Texas Takes Off Its Masks

The Daily Escape:

Monument Valley, AZ – Winter 2019 photo by Petar_BG

From CNN:

“Gov. Greg Abbott announced…he’s lifting the mask mandate in Texas, even as health officials warn not to ease safety restrictions. Abbott….issued an executive order rescinding most of his earlier executive orders like the mask mandate…‘Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%…’”

Texas is among the worst states in vaccination rates, especially in the poor and minority communities. But to Abbott, that’s no problemo!

Like Trump before him, since they’re most likely Democratic voters, he doesn’t seem to care so much.

Biden replied: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms.…The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking — that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

Biden’s calling Abbott a Neanderthal may make their meeting after Texas’s next natural disaster less hospitable than the last one. OTOH, Abbott is undermining a national strategy to end the pandemic.

Think about it: In a marathon, you don’t call yourself a winner at mile 24, because the race is 26+ miles long. Abbott’s declaring victory early.

America’s running a marathon against Covid and its variants. It’s a miracle that we now have three acceptable vaccines to combat the virus. It’s been a long struggle trying to ward off the disease. So many have died, in part because so many Americans have refused to stay physically distant, and when they can’t, to mask up.

After a year, we finally have a president who takes the virus and the methods to control it seriously. But there’s no question that a large sub-set of our people are either vaccine or virus skeptics who will refuse to act to protect themselves or others.

Leadership on the town, state and federal levels have worked to contain the spread of infections and deaths, finally with some success. And now, just when we can have some optimism again, when we can envision a time where we can return to some form of normal, a few of the Republican Abbotts of America pull the plug.

By eliminating Texas’ mask mandate, Abbott’s betting that fewer, not more cases and deaths will occur. Every time a governor has relaxed these guidelines, cases and deaths have risen. See this tweet from Julian Castro:

After @GregAbbott_TX reopened Texas businesses in May, we saw a 300% jump in hospitalizations.

The question that Abbott and other governors (like Mississippi‘s Tate Reeves) need to answer is, what constitutes an acceptable number of increased cases? Or deaths? If Abbott and Reeves are so concerned about the economies of Texas and Mississippi, shouldn’t they have figured out acceptable casualty counts?

How many Texans/Mississippians are worth sacrificing so that their states’ business owners can have a better year?

Abbott is betting that the pandemic no longer poses a serious threat in Texas. Here is what’s really happening on the ground:

Does Abbott simply care more about businesses than people? How can someone responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of his fellow citizens treat that responsibility so cavalierly? Presiding over a state that from a virus viewpoint, is a larger version of South Dakota, isn’t a great way to demonstrate one’s leadership chops.

What’s going on right now is a contest between the literally incredible achievements of medical science, and the almost literally incredible stupidity and perversity of our right-wing politicians.

Tune in to see who wins this exciting race! Spoiler, there won’t be any winners.

The Biden administration says there will be enough doses available to vaccinate every adult by the end of May. The soon-to-be-passed Covid relief package has money to assist states deliver their doses.

The latest KFF COVID vaccine monitor poll puts the “definitely refuse” the vaccine at 15%. They also found that about 18% had been vaccinated, 37% would get it as soon as it was available, and 22% would wait and see how well it is working. So, we might be able to get up to around 75% vaccine uptake voluntarily.

Having a President rather than a Twitter troll in the White House seems to be helpful. Who could have predicted?

Even with the millions of doses of the vaccines that are coming, a spike in Texas may mean that instead of getting them where they’re needed, we’re going to be spending time, money, and shots in a place that could have avoided another spike in the first place.

But most of the sociopaths in the Republican Party can’t accept a good thing, even when it’s handed to them.

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We’re Riding on a Slow-Moving Train Wreck

The Daily Escape:

El Matador State Park, Malibu CA – 2021 photo by stephencovar

It’s commonly accepted knowledge that it’s hard to look away from a slow-motion train wreck. We should note that it’s even harder when you are riding on the train. And it’s harder still when some of the people riding along with you would be totally happy to see it wrecked.

Let’s start by revisiting CPAC and Trump. He attacked the Supreme Court for not overturning an American election, and his supporters cheered. We can’t let ourselves forget how wrong that was, and if unchecked, its implications for the future.

