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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – October 15, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Early fall in Nuremberg, Germany – photo by voyageblonde

With so much anger about Brett Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice, it seems that Democrats care more about the Supreme Court than Republicans. As Sean McElwee has noted:

Democrats were more likely to approve of the court than Republicans by an average of a 14 point margin from 2010 to 2014. This gap increased…to a 32-point margin in 2016…even while the court decided cases like Trinity Lutheran, in which the court required the government to subsidize churches.

Democrats’ view of the Court was shaped by the Warren Court’s civil rights decisions (Brown vs. Board of Education), and Anthony Kennedy’s occasionally siding with Democrats on a few socially liberal issues.

The Dem’s higher approval of the court is striking, because it has been 49 years since the Supreme Court has had a liberal majority. From Marty Lederman:

On May 15, 1969, Justice Fortas resigned from the Supreme Court, thereby ending a seven-year period in which a 5-4 majority of the sitting Justices had been appointed by Democratic Presidents. I had just turned eight years old.  I’m now almost 58. And yet that day in May 1969 remains the last moment in time that a majority of the Court was appointed by Democrats.

In the 2016 presidential election, many Democrats said that the chance to appoint new Supreme Court justices was reason enough to vote for Hillary Clinton, but too few Democrats turned out in 2016, so control of the Court is safely in the hands of Donald Trump and the GOP for what could be another 50 years. More from Lederman:

In only seven of the past 108 years (1946-1953) has the Chief Justice of the United States been a Democrat who did not fight on behalf of the Confederacy.)

So, should we conclude that Democrats like the Court, but fail to see it as a priority at election time? There are a few other ideas to go along with that.

  • Democratic Presidents have served five terms since 1969, and have won a majority, or plurality of the popular vote in seven of the twelve elections in that period–including in six of the past seven elections.
  • Democrats have held a majority of the Senate in more than half of the 25 Congresses since Fortas’s resignation, including some with huge majorities. But the Court has remained in GOP control, and will for decades to come.
  • Consider that only Justice Thomas was appointed by a Republican President who entered office with a majority, or plurality of the popular vote.
  • In the 27-year span, which covers the entire tenure of all of the current Justices, a Republican President has won the popular vote in just one election, 2004.

It gets worse: The Senators who confirmed Gorsuch represented states in which only 47% of Americans lived. Back to Lederman:

Using estimated 2018 population figures—and not even counting the millions of Americans in the territories, including Puerto Rico—my rough calculation is that Kavanaugh was confirmed by the votes of Senators representing only 44% or so of the nation’s population…

So, our democracy, which specifies two Senators per state, makes approval of liberal justices an issue, since too few Senators represent liberal-leaning states.

But, liberals didn’t need to care about the Court’s direction for most of the second half of the 20th century. During that period, there were many victories in the Court that either enshrined liberal policy preferences directly, or made it possible for them to be legislated into existence.

There is a Japanese concept in military science called “Victory Disease” which occurs when complacency or arrogance, brought on by a victory, or a series of victories, makes an army underestimate the battle at hand. This is what infected Dems over the past 50+ years about the Supreme Court.

By the 1990s, liberals had largely stopped caring about the courts, except for the gay rights movement.

But, since the Rehnquist and the Roberts Court, it is now conservative policy preferences that are either being enshrined directly, (Shelby County, Hobby Lobby, and Citizens United) or are possible because of refusals to hear cases, such as Brakebill v. Jaeger, which disenfranchised Native Americans in North Dakota.

So it’s time for Democrats to Wake Up! And to have a laser focus on the Court.

When Hillary lost and Trump was inaugurated, many people were furious. Now isn’t the time to be furious, it’s time to be serious.

The mid-term election isn’t a game, and turnout is everything!

Otherwise, Dems won’t take back the House.

Then, they would be in danger of becoming a fringe party.

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Heitkamp’s Chances Hurt By Supreme Court

The Daily Escape:

Rocky Mountain NP, near Estes, CO – 2018 photo by Monty Brown

The already difficult path to Democratic control of the Senate took a big hit on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court declined to intervene in a challenge to a North Dakota law that requires voters to present identification that includes a current residential street address.

This specifically hurts incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, (D-ND), who is up for reelection in November, because the current law disproportionately targets Native Americans. Heitkamp has a distinct advantage with Native American voters. From Mother Jones:

A case challenging this requirement on behalf of the state’s sizable Native American populations alleged that the requirement would disenfranchise tribal residents, many of whom lack the proper identification and do not have residential addresses on their identification cards.

Many of North Dakota’s Native Americans live on reservations and utilize post office boxes, because the USPS doesn’t provide residential delivery in rural Indian communities.

So, North Dakota’s 2017 voter law ID was challenged by Native residents who alleged that the law disproportionately prevented Native Americans from voting. In April, a federal district court judge blocked large portions of the law as discriminatory, and the state appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Late last month, however, the Eighth Circuit Court allowed most of the law to take effect ahead of the general election:

‘Even assuming that some communities lack residential street addresses, that fact does not justify a statewide injunction of a statute’…requiring  ‘identification with a residential street address from the vast majority of residents who have residential street addresses,’ the appeals court said.

They didn’t say “some people,” they explicitly said that it was fine to disenfranchise “some communities.”

So, the case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, who on Tuesday, essentially upheld the original law by declining to intervene, 6-2. Kavanaugh didn’t participate. Because Native Americans are an important Democratic constituency in North Dakota, a state with fewer than 600,000 voters, the ruling makes it much less likely that Senator Heidi Heitkamp can be reelected.

The Eighth District and the Supremes, decided that preventing someone from renting a P.O. Box in North Dakota for the sole purpose of casting a single fraudulent vote, was worth taking away votes of several Native American “communities.”

Wrongo is no jurist, but this seems to solve an unlikely, and largely theoretical problem by creating a much larger, more certain, and ultimately, unjustifiable problem.

There are 18 judges on the Eighth Circuit court, and only one is a Democrat. Maybe it isn’t shocking then that the Court overruled a lower district court on a North Dakota law designed to disenfranchise Native Americans. There is not the slightest pretense to impartial justice here, or any concern for the fact that they’re perpetuating our history of mistreating Native Americans.

America managed to stop things like this in the 1960’s with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so none of what we are seeing should be new to us. Vote suppression has always been with us, but now it is back out from under the rocks where it was hiding, particularly since John Roberts wrote the decision in Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013.

That the Supreme Court ratified the North Dakota law is a step beyond anything that has happened this far in the Trump era. Access to voting is fundamental, and the actions by the ND legislature seem too blatant to stand, even in a post Voting Rights Act world.

All of the other (mostly Republican) vote suppression efforts (strict voter ID requirements, closing down early voting, excessive voter list purges) have at least a vaguely plausible pretense of concern over election fraud, but this is a step too far.

However, only Ginsburg and Kagan dissented.

Had Sotomayor and Breyer joined them, Heitkamp might have a reasonable chance of reelection.

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Russia and Kavanaugh

The Daily Escape:

Moscow supermarket – October 2018 photo by Wrongo

The two topics in the headline are not related.

Wrongo and Ms. Right are back in the US, jet-lagged, and at home in the Mansion of Wrong. Our Russia trip was an eye-opener. In St. Petersburg and Moscow at least, Russia seems to be a wealthy country by global standards. People seem to be well-informed about their history, and about the current geopolitical climate in the west. They are consummate consumers.

We saw quite a few churches, but the Russians we spoke with didn’t seem to put much emphasis on their faith. Increasing their income and getting ahead in a career sense seemed to be the primary thing that interested them. “Pragmatic” best describes the people we met. They are strivers, and hope that their government won’t screw up what the citizens finally have going for them.

Mostly, we were struck by how similar the Russians we met are to the average American. We had lunch with a couple in Uglich, a poor town of about 30k residents that is about 125 miles north of Moscow. The town hasn’t benefited from the 18-year economic expansion in the Russian Federation, and has unemployment in the 25% range. It also has a declining population, and crumbling infrastructure.

The couple we met had both lost their jobs in the 1985 Perestroika period under Gorbachev. Thirty-three years later, the husband has a part-time government job, the wife is unemployed. They grow most of their food in their ¼ acre garden. Their refrigerator is covered with pictures of the grandkids, who visit every few weeks.

Their message to us was that people everywhere have the same hopes and dreams, but the politicians always want to demonize the outsiders.

We returned to American just in time to start calling Brett Kavanaugh “Mr. Justice Kavanaugh”.

It’s not worth dwelling on his confirmation process, or repeating stale arguments. It is time to gather ourselves, to register non-voters, and turn out all the votes we can on November 6.

It also isn’t the time to overthink the closing arguments for November, despite polls that show Republicans being energized by the Kavanaugh confirmation. But, it is important to understand GOP messaging for the midterms. From the WaPo’s article, ‘An angry mob’: Republicans work to recast Democratic protests as out-of-control anarchy:

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

Think back to the Tea Party protestors who disrupted town hall meetings in 2009. From today’s GOP viewpoint, they were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. And all those people who chant “Lock her up!” at the encouragement of their dear leader? They really don’t mean anything by that, they’re also exercising their right to free speech.

But when a few liberals pound on the doors of the Supreme Court, that’s mob behavior, and it can’t be tolerated. In Trump World, crowds of marching alt-right men with tiki torches = some very fine people.

And crowds of protesting women in Washington = angry mob.

We should remember that the American Revolution wasn’t a polite discussion; it involved mobs making a point, too.

Democrats are on the edge of winning the House. Before Kavanaugh, they had a long-shot chance at taking the Senate. Right now, Dems need to be smart. Richard Nixon won because he scared Middle America with pictures of immoral hippies who were demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

Let’s assume that those of us who are already energized to vote can work to figure out how to reach those who are only half paying attention, or who plan to stay on the fence all the way until Election Day.

It is clear that accusations of the type made by Dr. Ford don’t resonate with GOP voters. Roy Moore’s near-pedophilia didn’t seem to change any Republican minds in Georgia. Whenever a Republican is under attack by the liberals, it’s always the time for the rest of them to circle the wagons.

There is no single, lock-step message that Dems should use to take both Houses in November. The best antidote for those “Energized by Kavanaugh” Republicans is for the rest of us to get, or stay, more energized.

There is zero to be complacent about. The Dems could remain in the minority in both Houses after the mid-terms if they fail to turn out their voters in November.

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Letter From Russia – Part IV

The Daily Escape:

Moscow’s International Business Center

We have all sorts of prejudices about foreign countries, most of which we learn from our media and history texts. An example is our views of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was president of Soviet Union from 1985 – 1991, and Vladimir Putin, the current president of the Russian Federation.

Americans like Gorbachev, and Russians detest him.

We like him because he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and negotiated a nuclear weapons reduction with Ronald Reagan. We remember his policy of Glasnost, or openness, which moved the Russian state toward becoming a freer society, in part by allowing criticism of Stalin, and other Russian leaders.

We also remember Perestroika, Gorbachev’s policy of political and economic reforms meant to kick start the Soviet Union into a market economy.

Russians detest Gorbachev because Perestroika was catastrophic, both economically and socially. Many lost jobs at state-owned companies. Gorbachev closed the heavy industrial firms that had been an engine of Russian economic growth and employed millions, in favor of light manufacturing of consumer goods. But the light industries failed, in part because jobless people couldn’t afford new consumer goods. He closed the collective farms that Stalin had instituted, but the state-owned food stores remained. Without a source, food shortages appeared immediately, and WWII-style rationing returned. There was little product in the state shops, but lots of product in private shops that few could afford.

The budget deficit grew. Foreign debt grew, and the death rate exceeded the birth rate, a grim statistic that only recently has returned to equilibrium. Nearly 700,000 children were abandoned by their parents who couldn’t afford to take care of them. The average lifespan of men dropped to 59 years.

The terrible economy nearly broke the back of Russian society. It didn’t help that oil prices fell from about $60/bbl. when Gorbachev took office, to about $30/bbl. when he was succeeded by Yeltsin in 1991. At the time, oil accounted for about 65% of exports.

Fast forward to today: Americans hate Vladimir Putin, while Russians love Putin.

Americans hate Putin because he annexed Crimea in 2014. The US and Europe responded with economic sanctions. And many believe that Russia hacked the US presidential election in 2016, gifting the presidency to Donald Trump.

So, Americans have reasons to dislike Putin.

People in Russia love Putin. He was just reelected with more than 70% of the vote. The primary reason is a steadily improving economy. Russian GDP has averaged 3.01% from 1996 until 2018, but it took until 2008 for GDP to return to its pre-Gorbachev levels.

Putin increased tax revenues by implementing a 13% flat tax, a value-added tax on purchases, and a 6% corporate tax on gross revenues. Real estate taxes on the average person’s apartment are negligible.

Today, Moscow looks like any major western European city. There are high rise apartment buildings everywhere, the population is 15 million, and there are 5 million cars. Again, a key success factor in Putin’s economic record was rising oil prices. When Putin took over, oil was $25/bbl. Today, the price for Russian oil is about $82/bbl. Here is the famous GUM department store decorated for fall:

2018 iPhone photo by Wrongo

Americans believe that Putin’s annexing of Crimea was illegal. But the Russians draw a distinction between what’s legal, and what’s justified. It may have been illegal to annex Crimea, but Russians think that when Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, he shouldn’t have. And nobody asked the people of Crimea.

So, when Russia annexed Crimea, Russians saw it as a justified return of lands that were rightly theirs. When the people of Crimea soon overwhelmingly voted to approve returning to Russia, it gave a veneer of legality to a perceived act of justice.

Americans also differentiate between what’s legal and what’s just, as the Brett Kavanaugh appointment shows. Those who support Dr. Ford feel deeply that justice must be done in order to right a wrong that had occurred years ago.

Those who support Kavanaugh say that there is no evidence that supports her claim of attempted rape, so he should be appointed. They’ve always been strict constructionists of the law.

The age-old conflict between people who narrowly read what is legal, and those who broadly interpret what justice requires, again divides us.

But actions have consequences, regardless of which side you are on. No one knows what the political outcome of this emotional moment in American life will be. Deep fissures have been opened, and they may take a long time to heal.

Are we at a tipping point? Everyone thinks one is coming, but no one knows which way we’ll tip.

The Senate is showing that they believe half of Americans are second-class citizens.

It’s likely that those second-class citizens think justice matters.

And it’s likely that they won’t forget.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 23, 2018

When Wrongo saw the headline in the NYT that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein suggested that he should secretly record President Trump to expose the chaos consuming the administration, he had difficulty believing it.

This is from the NYT’s article:

Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.

So, no first-hand witnesses. Rosenstein disputed the NYT account:

The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect….I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Turns out, Wrongo’s skepticism about the NYT was well placed. According to Marcy Wheeler, (who you all should read): (emphasis by Wrongo)

Not a single one of these people…was actually a witness to the episodes. Indeed, by description, none of them have even read the memos memorializing the events directly, but have instead simply been briefed secondhand.

So, where did the information come from? Wheeler quotes Andrew McCabe’s attorney, Michael Bromwich, about how the NYT might have gotten the memos. They were turned over to the Mueller investigation, but:

A set of those memos remained at the F.B.I. at the time of his departure in late January 2018…

The insinuation is clear: Somebody wants to set off the President. Someone at the FBI took McCabe’s memos and read them to people who could then leak them to the NYT. This is the NYT using third-hand sources to start another Saturday Night Massacre. Maybe it’s worth noting here that McCabe was fired for unauthorized disclosures to the news media.

Trump is desperate to release documents that will discredit the Mueller investigation. His effort to declassify a raft of documents has been sidelined this week by his administration. Now, out of the blue comes this helpful accusation against Rosenstein. As Wrongo predicted here, the Trump administration has wanted to make a move to fire Rosenstein, and now they have their excuse.

Trump needs to be careful. If he supports the use of McCabe’s contemporaneous notes to fire Rosenstein, then he can’t easily dismiss Comey’s notes on his meeting with Trump.

It looks like the NYT article was a leak from the White House. It’s time for The Times to think about firing the reporters and the editors who approved the article. On to cartoons!

THIS captures the week, month, and year:

Men, blaming women for men’s bad behavior since the Garden of Eden:

What the Judiciary Committee will do with witnesses:

More on the Judiciary Committee’s process of determining truth:

Mitch says that the GOP is pressing on:

The big double standard in DC:

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Let Dr. Ford Testify

The Daily Escape:

The Storseisundet Bridge, Norway. It is one of eight bridges on the Atlantic Highway — via themindcircle

Wrongo has tried to resist the developing story about Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who is accusing him of attempted rape during high school, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

And there are plenty of reasons not to write about it. It’s the subject of an all-out media blitz. Hundreds of new facts will be presented between the time this is posted, and it is read by all of you Wrong patrons. But, it’s an inescapable narrative, so here goes.

Since Dr. Ford is willing to testify, she should be asked to testify. Brett Kavanaugh has said that he would also like to testify in the matter. Marcy Wheeler offers an idea:

But she shouldn’t testify alone. Mark Judge should testify along with her. After all, according to her letter and the WaPo account, he was a witness to the event.

Mark Judge was one of Kavanaugh’s best friends in prep school. He apparently was in the room when the attempted rape took place. Ford describes Judge as watching Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, occasionally egging him on, and eventually jumping on top of her and Kavanaugh — a move that allowed her to escape.

Judge is now a conservative writer who has written for publications such as the Daily Caller and the American Spectator. From Vox:

He’s floated some controversial ideas in his writings — including asking in 2006 whether gay people are perverts….He’s also the author of several books, including one recounting his teenage years of alcoholism and addiction.

At the risk of assassinating Mark Judge’s character, he seems to, um, have a special interest in young women. He had a variety of posts to YouTube that have been taken down in the past day. You be the judge.

And why is it always that one guy who’s in the room when an alleged rape happens, and can testify for the defense that the alleged rape totally did not happen, turns out to be a just a bit creepy?

In any event, Mark Judge should also testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Most Republicans are defending Kavanaugh with the usual tropes and memes about how it was all so long ago, and why does it matter? As Orin Hatch told the NYT:

It would be hard for senators to not consider who the judge is today, because that is the issue….Is this judge a really good man? And he is, and by any measure he is, and everybody who knows him says he is.

By all means, let’s ignore prep school indiscretions: She was a girl, and besides, she wanted it, and it’s much more important that we comfort the comfortable.

On the other hand, a whole lot of us, even when inebriated and underage, never thought we had permission to pull a woman into a room, force her onto a bed, and clamp a hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.

It really can’t be all that hard to find Supreme Court justices who have never attempted rape. Whether Kavanaugh committed an act of attempted rape yesterday, or 40 years ago, isn’t germane. Attempted rape is just a rape that was stopped.

If that’s in his makeup, then it’s always going to be a facet of his character.

