Saturday Soother – September 26, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Fall, Polebridge, MT – 2020 photo by Drew Silvers

There are just 38 days to go until the election, and another 78 days after that until the inauguration, almost a lifetime in Trump years. Today, we’ll jump among a few unbelievable news items.

First, the nation’s leading newspaper’s story about the US president refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election appeared on page 15. How can it be page one in everyone’s mind, but on page 15 of the NYT? And what political story did the NYT find space for on Thursday’s front page? An article about how Trump is running well in the virtually all-white suburbs north of Milwaukee. But we all know there’s a liberal bias in the news.

Even if the media tries to do it, we can’t normalize Trump.

Second, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin was in the US Capitol rotunda on Friday. She was the first American woman so honored. But, even that brought more naked politics: Although they were invited, neither of the top Republicans, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, nor House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attended.

Third, Wrongo keeps saying that Trump’s willful failure to deal with the COVID pandemic is by far the largest story of the year, and the issue that should decide the election. Another 885 Americans died from COVID-19 yesterday, and 45,178 more were infected, according to The NYT COVID-19 map and case count.

Cases are rising in 29 states and Puerto Rico. Deaths are increasing in 12 states. Think about how difficult it will be to tell COVID from the flu now that we’re starting the flu season. Some perspective:

  • During World War II, an average of 220 US soldiers died per day.
  • During the Civil War, an average of 540 soldiers died per day.
  • So far during this pandemic, an average of 946 Americans have died per day.
  • New cases are trending up again, with the 14-day average up 17%.

Finally, turnout on November 3: The Cook Political Report has introduced an interactive page that lets you tinker with turnout levels for various demographic groups. It’s based on 2016 numbers, and without the 6% third-party vote, Joe Biden wins 307-231, very similar to Trump’s win of 306-232.

But if turnout is lower or much higher, it wouldn’t take much for Biden to lose. For example, if 2016’s turnout of white non-college voters goes from 55% to 60%, Biden wins the popular vote by more than 3 million, but loses the electoral vote 306-232.

And if there was a 4-point shift in the Black vote, with Trump going from 8% to 12%, Biden would win the popular vote by more than four million, but lose the electoral vote 276-262. Biden would pick up PA and WI, but Trump keeps FL, MI, and AZ. A combination of a 10% Trump Black vote, and a 2% drop in Black turnout also leads to electoral loss for Biden.

On the upside, if Biden’s share of white college voters goes up just three points from 54% in 2016 to 57%, he wins Georgia, NC, and Florida and he rolls in the Electoral College, 350-188. The same would happen if he does 3 points better with non-college white voters, winning 34% instead of Hillary’s 31%.

If somehow, he was able to do both, Biden would keep the same electoral margin, but he wins the popular vote by almost 12 million.

Some history: In 2004, 122 million people voted. In 2008, the number was 130 million. We had 129 million votes in 2016, and that’s the baseline for all of the current modeling. The big question about 2020 is whether turnout rises or falls by a crazy number? Crazy would be say, 150 million on the high side, or 110 million on the low side.

While there’s both upside and downside to think about, turnout is everything. Do whatever you can to help improve turnout over 2016.

On to the weekend. Indian Summer seems to be upon us in Connecticut, along with continuing near-drought conditions. Looking ahead to winter, Teresa Hanafin of the Boston Globe offers this: “The Old Farmer’s Almanac says chionophobia is the fear of snow. Mitchophobia is the fear of snow jobs.”

Saturday coffee is taking a break this week, so settle into a space outdoors and listen through your Bluetooth head set to Gerald Finzi’s “Introit for Solo Violin & Small Orchestra – Op. 6 (Molto Sereno)”. The piece was written in the mid-1920s. Here it is performed by the Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Howard Griffiths with violin solo by Lesley Hatfield:

 

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

The Daily Escape:

Water Lilies – 2020 photo by Betsy Zimmerli

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a screenshot from CNN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Saturday Soother, July 3, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Blue Camas bloom, Missoula MT – June 2020 photo by Kurt Kohn. Camas is a plant in the asparagus family, and its bulb was a food staple for Indigenous peoples in the American West.

(Wrongo is taking a break for the July 4th holiday. Blogging will resume on Tuesday 7/7.)

Good morning fellow disease vectors! Welcome to the holiday weekend.

The legal separation of the 13 Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.

After voting for independence, the Continental Congress created a Committee of Five  to write a Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, approving it on July 4. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival… “

Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress, rather than on July 2.

Coincidentally, both Adams and Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as US presidents, died on the same day: July 4, 1826. James Monroe, a founder, but not a signatory of the Declaration, became the third president to die on July 4th in 1831.

