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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 3, 2016

The presidential choices for 2016 are Clinton or Trump. You could write-in Bernie, or Jill Stein, or one of the fringe candidates, but not all write-in votes are counted for Electoral College purposes. 43 states, representing 494 electoral votes, count write-in votes, although the candidate has to have registered electors in some of those states to be counted. So you could be throwing your vote away by writing in someone.

And this year, we can’t afford any wasted votes. If you doubt that, check out this rockin ‘n rollin’ week.

SCOTUS redefined “Undue Burden” for Texas:

COW Undue Burden

Scalia opined from beyond the grave:

COW Scalia in Hell.gif

The GOP Benghazi strategy focused on the wrong fire:

COW Benghazi Fire

The non-event called the Benghazi Congressional Report was issued:

COW Benghazi Mud

Why can’t the GOP move on from Benghazi? Please don’t say it’s because 4 people died. Think about how many have died from shootings in America since Benghazi, without any GOP interest in holding hearings on Gunz. We deserve better from these birds we elect.

Loretta Lynch knew better than to meet with the Big Dog:

Schmooze 2

Loretta Lynch used to be a prosecutor. She knows better than to speak with the spouse of someone under an active investigation. As an officer of the court, she should have told Bill that talking together was improper, and had someone else on her staff speak with him. She has tarnished the credibility of the investigation and should resign. OTOH, Mr. Bill drop kicked his wife’s good news on the Benghazi investigation to the curb, making her the story again. And he is (was) a lawyer, and ought to know the protocol as well as Lynch.

Of course, Bill denied it:

COW Bills Denial

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 21, 2016

The preliminary results from the Nevada Caucus gives the win to Hillary Clinton, while the preliminary results from South Carolina say that Donald Trump has won, with second place too close to call at this point.

For the Democrats, the mainstream candidate now looks quite likely to take the nomination, while on the Republican side, the insurgent appears to be the one who will be the nominee. The Sanders Democrats will fall in line behind Clinton for the general election, because they know that no issue in this election trumps judicial philosophy, and the nation can’t survive another Scalia.

Here’s why: Federal judges have great power over our democracy. We could review many of Scalia’s decisions, but let’s just focus on three:

• The five Supreme Court judges (including Scalia) who decided the 2000 election by awarding the White House to George W. Bush.
• Or, the five judges (including Scalia) who decided Citizens United, saying that big corporate money was speech.
• Or the five judges (including Scalia) who gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The judiciary controls many, many aspects of our lives; therefore, the importance of having federal judges who reject far right-wing ideology cannot be overstated.

On to cartoons. Who will walk in Scalia’s shoes?

COW Scalia 2

Obama has about as much chance of getting a Supreme Court nominee approved by Senate Republicans as he does of convincing the average GOP voter that his Hawaiian birth certificate is genuine:

COW Scalia 3

GOP dilemma: Let’s honor Scalia by ignoring the Constitution:

COW Ignore the Constitution

Obama gets a lesson in the Senate’s Advise & Consent process:

COW Clarence Votes twice

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Obama: Right on Cuba, Wrong on Scalia Funeral

Mr. Obama made two decisions this week, to visit Cuba, and to not attend Justice Scalia’s funeral.

The Scalia decision may not be so smart. From Politico:

President Barack Obama is preparing for a fierce battle with the Senate over the Supreme Court vacancy, but he’s not planning to attend Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral — a decision that puzzled even some of his allies and incensed conservative media.

Yep, the decision to forgo the funeral on Saturday is called a partisan snub by the Right. They ignore that Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will go to the Supreme Court on Friday to pay their respects to Justice Scalia while the justice lies in repose in the Court’s Great Hall.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, who share Scalia’s Catholic faith, will attend the Catholic funeral services, representing the Administration.

Politico reports there is little precedent for presidents attending the funerals of sitting justices. President George W. Bush attended, and eulogized Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005. But before Rehnquist, the last justice to die in office was Robert H. Jackson in 1954.

