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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Can Dems Beat Trump In The 2020 Battleground States?

The Daily Escape:

Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, NY – October 2019 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

Some news was made by pollsters yesterday. The NYT and Siena College are out with a poll of 2020 battleground states that shows Trump is highly competitive in head-to-head matchups with the top Democratic candidates. Even though Trump is by far the most unpopular president in American history, these polls indicate that he could get re-elected.

Here are the top line results. Among registered voters, Biden narrowly leads Trump in four of them, Sanders in three, Warren in one:

These states were the key contests in 2016 between Hillary and Trump. Trump’s approval ratings have long been in the high 30s to low 40s, and he trails Biden by almost nine points in an average of national polls. But as the 2016 race showed, the story in the battleground states can be quite different. Mr. Trump won these six states even while losing the national vote by two percentage points.

In this poll, Trump trails Biden by an average of two points, but that result is within the margin of error in the individual states. And we know how erroneous the polls were in November 2016. You can look at the current poll’s cross-tabs here.

Hate to pour cold water on Democrats, but Trump could lose the 2020 popular vote by upwards of ten million, and still win in the Electoral College.

This is reality – it will come down to six states. This is why people get so disengaged from presidential politics. Then, by not voting in election years, the Congress, state houses, and state assemblies stay with the Republicans.

Ten years from now, the demographics will be different. Consider Texas, where Latinos will outnumber non-Hispanic whites by 2022. OTOH, we have a census next year, and some states are deploying multimillion-dollar efforts to ensure their population gets counted correctly. But in the South, only three states have allocated state funding for census outreach, with just eight months to go.

It may take time, but much of the South will again come back into play. Maybe people won’t feel like they’re overlooked if presidential campaigns actually required the votes of people in most states in order to win.

Just six states. That should infuriate everyone. We remain at the mercy of the Electoral College.

But there’s more. Nate Cohn says in the Times article:

“Nearly two-thirds of the Trump voters who said they voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 say that they’ll back the president against all three named opponents.”

The crossover by Republicans to vote for a Democrat in 2018 was a factor in taking back the House. So, losing two-thirds of them sounds terrible for Dems, until you realize that it means 1/3 of Trump’s 2016 voters in those states say they’ll stay with the Dems in 2020. And Trump’s margin in PA, MI, and WI was just 80,000 in 2016

We’re at a point where the Democratic field is narrowing. Four candidates have moved clear of the field, Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. Biden and Buttigieg represent middle-of-the-road liberalism, while Warren and Sanders represent a more liberal, anti-corporate philosophy. Only Buttigieg is under 70, but that doesn’t matter if the opponent is over 70 himself. The rest of the field barely polls at 2%.

It’s likely that the Dem nominee will be one of these four, but it’s way too early to be concerned about how they perform vs. Trump’s relative strength in the battleground states he won in 2016.

It’s smart for Democrats to fight as though every poll has them way behind. And the figures on advertising dollars spent per campaign show that Trump is currently spending as much money as all the Democrats combined.

A year from now, we’ll be entering a different world. But since we can’t know the future, it could be either wonderful news, or more of the brain-melting hell in which we currently reside.

To make sure it’s a new world, we have to do everything we can to ensure that someone new is elected, someone who will oppose with every vote, every fiber of their being, the policies and hate spewed by Trump and his GOP fellow-travelers.

This means we have to work to turn them out not only from the presidency, but from every other elected office, from county commissioner to the House and Senate.

How?  There are a lot of ways, from donating money, to donating time at the local Party office; to writing letters to the editor, or making your voice heard through whatever means you can.

The How is important, but the Why is what should energize every one of us.

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 4, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lake Sabrina, CA – November 2019 photo by Wild_NDN

All of a sudden, there are ongoing protests throughout the world. This seems to be an enormous story, maybe the biggest story of October, despite America’s focus on impeachment. And there’s some, but not a lot of media coverage. Here’s a map of the locations, and primary causes, of recent unrest around the world:

When you see the map, it’s clear that something’s happening. In some places, protesters are mainly demanding more political freedom, like what we’ve seen in Hong Kong. In others, like Iraq and Lebanon, people are sick and tired of corruption and unemployment. They want to throw out the old guard.

