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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – April 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Bald Eagle with Great Blue Heron – photo by Bonnie Block

(The Wrongologist site was hit by a Denial of Service attack on Sunday, April 23. If you had difficulty accessing the site, Wrongo apologizes. We are working with the hosting company to sort it out, but the problem may continue until the end of day today.)

Congress returns today. They will try to pass an increase to the Debt Ceiling before the April 28th funding deadline. After that, at least a partial government shut-down looms.

The Republicans are not in agreement about their stance on the extension. The Orange Overlord complicated the negotiations by saying that he wouldn’t sign a Debt Ceiling increase unless it contained funding for the Wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

Consider the exchange between Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday and Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney said that it was the Democrats who are guilty of “stunning” obstructionism because they will not negotiate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Wallace noted that President Trump had offered Democrats a deal: If you fund the border wall, payments to Obamacare would not be cut. Wallace:

You are holding hostage health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans.

Mulvaney replied:

Actually, what I would say is they’re holding hostage national security…

Then he brought up obstructionism by Democrats:

The Democrats will oppose everything that this president wants to do, which is stunning to us, especially when we are offering them something they want in return.

Wallace countered:

You’re saying, ‘give us what we want. And if you don’t, we’re going to cut off funding that would provide health insurance for millions of lower income Americans’.

The laugher was that Mulvaney’s logic is that Trump is trying to build a border wall to protect millions of low income Americans who may lose their health care benefits in the trade-off.

So Mexico won’t pay for the wall, and Republicans don’t want to pay for the wall either. They would prefer that Democrats agree to pay for Trump’s wall to give the GOP cover for those Republicans who won’t fund Trump’s ghastly promise of a wall.

On the obstructionist claim, everyone knows that the Republicans made obstructionism an eight-year strategy when Obama was president. Now, Mulvaney’s pearl-clutching about obstructionism can’t possibly sound legitimate to anyone other than people who watch Fox News. We need to remember that it was the Republicans who picked the 100th day of the (now Trump) administration for last year’s Continuing Resolution that funded the government, to expire. The idea was to make Hillary Clinton look bad after she won, and then couldn’t get a Debt Ceiling increase passed without Republican help.

It never occurred to them that if the Republican nominee won, that he wouldn’t be able to get much done without support of Democrats.

So it’s time for Republicans to wake up, and pass a Debt Ceiling increase. After all, they control the House, Senate and White House. It is their job to avoid a government shutdown.

To help them wake up, here is the UK group Stone Foundation, a modern UK soul band with a tune from their new album, “Street Rituals”. The song is “Your Balloon is Rising”, featuring Paul Weller formerly of the punk rock group The Jam, and later, Style Council.

Here is “Your Balloon is Rising”, a blue-eyed soul tune that allows Weller to show all of us that he still has it:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, August 2016 – photo by Wrongo)

What’s next for the White House? Many are saying that the collapse of the Republicans’ failed effort to pass Trumpcare demonstrated that the ideological cleavage within the House and Senate Republicans will not be easy to overcome. This could make it more difficult for Trump to get much of his agenda passed in the immediate future.

Trump wants to move on many things, including tax reform and passing a budget, but the biggest challenge facing Republicans is the Debt Ceiling. The clock started ticking on the need to raise the debt limit, because it already expired on March 15th. That was a “soft” deadline, since the Treasury department can fire up a well-used arsenal of “extraordinary” measures to delay a reckoning, meaning that Congress can take until the early fall to enact a debt ceiling increase.

More time may not mean that a solution will be forthcoming, since the main adversaries to increasing the debt ceiling are the same people who helped derail Trumpcare. The House Freedom Caucus and their allies in the Senate have in the past, expressed a willingness to let the country default, rather than increase the level of the Treasury’s debt.

Since they were able to face down Trump on health care, they may well be emboldened to stand up to the president and Congressional leadership again on an issue that is so close to their hard hearts.

If America were to default on its debts, Trump would be presiding over the Bananaization of our Republic, and our ability to lead in the world would be eclipsed. Wrongo plans to write more about this in the future, but it will take real management by Trump to head this off, at a time that his management skills have been called into question.

So far, he has shown himself to be little more than a salesman for his ideas.

