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.48, Week of June 11 -17, 2022 (Jan. 6 Committee Public Hearings Continued)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, June 11 through Friday, June 17, 2022 [Vol.3 No.48]

Jan. 6 Committee Public Hearings Continued

The Week’s Most Notable

The week continued televised hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. There were two hearings this week, both aimed at filling in aspects of Trump’s overall attempts to nullify the 2020 presidential election in key states. As it was with the opening hearing, the first order of business for the second hearing was the Big Lie; in this case to specify in some detail the Trump-Republican lie that Biden did not win the election and that the Democrats had stolen it. The committee relied almost exclusively on Republican testimony, typically campaign officials, White House and campaign lawyers, and most notably former AG William Barr and Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Trump, Republicans, and the right-wing media have used the Big Lie to justify almost every other related activity, including the attack on the Capitol (undo an illegitimate election). Fidelity to the Big Lie has become the litmus test for Republican candidates, and almost an article of faith among the Trump base. It’s been the keystone of their propaganda and will be difficult to shake.

The third hearing focused on Trump and lawyer John Eastman’s bogus scheme asserting that Vice President Pence could “nullify the illegitimate votes from key states” and either declare Trump the winner or demand that the states involved use their legislatures to determine who won the votes in the electoral college. For much of the hearing, the pressure on VP Pence and what happened to him during the violent insurrection in the capital, culminated with evidence that Trump had deliberately fingered Pence for disloyalty and made him a target of the rioters. “Hang Mike Pence.”

So far, there has been a wealth of details, but the consistent impression is that Trump tried many ways to subvert the constitutional transition of power (stage a coup) and was repeatedly told by his aides, legal advisors, and prominent Republicans that he could not legally do this. It did not matter, because Trump had his own strategy. (A strategy, that the committee is now warning, is a blueprint for future elections and especially 2024.)

Because they have been effective as media events, reaction to the hearings (Who’s listening?) has gradually become a key issue. So far, the reactions are predictable:

Dems and others: So that’s how it went down.

Republicans: Theater.

The hearings and their accompanying bombshell revelations have made it difficult to ignore. Disaffected Democrats and nihilist Republicans alike have been scrambling to justify their positions – and the hearings aren’t finished.

This week Fox News joined the other networks in covering the hearings live. Scuttlebutt has it that high ratings and very unfavorable commentary by other media forced their hand. Perhaps, but every effort is being made by the right-wing media to make sure their viewers do not hear or see anything of impact without it being simultaneously accompanied by on-air commentary disparaging the coverage. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that the information presented in the hearings is leaking through – for example, right wing outlets are already debating whether they should acknowledge Barr’s or Ivanka’s testimony.

It’s not easy to get an accurate schedule of the committee hearings. There have been rearrangements and time changes due to adjustments for new information, not to mention blockbuster stories in the media. Officially, there will be six hearings, including a summary session in September, but additional hearings seem possible. Keep in mind that sometime in the next two weeks, the Supreme Court will dump a truckload of very disturbing decisions, which are guaranteed to create media chaos.

Thursday, June 9, 10 AM – I. Overview, Trump’s coup, video of the violent attack on the Capitol

Monday, June 13, 10 AM – II. The Big Lie, $250 million dollar fundraising fraud

Thursday, June 16, 1 PM – III. Pence in the crosshairs

Tuesday, June 21, 1 PM – IV. Trump tries to suborn DOJ (rescheduled from Wednesday, June 15)

Thursday, June 23, 1 PM – V. Trump vote counting schemes in the states

[TBA, Trump collaboration with various organizations.]

[TBA, Trump dereliction of duty and failure to stop the insurrection.]

Summary of Report, September – VI. The committee is scheduled to deliver its final report and has said it will present the report in a live event.

Inflation. The state of the American economy is dominated by one issue: consumers are afraid and economists are baffled by inflation. This is not new. American history is punctuated by periods of more or less dramatic inflation, usually with vague causes, spurious political accountability, and very little in the way of actual leverage to do anything about it. This week, the Fed did what it could and raised interest rates by three quarters of a point, a huge increase. This will make mortgages and other loans more difficult to get, which means that price cutting in housing and other markets will begin. But it will take time, and nobody is predicting a significant improvement in the months before the midterm elections. In fact, attempts to fix inflation might well lead to recession, and that will not be popular. It also means that inflation will continue to be the number one issue.

