Manchin Hates Data and Poor Kids

The Daily Escape:

Early morning, -10°F, Pagosa Springs, CO – December 2021 photo by Ben Hazlett Photography

Evan Osnos reports in the New Yorker that it was Sen. Manchin who suggested to Biden that the physical infrastructure bill and the social infrastructure bills be split from each other:

“I’m saying we can get an infrastructure deal—a traditional infrastructure deal….Then we come back on human infrastructure and look at the needs.”

Osnos goes on to say that even after the bills were split, and after months of giving ground to Manchin on the social spending particulars, Manchin never budged from an unreconstructed conservative talking point: give Americans too much help, such as extended unemployment insurance, and they will become lazy and dependent. Manchin told reporters:

“I cannot accept our economy, or basically our society, moving towards an entitlement mentality.”

Manchin’s opposition to the Build Back Better (BBB) bill has ended the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) program. According to the Treasury Department, in West Virginia, it delivered payments to 305,000 children. And statewide, 93% of children are eligible for the credit, equaling the highest rate in the country.

ABC reported that Manchin questioned whether parents would misuse CTC payments to buy drugs. In private conversations, Manchin also said he believed paid family leave would be exploited by West Virginians to go hunting during deer season. Bloomberg says he’s wrong:

Looking at the chart, people overwhelmingly have used it for food, rent, utilities and to buy clothing and education. The poorer the family, the greater chance the CTC will be spent on necessities: a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found 91% of households making less than $35,000 per year used the money to pay for food, shelter, clothing and other necessities. They also found that Black and Hispanic families were more likely to use their credits on education-related costs, such as school supplies.

An October survey by the Census Bureau found that 25% of parents with young children also use the credits to pay for child care. Manchin is worried that there will be people gaming the system, and since perfection is unattainable, we shouldn’t be giving these kids and their parents anything.

His attitude is one that many Americans agree with. They think that since they aren’t going hungry, there’s no reason for anyone else to be hungry, either. It’s a vestige of the Protestant work ethic. They think that people like CTC recipients shouldn’t get free stuff, because it is taking something from them.

It’s an ugly, selfish way of looking at life.

America has successfully stigmatized being poor. How many in the bottom quartile of income are conditioned to believe they don’t deserve help? While corporations and the top 1% always lobby for financial assistance, and welcome it when it comes.

There are persistent rumors that Manchin will switch Parties. That shouldn’t be the Democrats’ objective, but to the extent there is a purity test to be a Democrat, it probably includes helping poor children and their struggling parents.

OTOH, the Build Back Better bill isn’t fully dead, nor is the voting rights bill. There’s a whole year left of appointing and legislating before the Republicans (possibly) retake Congress. Maybe we’ll want 50 Senators until then?

Remember that the Senate confirmed President Biden’s 40th federal judicial nominee a week ago, the most judges confirmed in a president’s first year in the last 40 years.

Democrats know that few of those judges would have been confirmed without Manchin voting for cloture to end debate on their nominations. If Manchin were to change Parties and stop voting with the Democrats on procedural issues, almost none of the remaining White House appointments would be filled.

It seems clear that IF some version of BBB does pass the Senate, it won’t include all of the progressive goals. Wrongo assumes that both immigration reform and the CTC may need to be dealt with separately.

What Democrats will then need to decide is whether they’re willing to hold their noses and vote for a bill that includes $500 billion in climate change investments, plus a critical childcare provision, more for health care, and a few other goodies.

Here’s another seasonal tune, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses from 1981. This year marks 40 years since this holiday classic was released. In the song, the lead singer hints that there is a guy she met at a ski shop that she regrets not having the time to date. Later, she realizes that she must go back to the store, and meets the guy she had wanted to connect with:

Be kind, not just at Christmas, but all the time.

