Sunday Cartoon Blogging – RIP RBG

RIP RBG:

After Trump won in 2016, Wrongo was certain that the great failure in Hillary Clinton’s loss would be that Trump could replace three Supremes in his first term. Later, Wrongo became convinced that RBG would make it until the 2020 election, if not until after the 2021 inauguration, limiting Trump to two new Justices.

Maybe we all needed to believe that she would hold on, but when Wrongo’s phone lit up in a BBQ joint on Friday night, he was sad, but not surprised.

Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get worse, we’re about to become a part of an even uglier political fight than we thought we’d be having. If you’ve been working on “2020 Worst Case Scenarios,” it’s time to start over.

This new court vacancy obviously has long term consequences for many social issues, for voting rights and immigration. But think about the implications of a contested election and a potential 4-4 or 5-3 split if the decision on who becomes the next president is decided by the Supreme Court.

It’s doubtful that the nation as we knew it will survive.

When RBG’s death was announced on Friday, Senate Majority Leader McConnell vowed to hold a vote on a replacement for RBG. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that Senate Republicans have an “obligation, without delay” to act on his nominee to the Supreme Court.

But the big question is whether McConnell can get the votes to confirm a Supreme Court Justice with only six weeks left before the presidential election.

There are two scenarios that could play out. McConnell might bring up a Trump nominee before the election, and try to get the needed 51 votes to confirm, but that looks like a long shot. He could also wait, and take the vote after the election in the lame duck session, regardless of who wins the presidency.

McConnell has a 53-47 majority in the Senate, so he can afford to lose three Republican votes, either before or after the election, since Vice President Pence could break a tie, casting the deciding vote.

The first scenario may prove difficult, since there’s just six weeks until the election, and one-third of the Senate wants to be at home campaigning.

In the lame duck session, assuming a Biden win, and a coming change in power in the Senate on January 1, it looks like Sens Collins (R-ME) and Murkowski, (R-AK) wouldn’t vote for a Ginsburg replacement. Sen Romney (R-UT) isn’t a sure supporter of a vote either. Sen Thom Tillis (R-NC) is in a tough fight, but has said he will vote for Trump’s nominee. Sen Martha McSally (R-AZ) has indicated that she will also vote to confirm. Sen Cory Gardner (R-CO) may be a swing vote for a Ginsburg replacement in the lame duck session.

Imagine a scenario where Trump loses the election, and the Senate, but tries to push through a conservative justice before January 1st. There would be public outrage, but there isn’t any legal barrier to the Republicans doing that.

However it unfolds, we mourn Ginsburg’s absence from the Supreme Court. She was one of the great lawyers of her generation, one whose judicial career largely was focused on being a witness to, and a dissenter from, a series of attacks on the Constitution.

We need to mourn the evisceration of our process of selecting Supreme Court justices. We also mourn the toxic politics that we’re going to wallow in for the next 44 days until the election and then, for the 78 days until the inauguration.

RIP Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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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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Trump’s Dismantle the Post Office Plan

The Daily Escape:

Motorcycle postman, Washington, DC – 1912 photo by Harris & Ewing via Shorpy

The WaPo reported that while speaking on Thursday to Fox Business Network, Trump confirmed that he opposes funding for mail-in balloting in order to make it more difficult to expand voting by mail:

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots….But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

It gets worse. Salon reports that mail sorting equipment is being removed from Iowa’s Postal Service offices. This was confirmed to Salon by Kimberly Karol, the head of the Iowa Postal Workers Union: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[we are losing] the sorting equipment that we use to process mail for delivery….that also hinders our ability to process mail in the way that we had in the past.”

New Postmaster General DeJoy has also made a proposal to nearly triple the postage costs to states for mail-in ballots.

It’s time for the press and the Democrats to stop pussy-footing around about what’s going on here: Trump is saying out loud that he plans to steal the election. He’s certain that if people are actually able to cast their ballots he will lose, so he’s going to try to destroy the post office.

The Democrat’s strategy has been to move as many votes as possible to “vote by mail” in order to cut down on the hours-long lines on Election Day that are caused by states gaming the election by having fewer polling places and voting machines. Not standing in long lines might also save a few lives in a time of pandemic.

