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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Cartoon Blogging – February 10, 2020

The New Hampshire debate is behind us, and the primary election is tomorrow. So what happens next? Do we move on towards November’s election and leave impeachment in the rear view, or does Congress “refresh the screen” and continue the investigations?

It’s one thing to run for president on “anyone but Trump”. It’s completely different for House Democrats to attempt more investigating while running for Congress. There are 31 House Democrats representing districts where Trump won in 2016. Most of them voted for impeachment, and they would probably be unhappy with further investigations.

Only one presidential candidate is willing to take on further investigations, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). But, at this point, do any of the current crop of Democratic contenders appear capable of beating Trump?

We should remember that doing that requires someone who can win Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Or alternatively, flip Florida and North Carolina. Running up the vote tally in New York and California are meaningless. Maybe it’s time to take a ride in the limo that’s double parked out on the street:

Steve Bannon was on Bill Maher’s “Real Time”. He said that if the Dems consider running a Republican like Bloomberg, it shows how debilitated the Democratic Party is. He may be right. And they may have to.

Mayo Pete eclipses Biden as the leading Moderate:

Trump made a mockery of the Medal of Freedom:

Trump’s post-acquittal firings brought a visit from Abe:

Pelosi wasn’t the only one who ripped it good:

America saw what they did:

Senate Republicans’ logic:

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Saturday Soother – Acquittal Edition

The Daily Escape:

View from the top of Mt. Baden Powell in the Los Angeles National Forest – February 2020 photo by David Dodd

(Sunday cartoons will appear on Monday)

Is the game of investigating Trump over? What are the arguments for continuing to pick at this wound? This is a political calculation only. It no longer matters who said what in Ukraine, regardless of the damage caused by Trump. That ship has sailed.

It’s time to focus on the 2020 election, particularly on the House and Senate races. Focusing on winning those elections, and particularly on holding the House while winning a majority in the Senate, requires that the Democratic Party deal with its current schism. The Party is messily divided between social liberals who are for reform of capitalism along with Medicare for All, and free college, and moderates who wish to tack back towards the middle of the road.

The question that Democrats have to deal with is which of these two poles can make it a majoritarian party in 2020 and beyond?

This dilemma faced the Republicans only a short time ago, when the Tea Party threatened to split the GOP in two. Those cracks remained evident until Trump came along and united them in a way that today makes them seem more like a cult than a political party.

In some ways, Democrats are like the American Whig party was in the early 1850’s, when it could no longer bridge the gap between the Whigs of the northern industrial states and the Whigs of the southern farming/slavery states. It was an irreconcilable dilemma, and in short order, the party simply ceased to exist, only to re-emerge as the Republican Party in 1856.

The Democrats have been trending this way since LBJ forced southern Democrats to vote for/against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Later, the formation of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985, founded in part by Bill Clinton, pushed the Democrats rightward.

The “Left Party” that is trying to emerge from the current shambles of the Democratic Party could be more properly defined as a reactionary movement. An attempt to return to the days of the New Deal and the rise of the middle class.

In that sense, Wrongo is a New Deal Reactionary. The New Deal was a good deal for most of us. We should want our New Deal back again.

The question on the table is: Which half of the divided Democratic Party should New Deal Reactionaries support? Is it the Sanders/Warren half, or the Biden/Bloomberg/Buttigieg half of the Party? If it’s Sanders, can we get a New Deal Revival, but no Recreational Socialism to go along with that?

Can the moderate/ConservaDems realistically be counted on to bring back the New Deal? We see that ConservaDems are willing to strap on their running shoes and do 3 miles in the morning, because “no pain no gain”. But somehow, once at work in the House or Senate, they claim that the hardship doesn’t make sense economically, so why even try?

The answers to these twin questions: Whether the Party can be re-united similar to the way Trump united the GOP, and which half of the Party should attempt that unification in November 2020, will determine the arc of our democracy for decades to come.

It was a terrible week, and now we need a break from “all acquittal, all the time”. That means it’s time for our Saturday Soother, a brief window when we can forget about the outside world and concentrate on breathing slowly and relaxing mind and body.