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Biden’s Economy is Booming

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise with moon, Utah Lake, UT – December 2021 photo by Karen Lund Larsen

Bloomberg reported on Monday that the US economy is outperforming the world by the biggest margin in the 21st century. Surprisingly, they say that there’s a good reason:

“America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years…”

They say that the objective economic data are pretty convincing about the Biden Boom of 2021, notwithstanding the contrary media narrative that seems to be driving poor public opinion. Biden is either in first place compared to recent American presidents, or at number 2 on all the big economic indicators, says Bloomberg’s Matt Winkler:

“Exceptional returns…especially the S&P 500 Index in both absolute terms and relative to its global counterparts, can be attributed to record-low debt ratios enabling companies to reap the biggest profit margins since 1950. Corporate America is booming because the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccination programs and $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan reduced the jobless rate to 4.2% in November from 6.2% in February, continuing an unprecedented rate of decline during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Also, inflation-adjusted GDP surged at an average annual rate of 5.03% in each of the first three quarters of 2021 and is poised to hit 5.6% for the year based on the preliminary estimates of more than 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. If that forecast holds up, it would be more than 2.8 times the average performance between 2000 and 2019. And double the average since 1976.

More from Bloomberg:

“All of which makes Biden’s first year in the White House the standout among the seven previous presidents, based on ten market and economic indicators given equal weight. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, no one comes close to matching Biden’s combination of No. 1 and No. 2 rankings for each of the measures:

Gross domestic product (1)

Profit growth (1)

S&P 500 performance (2)

Consumer credit (1)

Non-farm payrolls (2)

Manufacturing jobs (2)

Business productivity (2)

Dollar appreciation (2)

S&P 500 relative performance (2)

Per capita disposable income, which rose 1.08% this year, is the only comparable weakness for Biden, trailing Donald Trump’s 2.17%, George W. Bush’s 2.01%, Jimmy Carter’s 1.80% and Ronald Reagan’s 1.42%.”

GDP growth in year one of each new administration during the past four decades had never exceeded 2.74% until 2021. Bloomberg goes on to say that Biden might surpass Carter (5.01%) as the GDP growth champion of presidents since 1976.

Much of the credit goes to The American Rescue Plan, which poured $66 billion into 36 million households. The child tax credit reduced the child poverty rate by 50%, helping the US recover faster from the pandemic than most other nations.

That’s the same child tax credit that just expired, and that Sen. Joe Manchin is vociferously against.

The downside to those record corporate profits is that they are not being shared with workers. We know that in 2021 economic inequality got considerably worse, even with Biden’s recovery act putting $ billions in the pockets of American families.

Like Jimmy Carter, Biden now faces the political fallout of accelerating inflation. The NYT’s Neil Irwin wrote about how high inflation and  the never-ending pandemic are depressing Americans’ attitudes about the economy. He adds that it’s easy to recall Carter’s inability to deal with inflation in the 1970s, until the Fed’s Paul Volcker threw the economy into a deep recession. Back then, Carter took the political fall for the Volcker policy. Reagan got full credit for the recovery.

Once again, fear of inflation is everywhere in the press, but as Wrongo wrote:

“Back in 1980, when then-Chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker raised interest rates high enough to throw the US into a recession and end inflation, inflation had averaged 6.9% for the previous 11 years.”

And while inflation’s averaging 6.81% for this year, it isn’t comparable, because of the amazing growth in US GDP and corporate profits, along with the chronic product shortages due to supply chain issues.

But contrast today to December 1981, when Reagan had been president for 11 months, just as Biden is now. Conditions were substantially worse: The unemployment rate was 8.5% and would keep rising throughout 1982. Inflation was 8.9%, and consumer sentiment was in the tank.

People believe what they’re told by the press and pundits. That in part explains Biden’s low approval ratings, along with the GOP’s master class of blaming Biden for a disastrous economy that was really caused by Trump’s inaction on Covid.

Keep all this in mind. Overall, Biden’s doing a very good job with the economy.

