Georgia’s Senate Runoffs

The Daily Escape:

Western Montana – November 2020 photo by Jeff Parker

Republicans told us that once the Electoral College voted, Trump and the GOP would finally recognize the results of the presidential election. But, with only a few exceptions, that didn’t happen. If you are a Republican and are still silent, you are assaulting our democracy.

Today, let’s talk about Georgia’s Senate runoff elections to be held on January 5. Biden was in Georgia on Tuesday to help Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock with their races against Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Both Loeffler and Perdue continue to say that Trump won in Georgia.

They are among the dead-enders who say the Georgia presidential election was rigged. Loeffler and Perdue are trying to walk a tightrope, supporting claims of election fraud, even as they try to push for higher Republican turnout in January than they recorded in November.

Perdue finished ahead of Ossoff by 88,000 votes in November. Ossoff got 47.9% of the total vote, but had 100,000 fewer votes than Biden. There has only been limited polling for the runoff, and that shows the race to be a toss-up. Real Clear Politics (RCP) has Perdue up by .5% in the averages of recent polls.

In November, Loeffler lost to Warnock by 403k votes. However, former Republican Congressman Doug Collins was also in the race, and he received 980k votes, so a Warnock win is far from certain. Recent polling by RCP has Warnock up by 1%, another toss-up.

Warnock has never held political office, but he’s well known in Georgia as the senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was also pastor. In a state where about 30% of registered voters are African American, and about 47% are people of color that could be pivotal.

Ossoff who has run unsuccessfully before, also hasn’t held office. From Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: (brackets by Wrongo)

“One of the reasons Ossoff fell short when he ran for Congress in 2017 is, he didn’t get the type of Black turnout that he needed…Now, with Warnock as [a kind of ] running mate, it may help with Black turnout.”

Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member and it’s only millennial. He has a strong organization and has proven strength in the Atlanta suburbs. Like Wrongo, Ossoff is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. And unlike Wrongo, he also has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Georgia has changed electorally in recent years because of in-migration from the North, and by the massive voter-registration drive led by Stacey Abrams. The effects of these forces showed when Biden beat Trump for the first Democratic win by a presidential candidate in 28 years.

The key question is whether without Trump on the ticket, Republicans who crossed over to vote for Biden might return to the Republican candidates. It’s always tough to knock off an incumbent, but Ossoff and Warnock are trying to do just that in a state where Republicans historically win runoffs.

They win runoffs because Georgia’s runoff system was established by segregationists to prevent Black voters from solidifying behind one candidate while White voters split their allegiance in a multi-candidate race. Warnock’s race shows what the segregationists had in mind. Warnock led the race with 33% of the votes, while Loeffler and Collins together accounted for 46%.

This time around, the expectation is that both Ossoff and Warnock win or both will lose.

Funding the Republicans isn’t a problem:

“Billionaire Republicans on Wall Street have been opening their wallets to…protect David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler’s Senate seats in January 5’s high-stakes runoff in Georgia….Two super PACs are planning to spend about $80 million on ads and other efforts….Among the donors are…Stephen Schwarzman, of Blackstone Group, and Kenneth Griffin, of Citadel LLC…Last month, Schwarzman…contributed $15m and Griffin donated $10m to the PAC; while earlier in the year, the PAC received $20m from Schwarzman and $25m from Griffin.”

Not a surprise, since Loeffler’s husband Sprecher, chairs the New York Stock Exchange.

The LA Times reports that taken together, over $400 million has been spent, or committed by all of the candidates’ campaigns, their Parties and outside backers.

Monday was the first day for early voting in Georgia’s runoffs. All told, 482,250 votes were recorded, according to the Georgia secretary of state. That is way more than the 128,000 votes cast on the first day of voting on Nov. 3. It will be a very close election.

The reality is that Democrats will need to show up in droves and vote like the future of the country depends upon it.

Because it does.

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Monday Wake Up Call, Electoral College Votes Edition -December 14, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Pipestone River and Lake Louise Village, Banff NP, Alberta, CN – 2020 photo by Frank King Photos

Trump will lose in the Electoral College today. But that won’t mean Trump’s attempted coup is over. A group of his most loyal GOP backers in Congress are plotting a final-stage challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives on January 6 to try to reverse Biden’s victory.