Second, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans has decided that Catholics may take the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, but not the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They say the J&J shot is “morally compromised”, since it was developed using cloned cells derived from fetuses aborted nearly a half a century ago.

New York Magazine’s Ed Kilgore writes:

“It’s worth noting that another Catholic diocese not far away, in Tyler, Texas, has rejected all three vaccines as having been “produced immorally”….But….the Vatican itself is administering the Pfizer vaccine (with Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, among its recipients).”

The faithful in New Orleans and Tyler, TX must decide whether they must be more Catholic than the Pope. Anybody else wonder how America can get the pandemic behind us when religious leaders won’t follow science?

Third, as Bill Kristol notes at the Bulwark, our democracy is in crisis. For the first time in our history, we failed to have a peaceful transfer of power, and Republicans want to ensure that fewer people can vote next time around. They’re supporting many new voting restrictions at the state level.

The Brennan Center has identified 253 bills to restrict voting rights in 43 states that would impose measures to make voting harder. They include reducing early voting, limiting the use of mail-in ballots, eliminating drop boxes, and imposing new voter ID requirements.

This is crucial to our democracy, since Democrats only control 15 states, none of which is a swing state like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Republicans have compounded the Dem’s problems through aggressive gerrymandering in Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

It’s difficult to understand how in a democracy, there is any discussion of restricting the right to vote. Unless we protect this right, we’re heading down a slippery slope. So to help avoid this slow-motion train wreck, Democrats need to get as many people registered as possible right now.

Finally, secession is on the map again, exactly where you might have expected it to be. Bright Line Watch, in a study released in February, showed that one-third of Republicans said they support secession. And it gets worse: Half of Republicans across the former Confederacy (plus Kentucky and Oklahoma) are now willing to form a newly independent country. Here is Bright Line Watch’s map of secessionist support by Trump approval ratings:

The Texas Republican Party recently supported a referendum on Texas seceding from the union. While secessionist rhetoric is couched in claims about fiscal responsibility and burdensome federal regulations, it doesn’t take much to see ethno-nationalism lurking behind it.

Secession in Texas is a combination of nativism, xenophobia, and white grievance. Texas secession Facebook pages are saturated with fantasies of forcing Democrats to leave the state and seizing their property. Just like the Confederates of the 1860s, this modern secessionist push is rooted in large part in maintaining white supremacy and authoritarian governance.

The increasing marriage of secessionist chatter and GOP ideology should be cause for concern since it is widespread throughout the heartland of America. Of course, state-level secession is illegal in the US. Even Justice Scalia said:

“If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”

America has argued about secession since the days of John C. Calhoun, who worked to protect the south’s commitment to slavery from the 1820s until his death in 1850. Trump’s efforts to overturn an election in which Black voters did so much to defeat him in the south, recalls Calhoun’s efforts to deny them citizenship and the franchise almost two centuries ago.

We’re living in a moment when we will see whether American democracy survives these attacks on it by Republicans.

The ability to vote is central to our Democracy. It is at the core of our belief system and without it, all else is meaningless.

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 1, 2021

Sorry that we didn’t have Sunday cartoons. For the first time in 11 years writing this little blog, Wrongo couldn’t find much that was worthy of publishing, except this one:

The NYT reported that around one-third of America’s military have declined to take the Covid vaccine. The reluctance is largely among younger troops, and that it’s a warning about the potential hole in the broad-scale immunity goals for the country. Here is what’s known: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Roughly one-third of troops on active duty or in the National Guard have declined to take the vaccine, military officials recently told Congress. In some places, such as Fort Bragg, N.C., the nation’s largest military installation, acceptance rates are below 50%.”

The Defense Department doesn’t collect data on who fails to take the shot, but says: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…there is broad agreement that refusal rates are far higher among younger members, and enlisted personnel are more likely to say no than officers. Military spouses appear to share that hesitation: In a December poll of 674 active-duty family members conducted by Blue Star Families, a military advocacy group, 58% said they would not allow their children to receive the vaccine.”

Although hundreds of thousands of military members have received shots so far, taking the vaccine is voluntary for military members, since it’s only been approved for emergency use by the FDA. If it becomes a standard, approved vaccine, the military can order troops to take the shot.

