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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Trump’s “Great and Unmatched Wisdom”

The Daily Escape:

Bear Lake, from the Superior trail, MN – October 2019 photo by lifesazoo

Maybe you saw this announcement from the White House on Sunday night saying the US was pulling back from where it was patrolling in northeast Syria, allowing the Turks to move deeper into Syrian territory:

Then, the AP reported on Monday that US troops had already begun pulling out of positions in northern Syria. Here’s what the situation on the ground looks like:

In agreeing with Turkey’s desire to further intervene in Syria, Trump overrode the objections of the Pentagon and State Department, which wanted to maintain a small American troop presence in northeastern Syria. Our presence provides a buffer between the Kurds and Turkey, which considers the Kurds to be terrorists.

Trump’s decision came after a telephone call with Turkey’s President Erdogan. The Kurdish forces in the area have been the most reliable American ally against ISIS for years, but Turkey has continually lobbied the US to stop supporting them.

Trump wanted to leave Syria in 2017, at the beginning of his term, but was talked out of it. Had he carried through on that, the Kurds would have had an incentive to make peace with Syria. It would have left Russia, Iran and Syria in a better position to fight the remaining jihadis, while holding the Turks at bay.

The Kurds should have seen this coming. America has not been the Kurds best friend, despite their assisting us since before the Iraq war. Remember that we had no response when Saddam used chemical weapons against them in the 1980s.

Trump plans on keeping the troops in Syria, just out of the reach of the coming Turkish invasion. It’s the worst of all worlds for everyone, except Erdogan.

The move didn’t go over well with Republicans. Many have castigated Trump, and some are promising to try to sanction Turkey if it follows through with its plans. In a kind of retreat, Trump backed down a little with this tweet:

Any non-Republican reading this tweet will have the same thought as Wrongo, that Trump’s account was hijacked, or that this was satire. No, it was really Trump, and he wasn’t joking. His “great and unmatched wisdom” stands between us and “obliterating” a NATO partner.

And he says he’s done it before. Does he mean the Iranian economy? China’s?

Wrongo hears echoes of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Unlike in “The Wizard of Oz”, the booming, threatening voice of grandiose delusion now comes from a Twitter account. And this story won’t end with Dorothy waking from a dream.

So far, the GOP in DC has not reacted to the tweet, they’re still focused on what they think is a bad decision: walking away from the Kurds. They think Trump is rewarding another dictator in Erdogan. He has defied the US by purchasing Russia’s S-400 air-defense system and by ignoring US sanctions against Iran.

But Trump seems ok with all that, so long as Erdogan takes 2,500 foreign fighters off our hands.

So far, the Republicans are pissed about Trump doing something that is within his right to do as president. But, when he broke the law by asking foreign countries to interfere in our election, they have stayed silent.

So, Trump jeopardizing their Defense Industry PAC contributions is a grave national concern, but law-breaking is OK by them.

Who sets their priorities?

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 6, 2019

Regarding the omnipresent Trump/Biden news, virtually all Republicans are on the same page:

  • The Bidens are guilty of something
  • They should be investigated
  • Trump committed no crime
  • The Democrats are out to get Trump

The right has worked with Fox State News to neutralize facts, so every issue is up for grabs, even things you know is true. Global warming? It’s undecided. Biden’s activity with Ukraine? Every newspaper has debunked it. And it wasn’t just Obama and Biden who wanted that Ukraine prosecutor gone, all of the European leaders and the head of the IMF wanted him out too.

But for Republicans, those aren’t facts, because something must have been going on. Now, Biden’s let Trump and the GOP define him. They say he should be investigated, because he must have done something wrong, everyone says so.

You’ve got to fight to win the news cycle these days. We can’t remember what happened yesterday, let alone last month.

But, once again, it looks like the Dems plan to work very slowly, sacrificing the narrative. All they have to say is, “he did it”.

Will they again grab defeat from the jaws of victory? On to cartoons. Here’s the meme of the week:

Views differ on what the Ukraine thingy means:

GOP is strangely silent on Trump’s actions:

New movie hits theaters this weekend. Most would like to wipe this horror show from their minds:

It’s more likely that Trump would say: “It would be unfortunate if somehow, he got shot in the leg“:

 

Rudy plans a spirited defense of whatever this is:

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Does Calling Them “Internment” or “Concentration” Camps Matter?