Let’s start by brewing up a vente cup of El Salvador Finca el Cerro Natural ($22.99/12oz.). The roaster, Virginia’s Red Rooster Coffee says it tastes of strawberry and tangerine zest with a viscous mouthfeel.

Now, grab a seat by the fire and listen to Anna Netrebko perform “Solveig’s Song” from Peer Gynt’s Suite No.2, live with the Prague Philharmonia conducted by Emmanuel Villaume in 2008:

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

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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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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 – December 2, 2019

The Daily Escape:

New snow at Minnehaha Falls, MN – November 2019 photo by memotherboy.

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman lays out a grim, but possibly likely 2020 scenario, one where Trump loses the popular vote by five million or more votes, and still wins the Electoral College:

“The ultimate nightmare scenario for Democrats might look something like this: Trump loses the popular vote by more than 5 million ballots, and the Democratic nominee converts Michigan and Pennsylvania back to blue. But Trump wins re-election by two Electoral votes by barely hanging onto Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — one of the whitest and least college-educated districts in the country.”

In 2016, Trump’s victory hinged on three states he won by less than a point: Michigan (0.2%), Pennsylvania (0.7%) and Wisconsin (0.8%). All three of these relatively white states with aging populations also have high shares of white voters without college degrees, a group that has trended away from Democrats.

It’s been no secret that six states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — are best-positioned to decide which candidate reaches 270 Electoral votes and wins the presidency.

Democrats contend that they won the Senate and governors’ races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2018. And in the House, they flipped two seats in Michigan and four in Pennsylvania.

But Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania and still win the Electoral College, so long as he carries every other place he won in 2016. And Wisconsin is in play, because Democrats won Wisconsin’s governor’s race by just a single point, and failed to gain a House seat. If Wisconsin’s Trump voters turn out in 2020, it could easily stay red.

And should a 269-269 Electoral vote split occur (not impossible), the process moves to the House, with each state delegation having one vote. A majority of states (26) is needed to win. Trump would win, since the GOP holds the majority in 26 states, while Democrats control 22. Two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, are tied.

The Senate would elect the Vice-President, with each Senator having a vote. A majority of Senators (51) is needed to win, so the GOP would win in the VP in the Senate, as well.

There are a lot of scenarios that could happen in 2020, including a “blowout” victory by Dems. In this scenario, it’s possible the Democratic nominee could win Georgia, Iowa, Ohio or maybe even Texas. But the most likely scenarios see Wisconsin as the state that decides the presidency. Running up the score in California isn’t going to help Dems when it comes to beating Trump.

This makes it of utmost importance that Democrats select a presidential nominee that can energize both the Party’s base, and enough independents to overcome the GOP’s natural advantage in the states that voted for Trump in 2016. That’s going to be harder than it seems. A November Economist/YouGov poll showed this: (emphasis by Wrongo)

A Majority (53%) of Republicans think Donald Trump was a better President than Abraham Lincoln. pic.twitter.com/CrsiYeLUdJ

— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) November 29, 2019

Interestingly, 75% of the country rated Lincoln as better than Trump, showing that the GOP is completely out of step with the rest of us. But, despite an approval rating in the low 40s, Trump has a path to re-election.

Keep this poll in mind whenever the Democratic Party suggests that Democrats can win over Republicans. There may be a few persuadable Republicans, but the majority of Trump’s party actually believes that he is a better president than the guy who kept the nation together by winning the Civil War. Lincoln’s worst day was probably better than Trump’s best.

Time to wake up Democrats! You keep waiting for demographic change to swing many Red states, but most of the change is occurring in noncompetitive states, particularly California and Texas, which threatens to further widen the chasm between winning the popular vote and winning the Electoral College.

Dems need to compete as if our lives depend upon it, in all of the House and Senate elections, in addition to local elections and the presidency!

They need to, because our lives actually do depend upon changing the course we’re on.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to cartoons. No plan goes unpunished:

America has a difference of opinion on health insurance:

Bill Barr waves his God flag:

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

Trump misunderstood which turkey could do him a favor:

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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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