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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 7, 2019

This year is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Times have changed:

Biden doesn’t get it right, but consider the alternative:

Trump wants to be the health care president. Won’t happen:

Feminists come in two sexes:

Elizabeth Warren said this on Friday:

“When Democrats next have power, we should be bold and clear: We’re done with two sets of rules — one for the Republicans and one for the Democrats,”…. “And that means when Democrats have the White House again, if Mitch McConnell tries to do what he did to President Obama and puts small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems facing this country, then we should get rid of the filibuster.”

Warren referenced a bill passed in the Senate last year that made lynching a federal crime, and pointed out that it was first introduced in 1918.

“It nearly became the law back then. It passed the House in 1922. But it got killed in the Senate — by a filibuster. And then it got killed again. And again. And again,” Warren will say. “More than 200 times. An entire century of obstruction because a small group of racists stopped the entire nation from doing what was right.”

Warren is correct on the merits about the filibuster, as she is on many other issues. The filibuster is a blunt tool for the reactionary forces in the Senate.

From a policy viewpoint, she is by far the best candidate. But she lags in the polls, and many are convinced that she can’t be elected. She also trails in funds raising, behind Bernie and Beto. Warren hasn’t released her first quarter totals, but her campaign’s finance director just left. HuffPo tells us that:

“A tricky gender gap is emerging in the race for donor dollars in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.”

That hasn’t affected Kamala Harris who is raising large amounts from corporate donors. Maybe she has corralled the bigger feminists.

Barr’s playing it cute with the Democrats in the House:

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Don’t Call Warren a Wonk

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon, Utah – 2019 photo by AccountexpiresSept10

(Wrongo has been a little distracted by the Barr Letter and the aftermath of Russiagate. He’s spent a ton of time checking out who is recanting their positions, and who is doubling down. That explains the lack of daily posting. Also, there will be no Saturday Soother this week as Wrongo and Ms. Right take advantage of Broadway and NYC’s nightlife. There will be cartoons on Sunday, though.)

Wrongo is beginning to place Pete Buttigieg near the head of the 2020 class of presidential candidates. He’s smart, an intellectual, and most important, someone who thinks and speaks with nuance about our politics. Wrongo also likes Elizabeth Warren. She’s turning out ideas at a higher rate than any of her competitors. This, from Charlie Pierce: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The Senator Professor Warren Policy Shop and Idea Factory continues to operate at full capacity. First, a little something-something from the Des Moines Register: Warren has not shied away from confronting those affected by her policies, delivering them directly to those industries’ doorsteps. Just as she announced her plan to break apart the nation’s largest tech companies before heading to one of the [agricultural] industry’s largest gatherings…”

Warren announced her plan to take on corporate agriculture just before traveling to Iowa to speak at a rural issues forum. The companies she names in her plan — Tyson, Dow-DuPont and Bayer-Monsanto — are all key players in Iowa’s economy. More:

“Warren argues small farmers are unable to get ahead ‘because bad decisions in Washington have consistently favored the interests of multinational corporations and big business lobbyists’ over their own. Warren said during a recent interview with the Register ‘The number of purchasers of soybeans or hogs has shrunk dramatically….The number of seed providers has shrunk dramatically, and the diversity of the seeds (offered) has shrunk. Concentration in those industries has put a real squeeze on small- and medium-sized farms in Iowa.”

But Warren is being concern-trolled as an unlikeable, wonkish professor, while Buttigieg gets praise for learning Norwegian in order to read a favorite author. More from Pierce:

“The temptation will be great for people to hang the deadly Wonk label on her, an especially painful tag for a woman. But to do so is to ignore the fundamental theme that all of these proposals have in common: a multi-front attack on…monopoly power as an enemy of the poor and middle class….”

Bias remains in all of us, even as we try to ignore it. Wrongo wonders if non-MAGA males will view a smart female candidate like Warren differently than a male competitor.

Buttigieg is impressive. He may be young, but he’s serious, intelligent, and well-versed in the issues.

Warren, a college professor and US Senator, is every bit the intellectual equal of Buttigieg and, like Mayor Pete, is light-years smarter than Donald Trump.

Here’s the problem: When men listen to Buttigieg, they hear intelligence, humility, and a willingness to learn. When they listen to Warren, do they hear something different, and maybe, less likeable?

