Run On Roe And Reform

The Daily Escape:

Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME – July 2022 photo by Adam Silverman Photography

From the Kansas City Star:

“The right to an abortion will remain in the Kansas Constitution. In the first ballot test of abortion rights in a post-Roe America, Kansas voters turned out in historic numbers to overwhelmingly reject a constitutional amendment that would have opened the door for state lawmakers to further restrict or ban abortions across the state.”

Kansas voters showed that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs doesn’t sit well, even in one of the country’s most conservative states. Democrats should adjust their 2022 Midterms messaging and strategy accordingly, to make it clear that Roe and Reform are what they’re running on.

Across party lines, abortion rights remain popular while the Supreme Court’s ruling is not. The most recent CNN poll found that 63% of Americans disapproved (51% “strongly”) of the court’s decision.

The NYT reported about Kansas:

“From the bluest counties to the reddest ones, abortion rights performed better than Mr. Biden, and opposition to abortion performed worse than Mr. Trump,”

The NYT had several observations:

  • Abortion opponents under performed even in conservative areas. In Hamilton County, which voted 81% Trump in 2020, less than 56% chose the anti-abortion position. In Greeley County, which voted more than 85% for Trump, only about 60% chose the anti-abortion position.
  • Kansas’s swing areas swung left. Wyandotte County, (where Kansas City is located), voted 65% for Biden in 2020, but 74% for abortion rights. Neighboring Johnson County, the state’s most populous, voted 53% for Biden but more than 68% for abortion rights.
  • Turnout was high. Before the election, the Kansas secretary of state’s office predicted turnout of about 36%. But anecdotal evidence indicated turnout might hit 50%, an extraordinary increase over what was expected.

Here’s TPM’s Josh Marshall’s Twitter thread on what Kansas means to the Democrats’ Mid-term road map: (emphasis by Wrongo)

2/ When a result is this lopsided & this unexpected for most political observers it’s not only a political earthquake but a sign many political professionals have seriously mistaken the political terrain. When there’s a political backlash as strong as the one against Dobbs …

3/ and one party is as firmly tied to it as Republicans are here, clearly the opposing party needs to grab on to it with both hands. Abortion rights will be central to numerous races this fall. But Democrats need to make the connection as explicit and tangible as possible.

4/ The way to do that is to make a firm pledge that if Democrats hold the House and add two Senate seats they will make Roe into federal law in January 2023. They are at present kinda sorta suggesting something like that, maybe. But clarity is everything. Give us this …

5/ specific result and this is specifically what we will do. Kansans didn’t turn out in these lopsided numbers to make a statement about Dobbs or Roe. They did so because they knew that the outcome of this one vote would immediately and dramatically affect the right …

6/ to a safe and legal abortion in the state. Democrats need to approximate the same clarity at the federal level, both to undo Dobbs and also to secure their hold on Congress. The way to do that is to get all 48 (non-Sinema/Manchin) senators to make a firm pledge that …

7/ if the House is held and two Democratic senators added they will vote for a Roe law in January 2023 AND suspend the filibuster rules to guarantee that bill gets an old fashioned up or down majority vote. So far 31 Senate Democrats have said they’ll do that (though not …

8/ yet on the specific date). All but two of the 17 are basically there but still refuse to say it clearly. There are two potential hold outs. Angus King of Maine and Mark Warner of Virginia. They will all certainly fall in line quickly if constituents apply pressure now.

The Kansas vote shows that the anti-abortion Republicans have misjudged how deeply this issue resonates for voters. When a Constitutional right simply disappears, apparently, the voters will turn out.

The polls have consistently shown that the majority of this country is pro-choice. The rejection of the Kansas amendment shows that if the election were to be a referendum on pro-choice, Democrats will win.

The Republicans should be afraid that they have gone too far. Let’s hope this is a bellwether for the midterms.

(Hat tip to long-time blog reader and Kansas resident Monty B. for keeping Wrongo apprised of the Kansas fight to turn back this amendment).

