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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – December 15, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Outdoor market, Istanbul, Turkey – 2013 photo by Wrongo

As we cruise toward year’s end, we’ve received a political Christmas present in the form of Paul Ryan’s retirement from Congress. On Ryan’s heading into the Wisconsin sunset, newly minted House Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), had this take:

It’s pathetic how journalists and Republicans often say that Ryan is a thoughtful and principled member of Congress, a genius by some accounts. He is lauded for being elected to the House at age 28, and working his way up to Speaker. But he’s left few footprints on important legislation, except for the Trump tax cut in 2017.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to the House at 28 just like Ryan. Unlike Ryan, Ocasio-Cortez has been called out for everything from her wardrobe, to her active commentary on Twitter. Many of the same Conservatives who lionized Ryan say that Ocasio-Cortez is naïve, undisciplined and unwilling to play by their rules. Freshman Congressman, especially young female Democrats are expected to keep their heads down, and speak only when spoken to.

But no one ever changed anything by going along to get along. She’s been outspoken, but she’s done so in a manner which spotlights legitimate issues. That tends to rankle the established power structure, who prefer the status quo, because it’s predictable, manageable, and largely male.

It’s far too early to know if Ocasio-Cortez will be a political force to reckon with, or a transformative legislator. But the fact that she’s willing to speak out and rattle cages is a good sign. Congress has needed new (and younger) voices for a long time. It will be interesting to see what sort of rabble-rousing she’ll take on, and if it will cause meaningful change.

Is there a chance that she’ll accomplish far more than Paul Ryan? Sure, but that’s a low bar. Ryan always played by the rules while working his way up the ladder. That’s great if you are ambitious, which is all that Ryan was really about. Oh, and Ayn Rand.

Consider one of Ryan’s final acts as Speaker:

By three votes, the House of Representatives advanced a farm bill, but not before the Republican leadership slipped in a provision that would turn off any possibility of the Congress’s fast-tracking an effort to turn off American aid to Saudi Arabia due to that country’s abominable war in Yemen.

As Charlie Pierce says,

Consider what Ryan and his majority did today. They made it impossible for the United States to swiftly extricate itself from accessorial conduct in a horrible ongoing crime-by-famine, and they did it by sabotaging a bill that helps get food to people in this country.

This is one of the last acts of Paul Ryan’s Speakership. He will richly deserve our contempt for playing partisan legislative games with starving children.

On to Saturday! Time to leave tree-trimming and shopping on Amazon for a few minutes, it’s time to unplug and land on a small island of soothing in the midst of all of the chaos. Let’s start by brewing up a yuuge hot cup of Baru Gesha coffee (1 kg/$100) from the Los Angeles-based Bar Nine brewers. The Baru Gesha tastes like dark chocolate, raspberry liqueur, frankincense, and almond brittle in aroma.

Frankincense! How seasonal.

Now, gaze out at the last few leaves on the trees and the dormant grass, and listen to JS Bach’s “Air on a G-String”, an arrangement for the violin made in the 19th Century from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. Bach originally wrote the suite between the years 1717 and 1723. It found its nickname in 1871 when the German violinist August Wilhelmj (1845-1908) made a violin and piano arrangement of the second movement of this orchestral suite. By changing the key into C major and transposing the melody down an octave, Wilhelmj was able to play the piece on only one string of his violin, the G string.

Procol Harum borrowed from it for their hit, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Gary Brooker of Procol Harum said:

If you trace the chordal element, it does a bar or two of Bach’s ‘Air On A G String’ before it veers off. That spark was all it took. I wasn’t consciously combining Rock with Classical, it’s just that Bach’s music was in me.

If you would like to hear the echoes of “Whiter Shade of Pale”, you can hear the Air played on organ.

But, here it is as intended on violin played by the Ukrainian violinist Anastasiya Petryshak with the Orchestra Cantelli at the Basilica Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, Italy in December 2015:

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

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Funding The Revolution

The Daily Escape:

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada in snow – photo by Yan Gao

When the President and the incoming Speaker of the House get into a televised shouting match over whether we have enough money to fund Trump’s wall, you know that things have to change in America. They’re fighting over use of a limited resource, the US government’s funding.

We now have within our means the ability to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate everyone. But, as a country, we are unwilling to do so, because we buy into neoliberal economic theory. Never in history have we had the ability to make our species as secure as we do now, but we choose instead to make as many as insecure as possible.

Until about 1980, economic growth created a level of prosperity that earlier generations of Americans could only dream about. But, economic growth no longer makes people more economically secure. We’ve become prisoners in a system that promotes permanent growth, where wages stagnate, schools decay, and Goldman Sachs sits inside our government.

