Monday Wake Up Call – August 31, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Devil’s Punchbowl, OR – 2020 photo by indieaz. There are many places in the US called the “Devil’s Punchbowl”.

Where did the summer go? We’ve all been tied down by the pandemic, so we probably focused more on politics than we wanted to. Pretty sure that made time pass more slowly, though. So Wrongo’s still not sure where the summer went.

Last week, Wrongo and Ms. Right had lunch with old friends, and the subject of what older Boomers and Silents can do to influence the election was a big discussion topic. Depending on your means, there are many things that could be done, like picking key states and congressional districts that are in play, and donating bigly to candidates who have a real chance to flip the seat they’re seeking.

But perhaps the most important impact would be to help register voters in those same states and districts this fall. For many, that would mean traveling to another state, braving the risk of COVID, while dueling with anti-maskers. When you consider the alternative of four more years of divided government with Trump in power, it may well be worth doing.

It’s important to remember that 2020 is a census year, and Democrats had a huge loss in the Senate, House and in state legislatures in 2010, the last census year. That enabled Republicans to gerrymander many states, making Democrats uncompetitive in those states for a decade.

We can’t risk another huge loss year like 2010.

Paul Rosenburg reports on using a “moneyball” type of approach, based on the famous book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Lewis wrote about baseball teams using the “moneyball” approach to get the best team on the field using the least amount of their limited budgets. The idea of applying it to voting comes from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Like baseball teams, each citizen has a fixed amount of time and resources to invest in politics. The idea is to focus on political races with a high potential either for flipping the US Senate or selected down-ballot races.

You could also focus on Congressional seats, or on state legislatures. In the case of legislatures, the goal is to split or change control of legislatures that will be drawing new districts in 2021. Since only 10 states have independent redistricting commissions (list is here), we should focus on the Republican states among the other 40 to minimize the chance of seeing more unfairly gerrymandered districts like the Republican’s REDMAP project delivered in 2011.

Turing to the Senate, here’s a chart that shows races by current margin, and by what the political moneyball group calls “voter power”:


The red names are Republicans, blue are Democrats. By convention, the race where resources go the farthest is set to a voter power of 100, with the other races calibrated against it. The Montana race has immense voter power, since the state has so few residents. Money or time spent trying to get Steve Bullock elected can go 50 times farther there than against John Cornyn in TX, who has a big lead in a big state. If Bullock wins, that’s likely to mean Democrats will win control of the Senate.

Wrongo’s friends want to see Mitch McConnell defeated in KY, but Wrongo advised not to donate to Amy McGrath, the Dem running against him. It’s a difficult race to win. Instead, they should focus their time and money into races with lower profiles but better chance to win. Like Sarah Gideon running against Susan Collins in ME.

From Tom Sullivan:

“Find…tabs for “Moneyball” states where “a few hundred voters mobilized in the right districts could bring a state bipartisan control of redistricting, leading to fairer districts for a decade.” These include TX, MN, KS, FL, CT, and NC. Voters in those states should examine where their money and effort could do the most good.”

Time to wake up Voters! It is surely the right time to build your list of candidates to support to flip the Senate, and to pick down ballot-candidates to create a firewall against gerrymandering.

To help you wake up, a special treat. Here’s an accomplished guitarist Wrongo had never hear of, Justin Johnson. Johnson is playing an original composition, “Rooster Blues, live on a four-string cigar-box guitar. Sounds fantastic:

Watch it. You won’t be disappointed!

And if you liked that video, you might like him playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on a vintage oil can guitar here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 30, 2020

WaPo’s Alexandra Petri restates Trump’s re-election strategy:

“Donald Trump has made America great again, and he will make it great again, again, if reelected, but right now, Joe Biden and the Democrats are ruining America and filling it with chaos. So don’t you think it’s time for a change?”

Her piece is pretty funny, you should read it. The internet is also asking: Why is vigilante murder an appropriate response to property damage, but property damage isn’t an appropriate response to vigilante murder?

