Saturday Soother – September 19, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Afternoon rain, Candlewood Lake, Brookfield CT – photo by Kevin Lane

We’re 10 days away from the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. The debates should have zero meaning for the election, since Trump will lie his way through all three of them. That has been the reality since 2016, and it’s continued, non-stop. From Politico:

“Four years after he won the Midwest by vowing to revitalize the US manufacturing workforce, President Donald Trump is campaigning for reelection on a job well done. The numbers tell a different story.”

It’s highly doubtful that economic anxiety alone won the Midwest for Trump. We should remember that there was a near-perfect conjunction among racism, sexism and Whites voting for Trump in 2016.

Here’s Trump lying on Sept. 10 at a rally near Saginaw, Michigan:

“You better vote for me, I got you so many damn car plants….And we’re going to bring you a lot more.”

So many car plants: That would be zero.

And Michigan was down 66,500 manufacturing workers for the year from July 2019 to July 2020. Much of those losses were due to the pandemic, but there were 10,200 fewer manufacturing workers in Michigan in February 2020 than there were in February 2019. Earlier, Trump lied in Ohio at a Whirlpool factory:

“Over the last six months, we’ve witnessed one manufacturing miracle after another”.

Ohio was down 48,000 manufacturing workers in July vs. last year. Pre-pandemic, it had lost 2,200 workers in February from last year. Politico quotes Mark Muro, a Brookings economist:

“Trump has been all in on this huge resurgence of manufacturing employment, and that has not materialized.”

More:

“…the White House’s trade wars kicked the [manufacturing] sector into another slump in 2019, with Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania facing declines or plateaus in manufacturing employment even back in February — well before Covid-19 forced layoffs at dozens of plants.”

The trend is the same nationwide. Manufacturing across the US is down 720,000 workers from February, despite gaining 29,000 jobs in August.

And then there’s the pandemic. Trump blamed “blue states” for increasing the nation’s death rate from coronavirus, suggesting that if “you take the blue states out” of the equation the US would be far more competitive with other countries.

He’s making no bones about the fact that he’s president of only those who live in red states (149 million vs. 179 million in blue states.) Since he’s ignorant of most facts, here’s one: 53% of coronavirus deaths have occurred in blue states, and 47% have occurred in red ones. More than 90,000 people have died in red states, while about 100,000 have died in blue states. So, another lie, and not exactly a stellar record in red states.

Of course we will have to wait and see if reality vs. lies told in debates make any difference. Gimme the damn ballot.

It’s Saturday, so let’s take a short break from politics for our Saturday Soother.

The leaves are starting to fall here in Connecticut, long before any fall color arrives. We’re expecting the first frost over the weekend, and as usual, there’s yard work ahead. The last of our tomatoes need to be harvested, along with a few remaining jalapenos. Sounds like salsa to Wrongo. Oh, and the water fountain needs cleaning, too.

Before all of that, take time to brew up a vente cup of Kenya Gatuya coffee ($21.00/12oz.) from Lake Tahoe’s perfectly named for a Saturday, Drink Coffee Do Stuff. The roaster says the 6,000ft elevation at Lake Tahoe makes their coffees sweeter. You be the judge.

Now, put on a sweater and think about the eternal changing of the seasons. And remember that one day, like a miracle, Trump will just disappear. Now, listen to Yo Yo Ma play Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s oboe and The Falls” from the movie “The Mission.”

Music like Morricone’s whispers to us, and carries us beyond our trivial endeavors. Consider yourself soothed:

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Saturday Soother – September 12, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mandalas in the sand, Bandon, OR – September 2020 photo by Ottho Heldring

It’s been 19 years since the 9/11 terror attacks took the lives of 2,974 Americans. On Thursday, Wrongo had a good discussion with an old friend about how the nation has lost its ability to see things the same way. Everything today is polarized.

Back on 9/11/2001, we grieved together, we felt a sense of national purpose. After 9/11, we mourned on a national scale. It was a galvanizing event for most of us, but it soon was exploited to make terrible decisions. And today, Americans rarely see things the same way.

In 2020, we’re in the midst of another national tragedy: 191,769 Americans have now died from COVID. That’s the equivalent of sixty four 9/11’s!

Garrett Graff reminds us in the Atlantic that on 9/11, NYC’s hospitals geared up for massive casualties, but so few had survived the attack, the hospitals were empty. He asks: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“So why does the grief of 2020—when the coronavirus pandemic has actually filled hospitals in New York and in communities across the country—feel so different? Why does our country, so united after 9/11, feel so splintered now?”

Grief for COVID-19 victims has been a completely different experience. We haven’t been able to mourn together. Physical distancing means that families couldn’t say goodbye to dying relatives. They couldn’t stand together at a graveside. Funeral and memorial services happened on Zoom.

9/11 sparked community candlelight vigils. The 2020 pandemic has brought tears, but prevented hugs. More from Graff:

“…whatever shared national spirit existed in the first weeks of the pandemic has been fractured beyond repair….the only major collective gatherings America has seen since March have been angry street protests triggered by deaths at the hands of police.”

Then we experienced the predictable political posturing. The pandemic’s been with us for so long that every day feels like a replay of yesterday. We’ve got little to unite us, and little to do except mask up and wait for a vaccine that could be years away.

The pandemic hasn’t galvanized us; it’s paralyzed us. We’ve become a “can’t do” America. We can’t test enough people. We can’t re-open (or keep open) our schools. We can’t return to work. We won’t wear masks. Congress can’t fund our nearly 30 million unemployed.

Other industrialized nations have done a better job figuring out how to live successfully with the pandemic, but America’s watching “Groundhog Day”. And we’re racking up death tolls equal to another September 11 every three to four days.

Worse, we’re becoming more politically polarized in our views of Covid. Early on, Trump called for “liberating” Democratic states “under siege” from masking and social distancing measures. Polls from early March showed partisanship was the biggest predictor of Americans’ behavior and perceptions of the Coronavirus threat. The map of countermeasures that various states enacted initially broke down largely by Republican and Democratic leadership.

Even today, 69 of the 77 major colleges playing football this fall (89.6%) are in states that Trump won in the 2016 election. From the Carnegie Endowment:

“Divisiveness is likely to be exacerbated in highly unequal countries like the US, where the virus affects groups differently, particularly when those identities cluster along partisan lines. While viruses may be blind to such dividing lines, healthcare systems and low-wage jobs are not.”

These inequities intersect with politics. African-Americans, Latinos, and the poor are hit the hardest by coronavirus-related deaths and job layoffs. These groups tend to be aligned with the Democrats. They tend to live in urban areas that have been disproportionately impacted thus far.

Meanwhile, Republicans see the deaths as a cost of doing business, refuse to mask up, claiming the cure may be worse than the disease. These differentiated experiences of the outbreak reinforce the notion that there are two pandemics taking place in two different Americas.

This means that there’s no soothing for you today. Rather, it’s a time for reflection on what’s happened to us in the past 19 years.

Wrongo recently discovered a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, written on the first anniversary of 9/11. Carpenter was inspired by an interview of Jim Horch, an ironworker who was among the early responders at the World Trade Center site. Here’s part of what Horch said:

“My responsibility at the site was to try to remove big pieces of steel. The building fell so hard there wasn’t even concrete. It was dust….I started to feel the presence of spirits…not very long after I was there. The energy that was there was absolutely incredible and…it was more than just the people that I was working with…it was energy left behind….One day when I was working, I felt this energy and it felt lost and it wanted to go home but it didn’t know how to go home and it came to me to go to Grand Central Station. When I got off the subway, I walked into the Great Room. Into where the constellation is in the ceiling. And I walked around the perimeter and…out of the building. I didn’t feel the energy anymore. I could feel it leave.”

And here’s Carpenter’s “Grand Central Station”:

When there’s tragedy, we all want to go home.

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Trump’s “Don’t Panic” Moment

The Daily Escape:

Bear Hat Mountain, from Hidden Lake Trail, Glacier NP. WY – 2020 photo by jwatkin13

From Trump, regarding why he didn’t tell the truth about the pandemic, as quoted in Woodward’s book:

“Well, as you said, in order to reduce panic, perhaps that’s so,” Trump said when asked if he downplayed the severity of the pandemic. “The fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country, and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say. Certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.”

