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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 27, 2019

It took LaGuardia Airport being closed for about an hour before Trump and the GOP crumbled on the government shutdown. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave to see that the Air Traffic Controllers union that he once busted rise up again, and change policy in DC.

Pelosi made Trump cave:

An ancient artifact blocks entrance to Capitol:

It was indeed a great fall:

The bar has been lowered:

The herd is heading to Iowa and New Hampshire:

Davos: Where the rich and the insincere act like something other than profits is important:

Trump’s buddy Roger Stone desperately acts as if all is well:

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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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Who Will Blink First?

The Daily Escape:

Maui, 2013 – photo by Wrongo

Sometimes you get the right person for the job:

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday she will block President Trump from delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber on Jan. 29. In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said she would not move forward with the legislative steps needed for the address to take place:

‘The House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened,’ she wrote.

Pelosi’s move comes just hours after Trump informed her in a letter that he would move ahead and deliver the address at the Capitol on that date, essentially daring the Speaker to scrap his plans.”

This is why the election of House Speaker truly mattered. Dems should have assumed that whoever got the job would be immediately tested by Trump. When some Dems moved to replace Pelosi in December, the possible shutdown and test of a new Speaker was on the horizon. If another Democrat had been elected Speaker, don’t you think Trump would have already gotten his Wall money?

Someone’s gonna blink, and soon. Trump’s support looks like it’s beginning to crack:

“Overall, 34% of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance in a survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s down from 42% a month earlier and nears the lowest mark of his two-year presidency. The president’s approval among Republicans remains close to 80%, but his standing with independents is among its lowest points of his time in office.”

Trump has similar numbers in the latest CBS poll:

“Seven in 10 Americans don’t think the issue of a border wall is worth a government shutdown, which they say is now having a negative impact on the country….Among Americans overall, and including independents, more want to see Mr. Trump give up wall funding than prefer the congressional Democrats agree to wall funding. Comparably more Americans feel House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is handling negotiations better than the president is so far.

Republicans are more divided than Democrats are on whether the shutdown is worth it.”

As we’ve said in the past, $5.7 billion is not a lot of money, but it’s always been about more than just the money. If Democrats cave in now, particularly when public opinion supports them, it would reward Trump’s tactic of taking hostages. He would gladly bring more pain any time he wanted something, and he wouldn’t care who, or what he took hostage.

But there are other insights to why Trump may persist with the shutdown despite poor polls. Sarah Kendzior said this on Twitter: (emphasis by Wrongo)

”The Trump camp is not worried about public approval, because they’re not worried about losing elections, because they don’t plan on having free or fair elections. This is an acceleration of the move toward authoritarianism….The shutdown is a hostile restructuring…Mueller will not save you…We are being ruled by a coalition of corruption, a burden we as ordinary citizens all share but none deserve. The shutdown is not about Trump knowing too little about how government works, but about his team of GOP operatives and outside advisors knowing too much.”

Perhaps Kendzior is correct, but more likely, Trump is learning that the Art of the Deal doesn’t work when the other side has roughly equal power. He hasn’t caused Democrats to blink, if fact they seem more united than ever.

He hasn’t “won” anything with China. So far, they’ve had alternative solutions to keep trade flowing. He certainly hasn’t “won” his war of words with Nancy Pelosi.

But someone will blink, and possibly, soon. The GOP is asking for concessions when they ought to be offering them.

Thursday’s votes in the Senate will tell us nearly nothing, but since Schumer and McConnell had to agree that both votes would happen, maybe they point to an evolving position that 60 Senators and Pelosi can support.

Most likely, Pelosi will offer an alternative after the Senate votes, something that possibly could get 60 votes in the Senate.

Maybe Trump will console himself with a military action in Venezuela. He launched an attempt to kick President Maduro out of office by recognizing the opposition leader as interim president. Maduro responded by telling our diplomats to leave within 72 hours. The US replied that our diplomats will not leave simply because the elected president of Venezuela (that we no longer recognize as legitimate) has asked them to.

Going to war in the middle of a government shutdown: what could go wrong?

Someone will blink. The bet here is that it will be Senate Republicans who will prevail upon Trump to back down, and support whatever compromise can garner sufficient votes in the House and Senate.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 20, 2019

Yesterday we wrote about Buzzfeed’s story that Michael Cohen lied to Congress about Trump’s efforts to get a Moscow hotel, and that Trump asked him to do it. After Saturday’s Wrongologist was published, Mueller’s spokesperson, Peter Carr issued a statement denying the Buzzfeed story:

Buzzfeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.

Some are lamenting it as another case of fake news directed at Trump. Raul Ilargi, at The Automatic Earth, whom Wrongo admires, said:

Is this the worst day for fake news to date? It’s hard to keep track. It’s just that this one was taken up by so many hoping for, finally!  Impeachment. Please Lord make it stop.

But maybe what we saw really isn’t fake news. Marcy Wheeler reports that Buzzfeed’s story differs from the sworn testimony. She points out that a discrepancy between the Special Counsel’s Cohen sentencing memo and the Buzzfeed story is that the memo merely indicated that Cohen committed perjury to benefit the Trump messaging, not that he’d been ordered to do it. If Cohen was encouraged or directed to do it by Trump personally, it isn’t as obvious as Buzzfeed said it was.

So, there are differences in what Buzzfeed reported, and what is in Cohen’s testimony. That doesn’t mean that the Buzzfeed story is fake news. Mueller is probably defending the Special Council’s reputation against accusations of leaking. It also seems possible that Peter Carr may have been trying to tamp down the Buzzfeed allegation that Trump “directed” Cohen to lie, because that may be difficult to prove.

Cohen is a cooperating witness for Mueller. If and when Mueller makes a case that the Trump Tower deal was part of a larger election year conspiracy, they will need Cohen to testify, and have him describe how he kept Trump and Don Jr. in the loop for the possible deal.

The lesson is not to take much, if any news at face value. And not to get out too far over our skis when it comes to breaking news about Trump.

On to cartoons. Since we didn’t publish them last Sunday, today there’s a bumper crop.

Junk food for furloughed workers, good stuff for the plutocrats, paid by your tax dollars:

Choose your national emergencies carefully:

Pence helps Trump with the Wall narrative:

Two-faced Mitch:

Racism is mainstream in the Trump/GOP party, it’s not just Steve King:

The GOP will take some token actions. No vote to expel, or to run a non-racist in the 2020 Iowa primary:

We both lost our minds in 2016:

Demand for retail space is suddenly spiking:

Sometimes getting your story straight is tough, and has consequences. Ask Buzzfeed:

 

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Saturday Soother – Great Wall Edition, January 12, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Mutianya Section of the Great Wall, about two hours from Beijing

As we cruise into the weekend, and as Wrongo writes this, Trump has yet to declare a national emergency about the southern border. For some background, Time Magazine reports: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

(Declaring a national emergency)…would be a drastic action, but he (Trump) would hardly be the first American president to take extraordinary steps for what he sees as the interest of the nation.

In fact, not only are national emergencies more common than most Americans probably realize, they can also go on for decades — and whether or not Trump declares an emergency for the wall, the nation is already subject to dozens of emergency declarations that are ongoing today.

To be exact, 31 national emergencies are on the books.

The oldest is the national emergency with respect to Iran, declared Nov. 14, 1979. It’s been in place for more than 39 years. The most recent was declared just last November. It was to block the property of certain persons who contributed to destabilizing Nicaragua. Who knew?

The National Emergencies Act of 1976 in theory, requires the President to spell out the powers from specific laws that make it legal for him to declare a national state of emergency, and requires the House and the Senate to review the declaration every six months to see if it’s still necessary. To end a national emergency, both chambers of Congress have to pass a joint resolution.

The shutdown debate is becoming more about presidential power than it is about secure borders. Trump is willing to press the bet. It remains to be seen if Democrats want to play that game as well.

But, it’s time for the weekend to begin! Here in Connecticut’s northwest hills, the morning temperature is expected to be single digits. So beyond the constant shutdown news, we need serious soothing from the cold weather.

Let’s start by brewing up a cup of Portland OR’s Coava Coffee’s single origin Karuthi AA Kenyan coffee ($15/250 grams). The brewer says that it has a long, resonant finish centered on berry and coconut, supported by ginger blossom and chocolate.

Now take a look outside while staying on a warm perch. Today, we are switching from our usual Baroque music to the blues, which seems appropriate after the week we’ve had. Listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Wall of Denial” from his 1989 album, “In Step”.

Sample of Lyrics:

A wall of denial – is fallin’ down
Wo, it’s fallin’ so hard – down to the ground
Never knew something so strong could be washed away by tears
But this wall of denial was just built on fear

This song should play in its entirety, every time Trump mentions “Border Wall“.

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

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Nothing Happened

The Daily Escape:

Snow in Sonoran Desert near Tucson – 2019 photo by Back o’ Beyond

Nothing happened during Trump’s dog and pony show last night. He tried reframing his demand for a wall as a need for better security from drugs, terrorists and criminals. Today, he’s again brought up the national emergency trope. This should be America’s reaction:

Much of his talk was a return to his campaign message that brown people from south of the border must be stopped before they pollute our glorious and exceptional culture. The biggest whopper was that:

Law enforcement professionals have asked for $5.6 billion.

We know who did the asking. We also know that most drugs enter via existing ports of entry that cannot be walled off. We know that the vast majority of terrorists enter via airports, and the paltry number stopped at the border came in from our wall-less neighbor to the north, Canada. Simply put, he couldn’t put together a coherent argument for why this funding dispute about fence construction justifies a government shutdown.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more banal in American politics than a president having a proposal he can’t get the opposition party to agree with. If every policy standoff ended in a government shutdown, we couldn’t have a country at all.

This raises the frightening question of how a president who can’t successfully manage peace and prosperity would deal with an actual crisis.

And one may be in the wings. On Sunday, National Security Advisor John Bolton tried to set conditions for a US retreat from Syria, changing what Trump has said about leaving as soon as possible. Bolton, on a trip to Israel and Turkey, said he would stress with Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, that Kurdish forces must be protected:

We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum…so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”

Turkey was not amused. The YPG Kurds, our allies in Syria, are affiliated with the PKK which is viewed as a terrorist group in Turkey. Turkey has said they won’t allow that group to exist on its border as an organized military force.

When Bolton, accompanied by Joint Chiefs head Joe Dunford and Syria envoy James Jeffrey, landed in Turkey, they received a cold shoulder. The planned meeting with President Erdogan didn’t happen. The meeting was held instead with the Turkish National Security Advisor Ibrahim Kalin and took less than two hours. A planned joint press conference was canceled.

After Bolton’s meeting, Raqip Solyu, Turkey Correspondent for MiddleEastEye reported on an Erdogan speech to his parliament group. It was a slap in Bolton’s face:

YPG/PKK are terrorists. Some say ‘don’t touch them because they are Kurds’. This is unacceptable. Everyone can be a terrorist. They could be Turkmans. Their ethnicity doesn’t matter. Bolton made a big mistake by his statements…

Solyu also reported that Erdogan said:

As it happened in the past, despite our clear agreement with Trump on US withdrawal from Syria, different voices started to come out from different levels of the American administration.

An editorial in an Erdogan aligned newspaper called Bolton’s position a soft coup against Trump.

We have to ask: Is Trump really in charge?

We know he got tough on having a wall once Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter said he was a weakling if he kept the government open without getting his wall.

The NYT reported that in a lunch with television anchors before last night’s Oval Office address, Trump said he was not inclined to give the speech, but was talked into it by his advisers. Trump said:

It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it….

Erdogan likewise had a deal with Trump about the US leaving Syria. Bolton has changed the deal, to add conditions and to prolong the timeline for exit.

So, where is Trump on these issues? If he sticks with what Bolton said, Erdogan is likely to escalate to test who is in charge. His army will probably fire artillery on one or more Kurdish positions near the Turkish border. It may even invade a few towns. This will put serious pressure on the US occupation force, which at least right now, isn’t leaving any time soon.

So, is Trump in charge? Who’s gonna negotiate to reopen the government? Anybody?

Next we’ll hear Trump say:

Government shutdowns are good and easy to win.

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Can Trump Legally Declare a National Emergency?

The Daily Escape:

Waterton NP Alberta, CN -2019 photo by lostcanuck. Wrongo and Ms. Right visited Waterton in 2016, it’s a very beautiful spot.

Wrongo watched part of the two NFL wild card games on Sunday. Vectoring away during commercials, he saw a 2020 campaign ad by Trump on CNN that said in part:

Drugs, terrorists, violent criminals and child traffickers trying to enter our country — but Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer care more about the radical left than keeping us safe. The consequences? Drug deaths. Violent murder. Gang violence. We must not allow it…

Wrongo thought, “Wait! What?” Then a “paid for by Trump 2020” note appeared at the bottom of the screen.

Trump is setting us up. He’s now made his shutdown part of the 2020 narrative. And, locking out federal employees is now the official position of the GOP, not simply that of his Trumpitude.

This is part of Trump’s plan to lay the groundwork for his “National Emergency” special powers. The NYT had an interesting article by Bruce Ackerman, a Yale law professor, about the legality of such an action:

While it is hard to know exactly what the president has in mind, or whether he has any conception about what it would entail, one thing is clear: Not only would such an action be illegal, but if members of the armed forces obeyed his command, they would be committing a federal crime.

Trump is again hyping the dangers at the border, as he did with the caravan in the weeks leading to the midterm election. Now, his spokespersons, notably Sarah Sanders on FOX and Homeland Security head Kristjen Nielsen, at her private meeting with the House Homeland Security Committee, have falsely claimed that more than 4,000 terrorists were apprehended in 2018 along the southern border.

According to FOX, all of these “terrorists” were apprehended at airports, not at border crossings.

Sanders, Nielsen and Trump are implying that a wall will stop terrorists. There’s no question we need to be vigilant about terrorists and illegal border crossings, but a wall is not going to stop them, or really even deter them. We still need to have to have advanced cameras, drones, and personnel patrolling because determined people will find ways around the wall.

To continue the hype, Trump announced that he will address the nation on Tuesday night before traveling later in the week to the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump plans to address the nation from the Oval Office, in a “first” for his presidency.

All of this would seem ridiculous if not for Trump’s desire to win at any cost.

There is a chilling article by Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center in The Atlantic, in which she says that any president’s ability to evoke these sorts of emergency powers is practically unfettered:

The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—he is able to set aside many of the legal limits on his authority.

Goitein goes further:

The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts.

As an example, Trump could seize control of US internet traffic, impeding access to certain websites and ensuring that internet searches return pro-Trump content as the top results.

It isn’t possible for Wrongo to resolve the viewpoints of Elizabeth Goitein and Bruce Ackerman. There is a long history of judicial deference to the executive branch on national security issues. It will ultimately come down to whether the five conservative Supreme Court Justices think they have the power to step in and overrule a president who clearly concocts a fraudulent emergency.

Sorry to scare everyone, but it is absolutely unclear how this will be hashed out by the Supreme Court.

Don’t bet the house on them making the right decision.

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 7, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Monastery at Mt. Kachkanar, Ural Mountains, Russia – 2017 photo by Amos Chapple. Built by a Russian Afghanistan war veteran, the monastery sits on land to be mined for its iron deposits. The land is owned by Roman Abramovich, an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“You’ve got to get yourself together,
You’ve got stuck in a moment,
And now you can’t get out of it.
Don’t say that later will be better
Now you’re stuck in a moment,
And you can’t get out of it”
– U2

The Wall is Trump’s moment. He believes he doesn’t have to cave in to Democrats. Democrats face the same moment. They rightly believe that if they cave in, Trump will ride them all the way to the 2020 presidential election. We the people are all stuck in this moment, too.

So, let’s take a moment, and understand the border wall today. The border with Mexico is roughly 1,900 miles long, and spans four states: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Berlin Wall was 96 miles long, while the Great Wall of China is 13,000 miles long.

The current wall consists of about 700 miles of varied barriers, ranging from 10-foot rusted fencing made from military surplus corrugated metal left over from the Vietnam era, to chain link fencing and vehicle barriers that are no barrier to pedestrian traffic. Most of this needs replacing just to maintain the status quo. Here’s a map of where and what kind of wall we have:

Source: The Center for Investigative Reporting and OpenStreetMap contributors

A total of $1.7 billion was appropriated in FY17 and FY18 for new and replacement barriers and fences. Most of these funds have been designated to the Army Corps of Engineers. Much of that has been awarded to contractors. Only a small percentage (6%) has been paid out.

The following projects account for about half of these funds:

  • Near San Diego to replace 14 miles of 8-10 foot metal wall/fence with 18-30 foot tall bollard wall system for $287 million to begin in July 2019.
  • In the Rio Grande Valley to build 8 miles of 18 foot bollard wall and replace existing levee wall for $167 million to begin in February 2019.
  • In New Mexico to replace 20 miles of fencing with bollard wall for $73 million
  • In Arizona to build/replace 32 miles of “primary pedestrian wall” for $324 million to begin in April 2019.

That’s roughly $850 million for 75 miles of replacement fencing. At that rate, rebuilding the existing “wall” will take $8.5 billion and 10+ years.

The existing border fence cost about $2.4 billion. Building the rest of it could cost between $15 billion and $25 billion, with an annual maintenance cost of $700 million, according to an estimate by Marc Rosenblum, the deputy director of the US Immigration Policy Program at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

Trump will be long gone before his big, beautiful wall from sea to sea is built, if ever. It’s possible that migration patterns will change before that were to happen. And however the barrier system eventually turns out, it still has to be manned and maintained to be effective.

The question on the table this week is does Trump need approval from Congress, or can he just declare a national emergency and build away?

The Secure Fence Act  was signed in 2006 by George W. Bush. The majority of the fencing now in was built before he left office. The last remnants were completed after Obama took office in 2009. However, Trump must follow a decades-old border treaty with Mexico that limits where and how structures can be built along the border.

The 1970 treaty requires that structures cannot disrupt the flow of the rivers, which define the US-Mexican border along Texas and 24 miles in Arizona, according to The International Boundary and Water Commission, a joint US-Mexican agency that administers the treaty.

Turning to Trump’s national emergency idea, The National Emergencies Act was created to limit the power of a president to act without restriction in a situation that he deemed to threaten the republic. It limits the funds available for such construction to funds already appropriated for military construction.

The question is whether Trump can truly declare a “National Emergency” over a political fight. If so, can Trump go forward and legislate by Executive Order in a way that Obama was reviled for?

Time to wake up America! We need to look carefully at what limits on presidential power will be supported by Republicans.

After all, they thought Obama acted as a King.

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Saturday Soother – January 5, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon NP, looking down at the Wall Street trail – this photo was taken on New Year’s Eve by natsmith69. The photographer says he didn’t hike down because of the government shutdown.

Two topics for today: First, the December jobs report, which was encouraging in the face of a roller-coaster stock market. Employment rose a very strong 312,000 jobs in December, bringing the full count of jobs added for 2018 up to 2.6 million, the strongest year for job gains since 2015.

Unemployment ticked up to 3.9%, largely because more people were drawn into the labor market as measured by the civilian labor force participation rate. It moved up two-tenths to 63.1%, its highest level since 2014. That’s a reminder that the job market still has capacity to expand.

Wage growth accelerated slightly, and tied cyclical highs. Weekly hours worked edged up, job gains for the prior two months were revised upwards, and a very high 70% of private industries added jobs.

It seems that low unemployment has finally started to lead to pressure to raise pay.

Despite all of this positive labor market news, there are economic headwinds in the volatile stock market, Trump’s trade war, and slower economic growth abroad.

Some economists are forecasting a grim outlook for near-term US economic growth. OTOH, low unemployment, job gains, and higher wages should boost consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70% of the US economy.

Try to keep calm about the stock market. There isn’t much definitive economic news that should make you decide to bail out of stocks just now.

Item two: The shut-down. On Friday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) after another meeting about the shut-down, said that Trump threatened to keep the government closed for “months or even years” until he gets his desired wall funding.

Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) described the meeting as a “lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation with the president.” She said both sides agreed to continue talks. She then said: (brackets by Wrongo)

 We cannot resolve this until we open up [the] government…

So far, most Republicans are keeping a stiff upper lip, saying just what Trump says. But there are a few cracks, notably Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and possibly, Susan Collins (R-ME), who are asking to re-open the federal government without a deal on funding the border wall.

Clearly there is a deal to be had. It probably looks like funding Trump’s wall, which is a rounding error in the federal budget, in return for passing a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) relief bill as part of immigration reform. Lawmakers in both parties are sympathetic to immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.

The Hill reports that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of GOP leadership, said that while he hasn’t been involved in overall immigration discussions, expanding the scope of negotiations could be one way to break the logjam:

You know, sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to make it bigger, and that’s always one of the options here…

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is urging Trump to strike a deal on comprehensive immigration reform:

Why would he not agree to such a thing…We could go small, we could go a little bigger… but I’d like to see the president say, ‘OK, we’ve got a new Congress. We’ve got divided government. I’m the president who can actually make this happen.’

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is pitching his proposal that would establish a $25 billion border trust fund and codify protections for DACA recipients. Remember that Trump rejected a similar offer from Senate Democrats last year, so it isn’t clear where the goalposts for such a deal are today. We’ll have to watch the drama unfold.

Time to let go of the news and settle into a Saturday soother, maybe while taking down ornaments. Start the process of soothing by brewing up a yuuge cup of Panama Ninety Plus Perci Lot 50 coffee ($60/8 oz.) from Birdrock Coffee of San Diego, CA. Coffee Review rates it at 97, with tastes of fruit while being giddily brandy-toned. Maybe that’s a rave.

Now settle back in a comfy chair and listen to the “Adagio for Oboe, Cello, Organ and Strings” by Domenico Zipoli. Zipoli was an Italian Jesuit priest who lived much of his life in what is now Argentina. He studied with Scarlatti, became a Jesuit, worked as a missionary and died in 1726 in Argentina at age 38:

If fate had granted Zipoli another 20 to 25 years, he would be regarded today as a major composer.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 16, 2018

A seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died on December 6th in the custody of the US Border Patrol. She and her father were apprehended with a group of 163 migrants near Antelope Wells, NM.

Reportedly, she hadn’t eaten, or consumed water for several days. She began vomiting on a bus that was taking her to a holding facility at Lordsburg NM, a 90-mile trip. She was not breathing when she arrived at Lordsburg, and was resuscitated there by the Border Patrol. She was then helicoptered to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. At the hospital, the girl was revived after going into cardiac arrest, but died less than 24 hours later.

Asked if food and water were given to the child, DHS blamed the father for taking his daughter on the dangerous journey to the US. But, she didn’t die on the 3,000-mile journey. She died in the US and in Border Patrol custody. She died while she was the BP’s responsibility.

The government is responsible for the health and safety of migrants they detain. They have to do better:

Trump has promised either he gets a wall, or we get a shutdown:

Trump ran into a wall he could have avoided:

Finding what you deserve:

White House Christmas carols won’t be much fun this year:

Reality starts to dawn:

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