Saturday Soother – December 17, 2022

The Daily Escape:

18th Annual Las Vegas Santa Run – Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.  Source: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Left_Eye_Image

Lost in the back and forth of the year-end Congressional sausage-making was the unwelcome news that the deal to protect dreamers and to reform our immigrant asylum system has died.

From Greg Sargent in the WaPo:

“For a fleeting moment this month, a deal to protect 2 million “dreamers”…appeared within reach. Two senators with a history of bipartisan compromises were earnestly haggling over details…. The talks were endorsed by influential right-leaning opinion-makers, and even encouraged by the conservative Border Patrol union.”

The two Senators are Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). Back to the WaPo:

“What happened? Tillis and Sinema were negotiating over bill text, much of which had been written, as late as Wednesday night. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) informed Sinema and Tillis that he wouldn’t allow it to be attached to the end-of-year spending omnibus bill, effectively killing it…”

Passing it was always a long shot. It looks as if the Republicans want immigration as a political issue more than they want a solution.

If you follow what’s going on at the southern border, you know that using Title 42, to allow police and border officers to expedite the expulsion of illegal immigrants is ending. A federal judge ordered the Biden administration to stop using it by Dec. 21, stating that it was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Immigrants are now crossing the border in large numbers, expecting that it will soon be impossible for US Border Patrol to simply send them back without reliance on Title 42. More from Sargent:

“The framework would have created new processing centers that would detain incoming asylum seekers — with increased legal and health services — until screenings could determine whether they have a “credible fear” of persecution if they were returned home. Those who passed would get a final hearing much faster than under the status quo, due to major investments in legal processing. Those who failed would be expelled promptly.”

The proposed Tillis/Sinema bill was designed to disincentivize exactly what the Republicans keep yelling about: Migrants who arrive seeking asylum, who then disappear into the interior and fail to show up for hearings. More from Sargent:

“What’s deeply frustrating about this moment is that the fundamental principles underlying reform were real and workable. Many Republicans recognize the absurdity of banishing the dreamers….And on asylum, these reforms represented a good-faith effort to come up with a solution that both sides could accept.”

The bill would have discouraged the exact sort of abuses that the Republicans constantly call the “border crisis” while retaining  the US commitment to provide a fair hearing to all who seek refuge here.

Now, the border infrastructure that intercepts and processes migrants will be strained past the breaking point once Title 42 is lifted. But solving the problem doesn’t provide a political payoff to Republicans, who want to keep the “border crisis” hot as a 2024 campaign issue.

The Sinema/Tillis plan was a worthwhile effort. But there weren’t even 10 Republicans willing to break the filibuster. This is why, according to Gallup, more Americans say government is our biggest problem. And they’re saying so for the seventh time in the past 10 years. “Government” is a broad category of dissatisfaction that includes the President, Congress, Party politics and of course, gridlock.

There will be no end to gridlock unless and until bi-partisan efforts are rewarded. So, not in Wrongo’s lifetime.

But now’s the time to let go of the hot steaming mess that is our politics. Grab a few moments of calm and distance before we turn to a weekend of sourcing more Christmas presents and wearing our ugliest seasonal sweaters to family parties. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Here on the Fields of Wrong, we still have patchy snow on the ground, although the much-hyped winter storm that made it to the Northeast after wreaking havoc elsewhere seemingly has missed us entirely.

Let’s kick back and brew up a hot steaming mug of Ethiopia Uchoro Nansebo Washed ($27/12oz.) coffee from Floyd, VA’s (pop. 432), Red Rooster Coffee. The roaster says it is surprisingly savory and creamy with notes of apple cider, lemon-lime, and stewed peaches.

Now grab a comfy chair by a window and listen to Michael Bublé perform “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” with Hannah Waddingham (Rebecca Welton on Ted Lasso). Her singing is a revelation. It’s hard to believe she could make Bublé look and sound like a guy in the chorus. It’s from his 10th Anniversary “Christmas in the City” show:


Will New House Prices Go Down?

