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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – December 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Central Park NYC, December 12th – 2017 photo by Rommel Tan

Long-time readers know that Wrongo has a very low opinion of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), who he considers an intellectual joker. He is often given a pass by the main stream media, who suggest that he is a thoughtful and principled Republican. But once again, he looked like a partially-informed hack on Thursday when he said that Americans need to have more babies or risk a collapse of Medicare and Social Security.

His concern is about the declining US birth rate. The Boston Globe reports that:

Ten years ago, the typical American woman had about 2.1 children. Today, it is about 1.77, representing a collapse in fertility on par with the declines in other countries that yielded Japan’s rapidly graying population in the 1990s, or Canada’s massive present-day demand for immigrants.

From Ryan’s news conference: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

People — this is going to be the new economic challenge for America. People…I did my part, (Ryan has three kids) but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Meaning, baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the work force…We have something like a 90% increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19% increase in the working population in America…

It is true that birth rates in the US have declined, but that’s not necessarily bad news. For example, birth rates for teenagers hit a record low last year. Also, Wrongo recently described McKinsey’s report on jobs lost to automation that showed 75 million jobs are at risk in the US by 2030.

Perhaps we already have too many workers for the jobs revolution that is occurring all around us.

And there’s an obvious solution to the problem that Ryan ignores: Allowing more immigrants into the country, either to fill the jobs being vacated by retiring baby boomers, or as necessary to meet tomorrow’s job requirements. But Ryan shows that he’s all in with Trump’s hard line anti-immigration positions.

Should American women become brood mares? This isn’t a new concept. The fear of being outnumbered by racial and ethnic minorities is the driving force behind today’s alt-right, and the view was around in earlier white nationalist movements. HuffPo interviewed Kelly J. Baker, author of “Gospel According to the Klan”. Baker says that the need to ensure that white women were having more white babies was a key part of the Ku Klux Klan’s platform during its resurgence in the 1920s: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Baker said that the 1920s Klan was “nervous” about the possibility of widespread birth control for white women…To push back against the rising availability of effective birth control, the Klan told white women that having as many white children as possible is your job and it matters for your family and your race and for America.

And now, Ryan makes this a mainstream GOP idea. For all of the political empowerment of women in today’s headlines, the Ryan argument lands in the same place as today’s alt-right, and yesterday’s KKK.

Ryan and the GOP want to see more babies, but they won’t support young kids with health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Quartz reports that next month, 600,000 American children will lose their CHIP coverage. CHIP has been instrumental in ensuring health care coverage of children in US families that aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford any other form of insurance.

Republicans talk a lot about the cost of healthcare. The cost of not providing healthcare to children in an America with failing schools is impossible to calculate. It is very high, it lasts lifetimes and possibly, generations.

Yet, Ryan is saying that American women need to have more babies to Make America Great Again.

And we know that he’s asking for more white babies.

OK, it’s Saturday, and we need a break from toxic politics, and maybe from obsessing about shopping for gifts. Hanukkah began this week, so Wrongo looked for a soothing piece of music that was inspired by the celebration of the Festival of Lights. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” by Adam Shugar.

If you look at the YouTube video, you will see that it has just 5,000 views. It should have many more. You should watch it because the music is good, and unlike most orchestral pieces, this string orchestra performs while standing. The video is shot from a high angle, and looking down allows you to see them all as they play together, almost like a choreographed dance. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” played by the Orchestre Nouvelle Génération under the direction of Airat Ichmouratov, with Mark Simons on clarinet:

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

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You Say You Want a Revolution

The Daily Escape:

Waimea Canyon, Kauai Hawaii

Wrongo has suggested many times that America needs a revolution. He thinks that the US political process has been so captured by large corporations and the very rich that the average person no longer can have any impact on policy. In many states, the average person isn’t even totally confident that he/she will be permitted to vote the next time they go to their local precinct.

We are in the midst of a political crisis: The people have lost faith in systems which they feel don’t respond to real people and in representatives that won’t represent us, or the society at large. Rather than debate issues thoughtfully, we are whipsawed by the appeals to emotion launched daily into the ether by the tweeter-in-chief.

