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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 29, 2019

Happy almost New Year! It only recently dawned on Wrongo that we’re not just coming to the end of another year, but also the end of the decade. There have already been many “end of the decade” summaries, but Wrongo is more interested in the future.

The only comment about the past that matters now is that we went from being optimistic after Obama’s election to being pessimistic after Trump was elected. To get elected, our first black president had to be a nearly perfect human being.

Trump only had to meet the low bar of representing the worst of us to gain power. And now, we’re even more divided than we were in 2016.

2020 will start with an impeachment trial, and a partisan acquittal. 2020 will end with a presidential election. Realistically, should we be expecting change? The answer is possibly: The Republican Senate majority suddenly looks to be in jeopardy. Republican strategists and campaign staffers said that with the polarization of the Trump era, key House and Senate races will depend even more than usual on the presidential race.

Democrats are raising more money and are polling better than Republican incumbents in several battleground states. Dems are outraising the Repubs in Arizona, Iowa and Maine, and they only need three net new seats to be the majority in the Senate.

Trump’s Impeachment trial works as a political strategy to get Republican senators on the record about Trump. Putting those GOP swing state senators on the hot seat may be very important in November 2020.

If you look at polls from the swing states, it’s possible that Trump can win again in 2020. OTOH, it is difficult to believe that, after four years of living with him, America will see Donald Trump as their best option for the next four years.

On to cartoons. The Christmas week always brings a shortage of good things to present, but this kinda sums up the season:

GOP’s 2020 strategy:

Dems 2020 resolutions:

2020’s New Year’s babies get dose of reality:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 22, 2019

(Wrongo’s taking a bit of a Christmas break, so after Monday, posting will be light. We’ll be back on a normal schedule NLT Monday, January 6th. Wrongo truly appreciates you guys sticking around for all these years!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year — let’s hope it brings change we can believe in.)

A succinct summation of the week’s news:

Branding has consequences:

The never ending story:

Who to believe:

Rollerball broke out at the Dem Debate:

2019’s alternative “Away in the Manger” story:

What’s in a name?

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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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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 15, 2019

Paul Volcker died last week. It’s likely that few readers know who he was, or what he did. He was one of the most important persons in finance in the last 50 years.

Volcker was Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Carter and Reagan, until Reagan fired him in 1986. He is widely credited with having ended the high levels of inflation in the US during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Earlier, he was an important part of Nixon’s team that took the US off the gold standard in 1971.

In that time of red-hot inflation, Volcker’s goal was to stop the growth of prices, while keeping the dollar strong globally. Back then, Americans saw inflation as our most pressing economic problem. Volcker’s goal was to reduce wages as a way to reduce price inflation. As an example, during his time as Fed Chair, Volcker carried a card listing the wages of unions in his pocket to remind himself that his early goal was to crush the unions.

When Reagan and his people complained that interest rates were too high, Volcker would pull out his card on union wages and say that inflation would not come down permanently until labor “got the message and surrendered.” Volcker said that the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s was a:

“hall of mirrors”, and that the…”standard of living of the average American must decline.”

Volcker’s jacking up of interest rates eventually purged inflation from the system. Along the way, it hurt small businesses, farms, banks, and home owners who needed a mortgage. Mortgage rates reached a peak of 18.63% in October 1981.

While Wrongo briefly worked for Volcker at the big bank in the early 1970’s, we had no relationship.  Wrongo reported to a guy, who reported to a guy, who reported to Volcker. Despite that (minimal) connection, Wrongo knows that Volcker’s stint at the Fed helped to shatter the American middle class. It might not have been his intent, but it was what he did. On to cartoons.

Trump outdoes Obama:

McConnell says he’ll take his instructions from the defendant:

 

Trump’s Xmas list:

The people would rather have a lump of coal:

21st Century Wise Men:

Greta vs. the Rest:

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Saturday Soother – December 14, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lover’s Leap, New Milford CT after this week’s snow – December 2019 drone photo by Quadco Joe

The House Judiciary Committee voted to send two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the full House. The vote took just two minutes, and as Wrongo said yesterday, it will be portrayed as the party line vote it was, with 23 Democrats in favor, and 17 Republicans against.

It was a tribute to the political polarization in today’s America, with striking diversity on the Democrats’ side, as well as lack of diversity on the Republicans’ side. From Marcy Wheeler:

“The Democrats who voted in favor included 11 women, and 13 Latinx and people of color (Ted Lieu missed the vote recovering from a heart procedure). Three (plus Lieu) are immigrants. One is gay. These Democrats voted to uphold the Constitution a bunch of white men, several of them owners of African-American slaves, wrote hundreds of years ago.”

