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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 2, 2017

Governments last only as long as the undertaxed can defend themselves against the overtaxed.” Bernard Berenson

(There is an extra ration of cartoons today. Wrongo is taking a few days to celebrate the hot dogs and potato salad he found in the fridge. Posts will resume on July 5th.)

If this week shows how well we are playing defense, we are all screwed. The party of personal responsibility always blames their opponents when things go wrong. The party of fiscal responsibility will blow up the budget whenever they get in power.

And the party of family values is merrily slashing away at programs that support families:

When it comes to health insurance, the GOP has all the right viewpoints:

Trump revealed his true self with the “Morning Joe” tweets:

The Court-tested, Judges approved Muslim ban is now in effect:

Trump (or his lackeys) made fake Time Magazine covers featuring the Donald:

Trump’s Press Team orders no cameras at most press conferences. So on to Virtual News:

Trump Election Commission asks states for each voter’s personal data, like party affiliation and social security number. What could go wrong?

Why the Fourth of July?

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Monday Wake Up Call – Immigration Edition

Everyone knows by now that Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on Friday barring people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US. But many people traveling to the US from those countries, including some who are legally permanent US residents, were in the air at the time of the ban, and couldn’t turn around.

By early Saturday evening, several federal judges in NY, MA, and including Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia, made rulings that would at least stall the implementation of portions of Trump’s anti-refugee executive order. The Daily Beast reported:

As a result, airports across the country turned into Lawfare zones, with cadres of volunteer lawyers squaring off against bureaucrats in the Customs and Border Protection agency. Late-night rulings from federal judges made a legally unprecedented situation even more dramatic, with all three branches of the federal government—congressional, executive, and judicial—warring with each other.

There are three things to consider in this fast-developing story. First, how unprepared the Trump administration was to actually carry out their own EO. From CNN: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized, government officials said. Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.

CNN further reports that the White House overruled that guidance, with the order coming from Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. They decided that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US. It was decided by DHS that green card holders could fly to the US and would be considered for re-entry on a case-by-case basis after passing a secondary screening. But CNN reports that the guidance sent to airlines on Friday night said:

Lawful permanent residents are not included and may continue to travel to the USA.

It gets worse for Trump: Before he issued the EO, the White House did not seek the legal guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department office that interprets the law for the executive branch.

CNN indicates that the EO did not follow the standard agency review process overseen by the National Security Council.  That inter-agency process would have asked the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance, but it didn’t happen.

The second issue was that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, at least at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport apparently disregarded the stay orders from Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia. More from the Daily Beast:

Brinkema…ruled that the travelers detained by Customs and Border Protection had a right to see lawyers.

After the judge’s ruling, lawyers standing by at Dulles expected they would be able to see the detainees and try to help them get into the US. But, the CBP would not let them see their would-be clients. The Daily Beast reports that it’s unheard of for government agencies like CBP to prevent people who have the legal right to live in the US from seeing their lawyers.

But, that’s what happened. In fact as the evening wore on, it became clear that CBP was defying, or at best slow-rolling Brinkema’s ruling. The lawyers at the airport believe that meant someone must be in contempt of court. The judge could theoretically have sent in federal officers to force CBP to let the lawyers meet with the detainees, but, that would have been unprecedented, and it didn’t happen.

The third issue is that Saudi Arabia was not on the banned country list. That’s right, the country most responsible for supporting and sustaining both ISIS and Al Qaeda skated. Our past few presidents found it convenient to cozy up to the Saudis, but should Trump be continuing that coziness?

If Trump’s intention was to punish sponsors of terrorism, the ban should have hit Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which is where the money and most of the actual 9/11 terrorists came from.

This is what the next 4 years are going to be like. But the question is, are the Trumpets going to become more competent as they go along, or is this what we should expect going forward?

Today’s wake up is for Donald Trump and his administration.They need to govern, not play pretend president.

