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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – December 22, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Two Jack Lake, Banff, Alberta, CN – 2018 photo by don_wilson

A perfect photo for the end of this week: Black ice, more than a foot thick, with very large cracks. It feels like America is on ice skates, without any of us knowing how to skate, stop, or change direction. And there’s those giant cracks.

We don’t have a permanent Attorney General, Defense Secretary, or Chief of Staff. The government is likely to shut down because the president wants his border wall. Paul Ryan’s last official act of the year was to cave in to the president on his $5 billion funding demand, and kick it to the Senate.

Stocks are having the worst December since the Great Recession. And Robert Mueller has indicted multiple members of Trump’s inner circle. Trump seems to be skating, too.

But Wrongo wants to discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg (again). She underwent surgery at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two cancerous nodules removed from her left lung Friday at a New York hospital, the Supreme Court announced. There is no evidence of any remaining disease, says a court spokesperson, nor is there evidence of disease elsewhere in the body….In 1999, Ginsburg underwent surgery for colorectal cancer, and 10 years later she was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer.

Apparently, the cancer was detected early because of scans taken after she fractured her ribs. Since there is no current evidence of metastasis, it’s possible that she will make a full recovery.

We’re all thinking the same thing when Ginsburg’s health takes a bad turn: That Trump could have yet another chance to alter the makeup of the Supreme Court, precisely when he doesn’t look completely in control of his administration, or his emotions.

But, America oddly seems to be ok with a government shutdown. And most people think that fewer troops in Syria and Afghanistan is a good thing. As Wrongo predicted on Friday, we will withdraw 7,000 soldiers from Afghanistan over the next few months. The Taliban rules more than half of the country and Afghanistan’s army is losing more personnel each month than they can recruit.

BTW, it was Sec Def Mattis who had urged Trump to increase the troops in Afghanistan from 10,000 to 14,000 at the beginning of his term. His retirement marks the second time in five years that Mattis has had a serious conflict with his commander in chief. President Obama fired him as Head of Central Command for urging a more aggressive Iran policy.

But, you want to get on with shopping online, wrapping gifts and decorating the tree. So it’s time for a little Saturday soothing. Start by brewing up a vente cup of Valhalla Java Odin Force Coffee from the Death Wish Coffee Company, in Saratoga Springs, NY ($15.99/12 Oz.). Death Wish has been featured here before, and says that they make the world’s strongest coffees. They also say that the Odin coffee is nutty, with a taste of chocolate.

Now settle back for a few minutes, put on your Bluetooth headphones, and listen to the “Agnus Dei” by Samuel Barber, performed without instruments by Belgium’s Vlaams Radio Koor (choir), with Marcus Creed conducting. It was recorded in Brussels in 2015, and is an arrangement by Barber of his Adagio for Strings (1936). This is typically done by a chorus with organ, or piano accompaniment, but here it is simply the chorus, and it is simply beautiful:

Wrongo thinks it is superior to the original piece with piano and strings. It must be very difficult to sing.

The lyric:

In Latin:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem

In English:

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace

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

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Tax Abatements Are Killing School Budgets

The Daily Escape:

Egmont National Park, NZ – photo by vicarious_NZ

A new report shows that US public schools in 28 states lost at least $1.8 billion in tax revenues last year as a result of tax incentives granted to corporations. The study analyzed the financial reports of 5,600 of the nation’s 13,500 independent public school districts.

Good Jobs First examined the first full year of reporting under a new accounting standard for school districts, adopted by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the body that sets accounting rules for all states and most localities. The new rule, GASB Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, requires most state and local governments to report annually on the amount of revenue they’ve lost to corporate tax abatements.

This is extremely important, since most local schools are very dependent on revenue from property taxes, but they rarely have influence over corporate tax abatements granted by their towns, and/or the cities or counties where they are located.

And local voters have had no way to see how much they are forced to pay in additional taxes that were lost to enrich the pockets of corporate employers.

