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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

You Say You Want a Revolution

The Daily Escape:

Waimea Canyon, Kauai Hawaii

Wrongo has suggested many times that America needs a revolution. He thinks that the US political process has been so captured by large corporations and the very rich that the average person no longer can have any impact on policy. In many states, the average person isn’t even totally confident that he/she will be permitted to vote the next time they go to their local precinct.

We are in the midst of a political crisis: The people have lost faith in systems which they feel don’t respond to real people and in representatives that won’t represent us, or the society at large. Rather than debate issues thoughtfully, we are whipsawed by the appeals to emotion launched daily into the ether by the tweeter-in-chief.

Two current issues demonstrate the danger. First, Jerusalem. It turns out that Tillerson and Mattis opposed the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, and move our embassy there. You know from the headlines that Trump wouldn’t listen to anyone who told him this would be a very bad idea. The State Department’s response was to issue a worldwide travel alert for those Americans who think they’re still welcome around the world. The WaPo reported that a Trump confidant said:

It’s insane. We’re all resistant…He doesn’t realize what all he could trigger by doing this.

Second, North Korea. Maybe you read this headline: North Korea says war is inevitable as allies continue war games.

Martin Longman asks the pertinent question:

The so-called adults in the room utterly failed on the Jerusalem issue, so are we supposed to put our trust in them to steer a sane course on the Korean peninsula?

What are we talking about here? Can we wait out Trump, and just work like hell to replace him with a better president in 2020? Would nuclear war get him re-elected?

What about the GOP’s control of both houses of Congress? On Thursday, Speaker Ryan told us what we face next year: the GOP will tackle the budget deficit and national debt by cutting Medicare and possibly Social Security, now that the GOP’s donor class has their tax cuts.

Things have to change, and there are only two options, neither very good. First, we can try and excise the moneyed influence via the ballot box. That is the “democratic revolution” that Bernie championed in 2016. The definition of democratic revolution is:

A revolution in which a democracy is instituted, replacing a previous non-democratic government, or in which revolutionary change is brought about through democratic means, usually without violence.

Since we no longer have a functioning democracy, a “democratic revolution” to bring it back is what we require. Is it the only way to right the American ship of state?

The second option is a coup of some kind.

  • It could be via impeachment, assuming there were high crimes and misdemeanors that Trump had committed, and assuming a Republican House would impeach him, and a Republican Senate would convict him.
  • It could come via a 25th Amendment action, which might be marginally more acceptable to Republicans, but is as unlikely as impeachment.
  • Least desirable, and least likely would be a true coup, where the “adults in the room” (in the oval office, or the Pentagon) get leverage over the Commander-in-Chief. Could a real coup stay bloodless? That seems highly doubtful, and Wrongo would rather trust Trump than a junta.

Removing Trump won’t fix what’s wrong with the Republican Party. We need to prioritize and triage this situation, focusing first on taking back the House and Senate before 2020.

Who can we count on to right the ship?

Not today’s Democrats. They are led by Chuck Schumer who approves of Trump’s Jerusalem decision. The Democrats must fire Pelosi and Schumer, or die.

What about America’s largest voting bloc, Millennials? Can they step up to the challenge?

What about America’s women? In 2016, women supported Clinton over Trump by 54% to 42%, while Trump carried non-college educated white women 64% to 35%. The #metoo movement promises to become much more than the outing of bad guys: It could weaken both male privilege, and their power.

Firing a few slime balls isn’t revolutionary, but voting them out of office would be a paradigm shift.

The stock market is in the stratosphere, and consumers are happily clicking on Amazon’s “place order” tab.

Measly tax cuts will trickle down to rubes like us, while the plutocrats will die of laughter.

Can women and millennial voters look beyond the GOP’s messaging that the Muslims are always to blame, and Israelis suffer the most?

Will they care enough about whatever Mueller turns up on Trump to go out and vote?

Revolution is in the air. Why should the right have all the fun?

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Why Are Today’s Parents so Fearful?

The Daily Escape:

Matterhorn – 2008 photo by Wrongo

Overnight guests at the Mansion of Wrong started a discussion about how parenting styles have changed since the 1950’s. The primary focus of our near-geriatric group was on how our children parent their kids, as differentiated from the way our parents parented us. We talked about the difference between yesterday’s “free-range” parenting, where the kids were (relatively) unscheduled, and free to play outside until dark, and today’s helicopter parenting, where the kids are highly scheduled and the parents monitor their every move.

Today, Wrongo read an article by Pratik Chougule in the American Conservative entitled, “Is American Childhood Creating an Authoritarian Society?” Its sub-title, “Overprotective parenting is a threat to democracy” gives the article’s viewpoint:

American childhood has taken an authoritarian turn. An array of trends in American society are conspiring to produce unprecedented levels of supervision and control over children’s lives. Tracing the effects of childrearing on broad social outcomes is an exercise in speculation. But if social scientists are correct to posit a connection between childrearing and long-term political outcomes, today’s restrictive childhood norms may portend a broader regression in our country’s democratic consensus. 

