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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – Acquittal Edition

The Daily Escape:

View from the top of Mt. Baden Powell in the Los Angeles National Forest – February 2020 photo by David Dodd

(Sunday cartoons will appear on Monday)

Is the game of investigating Trump over? What are the arguments for continuing to pick at this wound? This is a political calculation only. It no longer matters who said what in Ukraine, regardless of the damage caused by Trump. That ship has sailed.

It’s time to focus on the 2020 election, particularly on the House and Senate races. Focusing on winning those elections, and particularly on holding the House while winning a majority in the Senate, requires that the Democratic Party deal with its current schism. The Party is messily divided between social liberals who are for reform of capitalism along with Medicare for All, and free college, and moderates who wish to tack back towards the middle of the road.

The question that Democrats have to deal with is which of these two poles can make it a majoritarian party in 2020 and beyond?

This dilemma faced the Republicans only a short time ago, when the Tea Party threatened to split the GOP in two. Those cracks remained evident until Trump came along and united them in a way that today makes them seem more like a cult than a political party.

In some ways, Democrats are like the American Whig party was in the early 1850’s, when it could no longer bridge the gap between the Whigs of the northern industrial states and the Whigs of the southern farming/slavery states. It was an irreconcilable dilemma, and in short order, the party simply ceased to exist, only to re-emerge as the Republican Party in 1856.

The Democrats have been trending this way since LBJ forced southern Democrats to vote for/against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Later, the formation of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985, founded in part by Bill Clinton, pushed the Democrats rightward.

The “Left Party” that is trying to emerge from the current shambles of the Democratic Party could be more properly defined as a reactionary movement. An attempt to return to the days of the New Deal and the rise of the middle class.

In that sense, Wrongo is a New Deal Reactionary. The New Deal was a good deal for most of us. We should want our New Deal back again.

The question on the table is: Which half of the divided Democratic Party should New Deal Reactionaries support? Is it the Sanders/Warren half, or the Biden/Bloomberg/Buttigieg half of the Party? If it’s Sanders, can we get a New Deal Revival, but no Recreational Socialism to go along with that?

Can the moderate/ConservaDems realistically be counted on to bring back the New Deal? We see that ConservaDems are willing to strap on their running shoes and do 3 miles in the morning, because “no pain no gain”. But somehow, once at work in the House or Senate, they claim that the hardship doesn’t make sense economically, so why even try?

The answers to these twin questions: Whether the Party can be re-united similar to the way Trump united the GOP, and which half of the Party should attempt that unification in November 2020, will determine the arc of our democracy for decades to come.

It was a terrible week, and now we need a break from “all acquittal, all the time”. That means it’s time for our Saturday Soother, a brief window when we can forget about the outside world and concentrate on breathing slowly and relaxing mind and body.

Let’s start by brewing up a vente cup of El Salvador Finca el Cerro Natural ($22.99/12oz.). The roaster, Virginia’s Red Rooster Coffee says it tastes of strawberry and tangerine zest with a viscous mouthfeel.

Now, grab a seat by the fire and listen to Anna Netrebko perform “Solveig’s Song” from Peer Gynt’s Suite No.2, live with the Prague Philharmonia conducted by Emmanuel Villaume in 2008:

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

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Trump’s Sweet Little Lies

The Daily Escape:

Owens River, Owens Valley, CA – 2020 photo by AndrewHelmer. Owens is the deepest valley in the US.

A few thoughts about the SOTU. First, should we have minimum standards of conduct and language in our society? If so, should the president reflect them? Or, have we finally reached peak SOTU=STFU?

Trump wouldn’t shake Pelosi’s hand. Pelosi tore up her courtesy copy of the SOTU speech after Trump finished speaking. Both were empty gestures of contempt. Pelosi later explained to reporters that she tore up the speech because it was “manifesto of mistruths”. Twitter was ablaze, using hashtags like#NancytheRipper. The right predictably reacted. Here’s Jonathan Turley’s tweet:

“Pelosi’s act dishonored the institution and destroyed even the pretense of civility and decorum in the House. If this is the Speaker’s “drop the mike” moment, it is a disgrace that should never be celebrated or repeated. In a single act, she obliterated decades of tradition.”

Some (Nikki Haley) said that Pelosi was dishonoring the last surviving Tuskegee Airman and a service member’s reunion with his family. Some are calling for a one-way return to civility. Why is it that calls for more grace and more respect for tradition only operate in the Democrats’ direction?

Some always point out that we can give the OFFICE respect without giving the person respect. That’s an important distinction, one Wrongo supports, and one not made during the Obama era by Republicans.

Heather Cox Richardson sums up the evening:

“Trump….went on to play the game show host turned autocratic ruler. In the course of the speech, he developed the theme that he, the president, could raise hurting individuals up to glory. He promoted an older African American veteran to General. He awarded a scholarship to a child who had previously been unable to get one. He had Melania award the Medal of Freedom to talk show host Rush Limbaugh….He reunited a military family. Contrived though all these scenarios were, they made him the catalyst for improving the lives of individuals in ways to which we all can relate. It was reality TV: false, scripted, and effective.”

It was Trump’s Oprah moment: You get a scholarship! You get a medal of freedom! Juan Guaidó, you get Venezuela! If he had asked the audience to look under their seats for envelopes, Trump’s night would have been indistinguishable from an Oprah show.

But the worst was honoring Limbaugh: A horse’s ass recognized by a jackass. It may replace what to Wrongo’s thinking was the worst Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump’s award to napkin economist Arthur Laffer. He of the 40-year proven failure of economic theory, the Laffer curve. But now and forever, America will have honored Rush, who the right-wing media will hereafter describe as the stoic hero facing a terrible death.

The media’s other narrative will be: Nancy, the Nasty Bitch.

The WaPo again did yeoman’s work fact-checking Trump’s lies in the SOTU speech:

“Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them,”

He repeats them incessantly to wear down the media, and to exhaust the rest of us. He hopes that we’ll accept his version of reality.

If you knew nothing about the last three years of Trump’s presidency, the picture he painted sounded pretty good. If you have paid any attention at all, you know that the country was being snowed under with an avalanche of lies and half-truths.

His was a long, tedious exercise in election-year pandering and demagoguery. The president’s record of accomplishments is thin, so he had to pad it with hyperbole and outlandish claims.

Let’s close with a musical interlude. Here’s Fleetwood Mac’s video of their hit “Sweet Little Lies”, an appropriate tune for Trump’s manifesto of mistruths:

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

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Coronavirus in China Is Spreading Fast

The Daily Escape:

Sparhawk Mill, Yarmouth ME – photo by Benjamin Williamson

Should we be concerned about the new Chinese coronavirus? Given developments in the past few days, we need to focus on it. The CDC announced on Monday that a total of 110 people in 26 US states are under investigation for possible infection with it. But officials continue to believe the immediate health risk to the US public remains very low.

OTOH, the increasingly stringent measures taken in China to contain it sure make it look like Chinese officials are at least worried, if not yet panicked.

China is suffering from shortages of test kits and personnel to confirm that suspected cases are indeed the coronavirus. We know there are no special anti-viral medications that work, people can only rely on their own immunity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has increased its estimate of global risk of the coronavirus from moderate to high. It’s now clear that this coronavirus is very contagious. The estimates of the reproduction rate (number of new infections caused by someone with the disease) is between 2.6 and 2.9. If that is true, the reproduction rate would be higher than for the 1917 Spanish flu, but lower than for measles, which is between 12 & 15. The reason is that it’s a large pathogen. From Foreign Policy:

“The coronavirus is a physically large virus—in relative terms…too big to survive or stay suspended in the air for hours or travel more than a few feet.”

So far, this coronavirus has a mortality rate of 2.2%: The latest data is 4524 confirmed cases, with 106 deaths. This observed level isn’t good, but it’s far lower than for SARS (9.6%), and is similar to the Spanish flu, which was 2.5%.

These are the reasons for the current freakout. Governments have started evacuating staff from Wuhan. CNN reports that:

About 240 Americans being evacuated from Wuhan Wednesday morning local time…arriving in Ontario, California. About three dozen Wuhan-based US diplomats and their families are also expected to be on board…”

CNN mentions that Australia, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea and the UK are also evacuating their government employees and families.

Won’t evacuations just be another way to spread the disease unless the evacuees are quarantined for the 14 day incubation period? So many practical questions.

It’s a little early to speculate, but the impacts can go well beyond just public health. We’ve already seen a one-day negative impact on Mr. Market, who momentarily panicked.

A pandemic would severely affect Chinese economic output. With public transportation halted, commerce grinds to a stop as people avoid public places and thousands of employees can no longer go to work. Who pays their wages while the city is locked down?

We know cities can’t truly be isolated for longer than a few days. And we know people can’t live without food, water, fuel, etc. and money to buy these essentials.

The realities leave officials with an impossible choice: Either truly isolate the city (which isn’t possible) for more than a few days, or allow the flow of goods required to sustain millions of city residents. The second option creates uncontrollable vectors for the virus to spread beyond the city as transport workers and those fleeing the lockdown illegally, move on to other cities.

How would America cope with this virus if it gained a foothold here?

We had that experience 100 years ago. One of Wrongo’s grandfathers died in the 1918 flu pandemic. Of the estimated 500 million people in the developed world to be infected, the recorded mortality rate was 50 million, with about 675,000 occurring in the US. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of the 1918 pandemic.

Today, our elites would retreat to their country homes while demanding that their companies stay open. We’ve seen panic buying in Manhattan before blizzards that would only affect the city for two days. Logistics being what they are, local distribution centers absolutely do not have enough food to last through a prolonged shutdown. And Amazon won’t be delivering you toilet paper.

In times like these, it’s useful to remember that there is a never-ending attack being waged by the forces of privatization to take over America’s public health system, turning it into another monopoly profit center.

So far, we’ve held this effort at bay, but the lobbyists and the monied class keep working to convince Washington that this government system represents “waste, fraud and abuse”. The fight goes on.

Sadly, our leaders are immune to the coronavirus infections, because it is transmitted through the head (eyes, nose and mouth), and they generally have their heads up their asses.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 26, 2020

A few random thoughts on Sunday:

  • Where Wrongo comes from, “take her out” means go on a date, or…something else. It has nothing to do with job termination.
  • The impeachment seems to be helping Trump so far. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Trump’s approval rating has climbed to match the highest of his presidency.
    • Axios reports that Trump’s net approval numbers improved in 31 states between September and December, according to Morning Consult data.
    • They improved by at least 5 points in Iowa, Utah, Maine, Montana and New Mexico.
    • An incumbent president with a growing economy and a low unemployment rate 6-12 months before the election can be tough to beat, even presidents who are bad at their jobs.
    • America twice elected Andrew Jackson. It elected Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan to consecutive terms. And we also did the same with Harding and Coolidge.
  • Are you following the Coronavirus outbreak in China? The number of confirmed cases in China stands at around 1,300. The virus has also been reported in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Malaysia, France, the US and Australia. The death toll in China from the Coronavirus outbreak jumped on Saturday to 41.
    • We don’t know how deadly the virus is. These outbreaks can range from low-to-highly contagious, and from low-to-highly deadly. There isn’t enough data so far to know where to place this virus on either the contagion, or the deadly axis.
    • An amazing development is the rapid and powerful response by global public health agencies. Modern transportation allows diseases to spread globally. But modern communications and effective government agencies can react as fast.
    • This could radically change the severity of epidemics. Modern communication plus modern technology makes the global response far more effective than in the past.
    • This is a bit of evidence that, in some ways, countries are working together to build a better world.
    • From Fabius Maximus:

“Extreme libertarians tell us that governments can’t do anything right, and that we should “starve the beast.” Conservatives also hate the UN. Here we see an example of strong government agencies – national and international – providing a vital service.”

On to cartoons. On Saturday, the GOP began their defense of Trump:

Some say the Senate could be doing something else:

The GOP’s impeachment strategy moves on:

Trump and Mitch both want America to eat mystery meat:

Country before Party: such a quaint idea:

Some kids can’t wait for recess:

 

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Verdict First. Trial Later

The Daily Escape:

Joshua Tree NP CA, in snow – December 2019 photo by chase_embrace

Have you been watching the impeachment extravaganza? It’s a mind-numbing exercise that’s difficult to take in large doses. That was probably Mitch McConnell’s plan. There are a few revelations though. One is the work of Adam Schiff, (D-CA) who is the lead House manager for the impeachment trial.

Josh Marshall at TPM says that Schiff’s job is to put the Senate on trial, and put Republican senators in a box that they can’t climb out of in November:

“Adam Schiff… [is] making a really convincing, damning set of arguments about all the accusations the President’s lawyers are denying while they simultaneously refuse to release records which would quickly confirm and refute those accusations.

These are cases in which we know there are contemporaneous notes or other records. The answers are there. But they refuse to release them. It is a damning indictment not only of the President but even more his Senate accomplices.”

The Senate Republicans swore an oath to be jurors, but they want to keep all of the proof secret. So, Schiff and the other House managers are making it clear that it is the Senate Republicans that are really on trial. The weakness for Republicans is that this is the first Senate trial held in defiance of the principle of shared facts and evidence.

Republican Senators are not paying close attention to Schiff and the others. All Senators are supposed to be in attendance and listening, but a few, mainly on the Republican side, are openly flaunting the rule. Dana Milbank’s column in the WaPo:

“Just minutes into the session, as lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) presented his opening argument for removing the president, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) displayed on his desk a hand-lettered message with big block letters pleading: “S.O.S.” In case that was too subtle, he followed this later with another handwritten message pretending he was an abducted child:  “THESE R NOT MY PARENTS!”

See, it’s all just a joke, presided over by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Hell, Trump said out loud at Davos that he’s withholding evidence: (brackets by Wrongo)

“I got to watch enough [of the Senate trial] — I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

The second article of impeachment is obstruction of Congress by withholding witnesses and documents. Trump confessed to it on live TV to reporters, and Senate Republicans don’t care.

Wrongo’s been waiting for Republicans to pay a significant price for their lying, hypocrisy, constant defiance of the rule of law, and disrespect for our institutions, norms, and Constitution, ever since the days of St. Ronnie.

From Martin Longman: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In a way, it’s something the Democrats are getting used to. From the hanging chads in Florida in 2000 to the Electoral College loss in 2016, the Republicans make a living winning despite losing. They’ve become dependent on cheating and rigging the rules of the game, and they’re experts at it at this point.”

The impeachment trial Kabuki play is no different. The GOP is gleefully waiting out the ceremonial “trial” in order to deliver their pre-ordained verdict.

Is it just Wrongo, or does it seem like America is screwed beyond redemption? If, by some cosmic quirk, Democrats one day hold the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, anything they attempt to do that does not align with Republican orthodoxy will end up being decided by one of McConnell’s right-wing courts.

You can expect that they will find a way to tie up, or simply negate anything the savior Congress tries to do. Will some great leader show up? Does the current crop of Democratic candidates have anyone able to make the case for wholesale change?

Do any of them have coattails sufficient to win the Senate?

Wrongo proposes that we think about Adam Schiff as the Democratic Presidential nominee. Sure, you think it’s too late, but is it really?

Here’s what the WaPo’s conservative writer Jennifer Rubin said about Schiff’s opening statement: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And that is what the trial is about. It’s about making clear to the entire country that Trump did exactly what he is accused of, but that his own party, suffering from political cowardice and intellectual corruption, do not have the nerve to stop him. If that is the goal — prove Trump’s guilt and Republicans’ complicity — Schiff hit a grand slam. And we have days more of evidence to hear.”

He’s someone who can make a tightly reasoned argument. He’s well-spoken, and knows Constitutional history. He’s a liberal from a liberal state, and at 60, he’s not a geezer.

President Adam? Sure, why not!

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More About The Virtue of Exciting Candidates

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Assiniboine, Provincial Park, BC, CN – 2019 photo by Talhanazeer. Assiniboine is the pyramid-shaped mountain on the left.

When Wrongo thinks about the Democratic primary candidates, he feels a bit like when he was a breeder of Havanese dogs: “Don’t get too attached to any one of them–we’re only keeping one.”

At the end of the day, we’ll only have one candidate. The question is which is the keeper?

Yesterday we asked: which candidate excited you? Judging by crowd sizes in Iowa, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg have generated excitement, while Biden has not:

“Mr. Biden has a lot to prove here. I’ve attended some of his town halls and rallies, and they’ve been lackluster, his speeches dull and meandering, and his crowds comparatively small. I’ve been to memorial services that are more exciting. I certainly hope mine is.”

That quote is from Robert Leonard, the news director for the Iowa radio stations KNIA and KRLS. More from Leonard:

“Who is going to get an enthusiastic turnout caucus night? Bernie Sanders will. His support is strong. We’ll see if he can increase it….

Elizabeth Warren has fallen in the polls, but she will have a big turnout caucus night. Her on-the-ground organizing is terrific and her supporters unwavering…..

Pete Buttigieg will also have a big turnout. Watching his several-blocks-long parade of supporters file into the Liberty and Justice Dinner last fall in Des Moines gave me goose bumps…..”

Leonard finishes with this:

“On caucus night, given the soft support I see, if the weather is bad Mr. Biden’s supporters might not come out. It might also depend on what’s on TV….For the other candidates, if their supporters walked outside, slipped on the ice and broke a leg, they still would crawl through snow and ice to caucus.”

He’s alluding to the x-factor, the charisma, the excitement that a candidate creates in voters, and claims that in Iowa at least, Sanders, Warren, and Mayor Pete are showing some of that.

The first thing that most of us want is relief from the Trump assault. In the general election, that starts with telling people the damage assessment, and a plan of repair. The nominee has to say that our government and democracy are in tatters and need to be stitched back together. Constitutional checks and balances have been nearly destroyed by the Republicans.

Maybe we need Medicare for all, free college tuition, and the rest of the progressive agenda, but first, we need to triage our democracy.

To win the presidency, we need to take back Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Are the voters in those three critical swing states ready to sign on to rebuild our social safety net, reform health insurance, and raise taxes on the rich and corporations? Hell yes.

Trump’s 2020 plan is to pump up the Dow while keeping unemployment at historic lows. He’s done that with a $1.5 trillion tax cut without any plan to pay for it. He’ll tout his new “trade deal” with China. He’ll mock and belittle the Democrats and their nominee. Meanwhile, Trump has no health plan at all!

Mitch McConnell’s plan is to make sure Trump is acquitted at all costs, to continue packing the courts, and blocking any meaningful legislation coming out of the House.

What’s the Democratic Party’s 2020 plan? The proposals by the progressive Democratic candidates have merit. Their goals are the right ones for the country and the planet. But, those plans will take several administrations to fully implement. Few voters fully understand the details of how to pay for Medicare for all. Moreover, they absolutely are worried about having their private health insurance taken away. That’s what most Americans have, so that has to be a big concern for Democrats in 2020.

Which of the current flock of Democratic candidates have what it takes to unite and lead the Party to a 2020 victory? Which nominee will have coattails to swing the Senate, hold the House and add to the Party’s roster of statehouses?

The 2020 election will turn on whether individual voters see the Democratic Party’s nominee as a heroic savior of the country, or less of a leader than the execrable Trump.

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Trump Gives More Tax Breaks to Corporations

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise at Delicate Arch, UT – 2019 photo by going_postal

While we were all celebrating New Year’s, the NYT published a story about how Trump’s Treasury Department quietly weakened elements of the 2017 Trump tax law, making it even friendlier to wealthy individuals and corporations.

As a result, the tax bills of many big companies are even smaller than what was anticipated when the bill was signed. This means that the federal government may collect hundreds of billions of dollars less over the coming decade than previously projected. The budget deficit has jumped more than 50% since Trump took office. It is expected to top $1 trillion in 2020, partly as a result of the tax law.

Lobbyists targeted two provisions in the original 2017 law designed to bring in hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue from companies that had been dodging US taxes by stashing profits overseas. From the NYT:

“Starting in early 2018, senior officials in President Trump’s Treasury Department were swarmed by lobbyists seeking to insulate companies from the few parts of the tax law that would have required them to pay more. The crush of meetings was so intense that some top Treasury officials had little time to do their jobs…”

Because of the way the bill was rushed through Congress, the Treasury Department was given extra latitude to interpret the law. Add the fact that the law was sloppily written, helped to make the corporate lobbying campaign a resounding success.

Treasury has issued a series of obscure regulations that carved out exceptions allowing many leading American and foreign companies to pay little or nothing in new taxes on offshore profits. The NYT says companies were effectively let off the hook for tens if not hundreds of $billions in taxes that they would otherwise have been required to pay under the 2017 law.

You may remember that the idea behind the Trump Tax Cut was that companies would get the tax cuts that they had spent years lobbying for, but the law would also fight corporate tax avoidance and the shipment of jobs overseas.

A few facts about the Trump tax cut: Republicans used a Congressional process known as budget reconciliation, which blocked Democrats from filibustering and allowed Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority.

To qualify for that parliamentary green light, the net cost of the bill, after accounting for different tax cuts and tax increases, had to be less than $1.5 trillion over 10 years. But the bill’s cuts totaled $5.5 trillion. To close the gap between the $5.5 trillion in cuts and the maximum allowable price tag of $1.5 trillion, the package sought to raise new revenue by eliminating deductions and introducing new taxes.

The two key provisions are known by the acronyms BEAT (base erosion and anti-abuse tax) and GILTI (global intangible low-taxed income). Shortly after Trump signed the tax bill, lobbyists from major American companies like Bank of America and General Electric as well as foreign banks, swarmed the White House in an effort to gut the BEAT and GILTI taxes.

Trump’s Treasury Department largely granted the lobbyists’ wishes, turning what was already a massive corporate handout into an even more generous gift to big companies and banks.

In the last 2 quarters of 2019, we saw massive corporate share buybacks. The richest families and corporations pocketed most of that money, with minimal re-investment into company assets, increased employee pay, or benefits.

The folks who didn’t get what they needed were the bottom 90% of Americans. Welcome to the plutocracy where billionaires whine about getting picked on, and the bottom 80% own just 7% of the nation’s wealth.

The mission of the Trump presidency is nearly complete. He’s packed the Supreme Court with reliable conservatives. He’s delivered the Randian wet dream of low corporate taxes while leaving most corporate tax loopholes in place.

Trump’s version of the Republican Party is in their end game: Bankrupting the government, privatizing government’s remaining services, and stealing the silverware on their way out the door.

We have entered the smash-and-grab portion of the GOP’s program. They care, but only marginally, if Trump is re-elected in 2020. Their work is done.

The narrative that our economy is the best ever, was enabled by a record federal deficit. When it’s time to protect Social Security, or provide better access to healthcare, the GOP will cry about the budget deficit that’s likely to be more than $1 trillion/year, from here to forever.

Normalized insanity is in full swing. Welcome to the asylum!

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Monday Wake Up Call — Onward Christian Soldiers Edition

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Tucson Mountains, west of Tucson – January 1, 2020 photo by eleminohp

What’s America doing in Iraq? Everyone with an internet connection knows that Trump authorized a lethal drone strike on Iran’s Gen. Qassam Soleimani, a senior member of the Iranian military who was on his way to a meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister.

You may not be aware that the meeting was called by Iraq’s PM at the behest of the US, as reported by the normally reliable Elijah J. Magnier:

The information that #Iran Qassem Soleimani had an appointment with the PM in Baghdad and came to #Iraq to meet him the next day with established appointment, following a request of Trump for mediation, has been read to all MPs today by the #Iraq/i PM himself.

It seems that the PM’s request of Soleimani was in writing. Let’s be clear about what America did: We assassinated two key military and political leaders on the sovereign territory of Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi Government. The key Iranian guy was heading to a meeting about calming tensions between the US and Iran. It’s a classic hit that could have been in “The Irishman”.

No one argues that Soleimani wasn’t our enemy. Democrats were caught flat-footed by Trump’s action. Most of the 2020 candidates tried to walk a thin line, glad Soleimani was dead, but deploring the process. Biden said it could leave the US:

 “On the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”

Bernie:

“Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

Warren:

“Trump’s reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”

And House Leader Nancy Pelosi:

“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions.”

Some Dems claim that this is Trump’s “Wag the Dog” play. Plenty of Republicans celebrated Soleimani’s death as a decisive blow against terrorism. Their comments can be summed up as: “Boy, we showed those Iranians who is boss”.

Are we getting the real story? Here’s a series of tweets by Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a ME journalist who says the reports that the Iraqi government voted to expel US troops is not correct:

Continued from Abdul-Hussain: (emphasis by Wrongo)

…to kill Soleimani). What happened is different.

1- Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi sent a letter to Parliament in which he argued US troops exist in Iraq, not based on a treaty ratified by Parliament, but on 2 letters from past cabinets to the UN. Hence, Parliament has no role in ejection.

2- Iraqi PM’s trying to trade disarming Shia militias for limiting scope of US troops. He wrote: “Whoever wants to become a political power, has to surrender arms, join armed forces, and forgo any political allegiance (i.e. to Iran) other than to military and commander-in-chief.”

(He’s talking about the militias that attacked the US Embassy)

“3- #Iraq parliament barely had a quorum for session on ejecting US troops. Sunni and Kurdish blocs boycotted the session (thus taking America’s side over Iran), and thus quorum was 170 of 328 (half + 4)…

4-The text Iraqi Parliament voted on was not a legislation, but a non-binding resolution.”

/snip/ (brackets by Wrongo)

“6- In his letter to Parliament, [PM] Abdul-Mahdi clearly states that Iraqi interest is to maintain neutrality between America and Iran, and that if Iraq antagonizes America, it risks losing its international status (and implicitly oil revenue, just like Iran).

7- NYT is, by far, much more pro-Iran than Wash Post. The post reported that “tens of thousands” mourned Soleimani in Ahwaz. NYT made the number of mourners “hundreds of thousands.”

Abdul-Hussain concludes:

“The most probable outcome of #Soleimani‘s killing is more of the same: Low-intensity Iranian warfare against America, Iran never engaging in direct war, but maintaining her proxy war, fighting America to the last Arab. But with Soleimani out, Iranian proxy war will be much weaker.”

Wake up America! We should be asking: “What’s our end game with Iran and Iraq?” That’s the question that Trump should have asked before giving the green light to kill Soleimani. Getting that answer should be a non-partisan request of the Trump administration.

The game remains the same. Republicans say here’s another very bad man who had to go. Democrats are saying he was a very bad man, but have you people thought through the consequences of taking him out?

The question of why, in the minds of Trump and his generals, Soleimani had to die this week is what needs to be explained to the American public.

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Saturday Soother – “Where’s the Impeachment?” Edition

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades NP, WA – 2018 photo by sluu99

As Atrios says:

“You go to impeachment with the Mitch McConnell you have, not the one you want.”

We need to remember the history of how Democrats created the Mitch we have. To do that, we must go back to November 21, 2013. Here’s the WaPo from that day: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Senate Democrats took the dramatic step Thursday of eliminating filibusters for most nominations by presidents, a power play they said was necessary to fix a broken system but one that Republicans said will only rupture it further.

Democrats used a rare parliamentary move to change the rules so that federal judicial nominees and executive-office appointments can advance to confirmation votes by a simple majority of senators, rather than the 60-vote supermajority that has been the standard for nearly four decades.

The immediate rationale for the move was to allow the confirmation of three picks by President Obama to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — the most recent examples of what Democrats have long considered unreasonably partisan obstruction by Republicans.”

Back then, the main combatants were Harry Reid (D-NV) the Majority Leader, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The vote for the “nuclear option” was 52 to 48, with all but three Democrats backing the move, and every Republican opposing it. After the vote, Obama said that Republicans had turned nomination fights into a “reckless and relentless tool” to grind the gears of government to a halt and noted that “neither party has been blameless for these tactics.” But, he said, “today’s pattern of obstruction…just isn’t normal; it’s not what our founders envisioned.”

Fast forward to 2019. The Senate is split 53-47 now, with the Republicans in charge. Mitch has used Harry Reid’s rule change to appoint two Supreme Court justices, 50 appeals court judges, and 120 district court judges in less than three years.

Today, 20% of judges on all of the federal courts, and 25% on the appeals courts are Trump appointees. On the same day that Trump was impeached, the Senate confirmed 13 new district court judges.

Suddenly, Democrats are waking up to the reality that Trump’s judges will shape American law with a conservative bias for 30-40 years to come.

We can blame Harry Reid and Barack Obama for not thinking ahead.

You ought to be thinking ahead to the weekend, and all of the little things that you need to do so that Santa can do his job next week. It’s at least as challenging a task as locating the missing Trump Impeachment.

Before you shift into drive and start on that big to-do list, it’s time for a Saturday Soother, a brief few moments when you relax, and try to center yourself in the calm before the storm.

Start by brewing up a mug of Coffee and Chicory coffee ($6.70/15oz.) from New Orleans’ own Café Du Monde. Now sit back in a comfy chair and watch and listen to a Holiday Season flash mob by the US Air Force Band at the National Air and Space Museum in 2013:

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

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Pelosi: We’re Making It up as We Go

The Daily Escape:

Hat tip – A. James

“When you’re born into this world, you’re given a ticket to the freak show. If you’re born in America you get a front row seat.” George Carlin

Donald Trump was impeached on Wednesday. Wrongo sees Trump as dangerously incompetent and personally corrupt. But the way Democrats have gone about the impeachment isn’t winning the hearts and minds of independents, a group of voters they need if they are to take back the Presidency in 2020 and hold on to the House.

It’s helpful to remember that the only reason the impeachment is going forward is that the 2018 midterms gave Democrats a significant majority in the House. Even with uncontested evidence that the president abused his power, Republicans have demonstrated no interest in holding Trump accountable. It is clear that if they were still in the majority, none of this would be happening.

A side note on Tulsi Gabbard, the only person who voted “present” on both impeachment motions: Wrongo has kind of admired her principled political stands. He’s agreed with a few of them. But voting “present”? Apparently she couldn’t decide on the two motions. She’s a presidential candidate. The ability to decide and lead are core competencies of the job. She has disqualified herself.

It’s always been clear that Trump wouldn’t be convicted in the Senate. It seems that, as with the Mueller investigation, the Dems were unclear about the likely outcome of their efforts. Did they expect Trump would simply resign in shame, or maybe run a half-hearted campaign in 2020? Trump is a fighter and a blockhead, so they should have known he would love the chance to talk about impeachment from now until next November.

The move that caught everyone, including reporters at the hearing, by surprise, was Pelosi’s statement that she had not set a time for sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. This was surprising since they had been saying all along that they’d impeach Trump by Christmas. They sounded as if they were eager to move the process forward.

Is this a political calculation? It runs the risk of making them look either too clever by half, or worried about the impeachment fallout with voters. After all, voter approval of impeachment peaked in October. Support for it has now fallen, and Trump’s approval ratings have risen since then.

Pelosi seems to be saying that the delay is because they are tussling with the openly partisan Mitch McConnell over the rules for the hearing. There is something to that if you consider that with the Clinton impeachment, the Senate impeachment process was negotiated in private between the Parties, and was approved by a 100-0 vote when Republican Trent Lott was Majority Leader.

That isn’t happening with Mitch in charge. This time, the Republicans want a quick trial, and then to declare victory.

Wrongo thinks that Trump deserves to be impeached, but as someone who was around for the Nixon and Clinton impeachment efforts, it seems as if the Democrats have made the same mistake this time that the Republicans made with Clinton: The Ukrainian case is just too small an offense. Guilt isn’t the issue, but to the average person, the punishment doesn’t match the crime.

With Clinton, 79% of the public thought Clinton was guilty. But the vast majority thought that lying about consensual sex was too small a crime to merit impeachment.

Democrats have a similar problem today. Trump did it, or at least, tried to do it. He’s incorrigible, too. He won’t have any hesitation about abusing his office again if it means gaining some personal advantage.

But because the Trump impeachment case has been so tightly limited to the Ukraine episode, the Democrats have lowered the stakes. People shrug: Ukraine got its aid eventually, and the Ukies aren’t investigating Hunter Biden, so….whatever.

Public support for impeaching Trump is about 50/50 and hasn’t moved appreciably in months. As much as Trump is a terrible president, Dems have managed to make him look borderline acceptable in this case.

Most of our DC politicians live in the beltway bubble. You can be sure that in 2016 many Dems said “It’s going to be a landslide. No woman or minority is going to vote for him.”

Then, the Dems were shocked by the Mueller report non-event.

Now, they’re flummoxed that impeachment is becoming less popular. They were sure it was going to popular with even the few Republican moderates and most independent voters.

Where do Dems go from here?

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