We can’t let Trump highjack the narrative away from our other major problems: Consider that stocks in the US hit all-time highs this week, but another 1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. This shows that employers continued to eliminate mind-boggling numbers of jobs, five months into the pandemic. One result is that 12 million people have lost employer-sponsored health insurance since February due to losing their jobs.

Our economy remains far worse than it was in January. The Fed’s weekly economic index suggests that the economy is still more deeply depressed than it was at any point during the 2008 financial crisis. The stock market rise is driven by only a small number of technology giants (Apple, Google, Amazon, and others). And the share prices of these companies have very little to do with their current profits, let alone the state of the economy in general.

Trump has not offered a solution for any of this, because he doesn’t need an answer if you think rioting and looting are more important. On to cartoons.

Why the stock market’s up when everything else is down:

Guess which side thinks Kaepernick is a traitor, but Rittenhouse, the shooter is a patriot?

 

Trump says he’s not going down with the ship:

We left the reality-based world last week:

Some think that professional athletes shouldn’t say anything about BLM:

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Saturday Soother – Conventions Are Over Edition, August 29, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge that connects Vermont and New Hampshire across the Connecticut River. Wrongo and Ms. Right crossed it many times a year when we lived in NH.

Happy Saturday, fellow disease vectors! Both presidential conventions are over, and there’s just 65 days to go until the election. In his Thursday night acceptance speech, Trump turned and pointed at the White House, saying “We’re here and they’re not.” That sums up what’s going to be all-out, house-to-house fighting for votes by both Parties.

Trump is seeking to redefine the November election as a choice between Biden and himself, not simply a referendum on his first term.

A massive Republican attempt to scramble the narrative has already begun: No one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America. If he wins the election you’ll have to lock your doors, or run for your lives, because those bad people from “Democrat-run cities” want to kill you in your beds.

They’re betting that the fear of violence in the streets will outweigh all of the other issues on the minds of a sufficient number of voters to prevent Biden from winning in the Electoral College.

But the reality is that Trump has done much to incite violence. The fact that the violence has overwhelmingly occurred in cities with Democratic municipal governments is framed as making Trump the “change candidate”, despite being the guy on whose watch all of this violence has happened. And, as presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway explained on Fox News:

“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order…”

And facts just don’t matter. Biden isn’t for defunding the police. In reality, he has called for increasing federal funding for police departments by $300 million, while Trump has proposed nearly half-a-billion dollars in cuts to law enforcement funding.

We should have expected the emergence of vigilante violence, as more and more protests turned into riots this summer. But this week’s killings in Kenosha, WI demonstrate how sinister vigilantism is when a 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse comes from another state, ostensibly to protect local Wisconsin property from local protesters, and kills two.

But he wasn’t alone. NYT reports that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Mr. Rittenhouse’s gunfire is mixed in with the sound of at least 16 other gunshots that ring out during this time.”

Apparently, Rittenhouse was responsible for eight of the 24 rounds, so other vigilantes were also roaming Kenosha’s streets. And since he’s 17, Kyle isn’t old enough either to own a gun, or to be open-carrying in Wisconsin, where you can’t legally own a rifle until you’re 18.

Immediately after Rittenhouse was identified as the shooter, the right-wing media characterized his actions as those of a dutiful citizen who had no choice but to take the law into his own hands, more Republican justification of vigilantism.

Returning to the context of the next 65 days: Once again, the big question is whether you are better off today than you were four years ago?

Since life is worse, how and why should voters focus only on violence when there are already 185,000 COVID dead? When 30 million Americans are unemployed? When 50 million face eviction, and our economy is teetering on depression?

There is no question that street violence is a major issue that must be on the table right along with the others. These require simultaneous solutions, and failure to solve any one of them will weaken the country for at least a decade.

They all urgently need to be solved, not spun, and Biden better have good answers.

It is a wonder that we haven’t seen more gun fights on our city streets. The police have all the tools and protective gear money can buy, but they look the other way when it comes to vigilantes. They need to intervene when these open carry vigilantes show up at protests, and bar them from entering into the immediate area of a protest, regardless of the First and Second Amendment consequences. Public safety should override the Constitutional concerns.

Americans can’t walk around afraid of armed and unregulated militias who think they have a mandate. And those militias can’t be welcomed by our local police. That’s the easy part. Solving the COVID pandemic so people can go back to work and to school can’t be left to Trump. He’s proven he isn’t capable of solving those problems.

Time for some soothing Saturday music. Here’s Yiruma, a South Korean composer and pianist, playing a short set of original music, live at a Korean Traditional House Village:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Rioting in Cities Threatens Democrats

The Daily Escape:

Temple of Luxor –August 2020 photo by Hossam Abbas

If you have not seen the horrifying video of Jacob Blake being shot point-blank in the back by police, while his children were watching, while bystanders were screaming for his life, you’ve certainly heard about it.

Kenosha, WI is now the nation’s new epicenter of unrest. Government buildings were left damaged and businesses were burned out in the city’s downtown. Somehow those seven bullets didn’t kill Blake, but he’s paralyzed from the waist down. We’ve seen so many of these incidents that it seems unbelievable that police continue to shoot people in front of cell phone cameras.

One of the most maddening parts of these incidents is that they remain so commonplace. It’s hard to know what will spark change. Part of police training involves the concept of situational awareness. So you’d think, since George Floyd’s murder, that every cop is aware that each confrontation will be captured on cell phone video. Clearly, you’d be wrong.

Here are some stats: 1,146 people died at the hands of police in 2019 in the US. The UK had 3. Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland had 0. The US rate of police killings per capita is right below Iran’s and just above Angola and Colombia.

That isn’t something that we should accept. It also doesn’t mean we have to accept riots with people burning cars and damaging buildings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, or anywhere else. But it does mean there has to be both acknowledgement of the problem, and action to fix it.

Both Parties have to deal with this. Let’s start with how the Republicans decided to handle it.

Wrongo didn’t watch the Republican Convention (If you ain’t Indicted, you ain’t invited) on Monday, but he doesn’t believe Jacob Blake was mentioned. The internet-famous St. Louis couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who brandished an assault rifle and pistol at Black Lives Matter demonstrators marching by their home went another way, speaking about white grievance.

Jonathan Capehart in the WaPo quotes Mrs. McCloskey:

“When we don’t have basic safety and security in our communities…we’ll never be free to build a brighter future for ourselves, for our children or for our country.”

Actually they do have both safety and police protection in their community. There was no need for them to come out of the house brandishing guns. And the future she is speaking about is only for some white kids. The McCloskey’s seem to be garden variety racists scared to death of Black people.

However, Black people do not have safety and security in their communities because the police do not protect them. Police are very likely to violate Black people’s constitutional rights, verbally attack them, injure, or kill them whenever there is an encounter.

The McCloskey’s were saying to Trump supporters: Those young Black thugs are coming to take what you have, to kill you and your family too, and only Trump can fix it:

“Make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

But Democrats can’t be silent on the rioting and property damage in cities across America. If they remain silent, they will be defined by the Republican racists. After the Blake shooting, Biden called for an immediate investigation, and for officers to be held accountable.

He also said systemic racism is “the urgent task before us.”

So far, so good, but the Dems need to make clear where they stand on street violence that flows from police violence.

Biden must walk a tightrope. The BLM movement has deep and wide support from persons of color as well as from white voters, but, between the lockdown and the riots, the sense of insecurity on the part of small business owners has never been higher. People who live in cities are also insecure when rioting occurs in their part of town. Large-scale destruction pushes away some of the people who are inclined to listen.

Some are already asking why Biden hasn’t yet denounced the street violence. And Pew Research has found violent crime is increasing in importance as an issue for voters in 2020:

“59% say violent crime will be very important to their 2020 decision…”

For context, it’s nearly as important to Americans as the coronavirus, which ranks fourth with 63%. Not surprisingly the Parties feel differently. Here are the details. Trump supporters in red, Biden’s in blue:

The widest gaps between Trump and Biden supporters are on climate change (57 points) and racial and ethnic inequality (52 points).

Time to thread the needle Joe!

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 24, 2020

The Daily Escape:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Let the people decide” and “Get America Working” sign, Republic, WA – August 2020 photo by Ottho Heldring

(Our problem with comments continues. Several other blogs have reported a similar issue with the most recent WordPress update.)

Happy Monday! 2020 has been one terrible thing after another. Now, we have an asteroid. CNN reports:

“The celestial object…is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory…..The agency has determined the asteroid probably…won’t have a deep impact, let alone bring Armageddon.”

Even though NASA estimates that the chance of it hitting earth on the day before the election is just 0.41%, since this is 2020, you can count on it wiping out at least one post office in a swing state.

On Friday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, released internal Postal Service documents, that warned Postmaster General Louis DeJoy about increasing nationwide delays over the last two months as a result of his operational and organizational changes.

The new documents were part of an internal presentation to DeJoy on August 12, 2020. They provide an assessment of performance trends over the past few months. Here is a chart from the presentation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shows the significant drop in performance since the beginning of July, specifically in First-Class Mail. DeJoy said at a hearing in the Senate on Friday that:

“We all feel bad about what the dip in the level of service has been.”

Earlier, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent a letter to Maloney and Speaker Nancy Pelosi arguing that nationwide reports of delays are nothing but “conspiracy theories” being “manufactured” by Democrats to “undermine President Trump” and support “an unnecessary bailout plan.”

In other postal news, the Republicans have a legal full court press on to prevent vote-by-mail in swing states. They sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and each of the state’s county election boards to prevent election administrators from providing secure drop boxes for mail-in ballot returns.

Well, The Intercept reports Republicans had an epic fail last week. The Trump campaign had been ordered by a Pennsylvania federal court judge to back up its claims of fraud in the state’s vote-by-mail system. But the campaign submitted a 524-page answer that contained zero cases of fraud involving mail-in ballots.

It did mention a handful of other types of election fraud, but their answer wasn’t responsive to the motion to produce evidence that mail-in ballot fraud was a grave risk to Pennsylvania voters.

It’s clear that voter fraud exists, but it doesn’t exist in large numbers in mail-in voting. What we do know is that fraud is actually far more prevalent at polling locations. But even that form of voter fraud is extremely rare. It has been clear for years that electronic voting machines are easily hacked, and do not offer an auditable trail back to the actual voter. So fraud in those machines is almost impossible to detect.

In Pennsylvania, the Republicans were trying to make it illegal for the state to set up drop boxes for ballots. If there was a real opportunity for rampant fraud in mail-in voting, Trump and the GOP would be all for it.

Finally, NPR has a report about rejected absentee ballots in the 2020 primaries, saying that at least 550,000 ballots nationally were rejected. From NPR:

“That’s far more than the 318,728 ballots rejected in the 2016 general election and has raised alarms about what might happen in November when tens of millions of more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, many for the first time.”

Most absentee or mail-in ballots are rejected because required signatures are missing or don’t match the one on record, or because the ballot arrives too late. Occasionally a voter incorrectly chooses too many candidates, or circles a candidate’s name instead of filling in the bubble next to it.

Apparently Black and Hispanic voters were more likely to be voting by mail for the first time, and were twice as likely to have their ballots rejected than white voters who were voting by mail for the first time.

Time to wake up America! Tens of thousands of ballots were rejected in this year’s primaries in key battleground states. For example, in 2016 Trump won in Wisconsin by 23,000 votes. In this year’s April presidential primary, more than 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected, enough to swing the 2016 outcome if they had been counted.