That is way much too much speculation for Wrongo, but Chougule offers some interesting facts:

  • The amount of free time school-aged children enjoyed plummeted from 40% in the early 1980s to 25% by the mid-1990s.
  • The time young children spend in school jumped from 5-6 hours in the early 1980s to almost 7 hours beginning in the early 2000s.
  • By 2006, some 40% of schools had either eliminated recess or were considering doing so.

Chougule also offers the following:

More so than any other factor—identity, religiosity, income etc.—it was voters’ attitudes on childrearing that predicted their support for Trump. Those who believe that is more important for children to be respectful rather than independent; obedient over self-reliant; well-behaved more than considerate; and well-mannered versus curious, were more than two and a half times as likely to support Trump than those with the opposite preferences.

This leads to the conclusion that voting for Trump = Authoritarian tendencies in the family. Wrongo disagrees. He fails to see the link between helicopter parenting and authoritarianism in today’s kids. He isn’t even sure that today’s kids are little authoritarians.

Overprotective parenting has more to do with parental anxiety that started in the 1970’s when our kids were growing up, seeing high-profile incidents of abducted children. Then there were (and still are) the hyperventilating pundits warning about freak accidents affecting kids.

Most of all, it is driven by two trends: First, the two-career family has created guilt and fear that at least one parent won’t be around if something terrible happens. Second, the increasingly prevalent one-child family means that the psychic investment in the precious single offspring is huge, and by definition, fragile. If all your eggs are in the basket of one kid, it makes sense for him/her to wear a helmet at all times, and never speak to strangers.

When Wrongo’s kids were growing up, it was safe to send kids out to play in the neighborhood, because you knew there were going to be a dozens of adult eyes watching whatever was going on, as opposed to today’s  neighborhoods, which are vacant from 8am – 6pm.

Today, overprotecting is achieved largely in the form of monitoring where the kids are via cell phones. Parents do this in the name of protecting their kids. This is a major difference, as these devices didn’t even exist until the 1990s.

An unfortunate reality is that many kids today get too little direct supervision from their parents. The slack is being taken up by day-care centers and schools, neither of which should be the primary source of guidance for today’s kids.

An argument can be made that today’s parents have become more authoritarian and conformist because they are fearful in a world that seems to be getting more dangerous. It may be a fear of physical danger, like terrorism, but it can also be fear of downward mobility. The perception is that good jobs and other economic opportunities are getting fewer, so that only the highest-performing young people will have a shot at getting them.

We know that in times of peace and prosperity, society loosens up. People become more tolerant and trusting. When opportunities are limited or when external enemies threaten, tolerance erodes. People want their neighbors, their kids and their kids’ teachers to hew to their world view.

The politics of fear breeds ever more fear. We need to break the cycle.

Here is a tune. It is London Grammar doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, recorded on June 9, 2017:

Takeaway Lyric:

Now here you go again, you say
You want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down?

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

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Are We Facing an Undemocratic Future?

What do you think when Trump appoints so many retired generals to cabinet-level posts in his administration? The positive side of the argument is that these are talented, well-educated individuals who bring a worldview and experience on the global stage that Trump himself lacks.

The other side of the argument is that the authoritarian president Trump risks making his government much more authoritarian than it needs to be. This from Roger Cohen in the NYT:

A quarter-century after the post-Cold War zenith of liberal democracies and neoliberal economics, illiberalism and authoritarianism are on the march. It’s open season for anyone’s inner bigot. Violence is in the air, awaiting a spark. The winning political card today, as Mr. Trump has shown…is to lead “the people” against a “rigged system,”…The postwar order — its military alliances, trade pacts, political integration and legal framework — feels flimsy, and the nature of the American power undergirding it all is suddenly unclear.

We sound like a nation that is ripe for political upheaval. Citizens are not only more critical of their political leaders, they have become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: That once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way. That bedrock assumption is called “democratic consolidation” in political science, but Mounk’s research suggests that isn’t correct anymore.

In fact, he suggests that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Data from Freedom House, an organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, showed that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. According to Mounk and his research partner Roberto Foa, who reviewed the data, early signs of democratic destabilization exist in the US and in other Western liberal democracies. They found that the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations. The survey was based on 2014 data. Here is a graph from the Mounk-Foa study:

percent-who-say-democracy-is-essential-us

The graph shows responses by age cohort. Younger Americans have substantially less need to live in a democratic society than do older individuals. (The grey shaded part of graph is the 95% confidence limit for the responses to the survey). Remarkably, the trend toward acceptance of nondemocratic alternatives is especially strong among citizens who are both young and rich.

Mounk and Foa found that support for autocratic alternatives is also rising. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, they found that the share of Americans who say that authoritarianism would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen from 18% in 1995 to 35% of rich Americans:

support-for-authoritianism-by-income-us

While citizen support for authoritarian rule remains in the minority, it can no longer be dismissed as a fringe group. They support “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament and elections” and they want “experts” rather than the government to “take decisions” for the country. (In the study, “Upper income” is defined as the top 20% of income. “Lower Income” was defined as the bottom 50% of income.)