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Monday Wake Up Call, Recession Edition – August 1, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Monopoly, Revere Beach, MA – From the 2022 Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival. July 24, 2022 photo by Jack Daryl Photography.

From Paul Krugman:

“The US economy is not currently in a recession. No, two quarters of negative growth aren’t, whatever you may have heard, the “official” or “technical” definition of a recession; that determination is made by a committee that has always relied on several indicators, especially job growth.”

Nonetheless, Wrongo predicts that over the next few months, the Big Brain News Pundits will spend mucho time arguing among themselves while we watch, about the meaning of the word “recession“. They will ensure that the word “recession” is said at least once every 30 seconds.

Wrongo brought this up a few weeks ago. Recessions are determined not by pundits but by a committee of economists at the National Bureau of Economics (NBER). The two measures that have had the most weight are real personal income and non-farm payroll employment. So, despite what you’re hearing, it boils down to income and employment. If income and employment turn south, there’s a good chance economic output will be lower. From Robert J. Shapiro:

“Start with employment, which normally contracts in the first two quarters of recessions. Over the first six months of the 1990–91 recession, employment fell by 690,000, or 0.6%. Similarly, over the first two quarters of the recessions of 2001 and 2007–09, employment fell respectively by 761,000 and 426,000 positions, or 0.6% and 0.3%.”

But in the first two quarters of 2022, employment actually grew, increasing by 2,740,000, or 1.8%.

The main factor behind the lower GDP in the second quarter was business inventories. Businesses generally finance increases in their inventories. So as interest rates rose in the second quarter, inventory purchases fell sharply, subtracting 2% from GDP. GDP growth in the second quarter was -0.9%, so inventories accounted for all of the loss of GDP.

Inventories grew. but at a slower pace, bringing about the negative GDP performance. But this change in the rate of growth in inventories is not tied to either employment or to income, so we’re not in a recession, even though GDP fell.

But our bigger economic problem is inflation. Back to Krugman:

“Obviously gasoline prices are down — almost 80 cents a gallon from their mid-June peak. (Remember those scare stories about $6 a gallon by August?)”

We all know that the Big Brain Pundits only really care about how much it costs to fill their gas tanks compared to what it may have cost when some other guy was president. Expect that they will ignore our record low unemployment, and the growth in median wages.

Despite growing slower than inflation, wages are growing at about 5.4% annually. That’s good, although it could be better. Yet, the Big Brains want us all to be worried about the possibility of recession and inflation occurring at the same time. They’re worrying about that old 1970’s bugaboo, stagflation, which is highly unlikely to occur, despite how much Republicans are rooting for it to happen.

If America really wants to stop inflation in its tracks, we know how to nudge prices in the right direction: Implement a windfall profits tax on oil and food companies, whose profits are off the charts, along with their prices. Also, we could pass the corporate minimum income tax that is a part of the proposed Inflation Reduction Act.

How well the Federal Reserve addresses inflation will decide how soon the current economic expansion ends, and a recession begins. Although the economy’s fundamentals are sound, there’s a danger that the Fed’s interest rate hikes may dampen demand and employment too much. That’s a 50/50 call right now.

Time to wake up America! We’re not in a recession, although we may see one in 2023. We don’t have inflation under control yet, although that’s likely to happen within the next year.

To help you wake up, watch and listen to Sir Elton John from his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour. Wrongo and Ms. Right got to see him in Foxborough, MA last Wednesday, courtesy of daughter Kelly and her partner Bob.

It was Wrongo’s second time seeing Sir Elton, the first was at the Budokan in Tokyo in 1974.

Last Wednesday was a great night with an adoring audience for what seems to be near the end of his touring career. Here’s his final encore from last week’s performance, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” performed on the night we were there:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 31, 2022

Q: Why do people take an instant dislike to Justice Samuel A. Alito?  A: It saves time.

Alito spoke in Rome dismissing criticism from foreign officials who he said “lambasted” his opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade. Alito spoke at a conference promoting religious liberty, saying:

“I had the honor this term of writing I think the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law…”

Alito called out Prince Harry as making a particularly hurtful comment. What Harry said at the UN:

“This has been a painful year in a painful decade….Climate change wreaking havoc on our planet, with the most vulnerable suffering most of all. The few weaponizing lies and disinformation at the expense of the many. And from a horrific war in Ukraine, to the rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States, we are witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom, the cause of Mandela’s life.”