The way our election system works is that after the Electoral College meets today, Congress still has to certify the votes that were cast by it. At that time, Congress can in fact, refuse to accept the votes of either individual electors or entire state delegations.

If Congress were to refuse Electoral College votes, then those refused votes aren’t counted, and the candidate who has the majority of the remaining electoral votes becomes president. It isn’t necessary for the winning presidential candidate to get 270 electoral votes to win. That candidate only needs a majority of the electoral votes actually certified by Congress. The process is based on the Twelfth Amendment, but that is ambiguous:

“The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.”

It does not say what to do if there is a dispute over a state’s electoral voters. In 1887, Congress enacted a statute to address the ambiguity of the Twelfth Amendment; it says that for Congress to refuse to certify any electoral vote, at least one member of the House and one member of the Senate have to lodge a specific objection to the counting of the specific vote(s) in question. If this happens, then the joint session of Congress would be adjourned for two hours, during which time, each legislative body would separately debate the objection(s), and then vote them in or out.

This happened in 2005, after the 2004 election. At that time, it was the Democrats who messed around with what used to be thought of a purely “Ministerial Process”, that is, those formalities that nobody pays much attention to, because no one thought that our representatives would try to game the system.

Back in 2005, Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones, (D-OH), got Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to agree to join in her objection to the Ohio Electoral College vote. Bush had won Ohio by 118,000 votes over Kerry. While they didn’t want to actually toss Ohio’s EC votes out (since doing so would have flipped the outcome of the election), both Houses adjourned to vote on the objection.

Although the House has 435 seats, ultimately only 31 House members voted to exclude Ohio’s electoral votes, so Tubbs lost. Only Boxer voted to challenge Ohio’s electoral votes in the 100-seat Senate. The final Senate vote was 74-1 (many Democrats abstained), so Bush won.

You’re going to be hearing a lot more about this “Ministerial Process” that will take place on January 6, since many House Republicans are going to object to the certification of a ton of 2020 electoral votes. Luckily, Democratic control of the House should prevent this particular flaw in our electoral system from keeping Trump in office.

The key question is how many Senators will also jump on the Trump Train. If they do, then that requires all the Senate and House Republicans to go on record regarding whether they support Trump’s coup attempt.

So, it’s not over today, and it won’t be over even after the GOP dead-enders in the House and Senate lose their effort to obstruct the election results.

It’s time to wake up America! You no longer have any political norms.

Our political system is devolving. It’s certain that at least a few Republicans will refuse to certify Biden’s win in the Electoral College on January 6.

Imagine if in the not-to-distant future, we have Republicans controlling both Houses. Imagine if they then refuse to certify the election of a Democratic president.

The GOP is no longer a responsible political Party. They’ve become an extremist organization bent on keeping power at all costs. We are witnessing an attempted coup. Just because it won’t succeed doesn’t diminish the importance or the severity of what’s happening. Trump and the GOP are laying the groundwork for authoritarianism in the US.

To help you wake up, listen to this rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, performed in 2016 by a 1,500 person chorus in Canada. The song is led by Rufus Wainwright. Imagine a world where strangers can come together to make something beautiful:

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 13, 2020

Small rant once again today about our do-nothing Congress, who can’t see the damage caused by their failure to support America’s unemployed and underemployed as the year draws to a close. Check out Rep Ayanna Pressley (D-MA):

The Department of Defense spends about $2 billion a day, so when Republicans say that we simply can’t afford a meaningful COVID-19 relief bill, it strains credibility. What will we have that is worth defending if we won’t look out for our own people?

What our politicians lack are both priorities and empathy. This isn’t just a matter of economic philosophy – it’s a matter of life and death. We must reject the current cult of selfishness that is currently ruining America. Because if we can’t see our way clear to pull together and look out for each other, millions of us may die ultimately needless deaths. America is better than this. The question is whether or not Congress actually is. On to cartoons:

Where’s Congress’s feeling of Christmas?