There are plenty of judges who are willing to overturn Roe. There are almost as many willing to shield Trump from Mueller. But, if Kavanaugh can be brought down by one “youthful indiscretion“, no Republican is safe. So the GOP will defend him to the death.

Nothing short of multiple additional accusations will stop him. Maybe not even that.

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Monday Wake-Up Call — Constitution Edition

The Daily Escape:

Spruce Knob, WV at sunrise – 2018 photo by zjustus88

Sept. 17 is Constitution Day, commemorating the signing of the US Constitution 231 years ago, the day that the Constitutional Convention adopted the Constitution as our supreme law.

We sometimes forget that the country was without a Constitution for 11 years after the Declaration of Independence, and for six years after the War of Independence ended. Somehow, we survived.

We also forget that there was plenty of conflict between the founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention. They had vigorous debates about the balance of power between the national and state governments. Two factions emerged: Federalists, who supported the Constitution and a strong central government, and anti-Federalists, who mainly supported strong state governments.

To placate the anti-Federalists and ensure ratification, the Federalists promised to pass a Bill of Rights to protect individual liberty and state sovereignty, which they finally did in 1791, four years after the Constitution was ratified.

Today there’s plenty of discussion about the Constitution, about what’s constitutional, and what’s not, about which of the Supreme Court justices are trampling on the Constitution and which are ripping it to shreds. It seems that there is nothing more important to the Republic than selecting the next Justice, in this case, Brett Kavanaugh.

Joseph Ellis in the WSJ Weekend edition, reminds us that:

Most members of America’s founding generation would have regarded this situation as strange. If you read the debates among the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and then read their prescriptions for judicial power in Article III of the Constitution, it becomes clear that the last thing the 39 signers of the document wanted was for the Supreme Court to become supreme.

Ellis says that the founders thought that Congress should be “supreme”, and a majority thought that each branch of government should decide the scope of its own authority. He says that the founders’ had no interest in having the Supreme Court be the ultimate control point for the US government, since it’s our least representative body, and the one farthest removed from the ultimate authority (the People).

More from Ellis:

For most of American history, the Supreme Court only infrequently stepped forward to redefine the political landscape in decisive fashion. The two most conspicuous occasions both involved the great American tragedy of race.

For Ellis, the first of the two most significant cases was Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), in which the Court tried to resolve the politically unsolvable problem of slavery. The majority argued that the framers of the Constitution clearly regarded slaves as property, and therefore the Missouri Compromise (1819) and the Compromise of 1850 were unconstitutional.

This meant that the federal government had no authority to limit the expansion of slavery in the western territories. Dred Scott deepened the sectional divide that led to the Civil War, and legal scholars and historians have long considered it one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history.

In 1954, the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education landed on the other side of the racial divide, striking down the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” that the justices had upheld as a justification for racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The Brown decision signaled a crucial shift in the role of the Court, the first step on its way to becoming the dominant branch of the federal government in deciding the direction of domestic policy.

That led to 30 years of liberal decisions for the Court. The liberal agenda expanded the rights of criminal suspects, broadened the definition of free speech and, in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), discovered a new right to privacy. Building on the right to privacy, the Court affirmed a woman’s right to abortion during the first trimester in Roe v. Wade (1973).

Ellis concludes:

…since Brown we have watched the Supreme Court bend the law in two different directions, landing on one side or the other of the political spectrum based on which political party could command a 5-4 majority. The only difference between the two sides is that liberals are transparent about their political agenda, while conservatives, using originalism to make problematic claims of detachment, are not.

Americans now know that the Supreme Court is biased, partisan, and often makes rulings based on ideology versus law. The word “unconstitutional” has become a catch-all term for whatever we don’t like about our government, or our society. This renders one of the most terrifying and powerful adjectives in American jurisprudence almost meaningless.

TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA! We should spend Constitution Day trying to become better citizens. Maybe we start by learning our civic history.

The benefit should be clear: Knowledge lets us understand and appreciate nuance.