The map shows 14 countries, but others report as many as 22 countries experiencing protests in 2019. Can we find common threads to these protests?

They don’t show ideological consistency, although they do show similar tactics. Unlike Occupy in the US, these protesters have demands, which vary with each protest. In some places, they involve millions of people. They do not seem to be internationally driven, although the local powers that be often say that they are.

A Chinese friend of the Wrongologist who lives in Hong Kong provides lots of coverage on local violence. For our media, violence is always “breaking out,” or protests always are “descending into” it, but we rarely hear deep explanations for why it occurs.

Let’s look at a few reasons that transcend individual countries:

Economic Slump

This argument is true for Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela and Haiti in Latin America. It is also true in Iraq in the Middle East. Despite their differences, each country saw commodity-driven economic growth, followed by a slump or stall. Haiti, despite its own economy largely being stagnant, saw billions in aid from oil-rich Venezuela come in, then disappear when Venezuela had its economic issues.

Income Inequality

Jeffrey Sachs frames income inequality as social unhappiness and distrust, in Why Rich Cities Rebel: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Three of the world’s more affluent cities have erupted in protests and unrest this year. Paris has faced waves of protests and rioting since November 2018…after…President Macron raised fuel taxes. Hong Kong has been in upheaval since March, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed a law to allow extradition to the Chinese mainland. And Santiago [Chile] exploded in rioting this month after President Sebastian Piñera ordered an increase in metro [subway] prices….taken together, they tell a larger story of what can happen when a sense of unfairness combines with a widespread perception of low social mobility.”

Gallup finds that while Hong Kong ranks ninth globally in GDP per capita, it ranks 66th in terms of the public’s perception of personal freedom to choose a life course. The same is true in France (25th in GDP per capita, but 69th in freedom to choose) and in Chile (48th and 98th, respectively).

It appears that traditional economic measures of well-being are insufficient to gauge the public’s real sentiments. The protesters perceive the politics behind the prices, and that’s what they are moving against.

Income inequality also shows up as withdrawal or repricing of government services. From the NYT:

“In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.”

In Ecuador, the focal point of the protests was a demand for restoration of fuel subsidies. From The Financial Times (paywalled):

“The mass protests that have broken out during the past year in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East…are usually leaderless rebellions, whose organization and principles are not set out in a little red book or thrashed out in party meetings, but instead emerge on social media.”

Social media is the enabler for leaderless movements. When the Hong Kong demonstrations broke out in June, Joshua Wong, the most high-profile democracy activist in the territory, was in jail. In Moscow, Russia arrested leader Alexander Navalny, but demonstrations continued without him. In Lebanon, France and Chile, authorities have searched in vain for ringleaders. In Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, has emerged as the leader of the movement to replace Prime Minister Mahdi.

Underneath it all, whether we’re talking about people wanting political freedom or economic security, these riots are about class, wealth, and income. They are about the fact that all of these countries have very rich people who make the rules.

And their rules never favor the non-rich.

It is unclear if any of these protests will effect change. History rarely favors the man in the street.

Pro tip: If you are going to riot, take the time to head over to the part of town where the rich live, and riot there.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 3, 2019

(Sorry for going dark, but we lost internet here at the Mansion of Wrong for two days. It’s back, but since it is supplied by Spectrum, it’s very slow, despite Wrongo paying for a premium pile of megabits.)

The WaPo reports:

“Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through…”

Apparently, they’re using a battery-powered Sawzall, like this one that you can order from Home Depot:

It can cut through the bars of steel and concrete in a few minutes, if equipped with specialty blades made with diamond grit. The blades sell for less than $15. The Trump administration has so far completed 76 miles of the new barriers that are now being breached by Mexican smugglers. These are the sections of wall that Trump boasts are “virtually impenetrable”. He has called them the “Rolls-Royce” of walls that border-crossers cannot get over, under or through.

