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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

IOWA = AWOL

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Mt. Hood, OR – 2020 photo by JustinPoe

AWOL means “Absent Without Official Leave”. What’s really AWOL is the Iowa vote tallying on Monday night. Yves Smith:

“The Democrats have lurched from their self-inflicted wound of the botched impeachment effort to the self-inflicted wound of the embarrassing fail of Iowa caucus result-tallying, thanks not just to the use of a newly-created app that failed in prime time, but also the lack of any sort of fallbacks.”

On Tuesday night, Iowa released a partial result:

Buttigieg: 26.9%

Sanders:  25.1%

Warren:  18.3%

Biden:     15.6%

Based on 62% of the votes, these are the viable candidates. It’s useful to point out that Klobuchar was next at 12.6% of the delegates. In Wrongo’s review of counties that had yet to fully report, but where Klobuchar was in first or second place, she will not gain enough votes to make the 15% cutoff for delegates. Maybe, by the time you are reading this, all the votes will have been counted.

How can it take more than 18 hours to tabulate 105,400 votes? That implies that, when fully counted, the total vote will be about 170,000. That’s about as many total voters as a mayoral election in a medium-sized city. Iowa has said since Monday night that every vote had a paper trail. If so, how can they still not have a final count?

Don’t you think that football’s San Francisco ‘49’ers wish that the Super Bowl ended when it was 62% complete? This is absurd.

Is it wrong to point out that the Dems also botched the software roll-out for the Affordable Care Act?

Some random thoughts:

  • The Iowa caucus was administered by the Iowa Democratic Party. Luckily for Iowans, the November election will be administered by state and local election officials.
  • Nevada Democrats also had plans to use the same mobile reporting app for their caucuses set for Feb. 22, but now they say they won’t be using it. The NY Daily News reports that Nevada won’t gamble on the vote results app that derailed the Iowa caucuses: (brackets by Wrongo)

‘What happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada,’ William McCurdy, the [Nevada] state party chairman, said in a statement. ‘We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus.’”

  • In Iowa politics, maybe like politics everywhere, the six degrees of Kevin Bacon works perfectly. Shadow is the software firm that botched the vote tally. It is owned by Acronym. The Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow $60,000 in November and December 2019. Gerard Niemira and Krista Davis, who both worked for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, co-founded Shadow. Shadow collected $153,768 in 2019 from Iowa, Nevada and seven different Democratic campaigns, mostly for technology, software and subscription services like text messaging. Among them were the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Tara McGowan is CEO of Shadow’s parent company, Acronym. Her husband is a Buttigieg campaign strategist. Her brother-in-law is the Buttigieg Iowa state communications director.

If this happened in Venezuela, or Greece, or Indonesia, there would be worldwide mockery along with comments like, “well, what did you expect?”

This goes beyond satire. The only question is whether it’s staggering incompetence, or something deliberately orchestrated. Wrongo votes for the former, because the people running the Democratic Party are too inept to do something like this on purpose. Never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

Sabotage is the least likely explanation.

In California, it can take weeks to process election results and they often turn out to be different than the estimates on election night. Better to get it right, than end up with what happened in Florida in 2000.

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – Iowa Caucuses Edition, February 2, 2020

We had a very consequential week, followed by a consequential weekend. Sunday was both the Super Bowl and Groundhog Day. It was also a very rare eight-digit palindrome when written as 02/02/2020, the first since 11/11/1111.

We had the “deal of the century” that isn’t, and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. But the Constitution died.

And so did Kobe Bryant and his daughter, along with seven others. It doesn’t take a basketball fan to feel shocked and saddened when a Dad and his 13-year old daughter are suddenly killed. Of course we know about Kobe Bryant, a basketball genius who, in his retirement, helped young people and championed women’s basketball. His life story was complicated, but if you think that people can work hard and redeem themselves, Kobe Bryant is your prime example:

The movie that’s always on repeat:

Peace? Or pieces?

Brexit happened, the UK is now going it alone:

Failing to call witnesses shows that the GOP’s loyalties have shifted:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder:

Brown paper bags have replaced the MAGA hats for GOP Senators:

With Iowa voting tomorrow, it’s important to know your enemies:

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Saturday Soother – Brexit Edition, February 1, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Castle Mountain, Banff, Alberta, CN – 2019 photo by anitajwani

(Sunday Cartoons will appear on Monday)

Yesterday, Brexit became official. The UK is no longer part of the European Union.

The decision to stay or go consumed the UK to the exclusion of all else for four years. But listening to the BBC, they now are barely talking about it. For all the arguing about “Leave” or “Remain”, nothing much was really said about what would happen once things got concrete.

It may be hard for Americans to understand, since we are seduced by British accents, but the Tories are dumber than Republicans. One example of what changed on Friday, as the UK Independent observed:

“Brexit day is here, so let us celebrate our biggest victory – the freedom to drink very bad wine.”

So now comes the hard part. Britain has until the end of this year to make a new trade deal with Europe, the US, and with other non-EU countries. The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner. In 2018, UK exports to the EU were £291 billion (45% of all UK exports). UK imports from the EU were £357 billion (53% of all UK imports).

Services accounted for 41% of the UK’s exports to the EU in 2018. Financial services and other business services (including legal, accounting, advertising, research and development, architectural, and engineering) are important categories of services exports to the EU. They made up just over half of UK service exports to the EU in 2018.

Because of the EU’s structure, the parliaments of 27 countries will have to agree to any new deal. Imagine what a “No Deal” would mean starting in 2021: Both Britain and the EU would stand to lose a big chunk of their trade revenue.

It will be fascinating to see which side has the greater negotiating power. For example, the UK only accounts for just 6% of German exports of goods. It accounts for 6.8% of French exports.

The US needs a new trade deal with Britain as well. That deal will have to be approved by the US Congress. The US will want open access to the British markets for its agricultural and healthcare industries. That will conflict with Britain’s own farmers, food regulations and its National Health Service.

Britain will be negotiating these two large, and very complicated deals under severe time pressure. The EU might offer to extend the deadline, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there will be no extensions. Despite Johnson’s promise, comprehensive trade deals take several years to complete, averaging 7-8 years. So there will be little deals announced in steps, with the simplest to agree areas finished first.

There are also the national issues: North Ireland will be integrated economically with Ireland. Having a customs border in the North Sea may prove unwieldy. Scotland preferred to remain with the EU, and voted “Remain”. After Parliament finally voted to Leave, Scotland asked to hold a referendum on leaving the UK, but were turned down by the Tories. They may try again to secede over the Prime Minister’s objections.

These new trade deals may be on less favorable terms than what the Tories told the voters. As an example, one argument for Brexit was that the UK would regain exclusive fishing rights within its economic zone. But some EU countries will likely ask for additional fishing rights in British waters in exchange for something Britain urgently needs.

We won’t know the outcome for five to ten years from now, but it’s likely that Great Britain will be less great than it is today.

What with the impeachment show drawing to a conclusion without calling witnesses, and the impending food fest of Super Bowl Sunday, it’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Our one oasis of calm in a week of crisis.

Let’s start by brewing up a big mug of Ethiopia Shaskiso Natural ($18/12oz.) roasted by Michigan’s own Battlecreek Coffee Roasters. The roaster says it tastes of strawberry and cocoa supported by spice-toned florals.

Now, settle back by the fire and listen to Telemann’s Concerto in D major for Violin, Cello, Trumpet and Strings, played live by the Bremer Barockorchester, in 2015:

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

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Important Lessons About the Youth Vote in Iowa

The Daily Escape:

Left Mitten, Monument Valley NP, AZ – photo by Enigma Fotos

The Iowa caucuses are just around the corner. On February 3, Iowans will kick off the primary season. With so many candidates still running, it may only take 40,000 votes to “win” the caucus. Vox quotes Norm Zterzenbach, former Iowa Democratic Party official:

“Maybe the top candidate ends up with 20%, because you’ve got six strong candidates going into caucus night….that’s only 40,000-50,000 votes.”

538 says that it’s likely that Sanders finishes first in Iowa. It’s a little complicated, since Iowa has 41 delegates, of which 14 are decided by the state-wide vote, and 27 by the vote in each Congressional district. Here’s 538’s forecasted vote tally:

Sanders:   13.0

Biden:       12.4

Buttigieg:   8.0

Warren:     5.4

All other:   2.2

An important factor affecting the outcome could be Iowa’s youth vote. Tufts University reports:

“Young people are poised for a potentially historic turnout in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, and young Democrats prefer Sen. Bernie Sanders…”

This is based on a poll by Tufts and Suffolk University who surveyed 500 young Iowa residents ages 18-29, who are eligible to vote, regardless of their voter registration status. The survey was conducted between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20, by telephone. The margin of error is +/-4.4%.