Yale Historian David Blight had a short audio piece on NPR on Friday talking about Frederick Douglass. Blight won a 2019 Pulitzer for his book, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”

In his NPR talk, Blight recalls a speech by Douglass in July, 1852 to about 600 abolitionists gathered in Rochester, NY. Douglass had been born enslaved. He’d secretly taught himself to read and write. He became one of the best-known abolitionists and thinkers in the world. The speech that Douglass gave before that crowd in Rochester was called “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?”

Blight says it was one of Douglass’s most riveting and compelling speeches. He goes on to quote from it:

“The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice. I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand, illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”

Blight closes by saying that today, we may be seeing the third great reckoning about race in our history: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The first was the Civil War and Reconstruction. The second was the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. And now we’re probably having a third one – whatever we’re going to end up calling this…..And he’d [Douglass] warn us that the whole world is watching to see whether this thing called an American republic can really survive.”

Blight also has a series of video lectures on the Civil War that you can watch for free as part of the Open Yale program. Wrongo highly recommends them.

Here’s a fantastic and touching video in which five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read excerpts of Douglass’s famous speech. You can’t do better today than to listen to these young kids speak the words of their famous ancestor.

Time to let go of the world of politics, economics and policy for a few days. We all want a slice of normalcy: A cold beverage, burgers on the grill, fireflies after dark, and family and friends nearby. Although we want all of that right now, we’ll most likely have to settle for just some of it.

Let’s begin the Saturday Soother by brewing up a Cafe Del Sol Cold Brew Coffee ($15.99/12oz.) from San Diego CA’s Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

Now, settle back at an appropriate physical distance and listen to Mickey Guyton’s new song, “Black Like Me”. Guyton is a young black female country music singer/songwriter, one of the very few succeeding in the country music idiom. She’s decided to speak out about the subject of racism. That takes courage, even in today’s Nashville scene. Highly recommend the video, which contains the lyrics of her song:

Sample Lyric:

If you think we live in the land of the free
You should try to be black like me

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

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Saturday Soother – June 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Rainer from the Whiteriver campground – 2020  photo by np2fast

Good morning fellow disease vectors!

Now that Florida and Texas have again closed their bars, you’re probably wondering: “Can Joe Biden’s lead in the polls get any bigger”?

Here’s your answer. On Thursday, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. They did this without any plan for replacing it, at what appears to be the height of new cases of the COVID pandemic. From Charlie Pierce:

“Imagine, for a moment, you’re a Republican. You already know that your party has hitched its wagon to the biggest ass in the history of American politics, and that he has proceeded to bungle a response to the worst public health crisis in a century, touching off a deep recession in the bargain….Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself this morning, y’know, maybe this isn’t the best historical moment to take healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans.”

Political gurus say that timing is everything.

Trump is doing this despite the fact that 487,000 new people signed up with HealthCare.gov last month after losing their company-provided health insurance coverage because of the pandemic-induced recession. That was an increase of 46% in sign-ups compared to the same month last year.

And Trump’s trying this stunt in the week when the US hit a new record for the highest daily total of reported COVID-19 cases – more than 45,500! He’s picked the perfect time to try again to throw an estimated 20 million Americans off of their insurance coverage.

This has been the GOP plan all along: we’re trimming the rolls of people on entitlement programs. We’re doing it through the courts, through legislation and by allowing the COVID-19 infection to spread.

It’s no longer clear which is the greater threat to lives in America: The Coronavirus, or Donald Trump.

This should remind all of us that we need to make Medicare for All, or another form of single payer insurance, a top priority after the November election.

Biden said it all in a speech this week: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Amazingly, he [Trump] still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this [COVID] crisis: to fix the economy we have to get control over the virus. He’s like a child who can’t believe this has happened to him. All his whining & self-pity…his job is to do something about it.”

We desperately need new leadership. Maybe we’ll get it next January.

Now it’s time to forget the Sahara Dust storm for a few minutes. You should also ignore the fact that the Dixie Chicks changed their name to “The Chicks”. How exactly does THAT rebranding improve our world, or their career?

Time to take our masks off, sit at an appropriate physical distance, and kick back: It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Let’s start by brewing up a huge mug of Ethiopia Nano Genji Agaro Gera coffee ($21.00/12oz.) from Sacramento CA’s Temple Coffee roasters. The roaster says you will experience notes of nectarine and apricot with your first sip.

Now find a comfortable lawn chair, and settle in to listen to “Summertime”, written by George and Ira Gershwin, and Dubose Edwin Heyward, in 1935. It’s performed here by George Winston from his album “Restless Wind”:

It was also memorably performed by the late, great Sam Cooke in 1957, released as the B-side on the single of Cooke’s big hit, “You Send Me”.

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

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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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