The famed management guru Peter Drucker, who wrote about management for corporations, non-profits and governments, at one point wrote management rules for presidents, in a 1993 article for the WSJ:

It’s hard to imagine a more diverse group than Bill Clinton’s predecessors in the American presidency — in abilities, personalities, values, styles and achievements. But even the weakest of them had considerable effectiveness as long as they observed six management rules. And even the most powerful lost effectiveness as soon as they violated these rules.

Wrongo has condensed Drucker’s management rules for presidents for your convenience:

  • What Needs to be Done? Is the first thing the President must ask. He must not stubbornly do what he wants to do, even if it was the focus of his campaign
  • Concentrate, Don’t Splinter Yourself. There usually are half a dozen right answers to “What needs to be done?” Yet unless a president makes the risky and controversial choice of only one, he will achieve nothing.
  • Don’t Bet on a Sure Thing…Roosevelt had every reason to believe that his plan to “pack” the Supreme Court…would be a sure thing. It immediately blew up in is face – so much so that he never regained control of Congress
  • An Effective President Does Not Micromanage…the tasks that a President must do himself are already well beyond what any but the best organized and most energetic person can possibly accomplish
  • A President Has No Friends in the Administration…they are always tempted to abuse their position as a friend and the power that comes with it
  • Sixth rule? Harry Truman advised JFK: “Once you’re elected, stop campaigning”

(h/t Barry Ritholtz)

Just how many of these rules does Trump follow, and how many does he violate? Discuss.

Perhaps if he followed all of them, the country would avoid Trumageddon, be less divided, and get a middle of the road agenda enacted.

So here’s a wake-up call for Donald Trump and his advisors: FOCUS!! To help them wake up and get focused, here is the Canadian group Bachman Turner Overdrive with their big hit (#12 in the US) from 1973, “Takin’ Care of Business”:

Wrongo used to take the 8:15 in to the city. Working from home is a major improvement.

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

Sample Lyrics:

And I’ll be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
I’ve been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime, work out

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GOP Plans to Gerrymander the Electoral College

Donald Trump was the fifth candidate in our history to win sufficient votes in the Electoral College (EC) to become president after losing the popular vote. Now, Republicans are making an effort at the state level to change how electoral votes are apportioned to presidential candidates, from winner take all, to being allocated to the winner of each congressional district.

Republicans call this a modest tweak to the EC process. But it will make gerrymandering of congressional districts even more important to electing the president than it is to electing Members of Congress today.

How today’s system works:

In 48 states, (all except Maine and Nebraska) the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in their state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. A state’s number of electors equals its number of US Representatives and Senators.

Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, when voters within the 50 states and Washington, DC vote for President and Vice President, they’re actually choosing electors proposed by the Parties in their state. These presidential electors then cast electoral votes for those two offices, so the EC elects the President or Vice President, not the popular vote.

Despite what you might think, the Constitution reserves the power to appoint electors to the states. Here is Article 2, Section 1; Clause 2:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

So it is clear that each state has the exclusive right to determine how their state electors are selected.

The proposed Republican “tweak”:

The Republican tweak apportions electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the vote in each congressional district. The two remaining electors would go to whomever wins the statewide vote. States considering moving to allocating electoral votes to the candidate winning in each congressional district include Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – all have legislatures controlled by Republicans. Two, Virginia and Minnesota, currently have Democratic governors, so at this point, they could veto the proposed legislation.

After the 2010 census, 55% of all congressional districts were redrawn to favor Republicans, while just 10% were redrawn to benefit Democrats. In 2016, Trump carried 230 districts to just 205 for Hillary Clinton, even though Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes nationally. So if every state awarded electoral votes by congressional district, Trump would have still prevailed. And guess what? Mitt Romney would also have won in 2012, and George W. Bush would have won in 2000.

The tweak takes voting power away from cities and puts more in suburban and rural areas, making it more likely that a candidate with fewer votes over all could routinely win a larger share of electoral votes. And thanks in part to recent poor performance by Democrats, 32 States now have Republican-controlled legislatures.

Should we be talking about this at all? Debating whether to pass bills to reduce the value of an urban vote to a fraction of the value of other voters?

Sounds like a Republican paradise.

