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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For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law

The Daily Escape:

“Life in 2022” – 1962 painting by Walter Molino. A foretelling of COVID?

Attorney General Bill Barr thinks that there has been too much expression of First Amendment rights:

“Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.”

Break a window and go to jail for sedition, for conspiracy to overthrow the government through violence? Barr also went after the mayors:

“The attorney general has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown…”

It used to be a Republican article of faith that “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” No longer. America is filled with king Trump’s enemies. They’re everywhere! By suggesting possible prosecution of a Democrat, Ms. Durkan, Barr is taking aim at an elected official whom Trump has attacked repeatedly.

Barr then jumped into the deep end of the pool on Wednesday. Addressing a Constitution Day meeting hosted by the conservative Hillsdale College, Barr suggested:

“…that the calls for a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus were the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ in history ‘other than slavery.’”

Would Barr also have been against food and gas rationing, and other measures necessary to help win WWII?

Health and safety regulations have always been around. And they are well established in American law, see Jacobsen v. Massachusetts, which said in a case about mandatory vaccinations, that individual liberty isn’t absolute, and is subject to the police power of the state.

Barr went on to say that the Supreme Court had determined that the executive branch had “virtually unchecked discretion” in deciding whether to prosecute cases:

 “The power to execute and enforce the law is an executive function altogether….That means discretion is invested in the executive to determine when to exercise the prosecutorial power.”

He was telling his federal prosecutors to start prosecuting protests as something akin to treason. And he can do all of the above, as long as he’s Trump’s AG.

The AG is a politician who is supposed to be apolitical in enforcement of the law. But not Bill Barr. He told a Chicago Tribune columnist that the nation could find itself “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if Trump lost.

Back to the sedition thingy. The federal sedition law is rarely invoked, but the wording has wiggle room. It says that sedition can occur anytime two or more people conspire to use force to oppose federal authority, hinder the government’s ability to enforce any federal law or, unlawfully seize any federal property.

That could include a plot to break into and set fire to a federal courthouse.

The WSJ quotes Jenny Carroll, a University of Alabama law professor, who says that turning to statutes like sedition would mark an escalation in the government’s effort to quell the violence:

“There are all these different statutes the government can use if they are worried about things like property damage….If you start charging those people, even if you don’t get a conviction, it may make people think twice before going out to exercise their right to free speech.”

Do yourself a favor, and don’t read the WSJ comments. There’s a fine line between the expression of antigovernment sentiment, which is protected speech under the First Amendment (even if it included discussions of violence), and a plot that presented an imminent danger sufficient to justify a charge of sedition.

No one can justify property damage, looting or killings, but more than 93% of the protests in the US this summer were peaceful, according to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which monitors political upheaval worldwide. They looked at 7,750 protests from May 26 through Aug. 22 in 2,400 locations across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

But if Barr gets to define “force” his way, everyone will get to go to jail.

For Bill Barr, the crime is to oppose the regime. Those who enable Trump, by definition, can’t be criminals, and so do not deserve punishment. If they are prosecuted like General Flynn, Paul Manafort, or Roger Stone, they should be pardoned, or their prosecutions withdrawn. Accordingly, those who oppose the regime are the real enemy. They deserve prompt and merciless retribution.

Barr could have delivered his new testament in Minsk or Manila, not at an American college.

These people must go.

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Keep Your Foot on the Gas

The Daily Escape:

Landscape Arch, Arches NP, Moab UT – 2020 photo by wmartin2014

There are 48 days to go until the election, and nobody who wants Trump retired can relax. The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows Biden leading Trump in four swing states, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Wining them could guarantee a Biden victory.

But, there were scary findings for Biden in the survey: In those four states, a larger share of voters said “addressing law and order” was a more important campaign issue to them than “addressing the coronavirus pandemic”.

Biden is perceived by some to be weak on crime, despite his lifetime legislative record that says just the opposite. But, while he’s been clear about his stance on rioting and looting, he hasn’t said it often enough to penetrate the consciousness of many voters: A majority of poll respondents said Biden “hasn’t done enough to condemn violent rioting.” Even 27% of his supporters agreed with that answer.

We’ve talked about Biden needing to be simultaneously on both offense and defense. He needs to do better with the perception of weakness around protests, looting and violence, and the future of policing. He hasn’t talked about it often enough, and that’s one reason why the campaign hasn’t turned into a rout.

If Biden fails at this messaging, the 2020 election will turn out to be uncomfortably close.