Two current issues demonstrate the danger. First, Jerusalem. It turns out that Tillerson and Mattis opposed the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, and move our embassy there. You know from the headlines that Trump wouldn’t listen to anyone who told him this would be a very bad idea. The State Department’s response was to issue a worldwide travel alert for those Americans who think they’re still welcome around the world. The WaPo reported that a Trump confidant said:

It’s insane. We’re all resistant…He doesn’t realize what all he could trigger by doing this.

Second, North Korea. Maybe you read this headline: North Korea says war is inevitable as allies continue war games.

Martin Longman asks the pertinent question:

The so-called adults in the room utterly failed on the Jerusalem issue, so are we supposed to put our trust in them to steer a sane course on the Korean peninsula?

What are we talking about here? Can we wait out Trump, and just work like hell to replace him with a better president in 2020? Would nuclear war get him re-elected?

What about the GOP’s control of both houses of Congress? On Thursday, Speaker Ryan told us what we face next year: the GOP will tackle the budget deficit and national debt by cutting Medicare and possibly Social Security, now that the GOP’s donor class has their tax cuts.

Things have to change, and there are only two options, neither very good. First, we can try and excise the moneyed influence via the ballot box. That is the “democratic revolution” that Bernie championed in 2016. The definition of democratic revolution is:

A revolution in which a democracy is instituted, replacing a previous non-democratic government, or in which revolutionary change is brought about through democratic means, usually without violence.

Since we no longer have a functioning democracy, a “democratic revolution” to bring it back is what we require. Is it the only way to right the American ship of state?

The second option is a coup of some kind.

  • It could be via impeachment, assuming there were high crimes and misdemeanors that Trump had committed, and assuming a Republican House would impeach him, and a Republican Senate would convict him.
  • It could come via a 25th Amendment action, which might be marginally more acceptable to Republicans, but is as unlikely as impeachment.
  • Least desirable, and least likely would be a true coup, where the “adults in the room” (in the oval office, or the Pentagon) get leverage over the Commander-in-Chief. Could a real coup stay bloodless? That seems highly doubtful, and Wrongo would rather trust Trump than a junta.

Removing Trump won’t fix what’s wrong with the Republican Party. We need to prioritize and triage this situation, focusing first on taking back the House and Senate before 2020.

Who can we count on to right the ship?

Not today’s Democrats. They are led by Chuck Schumer who approves of Trump’s Jerusalem decision. The Democrats must fire Pelosi and Schumer, or die.

What about America’s largest voting bloc, Millennials? Can they step up to the challenge?

What about America’s women? In 2016, women supported Clinton over Trump by 54% to 42%, while Trump carried non-college educated white women 64% to 35%. The #metoo movement promises to become much more than the outing of bad guys: It could weaken both male privilege, and their power.

Firing a few slime balls isn’t revolutionary, but voting them out of office would be a paradigm shift.

The stock market is in the stratosphere, and consumers are happily clicking on Amazon’s “place order” tab.

Measly tax cuts will trickle down to rubes like us, while the plutocrats will die of laughter.

Can women and millennial voters look beyond the GOP’s messaging that the Muslims are always to blame, and Israelis suffer the most?

Will they care enough about whatever Mueller turns up on Trump to go out and vote?

Revolution is in the air. Why should the right have all the fun?

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50% of American Births are Now Financed by Medicaid

The Daily Escape:

(Street art, Panama City  Panama, 2015 – photo by Wrongo)

A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation is an eye opener. The 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation Medicaid Budget Survey asked states to report the share of all births in the state that were financed by Medicaid in the most recent 12 month period for which state data were available.

The results are staggering. Half of the states in the country reported that 50% or more of births were financed by Medicaid, with New Mexico reporting the highest number of births financed by Medicaid, 72% in 2015. New Hampshire was the lowest at 27%. Eight states said that 60% or more of births were financed by Medicaid, while in another eight states, Medicaid had financed between 27% and 37% of the births.

Kaiser provided no analysis for their survey, and an interesting question to answer would be the demographics of Medicaid-financed births. Kaiser did include this map showing percentage of births financed by Medicaid:

(Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

The map shows us the states which would have been hurt the most by the proposed cuts in Medicaid that the GOP tried to enact in the failed Trumpcare bill. Of the 14 states with more than 54% of births financed, only New Mexico and Nevada voted for Hillary in 2016.

