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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – Dorian Edition, September 7, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO – 2019 photo by ForkMan. Cheyenne Mountain is in background.

(There will be no Sunday Cartoons this week.)

Trump’s decision to change our posture toward China from free trade to trade war is one of the most significant policy shifts in recent American history. And despite the hand-wringing by corporations and politicians, there’s a grain of value in what Trump is attempting to do.

For sure, it’s unclear if he really knows what he’s doing, but it highlights whether we have a strategy for our trade relations with China. American policy makers must look at and answer a few questions:

  • Why is our industrial supply chain located within our economic adversary?
  • Doesn’t our military readiness therefore depend on that adversary?
  • Why are American companies allowed to transfer critical technologies to China in exchange for short-term market access?
  • Why is Tesla building self-driving cars in Shanghai?
  • Why should Google be running an Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab in Beijing after canceling an AI contract with the Pentagon?

Our corporate overlords’ answer? Because the market wills it.

But markets choose one global power over another only for narrow financial reasons. The market will happily move its business to a surveillance state if it means bigger CEO bonuses and higher profits. In this competition, Corporate America’s ideological commitment to free trade is as big a handicap to us as the Soviet Union’s commitment to central planning was during the Cold War.

Republicans and their corporate partners reject the idea of America having an industrial-policy to support key strategic economic sectors. China has an industrial policy. It’s focused largely on AI, integrated circuits, telecom, and steel. We no longer have high end manufacturing, and we’re losing other strategic industries.

This means that Beijing is likely to pick our “winners” for us. Corporations use the old Ricardian comparative advantage to organize their supply chains. This means that we will watch helplessly as American innovations are transformed into economic engines in China, while our corporations will reap efficiency gains by locating their engineering and management operations next to their Chinese manufacturing.

Inevitably, the innovation in which we pride ourselves will depart as well.

A recent survey of 369 manufacturers found that American firms are moving their R&D operations to China not just to take advantage of lower costs, but to be in close proximity to their supply chains. About 50% of foreign R&D centers in China are now run by American companies. This has helped China achieve first place in market share for manufacturing R&D.

If we remain neutral regarding where our supply chains are located, “we innovate, they build” will become “they innovate, they build.”

So, an unintended consequence of Trump’s tariff war is that maybe American politicians will wake up to the strategic battle underway with China, and realize how our American corporations are lining up on the side of our competitor and economic adversary.

Enough of the outside world, time for a rainy Saturday Soother if you are on the east coast of the US. Wrongo is sitting on Cape Cod, and the weather service here has announced tropical storm warnings for Saturday. So, settle back and watch the Weather Channel!

Now brew up a mug of Panama Finca San Sebastian ($12/12 oz.) with its deep chocolate notes supported by subtle but persistent sweet floral tones. It comes from the brewers at Thermopolis, Wisconsin’s Jack Rabbit Java.

Now, as you watch Dorian news over and over until your mind is numb, listen to the great 1980’s hit from the Eurythmics, “Here Comes the Rain Again”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view Annie Lennox here.

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Saturday Soother – August 24, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Ground Swell – 1939 painting by Edward Hopper

In news you most assuredly haven’t seen, the 10th District US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that “Faithless Electors”, people who do not cast their votes in the Electoral College for the winner of their state’s presidential election, are now free to vote for anyone they want.

This Colorado case came about because in 2016, one elector refused to vote for the state’s winner, Hillary Clinton, and instead, voted for John Kasich. The Colorado Secretary of State ordered him to cast his vote for Clinton, or be replaced. He refused and was subsequently replaced with an elector who voted for Clinton.

The faithless elector sued, and the 10th Circuit decided in his favor, saying that the Constitution provides:

“…Presidential electors the right to cast a vote for president and vice president with discretion. And the state does not possess countervailing authority to remove an elector and to cancel his vote in response to the exercise of that Constitutional right.”

The court traced the history of faithless electors back to 1796, when Samuel Miles voted for Thomas Jefferson instead of John Adams. Congress counted his vote. In the 2016 election, there were 13 anomalous votes from three states, and Congress also counted those votes.

This decision could have major ramifications for future presidential elections. The attorney for the faithless elector, Jason Wesoky, said the Court’s ruling essentially makes the laws requiring electors to vote for the state’s winner unenforceable. That impacts 16 states today.

It is even more significant, since a growing number of states are rethinking their Electoral College systems in response to the 2016 election. The 16 states that have passed laws that award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, currently equal 196 electoral votes.

If states representing another 74 electoral votes pass it, the so-called National Popular Vote bill will control the majority of votes in the Electoral College. The bill has passed at least one chamber in 8 additional states with 75 additional electoral votes.

This Appeals Court’s decision means that yet another crucial issue to  the future of our democracy will be in the hands of the Supreme Court, once the appeal gets to them.

Enough of news you won’t ever use, it’s time for your Saturday Soother!

Start by brewing up a mug of Honduras Marcala coffee ($19/12oz.) from Santa Barbara’s Handlebar Coffee Roasters. The founders are professional cyclists who met while riding in the Amgen Tour of California, America’s best bike race.

Now, settle back and listen to something very different, a guitar band from Mali called Tinariwen. They are Tuareg musicians from northern Mali. They play rolling melodic lines and loping rhythms that evoke the desert sands of the Sahara. The band’s name literally means “deserts” in their language, Tamasheq. Here they are playing “Kel Tinawen” from their upcoming album “Amadjar”, available on September 6th:

The video is of a road trip along Africa’s Atlantic coast as the band and crew cross the Western Sahara. They will be touring the US in September. For an early date in Winston-Salem, NC, some locals on social media are leveling violent, racist attacks against the musicians. Welcome to America!

Here is a translation of the lyrics:

Evil tongues – you can keep talking.

The uprising will be impossible to suppress.

The treachery of your evil words has sold out your brothers for your own interests.

You’ve locked them up in a prison, every last one of them.

You fine talkers, tell us what road you plan to take to avoid us if we remain rooted.

You’ve forgotten the suffering of our parents,

The suffering they have experienced since birth,

Unable to find water, unless they dig wells with their own hands.

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

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Saturday Soother – August 10, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Milky Way from the summit of Mt. Katahdin, ME – 2019 photo by aryeh95

Wrongo wants to provide some background to how Hong Kong (HK) went from being a UK colony to being a part of China. If you watch the news, you know that Hong Long’s anti-extradition protests are now in their third month. They are ostensibly directed at the HK administration, but they’re also aimed at the Chinese government in Beijing.

And the conflict appears to be escalating.

The Hong Kong — Mainland conflict partly reflects a huge gap in national identity. Frank Chung in a piece in Ejinsight, says it can be explained in part by how the nationality of most people in Hong Kong was changed in 1997 from British to Chinese: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“From China’s standpoint, Hong Kong had always been Chinese soil. Through 150 years of British rule, its people remained Chinese, regardless of British law. This fitted nicely with Britain’s policy, which was to see to it that the millions of Chinese “British citizens” in Hong Kong could not move to the United Kingdom. Nationality and immigration laws were changed.

Britain created a new category of citizens, called British Dependent Territory Citizens, in the 1980s. This transformed United Kingdom citizens into Hong Kong citizens. When Hong Kong was no longer a British dependent territory, yet another new category was created, British National (Overseas). The holder has no right to live in Britain and the citizenship cannot be passed on to the next generation.

China, too, changed its nationality law to deal with Hong Kong. The Standing Committee of its National People’s Congress in 1996 – the year before the handover – issued “Explanations” of how China’s Nationality Law would be applied in Hong Kong. That is to say, the law would mean different things in different parts of the country, a highly unusual legal situation.

The “Explanations” introduce a concept missing in the nationality law itself, that of “Chinese descent.” Thus, any Hong Kong resident of Chinese descent who was born in Hong Kong or China is a Chinese national, regardless of whether he possesses Canadian, Australian, British or other nationality. That means people who were foreign nationals were transformed into Chinese nationals in 1997.”

This was how China and the UK cooperated to facilitate the transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Both wanted the people as well as the territory to be transferred wholesale. The millions of people in Hong Kong were considered nothing but chattel in the transfer.

And so it goes today.

China has all the leverage in the current test of wills. Their concern is not to let the HK demonstrations “infect” any cities on the mainland. And with the growth of the Chinese economy, HK’s leverage is steadily decreasing, as other Chinese cities surpass it economically, and trade directly with the rest of the world, a function that HK used to perform.

Two ways of looking at the current situation: One, HK’s not as important, and there’s little it can do to deflect Beijing’s control. Two, if Beijing doesn’t crack down, it will be seen as a weakness, rather than the wisdom of a mature nation.

Either way, the big advantage of authoritarian regimes is that they have fewer constraints. China historically has walked a line between centralized authority and provincial power. Centralized power will always win.

On to the weekend, it’s time for our Saturday Soother! With all the mass shootings news, and Trump trying to keep in the forefront of the same news cycle, our heads are spinning. We need to kick back and forget everything but how to kill crabgrass, and an AR-15 won’t help with that.

Start by brewing up a mug of Kenya Handege coffee ($19/12 oz.) from Austin TX-based Greater Goods Roasters. They say it is very sweet, tart, and rich. Now settle back near a large window and listen to Mary Gauthier perform her 2005 composition “Mercy Now” at the 2010 Americana Music Festival in Nashville, TN:

Given what El Paso and Dayton are going through, Gauthier’s poignant and direct message should resonate with all of us. Wrongo knows that you rarely click through and listen to the music, but today, it is really worth your while to listen.

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

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Saturday Soother – August 3, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Wotans Throne, North Rim, Grand Canyon NP, AZ – photo by phantomcloud.

The WSJ has an important story on how people with what seems like pretty good household incomes, are getting more and more indebted trying to keep up a middle class lifestyle:

“The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

Student debt totaled about $1.5 trillion last year, exceeding all other forms of consumer debt except mortgages.

Auto debt is up nearly 40% adjusting for inflation in the last decade to $1.3 trillion. And the average loan for new cars is up an inflation-adjusted 11% in a decade, to $32,187, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from credit-reporting firm Experian.”

The Journal gives a generally sympathetic portrayal, provided you don’t go deeply into their comments section, where readers spout platitudes about Millennial’s lack of fiscal responsibility. Here’s a chart from the WSJ using some recent work by Georgetown bankruptcy law professor Adam Levitin showing how much certain costs have risen relative to wages:

More from the WSJ:

“Median household income in the U.S. was $61,372 at the end of 2017, according to the Census Bureau. When inflation is taken into account that is just above the 1999 level.

Average housing prices, however, swelled 290% over those three decades in inflation-adjusted terms, according to an analysis by Adam Levitin, a Georgetown Law professor who studies bankruptcy, financial regulation and consumer finance.

Average tuition at public four-year colleges went up 311%, adjusted for inflation, by his calculation. And average per capita personal health-care expenditures rose about 51% in real terms over a slightly shorter period, 1990 to 2017.”

Of course, in Wrongo’s youth, few young people were carrying large amounts of student debt. And if they went to coastal cities to build their careers, the cost premium over living in a city in the heartland wasn’t as high as it is now (except for San Francisco and New York, which have always been very expensive). Also, it isn’t just tuition that has gone up. All the other college costs, housing, meals, books, and fees, have also gone up more than 300% in the past 30 years.

It is notable that college costs have far outpaced the ability of those in the middle class to afford them. That is why student loan debt has become so high: working your way through college is no longer as realistic as it once was.

Turning to housing, the WSJ quotes Domonic Purviance of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, who says that people earning the median income can no longer afford the median-priced new home, which cost $323,000 last year, and barely have the means to buy the median existing home, which is now about $278,000.

Failure of wages to keep up with costs is a huge problem, and it has to be emphasized that this is not some inevitable outcome of our so-called “free markets” – it is driven by neo-liberal policy.

A few of the Democratic candidates are addressing the health and education cost burdens now adding to the debt load of all Americans. But we need more discussion that leads us to better policy.

With so much wrong in the world, we surely need to take a step back, and de-stress. To help with that, here’s your Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing up a large mug of Finca Las Nieves Green-Tip Geisha coffee ($35.00/8 oz.). This coffee is grown and roasted in Mexico. Located at an elevation of 4,000 feet, Finca Las Nieves is a 1,000-acre coffee farm located in Oaxaca State. It is completely off the grid — both solar- and hydro-powered. In addition to growing, harvesting, processing and roasting coffee, the farm also offers vacation bungalows for rent on the property.

Now, settle into a comfy chair and listen to Bach’s unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, movements 1-3 of 6, by Yo Yo Ma. The video uses a painting by Hudson River School painter, Thomas Cole. It is called “The Oxbow”, located on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts near Northampton, MA. Here is Yo Yo Ma:

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

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Saturday Soother – July 27, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Bear Creek Trail, Ouray, CO – 2019 photo by pickleskins

Wrongo didn’t watch the Mueller testimony, thinking that the outcome was pre-ordained. Given the millions of words that have been written to analyze his performance, and the largely weak tea now being brewed by House Democrats, there are two questions before us: First, should Democrats have relied so heavily on Muller to make a case against Trump? And second, what will the House Democrats do now?

The first thing we learned was that Mueller is showing his age, and that, if Robert Mueller is the mastermind of the Deep State coup that Trump alleges, he’s failed miserably.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, Democrats have grasped at one straw after another that was going to magically remove Trump from office. The Access Hollywood tape. The Stormy Daniels revelations. The likely violations of the Emoluments Clause. Racism. And, of course, Mueller Time.

Pursuing all of these have kept Trump off-balance, but no one should have expected any of them to bring him down. We now live in a no-rules time. The bar gets lowered with every outrage Trump perpetrates, and there is limited ability on the part of the average American to follow the House Committee’s parsing of the Mueller investigation’s facts.

Pelosi needed Mueller to ignite public opinion and provide her support for beginning impeachment proceedings. And, yet, Mueller in his testimony wouldn’t support except indirectly, Congress’s asking him to help them act on his report.

Wrongo has long believed that the FBI is a reactionary element in our society. It isn’t difficult to believe that Mueller had little intention of teeing up Trump for the Congress.

Moreover, the GOP has decided there’s absolutely nothing wrong with accepting intelligence support from foreign governments, provided their Party is the beneficiary of that help.

Pelosi knows the ONLY LEVERAGE that Dems have politically is their majority in the House of Representatives. It would be political malpractice to risk losing that. Sacrificing the majority in the House, even for the good of the country, could leave Dems on the moral high ground as usual, but with zero political power.

And we know that as of today, winning the presidency in 2020 looks like a 50/50 proposition. Mueller’s performance should make a lot of potential Biden and Bernie supporters think twice about trying to elect yet another senior citizen, regardless of their prior political experience.

Enough for this week! It’s time for a Saturday Soother. You’ve followed the news, so you know that we all need a break to forget about politics for a while. To help you on the path to forgetting, let’s start by having a tall glass of cold brew coffee. Today, let’s try Wandering Bear Straight Black cold brew ($30 for a 96 oz. box) from NYC’s own Wandering Bear Coffee. The brewer says their coffee is decadently bold, but surprisingly smooth. The box fits in your fridge, and pours like a tap. Good times!

Their slogan is that cold brew = life. Wrongo is far from in agreement with that.

Now, settle back in a comfy chair and listen to CPE Bach’s “Cello Concerto in A Major“, performed live by cello soloist Monika Leskovar, accompanied by the Zagreb soloists. Wrongo and Ms. Right heard the New Baroque Soloists play this piece on Friday in Washington, CT, with the wonderful Samuel Magill as cello soloist:

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

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Saturday Soother – July 20, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Castle Geyser, Yellowstone NP – 2019 photo by suprememaddy

Guess what? He’s not sorry. From TPM:

“Not even 24 hours after telling reporters that he was “not happy” with the “send her back” chant against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at his reelection rally earlier this week, President Donald Trump on Friday seemed to be more onboard with the widely condemned message.”

Here’s a series of Trump’s Friday tweets:

Then this:

And finally:

Actually, he attacked four, not three, Congresswomen, and now, more racist attacks against Omar. He started this when he tweeted last Sunday that they should “go back” to the countries they supposedly came from, despite all four being US citizens.

But, the GOP wants you to believe that there isn’t a single racist bone spur in his body.

The “chant” will now magically break out at all of his future rallies. He’ll pretend to stop it but, what can he do? His people just love him too much for him to stop. Then, the GOP cheerleaders will flood the media with enough bad faith arguments to confuse the issue, and lower the heat, and Trump will move on to the next outrage.

This is the pattern. First, Trump says something so abhorrent that most of us lose our collective minds. Then, he doubles down. Then, we see some opprobrium from the media, from all Democrats and a very few Republicans. Trump then quiets down for a few hours, and in a week or so, we’ve moved on to the new normal. This week, our new normal is “send them back.”

We’re going to spend the rest of our lives dealing with narratives by the opposition about how Trump isn’t who he so obviously is. We’ll spend years hearing that what he said isn’t racist. His supporters see their chanting, and Trump’s incitement as innocent trolling. They think it’s all a game, and that he’s just playing his part in owing the libs.

Wrongo has had enough for this week, and so have you. We desperately need some Saturday soothing. Let’s start by brewing up a cup of Rukera Kenya ($21.20/12 oz.) from the old reliable JBC coffee roasters in Madison Wisconsin, who have been featured here many times before.

Now staying indoors and away from the heat that is gripping most of America, listen to Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński perform ”Vedro con mio diletto” from the opera “Il Giustino” by Antonio Vivaldi.

Wrongo and Ms. Right first heard a countertenor live on Broadway at the show, “Farinelli and the King”, in 2018. The voice of Farenelli was performed by Iestyn Davies, and it was magical. Today, Orliński is performing in a live recording made in July, 2017 from Lix-en-Provence:

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

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Saturday Soother – War With Iran Edition, June 22, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Na Pali Coast, Kauai HI – 2019 photo by Santahickey

It’s tough to wake up on a Friday morning and find out that during the previous night, America almost started a war. On Thursday night, Trump allegedly pulled back from a military strike he had earlier authorized against Iran.

The New York Times wrote: “Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back”. The NYT says that Trump’s hawks, Bolton, Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, had argued for the strike, while the Pentagon was said to have been against it. The NYT report includes this paragraph: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.”

It’s curious. If Trump was serious about attacking Iran, what purpose was served by the WH giving this story to the NYT? Not everyone bought the claim that a planned attack was called back. Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar on international conflicts, tweeted:

Jeffrey Lewis @ArmsControlWonk – 3:43 UTC – 21 Jun 2019

I don’t buy this. Trump’s team is trying to have it both ways — acting restrained but talking tough. This is pretty much what Nixon did in 1969, too. Why not just admit that sometimes restraint is smart?

He goes on to link to the 1969 NYT piece referenced above:

The @nytimes ran the same story Nixon in 1969. Nixon was not going to retaliate but he wanted people to think he almost did — and the Gray Lady obliged. —> Aides Say Nixon Weighed Swift Korea Reprisal

On May 6th 1969, the Times carried a story that Nixon decided not to escalate when the NoKo’s shot down a US Navy plane. So, this current storyline of “a strike was ordered, but Trump held back and saved the day” might also have been coordinated by the WH and the NYT.

If the threat of another Middle East war wasn’t bad enough, a new IMF study shows that US $5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The latest available country breakdown is for 2015. In that year, the US was the third-largest subsidizer of the fossil fuel industry, providing $649 billion in subsidies. China and Russia ranked first and second, respectively.

You should be outraged that the $649 billion we spent in 2015 is more than 10 times the 2015 federal spending for education. America has to change its priorities. The true costs to America of using fossil fuels has to include these subsidies.

These two stories about fossil fuels show our government’s fealty to the oil industry.

The average person didn’t notice that on the day the American drone was shot down in the Straits of Hormuz, the price of oil jumped 10%. Trump surely was told this, and the risk of higher oil prices caused by his risky foreign policy may have reduced his desire to strike at Iran.

For whatever reason, we’ve finally seen a prudent move by Trump. It’s a face saving gesture: he appears both tough and reasonable simultaneously. Also, it is encouraging that he used the concept of proportionality, saying that the planned strike would have been too harsh a retaliation for losing one drone.

We can expect his neo-con advisors and the FOX fringe to try to undercut his decision. Maybe then he’ll understand it’s time to clean house.

So, on this Saturday, it may be difficult to get soothed, but let’s try our best. Wrongo and Ms. Right are on Cape Cod with daughter Kelly, where rain is dominating the weather. In honor of being here, today we’ll brew up a large cup of Wellfleet’s Beanstock Coffee Roasters’s old reliable Wellfleet Blend ($11.99/12oz.).

Now, settle back and listen to “The Hebrides”, Op. 26 “Fingal’s Cave” by Felix Mendelssohn. It is played by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra, conducted by Scott Sandmeier.

Mendelssohn actually visited the west coast of Scotland in 1829. It was part of Mendelssohn’s three-year Grand Tour, a common excursion taken by young men of wealthy families as a part of gaining cultural literacy. Here is “The Hebrides”:

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

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Saturday Soother – June 15, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Emerald Lake, Yoho NP British Columbia – photo by newenglandmtbr

The basketball season ended on Thursday night, but the DNC gave us a new made-for-TV sport, the two-day Democratic presidential primary debates. If you are thinking Wrongo shouldn’t be using sports analogies for something of consequence, consider that the NYT called them “match ups” in their announcement. A sporting contest is how the media sees the Democratic primary race.

The fact that the future of the country rides on how these “match-ups” play out in November 2020 doesn’t seem to faze the media. Here is the line-up for June 26th:

Booker Inslee
Castro Klobuchar
De Blasio O’Rourke
Delaney Ryan
Gabbard Warren

It appears that Warren is the star of Wednesday night. She’ll try to knock off Booker, and audition O’Rourke for VP. FWIW, O’Rourke has the ability to knock off Warren, but he’s nowhere near as experienced. The rest will audition for VP.

This isn’t a debate. It’s a two-hour effort by each candidate to break through into the consciousness of viewers and the media. That 120 minute time slot will be reduced by at least 20 minutes of commercials. Ten candidates will then split 100 minutes, or about 10 minutes each, unless someone is a hog. A few of these candidates have a very hard time putting complex ideas into short sentences, so the role  of the moderators will be crucial.

Here’s the Thursday, June 27th line-up:

Biden Hickenlooper
Bennet Sanders
Buttigieg Swalwell
Gillibrand Williamson
Harris Yang

On Night Two, it seems certain that Sanders and Harris will try to poke Biden, another person who has difficulty with short sentences. Buttigieg will be trying to break through. Gillibrand looks to be auditioning for VP. Who is Swalwell?

We’ll get through this June circus, and then see another at the end of July. But for the third round in September, the qualifying thresholds jump significantly:

“The DNC’s outline for its September debate — the third of at least a dozen promised matchups during the 2020 nominating fight — decrees that candidates can participate only by reaching 2% in four approved polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28 while also collecting contributions from a minimum of 130,000 unique donors before Aug. 28. That donor list must include a minimum of 400 individuals in at least 20 states.”

That could cull half or more of the herd. Given today’s polling averages at Real Clear Politics, that could leave: Biden, Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete, Kamala Harris, and possibly, Beto in the top tier.

It is also possible that one or two other candidates could break through in the initial debates and get their numbers up significantly by September. But, we can count on it being a much smaller stage after Labor Day.

But you’ve had enough for this week!

Iran may have blown up a tanker or two, or it may be a false flag operation. Sarah Sanders leaving the White House confirms that it’s difficult to spend more than two years working for Trump. Trump said he’d cheat again, if a foreign country gave him another chance.

With all of this, it’s time for a Saturday Soother.

Start by brewing up a cup of Rocketeer Blend ($14.00/12 oz.) coffee from Massachusetts’s Atomic Roastery. They say you will taste chocolate, nutty tones and sweet spices.

Now settle back at listen to “Adagietto” (movement 4) from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, conducted by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. The Adagietto is the most frequently performed of Mahler’s works. This leads to two stories.

Mahler was in love with Alma Schindler, the woman who became his wife. She was considered the most beautiful woman in Vienna. He didn’t declare his love, but instead, composed this piece and sent it to her without a note. She played the music, and said to Mahler, “Now you should come here.”

Story two: Their marriage struggled, and she had an affair with Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School of architecture. After Mahler died, Alma married Gropius. During her marriage to Gropius, Alma had an affair with Franz Werfel, an Austrian novelist and playwright. Alma and Werfel were eventually married after Alma separated from Gropius. They fled to the US when the Nazis took over Austria, and settled in Los Angeles. Alma died in 1964.

The Adagietto was chosen for the 1971 film “Death In Venice”. A member of the film crew was impressed with the music, and asked who wrote it. He was told “Gustav Mahler”. The guy replied “Can we hire him”? Mahler died in 1911.

Here is the beautiful Adagietto:

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

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Saturday Soother – Trump Mexican Tariff Edition, June 1, 2019

There’s No Escape Today:

More tariffs! This from CNN:

“President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to impose new tariffs on Mexico if the country does not step up its immigration enforcement actions, combining his boiling border-related frustrations with his preferred method of punishing foreign countries.

Trump said in a White House statement that the first round of tariffs would begin on June 10 at 5% ‘on all goods imported from Mexico.’ The statement said Trump would carry out his threat under authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and that he would lift tariffs only ‘if the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico.’

The statement warned further that if Mexico does not act as Trump demands, tariffs would go up to 10% by July, 15% by August, 20% by September and reach a permanent level of 25% by October.”

Mexico probably does need to do more to stop migrants crossing their country.

OTOH, they like America, have rules that safeguard migrants. It’s doubtful that the Trump administration has studied those rules or cares about them, any more than they care about ours.

According to Forbes, The US imported $346.5 billion in goods from Mexico last year and for the first three months of 2019, they increased 5.4%. At that rate there would be $365 billion imported in 2019. At a 5% tariff, companies would have to either raise prices or take an $18 billion hit to profits. And it is companies and eventually consumers that will pay these new Trump tariffs, not the exporting country as Trump consistently misrepresents.

This is why the DOW fell 355 points on Friday.

Trump used the International Emergency Economic Powers Act as his legal basis to place tariffs on Mexico. It’s a Cold War-era law that actually vests the presidency with absurdly broadly defined, near-dictatorial powers in many areas. But, prior presidents, even Reagan and Bush 43, never conceived in their wildest dreams of using them except in an ACTUAL emergency. And they didn’t.

Trump doesn’t care, he sees a hammer, and decides that it isn’t for driving nails; it’s for breaking Mexican kneecaps. Matt Yglesias explains that there’s an easy climb down for Trump in this. Migration from/through Mexico is very seasonal, peaking in the spring, and declining sharply in the summer.

Trump will probably pretend to get some concessions from Mexico and declare victory in a couple of months. His moron supporters will surely applaud that.

At some point, Democrats will have to frame these and Trump’s other tariffs for what they are: a national sales tax on imports. Dems need to start explaining to the public that these tariffs are a national sales tax on everything from Mexico, including cars and components for US car manufacturers. Maybe saying this:

“Trump is making Americans pay a sales tax on imports until illegal immigration stops. How will Americans paying higher taxes force Mexico to stop illegal immigration?”

That’s how it should be framed.

Enough! We’ve been Mueller ’ed and Trump ’ed all week, and it’s time for your Saturday Soother!

On the first day of June, Wrongo hopes that you are in short sleeves, and thinking of getting outdoors, and that doesn’t mean shopping at the mall.

Let’s start by brewing up a vente cup of Hawaii Kau Champagne Natural from Paradise Roasters ($19.95/12 oz.). This coffee tied for the highest rating in Coffee Review’s May 2019 tasting report of Hawai’i-grown coffees. They say that its tropical and floral aromas lead into a sweet and complex dessert-like cup.

Paradise has experimented with yeast fermented coffees that produce a more intense and complex flavor than traditional methods. It evokes Champagne, fruity but dry, and not effervescent. They only roast this coffee on one day: June 3rd, 2019. So you have been alerted to act fast.

Now, move outside, assuming you live in a part of the world that isn’t suffering from rain or tornadoes. Put on your wireless headphones, and listen to a Philadelphia-based Irish band, BarleyJuice, play their tune, “Weekend Irish”:

Sample Lyric:
And the blood runs deep,
When the booze is cheap,
Long as you ain’t got an agenda to keep,
You can be a Weekend Irish, hey!
Aye, aye, we’re the Weekend Irish

And we’ll raise a hand,
To the motherland,
Best part of being an American,
To be a Weekend Irish

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

The Wrongologist does not condone identity politics, unless it involves weekend singing, dancing and drinking.

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Saturday Soother – April 27, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Hemingway’s desk, Finca Vigía, Cuba – 2014 photo by Wrongo. Hemingway lived here for 15 years, and wrote most of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea” here.

Spring has sprung in the Litchfield Hills. Bluebirds are again nesting in the bluebird houses on the fields of Wrong. We have flowers on our plum, pear and cherry trees. Hopefully, you are enjoying early spring as well.

There are 555 days left until the next presidential election. We don’t want to live through 2016 a second time, so Wrongo hopes that all of you will remember how energized you were during the 2018 mid-terms, and gear up again for 2020.

In retrospect, the Democratic Party handed Trump the gift of Russiagate. For two years, the Dems fought him primarily on the grounds of Russian influence on the 2016 election. However, the public was more concerned with health care and a square deal on jobs and wages. That Trump/Russia wasn’t the key issue was proven by the Dems winning the House in the 2018 mid-terms when they primarily ran on health care. The Party has now lost that fight, since the Mueller Report found nothing actionable against Trump.

While investigations loom in the House, Trump is completely stonewalling. His decision to simply defy all attempts by Congress to investigate either Russian interference, or his possible obstruction, makes it clear that Congress is being deprived of its lawful investigative powers.

His defiance will tip the scales in favor of initiating impeachment proceedings against him. He will play the victim, and make the contest with House Democrats a major 2020 campaign issue. Will that energize anyone who is not in his base? Time will tell.

Turnout will again be the key factor in 2020 as it was in 2016 and 2018. A key question for turnout is where are rank and file Democrats on the issues compared to the positions of the 20 Democratic nominees? Larry Sabato says:

“National polling from the past several years finds that Democrats are less ideological than Republicans, are less likely to express a desire for their party to move further away from the political center, and are more likely to value experience in a presidential nominee.”

Pew recently found that only 40% of Democrats wanted the party to move more to the left, while 53% said they wanted the party to move in a more moderate direction. Gallup’s ongoing measure of ideological self-identification among Democrats shows that while liberal self-identification is growing, the party is still split about evenly between those who identify as liberal versus those who identify as moderate or conservative.

In contrast, Pew found that 58% of Republicans wanted the GOP to move more to the right, while just 38% wanted the party to move in a more moderate direction. Gallup found that about three-quarters of Republicans identify as conservative while just a quarter identify as moderate or liberal.

Wrongo isn’t ready to accept the findings of Pew and Gallup, but most of the Democratic candidates are Obama-like: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar. Some of the (pardon the label) “no names” with no chance to win also fall into the centrist category.

There are only two real progressives, Sanders and Warren. Another question for the Party to answer through the primary process is whether the Dems can win without strong progressive positions.

Will the general election Democratic turnout be high enough to win with a centrist candidate? Or, will the Democrats just repeat 2016, winning the popular vote, while losing the Electoral College?

But enough navel-gazing, it’s time to gaze at the daffodils and dandelions in your yard.

It’s time for some Saturday Soothing. Start by brewing up a hot vente cup of Sumatra, Lintong – Medium Roast Single Origin coffee ($17/12 oz.) from Georgia’s Peach Coffee Roasters. The brewer says it is citrusy and floral, tart in structure with a juicy mouthfeel.

Now take your cup to your most comfortable chair, and contemplate springtime while listening to “Spring Morning” by Frederick Delius. This melodic portrait of nature is a companion piece to his “Idlle de Prinetemps” composed a year earlier in 1887. It is performed here by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd Jones:

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

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