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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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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Monday Wake Up Call – August 31, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Devil’s Punchbowl, OR – 2020 photo by indieaz. There are many places in the US called the “Devil’s Punchbowl”.

Where did the summer go? We’ve all been tied down by the pandemic, so we probably focused more on politics than we wanted to. Pretty sure that made time pass more slowly, though. So Wrongo’s still not sure where the summer went.

Last week, Wrongo and Ms. Right had lunch with old friends, and the subject of what older Boomers and Silents can do to influence the election was a big discussion topic. Depending on your means, there are many things that could be done, like picking key states and congressional districts that are in play, and donating bigly to candidates who have a real chance to flip the seat they’re seeking.

But perhaps the most important impact would be to help register voters in those same states and districts this fall. For many, that would mean traveling to another state, braving the risk of COVID, while dueling with anti-maskers. When you consider the alternative of four more years of divided government with Trump in power, it may well be worth doing.

It’s important to remember that 2020 is a census year, and Democrats had a huge loss in the Senate, House and in state legislatures in 2010, the last census year. That enabled Republicans to gerrymander many states, making Democrats uncompetitive in those states for a decade.

We can’t risk another huge loss year like 2010.

Paul Rosenburg reports on using a “moneyball” type of approach, based on the famous book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Lewis wrote about baseball teams using the “moneyball” approach to get the best team on the field using the least amount of their limited budgets. The idea of applying it to voting comes from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Like baseball teams, each citizen has a fixed amount of time and resources to invest in politics. The idea is to focus on political races with a high potential either for flipping the US Senate or selected down-ballot races.

You could also focus on Congressional seats, or on state legislatures. In the case of legislatures, the goal is to split or change control of legislatures that will be drawing new districts in 2021. Since only 10 states have independent redistricting commissions (list is here), we should focus on the Republican states among the other 40 to minimize the chance of seeing more unfairly gerrymandered districts like the Republican’s REDMAP project delivered in 2011.

Turing to the Senate, here’s a chart that shows races by current margin, and by what the political moneyball group calls “voter power”:


The red names are Republicans, blue are Democrats. By convention, the race where resources go the farthest is set to a voter power of 100, with the other races calibrated against it. The Montana race has immense voter power, since the state has so few residents. Money or time spent trying to get Steve Bullock elected can go 50 times farther there than against John Cornyn in TX, who has a big lead in a big state. If Bullock wins, that’s likely to mean Democrats will win control of the Senate.

Wrongo’s friends want to see Mitch McConnell defeated in KY, but Wrongo advised not to donate to Amy McGrath, the Dem running against him. It’s a difficult race to win. Instead, they should focus their time and money into races with lower profiles but better chance to win. Like Sarah Gideon running against Susan Collins in ME.

From Tom Sullivan:

“Find…tabs for “Moneyball” states where “a few hundred voters mobilized in the right districts could bring a state bipartisan control of redistricting, leading to fairer districts for a decade.” These include TX, MN, KS, FL, CT, and NC. Voters in those states should examine where their money and effort could do the most good.”

Time to wake up Voters! It is surely the right time to build your list of candidates to support to flip the Senate, and to pick down ballot-candidates to create a firewall against gerrymandering.

To help you wake up, a special treat. Here’s an accomplished guitarist Wrongo had never hear of, Justin Johnson. Johnson is playing an original composition, “Rooster Blues, live on a four-string cigar-box guitar. Sounds fantastic:

Watch it. You won’t be disappointed!

And if you liked that video, you might like him playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on a vintage oil can guitar here.

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Saturday Soother – Conventions Are Over Edition, August 29, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge that connects Vermont and New Hampshire across the Connecticut River. Wrongo and Ms. Right crossed it many times a year when we lived in NH.

Happy Saturday, fellow disease vectors! Both presidential conventions are over, and there’s just 65 days to go until the election. In his Thursday night acceptance speech, Trump turned and pointed at the White House, saying “We’re here and they’re not.” That sums up what’s going to be all-out, house-to-house fighting for votes by both Parties.

Trump is seeking to redefine the November election as a choice between Biden and himself, not simply a referendum on his first term.

