Monday Wake Up Call – June 5, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Blue Ridge mountains, NC – June 2023 photo by Michele Schwartz

It’s getting to be long enough into our economic recovery that we’ve started to ignore the monthly jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Luckily, Simon Rosenberg doesn’t let us forget: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The…BLS jobs report is out and it’s another good one – 339,000 net new jobs, [plus] 432,000…upward revisions from previous months. With this new data my monthly jobs tracker clocks in at:

-33.8m jobs – 16 years of Clinton, Obama

-13.1m jobs – 28 months of Biden

-1.9m jobs – 16 years of Bush, Bush and Trump

Biden’s 13.1m jobs is almost 7 times as many jobs as were created in the 16 years of the last 3 Republican Presidencies, combined.”

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has seen 49 million new jobs created. Remarkably, 47 million of those 49 million jobs were created under Democratic Presidents.

On the Democratic Party’s watch we’ve seen strong economic growth. OTOH, during the same time, Republican presidents have overseen three consecutive recessions. It’s not a stretch to say that the GOP’s economic track record over the past 30 years has been among the worst in US history.

Consider Biden’s record of economic growth:

  • GDP growth under Biden is 3+%, or 3 times what it was under Trump.
  • Almost 7 times as many Biden jobs as last 3 GOP Presidents combined.
  • Best post Covid economic recovery among the G7 countries.
  • Lowest unemployment rate in a peacetime economy since WWII.
  • Lowest poverty/uninsured rates ever.
  • Real corporate earnings up in 2022.

Despite what the GOP is saying to the press about their being deficit hawks, the federal deficit went up every year under Trump, and has come down every year under Biden. Rosenberg adds this helpful chart of GDP growth by president:

So why is it that Americans aren’t convinced that the economy has improved since the pandemic? In a new poll from the AP-NORC, asking if the nation’s economic conditions are in good shape, the percentage who agree is down from 30% last month to 24%. Only a third of Americans in the new survey approve of how Biden’s handling the economy, while two-thirds disapprove.

In the survey, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to view economic conditions favorably, but just 41% of them say the economy’s good and only 7% of Republicans agree. And both numbers are down from the previous month for both Parties.

Now this may be at least partially due to the Republicans scare tactics about the Debt Ceiling. The Hill reports that this AP-NORC poll is in line with other recent surveys that suggest most Americans think the country’s economy is in poor shape, Other polls also indicate low confidence in the economic leadership team.

Axios suggests a different way to view the economic issue. They looked at Federal Reserve survey data from 2017-2022, which shows that people think they’re personal economy is doing just fine, while they think the national economy is in terrible shape:

This is most likely because of the media’s awfulizing about our economy. Obviously, consumer prices are high, but inflation is coming down. But even if inflation went to zero, today’s prices will still be much higher than Americans were accustomed to pre-pandemic, so people will be complaining.

And we can’t discount the negative impact of Congressional dysfunction about the Debt Ceiling, or all the news bunnies crying about our unsustainable national debt.

Still, our economy continues to do better than even the economists think. The May employment report marked the 14th straight month that more jobs were created than economists expected. Our GDP continues to grow (it’s up more than 5% from its pre-pandemic peak), even after accounting for inflation.

The average US employee now makes $33.44 per hour, 17.5% more than before the pandemic. The stock market is up 10% so far this year, but still, Americans aren’t buying it. Axios’ Felix Salmon reports that while Americans say that they’re broadly happy with their personal finances (above chart), in other polls, a majority consistently think (erroneously) that we’re currently in a recession.

Time to wake up America! Things are rolling along reasonably well, even if they’re not fantastic. We have the best job market in 50 years, and there’s no recession on the horizon. As the Rolling Stones said: “You can’t always get what you want…”. Maybe it’s time to look at the glass as half full.

To help you wake up, watch and listen to Alan Jackson cover Eddie Cochran’s 1958 “Summertime Blues” in 1994. The Blue Cheer had the radio hit with it in 1968. Wrongo loves three versions of this song: Blue Cheer, the Who, and this Allen Jackson cover:


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 4, 2023

Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives or DEI, are intended to address inequities against historically marginalized groups and individuals who are working within an organization. DEI are three closely linked values that work together to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.