The rule limiting the Pentagon’s authority to mandate vaccinations unless they’ve been approved by the FDA was designed to protect soldiers from being treated as medical guinea pigs by Uncle Sam. Troops cited the military’s use of an anthrax vaccine in the late 1990s which was believed to cause adverse effects as evidence that the military should not be on the front lines of a new vaccine.

There are many other examples from LSD experiments to radiation exposure that have been visited on America’s military in our lifetimes. But this is an example of a good rule that’s produced a possibly bad outcome, since the vaccine has already been given to nearly 50 million Americans.

This shot doesn’t quality as “experimenting” on the military, but rules are rules and vaccine skeptics within the ranks are taking advantage. Mandating compliance is likely to bring other problems. The NYT says:

“In some ways, vaccines are the new masks: a preventive measure against the virus that has been politicized.”

We’ve written about how the military is moving rightward politically. Most of the reasons quoted by the Times for not getting vaccinated sound more like the QAnon party line than what we hear in civilian society.

More from the Times, quoting a 24-year-old female airman in Virginia who said she declined the shot even though she is an emergency medical worker:

“I would prefer not to be the one testing this vaccine”….She also said that because vaccine access had become a campaign theme during the 2020 race for the White House, she was more skeptical, and added that some of her colleagues had told her they would rather separate from the military than take the vaccine should it become mandatory.”

The NYT says in the article that the military’s vaccine skepticism is simply a reflection of the society at large. They quote  Dr. Michael S. Weiner, the former chief medical officer for the Defense Department:

“At the end of the day, our military is our society….They have the same social media, the same families, the same issues that society at large has.”

What’s happening in the military is like what we’re seeing across the entire US: There’s a higher percentage of older people taking the vaccine, and that percentage trends down with age.

According to the latest poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 77% of Americans 65 or over have either gotten a shot or plan to do so as soon as possible. But just 41% of Americans aged 18-29 say the same.

The military traditionally operates in confined quarters. On ships, in barracks, or at a duty station where there’s little room for social distancing. There soon may be enough military anti-vaxxers where they can cause issues with readiness. There was a Covid outbreak on a navy ship that infected 1,100 crew members, about 20% of the ship’s crew.

Time to wake up America! Returning to nearly normal will take a few things: First, keeping your distance from others who may have the virus; it doesn’t spread easily at distance. Second, taking FDA-approved precautions like getting the shots. Or third, at least wearing a mask.

If you won’t do any of those three, you risk yourself, your family and the rest of us.

To help you wake up, listen to Hennessey the Band do their song “8 Men“:

Sample Lyric:

8 men have all the money.

8 men have more than half of the money than everyone else in the world has combined.

8 men control the economy.

8 men have all the wealth.

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Saturday Soother – February 27, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Boulder Beach, Acadia NP February 2021 photo via Scenes of Maine Photography

It’s Saturday, so we have a lightning round of news you can use. First, the Daily Beast reports:

“A pickup truck parked at the US Capitol and bearing a Three Percenter militia sticker on the day of the Jan. 6 riot belongs to the husband of freshman Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, who approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler a day earlier,”

The Three Percenters are a para-military group who wish to overthrow the US government. And before you ask, yes, Rep. Miller is a new Republican Congresscritter, who spoke at a pre-coup “Moms for America” rally in front of the Capitol the day before the riot. She said:

“Hitler was right on one thing: whoever has the youth has the future…”

This is Republicanism today. She later apologized for the remarks. Sure.

Second, a new poll on Covid vaccine skepticism shows that since last fall, it has come way down for Blacks and Hispanics. Skepticism remains high among white Republicans. Nearly 60% of White Republicans will either not take the vaccine or are unsure:

Source: Civiqs

One of the great challenges during the pandemic has been establishing public trust, particularly among racial minorities who have a long history of both exploitation and neglect by the medical establishment and the government.

The good news is that vaccine skepticism is falling substantially over the past few months. It now appears that the only barrier to achieving herd immunity is White Republicans.