A massive Republican attempt to scramble the narrative has already begun: No one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America. If he wins the election you’ll have to lock your doors, or run for your lives, because those bad people from “Democrat-run cities” want to kill you in your beds.

They’re betting that the fear of violence in the streets will outweigh all of the other issues on the minds of a sufficient number of voters to prevent Biden from winning in the Electoral College.

But the reality is that Trump has done much to incite violence. The fact that the violence has overwhelmingly occurred in cities with Democratic municipal governments is framed as making Trump the “change candidate”, despite being the guy on whose watch all of this violence has happened. And, as presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway explained on Fox News:

“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order…”

And facts just don’t matter. Biden isn’t for defunding the police. In reality, he has called for increasing federal funding for police departments by $300 million, while Trump has proposed nearly half-a-billion dollars in cuts to law enforcement funding.

We should have expected the emergence of vigilante violence, as more and more protests turned into riots this summer. But this week’s killings in Kenosha, WI demonstrate how sinister vigilantism is when a 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse comes from another state, ostensibly to protect local Wisconsin property from local protesters, and kills two.

But he wasn’t alone. NYT reports that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Mr. Rittenhouse’s gunfire is mixed in with the sound of at least 16 other gunshots that ring out during this time.”

Apparently, Rittenhouse was responsible for eight of the 24 rounds, so other vigilantes were also roaming Kenosha’s streets. And since he’s 17, Kyle isn’t old enough either to own a gun, or to be open-carrying in Wisconsin, where you can’t legally own a rifle until you’re 18.

Immediately after Rittenhouse was identified as the shooter, the right-wing media characterized his actions as those of a dutiful citizen who had no choice but to take the law into his own hands, more Republican justification of vigilantism.

Returning to the context of the next 65 days: Once again, the big question is whether you are better off today than you were four years ago?

Since life is worse, how and why should voters focus only on violence when there are already 185,000 COVID dead? When 30 million Americans are unemployed? When 50 million face eviction, and our economy is teetering on depression?

There is no question that street violence is a major issue that must be on the table right along with the others. These require simultaneous solutions, and failure to solve any one of them will weaken the country for at least a decade.

They all urgently need to be solved, not spun, and Biden better have good answers.

It is a wonder that we haven’t seen more gun fights on our city streets. The police have all the tools and protective gear money can buy, but they look the other way when it comes to vigilantes. They need to intervene when these open carry vigilantes show up at protests, and bar them from entering into the immediate area of a protest, regardless of the First and Second Amendment consequences. Public safety should override the Constitutional concerns.

Americans can’t walk around afraid of armed and unregulated militias who think they have a mandate. And those militias can’t be welcomed by our local police. That’s the easy part. Solving the COVID pandemic so people can go back to work and to school can’t be left to Trump. He’s proven he isn’t capable of solving those problems.

Time for some soothing Saturday music. Here’s Yiruma, a South Korean composer and pianist, playing a short set of original music, live at a Korean Traditional House Village:

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

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Saturday Soother – Between the Conventions Edition, August 22, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Wildflowers on the Pacific Crest Trail, Mt. Rainier NP, WA – August 2020 photo by gregvalle_photography. The red flowers are Indian Paintbrushes, the purples are Lupines.

We’re now between conventions, so let’s wrap-up the Democrat’s: They had an interesting virtual convention, a great first-time effort that ended on an impressive note. Maybe Biden’s speech will be forgotten by next week, but he did a great job closing out four days of the Democrats exceeding expectations. He nailed the speech, both in tone and substance. Tough on Trump, whose name he never mentioned, but far more about hope, light and love.

Biden’s speech may have capped the night, but the testimonial by 13-year old Brayden Harrington, who shared how Biden helped him overcome his stutter stole people’s hearts:

“I’m just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time Joe Biden made me more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life.”

What hasn’t been seen is the initial encounter between Biden and Brayden in NH during the Democratic primaries. Click on the link to view the video:

Clearly real, and not staged for the convention. And this tweet sums up the difference between the candidates:

Despite Trump’s warnings, the convention was a patriotic celebration of empathy and decency, along with some Trump mauling, all wrapped in a devastating indictment of Trump’s first term. Biden’s speech was so good that even FOX backtracked. Chris Wallace noted that Trump’s attempt to portray Biden as mentally impaired backfired badly: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Remember, Donald Trump has been talking for months about Joe Biden as [being] mentally shot, a captive of the left….I thought that he blew a hole, a big hole, in that characterization…[delivering] an enormously effective speech.”