When Trump was granted a coat of arms for his Scottish golf courses in 2012, he chose as its motto “Numquam concedere” or, never concede. He hasn’t. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, Trump’s campaign plans to buy ads on cable networks still seeking to overturn the election. According to Bloomberg, one commercial claims that mail-in ballots were “a recipe for fraud”. It urges viewers to “contact your legislators today.” He’ll never go gracefully:

And his co-conspirators are no better:

And the Trumpists have evolved, but not to a better place:

But after January 20, there will be some hope for tomorrow:

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Saturday Soother – December 12, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Cathedral Spires, Black Hills SD – 2020 photo by Max Foster

We’re stumbling into another December weekend without a bailout package for those who are still unemployed in the pandemic. The WaPo’s headline says it all: “More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic.” This is caused at least in part, by people going without jobs or unemployment insurance while waiting for the Senate and Mitch McConnell to come up with a bill that provides Americans the aid they need.

But the biggest news of the week was that the Supreme Court declined to hear the case brought by Texas asking the Court to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and declare Trump to be the winner. The Supreme Court wrote:

“The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution. Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot,”

In case you’re wondering, Trump’s three new appointments didn’t support hearing the case. Whoever talked Trump out of appointing his kids, Eric, Ivanka and Junior to the Court had better lay low for the next few days. The Supreme Court deserves credit for rejecting an attempt to destroy American democracy, but many of those Republicans who joined the lawsuit, deserve our harshest judgment.

Adam Sewer of The Atlantic tweeted:

People have argued that because Trump hasn’t overturned an election, that we can now relax: The “system worked”, there were no tanks in the streets. But Republicans chose sides this week. More than half (126) of the Republicans in the House of Representatives signed onto Texas’s failed lawsuit, along with 17 Republican attorneys-general. Republicans must own up to their anti-democratic actions.

Once this is over, and Trump is living in Florida and is acting as president-in-exile, we’ll need to hold all of his seditious minions accountable. Unsurprisingly, this failed lawsuit came from the Party that claims to oppose “judicial activism.”

But enough of all of this big news, Wrongo was attracted to an Ars Technica story that reported on researchers teaching lab rats to drive little electric cars. The research was aimed at learning what effect the environment a rat was raised in had on its ability to learn new tasks. The team, led by Richmond University professor Kelly Lambert, decided to teach them to drive not just navigate another maze.

But if you’re going to teach rats to drive, first you need to build them a car (an ROV or, Rat Operated Vehicle). The chassis and powertrain came from a robot car kit, and a transparent plastic food container provided the body:

The controls were three copper wires stretched across an opening cut out of the front, with an aluminum plate on the floor. When a rat stood on the plate and gripped a copper bar, a circuit was completed, and the motors engaged: one bar made the car turn to the left, one made it turn to the right, and the third made it go straight ahead. Sounds hard, but it didn’t take long for the rats to learn how to drive. Their goal was to drive the car to a food treat.

The rats had three five-minute training sessions a week for eight weeks, and they learned to drive!

The placement of the treat and the starting position and orientation of the car varied, so the rats had a different challenge each time. At the end of the experiment, each rat went through a series of trials, conducted a few days apart, where they were allowed to drive around the arena. One experiment had them driving without food treats, to see if they were only doing driving to get food.

Some who were quicker to start driving continued to be more interested in driving, even when there was no reward beyond the feel of moving without using their feet.

Uber is excited by this news and may try to replace human drivers. It’s their Holy Grail: drivers that do it for the love of driving and don’t ask for pay, benefits, or even treats.

On to the weekend! We’re finishing up the Christmas decorations in the Mansion of Wrong, although there will be very few visitors this time. So grab an ornament, and listen to the Dave Brubeck Quartet play “Take Five” from their 1959 ground-breaking album, “Time Out”. The tune was written by Paul Desmond, here on alto saxophone, Brubeck on piano, Teo Macero, drums and Eugene Wright on bass. Have a martini on the house:

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Trump’s Real Plan is Working

The Daily Escape:

Snow in the Bigelow Preserve, Stratton, ME – December 2020 photo by CaptainScrummy

So you think that America will cruise in to the acceptance of the Electoral College vote by a Joint Session of Congress on January 6, and Trump and the millions of members in his Lost Cause will just fade away? Think again:

The past four years have been a train wreck, and Trump has been the conductor.

