THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Top Stories Regionally, Nationally & Internationally
15th December, 2022 0
As we close out another trip around the Zodiac, the REVIEW takes a look back at some of the top and more significant stories of the year that happened on the political realm. We hope you find this assessment helpful and informative.
Michigan Politics 2022
The Gift that was Dobbs. Liberals went wild when the Alito opinion leaked and the country learned that the great compromise of Roe v Wade would be overturned, and the issue of abortion regulations and prohibitions left to each state. The Roe case had set a national standard on abortion at the first trimester, and Dobbs removed that safety net for women seeking abortions. Cultural conservatives claimed victory for the right to life but failed to adopt moderate legislation to fill the void of federal civil rights protection of women’s right to choose.
This failure in Michigan resulted from a misguided fear among ruling republicans that their base would insist on a “no exceptions” ban on abortions. The result was a vacuum that democrat partisans could fill with an equally extreme ballot question which championed the rights of all females to choose to have an abortion.
Proposal 3 polarized the state, spoke directly to women voters, and pushed a huge midterm voter turnout in favor of a woman’s right to choose. That high voter turnout in turn generated unexpected wins for democrat candidates all over the state. “The overturn of Roe v. Wade reminded the nation that some of the most important, impactful policies come from right here in state legislatures. And when Michiganders turned to take a look at what was going on in their Capitol under long-standing Republican control, they knew it was time for a change,” said outgoing Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint.
Midterm Elections. Transformative change took place on November 8 Democrats won a majority of seats in both legislative chambers for the first time in nearly 40 years. Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson all won reelection, and Democrats now have a 7-6 majority of the state's congressional delegation. This was made easier by deep pocket spending on Democrat candidates and against republicans, which focused especially on the emotional abortion issue and against “no exceptions” Republican gubernatorial candidate Tru Dixon.
Also helping Democrat incumbents was the fact that the leading Republican candidate James Craig was disqualified from running in the primary election due to nominating petition insufficiencies based on patterns of forgeries.
This left second tier candidate Dixon suddenly in the spotlight, getting the Trump “endorsement”, and being affiliated with lightning rod Betsy DeVos. Republics sealed their own fate at their state convention, where the party delegates nominated election deniers Matt Deperno and Kristina Karamo.
Expect “right to work” repeal and reinstatement of prevailing wage, and $15 minimum wage laws in the coming year. The Republican party has collapsed in the wake of the “wave of red faces” election on November 8, and the donors who support candidates financially are being pushed out by Trump supporters bolstered by Right to Life voters enraged by the passage of Proposal 3 Abortion question.
Enbridge Line 5 lawsuit. Two years ago, Governor Whitmer revoked the easement for Canadian Enbridge Line 5 pipelines to pump light crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac through Michigan, saying the danger of a spill poses an unacceptable risk for Michigan’s environment.
Enbridge had already agreed to construct a concrete-lined tunnel 100 feet below the lakebed to house the pipeline and make it easier to monitor and contain any potential spill in the future, and so when the Governor ordered them to cease and desist Enbridge refused, relying on international treaty between Canada and the US. The 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty prohibits either side from shutting down the pipeline unilaterally.
Whitmer countered that a history of dangerous non-compliance by Enbridge voided the treaty terms. She sued in state court, where Enbridge would be doomed, but Enbridge successfully removed the case to federal court where they can prevail based on the federal question of the international treaty. Twice now federal jurisdiction over the matter has been affirmed, and late this summer the federal trial court judge took the unusual step of openly accusing the state of “procedural fencing,” “forum manipulation,” “gamesmanship,” and pursuing “duplicative or piecemeal litigation,” for attempting to move the case back to state courts after she already ruled in favor of federal jurisdiction.
Michigan’s position is that “state courts should have the final say,” but that ignores the fact that the Great Lakes are an international body of water subject to federal laws and international treaties. The struggle over balancing environmental safety with federalism is legally a technical issue, but even people who drive cars that use gas would rather walk before they consciously fail to prevent an oil spill to ruin our water.
The worst thing would be for an accident to happen while the solution is delayed in court by the very officials who demand a solution (though a different solution of energy austerity). The proposed Enbridge solution to construct a concrete tunnel deep in the bottomlands lands of the lake seems like a good way to address the issue in a proactive way for the future, but critics like Whitmer take an uncompromising stance without regard for the realistic energy needs of both countries.
This stance seems like irresponsible political pandering and exploitation of power to stubbornly push an irresponsible agenda, and the governor should get out of the way of progress on this important but manageable safety issue.
Whitmer Kidnapping Trials. This year’s political theater included cases against several Militia-gan yahoos with big mouths. A group of drunken guys with guns got infiltrated by a government informant, who quietly steered them to make half-baked plans to kidnap the governor and fly her like a kite over Lake Michigan (whatever that means).
The first trial resulted in an acquittal of some defendants and a hung jury on others. On retrial the remaining defendants were convicted. Even more have been charged in different counties, and the play goes on. While kidnapping is serious business, this plan never came to fruition, and the plot would never have hatched in the first place without the government’s “agent provocateur” planting the idea in the minds of suggestible fools.