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Hood viewed from Timberline Lodge – December 2022 photo by Mitch Schreiber Photography

We have all watched house prices go through the roof since the start of the pandemic. Of Wrongo and Ms. Right’s six kids, two do not currently own a home, and despite having good jobs, and wanting to buy, they’re priced out of their local markets. Houses near Wrongo’s daughter on Cape Cod, MA have nearly doubled in price since the start of the pandemic. The same is true for Wrongo’s son in Bergen County, NJ.

But house sales in US have been slowing down in the past few months as interest rates climb. Wolf Richter at Wolf Street says there are now too many new houses for sale:

“Inventory of new houses for sale…has ballooned to 470,000 houses, up by 21% from the already high levels a year ago, and the highest since March 2008….Which destroys the theory that home prices are high because the industry isn’t building enough houses…”

Wow, nearly a half-million unsold new houses! Much of this inventory of unsold new houses were built in locations that are far from the big suburbs and the cities. After the pandemic started, US businesses redefined the office to include working from home. That further moved to “live anywhere” remote work for some firms.

Now, firms are bringing people back to their physical offices. That makes selling houses at great distances from the office a tough proposition for new home builders. It means buying a lower price rural home based on a big remote salary is no longer in the cards for many workers.

According to Bloomberg, Lennar a major home builder, has been approaching the big corporate rental landlords with an inventory listing about 5,000 houses that it wants to offload:

“Lennar is circulating lists of properties to potential acquirers, according to people familiar with the matter….Many of the properties are located in the Southwest and Southeast…with the builder giving landlords the chance to acquire entire subdivisions in some cases.”

It’s an industry-wide problem. Home builders have pitched at least 40,000 new houses to rental operators in recent months. Bloomberg says that many of these houses had originally been sold to individual buyers who later canceled their purchase contract.

According to a survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, the purchase contract cancellation rate spiked to 26% in October, up from a rate of 8% a year ago, and up from 11% in October 2019. The cancellation rates were highest in the Southwest at 45%, up from 9% a year ago. In Texas, the cancellation rate spiked to 39%, up from 12% a year ago. That’s understandable since mortgage rates have been rising so quickly.

This tells us that a part of the “housing shortage” is both local and price-driven. We know that house prices are driven by building costs, which have spiked in the past two years. Prices are also driven by the quality of the schools in the area, or whether the location is near a tourist destination. Retirees can move anywhere, but they generally want to be close to doctors and medical centers and will pay a premium for location rather than pay a lower price to live in the middle of nowhere.

Entire subdivisions sold as a rental community is better from the viewpoint of an individual home buyer instead of a percentage of that development’s homes being sold into a rental pool. No one should buy into a development that is partially sold and partially rented. The big landlords will rarely improve them beyond the least amount possible. So the overall value of all the homes in that community will be diminished by the presence of a rental pool.

We saw that in California in the 2007-2009 real estate bubble, where a few houses in otherwise nice neighborhoods would have overgrown lawns and trash lying in the yard, a clear sign of vacancy. That didn’t help the property values of the individual homeowner neighbors.

How far will housing prices fall? Nobody knows. Here is a chart showing average housing prices since 2019:

Comparing 2019 to 2022, average house prices have risen by 39%. Your area’s average may be even higher, particularly if you live in or near a large city.

It’s clear that the US housing market needs a price correction. Wrongo would like to say that people shouldn’t be offering anything higher on the house they want than it would have sold for in 2019. But, we may not get back to that price level anytime soon.

A price correction alone won’t solve America’s housing crisis, but a 20% correction sure would be a nice start.


Monday Wake Up Call – December 12, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Oak Creek in snow, Sedona, AZ – November 2022 photo by Ray Redstone Photography

What is it with our national politicians? There are only a few days left for the House and Senate to increase the country’s debt limit, but both Parties have been screwing around, and now it looks like they may punt the problem to the incoming Congress.

From the NYT:

“Congressional leaders have all but abandoned the idea of acting to raise the debt ceiling this month before Democrats lose control of the House, punting the issue to a new Congress when Republicans have vowed to fight the move, and setting up a clash next year that could bring the American economy to the brink of crisis.”