Good Jobs found that the 10 most affected states could have hired more than 28,000 new teachers if they were able to use the lost revenues. Or, they could have avoided higher home property taxes, or provided their teachers with better resources, or higher pay.

States and cities have long used abatements and other tax incentives to lure companies, or to keep them from leaving, and/or to encourage them to expand locally. Often, those companies make their choice of location based on the quality of local schools and colleges.

These abatement deals are made by local politicians and are meant to boost local economic development. Their proponents say the lost tax revenue is worth it, because they grow the local economy. But it is difficult to know whether the benefits outweigh the burdens.

And until GASB 77, it has been impossible to see just how much a school system may have lost because of a company’s tax break. The new rule is especially helpful in understanding local schools finances, because it requires the reporting of revenue losses even if they are suffered passively by the school system as the result of decisions made by another body of government.

Of the five districts that lost the most, three are in Louisiana. Together, they lost more than $158 million, or $2,500 for each student enrolled. The School District of Philadelphia, which only last year regained local control from the state after climbing out of a deep fiscal crisis, lost the second most revenue at $62 million.

Overall, nearly 250 school districts lost at least $1 million each, and in four districts, tax abatements reduced classroom resources by more than $50 million.

But most school districts have not yet complied with Rule 77, which was implemented in 2015. Good Jobs First estimates that another $500 million of subsidies and abatements are currently unreported.

Most of us believe that our governments are supposed to govern in the interests of the “general welfare,” that when voters put people in positions of power, based on the legitimacy of our electoral process, is the limit of our responsibility as voters.

We accept that somebody has to say what the rules are, and then enforce them.

But in our neoliberal economic times, voters have to remember that our governments often act as wholly owned subsidiaries of the 1%. It takes suspension of belief to accept that our republic, ruled as it is by an oligarchy, is working for the general welfare of all of our citizens.

Why do we think that, our “governments”, all of which are subject to capture and ownership by the few, are going to somehow provide decency, comity, or fairness to all of us?

We need to abandon the article of faith that the free market, one without government oversight, promotes the best economic outcome for all of us.

Today’s inequality says the opposite.

We need a new vision of the role of government. But it isn’t really a “new” vision. It is simply a return to insisting on the “promotion of the General Welfare for all” as the paramount object of government.

Here’s another thought from Gordon Wood, in his book, Creation of the American Republic:

In a republic each individual gives up all private interest that is not consistent with the general good, the interest of the whole body. For the republican patriots of 1776 the commonweal was all encompassing—a transcendent object with a unique moral worth that made partial considerations fade into insignificance.

The last outcome that American revolutionaries wanted was to be ruled by oligarchs. But, here we are.

We need to reform our capitalism.

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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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Trump Plans to End Birthright Citizenship

The Daily Escape:

Hocking Hills lower falls, Ohio – October 2018 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

President Trump said he plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and illegal immigrants born on US soil. This is called “Birthright Citizenship”.

Birthright Citizenship, the common law concept of jus soli, has been the law since the ratification of the 14th Amendment. The Republican concern is that too many illegal immigrants have a child in the US who is automatically an American citizen, and therefore, has the right to vote. The 14th Amendment’s  first sentence reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The debate pertains to the clause, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”. Conservatives contend that it means only citizens, while the preponderance of Constitutional scholars say it means located in the US.

Trump first made a case for ending Birthright Citizenship in 2015. Back then, he was following Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who said that Hispanics try to get a foothold in the country by coming here and having a child. King called them “anchor babies”.

Trump and the GOP are focusing on a largely imaginary abuse of birthright by foreigners.

Steve Kantrowitz, a US historian of the 19th century, wrote a series of tweets, condensed here: (emphasis by Wrongo)

On birthright citizenship, read the debate in the US Senate, Jan. 30, 1866. The framers of the Civil Rights Act — the immediate precursor to the 14th Amendment, and the first place national citizenship was codified — knew exactly what they were doing. They were clarifying the well-understood principle that children born in the US were citizens regardless of the immigration status of their parents. They even understood this to be true for children whose parents would then have been racially ineligible for citizenship, such as the Chinese. The only people excluded from citizenship on this basis were 1) Indians under tribal government and 2) children born to the families of foreign diplomats.