Who knew that for $100, and a few $15 blades, you could defeat the wall that will eventually cost us $10 billion?? On to cartoons.

Al-Baghdadi was killed. Trump said he died like a dog:

Republicans are now trying to smear a military hero to protect a draft dodger. Trump equates dogs with cowards, while an actual military dog served heroically, without claiming Paw Spurs.

Trump says he’s moving from NY to FL. New Yorkers cheer:

Dems are placing way too much faith in the process:

It is looking like the Boeing 737 MAX should never fly again:

Signs of the season won’t go away:

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Al-Baghdadi Connects GW Bush to Trump

The Daily Escape:

Witches paddle boarding on the Willamette River, Portland, OR. The event was the Stand Up Paddleboard Witch Paddle, that brings 100’s to paddle board on the river. Useful to remember that drowning was one of the recommended witch removal methods in ye olden days. Happy Halloween!

Speaking of Halloween, it looks like rain all day in our corner of Connecticut, so those parents with little ones, are casting about for ideas on how to avoid getting little Megan’s mask of Melania soaked through in the first minute.

On the flight back to the States from London, Wrongo watched the film “Vice”, a film history of the life and political career of Dick Cheney. It brought back how the GW Bush administration executed its pivot from a limited war in Afghanistan to a full-scale invasion of Iraq.

Cheney is portrayed as the prime mover behind getting the Bush folks to craft false intelligence “facts” to support, and then sustain, our war in Iraq. Cheney did this by creating a separate intelligence apparatus, since the existing intelligence agencies would not produce analysis supporting Iraq’s culpability in the 9/11 attacks.

One thing the movie points out was the effort by Cheney and Rumsfeld to find a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. They settled on a minor Iraqi anti-Shiite cleric named Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as the person that could be plausibly presented as having a tie between Saddam and bin Laden. This turned al-Baghdadi into one of the cool dudes of Islamic terrorism. He became a regional celebrity, the head of ISIS. We’ve all had to live with the consequences of Cheney’s “fake news”: Many died, and we’re still paying the price for Cheney’s rogue operation that sucked us deeply in the Middle East.

Now a different Republican president has taken out al-Baghdadi in a stealth raid in Syria this week. It was similar to Obama’s killing of bin Laden in May, 2011 in Afghanistan. We should be pleased that al-Baghdadi no longer controls ISIS, and we should give Trump full props for doing the deed.

We should remember that when Obama got bin Laden, the NYT reported the following from Republicans at the time:

“Former Vice President Dick Cheney declared, “The administration clearly deserves credit for the success of the operation.” New York’s former mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said, “I admire the courage of the president.” And Donald J. Trump declared, “I want to personally congratulate President Obama.”

But killing bin Laden didn’t kill al Qaeda, and killing al-Baghdadi won’t kill ISIS.

It’s good that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. But never forget that there is a straight line between Bush and Cheney’s elevation of al-Baghdadi to justify their invasion of Iraq, and al-Baghdadi driving ISIS to take over a swath of Iraq and Syria that was larger than the UK.

There’s a straight line connecting Bush/Cheney, and Obama’s willingness to bend our constitutional freedoms to extend the Global War on Terror for the better part of two decades.

There’s a straight line connecting Bush/Cheney and what Trump is doing in the Middle East today.

Still, killing al-Baghdadi is a good thing, and Trump’s pulling 1,000 troops out of Syria is not as serious an issue as most people in DC are saying it is.

But gloating over an enemy’s death? That isn’t something American presidents should be doing. When we celebrate the death of a foe, it shows weakness.

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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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Saturday Soother – October 26, 2019

The Daily Escape:

British Museum, London – October, 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

There’s news in the UK about something that would never happen in the US. The British media regulator OfCom is urging the BBC to call it as they see it.