So, Trump and the GOP will have plenty of explaining to do if Medicare is cut deeply on their watch, since these are many of the states that helped elect Trump, and put both houses of Congress in Republican hands.

One question is, what will be different if the government cuts Medicaid? We have an indication from Texas. The state cut off money to Planned Parenthood clinics in 2013, and that led to thousands of women failing to get birth control. Medicaid pregnancies subsequently increased by 27%, according to a research paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year.

The time for an economic reset in America is long overdue. Conservatives will blame the poor, or Obamacare, or both for the surprising data on government-financed births. Liberals will say it is a failure of the social contract. But, when 50% of births occur to people who can’t afford them, it is clear that our economic system needs fixing.

OTOH, it is good thing that we encourage pre-natal care for all, which gives these babies a better start in life.

Our unequal economy rolls along unchanged, because the comparatively well off middle and professional classes keep electing politicians that defend the current system against the 50% who are America’s working poor. Creating a war between the have some’s and the have little’s has worked throughout history.

This is the new America. Many in the former middle class are living on the edge of poverty, and we know it. Is inequality changing America? You bet.

It is incumbent on both parties to deal with Medicaid-financed births.

Time for a tune. Here is Madonna with “Papa, Don’t Preach”, released in 1986. At the time, the song caused discussions about its content, with women’s groups and those in the family planning field criticizing Madonna for encouraging teenage pregnancy, while anti-abortion groups saw the song as having a pro-life message. Decide for yourself. Here is “Papa Don’t Preach”:

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

Takeaway Lyric:

Papa I know you’re going to be upset
‘Cause I was always your little girl
But you should know by now
I’m not a baby

The one you warned me all about
The one you said I could do without
We’re in an awful mess
And I don’t mean maybe, please

Papa don’t preach I’m in trouble deep
Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep
But I made up my mind, I’m keeping my baby,
I’m gonna keep my baby

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Where Boys Are Boys, and You, Ms. Warren, Are Not

(Scroll to the bottom of the page for the Daily Escape)

When we allow the silencing of our Senators, we allow the silencing of our democracy. HuffPo reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rose on Tuesday and objected to a speech Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was giving in opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general.

McConnell took particular issue with Warren as she quoted a letter written by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, when Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986.

McConnell invoked the little-used Rule XIX, which says that “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” King’s letter argues that, during Sessions’ time as a prosecutor in Alabama, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” It was that portion of the letter that McConnell read back to the presiding officer, arguing that it was over the line.

The Republican presiding in the chair, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, agreed with McConnell, ruling her in violation of the order and forcing her to sit down.

“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren replied.

It seems the voices of both Sen. Warren and the late Coretta Scott King are now unwelcome in the Senate’s old boys’ club, even though Ms. King’s words were placed in the Senate’s records 30 years ago. This from Booman: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

Rule 19 is a good rule that helps prevent canings on the Senate floor. But it really should never apply to a senator who is under consideration for confirmation to another office. If Warren and Merkley were reading these historical documents just to make Sessions look bad while they were arguing over the budget that would be a legitimate violation of the rules. But these documents [King’s letter] were germane to Sessions’ fitness for the office of Attorney General in the same way that his tax returns and voting record are germane.

Republicans regularly call their opponents corrupt traitors. The NYT reports that both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) appear to have violated the rule according to its true intent, without having it invoked against them. In 2015, Cruz called McConnell a liar. But he’s a Republican man, while Sen. Warren is out of line for quoting the widow of a titan of American history. Got it.

Apparently McConnell thinks that a Senator nominated for a Cabinet position isn’t a nominee. They remain a Senator, and the ability of other Senators to criticize their nomination is subject to Rule 19. That is a misuse of the rule, and McConnell abused his power. And he did more to raise awareness about Sessions’ racist past than he did to safeguard Sessions’ “character.” Republicans know that Warren’s Senate performances have a long afterlife on YouTube, so they tried to prevent another one, but failed.

Had they let her read it, it would have been seen by only a few thousand late night C-SPAN watchers. Instead, her Facebook video reading the Coretta Scott King letter had 7.8 million views by Wednesday afternoon.