DEI has recently come under fire. It’s at the center of some political battles being waged by Republican governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis. Several Red states are considering or have passed legislation targeting DEI in public institutions. Texas passed a bill with a rider banning the use of state funds for DEI programs in universities and colleges. A similar bill to ban spending on DEI in public universities has been advanced in Iowa.

But Chick-fil-A? The same Chick-fil-A that’s given millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ hate groups? The Chick-fil-A that conservatives circled the wagons around a few years ago after liberals criticized the owners for being haters?

They’re taking MAGA fire for creating a DEI policy and hiring someone to oversee the program. MAGA suddenly realized that Chick-fil-A had gone woke! But their program has been around since 2020. On to cartoons.

Nobody is safe:

Signs are everywhere:

MAGA says ya can’t help trans kids:

Our PolyCrisis government:

It’s a very old game, but Trump’s surrounded:

The Sacklers win:

Victory lap for Biden:


Saturday Soother – June 3, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Shenandoah NP, VA – May 2023 photo by Lori May

You’re becoming dimly aware that the Republican Party is assembling a large field of candidates to be its nominee for the presidency in 2024. By Wrongo’s count, there are 14 individuals who have either formally announced a run or are signaling that they will soon announce.

In 2016, Trump won the Party’s nomination against a 17-candidate field. The commonly accepted logic was that the large field refused to take him seriously and failed to rally around a single alternative. This time around, the commonly accepted logic is again that the only way to stop Trump is for the anti-Trump Republicans to coalesce around a single alternative.

Sure, but it hasn’t happened. Why? Because there really aren’t many anti-Trump Republicans. If you look at the list of 14, most of them want to take over Trump’s cult rather than dismantle it.

These people all know what happened last time, and they aren’t dummies. They also know that since leaving office, Trump has gotten 10 more states to award their Republican delegates through winner-take-all primaries, even if the winner receives less than a majority of the votes. The number of winner-take-all Republican primary states has grown from seven to 17.

If the Republican candidate field remains crowded, and Trump gets the most votes (even if it’s only 30%), he’ll win those states.

So what are these other presidential candidates thinking? Some are auditioning for the VP slot. Others may be having a self-absorbed moment. Wrongo thinks there’s also something else going on: These otherwise savvy politicians, who can raise boatloads of campaign money, are betting that Trump will be indicted and most likely convicted by the Department of Justice.

The idea is that Trump will be either so weakened by the criminal indictments and/or convictions that his current base of loyal voters will shrink to the point that he either withdraws or loses the primary fight.

OTOH, the recent blockbuster news from CNN that federal prosecutors have an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting in which Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran is very dangerous to him, if true. From CNN:

“The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records…”

The July 2021 meeting was held at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump met with two people working on the autobiography of his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, as well as aides he formerly employed. CNN offers this vaguely neutral comment:

“The revelation that the former president and commander-in-chief has been captured on tape discussing a classified document could raise his legal exposure as he continues his third bid for the White House.”

A conviction by DOJ would mean that Trump is barred from holding a national office.

Wrongo thinks that at least some of the Republicans in the presidential race are now starting to follow the Breadcrumbs to Indictmentville. With the Former Guy blabbing about war plans in his possession, this seems like a death blow to Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate.

Assuming that the tape is authentic, and that there’s a proper foundation for admissibility in court, Trump may be done for, as a national candidate. It’s hard to imagine that potential plans for a military attack on Iran (if that document exists), wouldn’t qualify as a stolen secret.

And that may be partially what’s driving DeSantis and the other serious Republican presidential candidates.

We’ve reached the weekend without the country defaulting on its debts! Default seemed all too real only a week or two ago. But now, we won’t have to worry about that for a couple of years.

It’s time for our Saturday Soother, where we take a break and consider how we are continually jerked around by the GOP. It will be summer-like in northwestern Connecticut this weekend, and we have a houseful of family.

