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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 3, 2017

The Senate’s tax bill was written by lobbyists, and was hardly read by lawmakers. About 2 pm Friday afternoon, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tweeted a list of Manager’s Amendments she’d received from a lobbyist rather than from her Republican colleagues. From McCaskill:

None of us have seen this list, but lobbyists have it.

Republicans just took 200 years of Constitutional process and trashed it so they could tell their constituents corporate benefactors that they had passed something this year.

That doesn’t seem to be the right way to do things, but the GOP no longer trusts that its ideas will carry the day if they are put under scrutiny and debate. Presuming this dog’s breakfast gets through conference, six months from now, the Republican leadership will be standing at a podium, looking very concerned. They will say America needs immediate reforms to Social Security and Medicare (please don’t say “entitlements”) in order to reduce America’s out-of-control deficits. Rubio and a few other high-ranking Republicans have openly said that this is their plan.

Here is a handy chart from the CBO on how the tax cuts for individuals break down:

David Stockman notes that 97% of the $1.412 trillion revenue loss over the next decade, based on the Senate bill, is attributable to the $1.369 trillion cost of cutting the corporate rate from 35% to 20% (along with the repeal of the related AMT).

All the rest of the tax bill is a zero-sum stirring of the pot. Of note, $83 billion of the tax cuts go to the estates of 5,500 dead people per year, since the bill doubles the estate deduction to $20 million per couple.

But they did all of this to help the little guy, amirite? On to cartoons. More than the tax bill happened last week, so let’s review: Flynn and Manafort. House of cards?

Flynn has fans everywhere:

Trump Code-talks too:

Santa uncovers some nasty stuff:

Roy Moore says what he means, and means what he says:

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Saturday Soother – December 2, 2017

The Daily Escape:

St Petersburg Russia’s Church of the Saviour – photo by Amos Chapple

As Wrongo writes this on Friday, it appears that the Senate Republicans have the votes to pass their version of the tax bill. The House passed their version on November 16th. The House Republican’s tax bill includes a major shift in tax policy that will mean a hidden tax increase on every American taxpayer over the coming decades. From the Washington Times:

Republican tax-writers have decided to shift the tax code’s inflation index from the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, to something known as chained CPI, which is a slower-growing method of calculating cost-of-living increases.

How would this work? The new tax proposal replaces the current CPI, which is based on changes in prices for urban consumers, with the chained CPI. Various estimates show that this method would lower reported inflation by as much as 0.30% a year.

This will create two pocketbook issues for taxpayers. First, using a lower rate of inflation to calculate future tax rates will mean that tax brackets will adjust more slowly than with regular CPI. Therefore, taxpayers will move into higher tax brackets if their income increases faster than chained CPI, paying more in taxes. More from the Washington Times: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

It works out to taxpayers paying $128 billion more to Uncle Sam than they would otherwise over the next decade, and $500 billion more in the subsequent decade.

Second, chained CPI will change how the government calculates inflation for the purpose of adjusting Social Security payments. CPI is the basis for cost-of-living adjustments that affect many government benefits. If the measure of inflation is reduced, then the increases in Social Security payouts to the public would also be lowered.

This, despite the fact that CPI already tends to under-report price increases. If chained CPI is implemented, Barry Ritholtz says: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

It would allow Congress to come up with about half of the funds needed to cover the proposed GOP tax cuts by pushing more people into higher tax brackets and [by]…creating a hidden tax on everyone who will ever get Social Security in the future.

This is based on the long-held Republican idea that “if only we could lower inflation as reported in the consumer price index, we could afford more tax cuts.”

And adopting chained CPI will reduce future Social Security payments without America having any sort of honest debate about it. You can compare the two measures of inflation side by side at this Bureau of Labor Statistics page: Chained consumer price index for all urban consumers (C-CPI-U) and the consumer price index.

When Trump was elected, the floodgates were opened. Any old, bad Republican idea is now legitimate.

