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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 18, 2017

It’s Father’s Day. Here is Wrongo’s tribute to his own dad, now gone for 19 years. Steve Goodman’s song, “My Old Man”:

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

Takeaway lyric:

I miss my old man tonight
And I can almost see his face
He was always trying to watch his weight
And his heart only made it to fifty-eight.
For the first time since he died
Late last night I cried.
I wondered when I was gonna do that
For my old man.

Happy Father’s Day to all who qualify!

On to cartoons. This week, it’s hard to decide where to look first. How long will the current era of political good feeling last? We can be hopeful, but cracks have already appeared, and the urge to score political points has already begun:

The DC shooting reminds us that Congress still plays the ‘ol ballgame:

NOW we need some protection?

While America’s busy looking at the Russian drama, the GOP has had a breakthrough:

Trump’s team ruminates on replacing Mueller:

 

 

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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 – April 3, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Anna’s hummingbird with bees, California, 2016 – photo by Toshiyasu Morita)

The White House faces a yuuge pothole in the road to having even a marginally successful first 100 days.

Republicans need to pass a new Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government, and the current CR expires on April 28. A CR is a form of appropriations law that keeps the federal government operating. The expiring CR was passed last December, effectively kicking the can down the road to the new administration. The idea was that there would be a GOP Congress and a Republican president for the first time since 2006, and they would work together to get things done.

But, as with the failed Trumpcare legislation, House Republicans are still divided, and Democrats will sit on the sidelines and watch the GOP’s efforts to achieve consensus. Republicans are staring at the twin issues that have led them to threaten government-shutdowns in the past, the funding of Planned Parenthood (PP) and the continuing funding of Obamacare. The GOP has not solved either through separate legislation since getting control of the government, so those issues will certainly come up.

Several Freedom Caucus and other Republican conservatives have pledged never to vote for an appropriations measure that allows federal funds to go to PP (they are for the “freedom” to fund middle-aged guys taking Viagra, but not to fund PP).

NY Magazine reports that there’s even a possibility that hard-core conservatives could renew the effort they made in 2013 to block appropriations necessary for the administration of Obamacare, now that it will be around for a while.

Congressional rules will require that this appropriations bill be treated as regular legislation. So NY Mag says:

…the odds are pretty good anything other than a straight extension of the earlier continuing resolution will attract a Democratic filibuster, and produce the kind of gridlock that could shut down the federal government for at least a while.

Another complicating factor is that some in the Senate are pushing to implement one or more of the controversial changes in funding that Trump outlined in his budget proposal. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has said he will not vote for a CR that does not increase funding to the Defense Department: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

If that’s the only option, [a clean CR] I will not vote for a CR no matter what the consequences because passing a CR destroys the ability of the military to defend this nation, and it puts the lives of the men and women in the military at risk…

With several Senators likely to go along with Johnny Volcano, it will be even harder to get a bill that makes it past a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

Given the GOP’s control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans would almost certainly be blamed for any government shutdown on their watch. That means that Democrats are highly likely to deny Paul Ryan any Dem votes in the House for anything other than a clean CR.

So wake up White House and Congress! There isn’t a lot of time to get funding of the government done. Worse, it looks like the House doesn’t even plan to take it up until April 24th for an April 28th deadline.

To help them both wake up and get on the same page about the nation’s business, here is John Lee Hooker’s “I Need Some Money” written in 1960. Today we listen to it performed by The Beatles in a January 1962 demo recording with Pete Best playing drums. The Beatles called it: “Money (That’s What I Want)”. They were auditioning for Decca records, and did 15 songs, all but three of which were covers. After the audition, Decca Records rejected The Beatles. Here is “Money, That’s What I Want”:

Takeaway Lyric:

Money don’t get ever ‘thing it’s true
But what it don’t buy, daddy, I can’t use
I need money, I need money, yeah
That’s what I want

Those who view 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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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – Presidential Election Edition

Here we are, the Sunday before Tuesday’s presidential election, and the time change just added another hour to our long national nightmare.

The contest between Clinton and Trump has become uncomfortably close since the FBI’s intervened in our political process.

Can we build a wall around the FBI? It will be the best wall, and we’ll get James Comey to pay for it.

The WaPo reports that it has moved Ohio from “toss-up” to “leans Republican” and moved New Hampshire and Arizona from “leans Democratic” to “toss-up”. This leaves Clinton with 290 electoral votes. CNN, as of Friday morning had Clinton below 270 electoral votes for the first time in a long time.

