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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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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Night One of the Democratic Convention

The Daily Escape:

Morning mail, Tulare County, CA – 1938 photo by Dorothea Lange via Shorpy. Free home delivery began in 1863. Daily deliveries were common, though cutbacks reduced them during the Depression and World War II.

Night one of the Democratic convention got off to a shaky start. As Wrongo thought might be the case, the first impression was of low energy, flatness, and of a too-slow pace. But the intimacy of not being in a big hall grew on Wrongo, and worked to give real emotional impact to some speeches, particularly by those who didn’t stand behind lecterns.

A few things stuck out as great. First, the use of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”. The 3:30 minute video montage worked to establish the theme of Monday night. With the video, the Dems offered the nation less identity politics and more of an American identity. That they were able to return to it to set up each new thematic segment worked particularly well.

Second, Kristin Urquiza nailed her shot. She had lost her father to Covid, and said:

“I’m one of the many who have lost a loved one to Covid…. My dad was a healthy 65-year-old….His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”

Being able to look directly into the camera and speak directly to us without the distractions in a stadium filled with drunken delegates made her attack on Trump’s failure to deal with the pandemic devastating.

Third, the Biden-Amtrak video. It also had an emotional point to make, showing Biden as a decent guy.

Finally, Michelle Obama was the star of the night. Her ability to connect with viewers was extraordinary and her takedown of Trump was one for the ages:

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Her speech, which also wouldn’t have worked as well in a big hall, makes Wrongo think that our political culture has moved away from normal convention performances. She was eloquent in a personal and direct way that will set the bar for the rest of this convention, and beyond.

Axios says that 18.7 million people watched last night’s coverage between 10 and 11 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, Nielsen said. Four years ago, Democrats’ opening night drew just under 26 million viewers. However, the Biden campaign said that it tracked 10.2 million views on digital streams, taking the total to 28.9 million. Kind of an apples to oranges comparison.

From a campaign strategy perspective, this week, the Democrats will make their points about how no one is better off than they were four years ago.

They will finish just in time for the Republican convention that will be all Trump, all the time. Despite Trump’s efforts to paint Democrats as radical leftists and facists, the Democrats aren’t radical, and the Republicans really only have more Trump to offer America.

After a week of a soothing convention focused on everyday people, who will believe the GOP?

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Thoughts on Biden’s Election Strategy

The Daily Escape:

A “modern” equivalent of the pony express arrives at the post office in Pie Town, NM – 1940 photo by Russell Lee via Shorpy

(Wrongo is aware that blog comments aren’t working. We’re efforting a solution)

Wrongo is writing this Monday evening before the start of tonight’s Democratic convention. It will be interesting to see what happens. Are you planning to watch?

The Democrats are running against Trump and only secondarily, in favor of new policies. Their strategy harkens back to Ronald Reagan’s question of the American people in a presidential debate vs. Jimmy Carter in 1980, when Reagan asked: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

America’s answer in 1980 was no, it isn’t. Trump is probably the only incumbent president in this country’s history that thinks it will help him get re-elected if he makes America’s situation worse by deliberately creating chaos. From the Atlantic:

“Trump is systematically enlisting agencies, including the Postal Service, Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, that traditionally have been considered at least somewhat insulated from political machinations to reward his allies and punish those he considers his enemies. He is razing barriers between his personal and political interests and the core operations of the federal government to an extent that no president has previously attempted…”

While the post office dismantling is a threat to the election, it is also about the dismantling of the connective tissue of American society. There have been “privatize the post office” arguments for years. But Trump isn’t proposing legislation, he’s simply shutting down the post office before our eyes.

Today, unemployment stands at 10.2%, higher than during the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. The death toll from Covid-19 has passed 170,000, and it isn’t under control. Vast swaths of the US remain at varying levels of lockdown, while other parts of America are sending their kids back to school without social distancing. Trump has failed to manage the pandemic.

How should Biden communicate all this in a way that will get Americans to vote Democratic in huge numbers in November? Wrongo is reminded of the lyric from Simon and Garfunkel’s tune, “The Boxer”:

“All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

So who is listening, and what will they think?

In reality, the US economy just contracted at the fastest quarterly rate on record. This leads the Democrats to say: We need to pump more money into the economy, extend and expand unemployment benefits, give money to the states to prevent massive budget cuts, expand health spending, and help the post office!

McConnell and Trump say: This means we need to cut unemployment benefits, give more power to employers, and leave the states to fend for themselves. Also, people just need to get out more.

While the independent voter says: I just can’t see any difference between the parties. I really can’t.

Luckily, McClatchy reports that the number of undecideds in this cycle has shrunk dramatically. In October of 2016, 20% of voters were still undecided. Today that number is down to about 5%.

So, running against Trump and the Republicans is just about the only strategy Biden needs to employ. Trump on the other hand, is actually goading the country into responding to Reagan’s question by saying, “No, we’re not better off than we were four years ago”.

Trump thinks that his winning argument once again will be “I alone can fix it.” Wrongo doesn’t like his odds.

Some are saying that the 2020 election is a choice between the lesser of two evils. Some are saying they just won’t vote. Since there’s so much effort at voter suppression, voting must still be very important, so everyone should make certain that they get to vote.

The lesser evil shouldn’t even be a debate. We have seen the massive damage that Trump has foisted on the US, increasing in intensity in the past few months. His lack of leadership has led to those 170,000 COVID deaths. He is taking brazen steps to game the electoral process. Over the past 3 ½ years, we’ve watched solid public policy be dismantled and then, flat out wrecked.

A Biden regime will appoint departmental heads that will follow the law, and not terrorize minorities outright.

Finally, the lesser evil can potentially (not a guarantee) give Americans room to maneuver and to grow. The maximal evil is sure to kill us.

Let’s see what strategy the Democrats decide to follow.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Democratic National Convention edition, August 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence, OR – photo by pnw_roaming

Wake up Monday convention watchers! The 2020 Democratic National Convention kicks off tonight not in Milwaukee, but almost entirely in cyberspace. The Dems will be staying physically distant. They’ve decided to go big, with a solution that looks more like the cheering fan screens courtside in Orlando’s NBA bubble than the typical milling around chaos of past national party conventions.

The plan is to broadcast to the nation hundreds of live video feeds from living rooms, national monuments and stages around the country. Sort of like New Year’s Eve on TV.

Not even the delegates will be attending the event in Milwaukee. Instead, they will “attend” the convention from their states, participating in virtual caucus meetings, voting to nominate Biden on Tuesday night. The roll-call vote of the states, often an hours-long ordeal, has been redesigned as a 30-minute, lightning round of all 57 states and territories with only some of the delegates broadcasting live.

The major thing Wrongo has noticed about virtual meetings is that they usually seem flat, largely unemotional by-the-numbers performances. Even the best lack the spontaneity of a live performance. Politicians are used to taking a beat between sentences, drawing in energy from the crowd. But at a virtual convention, all those pauses offer to a viewer is dead air in an empty space, whether it’s from Biden’s basement, or from Trump’s unfilled stadium in Tulsa.

They need to speak with high energy, and speak quickly, eliminating as many of those pauses as they can. Hopefully, internet coaches have been hard at work retraining them in how to communicate effectively in what’s now an Instagram and TikTok world of 15-second and 30-second bites.

So, hopefully it won’t be the equivalent of your family’s Zoom meeting.

Biden’s message will be that he can heal a fractured country. Making Kamala Harris his choice for VP, will be portrayed as a bridge to a future of a diversifying America. Her mixed heritage is more like America’s future than is Biden’s background, or that of Trump and Pence.

Axios points out that Harris’s Indian-American heritage may have value in swing states:

  • There are more than 4 million Indian Americans, and the population is growing quickly.
  • In the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, the number of eligible Asian American and Pacific Islander voters grew more than 117% between 2000 and 2018, to nearly 1.7 million.
  • Indian Americans represent the largest share of Asian Americans in each of those states.

The convention’s main events will run for just two hours each night, with speeches by Harris on Wednesday and Biden on Thursday. The overall production will rely on a fast-moving, video-heavy version of a convention including celebrity appearances and first-person stories by Americans who will say they have been hurt by the Trump presidency.

Those first-person stories can easily be the most compelling memory that we take from the convention. Remember that at the 2016 Democratic convention Khizr Khan, the father of Humayun Khan, an Army captain killed in Iraq, grabbed national attention for a speech denouncing Trump over a plan to ban Muslims from the US.

To capture any potentially viral programmed (or unprogrammed) moments, the show’s producers plan to clip and post segments of the event on social media in near-real time, so supporters can share segments from the beginning of a speech before it’s even over. The length of a typical speech, about 10 minutes in a normal year, has also been brought down to three minutes or less for many speakers.

The goal is to keep people’s attention while still getting Biden’s message across.

But Biden will also sell himself as a bridge to the recent past, where character and restraint were hallmarks of the presidency, ideas that will sound like indictments of Trump. After listening to Trump’s bloviating for the past 3 ½ years, where many of his speeches turn into hours-long performances similar to Fidel Castro’s in the 1960s, shorter speeches and a constantly changing lineup may keep viewers watching.  Also, shorter pieces are instantly tweetable, a good thing in 2020.

It’s also a perfect opportunity to pitch some simple graphics to show how much worse off Americans have been in the Trump era. Simple side by side data showing how stark the differences are may be very useful.

Perhaps the Dems can capitalize on their non-traditional approach to focus the voting public on their message, and to get a bounce in public opinion and voter engagement.

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The Looming Census Problem

The Daily Escape:

Breckinridge, CO – July 2020 photo by doughboyme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – Voter Registration Edition, July 13, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The comet Neowise, as seen from Heart Lake over Mt. Shasta, CA – 4:10am July 10 photo by smi77y_OG.

Democrats need to slow their victory lap according to Politico, who reports that Democrats are lagging Republicans in new voter registrations in swing states since the start of the pandemic.

A report from the Democratic-leaning data firm TargetSmart found people who are registering are older, whiter, and less Democratic:

“The study from TargetSmart was especially alarming for Democrats because it spotlighted not only falling registrations, but which party was damaged most in battleground states. In a majority of 10 states TargetSmart studied, registrations skewed older and whiter than before the pandemic.

TargetSmart finds Republican registrations edging Democrats’ in Florida, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. All of which adds another uncertainty to an election cycle that already is loaded with them.

The pandemic closures and stay-at-home orders have been a perfect storm for reducing voter registrations. Voter registration is normally a face-to-face, person-to-person activity. In this summer of COVID-19, there are no voter registration volunteers with clipboards registering voters at outdoor events because they have been cancelled. No one is camped out at downtown street corners on the weekends. DMV closures, stay-at-home orders and restrictions on large gatherings limit opportunities for new registrations.

In a report on the decline last month, the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research (ERIC) concluded that:

“…the steep decline in new registrations may prove to be a sizable obstacle to what was set, pre-pandemic, to be a record election for turnout.”

People of color and other marginalized communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and that’s undercutting registration efforts, and undercutting people’s ability to get registered, despite the energy that was created in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.

Tom Bonier, TargetSmart’s CEO, says overall new registration numbers have been so low during the pandemic that Republican gains during the period have been too small to offset the pre-pandemic Democratic advances. He thinks that Republicans although still behind, “got a couple of extra steps” closer to the Democrats.

But Politico says Republicans are pointing to their improved standing in registrations compared to 2016 in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, all states Trump won that year, despite Democrats holding a wider registration advantage than they do now. So, that’s a worry for Democrats.

OTOH, this is the first year that Republicans have fallen behind both Democrats and independent voters in registration in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that register voters by party, according to Ballot Access News, which tracks voter registrations.

If Trump has any chance of catching Biden by November 3, it will likely take registering and turning out more white, noncollege-educated voters, than in 2016. It’s a real question if they exist in large enough numbers to make a difference.

An interesting and positive (for Democrats) report from the Bulwark concludes that Trump has stopped trying to win the presidency. By analyzing his current direct marketing campaign, they conclude that he is instead focusing on building his list of followers for his post-presidency:

“My working theory is that Trump’s ads are telling us what that next scheme is. He’s tying himself more completely to the base of his base so that he can integrate them into Trump TV or Trumpstagram or whatever venture he’s planning for January 21, 2021.

After all, he’s got an installed user base of probably 30 million people he can start milking the minute he’s out of office. That puts him halfway to Disney Plus. At say, $9.95 a month, you’re talking about very real money.”

So there seems to be real questions about whether Democrats should be worried about Trump being re-elected. Democratic registrations should be the true measure of concern, not some media pundit’s speculation about Trump TV.

So, wake up America! There are less than four months to register more Democratic voters. Help out if you can. To help you wake up, here’s a throwback tune from 1983, “Vamos a la Playa” (Let’s go to the beach) by the Italian disco group, Righeira. This was a huge hit in Europe in 1983. Despite its innocuous beach theme, the song actually talks about the explosion of an atomic bomb. And they’re singing in Spanish, but they’re Italians. And they appear to be wearing the Apple watch before it was invented:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 21, 2020

Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020: Come because you love Trump. Leave with the Trump virus. Wrongo isn’t a futurist, but as this is written on Saturday, there’s reason to be concerned that there may be an increase in COVID-19 infections in Tulsa:

“Six of President Trump’s staffers, who were part of the campaign’s advance team for the president’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been quarantined after testing positive for the novel coronavirus…”

Wrongo has a bad feeling about the aftermath:

  • People are coming from several states, some with rapidly-rising hospitalizations
  • It’s indoors, with no way to effectively distance
  • There will be cheering, singing, and chanting
  • Some attendees will have spent hours, possibly days interacting with each other outside the venue, and will spend an hour or two in line just to get in
  • These aren’t people who have a belief in masking and distancing

Speaking of bad feelings, the Guardian reports that armed militia members and bikers are gathering outside Trump’s venue. The National Guard has been activated in Tulsa. What could go wrong?