Trump wants to sabotage their strategy, and so far the Dems are behaving as if not much is happening. They are basically hoping Biden’s inroads with Trump’s 2016 voters will be enough to override the weakening of voting rights in the past four years.

The NYT’s Jamelle Bouie observes that Trump’s best chance of remaining in office is to have a nominal lead on Election Day and let the Republican Courts have a shot at Trump v. Biden:

“There’s no mystery about what President Trump intends to do if he holds a lead on election night in November. He’s practically broadcasting it.

First, he’ll claim victory. Then, having spent most of the year denouncing vote-by-mail as corrupt, fraudulent and prone to abuse, he’ll demand that authorities stop counting mail-in and absentee ballots. He’ll have teams of lawyers challenging counts and ballots across the country.”

In other words, if Trump is leading on election night, there’s a good chance he’ll try to disrupt and delegitimize the counting process. That way, if Biden pulls ahead in the days (or weeks) after voting ends, Trump will have given himself a basis to reject the outcome as “election fraud.”

The only way to prevent this scenario from getting the oxygen it needs, is to deliver an election night lead to Biden.

That means people either vote in person, or they physically drop their mail-in ballot in an official ballot “drop box”. Either will protect your vote from the president’s attempt to undermine the election for his benefit. If you care about the outcome on Election Day, do one or the other.

We’re living in a time where whistleblowers are fired, the Postal Service and our voting rights are being dismantled, and the Republican Senate looks the other way.

Wrongo said that we should talk further about the concept of criminal negligence. When you have authority, like Trump, DeJoy and the Republicans, if you do something a reasonable person should know would cause harm, you are responsible for causing that harm. Presidential power comes with duties to the country, and Trump’s broadly responsible both for the welfare of the American people, and for the consequences of his actions.

Not funding vote by mail is broadly harmful to the people, and to the Constitution.

Now, it’s unlikely that this will be resolved before November. Pelosi and Schumer are 100% right to hold out for a comprehensive stimulus bill that includes funding for vote-by-mail.

Even if they succeed, we’ll need two things: Massive voter turnout, and a long memory that deals with all of this once Trump is out of power.

This is where we are. One of our two major political parties is in open opposition to voting rights: They’re trying to stop people who don’t vote Republican from voting at all.

It’s just another national disgrace that’s happening silently in the year of the Great Pandemic.

Resist! And never forget.

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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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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the true cognitive test for Americans:

Who’s behind these secret police masks?

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

Can Trump win on this debate question?

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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 – D-Day Edition, June 6, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Normandy – 2016 photo by Wrongo

Today, let’s tie a few things together. D-Day was 76 years ago. Less than three months later, by the end of August, the allies had entered Paris, and the rout was on. Germany would surrender in May of 1945. That was the original Antifa war.

What’s going on today, with Trump and Barr trying to gin up a domestic Antifa enemy is bullshit.

First, a bad experience for a multi-racial family of four in Washington State that was accused of being members of Antifa. They were followed and prevented from leaving their campsite when the bad guys cut down trees to block the roadway out. From the article: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The family had shopped for camping supplies at Forks Outfitters and were confronted by seven or eight carloads of people in the grocery store parking lot….The people in the parking lot repeatedly asked them if they were Antifa protesters. The family told deputies that at least four vehicles followed them as they drove northbound out of Forks. They said that two of the vehicles had people in them carrying what appeared to be semi-automatic rifles.”

Not dangerous, and no connection to Barr and Trump, just a coincidence, right?

Next, HuffPo reports that a shipment of hundreds of cloth masks that read “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police” that an Oakland, CA Black Lives Matter-affiliated organization was sending to cities around the country was seized by law enforcement. The group’s objective was to protect demonstrators against the spread of COVID-19:

“The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) spent tens of thousands of dollars on the masks they had planned to send all over the country. The first four boxes, each containing 500 masks, were mailed from Oakland, California, and were destined for Washington, St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis, where on May 25 a white police officer killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, setting off a wave of protests across the country.”

The items never left the state. The US Postal Service tracking numbers indicate they were “Seized by Law Enforcement”. Again, what is behind Barr’s and Trump’s thinking here? The government has been urging independent groups to make masks to help protect against COVID-19. The difference here is that the government objects to the message on these masks?

