The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Preparing for Trump

Yesterday was Super Tuesday. The results will tell us lots about the state of the Democratic Party, but despite the outcome on Tuesday, Democrats have a variety of issues worth thinking about heading into the general election this November. In this primary cycle, Democratic primary voters just aren’t showing up. Democrats in 2016 primaries are only voting at two-thirds of the rate that they did eight years ago. All told, about 1.18 million Democrats across those first four states went to the polls in 2008. Just under 870,000 showed up this time. That’s 26% fewer voters engaged.

But, you’d think that Sanders, who’s message is a political revolution, could energize the disaffected in great numbers, but it just hasn’t happened. Perhaps it is the right message, but the wrong messenger. And no evidence of a “political revolution.”

Yet Trump is doing just that. GOP turnout in primaries is up 24% over 2008. It is a safe bet that if The Donald is the GOP nominee, there will be a big Republican turnout in November.

There are other concerns: With the Sanders vs. Clinton contest, the Democratic Party is also at risk of imploding, right along with the GOP in its tussle with Trump.

Sanders is seen as unusually honest for someone who’s been a politician for much of his life, and he advocates a refreshingly anti-establishment view on core issues that matter to an increasing number of Americans. These include American militarism, Wall Street bailouts, a two-tiered justice system, the prohibitive cost of college education, healthcare insecurity and a “rigged economy.”

OTOH, Hillary is committed to a third Obama term and incremental change. She has been forced by Sanders to move left, and is paying lip service to some of his issues. Once the general election season begins, it is likely that Hillary will be the candidate for America’s political status quo, vs. the radical alternative of Donald Trump.

Bernie’s supporters understand this, and may or may not go compliantly into the voting booth to elect Hillary, despite the terrifying prospects of a Trump presidency.

Tea Party Republicans understand that the GOP Establishment offers them little. And more and more rank and file Republicans have come to the same conclusion, which is precisely why the GOP nomination is now Trump’s to lose.

Democrats are teetering on the same precipice. The Dem Establishment, this time represented by Hillary, offers weak tea. The Sanders wing could easily sit this one out, and by late summer, when polls show that Hillary is in a death struggle with a political novice, political pundits will be tripping over each other to write about the death of the Democratic Party.

Democrats are in a bind. They want progressive politics, but offered by an Establishment leader.

Dems are always looking for that. In 2008, they selected Obama because he represented change and empowerment for average people over Hillary, the Democratic Establishment candidate. People wanted something new and different. Obama’s presidency wasn’t a failure, unless Democrats accept nothing less than ideological purity from their presidents.

Or, look back at recent presidential elections. Oh the glee among Democrats in 2001 when GWB won the nomination. It was gonna be a cakewalk for Mr. Democratic Establishment Al Gore. Gore did win the popular vote, but lacked an influential brother in Florida. With Establishment candidate John Kerry in 2004, his vote for the Iraq war was his downfall. How do you run successfully against an incumbent when you agreed with the incumbent’s major disaster? Saying you were “for it before you were against it” was an epic fail. Kerry never figured that out, and lost.

The 2008 election was easy for not-quite Establishment Obama, since the GOP was badly wounded by the GWB administration and GOP Establishment McCain lacked the personal horsepower to defeat him.

If 2016 is an Establishment Clinton v. an anti-establishment Trump, some of the Establishment GOP may choose sit it out. There is a small possibility they could go full anti-McGovern, as Establishment Dems did in 1972. If anti-establishment Sanders is the nominee, the GOP Establishment will find a way to make a deal with Trump, and the Dem Establishment probably won’t do enough to prevent Sanders from losing.

If the US economy hits a rough patch before November (and there are several reasons to expect that), Clinton as the Establishment nominee could be dead meat. Sanders, OTOH, could end up a stronger candidate because of it. We also need to remember that Donald Trump is not an ideologue. He brings no core convictions to the table, other than ego, so he will continue to say whatever works with his fans.

Will a Trump win kill America? That depends on whether our country’s immune system, that body of informed citizens who are engaged, and who bother to vote, can effectively fight the infection.


It’s Always Groundhog Day in America

Do Conservatives Have a Learning Disability? A few who read the Wrongologist are convinced that Wrongo is just a clueless, woolly-headed Progressive who hates America and the baby Jesus. None of that is true, except for the Progressive part.

From Krugman’s Monday column:

Marco Rubio has yet to win anything, but by losing less badly than other non-Trump candidates he has become the overwhelming choice of the Republican establishment.

PK points out that Rubio:

• Proposes tax cuts, like completely eliminating taxes on investment income — which would mean, for example, that Mitt Romney would end up owing zero in federal taxes.
• Proposes tax cuts that would be almost twice as big as George W. Bush’s as a percentage of GDP, despite the fact that Republicans have spent the Obama years warning incessantly that budget deficits will destroy America, any day now.
• Insists that his tax cuts would pay for themselves, by unleashing incredible economic growth. Never mind the complete absence of any evidence for this claim, or that the last two Democratic presidents, both of whom raised taxes on the rich, presided over better private-sector job growth than Mr. Bush did.
• Called for a balanced-budget amendment, which makes no sense, since he is calling for budget-busting tax cuts. Also this amendment would have been catastrophic during the Great Recession, when deficit spending helped bring us out of a crash.

Finally, Marco Roboto said a few days ago that it’s “not the Fed’s job to stimulate the economy” (although the law says that it is precisely their job). Krugman closes with: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

In short, Mr. Rubio is peddling crank economics. What’s interesting, however, is…he’s not pandering to ignorant voters; he’s pandering to an ignorant [GOP] elite.

It doesn’t require a Nobel Prize in Economics to see the entrenched divisions in our politics. But let’s focus today on the great coup by American Conservatism, convincing its followers that personal opinion counts for as much as any fact.

We live in an America that Conservatives have turned into an oligarchy. The system has been gamed to support the interests of the wealthy. Politicians are able to choose their voters through a cynical, manipulative gerrymandering re-redistricting process. The idea of “one man, one vote” has, via Citizens United, been turned into a largely meaningless exercise in which those with big bucks and an agenda pay to propagandize the American voter, many of whom are far more comfortable reacting emotionally, than thinking critically.

Conservatives like Rubio (and the rest of the GOP) have retreated into a content-free bubble, where they manufacture truth on the fly to suit their purpose. You know this since few on the Far Right put forward cogent, supportable arguments for their ideas, instead lazily relying on a smug arrogance which allows them to laugh off opposing ideas, as does Mr. Rubio.

The problem is, the vast majority of our electorate are largely oblivious to the nuances of the underlying issues. What information they have is derived from main stream media, or right wing propaganda organs, or social media.

Data are boring and unacceptable: My belief is superior to your data or to my own education. It is easier to just vote for the candidate promising to make America Great Again, ignoring the reality of the deep and nuanced causes of our problems.

The rigidity of the Republican doctrine on taxes as outlined by Rubio looks like an alternate version of the movie, “Groundhog Day“, where Bill Murray experiences a time loop in which he repeats his experience until he corrects the problems that had landed him in limbo.

Sadly, in the GOP alternative version, they begin every presidential election cycle with a demand for lower taxes. The tax policy of the previous four years has no effect on this mantra. Nor do the economic trends of the time alter their robotic claim that lower taxes will cure all difficulties. In the Conservative view, a smaller tax bite will trigger an economic boom that offsets the costs of GOP tax cuts to our budget.

In the GOP version of “Groundhog Day”, the GOP doesn’t learn from its mistakes. Unfortunately, this means the entire country suffers from the inability or unwillingness of Republicans to learn from experience.

It’s time to turn off Fox News and set out on a walkabout in the reality-based world.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 20, 2015

You are not going to read the entire 2000 page Omnibus Budget Bill, but you don’t have to. The thing that you need to know is that despite years of preaching budget austerity, and preaching that expenses must be paid for, the GOP-controlled House passed nearly $700 billion in unpaid-for tax cuts, none of which were paid for by budget cuts or other tax offsets.

Now, get it out of your head the GOP is fiscally responsible. Remember that Reagan quadrupled the Debt. Bush cut taxes while we went to war. Obama has run up the debt as well, but if ANYONE tells you the Republicans are fiscally responsible, laugh in their face.

In other news, the GOP really needs Santa’s help:

COW GOP List for Santa

Terror is driving the season:

COW Bearded Foreigner


Terror is driving the season Part II:

COW Fear of Terrorism


And Grinches are multiplying:

COW Grinches


Star Wars franchise wants to sell merchandise:

COW Starwars Xmas


And the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in seven years:

COW Janet Rides Again



Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 1, 2015

A Republican debate, a new Speaker of the House, boots on the ground in Syria, the World Series, not to mention Halloween. Quite the week. Did you set your clocks back?

This tweet pretty much sums up the Republican debate poutrage:

COW GOP Debate Tweet

Rubio had a good debate. Suddenly, people see him as taller:

COW Tall Rubio


GOP Halloween:

COW GOP Halloween

Now that Paul Ryan is Speaker, it will be a wild ride:

COW Mastadon



Ryan will try to be first with the leash:

COW Ryan Speaker

Uncle Sam whistles past America’s foreign policy graveyard:

COW FP Graveyard

NY Mets World Series tix are pricey:

COW Citi Field



More GOP Dickitude

Dickitude was on display at the House Oversight Committee hearing into Planned Parenthood (PP). Committee Chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) repeatedly interrupted PP President Cecile Richards as she tried to answer his questions Tuesday. Richards’ testimony was part of an investigation into PP’s business practices after sting videos were released that allegedly showed company executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Chaffetz took the time to note Richards’ salary.

Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct? he asked. ‘I don’t have the figures with me, but —‘Richards said. ‘It was,’ Chaffetz replied, ‘Congratulations.’

That had to be the first time in the recorded history that a Republican has criticized a CEO for making money. But, Richards provided the best moment of the day when Chaffetz was caught in a Fiorina-like lie after he pontificated on a projected slide:

CHAFFETZ: You’re going to deny that…
RICHARDS: I’m going to deny this slide that you just showed me that no one has ever provided us before! We’ve provided you all the information about everything — all the services that Planned Parenthood provides. And it doesn’t feel like we’re trying to get to the truth here. You just showed me this.
CHAFFETZ: I pulled those numbers directly out of your corporate reports!
RICHARDS: [legal team tells her something] Excuse me. My lawyers have informed me that the source of this is Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group. So I would check your source.
CHAFFETZ: [looking caught off-guard, stammering] then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that.

Shouldn’t they call the anti-abortion groups that created the fake chart (and the fake videos) to testify?

But, Dickitude doesn’t require a dick. We know that Carly Fiorina did not start the PP fire, but fanned the flames by her vivid comments during the 2nd Republican debate on Sept. 16th. Then, no one could find the section of the video that Carly said she saw.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse when a new video entitled “Carly Fiorina was right”, issued by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and purporting to show a PP abortion showed up this week. It quickly got traction in the media, but then things went from bad to worse: Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a board-certified OB/GYN took to her blog after viewing it. Dr. Gunter’s conclusion is that it was a premature delivery. She disputed Greg Cunningham, curator of the video, and the founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s finding, who told Time Magazine that it had to be an abortion:

Owing to the lack of medical treatment offered to the fetus.

Dr. Gunter says that Cunningham was wrong, since the fetus is 17-18 weeks and thus, previable, and that no doctor would render care in that circumstance. She goes on to say:

A neonatologist who attempts to resuscitate a 17 week delivery would be considered unethical.

Her final point was that there is no proof this video is in a PP clinic much less in the US. And hours after the publication of the video, several medical experts contacted by Time Magazine raised questions about whether the video showed an abortion.

These attempts to defund PP are a form of pandering to the anti-abortion wing of the Republican base. The base doesn’t care about literal truth when all them little angel babies are being massacred by the socialists.