Alito said in response:

“But what really wounded me…was when the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision…with the Russian attack on Ukraine…”

To quote Charlie Pierce:

“The conservatives on the Supreme Court are now not simply ruling like political animals, they’re behaving like political animals as well.”

This guarantees that Alito will be forever known internationally as a dickhead. On to cartoons.

Manchin had a surprise:

The GOP’s burning its mid-term chances by walking away from the PACT act:

And this incarnation of GOP plumbers need tech support:

The stuff of nightmares:

Change brings things to light:

DHS scrapped the effort to collect agency phones in order to try to recover deleted Secret Service texts:

Putin’s staff misunderstands:

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Saturday Soother – July 30, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Chatham, MA – July 2022 photo by Bob Amaral Photography

We are 100 days away from the midterms. That’s usually a blink of an eye in political time. But it can also be an eternity in politics under the right circumstances. And in this year of all years, nothing can be assumed. The Jan. 6 drip of negative information about Trump and his Republican henchmen, and the looming revolution that the judicial overturning of Roe has caused, might mean that anything is possible.

For more than a year, the news media have snowed us with their conventional wisdom about the mid-terms, insisting that the president’s Party will lose seats in Congress. But, Josh Marshall has thoughts about this (paywalled):

“New Georgia Senate poll out this morning from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Warnock 46%, Walker 43%….Meanwhile, three new congressional generic polls have come out over the last 24 hours, two of which give the Democrats a six point advantage and one of which gives a 4 point margin. One of those 6 point margins is actually a Republican Party poll.”

Given the Republican advantage in Red states, six points may not insure that the Dems hold Congress. But we clearly shouldn’t give up, because right now, the House isn’t a lost cause.

Positive polling momentum brings with it both the energy and hope that a political turnaround is possible, even in 3+ months. Momentum is a thing in sports. Players and coaches usually cite momentum as a reason for victory in close contests. Maybe we’re seeing Biden and the Democrats building some political momentum.

It’s also true that Republicans aren’t reading the national mood as well as they think they are.

Just hours after the Republicans worked with Dems to pass the Chips and Science Act (CHIPS) which includes $52 billion in subsidies for chipmakers building new foundries in the US, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal to revive big portions of the Build Back Better (BBB) bill.

Sen. Manchin (D-WVA) had walked away from negotiations with Schumer on a scaled-down BBB tax bill that could only pass via Reconciliation two weeks ago. Then Senate Minority Leader McConnell let his guard down, and allowed Republicans to vote for CHIPS, which was popular with Senate Republicans.

Apparently Schumer and Manchin waited until the CHIPS bill cleared the Senate before announcing agreement for an even more scaled-down BBB program now called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which has both significant funding for climate and a minimum corporate tax. It too will need to be passed by reconciliation, since it will have zero Republican support.

Schumer’s move caused a McConnell meltdown. Under orders from Mitch, Republicans got revenge by voting against a procedural vote to advance a bill that would expand health care access for military veterans who became ill after being exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was a near-legendary playing of McConnell by Schumer and Manchin. And it infuriated McConnell so much he took the bill to give medical care to dying veterans exposed to toxic burn pits hostage. It was a bill that Republicans had helped to pass overwhelmingly just a few weeks ago (it needed a technical fix). Blind sided veteran groups erupted in anger and indignation.

The GOP revealed itself to be, at least for now, incapable of making decisions that promote the common good. Their decision to turn against veterans was a grave miscalculation that will hopefully rouse a few million of the recalcitrant, alienated, apolitical 100 million Americans who typically decide not to vote in elections, to get straight to the polls.

This family-sized combo of a revival of the Biden agenda and angry Republicans making terrible choices on popular legislation may help the Dems in November.

