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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – September 22, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Italy — photo by _enk

Another week in Trumplandia is in the books. And, for the second consecutive year, there was no “Trump’s Summer Reading List“. That idea seems so preposterous that his handlers don’t even try to fake it. He’s never wandered far from the limo or the hotel lobby. He’s simply not interested in our world.

With that as background, consider Trump’s meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell in which Trump suggested building a wall across the 3,000 mile-long Sahara Desert to prevent African migrants from making their way into Europe:

You need to build a wall around the Sahara…When Borrell asked Trump if he understood just how big the Sahara is, Trump argued that “it can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.” Borrell then informed Trump that the Sahara is far bigger than the U.S. border with Mexico.

And this was in The Guardian, not The Onion. Hold on to Trump’s fixation with walls for a bit, and read this tweet:

I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms? Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018

He tweeted this because the Senate approved their conference report with the House by a bipartisan 93-7 majority. It funds the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for the next fiscal year.

The best part was that it included a continuing resolution to keep the rest of the government agencies funded until after the mid-term election, so no shut-down, unless Trump refuses to sign the bill.

And, Congress designed it to prevent a standoff about Donald Trump’s border wall. Apparently, the lack of wall funding was a surprise to Trump, so he asks via tweet, “where is the money for the WALL?”

Once the Kavanaugh/Dr. Ford’s: “is it attempted rape, or just teen-age hijinks?” debate stops sucking up all of the oxygen in DC, Democrats should start praising Congressional Republicans continuously for defying Trump about the wall.

Dems should loudly praise Republicans for sending Trump a bill he can’t veto. They should hammer that wedge hard.

And, if Trump does veto it, we’ll see an instant shipwreck for the Republicans.

But right now, you need to get away from it all for at least a few minutes. You need to let your brain calm down. Wrongo calls this the Saturday Soother. We start by brewing a hot steaming cup of coffee. Today, we return to coffee roaster Geoffrey Martinez of Compton, CA’s Patria Coffee. Wrongo purchased a 12 oz. bag of Patria’s Peru Amazonas WP Decaf, and it was liked by all. So why not brew up a Vente cup of that, and enjoy. (A blog reader asked Wrongo if he receives any payment for these weekly coffee recommendations. He does not.)

Settle back in a comfy chair and watch the fall season begin outside your windows. Here, on the fields of Wrong, the crab apple, birch, and tulip trees are losing their leaves. The deer visit the crab apples several times a day to eat the fruit that falls to the ground.

Now, wearing your Bluetooth headphones, listen to trumpeter Chris Botti and violinist Lucia Micarelli perform “Emmanuel” live in Boston as part of Botti’s 2009 PBS special. The music was written by Michel Colombier, and released in 1971. Emmanuel was written to honor the memory of Colombier’s son, who died when he was only 5 years old. This piece will help you forget about Trump, Kavanaugh, and the Russians for a while:

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

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September 11, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Has it been 17 years already?

A quote from Edward R. Murrow: “No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices”, describes where America is today.

As we remember the 17th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack on the US, we should realize that most of the geo-political problems we face today can trace their root causes to the attacks on 9/11.

And 17 years later, it appears that we have become the accomplices of terror. We can’t let the Muslim world alone. We’ve continued to keep troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve beefed up our presence in Africa. The enemy has morphed from al-Qaeda only, to ISIS and al-Qaeda, with branches all across the world.

Just yesterday, Wrongo wrote about our current misadventures in Syria, where we have several thousand troops who were not invited in by the Syrian government. We said that US Syrian policy seems to be teetering on conflict with the other regional powers, Iran and Russia, because we are insisting that Iran exit Syria.

We continue to spend blood and treasure in the Middle East because of 9/11. We were meddling in the ME before 2001, and those efforts helped make bin Laden’s point that the US was responsible both for the suffering the US was causing directly through its sanctions, and the suffering we caused indirectly, by keeping Middle Eastern dictators in power.

To that, bin Laden added a decisive idea: Attack the US to end its power over the Middle East.