The question we should be asking is: How can our politics provide an answer to our people’s need for economic security? We know that neoliberalism has reduced many of our people to states of economic insecurity. We know that our economic and social order must change, and profoundly, or face an eventual revolution. This isn’t an option, it’s a certainty.

That means that only state funding will create the (peaceful) change we need.

Here’s a big idea from Richard Murphy, a UK tax accountant:

…To put this another way, what may be the biggest programme of change ever known in human history is required in very short order. We need new energy systems; transformation of our housing stock; new transport infrastructure; radically different approaches to food that might even require rationing if we cannot create change any other way; different ways of working and new ways of using leisure time.

Murphy goes on to say:

But this must be done in a way that increases certainty. Jobs must be created on the ground…And I mean, in every constituency….but the transport and other infrastructure must be provided in that case and that does not simply mean more roads. The social safety net must be recreated. That means a job guarantee. It also means a universal basic income. And business must be transformed. Since that process will be incredibly expensive this requires capital and if that means state investment and co-ownership, so be it.

Murphy says that if this was wartime, our government would find the money to fund radical change. He says that we can no longer just extract higher taxes from the rich to solve our funding requirements, we need to create a vision, a plan and funding to achieve the change required.

One way to fund a portion of these requirements may be to restrict funding for the military, to eliminate tax breaks and subsidies for corporations. More from Murphy:

The time for pussy-footing is over. We know what we need to do. We know the scale of the issue. We know the reasons for acting….and we know we can pay for it. This is not left or right as we know it. And any party not addressing it is part of the problem and not the solution.

He’s suggesting deficit financing for societal gain. What are the chances that revolutionary change can happen? Almost zero today. Left to our political class, we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re currently doing, that is, until we can’t.

As we said yesterday, people say, “It’s the system, we can’t change it”.

But, in the Middle Ages, the exact same thing could have been said about feudalism. That institution was deeply entrenched, it was “how things are, and were meant to be.” It was inconceivable that something like democratic government could ever succeed feudalism, yet it did.

Today, our revolutionary task is to allow democracy to express its full potential to reshape and revitalize our social and economic life.

We must begin by setting priorities, taking resources from areas that drain the economy. Then we need to devote those resources to things that will make for a healthier, more secure economy.

One example is to adjust the priority that military defense spending has in our economy. Let’s stop being the world’s policeman, nobody wants us to do it. Then, use the excess resources to build infrastructure, and renewable energy systems.

Everything else we need then will become easier to build.

It’s a matter of deciding what our priorities are, and voting for those who agree with that vision.

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We’re Being Sold a Story

The Daily Escape:

Plague Fort (or Fort Alexander), St. Petersburg, RU. It was built between 1838 and 1845 on an artificial island in the Gulf of Finland. From 1899 to 1917, the fort housed a research lab focused on plague and other bacterial diseases. It was abandoned in 1983.

The Economist has an 8500-word interview with the documentary film maker, Adam Curtis. For 30 years, Curtis has produced documentaries on politics and society. Apparently, he has emerged as a cult-hero to the UK’s young thinkers trying to comprehend our chaotic world.

His latest film, “HyperNormalisation” (you can view the trailer here, or watch the entire 2+hour documentary here) argues that governments, financiers, and technological utopians have, since the 1970s, structured a simple “mostly fake world” for us, run by corporations, and kept stable by politicians.

Wrongo was attracted to this in part because Curtis takes the title of his documentary from work by a Russian historian, Alexei Yurchak, now a professor at Berkley. He introduced the word in his book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (2006). Yurchak says that in the 1980s, everyone from the top to the bottom of Soviet society knew that it wasn’t working. They knew that it was corrupt. They knew that the bosses were looting the system. They knew that the politicians had no vision. And they knew that the Party bosses knew they knew that.

Everyone knew it was fake, and they just accepted the fakeness as normal. Yurchak coined the term “HyperNormalisation” to describe that feeling. When Wrongo was in Russia in October, he heard a few Russians express this exact idea about the end stages of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The fall of the Soviet Union didn’t stop them from despising Gorbachev, who ended the state economy and replaced it with a less-than-functioning market economy. They longed for the simpler state of affairs, with less to think about, and less to worry about. Where everyone knew that the system didn’t work, but they all had jobs, and there was food in the markets.

2018 America is far from being the Soviet Union, but this is exactly the way the US is today. In most ways, everything the government touches, like elections, environment, tax policy, and health policy, could be substantially better for all of our citizens.

We all know everyone is unhappy, but everyone just says, “It’s the system. We can’t change it.”

A quote from Curtis:

There is a sense of everything being slightly unreal; that you fight a war that seems to cost you nothing and it has no consequences at home; that money seems to grow on trees; that goods come from China and don’t seem to cost you anything; that phones make you feel liberated, but that maybe they’re manipulating you, but you’re not quite sure.

He talks about the concept of “risk”, and how it entered our discussion, migrating from finance to politics in the 1980s. Today, everything has become about risk analysis, and how to stop bad things happening in the future: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Politics gave up saying that it could change the world for the better and became a wing of management, saying instead that it could stop bad things from happening. The problem with that is that it invites all the politicians to imagine all the bad things that could possibly happen—at which point, you get into a nightmare world where people imagine terrible things, and say that you have to build a system to stop them.

Can the people take power back from corporations and their captured politicians? Maybe, maybe not. People like stability and they fear instability. We saw that with Gorbachev in Russia in the 1980s.

But if we are to move past the collusion of corporations and politicians trying to keep us accepting things we know are unacceptable, we need to have better politicians.

The job of a master persuader is to tell a story that says, “Yes this is risky, but it’s also thrilling, and it might lead to something extraordinary”. The persuader must say, “Yes, I understand your fears but look, what’s happening isn’t right. We can do better than this”.

People are asking, “What is our future? What is this existence for?

  • If you live in West Virginia surrounded by people taking opioids, you surely want to know what all that sorrow is for
  • If you are a recently laid-off GM worker, you’re asking the same thing
  • If you’re a student with $75k in student debt, and a cog job, you’re asking the same thing
  • If you’re a plumber with no health insurance and pancreatic cancer, you’re asking the same thing
  • If you’ve worked hard to elect someone who just lost because of ballot-stuffing, you’re asking the same thing

These are the questions that our politicians should be answering.

Do you see someone who can bring people together behind a better vision?

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Can America Learn From France’s Yellow Vest Movement?

The Daily Escape:

Turtlehead Pond, Groton State Forest, VT – October 2018 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

The Yellow Vests have thrown France into turmoil with their protests in recent weeks. They say they want lower taxes, higher salaries, freedom from gnawing financial fear, and a better life.

It’s a uniquely French phenomenon. Every automobile in France is supposed to be equipped with a yellow vest, so that in case of car accident or breakdown, the driver can put it on to ensure visibility and avoid getting run over.

That enabled the wearing of a yellow vest to demonstrate against unpopular government measures to catch on quickly. Most people had one. The symbolism was fitting: in case of an income inequality emergency, show people that you don’t want to be run over.

What set off the protests was a rise in gasoline taxes. But it became immediately clear that much more was driving the protests, that the gasoline tax was the last straw in a long series of measures favoring the rich at the expense of the majority of the population.

That’s why the movement achieved almost instant popularity and support.

The Yellow Vests held their first demonstrations on Saturday, November 17 on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Most French trade union demonstrations are well organized. People carry banners and listen to speeches from leaders at the end. But, the Yellow Vests showed up without any organization, and no leaders to tell them where to go, or to speak for the crowd’s demands.

They were just there in yellow vests, angry and ready to explain their anger to any listener. Their message was:

We can’t make ends meet. The cost of living keeps going up, and our incomes keep going down. We just can’t take it anymore. The government must stop what it’s doing and change course.

This is another example that income disparity between the rich and rest of us is out of control on a global basis.

The Yellow Vest protesters know that our political systems are controlled by the rich, and by their captured politicians. They are enriching themselves on the backs of the working and middle classes. Interestingly, it was the French economist, Thomas Piketty, who has researched and publicized the fact that the US has the largest income gap of any Western nation.

We should be paying closer attention both to Piketty and the Yellow Vests.

Global corporations and their fellow traveler politicians know that this sort of discontent is infectious, so politicians always try to quell it quickly. If the American 90% got the idea from France, revolution might migrate, as our revolution in 1776 migrated to France in 1789.

It is interesting that the NYT reports that in France, the Yellow Vest protests were totally unanticipated by the government.

We all know that income inequality is a growing global problem, so how can it be that the suffering of a country’s citizens and their protest against the French government’s plan to increase gas taxes would be “totally unanticipated by the parties’’?  Are the powers that be in France completely tone-deaf to the needs of their constituents?

So, are there lessons for America in the Yellow Vest movement? There should be, because the issue here is similar to the issue in France, and elsewhere in Europe. That issue is economic insecurity.