Floods, fires, and hurricanes – the season is upon us. The massive flooding in Yellowstone National Park might seem a regional problem, but Yellowstone is different. More than 100 million people have visited the park over the years and, as was proven during the fires of 1988, it has an international following. So when it suffered a true once in the millennium natural disaster, it woke up a lot of people, and made a lot of people think about the connections to climate change, and about the extreme heat in the U.S., and about California fires, and the coming hurricane season.

Saturday, June 11

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 87,414,160; Deaths: 1,036,702

[Gun Control] March for Our Lives 2022 – A similar march was held in 2018, which is worth mentioning because another march was necessary four years later. If anything, the situation is worse with the recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde on everybody’s mind. Even more than before this was a young people’s event taking place in more than 400 locations in all 50 states. It coincides with a concerted push in Congress, namely negotiations in the Senate, to find some kind of gun control bill that could actually be passed.

[Climate Change] 70 Million People under Extreme Heat Warning – From California to Tennessee record temperatures, such as 123° in Death Valley and 113° in Phoenix, are occurring before it’s even officially summer. [Update: Early in the week an additional 108 million Americans were told to brace for extreme heat.]

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.47, Week of June 4 – 10, 2022 (Jan. 6 Committee Public Hearing #1)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, June 4 through Friday, June 10, 2022 [Vol.3 No.47]

Jan. 6 Committee Public Hearing #1

The Week’s Most Notable

In a sense it was another week with the possibility of being historic. It featured the first prime-time public session of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. There are so many ways this could have gone badly, but it didn’t. The committee seemed to have gauged this one just right; they even hired a former TV executive to oversee the production. The opening statements were concise, remindful of the historical importance, and remarkably well focused. The 20-minute composite video, most of it new, successfully reminded everybody how violent and extraordinary the event actually was.

For witness testimony, many were struck by the effectiveness of the personal account by Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, which included the now viral segment of “slipping in blood.” Edwards suffered traumatic brain injury in the event. Before the committee, she was authentic cop and more than a touch charismatic. It’s interesting that female commentators reacted remarkably sympathetically to her, while most male commentators didn’t comment. In fact, true to right-wing smear-tactics, the Newsmax host Greg Kelly opined that Edwards was “self-aggrandizing” and “an attractive blonde.”

It’s about Trump. From the opening remarks to the concluding statement the committee made it absolutely clear that it was talking about criminal behavior, starting with Trump and extending through a long list of enablers. In fact, vice chair Liz Cheney’s 38-minute presentation was a model prosecutor’s opening for a jury. It had three effects: it provided the structure for the two-hour as well as the following weeks’ presentations; it gave the proceeding a sense of gravitas; and it publicly set a framework for legal action by the Department of Justice.

The new takeaway from this session: The event at the Capitol was not a rally gone sideways, but a calculated assault, one element of a coup. First, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers arrived early, even while Trump was still speaking, and led the planned break-in to the Capitol building. The massive crowd spun-up and sent to the Capitol by Trump provided the bulk numbers to flood the building. The resulting chaos was meant to cover searches for congresspeople and Mike Pence. The minimum objective was to stop the certification of the election and force vote counting back to (some) states – in other words reverse the election, a coup.

Impact. Between 20 and 30 million people watched this first hearing. For some perspective, over 20 million watched the first Kavanaugh hearing, 60 to 70 million watched the Biden-Trump debates, 112 million watched the last Superbowl. Fox News covered but did not broadcast the session, and their first hour was subsumed – without commercial break – by a Tucker Carlson rant against the committee. Current surveys seem to indicate that most Republicans have no idea what the committee is doing (except it must be fake) and in fact are seldom exposed to any enduring non-partisan coverage of Trump or Republican activity. On the other hand, because the committee presentation was unusually well done, segments of it immediately went viral and provoked several days of media coverage. Keep in mind the committee sessions are a multipart media narration, sort of a true-crime series in six parts, the first of its kind for Congress. Its impact may require a change in the way such events are evaluated.

The Trump-Republican response was predictable: Absolute denial of anything presented by the committee, especially concerning the Big Lie and the Capitol event. In fact, reports are that the Republican National Committee and some big donors pumped several million into counter programming and propaganda. As expected, the focus of the attack was on the Jan. 6 committee itself, not the evidence it presented.