Finally, Trump is now living behind a tall and imposing fence wall that was hastily erected around the White House:

The fencing is intended to provide security for the White House. Trump may have thought that the show of force in Lafayette Square made him seem more powerful, but the more he closes in—physically and figuratively—the more isolated and small he seems.

Don’t you wonder how carefully the White House has thought out their strategy?

  • Do they have an exit strategy for how their daily undermining of people’s Constitutional rights will play out?
  • Do they intend to have troops on our streets indefinitely?
  • Do they plan to make protesting so dangerous that there will be ever increasing violent incidents that, in the administration’s eyes, justify the continuing use of force?

On this D-Day weekend, things aren’t looking good for the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

It is hard to write this stuff, and it’s certainly hard to read about all the new insults to democracy that are now occurring daily by this president.

So, let’s take a break from the news, and find a little bit of time to forget the ominous place where all this seems to be heading. Time for a Saturday Soother.

First, we brew up a cup of Mocha Java ($14.50/12oz.) from Fort Bragg, CA’s Thanksgiving Coffee. They call it Mocha Java, but this version replaces the original Java with a wet-hulled Sumatra, and replaces the Yemen Mocha with a similar coffee from Ethiopia. You be the judge.

Today, partially to mourn George Floyd and all the others who died before, including those who died on D-Day, let’s listen to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, played in its original version by the Dover Quartet.

This is the second time Wrongo has chosen this recording, primarily for the deep sadness in the music. Usually played by a string orchestra, here it feels raw and vulnerable, and much more intimate and powerful than with an orchestra:

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

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Trump’s Authoritarian Impulses

The Daily Escape:

Lake Superior from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario CN – photo by crazytravel4

If you want to know where Trump is headed on civil disobedience in 2020, consider this about China’s Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Nicholas Kristof reminded NYT readers what Trump had to say about it in 1989:

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, Trump told Playboy Magazine….Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Overwhelming force is Trump’s plan, just like the Chinese. Here’s a list of the military, government police units and militia-like components of the US Government that are walking the streets in Washington DC:

That’s 14 discrete police and military groups patrolling DC. And it didn’t stop there. The Trump campaign just changed his MAGA hats from red to camouflage, and is calling supporters the “Trump Army“:

Yep, Trump wants an army to fight off the liberal mob.

The Daily Beast reported that Trump and Barr have come up with a possibly legal way to bring troops into America’s cities:

“The idea was to…rely on the FBI’s regional counterterrorism hubs to share information with local law enforcement about, in Barr’s own words, ‘extremists’.”

More from the Beast:

“That’s when Barr turned to an existing counterterrorism network—Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)— led by the FBI that unite federal, state and local law enforcement to monitor and pursue suspected terrorists….The construction we are going to use is the JTTF. It’s a tried and true system. It worked for domestic homegrown terrorists. We’re going to apply that model….It already integrates your state and local people. It’s intelligence driven. We want to lean forward and charge… anyone who violates a federal law in connection with this rioting.

We need to have people in control of the streets so we can go out and work with law enforcement…identify these people in the crowd, pull them out and prosecute them…”

See any reason to be concerned?

According to multiple current and former Justice Department and law enforcement officials, Barr is misusing the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in support of Trump’s insistence that antifascists are “terrorists” exploiting the nationwide protests. Using the JTTF against the protesters is a political ploy to make being anti-Trump look like terrorism.

Authoritarians world-wide call domestic demonstrators “terrorists”. Saddam did it in Iraq, so does al-Assad in Syria. Duterte does it in the Philippines, as does Erdogan in Turkey. Xi does it in China.

And now, it’s happening here.

On Wednesday, Trump again violated the First Amendment by authorizing federal police to block clergy’s access to St. John’s Episcopal Church (the one he used for his photo-op), effectively “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.

That, from the holy defender of religious rights.

Monday wasn’t the worst day in American civilian-military relations. But the use of force to create a photo-op, including ordering military helicopters to fly low, scattering protesters with the rotor downwash, broke many established norms.

Trump followed that by deploying many different groups of uniformed “peace-keepers” to the streets of DC. So Monday became the worst day for American civilian-military relations since the military attacked the veterans march on Washington when Herbert Hoover was president.

Political Violence at a Glance asks a few questions:

  • If Trump insists on sending troops to states where governors don’t want them, will they go? On Monday, elements left their bases for operations in DC, which has a special status that Trump could legally exploit. That’s different from sending regular US forces into states without an invitation. That would cross a red line.
  • What would Congress do in response? The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, vowed to bring the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to testify. Would they even show up to the invitation?
  • How will the public react? The US military is one of America’s most popular institutions. In part, because it is seen as non-partisan, whereas most other government institutions are viewed as partisan. If the US military enters American cities, public support of the armed forces will surely drop.

Trump’s rhetoric continues to support white supremacists and far-right militias, while encouraging violence by his followers.

His effort to label the demonstrators as outsiders is meant to justify an increasingly aggressive police/military response. In the past few days, we saw them attack regular people on the streets, along with the journalists reporting on what was happening.

Former high-ranking military officers are finally calling out Trump, but his authoritarian instincts combined with Barr’s right-leaning reflexes pose a clear and present danger to our democracy.

Let’s hope the republic is still here for us to defend by overwhelmingly voting him out on November 3d.

They’re already telegraphing how they might respond if they lose.

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Is Insurrection Brewing in Our Cities?

The Daily Escape:

Mt. McLoughlin, Cascades Range, OR – photo by kayalfainart. Unclear if that’s another mountain in the background, or Godzilla peeking at us.

…and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” ― John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath

This could be written today, because new grapes of wrath could again be harvested.

Think about the grim future ahead for today’s high school and college graduates. With 40 million unemployed, jobs will be scarce. Wages will be stagnant. Many of those 40 million may be out of work for quite a long time, as will many of the new grads. Many families will go hungry.

Add to that the people who are protesting the killing of George Floyd. This uprising involves a direct challenge to police power, along with a clear challenge to political power as well. That’s visible in Trump’s militarized reaction to Constitutionally-guaranteed protest.

We’re experiencing confusion and tension that has put many cops on edge at a time when their goal should be de-escalation, not escalation. There have been an untold number of similar incidents in the past where police officers have been exonerated in cases of seemingly obvious abuses of power.

That has led America to understand that its police forces can act with almost total impunity. As Wrongo has said earlier in the week, historically, this has hurt black and brown people the most. Here’s a chart that shows American’s current attitudes towards the police:

Source: Morning Consult

People may finally be fed up. There’s the tension over the pandemic, and the economic pressures it’s created. And there’s Trump, who seems only capable of pouring gasoline on what is already a bonfire.

The militarization of American law enforcement, already a massive problem, has been taken to the extreme by Trump. He thinks nothing of brutalizing a crowd of protesters so that he can be filmed walking across the street to wave:

“…an upside-down Bible in front of a church he rarely attends and whose leaders and congregation work against the policies he trumpets.”

Trump has threatened to use the US military to put down protests, even if state leaders do not want the US military in their states. Secretary of Defense Esper has spoken of a need to “dominate the battlespace” (he subsequently recanted) in reference to something that is not a battle, and that involves civilians, not a hostile enemy.

Our military is monitoring protests in multiple states, including flying drones over Minneapolis.

On Monday, Washington DC saw a bizarre “show of force” with helicopters hovering much lower than permitted over crowds of peaceful demonstrators. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley, was patrolling near the White House in his camouflage uniform.

On Tuesday night, troops of the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division arrived at Joint Base Andrews near Washington DC.

But who would they be fighting against? These tactics — mass arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, intentional and unconstitutional attacks on peaceful demonstrators and journalists — are familiar, because they’re the tactics employed by authoritarian governments all over the world in response to local insurrection.

But, is what’s happening in our cities an insurrection?

Replacing the police with the military would only escalate the situation. Violence begets violence. But creating more “resistance” may well be the Trump Administration’s plan.

Let’s agree that there was unnecessary violence and property damage in many cities. Facebook and Twitter are ablaze with comments saying that a massive show of force is absolutely necessary to put down the insurrection.

Out of nowhere, GOP politicians from local to federal levels are singing a chorus of “Antifa” is a terror group, and the primary cause of the problems on the streets of America. Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes an amorphous group of people whose political beliefs lean far left, and do not necessarily conform to the Democratic Party’s platform.

The problem with Trump’s claim that it’s a terror group is that it doesn’t have central leadership, according to federal law enforcement officials. Worse for Trump is that many of Antifa’s Twitter accounts turn out to be run by fascists in Europe.

“Antifa” is vapor in the US, and recognizing it as some defined group is a joke that has been taken seriously only by America’s Right.

Painting disparate punk assholes as some kind of formal group is ridiculous and counterproductive.

We desperately need to get the twin problems of the coronavirus and the nationwide civil disobedience behind us.

These infections need to be cured.

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Saturday Soother – May 30, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Cactus flowers, Devils Bridge, Sedona, AZ – May 2020 photo by sooperb4d

It’s hot and muggy at the Mansion of Wrong. Today we received our usual daily visit from a momma turkey and her eight chicks. Some are already able to fly for short distances, while the smaller ones just jog along.

This morning, Wrongo was thinking that he’d never expected to have to live through something as tumultuous and dangerous as 1968, but here we are. We’ve got:

  • A Plague killing people in every state
  • Economic collapse (potentially on the scale of the Great Depression)
  • An incompetent incumbent president who will say anything in order to win re-election
  • Heavily armed yahoos complaining about having to wear masks, or that they can’t get haircuts

But rather than talk about those four things, America’s talking about a racially based killing in Minneapolis that has morphed into an urban dystopia. Hennepin County finally brought charges against a cop who murdered a man in public with dozens of witnesses. That has incited urban violence. Second, Trump called for the looters in Minneapolis to be shot, tweeting:

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,”

We will assume control? Does Trump think he has the right to invade Minnesota? And that wasn’t the worst of his tweet.

You may know by now that the other phrase was notorious in the civil rights movement. It was used in 1967 by Miami’s police chief at the time, Walter Headley, after he sent police dogs and officers armed with shotguns into Miami’s black neighborhoods in what he called:

 “…a crackdown on…slum hoodlums….We don’t mind being accused of police brutality.”

Headley claimed that Miami had not experienced “racial disturbances and looting” because he had put the word out that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Headley thus elevated stealing to a capital crime punishable by death without due process. And now Trump is advocating the same thing.

Some are saying that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter has taken a courageous stand against Trump, that Dorsey is standing up for all of us. CNN reports:

“…Trump has angrily complained this week about social media companies, repeatedly accusing them of censoring conservative voices and going as far as to sign an executive order Thursday seeking to limit their power. But data from Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, pours cold water on the assertion that conservative voices are being silenced.”

Here’s the data:

The red bars represent conservative sites. CrowdTangle, the company that made the chart, says that in the last month on Facebook, Trump has captured 91% of the total interactions on content posted by the US presidential candidates. Biden has captured only 9%.

Trump and the Republicans repeatedly accuse Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms of bias, saying that they are the villains in the culture war the GOP uses to excite the conservative base.

The dispute is about whether Twitter has the right to disagree with and respond to the president. As a private company, it obviously does have that right. The chilling part is that the president and his advisers think otherwise.

Wrongo started by talking about 1968, the year that Nixon won the White House, running on a law and order message. He split the vote with George Wallace and Hubert Humphrey. That was 52 years ago, and a few things have changed. From Paul Campos:

“For one thing, the current president is somebody who makes George Wallace look like a statesman. For another, the country is much less white. (As a percentage of the total population, white non-Hispanics have declined from about 85% of the population to 60%).”

Nixon in 1968, like Trump in 2020, clearly exploited racial tensions, but a crucial distinction: Nixon wasn’t in power at the time of the 1968 elections. We’ll have to see whether Minneapolis helps or hurts Trump in November.

Time to take a break from our worst year in 52 years, and calm ourselves with a Saturday Soother. There is more yard work to do on the fields of Wrong, but we’re starting with a cold brew coffee from Greater Goods roasters in Austin TX. Food & Wine named them the best coffee in Texas in 2019. Their cold brew is called “Connections” ($15/12 oz.) and features the sweet, chocolatey goodness of beans sourced from Colombia and Brazil.

Now settle back and listen to the Tedeschi Trucks Band play a stunning live version of “Midnight in Harlem“, written by Minnesota band member Mike Mattison. Stay for the fantastic slide guitar solo by Derek Trucks:

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

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