After all, America might not have many more birthdays left at the rate that we keep polarizing our ideas about the Constitution.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 9, 2018

Will we ever have another week like this one? Let’s hope we won’t. Wrongo senses that, we’ve finally achieved peak “SQUIRREL!!” It’s hard to imagine our attention being diverted as many times in one week as happened last week: Kavanaugh, Kaepernick, the Anonymous Op-Ed, Bob Woodward’s book, and the tech giants trying to explain to Senators, who barely understand their business, how they’ll fix the misuse of their platforms.

We start with Kavanaugh’s uncanny ability to pass through the Senate undetected:

Kaepernick’s Nike ad and the Anonymous article brought out the best in Trump’s supporters:

Trumpie misreads the chart:

Nike protest hurts a few people:

Robert Mueller finds best way to make The Donald quiet as a mouse:

White House staff meeting goes to a bad place:

Despite all the White House turmoil, Mike Pence has been real quiet lately:

Adios Burt:

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Weasel Words

The Daily Escape:

The Spricherstadt at dusk, Hamburg, Germany. It’s the largest warehouse district in the world. Its buildings still stand on timber-pile foundations – 2018 photo by brotherside

In honor of the Kavanaugh hearings, here’s a list of words, terms, and phrases which should trigger at least a healthy dose of skepticism whenever you hear them said in public.

Much like the answers we are getting from the current Supreme Court nominee, the following words are most often part of a polished, rehearsed patter used by politicians and lobbyists. Wrongo publishes this list as a public service:

Think outside the box” — this term is often used when there isn’t a solution to the problem at hand, except by spending more money, which politicians have no interest in doing. It shows that the speaker has given no thought to the issue. It is often used at TED talks by people trying to fake originality.

Bootstrapping” — implies that all human economic problems can be solved by sufficient individual effort.

Modernize”— often used to extract further funding for a beloved government project, or to encourage privatization, when no more money can be found. For example, “Our air fleet is very old, it must be modernized, so let’s invest in the F-35.” Or, “We’d like to build new prisons, but where would the money come from?” Answered by “I’ve got it, let’s privatize!

Innovation” — the Holy Grail buzzword for neoliberals: “We must innovate, or die”. The use of the term often discounts existing effective methods that work just fine. For instance, the internet-enabled thermostat, and the light bulb apps used in the internet of things. What makes them so great? And they haven’t gotten to the best part yet, where the company stops providing software updates to the light bulb/thermostat so that you have to buy the new one.

Reform”— what politicians say we must do, whenever they disagree with a current policy or law.

New ideas”— usually used by politicians to discredit a concept they dislike. For example, Nancy Pelosi will say that she “is open to looking at new ideas, such as single payer.” Sadly, single payer isn’t a new idea. It’s been implemented successfully by many other countries for decades.

Civility” — means the other side is mean, and we’re not. George W. Bush giving a candy to Michelle Obama at the “Can McCain rise from the dead?” party in the National Cathedral was a trivial example of civility.

Streamline” — means to weaken federal regulations that used to protect and benefit most Americans on behalf of major corporations.

Overhaul” — is streamline’s nasty brother.  Overhaul means that the politicians will definitely try to cut your benefits.  “Streamline” is used when they want to sugarcoat their plan.

Enabling growth” — is used when politicians want to give more taxpayer money to the “job creators”.

Free Market” — means we must boost productivity at all costs. We’ve got to get more growth, so its time you agreed to work for less.

Bring stability to…” — Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. We say this whenever we want to intervene to destabilize an existing government. You may ask: stability of what? And for whom?

Food insecurity” — is the sanitized way politicians say people are desperately hungry. Or possibly, malnourished, and/or suffering from diseases related to poor nutrition, or possibly just slowly starving to death.

Skin in the game” — means the government isn’t giving you all the money needed for the project. Don’t confuse it with “Kin in the game”, Trump’s heartfelt desire about White House staffing.