The TV pundits were grating and unenlightening, as usual. The networks had trouble keeping up with the show. They had to sideline their analysts and just show the event, or risk missing something by trying to squeeze in bloviating commentary.

Julia Louis Dreyfus dunked on Trump with this:

“Joe Biden goes to church so regularly that he doesn’t need tear gas and heavily armed troops to get there.”

Moving on, in another example of privatization gone wrong, Alan Macleod of Mint Press has a shocking report on a privately-run, for-profit ICE detention center in Farmville, VA. The facility is run by Immigration Centers of America (ICA), which is owned by a group of Virginia investors. Macleod reports that 89% of the inmates have COVID: (Emphasis by Wrongo)

“….nearly 90% of the prison population at ICA has tested positive for COVID-19, accounting for around a quarter of all current detainee positive cases across the entire nationwide ICE prison network.”

Since the company began housing undocumented people for ICE in 2010, they have been the target of several lawsuits and an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. Their mis-management borders on crimes against humanity. McLeod says ICA:

“…was also deporting coronavirus-positive immigrants back to their home countries, overwhelming their response systems. The Minister for Health for Guatemala, for example, noted that 75% of deportees on one flight arrived with COVID-19.”:

For Trump, the combination of massive COVID infections and immigrants in prison is good for a few laughs. Americans love putting people in prisons, but hate paying for it, so Republicans have dialed up the privatization, allowing private companies’ promise to fulfill our incarceration requirements on the cheap.

It’s the end of another rock ’em, sock ’em week. Bannon was arrested for mail fraud. Postmaster General DeJoy testified to the Senate, offering a pledge that the Postal Service would deploy:

“…processes and procedures to advance the election mail, in some cases ahead of first-class mail.”

Nothing backs his pledge to the Senate, and we will only learn if he fails or succeeds after the election, so beware!

Finally, CNN reports that Melania Trump doesn’t have plans to campaign with Herr Donald this fall.

Enough! It’s time to kick back, tune out, relax and forget about Bannon, Melania and Trump for a least a few minutes. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Today the Saturday coffee experience is on break, but out on the fields of Wrong, there are bushes to trim. Wrongo is starting day two of his annual late summer trimming extravaganza. Today, the various rose of sharon, wisteria and forsythia bushes are the hard targets of Wrongo, the trimmer.

Before heading out, let’s take a few minutes to listen to “Songs My Mother Taught Me, a song for voice and piano written in 1880 by Antonin Dvořák. Here it is sung in 2018 by Ernestina Jošt, a young Czech soprano unfamiliar to Wrongo. She is accompanied by the Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra:

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

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Saturday Soother – August 15, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Buying stamps at the post office, Siren, WI – July 1941 photo by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration, via Shorpy.

The Senate has adjourned until after Labor Day, despite not coming to an agreement on the much-needed next Coronavirus stimulus package. From CNBC:

“Congress and the White House have spent the past few weeks debating what to include in the package, but have been unable to come to an agreement. One of the biggest sticking points: Jobless benefits. Democrats want a continuation of the enhanced unemployment payment of $600 per week, while Republicans say that amount is too high. Democrats are also pushing for more than $900 billion for state and municipal aid, and $60 billion in food assistance, far higher than what Republicans have proposed.”

This means any deal could be weeks away. Meanwhile, around 28 million Americans remain unemployed and many of the relief provisions from the first stimulus package have dried up.

And Postal Service funding is also broken and lying in the weeds by the side of the road.

McConnell offered a new COVID economic aid bill (the HEALS Act) 10 weeks after the House had approved its version, called the HEROES Act. Then, Mitch dismissed the Senate for a month rather than allow Senators to negotiate with the House Dems about adding USPS funding to the HEALS Act, which included no funding for the USPS. The House’s HEROES Act passed in mid-May contains $25 billion for USPS.