It’s worth remembering that Trump refused to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller, but gave Bob Woodward 18 hours of interviews, all on tape. Some are already saying that Woodward either faked the recordings, or as Trump said, that the pandemic is Woodward’s fault for not alerting the nation sooner:

Trump doesn’t even believe his own bullshit. Like another Republican president (GW Bush), he lied, and people died. That we now know that Trump completely understood the dangers of COVID-19, lends credibility to reports that Trump and Kushner stalled on Federal Coronavirus action once they concluded that mostly residents of blue states would be the ones to die in significant numbers.

Some criticize Woodward for sitting on this knowledge, but Wrongo doubts this revelation will have a large impact on the election. It certainly won’t change the minds of any of Trump’s true believers. They will vote for him even if they’ve also decided that he’s an appalling human being.

Why? Because he delivered on judges, taxes, deregulation, and made the right noises on cultural issues like abortion. They like how he never apologizes, and how he blames his shortcomings on others. Those who think Trump is a terrific president will find ways to dismiss any inconvenient facts.

That Trump said he “didn’t want to create panic” is classic gaslighting. Donald Trump’s entire political career is based around trying to create enough panic to win elections. As he explained to Woodward and a colleague in a 2016 interview:

“Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”

Here are a few highlights of Trump fear as an electoral strategy:

  • Flight 93 election: 2016 was the Flight 93 election. Either you charge the cockpit or you die. Trump, your presidential candidate, may get into the cockpit and not know how to land the plane. There are no guarantees, but if he doesn’t try, your other option is Hillary Clinton. That’s Russian roulette with an automatic pistol. With Trump, at least you get to spin the cylinder and take your chances.
  • Mexican rapists
  • Caravans
  • American Carnage
  • Muslims
  • Antifa
  • Black people moving to the suburbs
  • Law & Order!

Creating panic is Trump’s signature move. It’s ridiculous to think that this one time, he was genuinely trying to avoid panic. But will knowing what he did matter in 2020? Has he gone too far to reel back in enough Republican and swing state electoral votes?

The Democrats hope that his willful minimizing COVID back at a point when something really could be done to head it off, will convince some Republicans not to vote for Trump. That depends on whether a significant number of them are sufficiently disgusted to leave the top line on the ballot blank or simply stay home.

Still, Woodward’s revelations matter. They may or may not affect the outcome of the election. They will certainly affect history’s judgment on Trump’s presidency. He’s been caught in a lie he can’t ignore nor dismiss, and his callous disregard for the welfare of all Americans has been fully revealed.

Will it make a difference to voters that Trump is an accessory to the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans?

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Our New Normal

The Daily Escape:

Abyss Pool, West Thumb Geyser, Yellowstone NP – 2020 photo by eTeT

The “New Normal” is here. Tuesday was the first day for school buses on the streets of Wrongtown, CT since March. Until the buses rolled, we could keep lying to ourselves about the pandemic. But now that school has started up for kids in K-12, the new normal is here. We’re soaking in it.

It’s a patchwork of online and in-person formats. Here in Wrongtown, we’re following a hybrid formula of kids physically in class for some days, and participating remotely on the rest. But confusion reigns. One parent asked on the town’s Facebook page whether her kid had to log on to the class website on the days when they were at home:

“He is in school on Thursdays and Fridays but do we need to log on every day Monday thru Wednesday considering those are the days he is home? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.”

Or, this one:

“Hi does anyone know how to sign in to distant learning?”

Ok, the new normal hasn’t been completely reduced to practice, and with respect to getting our kids an education, we’ve still got lots of learning to do.

But other things also dominate our new reality. First, despite the happy talk about the economy, many jobs aren’t coming back. Temporary layoffs are now starting to look permanent. From Barron’s: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Before the pandemic, a temporarily unemployed worker had a roughly 60% chance of finding a job in the next month. Lately, that probability has fallen to about 40%, while the chance for a permanently unemployed worker to find a job in a given month is about 20%.

The US workforce is becoming increasingly divided into two groups: Those who are confident in keeping their jobs, and those who are pessimistic that they will ever return to their old jobs. The question for them is how will they cover their expenses as federal jobless benefits decrease or expire.

And we’re still more than 11 million jobs down from where we were in February.

Even if there is some GDP and jobs growth in the September report (the last one before the election), it won’t be enough to bail out the unemployed. The pandemic disproportionately hit workers in the leisure and hospitality sector (restaurants, hotels and travel); employment in that sector is still down around 25%.

Trump and the Republicans didn’t create the problems faced by low-wage Americans, but they made them worse by not dealing promptly with the pandemic, and then, by stressing the economy over the pandemic, which allowed Covid to roar back. And what economic recovery we have is bypassing those who most need to recover!

Finally, our new COVID reality: About 30,000 Americans died of Covid-19 in August.  And the number of new coronavirus cases has plateaued. Between Labor Day fun, and school re-openings, there’s a pretty good chance that America’s virus situation is about to take another turn for the worse.

Hundreds of colleges that had planned on having their students on campus have reversed their stances and decided on a virtual semester. The NYT reports that colleges have seen 51,000 cases since schools opened.

Kevin Drum reports that from August 2nd to September 2nd, the US recorded 1.4 million new cases of COVID-19. And according to a new study, 19% of those cases (266,000) were caused by the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

The riders refused to mask up, just like the college kids. People are tired of wearing masks, and they are tired of being cooped up. Apparently, six months of compliance is all that Americans can do. They want normalcy, but there’s a new normal that’s already here.

Until we have a safe and effective vaccine, there is no alternative to wearing a mask and staying physically distant whenever possible. We’re nearing 200,000 deaths and the flu season is coming. Think for a minute about that possible vaccine:

  • It needs to be approved, and 600M doses have to be manufactured and distributed.
  • We need 600M doses because the best guess now is that people will need to get two shots.
  • And we’re not sure how much time is required between shots.

Only when all people mask up, will most companies hire again. Only then will most kids be physically in school. Only then will most people be able to pay their bills with money earned in a paycheck. Or we can wait for the vaccine.

We have just 54 days until the election.

People shouldn’t get distracted from surviving the new normal by BS from the Trump campaign about Nancy Pelosi’s salon visit, or Biden’s supposed cognitive issues.

The new normal is the only issue that matters.

Vote to turn that into a non-toxic normal. And get your friends to vote for a non-toxic person.

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Protect The Post Office

The Daily Escape:

New from the folks at Vicks™.

(It’s nice to be back from the vacation that was extended a few days by the power outage. Wrongo got to play lumberjack, cutting up four trees that fell during the windstorm. The only limbs harmed belonged to the trees)

There isn’t much doubt that Trump wants to end both the Postal Service and voting by mail. It’s become clear that his plan of managed decay of the postal system is designed to undermine the 2020 election, increasing his chances of remaining in power.

Trump has called the Postal Service “a joke.” But, as the Economist points out: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Far from being a joke, the USPS is the nation’s favorite government agency, viewed favorably by 91% of Americans. But it is losing money: $4.5bn from January to March, more than double its losses for the same period last year.”

More from the Economist:

“The USPS’s financial woes have three main causes, one acute and two chronic. The acute one is covid-19. At least 2,400 postal workers have caught the virus and 60 have died. More than 17,000 of its 630,000 employees have been quarantined. Although package volume and revenue has grown along with online shopping, the volume of first-class and marketing mail have both declined.”

Last week, Wrongo and Ms. Right voted by mail, an option this year in Connecticut because of the COVID crisis. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether our votes are counted, but, we know that Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee have filed lawsuits in several battleground states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Nevada to challenge local vote by mail rules.

And Politico reports that Trump is pondering possible executive actions to curb mail-in voting:

“…everything from directing the postal service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.”

We’ve all experienced low-level delays in mail service, including packages waylaid in transit. Now, the Postal Service is openly saying that they are no longer able to keep up their level of service.

This is part of the Administration’s game plan. It’s a specific assault by the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, a Trump mega donor, who has millions invested in competing delivery services. DeJoy and his wife own between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets in USPS competitors or contractors, including XPO Logistics, UPS and JB Hunt.

DeJoy started by implementing the cost-cutting directives that have created days-long backlogs in mail delivery we’re all experiencing. He’s also reorganized the Postal Service. His actions could motivate the Postal Service’s biggest customers to send their packages through competitors like UPS and FedEx.

This kind of collapse in an essential service would, at one time, have launched Senators and Inspectors General into hearings and investigations about specific post offices or delivery routes. But the outrage is limited to Democrats now.