Time for another Christmas season tune. Here’s a group of UK theater performers called Welsh of the West End performing the Mariah Carey classic, “All I Want for Christmas is You” on a zoom call. Perfectly appropriate for Christmas with Omicron:

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Facing The Music

The Daily Escape:

First snow, New Hampshire creek – December 2021 photo by Betsy Zimmerli

“It’s always been about the music. And when it’s not, it’s about facing the music” – Wrongo

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It is also Wrongo’s favorite day because he prefers daylight to darkness. This is an optimistic day since every succeeding day for the next six months will bring more daylight to the land.

But Wrongo struggles to see any political daylight at the end of this extremely dark year. Here is a summation of the three events most important to Wrongo in this dark, dark year:

The January 6 aborted coup. Nothing that happened this year can overshadow the effort to subvert our democracy. While it may be doubtful right now that the outcome of the Jan. 6 committee will bring justice for the coup plotters, let’s compare it to the Watergate scandal. Those plotters were held accountable. And Watergate occurred at a time when we didn’t have mobile phone, email, and text message electronic tracing to reveal what had happened. In this Jan. 6 case, proving accountability should be easier. We don’t need to know everything, we just need to know enough to prosecute people. With all the digital information that’s available, that should be an easier job than it was during Watergate.

The recent revelations by the House Select Committee are an encouraging sign because they moved quickly on passing a contempt resolution for a former Congressman, Mark Meadows. The Committee got to tell their story three times in 24 hours. They embellished it with juicy new details (texts from Trump’s family members, Fox News personalities, reporters, members of Congress) every time they told it. If they can keep that up through the early part of next year, maybe we’ll start getting somewhere with this.

Ending the Forever War. Biden was crushed by the media and the public for walking away from Afghanistan and the subsequent chaos around the pull-out, but it was the right thing to do. Nearly 2500 US service members were killed, 20,698 were wounded, and more than $2.2 trillion in American taxpayer funds were spent on warfighting, reconstructing programs, building the Afghan National Security Forces, and promoting good governance.

In the end, we have nothing to show for our time there except for more national debt and soldiers who will need care for the rest of their lives. We deserve a full and complete accounting of our 20 years in Afghanistan. After all, it’s another military defeat that requires a fundamental examination to ensure that we never again jump into a country when we fail to understand their social and cultural dynamics.

Losing the Covid war. We’ve failed as a country to work together to beat the virus variants, despite having a vaccine that offered protection. The politicization of Covid treatment is the second worse outcome in 2021, to the politicization of the January 6 attempted coup.

Anti-vaxxers believe that their strong natural immune system will beat the virus, and that “healthy lifestyles” will give you a healthy immune system. They think using a vaccine to enhance the natural protection offered by their beautiful immune system is a bad idea because [insert the excuse of the day]. Perhaps they don’t realize that you can’t have natural immunity to a virus that your body has never encountered. An unvaccinated but fit person can get Covid because their body has no idea how to fight it.

There’s also the argument that Covid only kills older people. While the facts don’t support that idea either, maybe the anti-Vaxx community views it as an experiment to see if “having living parents or grandparents” is an evolutionary advantage for the kids who didn’t lose their relatives.

These issues show America must face the music. Wrongo’s sure we’ll face more 2021 music, but this is his top-of-mind thinking.

We’re going to have Christmas or seasonal music in each post this week. Today let’s listen to U2 – “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” filmed in November 1987 at the Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These guys were children back then. Maybe this tune has a special relevance in a world where Covid has taken so many lives:

Be kind. Not just during this season, but all the time.

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 20, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Early snowstorm, Yosemite NP, CA – December 2021 photo by Don Smith Photography

Everyone’s speeding. Drive any highway in the US and cars are going really, really fast. It’s also true on local roads. For the past 20 years, speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities.