 

Fear vs. Gun Control. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 70% of Republicans favor protecting gun rights over public safety. In other words, occasional random sacrifice of children and others is acceptable to retain the rights to have weapons that enable armed insurrection, defense of liberty, and safety in the home. That’s why there’s no gun control compromise in Congress. It doesn’t help that the Department of Homeland Security is forecasting six months of extremism and potential violence as a result of Supreme Court decisions (mainly abortion), gun control issues, Trump indictment, Jan. 6 investigation, inflation pressures, and general political upheaval.

Saturday, June 4

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 86,644,311; Deaths: 1,034,230

[Ukraine] Sievierodonetsk Remains Focal Point of Ukrainian Battles – In some of the bitterest – house to house – fighting of the war, Russian and Ukrainian forces traded city blocks as the massed Russian forces seem to be slowly but inexorably pushing the Ukrainian soldiers out of the city. The cost in casualties on both sides is known to be very high – perhaps as many as 300 a day. Military observers are not optimistic about Ukraine’s ability to wage this kind of war.

[Mass Shooting] Melee in Philadelphia Kills Three, Injures Dozens – “Hundreds of individuals just enjoying South Street, as they do every single weekend, when the shooting broke out.” Recreational shooting on a Saturday night? Only in America? [Update: There were mass shootings in Chattanooga, South Carolina, Saginaw, and Mesa with a total of 12 dead, 38 wounded.]

[Baby Formula] Baby Formula Back into Production at Michigan Plant – The formulas shortage in the U.S. continues to worsen, but Abbott Nutrition announced that it was going back into production at the plant where a fatal contamination occurred in February.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.46, Week of May 28 – June 3, 2022 (Gun Control Redux)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 28 through Friday, June 3, 2022 [Vol.3 No.46]

Gun Control Redux

The Week’s Most Notable

All week there were strenuous efforts to heave the issue of gun control into the eye of the public. If ever there was a moment in the awfulness of ongoing events – mass murder in Buffalo, California, Texas, Oklahoma, to name a few – this is the time to make the narrative. As Biden said, “There are too many schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields, here in America. . .. This is not about taking away anyone’s guns, it’s not about vilifying gun owners; let’s meet the moment, let us finally do something.” All signs are that this message has been received. According to the polls most Americans (70% – 90%) agree that something should be done.

Legislatively, in states as well as at the federal level, bills have been drafted. Even the House, which already has a gun control bill before the Senate, crafted a revised version. Notably, however, it contains nothing about limiting military style assault weapons (or specifically the AR-15, which has been used in recent weeks for a dozen mass murders). The old pattern appears to be reappearing: Republicans express thoughts and prayers, offer a few shreds of gun control, and for the most part refuse to pass anything pertaining to assault weapons. It is their bottom line; the Trump-Republican base knows military-level guns are necessary for any kind of “defense of freedom,” and right now the politicians follow the base. As ever, it appears Republicans are counting on this issue to weaken over time. But perhaps not this time, because one: midterm elections are coming and Americans are genuinely sick of the massacres, and two: the massacres are not going to stop between now and November.

(BTW: The Supreme Court is about to unload a decision on open-carry of firearms that is not going to calm the waters.)

Saturday, May 28

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 85,885,539; Deaths: 1,032,071

[Ukraine] Battle for Sievierodonetsk – The big shift in Russian strategy – ceding Kyiv and Kharkiv to the Ukrainians and concentrating forces in the eastern provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk – for the time being seems to be coming down to a struggle over a smallish rail hub town with the stumble-easy name of Sievierodonetsk (see-ev-ay’-ro- do-netzk). Compared to the previous grand strategies, this battle epitomizes the limited scale but desperate intensity as block by block, house by house, Russian and Ukrainian forces surge one way or another. Essentially, it’s a stalemate, which many see as representative of the war itself for at least the next several months.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.45, Week of May 21 – 27, 2022 (Uvalde, Texas Massacre of Children)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 21 through Friday, May 27, 2022 [Vol.3 No.45]

Uvalde, Texas Massacre of Children

The Week’s Most Notable

In the beginning, aside from the utter depravity and scale, the massacre of 19 children and 2 teachers kicked loose a familiar dismay – here we go again. It was the old feeling that no matter how terrible the event, despite all the handwringing, all the thoughts and prayers, nothing effective would be done to prevent the same sort of thing from happening again. After all, there was a somewhat similar massacre of 10 people in a Buffalo, New York store less than two weeks ago. Sure enough, the Republican apologists for the murderous status quo immediately pronounced their solution straight from the NRA catechism: More Guns. Let the police, the SWAT teams, the state and local officials do what they think best: create fortress schools, locked like prisons, guarded by cops and armed teachers. More Guns.