If the USPS fails, three things will happen very quickly: the cost of sending a letter will go from $0.55 to north of $2.00, and that service will only be available within major cities. Rural areas will see much higher prices, if they get service at all. Prices for shipping small packages will jump. Package delivery service to remote areas will become very expensive. Will FedEx and UPS jump on the opportunity? You bet.

Delaying delivery of prescription medications can’t become a victim of Trump’s election strategy.

There is a legal concept called criminal negligence. It is defined as the failure on the part of a person on whom a duty is placed to take reasonable steps to prevent a certain bad outcome from happening.

You may not have explicitly known that you have that duty. For instance, as an operator of an automobile, you have a duty not to hurt others with your vehicle, even if you didn’t know that’s your duty.

Let’s extend the idea to Trump, DeJoy and the Republicans. When you have authority, if you do something a reasonable person should know would cause harm, you are responsible for causing that harm. Dismantling the Postal Service is broadly harmful to the people and potentially, to the Constitution.

Presidential power comes with duties to the country. He’s broadly responsible for the welfare of the American people, and for the consequences of his actions. We will look at other examples of Trump’s negligence in future columns.

Slowdowns of the US mail could mean thousands of ballots don’t get to voters in time to be returned for Election Day or that they don’t get to election officials in time to be counted. With the threat of coronavirus hanging over in-person voters, the election could hang in the balance.

Trump is abdicating his Constitutional responsibility. Let’s give the last words to Charlie Pierce:

“Destroying the USPS is the most Republican thing this administration has done, except for trying to gut Social Security and Medicare. These always have been in the game plan.”

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The Looming Census Problem

The Daily Escape:

Breckinridge, CO – July 2020 photo by doughboyme

(The Wrongologist is taking a summer vacation starting today. We will return on August 9th. Wrongo urges all readers to also take a break. Got to get ready for the silly season that starts soon.)

Time to talk 2020 census. The Census Bureau’s follow-up visits to non-responding households were originally scheduled to begin in early May, but they were delayed by a freeze on census field operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the Trump administration asked Congress to extend the deadlines for the Census Bureau to turn in their head count data. The Census Bureau independently postponed finishing field operations for the census from the end of July to the end of October.

The House agreed to the extensions, but the Senate hasn’t. Senate Republicans on Monday instead proposed additional funding as part of their HEAL bill to help conclude the census on time, without extending the deadline.

The Census Bureau is required to turn over numbers for apportioning Congressional seats by Dec. 31, and the numbers to be used for redrawing state and local legislative districts by March 30. The requested deadline extensions would push back the apportionment deadline to April 30 for Congress, and to July 31 for state and local districts.

The politics of these decisions are clear. Trump no longer wants a deadline extension, and he doesn’t want undocumented residents counted at all.

The timing of Trump’s memorandum excluding the undocumented and his abandonment of the request to push back the reporting deadlines suggests that the White House wants to ensure that the numbers are undercounted. Also, that Trump  receives the apportionment numbers while he’s still in office so they can be fixed if necessary.

House Democrats are wary of what they see as Trump’s attempts to politicize the 2020 census, and want the Senate Republicans to approve the request for deadline extensions. That would mean there’s a chance the final months of the data-crunching would take place under a Biden administration, assuming Biden defeats Trump in November.

Staying on the usual deadline probably means that many people, documented or not, won’t be counted. Only about 63% of Americans have been counted so far. That means about 55 million households haven’t responded, and will require visits by census takers.

The Census Bureau is about to send its 500,000 door-knockers out to begin surveying households that haven’t yet answered the questionnaire, and Pew Research says it will be difficult to get them to open their doors:

“Among those who say they have not participated in the census, 40% say they would not be willing to talk to a census worker who came to the door…”

The 40% breaks down into 16% who say they’re unwilling to talk to the Census people at all, and 24% say they are not very willing to speak with them.

So, what does it all mean for apportioning Congressional seats?

The job is to use the census data to equitably assign the House’s 435 seats to the 50 states. The first 50 seats are automatically assigned, one per state. A series of formulas called the method of Equal Proportions is used to divide up the remaining 385 seats among the states on the basis of their populations. The method of Equal Proportions was first used to apportion House seats in 1940 and has been used ever since.