Fiorina’s description of video evidence of PP performing a horrible procedure looks to be untrue, particularly since the footage:

• Didn’t come from the videos Fiorina was discussing
• There’s no evidence that the footage comes from PP
• There’s very good evidence that it doesn’t involve an abortion

Even if we grant that Fiorina was confused on the night of Sept. 16th when she made her statement about the video, the only way to explain her continued insistence that what she saw is real is to say she’s too stupid, too stubborn to admit she’s wrong, and/or that she’s a liar.

None of these are good qualities to have in a president.

Yet, the Right sees it exactly the other way: They think these are great qualities to have in a president. It’s a perfect projection of themselves onto an extremely powerful person, one who doesn’t give two fucks about reality, facts and evidence, and will lead from the gut.

That’s how we ended up in Iraq.


Monday Wake Up Call – September 28, 2015

Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right were in South Hero VT for the weekend. Here is a pic just after sunset, looking west towards Plattsburg NY. There is little fall color in Northern Vermont yet:

Lake Champlain Sunset

A few thoughts about Boehner’s resignation. Boehner faced a choice between a coup and a shutdown. That led him to make a deal with the Teahadists: If he stepped down as Speaker, they would vote for a “clean” Continuing Resolution (CR) and avoid a government shutdown. Several members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that led the revolt against Boehner’s leadership, said they will now support the spending bill without demands that it include language to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Alex Pareene summed up the Boehner era:

It was not a distinguished tenure. His meager accomplishments came in spite of himself and to the great consternation of his Republican colleagues. He pinballed from one pathetic humiliation, usually at the hands of his own caucus, to the next. The only reason Boehner remained speaker for as long as he did—to his eternal regret, it is clear—is because his bitterest opponents were too stupid to figure out how to oust him, and his likeliest replacements never wanted the job.

So, at least as of the time this is written, the corporate wing of the GOP will get their clean funding bill (and retain a shot at the Presidency next year), at the same time, the Teahadists are allowed a “victory” by getting rid of Boehner. The corporate wing will insert another one of their guys in the Speaker position and a year down the road, Boehner is out from under the lobbyist rules, and goes on to a job paying 10 times of his current salary.

But we’ve got unfinished business, like the transportation bill, the Debt Ceiling and the Omnibus Spending Bill to keep government functioning into next year. These will be left for the next Speaker.

The GOP establishment looks to be fragmenting into two parts. They have the majority, but they have lost Eric Cantor, their rain-maker. Boehner, another rainmaker and cat-herder, is now gone. McConnell has now lost the air support he used to enjoy from the House. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may need to be the next head on the chopping block, particularly for his unwillingness to get rid of the Senate filibuster. From Salmon:

We made a lot of promises to the American people, that if we took the Senate, that we would do certain things and those things have not been accomplished…A lot of the problems we are engaged in is because the Senate doesn’t take any action on anything and there’s nothing that any presidential candidate on our side says that will ever be realized as long as the modern-day filibuster is enacted in the way it is today.

The firebrands in the House say that Sen. Ted Cruz is the defacto leader of the party. The Presidential primaries might determine a different leader, but the establishment wing of the GOP doesn’t have the control it used to have.

But, all is good in the cesspool. So, let’s try to wake up both John Boehner and the Freedom Caucus. Here are The Rolling Stones with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, recorded live at the Max in October 1990 and released in 1991:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.


Friday Cartoon Blogging??

It sounds like an old story, but the Wrongologist and Ms. Oh So Right are again headed to a wedding in Vermont, so there will be no new posts until Monday. Therefore, cartoons!

We can’t ignore the visit of Pope Francis. Yesterday, he spoke to the Congress, and the usual spin ensued. Like the Liberty U folks when Bernie spoke there, the defining political issue for 90+% of Republicans is abortion. As long as the Pope remains with them on that issue, there’s no contradiction between their faith and political affiliation.

They will no more listen to this Pope on other issues than they did to John Paul II’s anti-war messages.

Liberals, including liberal Catholics, appreciate Francis because he says some things that they’ve believed for a long time. It’s always nice when an authority figure affirms one’s beliefs. But the three Catholic POTUS candidates, Christie, Jeb, and Santorum, have already rejected anything Francis has to say on climate change and income inequality. As have all the GOP members of Congress regardless of their religious affiliation.