OfCom, in a review, called on the BBC to not be so focused on being neutral, especially if one group is peddling information not backed by the facts. This is notable because OfCom is in charge of making sure UK broadcasters follow UK media rules, including a commitment to “due impartiality”:

“BBC journalists should feel able to challenge controversial viewpoints that have little support or are not backed up by facts, making this clear to viewers, listeners and readers….Our research shows that audiences have respect for the caliber of the BBC’s journalism and expect its reporters to investigate, analyze and explain events. This should give the BBC confidence to be bolder in its approach.”

This is a frontal attack on the “both sides” obsession we see in the US. Are you listening, New York Times and PBS? Presenting the both sides arguments fails because an issue is often more complex and nuanced than only two sides can/will portray. Most US outlets also fail to insure that the sides they are presenting are equally credible.

Giving both sides equal time when one side presents a consensus view supported by evidence, and the other is a fringe view supported by anecdotes doesn’t give us either fairness or impartiality. The strength of one argument is diminished while the other is bolstered. Equal ≠ fair.

Despite the Trump administration’s opening a criminal investigation of the FBI, with all THAT implies, it’s time for your Saturday Soother, time to get away from the brain-melting news of the week, and to focus on those weekend things that float your boat.

Let’s start by taking a look at a painting Wrongo saw in the UK National Gallery, “A Woman”, by Robert Campin. It is part of a pair, the other being “A Man”, and the work is entitled “A Man and A Woman”. It was painted in 1435. Campin died in 1444, but notice how advanced his technique with oils was 600 years ago:

(iPhone photo by Wrongo)

Next, take a walk around London (at least in your mind), and visit the Climpson and Sons coffee bar in the Old Spitalfields Market. Belly up to the bar and order a cup of their Finca San Jeronimo Miramar, with flavors of cacao, whipped cream and apricot. You can order a bag of ground Finca San Jeronimo for £9.50/250g.

Now, look around at the crowd bustling through the Market, most intent on forgetting about Brexit while they shop. While people-watching, put in your Bluetooth earbuds and listen to “The Last Night of The Proms” from the Royal Albert Hall. The Proms are concerts which are part of a big music festival. “Proms” is short for “Promenade Concerts”. Here’s part of the Last Night from 2012, with great views of the crowd and the Royal Albert Hall:

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

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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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Dateline London

The Daily Escape:

Tower Bridge, London – October 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

Wrongo and Ms. Right got to England on Monday. As in our last visit in 2017, much remains under construction, roads as well as buildings, which makes it difficult to get around except by the Underground. It is possible to walk to many destinations more quickly than to go by taxi.

It is clear that the Brexit debate dominates the news and daily discussions, even that of ordinary people. Wrongo spoke with an Italian immigrant who has been working in London for six years. He is very worried that he will become an illegal under a final Brexit deal, even though that isn’t part of the current deal’s language. Several business people were pro, or con, about Brexit, based totally upon their personal economic interests. Everyone seems to be looking at the possible Brexit from very narrow economic perspectives. Sound familiar?

Today, we saw the play “Two Ladies”. It’s about the wives of the French and American presidents who are sequestered for their own safety during a summit conference that is deciding whether the US president will get the support of Europe to attack an unnamed terrorist country. The American First Lady is modeled on Melania Trump, the French First Lady on Brigitte Macron. This sets up some prurient interest in the personal stories of each. However, the real focus of the play is on what power these two women have to influence their husbands, and if they do have that power, how their influence could best be used to terminate the political situation that looks as if it will certainly lead to war.

Sophia is the American First Lady. She’s a Croatian ex-model that her rich, rightwing husband treats as a trophy. Helen, an English former journalist, is the wife of the French president. She is significantly older than her husband, over whom she used to exert much political influence.

You can see the opportunity these women provide for a play ripped from the headlines. Several Americans spoke about how the play was “not favorable to Republicans”. It seems to Wrongo that we can no longer look past our political sensibilities to see value in a story that starts with two women who have mutual loathing, but who develop a mutual understanding based on a common problem: the lack of respect the world shows them when a bad decision involving world peace are being taken by the husbands they barely respect.