The apportionment population of a state is defined as all persons residing in the state as of April 1, plus all American military and civilian personnel of the federal government and their dependents from that state who were residing abroad.

At the last census in 2010, the states receiving the largest number of seats were California with 53; Texas with 36 seats, and then Florida and New York with 27 apiece. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming each received only one seat, the one they are granted automatically.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia did a preliminary estimate of how the House seats will be distributed once the 2020 census is in. It obviously is a projection, but the results are shown on this map:

Of the 10 states projected to lose one House seat each in 2020, only two are red states. Of the seven states projected to gain House seats in 2020, six are red states.

If the 2020 apportionment followed Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants, this would be the outcome:

Eight states will lose nine seats with California leading the way. Seven of the eight seats lost would be in blue states.

Seven states would gain nine seats: Texas and Florida would gain two each. Six of the gains would be in red states.

Remember that a state’s votes in the Electoral College are equal to its seats in Congress. It’s not hard to see why Trump wants an undercount that favors Texas and Florida.

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The Demonstrations Get Complicated

The Daily Escape:

Summit Lake with view of Mt. Rainier WA – 2020 photo by monzar

 “I feel like a survivor from an age that people no longer understand.”Olivia de Havilland

So true for Wrongo. The video below shows one of Trump’s paramilitaries pepper spraying a Vietnam Vet. Not for anything he’s doing, or for anything he is saying, but simply because they can. The video was shot by Andrew Kimmel, who is at the Portland protests every night. Wrongo urges you to follow him:

pic.twitter.com/WDwOKem2he

The vet’s name is Mark Hastie. He was a medic in Vietnam. He’s pleading with federal agents to heed the warnings of history, and respect the oath they took to defend the people of their country. Hastie says that he has mental scars from his time in Vietnam, and that these paramilitaries will have them too, if they continue their authoritarian ways.

It’s worth noting that in Portland most nights after midnight, a few protesters escalate the confrontation which, to that point have been largely peaceful. Bottles, cans and fireworks are thrown, some try to rush the temporary fencing installed around the courthouse. That’s when the paramilitaries move in and harm the protesters.

The AP had reporters with the paramilitaries last night. Here’s some of what they saw from inside the courthouse: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[at around 11pm]…someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the [temporary courthouse] fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls….

Within minutes, the federal agents at the fence perimeter fired the first tear gas of the night.”

Ultimately, by dawn the next day, the paramilitaries had cleared the protesters away from the courthouse, and both sides retreated to lick their wounds.

Yesterday, the WaPo had an opinion piece by E.D. Mondainé, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP, saying that the message of the protests about the murder of George Floyd and the response by the Black Lives Matter movement is getting lost in the ongoing confrontations with Trump’s paramilitaries: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“….we need to remember: What is happening in Portland is the fuse of a great, racist backlash that the Trump administration is baiting us to light…..If we engage them now, we do so on their terms, where they have created the conditions for a war without rules, without accountability and without the protection of our Constitution.”

Trump’s plan of escalation seems to be working. The original protesters wanted less police violence and more accountability. But the protest now is against anonymous armed agents sent to suppress protest.

Another thing lost in the Portland protests is that Trump officials admit off the record that they are sending federal troops into cities in order to create “viral content”:

“One of the officials said the White House had long wanted to amplify strife in cities, encouraging DHS officials to talk about arrests of violent criminals in sanctuary cities and repeatedly urging ICE to disclose more details of raids than some in the agency were comfortable doing. “It was about getting viral online content,” one of the officials said.”

This takes us back to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Before the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, the New York Journal sent Frederic Remington, the distinguished artist, to Cuba. He was instructed to remain there until the war began. Remington sent this to William Randolph Hearst:

“W.R. Hearst, New York Journal, NY:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. Remington.”

This was the reply:

“REMINGTON, HAVANA:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war. W.R. HEARST.”

“You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war”. You doubt it? Look at this:

Trump is now apparently sending more Federales to Portland. So what’s the endgame? Having set the fire, Trump will now try to make it a raging inferno.

And, protests are growing across America:

We no longer know who is demonstrating, there are too many “false flag” operators everywhere in America, as shown by who was behind the arson in Richmond, VA.

What will bring us out of our current free fall?