An advantage of the EC is that it tends to improve the winner’s margin of victory and thus the presidential mandate at the beginning of his/her term in office. Also, it ensures that candidates actually campaign in more states, rather than in fewer. Would anyone campaign in NH when they could garner many times more popular votes in a couple of counties in California? They do it today because NH’s four electoral votes can make a difference.

The president doesn’t represent congressional districts. The president represents all the people, which is why the ONLY reasonable reform to the EC is a nationwide popular vote.

The fact remains that Republicans have the ability to make this happen. Allowing statehouses to decide presidential elections will have undemocratic consequences. Keeping politicians from making the Electoral College subject to gerrymander is crucial.

To help us pause and reflect on this threat, here is Leonard Cohen with “Democracy” from his 1992 album, “The Future”, here performed in 2008 live in London:

Cohen said this about the song:

It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.

Let’s hope the experiment doesn’t fail.

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

Sample lyrics:
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 20, 2016

“My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth”Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln believed that America should be a model for the world. He felt that the best way to achieve that was to end the divisiveness, to make America a land of hope and freedom for all. He had the courage to confront the political and cultural divisions caused by slavery, and he forced America to choose between allowing statutory inequality for some, and freedom for all.

If that was what Donald Trump meant by making America great again, he might have gotten Wrongo’s vote. Sadly, his flurry of recent cabinet appointments seem to indicate his idea of a great America leads him in a completely different direction. He’s announced Mike Flynn as his National Security Advisor, Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General and Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas as his director of Central Intelligence.

You will see millions of words written about their qualifications, so no need to guild those lilies here.

All three will be seen by those who gave Clinton 1.3 million more votes than Trump as mind-bogglingly disastrous choices. You be the judge of whether this is the type of swamp-draining Trump voters expected.

Nobody enters the White House well-prepared, but this is what’s coming:

cow-apprentice

Not all promises will be kept in a Trump administration:

cow-leap-of-faith

Promises are made to be broken, particularly when Paul Ryan wants to be helpful:

cow-saftey-net

Ryan and Trump met to talk things out. Trump was happy with the meeting:

cow-kiss-the-ring

DJT won’t stop tweeting. That could lead to mercifully short State of the Union addresses:

cow-tweet-of-the-union

The Dems appear to be re-electing their loser team. Who thinks that leads to anything good?

cow-midterms

 

Chuck Schumer has been re-elected Senate Minority Leader. Nancy Pelosi will most likely be re-elected Minority Leader in the House. Yet, she totally missed the reality of what happened in the 2016 election. Here is her analysis of the election results: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

We cannot be taking the full responsibility for what happened in the election…As far as we are concerned, the problem was more with the communication than it was with our policy…I believe the Comey letter was a foul deed…It was the wrong thing to do.

Not her fault? We hear all the time that elections have consequences. It’s time for the consequences to rain down on Pelosi, among other Democrats.

Democrats gained only six House seats in the 2016 elections, meaning that they will remain in the minority for the fourth consecutive Congress under Pelosi’s leadership. And the 30 or so Democratic Congresspersons who are now fighting Pelosi want to break the party’s seniority rule, which guarantees senior leadership posts go to the longest-serving members.

This election proved that the Democrats have no bench of young politicos who can carry the party in 2018 and beyond. The question is: Who will be the face of Democratic opposition? Shouldn’t it be someone most of America can relate to?

You know, someone who isn’t an elderly rich San Franciscan.

Unlike the House GOP, where committee leadership depends on the Party’s decisions, House Democrats assign committee leadership by seniority. The result is that the ranking committee Democrats stay in the jobs long enough to get very old. For example, Pelosi is 76. The Judiciary Committee’s John Conyers is 87. Sandy Levin, on the Ways and Means Committee, is 85.

Nobody is saying that these are bad people, but the average age for ranking Democratic members is 68, compared to 60 for House Republicans.

It’s time for new ideas and younger blood to run the Democratic leadership.

She’s gotta go.

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Weekend Links to Help Improve Voting

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you read the Wrongologist, the chances are excellent that you will be voting, or, have already voted in the local, state and presidential elections that will culminate with some kind of decision next Tuesday.