The Pope’s big job:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Brian Williams returned from banishment to anchor coverage of the Pope:

COW Brian Williams

We may see a government shutdown this fall. One thing to keep in mind about the Republican debate over whether or not to risk a government shutdown for the “defund Planned Parenthood” movement is that this isn’t a fight over goals or principles. There isn’t a single Republican presidential candidate who does not favor “defunding Planned Parenthood:

COW Shutdown again

The GOP is moving on to Carly:

COW Fiorina

Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday over the emissions cheating scandal, saying “I’m not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.” Strange choice of words, probably written by his PR team. This is a rogue company that undertook anti-social activities for profit. Anyone can see that this is the outcome we should expect if Mr. Market is allowed to run free:


The Beetle morphs:



Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 20, 2015

Pope Francis, Russia’s President Putin and China’s President Xi walk into a bar…Well, it won’t be that type of week exactly, but all will be in the US over the next few days. There will be summits and mini-summits, and a few hallway meetings between them and individually, with Mr. Obama. But the game-changer is likely to be Pope Francis, who is bringing his message about Mr. Market, and how Mr. Market isn’t working for the average Joe. In fact, many Republicans are suspicious of the Pope:

COW Pope Republicans

Rep. Paul Gosar, (R-AZ) says he’s boycotting Pope Francis’ appearance before Congress. He said:

If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so on his personal time.

Rep. Gosar, who has received campaign contributions of $12,500 from oil and gas companies and $28,850 from electric utilities, doesn’t believe in climate change. Apparently, he would rather the Pope devotes his speech to abortion, Planned Parenthood, and to the threatened religious liberties of County Clerks.

This Pope’s message causes discomfort for people on both sides of the aisle. Conservative Catholics used to welcome Francis’ predecessors ecstatically, and with open arms, but that was in the old days, when Popes were Popes:

COW Popes Different Welcome

Even when in the Reagan Library, today’s GOP candidates can’t duplicate St. Ronnie’s message:

COW Reagan Meme

The GOP debate brought the smell of roasted pig:

COW Burned Pig

Views now differ on Paradise:

COW Paradise


The War Party Rides Again

Peter Bienart in the Atlantic:

As George W. Bush’s administration drew to an end, the brand of ambitious, expensive, Manichean, militaristic foreign policy commonly dubbed “neoconservative” seemed on the verge of collapse.

Yet, according to recent polls, GOP voters again see national security as more important than either cultural issues, or the economy. More than 75% of Republicans want American ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq, and a plurality says that stopping Iran’s nuclear program requires an immediate military strike.

So it is no surprise that GOP presidential candidates have pledged a return of US combat troops in large numbers to the Middle East. Bill Barrow of the AP took a look at the specifics of plans by some of them:

Sen. Lindsay Graham, (R-SC) on “Face the Nation”:

I don’t see anybody on our side coming up with a robust plan that truly would destroy” the Islamic State militants

Graham has called for 20,000 American troops divided between Iraq and Syria. “You can’t do this through the air.”

Donald Trump said he would commit ground troops last Sunday on “Meet the Press”. Trump said that in order to cripple ISIS, he would “take away their wealth” by reclaiming oil fields the group has commandeered. When host Chuck Todd told him that would take ground troops, Trump replied, “That’s OK.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich blasted ISIS on CNN’s “State of the Union“: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

All the religions of the world ought to stand up [and] say, ‘You blow up innocent men, women and children and you think you’re going to paradise? There’s something wrong with you. You’re nuts.’

Regarding ground troops, Kasich said he would deploy American forces only as part of an international coalition, saying: “I don’t want to go alone.”

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin wouldn’t rule out US boots on the ground in Syria.