Assuming that the House and Senate bills are reconciled and a tax bill is passed and signed by Trump, it may well be the worst piece of legislation in a century. It would finally undo the legacy of both FDR and Lyndon Johnson, something that has been a wet dream of the Right for generations. Emboldened by its passage, the GOP will follow it by taking a scythe to much of what remains of the social safety net.  Worse still, since the GOP is doing away with the inheritance tax, Republicans will have ensconced themselves as a permanent, hereditary financial and governing elite.

That will surely make America Great Again.

We have to get up off the couch, and fight for what remains of the New Deal and Great Society programs. This fight will be town-by-town, political office by political office, until progressives can compete in every red state for control of its legislature and governorship.

It’s another Saturday, the end of a long week in which it became clear that the country is approaching a cliff. We need some inspiration. So we turn to Meghan Markle.

Wrongo hadn’t heard of Meghan Markle until her engagement to the guy who is 6th in the line of succession to the throne in England, splashed across the news. But, it turns out she is an intelligent, independent person with agency. Markle was named the UN’s Woman’s Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership in 2015. Here she is speaking about advocacy at the 2015 UN Women conference. It’s a winning and inspiring performance, and, while it’s a sample of one, it shows that Millennials are gonna do a fine job with the planet:

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

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Reagan’s Tax Cuts Are No Model for Today’s GOP

The Daily Escape:

Colima Volcano, Mexico, December 2015 – photo by Sergio Tapiro, National Geographic 2017 photographer of the year

Republicans are patting themselves on the back about their coming tax cuts, comparing it to the famous (infamous?) Regan tax cuts, known as the Tax Reform Act of 1986. From the Economist:

During the three decades since its passage, Democrats and Republicans alike have hailed the law not only for overhauling the country’s tax system…but also for doing so with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.

Unlike the bi-partisan review of our tax system that occurred from 1984 to 1986, Donald Trump has promised to sign a bill by Christmas, just two months after the first legislative text was introduced.

Congressional Republicans originally promised that any reform would not reduce overall revenues. But they have flip-flopped: The current plan is expected to raise deficits by between $1.3 and $1.5 trillion over its 10-year life. And according to figures from the Joint Committee on Taxation, most of the benefits will go to the rich. Reagan’s reform did the opposite. The left hand chart below shows the Reagan tax cut in blue and the Trump tax cut in red. The x axis is annual income, while the y axis is the percentage of taxpayers receiving a tax cut:

Source: The Economist

The gaps in share of taxpayers receiving a cut are stunning. Between 35-55% of those under $40k in income will receive a benefit under the Trump plan, while between 70-80% of the same group received a cut under the Reagan tax plan.

It gets worse when we look at the right hand chart above. The x axis shows the percentage change in after-tax income by earnings level. Reagan’s cut gave those making between $10k-$50k an increase in take home pay by between 0.25% and 1.5%. Trump’s plan will leave them at ± 0% change in take-home income, while those who make from $50k to $200k will do significantly better under the Trump plan than under Reagan.

And an article of faith for the GOP is that the tax cut will stimulate the economy. Let’s unpack this a bit. The bill provides interim tax relief of about $1.38 trillion during 2018-2025 before the tax sunset provisions kick-in. That equals 4.2% of current tax revenue collections during the 8- year period, and only about 0.8% of GDP.

It’s hard to see how an 0.8% stimulus to GDP is going to bring on a growth tsunami, or add tons of new jobs.

Back to the Reagan tax cut, it had no measurable effect on the trend rate of economic growth, and when it was fully implemented, it amounted to 6.2% of GDP, not 0.8%, .

Finally, when the Tax Policy Center costed out the Senate Finance Committee bill, it showed that by year 10, not one of the 150 million individual filers will still be getting a tax benefit. And most importantly, the single tax cut item left in the statute, the 20% corporate rate, which stays in place permanently, costs America $171 billion in lost revenue in 2027. From David Stockman:

Likewise, the latest distributional analysis [probably from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] shows that in 2025, before the sunset,-the bottom 30 million tax filers would get an average “tax cut” which amounts to the grand sum of $1.15 per week….the next 30 million filers would only get $7 per week; and the middle quintile—-the 30 million tax filers between $55,000 and $95,000 per year and the heart of the middle class—– would get just $17 per week of tax relief in 2025.

