Saturday Soother – April 23, 2022

The Daily Escape:

North Landing River, near Virginia Beach, VA – April 2022 photo by Erik Moore

Our media ecosystem is overwhelming us. Some of the information is accurate, some is bogus, and much is intentionally misleading. And that’s a deliberate strategy. While it didn’t originate with Steve Bannon, he perfected it with his thought that:

“…the Democrats don’t matter….The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

This is why the ongoing cultural war works so well for Republicans. There’s always some petty war going on between the Parties that’s stoked by the media. And it’s almost always about cultural issues since Republicans really don’t have a policy platform, and don’t want to go against large corporate America. When you go against corporations, you lose the money needed to get elected.

But we should see the big corporations as our common enemy. Time Magazine has an article about how overtime pay has disappeared:

“If it feels like you’re working longer hours for less money than your parents or grandparents did, it’s because you probably are. Adjusted for inflation, average hourly wages have actually fallen since the early 1970s, while average hours worked have steadily climbed. American workers are increasingly underpaid, overworked, and overwhelmed.”

One reason is the loss of overtime pay:

“If you’re under the age of 45, you may have no idea that overtime pay is even a thing. But…middle-class workers used to get a lot of it….That means that [for] every hour you work over 40 hours a week you work for free, contributing…a giant pool of free labor that modern employers have come to expect and exploit. Profits are up, real wages are down, and income inequality has soared to its highest level since the Gilded Age.”

Overtime pay was one of the great New Deal reforms. It was a core provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA set the minimum wage at one-half the median wage and the overtime threshold at three times the minimum—an amount equal to 1.5 times the median wage.

But both the minimum wage and the overtime rules began to change in 1975, and rising income inequality since 1975 is responsible for a $50 trillion upward redistribution of wealth and income from the bottom 90% households to those in the top 1%. Here’s a chart showing the impact of losing overtime. Productivity goes up, but is completely decoupled from income:

Source: chartr

The Economic Policy Institute has a tool called “Company Wage Tracker” that allows you to select any big corporation and see what percentage of their employees make below a certain wage. For example, it shows that 51% of Walmart employees earn below $15/hr.

The NYT wrote about Mary Gundel, a manager at a Dollar General store in Tampa, FL who was fired for speaking out about the chain’s policies regarding overtime and short-staffing:

“The store used to have about 198 hours a week to allocate to a staff of about seven people….But by the end of last month, she had only about 130 hours to allocate….With not as many hours to give to her staff, Ms. Gundel often had to operate the store on her own for long stretches, typically working six days and up to 60 hours a week with no overtime pay.”

Ms. Gundel was working 60 hours a week and making $51,000 a year. That means she’s making only a little more than the minimum wage. Dollar General is one of the most profitable retail chains in the country.

Prices are going up everywhere across America, and corporations are making proportionately more income. This is what the Democrats should be focusing on, standing up for workers, doing what is right as opposed to groping for answers to the Republican’s culture war issues.

There’s plenty that’s wrong in America. But what’s wrong doesn’t see the light of day alongside all of the pissing contests about Critical Race Theory, or predator grooming or LGBTQ issues. These are ginned-up to make sure you won’t pay attention to what’s really going on.

Something seems to be brewing. We’re seeing halting attempts at unionization at Starbucks and Amazon. Those employees want a better life; they want to have a seat at the table about the future of the company.

We need to remember that without the “essential workers” the country grinds to a halt. We need to support those who try to organize. We need to wrest some economic power away from politicians and big businesses. And finally, some faceless people who are sick of being wronged are trying to do just that.

Enough for another week. It’s time to let go of the news. It’s time for our Saturday Soother. On the Fields of Wrong we’re preparing our vegetable garden, although it will be a few weeks before it’s warm enough for the plants to survive. We had an overnight temperature of 32° earlier this week.

Now, grab a seat by a large window and listen to violin soloist Soojin Han play Chopin’s “Nocturne No.20 in C# minor” in August 2019. She’s playing on a 1666 Stradivarius:

It sounds beautiful.

Chopin composed the piece in 1830, but it was published in 1875, 26 years after his death. It was featured in the movie “The Pianist” in 2002.


DeSantis vs. Disney

The Daily Escape:

Sea glass, Provincetown, MA – April 2022 photo by Nancy Kaplan

Today we continue discussing the growing Republican culture wars, this time in Florida against Disney. NBC News reported:

“The Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would dissolve the special taxing district that allows the Walt Disney Co. to self-govern in its theme park area.”

Walt Disney World has effectively operated as its own municipal government in central Florida since a 1967 state law established what’s called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, an area encompassing 25,000 acres near Orlando. The law grants Disney a wide range of authority, including the power to issue bonds and provide its own utilities and emergency services, such as fire protection.

That law is in large part what convinced Disney originally to come to Florida. It has since become the state’s largest private employer with 80,000 jobs.

On Wednesday, the Florida senate passed a bill that would dissolve all independent special districts established before 1968, including Reedy Creek. Lawmakers voted 23 to 16 in favor of the bill during a special session of the state Legislature.

This is part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) and the Republican-controlled  legislature‘s escalating culture war with Disney over the company’s opposition to recently passed legislation in Florida that Disney considers to be anti-gay. Disney’s leadership has criticized the legislation that prevents classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade.

Disney later said it would pause making campaign donations in Florida and also said it hoped that the law would either be repealed or struck down by the courts.

Wrongo is old enough to remember when the GOP believed that corporations had free speech and should be pretty much immune from regulation. But it now seems that corporations can be harassed or investigated unless they fall in line with the goals of the Republican culture war.

Targeting Disney only became a thing after the company spoke out about the “don’t say gay” law. Charles Cooke in the National Review notes that:

“Until about a month ago, Walt Disney World’s legal status was not even a blip on the GOP’s radar. No Republicans were calling for it to be revisited….”

Cooke says that Florida’s legislature has had five opportunities over the past 50 years to remove Disney’s sweetheart deal and didn’t. But context is everything. After the DeSantis effort to punish Disney, the legislature piled on, pretending that it’s doing so out of a concern for “good government”.

The fun part is that Disney’s status is not unique. Florida has 1,844 special districts, of which 1,288, like Walt Disney World, are “independent.” Charlie Sykes at the Bulwark offers up examples of a few more of these districts:

  • The Villages (where Governor DeSantis announced his review of Disney’s status)
  • Orlando International Airport
  • The Daytona International Speedway

Wrongo isn’t defending Disney’s right to special treatment, despite he and Ms. Right having a granddaughter who works for Disney in CA.

Wrongo would be fine if Florida took away all special breaks from these large corporations.

The Disney special district is really a form of corporate welfare. And no Republican with serious national ambitions wants to be against corporate welfare. So instead, DeSantis tries punishing Disney as part of his red-hot culture war. If this move was really about good public policy, then Republicans would have done it through their regular legislative process. But that clearly wasn’t their intent.

Overlooked in the anti-Disney hype, was that this bill was attached to other legislation approved by the Florida senate, a Congressional redistricting map that eliminates two predominantly Black Congressional districts and tilts the balance of the Florida delegation even more to the Republicans. Democrats were especially critical of an amendment added Tuesday that requires all lawsuits challenging the redistricting map to be filed in Leon Circuit Court. This is an attempt to sidestep the federal court in Tallahassee where in the past, most election law cases have been challenged and found to be unconstitutional.

The new map is expected to boost Republicans’ current 16-11 Congressional advantage to 20–8. Republicans would likely own roughly 71% of the state’s Congressional seats in a state where Trump won with 51.2% of the vote in 2020. Florida also gained a seat during the most recent census.

The Party claiming to be against “Big Government” is using the government to punish a private company for permissible business decisions. As Heather Cox Richardson says:

“The Walt Disney Company delivers to the state more than $409 million in sales taxes for tickets alone, employs more than 80,000 Florida residents, and supports more than 400,000 more jobs. Today, the Miami Herald reported that repealing the company’s governing authority would raise taxes on families in the area by $2,200 each.”

Anyone else getting really tired of Republicans telling us we can’t say certain words, we can’t read certain books, we can’t teach certain things, or that we can’t talk about certain history? And why are they taking away our freedom to vote?

What’s Conservative about any of that?


What to Do When You’re Called “Pedophile”

The Daily Escape:

Western Rosebud, Red Rock National conservation area, NV – April 2022 photo by David Frederick

We’ve reached a point in our political discourse where Republicans are tossing around lies about their Democratic opponents, including saying the Democrats are pedophiles. And they’re doing it without fear of reprisal from the establishment Democrats.

One Democrat, Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow was accused by Lana Theis, a Republican state senate colleague, of being a “groomer” of young children in a recent fundraising appeal. Theis also said McMorrow wanted to teach 8-year-olds that they are responsible for slavery. McMorrow didn’t stay silent after the accusations against her. She gave her Republican accuser a rhetorical bloody nose:

Her speech is inspiring. You should definitely watch it. Here’s a quote:

“I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense…No child alive today is responsible for slavery. No one in this room is responsible for slavery. But each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history….we are not responsible for the past. We also cannot change the past. We can’t pretend that it didn’t happen or deny people their very right to exist.”

The Dem’s typical “that doesn’t deserve a response” is out of date. It doesn’t work on hateful Republican rhetoric. McMorrow shows us how it’s done.

We need to get used to this, because it’s going to be a main talking point for Republicans through the 2022 mid-terms and beyond. In response, it isn’t enough for Democrats to “just go high”. They need to start attacking Republicans for how weird and abnormal they are.

You probably saw the many humorous takes on Tucker Carlson’s weirdo testicle-tanning video. Really, these guys get to accuse others of sexual problems?

And there’s Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who may actually soon be a convicted pedophile. You remember Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was implicated in allegations of sexual misconduct against the Ohio State wrestling team’s former team doctor. Or Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) then-future husband who was arrested for exposing himself to two young women at a Colorado bowling alley (she was present), and he was later arrested for domestic violence against her while they were dating.

These are the people who are screaming “pedophiles” at Dems.

Wrongo doesn’t often suggest paying attention to James Carville, but on MSNBC over the weekend he said: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[Republicans] have learned over a period of time it doesn’t matter” what they say or do, Carville complained. “[Democrats] are weak and all they’re gonna do is talk bad about each other.”

Carville pointed out how little pushback Democrats made against the pedophilia-obsessed GOP Senators during the Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown-Jackson.

Charlie Pierce reminds us of how there is a straight line from the McMartin case in 1990 to where we are today. McMartin showed how hysteria over purported sexual abuse of children in schools can grip our society. Despite a complete lack of reputable evidence against the teachers and workers at McMartin Preschool, the McMartin trials took over six years and cost more than $13.5 million without a single guilty verdict resulting from the 208 charges.

Today these accusations are again rampant across the country, only with much more paranoia and way more firearms. America is on the cusp of a revolution, but it’s too early to see exactly what it is coming, or what it will become.

We now live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable for a politician to demonize those who don’t share their belief system. Someone can take to Twitter or send out a fundraising email and savage a person either to score cheap political points or add a few bucks to their political war chest.

The Republicans are essentially a new Party since its hostile takeover by Trump. Democrats have to look all the way back to FDR for a takeover model. He overthrew the old political order with the New Deal.

We’re seeing a well-organized, well-funded, (and effective in its way), Republican assault on democracy itself: They have willed into existence a Supreme Court supermajority that cares about its social agenda as much as it cares about the “law”. The GOP’s Senate and House ranks are filled with adherents to that same agenda.

Nearly half of America agrees with them because they promise revenge against people they despise. We face a risk in 2024 of Trump winning a filibuster-proof trifecta [House, Senate, White House] with a minority of the national vote.

We can no longer afford to “go high”. Everyone knows the stakes.

What will Democrats do to win?


Texas Wingnuttery

The Daily Escape:

Easter morning at Lake Tapps, with Mt. Rainer in background, Pierce County, WA – April 2022 photo by Motojw Photography. This picture was cropped by Wrongo to fit the blog’s page. View the original photo here.

Two examples of Texas wingnuttery, and it’s only Tuesday. First, the WaPo has an article showing how Conservative groups are teaming up with politicians to remove books and to change membership of local library boards:

“In early November, an email dropped into the inbox of Judge Ron Cunningham, the silver-haired head chair of the governing body of Llano County in Texas’s picturesque Hill Country. The subject line read ‘Pornographic Filth at the Llano Public Libraries.’”

The author was Bonnie Wallace, a local church volunteer who had attached an Excel spreadsheet with 60 books she found objectionable, including those about transgender teens, sex education and race, including “Between the World and Me,” by author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Not long after, the county’s chief librarian sent the list to Suzette Baker, head of one of the library’s three branches:

“She told me to look at pulling the books off the shelf and possibly putting them behind the counter. I told them that was censorship,”

In January, commissioners voted to dissolve the existing library board and created a reconstituted board of mostly political appointees, including many of the citizens who had complained about books. They named Ms. Wallace the vice chair of a new library board stacked with conservative appointees some of whom didn’t even have library cards.

Later, Baker was fired, and Llano joined a growing number of communities across America where conservatives have mounted challenges to books and other content they deem to be inappropriate.

A movement that started by influencing school boards has now expanded to public libraries. They accounted for 37% of book challenges last year, according to the American Library Association. Conservative activists in several states, including Texas, Montana and Louisiana have joined forces with like-minded officials to dissolve libraries’ governing bodies, rewrite or delete censorship protections, and remove books outside of official challenge procedures.

No one is forced to go to a public library. If someone goes to a public library, nobody is forcing that person to read a book while there, or to take a book out of the public library. It’s called a “public” library for a reason. The library serves all of the public, not just a small interest group (or individual) who feels they have the right to decide what all citizens should or shouldn’t read.

The issue is denial of public access.

Second, the NYT reports that a Texas state legislator warned Citigroup that he would introduce a bill to prevent the bank from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinded its policy covering travel expenses for employees who go outside their state to seek an abortion. This Texas politician is attempting to dictate a national anti-abortion policy:

Citigroup stated in a filing on Tuesday that it would provide travel benefits to employees seeking abortions outside their state, “in response to changes in reproductive health care laws in certain states.” Last year, Texas enacted a law that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. The law took effect in September.”

It’s important to remember Enron, a now-defunct Texas corporation known for its massive accounting fraud, used to threaten banks with withdrawing all of their business if the bank’s analysts gave accurate opinions about Enron’s stock. It appears that remains a model for Republican governance.

Lots of high tech companies have diversity programs and progressive employee policies. Many have extensive operations in Texas. It’s going to take some time but Texas will suffer disinvestment as companies move elsewhere.

Because Texas is becoming Taliban country.

Here’s a long quote from Oliver Cromwell, speaking to the Rump Parliament on April 20, 1653, the day he dissolved it. He could easily be speaking to today’s Republican Party:

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!”


Monday Wake Up Call – April 18, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Sequoia Lake, CA – April 2022 photo by An Pham

Today is tax day, and Wrongo will get his in on time. But the question of how America deals with its taxing is rightly under scrutiny. Blog reader Ottho H. commented on Wrongo’s Sunday post about the IRS:

“To me it’s an enduring mystery, and a source of anger and disgust, why Congress starves the IRS…. Doubling the IRS budget (by, say, $12B per year) seems like the best and most “sure thing” ROI the gov’t can make….To the extent that the “starve or defund the IRS” movement is due to lobbies and Congressmen out to protect and further enrich the already rich, then at least that should be made more transparent to the public. This is a no-brainer cause that I can get behind.”

The IRS is chronically underfunded. Government data show that millionaires and billionaires are rarely audited, while lower-income families are disproportionately targeted (five times more likely) for enforcement actions. The agency is severely understaffed. It works with outdated technology, meaning that any paper returns must first be transcribed into a computer. It also means hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes go uncollected.

The answer to so many of the IRS’s woes: antiquated tech systems, congested phone lines, threadbare enforcement –  is more funding. It’s one of the few federal agencies that would generate a large and nearly immediate return on investment if it could spend more.

But many Republicans don’t want to fix it. Yesterday’s WaPo article quoted Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL):

“This additional money for the IRS to target all Americans is absolutely wrong…It will target our families, it’s going to target our small businesses, and it’s going to go after them to get them to pay more money.”

And Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) about how new IRS funding would be used:

“We know that most of this $80 billion will be used to enhance the ability of the IRS to target middle Americans…”

The Economist says that the IRS entered this tax season with a backlog of 24 million returns, 20 times worse than normal. At the end of this tax season, it will be nearly two years late in processing many of our returns:

“Spending [at] the agency has declined by nearly 20% since 2010. At the same time, the number of tax returns has increased by 20%. The backbone of the system, a nationwide taxpayer database, is built on top of a 1960s computer language rarely taught in schools.”

The IRS is in the process of hiring 10,000 workers to help clear the backlogs, but the biggest challenge is retaining their senior auditors. About a fifth of agency staff are eligible for retirement. Many have already left as a result of Covid, and they were exactly the kind of people needed to maintain the agency’s enforcement efforts.

The Economist says that the IRS audited 0.3% of corporate tax returns filed in 2018, down from 1.6% in 2010. The number this year may be even lower. They quote Charles Rettig, IRS Commissioner, as estimating that the government loses about $1 trillion in tax revenues annually because of cheating.

Even if new funding is appropriated, it will take time to re-build the agency. Money that is appropriated now for that purpose would be spent over the course of the next fiscal year (which ends on 9/30/2023) and the effects of those reforms probably wouldn’t start to show in the statistics until then.

It’s always been easier to destroy than it is to build. Credit the GOP for understanding this truth.

Time for the Republicans in Congress to wake up! No one likes paying taxes. Even for those who recognize that there’s a societal gain when we all pay them, filing our tax returns is a hassle. It’s time we had a better funded agency that could return the enforcement efforts back toward the richest corporations and wealthy individuals first.

To help our Congress Critters wake up, watch and listen to Mavis Staples perform “Love and Trust” from her album “Live in London”, recorded in 2018 at London’s Union Chapel. She’s joined by Jump Bluesman Rick Holmstrom on his Telecaster:

Sample Lyric:

The simplest things can be the hardest to do
Can’t find what you’re looking for even when it’s looking for you
The judge and criminal, the sinner and the priest
Got something in common, bring em all to their knees

Do what you can, do what you must
Everybody’s trying to find the love and trust
I walk the line, I walk it for us
See me out here tryin’ to find some love and trust
(Love and trust)
(Love and trust)


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 17, 2022

It’s Easter Sunday for those who celebrate it. For Wrongo, it’s the final push to finish our taxes that are due on Monday. This time of year is always a painful reminder that roughly a quarter of the fruits of our labor go to Washington and Hartford. And if you need help? Well, that ship has sailed. The IRS is currently answering only 1 in 5 phone calls.

As Helene Olen says in the WaPo:

“This isn’t incompetence…It’s the result of a…decades-long and mostly successful campaign by…Republicans…to demean and defund the IRS. As a result, the…agency is severely understaffed and working with outdated technology. Which means hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes are uncollected…”

More from Olen:

“Yet many Republicans don’t want to fix it. They are pushing back against President Biden’s plan — part of his Build Back Better agenda — to give the IRS $80 billion over the next decade to improve its operations.”

Also, an interesting fact from the UK’s Financial Times about the inventiveness of the Ukrainian soldiers:

“The Russian attempt to take Kyiv was defeated by a combination of factors including geography, the attackers’ blundering, Ukrainian ingenuity, and modern arms….Moscow’s forces were thwarted, too, by pieces of foam mat — the Ukrainians call them karemats — costing as little as £1.50. The mats prevent Russian thermal imaging drones from detecting human heat “

Apparently the Ukrainian troops held the karemats over their heads, allowing them to move undetected at night, so soldiers armed with anti-tank weapons could sneak up on the Russians, fire their rockets and then slip away. Karemats are used throughout Ukraine and Russia.

An equivalent Pentagon human body heat cloaking system would cost $100k per. On to cartoons.

Is the tax game rigged? You betcha:

Ukraine also sank Russia’s Black Sea flagship, Moskva:

The NRA was joined by Marjorie Taylor Greene in spouting craziness about NYC:

Jared Kushner gets paid for services rendered, and the elephant wants you to look away:

GOP says Right to Choose isn’t limited:

Bunny is accepted while kids are not:


Saturday Soother – April 16, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Water Lilies, Balboa Park, San Diego CA – April 2022 photo by Sharyl Edmiston Mitchell. Like Monet but in focus.

Three items for your review this Saturday. First, the watchdog group American Oversight published emails that revealed Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, asked Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to join a weekly coalition meeting of conservatives with ties to a group she founded called Groundswell.

She suggested that DeSantis’ office would be familiar with her because her husband had been in contact with the governor “on various things as of late.” That was in February.

DeSantis has two policy items that are likely to go before the Court: Florida’s Congressional redistricting map (drawn under DeSantis’s supervision) and Florida’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Could these be among the “various things” that DeSantis and Clarence Thomas discussed?

We may never know because the Supreme Court has no enforceable code of ethics and no mechanism for reporting ex parte communications between justices and politicians or lobbyists. We’re headed backwards in America: Our sadness is that a minority, aided by the Supreme Court will now define what America really is.

Second, A 26-year-old black Grand Rapids, Michigan man was administered the death penalty by a cop for a minor traffic violation after he resisted arrest. Patrick Lyoya was a Congolese refugee who came to the US fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. Wrongo will not present one or more of the gratuitous violence porn videos of the incident that are all over the internet.

Here’s a chart showing just how many more people are killed by cops in America vs. those killed in other wealthy countries:

Note that cops in other developed countries don’t kill very many people. For a cop to kill somebody in Western Europe or Japan, it is extraordinarily rare. In comparison, three people are killed by cops every day here in the land of the free.

On the other hand, there are 300 million guns out in the wild in the US. That’s surely making police more trigger-happy than cops in the rest of the civilized world. While that’s true, US police work isn’t nearly as dangerous as the police unions want you to believe, since death by Covid was the leading cause of police death for the second year in a row.

The typical take on this will be “You won’t die if you don’t run from the police.” That’s reasonable in the abstract, But should failure to comply with established Best Practices for America’s Docile Citizenry be a death sentence? That’s an authoritarian mindset.

There may be situations where it is legitimate to shoot a fleeing suspect to prevent the actual threat of death or severe bodily injury; but this was not one of those cases. Police now have the mentality that their primary goal is achieving compliance with their orders in every situation, and whatever they need to do to achieve that is ok. They’re wrong, it isn’t ok.

Third, old US Senators have got to retire. We currently have the oldest Senate in US history. From the WaPo:

“Twenty-three members of the Senate are in their 70s; only one is under 40. According to the Congressional Research Service, the average age of senators at the beginning of this year was 64.3 years — the oldest in history.”

And this part of the story is both sad and unnerving at the same time:

“Colleagues worry Dianne Feinstein is now mentally unfit to serve, citing recent interactions.”

The article quotes other Senators on her failing mental acuity. Feinstein’s term runs until January 2025.

With all that’s wrong, it’s time to leave the news of the week behind and focus on centering ourselves so we can try to handle next week’s horrors. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Spring has sprung on the fields of Wrong. The forsythia and daffodils are blooming. We’ve mulched all plants and trees; the lawns have been dethatched and seeded. It’s still too early to put out the garden furniture, but our plans to create a pollinator garden are proceeding.

To help you center yourself, start by brewing up a big mug of Dark Matter coffee ($17.00/12 oz.) made by San Diego’s own West Bean coffee roasters.

Now grab a comfy chair by a south-facing window and since this weekend is important to three of our great religions, settle back and listen to Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus”. Mozart composed this motet in D major in 1791 during the last year of his life to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.

Here it is performed by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge directed by Daniel Hyde. It is from the BBC’s “Easter from King’s 2022” broadcast on BBC Two today:


Monday Wake Up Call – April 11, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Cactus flowers – April 2022 photo by Renee Phillips

The Right-wing Washington Times quotes Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) saying on CNN’s “State of the Union”, that Congress is mulling whether to issue a criminal referral to the Justice Department against Donald Trump for “unlawfully” seeking to obstruct certification of the 2020 election.

Cheney said that the Jan. 6 House Select Committee has uncovered significant evidence that Trump and aides had acted improperly:

“It’s absolutely clear that what President Trump was dealing with, what the number of people around him were doing, that they knew it was unlawful [and] they did it anyway….I think what we have seen is a massive, well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election.”

But talk is cheap. At a dinner last week, Wrongo was asked if he thought anything would come of the work by the committee. He wasn’t encouraging.

We can infer from Rep. Cheney’s comments that the House panel may have sufficient evidence to make a criminal referral of Trump (or some of his advisors) to the Department of Justice (DOJ). But recent reporting seems to indicate that some Committee members may not have the will to pull the trigger. From the NYT:

“The leaders of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack have grown divided over whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department of former President Donald J. Trump, even though they have concluded that they have enough evidence to do so…”

The question seems to be whether the Committee’s work would somehow hurt the DOJ’s ongoing investigative work:

“The debate centers on whether making a referral — a largely symbolic act — would backfire by politically tainting the Justice Department’s expanding investigation into the Jan. 6 assault and what led up to it.”

Can anyone imagine Republicans having what they thought to be sufficient evidence of a crime acting conflicted about delivering a criminal referral to the DOJ? Say about Hunter Biden or Hillary Clinton, because it might saddle the DOJ’s criminal case with partisan baggage? That’s unimaginable.

For Democrats, this is another failure of political analysis. Even if there had been no Select Committee, and the DOJ decided to prosecute Trump or some of his enablers for Jan.6, the political firestorm would  be consequential, and unending.

Wrongo believes in following process and in patience, but soon, the politics of the mid-terms and the looming 2024 presidential election must also be considered. If the Republicans take control of the House, the Select Committee will be disbanded. In that event, it must wrap up its work right after the November elections.

If you’re hoping that the Democrats will hold the House, then a referral to the DOJ needs to happen right now, regardless of whether that fact has any impact on the deliberations inside the DOJ.

We already know what is the worst thing that can happen. It’s that Democrats lose both the House and Senate in November. Having the Select Committee stay silent now as an act of political expediency simply shows voters that Democrats do not have what it takes to lead in the 21st Century.

Voters need to see Democrats willing to fight for justice. No one gets excited about voting for the conflicted or the meek.

This is the third time that we’re trying to hold a thoroughly criminal man and his corrupt regime accountable for the harm they have inflicted on America. The DC Dems’ efforts are a combination of Lucy pulls the football out from under Charlie Brown meets “Groundhog Day”. We’ve seen this over and over and over again.

It is now time for Merrick Garland and the DOJ to prevent a seismic collapse of our civil society and our democracy.

It’s also time for Congressional Democrats to wake up! There is nothing to be gained by failing to deliver a tsunami of criminal referrals to the DOJ. To help them wake up, here’s the masterful slide guitar player Roy Rogers (not THAT Roy Rogers) doing his version of “Terraplane Blues”. “Terraplane Blues” was written and recorded in 1936 by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Back then, the Terraplane was a brand of car built by the Hudson Motor Car Company between 1932 and 1938. They were inexpensive, yet powerful vehicles.

In the Terraplane Blues, Johnson uses the Terraplane Car as a metaphor for sex. His car won’t start, and Johnson suspects that his girlfriend let another man drive it when he was gone. Here’s Roy Rogers playing at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room in 2001:


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 10, 2022

Jonathan V. Last had a thoughtful essay that asked the question, “What if Democrats do everything right and still lose?” He’s speaking about the Dems’ poor mid-term polling. Last describes polls showing that people who benefited from the Child Tax Credit passed by Democrats nonetheless favor Republicans going into 2022:

“Inside the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan was the most substantively pro-family agenda item in a generation: A child tax credit that put real money into the pocket of just about every family….The child tax credit was the ultimate kitchen-table issue. Then Republicans killed it. They own…the act of taking this money away from working families.”

Last feels that the current political moment isn’t actually about kitchen-table issues. He points to the Ohio Senate race between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican Josh Mandel:

“The Ohio Democrat is running on jobs, healthcare, infrastructure, and national security. The Ohio Republican is running on Trump, abortion, Christian nationalist identity, guns, RINOS, the Bible, and bitcoin.”

If Tim Ryan loses this race, it won’t be because Dems are blowing off working-class voters by refusing to focus on the real, kitchen-table issues that affect their lives. It’s looking like the electorate has become entirely untethered to policy concerns and have reached a point of nihilism.

Despite this environment, let’s not impose arbitrary timelines on achieving success. Just ask newly minted Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. On to cartoons.

Same as it ever was:

Palin runs again:

Ukraine gives Putin a few new stories:

The definition of Red State has changed:

Will the Russian Army really fit in the smaller dolls?

Tiger returns:


Saturday Soother – April 9, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Perhaps the most important selfie ever? Via POTUS

A few items for today. First, the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court on Thursday, making her the first-ever Black woman and former public defender to serve on the nation’s highest court. Every Democrat voted for her, plus three Republicans: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME) and Mitt Romney (UT). When the vote was over, the Senate chamber erupted with applause, but not by most Republicans.

Here’s a video of the many Republican Senators walking out amid applause for the new Associate Justice:

It was a bad moment for the White Nationalists of the GOP. Is it Wrongo, or has the Republican Party turned itself into a fountain of sexual innuendo and legal intrusion into our lives? Robert Reich agrees:

“…it’s part of their culture war, and culture wars sell with voters (and the media) eager for conflict and titillation. A culture war over sex sells even better. It lets Republicans imply that Democrats are somehow on the side of sexual “deviants” who endanger the “natural order…a culture war over sex allows Republicans to sound faux populist without having to talk about the real sources of populist anger — corporate-induced inflation at a time of record corporate profits, profiteering and price gouging….[and] stagnant wages…and by focusing on pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion, Republicans don’t have to talk about Trump and January 6.

Hate, whether against Justice Jackson or aspects of American culture, is like a hard drug. It’s destructive to the users and to everyone around them. And they will always need bigger hits of it.

Second, Tim Snyder posted about the Russian policy guiding its war in Ukraine: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Russia has just issued a genocide handbook for its war on Ukraine.  The Russian official press agency “RIA Novosti” published last Sunday an explicit program for the complete elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such.  It is still available for viewing, and has now been translated…into English.”

Snyder says that since the war began, “denazification” in Russian usage simply means the destruction of the Ukrainian state and nation.  A “Nazi,” as the genocide manual explains, is simply a human being who self-identifies as Ukrainian. According to the handbook, the establishment of a Ukrainian state thirty years ago was the “Nazification of Ukraine”.

The genocide handbook explains that the Russian policy of “denazification” is not directed against Nazis in the sense that the word is normally used. The handbook grants, with no hesitation, that there is no evidence that Nazism, as generally understood, is important in Ukraine. It operates within the special Russian definition of “Nazi”: A Nazi is a Ukrainian who refuses to admit to being a Russian.

The money quote from Snyder:

“As a historian of mass killing, I am hard pressed to think of many examples where states explicitly advertise the genocidal character of their own actions right at the moment those actions become public knowledge….Legally, genocide means both actions that destroy a group in whole or in part, combined with some intention to do so.  Russia has done the deed and confessed to the intention.”

Perhaps then it isn’t a surprise that Russia quit the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday shortly after it was suspended for atrocities in Ukraine. The UN General Assembly voted 93 to 24 to suspend Russia on Thursday, with 58 abstentions. What Snyder has reported deserves a global audience. It seems that throwing Russia out of the UN should be the next step.

Enough of this week’s news. It’s time for our Saturday Soother, a precious few moments when we avoid the political yelling and focus on gathering ourselves for the coming week.

We’ve finally heard the peepers on the Fields of Wrong. The lawns are greening up, buds are on most trees and bushes, and it’s turkey romance season. We have a resident group of seven female and two male turkeys. This week, the males are preening around and spreading their tail feathers while the females run in the opposite direction. We expect that will turn into fraternization next week.

To kick off your Saturday, take a few minutes and brew up a mug of Two Dog coffee ($17.50/lb.) from Clearwater, FL’s Blazing Bean Roasters. Now grab a seat by a window and watch and listen to another arrangement of classical music by the Korean group LAYERS who we have featured before. This time, listen to their take on Bizet’s “Fantasy” from his opera “Carmen”. Here it is arranged for two cellos, violin, and piano: