Myanmar Coup Parallels Trump’s Coup

The Daily Escape:

Last light on Mt. St. John, MT – 2021 photo by vincentledvina

Tuesday was the deadline for Trump’s brand-new legal team to present their briefs to the Senate for the impeachment trial that is due to start next Monday. The House impeachment managers have delivered their trial brief to the Senate.

And Trump’s lawyers filed their answer, arguing his incitement was protected by the First Amendment, that the House moved too quickly to impeach, and although he was impeached while still President, the Senate can’t constitutionally try him now that he’s out of office.

As we head into next week’s impeachment circus, there are parallels between the attempted Trump coup in DC and the military coup that just took place in Myanmar. First, an update: Troops there are patrolling the streets and a night-time curfew is in force. A one-year state of emergency was declared with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in control. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of the government, along with several other leaders of her National League for Democracy party (NLD) were arrested in a series of raids. Later, the military announced that 24 ministers and deputies had been removed, and 11 replacements had been named, including in finance, health, and the interior and foreign affairs.

It’s unclear what will happen next.

But, check out the similarities between what has happened there, compared to what happened here three weeks ago in Washington:

  • The military coup follows weeks of tensions between the armed forces and the government following parliamentary elections lost by the army-backed opposition party.
  • The opposition had demanded a re-run of the election, raising allegations of widespread fraud that were not confirmed by Myanmar’s electoral commission.
  • The coup occurred on the week that the first session of Parliament since the election was due to start. That session would have certified the election result by seating the next government.

What differentiates Myanmar from the Jan. 6 coup in America is that in Myanmar, there was an “army-backed opposition.” When the opposition lost the election, the military claimed fraud, demanded a do-over, and then intervened before the new Parliament could legitimize the results.

Apparently in Myanmar, there has been an ongoing power struggle between the head of the military and Aung San Suu Kyi. The two have rarely met since 2015, often only at public events. Suu Kyi’s party wasn’t simply a victim in this coup. Last November, her government barred huge numbers of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, who typically support their own political parties, from participating in national elections. Her party then won in a landslide.

And last year, Suu Kyi attempted to push through constitutional amendments that would have gradually shrunk the military’s share of Parliament from 25% to 5%. It failed, but this may have been what turned the military against her.

One lesson to take from Myanmar as we head into next week’s impeachment trial is that Trump’s coup may have failed because he didn’t have the support of the US military.

All of our institutions matter, they need to be strong. While they can be bureaucratic, inefficient, and boring, they always matter. Trump tried to use the courts to overturn the election, and failed. He tried to use the state-level electoral vote certification process to overturn the election, and failed. He tried to use his base to invade the US Capitol to block the certification of the Electoral College Vote on Jan. 6, and it failed.

Trump couldn’t use the US military to overturn the election despite a significant number of military supporting him, and believing that the election was rigged. That’s because the US military has never been a political tool, and it wasn’t going to change that by being a tool for Trump.

America isn’t Myanmar. In many less developed countries the military has an important political role. We’re in an entirely different situation, at least for the present, and hopefully, forever.

The fight for American democracy cannot be left to election officials, judges, or corporations like Twitter. It must first be fought by the Republican Party, many of whom still say the presidential election was a fraud, and who still refuse to acknowledge Biden as president. They have to reject their Sedition Caucus. Then Democrats and Republicans together can reset the terms of the political battle in America.

Democracy is a contest of ideas; it isn’t simply a propaganda war. It must start from a shared reality, one that Trump and his followers fail to see.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Fire the Lawyers Edition, February 1, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Waimea Canyon, Kauai HI – photo by cosmosch. Called the “Grand Canyon” of Hawaii.

From CNN:

“…Trump’s five impeachment defense attorneys have left a little more than a week before his trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy.”

CNN said that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there had been massive election fraud and that the presidential election was stolen from him, rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Also, the attorneys had not been paid any advance fees and their letter of intent was never signed.

Isn’t it predictable that Trump will refuse to employ the only semi-sound legal strategy available to him? He has a valid defense to say he had no intention to foment sedition, and besides, the Senate has no jurisdiction, since he’s a private citizen.

But instead, he wants to employ, with zero evidence, the “election was stolen” defense.

The House impeachment article charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob. Let’s hope that Trump tries to represent himself. It’s possible that an incompetent defense that doesn’t address the charge may be sufficient to allow 17 Republicans to vote to convict him.

OTOH, Trump may not know the law, but he knows this jury.

What went down at the Capitol was an insurrection, not a cotillion. So let’s watch those Republican sycophants listen to him spout more bullshit that he’s completely and obviously unable to prove.

The election was stolen strategy forces Trump to make an argument that the insurrection was “justified”, however nothing in the 2020 election justifies insurrection. But, he would just love that platform. One more chance to put himself in front of the cameras, and play to his base. One more chance for them to declare Trump a victim.

But what would he say when being sworn in? He’s asked to swear to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. Opinions differ.

There’s no reason he has to be represented by a lawyer. Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. However, it is likely that ethics rules would cover the actions of a lawyer representing Trump at the impeachment trial. As non-lawyer, Trump would not be so constrained.

Testifying on his own behalf may be the best chance that enough Senate Republicans could be shamed into convicting him. Let him face 100 Senators with the argument that he actually won by millions of vapor votes.

Eventually, when there is a roll call vote, the choice is either to vote “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”. But the two real choices facing Republican Senators are “Do I show minimal integrity, or utter debasement?” We’ll see if once again, they’ll choose the latter.

Trump knows it’s likely that there are 45 Senate votes in the bag to acquit. He just wants to continue the Big Lie propaganda war. Trump’s already using the stolen election and attempted coup as a Creation Myth for his political movement.

But the facts of the case are well known to everyone. We were all eyewitnesses. And the Senate will vote according to some combination of conscience and political necessity, regardless of evidence or arguments.

If conviction of the one count of Impeachment doesn’t happen, let’s at least look forward to a criminal indictment of Trump on seditious activity. It could happen as the DOJ learns more about the coordination by the coup leaders, and their connection to Trump.

Time to wake up America! Once again we will take a roll call vote that shows how craven the Republican Party has become.

To help you wake up, Wrongo returns to a live performance by the Killers doing their anthem “When You Were Young” performed live at the Royal Albert Hall in London, just over a decade ago. Wrongo has said before that British crowds are the best. It makes the Killers’ Live at The Royal Albert Hall an all-time favorite live rock performance.

The crowd knows the music, the band is energized throughout. See the entire concert if you have time. They picked the venue specifically for the DVD, then made tickets available through various chapters of their fan clubs. Everybody in that crowd is a die-hard fan.

Here is “When You Were Young”:

Make sure to catch the “Song Exploder” episode on Netflix that delves into the making of the song.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 31, 2021

Trump left office with numerous lawsuits against both him and his administration still pending. That was part of a run-out-the-clock strategy to avoid accountability while president.

Shortly after Trump’s presidency ended, so too did the two lawsuits claiming he used the Oval Office to enrich himself, violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause barring federal officeholders from accepting certain gifts and payments while in office.

Some legal actions, like efforts to obtain his tax returns, are continuing, but experts say that while he was in office, Trump’s run out the clock strategy worked. Before Trump took office, it was rare for presidents to petition the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of a lower court ruling. Those stays had the effect of allowing a federal policy to go forward while a legal challenge plays out. Trump treated these requests as a standard litigation tactic. From the Hill: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The combined administrations of former Presidents GW Bush and Obama made just eight such requests over 16 years, with only four requests being granted.

In Trump’s first three years in office, his Justice Department asked for 29 emergency stays. In response, the court granted relief 17 times. A number of stays were still in effect when Trump’s term ended Jan. 20, meaning a final ruling is unlikely to ever be reached in the underlying cases…”

Exactly as envisioned by The Founders. On to cartoons.

Republicans will let him skate again:

The GOP elephant never remembers:

Some DC pets have been there a long time:

Republicans resume the position:

Evolution of the elephant:

Not so sleepy:

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Saturday Soother – January 30, 2021

The Daily Escape:

View of Torrance, CA from Palos Verdes, CA – January 2021 photo by Gary W. Stuart. A perfect reason to live in Palos Verdes, where Wrongo and Ms. Right lived for 10 years: Views of ocean and mountains on a rare crystal clear LA winter day. The San Gabriel Mountains in the background are ~35 miles away.