Maybe a cosmic ray beam hit Washington and gave Schumer the Machiavellian cunning of a Republican and McConnell the guileless ways of a Democrat.

Had enough for this week? Wrongo certainly has. Let’s try to grab a few minutes and not think about the state of the world, or why Republicans insist on speaking like neo-Nazis. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

The drought in New England still has the upper hand. We have little need to cut our grass every week. We’re watering a few specimen plants, but since our water source is a well, we must be careful.

Time to grab a mug of cold brew (or iced tea) and find a seat under a tree. Now watch and listen to Yo-Yo Ma perform “In the Gale”, which was shot outdoors in late spring. It is from The Birdsong Project, a community dedicated to the protection of bird life.

This performance includes many wild birds accompanying the cello:

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Electoral Count Reform Act

The Daily Escape:

Clunker gold, Goldfield, NV – July 2022 photo by Ted Matzek

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) aren’t Wrongo’s idea of Senators who exhibit statesmanship. Both are more his idea of how political hacks look and operate. And for Collins at least, that viewpoint is based on several unproductive meetings with the Senator from Maine.

But Wrongo could be – well, wrong in the case of their authorship of the Collins-Manchin Electoral Count Reform Act bill, (ECRA) which fixes some of the deficiencies in the 1887 Electoral Count Act (ECA) that controls how Congress counts Electoral College votes.

The entire process was a ceremonial afterthought until Trump and his henchmen tried to subvert the ECA via occupying the US Capitol in the Jan. 6 coup. According to Slate: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

“The Collins-Manchin Electoral Count Reform Act bill would fix a lot of the ambiguities and contradictions in the (Electoral Count) act and do much more. It…would confirm…that a vice president has no unilateral power to accept or reject election results. It would also raise the threshold for senators or representatives to object to valid electoral college votes, eliminate the chance that a state legislature could rely on that “failed election” language to send in alternative slate of electors, and provide a mechanism for federal judicial review of any action by a rogue governor to send in a fake slate of electors.”

Sounds promising. What does the new bill do to prevent these things? From the WaPo: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…the proposal would require a state to appoint presidential electors in the manner dictated by the state’s laws as they existed before Election Day. As long as every state’s laws require appointment of electors in keeping with the popular vote, this would prevent a state legislature from appointing electors in defiance of that vote.”

More: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Second, the proposal would require the governor to certify the correct electors by a hard deadline before Congress counts them. This is supposed to prevent a governor from certifying the electors for the losing candidate. What if a state legislature and governor simply ignored those requirements and their constitutional duty? [T]he proposal would allow an aggrieved candidate to trigger expedited judicial review by a federal three-judge panel, subject to expedited Supreme Court appeal….[then] Congress would be required to count the electors that the courts deemed the correct one.”

The proposal clarifies that the vice president’s role is purely ceremonial. And while the ECA currently requires one member from each Congressional chamber to force a vote on whether to invalidate electors, a very low bar, the proposal would require one-fifth of each chamber to force the vote for each state.

It begs the question of whether this Congress’s law would bind a future Congress to count only electors the courts deem legitimate. It’s likely that a future Congress would have to repeal this new law to wiggle out of following it. And it would also require a presidential signature, all of which might be difficult (but possible) to pull off in the middle of a contested post-election.

And it raises the question of whether we can count on the federal courts to do the right thing.

Wrongo thinks we should do away with the Electoral College, or at least pass the National Popular Vote Compact in enough states to eliminate any effort to steal the EC votes.

If American had a modern suffragette-type movement, maybe the oligarchical Senate could be changed. Think about an Amendment that created 50 Senatorial Districts, roughly equal in population, across state lines where necessary, with 2 Senators per District.

You know, letting us begin to act like a real democracy.

But in 2022, we shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. Slate says that right now, there are nine Republican senators who have co-sponsored the ECRA, just one short of the 10 necessary to overcome a potential Senate filibuster, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated his general support for this kind of reform.

The ECRA has a realistic chance of passing if enough Democrats and Republicans are willing to compromise. This opportunity is unlikely to last past the convening of the 118th Congress next January. If Democrats lose the House, there’s no way that Kevin McCarthy, the likely Speaker, would willingly bring it up.