Hardly seems worthy of Paul Ryan’s gloating about how he’s helping the middle class. The people know that they have no control over what happens, they just want to see how much more they will have to spend (pay?) when the dust settles.

And that’s why Paul Ryan and Donald Trump gloat. They show the rubes a dollar, and then send $1000 to their corporate benefactors.

This will be the GOP’s paradise after they enact the Trump tax plan:

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 12, 2017

We live in the greatest country ever. Our elected leaders won’t even admit to global warming, much less try to fix it. They only offer tax cuts for corporations and rich guys. They don’t even want gays to have wedding cakes. And then, there’s Roy Moore.

President Trump wanted to call it the Cut Cut Cut Act. Congressional Republicans settled on the less catchy and less descriptive Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. What the legislation actually does is sharply reduce taxes for business while rearranging the personal income tax with a mix of cuts and increases. What’s needed is to throw out the tax code as we know it. The Paradise Papers show us where to find the changes we need.

From Hullabaloo:

Suzan DelBene (D-WA) demonstrated how corporations have successfully reconfigured government of, by, and for the people to prioritize the need and wants of business over those of the living and breathing. DelBene questioned Thomas Barthold, chief of staff for Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation on the proposed GOP tax overhaul:

Will a teacher in my district who buys pens, pencils paper, for his students be able to deduct these costs from his tax return under this plan?
Simple answer: No.

Will a corporation that buys pens, pencils, and papers for its workers be able to deduct those costs from its tax returns under this plan?
Simple answer: Yes.

Will a firefighter from my district be able to deduct the state and local sales taxes that she pays from her tax returns under this plan?
Simple answer: No.

And will a corporation be able to deduct sales taxes on business purchases under this plan?
Simple answer: Yes.

Will a homeowner in my district be able to deduct more than $10,000 in property taxes under this plan?
Simple answer: No.

Will a corporation be able to deduct more than $10,000 in property taxes under the plan?
Simple answer: Yes.

And if a worker in my district had to move because his employer is forcing him to relocate his family or potentially lose his job, can he deduct his moving expenses under this plan?
Simple answer: No.

But if a company, a corporation, decides to close its facilities in my district, fire its workers, and move its operation to China, say, can it deduct associated moving expenses under this plan? Or stated another way: Can a corporation under this plan deduct outsourcing expenses incurred relocating a U.S. business outside of the United States?
Simple answer: Yes.

Rep. DelBene told you all you need to know. Now, go tell your Congress critter to block what’s coming. On to this week’s target-rich cartoon environment:

Trump’s Chy-na visit showed who could out-negotiate whom:

Roy Moore defenders display GOP hypocrisy

Words to live by:

The Dem’s election results in VA and NJ show Trump’s pickup lines don’t work for the Elephant:

GOP reconsiders their 2018 option:

The Pervpocalypse is cratering plenty of careers:

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A Year Later…

The Daily Escape:

Chalk Pyramids, Oakley Kansas – photo by Marlon Flores

(Wrongo is writing this on Election Day, and will not know any national or local results before you read the column on Wednesday. Two years ago, Wrongo’s hometown turned out 20+ years of Republican control in a deeply Republican county. The subsequent efforts by local Republicans to block change mirrors exactly what we have seen on a national level. Despite that, much was accomplished. We’ll know on Wednesday if vision or blockage controls the town’s next two years.)

We are one year into the Trump administration. Many of us are still dealing with the reality that the country elected someone who is incapable of empathy, who has very little understanding of how the world works. Someone who treats women, minorities, and people who disagree with him so appallingly.

The worst thing is how bad behavior (by Trump and many in his administration) has become normalized in the eyes of the press and the people. It started immediately with the administration lying about the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd. Martin Longman took a look back and sums it up perfectly:

Looking back a year later, it’s a struggle not to succumb to a well-earned cynicism. We don’t like to repeat our mistakes, which makes it tempting to over-correct for them.

There were…times when President Obama stood up and told the American people that we’re better than this, that we can do better and be better. It’s not a good feeling to know that the response [by voters in 2016] was, “No, we’re not, and no we can’t.”

…But one giant mistake doesn’t condemn us in perpetuity. I actually find comfort and a cause for optimism that so many people were unable to imagine a Trump victory. It means that I wasn’t alone in having some standards or in believing that we can be better than this. It’s just going to be harder and take longer than I was willing to imagine.

Wrongo thinks Martin is too optimistic, and we shouldn’t expect any real change in his lifetime. Why? One reason is that the Democrats can’t stop playing inside baseball long enough to have a winning vision for the country. The Donna Brazile kerfuffle tells all we need to know: There is no leadership in the Democratic Party.

So, no leadership and no vision. The Dems are like your kids fighting in the back seat of the SUV. While the GOP is a well-oiled machine, staying on message, even when they don’t agree with whatever it is that the Donald just did.

The Democratic Party leadership has to go, we can’t stand by them, not even for another election cycle. Mike Allen at Axios suggests we look to mayors for the next Democratic leaders:

Here’s something unusual and refreshing: There are two highly ambitious Democrats who don’t even bother hiding their strong desire to run [for president] in 2020 — and to reshape the party: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, president of the US Conference of Mayors.

Allen thinks that Democrats could be led back from the wilderness by a mayor:

  • Garcetti: “We’re too busy talking to ourselves, and about ourselves…People don’t care about our inner workings, or even our inner leadership battles…We’ve got to get back to speaking plain English. We are so inside baseball right now…Are you a Bernie person? Are you a Hillary person?”
  • Landrieu, speaking about the bipartisanship of the Conference of Mayors: “The one thing we never do in any of our meetings is think about what the Democratic caucus or the Republican caucus in Washington, DC, is doing. It never enters our mind…People in America are feeling unbalanced right now.”

Allen asked top Dem donors and operatives about possible candidates like Garcetti and Landrieu, and heard that they think DC experience is a vulnerability not an asset for a presidential candidate.

Wrongo agrees. America’s mayors actually do things, and getting things done energizes them. Wrongo has seen this from up close in his hometown. Mayors don’t talk like DC pols, they seem to love their jobs.

And it’s a level of government where Democrats have a deep bench.

The GOP’s goal is to destroy the New Deal, the environmental legislation passed during the Nixon administration and all of Johnson’s domestic achievements.

We won’t defeat their goals without a new message and a new messenger.

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Can We Have an Honest Discussion About The GOP Tax Plan?

The Daily Escape:

When the dog lies about his previous sheep-herding experience

A new set of tax policies have been proposed by the White House and the GOP. They involve both tax cuts, and some tax reforms. Here are the bullet points of the GOP’s sales pitch:

  • The tax cut won’t help the rich, and won’t help Donald Trump personally
  • The tax cut will generate enough growth to pay for itself
  • Most of the benefits of the tax cut will go to the middle class

Here are the NYT’s calculations on Trump not gaining anything:

Trump could save more than $1 billion under his new tax plan

And here is the Tax Policy Center’s take on the benefits to the wealthy:

  • The top 1 percent of households (those with incomes above $730,000) would get about 53% of the framework’s net tax cuts, or roughly $130,000 a year on average.
  • The top 0.1 percent of households (those with incomes above $3.4 million) would get roughly 30% of the framework’s net tax cuts, or about $720,000 a year, on average.

Turning to the statement that “tax cuts will pay for themselves”, Trump claimed in a talk with House Ways and Means Committee a few days ago, that his tax plan will produce more than 6% growth.

An economist once said that you don’t need to look at the details of a Republican tax plan. The higher the Republican growth forecast, the worse the actual deficit in their plan. That’s because they need greater revenue growth to cover the deficit hole they are creating. Given Trump’s 6% growth forecast, you just know the tax plan is going to be a budget buster.

We have learned from past GOP tax cuts that they won’t reduce deficits or balance budgets. Want proof?

  • The George W. Bush tax cuts made the deficit larger, while doing little or nothing to stimulate the economy
  • The income-tax cuts in Kansas caused the state’s deficit to accelerate significantly, while economic growth lagged the contiguous states
  • Even Ronald Reagan’s tax analysts, David Stockman and Bruce Bartlett, have acknowledged that unfunded tax cuts don’t create growth, they make for bigger deficits.