We’ve had a few bitter cold days on the snow-covered fields of Wrong. Friday morning, it was 6° with a 20+mph wind, making it a tough walk for the dog.

The emotional temperature is also icy in DC.  There is a growing rupture between Republicans who insist that the deadly Capitol riot was not the work of Trump supporters, and who insist on carrying concealed weapons onto the floor of the House, and Democrats who say they are afraid they’ll be harmed by those very same Republicans.

Since Republicans refuse to hold their colleagues accountable, some House Democrats have started refusing to work with some of their GOP counterparts, specifically those who favored the election sedition and who refuse to wear masks.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) is moving her office away from the office of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Greene and her staff are berating and harassing the Congresswoman and her staff because they wear masks. Bush said:

“I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,”

Three weeks after the attack on the Capitol, and two weeks after the disgraced president was impeached for the second time, the GOP is wallowing in a debate over impeachment, trutherism, and… Jewish space lasers?

Yes to the Jewish space lasers: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is also a gun-toting’ QAnon disciple elected by the same Georgians who elected Biden. She says that California’s Camp Fire was started by a laser beam fired from space by “Rothschild Inc.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), sums up THE issue of 2021:

There were plenty of jokes made about the space lasers, but one thing that isn’t a joke is the palpable fear by Democrats who have to deal with this lunacy every day. We learned that the new acting head of the Capitol Police wants a wall around the Capitol:

“Vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing”

The acting head of the Capitol Police has no faith that we can satisfactorily explain to Republican-Americans that Biden was fairly elected. That his victory was reasonably large. That Trump and most of his enablers lied continually about the outcome of the election.

She thinks the only option is to put fences and razor wire around the Capitol to discourage people whose minds have been poisoned, from attacking it again. And our government may well follow her recommendation. We can’t harden a free society. Whatever you fence off will be “safe” while other places are open to attack. As Jonathan Last says,

“The fences and razor wire at the Capitol are the physical manifestation of the Republican lie. Every time you see them, remember Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz and…the hundreds of elected Republicans across the country who created this lie.”

The tragedy of Trump is that words and deeds, no matter how reckless or disconnected from the truth, carry no political consequences.

Organizer Bree Newsome translated Republicans’ current attitude:

“Sorry we tried to assassinate you & overthrow the election. We didn’t expect it to fail & create this awkwardness between us. Let’s move forward & get back to normal with us blocking any legislation you introduce while we continue to feed a racist terrorist movement. Love, GOP”

We live in disturbing times, but we must find ways to let go of the anger and fear, at least for a few moments on a Saturday. Outdoor activities are not recommended when the wind chill is below zero, so pick up that long read that you’ve been putting off, settle into a comfy chair and get going!

To help get you started, brew up a vente cup of Dafis Abafita Natural Ethiopia ($21.50/12 oz.) from Topeka Kansas’ PT Coffee Roasting Co. The roaster says you can taste mulberry, cocoa nib, tangerine zest, and agave syrup in the cup. Sounds like that cup is doing a lot of work!

Now put on your Bluetooth headphones and listen to “Born in the Right Country” by the group River Whyless, from the mean streets of Asheville, NC. This song is a powerful and elegantly drawn statement about racism in America. It’s a must-watch:

Sample lyric:

I’ll tell you baby a secret
Manufactured truth is easy to sell
When you own the factory
And you own the hearts of the clientele

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Are the Wrong People Manipulating the Market?

The Daily Escape

Green River covered bridge in Guildford, VT photo by jackalatch

Out of nowhere, we’re all hearing about “GameStop”. From The NYT:

“Traders on the Reddit message board, r/wallstreetbets, a community known for irreverent market discussions, made GameStop their cause du jour and rushed to buy out-of-the-money GameStop options.”

GameStop (GME) is a struggling, mid-size retailer stuck in a legacy business. They sell physical video games in a world where you buy and play them online. The financial fundamentals for GameStop suggest that its price should be below $20. It’s a real company, with about 53,000 employees, but it’s not worth anything close to its current valuation. It began the year at $19, got as high as $350, and is currently dropping like a stone, at about $196 right now.