The key findings were:

  • More than a third (35%) of young Iowans (ages 18-29) surveyed say they are “extremely likely” to caucus on Feb. 3, 2020
  • That would represent a 300% increase over youth voter participation in 2016, when 11% participated
  • Moreover, the last two times that only one party had an active nominating contest, youth turnout in the Iowa caucuses was only 4%
  • 39% of young Iowans polled intend to caucus for Sanders, followed by 19% for Warren, and 14% for Buttigieg
  • Among young Iowans, Yang was favored by 9% while Biden only had 7%
  • Among all Iowa youth polled (Democrats, Republicans, and independents), 41% support, and 49% don’t support Trump’s impeachment and removal
  • On the issues, those polled said the following issues were most important: health care (18%), the environment (12%), taxes, (mostly mentioned by young Republicans) at 12%, and international relations (9%)

The youth vote played a decisive role in the 2008 caucuses when 57% of young caucus goers supported then-Senator Obama, helping propel him to a win in Iowa. In 2016, according to the exit polls, 84% of Iowa youth supported Bernie Sanders at the Democratic caucuses, giving Sanders a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton (who won 49.9% to 49.6%) and kicking off a trend of national youth support for Sanders throughout the 2016 Democratic primaries.

Winning any election depends on turnout, and Iowa is no exception. In the Tufts poll, 72% of Iowa youth said they have been personally contacted and asked to support a specific candidate or party. That included 82% of young Democrats, and 75% of those who are Independent or unaffiliated.

One-fifth (21%) of all in the poll said that they want to register to vote, but didn’t know how. Tellingly, more than half (55%) didn’t know that they have to register with a party in order to participate.

Can anything be more depressing than learning that 55% of kids over 18 in Iowa don’t have a basic understanding of civics? Wrongo suspects that this is true in most states. Insuring that all people are registered to vote should be every politician’s job #1. The best way to achieve this is automatic voter registration (AVR).

Oregon was the first state to implement an AVR system in 2015. And in 2016, it saw 44% of automatically registered voters cast a ballot. Since Oregon, fifteen more states, and DC, have followed suit.

In general, states that have implemented AVR have higher voter turnout rates.

There are two main types of AVR implementation: front-end and back-end. In a back-end system like Oregon’s, eligible voters are automatically added to the voter rolls when they interact with a government agency. They are given the chance to opt out via mail afterward.

In a front-end system, like California’s or Colorado’s, individuals are required to decide whether they want to register to vote, or indicate if they want to update their address while interacting with an agency. While there are advantages to each approach, front-end systems do not register as many people as back end systems. Maybe people hate spending more time at the DMV.

Nothing is more sacred to our democracy than the right to vote, but, our national electoral system is broken by gerrymandering and partisan purging of the voter rolls.

If voter rolls are missing certain groups (such as low-income voters, rural voters, and young voters) those people will not be canvassed, or mobilized, and will not turn out to vote at election time.

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Coronavirus in China Is Spreading Fast

The Daily Escape:

Sparhawk Mill, Yarmouth ME – photo by Benjamin Williamson

Should we be concerned about the new Chinese coronavirus? Given developments in the past few days, we need to focus on it. The CDC announced on Monday that a total of 110 people in 26 US states are under investigation for possible infection with it. But officials continue to believe the immediate health risk to the US public remains very low.

OTOH, the increasingly stringent measures taken in China to contain it sure make it look like Chinese officials are at least worried, if not yet panicked.

China is suffering from shortages of test kits and personnel to confirm that suspected cases are indeed the coronavirus. We know there are no special anti-viral medications that work, people can only rely on their own immunity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has increased its estimate of global risk of the coronavirus from moderate to high. It’s now clear that this coronavirus is very contagious. The estimates of the reproduction rate (number of new infections caused by someone with the disease) is between 2.6 and 2.9. If that is true, the reproduction rate would be higher than for the 1917 Spanish flu, but lower than for measles, which is between 12 & 15. The reason is that it’s a large pathogen. From Foreign Policy:

“The coronavirus is a physically large virus—in relative terms…too big to survive or stay suspended in the air for hours or travel more than a few feet.”

So far, this coronavirus has a mortality rate of 2.2%: The latest data is 4524 confirmed cases, with 106 deaths. This observed level isn’t good, but it’s far lower than for SARS (9.6%), and is similar to the Spanish flu, which was 2.5%.

These are the reasons for the current freakout. Governments have started evacuating staff from Wuhan. CNN reports that:

About 240 Americans being evacuated from Wuhan Wednesday morning local time…arriving in Ontario, California. About three dozen Wuhan-based US diplomats and their families are also expected to be on board…”

CNN mentions that Australia, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea and the UK are also evacuating their government employees and families.

Won’t evacuations just be another way to spread the disease unless the evacuees are quarantined for the 14 day incubation period? So many practical questions.

It’s a little early to speculate, but the impacts can go well beyond just public health. We’ve already seen a one-day negative impact on Mr. Market, who momentarily panicked.

A pandemic would severely affect Chinese economic output. With public transportation halted, commerce grinds to a stop as people avoid public places and thousands of employees can no longer go to work. Who pays their wages while the city is locked down?

We know cities can’t truly be isolated for longer than a few days. And we know people can’t live without food, water, fuel, etc. and money to buy these essentials.

The realities leave officials with an impossible choice: Either truly isolate the city (which isn’t possible) for more than a few days, or allow the flow of goods required to sustain millions of city residents. The second option creates uncontrollable vectors for the virus to spread beyond the city as transport workers and those fleeing the lockdown illegally, move on to other cities.

How would America cope with this virus if it gained a foothold here?

We had that experience 100 years ago. One of Wrongo’s grandfathers died in the 1918 flu pandemic. Of the estimated 500 million people in the developed world to be infected, the recorded mortality rate was 50 million, with about 675,000 occurring in the US. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of the 1918 pandemic.

Today, our elites would retreat to their country homes while demanding that their companies stay open. We’ve seen panic buying in Manhattan before blizzards that would only affect the city for two days. Logistics being what they are, local distribution centers absolutely do not have enough food to last through a prolonged shutdown. And Amazon won’t be delivering you toilet paper.

In times like these, it’s useful to remember that there is a never-ending attack being waged by the forces of privatization to take over America’s public health system, turning it into another monopoly profit center.

So far, we’ve held this effort at bay, but the lobbyists and the monied class keep working to convince Washington that this government system represents “waste, fraud and abuse”. The fight goes on.

Sadly, our leaders are immune to the coronavirus infections, because it is transmitted through the head (eyes, nose and mouth), and they generally have their heads up their asses.

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Book Sales Over Country?

The Daily Escape:

Babbs Bridge, Wentworth ME – photo by Colin Zwiner. It is Maine’s oldest covered bridge, built in 1840.

Now that a few facts in John Bolton’s book have leaked, including his claim that President Trump told him $391 million in Ukraine military aid would be held hostage until Ukraine investigated the Bidens, the key question is whether Senate Republicans will hold hands and jump off the cliff together rather than call him as a witness.

Will they, like Butch Cassidy and Sundance, feel as if they have no choice, since the posse is closing in? Don’t ask if they are going to jump, ask why they think they have no choice.

Let’s review: Bolton’s manuscript has been in the hands of the White House since December 1st. They had ample time to review it and let Trump’s legal staff and GOP Senators know what would happen if its contents leaked. But Sunday’s revelations came as a surprise to GOP Senators.

Assuming Bolton is just trying to sell his book, he’s burning a lot of bridges along the way to a payday.

The NY Times story is pretty specific, which means it was likely leaked on purpose. The NYT further reports that the manuscript is in nearly final form, with Amazon listing its publication date as March 17th. That’s St. Patrick’s Day, and you can be sure there will be lots of GOP drinking going on.

So the GOP has only two choices: Call Bolton as a witness, or call no witnesses. Surely, if they call no witnesses, many other and possibly worse things will leak out about Trump after he’s acquitted by the Senate. And then, the fight moves to November. With additional dirt surfacing, Republican Senators will have a lot to answer for with their constituents.

Republicans could argue that even if everything Bolton is reported to have said in his book is true, it doesn’t matter, because Trump’s behavior doesn’t rise to an impeachable offense. That’s been their strategy all along, so it requires no changes.

But it might become an untenable strategy if Bolton actually sits as a witness.

The GOP could argue that Bolton can’t testify because he’s covered by presidential privilege. But they can’t be sure that Chief Justice John Roberts would go along with that interpretation of the law, and Republican Senators voting to overrule Roberts would certainly look terrible to voters.