Regarding the point that most of the cuts will go to the middle class, it won’t happen. Since 83% of the plan’s cuts are going to the top brackets, there’s not much left for the middle class.

What they don’t talk about is their plan to get rid of personal exemptions, which is a key deduction for middle class families, especially those who itemize deductions. To determine whether middle-class families get a cut or an increase under the new plan, you need to calculate if the higher standard deduction, plus the proposed expansion in the child tax credit, (no details about that yet), is greater than the loss of personal exemptions.

Josh Barro at Business Insider crunched the numbers, and his conclusion is: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

While there are still a lot of details to be filled in, the information we have available suggests the new Republican tax proposal would raise income taxes on many families who make just a bit more than the national average.

They are promising to eliminate the “alternative minimum tax”, (AMT) a tax provision designed to ensure that wealthy taxpayers (who can have accountants find deductions) would pay some modicum of taxes rather than get off scott-free. In fact, the GOP has it backwards: People who owe the AMT should be paying more tax than they would pay with the AMT. It serves its intended purpose. Elimination of the AMT is another tax break for the wealthy:  For example, Trump has had to pay the AMT, as have most real estate developers.

Now, ask yourself why should personal tax rates be less progressive in 2017 than they were in 1963? Shouldn’t progress towards a more equal society mean our rates would be MORE progressive, not less? It’s not as if we have less inequality, we have more.

The reason we should want to tax the rich (till it hurts) is to reduce their power and overwhelming choke hold on policy.

When will the GOP engage in an honest discussion about their tax plan?

Not soon. Maybe not ever.

Here’s First Aid Kit doing a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”, from 2014:

We all need to look for America, its getting very hard to find.

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

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Republicans Trust the News Media Far Less Than Democrats

The Daily Escape:

Rovinji, Croatia – photo by brotherside. Rovinji is a tourist resort and fishing port, situated on the Adriatic Sea. It is bilingual, with both Italian and Croatian spoken here.

Gallup reports that:

Just over a third of Americans (37%) in 2017 say news organizations generally get the facts straight, unchanged from the last time Gallup asked this question in 2003. But…major partisan shifts in beliefs on this topic have emerged over the past 14 years. Republicans’ trust in the media’s accuracy has fallen considerably, while Democrats’ opinions on the matter have swung in the opposite direction.

49% of college graduates say the news media generally get the facts right, compared with 36% of Americans who attended college, but didn’t graduate. 28% of those with no more than a high school education agree that the media get it right.

But education makes little difference in Republicans’ beliefs about the news media’s credibility. Among Republicans with at least a college degree, only 18% say the media gets the facts straight, similar to the 12% of Republicans without a college degree who say the same.

Republican’s trust in the American news media has fallen steadily from 2003 to today. The numbers are striking: Republicans’ trust plunged from 35% in 2003 to 14%, while Democrats’ trust in America’s news media increased from 42% in 2003, to 62% today.

Gallup first polled on media trust in 1998. Back then, more than half of both Republicans (52%) and Democrats (53%) believed news organizations generally got the facts straight. Here is a Gallup graph:

Both groups’ belief in the accuracy of the media fell dramatically in 2000, possibly due to bad election-night projections of the 2000 presidential election. Some networks first declared Al Gore, and later, George W. Bush the winner, before ending the night with no official winner. When surveyed a month later In December 2000, just 23% of Republicans said news organizations generally get the facts straight, a 29-percentage-point decline in the two years after the 1998 survey.

The next big Republican shift downward began in 2003. What happened in 2003? The reporting about WMD (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq on GW Bush’s watch. The media either lied, or suppressed the findings by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) that there were no WMD in Iraq. That lie helped move us into an unjustified war that had catastrophic results for both the Middle East and for America.

The paradox is that the Republicans’ distrust grew after that, while Democrats’ views improved. Perhaps the Republicans were angry that the press eventually reported the truth. Perhaps Democrats forgave the press after they finally reported the truth, turning their anger to George W. Bush for lying us into war.