In 2020, an estimated 38,680 people died in traffic crashes, the highest since 2007, according to the federal National Highway Safety Administration. That represented a 7% increase in nationwide fatalities at a time when Covid reduced driving activity by 13%. Henry Grabar, a staff writer at Slate, wrote last week about how Americans became obsessed with driving fast, no matter the cost. He quotes a Connecticut state trooper:

“Covid was midnight on the day shift.”

We all experienced how empty the roads were at the height of Covid. Despite the empty roads, in the first six months of 2021, traffic fatalities in the US rose by 18%, the largest increase since the US Department of Transportation started counting, and double the rate of the previous year. And the National Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) reports that drivers were hitting higher speeds on empty roads. They reported that as trips taken decreased by 50%, speeding increased by 45%. They also reported an approximate one-third increase in speeding above pre-pandemic levels from November 2020 through March 2021.

It’s a paradox: We have laws about driving speeds that no one obeys. We have police who enforce speeding laws without trying to catch everyone. More from Grabar: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Speeding is a national health problem and a big reason why this country is increasingly an outlier on traffic safety in the developed world. More than 1 in 4 fatal crashes in the US involve at least one speeding driver, making speeding a factor in nearly 10,000 deaths each year….Thousands of car crash victims are on foot….The odds of a pedestrian being killed in a collision rise from 10% at 23 mph to 75% at 50 mph.

This isn’t going away. Americans love driving fast and apparently, have confidence in their own abilities. Grabar reports that about half of drivers admit to going more than 15 mph over the speed limit in the past month. But those same drivers regard other drivers’ speeding as a threat to their own safety.

Distracted driving, particularly involving mobile phones, is a huge problem as well. Cambridge Mobile Telematics reported data from more than 300 million trips, measured between January 2019 and July 2021. They showed that phone distraction jumped by more than 17% in the first month of the pandemic. On weekday evening commutes, it was higher by more than 31%.

Separately, Zendrive presented an analysis showing increases in cell phone use among drivers after the mid-March 2020 start of the public health emergency. Their analyses showed that in more than 16% of the crashes, a cell phone was manipulated less than five seconds before impact.

America has once again landed in the worst of both worlds: Drivers believe in their own skill, but not that of other drivers. We have thousands of speed-related deaths and a system of enforcement that isn’t designed to change behavior all that much.

Let’s leave the last words to Grabar:

“The nation’s most disobeyed law is dysfunctional from top to bottom. The speed limit is alternately too low on interstate highways, giving police discretion to make stops at will, and too high on local roads, creating carnage on neighborhood streets….the lack of political will to do something about it tracks with George Carlin’s famous observation that everybody going faster than you is a maniac and everybody going slower than you is an idiot. The consensus is: Enforce the speed limit. But not on me, please. Because while it would be nice to save 10,000 lives a year, it sure is fun to drive fast.”

Time to wake up America! Maybe you like driving fast while scrolling the internet on your phone, but it may make your life (or the life of a family member, or someone you’ve never met) end badly.

To help you wake up, listen to Queen do their song “Thank God It’s Christmas” originally released in November 1984. It was re-released last week by Brian May and Roger Taylor. They have it right, it’s been a long hard year:

Sample Lyrics:

Oh my love we’ve had our share of tears
Oh my friend we’ve had our hopes and fears
Oh my friends it’s been a long hard year
But now it’s Christmas
Yes it’s Christmas
Thank God it’s Christmas

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 19, 2021

The political class in DC is very concerned about inflation, including many Democrats. So much so that they are unwilling to pass Biden’s “Build Back Better” social infrastructure bill because it will add to our current inflation. Specifically, Sen. Manchin objects to the extension of the child tax credit that is expiring this month.

It’s time to remind these people of what real inflation looks like. Back in 1980, when then-Chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker raised interest rates high enough to throw the US into a recession and end inflation, inflation had averaged 6.9% for the previous 11 years. Let’s also remind Sen. Manchin that this year’s annualized rate of inflation went above the long-term average of around 3% in April. We’ve averaged 6.81% for the year, not for 11 years.

The Senate wrapped up its work for the year, with Democrats punting the Build Back Better and the voting rights bills into 2022. The Senate adjourned early Saturday morning after a voting marathon including confirming 50 of Biden’s nominees. On to cartoons.

The answer is to elect more Democratic Senators:

Let’s see the Senate break at least one tooth on voting rights:

Only the social programs have to pay for themselves:

Omicron surges, is anybody surprised?

Why can Fox News get away with this?

Republican misfits can’t wait for the midterms:

This would be gerrymandering in the real world:

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Saturday Soother – December 18, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Capitola, CA – December 2021 photo by Matt Hoffman Photography

Some good news this week from the NYT:

“A federal judge on Thursday evening unraveled a painstakingly negotiated settlement between Purdue Pharma and thousands of state, local and tribal governments that had sued the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin for the company’s role in the opioid epidemic, saying that the plan was flawed in one critical area.”

The judge, Colleen McMahon of the US District Court for the Southern District of NY, said that the settlement, which was part of a bankruptcy restructuring plan for Purdue that was approved in September by US bankruptcy judge, Robert Drain, shouldn’t go forward because it released the company’s owners, the billionaire Sackler family, from any personal liability in civil opioid-related cases:

“This Court concludes that the Bankruptcy Code does not authorize such non-consensual non-debtor releases: not in its express text…not in its silence…and not in any section or sections of the Bankruptcy Code that, read singly or together, purport to confer generalized or “residual” powers on a court sitting in bankruptcy. For that reason, the Confirmation Order (and the Advance Order that flows from it) must be vacated.”

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services:

“More than 760,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.”

Connecticut’s Attorney General, William Tong was against the Purdue/Sackler settlement from the start. He had this to say after the new decision:

“This is a seismic victory for justice and accountability that will re-open the deeply flawed Purdue bankruptcy and force the Sackler family to confront the pain and devastation they have caused….this fight was never about the money. It was about holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the lives stolen and destroyed by their relentless greed. That is why Connecticut helped lead the charge against the plan, and why we will continue to push for true justice and accountability…”

Morally, the deal as originally approved was outrageous. OTOH, this is America! Generally, morality isn’t a necessary part of what we do. It’s very hard to be optimistic about wealthy Americans actually seeing justice in our court system, but overturning the decision gives us a sliver of hope that they’ll have to pay a real price. Clearly, the Sacklers and Perdue Pharma will appeal, and it’s anybody’s guess whether this ruling will hold up.

We know that many of the little people are serving long sentences for dealing Oxycontin, Purdue’s drug. We know that hundreds of thousands of men and women have died from using Oxycontin. But nobody is talking about criminal charges against the Sacklers.

In a just world, they’d be serving life sentences. But we certainly don’t live in a just world.

We don’t even live in a just country.

Enough of the world for this week, it’s time to focus on what’s really a cause for concern in America: Christmas gifts. More accurately, the lack of Christmas gifts. Some people get this chore done in November, while others procrastinate.

Here at the Mansion of Wrong, we’ve finally put up our seasonal decorations, although many fewer than in prior years. We have a smaller tree, and no outside lights. Wrongo isn’t clear why we’re not going all-out this year, maybe it’s the never-ending, ever-evolving virus. It’s difficult to say.

But before you fire up the laptop for another round of internet shopping, take a short break for our Saturday Soother.

Pour a hot steaming cup of Ethiopia Limu Burka Gudina – Natural ($17.25/12 oz.) from Trumbull, CT’s Shearwater Coffee Roasters, said to taste of pineapple, blackberry and lemon.

Now, grab a chair by a window and survey the great outdoors. Here in CT, you’re looking at snow on the ground. Put on your wireless headphones and listen to “”The Fellowship” by Howard Shore, from the soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Here it is played by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra:

This beautiful score should remind us that not all great classical music was written in the 1700s-1800s.

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Whose Side Are You On?