The government has been cagey about exactly what evidence has been released to journalists for publication, and the Attorney General has denied sharing evidence publicly in what is a very public matter, to the point where investigative journalist Eric Van Dussen has had to sue to get FOIA requests granted. The fact that the government will not be transparent with the public suggests they have something to hide, and we may find out in 2023 that this is just one more exploitation of corruptible judicial system for political ends.
ARPA funding – Saginaw area. The American Rescue Plan Act injected mass federal grants to local governments. For instance, the City of Saginaw got $52 million, and the county received $37 million. These federal funds give local governments the tools to do good in the community, but this month the City and County governments will determine what “good” means.
$60,000 was already approved for Crime Stoppers of Saginaw County, despite warnings by highly respected County Commissioner, former Judge Chris Boyd, who spoke out against giving money to an organization that has failed to produce results in the past. Other projects will likely include a half million dollars for a non-profit grocery store, $160k for Health Source, $40k for Child and Family services, and 20k for the public libraries.
The city is planning to fund alternative mental health counseling for poor people who don’t want to use the county health department services that voters just voted to increase. Spending other people’s money is easy but spending it on sustainable and necessary government projects takes time and judgment. The hurry to get this spending done before year's end is a mistake, and even though this seems like free money we may wish we had the money back one day in the future.
COVID 19. World politics and economic prospects have suffered major setbacks because of COVID 19, perhaps the most lasting of which is the supply chain disruption caused by closing entire economies for months at a time. In our interdependent world, focused on the efficiencies of just-in-time inventory strategies, a supply chain interruption has had a ripple effect that has shocked the world supply of goods at every level.
Ironically, this unforeseen interruption happened as the US was printing dollars to stimulate consumer demand. By injecting free money into the economy in order to stimulate demand, just in time for supplies to become scarce, the government interference instead only caused the laws of relative supply and demand to inflate prices and produce the worst inflation in four decades. Now the FED is scrambling to cool inflation with interest rate hikes, but that may well trigger a prolonged economic austerity.
Vaccines. As recently as last July, at a CNN town hall, Biden claimed the vaccine would prevent infection altogether. In Sept. 2021, the same month Biden took his booster, and long after it was known that the vaccinated could still catch COVID, President Biden mandated the vaccine for federal employees. Then President Biden contracted Covid. His symptoms were mild, and it seems that the “vaccine” is not a “vaccine” at all but a medicine that mitigates the symptoms.
The COVID-19 vaccine was never designed to stop transmission of the virus, and it was never tested to see whether it did, according to the Pfizer company. They previously boasted that the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID cases in South Africa. Now they state “Regarding the question around, did we know about stopping immunization before it entered the market? No.“We had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is taking place in the market. And from that point of view, we had to do everything at risk.” The Biden administration has declared victory over Covid but has yet to allow Vax mandates to be lifted for the military and for healthcare workers.
Trump. Former president Donald Trump has announced he will run for president in 2024. He would be 78 years old if elected and could only serve one more term due to presidential term limits. In early December Trump made dramatic statements in his argument for new elections to resolve fraud in the 2020 election. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” With this unforced error, the list of people who could vote for Trump was once again diminished. Even beloved daughter Ivanka Trump has stated she does not plan to be involved in the campaign. "I love my father very much," Ivanka Trump posted on Instagram. "This time around, I am choosing to prioritize my young children and the private life we are creating as a family."
US Congress. The red wave failed to appear in the midterm elections. The race was dominated by dark money, with a cryptocurrency swindler and George Soros giving democrats a 10-1 margin for campaign funds. With the election in Georgia over now, Democrats have a Democratic majority – 51 to 49 – in the Senate. Republicans needed to flip just five seats to gain control of the House, and ultimately picked up nine seats to achieve 222-213 majority. With divided government is this hyper-partisan atmosphere one should not expect much in the way of advancing a legislative agenda over the next two years.
Twitter censorship. Elon Musk bought Twitter this fall and promptly revealed how it was weaponized in the 2020 election. Twitter blocked users from reposting New York Post's reporting of Hunter Biden's laptop in tweets and in direct messages. Journalist Matt Taibbi wrote "Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters. Slowly, over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well: first a little, then more often, then constantly," Taibbi wrote. "By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: ‘More to review from the Biden team.’ The reply would come back: 'Handled.'"
Governments around the world are experiencing a shift from US led world order to a multipolar, but not flat world. 2022 saw Russia reassert itself in eastern Europe, and the February 22 invasion of Ukraine has laid bare the limits of US hegemony, but at the same time has also had a net effect of enhancing the relative prestige of NATO because of the surprising success of a campaign supported by outside arms, equipment, and treasure being used to fight on the ground by a motivated Ukrainian military.