Forty-eight percent of those who intend to vote for Joe Biden say they will use mail-in ballots, compared with just 23% of Trump supporters.

Voting in America is complicated and sometimes, extremely difficult. Stay alert, and help as many first-time voters as you can.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 23, 2020

In his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, Biden said he’ll be an “ally of the light”. He said, “Make no mistake, united, we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.”

Donald Trump called it the “darkest and gloomiest convention in American history”.

He and the Republicans get their shot starting on Monday. Will the GOP convention be dark and gloomy? Of course! After all, this is the guy who gave us the “American Carnage” inauguration speech.

He’s the guy who said “send them back” about four American Congresswomen who were dark-skinned US citizens. The guy who last week praised QAnon, the conspiracy theory movement that thinks the government is being secretly run by Satan-worshiping pedophiles. He’s the guy who tear-gassed a peaceful crowd so he could walk to a church for a photo-op. This is the guy who sent secret police into cities.

He’s the guy who wants to be re-elected, even if he has to cheat to win. He wants to send law enforcement officers to polling places on election day, something that’s illegal.

Trump, the self-described law-and-order president, will deliver his acceptance speech from the White House, something that is illegal for everyone in any administration except the president and vice president. Melania will deliver her speech from the Rose Garden.

But, the darkest and gloomiest thing is that the most negative, hateful person to have ever entered American politics will be re-nominated by the GOP. His campaign will include a very large dose of us vs. them, lies, hate, and racism. On to cartoons.

Conventions compared:

GOP convention schedule:

How the election’s effort to find common ground will go:

What to expect with mail-in ballots:

Back to school means new tests:

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Saturday Soother – Between the Conventions Edition, August 22, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Wildflowers on the Pacific Crest Trail, Mt. Rainier NP, WA – August 2020 photo by gregvalle_photography. The red flowers are Indian Paintbrushes, the purples are Lupines.

We’re now between conventions, so let’s wrap-up the Democrat’s: They had an interesting virtual convention, a great first-time effort that ended on an impressive note. Maybe Biden’s speech will be forgotten by next week, but he did a great job closing out four days of the Democrats exceeding expectations. He nailed the speech, both in tone and substance. Tough on Trump, whose name he never mentioned, but far more about hope, light and love.

Biden’s speech may have capped the night, but the testimonial by 13-year old Brayden Harrington, who shared how Biden helped him overcome his stutter stole people’s hearts:

“I’m just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time Joe Biden made me more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life.”

What hasn’t been seen is the initial encounter between Biden and Brayden in NH during the Democratic primaries. Click on the link to view the video:

Clearly real, and not staged for the convention. And this tweet sums up the difference between the candidates:

Despite Trump’s warnings, the convention was a patriotic celebration of empathy and decency, along with some Trump mauling, all wrapped in a devastating indictment of Trump’s first term. Biden’s speech was so good that even FOX backtracked. Chris Wallace noted that Trump’s attempt to portray Biden as mentally impaired backfired badly: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Remember, Donald Trump has been talking for months about Joe Biden as [being] mentally shot, a captive of the left….I thought that he blew a hole, a big hole, in that characterization…[delivering] an enormously effective speech.”

The TV pundits were grating and unenlightening, as usual. The networks had trouble keeping up with the show. They had to sideline their analysts and just show the event, or risk missing something by trying to squeeze in bloviating commentary.

Julia Louis Dreyfus dunked on Trump with this:

“Joe Biden goes to church so regularly that he doesn’t need tear gas and heavily armed troops to get there.”

Moving on, in another example of privatization gone wrong, Alan Macleod of Mint Press has a shocking report on a privately-run, for-profit ICE detention center in Farmville, VA. The facility is run by Immigration Centers of America (ICA), which is owned by a group of Virginia investors. Macleod reports that 89% of the inmates have COVID: (Emphasis by Wrongo)

“….nearly 90% of the prison population at ICA has tested positive for COVID-19, accounting for around a quarter of all current detainee positive cases across the entire nationwide ICE prison network.”

Since the company began housing undocumented people for ICE in 2010, they have been the target of several lawsuits and an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. Their mis-management borders on crimes against humanity. McLeod says ICA:

“…was also deporting coronavirus-positive immigrants back to their home countries, overwhelming their response systems. The Minister for Health for Guatemala, for example, noted that 75% of deportees on one flight arrived with COVID-19.”:

For Trump, the combination of massive COVID infections and immigrants in prison is good for a few laughs. Americans love putting people in prisons, but hate paying for it, so Republicans have dialed up the privatization, allowing private companies’ promise to fulfill our incarceration requirements on the cheap.

It’s the end of another rock ’em, sock ’em week. Bannon was arrested for mail fraud. Postmaster General DeJoy testified to the Senate, offering a pledge that the Postal Service would deploy:

“…processes and procedures to advance the election mail, in some cases ahead of first-class mail.”

Nothing backs his pledge to the Senate, and we will only learn if he fails or succeeds after the election, so beware!

Finally, CNN reports that Melania Trump doesn’t have plans to campaign with Herr Donald this fall.

Enough! It’s time to kick back, tune out, relax and forget about Bannon, Melania and Trump for a least a few minutes. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Today the Saturday coffee experience is on break, but out on the fields of Wrong, there are bushes to trim. Wrongo is starting day two of his annual late summer trimming extravaganza. Today, the various rose of sharon, wisteria and forsythia bushes are the hard targets of Wrongo, the trimmer.

Before heading out, let’s take a few minutes to listen to “Songs My Mother Taught Me, a song for voice and piano written in 1880 by Antonin Dvořák. Here it is sung in 2018 by Ernestina Jošt, a young Czech soprano unfamiliar to Wrongo. She is accompanied by the Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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How Susan Collins Helped Wreck the Postal Service

The Daily Escape:

Old Post Office, Washington, DC – 1907 photo by Harris + Ewing via Shorpy. This building is now the Trump International Hotel.

(Update: still working on the problem with displaying comments)

Wrongo is going to talk about how Susan Collins wrecked the Post Office, but first, a little about the Democratic Convention and what comes next.

Biden is up in the polls, but there are 74 days until the election. There’s a lot of talk about how no one’s really in love with Biden (except for Jill). It would be great if the Dem’s Trump alternative was a young, smart, charismatic person who all of America loved. But we should remember that all of America didn’t love either JFK or Obama, the two smartest and most charismatic nominees of either Party in the past 60 years.

Obama’s speech on Wednesday night showed just how difficult it is to top charisma and smarts. To Wrongo, Obama gave the greatest speech of his life, making clear the gravity of the threat posed by Trump, and calling on non-voters to get in the game to help save our democracy.

So Biden isn’t charismatic. He may not be your cup of tea, but think about Trump as a tumor on America that must be removed. We don’t need to love the surgeon. We need him to do the job, and put us on the road to recovery.

Maybe 2016 was a correctable mistake. Maybe it was the beginning of the end of our Republic. If it isn’t to be the end, we need people to work for a November landslide.

Item two: Sen Susan Collins (R-ME), and her undermining of the Post Office.

Yesterday, Postmaster General DeJoy bowed to pressure, and said that he was halting further changes to the USPS until after the election. It seems he isn’t willing to roll back the removal of sorting machines and post boxes, or to reinstate overtime for postal carriers. This isn’t sitting well with Democrats, so we’ll see DeJoy at a hearing with the Senate on Friday, and with the House on Monday.

So far, the vast majority of Congressional Republicans have responded with near silence, except for a few, including Sen Collins who is in a close race to keep her Senate seat. She is currently trailing her Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, by five points.