A new Executive Order on Birthright Citizenship would spark a legal battle, and pave the way for a showdown at the Supreme Court. To help get that party started, The Hill reported that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) intends to “introduce legislation among the same lines as the proposed executive order.”

Consider the irony: The Republican Party accomplished something hugely enlightened and important with the 14th Amendment. Here is American Civil War historian Eric Foner:

The 14th amendment and birthright citizenship rank among the great and defining accomplishments of the Republican Party, back when it was the Party of Lincoln.

Yet Trump Republicans propose purging their historic accomplishment from the Constitution. The problem with eliminating Birthright Citizenship is that their idea is at its core, explicitly nativist, racist, and xenophobic.

The current Republican Party is showing that it is no longer related to the Republican Party of Lincoln. In fact, it is barely related to the Republican Party of Eisenhower. The only piece of common ground the current Republican Party has with the Party of Lincoln is its name.

It will take time to move Trump’s Executive Order to a hearing at the Supreme Court. So, announcing this now is really another attempt to energize the Republican base next week.

Republicans are playing to an idea deep in the American psyche that there’s always “a mob at the gates”. The mob wants in, so that they can take advantage of the good things we have, or they plan to lay waste to our culture and way of life. Therefore, we must be vigilant, because our innocence and openness makes us vulnerable to exploitation or infection from outside.

This is what makes the Caravan a huge issue to Republicans. They’re calling it “an invasion” or, “a national emergency”.

The Right Wing’s argument is that we shouldn’t “reward” people who come into the country illegally by “giving” their kids born here citizenship.

They answer the fact that we all came here from over there, by saying “they followed the rules“, even though for most of us, our ancestors faced few, or no rules on immigration.

This is the problem Wrongo has with the GOP. They begin the argument from their conclusion, and work backwards. Any fig leaf will do. So any argument in favor of the conclusion is all they require.

Voters. Please do not take this bait. Let’s keep our eye on the ball: Re-winning at least the House on Nov 6th. This other fight can wait until after the election.

There are two great things about the US: Strong free speech laws, and jus soli. The idea of blood citizenship—which pervades Europe, and the Middle East, is the root of much evil in the world.

Don’t bring that evil here, VOTE on next Tuesday.

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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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Saturday Soother – October 27, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Autumn, near Hopkinton, MA – October 2018 photo by Karen Randall

There’s been lots of talk this week that the bombs delivered to Democrats were a “false flag” operation, designed by Democrats to make Republicans look bad just before the mid-terms. Rush Limbaugh said: (emphasis by Wrongo)

There’s a smell test that this stuff has to pass, and, so far, a lot of people’s noses are in the air, not quite certain of what to make of this…. Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing.

Well, it’s early in the investigation, but the guy they arrested has a van with Trump stickers on it, and news sources say he’s a registered Republican.

Some will claim its fake news. Some on the internet are already minimizing the Trump influence, saying he’s “just another crazy guy, nothing really links him to Trump”. Except those stickers on the MAGAbomber’s van.

Can you imagine what Trump would be saying if Republicans had been targeted by a Democrat?

We live in a world filled with hate, mistrust and anger that was hand-built by Trump, for Trump. This is your first view of what might result from that. Every GOP politician now needs to speak up, saying that their political opponents are not an enemy who is deserving of death.

We’re founded on the belief that we can disagree, that we can be part of our own tribes, but we belong to a super-group: we’re Americans. This incident should impress on the public that angry speech and rhetoric have consequences way beyond partisan political positioning.

Kudos to the DOJ, the FBI and the postal service for bagging the suspect. Notwithstanding recent comments from the president denigrating them, it is a job well done by law enforcement.