There is no accountability for any of these birds except at the ballot box, and the GOP is making it very hard to remove them by voting. Only a very few Republicans, notably House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA) and Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-MO) have broken with Trump on the need for funding the Postal Service.

We mentioned mail sorting machines on Friday. We now know that in May, the USPS planned to remove a total of 969 sorting machines (about 20%) out of the 4,926 it had in operation as of February. Most (746) of the sorting machines scheduled for removal were delivery bar code sorters (DBCS), the type that sort vote-by-mail ballots and other similarly sized pieces. You can view the USPS equipment removal presentation here.

WaPo reported that the USPS sent letters in July to 46 states and Washington DC warning that they may be unable to deliver mail-in election ballots by the deadlines set by the states for them to be counted. About 186 million voters are subject to the Postal Service’s heightened warning. The states that were not warned about potential issues were Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and Rhode Island. The USPS letter was only released on Friday.

This is a huge and serious escalation in concerns that even if people follow all of their state’s election rules, the pace of Postal Service delivery may disqualify their votes.

There’s a big disconnect between the public and the government. They no longer really want to help you solve your problems. You can no longer rely on them to count your votes. You’re about to be kicked out of your apartment. You’ve got no money left in the bank, and after years of being told it’s your fault, you know nothing could be further from the truth.

Sorry, Republicans, this is what you have become. You’re now the Walrus: He is you and you are him.

Vote to flush the turds, November 3rd!

Sorry, no coffee for you this week, we’re already too jacked up by the prospect of losing our democracy. On the other hand, we still need a break from the steady beat of the Trumpian drums, so it’s time for our Saturday Soother.

We lost four large trees on the fields of Wrong last week during the half hour that TS Isaias was with us. The outcome was that we were without power for five days, and it took about a week to cut up and move all of the downed wood.

This week, we left our daily 14+ hours of summer sunlight behind. Today we have 13 hours and 53 minutes, and it, like our politics, will just get worse.

Time to settle back at an appropriate physical distance, and listen to two love themes composed by Dominic Frontiere that originally appeared in the TV series “The Outer Limits”. They are performed here on George Winston’s album “Summer”, recorded in 1991:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call, Portland Edition — July 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Paradise Pass with Crested Butte in the distance, CO – 2020 photo by glacticspark

The second biggest story of the summer is the widespread support of the protesters, those people of all races and ages, who took to the streets to say something about racism in America. Portland is and seems likely to remain the epicenter of the Trump administration’s law and order response.

America’s First Amendment rights are under attack in Portland by Trump’s paramilitaries every day. How can that be? Few have heard of US Code 1357. It allows immigration officers to operate within 100 miles of any external US border. Hence Trump could call out border troops to DC, Portland, or Chicago.

USC 1357 gives DHS jurisdiction over about two-thirds of the US population. They can enter any building that isn’t a dwelling within 25 miles of the border without a warrant.

The regulation was adopted by the US Department of Justice in 1953. At the time, there were fewer than 1,100 Border Patrol agents nationwide; today, there are over 21,000.

These problems are compounded by a lack of personnel oversight by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the DHS. The CBP consistently fails to hold its agents accountable for abuses.

Portland has protests on most days of the year. It’s part of the DNA of the city. Now, it’s looking like Trump’s paramilitaries are trying to foment violence and create a backlash among the protesters. The NYT reports on how these troops were the instigators of recent violence: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“After flooding the streets around the federal courthouse in Portland with tear gas during Friday’s early morning hours, dozens of federal officers in camouflage and tactical gear stood in formation around the front of the building.

Then…the officers started advancing….they continued to fire flash grenades and welt-inducing marble-size balls filled with caustic chemicals. They moved down Main Street and continued up the hill, where one of the agents announced over a loudspeaker: “This is an unlawful assembly.”

By the time the security forces halted their advance, the federal courthouse they had been sent to protect was out of sight — two blocks behind them.”

What’s the end game for Trump in Portland?  His paramilitaries aren’t going to murder groups of protesters in cold blood, so what are they going to do? Have nightly tear gassing until the November election?