This election reminds Wrongo of 1988. That was George H. W. Bush vs. Michael Dukakis. In July, Dukakis led Bush by 17 points in a Gallup poll. In fact, Dukakis led Bush by comfortable margins into August, but things went badly for the Democrat. A number of false rumors were reported, including the claim Dukakis had been treated for mental illness. Then came the ridiculous picture of Dukakis in a tank, and the Willie Horton ad, and Dukakis’ goose was cooked. Bush took the popular vote by nearly 8 points, winning 40 states and 426 electoral votes.

Let’s hope we are not witnessing the second coming of a Dukakis loss in Hillary’s inability to close out Donald Trump.

This means we need an extra helping of cartoons. Something has to give us a smile before the crying starts on Tuesday. Face it, one team or the other will be crying.

Cubs win, Cubs WIN:

cow-cubs-win-2

Some voters will definitely have some ‘splaining to do:

cow-answer-to-st-pete

When you think that all the choices are bad, what are ya gonna do?

cow-vote-anyway

Views differ on Comey:

cow-comey-is-wonderful

FBI Director takes on a new meaning:

cow-the-director

If Trump wins, some are going to Canada, others are just going:

cow-advance-directive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it’s all over, we’ll call it a “Wave Election”:

cow-wave-election

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Monday Wake Up Call – October 17, 2016

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

Random Monday thoughts:

First, Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan is a huge part of the soundtrack to the lives of boomers, so the average person has no problem with his winning the award, despite maybe pulling for Phillip Roth, or Dom DeLillo. From Dwight Garner:

This Nobel acknowledges what we’ve long sensed to be true: that Mr. Dylan is among the most authentic voices America has produced, a maker of images as audacious and resonant as anything in Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson.

Dylan is probably the only Nobel Prize for Literature winner who was a household name. Most are people whose work is known only to the elites. Harvard Professor Richard Thomas teaches a course called “Bob Dylan”:

I don’t see any difference between a poet like Catullus or Virgil and Bob Dylan. I think they are doing the same things. It has to do with control of language, connecting of lyrics and melodies. That’s what makes it timeless.

The professor notes that in songs like “Lonesome Day Blues”, there’s a stanza that goes:

I’m going to spare the defeated, I’m going to speak to the crowd
I’m going to spare the defeated, ’cause I’m going to speak to the crowd
I’m going to teach peace to the conquered, I’m going to tame the proud

And it’s pretty much a direct quote of lines spoken in the “Aeneid” by the ghost of Aeneas’s father, Anchises, who he sees in the underworld, and who basically says to him: “Other people will make sculpture. Your art, your job as a Roman, is to ‘spare defeated peoples, tame the proud.’”

Second, what is the point of having a third presidential debate? We already know almost everything about the Pant Suit, because the Right has been studiously putting her public and private life on display for the past 30 years. There is more we might learn about Mr. McGropey Pants, but don’t expect to hear anything that sounds like policy. Expect the Pant Load to do nothing to elevate the discourse. If he says: “is the bitch through talking?” don’t be surprised.

Third, his supporters will remain loyal, even after the election. The Boston Globe reports that election night could be the start of something terrible. For the past two weeks, Trump has been stoking fears that you can’t trust what happens at the ballot box. This, from Cincinnati:

And if Trump doesn’t win, some are even openly talking about violent rebellion and assassination, as fantastical and unhinged as that may seem.

“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton…“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take…I would do whatever I can for my country.”

But, isn’t Trump your garden-variety Republican, and aren’t his supporters absolutely regular folks? After all, a sitting US Senator, Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.) said in New Hampshire on Saturday that anti-Trump forces are trying to rig the election. All these people are mainstream GOP for sure.

And Mr. “in prison or shot” Bowman is just another peaceful American who is deeply concerned about the economic well-being of the working class.

Can’t you see Putin asking the UN to send in election monitors to certify the results?

Time to wake up America!  You brought this on (i) by not voting in off-year elections, (ii) by not supporting media that search for truth, and (iii) by not insisting on the best possible education for your kids.

To help you wake up, here is Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”, recorded in 1975:

Sample Lyrics:

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

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

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Isn’t It a Pity?

Wrongo and Ms. Right were in PA on 9/11, and we attended an outdoor concert at the Longwood Gardens, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. We went to see Taj Mahal, who was in fine voice, and the crowd loved him.

The opening act was Bettye LaVette, who has spent the last 50+ years trying to become a success in blues music, finally winning Best Soul Blues Female Artist this year. She acknowledged that we were gathered on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and sang a searing version of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity“. It redefined the song for the audience, who like Wrongo, remembers it as a statement on the breakup of the Beatles.

Ms. LaVette’s version packed a fantastic wallop, and seemed entirely correct as a way to think about the 9/11 tragedy, and the various other tragedies that 9/11 has spawned over the past 15 years.