Just another week that jangled the nerves! Time to sit out the Nor’easter we’re feeling here in New England. Start by brewing up a hot cuppa Luke’s Coffee, from Kent Coffee and Chocolates, in Kent, CT. The fine people at Kent Coffee have adopted a dog named Luke from a local shelter, and 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Luke’s Coffee goes to The Little Guild Shelter in Cornwall, CT. Here’s a picture of Luke:

(iPhone photo by Wrongo)

Luke is Kent Coffee’s third adoption from the Little Guild. They also make spectacular chocolates.

Now, unplug from your devices, (except for Wrongo’s site), and think about the end of autumn, which is just around the corner. Here, the rain and winds are taking down most leaves, except for those on the Oak trees, which will hang on for quite a while longer.

Settle back and listen to Ed Sheeran sing his song “Perfect Symphony” live at Wembley Stadium in London on June 14, 2018. He’s joined on stage by Andrea Bocelli, and it’s magic. Most likely, this will be the first dance song at weddings for the next decade:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 24, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Avoto Metro Station, St. Petersburg, RU – 2014 photo via themindcircle

(Wrongo and Ms. Right are leaving today for Russia. We will be in St. Petersburg tomorrow, and eventually wend our way to Moscow. You should expect that blogging will be light. Regular posting will resume on October 9th. One more thing: We won’t be looking for the real hackers.)

The Trump administration doesn’t lack for enemies, but it is considering adding a few more. Bloomberg reports that:

The White House is considering a draft executive order for President Donald Trump that would instruct federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to open probes into the practices of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., and other social media companies.

Bloomberg says that the language of the order instructs US antitrust authorities to: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws. It instructs other government agencies to recommend within a month after it’s signed, actions that could potentially “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”

Assuming that the order is signed in something like its current form, it is an escalation of Trump’s aversion to Google, Facebook, Twitter, all of whom he’s publicly accused of silencing online conservative voices and news sources. The draft order says:

Because of their critical role in American society, it is essential that American citizens are protected from anticompetitive acts by dominant online platforms….It adds that consumer harm — a key measure in antitrust investigations — could come “through the exercise of bias.”

And there you have it. Because these companies allow criticism of the Very Stable Genius, we will get one step closer to government control of what you can say on the internet.

The draft order doesn’t name any companies, but it doesn’t have to in order to intimidate Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon’s parent’s other business, The Washington Post, to suddenly insure that their coverage of Trump is a whole lot nicer.

OTOH, there is a basis for what the DOJ is thinking of doing. There have been arguments from the right and the left that Silicon Valley companies including Google and Facebook, engage in anti-competitive behavior. The companies argue they face robust competition, and that many of their products are free.

Before this, bias has not been a factor in antitrust examinations. But, according to Bloomberg:

A Pew survey earlier this year found that 72% of Americans, and 85% of Republicans, think it’s likely that social media companies intentionally censor political viewpoints that those companies find objectionable.

But there is no objective evidence that either Facebook or Google systematically discriminates, left or right.

Even among some on the right, there are misgivings about a Trump administration crackdown on the free speech rights of these firms. The libertarian groups FreedomWorks and ALEC sent a letter to AG Jeff Sessions expressing concern that his:

…inquiry will be to accomplish through intimidation what the First Amendment bars: interference with editorial judgment.

While the political bias aspect of the order is controversial, it probably won’t scare either Google or Facebook. The First Amendment bans the government from restricting or imposing speech.

Federal authorities cannot require any company to publish views it favors, but it can take crippling anti-trust actions until the companies bend their algorithms to favor Trump messaging.

The danger of such thinking is obvious, however, as the Pew survey information above shows, the vast majority of Republicans agree with Trump.

You should agree that the government ought to be paying attention to the outsized market share of these companies.

You should be very afraid of the government going after them for political revenge.

WAKE UP, AMERICA! Time for all of us to remember these words from Benjamin Franklin:

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech”.

Political revenge via government agency is the mark of an authoritarian state.