Trump’s paramilitaries are saying to Portland: “We wouldn’t have to violate your Constitutional rights if you didn’t insist on exercising them.”

There is libertarian support for ending the Trump paramilitary presence in Portland. Libertarians acknowledge that there is no police power in the Constitution. Policing is left to the states. To the extent the President can send federal officers into Portland or other cities, it should be limited to protecting federal property, not moving into crowds that are two blocks away.

The libertarian argument would say that the people of Portland and other cities have the right to decide who they want to elect to City Hall and how much funding they want to provide for their police. The federal government should only be brought in to defend federal property if the local police are unwilling or unable to do so.

Ironically, during the Obama administration, the GOP thought that the “arming up” of America’s internal security forces like the CPB was a risk to THEM. Now, when it’s impacting Democratic-voting cities, they’re all for it.

Trump’s election chances seem to depend on whether he’s Nixon reborn in 2020. Nixon ran on law and order and against violent demonstrations, largely by students who were against the Vietnam War. Protests never spread as broadly as this in the 1960s. To a great degree, the Vietnam protests were by white college age youth. That isn’t true of today’s protesters.

Trump’s law and order gambit is that Antifa Marxists will take over our cities and then, our suburbs. He’s clinging to the idea that there is an equivalent of the “silent majority” of 1968 still out there to elect him.

But Vanity Fair reported some new polling on the response to Trump’s anti-BLM efforts. If those polls are correct, the silent majority of 2020 is firmly on the side of Biden when it comes to issues of race and justice. Nixon’s ghost seems to have left the building.

Time to wake up America! People in Portland are not afraid of the protesters. They know that their safety isn’t in question. There’s no doubt this is a protest against the government, not their fellow citizens.

To help you wake up listen to Peter Green, guitarist of Fleetwood Mac who died this week, play “Albatross” from 1969’s “The Pious Bird of Good Omen”:

This reminds Wrongo of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” from 1959.

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Alpine lake, High Uintas Wilderness, UT- 2020 photo by anteaterpinkytoe.

Which is better: Gorbachev’s Chernobyl response, or Trump’s COVID response? It’s a high bar for Trump’s response to be worse than Gorbachev’s.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed the Soviet government’s ineptitude to both the Soviet people and the international community. The reactor’s core meltdown and its aftermath drained the Soviet Union of $billions in clean-up costs. It led to the loss of a primary energy source and dealt a serious blow to national pride. Thirty-four years later, the site remains a waste land.

Gorbachev would later say that he thought the Chernobyl meltdown, “even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

But Trump is up for the challenge! From Umair Haque at Medium:

“America’s in free fall. It’s having a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a social implosion, and a political implosion all at once. And all those things have been brought to you by Donald Trump, whose negligence, irresponsibility, recklessness have allowed them to flourish.”

Nobody in the world is in free fall like America. America has the highest number of new cases in the world, higher than Brazil’s 50K, or India’s 30K. Even individual Red States have worse outbreaks than many of the world’s poorest countries with far higher populations.

The EU has about 5,000 new cases. America has more than fifteen times the number of cases Europe has. Texas alone had more than twice the number of cases, (more than 10K) and the population of Texas is 7% of the EU’s.

Trump nails the win over Gorbachev with his most egregious action, putting armed secret police on the streets of Portland, OR. Dozens of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters, threw them into unmarked cars, and took them for interrogation without specifying a reason for arrest.

It appears that at least some of the agents involved belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (the Border Patrol), a US government organization that has no business conducting actions against Americans in Portland.

Both the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon have asked them to leave. A US Attorney for the State of Oregon is calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Now, the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, is vowing to ramp up these actions both in Portland and elsewhere. This is Wolf on the DHS website:

“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it. A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America.”

We’ve seemingly reached a point where Trump’s brown shirt police force is reality.

Could it be that Trump is trying to foment unrest? His campaign can’t be happy that protests and urban unrest have quieted down across America in the last few weeks. Is Trump hoping this action will spark a revival of what we were seeing in June?

The calculation would be that an upsurge in protest will divert the country’s attention from the ongoing COVID-19 disaster while scaring moderate voters. It allows Trump to keep playing the law and order president, someone who will protect white suburbanites from scary black/brown anarchists.