Then something happened that made Uvalde different: the official and police handling of the incident was a disaster. From the time of the first 911 call to the time when the shooter was killed, one hour and twenty-two minutes elapsed. Fifty-six of those minutes had police in the building. In fact, there were eventually nineteen law enforcement officers, including local officers (and members of the SWAT team), federal border patrol agents, and the school’s own safety officer. At the start, where local officers were involved, the shooter had more high-power weaponry (an AR-15 against handguns). It’s important to understand that because of Texas law the shooter had just turned 18 and had been able to buy two AR-15’s and 375 rounds of ammunition without qualification or restriction. (Ironically, he wasn’t old enough to legally buy a beer.)

The full story will take months if not years to piece together, but human error played a role. Uvalde had done more than its share of preparation, had its own school police, had its own access protocols. None of it kept the shooter out of the building. While the shooting was in progress, the police were paralyzed by a lack of coordination and an inability to breach barriers (a door, a key). In situations as tactically perilous and complicated as kids in an elementary school classroom and an assailant as well armed as a soldier at war, very little goes to plan. Days of prevarication and misinformation by official spokespeople didn’t help. Stranding panicky parents outside the school, and not dealing correctly with 911 calls from the kids inside didn’t help. Almost everything the Republicans are saying about how to handle school shootings didn’t work – won’t work, this incident has ruined the trust of most Americans in this approach.

What the Republicans don’t talk about is how to take assault weapons out of the situation. In this case, as in so many, the easy availability of military grade assault weapons is what turns a bad incident into a massacre. How can this happen again, and again, and again? Is it the gun manufacturers pushing these meat-grinder guns and bullets, or NRA election cash and lobbying? Is it the American gun culture? Yes, all of that, but there’s more, a focal point that may help explain how it has not been possible for the U.S. to enact any significant federal gun legislation.

Two keys: There is a rock in the shallow waters of the Senate on which gun control legislation repeatedly founders; the breaker is submerged (almost never mentioned in the media): it is a large, mostly red state constituency of very active voters who want to keep military grade assault weapons available for insurrection – for resisting or overthrowing the government. This is a very old, deeply held trope in America. It is not exclusive to the right-wing, although historically predominant among conservative voters in southern, midwest, and western states where continuous election of one or more senators guarantees Republican control of the filibuster and thus the Senate. The AR-15 has become the pivotal weapon and symbol from which this core constituency and their block of senators will not budge, compromise, or even discuss any type of gun control. Assault weapons must be available for insurrection – at all costs.  

RELATED: The coming Supreme Court decision on gun control in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen will probably loosen restrictions, perhaps dramatically, on open-carry of guns. The laws against open-carry on the books in most states have been around for more than 100 years, but this overwhelmingly conservative court has indicated that it is seeking ways for the general citizenry to defend themselves with guns more easily in public. Opposition to this potential ruling is based on the accumulated experience – especially in crowded urban areas – that the proliferation of guns means only a proliferation of violent incidents. The expected Supreme Court ruling, coming as it will about a month after the nationally traumatic massacre of children, is guaranteed to kick another storm of protest.

Covid comeback (actually, it never went away) and now there’s monkeypox. Depending on the source, COVID-19 infections are up 35%, hospitalizations 20%, and deaths 15% across the U.S. The total number of deaths attributable to COVID are now well beyond 1 million and still reaches 1,000 a day on occasion. New variants of the virus continue to reach our shores, the latest being Omicron BA.2.12.2 – all far more infectious than the original virus, so much so that the average daily infection rate in the U.S. is more than 100,000 (actually more than 200,000 as fewer cases are tested). These kind of numbers in 2020 would’ve caused panic; today it’s not even part of most people’s awareness. Right-wing media staunchly take the position that the pandemic is over. By the way, the most catching thing about monkeypox is probably the name, but there are 20 reported cases in the U.S. Epidemiologists are far more worried about the current mini-wave of COVID-19 and what will happen in the fall and winter.

Saturday, May 21

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 85,101,698; Deaths: 1,029,570

[Ukraine] Biden Signs the $40 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine – It required congressional arm-twisting, especially in the Senate where some Republicans reflexively question everything requested by the Biden administration – even where Republicans will ultimately support the bill. Nevertheless, this is a substantial aid package, mostly military but some of it earmarked for international shipment of grain from Ukraine.