Seventeen years later, we are stuck in a Middle East quagmire. We cannot win militarily, but we never lose decisively. On this 17th anniversary, let’s address a few questions to our political and military leaders:

  • Isn’t it improbable that the US military has been unable to extricate itself from Iraq and Afghanistan, its two major wars of this century?
  • Was it improbable that Washington’s post-9/11 policies in the Middle East helped lead to the establishment of the Islamic State’s “Caliphate” in parts of Iraq and Syria and to a movement of almost unparalleled extremism that has successfully “franchised” itself from Libya to Mali, from Nigeria to Afghanistan?

If, on September 12, 2001, you had predicted where we are today, no one would have thought you were credible.

Since 9/11 our presidents have all tried hard to act tough on terror, as have our Senators and Congresspersons. They have all said that our young soldiers are available to go wherever the next Islamist problem arises. So, in the past 17 years, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars to protect the homeland, and while to some degree, we are undoubtedly safer, we haven’t defeated the Islamists.

The current crop of Republicans in the White House are trying more of the same: To convince us that the challenges we face in the world are simple, that we must be realists, aggressively going after what we want. They say it all comes down to “good vs evil.”

Sadly, we really live in an extremely complex world, and ignorance of its complexity is dangerous. Remember in 2006, there were reports that George W. Bush was unaware of the difference between Shia and Sunni as late as two months before the Iraq invasion. Combine that with the ongoing support for the neo-con’s Exceptionalist ideology, and we’ve all paid, and continue to pay, a huge price for their simplistic worldview.

The reality is that when tough talk is divorced from knowledge, you do dumb things, like start wars that diminish our standing in the world, that cost us terribly in lives and money, and that produce zero in the way of political results.

Trump seems ready to place a bet that his tough guy stance on Syria will cause Iran and Russia to back down. Those of us who pay taxes and send our kids off to war, should make it very clear that the American presidency is no place for bullies.

And rather than signifying weakness, traits like thoughtfulness and collaboration are exactly what we want from the Leader of the Free World.

Anyone can say “lock and load, we’re gonna fight!

We need to re-learn how not to fight, and how to exist in an ambiguous world without withdrawing, or being ineffectual. Since 9/11, when things get tough, our politicians strut around with chins out. They prefer form over substance and in the end, they’re just praying that it all works out, but it hasn’t.

Remember the 9/11 heroes and its victims.

But let’s stop listening to those who pander to our fears, and vote them out of office.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 9, 2018

Will we ever have another week like this one? Let’s hope we won’t. Wrongo senses that, we’ve finally achieved peak “SQUIRREL!!” It’s hard to imagine our attention being diverted as many times in one week as happened last week: Kavanaugh, Kaepernick, the Anonymous Op-Ed, Bob Woodward’s book, and the tech giants trying to explain to Senators, who barely understand their business, how they’ll fix the misuse of their platforms.

We start with Kavanaugh’s uncanny ability to pass through the Senate undetected:

Kaepernick’s Nike ad and the Anonymous article brought out the best in Trump’s supporters:

Trumpie misreads the chart:

Nike protest hurts a few people:

Robert Mueller finds best way to make The Donald quiet as a mouse:

White House staff meeting goes to a bad place:

Despite all the White House turmoil, Mike Pence has been real quiet lately:

Adios Burt:

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Willfully Ignoring the President’s Orders

The Daily Escape:

Monument Basin, Canyonlands NP – 2018 photo by baffledsloth

The NYT published an anonymous op-ed from a senior Trump administration official who claims to be part of a group of senior officials that deliberately ignore Trump’s orders on certain decisions.

It means that a bunch of unelected Republican termites are running the country. It reaffirms what both the Bob Woodward book is saying, along with the many similar reports from staffers in the White House.

But what good does it do us to know this? And what are the motives of the anonymous writer?