The GOP’s self-inflicted wound is shutting down a white woman reading a letter written by a black woman who lost her toweringly famous husband in the struggle for equality, a letter which criticized the racism of a Southern white man, during Black History Month. The Oregonian reported:

Hours after GOP leaders blocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Merkley picked it up and read the document uninterrupted.

So, after they shut down one Democratic Senator, McConnell allowed a different Democrat to read the letter? What’s the difference?

Your Daily Escape: Stuttgart City Library, built in 2011

 

 

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First Person Report From the Women’s March

(Below is a guest post from Nicole Dodd, a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara. She has moved to Washington DC to begin a career in government service. The photos below are ©Nicole Dodd)

“Women’s rights are human rights.” Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1995

This past Saturday, I was one of almost 500,000 women and men participating in the Women’s March on Washington. From 8 am until well after 8 pm, the streets were crowded with women wearing pink ‘pussy hats,’ carrying indignant signs, and chanting out against our newest president.

The movement was powerful, and greatly exceeded expectations: the Washington March itself had almost 2.5x the amount of people it was projected to have, and the sister marches across the States and the world had incredible turnout. After having seen so many red “Make America Great Again” caps and rioters in the streets just twenty-four hours earlier, I was encouraged to see an influx of pink hats participating in a protest that remained peaceful and could spark a global movement.

From an outside perspective, it may seem that the Women’s March had no direction and no goal. Millions of people took to the streets to protest, but for what? On the Women’s March website, it lists the ‘unifying principles’ of the march: ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and even environmental justice. From what I saw, participants in the March held signs that advocated for each of the unifying principles of the March. However, the heart of the matter is this: President Trump was elected without a majority popular vote, and while he has promised to be ‘a president for all Americans,’ his words and actions have proven that he will not.

While January 21st was an important first step in the fight against the Orange Overlord’s administration, the fight in no way stops here. As a pragmatist, I realize that many women and men will walk away after this weekend thinking that they’ve completed their democratic duty by simply showing up and chanting angrily for a few hours.

Despite this, I am extremely hopeful. Many speakers at the Washington March implored the participants to get politically active. We were told to write our representatives every single day, join and become active in the organizations that we were working to support, and finally, to run for public office. Protesters held signs echoing those same sentiments, urging us to vote and to get involved. To top it off, the Women’s March website published an article outlining what exactly we can do during Trump’s first 100 days to make sure our voices are heard in the Capitol.

In the same way that it is our democratic responsibility to vote in local, state and national elections, it is also our democratic responsibility to peacefully protest and make sure that our representatives are accurately representing our interests. It’s hard to evaluate if the Women’s March will lead to concrete actions – the commitment of the crowd could easily be attributed to mob mentality, and people lose resolve over time. Still, the Women’s March was the largest protest to ever occur over the inauguration of a US President, and that fact cannot go unnoticed. My hope is that, with clear guidance and resources from the Women’s March administrators, the majority of participants in Saturday’s movement will abandon their excuses and take it upon themselves to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities.

I can promise you that this protester will refuse to sit by idly, and will take action.

My favorite chant from Saturday sums up the movement perfectly:  “This is what democracy looks like”. Here are a few photos from the DC March. This one shows size of the crowd:

Sign from person near the Smithsonian:

One of the main purposes of the March was to address reproductive rights:

I’m with her” sign shows marchers’ solidarity. View towards the Washington Monument:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 22, 2017

Did everyone remember to turn their clocks back by 50 years last night? The dust has settled on the Women’s March on Washington. The turnout was very impressive, not only in Washington, but in other cities across the US. Let us remember that women protesting ultimately led to them getting the right to vote. They helped bring about civil rights legislation, a minimum-wage, and the abolition of child labor in this country. This is both their right and their obligation.

Women’s March outdraws the Inauguration:

And people said Clinton’s slogan “Stronger Together” was terrible:

What to expect after inaugurating the Overlord:

The torch was passed:

There was a chill in the White House on Trump’s first day:

Most federal regulations exist to implement legislation. Certainly there are regulations that aren’t working as intended, that are more burdensome than needed to address the problem, that prove counter-productive in practice, and so need fixing. But ideologues have no interest in rational governance. Anti-regulatory zeal is like religious dogma to them, but driven by greed.

Trump’s real change is to make Monopoly great again:

 

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