UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Trump’s Sweet Little Lies

The Daily Escape:

Owens River, Owens Valley, CA – 2020 photo by AndrewHelmer. Owens is the deepest valley in the US.

A few thoughts about the SOTU. First, should we have minimum standards of conduct and language in our society? If so, should the president reflect them? Or, have we finally reached peak SOTU=STFU?

Trump wouldn’t shake Pelosi’s hand. Pelosi tore up her courtesy copy of the SOTU speech after Trump finished speaking. Both were empty gestures of contempt. Pelosi later explained to reporters that she tore up the speech because it was “manifesto of mistruths”. Twitter was ablaze, using hashtags like#NancytheRipper. The right predictably reacted. Here’s Jonathan Turley’s tweet:

“Pelosi’s act dishonored the institution and destroyed even the pretense of civility and decorum in the House. If this is the Speaker’s “drop the mike” moment, it is a disgrace that should never be celebrated or repeated. In a single act, she obliterated decades of tradition.”

Some (Nikki Haley) said that Pelosi was dishonoring the last surviving Tuskegee Airman and a service member’s reunion with his family. Some are calling for a one-way return to civility. Why is it that calls for more grace and more respect for tradition only operate in the Democrats’ direction?

Some always point out that we can give the OFFICE respect without giving the person respect. That’s an important distinction, one Wrongo supports, and one not made during the Obama era by Republicans.

Heather Cox Richardson sums up the evening:

“Trump….went on to play the game show host turned autocratic ruler. In the course of the speech, he developed the theme that he, the president, could raise hurting individuals up to glory. He promoted an older African American veteran to General. He awarded a scholarship to a child who had previously been unable to get one. He had Melania award the Medal of Freedom to talk show host Rush Limbaugh….He reunited a military family. Contrived though all these scenarios were, they made him the catalyst for improving the lives of individuals in ways to which we all can relate. It was reality TV: false, scripted, and effective.”

It was Trump’s Oprah moment: You get a scholarship! You get a medal of freedom! Juan Guaidó, you get Venezuela! If he had asked the audience to look under their seats for envelopes, Trump’s night would have been indistinguishable from an Oprah show.

But the worst was honoring Limbaugh: A horse’s ass recognized by a jackass. It may replace what to Wrongo’s thinking was the worst Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump’s award to napkin economist Arthur Laffer. He of the 40-year proven failure of economic theory, the Laffer curve. But now and forever, America will have honored Rush, who the right-wing media will hereafter describe as the stoic hero facing a terrible death.

The media’s other narrative will be: Nancy, the Nasty Bitch.

The WaPo again did yeoman’s work fact-checking Trump’s lies in the SOTU speech:

“Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them,”

He repeats them incessantly to wear down the media, and to exhaust the rest of us. He hopes that we’ll accept his version of reality.

If you knew nothing about the last three years of Trump’s presidency, the picture he painted sounded pretty good. If you have paid any attention at all, you know that the country was being snowed under with an avalanche of lies and half-truths.

His was a long, tedious exercise in election-year pandering and demagoguery. The president’s record of accomplishments is thin, so he had to pad it with hyperbole and outlandish claims.

Let’s close with a musical interlude. Here’s Fleetwood Mac’s video of their hit “Sweet Little Lies”, an appropriate tune for Trump’s manifesto of mistruths:

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

Facebooklinkedinrss

Pelosi: We’re Making It up as We Go

The Daily Escape:

Hat tip – A. James

“When you’re born into this world, you’re given a ticket to the freak show. If you’re born in America you get a front row seat.” George Carlin

Donald Trump was impeached on Wednesday. Wrongo sees Trump as dangerously incompetent and personally corrupt. But the way Democrats have gone about the impeachment isn’t winning the hearts and minds of independents, a group of voters they need if they are to take back the Presidency in 2020 and hold on to the House.

It’s helpful to remember that the only reason the impeachment is going forward is that the 2018 midterms gave Democrats a significant majority in the House. Even with uncontested evidence that the president abused his power, Republicans have demonstrated no interest in holding Trump accountable. It is clear that if they were still in the majority, none of this would be happening.

A side note on Tulsi Gabbard, the only person who voted “present” on both impeachment motions: Wrongo has kind of admired her principled political stands. He’s agreed with a few of them. But voting “present”? Apparently she couldn’t decide on the two motions. She’s a presidential candidate. The ability to decide and lead are core competencies of the job. She has disqualified herself.

It’s always been clear that Trump wouldn’t be convicted in the Senate. It seems that, as with the Mueller investigation, the Dems were unclear about the likely outcome of their efforts. Did they expect Trump would simply resign in shame, or maybe run a half-hearted campaign in 2020? Trump is a fighter and a blockhead, so they should have known he would love the chance to talk about impeachment from now until next November.

The move that caught everyone, including reporters at the hearing, by surprise, was Pelosi’s statement that she had not set a time for sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. This was surprising since they had been saying all along that they’d impeach Trump by Christmas. They sounded as if they were eager to move the process forward.

Is this a political calculation? It runs the risk of making them look either too clever by half, or worried about the impeachment fallout with voters. After all, voter approval of impeachment peaked in October. Support for it has now fallen, and Trump’s approval ratings have risen since then.

Pelosi seems to be saying that the delay is because they are tussling with the openly partisan Mitch McConnell over the rules for the hearing. There is something to that if you consider that with the Clinton impeachment, the Senate impeachment process was negotiated in private between the Parties, and was approved by a 100-0 vote when Republican Trent Lott was Majority Leader.

That isn’t happening with Mitch in charge. This time, the Republicans want a quick trial, and then to declare victory.

Wrongo thinks that Trump deserves to be impeached, but as someone who was around for the Nixon and Clinton impeachment efforts, it seems as if the Democrats have made the same mistake this time that the Republicans made with Clinton: The Ukrainian case is just too small an offense. Guilt isn’t the issue, but to the average person, the punishment doesn’t match the crime.

With Clinton, 79% of the public thought Clinton was guilty. But the vast majority thought that lying about consensual sex was too small a crime to merit impeachment.

Democrats have a similar problem today. Trump did it, or at least, tried to do it. He’s incorrigible, too. He won’t have any hesitation about abusing his office again if it means gaining some personal advantage.

But because the Trump impeachment case has been so tightly limited to the Ukraine episode, the Democrats have lowered the stakes. People shrug: Ukraine got its aid eventually, and the Ukies aren’t investigating Hunter Biden, so….whatever.

Public support for impeaching Trump is about 50/50 and hasn’t moved appreciably in months. As much as Trump is a terrible president, Dems have managed to make him look borderline acceptable in this case.

Most of our DC politicians live in the beltway bubble. You can be sure that in 2016 many Dems said “It’s going to be a landslide. No woman or minority is going to vote for him.”

Then, the Dems were shocked by the Mueller report non-event.

Now, they’re flummoxed that impeachment is becoming less popular. They were sure it was going to popular with even the few Republican moderates and most independent voters.

Where do Dems go from here?

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 10, 2019

We start the new week as we ended it. Plenty of politics, not much in the way of progress for the country. Trump’s Friday physical didn’t go as planned:

Girl talk after the SOTU:

Executive time is seen as a good thing:

Trump hates House investigations, pledges to go another way:

VA governor Northam seeks place where moonwalking is OK for his political career:

Plutocrats favor the green deal we have, not the one we need:

Socialism for the rich is perfectly fine:

Trump announced North Korean summit, God shakes his head:

Facebooklinkedinrss

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:

Facebooklinkedinrss

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.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 6, 2019

Trump threatened to declare a national emergency last week in order to build his wall without Congress’s approval. Had those words been spoken by any prior president, America would be in a panic. We’re discounting the extreme message, because of who is saying it. We are certainly in the middle of a national emergency, but it ain’t on the border, it’s in the Oval Office:

The Republican New Year’s kick off:

In case you missed it, Mitch and Nancy took their accustomed roles:

Republicans think all Dems dance alike:

There’s more than one wall under discussion in DC:

The misogyny in 2020 campaign begins:

Facebooklinkedinrss

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.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Pelosi is Again Speaker, Like Sam Rayburn Before Her

The Daily Escape:

Christmas time near Steamboat Springs, CO – 2018 photo by dadams2117

Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House yesterday for the second time. Most Democrats see this as good news, since she knows her way around counting heads and striking deals. She actually received 220 votes, 17 more than the 203 Dems who supported her at the Democratic Caucus vote on Nov. 28.

There were 15 Democrats who voted against her in the roll call vote. Some had run on a pledge not to support Pelosi as speaker should Democrats regain control of the House, saying the party needed new blood in leadership. Seth Moulton (D-MA) led the charge against Pelosi, only to turn around and vote for her today in a typical show of Congressional spinelessness.

This brings up some other interesting data:

  • Total women in the US House of Representatives in 1989:
    16 Democrats
    13 Republicans
  • Total women in the US House of Representatives, 2019:
    89 Democrats
    13 Republicans

The numbers are telling when you break them down percentage-wise:

  • Percent women in the US House of Representatives in 1989:
    2% = 16/258 Democrats
    7.3% = 13/177 Republicans
  • Percent women in the US House of Representatives, 2019:
    9% = 89/235 Democrats
    6.5% = 13/199 Republicans

Among other fun demographic Congressional facts, a record-breaking 63 members of Congress do not identify as Christian (including Mormons as Christians). And 61 of these are Democrats; only two of ~250 Republicans (in both Houses) are non-Christian. And of course the Republican caucus is roughly 99% White and male.

And their all part of a Congress that is charged with representing a nation that is decidedly not 99% white Christian Dudes. And in a final celebratory vein, let’s all take a moment to remember that the faker Paul Ryan is now just a former member of Congress.

But there are issues with how Pelosi will drive the political agenda. She’s in favor of Paygo, an obscure budget rule that requires any legislation that increases spending (like entitlement programs) or cutting taxes (therefore increasing the deficit over the next 10 years) to be offset with budget cuts to mandatory spending or tax increases. The rule can only be waived with a majority vote.

For some House Democrats, particularly those who want to pursue ambitious new ideas like a Green New Deal, or Medicare for All, requiring budget cuts or tax increases to pay for them stops those bills in their tracks.

The Establishment Democrats are saying, “Be realistic”. But we weren’t realistic in WW II. We just fully mobilized every citizen in America, every factory, every natural resource for the war effort, despite the cost. At the time, our only true constraints were available resources, not budget room.

Apparently, to Establishment Dems, deaths from lack of money or insurance for health care doesn’t warrant that kind of mobilization. Nor does climate disruption.

Will the Establishment Democrats turn out to be useless to the effort to reform capitalism, or other progressive policies? We’ll see.

Facebooklinkedinrss

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:

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 25, 2018

Dems think the mid-terms mean dynamic change in DC. They’re mistaken:

Democrats seem to want younger leaders, but there’s this:

Another Trump Thanksgiving pardon:

If the Saudis can murder thousands in Yemen with Trump’s help, why get upset about one reporter?

We’ll see if new AG Whitaker pardons another turkey this season:

Some of NYC’s parade balloons are losing air at a bad time:

Turkey day should be a time for gratitude:

 

Facebooklinkedinrss