The plan had been for Democrats to act during the lame-duck post-election session to increase the legal borrowing limit. That would take advantage of the Dems’ final month of control of both Houses of Congress. It would head off a pissing contest with Republicans when they take over the House in January. Republicans have threatened to block the increase once they are in charge of the House. They plan to hold it hostage until the Democrats agree to substantial cuts to domestic spending and Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

There are several problems here. The debt ceiling which the US will reach sometime next year; the expiration of the last stopgap funding bill that expires on Dec. 16; and passing an overall budget for the current fiscal year.

The Dems had planned to attach a series of other priorities to the big funding package, including the reform of the Electoral Count Act (ECA), a critical reform that helps prevent election denier shenanigans in 2024. On December 3, Wrongo warned that this was a high risk gambit: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…the Democrats need Mitch McConnell and other GOP Senate leaders to agree to attach ECA reform to a spending bill and enlist the 10 GOP Senators to support it. That means the GOP controls whether this bill is enacted.”

Now we’re hearing that the leadership of both Parties can’t get to an agreement on the big package. More from the NYT:

“Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over how to split funding between military and social programs. Talks are set to continue through the weekend ahead of the Dec. 16 deadline, though aides said lawmakers could pass a one-week stopgap bill to give negotiations additional time.”

So America’s Christmas present from Congress will be no Electoral Count Act reform and no new budget, and no debt ceiling increase. Instead, we’ll get another Continuing Resolution that will fund the government until early in 2023 when the Republicans will try once again to toss the US credit rating off a high cliff with their far Right ideological theories on US government debt.

Under the last debt limit increase passed late in 2021, the federal government can borrow $31.381 trillion. Total national debt has been slightly above that level, but since a small portion of the debt is exempt from the debt ceiling, we’ve stayed in compliance. As of last week, total debt subject to the debt limit got as close as $31.345 trillion.

The consequences of failing to extend the debt limit are immediate and bring great risk. For example, it could force the government to choose between paying Social Security checks or paying the interest due on the country’s debt. That happened in 2011, when Congressional Republicans pressured President Obama to accept similar spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.

That standoff led to downgrading the credit rating of the US. It rattled American investors and the US economy. This time, it could have global economic implications, given that the world is facing a global recession.

Before you say: Well, these birds learned this lesson back then, so they surely will make a deal this time. Consider that Goldman Sachs reports that less than a quarter of Republicans and less than a third of Democrats who will serve in the House in 2023 served there in 2011.

Time to wake up, Congress! Sure, some of you are very old, and want to go home for the holidays. But we pay you to fix things, not to make them worse. Schumer and Pelosi should make them all stay in DC until they vote on what the country needs.

To help them wake up, watch, and listen to a live version of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” with Vince Gill, Gregg Allman and Zac Brown from a 2014 performance at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. One of the wonders of live music is what happens when artists collaborate in a live setting:

We’re also seeing Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Kenny Aronoff on drums.

Sample Lyric:

And I don’t own the clothes I’m wearing
And the road goes on forever
And I’ve got one more silver dollar
But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no
Not gonna let ’em catch the midnight rider


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 11, 2022

Wrongo subscribes to John Dick’s, CEO of Civic Science, weekly newsletter. Last week Civic Science was first up with an opinion poll on the Brittney Griner prisoner swap. Turns out America wasn’t happy with it:

“Fifty-two percent of Americans disagreed with the decision, compared to just 37% who agreed (11% had no opinion, somehow)…..Political affiliation was highly correlated, with strong Rs opposing the move at 82% and strong Dems supporting it at 72%. Folks in the middle were anything but balanced, however, where 53% of moderates rejected the swap, while just 33% celebrated it.”

They sampled 1,876 American adults:

It’s a conundrum to Wrongo why 52% of Americans think it’s a bad decision. Would people rather we walked away from any deal just to keep Viktor Bout in jail and leave Brittney Griner in a Russian penal colony? Not wanting to let Bout go before his sentence was completed is understandable. What’s not understandable is whatever happened to American compassion and empathy? On to cartoons, although there isn’t much to laugh at here.