It’s a can’t-win situation for Obama. If he attends, the right will pick apart his mannerisms, facial expressions and interactions with other attendees, criticizing what they will call snubs of various kinds.

While not attending again shows Obama’s tin ear when it comes to domestic politics, his decision is acceptable. Attending the funeral would not suddenly change the stance of Republicans who think that Obama should not nominate a Scalia replacement.

His decision to visit Cuba is smart. Obama will be the first US president to visit the island in 88 years. The last US president to travel to Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in January 1928.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a diplomatic thaw in  December 2014, after more than 50 years of disruption and confrontation between the two countries. The US and Cuba formally resumed bilateral relations in July, 2015. A month later, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, officially opened the US Embassy in Havana, becoming the first US diplomatic head to visit Cuba in 70 years.

Why do we care about opening Cuba? Here is one reason: a story in Forbes this week underlines what we can expect from opening relations.

Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal, both 72-year-old retired software engineers, are slated to become the first Americans since 1959 to set up a manufacturing plant in Cuba. Their plan: produce small, easily maintained tractors for use by family farmers. Under new regulations issued by the Obama administration, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control gave the Paint Rock, AL-based partners the go-ahead last week. Once they get final approval from the Cubans…in early 2017, they’ll start building a factory in a special economic zone set up by the Cuban government in the port city of Mariel.

The Wrongologist visited Cuba in 2014. Below is a photo of tobacco farming in Pinar Del Rio, a predominantly agricultural region about 2 hours from Havana that produces 70% of Cuba’s cigar tobacco. This farmer is using oxen to plow his tobacco field. Most independent farmers use animals for plowing.

The tractors that we did see were Soviet-era imports:

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clemmons and Berenthal got rich in tech here in the US, and identified the need for cheap tractors in Cuba. They will be showing their first tractor model at a Cuban agricultural fair in March. Why are they doing this? They have a desire to be helpful to the Cuban people, but they want profits:

Our business model says we are investing in Cuba and reinvesting any profits we make. We’ll do what we did with our other businesses. We’ll create value and then sell the company.

And was it easy for them to get US government approval? Berenthal told Forbes:

In all honesty it was tedious rather than difficult. We had to wait for the regulations to change so that the proposal we made was covered by the regulations implemented over the last nine months.

Isn’t it interesting that two entrepreneurial guys can identify a big market and jump in before the big US agricultural manufacturers?

And despite Mr. Cruz’ and Mr. Rubio’s yelling about Obama dealing with a Communist regime, the Cuban government appears willing to offer financial backing to private farmers who choose to buy from a privately owned US company.

Kudos to Obama, and to Clemmons and Berenthal. It is long overdue, yet somehow, just in time.

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The Battle to Replace Scalia

With the death of Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court has become even more of a BFD than it usually is in our politics. Republicans are setting the terms of the current battle by saying that Mr. Obama should not even bring forward a candidate for the Senate’s Advise and Consent process.

The Republicans fought for 40 years to get a Conservative majority, and will not give that up without a fight. This is the first time since Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall in 1991 that the ideological balance on the Court could actually change. In the last six cases, from Ginsberg through Kagan, either a Republican president filled the seat of a conservative justice, or a Democratic president filled the seat of a liberal justice.

So the stakes are very high, both substantively and politically.

On the other hand, the voters might rediscover that presidential elections should be about serious issues. At the top of the list: Who will pick the justice that creates a new Supreme Court majority?

A brief history from Paul Waldman at the WaPo:

The Senate…used to approach nominations to the Supreme Court with a simple standard: If the nominee was qualified and wasn’t a criminal or a drunk, he or she would probably get confirmed with the support of both the president’s party and the opposition…But we may have entered an era with an entirely different starting presumption: not that a well-qualified nominee deserves confirmation, but that senators ought to oppose any nomination from a president of the other party.

Waldman provides this list of recent nominees and how the Senate voted:

Antonin Scalia (1986): 98-0
Anthony Kennedy (1987): 97-0
Clarence Thomas (1991): 52-48
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993): 96-3
Stephen Breyer (1994): 87-9
John Roberts (2005): 78-22, 20 of 42 Democrats in favor
Samuel Alito (2005): 58-42, 4 of 45 Democrats in favor
Sonia Sotomayor (2009): 68-31, 9 of 40 Republicans in favor
Elena Kagan (2010): 63-37, 5 of 40 Republicans in favor

Since Chief Justice Roberts in 2005, we see that our political divide is not simply about Congress and  the President, the Supreme Court is now also entrenched in the polarization. Justice Kagan’s approval is instructive. She was well-qualified, (a former dean of Harvard Law School and Solicitor General), and had no absurd legal views. Nevertheless, only five Republicans voted to confirm her. Three of those senators — Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Judd Gregg — were moderates who are no longer in the Senate.

In the case of a Scalia replacement, every Republican senator trying to decide what to do will know that if they vote to confirm any Democratic nominee for this seat, a primary challenge from the right will probably happen whenever they run for re-election.

But the GOP-controlled Senate ignores its responsibilities at its peril. 24 GOP-held Senate seats are up for election this cycle to just 10 held by Democrats. A few (enough) of those GOP Senators are in states that were won in 2012 by Barack Obama including: Kirk in Illinois, Toomey in Pennsylvania, Portman in Ohio, Ayotte in New Hampshire, Johnson in Wisconsin, and Rubio’s open seat of Florida. Since Republicans hold 54 seats, losing 4 of them could flip Senate control.

But, this is a situation where the Democrats really need to get control of their message machine, or they’ll risk getting overrun again in the perception battle.

The best guess is that is unlikely that control of the Senate changes hands in 2016, so divided government will likely remain with us, assuming a presidential win for the Democrats. As Scott Lemieux says in the New Republic:

As the stakes of Supreme Court nominations get ever higher, getting Court vacancies filled during periods of divided government is going to become increasingly difficult. Depending on the results of the 2016 elections, this dysfunctional future could very soon become our present.

Could a non-functioning Supreme Court finally be the last straw? We might soon find out.

We know that Chief Justice Roberts is concerned with the public perception of SCOTUS as an institution. Perhaps if the White House and the Chief Justice held discussions about the President nominating a moderate, and then Roberts spoke publicly about the need for quick consideration, the political logjam might be broken.

Absent that, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we are heading towards a breaking point in this country as the polarization stretches the functioning of our government in every arena.

Our Constitution gives the Senate veto power over executive and judicial branch appointments with no mechanism for resolving a deadlock. That is a bug, not a feature.

It’s amazing that the system has remained functional for as long as it has.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 13, 2015

(This is the last column until Thursday 12/17. Wrongo and Ms. Right are in San Francisco. Talk amongst yourselves, keep hands inside the blog at all times.)

The hits keep coming! The San Bernardino killings continue to reverberate in our psyches. People are scared beyond what should be reasonable, given the statistics about killings by Islamic terrorists. The Paris climate agreement is signed, but what will it really do? The Supreme Court considered affirmative action again, with predictable BS from both sides. Trump continues, and Rahm Emmanuel looks to be on the wrong side of justice in Chicago.

Here come the same tired solutions once again:

COW Tom Tomorrow 2

It’s Trump’s world, but so few can live in it:

COW Trump World

 

Chicago’s mayor finally decides to get rolling on solving the problem:

COW Rahm TruckAs mayor, he sat on that video for over a year. He had to know, because the $5 million payment to the victim’s family didn’t come from petty cash at the Chicago PD. He was the chief architect of the cover-up. And he needs to go.

Justice Scalia again covers himself with glory:

COW Scalia Bad Thing

 

Won’t matter what Paris says about climate change:

COW Climate Change

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