He/she says they are telling us this because it’s in the national interest for us to know that a few Republican guardians are watching out for the country. Despite what they think, this shows Republicans at their absolute worst, trying to have it both ways. They’re happily getting items on the GOP domestic agenda through the Congress, but they say they are trying to protect us from the worst of Trump’s excesses.

The insiders are merrily going about implementing the hard-right policy choices that Trump supports — tax cuts for the wealthy, gutting regulations, ruining our health insurance, and packing the Supreme Court with a generation’s worth of ideologues. But they don’t like Trump’s temperament and occasionally off-the-rails instincts about the Constitution and foreign policy.

Wrongo thinks that the author has sacrificed country, honor and decency for tax cuts and a more robust military. And is writing this now simply a ploy? Scott Simon had the following take:

I think @potus may be happy to read this. The criticisms are nothing he hasn’t heard. But the article is no call to action. It says, if you like tax breaks & court picks, ‘we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction.’

OTOH, David Frum at The Atlantic, says:

This Is a Constitutional Crisis. If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand.

But while the conspirators thought about invoking the 25th Amendment, they did nothing about it.

The takeaway is that conservative conspirators inside the WH have chosen to disobey the orders of the President of the United States. This is an overt refusal to accept any boundaries and limits to their power. Justifying that by saying they are patriotic, should be terrifying.

If an insider thinks that Trump is unfit for office, he/she should testify before Congress. But that won’t happen, because Trump is about to get them everything they’ve ever dreamed of. Progressives and Democrats know that Trump is an egomaniacal monster. Republicans: Please, don’t tell us that you know that too, and that we ought to work with you to stop him.

You created this monster, you stop him. But, they have no intention of doing that. It wasn’t the purpose of the op-ed. Chris Hayes had it right when he tweeted:

The op-ed is an attempt to take out an insurance policy for the GOP and conservatism if and when things get much, much worse. It’s a very public hedge meant to preserve the reputation of the GOP’s entire political and governing class.

Now, for the NYT: There isn’t any argument that would explain publishing this op-ed. It doesn’t serve the country. In fact, it’s entirely self-serving for the author and the Times. It tells us that Republicans in the administration are orchestrating a slow-rolling coup, but that’s ok, because the GOP is patriotically watching out for us.

The NYT op-ed has done nothing to advance our thinking about Trump, or about the people around him.

At the same time, if Trump is too distracted to know that his orders aren’t being followed, is it really a coup? Trump could do more than just request that his orders be carried out. He could follow-up and see what is being done. Apparently, he doesn’t. It seems clear to all that Trump wasn’t capable of doing this, and/or he doesn’t give a fuck.

What is clear, besides Trump being incapable of performing duties of president, is the NYT is failing the country in our current moment of need.

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Saturday Soother – August 25, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, UT – 2018 photo by FeloniousMuskellunge. It’s the longest sandstone arch in the world.

Manafort and Cohen: Guilty. Immunity for David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer, who paid Stormy Daniels. Immunity for the CFO of the Trump organization, who really knows were all the bones are buried in Trumpland. The walls seem to be closing in. In response, Trump said:

I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.

Someone who Wrongo thinks is a very astute guy, said: “That’s the start of Trump negotiating with us.”

Maybe, but Trump is actually negotiating with the Senate about Jeff Sessions. The answer? They’re fine with replacing Sessions after the mid-terms. The pivotal signal came on Thursday, when two key Republican senators “told” Trump that he could replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterm elections. That would open the way either for firing Robert Mueller, or constraining his probe.

Here’s what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had to say:

The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice….Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IW), Chair of the Judiciary Committee, now says that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general, after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to take up another confirmation.

The Republican’s plan is clear. Once Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in, they’ll have what they’ve wanted: Huge corporate tax cuts for the rich, two SCOTUS picks who will have a lifetime to work their pro-corporate agenda, all while finishing off FDR’s reforms and the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, for good.

And it would be just fine for the Republicans if the Orange Overlord gets the blame.

It’s all upside for the GOP now. Maybe getting rid of Sessions and subsequently firing Mueller is the excuse they’ll need to push Trump out, and bring in Pence. Maybe they’re fine with him sticking around. Maybe the Dems will help out if they take control of the House in January. Once Kavanaugh is on the Court, maybe the GOP will give Trump free rein. Sessions may try to hang on, but Trump has asked Sessions to investigate Trump’s political opponents:

Which is exactly what Sessions says he won’t do. This is the Republican’s game between now and the mid-terms: Kavanaugh installed, Trump unleashed, and the people who enabled him simply walking away.

Enough! Time to unplug from the news for at least an hour or two. Start by brewing up a cup of Difference Coffee’s unique offering of Esmeralda Geisha, in their Nespresso-compatible capsules (£50/10 capsules!). Notice its flavors of lemon tart and baker’s chocolate that resolve into a delicately plump mouthfeel and long, resonant, peach and lemon-saturated finish.

Now, put on your wireless headphones and listen to the Largo aria from the Opera Xerxes by G.F. Handel. He wrote it in 1738, but it was a failure, closing after just five performances. One hundred years later, the aria was resurrected, and became very popular. Here, it is not sung, but played by three cellos and piano. The artists are on Cello: Peter Sebestyen, Zoe Stedje, and Adam Scheck. And on Piano: David Szabo. It is performed in 2013 at Irish World Academy, University of Limerick, Ireland:

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

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Saturday Soother – August 18, 2018

The Daily Escape:

The Kimberley, Western Australia

Anything happen while Wrongo was away? Seems like it was pretty much business as usual: Trump takes away Brennan’s security clearance, Manafort’s case goes to the jury, bridge disaster in Italy, and Turkey’s currency fell again.

But, on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the “Accountable Capitalism Act” in the Senate. She then set out her logic in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, which drew the usual Neanderthal responses from America’s capitalists.

Warren notes that as recently as the early 1980s, conservative groups acknowledged that corporations were responsible to employees and communities, as well as to shareholders. This is a good time to mention that there is no legal obligation to “maximize shareholder value”. The Supreme Court has never made a decision on it, nor has Delaware, the state where most large companies are incorporated.

Warren, from her bill:

But in the 1980s, corporations adopted the belief that their only legitimate and legal purpose was “maximizing shareholder value.” By 1997, the Business Roundtable declared that the “principal objective of a business enterprise is to generate economic returns to its owners”.

More from the bill:

This shift is a root cause of many of America’s fundamental economic problems. In the early 1980s, America’s biggest companies dedicated less than half of their profits to shareholders and reinvested the rest in the company. But over the last decade, big American companies have dedicated 93% of their earnings to shareholders.

Warren’s point is that corporations have special privileges under our laws. Those privileges should warrant that corporations also have special responsibilities.

That’s not a completely new idea, it was the point of the New Deal regulations. FDR wasn’t an economic revolutionary – he was a member of the elite who saw plenty of room in America for himself and his friends. He understood that the pure capitalism of his time would destroy both the elites and the country if it didn’t change.

So FDR saved capitalism by making it more equitable and less predatory. His plan worked until the 1980’s. But now, the Republicans want to take us back to the 1920s.

Capitalism again needs to be changed/saved, and Warren is taking a small step to do just that. She wants to significantly transform shareholder rights to force corporations to have the social responsibility that comes with personhood, as well as the personhood rights already generously provided to them by the Supreme Court. More from Warren:

My bill also would give workers a stronger voice in corporate decision-making at large companies. Employees would elect at least 40% of directors. At least 75% of directors and shareholders would need to approve before a corporation could make any political expenditures. To address self-serving financial incentives in corporate management, directors and officers would not be allowed to sell company shares within five years of receiving them—or within three years of a company stock buyback.

Warren knows that Corporate America is in love with share buy-backs. Warren seems to accept William Lazonick’s observation that:

 …since the mid-1980s net equity issues for non- financial corporations have been generally negative, and since the mid-2000s massively negative.

In the modern era of CEO-kings, owners take more money out of corporations in the form of buybacks and dividends than they put in via new investments.

Even if her bill goes nowhere, Warren is educating those who believe that “maximizing shareholder value” is enshrined in civil law. Warren, along with a few progressives, continue to set much of the agenda for whoever wins the 2020 Democratic nomination.

OK, time to cruise into the weekend, wearing your flip flops. Time to shut out Omorosa and Trump.

Time for your Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing up a strong cup of Motozintla Caiaphas Mexico coffee ($14/12 oz.) from Patria Coffee in Compton CA. There is a feel-good story about the brewer, Geoffrey Martinez, here.

Now, settle back in an air-conditioned room and remember Aretha Franklin. Wrongo is reminded of the Steely Dan lyric from 1980: “Hey nineteen, that’s ‘Retha Franklin, She don’t remember the Queen of Soul.” The singer laments that his too-young girl friend has no idea who Aretha is. Well, everyone knows who she is today.

Aretha was many things, but few know that she occasionally performed opera. Here is Aretha at the Grammys in 1998, filling in for Luciano Pavarotti at the last minute when he was sick, and singing “Nessun Dorma”. She clearly doesn’t have the breath control of true opera singers, but it’s still a riveting performance.

Wrongo can’t embed the video he wants you to see, and all of the other YouTube videos of Aretha’s “Nessun Dorma” videos are for some reason, blocked today, so click here.

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Saturday Soother – August 11, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Near Helena, MT – 2018 photo by u/jacobs64

Today is Wrongo’s and Ms. Right’s wedding anniversary. No worries about cards or gifts, we usually celebrate this day alone, together. Tonight, we’re going to a bespoke dinner at a quirky French restaurant in Litchfield County, CT. There will be great food, champagne, and a couple of very good wines.

We’ve all made it through the 81st week of Trumpfest, and please, let’s not count how many weeks remain.

This week featured a DC judge threatening Jeff Sessions with contempt of court after his people committed another immigration sin, and the continuing saga of the Manafort money laundering and tax evasion trial in Virginia. Devin Nunes proved once again that he should be removed from his seat in Congress. And there was VP Pence’s announcement of the Space Farce.

This week also marked the resignation of Richard Nixon, in 1974.

But as we hit the weekend, Wrongo wants to talk Turkey. This week saw the relationship between Turkey and the Trump administration hit a new low. Here are a few of the developments: Relations with Turkey haven’t been good for years, but the current problems were sparked by Turkey’s detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, on espionage charges. We’ve insisted that he be released.

Then, Turkey asked for the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in the US in return for Brunson. We weren’t about to do that, so instead, Washington imposed sanctions against two cabinet-level officials in President Erdogan’s administration.

After the sanctions, the Trumpets thought they had made a deal with Turkey, whereby Turkey would release Brunson in exchange for Israel releasing a Turkish woman it had accused of funding Hamas. The Turkish woman was released, but Brunson wasn’t.

Then, the Trump administration doubled existing tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. The Turkish currency, the Lira, fell by 15% on Friday. But, the escalation continued when Turkish lawyers sued US soldiers at Incirlik Airbase, supposedly because they were working with Fethullah Gulen to overthrow the Turkish government. Incirlik is a place where the US stores nuclear weapons. It is the primary base for our air war in the Middle East. General Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, is also named in the complaint.

Turkey is at best, an obstreperous member of NATO, who by holding significant geography, are strategically important to keeping Russia bottled up in the Black Sea. Yet, Turkey just ordered Russia’s latest, greatest air defense missile, the S-400, to consternation in the US. We countered by delaying Turkey’s orders of our latest, greatest jet fighter, the F-35.

Our sorry relationship with Turkey is another example of Trump’s failed “Art of the Deal”: His gut instinct is to escalate the problem, in this case, by imposing more tariffs, instead of stepping in with leadership and diplomacy to help resolve the underlying relationship problems.

Funny how he’s for diplomacy only with Russia and North Korea.

Had enough of this week’s emotional roller coaster? You bet. Time to turn off twitter, email, and network news. It’s time for a Saturday Soother.