However, you have an additional job this weekend, and that is to reach out to friends or family that may be hoping to skate by the big decision altogether. We need to help them screw up their courage for the task of voting, and to help you with shaming or compelling them to vote, here are a few electoral links for your weekend reading. Grab a hot cup of “Wake the Fuck Up” coffee and check these out:

Trump fans try to fool Clinton faithful into voting via text: The ads, in English and Spanish, encourage Clinton voters to text “Hillary” to a 5-digit number to cast their votes and avoid the long lines at the polls. Twitter user Robert McNees said he flagged the tweets. Then, he said Twitter told him the tweets didn’t violate their terms of service. They eventually took them down. Sorry folks, politics isn’t American Idol.

It’s unnecessarily hard to vote in America: US voter registration numbers are abysmal. According to Pew Research, only 71% of voting-age citizens were registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election. That’s compared to 99% in Japan, 96% in Sweden, and 91% in Canada. Why? In a Brennen Center study of democracies across the world, the US was one of only four countries that didn’t proactively solicit or initiate voter registration. We also struggle to get our voters to the polls. Again according to Pew Research, in 2012 the US ranked 31st out of the 35 developed countries in the OECD. Only 55% of eligible voters cast a vote on Election Day, compared to 87% in Belgium and 83% in Sweden.

Gaps in voter turnout are an important factor in the growing misalignment of public policy with the concerns and needs of working-class and low-income people: The linked study by Demos shows that our democracy mainly serves a single dominant class of affluent white voters, largely due to poor turnout by millions of Americans who would vote for progressive ideas.

A Guide to selfies that won’t get you arrested when you vote. Selfies taken inside the voting booth are illegal. Justin Timberlake took one that could land him behind bars. Don’t be like Justin. However, there is research that suggests people are more likely to vote if they see their friends talking about actually voting on social media. So, voting selfies may be useful on Election Day. Post a pic of you and your “I Voted” sticker after you leave the polling place.

The music video service Vevo, is encouraging its users to vote in the upcoming elections by launching an original series call “Why I Vote”, featuring pop stars talking about the reasons why they are going to the polls this year. The purpose is to galvanize first-time voters interested in shaping their own future.

Here is American Authors , two of the band members have brothers who have served time for shooting someone. They examine the circumstances and explain their opinions on the need for comprehensive gun reform:

If you read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

Or you might like this “Why I Vote” Vevo by musician/actress Becky G., who, since it is her first opportunity to vote, and given her Mexican heritage, talks about immigration:

If you read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

Voting for Democrats risks eternal damnation, says San Diego Catholic Church bulletin: An insert to San Diego CA’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church’s weekly bulletin on Oct. 16, told parishioners that “it is a mortal sin to vote Democrat.” That’s not all. An article in the Oct. 30 bulletin compared a statement by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to Satan. The San Diego Diocese disavowed the messages, and say they have no idea how this happened. Get James Comey on the phone!

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 30, 2016

Enough already about your damned emails Hillary!

Apparently not. This, from Booman: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

FBI Director James Comey just angered everyone in the country by sending a letter to key Republican committee members in Congress:

1) eleven days before Election Day
2) that implies that Hillary Clinton may have committed a criminal act
3) that doesn’t provide any details
4) that makes no commitment to shed any further light on the issue before the voting is over

For Democrats, they wonder why Comey would impugn Clinton’s character while voting is already going on when he can’t even say with certainty that the information is pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s emails or whether it involves any classified information.

For Republicans, they wonder why the FBI cannot commit to giving the American people more clarity before the election is over. If the information is indeed damning then isn’t it a little late to find that out after Clinton has already become president-elect?

We all need to take a cold shower and help break our fever. Why do the scandals keep proliferating? Because the media loves them. They attract lots of eyeballs for very little work.  Partisans love them because they can take their opponent completely out of the political game.

The Senate becomes even more important now, regardless of the outcome of this investigation of the Abudin/Weiner emails.

If Congress is under divided control, there will not be a purely partisan impeachment action, and at least the Senate will not be running nonstop bullshit investigations in its various Committees. OTOH, If Clinton wins and the GOP retains control of the Senate, we will have an immediate, full-blown constitutional crisis on our hands, and bullshit investigations may be the least of our worries. This cartoon says it all about James Comey and her damned emails:

cow-comey-kiss

In cases like this, it would require the wisdom of Solomon to determine the precise ratio of malevolence-to-incompetence involved in Comey’s action.

