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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Facebook’s Fail

The Daily Escape:

Fall at Birdseye Hollow State Forest, NY – 2013 photo by seabamirum

The NYT has a long read about Facebook (FB) called “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis“. It paints a picture of a company that doesn’t know its customers, its technology or its ethics. Here is a digest of the NYT’s findings: (emphasis in all quotes by Wrongo)

In fall 2016, Mark Zuckerberg…was publicly declaring it a “crazy idea” that his company had played a role in deciding the election. But security experts at the company already knew otherwise.

They found signs as early as spring 2016 that Russian hackers were poking around the Facebook accounts of people linked to American presidential campaigns. Months later, they saw Russian-controlled accounts sharing information from hacked Democratic emails with reporters. Facebook accumulated evidence of Russian activity for over a year before executives opted to share what they knew with the public — and even their own board of directors.

The company feared Trump:

In 2015…presidential candidate Donald J. Trump called for a ban of Muslim immigrants…Facebook employees and outside critics called on the company to punish Mr. Trump. Mr. Zuckerberg considered it — asking subordinates whether Mr. Trump had violated the company’s rules and whether his account should be suspended or the post removed.

But…Mr. Zuckerberg…deferred to subordinates who warned that penalizing Mr. Trump would set off a damaging backlash among Republicans. Mr. Trump’s post remained up.

Most disturbing was FB’s disinformation and lobbying campaign:

As criticism grew over Facebook’s belated admissions of Russian influence, the company launched a lobbying campaign — overseen by Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer — to combat critics and shift anger toward rival tech firms.

Facebook hired Senator Mark Warner’s former chief of staff to lobby….Ms. Sandberg personally called Senator Amy Klobuchar to complain about her criticism. The company also deployed a public relations firm to push negative stories about its political critics and cast blame on companies like Google.

Those efforts included depicting the billionaire liberal donor George Soros as the force behind a broad anti-Facebook movement, and publishing stories praising Facebook and criticizing Google and Apple on a conservative news site.

But the lobbying and disinformation was dark and wrong. FB used a Republican opposition-research firm Definers Public Affairs, and its connections to the Anti-Defamation League to link the anti-FB movement to George Soros and claim that some criticism against FB was anti-Semitic.

  • A research document circulated by Definers claimed Soros was an “unacknowledged force” behind the widespread condemnation of Facebook.
  • A news site called NTK Network, an affiliate of Definers, also published articles that bashed Google and Apple for “unsavory business practices.”
  • The Times reports that while NTK Network did not obtain large audiences, its content was picked up by Breitbart.
  • FB also called on the Anti-Defamation League to flag a sign used to depict Zuckerberg as an octopus encompassing the globe as anti-Semitic.

There’s more. After The NYT, The Guardian and others published a joint investigation into how user information was used by Cambridge Analytica to profile American voters, Facebook executives tried to contain the damage. FB hired a new chief of lobbying to quell the bipartisan anger in Congress, Kevin Martin, a Bush administration veteran, and former FCC Chair.

Just before Sandberg’s Congressional testimony, Facebook’s lobbyists asked Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Intelligence Committee chair to limit questioning to the topic of election interference. It worked. Burr issued a stern warning to all committee members to stick to that topic.

There are three big picture take-aways from the Times article about Facebook.

First, nearly everyone in America hates the media, but without them, we wouldn’t know anything about these FB actions. We wouldn’t know that FB was willing to distribute disinformation to save its skin. So, let’s not give up on the media and journalism.

Second, America needs to learn from how Europe is fighting Google and Facebook on privacy and content, and do the same. They have created very specific rules and guidelines and have issued very expensive fines to these companies.

Third, why do these high-tech executives fail to see the big picture? Sandberg and Zuckerberg have had huge financial success, but their business is an ethical and moral failure.

The Times article shows that they value power, their egos, and their money far more than whatever good the Facebook service can deliver.

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A Strategy for 2020 Emerges

The Daily Escape:

Fall in Hopkinton, MA – November, 2018 photo by Karen Randall

The 2020 election campaign has already started, regardless of whether we are ready.

“Big Idea” strategies are in the air. And the large group of potential Democratic presidential candidates are being discussed.

And we no longer have to chew on the failure by Democrats in 2016. We can now talk about lessons learned in the 2018 midterms, and how they may apply in 2020. Wrongo wants to highlight three Democrats who won in deeply Republican districts. Max Rose, who won on Staten Island in NYC; Kyrsten Sinema, who won the open Senate seat in Arizona; and Lauren Underwood, who won a Congressional seat in Illinois.

Rose won a district that went heavily for Trump in 2016. He beat a long-time incumbent Republican. He did it by asking for a chance to reshape the fortunes of working people. From the NYT:

He offered a simple, unifying message that was progressive in substance but relatively neutral in its delivery: that the system is rigged to benefit special interests, that the little guy is getting stiffed over and over, that we need better infrastructure and stronger unions.

Demographic change helped. Rose’s district covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, where Millennials who have been priced out of living in Manhattan and trendy Brooklyn are now locating.

Kyrsten Sinema’s story is different on the surface, but similar in what got her elected. A three-term member of Congress, she campaigned on her biography. She was homeless for three years as a child. Sinema is an openly bisexual former Green Party activist who moved to the political center.

Sinema promised to be a nonpartisan problem-solver. She campaigned on health care and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Sinema treaded lightly on immigration, but probably looked pro-immigrant versus her opponent Martha McSally, another member of Congress who was very anti-immigration. 2.1 million Latinos live in Arizona, and after Trump’s visit in October, there was a spike in Latinos returning early ballots. Most Arizona residents vote by mail, and many Latinos voted for Sinema.

Lauren Underwood won an Illinois Congressional seat held in the past by the infamous Denny Hastert. The 32-year-old African-American nurse, unseated four-term Rep. Randy Hultgren in a district that is 86% white. The district was gerrymandered after the 2010 census to make it an even safer Republican seat. She won by stressing health care for all Americans.

These three candidates were successful in traditionally Republican places. They each had great personal stories. They each ran as problem solvers who wanted to help working families. This shows there are two threads that mattered in 2018: The candidate, and a message that addressed the things that were alienating people in their districts.

If we widen out our view to America today, alienation is behind the rise of Trumpism, and the rise of populism across the world.

The leading cause of people’s alienation is economic inequality.

Candidates can win as centrists if they are willing to fight economic inequality, because everybody knows that the system is rigged to benefit special interests.

Progressives can also win on economic inequality, because the largest divide in our country is between the 98% and the 2%. This idea can unite us, because nowhere in the US do the capitalists outnumber the salaried and hourly wage people.

Remember what Franklin Roosevelt said in his acceptance speech: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth… I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms.

Today, Democrats need working people to vote for them if they want to win decisively. But since they govern like mainstream Republicans when in office, they must change to an FDR-like call to action.

It is possible to build voting coalitions that pick off a few red states in 2020. In fact, the midterm results were a terrible leading indicator for Trump in 2020. Without Hillary heading the ticket, Midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin appear to be returning to Democrats. Pennsylvania is already back.

The Dems need to convince voters that governing the country in a manner that benefits everyone is a better idea than governing the country in a manner that benefits only a few.

The potential new votes for Democrats by following this strategy is largely the pool of non-voters. They are the majority in this country, and they are alienated.

They also outnumber the small percentage of persuadable Republican voters.

Nominating high quality candidates and fighting alienation are the keys to success in 2020.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Veterans Day 2018

The Daily Escape:

“Sands of Remembrance” sand sculpture, Normandy, FR – done for D-Day, 2004

Wrongo still thinks of Veterans Day as Armistice Day, probably because he’s old enough to remember when we celebrated it as the ending of WWI. Now, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans. President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.

Let’s focus today on the closing hours of WWI, and then add a few thoughts about Vietnam.

First, WWI: In the eleven hours of that final November day, the different countries of the Allies were still launching attacks even though they knew that the cease-fire was set for 11 am. In fact, the French commander, Marshall Foch, refused to agree to a cease-fire. The American generals also wanted to make a point with the Germans, and that day, about 3,000 Americans were killed and wounded.

There was a Congressional Hearing after the War about the 3,000 Americans casualties, but they never published the results, because it would have made the American Generals look bad.

In the many centuries of European history up to 1945, an army crossed the Rhine on average once every 30 years. War was historically what the major nations of Europe did. In the 73 years since WWII, they’ve decided not to do that to each other, an astonishing and humbling fact.