[Ukraine] Zelensky Talks about Negotiated End to the War – “We want everything back. Russia does not want to give anything away. Victory will be bloody in battle. But the end will be in diplomacy.” In general political terms, Ukraine cannot bargain for the Donbas region or the Crimea; it would be far cleaner to win some of that territory back. But Zelensky knows that, unfortunately, those supporting Ukraine do not have infinite patience. Questions arise: can anybody win on the battlefield? Can one side outlast the other? The war is only three months old and yet grumblings – on both sides – are already audible.

[Australia] Australian Voters Make Labor Leader Anthony Albanese Prime Minister– After a nine-year run by the center-right Liberal Party, the key issue in the election was climate change

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.44, Week of May 14 – 20, 2022 (Buffalo Racist Massacre)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 14 through Friday, May 20, 2022 [Vol.3 No.44]

Buffalo Racist Massacre

The Week’s Most Notable

Would it not be the best thing to say about a tragedy is that it became a turning point? This week one person stepped into a grocery store in Buffalo, New York carrying an AR-15 automatic rifle and gunned down 13 people, killing 10 of them. In this case it was not difficult to determine motivation: racial hatred. The gunman left a long trail of Internet history, including a manifesto, and connections to other similar-minded individuals. The trail had a dominant thread, “replacement theory,” the belief that the sole purpose of immigration is to replace “true Americans” with pliant foreign voters. The commonly discussed remedy online: killing foreigners, which meant anybody of a skin color different than white, in this case black. The replacement theory thread was quickly traced to right-wing media, including Fox News pundits Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, inviting increasing public inspection of right-wing propaganda and its impact. In an appalling way it makes this event stand out.

Will the Buffalo massacre be a turning point? Unfortunately, an argument can be made that Americans accept some types of mass death more than any other contemporary culture. Cases in point: No other country kills so many people every year by gunfire, not even countries at war. Also, we seem to have accepted more than one million deaths due to a virus; more dead by COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Acceptance in these cases means a kind of complacency, we don’t do what is necessary to reduce the deaths. The key seems to be not in the numbers of dead, or the suffering of people affected by the deaths, but by the intensity and density of excuses – the rationales – by which it becomes impossible to do anything about the fatalities. For example, we are at legislative loggerheads over the availability of military-grade weapons. For decades, the issue has been mired in expensive lobbying campaigns and increasingly all-or-nothing partisanship. The result: we do not reach compromises; we don’t take steps to make the situation better; we do nothing.

Saturday, May 14

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 84,413,559; Deaths: 1,027,159

[Mass Shooting] Gunman Kills 10 in Buffalo Supermarket – As described in his 180-page online manifesto, the specific location in Buffalo was targeted because of its largely black population. Self-described as a white nationalist, the shooter proclaimed his belief in the “replacement theory” that immigrants were being brought into the U.S. to deliberately give Democrats an advantage in elections. The blatant racism quickly established this as one of the more symbolic and motivational events, with its impact going deep into gun control and racial violence issues – and correspondingly into defensive maneuvers by right-wing media. Since the shooter was taken alive, there will be a lengthy trial and this event is likely to stay media-active throughout the summer. It may provide a sorrowful memory for the people of Buffalo, a rallying point for some voters, and little or no legislative action.

[Abortion] “Summer of Rage” Abortion Rights Protests Begin Nationwide – More than 300 marches marked the day as the first of the mass demonstrations against the pending (and eventually actual) Supreme Court ruling that dismembers Roe v. Wade. This is not an issue that will fade, as every relevant thing that happens between now and the midterm elections will kick off further demonstrations.

[Ukraine] Ukraine Wins the Battle of Kharkiv – Such “wins” will rarely be official on the part of both sides, but in this case it’s clear the Russian high command has ordered troops out of the Kharkiv region and the Ukrainian forces have regained control of their second largest city, and from there eastward to the Russian border.