Amon Bundy and friends were acquitted of conspiracy for their white guy, “guns and god” takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge. The question that must now be addressed is: What does “peaceful protest” mean in America?

cow-bundy-2

Our eyes are blind to what must be seen:

cow-bundy-3The Pant Load hates what’s on TV:

cow-baldwin

In October, the witch isn’t always Hillary, and the pumpkin head isn’t always Trump:

cow-halloween-hillary

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RIP Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden died on Monday. Like Bob Dylan, Nixon, Robert Kennedy, MLK and many others, Hayden was a part of inventing the 1960s as we remember them. He was best known as an anti-Vietnam War activist, but he was active in the Civil Rights movement and in other social causes.

In 1961, he joined the Freedom Riders, challenging Southern authorities who refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings banning segregation on public buses. He was beaten for his efforts in Mississippi and then jailed in Georgia. Hayden was the first president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a university-based student activist movement, started in 1962.

In 1968, Hayden helped plan the antiwar protests in Chicago that targeted the Democratic National Convention. Police officers clashed with thousands of demonstrators, injuring hundreds in a televised spectacle that a national commission later called a police riot. Yet, Hayden and others were charged by federal officials with inciting riot and conspiracy.

The resulting Chicago Seven trial was a classic confrontation between Abbie Hoffman and the other defendants and Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation), marked by insults, outbursts and contempt citations. The demonstration that led to the Chicago Police riot and the trial, is remembered for Mayor Richard Daly saying these infamous words:

Gentlemen, let’s get this straight. The policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.

In 1973, Hayden married Jane Fonda, went to Hanoi and escorted a few American prisoners of war home from Vietnam. Later, he won a seat in the California Legislature in Sacramento in 1982, and served as an assemblyman and as a state senator, for a total of 18 years.

Last April, he explained why he was switching his vote from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton in the California Democratic primary:

There are two Hillary Clintons. First, the early feminist, champion of children’s rights, and chair of the Children’s Defense Fund; and second, the Hillary who has grown more hawkish and prone to seeking “win-win” solutions with corporate America…

Hayden went on to say:

I wish our primary could focus more on ending wars and ending regime change too, issues where Bernie is more dovish and Hillary still harbors an inner hawk. Both Bernie and Hillary call for “destroying” ISIS, whatever that might mean—but it certainly means we are moving into yet another “war presidency”…

Hayden closed with this point: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

So here we are, at the end of one generation on the left and the rise of another…We still need the organizing of a united front of equals to prevail against the Republicans….It’s up to all of us.

Hayden was a member of the Silent Generation, yet he willingly passed the activist torch to the current progressive political movement headed by Millennials, based less in marching and demonstrating, and more in social media, as the means of organizing support and expressing their activism. We saw this clearly with the Bernie campaign, where most of Bernie’s communication took place via social media.

We saw it in the aborted Occupy movement as well.

Trump has used social media to build a huge following. Now he is running a nightly newscast on Facebook. The first “broadcast” looked like a live TV newscast. There was a news scroll at the bottom of the screen, and there was also a button for donating to Trump’s campaign.

And this isn’t only an American process. In Hong Kong one year ago, as protesters fought against a proposed electoral rule change by Beijing, social media, and technology more broadly, were key to spreading the message that was heard not just by protesters, but around the world. Even those not attending were involved, showing solidarity with the protest was as simple as sharing an image of a yellow umbrella on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Back to Hayden: Our society hasn’t paid much attention to the political activists of the 1960s in a long time. Groups like the Moral Monday movement are using a hybrid of the old civil rights strategy with large demonstrations in cities, backed by social media to organize public opinion, and drive turnout at their events.

Many in Hayden’s generation of civil rights and anti-war activists took on issues that divided America. The new progressive movement is now taking on those same issues all over again in a still-divided America.

The world of the 1960s and 1970s is far enough in the past that these activists who were young adults then, are now dying. But, our 2016 political landscape shows that we have yet to come to terms with that period in our culture.

The same problems exist. Let’s hope that this new generation of activists will be more effective in solving them.

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That Didn’t Take Long

((This is a re-post of Tuesday’s column which was lost after the database crash on Monday night)

In an interview in Pennsylvania, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pledged that he and his party will continue the Supreme Court nomination blockade throughout Clinton’s term, if she is elected:

I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up…I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.