Their skepticism about government involvement in health is part of a long trend among Republicans. In the 1960s, Reagan was against Medicare, and called any expansion “socialized medicine”. He refused to acknowledge the AIDS crisis. In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich blocked Clinton’s health care plan, although he was in favor of a similar program that was adopted by Mitt Romney as Governor of Massachusetts.

The Romney plan was the template for Obamacare, which all Republicans opposed, including Newt Gingrich, who was for it before he was against it.

It isn’t just ideological resistance, it’s a bone-deep antipathy to any collective attempt to have high quality public health in America. Their antipathy toward health is beyond ideology, it’s pathology.

Finally, a few words about just how old and out of touch members of Congress have become. Demo Memo, a site Wrongo highly recommends, posted about the demographics of Congress. The bottom line is that the Baby-Boom generation dominates both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“According to an analysis of the 117th Congress by Pew Research Center, Boomers account for a 53% percent majority of the House and for an even larger 68% percent of the Senate…”

House: number (and percent) of members of the 117th Congress by generation

Millennials: 31 (7%)

Gen Xers: 144 (33%)

Boomers: 230 (53%)

Silent: 27 (6%)

Senate: number (and percent) of members of the 117th Congress by generation

Millennials: 1 (1%)

Gen Xers: 20 (20%)

Boomers: 68 (68%)

Silent: 11 (11%)

The ages of the 117th Congress range from 25.5 years to 87.7 years. The median age of the House is 58.9. The median age of the Senate is 64.8. That may explain why Sen. John Thune (R-SD), can reminisce about working for $6/hour in a restaurant in 1978, as part of his objection to a $15/hr. wage.

A $6/hr. wage in 1978, adjusted for inflation, would equal $24.07/hr. in 2021. A person making $24.07 an hour, working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year would earn over $50,000 a year before taxes. And a person working the same hours and earning the proposed wage of $15/hr. would earn just over $31,200 a year before taxes.

A person working the same hours and earning the current national minimum wage of $7.25/hr. earns just over $15,080 a year, before taxes today.

Time to let go of the DC merry-go-round for a few minutes and enjoy a brief Saturday Soother. It’s going to rain in Connecticut today, helping to melt some of the snow remaining on the ground. So, settle back and watch this stunning video from “Playing for Change” who we’ve featured a few times in the past. Here, Peter Gabriel is singing his song “Biko”, that he wrote and performed in 1980.

It’s a tribute to the South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died while in police custody. More than 25 musicians from seven countries join Gabriel for this global rendition, including Beninese vocalist Angélique Kidjo, Silkroad’s Yo-Yo Ma, and bass legend Meshell Ndegeocello:

Lyric:

You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher.

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If the Covid Relief Bill Passes, Who Wins?

The Daily Escape:

Sedona, AZ – 2021 photo by jess.kesti96

Republicans are closing ranks against Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Despite thin majorities in both Houses of Congress, Democrats are poised to start by pushing it through the House today.

The Senate may be another matter, as changes to the bill seem likely. Specifically, the $15/hour minimum wage may not be in the final version of the bill. And it appears that there will be little or no Republican support in either House. Not one Republican in either chamber has officially announced that they are backing the legislation.

From Politico: (Brackets by Wrongo)

“Instead, Republicans are…foisting blame on Biden for shutting them out of the legislative process and hammering Democrats over the slow pace of school reopenings across the country — an issue they think will become a potent political weapon, particularly in key suburban battlegrounds….On Tuesday, Senate GOP leaders devoted most of their weekly press conference to the school reopening debate. [Sen. John] Thune said Democrats seem more interested in money for Planned Parenthood “than they are about getting kids back into class,” while Sen. John Barrasso said Biden “has surrendered to the teachers’ union.”

Voting against the relief bill is a unity test for the GOP following their bitter infighting after the Capitol riots and last month’s impeachment vote. But Republicans are playing a dangerous game. The pandemic has killed over a half-million people and damaged the economy by throwing millions out of work. And people like the bill, although the Republicans oppose it.

In this case, while the bill is controversial in Washington, there is little disagreement about it anywhere else in the country. In fact, a substantial majority support the bill: 66% of adults and 65% of registered voters. The chart below is from a new Economist /YouGov Poll, conducted between February 19 and 22 of 1,500 adults (including 1,201 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 2.7 points, and for registered voters is 3 points:

The data say that the bill is consistently popular across all age and gender groups, with only a plurality of Republicans objecting to it. A Quinnipiac poll similarly found that 68% support the rescue package, and 78 % support its $1,400 relief checks.