Disrupt” — let’s forget about doing things the way we’ve always done them. Let’s use the internet to deal directly with the end users, disintermediating existing companies and their workers.

Leverage” used as a verb — often substituted for the much simpler, more concise word “use” by people who think they sound smart in staff meetings.

Proactive”, “Perimeter”, and “Paradigmare simply used to sound important.

Hypothetical” — an idea or question that I don’t want to address. See below.

Kavanaugh’s weasel word of the day on Wednesday was hypothetical. Regarding whether Trump can pardon himself:

The question of self-pardons is something I’ve never analyzed… It’s a hypothetical question that I can’t begin to answer in this context. http://bit.ly/2MLPT3b

On subpoenaing the President, Sen. Feinstein asked:

Can a sitting president be required to respond to a subpoena?

Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh:

That’s a hypothetical question…As a matter of the canons of judicial independence, I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.”

Kavanaugh calls it a “hypothetical”. Nothing hypothetical about that at all. By not saying yes, Kavanaugh means the answer is “no”.

The Dems can’t stop Kavanaugh’s joining the Supreme Court. But they need to mobilize midterm voters around his nomination, and all that it represents.

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Saturday Soother – August 25, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, UT – 2018 photo by FeloniousMuskellunge. It’s the longest sandstone arch in the world.

Manafort and Cohen: Guilty. Immunity for David Pecker, the owner of the National Enquirer, who paid Stormy Daniels. Immunity for the CFO of the Trump organization, who really knows were all the bones are buried in Trumpland. The walls seem to be closing in. In response, Trump said:

I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor.

Someone who Wrongo thinks is a very astute guy, said: “That’s the start of Trump negotiating with us.”

Maybe, but Trump is actually negotiating with the Senate about Jeff Sessions. The answer? They’re fine with replacing Sessions after the mid-terms. The pivotal signal came on Thursday, when two key Republican senators “told” Trump that he could replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterm elections. That would open the way either for firing Robert Mueller, or constraining his probe.

Here’s what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had to say:

The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice….Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IW), Chair of the Judiciary Committee, now says that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general, after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to take up another confirmation.

The Republican’s plan is clear. Once Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in, they’ll have what they’ve wanted: Huge corporate tax cuts for the rich, two SCOTUS picks who will have a lifetime to work their pro-corporate agenda, all while finishing off FDR’s reforms and the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, for good.

And it would be just fine for the Republicans if the Orange Overlord gets the blame.

It’s all upside for the GOP now. Maybe getting rid of Sessions and subsequently firing Mueller is the excuse they’ll need to push Trump out, and bring in Pence. Maybe they’re fine with him sticking around. Maybe the Dems will help out if they take control of the House in January. Once Kavanaugh is on the Court, maybe the GOP will give Trump free rein. Sessions may try to hang on, but Trump has asked Sessions to investigate Trump’s political opponents:

Which is exactly what Sessions says he won’t do. This is the Republican’s game between now and the mid-terms: Kavanaugh installed, Trump unleashed, and the people who enabled him simply walking away.

Enough! Time to unplug from the news for at least an hour or two. Start by brewing up a cup of Difference Coffee’s unique offering of Esmeralda Geisha, in their Nespresso-compatible capsules (£50/10 capsules!). Notice its flavors of lemon tart and baker’s chocolate that resolve into a delicately plump mouthfeel and long, resonant, peach and lemon-saturated finish.

Now, put on your wireless headphones and listen to the Largo aria from the Opera Xerxes by G.F. Handel. He wrote it in 1738, but it was a failure, closing after just five performances. One hundred years later, the aria was resurrected, and became very popular. Here, it is not sung, but played by three cellos and piano. The artists are on Cello: Peter Sebestyen, Zoe Stedje, and Adam Scheck. And on Piano: David Szabo. It is performed in 2013 at Irish World Academy, University of Limerick, Ireland:

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

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