Yet, allowing Bolton to testify would probably make Trump’s acquittal harder to justify. So denying him as a witness must still look like their best option. Republican Senators could discover that the cost of saving Trump’s presidency spells the end to some of their individual political careers.

Wrongo’s instinct is never to trust John Bolton. Bolton’s long history as a neo-con war hawk doesn’t make him seem like a proper Democratic ally. It is a great leap of faith to think that Bolton is so principled that he would turn on the Republican Party to offer his version of the truth.

And his refusal to testify before the House impeachment inquiry suggested that he wasn’t eager to lend Democrats a hand in impeaching Trump. At the time, some said this was because no one would buy his book if they already knew what was in it.

Then again, Matt Tait’s take may be best:

“What an irony if the only regime Bolton ever actually succeeded in overthrowing was his own”

https://twitter.com/pwnallthethings/status/1221805542680793088
6:41 AM – 27 Jan 2020

This story will develop over the next few days, at least until the Senate Republicans’ defense of Trump rests.

Wrongo thinks the chances that Bolton is called as a witness are nearly zero.

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, West End Overlook, Pittsburgh PA – photo by Kevin Simpson Photography

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected….Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins….This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.” G.K. Chesterton

Remember that Chesterton was British, and he died in 1936.

Wrongo’s really dreading the prospect of looking down a double barreled shotgun of Biden vs. Bernie. This confession is brought on by the WaPo, who reported on its poll with ABC News:

“Nationally…the competition has moved in the direction of Biden and Sanders, with Warren, Buttigieg and others now clearly behind. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters, Biden is favored by 32% with Sanders at 23%…In both cases, those percentages are slightly better than what each received in an October Post-ABC national poll.

Warren is currently running third but has seen a significant drop in her support nationally, falling from 23% in October to 12% in the new poll…..she is the only other candidate for the Democratic nomination in double digits.”

Here’s the placement of the rest:

  • Bloomberg: 8%
  • Yang: 7%
  • Buttigieg: 5%
  • Klobuchar: 3%

The WaPo indicates Democrats are motivated in this election. An amazing 73% said that they are certain to vote in their state’s primary or caucus, significantly higher than the 59% who said the same in January 2016. Importantly, 9 in 10 Democrats who named a candidate said that while they are enthusiastic about their choice, 53% still would consider another candidate.

Warren has slipped particularly among women, where her support fell from 26% to 12%. But while she trails Biden and Sanders as the first choice among Democratic voters, she does well when people are asked who their second choice is.

Overall, 23% name Warren as their second choice, slightly higher than either Sanders or Biden. When first and second choices are combined, Biden leads at 48%, followed by Sanders at 41%, and Warren at 35% percent. No other candidate is within 20 points of this combination.

But, this eye-catching poll is based on a very small sample. The Post-ABC poll only sampled 388 Democrats nationally. It includes 349 who are registered voters. Most important, the margin of error is ± six percentage points.

It’s also important to remember that Warren got the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, which probably means more than her earlier co-endorsement by The Times. Nate Silver notes that despite the WaPo poll, Warren is closer in Iowa:

“…the Des Moines Register endorsement tonight could actually matter. Historically, it helps the endorsee by 3 points which matters in a race where the top 4 candidates are separated by ~5 points.

https://t.co/L8iMGV5hPH— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) January 25, 2020

It’s unlikely that 3 points would make Warren the winner of the Iowa primary, but it does seem likely to keep her above the critical 15% threshold for delegates. That would probably keep Iowa from making this a two-man (literally) race.

Wrongo doesn’t know who he’d support if it comes down to Biden vs. Bernie. Wrongo doubts that Bernie would be a good president. Would he be able to get much done? It’s easy to imagine Trump beating Bernie to death with Marxist-Socialist epithets.

Biden would probably be able to staff a professional administration. But his lack of an ambitious progressive agenda means that even if he were elected, his presidency might not amount to much either. OTOH, he may help other Democrats for House and Senate more than Bernie can. Bernie’s “Our Revolution” movement endorsed about 80 candidates in 2018, and just 6 of them were elected.

Warren seems to be a better choice than either, and it’s really depressing that she can’t get much traction with voters.

All of this means that there is a distinct possibility Trump gets reelected in a replay of 2016 no matter who is the ultimate Dem candidate. They all have serious weaknesses. Each has a core group of enthusiastic supporters, and a core group that says that candidate underwhelms them.