Ed Kilgore wrote about the uncomfortably close election of 1876, just 11 years after the end of the civil war. It was the closest the country has come to war over a presidential election:

“Republican Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Democrat Samuel Tilden by a single electoral vote after a dispute that wasn’t resolved until the eve of Hayes’s inauguration in March of 1877.”

Legal battles broke out in three southern states over both the presidential contest, and about which party controlled the state governments. Both Parties sent competing slates of electors to Washington from all three. More from Kilgore:

“As the time neared in January 1877…tensions rose around the country and in Washington. Democrats were particularly motivated given their candidate’s apparent popular vote margin (ultimately judged to be three percent) and threatened “Tilden or War.”

A compromise was reached days before the end of Grant’s administration, under threat of violence. Republican Hayes pledged to withdraw the remaining Federal troops in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, effectively ending Reconstruction in the south. That allowed southern Democrats to agree to Hayes as president.

Funny how history works: The Dems in 1876 represented the old plantation owner’s class, pro-slavery, and later, the ‘black codes’. The Southern Dems hold on the Democratic Party ended with LBJ passing the voting rights and civil rights acts with Republican help in the 1960’s. Subsequently, Nixon’s Southern strategy made the south a Republican stronghold.

But we’ve also had close elections since then. Paul Campos says:

“Over the past 60 years, six of the fifteen presidential elections in the USA have been extremely close. These elections ended up being basically coin flips — if they had been held a few days earlier or later, or if the weather had been different on Election Day, etc., the result could easily have changed.”

Campos outlines six recent close elections:

Kennedy over Nixon: The first of three presidential elections in the 40 years prior to 2000, in which the winner almost lost the popular vote. Kennedy won by about 100,000 votes out of nearly 69 million cast.

Nixon over Humphrey: This was a three-way contest in which votes for George Wallace were almost enough to throw the presidential election into the House of Representatives. That would have elected Hubert Humphrey, since if Nixon hadn’t won California, he wouldn’t have commanded a majority vote in the Electoral College.

Carter over Ford: Ford made a huge comeback in the weeks immediately before the election, but lost Texas and Mississippi, which were extremely close, with the Electoral College going 297 for Carter and 240 for Ford. Reagan didn’t campaign for Ford, which probably cost the Republicans the presidency.

Bush over Gore. You know how this one came out. Gore said at the time that there was no intermediate step between the Supreme Court and armed rebellion.

Bush over Kerry: Bush won the popular vote by three million, and the Electoral College by 286 to 251. A few tens of thousands of votes in Ohio separated Kerry from winning.

Trump over Clinton: This one wasn’t as close as Campos says.

But, flipping any one of these elections would have had enormous consequences for subsequent US history.

This should keep us all up at night, working hard that to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in 2020. There were lots of optimists in 2016. We need to be more realistic this time around.

We need to register the unregistered, and get out the vote.

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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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Saturday Soother – September 5, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Rocky Mountain NP, CO – August 2020 photo by mister69darkhorse

Let’s take a break from talking about politics, and talk about the economy. The NYT reported that the US added 1.4 million jobs in August, and unemployment fell to 8.4%

“Employers continued to bring back furloughed workers last month, but at a far slower pace than in the spring, and millions of Americans remain out of work.’

The August job growth number includes 240,000 temporary Census workers. Most of them will be laid off at the end of the month. Private-sector payrolls, (unaffected by census hires), rose by 1.0 million in August, down from 1.5 million in July. And the results were down sharply from the 4.8 million jobs added in June.

But despite the improvement in the headline unemployment rate, payrolls remain more than 11 million jobs below their pre-pandemic level, and permanent jobs lost increased by 534,000 to 3.1 million. Back in April, nearly 80% of unemployed workers reported being on a temporary layoff or furlough. In August, less than half say what they’re experiencing is a temporary job loss.

At the rate of job gains in the past two months, it will take another 8 months to regain all the jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic

Also, the shift from temporary to permanent job losses is worrying, because it suggests that companies don’t foresee a quick rebound. It means many of today’s jobless workers will have to start their job searches from scratch. Worse, Wolf Richter reports that:

“Continued unemployment claims jumped by 2.2 million to 29.2 million, worst since Aug 1, as claims by gig workers under federal PUA program soar.”

The PUA program means the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Wolf says that those 29.2 million lucky duckies now equal 18.3% of the civilian labor force.