This just makes the GOP look like jerks. We haven’t had the election yet, and the obstruction has begun. It blows up their earlier argument that they wouldn’t hold hearings for Merrick Garland because of it came so late in Obama’s term. Now we know what they really meant:

We won’t confirm your nominees because Democratic presidents aren’t entitled to nominate Supreme Court justices anymore, because of abortion and the gays.

This of course, coming from the “Constitutional conservatives” in the GOP.

Ya gotta love them. If Trump, an unfit megalomaniac who potentially could destroy the country is elected, the GOP will gladly confirm any choice he makes.

McCain’s slogan when he ran for president in 2008 was “Country First!” Now, its #Partybeforecountry.

If Clinton wins and Democrats gain a Senate majority but less than 60 seats, Republicans will oppose her nominee, and then, eventually, Democrats will change the Senate rules to abolish filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. (Republicans will decry this foul measure and justify any subsequent actions of theirs as justified.) And if Clinton wins and Republicans hold on to 51 seats, they will simply refuse to let any nominee through.

Can we please stop pretending the Republican Party will stare into the abyss after this election and come out a different, more centrist party? They are sure that the Federalist Papers said that a Supreme Court vacancy shall not be filled except by permission of the Family Research Council.

538 has the chances of a Democratic Senate at 74% right now. So please, get out and vote, particularly for House and Senate candidates. Remember, America redistricts every 10 years. We have been paying the price for letting the GOP win the redistricting effort in 2010, so winning down-ballot races will help get started on that too.

What continues to shock Wrongo more than anything is that in 2016, if you want to actually govern the wealthiest, most powerful democracy in the world, Democrats are the only game in town. The other major party is controlled by opportunists and cranks, and the third parties are run by kooks.

This is a big problem for everyone, because Democrats do not own all of the good ideas and good policies, despite the best efforts of McCain and Trump to make us believe just that.

Anybody out there voting for Gary Johnson: Do you want to chime in now, and say there is absolutely no difference between the parties?

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Will The Candidates Discuss Syria?

Although it is Sunday, there will be no cartoons today. Sorry. Instead, time to eat our vegetables and prepare for tonight’s second Presidential Debate.

Wrongo thinks Syria should be a featured topic, since it lays bare our conflict with Russia, which has steadily grown since their annexation of Crimea. But, the debate is in a town hall format, with half of the questions coming from the audience, so it is difficult to say if Syria and Russia will make it to the table.

Certainly they should be discussed. On October 3, the Obama Administration walked away from the Geneva negotiations with Russia, aimed at ending the war in Syria. On October 5, the Principals Committee met at the White House to consider four options for Syria:

  1. Create a no-fly zone over Syria;
  2. Create safe zones along the Turkish and Jordanian borders inside Syrian territory;
  3. Bomb the entire Syrian Air Force;
  4. Arm the Syrian rebels (jihadists) with anti-aircraft weapons (MANPADS) as part of a prolonged insurgency directed against the Assad government, which are increasingly dominated by the very terrorist forces that the US and Russia were jointly targeting up until last week.

The first three options require the imposition of a no fly zone over Syria. There are big risks with a no fly zone, if the US imposes it without Russian cooperation. The Russians might refuse to respect it. If they defy the no fly zone and we shoot down Russian planes, it could lead to war. The Russians categorically oppose a Syrian no fly zone, because they believe it will weaken Assad.

Option four means the US aligns with our former jihadi terrorist enemies against Assad, in a semi-permanent war in the Middle East. So, consider these statements:

Any alternative approach must begin with grounding Mr. Assad’s air power…If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk.

I would recommend our colleagues in Washington to thoroughly consider the possible consequences of the realization of such plans…

That’s the current geopolitical landscape. What do the candidates think?

The Pant Suit wants to remove Assad and defeat ISIS simultaneously. She supports a no-fly zone. Clinton does not support an American troop commitment. Instead, she wants to arm and supply Syrian and Kurdish rebel groups. Her plan is to replace both Assad and ISIS with another group to be named later. It’s a weak plan, but it appeals to Americans because Clinton’s plan doesn’t require more American troops on the ground.