We start by brewing up a strong cup of Los Planes coffee ($19/12oz.), from Theodore’s Coffee in Michigan. They import the beans from the Finca Los Planes farm in Honduras. This coffee is unique, because its beans are larger than average coffee beans. Theodore’s says that the coffee has subtle notes of fruit, particularly blackberry and raspberry.

Now, settle back cup in hand, and wearing your best earphones, listen to Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor perform O’Connor’s composition “Poem for Carlita” in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. Of the performance, O’Connor said:

When I wrote “Poem for Carlita” for Yo-Yo Ma, I hoped he would play this exactly the way he plays it. The experience was riveting. It was one of my most dramatic and romantic instrumental journeys and he was the one to expose every nuance of passion in the music. He saved his best for this performance…tremendous.

Here is “Poem for Carlita”:

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

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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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Nothing Is More Important Than Voter Turnout

The Daily Escape:

Cau Vang (Golden Bridge) Da Nang, Vietnam. This footbridge opened to the public in 2017 – photo via themindcircle

The next few elections will determine if the US remains a minority-ruled country for the foreseeable future. And is there a significant number of non-voters who are predisposed to vote for Democrats.

Check out Adam Bonica’s article in Sunday’s NYT. Bonica, who is a political scientist at Stanford, says that generational shifts are under way that are more powerful politically than people realize. By 2020, half of eligible voters will be Millennials, or Post-Millennials (Gen Z). They will be two-thirds of voters by 2032, and they skew toward the Democrats:

The bottom chart shows that, while the nation is on the cusp of a generational revolution, Millennials and Gen Z’ers haven’t turned out to vote in the way that their elders do. This negates a 31 point Democrat edge in Millennials.

Bonica says that as they age, Millennials will become more likely to vote. He cites a general rule of thumb that turnout increases by about one percentage point with each year of age. This makes it possible to forecast how the generational advantage will grow over the next decade: By 2026, Millennials are expected to account for 19% of votes cast, up from 12% in 2014, with Democratic-leaning Gen Xers and Gen Zers accounting for an additional 34%.

As this happens, the Republican-leaning Silent Generation is projected to account for only 8% percent of votes cast in 2026, down from 23% in 2014. Their participation is bound to go down, the oldest members of the Silents will be 101 in 2026.

But, getting younger voters to turn out is a problem. Bonica says that among advanced democracies, turnout in national elections is a strong predictor of income inequality. The US has both the lowest turnout and highest share of income going to the top 1 percent. He has a very interesting chart showing turnout graphed against income inequality:

Virtually all other western democracies have higher voter turnout than the US. This is unlikely to be a coincidence. Bonica says:

This makes democracy an issue to campaign on. The Democratic base understands that it is waging a battle for the future of the country….They are also painfully aware that our electoral system is biased against them. A rallying cry to put democracy back on the offensive will get the base to sit up and pay attention. Delivering on the promise will get them to the polls.

This year, the Democrats need to focus with laser-like attention on winning the House. They are unlikely to get the Senate. Possibly, they can limit their losses to few, or maybe zero, net.

The Democratic message, assuming they can get their messaging act together, needs to be about these four points:

  • Better jobs
  • Ensuring democratic elections
  • Healthcare for all
  • Higher taxes on corporations

The Democrats can point at the GOP, saying they are the party of corruption, and of doing the bidding of the rich elites. From the Democrats’ point of view, ensuring democratic elections means: Less hacking, easier registration, more days of early voting, and vote-by-mail. All encourage civic engagement and participation.

The fact that Republicans generally do worse when more people turn out to vote is their own fault. We need to point out that their plan is to use vote suppression to weaken democracy, replacing it with a Trump-branded authoritarianism.

And there’s the issue of the Republican-controlled Supreme Court. It will have a strong conservative majority for the next few decades, and that’s going to mean Citizens United isn’t going away, and the Voting Rights Act won’t be strengthened.

Our only weapon is turnout.