Even though the ECRA doesn’t address voter suppression, its introduction was welcomed by a coalition of civil rights and voting rights leaders who recognize that election subversion must be fixed urgently.

Let’s leave the last word to Slate’s Rick Hansen:

“On top of all this, we need legislation on a state and local level to prevent election subversion, such as that which guarantees transparency in vote tabulating by election officials and removes discretion of election officials when they fail to do their jobs as mandated by state law.

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Tuesday Wake Up Call, Unhappiness Edition – July 26, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Smoke in Yosemite Valley from the nearby Oak fire – July 25, 2022 photo via Today’s California

At a family party this weekend, my daughter who owns an upscale restaurant, mentioned that while post-Covid, the restaurant is full again, the patrons are much more mean and nasty. That made Wrongo revisit the answers to the latest data on the happiness of Americans from the General Social Survey (GSS), produced by NORC, a nonpartisan research organization at the University of Chicago.

The GSS has been monitoring societal change since 1972. The last GSS survey came out in January 2022. Here’s a significant chart:

Since 1972, the GSS has asked the question: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days–would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” As you can see above, historically the “very happy” people have outnumbered the “not too happy” group by about 3:1 for about 45 years.

But in 2021, the very-happies plummeted from 31% of the population in 2018 down to 19%, while the not-too-happies surged to 24% (the “pretty happys” remained constant at about 57%). For the first time in polling history, Americans are more likely to say they’re not happy than to say they’re very happy.

The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) has taken a look at the GSS data to see what’s driving this precipitous change. Here’s their chart of unhappiness by age:

Until 2018, fewer than 18% of Americans ages 35 and over claimed to be “not too happy”, while fewer than 16% of Americans under 35 had done so. But in 2021, unhappiness rocketed upwards for both groups, to 22% for those 35 and over, and to 30% for those under age 35.

The sharp increase for those under 35 indicates young adults are carrying a unique burden. They’re taking an extraordinarily dim view of the world and their own lives.

Among young adults, different groups had different levels of unhappiness even before Covid. For example, only 6% of married people said they were “not too happy,” versus 16% of the unmarried. The question is whether all groups saw the same spike in unhappiness. Here’s another chart from the IFS:

Unhappiness rose for every group: In each case, the red bars are higher than the blue bars.

In the GSS, social class didn’t protect people very much: Unhappiness rose about 16% for people with prestigious jobs vs. 15% for other people. People who attended college saw their unhappiness rise by 16% vs. 15% for people who didn’t attend college.

Some demographic traits did matter: Men saw their unhappiness rise 18%, vs. 12% for women. Unhappiness rose about 17% for non-Hispanic whites, vs. 12% for racial and ethnic minorities.

Religion seems to have buffered unhappiness. Among people who attended religious services at least two times per month, unhappiness rose only 4%, the smallest increase of any group.

Liberal Americans saw the largest increase in unhappiness of any group, by 19%. For moderates, it was 15%, and for conservatives, 13%. Despite what Tucker Carlson might try to make of this, the IFS says that given the sample sizes involved, those differences aren’t statistically significant.

We can blame the Covid pandemic for much of the increase in unhappiness, but we’ve also seen huge social disruption. Here’s a chart showing the percentage of 25-34 year-olds living with parents or relatives in the US:

In 1970, 11% lived with their parents, while in 2020, it was 29%. Note the decline in living with a spouse. From 80% to 38%. While people are getting married later, living alone is relatively unchanged since 1980.

This has occurred during a period when there was very little upside in real wages, and a huge increase in financial assets, which few young adults have, and in the cost of housing. This may also partially explain why young people are unhappy.

We’re about to head into a global recession and most of our politicians have zero idea how bad it will be, or how to fix it. When it comes to the midterm elections, nearly a third of voters say it doesn’t matter who wins.

Time to wake up America! We’re hoping that demography will save us before climate change slays us, or fascism overtakes us.