[Supreme Court] Justice Thomas Complains of Shattered Trust in the Supreme Court – Two notable points: Thomas is noted as the silent man of the court but recently he’s taken on the mantle of court defender, just when the court is ramping up to make a number of unpleasant and illiberal decisions; and, secondly, the enormous irony of his complaint about the leak of the abortion draft decision while his wife is openly engaged in lobbying about issues before the Supreme Court and Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself. The blatant hypocrisy at such a high level is stunning.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.43, Week of May 7 – 13, 2022 (Ripples)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 7 through Friday, May 13, 2022 [Vol.3 No.43]

Ripples

The Week’s Most Notable

It was a week of ripples, not riptide, for a variety of issues. For example, abortion. The initial shock of the leaked draft Supreme Court decision is giving way to a predictable focus on mobilizing for the release of the final decision toward the end of June. The Democrats have been given two extra months to make people aware of the decision and what it means. It’s also, apparently, giving the Republicans additional time to formulate repugnant and extreme implementations of the abortion ban for example, most antiabortion states are opting for few or no exemptions, even for incest, rape, or the health of the mother. The Republicans also seem to be coalescing around the idea that if they should win control of the government (House, Senate, Presidency), they will legislate a nationwide abortion prohibition. If this trend continues, the ‘22 and ’24 elections will provide voters with crystal-clear choices.

The House Jan. 6 Investigation made a pretty big splash with finally issuing subpoenas to congressional poohbahs such as Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Scott Perry, and Kevin McCarthy — all of whom were deeply involved in planning and/or participating in the insurrection. It appears they will reject the subpoenas and will force the committee to take stronger action. It’s possible that issuing subpoenas is a signal that the House Committee may be aware the DOJ is preparing to deal with Contempt of Congress charges for those who defy the subpoena. (Otherwise, the subpoenas are an empty and emasculating gesture.)

From the outside world looking in, the war in Ukraine – namely in the Donbas region – looks like a slog, something of a standoff. In truth, no one under a barrage of artillery shells, at the focus of a sniper’s rifle, or in the range of missiles fails to translate slog into protracted fear. More to the point, the Ukrainians are actually making headway in their northeast offensive to liberate Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, and attack Russian supply lines. There is enough Ukrainian success to stimulate even more talk of what happens if Putin perceives Russia is losing the war.

Many ripples create unintended consequences, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine is intentionally shutting down agricultural ports and destroying agricultural infrastructure – the upshot is almost certain to be famine in parts of Africa and the Mideast that rely on Ukrainian grain. Voices are already being raised to force opening of ports, or shipping grain via Poland or Romania. By winter, when famine reaches crisis level and food prices soar, this issue may seem a lot more urgent.

Economists talk about inflation like it was an enigma, but Republicans poke the wounds in family budgets caused by inflation and claim it is Biden putting salt in all those wounds. For Republicans, it looks like they are wagering everything on inflation to win the midterms. Yet, unemployment is down, way down, wages are up, though so is the price of everyday living. Economists are wary of speculating about what will happen, because inflation really is enigmatic, complicated, and worldwide. Politicians are happy to make things up (lie about it) but there is reality to inflation. Come the end of October, or thereabouts, how will voters feel about the economy?

Contrary to contemporary wishful thinking, COVID-19 has not gone away. In fact, in the U.S. it’s still gaining ground, even as we go into summer. Many people are noticing that they have a lot of friends and people they know who are or have recently been sick with coronavirus. We passed the 1 million dead milestone, and we still have days in which more than a thousand Americans die. Meanwhile, vaccinations and booster shots are dropping, people are running out of the effective immunization timeline, and Republican politicians are busy selling the idea that the pandemic is over and we don’t need to spend any money or do any mitigation. Meanwhile, epidemiologists are saying that we can expect a new and possibly major wave this fall and winter; maybe as many as 100 million infections. Sometimes it’s a tsunami, sometimes a few ripples, but the coronavirus waves keep coming.

Saturday, May 7

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 83,732,189; Deaths: 1,025,126

[Ukraine] Ukrainian School Bombed, 60 Feared Dead – The school was located in battle-scarred eastern Luhansk. Approximately ninety people were taking refuge in the school.

[Northern Ireland] Sinn Fein Wins Historic Vote – For the first time, the Northern Ireland Sinn Fein party (Nationalist) has won a plurality of seats in Northern Ireland’s legislative assembly. This does not mean that Ireland and Northern Ireland will be reunited any time soon, but it’s both a symbolic and practical step in that direction.

[Afghanistan] Taliban Orders Women to Cover Head to Toe – This is indicative of what was expected after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan – in this case women must either wear a burqa, or a veil-headscarf combination with a long robe (an abaya). Only the eyes are permitted to be visible. Violations are levied against the female’s ubiquitous male guardian/overseer.

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