In one way, Trump’s attempted soft coup is failing. After all, his hand-packed Supreme Court wouldn’t hear the case designed to overturn Pennsylvania’s election win for Biden. Yet, as the tweet above shows, Trump’s continuing effort to poison our voting process may yet lead to some terrible things.

But, is PA Sen Ward telling us the truth? Does she really fear Republican partisans? Or, is this an ex-post excuse for doing what they all wanted to do anyway? WaPo’s Greg Sergeant makes a good point:

“What matters is that many of them (Republicans) are entirely willing to support specific concrete actions to steal the election on Trump’s behalf.”

Aaron Blake notes that state GOP officials so far have overwhelmingly sided against Trump’s voter fraud claims, when they are forced to decide. But as we showed on Monday, Republicans are keeping their powder dry waiting for the House and Senate meetings to accept the Electoral College votes: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…just as notable as the lack of Republicans willing to say Biden is the president-elect is the lack of buy-in on Trump’s claims from other Republicans. They…have a choice to make if their colleagues press the issue, [by arguing against acceptance of the Electoral College vote at the January 6 joint session of Congress]”

Jonathan Last makes it clear what’s going on:

“Everyone laughs at how stupid the Trump lawsuits are. Can you believe these morons? They lose everywhere! Even Republican judges keep slapping them down! How embarrassing for Trump!

But that’s the wrong way to think about Trump’s actions since November 3. Because his goal hasn’t been to keep the office of the president. It’s been to keep the Republican Party.”

More:

“On the morning of November 4, Donald Trump faced two problems. The first was that he was going to lose the power of the presidency. The second was that this loss endangered his ownership of the GOP.”

Last says that for Trump, the lawsuits, the posturing, the attempted coup— all would still be nice if he were to be re-inaugurated January 21. But that’s a secondary objective. The primary objective was to stop the Republican Party from leaving him:

“…owning a major political party isn’t as useful as being president. But it’s not nothing….In a two-party system, you can exert a great deal of power by being the head of a Party. You have businesses and foreign governments that will pay tribute to you. You have an audience of something like 40 million partisans who can be mined for contributions and mobilized as a flash mob whenever you need them.”

Unfortunately, these millions out in TrumpWorld don’t know they’re being conned. They still actually believe that Trump will win reelection.  That’s dangerous, because many of them will be shocked when reality hits. What is most worrisome is the possibility of something happening that makes them feel they have license for mass violence. We can try to minimize the threat posed by Republican passivity, but there are always lone wolves who will try to do horrible things.

Can the Republican Party move on from Trump? It could, but that requires the next generation of ambitious presidential aspirants to replace Trump in the daily political discussion. But Trump won 74 million votes, more than any other Republican, just last month. And the base’s acceptance of Trump’s claim that he really won preempts the plans of the next generation.

The other Republican presidential aspirants have realized that the best path forward is to say they believe the voter fraud line. That means their incentive is to outbid their peers in expressing support for Trump’s claims of victory. Let’s leave it to Jonathan Last to close:

“….the minimum ante for Republican politics is now support for an insane conspiracy theory.”

Unlike his predecessors, Trump has not called Biden, much less invited him to the White House. Trump has indicated that he may not attend Biden’s inauguration, which would make him the first sitting president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to refuse to participate in the most important ritual of the America’s democratic transfer of power.

Our democracy is on a knife edge right now. Even if we’re certain that Biden will prevail, the kowtowing to Trump by Republicans isn’t going to end soon, or well.

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Dylan Sells His Music

The Daily Escape:

Eagle, Kent CT – December 8,  2020 photo by JH Clery

Today, let’s talk about something radically different. Bob Dylan has cashed out of 60+ years of his music by selling his publishing rights to the Universal Music Group. It’s reported that Dylan will receive from $300-$400 million. In return, UMG will get all the future income from his music. Whenever a record is sold, the money that once went to Dylan will now go to UMG. Same for the royalties from air play of his songs.