To help them wake up, here is Xenia Rubinos performing “Mexican Chef“, from her album “Black Terry Cat”. It’s her ruthless critique of the undervalued labor that immigrants perform every day in America:

Sample Lyrics:

French bistro

Dominican chef

Italian restaurant

Boricua chef

Chinese takeout

Mexican chef

Nouveau America

Bachata in the back

 Brown walks your baby

Brown walks your dog

Brown raised America in place of its mom

 Brown cleans your house

Brown takes the trash

Brown even wipes your granddaddy’s ass

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 29, 2017

“All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.”Kurt Vonnegut.

Quoting from Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” seems to catch the Trump zeitgeist. It was hard to focus on what the GOP and Trump were doing between the tweetstorms. So you could be forgiven for not noticing that Trump’s ban on immigration includes Green Card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. And Homeland Security says that’s really the policy. Legal residents holding the wrong passport who happened to be outside the US are now stranded. This includes students, business executives, and even a few US business owners. You can leave, but you cannot come back is the message of the day. Christians will be allowed in though, so here’s the best idea yet:

Trump builds a wall to keep Speedy out:

This is from Italy’s Matteo Bertelli. You can bet that in his next panel, Speedy jumps up on Trump’s head, and The Donald grabs a hammer…

Voter fraud is a yuuge problem only in the Orange Ahab’s mind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voter fraud? Or, voted for a fraud?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump wants at least one Chinese import:

Trump keeps his focus on the real enemies:

 

 

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Who Moved My Cheese?

Some may remember the book by this name by Spencer Johnson, published in 1998. The underlying message of the book is “Don’t waste time fighting against change: accept that bad stuff will happen to you for no good reason and just keep moving”.

This outdated and simplistic message remains the message of the Democratic Party to the White Working Class (WWC). Donald Trump’s message is different. He offers them nothing but a dream, to limit immigrants working in the US and to cut off the US market from China. And since the WWC knows that more of the same isn’t going to work, they’re voting for Trump.

It is useful to remember that since our “Most Favored Nation” trade deal with China in 1979, we have lost 35% of all manufacturing jobs in this country.

The WWC thinks that the Democrats have not been able to do anything to help them keep their jobs. The reasons for failure can be at least equally shared by the Parties, but since Dems have said for years that they are the party of the working class, they are getting the greater share of the blame for 35 years of no results.

There are two issues that dominate the discussion: Illegal immigration and transition assistance when jobs are lost. Regarding Immigration:

  • The WWC knows that Dems need the political support of the Hispanic community, and that requires Dems to show sympathy with illegal immigration.
  • The WWC believes that illegal immigration has put downward pressure on job opportunities and wages in the trades, in restaurant and hotel work, and in service sectors where immigrants may be overly represented.
  • That’s why Trump’s stance on immigration is so popular with the WWC. They probably know in their hearts that kicking all the Mexican workers out, or building a wall is ridiculous. But the Democrat’s position on immigration is diffuse, and is viewed as “soft” on illegals by the WWC.

Despite anything the Dems say about retraining or “transition assistance”, the WWC knows that someone on job transition assistance can’t earn enough to support a family. Other problems:

  • Identifying the fields/industries that workers can train in that will produce stable, living wage employment is an inexact science. So, demand for retrained workers is often less than the supply for any given job type.
  • Businesses have been very successful at shifting the burden (and cost) of training displaced workers from themselves to society. This is helped along by a corporate critique that public and not-for-profit private schools are failing to maintain standards, and they can’t churn out sufficient grads with qualifications that meet the corporations’ highly specific requirements.
  • Hence the continuing financial opportunities for for-profit technical schools and for-profit universities, (can you say Trump University?)

And Ford Motor Co. just gave Trump a big wet kiss:

Ford Motor Co. says it’s moving all of its US small car production to Mexico…The company is building a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It will make small cars there starting in 2018.

What can the Pant Suit say about this that would go beyond what the Pant Load will certainly say? And if she did, would WWC people believe her?

On the macro level, our current capitalism has turned to technology to produce much of what is needed with far less human labor input than ever before. That leaves job growth (and job opportunity) in only the low-skilled, low-paid “service” jobs; or in highly advanced, specialized jobs requiring very advanced training/skills/talent.

This means that the dogma of Endless Economic Growth, which we have accepted since the Industrial Revolution, is dead. Along with killing that, we need to kill off the current organizing principle of our economic system, where humans exist solely to fulfill the needs of businesses.

Work helps us find our place in society. It is something that we see as having an inherent value, something that fills a basic human need, similar to food and shelter. But our current economic system no longer recognizes that, and our economy provides little opportunity for fulfilling that basic need for a large portion of American citizens, including many in the WWC.

The idea of government deploying under-utilized labor to build and repair our infrastructure, or to re-tool our country to reduce carbon emissions would be a step that might return the WWC to jobs and a place in society. It would cost a ton.

But the idea that the government would create demand is too socialist for most politicians to accept, despite the fact that the rest of the tools just haven’t worked in 35+ years.

Tell me again why Bernie Sanders was a terrible choice.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 4, 2016

Welcome to Labor Day weekend. This means that summer is over, and mercifully, there are only nine weeks until Election Day:

COW Labor Day IV.png

Donald Trump did a drive-through in Mexico. His souvenir sombrero says “Culero”.  For those who do not speak colloquial Spanish, Culero means asshole:

COW Culero

Some thought he looked presidential while with President Nieto, but then he looked more like an ultra-nationalist in Phoenix. A Trump advisor said that without enforced deportation, we would soon have a taco truck on every corner. America responded:

COW Taco Trucks

Even better, there were some estimates that a taco truck on every corner might deliver enough jobs to eliminate today’s US unemployment. Great idea Donald!

The Pant Suit did not have a good week. The FBI released some of the information they had collected while investigating the email issue. The outrage by those who believe Clinton is the worst candidate ever was palpable. Should we be buying it?

COW Bad Bag

OTOH, for many it’s just too much appearance of guilt:

COW Guilty Looking

49rs QB Colin Kaepernick has touched a nerve. It is surprising to see who is for and against his position:

COW Divided we Sit

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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

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 22, 2015

JFK was killed 52 years ago today. Most of us only vaguely remember the tragedy, but Wrongo was in class at Georgetown in Washington DC when it happened, so he remembers it well. It seemed that the nation convulsed when Kennedy was killed. We watched Cronkite read the news from the ticker, we saw Oswald shot live on TV, and we watched the procession with John-John’s salute. But was the arc of our history really altered? There are what-ifs by liberals about the Vietnam War, but it continued until the Nixon administration. LBJ, thought of as not worthy to succeed Kennedy, delivered the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the National Endowment for the Arts to the country.

On to cartoons. Paris, immigration and the 2016 presidential election dominated the week’s news.

GOP governors edit Emma Lazarus:

COW No Entry

Why we are fearful:

COW Fear Itself

It is a lot easier to pretend that you’re acting tough by talking about closing mosques and turning away refugees than it is to explain why the risks are worth taking. The appropriate response is to point out that it isn’t tough to cower in fear. We are actually tough when we tolerate a little fear in the interest of doing the right and wise thing.

In time for the Holidays, a “No Vacancy” sign:

COW No Room at the Inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The safety net is remade by Republicans in His image:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

The immigration debate reminds us of walls through the ages:

COW Tear Down This Wall

Jeb reviews our recent history with France:

COW Jeb France

 

Promise them anything but a balanced budget:

COW Budget Implications

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America’s PTSD

America has been in a defensive crouch since 9/11. The mere mention of domestic terrorists or a terrorist attack inside the US causes many of us to suspend rational thought, and beg our politicians to protect us, even though the risk of dying from a terrorist attack is very small.

How small? In 2014, there were four terrorism-related incidents in the US involving Muslim-Americans that killed seven people. The total number of fatalities in the US from terrorism by Muslim-Americans since 9/11 is 50 souls. Meanwhile, we have had more than 200,000 murders in the US since 9/11.

The ethical question we face is: Do Americans deserve peace of mind more than Syrians refugees deserve safety?

We look to our leaders to help answer that question, but they can be cowards. They should do everything they can to help the rest of us be brave, and do the right thing, even if it entails some measure of risk. That’s true if we’re talking about restrictions on how much privacy we’ll cede to the government, or if we’re thinking about allowing Syrian refugees on our soil.

