Saturday Soother – July 22, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA – July 2023 photo by Cynthia Maciaga

Wrongo continues to find demographic differences between the voters of 2020 and today. Most of those differences favor the Democrats. A WaPo op-ed by Celinda Lake and Mac Heller talks about some of them:

“Every year, about 4 million Americans turn 18 and gain the right to vote. In the eight years between the 2016 and 2024 elections, that’s 32 million new eligible voters. Also every year, 2½ million older Americans die. So in the same eight years, that’s as many as 20 million fewer older voters.”

This means that between 2016 and 2024, the cohort of eligible voters will have changed by a net 52 million. That difference is largely driven by new young people entering the pool and older people exiting. Those 32 million new voters are mostly “Gen Z”, who now constitute 20% of today’s American electorate.

In other words, it is highly unlikely, despite what national polls are showing, that the 2024 election will be a repeat of either 2016 or 2020.

Lake and Heller address the nuances of the demographic changes that are reshaping the electorate. The data show that today’s electorate is younger, more educated, and more issues-focused than in 2016 when Trump won. These factors tend to favor Democrats but do not guarantee success. Their takeaway is that Democrats are better positioned than Republicans to take advantage of these demographic changes. Lake and Heller stress that how Democrats reach them must be different from previous elections:

“Meet young voters where they are: on social media, not cable news. Make your messages short, funny and somehow sarcastic yet authentic and earnest at the same time. Your focus should be issues first, issues second, candidates third and party identity never.”

More from Lake and Heller:

“About 48% of Gen Z voters identify as a person of color, while the boomers they’re replacing in the electorate are 72% White. Gen Z voters are on track to be the most educated group in our history, and the majority of college graduates are now female.”

They also say that since voting participation correlates positively with education, we should expect women to have a larger voice in our coming elections.

Gen Z voters say their motivation for voting is not necessarily to support a party or candidate. Instead, it’s passion about one or more issues: They have a much more policy-driven approach than the more partisan voting motivations of their elders.

That policy-first approach, combined with the issues they care most about, have led young people in recent years to vote more frequently for Democrats and progressive policies than prior generations did when of similar age — as recent 2022 elections in Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin have shown.

There’s a looming problem for both Parties: The possibility that young voters may embrace third-party candidates:

“Past elections show that Gen Z voters shop for candidates longer and respond favorably to new faces and issue-oriented candidates. They like combining their activism with their voting and don’t feel bound by party loyalty.”

With the “No Labels” movement and the efforts by the wacko Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to both field insurgencies, there’s potential danger from young people who are both committed and apolitical. Look for Gen Z to tire of waiting for Washington to solve problems. They may simply grab the national microphone from their elders and decide the 2024 presidential race.

Wrongo for one, is glad that they’ve arrived, and he believes they will fully understand the reasons why Trump must lose in 2024.

The weekend is here, and at least in our corner of the northeast, it is expected to be dry and warm. That means we can try to give more discipline to our disobedient plants. But before slapping on bug spray and sunblock, let’s take a few moments for our Saturday Soother, when we try to forget whatever Florida is doing to the teaching of the history of slavery, and center ourselves for another news-filled week to come.

Start by grabbing a tall glass of lemonade and find a chair outside in the shade. Now, let’s spend a few minutes remembering the life of Tony Bennett, who died on Friday. You know Bennett the singer, but you probably don’t know that he was a role model in other ways. As a soldier in World War II he helped liberate Jewish prisoners from a concentration camp, and he later marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He refused to perform in South Africa when it was under apartheid.

Let’s watch and listen to Bennett perform “Body and Soul” in a duet with Amy Winehouse from Bennett’s 2011 album “Duets II: The Great Performances”. Bennett and Winehouse won the 2012 Grammy for best pop duo for this.

Tony may have been the best ever, but here, Amy is great, sounding a little like Billie Holiday:


Economic Illiteracy

The Daily Escape:

The confluence of the Green River (L) and the Grand River (R) form the Colorado River, Canyonlands NP, UT – July 2023 photo by Michael L Mauldin. In 1921, the Grand River was renamed the Colorado.

Wrongo doesn’t think that political polls have much value if they have a national focus, but still, he presents an  Economist / YouGov Poll taken between July 8th and 11th of a nationwide sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,296 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 2.8%, and for registered voters is 2.9%. They asked whether the country is in a recession:

Responses show that about 47% of adults and 48% of registered voters believe the US economy is currently in a recession. But, it’s not true.

We’re still seeing inflation: The BLS reported the Consumer Price Index was up 3% year over year in June. Inflation in June 2022 was 9% and it’s been falling ever since. It is now back near what the Fed says is its target for inflation, 2%.

But having inflation, even severe inflation, doesn’t mean we’re also in a recession. In fact, employment has continued to grow, even as economic growth has slowed. Growth has slowed from about 7% in 2021 to about 2% in the first quarter of 2023. But the economy isn’t shrinking. And the jobless rate in June was 3.6%, still at very low levels not seen consistently since the late 1960s. That would be 50+ years ago.

CNN quotes Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Michigan:

“We’re running out of time for a 2023 recession….We’ve never had a recession when the labor market was running this hot. In fact, it would be absurd to use r-word at a time when we’re creating jobs at this rate.”

Americans need to be taught economics. And also to read. It shouldn’t be so difficult to understand that the US economy is still humming along. Sadly though, most high schools don’t teach economics, and many college degrees don’t require it. This has resulted in economically ignorant adults (including voters) who just believe what lying politicians and an ambivalent media tell them.

The media’s endless ranting about inflation and recession has been a problem for Democrats. There’s plenty of economic unease and a lot of it is generated by so-called media “experts”.

People seem to want more concrete indications that we’ve turned a corner. But we’ve gone from  ̶800,000 jobs a month to full employment. Isn’t that turning a corner? We’ve had real wage gains after 44 years of declining real wages: Isn’t that turning a corner?

If you’re not someone who pays much attention to politics and/or if most of your information is coming from mainstream media, this is what you remember hearing about the Biden presidency:

  • The economy sucks because nobody wants to work.
  • Home prices are rising, which is why YOU can’t afford one!
  • Home prices are falling, which is why YOU can’t retire!
  • There’s going to be a MASSIVE recession any day now!

Every night since Biden took office, the media has blanketed us with some flavor of all of those narratives. Every night, every newscast.

But some of us say that it’s a complete mystery why Biden’s poll numbers won’t budge.

OTOH, the cost of housing is increasing year over year. Insurance premiums are increasing by double digits year over year. The plumber or HVAC guy costs way more. But since the headline rate of inflation is down, let’s all go out for steak and lobster tonight.

From a political perspective, shouldn’t the Democrats fulfill the wishes of the voters who think we’re in a recession by having one now rather than waiting until 2024? A recession next year would make the Biden reelection effort (along with the efforts to take control of the House and keep control of the Senate) less viable.

We’re a nation of economic illiterates who can’t figure out when the economy actually is good. Right now, they are telling pollsters that they’re doing okay, but the economy is terrible.

And since they vote, Democrats will do substantially better in 2024 with a soft landing rather than a mild recession, regardless of whether polls are still showing voters believe that the country’s in a recession.


Monday Wake Up Call – July 17, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Comb Ridge, UT & AZ – July 2023 photo by RC Bullough Photography

Wrongo and Ms. Right were urban pioneers in NYC in the early 1980s. We rented a loft on Maiden Lane in the financial district. Back then, we had to go uptown or to Hoboken, NJ for groceries because there were so few people living amongst the downtown forest of office towers.

But by the 2020 census, lower Manhattan was the fourth fastest-growing residential neighborhood in NYC. Since the pandemic, downtowns have looked more like the ghost towns of the 1980s with so many workers adapting to remote work. And they seem to be staying away.

Things are going to get interesting. We may be at the beginning of a massive structural change, not just a temporary blip impacting office towers: It seems that companies have figured out they won’t ever need this vast amount of vacant office space. Brookings says that office utilization averages less than 50% across major US downtowns. While The Gothamist reports that national office vacancies are at a high of 19.2% (compared to 12.6% in early 2020). They also report that McKinsey predicts that remote work will erase $800 billion from urban office real estate values.

This has many cities thinking about conversion of office space into residential space. In NYC, 25 Water Street, which was once home to the Daily News and JPMorgan Chase, has a plan to gut the offices, carve out courtyards and add 10 floors to the 22-story structure. GFP Real Estate and Metro Loft bought the building, formerly known as 4 New York Plaza, in December for about $250 million.

One loophole is that the Financial District doesn’t require that the conversions include any affordable housing. So this project will not have any apartments with capped rents for low-income units. That isn’t true in other parts of the City, like Midtown, Queens or the Bronx.

Boston is testing an incentive program for developers to convert empty downtown offices into housing. Mayor Michelle Wu announced that the owners of repurposed buildings could get up to 75% off on their property taxes. Boston’s office market vacancy rate climbed to 14.2% in the second quarter, the highest level in 20 years, according to data from CBRE Group Inc. And median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment has jumped 8% in the past year to $2,800.

Boston’s downtown has about half of the city’s office space. An October 2022 report commissioned by the city found that economic activity downtown remained 20% to 40% below pre-pandemic levels for industries like retail.

Back in NYC, Mayor Eric Adams is also proposing incentives to designate 136 million square feet of office space for conversion to residential development. It’s worked before: A 1995 tax break for conversions helped create 13,000 new apartment units in Lower Manhattan.

Brookings raises the question of what the taxpayers’ interest should be in these conversions:

“To what extent are current high office vacancies a market problem whose burden falls on the private sector (property owners and investors) and to what extent do they represent a market failure and policy problem to which government must respond with financial support from the public?”

The advocates of tax breaks and other financial incentives say it will:

  • Help drive foot traffic to downtown businesses struggling from a lack of commuters.
  • Bolster municipal coffers, as cities often rely on property taxes from office buildings.
  • Supply much-needed housing amid a shortage that has many paying exorbitant rents.

It seems that office-to-home conversions are no more a comprehensive remedy for housing than e-bikes are for transit issues. Few office buildings are truly suited for conversion. It’s often more straightforward for developers to knock down the existing structure and build condos from scratch.

Moreover, the best thing that cities can do to encourage more housing is to loosen zoning restrictions, allowing multi-use and apartment buildings to be developed rather than just supply tax breaks.

The battle lines are drawn. The 25 Water St. developer said state and city lawmakers will have to pay up if they actually want to turn vacant offices into homes:

“The politicians, if they want to create housing in New York City out of these buildings, they will need to provide significant incentives….And if they want to provide affordable housing, those incentives would have to be even higher.”

Time to wake up America! We can’t let our mayors give away more tax revenues to developers! We’re unsure if the current rate of office utilization will improve or not, so cities need to be smart about what they do next. To help you wake up, we dust off an oldie. Here are the Rolling Stones with “Salt of the Earth” from their album “Beggars Banquet”. Performed live at the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968. This was the first tune where Keith Richards had the lead vocal:

Sample Lyric:

Raise your glass to the hard-working people
Let’s drink to the uncounted heads
Let’s think of the wavering millions
who need leaders but get gamblers instead


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 16, 2023

The WaPo has an excellent briefing on Biden’s new border policy. If you’ve wondered why there’s no longer mass chaos at the southern border since Title 42 was lifted, it’s because the Biden administration has completely transformed how migrants, asylum-seekers, and those who enter illegally are treated.

You have to apply to enter the US legally by making an appointment using an app. It can take up to six weeks to get the appointment, but once you do, you are interviewed, photographed, and released to a social service agency that helps migrants, or a relative or sponsor who has registered with the feds. (Plus the app uses GPS to track your movements.) You then wait for your application for asylum to be processed and your claim adjudicated.

If you enter illegally, you are sent to a massive tent city to be fed and given necessities. You get your health checked out. And then you are sent back over the border with instructions on how to apply legally via the app.

The two processes illustrate the extent to which the Biden administration has transformed the way asylum seekers and migrants are processed along the southern border. As a result, illegal crossings have dropped by close to 70% since early May. Yes, 43,000 asylum-seekers get into the US every month. But until Congressional Republicans agree to a sensible immigration policy, controlling the influx in this manner seems to be the best alternative. On to cartoons.

What the GOP cares about:

We won’t fight climate change, so you’ll have to:

The GOP’s latest tangent:

The GOP decides the FBI is liberal:

It’s ironic that the GOP wants to defund the FBI which has always been a Republican bastion. And if the Elephant wants help with his minor surgery, Wrongo’s happy to assist. It’s doubtful that the FBI is about to start prosecuting illegal corporate activities with the same eagerness they showed when chasing after BLM and Occupy Wall Street.

Trump’s latest delay tactic:

Hollywood’s on strike:


Saturday Soother – July 15, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm Fjord, AK – July 2023 iPhone photo by Wrongo. The face of the glacier is 600’ high. While we were in front of it, the glacier calved 5 times, although never when a camera was pointed at it.

Word came that Anchor Brewing, America’s oldest craft brewer, is shutting down after 127 years in business. From CNN:

“The San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday it’s ceasing operations and liquidating the beloved business “following a combination of challenging economic factors and declining sales since 2016,” a press release said. Craft brewers, in particular, have been struggling for a variety of reasons including changing consumer habits, rising costs and lingering supply-chain challenges.

Wrongo is old enough to remember when Anchor Steam was a cult beer in the eastern US. It was difficult to find, and it was more expensive than the big local beers. It was really an upmarket lager. There’s nothing wrong with being an upmarket lager, but today, plenty of craft brewers also do that, so America’s first craft brewery and the maker of the Steam Beer will be sold for parts. The surprising fact was that it employed just 61 staff.

It’s been a few years since the Wrong family had any Anchor products in the house. The last one was the Anchor Christmas Ale, which was for a time, an annual tradition at the holidays. But with the rise of local craft beers, tastes changed.

Today, family parties often include a craft beer made near where one of the kids live. The beers are admired because they are hard to get, and often have amusing names. The taste tests are conducted with much seriousness, although they’re similar in form to decades ago when someone would bring Coors Beer back from the west for all to taste.

Back in the day, we bought Anchor and Sierra Nevada when there were very few other craft beer offerings in the NY area. Now there are hundreds of craft beer choices throughout the country. And there’s so much good beer around, it seems logical that Anchor would fail. It’s surprising that Sierra Nevada actually seems to hold up.

But the industry’s facing headwinds:

“During the first three months of 2022, at least 53 craft breweries shut their doors, up from 42 closures in the first quarter of last year. That still leaves some 9,100 breweries in operation, but more closures are expected.”

That’s 9,100 breweries and 36,000 IPAs!

The pandemic and its ongoing effects, and the war in Ukraine continue to drag down smaller brewers, who are battling climbing costs, rising rents, and supply chain challenges.

2022 was supposed to be the “make or break” year for craft breweries, but problems remain in 2023. The biggest issue is increased competition in what has become a shrinking market for beer. Since most craft breweries cater exclusively (or mostly) to local markets, why wouldn’t Anchor still be viable in CA or a few western states? Apparently they were mis-owned.

Sapporo is a Japanese beer company that bought the brand in 2017. VinePair, a digital magazine that covers beer, wine and food reported last month that employees complained about Sapporo’s alleged mismanagement and lack of understanding of craft beer in the US. Sapporo also owns Stone Brewing, another craft beer with a national following. Let’s hope that Sapporo doesn’t do to Stone what it’s done to Anchor.

But there’s still 9,000+ breweries nationwide, so it’s easier than ever for consumers to find great beers within a few neighboring zip codes. For the brewers, they need to find a niche and make an extremely good product line. The brewer in our town has become quite successful with one location, and a rotating group of about 10 beers. They have gotten distribution in local supermarkets and liquor stores and seem willing to be a big fish in a small pond.

It’s Saturday, and in the northeast, we’re experiencing continued rounds of thundershowers that make it difficult to do much outside. In the past week, we’ve picked up around 5.5” of rain, so we won’t have to water the vegetable garden for a week or so.

And since it’s Saturday, its time for our Saturday Soother, where we step back from another week of news you can’t use and find a few moments to live as simply as possible in the present.

So grab a mug of coffee and take a seat near a large south-facing window and listen to “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s “Planet Suite” played here by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. The Planet Suite took nearly three years (between 1914 and 1917) to compose:


We’re In Hot Water

The Daily Escape:

Harbor Seals hauling out on a buoy in Petersburg, AK. Wrongo and Ms. Right were passing by in a zodiac – July 2023 photo via the cruise line

It seems like it’s going to stay hot for a long while, and nobody wants to do anything about it. Temperatures are rising both on land and at sea, with climate experts ringing alarm bells about unprecedented sea surface temperatures:

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in late June warned that half of the world’s oceans may experience marine heat wave conditions by September.”

And it’s hitting close to home:

“Not only is Florida sizzling in record-crushing heat, but the ocean waters that surround it are scorching, as well. The unprecedented ocean warmth around the state — connected to historically warm oceans worldwide — is further intensifying its heat wave and stressing coral reefs, with conditions that could end up strengthening hurricanes.”

The NYT reported that the water temperature around Florida hit 90° yesterday.

And while it’s possible to score cheap political points on their governor DeSantis who would rather fight with Mickey Mouse and whatever “Woke” means this week while ignoring climate change, Wrongo won’t stoop to that. He’s sure that Floridians love their governor’s priorities. Just last week, as insurance companies were pulling out of Florida, DeSantis was saying not to worry, the insurers will return to Florida after the hurricane season.

As Pogo said many years ago: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Primarily, the enemy is the Republican politician who continues to vote against efforts to bring the world’s CO2 levels under some semblance of control. The fixes to climate change that will have the most impact involve changes in public policy that will never happen as long as Republicans hold enough votes to block them.

But the big idea is that we’re not going back to where we were heat-wise, no matter what we do to cut further CO2 emissions. As NYT journalist Jeff Goodell said on NPR: (brackets by Wrongo)

“We are moving into a different world, and we need to grasp that idea….the planet is heating up…because we’re putting CO2 into the atmosphere…..It is essentially permanent when we put it [CO2] up there….And the warming will not stop until we stop emitting CO2 and burning fossil fuels….And even if we stop [adding more] CO2, we are stuck with that warming planet for a very long time.”

So, even if at this moment we made huge changes, we would always be on this part of the temperature scale, unless we figure out how to take quite a bit of that CO2 out of the atmosphere.

A few red state legislatures are considering following South Carolina’s lead and simply banning all mention of global warming or climate change in official documents or state-funded research. They think the only real way to deal with the climate problem is to ignore it.

Worse, nobody has a good model for what happens when all that warm water sits and gets warmer. Some meteorologists have pointed out that if the Caribbean got hot enough, it could spawn a continuous series of Category 5 hurricanes, say, once a week from May to October.

Which would resolve the problem of insuring Florida’s oceanfront properties pretty quickly.

It’s becoming evident that we live in a world designed for a climate that no longer exists. What’s really sobering is that the climate that now exists won’t resemble the one that will exist a generation from now.

How our societies and political systems deal with this is the central question of the 21st century.

Wrongo and Ms. Right moved back to New England from California partly because of climate. We were concerned about how scarce water would become in Los Angeles, and we knew that Connecticut would have more water for longer. This week, several of our roads and bridges closed because we had too much rain, causing the Housatonic River to overflow its banks.

This shows that there are no longer any places that can be marked safe from climate change. It has become impossible to predict the future climate/weather anywhere based on the past. And we’re still not coming to terms with just how hot and dangerous things are becoming. Or how fast it’s happening.

Let’s close the week with a wake up tune. Here’s “The Effects of Climate Change on Densely Populated Areas” by People Under The Stairs, a hip hop group from LA formed in 1997:

Sample Lyric:

Hundred degrees at midnight for the third day in a row
Nobody sleepin’ well and I can feel the tension growin’
LA wth rollin’ brownouts, rollin’ papers and rollin’ sixties
Heat exhaustion increasing caution across the city
Some people hit the mall, they’re tryin’ to stay cool
Some people call the cops; “there’s black children in the pool”
Everybody’s lookin’ sideways, we’re ragin’ on the highways
I hate it, I’m tryin’ to stay hydrated and faded but my way Is blocked
By road construction like a scene from “Falling Down”
Cops, they tryin’ to function but it seems they takin’ down us
Brown people at will People get hot and then killed
As the sun begins to set it’s hotter, no-one can chill
Everybody’s windows open there’s not a moment of silence
Alcohol heatin’ frustration that’s increasing domestic violence
9-1-1 is overwhelmed, homie, guess you on your own

The hills are still on fire, I recommend you stay at home


Two Data Points That Say Much About Our Economy

The Daily Escape:

Another Alaska pic: Wrongo was in a kayak about 20 yards from this big guy asking himself whether he could out-paddle a charging grizzly. June 21, 2023 photo by Kristina Rau for the cruise line.

Today let’s talk about two interrelated economic issues. First, with more than 200,000 jobs created in the US economy in June, nearly 4 million more people are now employed than just before the pandemic.

Heather Long at the WaPo looked at who’s getting them. Along the way, she busts a few Right Wing myths:

“The mistaken notion that Americans don’t want to work can now be put to rest. Nearly 81% of Americans ages 25 to 54 are working, the highest share since 2001.”

Long reminds us that in March 2022, Fed Chair Powell argued the labor market was “unhealthy”:

“There was a misguided belief that it would take a recession to get supply and demand for goods — and workers — back to more normal levels. But what many experts missed was how many workers of color and immigrants wanted to work and were still looking for opportunities.”

Long provides the demographic breakdown for our recent job gains:

“Fewer White people are employed now than pre-pandemic. In contrast, over 2 million more Hispanics are employed now, over 800,000 more Asian Americans and over 750,000 more African Americans.”

Before the pandemic, companies were complaining that they couldn’t find workers, while the experts were saying the nation was at “full employment.” However, every month, Black and Hispanic people (largely women) kept entering the labor force and getting jobs.

Also, more than 2 million more foreign-born people are employed now than before the pandemic. This means that more than half of the new workers have been immigrants.

This is partly a result of low unemployment. Blacks and Hispanics often do not get hired until late in an economic recovery. In the past year, there’s also been a strong uptick in jobs in government and health care, two sectors in which women of color have historically found employment opportunities.

Employers have also loosened their hiring criteria, offering improved pay and benefits, and removing requirements for college degrees for many positions. Long says:

This past spring, for the first time, Black Americans were as likely to be employed as White Americans.”

What a change! Hard to see much “socialism” in this new jobs analysis.  This is good news that disputes the old Right wing bromides about how “these folks don’t want work; they want to sit back and get free stuff”.

Second, the WaPo’s Department of Data, a new statistical analysis feature, answered the question:

“Which states contribute the most to the federal budget in taxes, and which get the most back in terms of benefits?”

They start by reminding us where tax revenue comes from:

“The vast bulk of the $4 trillion in revenue the federal government received in 2021 came in the form of income taxes and payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security. Most of the rest comes from corporate income taxes and excise taxes on goods such as gasoline and alcohol.”

And just 4.5% of that income (customs duties and earnings on Federal Reserve deposits) cannot be traced to individual states.

But let’s get to the good stuff. Just eight blue states, (CA, NY, NJ, MA, CT, WA, NH, and CO) pay more in taxes to the federal government than they receive in federal benefits. They therefore subsidize all other states. Every other state receives more federal money than they pay in taxes.

And unsurprisingly 9 of the 11 top recipients of federal benefits are red states (KY, WVA, MS, AL, AK, LA, OK, AK, SC).

Nine of the 10 states that sent the most to the federal government, per person, voted for Biden in 2020. Nine of the 10 states that sent the least voted for Trump. So who’s got the bigger stake in socialism?

Its important to remember that when Republicans complain about “out of control” federal spending, most of them live in a state that receives more from the federal government than they contribute.

If we ever called their bluff, Republicans would scramble to decide what federal benefits their home states would be willing to give up in order to cut federal spending.

But of course, they would simply bluster on about socialism in the cities.

Maybe we should divide America into the MAKER states and the TAKER states. It’s nice to see that the data again shows Blue states are far more productive. Maybe another question for the Department of Data is:

“Why is higher income so closely aligned with support for Democrats?”


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 9, 2023

You’ve all heard about Zuckerberg’s Meta taking on Musk’s Twitter. Meta’s product is called Threads. It’s a simple app that looks almost exactly like Twitter. Because it is linked to users’ Instagram accounts, it was immediately adopted by about 50 million people who have posted on the platform some 95 million times. It’s become the most rapidly downloaded app of all time.

That also eclipsed several other Twitter wanna-be’s like BlueSky (which has a million users), Mastodon (10+ million), Post, and Notes, all of which have been up and running for a few months but together, haven’t reached Threads’ 50+million users.

What Threads’ place in the social mediaverse will look like is anybody’s guess. But there are things we know right now, with certainty:

  • Meta is a for-profit social media businesses. Its business model relies on selling ad space based on targeted markets and selling users’ information.
  • Meta has been operating under a consent decree issued by the FTC in 2011 after it violated users’ privacy. Then it violated that agreement, resulting in a $5 billion fine which it has fought against paying.
  • Meta’s track record on privacy isn’t great. It includes the non-consensual collection of personal data that was later used by Cambridge Analytica/SCL and may have been involved in influence operations during the 2016 election.

Wrongo joined Threads to see what the fuss is all about. It does look a lot like Twitter, and at the moment has a wild west feel. From Kyle Tharp:

“The social internet is in the midst of a massive upheaval right now, and no one really knows how it’s going to impact our politics next year. Americans’ social media diets are becoming more distributed and less trackable….I obviously think the internet will still have a major role to play next year, but predicting the future is harder than ever.”

If Threads has staying power, it will present both new opportunities and challenges for Meta. Facebook has been withdrawing its investments in news and politics over the past few years, which included killing its news partnerships division and deprioritizing political content in users’ Facebook feeds.

If Meta is going to become the online place for news consumption and political debate, it will face the same questions that Twitter and Facebook had to face: How will it handle content moderation and the spread of false or misleading content? How will fact-checking work on the platform? How much money is Meta willing to spend on that, especially after cutting those same investments in policy and integrity at Facebook? Will they allow political ads? On to cartoons.

Will Twitter unravel?

We’re melting:

Supremes add to their must carry rules:

Supremes have redefined their branch of government:

They’ve also redefined property ownership:

The Supremes say they’re ending racism:


Saturday Soother – July 8, 2023

The Daily Escape:

There are currently 13 turkey chicks roaming the Fields of Wrong. One mom has nine and the other, four. While each year we hope for the best, we live amongst always hungry Coopers and Red Tailed hawks. Oh, and watch out for the foxes, coyotes and bobcats – July 2023 iPhone photo by Wrongo.

In Wrongo’s last column, he talked about the need to fight and win the long battle to reclaim rights that were lost in recent Supreme Court decisions:

“It won’t be easy to win these rights back, but it isn’t impossible.”

And new data from NBC offers a ray of hope:

“Republican primary voters are older, whiter and much more conservative than the electorate at large…. 39% of Republican primary voters are age 65 and older, compared with 25% of the overall electorate and 25% of Democratic primary voters, according to the poll…..89% of GOP primary voters are white, versus 72% of all voters.”

Here’s a chart from the poll:

Only 24% of GOP voters are under age 50, compared to 57.9% of the US population. More:

“…67% of Republican primary voters say they are conservative, including 41% who are “very” conservative…..That compares with 36% of all voters who are conservative, including 18% who are “very” conservative.”

There’s more bad news for the GOP in recent census data:

  • One of the most significant developments in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election is that census data show that the number of white people without college degrees (a core of Trump’s support) has fallen by 2.1 million since 2016.
  • Over the same period, the number of white people who have graduated from college (an increasingly Democratic constituency) has grown by 13.3 million.

Worse for the GOP and Trump, the reliance of the GOP on the electorate without college degrees has grown. In 2012, 48% of Republicans didn’t have college degrees. By 2016, that percentage had increased to 58%, but according to the NBC News poll, it’s now 63%.

They’ve also lost many of the college educated over the past eight years. And the population of the non-college educated is shrinking. It’s not a good formula for victory. It all points to having a decent chance to win the town by town, state by state fight to blunt the Supreme Court’s extremism. Forget what the media are saying, 2024 doesn’t have to be a close election.

And let’s also forget about the news, or where in the world Prigozhin is hiding. Rumors say he’s in St. Petersburg, Russia. Soon we’ll want proof of life.

And if you want to know just how far to the right the House Freedom Caucus has moved, they just ousted Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) for being too liberal.

But it’s time to leave all of this behind and concentrate on our Saturday Soother.

We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in northwest Connecticut, and that makes all of the necessary yard work much more difficult to do. This year, we’ve had rabbits in our vegetable garden along with the usual horde of chipmunks, so Wrongo put up some of the deer fencing we use in the winter around the garden. We’ll see if it is successful.

This morning grab a cold brew coffee and take a seat in the shade outdoors. Now put on your Bluetooth headset and watch and listen to Sissel Kyrkjebø, a Norwegian soprano, perform “Going Home”. This song is about Antonin Dvorak, who wrote his Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” soon after arriving in America in 1893.

The song is based on the larghetto movement from Dvorak’s 9th. One of Dvorak’s students, William Arms Fisher, put words to the melody from the second movement. He called the new song, “Goin’ Home“. It was published in 1922.

Dvorak outlived his entire family, and returned home to Bohemia from the US. He died in 1904, at the age of 63. Sissel, who Wrongo knew nothing about before today, sings beautifully. Consider that English may not even be her primary language:


You Say You Want A Revolution

The Daily Escape:

17 Palms Oasis, Anza-Borrego SP, CA – June 2023 photo by Paulette Donnellon. When Wrongo and Ms. Right lived in LA, we hiked to this spot twice with grandkids.

This year, the Fourth of July just won’t let go of Wrongo. Political historian Eli Merritt has an op-ed in the LA Times: The Fourth of July is all about America’s first principle — the right of revolution:

“This right of resistance against inequality and tyranny is the American way. It is the essence of the American experiment, beginning in the 1760s and 1770s with the colonists’ defiance of the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, the Tea Act and the Intolerable Acts; and in the 19th and 20th centuries with the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage movement, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments, and the civil rights movement; and today with nonviolent fights for racial justice, equal voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s reproductive rights.”

We’re a country born of revolution. But after the Jan 6 insurrection, people are probably put off by the very idea of it. It’s what Trump’s seditionists did when they stormed the Capitol. Their goal was to prevent, or at least to obstruct, the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

And they did so by summoning the spirit of 1776. But in contrast to the J6 “protesters”, the people who approved the Declaration signed their names to a document. They didn’t wear hoods, masks, or camo gear and beat up people. The country’s “revolution” began with paper, pen and ink, with “revolutionaries” plainly identifying themselves. As Merritt points out:

“…the Declaration of Independence is a nonviolent manifesto. It makes no mention of swords, guns or war. Separately, the Continental Congress called upon American patriots to arm themselves, yet only in self-defense of God-given natural rights.”

Yet here we are in 2023, facing once again a fight for rights that we had already won, says The Guardian’s Rebecca Solnit: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The first thing to remember about the damage done by the US supreme court this June and the June before is that each majority decision overturns a right that we had won…. What this means is that the right wing of the US supreme court is part of a gang of reactionaries engaging in backlash.”

In the 303 Creative v. Elenis case, the Supreme Court made a decision based on nothing, in which a woman refuses to perform a service she didn’t provide, to a gay couple that didn’t exist, in the name of religious “liberty.” That six Supremes jumped on this case is a travesty. We either back down and accept the direction these extreme Justices are pushing the country toward, or we fight.

Wrongo wants to fight, just like he did in the 1960s. It won’t be easy to win these rights back, but it isn’t impossible. And this from WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin:

“On…Independence Day, which celebrates rebellion against a monarch lacking consent of the governed, it behooves us to dedicate ourselves to robust and authentic democracy: government of the people, by the people, for the people — not by arrogant right-wing justices.”

The Supreme Court is the point of the American Conservative movement’s spear, and it must be our goal to blunt their extremisim. The ballot box is our only way out of this mess, so it will take an immense amount of organizing and effort to overcome the gerrymandering, active voter suppression and massive disinformation campaigns conducted by the media.

The current SCOTUS cannot change our beliefs and values. These rights are ours, regardless of what six Supremes say. From Solnit:

“If you didn’t believe that equal access and rights were wrong yesterday…you don’t have to believe it now. Not just because those rights were denied by six justices….”

The country is on our side. Gallup has a new poll of approve/disapprove of the Supreme Court:

This shows that the people  agree with blunting the power of today’s Supreme Court. The final words go to Solnit:

“…history shows us that when we come together with ferocious commitment to a shared goal we can be more powerful than institutions and governments. The right would like us to feel defeated and powerless. We can feel devastated and still feel powerful or find our power. This is not a time to quit. It’s a time to fight.”

We must take every available measure in our democracy to revoke consent and remedy these unconstitutional decisions. It will require active engagement in all levels of the democratic political process, from local school boards to the presidency. We can’t take any political office for granted.

Help new voters obtain ID and register to vote. Educate yourself about the candidates, vote in the primaries. Get your friends and families to vote. Make sure no seat goes uncontested wherever a GOP politician holds office or runs without opposition.

Above all, do not let them assume that you consent to the loss of our rights.