Overall, the rich are also now more likely than lower income citizens to express approval for “having the army rule.” While 43% of older Americans, including those born between the world wars and their baby-boomer children, do not believe that it is legitimate in a democracy for the military to take over when the government is incompetent or failing to do its job, the figure among millennials is much lower at 19%. In the US, only 5% of upper-income citizens thought that army rule was a “good” or “very good” idea in 1995. That figure has since risen to 16%, so the young rich are much more autocratic than their rich elders.

The clear message is that our democracy is now vulnerable. What was once unthinkable should no longer be considered outside the realm of possibility. This is partially the result of an educational system that does not teach even basic civics, much less the meaning of the Constitution.

Generations have grown up believing that they can casually read the document and understand what constitutional law is. Young Americans have never known the threat of an undemocratic system, so their fear of autocracy is far less than it is in the minds of their elders.

Trump is the prime example of this. And according to Mounk’s findings, he has a receptive audience in the young and the wealthy.

Would that be enough to undermine democracy in the US?

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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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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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Can a Main Stream Party Win Millennial Voters?

Millennials seem to be on the fringe of the political action in 2016. A new survey “The Millennial Economy” by Ernst & Young (E&Y) shows that they are also on the fringe economically, and that they distrust many American institutions.

That may explain why they are disaffected with the current Presidential race. A mid-June survey of 1,200 18-34 year olds was conducted online and via cell phone buy E&Y. It has a margin of error of ± 2.83%. E&Y found that coming of age during an historic economic downturn has severely impacted Millennials:

  • 30% of respondents live with their parents, and it’s 40% if they are still single.
  • Nearly one­-third believe their local community is still in a recession.

Millennial stress levels are high:

  • 78% of Millennials are worried about having good-­paying job opportunities.
  • 74% are worried they won’t be able to pay their healthcare bills if they get sick.
  • 79% are worried they will not have enough money to live on when they retire.

Millennials are the most educated generation in US history, but they are not convinced of the cost/benefit of higher education. Instead of education opening doors, many Millennials feel that student debt has boxed them in. The WSJ reported that among college-educated Millennials, 81% had at least one source of long-term debt, while The Atlantic reports that real wages have fallen for Millennials (and only Millennials) in the past five years, even as education costs have skyrocketed.

E&Y surveyed Millennials’ views of the establishment. They find that Millennials have very little confidence in many of our established institutions, but they are patriotic and supportive of a leading role for the US in the world. This chart is from the study:

millennial-view-of-institutions-png

Millennial men have greater confidence in US institutions than women, with 34% of men expressing confidence in the institutions polled compared to only 25% of women. Overall, Millennials:

  • Had the least confidence in the News Media (73%) closely followed by the Federal Government, Governors, and Corporate America (72%).
  • Had the most confidence in the Military (55%), followed by Colleges and Universities (51%) and Professional Sports (32%).

Millennial men remain more optimistic than Millennial women, although the clear majority of both genders think the country is headed in the wrong direction:

  • Men are nearly twice as likely to believe that the country is headed in the right direction (33%) as women (17%).
  • Hispanic men and black women are the most optimistic group within each gender, with 41% of the former and 27% of the latter believing the country is headed in the right direction.

So the $64 question is: How to win the vote of Millennials? E&Y says that economic uncertainty greatly influences Millennials’ political priorities. They found that Millennials are looking to politicians to alleviate their financial insecurity:

  • 64% of Millennials believe public education should be a top priority for federal tax dollars, a consensus that crosses party lines.
  • Social Security and Medicare were their second priority (46%), while National Security was third at 45%.
  • 47% of Millennials identify as independents.

Finally, as a crib sheet for debate prep, E&Y have this checklist for Millennial hot-button issues:

millennial-vote-checklist

Politicians always play to a checklist. Trump mentioned every battle ground state in the last debate, but fell in the polls. And playing generational politics can result in the candidate seeming completely inauthentic. That has been Hillary Clinton’s problem with Millennials. Al Gore tried it with Social Security in 2000 vs. GW Bush, and it did not work.

Polls show Clinton running far behind where she would hope to be with Millennials. She is winning just under half of Millennial votes, while Obama got over 60% in both of his campaigns.

As we have said, Hillary is not Bernie, and doesn’t stand for what Bernie stood for. So while millennials loved him for it, Hillary will not do as well with them.

Wrongo is concerned about how many young people are considering voting for Gary Johnson. Johnson’s libertarian views are far worse for their interests than anything Hillary stands for.

Johnson certainly would never support the government doing anything with student debt. Yet apparently, many young people will be voting for him, with no apparent concern about how it might help elect Donald Trump.

Perhaps Millennials and the rest of us need to have a busload of faith to get by between here and Election Day in order to survive. Here is Lou Reed live on Letterman in 1989 with “Busload of Faith”:

True to Lou, he sang about a busload of faith, minus the bus, and minus the faith.

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

Sample Lyrics:

You can’t depend on your family
you can’t depend on your friends
You can’t depend on a beginning
you can’t depend on an end

You can’t depend on intelligence
ooohhh, you can’t depend on God
You can only depend on one thing
you need a busload of faith to get by

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