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Our Small President

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon NP at sunrise – 2018 photo by ThePeachster

McCain will lie in state in Arizona’s capitol. Then, he will lie in state in the Capitol Building rotunda in Washington. Two former presidents will give eulogies at his funeral. Wrongo mused with a relative about why John McCain is being treated so differently from most other politicians who die in office.

She said: “America has no heroes.”

John McCain was a senator. His own party never fully trusted him. Democrats never knew what to make of him. He was occasionally with them, but he was against them on everything else. He called himself a maverick; he was certainly a pain. Why are we celebrating McCain as an American hero?

We are at the confluence of two tides in our history. First, we lionize our soldiers. We thank them for their service, we call them warriors. McCain spent 5+ years in a POW prison. He was tortured, and survived. So he is a heroic face for a war that we lost, a war we are still conflicted about, 40 years later.

In our intervening wars, there are individual soldier-heroes, but few stand out to us. The wars grind on, and the stories of the war heroes of our current time are fuzzy. The soldiers serve multiple tours, or we hear that they are coping with terrible post-traumatic stress. We have few contemporary genuine military heroes.

Second, our politicians have long since ceased to be heroic. McCain served six terms in the US Senate. He was old school, and some this week are calling him the “last lion” of the Senate. That tells us that despite the longevity of several other politicians of McCain’s (and Wrongo’s) generation, those who remain are merely ordinary.

The media wants us to believe that every American politician who dies is a great American. They seem to think that if that ever breaks down, America may stop being Great. This quasi-religious veneration of politicians is unbecoming of us as a people. It has transformed the majority of public offices into ones that are attractive mostly to people who are unfit to hold them.

In today’s politics, we’re usually trying hard to avoid electing the greater fool among the terrible options available to us. Most of the time, we have done that. But here we are: Donald Trump can’t carry John McCain’s jock, but he’s our president. This is from John Pavlovitz:

As the funeral for Senator John McCain approaches, we find ourselves in yet another occasion of national consequence; one our supposed Commander-In-Chief is intentionally excluded from because he is beneath the dignity and capability the moment requires.

More:

This moment plays itself out whenever there is a national tragedy, whenever compassion or decency or strength or goodness are required; whenever an adult leader would be called upon to actually lead us.

In those moments, he does not lead—he tweets.

It would have required very little energy, or thought, to issue a statement recognizing and honoring Sen. McCain. It would have taken almost nothing to keep the flags over the White House and other federal building flying at half-mast, but he couldn’t do even that.

Unsurprisingly, these minimal efforts are a bridge too far for Donald Trump.

There’s something to be said for being able to display grace and compassion upon the untimely passing of your adversary. After all, you’ve outlived him.

Where will we find our heroes in the next few years? It seems almost certain they will not come from Congress or the White House.

McCain was far from the hero that we are portraying him to be, now that he’s gone. But it shouldn’t require something heroic from Trump or his advisors to do the right thing.

Our culture is on the skids, led by our small president and his party.

Let’s give the last words to Pavlovitz:

In the meantime, just as today, we’ll all have to work together to fill in the spectacular gaps in leadership and compassion and intelligence and dignity that used to be filled by our Presidents.

We simply don’t have one right now.

UPDATE:  After the column above was written, the White House, facing a national outpouring of scorn, relented, and once again lowered flags on the WH grounds to half staff in honor of John McCain. Politicians on both sides, along with veterans’ groups, slammed President Trump as vindictive and petty.

The message was sent, and received by our small president.

Despite re-lowering the flag, and providing a military escort for McCain’s coffin, the point remains that Trump isn’t capable of compassion, or dignity. He’s not a leader.

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 26, 2018

The majority of Americans under 18 live in households that receive “means-tested assistance” from the US government. In 2016, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau, there were approximately 73,586,000 people under 18 in the United States, and 38,365,000 of them, 52.1%, resided in households in which one or more persons received benefits from a means-tested government program.

Those programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the National School Lunch Program.