Most of the media are saying that this report is relatively helpful to Trump. Those who see it that way should explain to the rest of us how it’s helpful to have 18% of the workforce on the sidelines. There will only be one more jobs report before the election, and unless there is a jobs miracle next month, Trump is going to face Election Day with an extremely poor jobs record.

For some context on Trump’s economic performance, the IRS now predicts that the US economy will have almost 40 million fewer jobs in 2021 than they predicted before the pandemic.

We’re maybe a month away from people understanding that despite Trump’s cheerleading, the economy isn’t going to “bounce right back” to near-full activity. In fact the current jobs depression will most likely continue for a long time, regardless of COVID, until there is widespread acceptance that we have a vaccine that is safe and effective.

Once again, there are just 58 days to go until Election Day. Biden needs to stay on offense, and attacking Trump on his poor economy is as good as attacking him on his COVID response. Sometime in the next two weeks, Coronavirus deaths will top 200,000. Yet there are still 17 states in which residents are not required to wear masks outside their homes. And all but one (Hawaii) have Republican governors.

No masks means a continuing weak jobs market. Even the Fed Chair Powell told NPR on Friday:

“There’s actually enormous economic gains to be had nationwide from people wearing masks and keeping their distance…”

But hey, this wouldn’t be happening if Donald Trump was president, right?

One final thought before we leave the politics bubble: Kamala Harris is older now than LBJ was on the day he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law.

On to our long Labor Day weekend, when we can unplug and finish a couple of projects that we swore we’d get to while working from home. Forget them. Let’s get the holiday going with our Saturday Soother!

Start by brewing up a vente cup of Ethiopia Dame Dabaye ($16/12oz.) with its flavors of orchid, red plum, and lemon verbena. It’s brewed by Spokane, Washington’s Indaba Coffee, whose mission is “radical hospitality.” Not sure that’s something Wrongo wants to see.

Settle back at a proper physical distance, and listen to “September Song”, with music by Kurt Weill, and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. It was introduced in the 1938 Broadway musical “Knickerbocker Holiday”. Here it is sung by Sarah Vaughn, backed by an all-star group including Clifford Brown on trumpet and Herbie Mann on flute. It was recorded on December 18, 1954, and you’ll enjoy Clifford Brown’s long trumpet solo:

Although the song was written as the lament of an old man on the passing of his youth, many women have recorded it, including Ella Fitzgerald, Eartha Kitt, Jo Stafford, Patti Page, Lena Horne and Eydie Gormé.

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“Suburban voters’ appetite for excuses is at an all-time low.”

The Daily Escape:

Glacier-fed lake, Tetons, WY – August 2020 iPhone 11 photo by grantplace

The media is saying that Trump has flipped the script from his disastrous response to the COVID pandemic, to more success with chaos in the cities. Even Biden has slowed his roll on COVID, except for Wednesday’s speech:

“If President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on with this crisis, America’s schools would be open, and they’d be open safely….Mr. President, where are you? Where are you? Why aren’t you working on this?”

Nicely done. Biden also ran an ad, “We’re Listening” about crime and public safety. The ad is running in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Also nicely done.

This shows that Biden is playing offense and defense simultaneously by keeping the focus on the virus and issues like school re-openings, while also defending against Trump’s law-and-order attacks.

Biden was in Kenosha on Thursday. As Wrongo writes this, he’s holding a town hall after meeting earlier with the Blake family. No new policy announcements, just listening, and showing compassion. That’s so much more than what Trump was able to do in Kenosha just two days ago.

Will Trump’s fear campaign work in the suburbs? The suburbs went for Trump in 2016, but since then, the suburbs have become less Republican. Why would violence in a few cities help Trump in the suburbs? Angry white guys with guns like Kyle Rittenhouse probably scare them more than city violence.

Think about it: Along with the Kenosha police shooting Jacob Blake, the shooter in Kenosha was a 17 year old white kid with an AR-15. When suburban voters see that kid, do you think they associate him with inner city crime or, with school shootings?

The gain by Democrats in the suburbs came with the increased danger from school shootings that all suburban children now face. And the Republicans’ constant defense of gun rights absolutism doesn’t improve their chances. From the Bulwark: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Consider how fast bump stocks went from a thing that existed to being federally banned after the shooting in Las Vegas. That happened because the appetite for excuses from voters in these suburbs is at an all-time low.”

What happens when suburban parents see Trump defending a young white man killing people? Will they say: “This would be worse under Biden”? No, they’re much more worried about kids like Rittenhouse shooting up their neighborhood schools.