And our Monday discussion of Sen. Lindsay Graham’s false meme that “Obama failed to unite us” can be linked to this as well. The Republicans lack of trust in the news media has led to their willingness to dismiss facts as “fake news”, enabling things like Graham’s lie.

That willingness empowers distortion of the truth as a “go-to” strategy in the GOP’s politics of persuasion.

Given the Gallup findings, Trump’s frequent attacks on the media may have been as much his taking advantage of GOP attitudes, as his creating a poor Republican view of the press by his use of the “fake news” meme.

On the Democratic side, their increased confidence in newspapers may be a counter-reaction to Trump’s criticisms. Gallup found in June that the percentage of Democrats who have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers nearly doubled from 2016, rising from 28% to 46%.

The overall finding that a solid majority of the country believes major news organizations routinely produce false information may have disastrous consequences for our democracy. It is at least related to Americans’ diminished trust in US institutions, and our rising cynicism about the American political system, and our elected officials.

Democracy is impossible unless both our politicians and the press are honest.

Today’s music highlights another GOP lie, Jefferson Beauregard Session’s whopper that immigrants take jobs away from Americans. during his speech terminating DACA.

Here is “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” originally from the musical, “Hamilton”. This isn’t the version you hear in the musical. This version is from the “Hamilton Mixtec”, performed by K’naan, featuring Residente, Riz MC & Snow Tha Product:

Takeaway Lyric:

It’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants,

“Immigrant” has somehow become a bad word.

 

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

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Saturday Soother – August 19, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Orchha, on the banks of the Betwa River, India – photo by Arian Zwegers cc 2.0

Quite the week: After threatening nuclear war with North Korea, musing about invading Venezuela, and equivocating over Charlottesville, Trump folded two advisory councils and then decided against forming a council on Infrastructure. He also Twitter-attacked more Republican senators than Democrats this week, a bad strategy for someone who can’t be sure what Special Counsel Mueller may come up with.

But, according to a Survey Monkey poll as reported by Axios, Trump’s statements about Charlottesville have overwhelming support of Republican voters. Survey Monkey asked whether people agreed with a verbatim quote from President Trump on Tuesday:

You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent

Republicans agreed with the Trump comment, 87%-11%. Democrats disagreed, 83%-15%. Independents disagreed, 59%-39%.

When we no longer agree on basic facts, civil debate is impossible.

This is a dangerous moment. America is split. We need to stop fighting about the little things. Wrongo usually is against “slippery slope” arguments, but will make an exception in the case of our Civil War history: What is the objective of removing Civil War statues and monuments? Will their removal change the historical record of slavery?

Of course not. How would supporters of removal say we should polarize the continuum of history? What would be next? Removal of history books that mention the Confederacy or former slave owners?

One of Wrongo’s favorite histories of the Civil War is “A Diary from Dixie” by Mary Boykin Chestnut. It is a day-to-day diary of her experience as a southern partisan during the Civil War. Most Civil War historians have read and consulted it in the preparation of their own work. Should we burn the book because it was written by a slave-holding partisan?

Of course not.

Many want to draw a red line regarding slavery and the Civil War, and that is totally understandable. But where to draw it? Can it be drawn in a way that keeps our children in touch with our past, even the sordid bits?

We need to own our history.

We should ignore the false moral equivalencies mentioned by Trump, such as Lee and Washington. Both owned slaves, so statues of Washington must go too. It is true that both owned slaves, but Washington fought to build this country, while Lee fought to destroy it in support of slavery.

Some have pointed to the fact that Jews would never let Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald be taken down. This is another false equivalency. Auschwitz is maintained not to celebrate Nazism, but to show its horrors.

Maybe that IS the lesson: Add interpretation to the Confederate monuments: Make them say that we do not want anyone to forget what happened, and that we want to make sure it can never happen again.

It’s Saturday, so we MUST get some distance between where we are as a country now, and where we need to be.

Wrongo’s prescription? Brew a cup of Brooklyn’s  Toby’s Estate El Ramo Columbian coffee. El Ramo means the bouquet in Spanish ($14 for 12oz.), close the door, and put on your over-the-ear headphones. Now, listen to G.P. Telemann’s “Concerto in G major for Viola, Strings and Basso continuo, TWV 51:G9”.

