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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 22, 2019

(Wrongo’s taking a bit of a Christmas break, so after Monday, posting will be light. We’ll be back on a normal schedule NLT Monday, January 6th. Wrongo truly appreciates you guys sticking around for all these years!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year — let’s hope it brings change we can believe in.)

A succinct summation of the week’s news:

Branding has consequences:

The never ending story:

Who to believe:

Rollerball broke out at the Dem Debate:

2019’s alternative “Away in the Manger” story:

What’s in a name?

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Saturday Soother – December 14, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lover’s Leap, New Milford CT after this week’s snow – December 2019 drone photo by Quadco Joe

The House Judiciary Committee voted to send two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the full House. The vote took just two minutes, and as Wrongo said yesterday, it will be portrayed as the party line vote it was, with 23 Democrats in favor, and 17 Republicans against.

It was a tribute to the political polarization in today’s America, with striking diversity on the Democrats’ side, as well as lack of diversity on the Republicans’ side. From Marcy Wheeler:

“The Democrats who voted in favor included 11 women, and 13 Latinx and people of color (Ted Lieu missed the vote recovering from a heart procedure). Three (plus Lieu) are immigrants. One is gay. These Democrats voted to uphold the Constitution a bunch of white men, several of them owners of African-American slaves, wrote hundreds of years ago.”

All the Republicans who voted against were white, and just two were women. They voted to permit a racist white male President to cheat in order to get reelected, in violation of the rule of law.

This is a clash between the America that is coming, and its past. It’s unclear who will win this battle, but the stakes are high, and will become even higher in 2020.

Wrongo believes that rushing to an impeachment finding was a strategic error by Democrats. This should have been moved along slowly. House Democrats needed to go through discovery on all the obstruction of justice, Constitutional emoluments and separation of powers violations, campaign finance violations, and bribery violations. They should have taken the time to use their Article I power to get the oversight disclosure and testimony they have been denied by the Trump White House.

But, no. The House Democrats didn’t do any of that. Instead, they focused on one phone call when there was little reason to rush, and plenty to be gained by keeping Trump on the defensive for the next year.

A deeper dive into the issues could have made an Impeachment Resolution with a more effective result. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the vote in a Senate trial. But it would have provided continuing education to the public, along with fuel for effective articles and ads about Trump’s lawlessness.

With the weekend upon us, it’s time to contemplate all that must get done between here and New Year’s. Wrongo’s list is too long, but somehow, he hopes everything is done by then. However, let’s start by kicking back and forgetting about the list, the Impeachment and budget deal. Let’s clear our minds, and have another Saturday Soother.

Start by brewing up a large cup of Mexico Chiapas Dark Roast ($13/12oz.) with its notes of dark chocolate, hints of molasses and brown sugar. It’s from Sacred Grounds Coffee in Sherman CT, who we’ve featured here once before.

Now, listen to Nocturne “Reverie Op. 19” by Giulio Regondi. Regondi was a Swiss-born classical guitarist, and composer active in France and (mainly) the UK. It is played by Drew Henderson:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 24, 2019

Trump survived the week. The Democrats got just about everything they hoped for out of 32 hours of impeachment hearings. Current and former Trump administration officials told different parts of a consistent story, and reinforced a consistent narrative of wrongdoing.

But Trump liked the week, since no cracks emerged in Republican defenses. On to cartoons. The real Impeachment jury:

Hearings gave another platform to GOP conspiracy theories:

Behold the noose of Sondland:

GOP talking points:

Trump and Bibi: Two pleas in a pod:

One if by Facebook! Two if by Twitter:

Prince Andrew will be spending more time with family and less with underage women:

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Saturday Soother – November 23, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lockhart Mountain, Lake George, NY – November 2019 photo by goldengoddess69

After seven public hearings with 12 witnesses over five days, the impeachment inquiry moves to a new stage: a public report and a handoff to the House Judiciary Committee. What’s not clear is whether witnesses close to Trump, like Bolton, will ever testify.

The House Intelligence will deliver a report to Judiciary that lays out their case for impeachment. The Republicans will submit a minority report of their own, once Dems publish theirs.