On to cartoons. Bolton’s book inspires the rest of Trump’s team:

Trump says Bolton’s book is all lies, and they are state secrets:

They knew it and did nothing:

GOP complains about demonstrators:

LGBTQ ruling angers the elephant:

Chart shows COVID in the US, based on which presidential candidate won in 2016. Notice anything?

The cure:

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Saturday Soother – June 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Morning surf casting, Nauset Off Road Beach, Orleans MA – May 2020 photo by Chef Bob

Happy Summer Solstice fellow disease vectors!

The political scene remains in flux. There are 135 days to go until the November election, and while things look encouraging for Biden, there’s plenty of time for Trump to mount a successful counter-attack. We’ll see the start of that effort tonight in Tulsa.

The 2020 Senate races are the most important to Wrongo. If Biden wins, Democrats need to pick up just three seats to control the Senate. If Biden loses, they need four seats, actually five, since Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) is likely to lose his seat.

The Cook Political Report just moved Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s race against incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines to toss-up status from “leans Republican”. A race of the two Steves. Daines won the seat in 2014 by 18 points.

Montana has become competitive in part due to Bullock’s successful handling of the COVID-19 issue, and because the pandemic has limited campaigning. Bullock has seen his approval ratings rise to 75% in one poll. Montana has one of the lowest per capita infection rates (49th out of 50), with only 20 deaths as of June 17, and Bullock has gotten credit for closing the state early. From Cook:

“Recent private Democratic polling in the contest gives Bullock a small lead and finds that Bullock’s approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than Daines…”

That’s fine, but Cook also reports that:

“GOP polling also shows that it’s a close race, but one where every internal poll for them has still shown Daines leading. “

Remember that Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016. Democrats argue that Biden isn’t as toxic in Montana as Hillary Clinton was in 2016, and that Obama only lost the state by 2 points in 2008, so if Biden could get close, he’ll help Bullock.

Bullock has outraised Daines by about $2.1 million in the first fundraising quarter, and again outraised Daines ahead of the June 2 primary by a nearly two-to-one margin. But Daines retains a $1.6 million cash on hand advantage.

The national state of play: There are now five GOP Senate seats rated as toss-ups: Daines, Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in NC and Martha McSally in Arizona.

There are another four Republican seats in play, albeit where they have leads in the polls. Both Georgia senators (Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue), Joni Ernst in Iowa, and Kansas’s open seat could swing to the Dems. That totals nine Republican Senate seats within reach.

Notice that Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t in the Dem’s competitive column.

If you gave money to centrist Democrat Amy McGrath, she’s trailing progressive opponent Charles Booker in the polls for the chance to go against McConnell despite raising $41 million.

It’s nearly certain that the GOP picks up Jones’s (AL) Senate seat. They’re expecting to hold on to the four seats above, so the Dems would have to win all five of the toss-ups to gain Senate control if Trump won reelection.

That could be a heavy lift. Remember that the GOP gained two Senate seats in 2018, despite the Democratic wave moving control of the House to the Democrats.

Enough calculating about what may be happening in a few months. It’s time for our Saturday Soother!

The summer solstice is Wrongo’s least favorite day of the year, since the days start growing shorter tomorrow. Temperatures at the Mansion of Wrong look to be in the high 80s to low 90s for the next week, so summer seems to have finally arrived.

In honor of summer let’s make a cold brew. Try The Dredger ($16/12oz.) from Jersey City, NJ’s Modcup brewers. The Dredger is said to have a deep toffee like sweetness and a slight fruity undertone. Note that Modcup refuses to sell any coffee 18 days after its roast date.

Now take your cold brew, settle back at an appropriate physical distance, and enjoy the hot sun. Today, you can hear a classic pop song that speaks about the power of “dreamers” in honor of the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA.

Here is Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” from the 1989 soundtrack of the movie “Working Girl”. Simon won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for it. At the link, you’ll see throwback haircuts and shoulder pads on women’s clothes from the 1980s and a few poignant scenes of the WTC:

Sample lyric:

We’re coming to the edge

Running on the water

Coming through the fog

Your sons and daughters

Let the river run

Let all the dreamers

Wake the nation

Come, the New Jerusalem

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

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