That was true in 2016. Hillary Clinton was held to a higher standard than Donald Trump. Her negatives were far higher than would have been true for a male candidate with similar strengths. Despite more than three decades of public service, Clinton lost to the most unqualified and unfit Presidential candidate in our nation’s history.

Can Democrats nominate another woman so soon? If so, should Warren be the one?

Warren is an intellectual force who wants capitalism reform. She articulates real policies, and attacks the class war waged by the rich. Like Mayor Pete, she has the ability to present complex ideas in ways that are both accessible, and actionable.

Maybe, “wonk” won’t stick to her as it did to Hillary. “Wonk” implies focusing on technicalities that ordinary people find boring, or beyond their understanding. The wonk tries to describe a small world, while the rest of us mostly try to focus on the big picture.

Warren seems the opposite of a wonk. She is more like Teddy Roosevelt than Paul Krugman. No one would call Theodore Roosevelt, a demonstrated reformer with anti-plutocrat chops, a wonk. It should be difficult to portray Warren that way.

Warren has found a way to merge an economic agenda and Democratic voters’ deep concern about our political system. She says, “rebuild democracy.” Accountability, reform, oversight, anti-corruption brings it all together.

But there are those in the media who think Warren is wonky. There also are men who, in 2019, still have trouble listening to a smart woman.

Clearly, as a society, we haven’t made nearly the progress we like to give ourselves credit for.

Warren needs to avoid the media painting her into a corner. Her message is resonating.

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 18, 2019

The Daily Escape:

View from Angel’s Landing, Zion NP – 2019 photo by ducc517

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) says that she favors “capitalism with serious rules.” David Leonhardt wrote in Sunday’s NYT:

Her platform aims to reform American capitalism so that it once again works well for most American families. The recent tradition in Democratic politics has been different. It has been largely to accept that big companies are going to get bigger and do everything they can to hold down workers’ pay. The government will then try to improve things through income taxes and benefit programs.

Warren is trying to treat not just the symptoms of inequality, but the underlying disease. Warren also called for an annual wealth tax, for people with assets greater than $50 million. She has proposed a universal child-care and pre-K program. She favors tougher guidelines on future mergers, and also a breakup of the giant tech companies (Google, Facebook) that resemble monopolies.

Of the current crop of Democrats, she’s the reform capitalism candidate. But one idea that Warren hasn’t espoused is the Financial Transactions Tax, (FTT). Wrongo first wrote about a FTT in March 2013.

Sen. Brian Schatz, (D-HI) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a tax of one-tenth-of-one-percent, or 10 basis points (100 basis points equals 1 percentage point), on securities trades, including stocks, bonds, and derivatives. The CBO estimates that the FTT would raise $777 billion over 10 years. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are co-sponsors of the bill.

For the math-challenged, 10 basis points on a $1,000 trade equals one dollar. Jared Bernstein says:

FTTs exist in various countries, including the UK and France, with Germany considering the tax (also, Brazil, India, South Korea, and Argentina). The UK is a particularly germane example, where an FTT has long co-existed with London’s vibrant, global financial market.

More from Bernstein: (brackets by Wrongo)

Because the value of the stock holdings is highly skewed toward the wealthy, the FTT is highly progressive: The TPC [Tax Policy Center] estimates that 40% of the cost of the tax falls on the top 1% (which makes sense as they hold about 40% of the value of the stock market and 40% of national wealth).

Vox also reports that an FTT would mostly affect wealthy Americans, because an estimated 84% of the value of stocks is owned by the wealthiest 10% of households. Schatz isn’t the first Democrat to suggest an FTT, Bernie Sanders ran on a similar idea in the 2016 Democratic primary. He pitched it as a way to pay for free college.

Globally, there is plenty of experience with FTTs. In the UK, a 0.5% “stamp tax” is charged when someone buys shares on the stock market, and the UK market is fine. France in 2012 introduced a tax on financial transactions, and a study from the European Commission found that trading volumes declined slightly, but share prices and volatility weren’t meaningfully changed. France and Germany have pushed for a European Union-wide FTT.