The Daily Escape:

Grand Tetons Sunset – June 2019 photo by Shaun Peterson

A protracted discussion started when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) used the term “concentration camps” to describe the places on the US-Mexico border where “illegal migrants” are being held, and where some of them have died.

This got started when AOC was sharing an article from Esquire, which quoted journalist and concentration camp expert Andrea Pitzer:

“There have been concentration camps in France, South Africa, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and— with Japanese internment— the United States. In fact, we are operating such a system right now in response to a very real spike in arrivals at our southern border.”

Immediately, right-wing individuals and organizations lashed out at AOC, not Esquire Magazine, calling her “silly”, and launching a debate about definitions while drawing attention away from the actual story— the conditions under which child refugees are being kept on the US border.

Others defended AOC as technically accurate. They lauded her for drawing attention to conditions in today’s migrant camps. The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General has warned of dangerous overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at processing facilities for migrants at the border. The military has been asked to construct tented camps for thousands of migrants at military bases surrounded by chain link fence and topped by barbed wire. CNN, in discussing AOC’s remarks, reported that:

“The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of concentration camp (which was their top trending term Wednesday) is: a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard —used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners.”

Liz Cheney and others who have denounced Ocasio-Cortez’s word choice claim they are concerned for the “real victims” of history’s abominable acts, those who suffered under the Nazis.

As bad as the Holocaust was, no one should have the exclusive right to use the term “concentration camp”. Could AOC have done better by using “internment camps”? Maybe, but she was going for the shock effect, and we shouldn’t be normalizing what is happening at our Southern border.

Five migrant children have died since December in detention facilities described by politicians, legal advocates and human rights organizations as overcrowded and unsanitary. The “inmates” experience meager food and extreme temperatures. Some in the administration have suggested that they don’t need soap or toothpaste. A Justice Department attorney argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that withholding basic amenities, like soap and toothbrushes, from detained migrants does not violate the government’s responsibility to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions to detained children.

Those who spend time parsing whether conditions in these camps (which are, for civil, not criminal custody) are bad enough to qualify as concentration camps and who berate anyone who dares to describe them accurately, are more concerned with protecting those directing the acts than they seem to be with the acts themselves.

This is another effort by the Right to rebrand something for their propaganda. We’re the country where “Kentucky Fried Chicken” became “KFC” to make us forget that our chicken is fried. Where “torture” was called “enhanced interrogation,” by GW Bush. Where some Congressmen are now calling natural gas “freedom gas”.

Of course Republicans will happily rebrand them “immigrant children internment camps”. They’ll call them anything but “concentration camps”.

The argument about these two words is not an argument about definitions. Ocasio-Cortez and her opponents agree that the term “concentration camp” refers to something so horrible as to be unimaginable. AOC is choosing the term to show that what’s happening is by definition, fundamentally incompatible with our concept of ourselves, and is therefore, unimaginable.

What America needs today are more young people like AOC. We need fewer Bidens, Trumps and Pelosis. America needs our young people to speak up, because the old guard will never take the risk to do what AOC has done.

AOC’s focus is different from our older generations, but you shouldn’t hold that against her. She’s not trying to insult WWII victims, or their legacies.

She’s trying to wake America up to the moral issue on our Southern border.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 26, 2019

In another “elections have consequences” story, The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), has a new report about how states can blunt the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis. In that case, the court ruled that employers can use forced arbitration clauses to strip workers of their right to join together in court to fight wage theft, discrimination, or harassment. The EPI forecasts that by 2024, more than 80% of private-sector, nonunion workers will be covered by forced arbitration clauses.

They argue that, given the current very conservative Supreme Court, it will be up to individual states to pass “whistleblower enforcement” laws like those introduced in Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, to empower workers who need to sue law-breaking employers, including those covered by arbitration clauses.

On to cartoons. Here’s a look at abortion from the GOP white male perspective:

Trump won’t (can’t?) deal:

GOP’s accomplishments are transparent, even if they are not:

The Parties see things differently:

Summer replacement series doesn’t get raves:

Graduation speakers aren’t created equal:

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Will The GOP Ever Disavow Trump?