This is the same week when Trump claimed Biden wants to abolish suburbs.

We’ve heard this Republican tune before during earlier presidential elections. It’s a mash up of Nixon’s law and order strategy, and Bush I’s Willie Horton strategy. It’s important to point out that both won their elections.

Trump is using Executive Branch agencies that he controls. AG Barr knows there is nothing “Constitutionally” Congress can do about this. They’re trying out various actions to see what they can get away with: for now, it’s the dreaded ANTIFA. Before that it was immigrants and asylum seekers. Later, it could be any opposition.

Time to wake up America! This is who and what we have become. The only question remaining is whether enough non-authoritarian Americans will vote in November to stop the madness.

To help you wake up, here is Big Country’s “We’re not in Kansas” performed live in 1991 in Bonn Germany:

Sample lyrics:

What did you learn in school today
Did you learn to run when the teachers pray
Did they teach you enough to know the state you’re in
Not enough to get out, not enough to win

What did you learn at home today
Did you learn to hate in the proper way
Did your liberated parents patronize your friends
Cos they had enough money cos they had the right skin

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

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Saturday Soother – July 18, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The comet NEOWISE over Stonehenge, England – July 2020 photo via NASA

Happy Saturday fellow disease vectors! Global interest in the comet has been large, but sadly, not enough to make it page one news. From the NYT:

“Eager sky watchers are turning to the heavens as Comet NEOWISE, one of the brightest comets in a generation, starts climbing ever higher among the evening stars.

A majority of comets fly through the solar system invisible to humans, usually too small and dim to be seen with the naked eye. The last frozen ice ball that gave us a big show was Hale-Bopp, a comet that was visible for nearly 18 months around its closest approach to Earth in 1997.

Officially designated C/2020 F3, Comet NEOWISE was discovered on March 27 and had until this week been visible only to committed comet viewers willing to wake up in the early pre-dawn hours. But on Monday, NEOWISE tipped into the post-sunset sky and has even been spotted by people living near city centers with all the light pollution.”

To see NEOWISE, look up at the northwest skies about an hour and a half after sunset. Experts suggest going to the darkest area you can for best viewing. Find the Big Dipper and follow its ladle as it arcs in the direction of the horizon. We have far too many trees to make it visible at the Mansion of Wrong.

The last comet to put on such an impressive show was Hale-Bopp, way back in 1997. Wrongo and Ms. Right have a photo of Hale-Bopp taken about a mile from our (then) home in New Hampshire. Hale-Bopp passed above our local meeting house on the night of a poetry reading by the late, great Donald Hall, a local resident who became the US poet-laureate in 2006.

Comets, like volcanoes, and pandemics were, in the time of prehistory, believed to be signs of punishment from the gods. It seems incredible that we as a species have figured out so much of the natural world that left our ancestors cowering in caves.

It’s too bad our social and moral abilities haven’t advanced as far in the same time.

We know about these comets due to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), a satellite that assists NASA’s efforts to identify and characterize near-earth objects, particularly those that might harm the earth.

It’s worth thinking about why we make the investment to detect invisible threats from the universe, but are seemingly unable to deal with threats that we can see right here on earth.

The next time NEOWISE comes by will be 6,800 years from now. Let’s hope our descendants will be around to see it.

Our Saturday coffee experience remains on break, but it looks like a hot weekend here in Litchfield County, CT. We currently have two turkey mommas parading their clutches of chicks around the fields of Wrong. One group is nearly full-grown, while the other appears to have hatched about a month later. Both were seemingly born with an aversion to humans, despite being with us every day.

Wrongo is going to attempt to repair his weedwacker and put it to some use in the early hours of the day. In the meantime, relax at an appropriate physical distance and listen to Arthur Rubinstein play the Brahms “Intermezzo Op.117, No. 2”. Rubinstein died in 1982, so it is nice that we have the ability to hear and see him all these years later. He was five years old when this piece was composed by Brahms.

This is a mellow work, though just beneath the surface, there are moments of darkness and tension. Doesn’t that sound like America?

This intermezzo is one of Brahms’ more popular solo piano works:

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

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