Collins sent a letter to DeJoy asking him to address the mail delivery delays across the nation:

“I share the goal of putting the USPS back on a financially sustainable path…However, this goal cannot be achieved by shortchanging service to the public.”

From the Washington Monthly:

“As it turns out, Collins is actually one of the members of Congress most responsible for the Postal Service’s devastation. Long before DeJoy started manipulating the USPS, Collins was at the forefront of a bill that crippled the agency’s finances.”

The back story is that in 2005, Collins sponsored and introduced the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the USPS to pre-pay 50 years’ worth of health and retirement benefits for all of its employees. No other federal agency, or ANY private company is required to pre-fund their pension plan, and failing to pre-fund it doesn’t mean retirees won’t receive their pensions.

As Chair of the Senate oversight panel at the time, she shepherded the bill’s passage during a lame-duck session of Congress. It passed by a voice vote, without objection.

To meet the mandate for prefunding USPS’s health and retirement benefits, the measure required the Postal Service to place roughly $5.5 billion into the pension fund every year between 2007 and 2016, followed thereafter by sizable additional payments. This makes it impossible for the institution to run a profit.

The law also prohibited the agency from any new activities outside of delivering mail. This made it even harder for the USPS to turn a profit, at a time when delivery to homes was undergoing substantial disruption by the private sector.

Congress also told USPS that it can’t raise the rate for first class postage by more than the rate of inflation. The inability to raise first class rates in the face of declining volume has been catastrophic. The Postal Service currently has $160.9 billion in debt, of which $119.3 billion is the result of pre-funding retiree benefits.

Collins’s role in passing that law has become a campaign issue in Maine, as it should. USPS’s long-term problems will require repealing the PAEA’s prefunding mandate. Maine’s other Senator, Independent Angus King, has come out in favor of a repeal, while Collins has not.

It would be icing on the cake to find that Collins lost because the elderly Mainers were angry at not getting their prescriptions because she has hamstrung the Post Office.

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Night One of the Democratic Convention

The Daily Escape:

Morning mail, Tulare County, CA – 1938 photo by Dorothea Lange via Shorpy. Free home delivery began in 1863. Daily deliveries were common, though cutbacks reduced them during the Depression and World War II.

Night one of the Democratic convention got off to a shaky start. As Wrongo thought might be the case, the first impression was of low energy, flatness, and of a too-slow pace. But the intimacy of not being in a big hall grew on Wrongo, and worked to give real emotional impact to some speeches, particularly by those who didn’t stand behind lecterns.

A few things stuck out as great. First, the use of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”. The 3:30 minute video montage worked to establish the theme of Monday night. With the video, the Dems offered the nation less identity politics and more of an American identity. That they were able to return to it to set up each new thematic segment worked particularly well.

Second, Kristin Urquiza nailed her shot. She had lost her father to Covid, and said:

“I’m one of the many who have lost a loved one to Covid…. My dad was a healthy 65-year-old….His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”

Being able to look directly into the camera and speak directly to us without the distractions in a stadium filled with drunken delegates made her attack on Trump’s failure to deal with the pandemic devastating.

Third, the Biden-Amtrak video. It also had an emotional point to make, showing Biden as a decent guy.

Finally, Michelle Obama was the star of the night. Her ability to connect with viewers was extraordinary and her takedown of Trump was one for the ages:

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Her speech, which also wouldn’t have worked as well in a big hall, makes Wrongo think that our political culture has moved away from normal convention performances. She was eloquent in a personal and direct way that will set the bar for the rest of this convention, and beyond.

Axios says that 18.7 million people watched last night’s coverage between 10 and 11 p.m. on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, Nielsen said. Four years ago, Democrats’ opening night drew just under 26 million viewers. However, the Biden campaign said that it tracked 10.2 million views on digital streams, taking the total to 28.9 million. Kind of an apples to oranges comparison.

From a campaign strategy perspective, this week, the Democrats will make their points about how no one is better off than they were four years ago.