Can whoever is the nominee eventually become a consensus candidate?

Wake up America! A lot of people like Biden because they want the politics out of politics. They want “the people in DC to cut out the political shit, and just work together to do what’s right for the country“.

But as Chesterton said, this is just another example of our traditional American way of really wanting to keep the politics IN politics.

The Parties like things just the way they are.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 26, 2020

A few random thoughts on Sunday:

  • Where Wrongo comes from, “take her out” means go on a date, or…something else. It has nothing to do with job termination.
  • The impeachment seems to be helping Trump so far. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Trump’s approval rating has climbed to match the highest of his presidency.
    • Axios reports that Trump’s net approval numbers improved in 31 states between September and December, according to Morning Consult data.
    • They improved by at least 5 points in Iowa, Utah, Maine, Montana and New Mexico.
    • An incumbent president with a growing economy and a low unemployment rate 6-12 months before the election can be tough to beat, even presidents who are bad at their jobs.
    • America twice elected Andrew Jackson. It elected Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan to consecutive terms. And we also did the same with Harding and Coolidge.
  • Are you following the Coronavirus outbreak in China? The number of confirmed cases in China stands at around 1,300. The virus has also been reported in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Malaysia, France, the US and Australia. The death toll in China from the Coronavirus outbreak jumped on Saturday to 41.
    • We don’t know how deadly the virus is. These outbreaks can range from low-to-highly contagious, and from low-to-highly deadly. There isn’t enough data so far to know where to place this virus on either the contagion, or the deadly axis.
    • An amazing development is the rapid and powerful response by global public health agencies. Modern transportation allows diseases to spread globally. But modern communications and effective government agencies can react as fast.
    • This could radically change the severity of epidemics. Modern communication plus modern technology makes the global response far more effective than in the past.
    • This is a bit of evidence that, in some ways, countries are working together to build a better world.
    • From Fabius Maximus:

“Extreme libertarians tell us that governments can’t do anything right, and that we should “starve the beast.” Conservatives also hate the UN. Here we see an example of strong government agencies – national and international – providing a vital service.”

On to cartoons. On Saturday, the GOP began their defense of Trump:

Some say the Senate could be doing something else:

The GOP’s impeachment strategy moves on:

Trump and Mitch both want America to eat mystery meat:

Country before Party: such a quaint idea:

Some kids can’t wait for recess:

 

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Saturday Soother – January 25, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The Subway, Zion NP, UT – 2019 photo by DarthButane. This is a nine-mile round trip hike.

When it comes to the impeachment trial, nothing that’s said really matters, if you are hoping for a fair review of guilty, vs. not guilty.

Let’s spend a moment reviewing Adam Schiff’s closing remarks on Thursday night. He was off the charts brilliant:

“The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first, to put their interest first. Colonel Vindman said, here, right matters. Here, right matters.

Well, let me tell you something. If right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. It doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well-written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what he did was not right. “

Schiff concluded with: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“But here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.

This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.

He didn’t read this, he spoke from the heart. He wasn’t histrionic, or angry. However, he did deliver a sharp condemnation of Trump. He all but said “If Trump walks, and is re-elected, this country is finished.”

That fell flat with some Republicans:

Republicans have really thin skins when it comes to attacks on the guy who tweets insults for a living.

Schiff didn’t pretend that witnesses are a real possibility.  He didn’t pretend Democrats are going to get documents. He didn’t pretend that GOP Senators will do the right thing.

He made it clear to the real jury, America’s voters, what’s at stake, and exactly who is shirking their duties. He’s shown us that Republicans no longer even pretend to give a flying f__k about democracy, honesty, or the Constitution.

Was it a tough week for you? Jim Lehrer died. The long-time anchor of the PBS NewsHour was possibly the last of his kind. Wrongo often watched Lehrer’s careful, considered journalism on PBS, along with his moderation of presidential debates. He was never one of those in the news media who thrive on gotcha questions and confrontations.

Time to let it all go for a few minutes. Iit’s time for our Saturday Soother. Here, the fields of Wrong still have snow on the ground, although it is now crisscrossed by the tracks of all sorts of animals. We’re in for a rainy weekend, so let’s start by brewing up a mug of coffee that is recommended by Wrongo’s daughter, Merrill. It’s Colombia Santa Rita coffee ($16/12 oz.) with its notes of caramel, toasted almond, and powdered cocoa, from Rainier Coffee.

Now settle back near a fire, and listen to a piece of cello music from Henry Eccles, a violinist from Great Britain who was born in 1670. We will listen to the Largo section of his “Sonata for Violoncello in G minor”, played by Maxim Kozlov, who calls himself “Cellopedia”:

Wrongo and Ms. Right heard this played on New Year’s Day by Sam Magill, cellist with the NY Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He hasn’t recorded it professionally, but you will love this sad, emotional performance by Kozlov.

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

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Verdict First. Trial Later

The Daily Escape:

Joshua Tree NP CA, in snow – December 2019 photo by chase_embrace

Have you been watching the impeachment extravaganza? It’s a mind-numbing exercise that’s difficult to take in large doses. That was probably Mitch McConnell’s plan. There are a few revelations though. One is the work of Adam Schiff, (D-CA) who is the lead House manager for the impeachment trial.

Josh Marshall at TPM says that Schiff’s job is to put the Senate on trial, and put Republican senators in a box that they can’t climb out of in November:

“Adam Schiff… [is] making a really convincing, damning set of arguments about all the accusations the President’s lawyers are denying while they simultaneously refuse to release records which would quickly confirm and refute those accusations.

These are cases in which we know there are contemporaneous notes or other records. The answers are there. But they refuse to release them. It is a damning indictment not only of the President but even more his Senate accomplices.”

The Senate Republicans swore an oath to be jurors, but they want to keep all of the proof secret. So, Schiff and the other House managers are making it clear that it is the Senate Republicans that are really on trial. The weakness for Republicans is that this is the first Senate trial held in defiance of the principle of shared facts and evidence.

Republican Senators are not paying close attention to Schiff and the others. All Senators are supposed to be in attendance and listening, but a few, mainly on the Republican side, are openly flaunting the rule. Dana Milbank’s column in the WaPo:

“Just minutes into the session, as lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) presented his opening argument for removing the president, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) displayed on his desk a hand-lettered message with big block letters pleading: “S.O.S.” In case that was too subtle, he followed this later with another handwritten message pretending he was an abducted child:  “THESE R NOT MY PARENTS!”

See, it’s all just a joke, presided over by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Hell, Trump said out loud at Davos that he’s withholding evidence: (brackets by Wrongo)

“I got to watch enough [of the Senate trial] — I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

The second article of impeachment is obstruction of Congress by withholding witnesses and documents. Trump confessed to it on live TV to reporters, and Senate Republicans don’t care.

Wrongo’s been waiting for Republicans to pay a significant price for their lying, hypocrisy, constant defiance of the rule of law, and disrespect for our institutions, norms, and Constitution, ever since the days of St. Ronnie.

From Martin Longman: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In a way, it’s something the Democrats are getting used to. From the hanging chads in Florida in 2000 to the Electoral College loss in 2016, the Republicans make a living winning despite losing. They’ve become dependent on cheating and rigging the rules of the game, and they’re experts at it at this point.”

The impeachment trial Kabuki play is no different. The GOP is gleefully waiting out the ceremonial “trial” in order to deliver their pre-ordained verdict.

Is it just Wrongo, or does it seem like America is screwed beyond redemption? If, by some cosmic quirk, Democrats one day hold the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, anything they attempt to do that does not align with Republican orthodoxy will end up being decided by one of McConnell’s right-wing courts.

You can expect that they will find a way to tie up, or simply negate anything the savior Congress tries to do. Will some great leader show up? Does the current crop of Democratic candidates have anyone able to make the case for wholesale change?

Do any of them have coattails sufficient to win the Senate?

Wrongo proposes that we think about Adam Schiff as the Democratic Presidential nominee. Sure, you think it’s too late, but is it really?

Here’s what the WaPo’s conservative writer Jennifer Rubin said about Schiff’s opening statement: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And that is what the trial is about. It’s about making clear to the entire country that Trump did exactly what he is accused of, but that his own party, suffering from political cowardice and intellectual corruption, do not have the nerve to stop him. If that is the goal — prove Trump’s guilt and Republicans’ complicity — Schiff hit a grand slam. And we have days more of evidence to hear.”

He’s someone who can make a tightly reasoned argument. He’s well-spoken, and knows Constitutional history. He’s a liberal from a liberal state, and at 60, he’s not a geezer.

President Adam? Sure, why not!

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