The Republicans have tried to discredit the bill, but their efforts haven’t been effective. They’ve complained about the overall size of the stimulus, and that too many people will be helped. They’re against assistance to state and local governments, saying that most of it may go to cities and states where there are lots of Democrats. But little in their arguments seems to be persuading many voters.

In fact, the bill is one of the more popular pieces of major legislation in recent US history. That demonstrates how small the risk is for Democrats, even if they get zero Republican votes for the aid package in either the Senate or the House.

To its eternal credit, the Biden administration has made it plain that it will go it alone if needs be. So far, it has waved off half-measures like the alternative proposal on the minimum wage proposed by Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton.

To be passed under the reconciliation process by the Senate, the minimum wage increase would have had to survive a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that it complies with the Byrd Rule. That rule requires that each part of the bill must produce a significant effect on federal spending, revenues, and the debt within 10 years. However, the Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday evening that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader relief bill.

Now, it’s likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, since it can’t be passed with a simple Senate majority that Democrats are planning to use for the stimulus bill.

Even without the minimum wage, Republicans are betting that the voters won’t punish them in the 2022 mid-term election for opposing it. They may be wrong, especially if Republicans in the Senate can either block the bill, or substantially reduce its benefits.

They could also turn out to be right if the Biden administration mis-handles the roll-out of stimulus funds. But voters have long memories if you try to take money out of their pockets.

It’s vital for Biden & Co. to show Americans early on that it’s possible for them to get what they voted for. While there are many things on Biden’s agenda that will require compromise, they should push this one through.

COVID-19 relief is controversial in Washington. Everyone knows that the Republicans aren’t objecting to relief, they’re objecting to this Democratic administration getting off to a successful start.

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Sen. Manchin Should Get Onboard

The Daily Escape:

Frozen waterfall, Westcave Preserve, near Austin TX – taken last week during the Texas cold snap. Photo by BusyRunninErins

Neera Tanden’s nomination to serve as Biden’s director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), appears to be on life support. There is growing concern that she may not be confirmed by the Senate.

It seems that Senators object to her history of mean tweets, many of which have been directed at a few Senators whose support she needs. So far, Joe Manchin (D-WVA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mitt Romney(R-UT) have announced their opposition to Tanden.

Without Manchin, Tanden will need to not only hold onto all other Democrats, but also pick off one of the two Republicans who haven’t announced how they’ll vote: Lisa Murkowski or Shelley Moore Capito.

According to Politico, Tanden has tweeted over 88,000 times in the decade since she joined Twitter. That’s about 30,000 more than Trump has tweeted over a slightly longer time span. Over the years she has gotten into Twitter fights with many on the political scene. She’s been very anti-Republican. But the question is whether her tweets should be a barrier to public service.

Much, but not all the opposition to Tanden’s nomination is coming from Republicans. it’s certainly hypocritical of any Republican Senator who stood by Trump despite his daily Twitter outrages, to raise these objections to Tanden – the double standard is obvious.

Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney announced Monday they would oppose Tanden. Said Collins:

“Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend…”

It’s notable that Tanden in the past called Collins “the worst”.

Still, Democrats control the Senate, and there’s no reason why Manchin, for instance, needs to stand up for his Republican colleagues’ honor by rejecting a Democratic cabinet nominee. But he did:

“I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget….”

This is despite Manchin’s previously voting for polarizing Trump nominees. He voted to confirm Richard Grenell to the post of US ambassador to Germany, despite his toxic partisan tweets. Manchin also voted to confirm Jeff Sessions as AG, when Sessions’ racist past was well-known. He voted to confirm Bill Barr as AG and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

As Wrongo wrote yesterday, Congressional Democrats under-performed in the 2020 elections. Now, in a 50-50 Senate, Manchin is a pivotal vote and has real power. He’s in a position along with other moderate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Jon Tester (MT) to set the terms of the Democratic Party’s agenda.