Opponents include the high-frequency traders, who note that even a small FTT could upend their extremely low margin business model. Although a dollar on a $1,000 trade doesn’t sound like much, if the industry is making 4 billion trades a day, it can add up.

Time to wake up and support an FTT, America. Sens Warren and Sanders support this idea, and you should too. Those who think that the government should use the tax code to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to get ahead, and that we should do more to ensure the well-being of our citizens aren’t socialists.

If that makes us socialists, then Eisenhower, who presided over a 90% top tax bracket, was also a socialist.

To help you wake up, here’s Steely Dan with “Any World That I’m Welcome To from their 1975 album “Kay Lied”. This tune gives you the benefit of hearing the late, great, Hal Blaine on drums. Blaine may have been the most recorded drummer in pop music history. From the late 50s through the mid-70s, Blaine did sessions with Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, The Righteous Brothers, Henry Mancini, Ike & Tina Turner, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, The Fifth Dimension, The Byrds, Sonny & Cher, Mamas and the Papas, and The Grass Roots.

The famously picky Steely Dan only used Blaine for this one tune:

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

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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:

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Why Did Elizabeth Warren Release Her DNA Info Now?

The Daily Escape:

Sunset at Oxbow Bend, Grand Tetons, WY – photo by Shaun Peterson

From the Washington Post:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had said she would not “sit quietly” as President Trump made claims about her ancestry that she called racist. On Monday morning, she released a DNA test that suggested she did have a distant Native American ancestor, and by the evening, she was using the ensuing dust-up to attack Trump.

Warren took Trump’s gambit. He delights in calling her “Pocahontas” because she has claimed Native American heritage. Not that she used it as a basis for getting a job, or for career advancement. Her family is from Oklahoma, and many in the Sooner State claim Indian heritage. About 8.7% of Oklahomans are Native American.

Part of her received history includes a story handed down about how white parents of a family member disapproved of a marriage to someone of Indian descent.

In July, Trump told supporters at a Montana rally that he would donate $1 million to charity if Elizabeth Warren would take a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage. And she took the DNA test. It showed some Native American heritage, so he owes her one million dollars.

Trump then said he never said anything like that. But all the news shows aired the clip of him saying just that. It led to a tweet-war between Trump and Warren. Depending on the party you identify with, you think either Warren or Trump won a battle in a political war that will continue until 2020.

This raises so many questions.

It’s important to understand that the immediate question isn’t whether or not Sen. Warren has Native American ancestry, or whether Trump really said he’d give a million dollars to her favorite charity and then reneged on what everyone can clearly see on video anywhere on the internet.

The question is have we gotten to the point where the future of the country and its leadership comes down to which one wins a spitting contest? Sen. Warren spits in a test tube to prove her point, and Trump spits in the eye of the American people, lying about what he said.

These aren’t normal times. American politics has always had the capacity to be a freak show, but questioning the racial heritage of a candidate shows we really haven’t gotten past the point where E Pluribus Unum isn’t what we mean.

Republicans are always asking “Are THEY one of US?

So, why did Sen. Warren announce this now, three weeks before the mid-terms?

Some Democrats argue that the timing of her announcement distracts from the messages of other Democratic candidates, particularly those in close races who really need media attention in order to compete. There’s a chance that media attention will now be sucked up by this Warren/Trump sideshow.

From Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager:

Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???

Others think Warren’s decision to take on Trump so far ahead of a general election is unnecessary. It takes away from Trump and FEMA’s uneven response to Hurricane Michael, and Trump’s unintelligible response to Saudi Arabia’s denials of complicity in the Khashoggi mystery.

But Warren showing that she won’t back down from Trump was probably her number one reason for the announcement. We should interpret this as clear evidence that she plans to run for the presidency.

She got support from her family. The video Warren released includes footage of her three brothers, and other relatives who still live in her native Oklahoma. They are Republicans. They call the president’s belittling nickname “ridiculous” and “silly.”

Warren seems prepared to fight Trump’s full-tilt racist demagoguery. She hopes to blunt that part of his game, a job that may be more difficult for possible candidates Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker.

The real DNA issue isn’t Warren’s. Who belongs in America is deep in the GOP’s DNA.

They’re always asking who belongs. It didn’t start with GW Bush spreading rumors about John McCain’s adopted daughter. It didn’t end with Obama’s birth certificate, it continued to Trump happily deporting people who have Green Cards.