UMG will get to decide who can license Dylan’s tunes. If someday soon you hear “Just Like a Woman” in an ad for perfume, UMG will have made the decision to do it. They’ll also get whatever money that the cosmetic company agreed to pay to use the song.

The selling of publishing rights is nothing new. In recent years, Blondie and Barry Manilow sold theirs, along with the estates of Kurt Cobain and John Lennon. A London-based publishing company has spent more than $1 billion for the rights to the songs of Rhianna, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake. Last week, Stevie Nicks sold her catalogue for around $100 million.

Dylan’s music has meant a great deal to Wrongo since the early sixties. You know that some are going to call Dylan a sell-out. They’ll say that, as a prime representative of the sixties counter-culture, Dylan should be held to a higher standard; but that’s nonsense!

A note about Wrongo’s favorite Dylan album, 1965’s “Bringing It All Back Home”. It includes “Maggie’s Farm“, “She Belongs to Me“, and “Mr. Tambourine Man”. And it contains one of Dylan’s masterpieces, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding“. This played constantly in Wrongo’s dorm room that year.

The reason “It’s Alright Ma” is so great, is that it’s a message about the culture of the sixties and the counterculture. Listeners were affected by the song, people started to question authority. We’re not talking about cheesy conspiracy theories like today, but what was at that point, the bedrock of our nation. Sadly, NOTHING’S CHANGED since he wrote this:

(Verse 6)

“While preachers preach of evil fates

Teachers teach that knowledge waits

Can lead to hundred-dollar plates

Goodness hides behind its gates

But even the President of the United States

Sometimes must have to stand naked”

(Verse 10)

“For them that must obey authority

That they do not respect in any degree

Who despise their jobs, their destinies

Speak jealously of them that are free

Do what they do just to be

Nothing more than something they invest in”

Will you think for yourself, or not? That was the question in the sixties, and many young people ended up on Dylan’s side.

(Verse 14)

“While them that defend what they cannot see

With a killer’s pride, security

It blows their minds most bitterly

For them that think death’s honesty

Won’t fall upon them naturally

Life sometimes must get lonely”

 All of the politicians and the business executives are powerful until they aren’t.

(Chorus)

“Although the masters make the rules

For the wise men and the fools

I got nothing, Ma, to live up to”

In the 1960’s we didn’t buy in, instead, we rejected the system. Today, the opposite is true.

1975’s “Blood on the Tracks” is Wrongo’s second favorite, with “Tangled up in Blue”, “Idiot Wind”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, and “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” as standouts.

Of course, there are many, many great Dylan songs. 1963’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right“. 1964’s “The Times They Are a-Changin“. Dylan’s other 1964 album, “Another Side,” has “It Ain’t Me Babe“. 1965’s “Highway 61 Revisited” had “Like a Rolling Stone“, which was a radio hit in 1965. That was revolutionary, because the song was six minutes long and he didn’t have a traditional radio-friendly voice.

And this year, he released “Murder Most Foul.” A 17- minute stream of consciousness about the Kennedy assassination.

This isn’t the first time he’s monetized his music beyond concerts and the airwaves. His songs have been used in commercials selling products for Google, Apple, Pepsi, Victoria’s Secret and IBM.

It’s his music, and it’s his decision on how it’s used…at least it was until the sale. We live in desperate financial times. If selling their music is what artists need to do to survive, so be it.

It’s 2020 and the times, they are a-changin’.

You can listen to “It’s Alright Mahere.

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 7, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Crater Lake, OR – November 2020 photo via imagur. This is the fifth time we’ve featured Crater Lake.

What’s it gonna take for America to wake up to the Republican’s ongoing attempted coup? From the WaPo:

“Just 27 congressional Republicans acknowledge Joe Biden’s win over President Trump a month after the former vice president’s clear victory of more than 7 million votes nationally and a convincing electoral-vote margin that exactly matched Trump’s 2016 tally.”

A team of 25 Post reporters contacted aides for every Republican by email and phone asking three questions: 1) Who won the presidential contest? 2) Do you support or oppose Trump’s continuing efforts to claim victory? 3) If Biden wins a majority in the Electoral College, will you accept him as the legitimately elected president? Most refused to answer. Here are the WaPo’s findings in a chart:

When 215 of the 249 Republicans in Congress (86%) refuse to answer whether Biden would be the legitimately elected president, we’re looking at an attempted coup. These people aren’t waiting to get all the facts, or let the process play out. We shouldn’t be calling it anything else.

Just three state elections were really close — that is, decided by less than a one percent margin: Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Biden won all of them. The only semi-close state that Trump won was North Carolina, by a 1.3% margin. But had the three really close states gone for Trump, we would be looking at an Electoral College (EC) tie, 269-269. Then the House would re-elect Trump, thanks to the Constitutional process for breaking Electoral College ties, which gives each state one vote in the House to determine the next president.

Republicans control a majority of the seats in 26 House delegations, Democrats control 22, with two split evenly. That would mean a Trump re-election. It’s important to again emphasize that the EC would then have overturned the clear will of the people, showing how terribly flawed the EC truly is.

Since Republicans are still unwilling to say Biden won, even though all three of those states have certified him as the winner, imagine what we would be going through today if a single state hung in the balance?

And if the election had come down to a margin of a few thousand votes in Pennsylvania, you better believe the Supreme Court would have happily voted to toss out enough votes to provide a Republican victory. We shouldn’t feel sanguine about Biden’s clear victory.

We saw this in Wisconsin. Their Supreme Court just had a couple of 4-3 decisions on ridiculous cases brought by Trump, cases that argued for decisions that would be contrary to their constitution. Three of the four Republican judges voted with Trump anyway. Fortunately, one Republican judge actually cared a little about the law. That’s just too close.

And Politico is reporting that Rep. Mo Brooks, (R-AL) plans to challenge the Electoral College votes when Congress moves to certify Joe Biden’s victory on January 6. He’s looking for a Senator to join his challenge, though he noted that doing so would largely be a symbolic, and not practical, undertaking.

Time to wake up America! Our democracy is hanging by a thread. Despite Biden receiving more votes than any other president, despite getting the largest vote percentage against an opponent since 1932 (when Roosevelt defeated Hoover), Trump is still trying to overturn the election. And most Republicans are silent or looking the other way, hoping Trump succeeds.

To help you wake up, listen to Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite perform “What the Hell” which they released in August. You get Charlie’s harmonica and Elvin’s guitar. It’s a protest song for our times:

Here are their great lyrics:

Look at the shape, the shape the Nation’s in
This situation is a shame and a sin
I want to know, how could a good thing go so wrong?
Tell me, what the hell is going on?

Sometimes I don’t know whether to cry or laugh
Half the people in this country can’t stand the other half
I want to know, why can’t we halfway get along?
People, people, what the hell is going on?

He is the president but wants to be the king
Know what I like about the guy? Not a goddamn thing
I want to know, how can four years seem so long?
Lord have mercy, what the hell is going on?

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 6, 2020

It is such a contrast listening to Biden speak compared to Trump. On the one hand, it’s a relief. On the other hand, sometimes Biden sounds both naive and optimistic, after the last four years.

Can we ever go back?

The WSJ points out that in the Coronavirus recession, many out-of-work people are turning to GoFundMe pages in order to live:

“…more than $100 million for basic living expenses in tens of thousands of fundraisers on GoFundMe so far this year, the company said. That is up 150% from 2019 and more than any previous year. Last month, the company introduced a new category of fundraiser, for rent, food and monthly bills.”

This is happening as the Congress still diddles with a new stimulus package for Americans. A recent TransUnion survey showed that more than half of US consumers said the pandemic affected them financially. Some 38% said they couldn’t pay their credit-card bills and 30% said they couldn’t pay for their internet. On to cartoons.

House Republicans moved on Thursday to adjourn without voting for the stimulus:

Help is needed everywhere:

When you realize that it could be worse than you thought:

Elephant magically reverts to old ways:

Reality sets in:

The anti-vaxx’ers peculiar rationale:

Everyone’s singing the same song for Christmas:

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Saturday Soother – December 5, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Trump barn, Ohio –  photo by Dan Keck via

The Democrats are soul-searching about why they can’t win the US rural vote. Many believe the Democrats underperformed in fly-over America, and they’re asking (again) if rural America is lost to them forever.

According to the Economic Innovation Group, the rural Midwest counties Biden won had population growth that averaged 1.8% over the past 10 years, while counties Trump won saw an average population decline of 2.5%:

“…16 rural counties flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020…12 flipped from Clinton in 2016 to Trump in 2020.”

So, not much change. Over the past 50 years, the Midwest has seen out-migration, economic stagnation, young people leaving and small towns withering. They turned rightward and have largely stayed there. Is rural America worth fighting for?

Estimates of rural populations across the US suggest roughly 20% of Americans live in them. Rural areas are not exclusive to states that gave all their electors to Trump. New York and California have plenty of rural spaces and voters. Wrongo’s county in Democratic Connecticut is largely rural, and voted for Trump in 2016 and by a lower margin in 2020.

Yet, given the Electoral College, it is difficult to fashion a durable political majority if Democrats write off most of exurban and rural America. Let’s briefly look at Iowa and Wisconsin.

In Iowa, Trump won the state by 8.3 percentage points this year. GW Bush won in 2004 by 0.7 percentage points. He was the first GOP presidential candidate to carry Iowa in 20 years. Obama won with 54% in 2008 and 52% in 2012. Trump won with 51.7% in 2016, and with 53% in 2020.

Trump carried 93 rural counties, while Biden carried all six of Iowa’s urban counties. Republicans now represent all or parts of 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Wisconsin flipped to blue by six-tenths of a percentage point. Biden won in 14 counties. From Martin Longman at Progress Pond:

“Wisconsin’s Dunn County is in the central part of the state, over 96% white, and represented by Democrat Ron Kind in Congress. Not far from Eau Claire, the rural area voted for Barack Obama twice, but in 2016 Donald Trump won it with 52% to 41%, a 2,000-vote advantage over Hillary Clinton. In 2020, running against Joe Biden, Trump carried Dunn County 56-42, giving him a 3,300-vote edge.”

Bill Hogseth, the chair of the county’s Democratic Party, wrote a piece for Politico Magazine, explaining that the national Democratic Party doesn’t take rural issues seriously enough to get support from rural Wisconsinites. From Hogseth:

“For Democrats to start telling a story that resonates, they need to show a willingness to fight for rural people, and not just by proposing a “rural plan” or showing up on a farm for a photo op…A big step forward for Democrats would be to champion antitrust enforcement and challenge the anticompetitive practices of the gigantic agribusiness firms that squeeze our communities. In his rural plan, Biden pledged to “strengthen antitrust enforcement,” but the term doesn’t appear until the 35th bullet point. For rural voters, antitrust enforcement is a top priority…”

Hogseth is talking about Democratic neglect. Elizabeth Warren made anti-trust and the breakup of big companies’ part of her primary campaign. That’s good policy, and if it helps win some rural votes, even better.

Republicans aren’t talking about anti-monopoly anywhere in America. A generous Farm Bill channeled money into rural areas and the Trump administration’s trade relief payments to farmers have helped maintain rural Republican support. Hogseth says Democratic neglect leaves:

“…an opening for other stories to be told to fill the vacuum—stories that villainize and divide us along racial, geographic and partisan lines.”

People don’t make decisions based solely on a rational analysis, or on self-interest. They don’t believe in the Democrats’ promises to improve things, because Dems haven’t delivered on them in the past 40 years. They need a villain to blame. Trump, and the GOP (and every other nationalist movement in history) gives them just that.

The center-left should be rejoicing, but their down-ballot results are a cause for concern. Today, Democrats are fighting about whether they should be more progressive, or remain moderate going forward.

One reason that Trump got 74+ million votes was because Democrats never mobilized the working class against him. Instead, they mobilized to win suburbia. That gave Biden the presidency, but it also keeps our enduring governmental gridlock in place.

Time to relax a bit on this December Saturday. Today, Connecticut is waiting on a snow storm that in typical nor’easter fashion, could dump 10+ inches, or miss us entirely.