The Daily Escape:

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP – 2018 photo by dontyakno

Wrongo hasn’t written much about the Trump/Russia investigation. Most of those pieces have shown skepticism about Russian interference in our election process. There is, however, clear evidence that the Trump campaign reached out to the Russians more than 100 times. While that’s unusual, it isn’t on its face, criminal, although the Trump campaign failed to alert the FBI about those contacts.

There are investigations underway by Mueller, the Southern District of NY, and several House committees. Trump has castigated each, calling them a witch hunt and fake news. Nearly all Republicans have sided with him about these multiple investigations.

It isn’t unusual that the GOP is indifferent to the range of possible Trump wrongdoing. On Tuesday, the WaPo’s Greg Sargent helpfully cataloged the things that Republicans in Congress think should not be investigated about Trump by the Democrats in Congress:

  • Materials relating to any foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses, which might constitute violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
  • Materials that might shed light on Trump’s negotiations about a real estate project in Moscow, which Trump concealed from the voters even after the GOP primaries were in progress. Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress about the deal.
  • Parenthetically, and not part of Greg Sergeant’s list, Marcy Wheeler thinks that the most important crime in the Trump era is a probable quid quo pro in which the Russians (and Trump) seemed willing to trade a new Moscow Trump Tower for sanctions relief should Trump win the presidency.
  • Materials that might show whether Trump’s lawyers had a hand in writing former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress that falsified the timeline of those negotiations.
  • Materials that might illuminate/prove Trump’s suspected efforts to obstruct the FBI/Mueller investigation.
  • Materials that would shed more light on the criminal hush-money schemes that Cohen carried out, allegedly at Trump’s direction, and on Trump’s reimbursement of those payments. These most likely violate campaign finance laws.

Sargent’s list is based on the House Judiciary Committee document requests, so is limited to people who’ve already been asked for documents. But, it doesn’t capture many other items such as the role of Cambridge Analytica, or Paul Manafort’s sharing of presidential polling data with the Russians.

On Thursday, Axios tried to put the Trump investigations and the political scandals in perspective. Their view is that much of what we’ve seen over the past two years have few precedents in presidential history. They cite Watergate, Teapot Dome and the Clinton impeachment, all defining moments of presidential wrong doing.

But, they close by saying that Trump may survive all of it, and that Republican voters seem basically unmoved by the mounting evidence.

Why is it so difficult for people of both parties to coalesce around either his guilt, or innocence?  How is it that we just forget about the breathtaking corruption of Trump Cabinet Secretaries Scott Pruitt, or Ryan Zinke?

Many of the Federal judges on the Russian investigation who have ruled against Trump’s associates. The judges say the Trumpies were selling out the interests of the US. That has consequences for Americans, including the constituents of the Republican members of Congress who want us to stop investigating.

It’s depressingly clear that 2020 will be another close presidential election. The Republican Party is willing to condone bad behavior and criminality when the perpetrator is one of their own.

How can America rectify this problem? Even if a Democrat wins the presidency, it is unlikely the Dems will win a majority in the Senate. So, the GOP will again use the same obstructionist game plan we saw during the Obama administration.

NPR had a short piece, “Why Partisanship Changes How People React To Noncontroversial Statements”. It reported on a study where people were given anodyne statements like “I grew up knowing that the only way we can make change is if people work together”.

It turned out that most people agreed with the statement, until they are told that it was said by someone in the other political party. Then they disagreed. If people can only agree with a meaningless statement when they think it was said by their political party, what hope do we have to find agreement when the stakes are high, like in the Mueller investigation?

Given the Republicans’ disinterest for seeking the truth behind the Trump scandals, the outlook for our democracy is grim.

We need to be clear-eyed about how much work, and how long it will take, to right the ship.

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Saturday Soother – January 26, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Frozen pond, Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona, AZ – photo by ballsagna2time

Yesterday, Wrongo posted a comment by Sarah Kendzior who said that the shutdown is a hostile restructuring of government by people who were happy to see the non-military portion of the government weakened. This sounds like an exaggeration until you read that earlier this month, Trump retweeted a Daily Caller article by a purported high-level of his administration, arguing that the work of most federal employees is worthless:

“We do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them…As one of the senior officials working without a paycheck, a few words of advice for the president’s next move at shuttered government agencies: lock the doors, sell the furniture, and cut them down.”