Here’s how the r/wallstreetbets crowd made it happen: A hedge fund shorted GME — betting the price would go down — and thousands of retail investors banded together on Reddit to buy the stock, driving the price up. That caused the hedge funds to lose money, since they had to buy the stock for more than they had sold it for.

The r/wallstreetbets crowd numbers about 2 million subscribers. They realized that GME’s float (the number of shares physically available to trade) was very small, small enough that any large order or volume of buy orders would greatly affect its share price.

They knew that GME’s stock could be driven up to the point where the hedge funds that shorted the stock would have to panic-buy them to cover their short positions and contain their losses. They also understood that this could seriously damage those hedge funds.

This is known as a short squeeze, and Wall Street players do it all the time. What’s different is that a bunch of day traders got in on the action. A well-executed short squeeze is a thing of beauty, and in this case, it’s out in the open, and probably legal.

No one seems to be managing this effort. It’s a self-organized campaign with people using message boards to communicate with each other. What’s interesting is that this time, it’s the institutions that were caught with their pants down.

R/wallstreetbets is drawing on techniques used during the 2016 presidential election. Over the course of that campaign, a loosely organized community of alt-right meme pushers and their followers, located on sites like 4chan and Reddit, used social media to barrage Hillary Clinton with an endless flow of memes targeting her supposed inauthenticity and corruption.

They exploited social media to disrupt the normal workings of the US political system, just like these traders are doing this week to the pros on Wall Street. Interestingly, the traders on r/wallstreetbets, describe themselves as “Like 4chan found a Bloomberg Terminal”. It’s a remarkable testament to the internet’s ability to facilitate collective action.

From Bloomberg:

“This is all fascinating. In the space of 12 years, the role of the short-seller has turned on its head. Back in 2008, it was the shorts who upset the status quo, revealed what was rotten in the state of Wall Street, and brought down the big shots. They were even the heroes of a big movie. It was the Wall Streeters who attacked them.”

Now, short-selling hedge funds are seen as part of a corrupt establishment (as they should). And there is a deep generational divide: those unable to own their own home, who have student debt up the wazoo, and are forced to plan retirement without a pension have a stunningly unfair deal, compared to those of an older generation. That percolates into anger, in this case, partly directed at hedge funds.

Anger, at least as much as greed, has the capacity to make us throw caution to the winds. Many of us have a lot to be angry about. It’s impossible to foresee the consequences of similar angry bubbles driven by social media.

It also made a few titans of Wall Street angry. Here’s Leon Cooperman:

This is hilarious! Short positions get squeezed all the time, but the fact that he’s losing to a bunch of losers, who are “sitting at home getting their checks from the government, trading their stocks.” is unacceptable!

For God’s sake these people didn’t even go to Wharton!

And early on Thursday, Wall Street got a measure of revenge, when the trading platform Robin Hood suspended trading in GME. More than half of all Robinhood users own at least some GameStop stock.

No shortage of irony when you’re named Robin Hood, but you protect the rich by blocking everyday citizens from trading.

It’s almost as if capitalism is a tyrannical system arranged to benefit a select few.

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Ballbuster Walks Away From Filibuster

The Daily Escape:

Winter, Arches NP, UT – photo by Jack Bell Photography

For a few weeks, Mitch McConnell has continued to control the Senate, even after the Democrats should have taken control. Because of the Senate’s arcane rules, he wasn’t prepared to give up power unless Chuck Schumer and his new majority promised to retain the filibuster.

Yes, you heard that right. Absent a power sharing agreement known as an organizing resolution that Wrongo wrote about here, McConnell stayed in charge. Schumer and McConnell needed to agree on a new set of rules, which are passed at the start of each new Senate term, to govern how the Senate operates.

The organizing resolution determines everything from committee assignments and staff budgets, to who gets the best office space.

McConnell’s calculation was simple. Not only was preserving the filibuster, something that Republicans could use to control the Democrats’ agenda, it was something that they could unify behind. It was also something that divided Democrats, many of whom want to see it discarded immediately in order to advance their legislative agenda.

But on Monday, McConnell said he was ready to move forward, because Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WVA) signaled informally that they wouldn’t vote to end the filibuster. That assures McConnell that it will remain in place, at least for the time being.