So, grab a chair outside in the shade. Now, watch and listen to something Wrongo had left over from Memorial Day: There’s a cemetery outside the Dutch city of Maastricht that holds 8,301 American soldiers who died in “Operation Market Garden” in the winter of 1944–45. Every soldier has been adopted by a Dutch family who tends their grave. Annually on “Liberation Day”, memorial services are held for the men who died to liberate the Netherlands. The day concludes with a concert, and “Il Silenzio” is always the concluding piece. It was written in 1965 by trumpet player Nini Rosso and is an extension of the Italian Cavalry bugle call also used by Tchaikovsky to open his Capriccio Italien. (It contains a part of the US military bugle call “Taps“).

This 2008 performance of “Il Silenzio” features a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema on trumpet with André Rieu and the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands:

You won’t be disappointed by the video. It’s ironic and sad that people in other countries remember our war dead better than most Americans do.


The Two-Edged Sword Of Federalism

The Daily Escape:

Mount Evans Road, 14,100′, Idaho Springs, CO – May 26, 2023 photo by Reid Neureiter

Here at the Wrongologist, we often talk about Constitutional rights, but we rarely talk about Federalism. So today, let’s lean into federal vs. states’ rights. We’ll start with the recent Supreme Court decision in Sackett vs. EPA, which concerned the power of the EPA to regulate wetlands. Last week, the Supreme Court concluded that the Clean Water Act only applies to wetlands with “a continuous surface connection” to bodies of water.

This defined what waterbodies are considered waters of the United States (WOTUS), an issue that has been in the courts for years. The ruling narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act, and severely limits the federal government’s ability to regulate wetlands.

Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion affirmed the principle that bureaucrats cannot broadly define statutory language. Alito’s opinion struck a blow for federalism. Federalism is a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. The US Constitution originally divided the exercise of political power between one national and many state governments. The national government is given control over matters affecting the whole nation. All other issues were reserved to the states.

  • Article VI of the Constitution contains the Supremacy Clause, which says that when the laws of the federal government are in conflict with the laws of a state’s government, the federal law supersedes the state law.
  • Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution describes specific powers which belong to the federal government. These powers are referred to as enumerated powers.
  • The Tenth Amendment reserves to the states those powers that are not delegated to the federal government.

The Sackett vs. EPA decision is another step in the Right-wing program to move as much federal government rule-making authority as possible to the states. This is the continuation of Nixon’s efforts to shrink the federal government’s power by devolving decisions to state and local governments. The best recent example of this is the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on abortion that wiped out the precedent set in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed a national right to abortion and passed that responsibility back to the states.

At the same time, the Right is moving to nationalize policy on social issues, from what books to allow on library shelves to limits on transgender rights, a rollback of state environmental actions, and an attack on anything that can be labeled as “woke.”

So we’ve got Red states pushing to centralize decisions about social and cultural issues in Washington, while the Right-wing Supreme Court pushes devolution of voting rights, abortion rights, and indeed national agency rule-making (EPA) to the states.

This 2023 brand of two-way Republican federalism is upending the delicate balance of power between the federal government and state governments. It raises questions about the allocation of authority, cooperation, and the ability of the national government even to define what is a pressing national issue.

Today’s Washington gridlock makes policymaking nearly impossible. That has shifted much of today’s policymaking to the states, where the Parties often have comfortable majorities. Many states (39) have government trifectas, with one Party controlling the governorship while holding majorities in the legislature, making policymaking simpler than in a divided and polarized US Congress.

Interest group activists have followed this trend and focused their efforts on these 39 states. Much of a state’s policies – abortion, voting rights, gun control, immigration, LGBT rights, healthcare, or taxation – are on widely divergent paths. For example:

  • In Democratic states it is easy to vote; in Republican states there are many barriers to voting.
  • In Democratic states fewer people are medically uninsured; in Republican states there are more uninsured people.
  • In Democratic states access to abortion is easier; in Republican states it is harder, if not criminalized.

Although federalism (for now) seems to protect the country from presidents amassing power in dictatorial ways, anti-democratic figures (think DeSantis and Abbott) are able, because of the resurgence of state-level policymaking, to transform Republican states into laboratories against democracy.

The Covid pandemic also put federalism to the test. The response to the pandemic highlighted the tension between national coordination and state autonomy. While the federal government provided guidance and resources, the implementation of measures like lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccination campaigns, was largely left to individual states. This decentralized approach led to significant variations in pandemic response across the country, creating challenges in coordinating efforts and potentially exacerbating the spread of the virus.

Federalism properly implemented, brings government closer to the people and holds it accountable. But when badly implemented, you get the USA in 2023: A country trending toward autocracy.


Thoughts On The Debt Deal

The Daily Escape:

Rosa rugosa, Cape Cod, MA – May 2023 photo by Don Wilding

The holiday is over, and it brought an apparent deal between Biden and McCarthy. But was negotiating with the axe of a default on the national debt hanging over the country worth it? Sure, since it pulled the country back from the fiscal cliff.

But mostly, having to do it at all was stupid, and dangerous. And now, neither Party is completely happy, because both sides had to compromise. Wrongo recommends Noah Smith’s take:

“The recent fight over the debt ceiling, however, seems…like a return to the pointless obstructionism and grandstanding that characterized politics in the 2010s. There was absolutely zero reason for the House GOP leadership to use the debt ceiling — they could have just forced a deal through the normal appropriations process. Few people actually believed that the country’s leaders would let the US default on its sovereign debt due to a random minor budget fight…”

He’s correct, the House is controlled by Republicans. And the Senate also has enough Republicans to control the country’s fiscal budgeting process. They can ensure that what’s included and what’s cut would almost certainly be what Republicans wanted in the final package.

The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein tweeted:

“It’s really something House GOP was willing to risk tanking global economy for such a tangential set of policy goals. Their plan threatened spending on young & low-income but by excluding revenue & entitlements had small impact on overall deficits. Means wildly excessive for ends.”

Despite all of the grandstanding by both Biden and the Republicans, the compromise deal looks like this:

  • A freeze on non-defense discretionary spending in 2024 and a 1% increase in 2025.
  • A 3% increase in defense spending.
  • Expanding work requirements by four years for SNAP (food stamps) and some smaller welfare programs.
  • Resumption of student debt payments (this isn’t a change to Biden’s student debt plan).
  • Reducing IRS funding by $20 billion.
  • Clawing back some unused Covid relief money.
  • Minor changes on permitting to streamline the process of environmental review.

House Republicans had initially demanded huge cuts in spending, which would have been pretty destabilizing to essential programs. These demands may have been simply an initial negotiating tactic. But not getting them in the final agreement might also speak to Biden’s negotiating ability.

Remember that the GOP’s threat to trigger sovereign default was because they think that the level of our national debt is an existential threat. But they wanted to include tax cuts in their original proposal. That would have been nuts since the purpose of their bill was to limit the growth in federal debt.

Remember too that only about 27% of our federal spending is classified as “discretionary”. About 65% is “mandatory” spending, which means that it doesn’t go through the appropriations process. (The remainder is interest on the debt.)

The spending restraint in this deal will affect only the “discretionary” portion, leaving the “mandatory” majority untouched. The “mandatory” portion includes Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, EITC and SNAP.

More from Noah Smith:

“…what frustrates me about this nothingburger of a result is how incredibly costly it was to produce. The House GOP went through months of dramatic, high-stakes negotiations, forced the administration to consider the Fourteenth Amendment and the trillion dollar coin, got the media talking seriously about the prospect of a US sovereign default…. and all that for a little bit of discretionary spending restraint, a few added work requirements for food stamps, and a little defunding of the IRS?….It’s like…a guy walked into a restaurant with a ticking bomb demanding to blow everyone up if he didn’t get a free peppermint!”

We’re unsure if this compromise will actually pass both Houses of Congress. But if it does, it’s another piece of evidence that Republican politics is largely theater/spectacle. That’s why a reality TV star/performance artist like Trump was able to take over the Party.

OTOH, consider this quote from one of our founding fathers:

“Politics…Has Always Been the Systematic Organization of Hatreds” ̶  Henry Adams

Of course, Adams’ comment raises the question of whether politics has to be a systematic organization of hatreds, or if people could be politically active and committed, while in no way giving in to hatred of their opponents? Sounds utopian to Wrongo.

We have to give credit when credit is due. Politics is supposed to be about compromise. And Biden has accomplished a compromise in one of the most partisan, polarized times in our recent political history. If you’re arguing against what Biden did, remember that unless your Party controls every arm of the government, and in particular the Senate with a big majority, you either compromise or you get nothing done.

Want to get your way every time? Win more elections.


Cartoons + Memorial Day Weekend

(There won’t be a Monday Wake Up column this week. Wrongo will return on Wednesday, May 31.)

Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery – 2013 photo by William Coyle

Monday will be Memorial Day, when we honor the sacrifice of those who died fighting in America’s wars. We mourn those we knew, and we pause briefly to remember those we never knew. The American public’s job is to say, “thank you for your service”. Saying it has become a reflex, like “bless you” when someone sneezes. Our default position is to thank, but not to think. For most of us, America’s foreign wars are a kind of elevator music. Always present, but we barely notice it.

Maybe we watch our town’s parade, or shop at the mall. There’s likely to be a cookout. It isn’t about love of country. It’s about sad Facebook emojis, Memorial Day mattress sales, and burgers on Monday. On to cartoons.

The old man remembers the soldier:

RIP Tina Turner:


Requiring a clean Debt Ceiling dies as Biden negotiates with Freedom Caucus:

A handy reminder:


Saturday Soother – May 27, 2023

The Daily Escape:

Milky Way, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park – May 2023 photo by Hasanur Khan

The WaPo’s Paul Farhi writes about “The looming existential crisis for cable news”:

“As recently as 2016, when Trump was narrowly elected president, just over 70% of all households with a TV had cable or satellite TV subscriptions. Today the figure is just under 40%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a research firm.”

And it’s dropping fast:

“During the first quarter of 2023, another 2.3 million customers (or 7% of the total) cut the cord to traditional cable…the number of homes receiving TV via cable is now about the same as it was in 1992, when the industry was still on the rise.”

So, what does this mean for the Cable TV industry? Last year, the licensing fees collected by the six biggest cable news networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox Business and HLN) amounted to just over $4 billion. Advertisers added another $2.6 billion.

Farhi quotes Alan Wolk, a veteran advertising executive and media consultant:

“Cable news is dying….Not because it’s become irrelevant, but because the medium it lives on, cable TV, is dying.”

He predicts that cable could:

“…for all intents and purposes, disappear within a decade”.

The popular cable networks are profitable, largely because of how pricing works in the cable industry. The financial foundation of cable news isn’t advertising but the license fees that cable-system operators pay for the right to carry them. Regardless of whether a cable subscriber watches Fox, CNN or MSNBC, their monthly cable payments fund those companies.

The day could soon come when the exodus of cable subscribers leaves cable operators unable to pay the hefty license fees that those cable companies now command.

The cable industry sees what’s coming. They have all tried to distribute programming via streaming apps, YouTube channels, podcasts, and social media platforms in an effort to meet the cord-cutters where they are.

Yet so far, no news app comes close to matching cable in popularity and profitability.

Alan Wolk thinks cable news will have a particular problem in crossing the bridge to streaming: The median cable-news viewer is in their 60s and is resistant to new technologies.

The trouble signs are there. Viewers of the cable lineup other than news has sagged over the past decade as younger viewers have deserted cable. USA Network, once the most popular cable channel, has lost 75% of its nightly audience over the past 10 years. FX is down 68%, while the History Channel is off by 65%.

So what does this mean for US politics? Kyle Tharp posts weekly political advertising statistics on new media:

“…political advertisers spent just over $6.6 million on Facebook and Instagram ads last week…. For the fourth week in a row, the Biden campaign was the top-spending political advertiser nationwide on Facebook and Instagram. Their team continues to lean heavily on the platforms for growing their network of grassroots donors…..Political advertisers in the US have spent around $800,000 on Snapchat advertising in 2023.”

Tharp reports that DeSantis’ campaign launch video was heavily watched across all social media:

“On Twitter, the video received 23.8 million impressions…. compared to 2.9 million impressions for Tim Scott’s…launch video, and 9.1 million impressions on Nikki Haley’s…launch video…..Joe Biden’s launch video received 44.8 million impressions. The [DeSantis] video also received 125,000 views on Facebook, 1.9 million views on Instagram, and 236,000 views on Rumble. It’s a strong showing by any measure.”

(An “impression” is how many times it was displayed or had potential “eyeballs” on it.)

When you learn that Trump’s CNN town hall attracted an audience of just 3.3 million viewers, It’s clear that social media is already a major competitor to cable for the political class.

OTOH, if cable news goes away, how will Wrongo get his daily diet of pharmaceutical commercials?

That’s enough for this week. It’s time to forget about the “groundhog day” feeling that you get with the news bunnies constantly talking about the Debt Ceiling. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Here on the fields of Wrong, the baby bluebirds have fledged, and you can see them flying from tree to tree. We seem to be in for about 10 days of warmth and sun, with no rain in sight. People around here will soon need to choose between watering their plants and having a full well.

So grab a chair outside in the shade and put on your sunglasses. Now watch and listen to Dvořák’s “Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90 (the “Dumky”)”. Dvořák completed the trio in February 1891, and it is among the composer’s best-known works. The term Dumky is Ukrainian. It refers to epic ballads.

Here the Dumky is performed in the Herbst Theater, San Francisco in 2008 by the Beaux Arts Trio, with Daniel Hope on violin, Antonio Meneses on cello and Menahem Pressler on piano:


Poetry Banned in Florida

The Daily Escape:

Storm, Outer Banks, NC – May 2023 photo by OBXbeachbum

You may remember that 18 days after the Jan 6th attack, a 22-year-old poet named Amanda Gorman stood on the steps of the Capitol. She addressed the nation’s fresh wounds and its uncertain future:

“A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.” What a beautiful sentiment.

But those exact words offended a Miami Lakes, Florida serial book banner named Daily Salinas. Salinas alleged that “The Hills We Climb “ included references of critical race theory, indirect hate messages, gender ideology and indoctrination, according to school district records obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project. The Daily Beast reports that Salinas is an avid supporter of Ron DeSantis. She worked as a volunteer on his “Education Agenda Tour” in August 2022.

You can read Gorman’s full poem here. A video of Amanda Gorman reciting her poem at the 2020 Inauguration is here. Gorman reacted, saying in a Facebook post:

“Unnecessary #bookbans like these are on the rise, and we must fight back…”

A review by the WaPo of complaints in 153 school districts across the country for the 2021-2022 school year found that a:

“…majority of the 1,000-plus book challenges analyzed by The Post were filed by just 11 people.”

The WaPo says that each of these people brought 10 or more challenges against books in their school district; one man filed 92 challenges:

“Together, these serial filers constituted 6% of all book challengers — but were responsible for 60% of all filings….In some cases…these serial filers relied on a network of volunteers gathered together under the aegis of conservative parents’ groups such as Moms for Liberty.”

Not surprisingly, Daily Salinas is one of them. Miami Against Fascism alleges in a tweet thread that Salinas is associated with Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade county as well as with the Proud Boys and County Citizens Defending Freedom USA (CCDF), and a Christian nationalist group. From the LA Times:

“When asked if she was aware of professional reviews of the National Youth Poet Laureate’s poem, Salinas wrote, “I don’t need it.” And when asked to list the author, she wrote Oprah Winfrey. (Winfrey wrote the forward for the book version of the poem published in March 2021.)”

Here’s the form that Salinas filled out:

Look again at pgs. 12-13 from Gorman’s poem above. If you can detect a hate message, let Wrongo know. And saying that poetry will indoctrinate students? We should be so lucky. Gorman reacted in a tweet:

“I’m gutted…They ban my book from young readers, confuse me with Oprah, fail to specify what parts of my poetry they object to, refuse to read any reviews, and offer no alternatives,”

This is the Florida of Ron DeSantis. And this is the America he wants to create. DeSantis’s campaign merchandise touts that he will “Make America Florida.” Here are some stats that show how well DeSantis is governing Florida: Florida is 34th in fatal overdoses, 26th in teen birth rates, and 31st in infant mortality.  FL ranks dead last in providing long-term care for older adults. Florida ranks 48th in teacher pay, 45th in per-pupil spending. Despite having a fairly high cost-of-living index (23rd), Florida ranks dead last in providing unemployment benefits, giving recipients just $236 a week for just 12 weeks.

Most Americans would rather their states remain free from the fascist landscape that DeSantis has given Florida.

BTW: the Bible includes: Rape, incest, torture, slavery, bestiality. But apparently, it isn’t subject to the same standards that Daily Salinas uses, despite on the surface, being one nasty book.

We can’t let today go by without thinking about Tina Turner. She was one of the most important recording artists in American history. It’s pretty hard to describe how incredible and important she was for so many decades. In my twenties, Ms. Right and I got to see Ike and Tina Turner (and the Ikettes) live at Fillmore East in January 1970.

Later in her life (and ours) it was just Tina. One thing was consistent: Tina Turner blew the lid off of any joint where she performed. You can’t say that about many acts, but Tina could do just that. Sadly, the soundtrack to Wrongo’s life is growing fainter with time. Tina Turner’s passing adds to the growing list of performers from the past 70 years that Wrongo admired.

Take a few minutes to watch and listen to Tina and Mick Jagger perform “State Of Shock / It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” in front of 100,000 people at Live Aid in 1985 at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia:

Let’s hope Ike is burning in Hell.


America’s Playing Default Chicken

The Daily Escape:

Ice and clouds, Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone NP, WY – May 2023 photo by Joethehiker

Wrongo doesn’t know about you, but he’s starting to think that the “bi-partisan” Debt Ceiling negotiations aren’t going to stave off a default on the US’ debt obligations.

Every talking head is still saying that at the last minute, Biden and McCarthy will agree to…something. Something that prevents a government shutdown, and a default on payments for the country’s outstanding debt.

But is that real or hopium? In any negotiation, the idea is to find a point (or multiple points) of leverage that bends the other side toward your viewpoint. That helps the two sides to meet at some place in the middle.

So who’s got the leverage in the current Debt Ceiling negotiation? No one. Biden surely has no leverage over the House Republicans. Republican Speaker McCarthy has some leverage over Biden but has little leverage with his own House members. The Senate leaders, Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell, who normally have leverage to help resolve Debt Ceiling standoffs, are bystanders in this game of Default Chicken.

We’re in a high stakes game of chicken because nobody can deliver their side to the table. Politico reports:

“White House aides privately estimate they may need to deliver as many as 100 Democratic votes to ensure an eventual debt limit deal can pass the narrowly divided House…”

But few Democrats will support the deep cuts to social programs that Biden might be forced to agree to. McCarthy knows that a portion of his GOP House members will vote against ANY compromise bill. House Republicans have already called the legislation they passed last month (lifting the Debt Ceiling in exchange for deep spending cuts) the floor, not the ceiling to the negotiation. Dan Pfeiffer quoted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL):

“I think my conservative colleagues for the most part…don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.”

So Gaetz thinks that Biden and the Democrats are his hostages. If they are, how do they negotiate with the terrorists on the other side?

The positions are clear. The White House is open to budget negotiations but opposed to debt ceiling brinkmanship. Republicans threaten default if their budget demands aren’t met. They’re planning to pull the pin on this grenade and then blame Democrats for making them do it.

Recent polling from ABC and The WaPo gives Democrats a narrow advantage: An equal number of voters from each party—78%—would blame the opposite party for default. While 37% of independents say they would blame Republicans and 29% would blame Biden, with 24% blaming both parties equally.

The Democrats’ negotiating position appears to put them in the worst of both worlds: If the Debt Ceiling is breached, the polls show that they will share the political fallout with Republicans. Otherwise, they may have to agree to significant cuts to crucial programs like welfare and food stamps, which will badly hurt them with their base.

Either way, the Dems will complain about the financial wreckage caused by Republican extremism, and hope voters agree with them. The simplest way out is to agree to a temporary debt ceiling increase as we have many times in the past, to allow both sides to continue negotiating.

Sadly, McCarthy and the House Republicans seem to prefer default to compromise. They’re using passing a new Debt Ceiling as leverage to cut spending for Social Security and Medicare while increasing the defense budget. That’s their idea of “fiscal responsibility”. Sure, our military budget is 10 times Russia’s and three times China’s, but Republicans want grandma to tighten her belt.

At the end of the day, we’re stuck playing Default Chicken: The US must pay the bills it has already incurred as they mature. McCarthy can’t be seen by House Republicans to be giving concessions to Biden. After all, they think their job is to save the country from excess spending, not from the consequences of default. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said on Wednesday that no one in the House Republican conference is concerned about the potential of a US debt default:

“Regular Americans … don’t worry about the government shutting down.”

Negotiating with terrorists is very difficult. The pressure on Democrats to cave to Republican demands for massive spending cuts will become harder to resist. If somehow they do resist, chances are we’ll see America default on its debts.


Putin Sanctions Some Of Trump’s Enemies

The Daily Escape:

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains NP, TN- May 2023 photo by Melissa Russell

At the G7 conference in Japan, the Group of Seven (G7) countries announced new sanctions on Russia:

“In a statement, the G7 leaders said restrictions would cover exports of industrial machinery, tools and technology useful to Russia’s war effort, while efforts would be pursued to limit Russian revenues from trade in metals and diamonds…. The actions targeted Russia’s sanctions evasion, future energy revenues and military-industrial supply chains, with sanctions imposed on more than 300 targets on Friday.”

For America’s part, the Treasury imposed sanctions on 22 people and 104 entities in more than 20 countries, while the Department of State targeted almost 200 people, entities, vessels and aircraft.

The NYT reported that Russia had a response ready. Putin sanctioned some Americans:

“Among the 500 people singled out for travel and financial restrictions…were Americans seen as adversaries by Mr. Trump, including Letitia James, the state attorney general of New York who has sued him for alleged fraud, and Jack Smith, the Justice Department special counsel investigating his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents after leaving office.

Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s pressure to “find” enough votes to reverse the outcome of the election, also made the list. So did Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who shot the pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6, 2021.”

Other prominent figures on Russia’s new list included Barack Obama and Rachel Maddow, as well as late-night television hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Myers. Newsweek quotes Swedish economist Anders Åslund, who wrote in the Kyiv Post:

“Needless to say, nobody from Fox News…is being sanctioned,”

But Newsweek also reported that Russia’s new list included a few Republicans: Senators Katie Britt of Alabama and JD Vance of Ohio, as well as Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

It’s kinda difficult to follow Putin’s thinking about the GOP politicians, but you can imagine Trump saying: “It’s a strong list. A perfect list. People were crying when they read it.”

The NYT added: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Russian Foreign Ministry offered no specific explanation for why they would be included on the list but did say that among its targets were ‘those in government and law enforcement agencies who are directly involved in the persecution of dissidents in the wake of the so-called storming of the Capitol.’”

From MSNBC’s Steve Benen: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The use of the phrase ‘so-called storming,’…was unsubtle. The Kremlin isn’t just targeting Trump’s perceived domestic foes, Putin and his government are…embracing Trump’s preferred rhetorical framings about stories [Trump]….doesn’t like.”

Some context by Benen: (brackets by Wrongo)

“There’s…precedent for Russia imposing sanctions on prominent Americans who’ve criticized Vladimir Putin’s government. Nearly a decade ago…after Russia took Crimea, the Kremlin faced bipartisan condemnations in Washington, DC. Soon after, Moscow announced sanctions against Republicans [including] then-House Speaker John Boehner and then-Sen. John McCain, as well as several Democrats, including then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then-Sen. Mary Landrieu.”

More: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…in each instance, [regarding Crimea] Russia’s sanctions at least made some sense: They targeted prominent American policymakers, each of whom had at least some role in US foreign policy, and each of whom had criticized Moscow’s policies to one degree or another.”

And as Peter Baker says in the NYT:

“…what is particularly striking is how much President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is adopting perceived enemies of former President Donald J. Trump as his own.”

When we think about the impact of the new Russian sanctions, it seems that banning Americans from entering Russia in 2023 is a bit like a mother banning her kid from eating kale.

Not allowing NY’s Attorney General, or Georgia’s AG, or the DOJ’s special counsel in the Trump investigations, Jack Smith to enter Russia isn’t going to do anything to help Russia hold on to Ukrainian territory they have seized. From Martin Longman:

“By a simple process of elimination it’s clear that the strategy is to help Donald Trump win the presidency, which they expect would disrupt America’s ability to support Ukraine.”

Putin must be taking the long view, since even if Trump is elected, he wouldn’t take office until January 2025. That’s a long time to wait for the western support for Ukraine to weaken.

And, of course, if the US defaults on its debt, which Trump has been urging Republicans to do, it would be a victory for Russia, possibly equal to anything they could ever hope to gain on the battlefield.