Maybe, once again, we’ve underestimated Trump and his band of authoritarians.

And everyone can see how disconnected the administration is from working people, despite their protests of populism. On Thursday afternoon, Trump told reporters that grocery stores will “work along” with people who can’t pay for food. Wrongo isn’t sure what happens in your neighborhood, but around here, nobody runs a tab with Walmart, or Stop and Shop. Nobody is holding up the checkout line while the cashier marks a new amount on the shopper’s tab with the store.

And also on Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to talk about the government shutdown. He apparently didn’t understand why unpaid federal workers would be suffering, since they could just go to the bank and get a loan:

“The obligations that they would undertake, say a borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are in effect federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it…”

Sure they can. And if they had a few bucks left over, they could go in together on a few tumbrels.

The fact that the administration and the GOP-controlled Senate have weaponized a government shutdown is all you need to know about their callousness and cynicism. It’s morally repugnant to use people as pawns. But, as is clear from the quotes above, most of the Trump administration are elites who, for their entire lives, have used average people as pawns for financial gain.

There will never be a better reason to vote all of them out in 2020 than the heartless way they are reacting to the very real problems that they have created for millions of Americans in January 2019.

Ok, time to slow the burn, kick back and try as best we can to shut out all the noise echoing in our minds. It’s time for your Saturday Soother.

Let’s start by brewing a cup of Kenya Ruthaka Peaberry ($19/12oz.) from Sacramento’s Temple Coffee Roasters. It apparently has a resonant finish with notes of dark chocolate and red currant, and undertones of crisp marjoram, if you’re into that.

UPDATE: Apparently, Trump agreed late Friday to open the government for three weeks, without any Wall funding.

Now, settle back in your most comfy chair, and unplug from all screens (except Wrongo’s) and in honor of the Speaker of the House, listen to the John Coltrane Quartet from 1962 doing “Nancy with the Laughing Face”:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 14, 2019

The Daily Escape:

We’re at such a low point, that quoting a racist White Governor at a KKK convention in 1924, doesn’t seem out of character with today’s politics.

Build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven” might have easily been said by Trump on the 2016 campaign trail.

From the NYT:

At midnight on Saturday, the shutdown entered its 22nd day, which makes it the longest gap in American government funding ever. That beats the previous record, under President Bill Clinton in 1995, of 21 days.

Of the 21 federal government shutdowns since 1976, nine of the ten longest occurred under Democratic presidents, where the obstruction was by Republicans.

But the current shutdown is a self-inflicted wound by Trump, so it’s also caused by a Republican.

Trump has help from Mitch McConnell, who is the most powerful man in DC. He has run our national politics since 2010. He was able to neutralize Obama, and now it’s his call how long this shutdown goes on. From the WaPo:

President Trump is not the only person in Washington who could end this government shutdown now.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could bring a “clean” funding bill to the floor, free up his GOP caucus to support it and could quite possibly secure enough votes to override a presidential veto.

McConnell already did it once, when he believed he had Trump’s blessing. Before the holidays he allowed a vote to keep the government running until Feb. 8, to avoid a shutdown and buy more time to negotiate Trump’s demand for border wall funding. It passed easily.

After the past three weeks, it should be no surprise that, based on what we know, the GOP’s slogan is:

“Party over People, we really don’t care, do you?”

There are a few simple truths about American history. First, that racism is our worst legacy. Second, that we’re a nation of, and built by, immigrants. Except for Native Americans, we all trace our origins to places beyond our borders.

So why do White nationalists and White Evangelicals insist on saying that we have the right to shut out all immigrants except those from Norway? From NPR:

From 1870 to 1910 a quarter of Norway’s working-age population immigrated, mostly to the United States. You read that right — one-fourth of its workers left the country.

Why? They were economic migrants. Their average wages were less than a third of what they could earn in the US. It also turns out that the immigrants that Norway sent to the US during the 1870s were its poorest and least educated citizens.