But, it seems most politicians prefer to play to our PTSD, fanning our fears.

The Paris terrorist attacks were a tactical loss in the war against ISIS. But the only way it leads to a strategic defeat, as the blog Political Violence @ A Glance writes, is if we let this attack divide us along religious lines, provoking non-Muslims vs. Muslims.

ISIS is geographically contained. To the east, Iran and the weak but stable Iraqi government are not going anywhere. To the north, the Syrian Kurds, and behind them Turkey, block ISIS. To the west, the Assad regime plus Syrian rebels block ISIS progress, particularly with the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. To the south, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are supported by the US and are not likely to fall. Lebanon is the weak link, but it is supported by Iran.

Here is a view of the current state of play in Syria:

Syrian Kurd Control

Source: New York Review of Books

The purple area is controlled by the Syrian Kurds. The remaining open border with Turkey shown above is the primary route that ISIS uses for trade, to add jihadists and deliver war supplies. Sealing it seems to be among Russia’s top priorities, and it is also a priority for the Syrian Kurdish YPG. However, it is not a priority of the US, or Turkey.

Given these facts on the ground, the Paris attacks are militarily insignificant. However, they could be significant if we make bad decisions.

America’s post 9/11 PTSD affliction makes us happily willing to abrogate parts of the US Constitution, like the damage already done to the 4th Amendment. Consider this week’s hand-wringing about our surveillance capabilities by CIA Director John Brennan, who wants to force companies to give the government encryption keys for their new applications.

He wants better domestic spying, and fewer domestic rights, to help fight ISIS.

It appears that the House will vote Thursday to change the screening process for refugees from Syria and Iraq. The bill requires the government to create a new process that “certifies” that refugees aren’t a security threat. Since the bill has no recommendations about the certification process, it acts to “pause” immigration while the bureaucrats work something out.

Or, consider the religious test that some Republicans want to impose on Syrian immigrants. If we allow Syrian Christians to migrate here while banning Muslims, we have created an unconstitutional religious test that violates part of the First Amendment.

And, the backlash against Syrian immigrants by US state governors sets up a possible Muslim vs. non-Muslim confrontation. It abrogates even more of the Constitution. It is a short step from saying no Muslims in a state, to saying that only Christians can live in a particular state.

But, Chris Cillizza at the WaPo says that Democrats need to be very careful about demonizing Republicans over Syrian immigration:

The political upside for Republican politicians pushing an immigration ban on Syrians and/or Muslims as a broader response to the threat posed by the Islamic State sure looks like a political winner.

This is backed up by Pew Research Center’s 2014 survey examining Americans’ view on Islamic extremism:

Pew Islam Concerns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So to most Americans, it doesn’t seem xenophobic, or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees.

OTOH, Republicans say that Second Amendment still needs more protection. There are people all across America that are willing to weaken many Amendments, but not the one that lets them walk the streets with AR-15’s.

Yet, what the electorate will remember in 2016 is that Democrats wanted more foreigners to come here, while Republicans wanted to protect them from terrorists. Fear sells and motivates. Reasoned, nuanced discussion bores us, and is ignored.

So, don’t expect leadership to be brave.

At this point, while we may have some responsibility to help protect political refugees, it is probably not worth losing an election over.

See you on Sunday

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Corporations Want Europe to Add Refugees

According to The Guardian, the European Union ministers forced through a plan to relocate Middle Eastern asylum-seekers throughout the EU. The plan would distribute 120,000 souls across all EU countries.

The headline yesterday was that Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic voted against the proposal, but could be forced to take immigrants anyway. These Eastern European governments have been among the most vocal opponents of plans to relocate refugees across the EU. But, according to The Economist, this position ignores economic logic:

A survey by Manpower Group, a consultancy, found that two out of five firms in Poland struggle to fill vacancies. In Hungary, almost half could not get the staff they need. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia fewer employers report difficulties (18% and 28%) but the share has been climbing steadily over the past few years.

Here is their chart showing the difficulty in filling jobs in the EU:

Where immigrants are needed

The argument in the countries that need to fill jobs but do not want migrants is that they can fill skill gaps by drawing in labor from neighboring countries with more similar cultures. This may fill some positions, but wages are much lower in the countries needing labor. The Economist reports that wages in Germany are 150% higher than in Hungary. And Germany’s social safety net is superior.

These statistics point to serious problems in the EU’s local economies. But the real issue isn’t under population in the EU. We have been told for years that the unemployment rate among young Europeans is very high. Trading Economics reports that the overall jobless rate in the Eurozone fell to 10.9% in July, from 11.1% in the previous three months. That means 17.4 million EU citizens are unemployed. But, youth unemployment averages 21.9%. Here are some depressing Youth Unemployment statistics from summer, 2015: (Source: Statista.com)

  • Greece:     53.7%
  • Spain:       49.2%
  • Italy:          44.2%
  • France:     23.6%
  • Germany:   7.1%

So, even if people in certain EU countries understand that there might be an economic upside to allowing immigrants into their country, their opening position is: “why aren’t we hiring our own kids?”

Then there is the anti-immigrant issue that transcends economic concerns, the ethnic makeup of one’s own country, and what migrants may do to impact these old European cultures. No argument about the economic merits of increased immigration will likely sway voters if they believe their way of life will be compromised. The fear of a “mob at the gates” drives anti-immigrant feeling throughout the world.

So, who says Europe needs all of this migrant labor? Much like in the US, it is the corporations who say they can’t fill jobs with the requisite talent. What they really mean is, talent at a price.

Why can’t German firms import Italian or Spanish kids to do the work?

This sounds remarkably similar to tech firms in the US saying that they cannot find STEM workers, and so ask the government to add more H-1B visas so that migrants from India can fill jobs in Silicon Valley.

The global picture is clear: Many jobs now done by humans are being taken over by machines. Computers will ease our transition to declining populations. Even many low-skilled jobs in manufacturing and agriculture can be handled by robots, requiring a large jump in the skills humans need to learn in order to get the fewer, better paying jobs that remain.

A partial solution may be to import some migrants to fill a few low skilled jobs, but adoption of new technologies rather than population growth, is a better way to go about raising the living standards in Europe.

And we must shut off global population growth sometime soon. The Wrongologist has reported before on “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton, in which Clifton says that globally, some 3 billion people are looking for work right now, and nearly all of them are willing to work for less than the average American or European.

Every society will be more secure economically if they can promote a high resource-to-population ratio. Those countries who can become close to self-sufficient in food, water, energy, and renewable resources will be the only ones with middle-class living conditions.

Middle Eastern migrants understand this. Some may be fleeing for their lives, but the vast majority are simply economic migrants. The EU is being led by the nose to focus on asylum-seekers, when even they are economic migrants.

Although the poorer parts of the world experience very high population growth, and the developed world does not, it is a safe guess that not a single country today has a population that is low enough to guarantee success in the future world economic order.

Think about what Agent Smith said in The Matrix:

Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.

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The Scourge of Anchor Babies

No time for in-depth blogging today, but because Wrongo lived in Southern California for 10 years, he often heard stories about pregnant Chinese women traveling to the US so that their children could be born here. Orange County was often rumored to be the (forgive the pun) hotbed of Chinese births. According to the LA Times, the correct term for this is “maternity tourism.” Whatever.

The LA Times reported:

The website of one birthing center suggested that 4,000 Chinese women had been served since 1999. The crackdown included one birthing center in Irvine. According to an affidavit, more than 400 women associated with the Irvine location have given birth at one Orange County hospital since 2013.

So, we really have no overall handle on the numbers of Chinese tourist births. Of course, these tourist births have the added benefit of making those kids American citizens.

One underreported part of this story is that the one child policy in China may be behind many of these births. An illegal second child would be stateless in China, with little hope of education or good employment, so for wealthy Chinese families in this situation, a few month’s visit to the US on a tourist visa gets the baby citizenship, and a place to go to school when the time comes. Still, aren’t the Chinese exploiting a loophole to get their kids citizenship?

No, it isn’t a loophole. It’s right there in the Constitution.

Tom Toles in the WaPo linked Asian anchor babies to the Panda births in DC:

COW Anchor babies

 

 

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