Two Ladies” has played to sold-out audiences, despite not being particularly well-reviewed by the London critics. No US Broadway producer has so far been willing to bring it to the US.

Wrongo suspects that the idea of women trying to bond over the idea of ending war, while trying to be relevant by “being in the room” (as Alexander Hamilton says in “Hamilton”), would find an audience in NYC.

We also saw Ian McKellen, (the legendary British actor most known to Americans as Gandalf), in a one-man play that is a retrospective of his acting life.

McKellen, 80 years old, is in great shape, and has great comedic timing. There are many laughs along the way. Some complained about the acoustics in the old theater where it is playing, saying it was hard to hear McKellen.

But Americans left this show saying that McKellen, who is gay, talked too much about his gay experience. These few Americans had traveled far from their suburban enclaves, only to be triggered by an elderly man’s lifestyle.

Wrongo wonders about people with such delicate sensibilities. They seem to be the same people who have no difficulty being dismissive of those who speak English poorly. They are vocal in their suspicions of people from different religious backgrounds. A few think that some racists are also good people.

They’re sure that most people on welfare don’t deserve to be there.

We have a centuries-long tradition of public events designed to entertain and inform us, to make us think, to add to our experience and collective understanding.

Everyone knows that.

And people must be responsible for protecting themselves if they feel they shouldn’t be exposed to the broad and deep culture of America. That can’t become our collective responsibility.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 20, 2019

(Blogging will be light until Tuesday 10/29 as Wrongo and Ms. Right will be in London. Yesterday’s Brexit votes seem to leave things up in the air, so it should be interesting.)

Vanity Fair has an article on possible manipulation of the stock markets with advance information about big news coming from the White House. Several publications have noticed that a killing was made several times on positions taken just before news breaks, but VF lays out just how much. The vehicle was “S&P e-minis”, electronically traded futures contracts linked to the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In the last 10 minutes of trading on Friday, August 23, as the markets were roiling in the face of more bad trade news, someone bought 386,000 September e-minis. Three days later, Trump lied about getting a call from China to restart the trade talks, and the S&P 500 index shot up nearly 80 points. The potential profit on the trade was more than $1.5 billion.”

There were several more.

  • On September 10th in the last 10 minutes of trading, someone bought 82,000 S&P e-minis when the index was trading at 2969. On September 11 in Beijing, the Chinese government announced that it would lift tariffs on a range of American-made products. That same day, Trump said he would postpone tariffs on some Chinese goods. The S&P index moved up 47 points. If you were the lucky one who bought the 82,000 e-mini contracts, well, then you were sitting on a one-day profit of roughly $190 million.
  • In the last 10 minutes of trading on Friday, September 13, someone got lucky. That’s when someone sold short 120,000 S&P e-minis when the index was trading around 3010. The time was 3:50 p.m. in New York, but it was nearly midnight in Tehran. A few hours later, drones attacked a large swath of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure, choking off production in the country and sending oil prices soaring. By the time the market opened for pre-trading on Sunday night, the S&P index had fallen 30 points, giving that lucky ducky a quick $180 million profit.
  • But these wins were peanuts. A trader, or group of traders bought 420,000 September e-minis in the last 30 minutes of trading on June 28. That was about 40% of the day’s trading volume in September e-minis. At the time, Trump was in Osaka, Japan, 14 hours ahead of Chicago, meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. On Saturday in Osaka, after the market had closed in Chicago, Trump emerged from his meeting with Xi and announced that the trade talks were “back on track.” On Thursday, June 27, the S&P 500 index stood at about 2915; a week later, it was just below 3000, a gain of 84 points. Whoever bought the 420,000 e-minis on June 28 had made a profit of nearly $1.8 billion.

You get the picture. Traders have been watching these wagers intently since the start of the Trump presidency. The precision and timing of the trades, and the vast amount of money being made, make the traders wonder if all this is on the level. Or, is it some form of insider trading?