According to Leah Boustan, an economist at Princeton University, compared to immigrants from the 15 other European nations that were part of the same wave of arrivals:

…the Norwegians held the lowest paid occupations in the US. They tended to be farm laborers. They were also fishermen. If they were in cities they were just sort of in the manual labor category — what today you would think of as a day laborer.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Twenty years after their arrival in the US, the Norwegian immigrants were still making 14% less than native-born workers. In other words, they have a lot in common with many of today’s immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Time to wake up, America! Trump doesn’t want to develop an immigration policy. We know that, because he only creates phony crises, while he wishes away real ones.

Trump has declared conflicts with Mexico, NATO, Australia, and Canada where none exist. He has tried to frighten Americans by fabricating emergencies that do not exist on the Mexican border.

He declares victories where there are none: saying he’s solved North Korea’s nuclear threat, and that he has beaten ISIS in Syria.

This isn’t just Nancy Pelosi’s problem to solve. Republicans in the Senate need to show moral courage, force Mitch McConnell’s hand, and pass a veto-proof funding bill.

The number to call is the Senate’s switchboard: (202) 224-3121.

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Amidst Signs of Political Instability, Congress Goes on Vacation

The Daily Escape:

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, Cannon Beach, OR – AKA, the “Terrible Tilly”. The extremely harsh environment has taken its toll: It has been vacant since 1957.

There are two items related to the six-week holiday that Congress is about to take.

First, on July 15th Wrongo warned that House GOP Freedom Caucus leaders Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) were considering articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General (and Mueller probe boss) Rod Rosenstein. Wrongo said that Rosenstein was the firewall against Trump’s potential firing of Mueller.

And Reuters reported that on Wednesday, they filed their impeachment articles:

A group of Republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced articles of impeachment to remove Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, escalating a fight over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, who belong to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, joined nine other House members in accusing Rosenstein of hiding investigative information from Congress, failure to comply with congressional subpoenas and other alleged misconduct.

Rosenstein is the one Department of Justice official whose removal could allow Trump and his DOJ buddies to quash the Mueller investigation.

So is this the throw-down that has our democracy hanging in the balance? Maybe, maybe not. The House is scheduled to leave on Thursday for a recess that extends until after Labor Day.

Congress is taking their bi-annual six-week vacation to campaign to keep their jobs. And even when they return, it’s not certain that a Rosenstein impeachment will gain enough traction with Republicans to move forward, since Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is against it, and AG Jeff Sessions said that Rosenstein has his “complete confidence”.

As it is, the House plans to use a big chunk of September trying to pass more tax cuts. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has let it be known that the House will debate three tax cut bills even though they have no chance of being enacted.

But all this gives the House Republicans something to talk about while campaigning back home that isn’t Trump’s dodgy trade deals, or being Putin’s poodle.

After the impeachment articles were filed, Jim Jordan announced that he will run to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker. Jordan desperately needs new things to talk about back home in Ohio. He faces charges that he failed to report sexual abuse that was reported to him as an assistant coach for the Ohio State wrestling team.

Is this anything more than a campaign publicity stunt, or just the latest installment of bad-faith politics by Republicans? We’ll find out in the fall.

The second vacation-related issue is: When does the GOP plan to work on avoiding a government shutdown? Stan Collender, a federal budget analyst that you should follow, says on his blog that the GOP has just 67 days left until the government shuts down again.

And the real number is probably half that if you factor in vacations and weekends. Collender puts the odds of an October 1st shutdown at 60%.

We already know that the House isn’t back until after Labor Day. The Senate will be in town for a while, as Mitch McConnell tries to force a vote on Brett Kavanaugh. Assuming they eventually go home as well, the Senate is very likely to be tied up for days in early September with the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Having a government shutdown in this political environment doesn’t seem like something Republicans will want to face just before the midterms. We can expect them to push things beyond the election with another Continuing Resolution, and a promise to pass spending bills in the lame duck session, should they lose control of either chamber of Congress.

You would think that Congressional Republicans would try to move heaven and earth to avoid a shutdown. But, Freedom Caucus members are quite happy with shutdowns.

They are convinced that shutdowns are good for them. Maybe so, but they aren’t good for America.