Why so hypocritical?

Trump delivered for Dems:

Mitch and Chuck agree:

Hershel Walker and another guy who needs a walker:

Kyrsten enters the game:

Trump’s business is a tax fraud, but he’s still taxing:



Saturday Soother – December 10, 2022

The Daily Escape:

View from Clingmans Dome, TN – December 2022 photo by Lynn Carte Hodges

From John Dean:

“The Democrats’ 51-seat Senate majority lasted about three days. Kyrsten Sinema is leaving the Democratic party.

She is now registered as an Independent. Her announcement comes just after Sen. Warnock won reelection in Georgia, securing the 51st Senate seat for the Democrats. It’s difficult to figure out what Sinema’s intent is. The most charitable view may be that no longer being the 50th vote freed her to follow her conscience.

This raises two political questions. First, does this change the balance of power in the Senate? With the current makeup of the Senate, Wrongo doubts her decision changes anything. Like in the past, Sinema will vote the way she wants to vote. She has said she will caucus with the Democrats, but she rarely attended Democratic caucus meetings before, so there won’t be a change there.

Sinema has been a reliable vote for confirming Biden’s judicial appointments, for women’s issues and for LGBTQ+ issues. She was a lukewarm supporter of Biden’s infrastructure plan and is fervently against changing the Senate filibuster rules or increasing taxes. She voted against a $15/hour national minimum wage.

Sinema’s move is a reminder that every single Democratic Senator can control the Senate, and along with it, control every committee assignment and whatever remains of the Democratic agenda.

Sinema did say she expects to retain her current committee assignments, which makes it sound like she’s had discussions with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer before making her announcement. So, situation normal, more Dems in disarray.

Second, will this throw the 2024 Arizona Senate race to the Republicans? Voter registration in AZ is split nearly evenly into thirds among Dems, Republicans and “Other”, with the GOP in first place and the Dems in third.

Its no secret that Arizona Democrats aren’t fond of Sinema. Below is a year-old poll from the progressive think tank Data For Progress showing how big the climb would be for Sinema to win a Democratic Senate primary in 2024:

Sinema’s options in 2024 are:

  • Not to run for reelection.
  • To run as a Democrat and lose in the primary.
  • To run as an Independent and try to cobble together a centrist coalition.

She would fail if she tried to run as a Republican. She would probably face Kari Lake, the bat-shit crazy election denier who nearly won the AZ governor’s race. Sinema would be cast as a RINO with no chance to win a Republican primary as a former Green Party, former Democrat, and former Independent, who has finally seen the Conservative light.

However, it’s most likely that Sinema left the Democratic Party to maintain her political viability.

If so, the best strategy for Sinema is to run as an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Arizona’s Democrats would then either have to accept her as the less horrible choice in a two person contest, or reject her for Gallego, a talented politician who would have trouble winning in a three-way race if Sinema stayed in as an Independent.

That would leave Democrats in a difficult position. They could either support an Independent who mostly agrees with them and votes with the Democratic majority or run their own candidate, thereby possibly splitting the anti-MAGA majority and handing the seat to a Republican.

Remember that both Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine run on the Democrats’ line for Senate. So could Sinema. While she almost certainly doesn’t have what it takes to make Democrats love her, she almost certainly DOES have the power to make sure a more progressive Democrat doesn’t replace her.

The question is: What card will she play in 2024? She’s already cut an ad declaring her independent status. The Democrats face a brutal election cycle in 2024 with 23 seats up (including Maine and Vermont, while Republicans have just 11 at stake. The Dems can’t afford to lose AZ.

But let’s forget Sinema and political war games and turn our attention to reindeer games. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Here at the Mansion of Wrong, after a very warm fall, we’re starting a cold snap with the promise of our first real snow accumulation on Sunday. That happens to be when we’re going to hear a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” by the Waterbury Symphony.

So kick back and watch “I know that my Redeemer liveth”, from Handel’s Messiah, with a solo by Amanda Powell, backed by Apollo’s Fire. This was performed live in 2018, in the First Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio, conducted by Jeannette Sorrell who also plays harpsichord:


Griner Comes Home

The Daily Escape:

Barn before a storm, Walla Walla, WA – 2022 photo by Gary Hamburgh Photography

After 10 months in Russian custody, including time in a penal colony, WNBA star Brittney Griner is on her way home. In exchange for Griner’s freedom, Russia secured the release of Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms smuggler. Another American, the former Marine Paul Whelan, remains imprisoned in Russia.

CNN reports that the White House said Griner was released to US officials. From Biden:

“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner…She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

The prisoner swap occurred in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. A joint statement from the UAE and Saudi Arabia said both Gulf countries played a role mediating the exchange between the US and Russia. By the time you are reading this, Griner should be on American soil.

But the result is a mixed bag. It’s very good news that Griner is free. But Viktor Bout is also free to rebuild his arms-dealing network. People are rightly wondering why Whelan wasn’t included in the trade. After all, he’s finishing his fifth year in Russian prison. But negotiation requires both sides to agree and the Russians would only offer Griner.

Of course, the Right-wing chattering class disapproved. First, from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who tweeted:

“This is a gift to Vladimir Putin, and it endangers American lives….Leaving Paul Whelan behind for this is unconscionable.”

Some Conservative mouth-breather named Jessie Kelly tweeted this:

“She’s a black lesbian who hates America. Biden is just bringing another voter back home.”

Another mouth-breather, Conservative Benny Johnson who has a show on Newsmax, tweeted this with typical Right-wing understatement:

“This is the lowest point in US foreign policy in my lifetime. Collapse of an empire.”

It can’t be a long life for young Benny. What is he, five years old?

You have to love the comments by these wingnuts each of whom say they could have brokered a better deal with their expert negotiating skills. And rather than be happy that one American is returning home, they use their oral flatulence to make comments about what should have happened, and why Biden is a loser.

Poor Paul Whelan’s family shows that most Americans still have decency and class:

“NEW from the Whelan family: “There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed & for them to go home. The Biden Admin made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, & to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to…”

The American people should thank Paul Whelan’s brother David for being so gracious. That isn’t something that we can say about the many Republican mouthpieces who felt it was necessary to weigh in.

People need to stop thinking about this as a trade or a prisoner exchange. The Russians kidnapped Griner and held her for ransom. She was a wonderful target, being a very tall black lesbian woman playing professional basketball in Russia. She was chosen, then convicted, and then sent to the gulag for the very purpose of being bait to spring Viktor Bout.

Does it suck that the price of releasing her was letting an odious killer go free? Of course. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that as individuals and given their relative “crimes”, they weren’t equivalent assets. Everyone knows that Griner’s offense was simply a pretext to create a prisoner that could be traded. The initial arrest was about finding a small amount of hash oil on a Black gay woman.

Prisoner exchanges usually look like, “You arrested one of our spies and we want him back, so we arrested one of your spies. Let’s talk.” They don’t normally look like: “We plucked a random minor celebrity of yours off the street and she’s gonna do nine years.”

And when they do, it’s important to point out that it’s more like a kidnapping and a ransom than it is like an equivalent exchange.

Two closing thoughts. First, Conservatives always say: “Don’t negotiate with terrorists“. But all nations negotiate with terrorists; that’s just something governments say. Negotiating with terrorists doesn’t incentivize terrorism. It incentivizes terrorists to negotiate. The alternative is that terrorists engage in terrorism that does not involve negotiations. And that only leads to terrible outcomes.

All governments have to decide whether to negotiate or not on a case by case basis.

Second, Americans, especially conspicuous Americans, should stay the hell out of Russia until the Putin government’s current business plan is updated.


Thoughts On Warnock and The Midterms

The Daily Escape:

Mauna Loa erupting, Big Island, HI – December 5, 2022 photo by Deron Verbeck

You’ve heard this by now:

The 3,537.3 million votes cast on Tuesday represented a 45.2% turnout in Georgia. The record was set in the 2020 presidential election at 69.4%.

The Georgia Senate runoff election was uncomfortably close. Wrongo and Ms. Right tuned in to election results occasionally throughout the night and we were very concerned when the partial results often showed Hershel Walker ahead, at least until the Democratic-leaning counties around Atlanta reported results.

This raises a few questions: First, how (and why?) would so many Georgians vote for a completely unqualified candidate? OTOH, when we see how many people voted for Kari Lake and Blake Masters in AZ, or Dr. Oz and Mastriano in PA, there’s real reason to worry about what the US electorate thinks.

While Trump’s most visible candidates lost, many others won, and Trump still controls the Republican Party to a frightening extent. The WaPo estimated that 176 election deniers won statewide races, or seats in the House of Representatives.

If things go sideways in America (think a steep recession) there should be little doubt that a few thousand votes could easily swing back the other way and we could be stuck with a full-blown neo-fascist government led by Trump or by one of his clones. Michael Tomasky in the NY Review of Books analyzes the current state of political play:

“This is our new condition—tight races between two armies of voters, each marching to the polls with the conviction that victory for the other side would be not merely an unhappy result but calamitous for the republic.”

Wrongo has been harping on the importance of voter turnout to electoral success. The fact is that turnout is becoming more important as the nation has become more clearly divided.  More from Tomasky:

“In the eleven presidential elections from 1972 to 2012…turnout averaged 56.1%. In the eleven midterm elections from 1974 to 2014, the average turnout was just 39.4%.”

Tomasky says that all began to change with Trump:

“…presidential turnout in 2016 was a bit higher than average, at 60.1%. In the 2018 midterm, turnout was 50%, the highest for a midterm since 1914. Then turnout in the 2020 presidential race set a modern record at 66.8%, the highest since 1900.”

We learned three things from the 2022 midterms: First, candidate quality is crucial. Party primaries aren’t set up to necessarily select the best candidate. They often reward candidates who fire up their base, because turnout is usually very low in primaries. Second, turnout in the general election is key in most contested Congressional districts and states. Third, we learned that we could control our destiny despite the pro-GOP “red wave” narrative pushed by the national media.

Axios reports that 2022 is the first midterm election since 1934 when the Party in power successfully defended every one of their incumbent Senate seats.

There was bound to be more turnover in the House, if only because there were seven times as many seats being contested. But it was also the first election after the 2020 census and the follow-on redistricting process. Much of the reason for the change of control in the House is due to redistricting.

This year, some incumbents were pitted against each other, ensuring one would lose. Others were in districts they could no longer win, which caused a few retirements and defeats. Almost all the incumbents (95%) who survived primary challenges won re-election.

And despite so much stability on the surface, Americans are incredibly polarized, and there’s widespread discontent. Given that, we should give credit to Democrats who didn’t dissolve into political infighting and who worked to get the job done against big odds. Georgia in particular was once again a hard-fought contest in which every vote counted. That means every Get Out The Vote (GOTV) organization and every phone call, postcard, text, door knock, made by them also counted. As did your donations.

Georgia isn’t turning blue. It’s important to note that Georgia’s Republicans swept every other statewide race (7 of them) without going to a runoff.

And for this Senate runoff, we should recognize the sacrifice made by Georgia voters who stood in line to exercise a right that shouldn’t be contingent either on completing an endurance race, or an obstacle course. We owe Georgia voters a debt of gratitude for their efforts in the face of voter suppression.

The year of Republicans blowing it has ended, and we shouldn’t expect them to let Trump pick their candidates in 2024.


Trump’s “Terminate The Constitution” Rant

The Daily Escape:

Juniper and snow, near Colorado Springs, CO – December 2022 photo by John Susan Hoffman

(Good luck to Sen. Ralph Warnock in today’s Georgia run-off election for a full term in the US Senate)

In the past two weeks, Trump has pledged solidarity with the January 6 rioters, dined with Holocaust-denying fans of Adolf Hitler, and called for the termination of the Constitution. On his failing Truth Social clone of Twitter, he yelled:

 “…the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” in order to “declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER” from 2020 or “have a NEW ELECTION”

As Mike Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short said on Meet the Press, Trump’s attack on the Constitution was consistent with:

“…what he asked the vice president to do two years ago, when rioters were attacking the Capitol and he asked the vice president to overturn the election results.”

Let’s underline this: The likely Republican nominee for president in 2024 called for the “termination of the Constitution”,  not to “suspend” the Constitution as several pundits have mistakenly said. And very few in the GOP bothered to call him out on it. As Dennis Aftergut said in the Bulwark:

“Trump writing that we should cancel the Constitution ranks right up alongside John Tyler’s support of the Confederacy as among the most shameful acts by a former president in our nation’s history.”

There’s a method to Trump’s madness. Let’s go back to what he said to Lesley Stahl prior to their “60 Minutes” interview in 2018. From CNBC: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Stahl said she and her boss met with Trump at his office in Trump Tower in Manhattan…in advance of a recorded sit-down interview for ‘60 Minutes’. At one point, he started to attack the press, Stahl said. There were no cameras in there. I said, ‘You know, this is getting tired. Why are you doing it over and over?….And he said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.’”

And to a degree that worked. Trump has now moved on to discrediting the Constitution and the judiciary. While some Trump-appointed judges have done a few helpful things for him, they can’t deliver what Trump needs most: Immunity from prosecution.

He needs to be reelected in order to do that for himself.

Since 2021, the DOJ, the Georgia courts, and the New York courts have been grinding away at the January 6 insurrection, the theft and retention of national security documents at Mar-a-Lago, and the NY tax case. All have become more worrying for Trump.

He’s lost more than once in the US Supreme Court, in the 11th Circuit, and in courts in Georgia and NY. Regardless of whether it’s rulings on motions related to executive privilege, challenges to warrants and subpoenas, or actual verdicts against the Oathkeepers for seditious conspiracy, the legal wagons appear to be circling in more closely around him.

Trump knows that. So he’s returning to what has worked for him before: Demonizing his enemies.

Instead of the media, this time he’s attempting to demonize our Constitutional order. If he’s successful at doing that before we see any indictments, verdicts, and sentences against his corporation, or himself, he thinks he can survive politically with his base. By going for the Constitution, he’s trying to discredit the judicial system so that the GOP won’t turn against him if/when he’s held accountable.

Targeting the Constitution has downsides – the authority of any judge Trump appears before flows from that Constitution, and unlike the media, judges are backed by the DOJ and the FBI.

Imagine if you’re the DOJ’s Special Counsel Jack Smith, and the biggest target of your career just openly called for the termination of the Constitution. You’re probably thinking that you have a decent shot at convicting Trump of trying  to overthrow the Constitution back on Jan. 6.

Some GOP lawmakers who were asked on the Sunday political shows about Trump’s rant said they disagreed. However, most wouldn’t say they’d oppose Trump if he becomes the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee. They’re saying as little as possible because they believe a large percentage of the Republican base agrees with him.

Trump’s best (his only?) defense is retaking the presidency. That is why we shouldn’t minimize his call to “terminate the Constitution”.

We need to keep pressure on Republican politicians to either disown Trump or embrace him. We should be asking Republican Senators and House Representatives:

“Trump took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, then he said we should abolish it. You also took that same oath. Does your oath require you to defend it against him?”

Mention the oath. In every question.


Monday Wake Up Call – December 5, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Park Avenue, Arches NP, UT – November 2022 photo by Joe Witkowski

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard arguments in United States v. Texas, a case that asks some big questions about immigration policy and the relationship between government agencies and the states. From Vox:

“The case involves a memo that Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issued in September 2021, instructing ICE agents to prioritize undocumented immigrants who “pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security and thus threaten America’s well-being” when making arrests or otherwise enforcing immigration law.”

Texas and Louisiana challenged DHS’ ability to prioritize certain groups for deportation. The states argued that the executive branch doesn’t have the authority to pick and choose which groups to prioritize. A Texas federal judge, Drew Tipton, agreed with Louisiana and Texas, and stayed the ability of the DHS to prioritize certain groups of immigrants.

In July, the Supremes agreed to hear an appeal by the US government of the case, while permitting Tipton’s order to remain in effect. Vox maintains that the ruling by the Texas federal judge is questionable:

“A federal statute explicitly states that the homeland security secretary “shall be responsible” for “establishing national immigration enforcement policies and priorities,” and the department issued similar memos setting enforcement priorities in 2005, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2017.”

The case has already been heard by SCOTUS. We won’t know what their decision is until sometime next summer, but the case raises questions that we all should ponder.

First, do Louisiana and Texas have standing to bring the case? To prove you have standing is to show that you have a right to bring your lawsuit and that you have had real, and direct harm. The two states have to show that they are being adversely affected directly by this policy. The data presented so far by the states isn’t of high quality.

Second, SCOTUS needs to address whether the DHS followed the rules under the Administrative Procedures Act. The Administrative Procedures Act establishes procedures that federal administrative agencies like DHS use for rule-making. And the states are saying that the Biden administration didn’t follow all the rules in adopting this policy deciding which immigrants to deport.

The key rule is about “prosecutorial discretion.” It’s one of the fundamental rules about how police and prosecutors operate at all levels of government. More from Vox:

“Suppose that there are a rash of home break-ins in Washington, DC….Police precinct commanders, the city’s police chief, or even the…mayor may respond…by ordering DC cops to spend more time patrolling Columbia Heights — even though that means that crimes in other neighborhoods might go uninvestigated or unsolved.”

It isn’t practical or useful for judges to monitor every decision made by every law enforcement department at every level of government. Vox says that SCOTUS has repeatedly warned judges against doing just that.

Third is whether the federal courts below SCOTUS have the power to vacate a rule that affects the rest of the states. Or whether SCOTUS is the only court that is permitted to stop a government policy nationwide.

The states contend that the DHS in this case has a mandatory duty to apprehend non-citizens. They’re arguing that the use of “shall” in the law means that these provisions are mandatory.

The Congress may have passed a law that creates a mandatory duty, but that same Congress hasn’t funded the DHS to the extent that performing such a mandatory duty is remotely possible.

The implications of the SCOTUS ruling are potentially huge. If any state can challenge any federal policy that they disagree with, it has ramifications beyond immigration law. An adverse decision for the government in this case would open the door to chaos if states are allowed to sue to overturn laws that they disagree with.

Think about it: If this stands, a Republican state attorney general’s office can handpick judges who they know will strike down (in this case) a Biden administration policy; and once the policy is declared invalid, the state knows that SCOTUS will play along with these partisan judges’ decisions for at least the year it takes for the decision to get up to the Supreme Court.

Time to wake up America! Wrongo has said it many times: Elections have consequences, particularly when Trump got to appoint three Supremes in four years. To help you wake up, take a listen to Bruce Springsteen performing “Nightshift” live on the Tonight Show. “Nightshift” is a 1985 song by the Commodores. Springsteen has covered it on his 2022 album, “Only the Strong Survive”:


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 4, 2022

Well, the US is out of the round of sixteen at the World Cup. Wrongo didn’t watch. It’s maybe arbitrary on his part, but he really has quite a bit of antipathy about the Gulf countries. Those countries have oil, without which they would simply be backwater places with doctrinaire religions and impossible politics.

Another thing: Last week, Edward Snowden swore an oath of allegiance to Russia and has received a Russian passport, his lawyer said Friday. The 39-year-old former intelligence contractor was granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin in September. He faces espionage charges and 30 years in prison in the United States if he were to return, but he no longer faces extradition to the US. On to cartoons.

When will Trump get his just desserts?

Why was it necessary for Dems to portray the possible railroad strike as a problem caused only by labor?

With all we hear about Elon, Trump, and Bezos, why are they still glorified?

Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy is having some trouble becoming the next House Speaker:

Which is worse?