Like Lambs to Slaughter

The Daily Escape:

Camden, ME – June 1, 2021 photo by Daniel F. Dishner

From Eric Boehlert:

“If you were part of an amoral political movement, wouldn’t you want to attack free and fair elections in order to give yourself a permanent advantage? If you had no concern for democracy, wouldn’t you set out to make sure future Democratic victories could be invalidated? That’s what Republicans are now doing, without pause, and out in the open.”

Two snippets of news from over Memorial Day weekend. First, in Texas, Republicans held an all-night legislative session to try to pass one of the most stunning voter suppression laws in the country. According to the Texas Tribune, the law will:

“…cut back early voting hours, ban drive-thru voting, further clamp down on voting-by-mail rules and enhance access for partisan poll watchers…”

It’s designed to curb voter fraud that doesn’t exist in Texas. The bill didn’t pass because Democrats walked out of the legislative session just before it expired, in a form of walking filibuster. It is merely a temporary setback for Texas Republicans.

Second, in Maricopa County Arizona, the GOP’s “audit” continues unabated, as Republicans continue to  try to conjure up a different election result than the one that gave Biden a victory. The ballot review being conducted by a private company called Cyber Ninjas, has drawn widespread contempt for its lack of professionalism and poot control over the ballots, while also raising conspiracy claims that bamboo fibers were found in ballots supposedly shipped in from Asia.

Across the country, many Republican legislatures are moving swiftly to make sure that fewer people vote in upcoming elections.

Vote suppression was the Republican’s game in the late-2010’s. Now they’ve concluded it didn’t work well enough. So, they’ve gone to the next level, which is to simply put state legislatures in the position to nullify their voters’ wishes. That’s going to be their game in the 2020’s. Taken with the Republican vote to filibuster the Jan. 6 commission, the eyes of Democrats should be open to this change in GOP strategy. Republicans correctly perceive that the doors will quickly close to mount legal challenges to their electoral suppression.

Our democratic future will only be secured by ending the filibuster, which will allow HR-1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to pass in the Senate. But that effort may not be successful despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s intention to bring them to a vote in June, since Democrat Joe Manchin (D-WVA) won’t vote for it, and Schumer can’t change his mind. As Charlie Pierce says,

“In the fight to save American democracy, Joe Manchin Is Neville Chamberlain”

Manchin wants peace in his remaining time in the Senate. He has defended the prerogatives of Republicans since the Democrats took control, by refusing to either reform, or nuke the filibuster. Instead, he insists that Democrats should be working across the aisle, despite McConnell vowing to block the entirety of Biden’s agenda. Now, Manchin’s excuses are finally becoming flimsy. He called the GOP filibuster vote on the establishment of the Jan 6 committee “unconscionable”. Yet, he’s still against eliminating the filibuster.

Shouldn’t the idea that partisan legislatures and handpicked Republican officials can actually reverse election results  be enough to move any Democrat on the filibuster question? Isn’t an unprecedented and dangerous assault on American democracy enough?

They even fail to see the continuing “coup” talk as a threat. As former national security adviser Michael Flynn said over the weekend, a Myanmar-like coup — in which the military overthrew a democratically elected government — “should happen” in the US: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Appearing in Dallas at a QAnon conference, Flynn was asked during a Q&A session that was shared in a Twitter video:  ‘I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?’

After cheers from the crowd died down, Flynn responded:  “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.”

One way or another, the Right thinks they deserve to be in power by whatever means necessary. Here’s Maggie Haberman of the NYT on Trump:

They want this so badly they can taste it, and so can tens of millions of Republicans. They’ve already tried once. They will absolutely try again.

The problem today is like that identified by Herbert Marcuse in his critique of liberal tolerance: How do you maintain a social compact with people who simply reject that compact whenever it becomes inconvenient, like when they lose an election?

The incredibly frustrating thing about the present situation is that Democrats could potentially defend against the “GOP game” if Manchin and Sinema just recognized (or cared) about the reality of the situation.

Historians certainly won’t be able to say the Democrats (and American democracy) were overwhelmed –  they just sort of sighed and put their heads on the chopping block.

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The Disconcerting Truth About the Big Lie, Part III

The Daily Escape:

Moon rise, Whitaker Point, Ozark National Forest, AR – 2021 photo by mattmacphersonphoto. This is the sixth time we’ve featured a Matt Macpherson photo.

Reader Ben van N. says:

“I fail to see why the election rules are different in every state. The country should have the same rules for voting (and make them all as simple and accessible as possible) no matter where you live. Having a variety of methods, rules and restrictions opens the door to what you have now.”

Ben doesn’t live in the US, but he has analyzed the problem correctly. Our federalist system makes it fiendishly difficult to have standard rules in America for policing, education, or elections. And we need to make all three of them better.

Regarding elections, Roosevelt University political scientist David Faris was interviewed by VOX:

“You have anti-democratic practices at the state level that produce minority Republican governments that pass anti-democratic laws that end up in front of courts that are appointed by a minoritarian president and approved by a minoritarian Senate that will then rule to uphold these anti-democratic practices at the state level.”

And there’s no clear path for Democrats to overturn these state-level voting laws through the courts. The Supreme Court has already said it’s not going to touch gerrymandering. And so, there’s nothing left except Congress using its constitutional authority under the elections clause to regulate elections. That will require ending the filibuster.

More from Faris: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“Take the scenario where Republicans don’t have to steal the 2024 election. They just use their built-in advantages [where]…Biden wins the popular vote by three points but still loses the Electoral College. Democrats [get more votes for]…the House…but lose the House. Democrats [get more votes for]…the Senate…but they lose the Senate.

That’s a situation where the citizens of the country fundamentally don’t have control of the agenda and they don’t have the ability to change the leadership. Those are two core features of democracy, and without them, you’re living in competitive authoritarianism.”

His scariest comment is that, after Republicans steal the 2024 election:

“People are going to wake up the next day and go to work, and take care of their kids, and live their lives, and democracy will be gone. There really won’t be very much that we can do about it. Or there’s the worst-case scenario where the election is stolen and then we’re sleepwalking into a potentially catastrophic breakup of the country.”

As Ben v N. says, there’s certainly an opportunity to do something about all this at the federal level, but time is slipping away. And Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema continue to vacillate somewhere between concern and hostility, to taking effective action. Action, such as ending the filibuster.

If both can’t be swayed from their current intransigence, the remaining options for our democracy look poor.

The media would have you believe that Biden and the Democrats in Washington are the ones overplaying their hand. Not true. Look at what’s happening at the state level:

In Ohio, Republican legislators are pushing to ban all vaccine requirements, not just for Covid. They would prevent Governor DeWine’s incentive program for Covid vaccinations, and ban even requesting that people get vaccinated.

In Texas, Republicans are about to legalize carrying handguns without a license. Without a permit, without training, or a background check of any kind. Under current state law, Texans must be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. Applicants must submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test. That’s too restrictive for the GOP.

In Florida, Republicans just enacted a law that makes it illegal for large technology companies (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) to remove the posts by candidates for office during election campaigns. It also makes it easier for Florida’s Attorney General and individual citizens to sue those companies. The law is certainly unconstitutional. Curiously, this is an example of the new GOP declaring that it wants more government control over speech.

In Alabama, Republicans are regulating yoga, because it originated in the Hindu religion. Along the way, they plan to ban the use of Sanskrit words such as “Namaste.”

Saving the worst for last: Arizona. GOP legislators have not only launched a farcical “audit” of voting in Maricopa County, but then they stripped the State’s Secretary of state of her authority over elections after she criticized their audit fiasco. Arizona, of course, is only one of the many states where GOP legislatures are pushing new laws to make it harder to vote, while trying for increasingly partisan control of the election process.

Democrats have allowed themselves to be lulled to sleep because American democracy dodged a metaphorical bullet during the November to January Big Lie barrage.

We can’t relax, because next time, the bullets won’t be metaphorical.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 4, 2021

The NYT has a great explainer about the new Georgia voting law. The Times summarizes:

“Go page by page through Georgia’s new voting law, and one takeaway stands above all others: The Republican legislature and governor have made a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting harder and creating restrictions and complications in the wake of narrow losses to Democrats.”

Below are a few of the changes, with links to the appropriate section of the article.

On to cartoons. Baseball reacted by moving its All-Star game from Atlanta:

Georgia-headquarted Delta Airlines also wasn’t happy. They plan to help:

And it isn’t only Georgia:

The trial continues in Minneapolis:

Asian prejudice is about the people, not their products:

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The Democrats’ Dilemma

The Daily Escape:

Bristlecone pine, Cedar Breaks National Monument – photo by Jessica Fridrich

Here’s the Democrats’ dilemma: They must pass legislation that protects voting rights and ballot access. Otherwise, they will allow the GOP to cheat its way to victory in 2022 and beyond, by subverting democracy to empower a minority, as they are doing in Georgia.

One aspect of Georgia’s new election law that nobody’s talking about is that the law replaces the elected secretary of state (currently Republican Brad Raffensperger) as the chair of the state election board with a new official appointed by the gerrymandered Georgia legislature.

It also allows Georgia’s election board to remove and replace any county election official it deems to be under-performing. That provision could be used to target Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold covering most of Atlanta, which came under fire after long lines plagued primary elections over the summer.

David Atkins says:

“The direct implications of the new law are alarming enough: conservatives with an interest in voter suppression could use their authority to disrupt election administration in majority-minority counties. The possibilities for mischief by a partisan legislature fearful of high turnout by opposed constituencies are endless.”

The Republicans sitting on bipartisan election boards were the reason that Biden is president. Next time, they will find reasons not to certify a close election. And as Jonathan Chait says: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“ [Republican] states that are rolling back democratic protections are not responding to demographic change nor to any change internal to their state. They are following the agenda of the national Republican Party. That agenda is spreading throughout the states, which are imposing voter restrictions almost everywhere their party has the power to do so. Restricting the franchise has become perhaps the party’s core policy objective.”

And the problem must be addressed immediately, since it will impact the 2022 and 2024 elections. Georgia’s Sen. Warnock must run again in 2022. His losing would put the remainder of Biden’s term in jeopardy.

That means that the Senate must pass some version of HR-1. Currently, the Democrats are taking an “all or nothing” approach to HR-1. That may be their opening shot, but some parts should be non-negotiable. Vox lists some important provisions: it establishes automatic voter registration for anyone interacting with designated government agencies; broadens access to mail-in voting for every eligible voter; and mandates that states accept ballots at drop boxes or polling places, and requires counting all ballots postmarked by Election Day.

Further, it establishes same-day online registration and nationwide early voting. It requires a paper trail for every vote cast. Critically, it ends partisan gerrymandering by directing states to use independent commissions in drawing Congressional maps. It also makes Election Day a national holiday.

Ezra Levin, co-founder of the Indivisible, says:

“The choice is the republic or the filibuster — there is no third option….We are at an inflection point in American history. Down one path is a Trump-inspired white plutocracy, and down the other is a representative democracy.”

But many believe some sections of the nearly 800-page bill may be unconstitutional. Rick Hasen of the Election Law Blog, writes:

“Some parts of it could well be found unconstitutional if it passed, such as a provision requiring states to re-enfranchise all people convicted of felonies who are not currently serving time in a correctional institution.”

The bill also contains controversial rules on campaign financing, including the creation of a public financing program for congressional candidates, new ethics rules for the Supreme Court, and a requirement that most candidates for president and vice president publicly disclose their tax returns.

None of those are key to the problem facing Democrats in states where Republicans control the legislatures. As written, HR-1 is unlikely to make it out of the Senate, so there are good reasons to tailor it both to survive judicial scrutiny, while also properly targeting the problems with voter registration, voting, and ballot counting.

That means whatever bill passes must have all 50 Democrats supporting it, and then, they must agree to end the filibuster to enact it. Therefore, the HR-1 wish list must be simplified and shortened. Democrats who object to ending the filibuster need to ask themselves if they genuinely want to facilitate Republicans in reclaiming Congress and the White House, in the name of preserving an arbitrary rule. The filibuster rule has been amended often in recent times: In 1974, 1975, 2013 and 2017. Time to do it again.

We can’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Today, it seems more likely that HR-1 won’t become law before the 2022 mid-terms than that it will, absent ending the filibuster.

Democrats can’t be left looking back at yet another missed opportunity to protect voting.

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Trump’s Veto Threats

The Daily Escape:

Merry Christmas! The Wrongologist will be on break until next week, and on a reduced schedule through the New Year, unless something terrible happens. But really, what are the chances of that? OK, see below.

The Wrong family hopes that you can be in (physically distant) touch with your loved ones over the holidays. We hope that you can enjoy a few days of quiet reflection on this terrible year and our terrible government. Wrongo also fervently hopes that we experience a turn-around in how Americans care about each other in 2021.

Trump is threatening to veto the $900 billion Covid relief bill unless the Congress bumps up the $600 individual stimulus checks to $2,000. He said:

“Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump also wants the three-martini lunch deduction that’s buried in the bill to be extended indefinitely. When you own a bunch of hotels, this might have a positive impact on your liquor sales.

That term dates back to the Mad Men era. The idea is that you can deduct all of the costs of a business meal, no matter how absurdly high, as a business expense. This change in the current bill will make the entire meal expense tax-deductible.

After military service, Wrongo’s first job interview was with Esso, the predecessor of today’s Exxon. The interviewers required that at least two martinis be consumed in the two hour lunch in order to prove that you had the right stuff. Wrongo received a hangover, along with a job offer. And thankfully, went to Wall Street instead.

As Axios noted, many of the items Trump wants changed, such as foreign aid, are not part of the Coronavirus relief package. They are part of the government funding bill, which was passed alongside the Coronavirus relief package.

So, Trump’s threatening a veto of the relief bill. On Wednesday, he vetoed the $740 billion defense spending bill. But the House will reconvene for an override vote on Dec. 28, with the Senate following on Dec. 29 if the House successfully overrides the veto.

But, what’s his strategy with the relief bill? If Trump decides to veto it, there may be a method to his madness.

Delays in negotiating prevented a timely passing of the relief bills, and that’s backed Congress into a corner. The Constitution grants the president 10 days to review a measure passed by the Congress. If the president has not signed the bill after 10 days, it becomes law without his signature, except if Congress adjourns during the 10-day period. In which case, the bill dies.

Ordinarily, Congress could just wait for Trump to veto the legislation and then vote to override it. But the Constitution mandates that a new Congress convene at noon on January 3. Meaning that this Congress ends at noon that day, ten days from now, and too late to meet and override the veto.

Moreover, the formal process of getting the bills to the president isn’t expected to be completed until Thursday or Friday, putting it on Trump’s desk within the danger zone for a Trump pocket veto. That prevents it from becoming law before the 116th Congress ends at noon on Jan. 3.

This means the next Congress would have to take up the bill all over again. Trump now can simply out wait the bill. He was scheduled to leave Washington on 12/23, for Mar-a-Lago.

There’s a disaster scenario here. The temporary government funding resolution runs out on December 29, unless extended by both Houses and signed by Trump. If Trump refuses to sign the bill, and Congress doesn’t choose to, or can’t override it before their session ends, there will be no Coronavirus aid, and the government will be shut down. If Trump remains intransigent with the next Congress, this could be prolonged until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20 and approves the bills.

Would Republicans actually agree to cave in to Trump and spend a few extra $hundred billion after fighting tooth and nail all year to keep this relief bill under $1 trillion? Saying no puts the GOP in the uncomfortable position of opposing its own president heading into the Georgia Senate runoffs, which are uncomfortably close for both Parties.

This also gives Democrats a strong argument against Georgia’s GOP senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who supported the $600 payment. It demonstrates, once again, that the only real obstacle to more generous economic assistance is the Republican Party.

Trump’s play may help the Georgia Democrats on January 5.

Let’s leave with a Christmas song you may not have seen. Here’s “Last Christmas“, a song by Wham! the English pop duo, originally released in December 1984. Here it is sung live in 2019 by Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones” fame (Daenerys Targaryen) in the movie “Last Christmas“.

Andrew Ridgeley, the surviving member of Wham! is in the audience. This is a feel-good way to head into Christmas:

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Saturday Soother – December 12, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Cathedral Spires, Black Hills SD – 2020 photo by Max Foster

We’re stumbling into another December weekend without a bailout package for those who are still unemployed in the pandemic. The WaPo’s headline says it all: “More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic.” This is caused at least in part, by people going without jobs or unemployment insurance while waiting for the Senate and Mitch McConnell to come up with a bill that provides Americans the aid they need.

But the biggest news of the week was that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case brought by Texas asking the Court to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and declare Trump to be the winner. The Supreme Court wrote:

“The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution. Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot,”

In case you’re wondering, Trump’s three new appointments didn’t support hearing the case. Whoever talked Trump out of appointing his kids, Eric, Ivanka and Junior to the Court had better lay low for the next few days. The Supreme Court deserves credit for rejecting an attempt to destroy American democracy, but many of those Republicans who joined the lawsuit, deserve our harshest judgment.

Adam Sewer of The Atlantic tweeted:

People have argued that because Trump hasn’t overturned an election, that we can now relax: The “system worked”, there were no tanks in the streets. But Republicans chose sides this week. More than half (126) of the Republicans in the House of Representatives signed onto Texas’s failed lawsuit, along with 17 Republican attorneys-general. Republicans must own up to their anti-democratic actions.

Once this is over, and Trump is living in Florida and is acting as president-in-exile, we’ll need to hold all of his seditious minions accountable. Unsurprisingly, this failed lawsuit came from the Party that claims to oppose “judicial activism.”

But enough of all of this big news, Wrongo was attracted to an Ars Technica story that reported on researchers teaching lab rats to drive little electric cars. The research was aimed at learning what effect the environment a rat was raised in had on its ability to learn new tasks. The team, led by Richmond University professor Kelly Lambert, decided to teach them to drive not just navigate another maze.

But if you’re going to teach rats to drive, first you need to build them a car (an ROV or, Rat Operated Vehicle). The chassis and powertrain came from a robot car kit, and a transparent plastic food container provided the body:

The controls were three copper wires stretched across an opening cut out of the front, with an aluminum plate on the floor. When a rat stood on the plate and gripped a copper bar, a circuit was completed, and the motors engaged: one bar made the car turn to the left, one made it turn to the right, and the third made it go straight ahead. Sounds hard, but it didn’t take long for the rats to learn how to drive. Their goal was to drive the car to a food treat.

The rats had three five-minute training sessions a week for eight weeks, and they learned to drive!

The placement of the treat and the starting position and orientation of the car varied, so the rats had a different challenge each time. At the end of the experiment, each rat went through a series of trials, conducted a few days apart, where they were allowed to drive around the arena. One experiment had them driving without food treats, to see if they were only doing driving to get food.

Some who were quicker to start driving continued to be more interested in driving, even when there was no reward beyond the feel of moving without using their feet.

Uber is excited by this news and may try to replace human drivers. It’s their Holy Grail: drivers that do it for the love of driving and don’t ask for pay, benefits, or even treats.

On to the weekend! We’re finishing up the Christmas decorations in the Mansion of Wrong, although there will be very few visitors this time. So grab an ornament, and listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet play “Take Five” from their 1959 ground-breaking album, “Time Out”. The tune was written by Paul Desmond, here on alto saxophone, Brubeck on piano, Teo Macero, drums and Eugene Wright on bass. Have a martini on the house:

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Trump’s Real Plan is Working

The Daily Escape:

Snow in the Bigelow Preserve, Stratton, ME – December 2020 photo by CaptainScrummy

So you think that America will cruise in to the acceptance of the Electoral College vote by a Joint Session of Congress on January 6, and Trump and the millions of members in his Lost Cause will just fade away? Think again:

The past four years have been a train wreck, and Trump has been the conductor.

In one way, Trump’s attempted soft coup is failing. After all, his hand-packed Supreme Court wouldn’t hear the case designed to overturn Pennsylvania’s election win for Biden. Yet, as the tweet above shows, Trump’s continuing effort to poison our voting process may yet lead to some terrible things.

But, is PA Sen Ward telling us the truth? Does she really fear Republican partisans? Or, is this an ex-post excuse for doing what they all wanted to do anyway? WaPo’s Greg Sergeant makes a good point:

“What matters is that many of them (Republicans) are entirely willing to support specific concrete actions to steal the election on Trump’s behalf.”

Aaron Blake notes that state GOP officials so far have overwhelmingly sided against Trump’s voter fraud claims, when they are forced to decide. But as we showed on Monday, Republicans are keeping their powder dry waiting for the House and Senate meetings to accept the Electoral College votes: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…just as notable as the lack of Republicans willing to say Biden is the president-elect is the lack of buy-in on Trump’s claims from other Republicans. They…have a choice to make if their colleagues press the issue, [by arguing against acceptance of the Electoral College vote at the January 6 joint session of Congress]”

Jonathan Last makes it clear what’s going on:

“Everyone laughs at how stupid the Trump lawsuits are. Can you believe these morons? They lose everywhere! Even Republican judges keep slapping them down! How embarrassing for Trump!

But that’s the wrong way to think about Trump’s actions since November 3. Because his goal hasn’t been to keep the office of the president. It’s been to keep the Republican Party.”

More:

“On the morning of November 4, Donald Trump faced two problems. The first was that he was going to lose the power of the presidency. The second was that this loss endangered his ownership of the GOP.”

Last says that for Trump, the lawsuits, the posturing, the attempted coup— all would still be nice if he were to be re-inaugurated January 21. But that’s a secondary objective. The primary objective was to stop the Republican Party from leaving him:

“…owning a major political party isn’t as useful as being president. But it’s not nothing….In a two-party system, you can exert a great deal of power by being the head of a Party. You have businesses and foreign governments that will pay tribute to you. You have an audience of something like 40 million partisans who can be mined for contributions and mobilized as a flash mob whenever you need them.”

Unfortunately, these millions out in TrumpWorld don’t know they’re being conned. They still actually believe that Trump will win reelection.  That’s dangerous, because many of them will be shocked when reality hits. What is most worrisome is the possibility of something happening that makes them feel they have license for mass violence. We can try to minimize the threat posed by Republican passivity, but there are always lone wolves who will try to do horrible things.

Can the Republican Party move on from Trump? It could, but that requires the next generation of ambitious presidential aspirants to replace Trump in the daily political discussion. But Trump won 74 million votes, more than any other Republican, just last month. And the base’s acceptance of Trump’s claim that he really won preempts the plans of the next generation.

The other Republican presidential aspirants have realized that the best path forward is to say they believe the voter fraud line. That means their incentive is to outbid their peers in expressing support for Trump’s claims of victory. Let’s leave it to Jonathan Last to close:

“….the minimum ante for Republican politics is now support for an insane conspiracy theory.”

Unlike his predecessors, Trump has not called Biden, much less invited him to the White House. Trump has indicated that he may not attend Biden’s inauguration, which would make him the first sitting president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to refuse to participate in the most important ritual of the America’s democratic transfer of power.

Our democracy is on a knife edge right now. Even if we’re certain that Biden will prevail, the kowtowing to Trump by Republicans isn’t going to end soon, or well.

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 30, 2020

We’re back from our turkey-induced coma, but it’s hard to start a new week without our usual Sunday humor:

Yummy Thanksgiving pie:

Looking forward to the Inauguration:

This Thanksgiving, Biden thanked all the front line workers for all they have done. Trump thanked all of his lawyers.

Wrongo hadn’t realized that Trump has now spent more than an entire year of his term on a Trump property (418 days), and 307 days playing golf. Imagine how much more damage he could have done if he wasn’t so lazy.

Why is it so difficult for Americans to understand the threat to our society from Covid? From the WaPo: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In nine states, more than 1 in 1,000 people have now died of coronavirus-related causes, while daily covid-19 deaths nationwide are climbing to levels not seen since early in the pandemic.”

A few long-reluctant Republican governors recently adopted statewide mask orders and stricter social distancing measures. But not all: For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), last Tuesday extended an executive order that bans city and county governments from enforcing mask ordinances or limits on restaurant capacity. South Dakota’s governor Kristi Noem (R) is still resisting any kind of mask mandate. Nebraska’s governor Pete Ricketts (R) again stated his opposition to mask mandates, while Nebraska’s rural hospitals are nearly at capacity, as are bigger cities, like Lincoln.

White, rural American states are late to the pandemic’s deadly impact – partly due to how physically distant their residents are, by definition. But rural states have the smallest margin for error in terms of health care infrastructure. Their lack of ICU capacity combined with their relative inability to handle delivering the new vaccines when they become available, may see rural Trump-loving Americans take a much harder hit than they expected from Covid.

The exact criteria for who will be first in line won’t be defined until immediately after a vaccine is authorized. But the pressure’s on: The WSJ reported that United Airlines is already flying doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to points around the country in order to be prepared for distribution, if Pfizer wins government approval.

Think about the enormous pressure there is on the FDA to approve use of these vaccines. That approval starts with a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). The FDA has scheduled a Committee meeting on Dec. 10 to discuss the request for emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine.

As of now, the FDA hasn’t made the names of Committee members’ public. But imagine if there are a few Committee members who disagree that the vaccine should be made available immediately.

This recently happened with an Alzheimer’s drug. The FDA’s review division reported that the drug’s effectiveness data was “extraordinarily persuasive”.  But many on that drug’s Advisory Committee rejected the study, saying that the data showed the drug offered no significant improvement to patients.

Now, the FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its outside advisors, but it often does. So what happens if the Pfizer Committee has a split decision?

Finally, the Supreme Court’s decision in a Covid case about whether or not a state official could close down places of worship in order to stop the spread of a deadly disease, seems out of step with where we are in America. They ruled that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

That’s a huge shift since Coney Barrett joined the court. In a similar case earlier this year, the court declined to lift pandemic restrictions in California and Nevada when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was alive.

But the longer term issue isn’t the possible infringement of individual religious liberty. It’s how the American Right wants to expand it so that religious people can ignore just about any law they don’t like.

The problem with this decision is that it expands an individual right to a communal right. A religious person should be able to follow their faith, but once you start giving religious communities separate rights, you’ve weakened the rule of law.

Your exercise of a right shouldn’t impose unreasonable burdens on others. But Conservatives want to treat religion as having a higher level of rights then others’ individual rights, and this isn’t right.

Time to wake up America! The fault lines of our society have been exposed by Covid and the Republican response to it. To help you wake up, listen to a cover version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” by cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his siblings. He became an instant sensation after his cello performance at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Watch it, you won’t be dissapointed:

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Monday Wake Up Call, Oppressed Majority Edition – November 23, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Taylor Creek, South Lake Tahoe, CA – November 2020 iPhone 7 photo by Julien21012101

Millennials joke about how Fox News did to their parents what the parents believed video games would do to their kids. Apparently, that’s true: A new survey from PRRI (the Public Religion Research Institute) found that Fox News watching Republicans, the 40% of Republicans who trust Fox News as their primary source of television news, believe they are the most discriminated-against Americans.

The researchers broke Republican respondents into Fox News watchers, and non-Fox News watchers, and then compared their answers to those of all Americans.

Compared to the nation as a whole, Fox News watching Republicans are whiter (81% vs. 63% for all Americans), more likely to be male (57% vs. 48% of all Americans), and older (32% are over age 65 vs. 21% of all Americans). Fox News Republicans are more likely than all Americans to identify as white evangelical Protestants (36% vs. 13%), and more likely to say they attend religious services at least once a week (46% vs. 27%). Fox News watching Republicans are more likely than non-Fox News Republicans to identify as conservatives (77% vs. 59% of non-Fox News Republicans).

The truly stunning finding is what’s said when both groups were asked if there’s “a lot of discrimination” against Christians and Whites:

Nearly 75% of the Fox-watchers feel Christians are discriminated against. They also think White people have it rough (58%), but only 36% say the same about Black people. Imagine how delusional you have to be to think White Christians have it worse than everybody else.

These people actively think the people who have the fewest hurdles to overcome in our society are at the greatest disadvantage. It seems safe to say their answers are mind-bendingly wrong.

Fox-watching Christians: Your religion is shared by between 70%-75% of Americans. Your churches are tax-exempt under federal law and are effectively subsidized by taxpayers. Somehow, despite these advantages many of you somehow see yourselves as the most oppressed group in America?

Is it even possible to be an OPPRESSED MAJORITY?

This view is held by some members of the religion that refuse to respect the constitutional separation of Church and State by claiming that your freedom to worship as you see fit is being crushed under the heel of godless secularism. Disliking those “who would ban God from the public square” doesn’t make what you are feeling persecution.

Fox News has supported Trump more strongly than any other news outlet. For decades, Fox has played a prominent role in shaping the Conservative policy agenda and supporting Republican partisan politics.

Over the last four years, Trump has used Fox as a personal platform, appearing on air hundreds of times during his presidency. Currently, the 15% of Americans who cite Fox News as their most trusted television news source, is roughly equal to the combined influence of NBC, ABC, and CBS (16%), and larger than that of local television news (12%), or CNN (11%).

Biden’s aspiration is to try to heal the divisions in the US during his term in office. But, tens of millions of Republicans support Trump retaining power by any means necessary. With America possibly facing a coup, is Biden’s hope even realistic?

Healing requires coming to a shared vision of the future. It requires some form of forgiveness and repentance by both sides for real and imagined insults. But, when we see exactly how much grievance and entitlement there is among these old, White Fox-watchers, it seems very doubtful that we can meet in the middle, understand each other, and change our behavior.

It’s not gonna happen. Take a look at this chart from Media Matters:

This covers the period starting four days after the presidential election, until 14 days post-election. It’s one thing to champion free speech, but this kind of prolonged propaganda attack will surely kill our democracy. If you doubt that take another look at how it’s Fox-watchers who believe that they are the most oppressed group in America.

Time to wake up America! How can reality be normalized when there’s no effort to ditch the propaganda? And it’s not just the old White Foxers. Nearly 74 million people voted to keep Trump in office.

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They’re Still Counting

The Daily Escape:

Truth spoken by an unknown pavement Plato

We’re all still waiting with fingers crossed as the vote tallies slowly grow amidst the remaining battleground states, and the blizzard of lawsuits by Trump across the country. Can the guy who wrote “Art of the Deal” close the deal?

It looks like we’ll know tomorrow.

It’s interesting that Trump is saying “Stop the count” on Twitter, because if all of the uncalled states really did stop the count, he’d lose, since Biden is ahead in Arizona and Nevada, which would give him 270 electoral votes.

What Trump really means is “Stop the count in states where I am ahead, but keep counting in states where I am behind.” Hard to have it both ways, Donnie boy.

Trump’s words have incited some of his followers to show up at ballot-counting sites, armed in some cases, to scream at poll workers. That has necessitated local law enforcement to show up to keep the counting sites secure and the poll workers safe.

Despite that, most of America understands we have to follow the math: Counties with small populations finish their vote counting early, and they tend to lean “right”. Counties with big populations take longer to count. They also have more mail-in votes to count. These are usually urban areas that usually lean “left”. What initially looks like a win for the “right” can slowly erode over time, as the higher populated areas finish counting and their report.

That isn’t proof of a conspiracy to steal an election, as maybe 10% of the Trump-faithful think. It’s been going on for decades, even if Trump has just recently discovered it. As Judd Legum notes, Trump’s various lawsuits sound ominous, raising the possibility of court decisions that could overturn the results of the election:

“But if you look at the details of these cases…they are far less menacing. They appear mostly designed to generate headlines that Trump is contesting the outcome, rather than cases that could determine the outcome of the race.”

Still, this will take at least a week, possibly two weeks to resolve. So let’s have a few hot takes on what just went down.

One key 2020 takeaway is that we had an election with what should have been a game-changing turnout, and instead, it arguably hurt Democrats down ballot. But it allowed the Dems to (probably) win the presidency with split-ticket voter support.

Second, Trump had built a broader coalition than we realized. It does seem clear that the Biden campaign had an ineffective engagement operation with Black and Latino voters. From CNN here’s a breakdown of voter share:

Trump lost support of many White men (down 13 points), but did better with White women (up three points) than in 2016. The bigger story was Biden underperformed Clinton’s margin of victory among voters of color by seven points as Trump did substantially better with both Black men and women.

Trump’s performance among Latinos should alarm Democrats. It helped him keep Florida, which has many Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans. But he trails in Arizona, which has more Mexican-Americans.

Biden’s argument in the primaries was that he could recapture some of the White, working class voters who went to Trump in 2016. He actually out-performed Clinton with both White men and women without college degrees. He made inroads with White college educated men, but underperformed Clinton among White college educated women.

Third, for all the effort that a lot of smart people have put into it, polling failed us again. There’s too much biased and missing data. People who don’t trust the polls don’t talk to pollsters. Sometimes they flat out lie. In battleground states, polls were consistently 3-6% over-optimistic for the Democrats in both 2016 and 2020. What does it say when people are dumb enough to vote for Trump, but smart enough to lie to a pollster?

Finally, we’re living in some horrible mashup of 2016 (a shocking defeat) and 2000 (a long drawn-out agony). We want answers but somebody is saying “You can’t handle the truth” (yet).

Let’s close by listening to the late Tom Petty. Here’s “The Waiting” (is the hardest part) played live by Tom Petty along with Eddie Vetter of Pearl Jam:

These lyrics sum up where we are right now:

The waiting is the hardest part

Every day you see one more card

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart

The waiting is the hardest part

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