We are at an extremely unpredictable and unstable political point in America.

We have a paranoid President who, along with a delusional Congress, are making it impossible to focus on getting things done in DC.

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The GOP’s History of Non-Accountability

The Daily Escape:

St. Peters Basilica, Rome, Italy – photo via @archpics

(Wrongo and Ms. Right are ensconced in a 1791 colonial home in the middle of nowhere, Massachusetts. The house was a half way point and overnight stop on the Hartford CT to Albany NY stage coach in the early 1800’s. It was a way station on the Underground Railroad in the late 1850’s. Now it is a VRBO rental, mostly used by large family reunions, and our family qualifies.)

Did the Trump campaign ask for help, or were they merely the beneficiaries of Russia’s efforts in the 2016 presidential election? We won’t know for sure unless or until Robert Mueller’s investigation makes it into the public domain. But here in the Berkshires, Wrongo read a column by Dylan Matthews that places the possible Trump wrongdoing in an historical perspective with other GOP stalwarts like Richard Nixon. And not just Watergate, where Gerald Ford pardoned tricky Dicky, but more:

The reason is a culture of elite impunity, where…political leaders face absolutely no accountability for misdeeds….It encompasses many decades during which political officials have evaded accountability for broken laws and illicit foreign contacts, and business and corporate elites have skirted punishment for outright fraud. It’s a problem that, ironically, Trump hammered home in the campaign: that there’s a different set of rules for elites than for normal people. It just happens that Trump knows that because he, for decades now, has been taking advantage of elite impunity.

Matthews makes the point that the Russia scandal reminds us that a presidential candidate has collaborated with a foreign government against the American government before, and gotten away with it:

In the summer of 1968…Republican nominee Richard Nixon and his aides actively sabotaged efforts by Lyndon Johnson’s administration to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War. They got away with it, prolonging a war that wound up killing more than a million people in the process.

As Matthews says, this is part of a larger, longstanding and troubling trend of Republican non-accountability:

It wasn’t even two decades later that the next Republican administration conspired with a foreign government…Iran’s. This time, the actions weren’t just horrendously immoral but illegal as well; elongating the Vietnam War was, alas, not a crime, but funding the Contras with Iranian arms deal money was. So was lying to Congress about it. Fourteen members of Reagan’s administration were indicted, and 11 were convicted.

It didn’t end there:

Before leaving office, President George H.W. Bush pardoned six people…all high-ranking policy officials like Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams….National Security Council official Oliver North and National Security Adviser John Poindexter had, at that point, already gotten their convictions tossed out, not because they were innocent but due to a complication resulting from Congress giving them immunity to testify.

Matthews quotes Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel who investigated Iran-Contra:

What set Iran-Contra apart from previous political scandals was the fact that a cover-up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension.

Many of the Iran-Contra perpetrators remain on the scene in Washington. Poindexter ran George W. Bush’s Information Awareness Office. Elliott Abrams, who had other transgressions under Reagan, when he supported El Salvador’s military dictatorship, worked as a National Security Council official for George W. Bush.

GW Bush had dozens of policymakers who lied about WMD. They systematically violated US law forbidding torture. Consider Abu Ghraib, where low-level soldiers and officers were court-martialed, while the people responsible for the policy, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, got off scott-free.

And Democrats weren’t above non-accountability. Obama didn’t prosecute Bush officials about the Iraq WMD lies. He didn’t prosecute CIA officials who tortured. Obama’s administration didn’t bring charges against Jose Rodriguez, who authorized the destruction of 92 tapes showing the CIA torturing detainees. Gina Haspel, who Rodriguez has said drafted the order to destroy the tapes, and who ran a CIA black site for torture in Thailand, is now the director of the CIA. Obama’s Department of Justice was notoriously lax with Wall Street. Once, Obama’s White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler jokingly asked Deputy AG Lanny Breuer, “How many cases are you dismissing this week?”

Matthews closes:

With that history — with such a clear record that…political officials involved in criminal activity and illicit deals with foreign powers will ever face any consequences — why on earth wouldn’t someone like Trump, a man who lacks any willingness to sacrifice his self-interest in order to do the right thing, work with Russia?

So both parties have contributed to this culture of permitting wrong conduct without consequences.

The possible implications for the Mueller investigation is frightening. At what point will bringing prosecutions be impossible because the GOP office holder will simply yell “partisan witch hunt“, and have one-third of America agree without seeing the evidence?

And will the bad guys simply wait for the next GOP president and get pardoned?

Unless we’re willing to fight that system, many more Republicans will evade accountability in the future.

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Saturday Soother – April 21, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Bluebells in Hallerbos, Belgium – April 2018 photo by shinbaninja. Bluebells bloom only for about 10 days.

Welcome to the weekend. Let’s take a detour from the continuous drip, drip, drip, of Comey, Stormy, Syria, Cohen, Russia, and North Korea. Instead, take a look at an example of GOP maliciousness that passed under the radar, like a cruise missile, but aimed at American consumers.

The NYT’s Thursday business section reported about Senate Republicans passing a piece of legislation that will eviscerate a little bit more of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (Bureau) supervision in the financial sector: (emphasis, brackets and link by Wrongo)

The Senate voted on Wednesday to overturn an Obama-era rule that restricted automobile lenders from discriminating against minorities by charging them higher fees for car loans, in the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to roll back financial regulations.

Republican lawmakers, along with one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, seized on the Congressional Review Act to overturn guidance issued in 2013 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The 1996 law [Congressional Review Act] gives Congress the power to nullify rules formulated by government agencies but has primarily been used to void recently enacted rules.

After the Government Accountability Office determined late last year that the consumer bureau’s 2013 guidance on auto lending was technically a rule that could be rolled back, Republicans, led by Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA), targeted it for rescission by using the Congressional Review Act. The House is expected to follow suit and also use the Congressional Review Act to void the guidance.

Republicans have been against the Bureau, which was established under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law since it was passed. Trump’s pick to lead the agency, at least on an interim basis, Mick Mulvaney, has largely frozen its rule-making and enforcement.

Democrats and consumer watchdogs criticized the Senate’s move. Rion Dennis of Americans for Financial Reform, said:

By voting to roll back the CFPB’s work, senators have emboldened banks and finance companies to engage in racial discrimination by charging millions of people of color more for a car loan than is justified….Lawmakers have also opened the door to challenging longstanding agency actions that are crucial to protecting workers, consumers, civil rights, the environment and the economy.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, (D-CT) warned that rescinding the Bureau’s guidance would lead to a flood of unfair, predatory lending:

This truly repugnant resolution ignores the unacceptable, undeniable truth that consumers’ interest rates are regularly marked up based on their race or ethnicity — a disgusting practice that continues to run rampant across the country…

A 2011 report from the Center for Responsible Lending analyzed loan level data and found that African-Americans and Latinos were receiving higher numbers of interest rate markups on their car loans than white consumers. The Bureau issued guidance in 2013 urging auto lenders to curb discriminatory lending practices and used that guidance to justify lawsuits that they brought against auto finance companies.

The Department of Justice can still bring lawsuits against auto lenders for discriminatory practices, even if the guidance is nullified. But legal experts say the government could be less successful in bringing such cases without the guidance from a government agency saying the practices are viewed as improper.

Why are Republicans so mean-spirited? This is just gratuitous maliciousness towards African-Americans and other people of color. Who benefits, except a few huge GOP donors in the financial services industry?

This is another example of why TURNOUT in November is all that we have left to save the Republic.

No way to spin it, we’ve had another tough week, so it’s time for a Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing a yuuge cup of Sumatra Tano Batak ($21/12 oz.). The beans come from the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and are valued for their complex earth and fruit notes. That comes from using unorthodox fruit removal and drying practices called “wet-hulling.” Then the beans are roasted by PT’s Coffee in Topeka, Kansas. According to them, drinking it invokes the experience of eating cherries in a flower garden next to a patch of fresh, fragrant, just-turned earth.

Sounds like it could be the Fields of Wrong on a warm April day.

Now settle back in a comfy chair and listen to the most underappreciated jazz singer, Johnny Hartman. He’s Wrongo’s favorite of that era. Here he is singing “I’ll Remember April” from his 1955 album, “Songs from the Heart”. It was Hartman’s debut album:

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

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