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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – Rigged Election Edition

Donald Trump was in Gettysburg on Saturday.  In what was supposed to be a serious-minded policy speech where he would outline his first 100 days as president, he couldn’t restrain himself from re-litigating grievances with Hillary Clinton, the media and especially the women who have come forward in recent days. He started by saying he would sue every woman who has accused him of sexual assault or other inappropriate behavior:

All of these liars will be sued once the election is over…I look so forward to doing that.

The election is rigged, Hillary shouldn’t be allowed to run, and those women are liars. Maybe he was hit so hard in the last debate that he can’t remember saying all of these things before.

Hillary vs. Donald, III. The outcome was the same as Ali vs. Liston:

cow-hillary-ali

Trump’s stump speech attacks the roots of our democracy:

cow-stump-speech

 

Rigged, or what?

cow-heads-or-tails

 

Your bill for participating in our democracy is due, Don:

cow-stiffed-himIn completely unrelated news, Snoopy was fired by Met Life:

cow-snoopy

 

 

 

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Debate III Debrief

There were mucho fun takes on the Debates that surfaced on the internets. Here are a couple of videos that tickled Wrongo.

First, Weird Al with “Bad Hombres, Nasty Women”:

If you read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

And this one, which many may have seen, reprises Debate II and sets it to “Time of my Life”:

If you read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

Trump handed a gift to Janet Jackson when he called Hillary “such a nasty woman”. With that phrase on Wednesday night, Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit “Nasty,” spiked 250% on Spotify after the debate.

Then the Clinton campaign embraced it, and Nasty Woman quickly emerged as the meme of Wednesday’s presidential debate.

This is a fantastic mash-up of Janet Jackson and Hillary that is winning the Twitter machine:

nasty-hillary

Trump’s “such a nasty woman” inspired instant merchandising opportunities, like this:

nasty-woman

Or this:

make-america-nasty-again

Or this:

stop-saying-bigly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those keeping score, polls in Hawaii opened yesterday.

  • NC polls opened today
  • Nevada tomorrow
  • Colorado Monday
  • Florida Monday

See you on Sunday.

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Ok, that’s the title of a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, but it describes World War III the third presidential debate.

The headline coming out of the debate has to be that Donald Trump refused to say that he would accept the election result if he lost. Basically, he said when Chris Wallace asked him a second time, that people should just “stay tuned”.

This has never happened before. Consider our history: George Washington was the center of gravity in American political life from 1775 all the way to 1796. He was our first president. People asked: What would happen to the republic when Washington went home? They worried that we were being held together by a single person, not by a system of laws, because the laws hadn’t yet had a chance to put their roots down into the political system. At that point, America was a government of men, and then John Adams became the second president. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when Adams took the oath of office, he stood aside to let Washington lead them out of the chamber. Washington turned to Adams, and said: “after you Mr. President.”

That simple act of respect established the preeminence of the presidency and the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

In 2016, who is qualified to lead the country? Could it be a guy that disrespects one of our bedrock traditions?

Wallace asked if Trump will go along with the election result, Trump answers by saying the election is rigged. Clinton says Trump always claims things are rigged if they don’t go his way. Her observing that Trump said he lost the Emmy because the contest was rigged was a thing of beauty.

Hillary Clinton won tonight and won the first debate. The second debate was a draw. At this stage in the campaign, people expect the candidates to be knowledgeable and prepared for the debate, but it devolved into the same kind of hair pulling show as debate II. Trump saying near the end of the debate that Clinton shouldn’t have even been allowed to run (who should have disallowed her?) was a crazy moment.

Overall, Clinton was solid steel, coated in platinum. Trump, of course, was Bakelite.

Chris Wallace was by far the best of the moderators, at least for the first hour, although he had a slight right wing bias. It went south after that, and he had a hard time keeping the candidates on track.

It was very difficult to fact-check either candidate, but again, Trump stood out, denying things we all knew to be true. Long-time blog reader FVK had a thought:

The Trump excuses reminded me of the old John Lovitz routine on SNL. When a new excuse for his screw-ups came to him, he’d say, “yeah, that’s the ticket!” “I’m behind because election is rigged”.

John Lovitz had a character on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s called Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar. Flanagan would tell outrageous whoppers, like claiming he was married to Morgan Fairchild, and thus had seen her naked “more than once.”

Doesn’t that sound like the GOP candidate we saw last night?

Whatever the debating points, Trump couldn’t get out of the way of the avalanche of wrong created by the Access Hollywood video, and his response to it.

That defined Trump 2016, and he did nothing in debate III to recover from it. Here is Trump’s avalanche of wrong:

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Debate Prep III – October 19, 2016

“I’m addicted to placebos. I’d give them up, but it wouldn’t make any difference.”Steven Wright

The nation is addicted to Presidential debates, which cannot even remotely be characterized as a placebo. And tonight’s debate in Las Vegas is unlikely to make a big difference to voters around America, unless one of the Pant Load or the Pant Suit are extremely clever. You can expect that The Pant Load will try to make this week’s WikiLeaks disclosures a torpedo below the waterline for the Pant Suit’s campaign. There are some nuggets in the emails, but do they really add up to all that much?

This from USA Today:

Companies used Clinton fundraisers to lobby [the] State Department. At least a dozen of those same companies lobbied the State Department, using lobbyists who doubled as major Clinton campaign fundraisers. Those companies gave as much as $16 million to the Clinton charities.

Sounds terrible, until you get down to paragraph #26 in the article:

In all, 181 foundation donors lobbied State during Clinton’s leadership tenure, Vox reported last year.

These relationships and giving on their own aren’t illegal, or even unethical. But critics, including Trump, have argued they at least pose potential conflicts of interest.

So, no quid, and apparently, no smoking gun of quo. Trump asks repeatedly how these disclosures are not dominating the news cycle and blames the media for being in the bag for Hillary. The emails often don’t prove what Trump says they do: that the Clinton campaign hates Catholics, that Clinton “openly colluded” with the Justice Department during its investigation of her private email server.

Even if there is some there, there with the emails, the real issue is that The Donald remains the story of this presidential election.

It has come down to a referendum on Donald Trump.

Unless Trump can get more than 43% of the vote, he can’t be president. And focusing on Trump’s personal attributes has been Clinton’s strategy all along. Still, if we fix on personal foibles and temperament, although relevant, we will miss any discussion of the issues.

Take tax plans. Hillary shouldn’t focus on Trump’s taxes. His taxes are relevant, although no worse than Mitt Romney’s low average tax rate: This just illustrates a problem with the tax code that Trump is well within his rights to exploit. The real problem with Trump, when it comes to taxes, is not what he pays or doesn’t pay, but how his proposed tax plan would affect everyone’s tax burden.

The numbers are not pretty.

Trump’s plan is the most Oprah-esque tax proposal since Ronald Reagan in 1980: You get a tax cut! You get a tax cut! You get a tax cut! But it’s mostly a massive tax cut for the top 1%, similar to those proposed by nearly every Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. Without that revenue, the government has to collect more in taxes from middle-class and low-income households, which will not reduce income inequality, or the federal deficit, or grow the economy.

Trump’s plan is spun as a “growth plan. The idea is that if the US runs huge deficits by slashing taxes, most of that money will be spent, creating wealth and jobs. Sorry, but the failure in Trump’s plan is foreshadowed in the failed economy in Kansas, where the Republicans handed big tax breaks to a few of the highest-income taxpayers and businesses, hoping that would magically trigger an “adrenaline shot” to the Kansas economy. That didn’t happen. Since cutting taxes drastically, the state’s debt load has ballooned to an all-time high of $4.5 billion, a jump of 50% in two years.

So no growth, and mucho debt.

Trump’s plan doubles down on this failed “trickle-down” GOP fantasy as the answer to GDP growth and income inequality. Economic growth will never come from giving tax cuts to the rich. Why? Because they just sock their gains from tax cuts away in offshore tax havens.

Hillary needs to attack the Pant Load’s BS tax plan, not his failure to pay taxes. People should think hard about each candidate’s tax plan and how it could contribute to economic growth before deciding to cast their vote for president. An attack by Clinton on Trump’s tax plan will go directly against one of the core beliefs of Trump supporters, that tax cuts will give them better jobs and pay. Sow some doubt there, and it could pay dividends at the ballot box.

Hillary’s plan is to build infrastructure with tax increases on the rich and corporations. That creates jobs.

This is a message she needs to drive home in tonight’s third presidential debate.

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That Didn’t Take Long

((This is a re-post of Tuesday’s column which was lost after the database crash on Monday night)

In an interview in Pennsylvania, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pledged that he and his party will continue the Supreme Court nomination blockade throughout Clinton’s term, if she is elected:

I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up…I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.

This just makes the GOP look like jerks. We haven’t had the election yet, and the obstruction has begun. It blows up their earlier argument that they wouldn’t hold hearings for Merrick Garland because of it came so late in Obama’s term. Now we know what they really meant:

We won’t confirm your nominees because Democratic presidents aren’t entitled to nominate Supreme Court justices anymore, because of abortion and the gays.

This of course, coming from the “Constitutional conservatives” in the GOP.

Ya gotta love them. If Trump, an unfit megalomaniac who potentially could destroy the country is elected, the GOP will gladly confirm any choice he makes.

McCain’s slogan when he ran for president in 2008 was “Country First!” Now, its #Partybeforecountry.

If Clinton wins and Democrats gain a Senate majority but less than 60 seats, Republicans will oppose her nominee, and then, eventually, Democrats will change the Senate rules to abolish filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. (Republicans will decry this foul measure and justify any subsequent actions of theirs as justified.) And if Clinton wins and Republicans hold on to 51 seats, they will simply refuse to let any nominee through.

Can we please stop pretending the Republican Party will stare into the abyss after this election and come out a different, more centrist party? They are sure that the Federalist Papers said that a Supreme Court vacancy shall not be filled except by permission of the Family Research Council.

538 has the chances of a Democratic Senate at 74% right now. So please, get out and vote, particularly for House and Senate candidates. Remember, America redistricts every 10 years. We have been paying the price for letting the GOP win the redistricting effort in 2010, so winning down-ballot races will help get started on that too.

What continues to shock Wrongo more than anything is that in 2016, if you want to actually govern the wealthiest, most powerful democracy in the world, Democrats are the only game in town. The other major party is controlled by opportunists and cranks, and the third parties are run by kooks.

This is a big problem for everyone, because Democrats do not own all of the good ideas and good policies, despite the best efforts of McCain and Trump to make us believe just that.

Anybody out there voting for Gary Johnson: Do you want to chime in now, and say there is absolutely no difference between the parties?

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 16, 2016

(this is a re-post of Sunday’s column after the site’s database crashed)

“Important issues in the presidential campaign are like the Oakland A’s. You aren’t going to see much of them in October” Rocky Mountain Mike

The best things that happened last week were the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan and Michelle Obama’s speech. Perhaps the worst thing last week was the US’s deeper involvement in Yemen: The Saudis bombed a funeral. An American naval vessel was attacked at sea by the Houthis. We launched cruise missiles at Yemen. The Iranian navy started patrolling off of Yemen in the same space as the US navy. Escalation, and what does the US get out of this? The Obama administration must be held to account for this.

Dylan wins the Nobel:

cow-get-stoned

Trump’s decline in the polls means his call “Hillary for jail” has a new meaning:

cow-hillary-for-jail

The GOP establishment walks away from Trump just a little:

cow-hedge-your-bets

Trump admitting sexual assault has given some Christian supporters a moral dilemma:

cow-christian-values

 

Trump gets a new campaign logo:

cow-grope

 

 

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The Lyin’ Game

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was, and never will be.”Thomas Jefferson

We received quite a few emails about the column “Lie to Me – It’s a Post-Truth World.” In it, Wrongo called for a means of rebutting lies as they emerge and crawl across our political landscape. Citizens who otherwise lead commonsensical lives cannot seem to hold on to facts when in a political argument.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at how things work in the Lyin’ Game. Charlie Pierce’s 2009 book, Idiot America, lays out what he calls the Three Great Premises that explain how lies take the form of truth:

1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.

It seems that the 2016 election is confirmation of Dr. Pierce’s diagnosis. The prognosis is not necessarily fatal, though left untreated, it surely could be. Here is a quote from his book:

In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

So, it’s not just that we are fact free, it’s that we, the people, are unable or unwilling to learn the facts.

Susan Jacoby also wrote about the risks of a fact-free society about the same time as Pierce, the 2008 presidential election. In her book, “The Age of Unreason,” she made a great point about FDR and his relationship with citizens and the truth. In FDR’s radio fireside chats, he would ask the people listening out there to spread a map of the world out in front of them so that as he talked about the battles that were going on, they would understand what he was saying about the places, the geography, and the strategy of what was happening. Doris Kearns Goodwin said in a lecture at Kansas State University that one of her favorite fireside chats was the “map speech,” delivered in February, 1942. Millions of Americans went out and bought maps, and they sat by the radio and followed what FDR was talking about.

And FDR wasn’t on the radio every week as presidents are today. He only delivered two or three of these fireside chats a year, deliberately holding himself back for the moment when the country needed to hear from their president. He understood something that we have lost, that less can be more.

In 2009, Pierce offered a prescription about how to get out of the “perception is reality” paradigm: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

I’ve given that a lot of thought and the best answer I can give is that we, as citizens, simply have to do better at self-government. We have to distinguish between entertainment and information. Our powers of discernment have to be sharpened…Any journalist who accepts “perception is reality” as axiomatic is committing professional malpractice. Our job is to hammer the reality home until the perception conforms to it.

When our journalists accept “perception is fact” there is no hope for truth.

Jacoby says that the spread of ignorance and the acceptance of non-truth as fact is caused in part by the absence of national education standards, combined with the anti-intellectualism that we see everywhere. America’s insistence on local control of schools means that children in the poorest areas of the country have the worst school facilities and teachers with the worst training.

Among OECD nations, only in the US, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

This gives us an America in which anti-intellectualism is not only tolerated, but celebrated by many politicians and the media. Meanwhile, 25% of Texas high-school biology teachers believe that human beings and dinosaurs shared the earth, and more than a third of Americans can’t name a single First Amendment right.

Facts don’t matter, because more and more Americans cannot recognize facts as true. Jacoby says:

This level of scientific illiteracy provides fertile soil for political appeals based on sheer ignorance.

Our 2016 presidential campaign has clarified what’s wrong with us as a nation. Yet, we’ve proven to willingly to put up with it.

Instead of putting up with what’s wrong, how about fixing it?

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Trapped in a Nightmare of Our Own Making

From Gizmodo:

cow-bald-eagle

This bald eagle became trapped in a passing car [a Saturn] in Clay County, Florida on Saturday, presumably while minding its own business. The look on the bird’s face really says it all. But police and emergency responders were able to extract the unfortunate creature and get it to a wildlife sanctuary, where it’s currently being nursed back to health.

The bird will be fine, but isn’t this the perfect meme for 2016? And we still have 25 days left until we are also liberated from being stuck in Trump’s grille.

Does anyone else see the irony of our great American symbol being stuck in the grille of a discontinued car brand? Here is a pic of the rescue:

eagle-in-grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine the dialogue between the first responders and the eagle:

“You have to come outta there. America needs you!”

“Nope. I’m not coming out until November 9th. Maybe not even then.”

“Oh come on. You can’t just stay in there forever.”

“Fix America’s Grille Again”, or as one Gizmodo commenter said, imagine: Before help showed up, there had to be a 911 call:

911: “911 what is your emergency?”

Driver: “I have a bald eagle stuck in my grill.”

911: “You are choking on a chicken? Sir, please use slang we can understand.”

Feel free to add your own humorous observations.

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Monday Wake Up Call: Sex, Lies & Emails Post Debate Edition

Why do the debates have to conflict with Wrongo’s football team’s game? Anyway, watched the debate with Ms. Oh So Right, and desperately wanted to turn it off after about 45 minutes. It seemed clear that Trump was trying a form of the Rick Lazio stalking maneuver, or the way McCain stalked across the stage right up to Obama. Although they started without a handshake, possibly a first in presidential debates, there was a quick one at the end.

  • Trump’s denied that he assaulted anyone. He says “it’s just words, folks”. He’s now opened himself up to a major problem if a woman steps forward with allegations of assault/harassment.
  • The video clip is a result of investigative reporting by the WaPo. There is an element of payback in that Trump has attacked WaPo editor-in-chief Marty Baron personally, and has revoked the paper’s credentials for his rallies. Payback is a bitch, especially if you’re someone like Donald Trump, whose life doesn’t really bear much scrutiny.
  • Here is what Trump really meant about Muslims:

We will set up thought police, where Muslims will be required to report on their parents and children. If you see something, you MUST say something.

  • We learned that tax policy was Hillary’s fault. According to the Pant Load, she wrote the tax code, ran the wars and passed health care. Hillary caused all the inner city problems. She has talked about all of these things for years, but she did nothing.
  • Trump’s message: Bill is more of a perv than me. Hillary can’t be trusted, she has been around for 30 years and things have gotten worse.
  • NO questions on immigrants and jobs, or outsourcing and trade.

Hillary got the better of Trump in laying out policy points, and won on the Trump video tape frat boy issue, but Trump got the better of Hillary with her (non) response on the email issue. Trump comes across as angry, and angry is not likable.

While the idea was for average people to ask questions directly of the candidates, they used each question as a way to swing at the other. There was a lot of Trump’s word salad, and he continually worked the referees. All of that wore thin very quickly. The Pant Load offered lots of red meat to his base, but it was hard to see him making many converts because of his performance tonight.

In a way, it was mean girl vs. the bully, but we are no longer in 7th grade. It’s truly a sad and pathetic commentary on the state of our election process.