On Saturday and Sunday, we saw the strong expressions of unity between France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel, along with Merkel appearing on Sunday morning in London. These were mere symbols for peace, but it mattered very much for the world to see them, even if they are immaterial to the current US president:

On Vietnam: Few know that there are eight American women listed on the Wall. Each are nurses, who dedicated themselves to taking care of our wounded and dying. They were part of the more than 265,000 American women who served during the Vietnam era. Approximately 11,000 served in Southeast Asia. Close to 99% were nurses.

A small number of women served in civilian capacities, such as with the American Red Cross and the USO. More than 50 civilian American women died in Vietnam.  Others worked as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and in other capacities.

It wasn’t until November, 1993 that the patriotic service of all women was honored in the nation’s capital at the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

Every holiday offers the opportunity to remind ourselves of who we want to be as a nation. The day after every holiday gives the opportunity to start down the path of doing something about that.

As Fabius Maximus says:

We ask our men and women in uniform to fight for us. The right or wrong of the conflicts – the responsibility for them – lies on us, the citizens at home who elect our leaders, not on those who carry out our orders. On this day we celebrate their service, without which the Republic would not have survived.

Since every “Support the Troops!” celebration inevitably becomes a “Support the War!” celebration, it’s curious how a celebration about the end of a war has gotten so twisted in America. There is no better way to support our active and veteran service members than to make sure we never commit to war, unless absolutely necessary.

So wake up America! Here’s what we have to do, starting today:

Stop under-funding care for veterans. Every month, we hear about active duty military and veterans suffering poor medical care, or having to wait years for the care they need. The military can always find funding for big-ticket weapons, but not for our veterans.

Here in America, we will say anything to support our troops, but we won’t fully fund the Veterans’ Administration. We won’t provide truly first-class aftercare to the wounded and maimed. And we won’t ensure that widowed spouses and children are cared for adequately.

Stop Congress from giving Presidents a blank check to conduct military operations that are not purely defensive in nature. Rewrite the AUMF. Put Congress back into its long-abandoned Constitutional role of approving wars that are recommended by the president.

With a Democratic majority in the House, these two things are possible.

Since its Monday, tell your Congresscritter to get busy on them right away.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 11, 2018

Possibly the best news about the mid-terms was that the long-promised youth vote was finally real.  A study by Tufts University found that: (brackets by Wrongo)

Approximately 31% of youth (ages 18-29) turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms, an extraordinary increase over the CIRCLE estimate in 2014 [when 21% voted] and the highest rate of turnout in at least 25 years.

Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that, in 2014, approximately 10.8 million young Americans voted, with Democrats preferred 54%-43%, compared to 14.7 million in 2018 (Democrats preferred 67%-32%). So the Dem’s share of the youth vote increased by 13 percentage points in four years.

The actual number of Republican votes cast by those under 30 remained stable from 2014 to 2018. So, nearly all of the 4 million increase in turnout came from those supporting Democrats.

Wrongo tried to stay away from Jim Acosta and Jeff Sessions for today’s cartoons. It wasn’t easy.

Another place where thoughts and prayers are really needed:

After the CA shooting, there was a fire, followed by a shower for the GOP:

2020 is right around the corner:

From the cartoonist, Clay Jones: After the 2014 midterms, the first major candidate to announce a presidential bid, not an exploratory committee, was Ted Cruz in March 2015. Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll have an announcement in four months…but we don’t have long.

Media madness starts on Monday:

We wouldn’t need to throw the TV out the window if the media actually covered ISSUES. You didn’t hear that last Tuesday, HHS published Final Regulations that will allow employers and universities to deny health insurance coverage of contraception to any woman based on the company’s “moral” or “religious” belief. Did anyone see coverage of this issue before it happened? Which news organizations are covering it now?

Florida, same as it ever was:

Back to the usual totally repellent ads next week:

 

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Saturday Soother – November 10, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fall colors on the Katsura River, Kyoto, Japan -2018 photo by DillonCohen27

Larry King on Trump:

Trump is the story in America. I would bet that ninety-eight percent of all Americans mention his name at least once a day. And when it’s come to that, when you focus on one man, I know Donald 40 years — I know the good side of Donald and I know the bad side of Donald — I think he would like to be a dictator. I think he would love to be able to just run things. So, he causes a lot of this. Then his fight with the media and fake news. I’ve been in the media a long time….And at all my years at CNN, in my years at Mutual Radio, I have never seen a conversation where a producer said to a host “pitch the story this way. Angle it that way. Don’t tell the truth.” Never saw it. Never saw it.

I know, you weren’t sure that Larry was still alive. He is, and he’s not wrong. Here are more of King’s quotes:

So when CNN started covering Trump — they were the first — they covered every speech he made and then they made Trump the story. But, they covered him as a character. They carried every speech he made. They carried him more than Fox News, at the beginning. And so they built the whole thing up and the Republicans had a lot of candidates and they all had weaknesses.

Larry has a point. We spend waay too much time talking about what Trump talks about. People haven’t been addicted like this to the news before, and it isn’t healthy for us as individuals or as a country.

Sure, it would be terrific if people knew all the facts about issues before they voted, but social media, the internet and cable news no longer trade in truth. They’re in it for the money, not for the news.

We can’t uncover the truth without serious digging.

Think about the Jim Acosta affair at Trump’s Thursday press conference. Acosta confronts Trump, Trump wants to move on, but Acosta doesn’t think they are done, and wants to follow up with another question. A young female intern tries to take the microphone away from Acosta without success, and the WH says Acosta laid hands on the intern, then sends out a video to shame Acosta.

But, the video was doctored, according to the WaPo:

White House shares doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta: https://wapo.st/2JPGGSA

And the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, defends releasing a doctored video.

Hold that thought. On Friday, Trump says that he doesn’t know Matt Whitaker, the guy he just appointed as Interim Attorney General. That sounds strange, no executive appoints a person that he/she doesn’t know. So, here are two quotes from Trump about Whitaker. They are both as uncomplicated as a statement can be:

“I know Matt Whitaker.” –October 10, 2018
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” –November 9, 2018

The truth is that he clearly knew Matt Whitaker when he said he didn’t know him. The sad part for America is that he has no guilt, and no shame, when he contradicts himself on something knowable.

There is little truth from Trump, or in his administration, so why does the media cover him so slavishly?

Wrongo recommends that the Main Stream Media immediately reduce their coverage of Trump by 50%. By cutting it in half, two wonderful things will happen:

First, the country’s obsession with his lies will weaken. People’s stress levels will be reduced.

Second, it will drive Trump crazy. He will say even bigger whoppers to try and get America to reconnect, and mainline more Trumpiness.

Both outcomes would be completely acceptable to Wrongo.

Enough for today! Time for Wrongo to heed his own prescription. Let’s all take a few deep breaths, and relax. Poke around in the pantry, find your favorite coffee, and brew up a nice, fresh cup, just the way you like it.

Station yourself near a big, south-facing window, and take in the natural world. Here in the northeast, it’s raining for the third weekend in a row, so we’re staying inside once again.

Now, listen to “Spiegel im Spiegel for Cello and Piano”, written by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt in 1978. Wikipedia says that since 2010, Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world.

This is a beautiful, although minimalist piece. It is said that Keith Jarrett once said classical music showed him how to play fewer notes and make more music.

This piece proves Jarret’s point. It should calm you down, because it’s so pleasing to the ear:

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

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Tuesday Night: Just a Skirmish in the War

The Daily Escape:

People Power Beer, Kent Falls Brewing Co. – November 6, 2018 iPhone photo by Wrongo

Turnout worked for both parties on Election Day. It was basically a good news election for Democrats, who took back control of the House. They also picked up seven governors’ mansions, and gained control of seven state houses, bringing their total from seven to 14. Now, Republicans hold all three power bases—House, Senate, governor—in 21 states, down from 26. Thirteen states have divided control, down from 17.

Importantly, Democrats won the governorships in three states that helped elect Trump in 2016: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They also won the US Senate races in those states.

But, the mid-terms also proved that Trump’s win in 2016 wasn’t a fluke. The GOP won what it had to in Florida, Texas and most likely, in Georgia. They also took three Democratic Senate seats that were up in the very red states of Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota, giving them a comfortable majority in the Senate.

Two loathsome Republicans lost governor’s races: Kris Kobach in Kansas, and Scott Walker in Minnesota.

The repellent Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), lost in Orange County, CA. Elsewhere in notable House races, Republican Dave Brat an equally repellent Republican, fell to a new face, Amy Spanberger in Virginia.

Two longer-term thoughts: State-level Democrats can now build on this base, and do even better in the 2020 races to help gain more control over redistricting in 2021. Doubling states under Democratic control yesterday makes that closer to a reality.

Second, we also learned that in today’s America, it is very, very difficult to change anybody’s mind, despite spending billions of dollars. About the best you can do is drive the turnout of your own party. Changing demographics will flip some seats, egregious behavior may sometimes be penalized, but not in all cases. States which are 50/50 can switch leaders.

Finally, for those who woke up this morning unhappy with the Dem’s results, Wrongo has little patience with that viewpoint. A win is a win. Going forward, the GOP and Trump will not be passing any more legislative horrors. For at least this term, Social Security and Medicare are safe. The ACA will remain. There will be no more tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

Last night, Wrongo heard a few pundits saying that the Democrats shouldn’t investigate Trump, because it would be divisive. And, that Democrats shouldn’t simply obstruct Republican legislative initiatives because that too, would be divisive. Funny how Republicans investigated Benghazi for 7 years, and spent the entirety of Obama’s presidency obstructing everything, and somehow that wasn’t divisive at all.

The bigger picture is that Democrats have slammed the brakes on Trumpism. Over the next year, a few truths are going to come out, either via Mueller, or from the House.

Then, we can decide what kind of nation we want to be: Will we be willing to hold people accountable for voter suppression and for their efforts to divide races and religions?

Here’s a comment that Wrongo found on another blog: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Here in my county, turnout was 61.5%, an incredible number. And while we did see a slightly larger level of support than usual for Democratic candidates, it was matched, and often exceeded, by GOP turnout…. So many new volunteers and so many people canvassing for the first time. We have to find a way to keep these people interested, involved, and motivated. But sometimes it can be a hard sell when you have to try and convince someone that all those months of hard work to move the needle a couple of percentage points…should be considered a WIN, especially when the difference is….Losing 65%-35% instead of 70%-30%…

We should remember that Obama didn’t keep his highly successful volunteer group together. It’s a huge challenge for Dems in red states.

We’re in a very long game. It’s all about the application of people power to better ideas and better candidates. You can’t let losing sadden or depress you, this fight is for the soul of America, and it’s worth it.

Soon, the Democrats will have to remove the dinosaurs who currently run the DNC. That internal fight should happen sooner, rather than later. Keeping Nancy Pelosi as the face of the Democrats is the best possible outcome for Trump 2020.

The balance has to be between someone like Pelosi who has been there before, and can hammer the House into a functioning opposition, and others who will still be calling to “abolish ICE” two years from now. The Dems have to avoid a Tea Party moment.

The Dems did reasonably well in the mid-terms. They also got much younger.

Now, they have to find younger leadership. And a better message.

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Vote for Democrats

The Daily Escape:

Autumn at Kaaterskill Falls, NY – October 2018 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

The agony will not end today, regardless of the outcome of the 2018 mid-term election. There are things about both the country and the Democratic Party that have to change. If the Party is to survive as a political force across America, it must be meaningfully different by 2020. We will talk much more about this in the next two years.

Today, whatever the results, the margins of victory will be very close in many places. With that in mind, if you’re even thinking about voting for a third party candidate, you need to think again.  A vote for a third party candidate is objectively, a vote that supports Trump and the Trumpistas.

Wrongo’s small CT town is a highly politicized place. Today the Republicans control all of the levers of government, although just a year ago, it was the Democrats pushing the levers. We’re in an off-year locally, but the governor’s race, and our seat in Congress are both in play. However, the biggest issue in the town relates to revising the town charter to add more oversight to the mayor’s and the town council’s spending authority by our town’s elected finance board.

To Wrongo, this is an overly politicized issue, and as a finance guy, he plans to vote with the Republicans on this highly specific local issue. He has in the past voted for a few local Republicans, but not this time.

This time, a vote for a Republican politician at any level is tacit support of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, and for GOP voter suppression. Our local Republicans aren’t authoritarians, and at least some of them probably aren’t in favor of voter suppression.

But they knowingly and willingly associate themselves with a party that very definitely is all of these things, and we shouldn’t give any of them even the slightest level of support.

This time, NOT being Republican is the first bar you have to cross to get our votes. Yes, this is guilt by association, and it’s deserved, since they have come by it honestly.

Voting for Democrats is voting against Trump’s authoritarianism. You don’t have to like your local Democrat, or any Democrats for that matter. You just have to hate them less than you hate authoritarianism and voter suppression.

Vote against authoritarianism and voter suppression by voting for Democrats.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 4, 2018

Truthout reports:

Wall Street donors have been lavishing the Democrats in the Senate with far more money than their GOP colleagues. The top six recipients (and nine of the top 10) of Wall Street money in 2018 among senators are Democrats. Of the top 20 Senate candidates to receive donations from Wall Street this cycle, 17 are Democrats, up from six in the last midterm in 2014…

Here are the top 12 recipients of Wall Street money. Eleven are Democrats:

Screen shot from Center for Responsive Politics

Why is Wall Street supporting these Dems? Seventeen Democrats helped repeal portions of the Obama-era Dodd-Frank legislation by voting with Republicans on the Dodd-Frank repeal. Nine Democrats also crossed party lines to appoint Goldman Sachs bailout attorney Jay Clayton to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. 37 Democratic Senators opposed his confirmation.

This is despite Pew saying in a May 2018 poll that two-thirds of Americans support laws to limit money in politics. Truthout says that for this mid-term, Wall Street has donated nearly $43 million to Senate Democrats, compared with only $19 million for Republicans, a departure from typical election years.

The Democrats’ dependence on Wall Street money is not new. In fact, President Obama raised more money from finance than any candidate in history in his first presidential campaign. Even though polling shows deep distrust over Wall Street, most politicians don’t seem to care.

Will taking Wall Street money be worth it? Will McCaskill, Tester and Heitkamp hold on? If voters really want this to change, they’ll have to stop electing politicians who represent Wall Street. On to cartoons:

Will Tuesday bring nightmares?

Tuesday’s choice:

Shouldn’t we be more worried about the gerrymandering, the crooked voting machines, the $ billions in corporate money, and the slander and attack ads?

Trump’s parade:

And a yoga class. The home of the brave has become the fortress of fear:

Keeping out the criminals:

It’s getting tougher for the GOP to keep using terrorism as their rallying call:

 

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Saturday Soother – Voter Turnout Edition

The Daily Escape:

Autumn, Blue Ridge Mountains, near Asheville, NC – 2018 photo by RedWhiteTruee

Wrongo guesses that we’ll know Tuesday night whether being an A-hole is a winning strategy for the Donald.

While traveling in Russia, Wrongo finished reading (and recommends) Amor Towle’s “A Gentleman in Moscow”. If you haven’t read it, the story is about a Russian nobleman who is sentenced in 1922 by the Bolsheviks to the equivalent of permanent house arrest in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol. He spends 30+ years living there.

Doesn’t it seem that we have been locked up for the past two years, waiting on the mid-terms? Let’s hope that on Tuesday, the doors will fly open, because we want out. We want a world with fewer lies, with fewer insults, maybe even a return to sanity.

Here’s a thought to launch you into the weekend. Despite Friday’s news about brisk new jobs creation, and the headline unemployment rate being at a 50-year low, MarketWatch reported that just 28% of Americans are financially healthy:

Some 44% of people said their expenses exceeded their income in the past year and they used credit to make ends meet. Another 42% said they have no retirement savings at all.

That’s despite a nine-year-long bull(ish) stock market, and consumer confidence levels nearing record highs. And, there’s more:

The median American household currently holds just $11,700 in savings, according to a recent analysis of Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data by personal-finance site Magnify Money. The top 1% of households in the U.S. by income have a median savings of $1.1 million….The bottom 20% by income have no savings accounts and the second lowest 20% income earners have just $26,450 saved.

Meanwhile, the majority of Americans in a recent survey said their finances have not improved since the 2016 elections. Market Watch quotes Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate:

All of this is a call to action: We need to make savings, both for retirement and for emergencies a higher priority, so that they aren’t the source of financial regret later in life.

So, all of you politicians who are running on the great economy ought to study up on a few facts, and find a few solutions.

A good start for the rest of us is showing up to vote on, or before next Tuesday.

But Wrongo senses that you’ve had enough, that you need to check out of the news feeds, to stop being carpet-bombed by political ads, and contemplate…nothing. To help you get started on your Saturday Soothing, brew up a large, hot steaming cup of Kenya Konyu coffee, with its sweet, tart and savory notes of dried berries and richly bittersweet flowers ($16.25 for 10 oz.). It comes from Branch Street Coffee Roasters in Youngstown, in the swing state of Ohio.

Since it’s another rainy Saturday in the Northeast, stay indoors and listen to English composer Sir Michael Tippett’s “Concerto for Double String Orchestra”. Here, the Adagio, the middle movement of the Concerto, is played by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner:

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

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The Democrats’ Closing Argument

The Daily Escape:

Autumn in full, near Hopkinton MA – 2018 photo by Karen Randall

We’ll know soon whether all the money and energy spent on the 2018 mid-terms have produced a good outcome for the Dems, or for the Republicans.

And what is the Democrats’ closing argument? The “closing argument” is a cliché for the final messaging of every campaign. Many voters only tune in for the last few days before Election Day, and candidates make closing appeals to those newly opened ears.

The plan for the Democrats’ closing argument, as Carter Eskew says in the WaPo:

Run on issues such as health care, especially the Republican threat to not cover preexisting conditions, to win over independents, and then to rely on President Trump’s daily outrages to stoke Democratic turnout. I am sure that Democrats all across the country have millions of polling cross-tabs that show that the best way to build a winning coalition is not by attacking Trump, but by presenting solutions that help “everyday Americans.”

There is some logic to what Eskew is saying. Yesterday, we showed polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation about the top issues for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Here it is again:

The top issues for Dems align with the top issues for Independents, but not with Republicans. A report by the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising, supports both the Kaiser survey and Eskew’s viewpoint:

Trump came up in just 10% of ads from Sept. 18 to Oct. 15 — and only 5.5% of them were negative. That’s by far the lowest proportion of attack ads against a sitting president since the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush’s soaring popularity after 9/11 made him off-limits for Democrats.

Dems have downplayed dislike of Trump in favor of a closing argument focused on health care, taxes and protecting entitlements. The Wesleyan article suggests why Democrats have chosen to focus on the issues voters care most about, rather than on Trump: Dems think that likely voters have heard enough about Trump, and have made up their minds about whether or not they buy him, or his closing argument.

Meanwhile, Brian Stelter wraps up Trump’s closing argument for the midterms:

— Fear the caravan
— Hate the media

Trump is saying that a vote for Republicans is a vote for Trump, while a vote for Democrats is a vote for higher taxes, open borders, recession, and socialism.

So the question is, do the Dems have a winning closing argument? More from Eskew:

Democrats need to urgently remind their base and independents of the deeper and more emotional stakes of this election. They need to show their base and potential converts that there is a way to convert anger, malaise and resignation about Trump into an affirmative and liberating action.

To win a majority in the House next Tuesday, and have any chance of winning the Senate, Democrats need to raise the stakes of this election higher than simply who better preserves protections for preexisting conditions.

The stakes are very high. If the Dems fail to take back the House, the GOP and Trump will be emboldened to attack Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Democratic Party should act like those programs are already in play.

With the midterm elections only a few days away, those are the closing arguments from Democrats and Republicans.

Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs will probably decide the mid-terms. Fear for survival and hate of those threatening it are what Trump is using to motivate his base. If you are betting person, take hate. Hate doesn’t always win, but in today’s America, it usually covers the point spread.

If you doubt that, try naming a single compelling emotion that comes to mind when you say “Democratic strategy.” When the NYT is putting photos of the “migrant caravan” on the front page above the fold every day, you’ve got to wonder what the Democrats are thinking.

While Trump inflames the immigration issue, Dems are ducking it. They are refusing to clarify how the US should deal with the caravan when it arrives, except to say that kids shouldn’t be in cages, which is an easy answer.

Should we let the illegals in or not? A few Dems say abolish ICE, but that’s a losing argument. The Party leaders instead change the subject to health care.

Is refusing to be drawn into the caravan debate part of a winning closing argument?

We’ll see.

If it isn’t, Wrongo’s message to Democrats is: Reform the party, kick out the dinosaurs, build a platform that truly helps the people.

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