Still, we have time to take a few minutes, turn away from our email, and listen to Harpist Silke Aichhorn play Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” from his Nutcracker Suite. It was written as a ballet in 1892, and has been enjoyed around the holidays ever since:

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Will Congress Act on Funding Before Christmas?

The Daily Escape:

Turkey Pond, near Concord, NH – November 2020 photo by panasthropodism

The last time Congress passed a COVID relief bill was over seven months ago. This week, a bipartisan group of Senators revealed a new $908 billion stimulus proposal. This reflects a substantial cave-in by Democrats and House Speaker Pelosi, (D-CA) whose last offer was about $2.2 trillion.

Whether it goes forward depends on Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) finding agreement, and then getting Trump to sign off. Pelosi and McConnell talked on Thursday about how to find common ground on both a funding bill to keep the government’s doors open, and on another coronavirus relief package. Needless to say, they are still far apart.

Jeff Stein of WaPo tweeted about how different this Covid proposal is from the last two circulated by Mitch McConnell: (brackets by Wrongo)

Sept. 8: McConnell releases plan including $300/week in supplemental federal UI [unemployment insurance] for jobless Americans

Dec. 1: McConnell releases plan including $0/week in supplemental federal UI for jobless Americans https://t.co/GywLXGzOP9

According to the Century Foundation, 12 million people could see their Covid-related aid disappear the day after Christmas. This cliff is a major factor in pressuring Congress to pass a new bill before their 2020 recess. This funding need is separate from the need to fund the government past December 11. James Kwak of the Baseline Scenario says:

“One of Congress’s top priorities this week and next is to pass some kind of funding bill that will keep the federal government operating past December 11.”

Kwak points out that there are two ways this could happen: First, Congress could pass a continuing resolution that maintains funding at current levels for a period of time, until after Biden is inaugurated, and a new Congress is seated.

Second, the Parties could agree to pass an omnibus fiscal year 2021 spending bill that funds the government through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2021. This is Trump’s preference.

This is a bit of inside baseball. Government funding measures are must-pass bills. No politician wants a government shutdown. Democrats have historically been able to pin most of the blame for a shutdown on Republicans, starting in 1995, when Bill Clinton successfully portrayed Newt Gingrich as a zealot who wanted to slash Medicare.

OTOH, an omnibus budget reconciliation bill could represent one of the Biden administration’s few real chances to pass anything big through Congress. This is true since bills passed via the reconciliation process are not subject to the Senate’s filibuster.

Biden probably doesn’t want to cede the omnibus bill win to Trump just as Trump is packing his bags.

But, if Dems linked the short-term funding bill to an omnibus budget reconciliation bill, they’d only need a bare majority of Senators to pass both. The gamble would be that in order to avert a government shutdown, a scant few Republican moderates might be pressured to join in an omnibus budget deal.

Part of the Dem’s reasoning for wanting to take only a short-term government funding deal is a bet that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock can both win in Georgia on January 5. Then, the Senate would be split 50/50, with VP Harris, as President of the Senate, in a position to cast the deciding vote(s) on the Democrat’s agenda.

If both Georgia candidates win, Democrats will control both Houses of Congress for the first time since 2010, but by a razor-thin margin. They would need to insure that the one Senate Democrat in name only, Joe Manchin (D-WVA) would agree with whatever bills they put forward. Manchin will be in a position to control much of the Democrats’ political agenda.

We’ll see how all of this plays out in real-time, since the Senate is planning to head for home on December 18. Kwak says:

“…Democratic leadership in Congress seems inclined to give up the potential chance to write their own appropriations bill in January in exchange for a bill that they have to negotiate with McConnell and…Donald J. Trump.”

Congress might pass something that is an extension of the CARES Act, stranger things have happened. It’s likely it will pass a government funding extension before leaving for the holidays.

For the CARES extension, it appears that Democrats will have to cave in to McConnell on the corporate liability shield he’s looking for as the price of a relief bill.

It’s doubtful that Dems can go home without having passed something for Covid relief and some way to fund the government until at least late January.

The challenge of limited time and limited trust will test a divided Congress’s ability to make a few deals after months of gridlock.

Good luck America.

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