So far, the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) seem disinterested in pursuing what might be behind these trades. On to cartoons.

America hosts the G-7. Naturally, Trump picks his own hotel:

The Mikes try to clean up Trump’s Turkey mess:

The arguments against Brexit are stronger:

RIP Elijah Cummings:

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Saturday Soother – Brexit Edition, October 19, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Autumn at Kettle Pond, Groton VT – October 2019 photo by tommmmmm

Most Americans haven’t followed closely the Brexit odyssey in the UK. Even if you know only a little, you are probably aware that the UK voted 52% to 48% in a referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016. UK Prime Minister Theresa May then negotiated a divorce agreement with the EU, but that agreement was rejected three times by Parliament.

Then Boris Johnson, also of the Tory Party, became Prime Minister. He’s said the UK would leave the EU with or without an agreement on Brexit. Over the past few days, Johnson seems to have made a new deal with the EU. Here’s a capsule summary of the state of play in England from Market Watch: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Boris Johnson has signed a deal [with the EU] he said he didn’t need, creating a border he didn’t want, under the authority of a Court he didn’t accept, to be submitted to a Parliament he doesn’t control.”

While Johnson is calling this a “new” agreement, 95% of the 293-page agreement is the same as May’s. The changes mostly only apply to the controversial “Irish backstop.” In order to prevent a hard border with customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the original withdrawal agreement stated that the UK as a whole would remain in the EU customs union.

That was a non-starter for the British Brexiteers, who turned it down under May. Under the Johnson deal, the UK will leave the customs union. This will allow the UK to negotiate its own trade agreements outside of the EU.

The catch is that while Northern Ireland will technically be out of the customs union, it will continue to operate under the EU’s customs rules. In practice, this means that goods being sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will have to be checked at points of entry. If there’s a chance those goods could be sent on to the Republic of Ireland, or to the EU, duty will have to be paid on them. This concession was necessary to get the Republic of Ireland to agree to the deal. Goods from the EU will pay a duty in Northern Ireland unless they are headed to the Republic.

All this might sound technical, but the deal effectively creates an economic border somewhere in the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, something both May and Johnson had vowed never to do. It’s a big concession.

In UK slang, this whole thing might be called a “dog’s breakfast”. In any event, Parliament will convene at 9.30am on Saturday (4:30am EDT) to consider Johnson’s Brexit deal. This is the first time Parliament will have met on a Saturday since the Falklands War.

The session will start with questions of the Prime Minister, followed by a motion to vote on the deal, followed by possible amendments to the deal. It might take all day to actually get to an up or down vote on Brexit. Here’s a helpful diagram:

The reality is probably way more complicated than the chart. By striking this deal, Johnson has basically sold out a key ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP, which controls 10 seats in Parliament, represents Northern Ireland. It strongly opposes any political or economic separation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. That probably makes the new backstop deal a nonstarter for them.

The vote will be close. Whether it passes won’t be known until the actual vote on Saturday.

The only soothing thing Wrongo sees today is that the US isn’t the only dysfunctional Western democracy. You may or may not be interested in following the Brexit happenings in real time, so Wrongo will do that for you.

So today, we’ve gotta get up early to see Members of Parliament yell at Boris Johnson, and that will take some strong coffee. Let’s brew up a mug of Kenyan Rukira coffee ($15/250g.) from the people at Portland, OR’s Coava Coffee.  The brewer says it has notes of molasses, currant, pineapple, and kumquat followed by refreshing hints of kiwi and honey. Sounds juicy!

Today we salute Elijah Cummings. He served as a Maryland Congressman since 1996, and was active until he died. He signed subpoenas from his hospital bed, and as recently as last Friday, helped to lead a Democratic caucus conference call. His death is a huge loss for his district, his state, and our country.

Here’s a quote from Cummings:

“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?”

To acknowledge him, here’s Judy Collins singing “Amazing Grace”:

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

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