To help you wake up, listen to 9 year-old musical prodigy Ellen Alaverdyan perform a cover of Geddy Lee‘s iconic bassline on the classic Rush song “Tom Sawyer”:

Scroll away from the video, and she sounds like a pro. Very nice!

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 24, 2022

(The Monday Wake Up Call will be published on Tuesday, July 26)

Sunday is always time for a laugh along with a little outrage. Ecowatch reports that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Pearlita Foods, a cell-cultured seafood startup, has revealed its vegan prototype for oysters made from ingredients like mushrooms and seaweed. The plant-based oysters will even come served in a no-shucking-necessary shell that is biodegradable.”

The article says that until an artificial shell is developed, they will be served in oyster shells. So they will still have to kill/eat/otherwise harvest the shells of living oysters anyway. And the company is looking to create a bio-degradable “shell.” In real life, oyster shells are already biodegradable – into sand. And the market for oysters creates a major economic reason for keeping bays and estuaries clean.

Oysters are a product of where they grow. Wellfleet oysters taste different from the Kumamoto oysters of the Pacific Northwest, or from the Belons from the Brittany region of France. On to cartoons.

The video of Sen. Hawley (R-MO) first giving a power salute to the Jan. 6 mob and later, fleeing the Capitol when the mob breached security, will live in infamy. He’s such a pathetic wuss:

Jan 6 Committee succeeds:

Trump henchman and walking triglyceride, Steve Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress:

Secret Service CYA:

According to the US Secret Service website, Tony Ornato has returned to the Secret Service after previously being Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff. He’s now Assistant Director overseeing “required training and professional development for all Secret Service personnel.”

The Secret Service agents and leaders that deleted texts must be prosecuted:

An armed guy in an Indiana mall killed an armed shooter. The day before the shooting, the killer of three was just another good guy with a gun. The next day HE BECAME A BAD GUY WITH A GUN. But at least it’s not a shut-out for the NRA’s good guys:

Be thankful that more weren’t killed, but a vigilante in a mall isn’t a cause for celebration:

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Saturday Soother – July 23, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Mount Teneriffe, WA, with Penstemon flowers in foreground – July 2022 photo by Edwin Buske Photography

Wrongo and Ms. Right watched the House Select Committee hearing on Thursday night. It was supposed to be the final hearing, but it turned out to be only the “season finale”. The Committee members made it clear that additional witnesses are giving up their reluctance to testify on the record, so there’s more coming in September.

Thursday night laid out that Trump and his enablers had a plan to subvert our democracy even after their legal effort to change votes in swing states had failed. And it’s frightening how close they came to pulling it off.

The 18-month focus of the media about how Trump did nothing while the rioters took over the Capitol was absolutely the wrong way to look at the White House’s inaction. Charlie Sykes has it right: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Trump didn’t call off the mob because it was doing precisely what he wanted; and he was using the delay caused by the attack to lobby his allies to help execute his coup. Only when it was apparent that the assault on the Capitol had failed, did he bother to call off his Insurrection.”

The Committee charged that Trump was derelict in performing his duties as president. He was aware in real time of the violence at the Capitol. He could have given orders to his followers to end the attack, or counter it with troops, but he did nothing.

Given every American president’s Constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” Trump was derelict. Liz Cheney said it best:

“Can a president who was willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?”

You already know the answer.

And if you think that it might be acceptable for Trump to return to the office of president, check out what Axios reported on Friday: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Former President Trump’s top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected….Trump allies are working on plans that would potentially strip layers [of staff] at the Justice Department — including the FBI, and reaching into national security, intelligence, the State Department and the Pentagon, sources close to the former president say.”

They’re building the breeding grounds for a new wave of right-wing personnel to infiltrate and run the US government should Trump be elected president:

“The heart of the plan is derived from an executive order known as “Schedule F,” developed and refined in secret over most of the second half of Trump’s term and launched 13 days before the 2020 election.”

That’s when Trump started selectively placing his toadies in key positions in various agencies in case he needed to get shit done. More from Axios:

“Well-funded groups are already developing lists of candidates selected often for their animus against the system….The preparations are far more advanced and ambitious than previously reported…..These groups are…curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.”