At 73, many think that Manchin won’t run again in 2024. Since he’s in control of West Virginia’s Democratic political establishment, he doesn’t need to bend to pressure from inside or outside West Virginia. So, why won’t he get on board with Biden?

While Democrats can get angry at Republicans, they seem to keep a supply of outrage on hand for their fellow Democrats. They have low expectations for Republicans, but they demand better of Democrats. But after four years of Trump, the double standard over Tanden’s nomination to lead President Joe Biden’s OMB is beyond ridiculous for Manchin, and even more so for Republicans.

The Right-wing won’t let go of Manchin easily, because they think he’s a rollable Senator.

He’s facing heat from Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-backed group. They’re launching a six-figure mail, radio and digital ad campaign to have him oppose President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Republicans have returned to their old argument from the 2020 election, that Biden is a “radical.”

They say Biden’s foreign policy is “radical.” That his immigration policy is “radical.” That Biden’s climate change policy is “radical.”

They say that Biden’s nominees are “radical.” His Covid relief bill is a “payback to the radical left.” That Biden is the “most radical left wing president in history.”

But most Americans don’t see Biden that way.

They may not particularly like him or his policies, but the “radical” tag just hasn’t stuck. It didn’t work during the campaign; it hasn’t worked during his first month in office. Biden just doesn’t give off a radical vibe.

There may be things to criticize Biden for, but yelling “radical” at every turn isn’t going to work.

And Manchin ought to listen up: Biden should get the cabinet nominees that he wants, even if some of them tweet mean things at Republicans.

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Republicans Were More Successful in 2020 Than We Knew

The Daily Escape:

The Grist Mill, Chelmsford MA – photo by Michael Blanchette. The original mill was established in the 17th century by Captain Samuel Adams, an ancestor of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

We dodged a bullet on Jan. 6, but the gun is still loaded.

Trump says he plans to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024, and there doesn’t seem to be much standing in his way. After all, the Republican Party’s leader attempted a coup to overthrow our democracy, and they refused to punish him for it.

Most of Republican voters won’t even admit that the GOP was responsible. Trump got 74 million votes despite all that went wrong under his leadership. The Republicans won House seats. They lost 2 Senate seats in Georgia by just 150,000 votes out of 9 million cast.

Had the Republicans only lost 2 seats instead of 3, Mitch McConnell would still be Senate Majority Leader.

Biden’s 43,000 votes in AZ, GA and WI are why Trump isn’t on his second term right now. With a reasoned response to Covid, including encouraging masks/distancing, had he sent more relief to Americans, he would almost certainly be the president today.

And it’s far from certain that Trump would be a two-time loser. Data from an NBC News poll shows that there are signs across racial and ethnic demographic groups that Republicans are fast becoming the party of blue-collar Americans and the change is happening quickly:

The blue-collar voter shift has policy implications for both Parties. Blue-collar voters tend to want different things from the government than those with white-collar jobs, on issues such as trade and even Wall Street regulation. Here’s another way to look at the growing GOP share of White blue-collar voters:

Among white-collar voters, the numbers have remained stable, with Democrats seeing a one percent increase and Republicans seeing a tiny drop. Turning to Hispanic voters, the Republicans are also dramatically improving their share by 57% in ten years:

Looking at these numbers, the big jump in the GOP’s blue-collar growth took place during Trump’s presidency. If the Republicans continue to try and peel these groups away from the Democrats, it means that they will be tied even more closely to Trump.

This is where we’re at as a country. There are two ways to appeal to these groups that are moving away from the Dems. A cultural appeal, and an economic one.

It’s obvious that what spoke to most of those who moved to the Republicans, was a cultural appeal, not economics. Trump signed the biggest tax cuts in US history for wealthy people. He tried awfully hard to repeal health care benefits and never produced anything better. He rolled back safety regulations.

He appealed to this cohort almost exclusively on cultural grounds. If some of these voters were to become motivated by economics, they should vote for Democrats next time, since they offer a far friendlier economic agenda. As a reminder, Democrats must be successful EVERY TIME the Republican Party attempts to steal an election. They only need to be successful once.