Sino-Russian Rapprochement. On February 4, 2022, just two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a joint statement in Beijing before the Winter Olympics opening ceremony. This statement announced a partnership between the two states “without any limitations”. The statement announced a new world order, a Grand Eurasian Partnership, and cooperation against US aggression. Xi was maneuvering to consolidate his power and secure an unprecedented third term as CCP General Secretary (a goal he achieved this summer), and he watched with interest how the US would react to the coming Russian invasion of Ukraine, waiting to see if it would provide an opportunity to push the issue of Mainland China reunification with Taiwan.
Support for Russia. Some of the usual suspects openly support Russia invasion. Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Syria are no surprise, and no threat militarily. Belarus is the biggest supporter of Russia and has allowed Russian Troops to enter Ukraine from its territory. However, China only asked all parties involved to “exercise restraint.” India disappointed the US when it took a neutral stance on the invasion, showing that even friends with lucrative trade relations with US, Russia and Ukraine may not be cornered into a stance on Ukraine. UAE and Saudi Arabia have refused to condemn Russian actions, which is a tough pill to swallow from supposedly close friends.
TURKEY and NATO. President Putin cited imminent NATO membership of Ukraine as bellum justum bellum for the invasion. Ukraine as a member of NATO would give NATO a common border with Russia proper, and treaty assurances that would free Ukraine from Russian influence indefinitely. The founding NATO members are Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, and the United States. Other Members of NATO: Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.
Turkey has been a pleasant surprise for Ukraine, allowing safe shipping through the Black Sea Corridor and controlling Russian sea traffic plus supplying Ukraine with drones and the Turkish equivalent of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Turkey is using its leverage with all involved to broker peace talks, which will likely bear fruit if Ukraine gives Russia an acceptable offramp. Erdogan seeks strike a balance of being pro-Ukraine but not anti-Russian and capitalize on how Putin’s war has weakened Moscow’s influence abroad. However, Turkey is using its unique position as gateway to the Black sea to exact concessions as a condition to the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland, who abandoned their longstanding policies of military nonalignment and applied for membership in the alliance after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, amid concerns that Russia might target them next.
Their membership in NATO will be a major setback to Moscow, adding 800 miles to Russia’s border with the alliance in what must be a nightmare scenario for Putin, who blustered so boldly about the danger of Ukraine’s border with Russia under NATO membership. Turkey contends these countries are insensitive to Turkish security concerns from Kurdish terrorists and pressing them to help defeat them and has also been pressuring the two countries to lift a de-facto ban on weapons sales to Turkey. It is believed these concessions will be achieved, and NATO approval may well be in place by the time this article prints.
International support is clearly on the side of Ukraine, and while some friends and allies were slow to provide money and arms to Ukraine until they proved their military prowess, most are providing real support. Days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. offered to transport Ukrainian President Zelensky to exile. “I need ammunition, not a ride,” became a symbol of national strength and unity, and shamed the western world into extending its unfettered support (short of troops and no-fly zones) for the Ukrainian defense, which continues now to push Russian troops back toward the border. European countries seem to have made alternate heating arrangements, which hurts the Russian economy, but it will be a dangerously cold winter for all of Europe.
China. Geopolitically speaking, Ukraine is a costly distraction to US foreign policy focus on the rise of China and consequent implications for a new world order. For decades after Nixon opened China the People’s Republic played a long game characterized by modest restraint. Never conceding Taiwan, but never attacking it, China and the US fell into an easy relationship after the fall of the Soviet Union, and agreed to disagree on that issue, kicking the can down the road indefinitely.
President Xi is a Maoist ideologue and has now taken permanent leadership of China, and who has ambitious goals for a Chinese world order, complete with a Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, or CIPS, designed to challenge the international primacy of the US Dollar and boost international use of China’s currency in trade settlements as an alternate to the dollar based SWIFT system that dominates world trade and finance.
Xi was reelected by the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party after his first 5-year term and was then able to have term limits removed from the Chinese constitution so that after is 2nd term he could run again. This summer’s party meeting assured him that a 3rd term will be approved, and Xi promoted friends and punished enemies to consolidate his power.
Under Xi the Chinese governing structure has discontinued its former “first among equals” consensus style for firm rule consolidated in the personality of President Xi. He made a spectacle of his absolute power when he had former Chinese President Hu Jintao escorted out of a major session of the Chinese Communist Party in a humiliating display of internal tensions within the ruling communist regime in Beijing, but managed to stack the inner circle of directors with his cronies, and demote or remove altogether several top leaders who did not fall in lock step with him.
Xi is poised to rule China for his lifetime, as he has used “anti-corruption” judicial witch hunts to ruin any political rivals he has had over the years.
Now that Xi has a fresh mandate it is feared that he will accelerate the expansion of Chinese water rights development and island building in the South China Sea and Indo-Pacific region, he may attempt to force the issue of reunification with Taiwan and challenge the “strategic patience” of the US. Taiwan is an indispensable trade partner to the US and a supply-chain choke point for semiconductors. Computer chips have emerged as one of the greatest hazards to the global economy as tensions between Taiwan and China increase.
All this tension has prompted active dialogues between the US, India, Australia and Japan through an informal strategic forum called “QUAD,” which may soon produce strategic military readiness strategies including US bases in Australia.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)