If Biden wins in November, he’ll inherit an America with 15%+ unemployment, tens of millions more homeless people than we have currently. Hunger will be widespread, and COVID will still be working its way through our population.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 26, 2020

Possibly lost in the “Terrorist Antifa Moms” news out of Portland last week was the thought that we continually say things like this:

  • Another new low for Trump.
  • How dare he?
  • Trump flaunts the Constitution.

In the past, other presidents have used governmental authority for political ends, but no other president has used a combination of the FBI/DHS/ATF and private mercenaries to literally beat down our First Amendment rights. Who’s stepping forward to stop him?

Without a principled Congress, nothing will stop him. The Republican Party steadfastly remains unshocked by his behavior. The Democratic Party can hold all the hearings it wants. It will never make a dent in Trump’s behavior. The current national dumpster fire is 100% owned by the GOP.

From Trump’s perspective, he’s doing exactly what he’s certain that he can get away with as President. He’s moved the goalposts, because our system wasn’t designed to hold back a President without principles. On to cartoons.

Protection of your Constitutional rights is now in the hands of Portland’s mothers:

Here’s the true cognitive test for Americans:

Who’s behind these secret police masks?

Do Americans understand how close we are to Trump declaring Martial Law?

Can Trump win on this debate question?

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Saturday Soother, What If It Never Goes Away? Edition – July 25, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Water Lilies – 2020 photo by Betsy Zimmerli

Happy Saturday, fellow disease vectors! Wrongo is beginning to think that COVID will be with us for a very long time, possibly forever. We seem incapable as a society of following two simple rules: Mask up, and practice social distancing. So we won’t even muster a basic defense against it.

The virus needs new hosts all the time, and if you keep potential hosts sufficiently separated from each other, it can’t spread. This isn’t unknown, and it isn’t difficult. Asian and South Pacific nations successfully implemented it.

Now even America’s denier-in-chief is tumbling to the reality that the virus will be with us for a long time. Back in March, Wrongo asked:

“What unpleasant decisions would our federal and state governments be willing to take to get us out of a deep recession, if the virus is still around a few months from now, and still killing a lot of people? Is restoring our economy, and putting Americans back to work worth a million lives lost? Is it worth 300,000?”

Well, we’re now halfway to 300k deaths, and we could lose 200,000 by Election Day. The pace of virus infections is growing, although the US COVID death rate has fallen. Having said that, we’re dying at a rate that’s 10 times faster than the Europeans.

Here’s a screenshot from CNN:

It was almost 100 days to our first million cases, and just 15 days to our fourth million! After a slowdown in the Northeast, American hospitalizations today are about the same as they were on April 15.

Politicians have largely gambled that some form of effective vaccine will be discovered, and that it will be available in large enough quantities to halt the epidemic by next year. If they’re correct, they figure that they can allow more of us to die today in order to keep the economy bumping along at least at its current stagnant pace.

In a way, they are saying that the illness and deaths of the little people are less important than the health of our current economic system. So, let’s experiment with reopenings, and play down the need to mask up. Worse, America’s checker-board response, where each state and each county takes a different approach, is perpetuating the likelihood of a bad outcome.

But, what if there is no vaccine? Who’s doing the planning for that downside risk?

Should Americans simply throw up their hands and wait to get infected? Of course not. The virus needs uninfected humans to propagate. A social system that isolates the infected from the uninfected must be instituted, along with universal quick daily testing, masking and social distancing.

If the virus is going to be around permanently, we’ll have to protect the most vulnerable Americans, the old and the young. We locked up the elderly in the petri dishes we call “senior living centers” and they died at staggering rates. We let kids stew in their homes without much chance at getting a real education.

Neither can be allowed to continue if the virus isn’t going away.

And the physical damage seems to go well beyond the lungs. A study reported in Australia covered patients sick with COVID in 69 countries across six continents. It shows that more than half of all COVID-19 patients were found to have damaged hearts. It surveyed 1216 patients, aged 52 to 71, 70% of them male, so it’s a small but troubling sample of what can happen. Ilargi asks:

“So what happens to your health care system if you let half the population catch the virus, and half of those end up with heart damage in one form or another, to one degree or another?”

Knowing all this, are you willing to go with: It’s not that bad, it’s not that deadly, and those old folks would have died anyway?

If the disease is going to be with us for a long time, do you think that kids should just go back to school? We all should get back to the office? That we should just open up the bars?

Wow, these thoughts make us need our Saturday Soother more than ever.

Here in Connecticut, we’re in for another hot dry spell. Wrongo picked our first tomatoes and jalapenos yesterday. Also, we saw a deer with three fawns, a rarity, since one or two are usual.

Let’s take a minute and open a Guji Uraga Nitro Cold Brew coffee from Denver CO’s Corvus Coffee Roasters, pour it over ice and settle back at an appropriate physical distance to contemplate just how far away COVID seems from you.

Now, listen to the late Ennio Morricone’s “Peace Notes from Cinema Paradiso”. Here Morricone directs in a 2007 live performance in Venice:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Trump’s Portland Playbook

The Daily Escape:

Storm near Mesa Verde, CO – photo by mayaxs

It’s once again getting difficult to write about this stuff. Trump is willing to deploy a secret army to protect buildings, but he won’t take responsibility to protect human beings from a pandemic that is killing Americans at the equivalent of three jumbo jet crashes a day.

Let’s focus on the conflict between the First Amendment and the Second Amendment that’s been playing out on our streets since the murder of George Floyd in May. Early in the COVID pandemic, armed protestors carried their long guns into the Lansing, MI state capitol demanding an end to the shutdown. They also stood around in Richmond, VA and in both cases, law enforcement kept their distance, bending over backwards to avoid creating a confrontation.

When unarmed protestors showed up in most American cities after Floyd’s murder, law enforcement more or less did whatever they wanted to them. The sustained brutality of the police against unarmed protestors (there are more than 800 video-recorded incidents of police violence) is prima-facie evidence supporting the protestors’ message.

There are political ramifications and lessons to be learned from the reactions of both groups of protestors and local and federal authorities.

Carrying guns into a legislature completely undermined whatever goals the protestors in Lansing and Richmond were trying to accomplish. The response from most Americans was to ridicule them. The police believed that the armed protestors weren’t going to use their weapons. They knew that letting them yell and march around would placate them. Law enforcement was pretty sure they wouldn’t be back in larger numbers the next day.

On the other hand, the unarmed protestors inspired by George Floyd’s death started a national conversation about the role and conduct of the police. The BLM protestors turned out in the hundreds of thousands, every day, and theirs was largely an anti-police message.

Carrying arms would have certainly undermined their message. Armed anti-police protestors would have credibly shown (to the eyes of most Americans) that a violent police response was probably appropriate. Unarmed protestors have a moral weight that is completely lacking in the messaging of the armed anti-shutdown protesters.

More importantly, the BLM protestors are targeting their message at people who will vote in November.

The sustained, mostly non-violent nature of the protests in the face of an often-brutal police response (and now in Portland, a similar response by federal secret police) gives the protestors political power. Right now, a majority of the rest of the country is on the side of the Portland protestors. This is the exact opposite of the public’s response to the armed protestors.

Another factor is that Rep. John Lewis’s death reminded us of the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Think about how different things would be today if those marchers had been armed. There would have been even greater state-sanctioned violence; and most of America at the time would have seen it as justified. It was those unforgettable and unforgivable images of brutal police violence against unarmed and peaceful marchers that shocked the nation and government enough to change the law.

Lasting change only comes through voting, and putting pressure on elected officials to sanction bad actors and change laws that enable bad behavior. That only happens if the protestors gain and keep credibility with voters.

Isn’t it sad that Trump sees two monsters, civil unrest, and the pandemic, and chooses to say that fighting the pandemic is up to the states, but graffiti on federal courthouses is the hill he’s willing to die on? This is the fallout:

A bunch of people in Portland have sprayed graffiti on buildings, broken windows, and started fires, which, to be clear, is wrong and should be punished. Trump’s response was to send in the feds, in force.

Trump’s play is to use federal law enforcement to prod the protestors into more unrest and property damage. He will continue calling peaceful protesters rioters and anarchists. He will try to paint Biden and the Democrats as enablers of the downfall of American society.

This old storyline has worked in the past. Portland is the test of Trump’s playbook. Protestors have to remain mostly peaceful in the face of threats and physical violence by the Federales.

That must be the BLM playbook.

It’s not going to be pretty. People will get hurt.

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