They will finish just in time for the Republican convention that will be all Trump, all the time. Despite Trump’s efforts to paint Democrats as radical leftists and facists, the Democrats aren’t radical, and the Republicans really only have more Trump to offer America.

After a week of a soothing convention focused on everyday people, who will believe the GOP?

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Thoughts on Biden’s Election Strategy

The Daily Escape:

A “modern” equivalent of the pony express arrives at the post office in Pie Town, NM – 1940 photo by Russell Lee via Shorpy

(Wrongo is aware that blog comments aren’t working. We’re efforting a solution)

Wrongo is writing this Monday evening before the start of tonight’s Democratic convention. It will be interesting to see what happens. Are you planning to watch?

The Democrats are running against Trump and only secondarily, in favor of new policies. Their strategy harkens back to Ronald Reagan’s question of the American people in a presidential debate vs. Jimmy Carter in 1980, when Reagan asked: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

America’s answer in 1980 was no, it isn’t. Trump is probably the only incumbent president in this country’s history that thinks it will help him get re-elected if he makes America’s situation worse by deliberately creating chaos. From the Atlantic:

“Trump is systematically enlisting agencies, including the Postal Service, Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, that traditionally have been considered at least somewhat insulated from political machinations to reward his allies and punish those he considers his enemies. He is razing barriers between his personal and political interests and the core operations of the federal government to an extent that no president has previously attempted…”

While the post office dismantling is a threat to the election, it is also about the dismantling of the connective tissue of American society. There have been “privatize the post office” arguments for years. But Trump isn’t proposing legislation, he’s simply shutting down the post office before our eyes.

Today, unemployment stands at 10.2%, higher than during the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. The death toll from Covid-19 has passed 170,000, and it isn’t under control. Vast swaths of the US remain at varying levels of lockdown, while other parts of America are sending their kids back to school without social distancing. Trump has failed to manage the pandemic.

How should Biden communicate all this in a way that will get Americans to vote Democratic in huge numbers in November? Wrongo is reminded of the lyric from Simon and Garfunkel’s tune, “The Boxer”:

All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest

So who is listening, and what will they think?

In reality, the US economy just contracted at the fastest quarterly rate on record. This leads the Democrats to say: We need to pump more money into the economy, extend and expand unemployment benefits, give money to the states to prevent massive budget cuts, expand health spending, and help the post office!

McConnell and Trump say: This means we need to cut unemployment benefits, give more power to employers, and leave the states to fend for themselves. Also, people just need to get out more.

While the independent voter says: I just can’t see any difference between the parties. I really can’t.

Luckily, McClatchy reports that the number of undecideds in this cycle has shrunk dramatically. In October of 2016, 20% of voters were still undecided. Today that number is down to about 5%.

So, running against Trump and the Republicans is just about the only strategy Biden needs to employ. Trump on the other hand, is actually goading the country into responding to Reagan’s question by saying, “No, we’re not better off than we were four years ago”.

Trump thinks that his winning argument once again will be “I alone can fix it.” Wrongo doesn’t like his odds.

Some are saying that the 2020 election is a choice between the lesser of two evils. Some are saying they just won’t vote. Since there’s so much effort at voter suppression, voting must still be very important, so everyone should make certain that they get to vote.

The lesser evil shouldn’t even be a debate. We have seen the massive damage that Trump has foisted on the US, increasing in intensity in the past few months. His lack of leadership has led to those 170,000 COVID deaths. He is taking brazen steps to game the electoral process. Over the past 3 ½ years, we’ve watched solid public policy be dismantled and then, flat out wrecked.

A Biden regime will appoint departmental heads that will follow the law, and not terrorize minorities outright.

Finally, the lesser evil can potentially (not a guarantee) give Americans room to maneuver and to grow. The maximal evil is sure to kill us.

Let’s see what strategy the Democrats decide to follow.

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