We will have to wait until tomorrow to see the ratings that can tell us if and when people began to turn off the debate to watch something else.

To help those of you who stayed up to see the debate and maybe some of the punditry afterwards, you clearly are in need of a wakeup call this morning. There was a rock concert called Desert Trip in Indio CA over the weekend, where the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who performed. The affectionate name for the concert is “Oldchella”, since it involves ancient performers and is being held on the same site as the annual Coachella Rock festival.

It is usually a disappointment to see stars of yesteryear perform when they are in their 70s, and in reviewing many videos of the performances from the Desert Trip, Wrongo prefers to remember them at their best, which apparently, wasn’t on display at Indio this weekend.

Wrongo also has had many happy days at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, where the concert was held. We spent a week every January on the Polo grounds for 10 years, showing our dogs. It is a fabulous venue.

Here is “Rockin in the Free World” by Neil Young & Promise of the Real, recorded on October 8th. Neil is the best guy in the geriatric wing of the Rock Pantheon this weekend. He starts by telling the audience that they are going to play a 40 second version of the song, but they rock on for 8:28. We know you are busy, and probably late for work, but watch to the end.

Now, where are my mushrooms?

FYI: Green Bay 23, Giants 16

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Will The Candidates Discuss Syria?

Although it is Sunday, there will be no cartoons today. Sorry. Instead, time to eat our vegetables and prepare for tonight’s second Presidential Debate.

Wrongo thinks Syria should be a featured topic, since it lays bare our conflict with Russia, which has steadily grown since their annexation of Crimea. But, the debate is in a town hall format, with half of the questions coming from the audience, so it is difficult to say if Syria and Russia will make it to the table.

Certainly they should be discussed. On October 3, the Obama Administration walked away from the Geneva negotiations with Russia, aimed at ending the war in Syria. On October 5, the Principals Committee met at the White House to consider four options for Syria:

  1. Create a no-fly zone over Syria;
  2. Create safe zones along the Turkish and Jordanian borders inside Syrian territory;
  3. Bomb the entire Syrian Air Force;
  4. Arm the Syrian rebels (jihadists) with anti-aircraft weapons (MANPADS) as part of a prolonged insurgency directed against the Assad government, which are increasingly dominated by the very terrorist forces that the US and Russia were jointly targeting up until last week.

The first three options require the imposition of a no fly zone over Syria. There are big risks with a no fly zone, if the US imposes it without Russian cooperation. The Russians might refuse to respect it. If they defy the no fly zone and we shoot down Russian planes, it could lead to war. The Russians categorically oppose a Syrian no fly zone, because they believe it will weaken Assad.

Option four means the US aligns with our former jihadi terrorist enemies against Assad, in a semi-permanent war in the Middle East. So, consider these statements:

Any alternative approach must begin with grounding Mr. Assad’s air power…If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk.

I would recommend our colleagues in Washington to thoroughly consider the possible consequences of the realization of such plans…

That’s the current geopolitical landscape. What do the candidates think?

The Pant Suit wants to remove Assad and defeat ISIS simultaneously. She supports a no-fly zone. Clinton does not support an American troop commitment. Instead, she wants to arm and supply Syrian and Kurdish rebel groups. Her plan is to replace both Assad and ISIS with another group to be named later. It’s a weak plan, but it appeals to Americans because Clinton’s plan doesn’t require more American troops on the ground.

Trump has no plan, but during the primaries, he said: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

So, I don’t like Assad. Who’s going to like Assad? But, we have no idea who these people [Assad replacements], and what they’re going to be, and what they’re going to represent. They may be far worse than Assad. Look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Look at the mess we have after spending $2 trillion dollars, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over the place–we have nothing.

But during the VP debate, Pence adopted Clinton’s position. Pence said:

The United States of America needs to be prepared to work with our allies in the region to create a route for safe passage and then to protect people in those areas, including with a no-fly zone.

Obama has repeatedly refused to impose a no-fly zone.

Here is some context: Arming terrorists in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Bombing and attacking targets in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Establishing no fly zones without permission in a sovereign nation is an act of war. Stationing troops or Special Forces in a sovereign nation without permission is an act of war.

We have no UN mandate to be in Syria. Congress has not given its approval to be in Syria.

It’s a big fat mess, with no good solution in sight, made worse by the scale of the Syrian humanitarian crisis. And marked by Congress’ lack of courage.

It would be nice if at least ONE candidate would recall that during the Cold War, the number one goal was not to provoke a war between the US and Russia, but to find ways to de-escalate the situation.

Perhaps this is too much to expect, given the temperament of both candidates.

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