Jeb Bush said that ISIS is spreading like a pandemic and that the US may need to send more ground troops into Iraq to defeat it. Jeb maintains that defeating ISIS in Syria will require the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. Jeb says the way to remove al-Assad was to organize the “moderate” forces and have US troops on the ground in Syria:

Back them up as one force…And we should back that force up all the way through, not just in taking the fight to the enemy, but in helping them to form a stable, moderate government…It’s a tough, complicated diplomatic and military proposition, even more so than the current situation in Iraq. But it can be done.

His ignorance is startling. Something like 90% of rebel territory in Syria is held by the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate), ISIS, and a few smaller groups associated with the Army of Conquest or the Army of Islam. The Army of Conquest recognizes al-Qaeda as part of itself.

That is, there are almost no moderates for Jeb to back in the overthrow of al-Assad. So what he is actually proposing is to turn Damascus over to al-Qaeda. He blames Obama’s reduction of US troops in Iraq for the rise of Islamic State militants. He perpetuates the myth that the surge worked in Iraq.

The problem with the GOP position on more ground troops is that the US had at some points, 160,000 US troops in Iraq, and they could not stop the civil war of 2006, nor could they defeat AQ. So why would 10,000 each for Iraq and Syria be able to pull this off?

Many people have run for President promising peace. This may be the first time that multiple candidates of one party has people running for President, promising war in a time of peace.

Can anybody really take this seriously? In 2003, a Republican president took a backwards, repressive but generally stable country, and turned it into a murderous chaotic nightmare of epic proportions.

And now, the GOP thinks they can take a country which is already a murderous chaotic nightmare, and magically resolve the situation into a peaceful, prosperous United States in Iraq and the Levant? By deploying more boots on the ground?

And the unstated theme of the GOP proposals to send US ground forces back is: Once our guys are there, local populations will shift their support to us, because we’re the good guys.

We tried this. It failed.


See you on Sunday.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 18, 2014

With the media and the political parties now shifting their focus to 2016, once again, the Democrats need to remember how badly they have been shellacked under the Obama presidency. The WaPo reports that Republicans have gained more than 900 state legislature seats since 2010. Here is the sorry record:
Control of State Legislatures

Mr. Obama now holds the record for “worst coattails” by a modern president, eclipsing even Nixon. There are more than 7,000 state legislative seats in the USA, so the Democratic losses between 2010 and 2014 amount to 12% of all state legislative seats nationwide.

Republicans now control more than 4,100 seats, their highest number since 1920. After taking over 11 legislative chambers from Democrats in 2014, Republicans now control 30 state legislatures completely, and have full control of state governments (legislatures and governorship) in 23 states.

Democrats, by contrast, have full control of 11 state legislatures and total control of state government in just seven states. This isn’t just Obama’s fault, Democrats have focused almost exclusively on the winning the Electoral College since Mr. Clinton left office. Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy is long dead. This loss of state legislatures owes much to the spectacular failure of Democrat’s leadership. Democrats should throw out their entire leadership team and start over. Why would any candidate want to brand themselves with the organizations run by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and whoever it was that said Democratic candidates should run content-free campaigns in 2014?

How bad is this? Remember that policy is made first at the state level. With Republicans in control of so many state governments, the policy track record for their side will be vastly superior to what Democrats can do at the state and local levels. Also, State legislatures and governors redraw congressional lines. In most states, how the nation’s 435 House districts will look after the 2020 Census will be determined by governors and state legislators. Republican legislators are more likely to draw lines that are friendly to their side. Unless Democrats can reverse their state House and Senate losses before the 2021 redraw, Republicans will control the House for a very, very long time. Finally, State legislatures are the minor leagues of politics. Most politicians − President Obama included − who go on to great things, hone their craft in the state legislature of their home state. The Republicans’ farm system is now significantly larger than that of Democrats.

So begins the Republican’s discussion about 2016:

COW The Campaign












Mitt’s lessons learned in 2012:

COW Mitt Lessons Learned

GOP opens the 114th Congress with an anti-immigration statement:
COW GOP Immigration

Mr. Obama should have bought a clue:

COW Clueless


The GOP has an impossible task ahead in certain states:

COW El Capitan
Tomorrow is MLK Jr. Day. There have been gains and losses since his death, but some things are unchanged: