Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 15, 2021

Sorry there wasn’t a Saturday Soother this week. Instead of writing for you, Wrongo and Ms. Right went to an outdoor concert at New Jersey’s PNC Arts Center. It’s an outdoor amphitheater that seats about 7,000, with lawn seating for maybe another 10,000.

Very few people wore masks, but NJ doesn’t require masking at outdoor venues. And they didn’t check for vaccine cards. Will the show we saw become a super-spreader event? Let’s hope not.

The 2021 summer concert season has seen conflict over masking and vaccination requirements. With the spread of the Delta variant, a loose consensus has taken shape. Starting in October, fans must provide proof of vaccination, or a negative test at most venues. Some venues and artists already insist on them.

But the decision process is complex. States like NJ have a say, and so do the artists. Live Nation and AEG Presents, the two global companies that dominate the concert business, have each announced that, by October, most venues and festivals they control in the US will require vaccinations or negative tests for entry.

We all need think about our personal response to seeing concerts in light of this from Fortune:

“In short: There is now mounting evidence that mRNA-based vaccines such as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s lose potency over time and especially against the Delta variant, and that the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy drop is significantly more dramatic.

More: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…discouraging new research from the Mayo Clinic forced investors to question how long the Pfizer vaccine remains effective at preventing coronavirus infections and protecting those who are vaccinated from getting sick with a Delta variant case. Pfizer’s shot may be significantly less effective than Moderna’s against breakthrough infections (42% efficacy for Pfizer/BioNTech versus 76% for Moderna), according to the data…”

The Mayo Clinic study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, noted that between January and July, Moderna’s jab was 86% effective at preventing infection, while Pfizer’s was 76% effective. But for the month of July alone, those numbers fell to 76% for Moderna and 42% for Pfizer. Researchers observed similar drops for the Pfizer shot outside of Minnesota in states with high COVID counts such as Florida.

If this trend holds true in peer-reviewed research, public health officials, drugmakers and medical institutions will have to rethink their approach to fighting the Delta variant. In fact, we may need to think carefully about how we will live if Covid becomes endemic.

The good news is that for now, if you are vaccinated but infected, you probably won’t need hospitalization, and you most likely won’t die. The bad news is you won’t know you’re infected until symptoms set in, meaning you can still spread the virus to anyone you meet.

Do the world a favor. Wear a mask. On to cartoons.

The race that never ends:

Opposition to basic safety will literally be the death of us:

One way to get school kids masked up:

One way to convince the vaccine hesitant:

New Census worries GOP:

DC has wrong priority for infrastructure:

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Census Data Shows Big Changes Coming

The Daily Escape:

Big Balanced Rock, Chiricahua National Monument, AZ – photo by Arnaud Barré

From the WaPo:

“For the first time in the history of the country’s census-taking, the number of White people in the United States is widely expected to show a decline when the first racial breakdowns from the 2020 Census are reported this week.”

The headline news includes these facts: For the first time, the portion of White people could dip below 60%, and the under-18 population is likely to be majority non-White. In 26 states, the number of Whites has declined. Up to six states and DC could have majorities of people of color.

In case anyone was wondering what was motivating all the Republican voting restrictions, this is it.

The actual data will be released later today. So there’s at least some chance that the WaPo and Wrongo are well, wrong about the census results. That’s unlikely, since the numbers have been moving in this direction for years. More from the WaPo:

“Estimates from 2016 to 2020 show that all of the country’s population growth during that period came from increases in people of color. The largest and most steady gains were among Hispanics, who have doubled their population share over the past three decades to almost 20% and who are believed to account for half of the nation’s growth since 2010. They are expected to drive about half the growth in more than a dozen states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.”

The WaPo quotes William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The trend is projected to continue, with Whites falling below 50% nationally around 2045…[and] at that point, there will be no racial majority in the country. Between 2015 and 2060, the Hispanic and Asian populations are expected to approximately double in size, and the multiracial population could triple due to both immigration and births.”

America is heading into uncharted territory. Our older generations will be much Whiter than younger ones. Racial minorities will drive the growth in the US labor force as White Boomers retire. Frey calls what’s about to happen a “cultural generation gap”.

This could mean that both groups may compete for resources. For example, public spending on services for seniors versus spending on schools or job training.

The new data are also expected to reflect continuing ethnic diversification of the suburbs. Now, more minorities live in suburbs than live in cities. Frey says that the vast majority of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties and its more than 350 metropolitan areas became less White in the past decade.

All of this has tremendous implications for social cohesion. Cities and states that want to sustain economic growth will need strategies to attract minorities. That’s already happened in places such as Kansas, the Philadelphia metro area, Miami-Dade County, and Prince George’s County, MD.

How predominantly White boards of directors manage predominantly diverse management teams and workers could be a big challenge.

The data release comes amid concerns over its accuracy. The 2020 count had huge problems, including the Trump administration’s attempts to add a citizenship question and block undocumented immigrants from being counted. On top of that, the pandemic caused major delays for the survey.

This release also provides the first look at whether last year’s count missed significant numbers of minorities. Arizona, along with Texas and Florida, each fell short of expectations with smaller gains in Congressional seats than projected.

The big event is that release of the Census data kicks off this decade’s Congressional seat redistricting. The clock is now ticking for states to draw new Congressional maps. The fact that the data are already late creates a scramble among most states to finish their maps before primaries begin next year.

In addition to questions about data accuracy, get ready for a new round of “white replacement” tirades from the Right. Expect to see a revival of the debate over whether the undocumented should be counted in the Census. Expect a fresh wave of Right-Wing anger directed against America’s minority populations.

Our ugly politics will probably get uglier, at least for a while.

It’s ironic that Republicans are both completely resistant to more support for families, although they complain loudly about the declining share of the White population.

It isn’t only people of color who need better policies – like more parental leave; control of healthcare costs; housing affordability; and better and cheaper childcare. It’s also those Millennials and GenZ’ers who are of child-bearing age who can’t afford kids.

Protecting voting for all Americans is the most important priority for Congress. Particularly now, as it seems clear that Republicans are trying to bail on democracy.

Why? Because it’s hard to promote White supremacy to non-white people.

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Biden Shouldn’t Backtrack on Afghanistan

The Daily Escape:

Low tide, Wellfleet, Cape Cod, MA – July 2021 photo by Jennifer O’Leary

Ever since Biden decided to pull out of Afghanistan, the media are filled with stories about how the Taliban are on the march, and how the Afghan government is giving way before them. From the Guardian:

“The Taliban have now overrun six provincial capitals in mere days. On Sunday the group claimed a huge symbolic victory when its fighters seized Kunduz, a strategic city close to the border with Tajikistan and an important political and military hub.”

From the WaPo:

“The recent developments and gains in Afghanistan mark a sharp escalation in the pace of Taliban gains across Afghanistan, which for months had been focused on taking control of districts and increasing pressure on urban areas.“

From the NYT:

“The response from the US military to the Taliban gains was muted, showing clearly that the US’s 20-year war in Afghanistan is over and that it is for the Afghan forces to retake the cities overrun by the Taliban.”

Many politicians and former military have crawled back in front of microphones to pronounce the final withdrawal of US troops a strategic mistake. One retired UK general raised the specter of Afghanistan becoming once again, a base for international terrorism.

The thing these people aren’t saying is that the US had only 2500 troops in Afghanistan just before announcing the pull-out, a number that wasn’t going to provide significant resistance to the Taliban. And it wasn’t sufficient to blunt a return of terrorists.

What we had was a token force with a primary responsibility to protect the US embassy.

Many media outlets are opining on how the Afghan conflict has entered a new, deadlier, and more destructive phase. Foreign Policy reports that the Taliban’s military tactics may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The NYT is saying that the situation on the ground lays bare a difficult predicament for Biden.

It’s clear that for years, most of the fighting with the Taliban happened in the country’s rural areas. Now, the Taliban are pushing into cities, and many more civilians will be injured or killed. The first thing the Taliban do in each city they capture is free Taliban prisoners and seize truckloads of weapons from police and military headquarters before the US can bomb them.

This allows them to increase their numbers, and arm them, despite taking casualties.

All of this, and the looming end of the role of women as near-equal members of Afghan society, has caused a paroxysm of regret in the media for ending our 20-year effort at nation-building in Afghanistan.

But what’s wrong with Biden staying the course, doing what he said he was going to do? He needs to hold firm, even though there will likely be a “fall of Saigon” moment sometime soon.

In less than 20 years after WWII, the US helped to create functioning democracies in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Each of those successes involved nations with cohesive populations.

That’s not the case in Afghanistan: The Hazara, the Uzbek, the Pashtun, the Tajik all (more or less) detest each other. The Shiite and Sunni factions feel the same. This was never going to be a unified and functioning democracy. That wouldn’t be cured by 20 more years of American occupation.

Adam Tooze, economist at Columbia University, reminds us that our 20-year intervention in Afghanistan has cost the US over $2.2 trillion dollars. In his blog post, “Afghanistan’s economy on the eve of the American exit” he tells us that despite Afghanistan’s huge economic needs, the ratio of military to civilian development spending was in the order of ten to one. But in many years, Western aid spending exceeded the Afghan GDP.

He asks: Where did the money go?

The answer is that tens of $ billions were swallowed by corruption. Wealthy Afghans became large property owners in the Gulf states. Today, Afghanistan’s most valuable crop is opium, which isn’t part of their GDP statistics. And since the early 2000s, opium cultivation has progressively increased.

Tooze points out the two successes: Afghan life expectancy has increased, driven by a rapid fall in infant mortality and big life expectancy gains for women. Women now outlive the men. Second, university enrollment: the number of students enrolled in universities has risen from 30,000 in 2003, to more than 180,000. In 2018, there were 49,000 female students vs. 7,200 in 2003.

Despite the good news, as per capita income increased, so has the poverty rate. Today, over half of Afghanistan’s population are officially counted as poor.

The widespread corruption and failed economic development only make rural Afghanistan a prime recruiting ground for the Taliban. The country is most likely on the verge of civil war. OTOH, it’s been a long time since the Taliban tried to manage a city. Kabul now has about 4 million residents. Let’s leave the closing thought to Tooze:

“What kind of regime could be established by the Taliban over such a city? What kind of future can they deliver for Afghanistan and for their constituency in the countryside? Little wonder that the Taliban have been assiduously courting Beijing. Afghanistan needs all the friends it can get.”

Wrongo has written 48 columns about US policy in Afghanistan. It’s doubtful that this is the last, but let’s hope we’re nearly there.

Leaving Afghanistan should prompt us to rethink our country’s place in the world: Should our military always be the first tool out of the toolbox? What did the US gain from being enmeshed in the Greater Middle East for the past 50 years?

Leaving Afghanistan should lead to a reckoning about these questions, and a consideration about what a more modest and realistic future US foreign policy would look like.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 9, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Zen Garden, Fields of Wrong, CT – 2015 photo by Wrongo

Some of Wrongo’s readers also follow Heather Cox Richardson, a Boston College history professor who writes an extremely successful blog called “Letters from an American“. She has the gift of seamlessly moving from speaking about America’s history to today’s politics. Last week, she had a column that Wrongo thinks everyone should read.

In it, she gives us a quick review of what led up to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Here is a long quote:

“Fifty-six years ago today, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. The need for the law was explained in its full title: “An Act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution, and for other purposes.”

In the wake of the Civil War, Americans tried to create a new nation in which the law treated Black men and white men as equals. In 1865, they ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing enslavement except as punishment for crimes. In 1868, they adjusted the Constitution again, guaranteeing that anyone born or naturalized in the United States—except certain Indigenous Americans—was a citizen, opening up the suffrage to Black men. In 1870, after Georgia legislators expelled their newly seated Black colleagues, Americans defended the right of Black men to vote by adding that right to the Constitution.

All three of those amendments—the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth—gave Congress the power to enforce them. In 1870, Congress established the Department of Justice to do just that. Reactionary white southerners had been using state laws, and the unwillingness of state judges and juries to protect Black Americans from white gangs and cheating employers, to keep Black people subservient. White men organized as the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize Black men and to keep them and their white allies from voting to change that system. In 1870, the federal government stepped in to protect Black rights and prosecute members of the Ku Klux Klan.

With federal power now behind the Constitutional protection of equality, threatening jail for those who violated the law, white opponents of Black voting changed their argument against it.

In 1871, they began to say that they had no problem with Black men voting on racial grounds; their objection to Black voting was that Black men, just out of enslavement, were poor and uneducated. They were voting for lawmakers who promised them public services like roads and schools, and which could only be paid for with tax levies.

The idea that Black voters were socialists—they actually used that term in 1871—meant that white northerners who had fought to replace the hierarchical society of the Old South with a society based on equality began to change their tune. They looked the other way as white men kept Black men from voting, first with terrorism and then with state election laws using grandfather clauses, which cut out Black men without mentioning race by permitting a man to vote if his grandfather had; literacy tests in which white registrars got to decide who passed; poll taxes; and so on. States also cut up districts unevenly to favor the Democrats, who ran an all-white, segregationist party. By 1880 the south was solidly Democratic, and it would remain so until 1964.”

Cox Richardson talks about how a debate raged over whether states or the federal government should control who is allowed to vote in elections. That eventually led to LBJ signing the Act.

She then brings us back to the John Roberts Supreme Court gutting most of the provisions of the Act. First, with the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, and in July, with their decision in Brnovich v. DNC. In the wake of the 2020 election, Republican-dominated states have increased the rate of voter suppression, and the Brnovich decision helps codify their moves. Read the whole thing.

So once again, America faces an existential crisis over voting rights and whether it is the states, or the federal government, that should decide who can vote in our elections. As Wrongo has reported, a recent Pew poll shows that more than two-thirds of Republican voters don’t think voting is a right and believe it can be limited.

There’s still some hope that a voting rights bill can pass before the 2022 mid-terms. That could restore the power of the federal government over the states to enforce them.

Time to wake up America! Without federal oversight of voting, America will slip back into voter suppression. We can easily return to an earlier time that denied voting rights to many Americans.

To help you wake up, listen to Son Volt’s song “Living in the USA” from their new album, “Electro Melodier”. Front man Jay Farrar wonders if we’ve misplaced our collective soul, and how we glue the pieces of a broken country back together:

Sample Lyric:

This land of freedom, all can live the dream they say
With voices crying out and sirens wailing away
Money flows through every back channel door
Cash crowns the king, there’s no limits anymore
Livin’ in the USA

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 8, 2021

The Commonwealth Fund’s August 4 report says that the US health care system ranked dead last among 11 wealthy countries, despite spending the highest percentage of GDP (17%) on health care.

The report considered 71 performance measures in five categories: access to care, the care process, administrative efficiency, health care equity and health care outcomes. The countries analyzed in the report include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the US.

America ranked last on access to care, administrative efficiency, equity, and health care outcomes. We performed well in rates of mammography screening and influenza vaccination for older Americans, as well as the percentage of adults who talked with their physician about nutrition, smoking and alcohol use. But we had the highest infant mortality rate and lowest life expectancy at age 60, compared with all the other countries.

Eric Schneider, the lead author and senior vice president for policy and research at the Commonwealth Fund:

“The US has two health care systems. For Americans with the means and insurance to have a regular doctor…reported experiences with their day-to-day care are relatively good, but for those who lack access, the consequences are stark.”

Our poor performance is nothing new. The US has been in last place in all seven of these studies that the Commonwealth Fund has released since 2004. This is another failure of our political system. Our politicians talk but never act.

On to cartoons. There were lots of Cuomo cartoons, little on Covid, the Olympics or infrastructure this week.

Someone should tell Cuomo the “I Grope Everybody” defense is a terrible defense. A good rule in life is not to touch people you’re not supposed to be touching. Keep your hands to yourself:

Gov. DeSantis explains Florida man’s definition of how to end Covid hesitancy:

The GOP also predicted Sharia law in America, the end of Christmas and death panels:

Remember when Obama wore a tan suit and Republicans went nuts? This week, Biden wore a tan suit to announce the big jobs increase. It was also Obama’s birthday week. It’s an obvious attempt to troll conservatives:

The summer of our discontent:

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Saturday Soother – August 7, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Badlands NP, SD – photo by Nik Eviston

Random end-of-the-week thoughts about Covid. First, from ABC News:

“Seventy percent of US adults ages 18 and older, or roughly 180.7 million Americans, have received at least one vaccine dose, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.”

It’s difficult to get 70% of the American people to agree on anything, but given today’s Delta variant, somehow that doesn’t seem to be nearly enough. We’re down to a hardcore 30% who for all sorts of reasons, arrive at the same conclusion: They’re not getting vaccinated. Some may get vaccinated later, some will never get the shots.

That 30% is not only stopping the rest of us from getting on with a semi-normal life, but they’re also placing the country in grave risk.

Second, it’s always good to remember that the pharmaceutical companies are in the game to make profits. Earlier this week, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna raised prices on their vaccines. Apparently, the European Union now has to pay 25% more than it was paying for the Pfizer vaccine, and 10% more for Moderna’s. Their costs didn’t go up, but their market power has increased. Pfizer has already raised its financial  estimates, telling investors it will generate $33 billion in revenues this year from selling the vaccine.

It’s important to note that neither firm is making enough doses to vaccinate the world. They’re focused on production for rich countries. In general, there isn’t enough vaccine supply. And this makes it much harder to bring the pandemic under control, since poorer countries just can’t get the vaccines they want.

Third, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said recently that immigrants are causing the spread of the Delta variant of Covid. This map from the USA Today refutes his nonsense:

High test positivity is happening nearly everywhere in America. On parts of the southern border where illegal immigration is heavy, the risk is lower than anywhere in Florida.

Finally, From the Morning Brew:

“What does Covid-19 vaccine developer Sarah Gilbert have in common with Beyoncé and Marilyn Monroe? They all have Barbie dolls in their likenesses. Toy company Mattel debuted Barbie dolls modeled after six female health workers fighting on the front lines during the pandemic.”

Here’s Mattel’s lineup of Covid new role model dolls:

Over the decades, Mattel had been criticized for its unrealistic portrait of womanhood with its original Barbie, a white, blonde, who although turning 60 in 2019, still has that impossible physique. Mattel now offers dolls with careers such as firefighter, doctor, and astronaut, and in a range of skin tones.

These six women all have had important roles in fighting the pandemic, so that’s something new. Also, sales of Barbie dolls last year hit a six-year high.

On Sunday, Wrongo and Ms. Right are attending a new musical, held in an outdoor tent, at the indispensable Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT. Goodspeed, like theaters everywhere are feeling their way forward in a time of increased infections, and we’re happy to support them.

But today is the start of the weekend, and that means it’s time for our Saturday Soother, a few minutes to disengage from the media cacophony, and focus inwardly. It’s a short few moments in which we search for repair and renewal.

To help with that search, grab a seat outdoors if possible, and listen on your wireless headphones to Claude Debussy’s “Nuages” (‘Clouds’) from his “Three Nocturnes”, with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Debussy finished writing the piece in 1899. Stokowski recorded the first two of Debussy’s Nocturnes in 1937. Here is “Nuages”, a musical impression of slow-moving clouds, taken from his 1950 recording, re-engineered to produce a better sound, and reissued on a Cala CD:

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Child Tax Credit Not a Hit With Voters

The Daily Escape:

Cranberry season, Cape Cod, MA – August 2021 photo by Sharon Pilcher Castrichini

The American Rescue Plan included a fully refundable child tax credit. The credit provides $3,600 per year for children under 6, and $3,000 per year for children between 6 and 17. The credit is temporary, for 2021 only. It is paid monthly and phases out for single parents who earn more than $112,500 and married couples earning more than $150,000. The IRS began sending out the monthly Child Tax Credit payments on July 15.

This marks a sea change in government policy towards poor children. For years, the poorest children have been excluded from income support by eligibility rules that made assistance available primarily as a tax credit to families with sufficient income to pay taxes. This new credit, in contrast, is unconditional.

From the WaMo:

“The policy is winning rave reviews from think tanks. The Urban Institute…estimated that this year’s poverty rate will be cut from its 2018 level by 45%….And the Niskanen Center predicted that the credit will boost consumer spending by $27.6 billion and ‘deliver a substantial boost to rural economies across the country.’”

But as with many new policies in this pandemic, reality brings a few hiccups. Roughly 60 million children have already started receiving payments. These kids are in families that filed tax returns with the IRS in 2019 or 2020.

But there are two design flaws. The first is that many of the poorest families do not file tax returns, and hence will not automatically get checks. Approximately 4 million children who are eligible for the payments are falling through the cracks, including 2.3 million whose parents do not file a return. Immigrant parents may be hesitant to the sign-up process because they fear that their personal information would be shared with DHS or Border Patrol.

A second problem is that due to the combination of means-testing and receiving payments in advance, some families will be subject to a nasty year-end surprise when the IRS says they owe more taxes because of these payments.

This leads to two political problems. First, the Dems plan on running in the 2022 mid-terms partly on a message that the child tax credit has done something important for poor people, and that if elected, they plan to make the tax credit permanent.

The problem is, a mid-July Morning Consult poll showed that only 35% of voters said the expansion should “definitely” or “probably” be made permanent, while 52% said the opposite. A YouGov poll from around the same time found only 30% of voters favored permanent expansion, with 46% opposed to it. In both the Morning Consult and YouGov polls, a majority supported the expanded child tax credit for the current year, but not when they were asked whether the extension should be permanent.

This makes it difficult for Dems to find a message that will work if they plan on running on the child tax credit.

The second problem is the price of a permanent program. It will cost the Treasury about $100 billion annually through 2025, and about $190 billion annually after that. A permanent extension of the expanded child tax credit would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Republicans are sure to bring this up when any Democrat says they want to make it permanent.

Passing a permanent child tax credit would also make passing many of the other progressive priorities impossible.

As unpleasant as it is to consider, the recent polling tells us that most voters may not be as in favor of slashing poverty as much as progressive Democrats are. They may have accepted it as a temporary fix to help people (children) survive an economic crisis, rather than as permanent economic policy.

Not every voter is moved by moral appeals to eradicate poverty. Not every voter feels sympathy for the poor. Most voters prioritize their own financial situation above all else. That’s where the Niskanen report can be most helpful, showing that local economies will benefit from the expanded child tax credit, with more consumer spending.

Income inequality is a top problem facing America today and one of the most destabilizing. The expanded child tax credit may be effective (and maybe good policy), but it doesn’t yet seem to be good politics.

The hope that a near-universal policy would forge an allegiance between middle-class, working-class, and poor voters seems as far away as when the bill was passed.

To boost those poll numbers, Democrats must impress voters outside of their political base about the economic gains from the policy.

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Dems Fumble Eviction Response

The Daily Escape

Mt Rainer at sunset, Paradise, WA – July 2021 photo by regulader. 

There’s a political crisis brewing for Democrats in the form of the now-lapsed eviction moratorium. Progressive Democrats are angry at mainstream Dems like Pelosi and Biden for failing to extend the moratorium that expired on August 1.

The moratorium was put in place 18 months ago by the CDC. It has been popular with tenants, but many of them never caught up on their bills, and/or figured out how to access the aid promised under the moratorium.

Landlords sued to end the moratorium, and last month, the Supreme Court allowed the moratorium to remain through the end of July. But at the time, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that any further extensions would require “clear and specific congressional authorization” via new legislation.

While Kavanaugh said that a further extension of the moratorium would require Congressional action, that wasn’t the issue before the court. The issue before the court was whether to vacate a lower court stay. Their decision left the moratorium in place. When a judge expresses views beyond the specifics of the case, it is known as dicta, and is not binding.

So, the administration actually was free to extend the moratorium, and assuming the extension was later challenged in court, they could argue to the Justices that circumstances have changed. Here’s Judd Legum: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

“First, the Delta variant has made it more dangerous to allow millions of evictions to proceed voluntarily. Second, the time that Kavanaugh thought would allow for the orderly distribution of the funds (one month) has not been sufficient.“

But instead, Biden wanted Congress to act. The Congressional Democrats launched an effort to extend the ban, but the House adjourned last Friday without passing a bill. Senate Democrats were also pushing for an extension but didn’t have enough support that would lead to passage.

And now, the Biden administration is in a bind. Moderate Democrats along with Republicans, do not want to see the moratorium extended. Biden doesn’t want it extended either, so maybe we’ll see a deluge of evictions. From The Guardian:

“More than 15 million people live in households that owe as much as $20 billion to their landlords, according to the Aspen Institute. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the US said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.”

On Sunday, Pelosi and other House leaders said that action extending the moratorium “must come from the Administration.” They said that extending the moratorium “is a moral imperative to keep people from being put out on the street which also contributes to the public health emergency.”

But it’s hard for Democrats to hold the moral high ground when they refuse to stand on it. The House hasn’t interrupted its 7-week recess to address the issue.

Progressive Democrats are up in arms. Last weekend, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) led a protest on the Capitol steps to get the attention of her colleagues and the country. She wants Congress to reconvene and extend the national eviction moratorium.

What we’re seeing here is the political power of a freshman Congressperson. Bush has the attention of the media as she sits outside the Capitol. That means the administration and senior Democrats are paying attention. These kinds of political stunts rarely work, but since the Dems are in control of the government, albeit with very slim margins, everything needs to be taken seriously.

OTOH, eviction is purely a state/local process. It’s very difficult to really do much at the federal level. Also, landlords deserve to be paid, and able-bodied renters need to pay their bills. That’s how our system works.

The fact is that tenants and by extension, landlords were promised help and haven’t gotten it. The pandemic has caused a cascade of negative consequences at all levels. But $ billions of taxpayer funds are unused, and available to help landlords, if only they could avail themselves of the opportunity.

The system is set up to convey the payments to landlords, but renters must apply for the money, and too few either know about it, or have availed themselves of the program.

The White House won’t step in. The Dems in the House and Senate can’t be bothered to delay their trips to the Hamptons and the Vineyard to solve the problem. The Republicans, the so-called party of Christianity, will do nothing to help.

Who’s left? AOC and Cori Bush on the steps of the Capitol?

There are rumors that Biden is finally going to do something about this, but no details yet, as of this writing.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 2, 2021

The Daily Escape:

The Sensorio, Paso Robles, CA – This Field of Light display in Paso Robles uses 60,000 fiber-optic stemmed spheres to transform 15 acres of rolling hills into an awesome light show. It is on display until January 2022. Wrongo hopes to visit it later this year.

From Leonard Pitts:

“We were almost there….It was only two months ago the CDC said we could put our masks away.

We were this close to getting this thing under control, to seeing one another smile, to cookouts, to visiting grandpa, to signing off Zoom, to normal. Now we see it all slipping away as inexorably as the tide going out. We return to masking up….”

But now, we’re not so close anymore, and it’s time to stop coddling the reluctants, the vaccine haters, and the angry people who are trying to kill the rest of us by doing nothing to help. Eight months after the first vaccine was approved, vaccine hesitancy persists.

This toxic individualism is making life in America more dangerous than it needs to be. Vaccine mandates are needed. People need to recognize that their choices have consequences. And if it upsets a few politicians and pundit types, so be it.

And vaccinated Americans are getting fed up with being put at risk and potentially forced into further restrictive measures by the politically hostile and belligerently unvaccinated. Many red states have pre-emptively banned any public or private measures to implement restrictions based on vaccination status.

One result is that a wave of businesses, schools and government agencies are spontaneously considering vaccine mandates to lead the country in the exactly right direction. Their efforts are popular, as new polling by The COVID States Project shows:

They questioned a national sample of 20,669 adults between June 9th and July 7th.  From the survey:

  • 64% of respondents said in June or July that they’d support government vaccine requirements.
  • 70% said they’d support vaccine requirements to get on an airplane; 61% support requiring children to be vaccinated to go to school; and 66% support requiring college students to be vaccinated to attend a university.

But as with everything in America, not everyone thinks the same way:

  • A majority of every demographic subgroup except Republicans said they’d support vaccine requirements. Only 45% of Republicans said they approve of such mandates.
  • A majority of respondents in all but three states — Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota — said they support requirements that everyone be vaccinated.

One argument for implementing mandates is that many who remain unvaccinated are increasingly open to it. Nationwide, 16% of those unvaccinated today say they’ll get the vaccine if required, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports.  That’s more than the 14% who said they would never get the vaccine.

Those who haven’t or won’t get vaccinated probably have noticed that the rest of us have gotten angry about having to go back to wearing masks because of them. The nudge could be a mandate, or it could be institutions setting up unpleasant alternatives to getting vaccinated, like more frequent testing or required indoor masking.

From the Intelligencer:

“Mandates wouldn’t necessarily be easy to impose, even with those who aren’t hard-core anti-vaccination. More than 150 workers…resigned…after Houston Methodist required them to get the vaccine this summer. (A federal judge had tossed a lawsuit against the hospital’s mandate).”

This becomes a question of whether workers’ individual rights can be compromised in the name of public health. It may not be possible to make getting vaccinated a condition of employment, but a company, a hospital or a government agency would be within its rights to enforce a regime of daily testing for unvaccinated employees.

Employer mandates may just be the thing that turns the tide:

Since Biden’s election, the Republican strategy has been simple: sabotage the administration’s goal of vaccine-based herd immunity. The idea is that either pandemic-weary voters will rebel at the prospect of a new round of mandates, or the virus will overload ICUs and kill another million Americans by the midterms, which Republicans can blame on Biden and Democrats. That’s something Trump is already doing.

The right is whining about how they won’t take the vaccine without FDA approval. It’s deeply disingenuous for them to whine about the FDA when they willingly took Hydroxychloroquine.

Maybe the FDA should just put the vaccine in Mountain Dew.

Time to wake up America! Let’s end the toxic individualism by taking the shot, so we all can get on with our lives.

To help you wake up, listen to Jack Antonoff, a music producer who’s worked with Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Lana Del Rey. He’s got a solo project, Bleachers, and here is Bleachers’ tune “Stop Making This Hurt”, that touches on the theme of mental health and dealing with a notion of inescapable darkness:

Please, stop making this hurt.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 1, 2021

Ars Technica reported that on Wednesday, the USDA released a survey of the wild deer population in four states that found large numbers of the animals have been exposed to the virus that causes Covid. The study shows that the antibodies ranged from a low of 7% of the samples in Illinois to a high of 60% in Michigan. Overall, a third of the deer tested had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid.

This means that there’s a very large population of wild animals in North America that may serve as a reservoir for the virus, even if we manage to contain its spread among the human population.

Why check deer? The USDA is studying a variety of species to identify which may serve as hosts for the virus, and like mink, deer show evidence of wide-scale infection. It’s possible that these numbers came from a rare transmission by humans to deer, followed by extensive spread within the deer population.

Scientists think that understanding how the transmission took place is critical to determining whether the existence of a large viral reservoir in deer poses a threat to humans. But the truly bad news is that deer are notoriously anti-vaxx. On to cartoons.

It’s not just deer, it’s the sheep, but Charles Darwin approves:

This is why the job is so difficult:

GOP thinks that the Capital Cops who testified in Congress were weaklings:

New disclosures about Trump and the election make it harder for the GOP to hold the line:

Conservatives ought to walk the talk against Biles. Gotta love that right-wing crop top:

Biles gets the important medal:

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