Scary, or what?

Trump signed the executive order,Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service,” in October 2020, which established a new employment category for federal employees. It was rescinded by Biden after he took office.

Axios says that an initial estimate by the Trump official who came up with Schedule F found it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers, enough to make a profound difference in shaping and interpreting US policy, or to help Trump succeed in establishing an autocracy.

Schedule F could make many civil service managers political hires, meaning nearly 100% turnover when a new Party takes the White House. That would take us back to how the civil service operated in 1883, prior to the Pendleton Act.

Both Parties are lining up. Democrats have attached an amendment to this year’s defense bill to prevent a future president from resurrecting Schedule F. The House passed Connolly’s amendment but Republicans plan to block it in the Senate.

If democracy survives only because America gets lucky, or because pro-democracy forces play an almost perfect game, then we’re in big trouble.

This should give you the jitters. But it’s Saturday, and time for us to chill out in a hot country. Here on the Fields of Wrong, the grass is brown and crunchy. There will be no fixing that until the heat wave breaks and the rains return.

To help you chill, grab a mug of iced coffee, and sit by a window with an air conditioner. Now, listen to the most melodic of the 37 concertos for solo bassoon composed by Vivaldi. Here’s his “Concerto in E minor for Bassoon“, played in 2015 by the Karol Szymanowski School of Music Orchestra in Warsaw, Poland with Klaudia Abramczuk, bassoon soloist. These are school kids:

Bach never wrote a bassoon concerto.

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Schumer and Manchin Love Bipartisanship, Hate Diabetics

The Daily Escape:

Full moon, 4:00 am, Burlington, VT harbor -July 2022 photo by Adam Silverman Photography

Senate Democrats have been working on a prescription drug pricing reform proposal aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 20 drugs.

The House passed similar legislation which was considered by the Senate last year. That bill included language that would have made all insulin products subject to Medicare price negotiation and would have capped Medicare beneficiaries’ insulin copays at $35 per month.

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats (including Manchin), reached a deal on a plan that would allow Medicare Part D to negotiate the prices of up to 20 prescription medications directly with pharmaceutical corporations, a proposal that is overwhelmingly popular with voters across party lines.

But the Senate Finance Committee has just left insulin out of the package they plan to send to the floor of the Senate. From Yahoo News: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

“Staff for the Democrats on the Senate Finance committee said the provisions were removed because a separate bipartisan Senate bill (the Insulin Act) includes the monthly $35 insulin cost cap for people with Medicare or private insurance.”

But that separate bill is facing an uphill battle because it would need 60 votes in the Senate to cross the filibuster hurdle, while the drug pricing reform bill is expected to be part of the Senate’s reconciliation process, requiring only 51 votes to become law.

Bloomberg Law reports that Schumer: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…has said he plans to hold a vote soon on a measure from a bipartisan duo to cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 a month. But passing the legislation from Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) requires the support of Republicans, and key GOP senators say they’re not ready for a vote right now.”

Naturally, diabetics and their interest groups are up in arms. That people have to pay huge sums for insulin is a very visible problem among all of the problems with America’s health care system. That Democrats may cave on fixing this in favor of making the path harder reveals much about the Dem’s ability to govern.

From Common Dreams: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Insulin prices in the US [are] seven times higher than those found in peer countries [and] are so steep that experts have accused the federal government and pharmaceutical industry of violating human rights. More than 37 million people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes….Because just three pharmaceutical corporations control the nation’s lucrative insulin market, the century-old drug can cost a person without adequate health insurance more than $300 per vial.”

So, an oligopoly controls insulin.

The massive coverage gaps inherent in our for-profit healthcare system have left millions of people across the US who rely on insulin, unable to afford it. Corporate profiteering is forcing many people to ration the drug or forgo it, often with deadly consequences.

Considering the fact that insulin is more than 100 years old, it should be as close to free as possible. Why not set up a not-for-profit co-op to manufacture insulin, which would then be available for the cost of production? One such organization that’s trying to do just that is the Open Insulin Foundation. However it isn’t clear that they have launched production of insulin at this point.