Wrongo and Ms. Right heard it last week at the final summer concert of the New Baroque Soloists at the Washington Meeting House in Washington, Connecticut. Here it is performed live by the Remember Barockorchester, in the Unser Lieben Frauen Church, Bremen, on November 21st, 2015:

The Viola Soloist is Tomoe Badiarova

Those who read the Wrongologist in email supplied by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – August 7, 2017

Here are yesterday’s cartoons today. The week begins with Congress at home trying to explain all the winning to their voters, while Der Donald is again on the golf course. For the next 17 days, the job of the Whitewash House is limited to describing his golfing success:

Is it more likely to see four new faces on Mt. Rushmore, or a fifth?

Meme by Political and Editorial Cartoons

Kelly tries to pin Trump down on who knew what, when:

Donny’s talk to the Cops adds an awkward moment to Trump family meetings:

Trump’s phone calls always amount to less than he tells us:

Most kids would want a dog. Just not this one:

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Tribalism Trumps Reality

The Daily Escape:

Florence Italy – photo by Daniel Kordan

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist. ― Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism

Public Policy Polling (PPP) has a new poll that among other issues, shows how Trump voters feel about the Donald Trump Jr.’s participation in the Trump/Russia election thingy: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Only 45% of Trump voters believe Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russians about information that might be harmful to Hillary Clinton…even though Trump Jr. admitted it. 32% say the meeting didn’t happen and 24% say they’re not sure.

And, just as many Republicans believed Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a DC pizza parlor.

If you look at the percentage of Americans who believe in things like creationism, ghosts and angels, you’ll wonder why these Republicans are allowed to cut their own meat.

A decent number of the people who said they didn’t believe Jr. met with the Russians must know the truth. Since Jr. admitted to the meeting, and even Fox News covered it, how could a third of Republicans surveyed think the meeting didn’t happen? Maybe they think a Russian lawyer and a few other Russians attending a meeting in Trump Tower doesn’t equal “The Russians“.

And broadening the context, the PPP survey question answers are similar to when pollsters asked Republicans whether Obama was born in the US. Pollsters continued to ask that well after his birth certificate was released. After the release, birther belief among Republicans dropped from the mid-40%s to the mid-30%s, but, a year later is returned to the mid-40%s.

One of the central challenges of understanding the Republican mind is that when they answer questions like the Don Jr. in a non-factual way, they exist in at least two camps. First, the true believers, who won’t believe their lying eyes, and will just trust their guy through thick or thin.

The second group sees politics and political discourse as a game played mostly to annoy Democrats. This second category isn’t even necessarily any more informed or self-aware than the first, but they pay more attention to learning what will make Democrats angry. Then they go there.

We can’t discount the extent that conservative media obfuscates things that are generally admitted elsewhere. There probably is a certain segment of Republicans who really don’t believe Jr. met with Russians, because they’ve heard the disinformation frequently enough to allow them to reach that conclusion.

And some people simply believe ridiculous things.

The PPP poll question indicates to us the lower limit of partisan reasoning. No one contests that this meeting took place, but 32% of respondents say it didn’t happen. Poll questions are normally more opinion-based, and may not have a demonstrably “correct” answer. So it’s worth seeing the extent of motivated answering on this question.

The nice thing about false facts is they can be designed for maximum effect. They can be more self-reinforcing and convincing than actual facts. The world is a messy place, so if you present a picture that is artificially clarified and internally consistent, a big subset of humanity will buy it whole-heartedly.

Public Policy Polling’s disclosure about the survey:

PPP surveyed 836 registered voters from July 14th to 17th. The margin of error is +/- 3.4%. While 80% of participants, selected through a list based sample, responded via the phone, 20% of respondents who did not have landlines conducted the survey over the internet through an opt-in internet panel.

On to music. Here is Icelandic indie folk/indie pop rock band, Of Monsters and Men, performing “Little Talks” live at the KEX Hostel in Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves, recorded in October 2011:

Takeaway Lyric:

Some days I don’t know if I am wrong or right.
Your mind is playing tricks on you my dear

‘Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

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

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