We’ll have new editions of the same two narratives that have been with us since the start of the Mueller investigation. This leads to the weekly question: How can Republicans not see the facts? Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s misdeeds with Ukraine as an inconvenience, an annoyance which will blow over. Here’s a quote from Harwood:

“Lawmaker #3 “No. I think the attitude is, so what? “Sondland did his best to protect the President. Over half the Dems were for Impeachment before the whistleblower. People see what they want. This is still too complicated for the average person to understand. But follow the polls.”

And we need to think about what will happen in the Senate after they receive the referral for impeachment. The GOP will use the Senate trial to put both the Bidens and whatever they think the Dems did in 2016 on trial.

It will be a circus. Trump says he wants a trial, and wants to be the first witness. They will out the whistleblower. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And now we’re going on to the main event and that’s in the U.S. Senate…So we’ll finally be able to get to the truth. So I’m talking to my colleagues in the Senate, these are some of the witnesses that you need to call and these are some of the questions that you need to ask. First, you have to hear from the whistleblower.”

It won’t take much for the Republicans in the Senate to convince themselves that they were right all along, that Trump was justified in pressuring Ukraine president Zelensky. They’ll say that nothing happened, there was no harm, no foul and hypocrisy be damned.

Are the Dems smart enough to hold simultaneous hearings in the House to surface more about Trump’s obstruction? BTW, don’t you think Hunter Biden’s Burisma board seat is unseemly at best? Why don’t the Dems just do a proper investigation? But for his last name, Hunter’s credentials for a paid board position seem quite weak.

If you haven’t become cynical about Republicans in the years since Obama was elected, just wait two months.

America will have national elections in 2020. The circus in the Senate will hopefully lead to historic turnout for local, state and federal candidates. Wrongo feels optimistic that something new and better is coming. The path to that new political reality is steep and difficult, and we all must walk it.

Enough! Let’s slide into a Saturday Soother, that time of the week when we try to escape the horror show around us for a few minutes, and contemplate both our inner world, and the world around us.

The first snow covered the fields of Wrong on Tuesday. The short days and the drab colors remind us that spring is a long ways off. This weekend is about preparing for Thanksgiving, the arrival of friends, and a quiet celebration of all that we enjoy, from family, to friends, to our great country.

Let’s kick things off by brewing up a mug of Warm November Rain coffee ($20/12oz.) from Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee. The roaster says it has notes of black tea, tangerine, and baker’s chocolate.

Now settle into a comfy chair and listen to the enchanting “Pavane, Op. 50” by the French composer, Gabriel Faure, written in 1887. It was originally written for piano, but is better known today in Fauré’s version for orchestra. Here it is played live without an orchestra by 12 Cellists (!) from the Berlin Philharmonic.

If one cello is great, imagine just how fantastic 12 cellos can be!

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

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Hot Takes on the Democrats’ Debate

The Daily Escape:

Autumn, Zion NP, Utah – November 2019 photo by robvisserphotography

Wednesday’s two hour debate hosted by MSNBC and the WaPo gave 10 Democratic presidential candidates yet another chance to introduce themselves at a point when there is less than three months before the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But, while Wrongo likes them all in the abstract, none of them is world-class. They each have strengths, and while it is still early, and most still have time to grow into the role of top-tier presidential nominee, none is there yet.

A note about the Ukraine impeachment hearings: Shouldn’t the other candidates be willing to defend Biden against the attacks by House Republicans and the administration? Shouldn’t they spend some time attacking the Republican Party as a corrupt entity that must loose power?

Or, are they worried that the Bidens actually may be a little dirty?

The candidates seem to be relying on a calculation that detailed policies are the right way for their campaigns to win the nomination and ultimately, the election. For Wrongo’s money, the candidates should be attacking Trump, the undemocratic Senate, and Supreme Court. Warren gets closest, with her stressing corruption in the corporate and political domains. But most Democratic primary voters aren’t into the wonky details of “my plan vs. her plan”.

Here’s Wrongo’s take on how they did.

  • Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders finished in the top tier. Sanders in particular seems to be a better candidate since his heart attack, while Mayor Pete barely squeaks into this group. Warren led the field in talk time with 13.4 minutes to Mayor Pete’s 12.8. Sanders was in fourth place, with 11.8 minutes.
  • Harris, Booker and Yang are in the second tier. All had strong performances, but Harris in particular seemed to return to the form she showed in the first debate. It’s interesting, but it may not be enough, particularly since she isn’t currently top-three in her home state of California. Yang and Booker made the most of their limited talk time. Yang got 6.9 minutes, vs. 11.5 for Booker and Harris.
  • Biden, Klobachar and Steyer finished in the third tier. Biden talked for 12.6 minutes, and had good moments, but the gaffes remain. Steyer did well, but should drop out, as should Klobachar.
  • Gabbard trailed the field.

A few words about trying for consensus with Republicans. When candidates like Biden, Mayor Pete, Booker and Klobachar talk about unity and consensus, Wrongo hears them saying they will not fight for real change to our corrupt system.

Regarding Biden: He’s from an era where the Parties weren’t as ideologically coherent and polarized as today. There were both conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, so a liberal Democrat could find common cause with liberal Republicans on certain issues or, with conservative Democrats on other issues on the basis of partisan allegiance.

That doesn’t exist anymore because those guys are gone. Policy success on an issue now depends largely on partisan and ideological alignment.  So, all that “working with the other side” means in practical terms, is an expectation of failure.

For Biden, the question should be: “Why aren’t those Republicans who are willing to work with you not defending you now, when you’re at the center of a fabricated scandal?” The basic premise of his candidacy is that his personal connections with Republicans will overcome their ideological or partisan viewpoints, so he’s operating under a delusion.

In sum, the Democrats running for the presidential nomination are beginning to look like Richard Russ’s novel “Empire Falls: The leading Dems are The Old Crank at the End of The Bar, the Slightly Senile and Slightly Pervy Retired Priest, the Woman Schoolteacher Who Knows Everything and the Cub Scout Going for His Presidency Badge. It’s somehow not that lovable here in reality.

A final word about the impact of the impeachment hearings, and how they overlap with the debates. The initial debate question was about the Ukraine scandal and impeachment. From Charlie Pierce: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“This is an unprecedented moment. A sitting president is under an impeachment inquiry, and likely will undergo a trial in the Senate, while also running for re-election….sooner or later, the issue of whether or not this president should be removed before the voters pass judgment on him is going to come to a very sharp point….”

These aren’t simple calculations. So far, there isn’t sufficient evidence to get 20 Senate Republicans to vote to convict the President on impeachment articles.

And the Mueller report didn’t grab the American public, so it will be ignored by Republicans.

The questions are:

  • Whether what we’ve heard will change the minds of enough Independents and a few Republicans?
  • And/or, will it fire up enough Democrats so that they turnout and overcome Republican efforts at voter suppression next November?
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Monday Cartoon Blogging – November 18, 2019

On Saturday, the twitterverse was alive with the news that Trump made an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed Hospital. At least, that’s the story they’re putting out there:

“Trump, 73, made an unannounced visit Saturday afternoon to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

‘Anticipating a very busy 2020, the President is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed’, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.”

So was something wrong? Nobody who knows the truth is saying, and there’s an excellent chance you will know the truth before you read this.

There are many theories circulating, including that they’re trying to extricate Lindsey Graham, whose head is apparently stuck in Trump’s ass.

There are really just two options: Either Trump had a sudden health scare, or that the White House is so incompetent they had no idea a surprise hospital visit by a president would lead automatically to us believing that something is wrong. On to cartoons.

The real Quid Pro Quo:

Both sides have an argument:

Some will excuse any evidence:

Dems feel they’re writing the last ticket:

What’s good for the goose would never be good enough for the Trump gander:

Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone guilty on all counts:

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 10, 2019

Bill Gates is the second-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $106.2 Billion. Here’s what Bill Gates said about Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan:

“I’m all for super-progressive tax systems….I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine. But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over….You really want the incentive system to be there without threatening that.”