We can’t just sit back and let demographics deliver us to power. Democrats will have to fight for these policies. We shouldn’t care that the odds seem stacked against the people who back these values.

Generational change is coming, and with it an opportunity to fundamentally transform the American government and who it serves.

To help with that, Democrats must insist on making voting easier, and more universal.

Then, hone their message.

Then, do everything in our power to make it happen.

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Send Establishment Democrats to the Bench

The Daily Escape:

City Hall Subway Station, NYC – via @themindcircle

We live in disorienting times. Disorienting in that our society, and our values, are in motion. We are no longer anchored by social mores, beliefs, or any shared vision of the future. Our politics are evolving as well. We can’t simply blame Trump, or those who elected him for taking us to this scary place. The bipartisan consensus that’s ruled this country since the 1940s — neoliberal domestic policy, and neoconservative foreign policy ─ no longer produces the same results for our citizens that it has produced since the Eisenhower era.

Establishment Democrats bear some of the blame. And looking forward to the mid-terms and beyond, they have failed to do the simplest work — forming a worldview, then persuading others about their vision, and the steps to achieve it.

We can also blame establishment Republicans, but they have collapsed. The new right is much farther right, more authoritarian, and whiter. And who would have thought they would be the pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-DOJ, and (maybe not a complete surprise), the pro-police state party?

History shows that when society turns like this, the establishment parties can disappear, as did the Federalists and the Whig parties. And when one party changes, the other must as well. After Lincoln, neither the Republicans, nor the Democrats, were the same parties.

Perhaps it’s time to take these words in the Constitution to heart:

…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…

Therefore, if the Dems are to win back the hearts and minds of the people, regardless of what the banks and corporations want to do, Government must be the advocate for the People.

That requires that our political parties confront the banks, corporations, military contractors, and the other oversized creatures that feed at the government trough.

Is that something that the establishment Democrats (Wrongo likes calling them the “Caviar Dems”) are willing to do? They used to champion social and economic justice, but not so much today. Today, they follow the same neo-liberal economic policies that Republicans champion.

And with few exceptions, they are as neo-conservative on foreign policy as any Republican.

Republicans have undergone a different mutation. They celebrate the globalized economy, and support the domestic gig economy as a means of growing corporate profits. They still celebrate Christian values, so controlling Supreme Court appointments is their great achievement, along with ruinous tax cuts.

America’s corporate tax revenues are going down, while social and infrastructure costs keep rising. So far, under both parties, government has continued to spend money it doesn’t have. It borrows, and pretends that everything is under control.

Now, after 10 years of economic expansion, we continue to pile up deficits. What’s going to happen in the next recession? The truth is, we are poorer, and weaker, as a country than we think. But few politicians are willing to help us face reality.

We see both Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee for Congress in NY, describe themselves as socialists. But, in fact, that’s not what they are. Merriam-Webster defines socialism as:

Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective, or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

Obviously, they hope to take over the corporate-friendly establishment Democratic Party, but if you call yourself a socialist, then, at a minimum, you need to advocate for government ownership of the means of production, i.e., industry. You’re only a socialist to the extent that you advocate that.

Will Bernie or Alexandria nationalize General Motors, Apple, or ExxonMobil? No.

Even advocating for “Medicare for all,” isn’t socialism. Neither Medicare, nor other single-payer programs like Medicaid, are really socialized medicine. No one is advocating for an actual government takeover of hospitals, or turning doctors into government employees. If they really wanted socialized medicine, their cry would be “VA for all,” not “Medicare for all.”

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are social democrats. In a social democracy, individuals and corporations continue to own the capital and the means of production. Wealth remains produced privately.

But taxation, government spending, and regulation of the private sector are much more muscular under social democracy than is the case under today’s neo-liberal economic system.

Joel Pett has a great illustration of the difference between Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez and Republicans:

It’s time for the Dems to change direction. Carry the “Medicare for all” banner proudly. Work to end income inequality. Work to add jobs for the middle class.

Send the establishment Democrats to the bench.

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