The drug pricing reform bill would start negotiating with drug manufacturers sometime in the next three years and wouldn’t be fully implemented until 2030, so it’s weak tea to begin with. And it’s only for 20 drugs, and the most used one is no longer included.

Schumer and Manchin are responsible for taking insulin out of the bill that will certainly pass, in favor of it being in a stand-alone bill that probably won’t pass, because they still don’t have the Republican votes they need to pass a separate insulin bill.

Unless Democrats abandon their efforts to convert Republicans to bipartisanship, Wrongo’s days of funding their election campaigns are over.

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Is Garland On the Right Track?

The Daily Escape:

Moulton’s Barn with Tetons and clouds in background, Jackson WY – July 2022 photo by Peter Mangolds

Lots of bees buzzing around AG Merrick Garland because they’re concerned that he won’t indict Trump before Trump announces a re-run for president. From Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel:

“Yesterday, Rachel Maddow reported the exciting news that Merrick Garland released the same memo that Attorneys General always do during election years….the memo requires Garland to do what everyone has long assumed: that Garland would have to approve any investigation into Trump”

The pundits concluded immediately that by releasing the memo, Garland had nixed any further indictments before the election, including of Trump and his coup henchmen.  But that’s not true, Wheeler says: (brackets by Wrongo)

“….that’s not true is because after Garland released this memo, DOJ arrested…[Republican] candidate for Governor of Michigan, Ryan Kelley [for Jan. 6 activities]….in addition to charging him with entering restricted grounds (that is, entering inside the barricades set up around the Capitol), DOJ also charged him with vandalizing the scaffolding set up in advance of the Inauguration. The charging documents also cited some of his other efforts to undermine democracy in the lead-up and aftermath of the 2020 election.”

All of this concern about Garland occurred after a Rolling Stone report that Trump sees an early announcement of his candidacy for 2024 as a shield against possible investigation/prosecution. That prompted Harvard’s Laurence Tribe to tweet words of caution to his former pupil, Merrick Garland, warning against letting Trump play him in any decision about investigating Trump:

Whether the DOJ has already opened an investigation into Trump’s activities or not, Marcy Wheeler says: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“….I’m also confident that if the investigation isn’t open now or soon, Trump’s campaign roll-out would do nothing to thwart opening an investigation. It would require the same Garland approval that would be obtained in any case. Trump wouldn’t even be affected by the DOJ policy on pre-election actions, because he’s not on the ballot this year.”

But criminal prosecution by Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is a more proximate threat to Trump. The recordings of Trump pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,000 votes seems clear-cut enough to justify a criminal indictment.

Willis has already warned several high-profile Georgia Republicans they could face charges over Trump’s fake electors scheme in her state. She subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is fighting a Georgia subpoena to answer questions about his calls to Georgia officials about 2020 election results.

Trump’s pondering of an early announcement may have more serious objectives than avoiding prosecution. He’s seeing polls that show him trailing badly in his home state of Florida. Allahpundit gathers Florida polling data:

”For the second time in five days, a pollster from Florida with whom I’m unfamiliar sees DeSantis leading the former guy comfortably in their mutual home state. Last week Blueprint Polling had the race 51/39 there. Today Victory Insights has it 61/39 if “leaners” are included and 51/33 if they aren’t.”

Maybe Trump is trying to clear the field of primary rivals. But Dems think an early (before the mid-terms) announcement by Trump would be a gift. The GOP wants to keep voters focused on Biden, rather than transforming the contest into a referendum on Trump.

Many pundits underestimate what Garland is doing. They’re after a quick legal fix. He’s moving deliberately, gathering evidence. There’s an abundance of low hanging fruit (the fake electors, Eastman, Giuliani, Powell) and many others. The strategy of the DOJ following behind the J6 hearings will create a groundswell of public support.

We now know the story about the build up to the attempted coup, and we’re seeing who was involved at all levels. When Garland indicts, the majority of the voting public will say “it’s about time.”

Calm down Dems.

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