And when the Census Bureau excluded school lunch programs from its calculations, the percentage of those under 18 who lived in a household receiving means-tested assistance (44.8%), still exceeded the percentage in any other age bracket.

We have now had four straight years: 2013 – 2016, during which a majority of those under 18 lived in a household taking means-tested benefits.

The primary reason for this is that most in this category are single parent households headed by a woman. Many can’t find employment paying a decent wage with some benefits. Many have to choose between full-time work and childcare. Some are working 2-3 part time jobs but still can’t cover their expenses.

But, the economy is good, the stock market is great, so why worry about these banana republic statistics, America? On to cartoons.

Trump sings the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “What’s That Smell?”

Speak to a Trumpist, and you’ll find a reasonable, fact-driven human being:

Trump tweets about “widespread” killings of white farmers in South Africa. Here’s the truth:

Immigration unmasks the hate:

DeVos shows that she’s a helper:

Mitch reserves his looks of disgust only for Democrats:

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Republicans Vote Against Funding Election Security

The Daily Escape:

Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana Cuba. Built in 1772, it was the royal post office. 2018 photo by Nestor Marti for Smithsonian Magazine

Are Republicans committed to free and fair elections? Maybe not. Republicans in the Senate had a chance to say “yes” on August 1st, when an amendment adding funding for election security failed to pass.

With all the cross talk about election meddling, you could be forgiven if you think that our very democracy may be under threat. But when given a chance to take a concrete step, adding $250 million to help confront this challenge, the Republican majority in the Senate said no. From The Hill:

Senators voted 50-47 against adding an amendment from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would have provided the funding. Sixty votes were needed to include the proposal in the appropriations legislation under Senate rules. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was the only GOP senator who voted in support of the amendment to an appropriations measure. The proposal, spearheaded by Leahy, would have provided $250 million for state election security grants.

How is this a partisan issue? Doesn’t every American want to protect our electoral system? Republicans argued that more funding wasn’t needed, that states haven’t yet spent the $380 million previously approved by Congress. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said it was “far too early” for the Senate to sign off on more money:

We don’t know how the first $380 million has even been spent, and the intelligence committee did an extensive research on how much money was needed and the $380 million amount was what was needed for the moment.

Sounds reasonable. If only there were some sort of accounting system that allowed you to find out how much was spent, and what the remaining need might be. And yet, not knowing where the Pentagon spends its money hasn’t stopped Congress from giving them even more than they asked for.

Surprising what expenditures cause the GOP to develop fiscal responsibility. They just gave $12 billion to bailout America’s farmers. They happily voted to create a $1 trillion deficit with their corporate tax cuts. Trump wants to add another $100 billion in tax cuts, because more has to be better.

But with an expenditure designed to head off a possible vote heist, that’s when America needs more fiscal accountability.

We’ve learned that Russian cyber warriors already have targeted the re-election campaign of Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-MO), and that Facebook closed 32 accounts because they exhibited behavior similar to that of accounts belonging to Russian hackers. Facebook said that more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages.

Our electoral legitimacy crisis is real. We are witnessing a slow-moving insurrection driven by the Republicans, the Citizens United decision, Koch operatives, Evangelicals, Russian cyber hacks, along with determined vote suppression by Republican state legislatures. All are working to make your vote less valuable. Republicans have been trying for years to destroy the value of your vote with voter suppression and gerrymandering.

If the Russians want to help them, the GOP seems to be OK with that, too.

From Charlie Pierce: (emphasis by Wrongo)

The only reason to vote against this bill is because you don’t want the money spent to confront the crisis. States can’t do this alone—and too many of them are controlled by people who don’t want the job in the first place….The idea that we’re nickel-and-diming this particular problem as what can only be called an anti-democratic epidemic rages across the land is so preposterous as to beggar belief. We are febrile and weak as a democratic republic. Too many people want to keep us that way.

The only thing that can save us is TURN-OUT this fall.

Kiss our democracy good-bye if you stay home!

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