All the Republicans who voted against were white, and just two were women. They voted to permit a racist white male President to cheat in order to get reelected, in violation of the rule of law.

This is a clash between the America that is coming, and its past. It’s unclear who will win this battle, but the stakes are high, and will become even higher in 2020.

Wrongo believes that rushing to an impeachment finding was a strategic error by Democrats. This should have been moved along slowly. House Democrats needed to go through discovery on all the obstruction of justice, Constitutional emoluments and separation of powers violations, campaign finance violations, and bribery violations. They should have taken the time to use their Article I power to get the oversight disclosure and testimony they have been denied by the Trump White House.

But, no. The House Democrats didn’t do any of that. Instead, they focused on one phone call when there was little reason to rush, and plenty to be gained by keeping Trump on the defensive for the next year.

A deeper dive into the issues could have made an Impeachment Resolution with a more effective result. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the vote in a Senate trial. But it would have provided continuing education to the public, along with fuel for effective articles and ads about Trump’s lawlessness.

With the weekend upon us, it’s time to contemplate all that must get done between here and New Year’s. Wrongo’s list is too long, but somehow, he hopes everything is done by then. However, let’s start by kicking back and forgetting about the list, the Impeachment and budget deal. Let’s clear our minds, and have another Saturday Soother.

Start by brewing up a large cup of Mexico Chiapas Dark Roast ($13/12oz.) with its notes of dark chocolate, hints of molasses and brown sugar. It’s from Sacred Grounds Coffee in Sherman CT, who we’ve featured here once before.

Now, listen to Nocturne “Reverie Op. 19” by Giulio Regondi. Regondi was a Swiss-born classical guitarist, and composer active in France and (mainly) the UK. It is played by Drew Henderson:

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

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Trump Defrauded Veterans and Nobody Cares

The Daily Escape:

Replica New Orleans Trolley made of gingerbread, Ritz Carlton Hotel, New Orleans. It took two months to make.  – December 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

From Tuesday’s NYT:

“President Trump has paid $2 million to eight charities as part of a settlement in which the president admitted he misused funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his presidential bid and pay off business debts, the New York State attorney general said on Tuesday.”

Wrongo wrote about this in November, calling it “The Only Article of Impeachment We Need”:

“We should stop the current impeachment deliberations in Washington, because we know all that we need to know right now. An American president who defrauds veterans has met the bar of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’. We shouldn’t need any more testimony about bribery and extortion of a foreign power.”

While the fraud was committed before Trump became president, it is by itself, the greatest presidential crime in American history. And the case has already been decided in front of a judge. In the end, the president admitted in court documents that he had used the foundation’s money to settle legal obligations of his businesses, and to purchase a portrait of himself.

Trump also used the charity to boost political campaigns — first, Pamela Bondi’s Florida attorney general campaign, and then his own 2016 campaign. Trump gave away Trump Foundation checks onstage at rallies, despite strict rules barring nonprofit charities from participating in political campaigns.

Trump settled the case, because the alternative would have been litigation that would have exposed parts of his finances. Think about what his finances look like when his lawyers tell him that the better option is to admit that he stole $2 million from American veterans.

As part of the settlement, Trump’s adult children; Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump all of whom were on the board of the foundation although they never met to discuss its operations, will have to take training to make sure they don’t make similar missteps in the future. That’s a minor wrist-slap.

This story was reported by major outlets but it doesn’t seem to have made a dent in the public consciousness. You’d think a story about $2 million worth of admitted presidential crimes would break through the noise but there’s always competition. Today, it’s a possible trade deal, the ongoing impeachment inquiry and Boris Johnson winning in the UK.

Nobody really cares. Outrage fatigue is a real thing. After a while, you just get worn down and become numb to the next headline. His admission of fraud would have ended any other presidency. But for him, it was Tuesday. Maybe the red hats are immune to outrage fatigue.

The Dem’s impeachment strategy is a farce, as will be the Senate’s “show trial”. Impeaching him will happen by a straight Party line vote, followed by the Senate’s acquittal by a Party line vote by the other Party. This means that both houses of Congress are a farce.

OTOH, not impeaching him would also be a farce. Because not impeaching someone who has done the things Trump has done, someone who makes a mockery of the law every day he’s in office, would make the rule of law a farce as well.

Defrauding veterans is something that the public can understand, and can get angry about. It’s not complicated, most citizens won’t be able to tune it out. His counter argument is weak, despite incessant talking about the Clinton foundation.