Harrison wrote the song in 1966, but it was rejected for inclusion on at least two Beatles albums. He included it on his solo album “All Things Must Pass”, issued in 1970. The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 1971.

Ms. LaVette had included “Isn’t It a Pity” on her 2010 CD called “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook”. Here she is doing it live back then, although it lacks the searing emotion that we heard from her on Sunday night, it is worth a listen:

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

Partial Lyrics:

Isn’t it a pity, isn’t it a shame
How we break each other’s hearts, and cause each other pain
How we take each other’s love without thinking any more
Forgetting to give back, now isn’t it a pity.

Some things take so long
But how can I explain
When not too very many people
Can see we’re all the same

Thinking about 9/11, brings to mind this from the Pant Load:

trumps-big-building

Its always been about The Donald!

The Pant Suit has problems of her own, what with Pneumonia gate and the “Basket of Deplorables”. Wrongo has had pneumonia a few times in his long life, and it failed to disqualify him for anything. The Basket of Deplorables used to be sold by Harry and David for Thanksgiving, aimed at the budget-conscious consumer.

Hillary’s apologized. Is there anything more quintessentially Democratic than making a perfectly legitimate attack, and immediately apologizing when there’s pushback?

(Mostly) weird links you probably missed:

Turkish prosecutor thinks that Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen (who lives in the US), was appointed as a secret cardinal by John Paul II in 1998. Turks apparently love conspiracy theories, particularly when they can link Gulen, the enemy of Turkish president Erdogan with the US, the enemy-in-waiting.

There was a sushi chef fight on Long Island: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The violence at the Ichiban Sushi restaurant on Montauk Highway in Oakdale left one of the kitchen combatants so sliced up, he had to be rushed to Southside Hospital. His injuries were not life threatening, police said. Police busted Kong Chen for assault. It was not clear what caused tempuras to flare.

Newly discovered blood fluke is named after Obama. What a way to help burnish his legacy! Left wing anglers now prefer the new Obama flatworms when fishing in fresh water. Right wing anglers are resisting calls to take the bait.

Here a list of North American companies producing edible insects for sale. Start wherever you are comfortable with your alternative sources of protein. Billions were killed so you could try eating bugs.

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Congress Returns to Do (Not) Much

From Roll Call:

After the longest summer break in modern times, lawmakers are required to accomplish a single legislative task before leaving again. But it’s a job far more politically fraught than it is procedurally simple: Assuring normal government operations continue through the end of this budgetary year and into the new one.

That’s right, once again, it’s time to fight about funding the government. And as Booman says,

This ridiculous election season would not be complete without the threat of another government shutdown, and how much money would you be willing to risk betting on Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to find a way to pass a continuing resolution that either the majority of their own caucus would support or that relies (again) on mostly Democratic votes?

The potential stalemate over spending is a headache for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) who would like to avoid a shutdown threat just weeks before the election.

The Tea Party and GOP conservatives want to kick the can ahead for six months with a temporary resolution. But Democrats and some Republicans want to finish the annual budget work in the lame duck session after the election.

Both sides are digging in for a fight.

This could become an object lesson on why Republicans shouldn’t be in the majority. The party with the majority in the House is supposed to produce the bills and along with the Senate, supply the votes to pass appropriations. But, John Boehner couldn’t do it, because the Freedom Caucus and the other conservative R’s wouldn’t work as a coalition with other Republicans and/or Democrats to actually pass spending bills.

Ryan was able to do it last time, but it isn’t looking like those Republican factions will roll over again.

If Ryan and McConnell want to buck their own members on the length of the continuing resolution, the Dems are free to refuse to provide any votes. And the Democrats do not have to protect the sitting president, so they can watch as the GOP twists in the wind.

Fun times on Capitol Hill!

Here are a few links to news you may have missed over the holiday:

Experimental new opioid blocks pain without being addictive or deadly in primates. In monkeys, the drug is a highly effective pain reliever without downsides. It needs more trials, including in humans. Meanwhile, the DEA is attempting to ban a natural, safe herb which has been used for thousands of years to do the same thing.

Holy Labor Day: On Friday, an estimated 150 million workers refused to show up for work in India and instead took to the streets to demonstrate against labor conditions. The unions involved issued 12 demands to Prime Minister Modi, including raising the minimum wage, introduction of universal social security, and a minimum pension.

Is an end to the Asian sweatshop in sight? A recent report from the International Labor Organization found that more than two-thirds of Southeast Asia’s 9.2 million textile and footwear jobs are threatened by automation. Here are the numbers: 88% of those jobs in Cambodia, 86% in Vietnam, and 64% in Indonesia. Will this be good for the workers? Doubtful.