There’s no political will to deal with job insecurity. There’s no mechanism in place for those who can’t pay their bills. Soon, given automation and AI, there will not be enough work available for everyone to support themselves and their families. Underemployed people will still need food, shelter, and health care, so they might start by demonstrating in order to get them.

The sooner our corporate and political leaders decide to work on these problems, the better we all will sleep at night. But, no one in the top 10% of our economic strata has any idea what it is like to go without the necessities; it is simply inconceivable to them.

Many think that there are no consequences to the inequality that has developed in America since 1980, but there certainly will be consequences. We are in the midst of economic class warfare. The politicians, bought by the corporate plutocrats, are pushing their corporatist agenda down the throats of the middle and working classes.

We can either engage in a slow reform of Capitalism, or we can wait another generation, and participate in an urgent, rapid destruction of Capitalism as we know it today.

If we opt to go slow, let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t close a deep wound with a Band-Aid. It takes surgery.

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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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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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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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Monday Wake Up Call – October 29, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fisherman on the Housatonic River near Cornwall, CT – November, 2017 photo by Mike Jacquemin

The World Series is on, and it may actually be over by the time you read this. Wrongo lived in Brooklyn as a young boy, and got to go to Ebbets Field twice to see games. He grew up on Mays, Mantle, Berra, Koufax, Drysdale, Hodges and Snider, each were legends and heroes.

But in 2018? The only baseball Wrongo watches is the World Series, and that’s only with clicker in hand, vectoring to other entertainment. And he certainly doesn’t stay up until the game is over. Let this sink in: In 2018, for the first time in baseball history, there were more strikeouts than hits: 188 more to be exact.

So today, who watches these games from start to finish? It’s doubtful that those under the age of 30 do. Particularly if someone like Wrongo who was a baseball fan 60 years ago, is too disengaged to watch it in real time.

But the weekend’s news wasn’t dominated by sports, but by yet another mass shooting. This time, at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 mostly elderly people died at the hands of an anti-Semitic, hate-motivated gunman. He leaves behind waves of grief.

It’s a sorry commentary that this killing, along with the attempted bombings of 14 Democrats, obscured the hate killing of two African-Americans in Kentucky last Wednesday. Maybe it’s because only two Black murder victims at the hands of a white supremacist doesn’t garner attention anymore.

To those crying out after a wave of pipe bombs and another mass shooting, that this is not who we are, sorry, this is exactly who we have become as a people. The MAGA-bomber and the Synagogue murders are the tip of the spear: Alt-right fellow travelers blatantly acting out, seemingly without fear of reprisal, is the world we live in now.

And yet, at a time when America sorely needs moral leadership and unity, consistent reminders that we are one people, that we’re all in it together…we have Trump.

From James Fallows in the Atlantic:

Donald Trump has never once, in his life, spoken…as bearer of the whole nation’s grief, as champion of its faith and resolve–so there is no reason to expect that he could possibly do so now.

More from Fallows:

America has almost always had someone able to play that role….Harry Truman did so, after he unexpectedly became the leader of the post–World War II world. George W. Bush did, in his early remarks after 9/11. Even Lyndon B. Johnson, who fit no model of a natural orator, recognized what the country needed from him after history-changing assassinations: of the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, and of Martin Luther King Jr. Like his predecessors, he recognized what was expected of him, and he tried his best.

Donald Trump cannot and will not do any of this, and the absence of such a voice in national leadership is palpable.

We know that Trump has consistently stoked hatred. He has occasionally encouraged violence. This isn’t simply a personal moral failing, if he acts like a fellow traveler with alt-right types, racists, anti-Semites, and misogynists, the worst that our society has to offer.

Largely, he hates those who the alt-right hate; he also supports those who have no issue with using violence.

He draws angry crowds precisely because he reflects his followers’ inner darkness. So, when violence that is aimed at his enemies occurs, he can’t even fake compassion, much less accept that his words could have inspired the violence.

After dividing us and pandering to hatred for the past two years, what he says now is too little, too late.

America is about to find out what happens when morality and common decency are abandoned for political gain. If we don’t get Trump out of office, and bring the Republicans to heel, it’s frightening to think about what may happen, where we could be a few years.

So, it’s time to wake up America! The first step on our long road to national recovery begins on November 6th.

Get yourself to the polls, and take a neighbor or two with you.

To help you wake up, listen this morning to the main theme From “Schindler’s List“. John Williams composed the score for Schindler’s List, and played the main theme on piano. Following Spielberg’s suggestion, he hired Itzhak Perlman to perform it on the violin:

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

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