Here’s what would actually happen to Gates under Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Warren campaign calculates that under Ms. Warren’s plan, Mr. Gates would owe $6.379 billion in taxes next year. Notably, that is less than Mr. Gates earned from his investments last year. Even under Ms. Warren’s plan, there’s a good chance Mr. Gates would get richer.”

Gates won’t have to pay as much as he thinks. The fundamental question is whether it’s ok for a billionaire to add 6% less to his massive fortune under Warren’s plan? Can billionaires still be successful executives if they don’t pocket every last penny they can lay their hands on?

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg doesn’t think the current Democratic presidential field is sufficiently deferential to the rich, so he’s running to make sure we get there.

When you think about it, two billionaires, Bloomberg and Steyer are running as Democrats. A third, Howard Schultz, billionaire behind Starbucks, tried to run as an independent. All wanting the job of billionaire Donald Trump.

Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has said he would fight the Warren’s taxes on billionaires. Tim Perkins, a billionaire venture capitalist compared the “progressive war on the American one percent” to the Kristallnacht and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.

Billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman of Blackstone, compared a tax increase for people like him to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

Why does anyone care about the tax concerns of these people? They never have to think about money, and neither will their heirs. It’s a familiar story, the astronomically rich are willing to donate large portions of their wealth, so long as interfering with their cozy power relationship with politicians is off the table.

On to cartoons. No plan goes unpunished:

America has a difference of opinion on health insurance:

Bill Barr waves his God flag:

GOP wants to take a few shots at the whistle blower:

Trump misunderstood which turkey could do him a favor:

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Saturday Soother – November 9, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan — hat tip to blog reader Ottho H. for finding this photo.

The first flakes of snow fell on the fields of Wrong on Friday. Temps were around 24° at daybreak, with winds of 20+ mph, so it felt like winter. We’ve emptied the fountain that birds have used since the spring as a source for drinking water. Other than cleaning leaves out of our gutters, which won’t happen until most of the Oak leaves are down, we’re buttoned up for winter.

What’s not buttoned up is the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Michael Bloomberg has finally jumped in. The story is that originally he believed Biden would win, so he stayed out. But, most of us believed despite the polls, that Biden had no chance. First, because he is certain to blow himself up as he has in the past. Second, the smell around his son Hunter’s role in Ukraine makes it difficult for Dad Joe to stake out a winning moral position opposed to Trump and his kids.

Back to Bloomberg, as the NYT’s David Leonhardt says:

“I’ll be surprised if Michael Bloomberg wins the Democratic nomination. We are living in a political era characterized by economic dissatisfaction and populism, and a 77-year-old Wall Street billionaire doesn’t look like an obvious nominee for a left-of-center party during such a time.”

It’s difficult to know how this shakes out. First, is Bloomberg serious this time? He’s been down the road this far at least twice before. Second, if he’s in, who gets hurt?

Does Bloomberg hurt the moderates Biden and Buttigieg, while simultaneously helping Sanders and Warren? Is that his plan? Or is Bloomberg underestimating Biden? He can’t hope to dent Biden’s strength with non-whites, so what’s his path to the nomination? Lots of questions.

Finally, in a follow-up to yesterday’s column about Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All plan (M4A), here’s a Cook Political/Kaiser Family Foundation opinion poll about M4A in the key Midwestern battleground states:

It doesn’t seem that Warren’s plan can be a winner in the Midwest.

We’ve had enough of politics and political problems for this week. It’s time to build a fire and have a Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing a mug of Bengal Spice Tea from Celestial Seasonings. Wrongo prefers his with a side of single malt. Now, sit by the fire and contemplate where all of your winter jackets and gloves are hiding.

Next, watch the embedded video by the Apartment Sessions, a Brooklyn NY-based multimedia artist collective that produces monthly videos with a rotating ensemble of NYC/New England-based professional musicians. This performance was recorded for Halloween on a moving “J” train in the NYC subway. They perform Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”, with Ben Levin on the Telecaster. Wrongo knows that few people click through to watch the video, but today’s is a must watch.