Governing in the Senate will take 60 votes to move forward, potentially assuring gridlock on much of the Democrat’s agenda. It’s another example of how the filibuster rules all without even being officially invoked.

The longest filibuster ever held in the US Senate was 60 days in 1964 to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The House ended the use of a filibuster in 1842. The filibuster was created when there were just 26 states in the Union. It’s a tool of obstruction. It doesn’t encourage debate, it doesn’t allow for more voices to be heard.

Eugene Robinson in the WaPo:

“GOP senators can have a voice in the outcome if they engage in good faith. But they have to realize that “compromise” doesn’t mean “Republicans win and Democrats lose.” Not anymore.”

Both Pelosi and Schumer know damn well who McConnell is at this point. They know that winning votes in the 2022 Congressional races will be directly connected to beating Covid through better public health policy and vaccinations. More from Robinson:

“A better way to seek unity is to vigorously pursue policies that have broad public support — and that begin to clean up the shambles the Biden administration inherits. Democrats may have slim majorities, but they have been given a mandate to lead.”

There is an alternative that the Democrats may choose to use, a Congressional process known as budget reconciliation, which blocks Republicans from filibustering, while allowing Democrats to pass bills with a simple majority. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT):

“I think the budget resolution will be up next week,”

Reconciliation starts with passing a budget resolution for the coming fiscal year. In that budget resolution, they need to include special budget directives or instructions:

“To start the reconciliation process, the House and Senate must agree on a budget resolution that includes “reconciliation directives” for specified committees. Under the Congressional Budget Act, the House and Senate are supposed to adopt a budget resolution each year to establish an overall budget plan and set guidelines for action on spending and revenue.”

It can then go directly to the Senate floor without a committee markup under a provision of the 1974 law that created the modern budget process.

Democrats would be following a precedent laid down in early 2017 when Republicans who controlled the Senate, House and White House attempted to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act. At that time, the Senate Budget chairman, Michael B. Enzi, (R-WY), wrote a fiscal 2017 skinny budget resolution including reconciliation instructions with the goal of repealing the law.

Instead of the Senate marking up the budget, it was discharged from the committee and went straight to the floor where the Senate adopted it.

The Biden relief package may be whittled down, possibly broken into a few pieces. But it must pass, even if it takes budget reconciliation to do it.

The Democrats have inherited a broken country. There are huge expectations resting on them, while the 2022 midterms aren’t looking favorable at this point. That means they have to accomplish a lot, while the GOP only has to sit on its hands.

Democrats have to rise to the urgency of the moment by passing legislation no matter what it takes.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Delay The Impeachment Trial Edition, January 25, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Flathead Lake MT – photo by Lori Wilson

It’s a smart idea for the Democrats to take their time getting to the impeachment trial. Despite what America saw on Jan. 6, what we know about actions on that day and any advance planning by the rioters or their enablers remains extremely murky.

It’s seems clearer now that the sedition at the US Capitol was part of the larger attempt to undermine and undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, but was it an organized effort?

If it was, what’s Trump’s part in it? How about others who were and are, working to ensure minority rule in America: Did they also have a role in the riot?

On Jan 19, the WaPo had a story about possible advanced coordination of the riot:

“Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday.”

Wrongo was particularly interested in this from the article: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“In charging papers, the FBI said that during the Capitol riot, Caldwell [Thomas Edward Caldwell, a leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group] received Facebook messages from unspecified senders updating him on the location of lawmakers. When he posted a one-word message, “Inside,” he received exhortations and directions describing tunnels, doors and hallways, the FBI said.”

This is chilling: Some messages said:

“Tom, all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3 floors down,” and “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps.” Another message read: “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in. Turn on gas…”

Not clear to Wrongo what “turn on gas” means in this context. But, it’s hard to imagine “turn on gas” coming from anyone already in the tunnels. OTOH, the other messages to the Oath Keeper leader, detailing where lawmakers were, came either from a member of Congress, or from staff to a member of Congress.

We should also understand that to the FBI, “unspecified” doesn’t mean “unknown”. With all the domestic communication that NSA gathers, we are certain to learn who sent these messages.

It will take further investigating to develop a detailed timeline annotated with the messages from/between members of the administration, members of Congress and the coup plotters. There are two possible outcomes they were likely driving toward:

  1. Hostages held in exchange for the Joint Session voting either to adjourn without a decision on the Electoral Votes, or voting to make Trump president again.
  2. They kill many, enabling Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which he uses then to remain in power indefinitely.

Would either have worked? Thankfully for our democracy, Trump & Co. were seemingly unable even to plan a one-car funeral.

Time to wake up America! There is nothing to be gained by fast-tracking the impeachment trial. There’s information that still needs to be gathered. We should wait and see what the FBI unearths.

To help you wake up, listen to the Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind”. It was first recorded by Etta James in 1967, and it’s played here live by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart in Amsterdam in 2103:

As you watch this, for a few minutes, there is no pandemic, there was no coup riot. You’re transcending the red/blue divide. You feel happy.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 24, 2021

One of America’s greatest challenges is getting a handle on radicals and white nationalists in the US military. NPR compiled a list of individuals facing charges in connection with the Jan. 6 US Capitol sedition:

“Of more than 140 charged so far, a review of military records, social media accounts, court documents and news reports indicate at least 27 of those charged, or nearly 20%, have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military.”

Putting that number in perspective, only about 7% of American adults are military veterans.

A senior defense official told NPR subsequent to Jan. 6 that last year, there were 68 notifications of investigations by the FBI of former and current military members pertaining to domestic extremism.

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Military Times and Syracuse University, one third of troops said they personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks, including:

“…swastikas being drawn on service members’ cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between individuals.”

This means the top brass largely tolerates this behavior. And it isn’t new, we’ve known for years that the US military officer corps leans Republican, and its younger, more recent veterans, even more so.

The demographics of the military has changed since we started the all-volunteer military in 1973. It skews southern, western and rural, all conservative-leaning parts of America. One study at the National Interest shows that over the last generation, the percentage of officers that identify themselves as politically independent has gone from a plurality (46%) to a minority (27%). The percentage that identify themselves as Republican has nearly doubled (from 33% to 64%).

This isn’t to equate Republicans with White supremacy, but the trend and recent events are the best reason to end our all-volunteer military. A military draft with NO exceptions would go a long way toward making military service more egalitarian and politically balanced. On to cartoons.

Roberts is right:

We need this:

A different attack:

Eye of the beholder:

Back to the old game:

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Saturday Soother – January 23, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Lenticular clouds over the Presidential Range, Bretton Woods, NH – 2021 photo by Benjamin Williamson Photography. That’s Mt. Washington in the center.

Biden’s inauguration was wonderful TV viewing. Wrongo has watched every inaugural from JFK to Biden, and this one was the most satisfying. Maybe because its virtual nature meant that we were able to see many small moments of joy and artistry. Or maybe, it was just because the VIP seats were at home. Sara Jacobs, (D-CA) is a new member of Congress. She posted on Instagram:

“I’ve been in Congress for three Wednesdays. The first, an insurrection, the second, an impeachment, and the third, an inauguration. Let’s hope next Wednesday is as inspiring as this one.”

Couldn’t agree more. Biden’s speech was a worthy effort, hitting the right tone, and many key points. He pushed back pretty hard on lies and disinformation and assault on our democracy and institutions.

The real stars of the inauguration were others. Amanda Gorman, the young Black poet, gave all of us hope that the kids are alright. Lady Gaga’s voice was/is stunning. Wrongo really enjoyed John Legend singing Nina Simone’s arrangement of “Feeling Good” from 1965’s “Roar of the Grease Paint, Smell of the Crowd”.

The Ant Clemons/Justin Timberlake “Better Days” performance in and outside of the Stax museum in Memphis, TN was uplifting. Demi Lovato, who we’ve featured in the past, did Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” as an upbeat Zoom performance with health care workers. The closing “Firework” by Katy Perry, led to this image of the First Couple:

What moved you on Wednesday?

Nielsen reported that the Biden inaugural had more viewers than Trump’s in 2017. According to Nielsen, 39.87 million people watched the half-hour swearing-in ceremony over the nation’s six major TV-news outlets, compared with 38.35 million viewers for the 2017 event.

But back to reality: It’s going to be game on next Monday, as the House will transmit Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. The Right-wing knives will be back out, as before. They will say that Biden really isn’t interested in unity. Can Schumer get 17 Republican votes to convict Trump? We’ll see.

Convicting Trump will happen if the pro-democracy wing of the Republican Party is larger than we think. The other side is the Sedition Caucus, led by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), but it contains many, many others.

Senate Republicans now have to deal with their Florida retiree. This is precisely why so many Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon for “unity”. They’re saying: “Please don’t force us to make impossible choices!” Some Republican Senators are saying that their party cannot convict Trump and survive. They may be correct. If Mitch McConnell (R-KY), votes to convict Trump, there will be an effort to remove McConnell as Leader of the (now) Republican Minority.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said this week that: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…any Republican-leader type who embraces [conviction] is doing a lot of damage to the Party….There’s no way to be a successful Republican Party without having President Trump working with all of us and all of us working with him…”

That says it all: Their arguments have nothing to do with Trump’s guilt, innocence, or suitability for future office. They are solely political. They’re saying that it is impossible for the Republican Party to be a contender for power if they can’t keep most of Trump’s loyal followers inside the Party.

Impeachment or not, there’s a fight coming in the Republican Party. As Jonathan Last says, it’s a fight between the Sedition Caucus, and those Republicans who try to pretend that the last four years never happened. Sadly, in any fight between true believers and those willing to face reality, the true believers usually have the edge.

It is in America’s best interest that the Sedition Caucus lose, whoever their opponents are.

But on this Saturday, we feel that a weight has been lifted from the backs of Americans. We have a window through which we perceive that something good may happen. So take a break. Sit back, and listen to Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard perform their song of unity, “Undivided”, that we saw on Celebration America. Here’s the studio version:

Lyrics:

I think it’s time to come together
You and I can make a change
Maybe we can make a difference
Make the world a better place
Look around and love somebody
We’ve been hateful long enough
Let the Good Lord reunite us
‘Til this country that we love’s
Undivided

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Biden’s Inauguration

The Daily Escape:

At the mansion of Wrong, it was champagne and sushi as we tuned in to the Biden inauguration.

The day’s biggest upside was that the world’s hollowest man wasn’t on the stage with Biden. We’re experiencing the most refreshing moment in America in at least four years, and everyone should celebrate.

Watching it was far more emotional than Wrongo expected it to be. We’ve all suddenly realized how much of a weight we have been carrying around for the past four years. It’s a kind of PTSD that every citizen shared. Suddenly, we feel light, thinking that just maybe, all things are possible again.

All of the speakers hit on the theme of unity for the American people. Biden’s words were on point. He didn’t lay out a series of promises, or a legislative agenda. Instead, he spoke of the challenge of figuring out how to work together again in support of common goals, and the need to disavow the recent past: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew. And America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now, on this hallowed ground, where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries. As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.”

Biden also made it clear that democracy was attacked:

“We face an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis. America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is, we face them all at once. Presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested.”

And more:

“And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

We can’t know what the future holds, but today, one thing is clear: we’re not taking a dark and foreboding look into the future, despite the many daunting challenges ahead of us.

At least momentarily, things feel positive, including that some Republicans may be willing to work WITH Biden instead of only working to stymie him at every opportunity. After the dark nightmare of the past four years, suddenly, it again all feels like it is possible for progress to happen.

The highlight for Wrongo and Ms. Right was the poet Amanda Gorman, a 22 year old from California who has an incredible gift, and immense charisma. The WaPo’s Olivier Knox interviewed Amanda Gorman. He asked her what her first political memory was:

“When I was really young, my mother would read me my Miranda Rights and make sure I knew them. My mom was not playing around.”

We will never truly understand how difficult it must be to grow up in America as a Black woman with a speech impediment. During her reading, Gorman wore a ring with a caged bird, a gift from Oprah for the occasion and tribute to symbolize Maya Angelou, a previous inaugural poet. Here are excerpts from Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”:

 

“When day comes we ask ourselves,

Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

A sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

Of what just is…

Isn’t always just-ice

 

And so we lift our gazes, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know to put our future first

We must first put our differences aside.

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be. 

A country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free. 

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation, 

Because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. 

We will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one….For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Today is a day to celebrate. It seems likely that soon, people will look back on today as the beginning of something.

Just what that something will end up being, is up to us.

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