And Trump’s egging on of armed, angry white men isn’t going to help him, despite what we’re hearing from the media.

Why is Trump pushing his chaos agenda? A new paper from Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University suggests that Trump and his Republican supporters’ value “keeping America great” more than they value democracy.

Bartels says that by “keeping America great,” the Republicans’ surveyed meant “keeping America’s power structure white.” In a January 2020 YouGov survey of Republicans, a slim majority of GOP voters agreed with the statement:

“The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”

Some other findings from the survey:

  • Nearly 75% agreed with “It is hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout.”
  • More than 40% agreed that “a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands.”
  • More than 47% concurred with the premise that “strong leaders sometimes have to bend the rules in order to get things done.”

Bartels finds these attitudes:

“…are grounded in real political values—specifically, and overwhelmingly, in Republicans’ ethnocentric concerns about the political and social role of immigrants, African-Americans, and Latinos in a context of significant demographic and cultural change.”

Political power in America is shifting. It’s becoming less concentrated in White hands. Obama’s election showed many Whites that they could eventually become just another of the many minorities in America. Demographics says that’s a certainty.

Conservatives have always conceded that some lives matter more than others, and therefore, should have more rights. Predictably, it is the people of color who they have excluded. Since they know how this country treats minorities, they sure don’t want to become a minority.

Suburban voters are not worried about inner city riots spilling over into their homes. But they may be truly worried about the anti-democratic wave being led by Trump along with his most fervent supporters.

The suburbs clearly think democracy matters. They are more fearful of autocratic leaders than they are of scattered violence in cities.

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Trump’s Road Trip

The Daily Escape:

 Via Tom Tomorrow. Sadly, this is a documentary, not a cartoon.

Wrongo is writing this on Tuesday before Trump’s road trip to Kenosha. If America is lucky, he’ll have a meet and greet with the awful Kenosha Sheriff, David Beth. He’ll give a stump speech about the need for “law and order”, and complain that Democrats want to defund the police. He’ll promise to send the National Guard into every rioting city. And if Bill Barr had input into the speech, we may even hear about federal charges for rioters.

If we’re unlucky, Trump’s speech will encourage more MAGA/protester confrontations. He could easily praise the militia members vigilantes who showed up in Kenosha, making a tenuous situation worse. That would be the same private “militia” that inspired a 17-year-old with an AR-15, with such tragic results. Trump could throw out a vague promise of future pardons as he has done many times before.

Saying that in front of Kenosha’s police department would be a big win for Trump, it would be red meat for his supporters. But that will not appeal to people who are looking for leadership in the current crisis of anger and civil disobedience in America.

That red meat stuff does work for some elements in our country, not just the MAGA militias and police brutality protesters. There are far right goonies who salivate at the prospect of a post-apocalyptic America. It’s also those media organizations who love covering these night-time “protests that become riots”.

It’s not the Russians or the Chinese who are doing this to us. We’re doing this to ourselves.

Republicans are painting Biden and Democrats as a mob monolith: From Biden down to the guy throwing a brick at a cop, Republicans are increasingly motivated not to let “those people” win. They’re betting that there are enough people in this country who are more offended by broken windows and burned-out car dealerships than they are by COVID, or racism, or mass unemployment.

In truth, Biden should have visited Kenosha and Portland before Trump. He’s denounced violence in a forceful speech in Pittsburgh (and he’s condemned it previously). So has Harris. Biden needs to keep front and center that there is uniform condemnation of the violence from Democrats.

Whether Biden visits or not, he should stress that every city has the right to a peaceful existence. He should say that the actions of police against the Black community provide justification for those communities to demonstrate, and in extremis, to protect themselves, particularly from outside agitators in the form of faux militias.

Their responses can include peaceful marches, mutual aid, and heaven forfend, the possession of firearms.

That justification doesn’t include violence. And if outside agitators cause protests to routinely turn violent, cities have the right and responsibility to defend themselves, despite the possibility that their defense may cause infringements of First and Second Amendment rights.

When people from outside the community come to protests carrying guns, that isn’t community defense. When people from outside the community come in to “guard” private property owned by locals, that isn’t community defense. That is usurpation of police power.

There is a sizable element of violent, zealous people for whom there’s no path for discussion or de-escalation. They want a fight. The question is how to deal with them. Force vs. force?

To meet the challenge of outside force, there have to be people who are willing to take on the job of de-escalation. That’s the job of local police. We’re not yet at the point of martial law, and it’s depressing to think that arming the left may be the next option in this looming battle by proxies for both sides.

But people don’t become fighters by owning a weapon. It’s important to remember that the police are us. The protesters are us. We’re all brothers and sisters who shouldn’t want any politician inciting us to attack each other.

It is the job of the police to keep the peace, not to escalate and inflame. The police need to be responsible for de-escalation, and also be held accountable for their behavior in doing so.

We win by creating a society that values and prioritizes community safety, wellness and success. The BLM protests are responsible for some of the violence, but they have also stimulated thinking about steps in the direction of remaking our society into one that values safety and success.

We need to find a way out of this maze, and back to normalcy. Trump won’t show us the way.

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Are We Getting Close to Civil War?

The Daily Escape:

Murmeration of Starlings, Leeuwarden, Netherlands – photo by Marcel van Kammen/Corbis. The changing shape of the flock comes from each bird copying the motions of others around it with extreme rapidity. Their reaction time is less than a tenth of a second.

Are we seeing a kind of political Murmeration in America? You can argue that there is a straight line from what Trump has said and done during the past four years to where we are now:

  • From his endorsement of police brutality to numerous examples of police misconduct.
  • From his calls at rallies for his supporters to assault their opponents, to his supporters picking up guns and killing people on the street.
  • From his cozying up to white supremacists to groups of white supremacists patriots riding in the back of pickup trucks through Portland, OR.

From The Bulwark: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Before 2016, when was the last time you saw pitched battles between armed, opposing political forces in America’s streets? Did you see it under Barack Obama? Or George W. Bush? Or Bill Clinton? Or George H.W. Bush? Or Ronald Reagan? Or Jimmy Carter?

….To find the type of mayhem we now have…with armed civilians clashing, you have to go back to the union-busting wars of the early 20th century—and even that’s probably not apt, since those were workers pitted against companies.

Yet, once Donald Trump arrived on the national stage, street fighting became a common feature of American politics.”

And on Saturday night, convoys of out-of-town trucks and SUVs bearing Trump flags rolled into Portland. They rolled through groups of protesters in their vehicles, shooting projectiles and pepper spray into the crowds. In the ensuing violence, one of the far-right Trump supporters was shot and killed.

After the murder, Trump tweeted that the MAGA “protesters” who caravanned into Portland on Saturday night were “Great Patriots!” and later explained why their behavior was understandable:

 “The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing. The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard! https://t.co/bM6ypak94t

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2020″

When you see photos of armed guys with US flags and Trump/Pence campaign flags on the back of pickup trucks driving around Portland, it reminds Wrongo of ISIS fighters in their trucks in news photographs or the Middle East. These Trumpers look like militia men, not something we’ve seen in America before.

The strategy in play here is “Let’s you and him fight.” Most Americans aren’t going to play that game, but the way FOX and Trump are stoking the fires, enough may be willing to try violence, starting a quasi-civil war in a few of our cities. And it’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t be contained there, since the Trumpers have the larger arsenals of weapons, and are more willing to use them.

Of course, the Portland murderer should be brought to justice, right along with the underage Kenosha killer. There is no excuse for deadly violence. Now that we have dead in Kenosha and in Portland, vengeance may become nearly impossible to tamp down, particularly in our laissez-faire gun owing society.

The only way to stop this is to bar armed protestors, regardless of their politics, from entering the area of demonstrations. All weapons, not only guns, need to be confiscated, to be returned later, or they can be retained by the owner if they agree to leave the area.

The public safety needs must take priority over anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

Also curfews must start earlier, and be strictly enforced. All of these efforts at better crowd control means more policing-type resources, but that’s the price of doing business if we are to prevent a possible war on our streets.

Finally, it’s becoming clear that the police will not intervene in whatever violence the pseudo-militias choose to commit. We shouldn’t be surprised at how quickly the Republican’s focus shifted from defending the right-wing underage killer of two protesters in Kenosha, to being outraged at the death of a righty in Portland.

Let’s remember that America is a big country, and while it might seem like violence is everywhere, it’s not. Even in cities that have reported violence, the conflicts are localized, and are not continuous. There are also protests happening in various places in the US which are totally uneventful.

Never forget that the main reason America is in chaos at this moment is because Trump wants it that way.

Trump isn’t following Richard Nixon’s playbook. He’s cribbing from George Wallace.

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