It’s the most fun any of us are likely to have in the NYC subway:

Stand clear of the closing doors please.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 27, 2019

Wrongo and Ms. Right will be heading back to the US on Monday morning, so this is the last post from London. The news from America was both typical and troubling again this week. But let’s start with a UK-based cartoon from the Financial Times that drives home the point about how long it’s taking to negotiate a Brexit deal:

Meanwhile, back in the USA, the GOP Congress Critters who broke into the hearing were simply following orders:

What happens when you have the best lawyers:

New White House Ukraine strategy:

Let’s send healing thoughts to Jimmy Carter, who broke his pelvis this week:

Nice message from London:

October 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

It occurred to Wrongo that the diversity in England is due at least in part to being the headquarters of the British Empire, followed by being a part of the EU for what is now 47 years. With Brexit, those who voted “Leave” wish for a country that is less diverse.

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Dateline London — Banana Republicanism Edition

The Daily Escape:

Royal Albert Hall, London, noon sound check for tonight’s DJ Spoony’s Garage Classical show. The show is sold out – October 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

The yelling of Republicans in the House can seem muted when you’re 3,000 miles away in England. This, from the Guardian:

“House Republicans who tried to storm the secure area in the Capitol where Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official on Ukraine was testifying, have effectively shut down the interview, according to a senior Democratic lawmaker…More than two dozen House Republicans, led by representative Matt Gaetz, tried to force their way into Cooper’s deposition, even though they are not members of the three committees leading the inquiry…”

The “secure area” is what’s called a SCIF, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. These are sealed conference rooms that are protected from electronic intrusion. They exist so that members of Congress can receive highly classified information about how the nation collects information on its adversaries, and on very sensitive intelligence operations. They exist all over the government, in the military, and in the defense contracting industry. Meeting attendees have to leave their electronic devices outside of the room, under the supervision of a security-cleared attendant.

Some, but not all of Gaetz’s Congressional storm troopers surrendered their devices at the door of the SCIF. Those that didn’t caused a serious security breach. Despite their mob efforts, the deposition itself took place, but after a five-hour delay.

This single party effort to disrupt testimony is significant, and possibly symbolic of where the GOP is today. Cooper’s testimony is on the DOD’s response to Trump’s refusal to provide funds to Ukraine, funds that had been duly appropriated by Congress.

This is the effort by a mob to suppress evidence. From Marcie Wheeler: (brackets by Wrongo)

“In short, a bunch of Republican Congressmen (and a handful of [Congress] women) are staging a faux riot in order to prevent the DOD from telling Congress how the White House prevented them from following the law that prohibits the White House from withholding funds without a good reason….”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tweeted this:

Hat tip to Rep. Pascrell for the term Banana Republicanism.

Marcie also reported that nine of the 43 rogue Congress critters actually sit on the committees that are conducting the inquiry inside the SCIF. Those nine are in the room all the time. They can ask questions of the witnesses. They can file minority reports if they disagree with the majority findings. So they can’t expect anyone to believe that they’re shut out of hearing the classified testimony.

In fact, it is most telling that they apparently aren’t leaking anything to the press, or to their colleagues!

Here in the UK, Boris Johnson, the British “Trump-light” head of government, reluctantly follows the dictates of the law despite his desire to force feed Brexit to his country. In the US, Trump and his Banana Republican cohort no longer bother to pretend.

Some of these rioters sit on the Judiciary Committee. Others apparently sit on the Armed Services, and Homeland Security Committees. Their actions should lead to getting booted from those committees and instead, being relegated to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, or to the Joint Committee on Printing.

The press should be asking GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy if he’s going to remove these people from the committees that handle sensitive information for violating security protocols.

A question for Mac Thornberry, (R-TX), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee:

“Should Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Bradley Byrne lose their seats on Armed Services for the manner in which they violated security protocols?”

A question for Mike Rogers, (R-AL), ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee:

“Should Mark Walker, Debbie Lesko, and you, lose your seats on the Homeland Security Committee for violating security protocols?”

This kind of breakdown in the orderly function of the House represents an existential threat to this country. If an opposition party can freely intimidate witnesses and shut down depositions without consequences, then the Constitution’s power of impeachment is useless.

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