Trump has no plan, but during the primaries, he said: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

So, I don’t like Assad. Who’s going to like Assad? But, we have no idea who these people [Assad replacements], and what they’re going to be, and what they’re going to represent. They may be far worse than Assad. Look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Look at the mess we have after spending $2 trillion dollars, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over the place–we have nothing.

But during the VP debate, Pence adopted Clinton’s position. Pence said:

The United States of America needs to be prepared to work with our allies in the region to create a route for safe passage and then to protect people in those areas, including with a no-fly zone.

Obama has repeatedly refused to impose a no-fly zone.

Here is some context: Arming terrorists in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Bombing and attacking targets in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Establishing no fly zones without permission in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Stationing troops or Special Forces in a sovereign nation without permission is an act of war.

We have no UN mandate to be in Syria. Congress has not given its approval to be in Syria.

It’s a big fat mess, with no good solution in sight, made worse by the scale of the Syrian humanitarian crisis. And marked by Congress’ lack of courage.

It would be nice if at least ONE candidate would recall that during the Cold War, the number one goal was not to provoke a war between the US and Russia, but to find ways to de-escalate the situation.

Perhaps this is too much to expect, given the temperament of both candidates.

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Trump ≠ Change

Despite being the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, Donald Trump has positioned himself as the candidate of change in the 2016 election. During the first debate, he tried to hammer home his call for sweeping political change. From Reuters:

Some of Trump’s strongest moments at Monday’s debate were when he categorized Clinton, a former secretary of state and US senator as a “typical politician,” accusing her of achieving nothing in her years in Congress and government.

Polls show an electorate hungry for change, with a majority believing the country is on the wrong track. In fact, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that 64% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. That number includes 87% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats.

When Reuters asked voters to pick the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the country, the most popular choice was “frustration,” (49%) followed by “fear”(15%) and “anger”(13.8%).

With an electorate once again yearning for change, as they do every four years; who will they turn to in 2016? Many pundits have said that Hillary Clinton is the voice of the status-quo, while Donald Trump is the candidate of change, that she represents incrementalism, while he represents big ideas.

Bill Clinton ran and won on change. Barack Obama ran and won on “change you can believe in.”

But, as Jeff Jarvis says: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

I ended up voting for Barack Obama, but while he was in a [primary] race against Hillary Clinton his campaign slogan drove me to distraction. “Change we can believe in.” What change exactly?

Jarvis makes this point:

“Change” is an empty word, a vague promise. Obama promised “change” and it was a vessel into which his supporters poured their dreams…The proper word is not “change” but “progress.”

But the term “progress” has been devalued and given different meanings by both the left and the right, making it less useful to describe what is required in next stage in our political and social evolution.

Jarvis thinks the key word should be “improvement”: Based on her web site, Clinton will work to improve health care, college costs, infrastructure, criminal justice, mental health, national security, the environment, taxation, campaign finance, and the status of women and minorities.

In this context, Trump ≠ change. He promises little improvement. In fact, his basic message is one of regression: Let’s return to an earlier time in America when many of his supporters feel they had more control over their lives. They say that they have lost their cultural and (possibly) their economic position due to changes they could not control, changes they resent, changes that broadened American opportunity, making it available to others, some of whom are outsiders. Trump is promising to stop these kinds of change.

Change can be of the revolutionary or evolutionary kind, but other than the American Revolution, are there examples of successful revolutionary change in the past 300 years? China, maybe? The French Revolution? Iran? All of these revolutions were accompanied by bloodshed. In our current environment, with instant global communication, evolutionary change is likely to be more successful.

And when you think about what evolutionary change involves: Understanding a problem, preparing and planning for the required change, building a supportive coalition, implementing and sustaining it in law and action, what about Donald Trump suggests to you that he could be an effective change agent?

Alternatively, Clinton presents a vision of a country headed basically in the right direction, but one that needs to address income and other forms of inequality. She is boxed into a position of running against “real” change, because of her career as a member of the establishment, and in part because she wants to run on Obama’s record. She would also like to bring his coalition along with her, but by temperament, she isn’t Bernie.

Still, she has cataloged the many tweaks and changes she hopes to make to policy. They are available online for those who have an attention span longer than it takes to read 140 characters.

This is in contrast to The Pant Load, who values tweets, conflict and personality over substance.

Three AM Tweet Storms are not change, they improve nothing. He promises nothing, and we are letting him get away with it.

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