The Daily Escape:

Capitol Reef NP -December 2021 photo by Jonathan Vandervoorde

Shouldn’t we be on the side of democracy? Georgia’s Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock says yes. He spoke in the Senate on Tuesday, and what he said is consistent with Wrongo’s thinking.

Warnock asked why the Senate could suspend its rules in order to pass an increase in the debt ceiling by a simple majority but couldn’t do the same thing for something as critical to our democracy as voting rights. From Warnock:

“Before we left Washington last week, we in this chamber made a change in the Senate’s rules in order to push forward something that all of us think is important. We set the stage to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, and yet as we cast that vote to begin addressing the debt ceiling, this same chamber is allowing the ceiling of our democracy to crash in around us….Be very clear, last week we changed the rules of the Senate. To address another important issue, the economy. This is a step, a change in the Senate rules we haven’t been willing to take to save our broken democracy, but one that a bipartisan majority of this chamber thought was necessary in order to keep our economy strong.”

The Jan. 6 attempted coup and the many state anti-voting laws passed by Republicans subsequent to that, come from the same poisonous well: A growing anti-democratic movement of fellow travelers including American conservatives, Right-wing extremists, and political entrepreneurs on the Right who have made the Republican Party their political vehicle.

They’re close to winning in the 2022 mid-terms. If the Senate adjourns without acting on voter suppression, it will help them get there. Buzzfeed reports that in some states, Republicans are going door-to-door in order to “check” to make sure there aren’t any illegal voters in your home:

“Individual election deniers and grassroots groups are canvassing for election fraud in states…including New Hampshire, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Utah, and Nebraska.”

They’re targeting registered Democrat voters. It’s part of a broader effort by Trump supporters and Republican Party leaders to cast doubt on our elections going forward. In Colorado, a member of the Three Percenter militant group is helping lead the canvassing effort. According to the Colorado Times Recorder, that member suggested volunteers carry firearms to provide security for the group as they went door-to-door.

Let’s call this what it is: Voter intimidation on a multi-state scale. It’s a message that if you are a registered Democrat, the Trump cultists know who you are, and where you live. This intimidation should be illegal, but it’s not.

And it’s another part of the problem that the Senate needs to address right now.

The Democrats have what amounts to less-than-a-majority in the Senate in favor of suspending the filibuster rules for voting rights. In June, Majority Leader Schumer outsourced an effort to garner a filibuster-proof majority on voting rights to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA), but Manchin’s effort failed.

Despite that, Schumer was able to finesse the filibuster to act without Republican votes to increase the debt ceiling. He was also able to corral all Democratic Senators, including Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who are on the record as being against any change in the filibuster rules.

But voting rights, the most fundamental of all Democratic principles, are being sacrificed to the crusty parliamentary rule that these same two Democrats have so far refused to consider. This week, Schumer appointed a group of Democratic senators, who lead the talks on voting rights legislation, to spearhead discussions with Joe Manchin about how to change the Senate rules. They met with Manchin on Tuesday.

It’s time for Sen. Schumer to wrestle Manchin and Sinema to the ground, and make them vote to suspend the filibuster rules a second time.

Barton Gellman, who wrote a recent Atlantic magazine article that Wrongo quoted last week, recently told Terry Gross of NPR:

“This is, I believe, a democratic emergency, and that without very strong and systematic pushback from protectors of democracy, we’re going to lose something that we can’t afford to lose about the way we run elections.”

We’re facing a crisis. Biden and all Democrats have to make this a “whose side are you on?” issue for Washington politicians and for voters everywhere.

Warnock has a powerful message. He’s the one Democrat willing to speak about the elephant in the room. Watch his speech:

 

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Tuesday Wake Up Call – December 14, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Capitol Reef NP – photo by Jeff Kofoed

The Republicans plan to run out the clock on Congressional oversight.

The WaPo reports that the execrable Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, told the House committee probing the government’s Coronavirus response that he will not comply with its subpoena.

The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attempted coup released their contempt report for Mark Meadows, former WH Chief of Staff to Trump. It recommends that the full House bring contempt charges against Meadows. Their report describes some of the more damning evidence already obtained regarding Meadows, mostly derived from documents Meadows had already turned over to the Committee. It shows Meadows’ role in sowing disinformation about the election and his early knowledge of the violence that might result from the MAGA rally on Jan.6.

Most damning, as Politico reports, is one fact describing Meadows emailing someone, saying that the National Guard would “protect pro-Trump people” at the rally.

That’s particularly interesting since, as Marcy Wheeler reports, when DOJ-indicted Proud Boy Charles Donohoe while at the Capitol, saw a public report about the Guard being called in on the afternoon of Jan. 6, he responded with surprise that the Guard would “attack…Trump supporters.”

Did the Republicans plan to bait Democrats into attacking the MAGAs at the US Capitol so that Trump could declare a national security emergency, and suspend the counting of Electoral College votes?

Meadows has sued the Jan. 6 Committee and Nancy Pelosi to block enforcement of the Committee’s original subpoena, as well as the subsequent subpoena it issued to Verizon for his phone records. This is another effort to run out the clock, cutting into the time required for the House Select Committee to reach its final conclusions about the attempted coup.

Steve Bannon has initiated legal action to avoid testifying before the Jan.6 Committee, and his case won’t  be heard until July 2022, more of the Republican effort to run out the clock. He’d like nothing more than to have a big show trial heading into the mid-terms.

These are coordinated efforts by some of the principal Trump coup actors to obstruct Congressional oversight.

The Republican plan to run out the clock assumes that the GOP can take control of the House in the 2022 mid-terms. That would shut down any Congressional oversight of January 6, so the Democrats have a little over 12 months left to get their work done on the attempted coup. If you think their report would swing votes in November, then Democrats have just 10 months.

And they better scan all of the documents they have and put them in a warehouse beyond the reach of Republicans once they’re back in power, or all of their work to date will be destroyed.

Few are following this story. Eric Boehlert complains:

“The coup blueprint still hasn’t appeared on the front page of single major American newspaper, nor has any influential editorial page weighed in.”

Plans for the next coup attempt will intensify in the coming months, meaning we can’t afford to lose the House in the 2022 mid-terms. Dan Pfeiffer’s newsletter discusses Democrats’ 2022 political messaging in light of what we know about the coup attempt and the GOP’s overall assault on democracy. He asks: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“If democracy is really in grave danger why aren’t Democrats doing anything about it? Why aren’t more Democrats – including President Biden– more vocal about raising the alarm?”

You’d think that what we know would be enough to get Dems to sing from the same song book. But it seems that the Democratic political playbook is still to focus on “kitchen table” issues while moving to a more moderate message that appeals to suburban independent voters.

Why aren’t the Dem moderates like Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), along with Sens. Manchin and Sinema stepping up to fight back against the anti-democracy efforts by the Republican Party? Pfeiffer says that the Dems should run on saving democracy, but that didn’t work in the Virginia governor’s race. From Pfeiffer:

“The idea that Republicans are a danger to democracy and election integrity is unquestionably true. It is also true that their anti-democratic authoritarianism is the greatest danger they pose in the short term.”

The problem with running on saving democracy is that we don’t know how many people really care that much about it.

Time to wake up America! It’s only Tuesday, but there’s already much to do if we are to save our democracy. To help you wake up, listen to “The Burden of Freedom” by Kris Kristofferson. It originally was on his 1972 album “Border Lord”:

Sample Lyric:

I stand on the stairway, my back to the dungeon
The doorway to freedom so close to my hand
Voices behind me still bitterly damn me
For seeking salvation they don’t understand

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 12, 2021

Despite saying that there wouldn’t be Sunday cartoons, it turned out that Wrongo found some free time to put them together. Let’s start by learning more about January 6. Hugo Lowell, Congressional reporter for the Guardian, found some disturbing news:

The Guardian reports that the PowerPoint was presented on January 4 to a number of Republican senators and members of Congress. Apparently the pitch is 36 slides that lay out a road map for the Jan. 6 attempted coup. Seems like the House Select Committee now has it literally in writing that senior advisors to Trump plotted to declare a bogus national emergency in order to cancel a national election, and possibly, seize the government by force.