These things are not equal. This isn’t a “both sides” situation.

Democrats should be shouting about this every day until November, 2020. This is an arrow right at the heart of Trump’s base: Those purported law and order, military-loving people who populate his rallies. It’s indefensible, and it’s unlikely they will take kindly to his being guilty of defrauding veterans.

Remember when the Republicans were the “Party of Principle“?

Have we seen anything from them (or from Trump) that makes you think that they truly believe in providing a safety net? They think that the primary benefit of charitable giving is to telegraph their relatively high position in society compared to that of the needy.

Conservatives have always used their supposed morality as a cudgel to beat others. Alleviating suffering isn’t really important. They like the “virtue signaling”. That is, feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior by condemning others.

And they plan on keeping it that way.

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Is Anything Besides Impeachment Going On?

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada – October 2019 photo by Colin Hessel. Hat tip to blog reader Marguerite S.

While America is focused on our impeachment gridlock, we’ve missed a few things Trump has done that have far-reaching impact.

First, the US solar industry has lost 62,000 new jobs and $19 Billion in investments because of Trump’s two year-old tariffs on imported solar panels. The job loss is more than the 53,000 total number of workers employed in US coal mining, an industry Trump favors. Maybe those 62,000 people can just apply for the roughly 250 new coal mining jobs Trump created. The $19 billion in lost investment equates to 10.5 gigawatts in lost solar energy installations, enough to power about 1.8 million homes.

Despite the tariffs, global solar panel prices have continued to fall due to oversupply in China, but US solar panel prices still are among the highest in the world. That makes it more difficult for solar to compete with other forms of electricity generation such as natural gas.

Trump’s tariffs have had the greatest impact on newer solar markets such as Alabama, the Dakotas and Kansas, because they make solar uncompetitive.

Second, Trump announced revisions to the small arms export rules. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is currently in reconciliation negotiations. One of the differences between the House and Senate versions is an amendment that could loosen export controls on firearms. In November, the administration gave Congress notification of the proposed rule changes, which will go into effect on December 20th if Congress does not block it.

The US exports firearms and related technology on a large scale. From 2013 to 2017, the State Department reviewed approximately 69,000 commercial export license applications for firearms, artillery and ammunition reported at a value of $7.5 billion. Roughly two-thirds of these applications were for firearms.

Trump’s proposal would transfer control over the export of firearms and related technology from the State Department to the Commerce Department. The new rules could loosen the global trade in small arms, particularly in Latin America and the Middle East.

Export control is a complicated process with substantial paperwork designed to limit weapons or components falling into the wrong hands. The State Department currently manages this process for firearms. Moving control to the Commerce Department means that exports of these weapons will be subject to a less rigorous approval process.

Many observers, including the UN, have noted that the widespread availability of small arms is a “key enabler” of conflicts around the world. Despite calls for states to exercise tighter arm controls, the Trump administration is proposing to do just the opposite.

There are downstream effects of the proposal. It may make it easier for Latin American organized crime or terrorists in the Middle East to get guns and ammo more easily. Perhaps Trump wants to improve the Second Amendment rights of ME terrorists and Latin American gangs. Or maybe, he’s just in the tank for US gun manufacturers.

Third, a new Pew survey finds that only half of American adults think colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the country; 38% say they are having a negative impact, up from 26% in 2012. The increase in negative views has come almost entirely from Republicans and independents who lean Republican:

Since Trump was elected, Republicans who say colleges have a negative effect on the country went from 37% to 59%. Over that same period, the views of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic have remained stable, and overwhelmingly positive.

Democrats who see problems with the higher education system cite rising costs most often (92%), while 79% of Republicans say professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom is a major reason why the higher education system is headed in the wrong direction. Age is an important factor: 96% of Republicans aged 65+ say professors bringing their views into the classroom is the major reason why higher education is headed in the wrong direction.

Higher education faces a host of challenges in the future: Controlling costs, ensuring that graduates are prepared for the jobs of the future, and responding to the country’s changing demographics.

Trump and the GOP’s willingness to see everything from impeachment, to solar panels, to college education as an ideological battle are making addressing America’s problems impossible.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 24, 2019

Trump survived the week. The Democrats got just about everything they hoped for out of 32 hours of impeachment hearings. Current and former Trump administration officials told different parts of a consistent story, and reinforced a consistent narrative of wrongdoing.