13 Tips for reading election polls like a pro. After Labor Day, the polling deluge will begin. A guide to making sense of it all.

Boeing gets $2B in bonuses for flawed missile-defense system. From 2002 through early last year, the Pentagon conducted 11 flight tests of the nation’s homeland missile-defense system. The interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six of the 11 tests — a record that has prompted independent experts to conclude the system can’t be relied on to foil a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet the Pentagon paid Boeing, the prime contractor, $1,959,072,946 in performance bonuses for a Job? Well? Done?

Maybe we shouldn’t complain: The US government is spending money. Money = jobs. Of course, money also = corruption. And isn’t it a good deal if Boeing’s shit doesn’t work?

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Capitalism, It’s Not You, It’s Me

There is a meme that has gone global since the early days of the Occupy movement. Here it is as a wall graffiti from Greece that uses the same meme we first saw in NYC in 2011:

Capitalism Lotek

Just kidding capitalism, it really is you.

The artist is a Greek who styles himself as Lotek. The name Lotek is derived from the short story (and later, a film) by William Gibson called Johnny Mnemonic. The story is set in 2021, in a world ruled by corporations. An anti-authoritarian gang that are called Lo-Teks, fight the power. They are in fact not low tech at all, but are high tech hackers. Sound familiar?

Greece is surely a place at war with neoliberalism and free market capitalism. So is it also time for us to reconsider capitalism?

Consider this from Mark Blyth in Foreign Affairs:

An inherent tension exists between capitalism and democratic politics since capitalism allocates resources through markets, whereas democracy allocates power through voting.

The compromises both systems have struck with each other over recent history shapes our contemporary political and economic world. Blyth observes:

  • In the three decades that followed World War II, democracy set the rules, taming markets with the establishment of protective labor laws, restrictive financial regulations, and expanded welfare systems.
  • Starting in the 1970s, a globalized, deregulated capitalism, unconstrained by national borders, began to push back.

And today, capital markets and capitalists are setting the rules, and democratic governments follow them.

Some background: Cutting taxes in the 1980s caused government revenues to fall. Deficits widened, and interest rates rose as those deficits became harder to finance. At the same time, conservative govern­ments, especially in the UK and the US, dismantled the regulations that had reined in the excesses of the financial service industry since the 1940s.

The financial industry began to grow unchecked, and as it expanded, investors sought safe assets that were highly liquid and provided good returns: the debt of developed countries.

This allowed governments to plug their deficits and spend more, all without raising taxes.

But the shift to financing the state through debt came at a cost. Since WW II, taxes on labor and capital had provided the foundation of postwar state spending. But, as govern­ments began to rely more on debt, the tax-based states of the postwar era became the debt-based states of today.

This transformation had pro­found political consequences. The increase in government debt has allowed capitalists to override the preferences of citizens:

  • Bond-market investors can now exercise an effective veto on policies they don’t like by demanding higher interest rates when they replace old debt with new debt.
  • Investors can use courts to override the ability of states to default on their debts, as happened recently in Argentina
  • They can shut down an entire country’s payment system if that country votes against the interests of creditors, as happened in Greece in 2015.
  • Citizens United dictates who runs for office in the US, and in many cases, who wins.

Now that the financial industry has become more powerful than the people, should we blindly follow capitalism’s meme as the only way forward?

Free-market rhetoric hides the dependence of corporate profits on conditions provided for, and guaranteed by, governments. For example:

  • Our financial institutions insist that they should be free of meddlesome regulations while they depend on continuing access to cheap credit from the Federal Reserve.
  • Our pharmaceutical firms have resisted any government limits on their price-setting ability at the same time that they rely on government grants of monopolies through our patent system.

To use a sporting metaphor, it’s as if the best football team purchased not only the best coaches and facilities, but also bought the referees and the journalists as well. Those responsible for judging economic competition have lost all authority, which leaves the dream of ‘meritocracy’ or a ‘level playing field’ in tatters.

In our country, the divide between the business oligarchs, the political class and “the people” increasingly appears unbridgeable, marked by hostility and deep distrust. When people are told for a generation that government mustn’t make decisions that interfere with free markets, it is inevitable that people will lose faith in democratic governance, and in government’s capacity to help them solve their problems.

Capitalism in its current form no longer works for the people. We have seen a reaction in the start of movements by Occupy, by Bernie, and by others in Europe.

Remember that the greatest prosperity in living memory in the US came during the brief social democratic moment, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the constraints on business were the greatest.

More democracy and more economic justice are the necessary foundations for the path to a more prosperous, and sustainable economy.

A reformed capitalism must be a part of what emerges from that fight.

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