Only time will tell given our unwavering commitment to adhering to due process, whether justice for the coup plotters will prevail. On to cartoons.

It didn’t end on January 6:

Maybe it’s time for Dems to shelve Build Back Better and concentrate on voting rights:

Democracy needs a booster:

The GOP Magi arrive bearing gifts:

Imagine if vasectomies were mandated:

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Saturday Soother – December 11, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley NP, photo by Ed Kendall

(This week’s Sunday Cartoons will appear on Monday)

Wrongo understands that the Jan. 6 investigations are looking in depth at who was behind the attempted coup. But he’s very unhappy with the Democrats’ inability to keep the issue alive, fresh and in front of the American people.

Apparently, communication with the public is too difficult for Democrats.

There are two investigative efforts underway, one by the DOJ, and another by the House of Representatives. Here is the current state of play: DOJ has arrested close to 700 people (possibly more, once you consider cases that haven’t yet been unsealed).

The House Select Committee has already met with about 300 witnesses. They have litigated and won a case against Trump’s assertion of executive privilege. A federal appeals court rejected Trump’s request to block the Jan. 6 Select Committee from obtaining executive branch records. Trump’s path now is to go to the Supreme Court before New Year’s.

The truth will ultimately come out. The question is if anyone will care.

It’s been obvious that Trump’s Big Lie would be the organizing principle of the GOP ever since January 6. It was a delusion to think that the GOP would sober up and fly right, and it’s now clear that they are going to continue to drink the Trump-spiked Kool-Aid for the foreseeable future. It’s highly unlikely that Trump’s followers will allow any Republican candidates to hedge on the Big Lie or pretend to distance themselves from Dear Leader.

The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman wrote a major piece about how the GOP plans to steal the 2022 mid-terms and the 2024 general election. He makes a compelling case that Trump and his cronies are laying the groundwork for a coup in 2024 using the tactics they attempted leading up to and on Jan. 6.

The Congressional investigation is proceeding “top down” and unlike the DOJ, it’s without the constraint of needing near-certainty of a conviction before going public.

The DOJ is proceeding “bottom up” albeit with vast investigative resources, and (hopefully) with a keen sense of what NOT to say prematurely lest it compromise their investigations. The DOJ investigation starts at the Capitol crime scene, building from the useful idiots and militia foot soldiers towards the inciters and commanders.

Congress OTOH, can focus directly on mid-to-upper-level conspirators, like Bannon and Meadows. In a way, both groups are building a bridge from opposite banks of the river. Maybe, someday the two spans will meet. We have to pray it works out that way.

Republicans are rewriting January 6th and are trying to flush it down the memory hole. It’s certain to work on at least 40% of the country. The issue is whether they can convince another 10% of voters to think there might be nothing to it.

Enough of politics for this week. It’s time for our Saturday Soother!

The weather in Connecticut is unseasonably warm and dry. On the fields of Wrong, it’s time to put up the temporary fencing that keeps the deer from nibbling on leaves and bark. That constitutes much of their winter diets.

Then take a few minutes to brew up a vente cup of True Grit Peaberry coffee ($14.00/12oz.) from Nguyen Coffee Supply, a Brooklyn, NY based roaster that is the first specialty Vietnamese coffee company in the US.

Now grab a seat by a window, settle back in your comfy chair. Watch and listen to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, played by the Cellista Cello Ensemble from Korea. Here it is played by 12 cellos in an arrangement by Sung-Min Ahn:

The iconic opening riff is usually played on clarinet. But here, it sounds great on the cello.

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