But Trump liked the week, since no cracks emerged in Republican defenses. On to cartoons. The real Impeachment jury:

Hearings gave another platform to GOP conspiracy theories:

Behold the noose of Sondland:

GOP talking points:

Trump and Bibi: Two pleas in a pod:

One if by Facebook! Two if by Twitter:

Prince Andrew will be spending more time with family and less with underage women:

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Saturday Soother – November 23, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lockhart Mountain, Lake George, NY – November 2019 photo by goldengoddess69

After seven public hearings with 12 witnesses over five days, the impeachment inquiry moves to a new stage: a public report and a handoff to the House Judiciary Committee. What’s not clear is whether witnesses close to Trump, like Bolton, will ever testify.

The House Intelligence will deliver a report to Judiciary that lays out their case for impeachment. The Republicans will submit a minority report of their own, once Dems publish theirs.

We’ll have new editions of the same two narratives that have been with us since the start of the Mueller investigation. This leads to the weekly question: How can Republicans not see the facts? Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s misdeeds with Ukraine as an inconvenience, an annoyance which will blow over. Here’s a quote from Harwood:

“Lawmaker #3 “No. I think the attitude is, so what? “Sondland did his best to protect the President. Over half the Dems were for Impeachment before the whistleblower. People see what they want. This is still too complicated for the average person to understand. But follow the polls.”

And we need to think about what will happen in the Senate after they receive the referral for impeachment. The GOP will use the Senate trial to put both the Bidens and whatever they think the Dems did in 2016 on trial.

It will be a circus. Trump says he wants a trial, and wants to be the first witness. They will out the whistleblower. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And now we’re going on to the main event and that’s in the U.S. Senate…So we’ll finally be able to get to the truth. So I’m talking to my colleagues in the Senate, these are some of the witnesses that you need to call and these are some of the questions that you need to ask. First, you have to hear from the whistleblower.”

It won’t take much for the Republicans in the Senate to convince themselves that they were right all along, that Trump was justified in pressuring Ukraine president Zelensky. They’ll say that nothing happened, there was no harm, no foul and hypocrisy be damned.

Are the Dems smart enough to hold simultaneous hearings in the House to surface more about Trump’s obstruction? BTW, don’t you think Hunter Biden’s Burisma board seat is unseemly at best? Why don’t the Dems just do a proper investigation? But for his last name, Hunter’s credentials for a paid board position seem quite weak.

If you haven’t become cynical about Republicans in the years since Obama was elected, just wait two months.

America will have national elections in 2020. The circus in the Senate will hopefully lead to historic turnout for local, state and federal candidates. Wrongo feels optimistic that something new and better is coming. The path to that new political reality is steep and difficult, and we all must walk it.

Enough! Let’s slide into a Saturday Soother, that time of the week when we try to escape the horror show around us for a few minutes, and contemplate both our inner world, and the world around us.

The first snow covered the fields of Wrong on Tuesday. The short days and the drab colors remind us that spring is a long ways off. This weekend is about preparing for Thanksgiving, the arrival of friends, and a quiet celebration of all that we enjoy, from family, to friends, to our great country.

Let’s kick things off by brewing up a mug of Warm November Rain coffee ($20/12oz.) from Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee. The roaster says it has notes of black tea, tangerine, and baker’s chocolate.

Now settle into a comfy chair and listen to the enchanting “Pavane, Op. 50” by the French composer, Gabriel Faure, written in 1887. It was originally written for piano, but is better known today in Fauré’s version for orchestra. Here it is played live without an orchestra by 12 Cellists (!) from the Berlin Philharmonic.

If one cello is great, imagine just how fantastic 12 cellos can be!

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

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – November 18, 2019

On Saturday, the twitterverse was alive with the news that Trump made an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed Hospital. At least, that’s the story they’re putting out there:

“Trump, 73, made an unannounced visit Saturday afternoon to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

‘Anticipating a very busy 2020, the President is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed’, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.”

So was something wrong? Nobody who knows the truth is saying, and there’s an excellent chance you will know the truth before you read this.

There are many theories circulating, including that they’re trying to extricate Lindsey Graham, whose head is apparently stuck in Trump’s ass.

There are really just two options: Either Trump had a sudden health scare, or that the White House is so incompetent they had no idea a surprise hospital visit by a president would lead automatically to us believing that something is wrong. On to cartoons.

The real Quid Pro Quo:

Both sides have an argument:

Some will excuse any evidence:

Dems feel they’re writing the last ticket:

What’s good for the goose would never be good enough for the Trump gander:

Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone guilty on all counts:

 

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