Moreover, the Big Lie, the claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump via massive voter fraud, is now a standard Republican talking point. So the national media allow them to say it repeatedly:

This was last Sunday. Even after an insurrection based on a lie, it’s become a Party talking point. The Capitol riot mob has become the Republican Party. And the moderators were ineffective in their efforts to push back.

OTOH, Democrats need to react to this clear Republican strategy to continue to peel off Dem voters based on cultural issues, along with a few conspiracy theories like Trump’s Big Lie that the presidential election was stolen in broad daylight, and that few believe Covid is an existential threat.

Andrew Levinson at the Democratic Strategist says Democrats need some out-of-the-box thinking to win in 2022 and 2024. He says that White working-class people can hold traditional attitudes about cultural and racial issues while supporting a range of progressive economic policies. He thinks that running as economic populists with vaguely Red cultural values, even in solid Red districts, will eventually bring success.

According to a USA Today/Suffolk poll released over the weekend, 46% of Republicans would join him if Trump made an effort to create his own party. That means about half may be still be open to persuasion by Democrats if they come with the right message.

Building a plan that will successfully counter the GOP’s effort to continue peeling away Democrats should be what all of the Democratic Party leadership are working on right now.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Extremists in the Military Edition, February 22, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Lake Willoughby VT – February 2021 photo by John Rowe Photography

For decades, domestic extremists have flaunted their ties to the US military, seeking to attach themselves both to the military’s credibility, and their tactical skills.

The January attack on the US Capitol showed us that the ties between US military members and the extreme right are deeper and more pervasive than we thought. Among the Capitol crowd were many military emblems: Some waved Marine Corps flags, many wore military gear, or specific unit patches signifying their time in service.

The AP found that at least 21 active-duty US Army and law enforcement personnel were present at the riot. We know that about 207 people have been arrested so far. The Military Times reported that 32 of the participants in the US Capitol coup had previously served in the military. If you want to get a current reading on the attitudes of the military to the Capitol coup, read the 640 comments on the article. It’s chilling.

How big is the problem? Last year, the FBI told the Pentagon that it had opened criminal investigations that involved 143 current or former service members. Sixty-eight of those involved domestic extremism and the vast majority involved veterans, not active-duty troops. Importantly, the Defense Department has no central database for tracking the allegations or disciplinary actions related to extremism.

Also, military regulations allow service members to have extremist affiliations and use extremist rhetoric if a service member doesn’t act upon them. In fact, the Pentagon reported in 2020 that only 21 service members had been disciplined or discharged over the previous five years for extremist activities. It’s doubtful that reflects the true scope of the problem.

According to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress last October:

“Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to US national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events….Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”

Military leaders say tackling the problem is difficult because the Constitution protects freedom of speech, and the law prohibits criminalizing affiliations that are deemed fundamentally political in nature, rather than a threat to harm the public. New defense secretary, Gen. Lloyd Austin, vowed at his confirmation hearing in January to:

“…rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity.”

And Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Feb. 3:

“Extremism has risen to a top priority as the new secretary called in the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs of Staff…directing them to conduct a 60-day stand-down for leaders to speak with troops about the problem….”

Monitoring the potential extremist activities of 1.3 million active-duty service members is challenging. It’s difficult to distinguish between the casual gestures of some troops and the real warning signs of potentially illegal extremist activity by others.

Another concern is that 35 US Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their actions during the Capitol riot, and six have been suspended. In addition, the NYT reports that at least 30 police from around the country took part in the rally before the Capitol riot. Many are being investigated, and three have been arrested on federal charges related to breaching the Capitol.

The military appears to be less politically representative of society, with a long-term downward trend in the number of officers identifying as Democrats. Instead, identification with the Republican Party has become the norm. The junior officer corps, apart from its female and minority members, appears to be overwhelmingly hard-right Republican. And military personnel have for the past decade been voting in greater percentages than the general population.

In many ways, the military and civilian police seem to have, as Samuel Huntington wrote in 1957, “the outlook of an estranged minority.”

Time to wake up America! We can’t bury our heads in the sand, hoping that the linkage between the military, our police, and groups like QAnon and the fringe of the GOP won’t grow stronger. We need to call out the problem whenever and wherever we see it.

To help you wake up, listen to the group Kiwi Jr.’s “Maid Marian’s Toast” from their brand-new album “Cooler Returns”:

Sample Lyric:

now you’ve got something we want

it’s the Twenties and you’ve got something we want

so you’ve made the decision to make the decision

now spare us all from these half-assed revisions

you’ve got something we’ve always wanted

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 21, 2021

Believe it or not, on Monday, Merrick Garland finally gets a hearing in front of a Senate committee! Whether he will be confirmed remains to be seen. John Pavlovitz nails it, and also nails Ted Cruz:

“Ted Cruz represents the heart and soul of the Republican Party: that’s why he left people in pain, that’s why he fled a crisis, that’s why he will be defended by his callous Republican counterparts—and why so many GOP voters will vote for him again, should they survive their cruelty.”

More:

“…Cruz is the defective moral compass of those who’ve spent the past twelve months doing everything they could to be a deadly pandemic’s greatest allies and causing nearly half a million Americans to die;
after four months of stoking fake election fraud conspiracies that incited a murderous assault on our nation’s Capitol….after weeks of being so enamored with defending their disgraced cult leader’s non-existent honor, they’ve been useless in creating a stimulus plan to rescue those millions whose lives have be upended by a historic health crisis he did nothing to combat.”

As Pavlovitz says, there’s no sense of right and wrong with the GOP, only what they believe they will get away with. On to cartoons.

Ted left for Mars:

Ted didn’t forget:

Finally, Mexico is concerned Texas isn’t sending their best:

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Saturday Soother – February 20, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Winter waterfall, Seward County, NE – photo by Roger Richters

Finally, we have some good news. Yesterday, Wrongo wondered if we had become the “can’t do” nation, and right on cue, NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover touched down on Mars.

Since this is 2021, the Rover has a Twitter account, and immediately tweeted:

Those people at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) threw a dart that had to travel 292.5 million miles and it hit the bullseye. It landed in the Jezero Crater, which is probably an ancient river delta. Perseverance will now look for fossilized pond scum that, if found, may possibly contain evidence of life on Mars.

Wrongo’s question is: What are the chances of applying some of that futuristic science here at home to stop the country from melting down? Maybe handling some “simple” stuff, like keeping the lights on in Texas. Or applying some mojo to getting our kids back in school?

It was also heartening (and affirming) that all the rocket scientists in the JPL control center were wearing masks. We can accomplish amazing things, but in real life, we still need to work on our humanity.

Wrongo is old enough to have been around for the launch of the first Sputnik. That brought with it the sense that the US wasn’t necessarily the best or the brightest of countries. We had many, many launch failures in our efforts to land on the moon. On September 12, 1959, the Russian Luna 2 hit the moon, but it took another five years for the US also to hit the moon with Ranger 4.

In 1966, Surveyor 1 landed and sent data back for two months before going dark.

Gradually NASA’s technology got better. And now, we routinely expect our space missions not only to launch, but also to reach their objective. We’ve tried a lot: Of multiple attempted Mars landings by many countries, ten have now had successful soft landings.

In 1971, the Soviet Union sent probes Mars 2 and Mars 3, each carrying a lander. The Mars 2 lander failed to land and impacted Mars. The Mars 3 lander became the first probe to successfully soft-land on Mars. In 1976, two American Viking probes entered orbit about Mars, and each released a lander module that made successful soft landings on the planet’s surface. You can see a list of all the Mars landings, (both successes and failures) here.

And now, we have landed our most advanced Rover.

it’s wonderful what science can bring us, both here on earth, but also, far away from earth. It’s depressing how science has delivered super-computers into the hands of billions, and yet somehow, it’s only made many of them stupider.

So, back to a normalized Saturday Soother, that time when we step away from Twitter and the comic stylings of Ted Cruz and forget about the DC carousel for a few minutes.

Let’s start by brewing up a mug of Trust the Process Full Natural ($18.99/8oz.) from Red Rooster, a Floyd, VA (pop. 432) roaster. It apparently has a subtle tropical fruit note suggesting lychee.

We still have about 8” of snow cover, so indoor sports are on the table for the weekend. Time to grab a seat by a window, and listen to “Mars”, from Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite, written between 1914 and 1916. Here it is played by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras:

We should make this Mars’ anthem once we have colonies there.

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