Now, Trump and the GOP will take on Sen. Warren by questioning her Oklahoma roots.

What we are seeing is the first, but not the last “pitooi” in the 2020 fight for the White House.

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Saturday Soother – August 18, 2018

The Daily Escape:

The Kimberley, Western Australia

Anything happen while Wrongo was away? Seems like it was pretty much business as usual: Trump takes away Brennan’s security clearance, Manafort’s case goes to the jury, bridge disaster in Italy, and Turkey’s currency fell again.

But, on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the “Accountable Capitalism Act” in the Senate. She then set out her logic in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, which drew the usual Neanderthal responses from America’s capitalists.

Warren notes that as recently as the early 1980s, conservative groups acknowledged that corporations were responsible to employees and communities, as well as to shareholders. This is a good time to mention that there is no legal obligation to “maximize shareholder value”. The Supreme Court has never made a decision on it, nor has Delaware, the state where most large companies are incorporated.

Warren, from her bill:

But in the 1980s, corporations adopted the belief that their only legitimate and legal purpose was “maximizing shareholder value.” By 1997, the Business Roundtable declared that the “principal objective of a business enterprise is to generate economic returns to its owners”.

More from the bill:

This shift is a root cause of many of America’s fundamental economic problems. In the early 1980s, America’s biggest companies dedicated less than half of their profits to shareholders and reinvested the rest in the company. But over the last decade, big American companies have dedicated 93% of their earnings to shareholders.

Warren’s point is that corporations have special privileges under our laws. Those privileges should warrant that corporations also have special responsibilities.

That’s not a completely new idea, it was the point of the New Deal regulations. FDR wasn’t an economic revolutionary – he was a member of the elite who saw plenty of room in America for himself and his friends. He understood that the pure capitalism of his time would destroy both the elites and the country if it didn’t change.

So FDR saved capitalism by making it more equitable and less predatory. His plan worked until the 1980’s. But now, the Republicans want to take us back to the 1920s.

Capitalism again needs to be changed/saved, and Warren is taking a small step to do just that. She wants to significantly transform shareholder rights to force corporations to have the social responsibility that comes with personhood, as well as the personhood rights already generously provided to them by the Supreme Court. More from Warren:

My bill also would give workers a stronger voice in corporate decision-making at large companies. Employees would elect at least 40% of directors. At least 75% of directors and shareholders would need to approve before a corporation could make any political expenditures. To address self-serving financial incentives in corporate management, directors and officers would not be allowed to sell company shares within five years of receiving them—or within three years of a company stock buyback.

Warren knows that Corporate America is in love with share buy-backs. Warren seems to accept William Lazonick’s observation that:

 …since the mid-1980s net equity issues for non- financial corporations have been generally negative, and since the mid-2000s massively negative.

In the modern era of CEO-kings, owners take more money out of corporations in the form of buybacks and dividends than they put in via new investments.

Even if her bill goes nowhere, Warren is educating those who believe that “maximizing shareholder value” is enshrined in civil law. Warren, along with a few progressives, continue to set much of the agenda for whoever wins the 2020 Democratic nomination.

OK, time to cruise into the weekend, wearing your flip flops. Time to shut out Omorosa and Trump.

Time for your Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing up a strong cup of Motozintla Caiaphas Mexico coffee ($14/12 oz.) from Patria Coffee in Compton CA. There is a feel-good story about the brewer, Geoffrey Martinez, here.

Now, settle back in an air-conditioned room and remember Aretha Franklin. Wrongo is reminded of the Steely Dan lyric from 1980: “Hey nineteen, that’s ‘Retha Franklin, She don’t remember the Queen of Soul.” The singer laments that his too-young girl friend has no idea who Aretha is. Well, everyone knows who she is today.

Aretha was many things, but few know that she occasionally performed opera. Here is Aretha at the Grammys in 1998, filling in for Luciano Pavarotti at the last minute when he was sick, and singing “Nessun Dorma”. She clearly doesn’t have the breath control of true opera singers, but it’s still a riveting performance.

Wrongo can’t embed the video he wants you to see, and all of the other YouTube videos of Aretha’s “Nessun Dorma” videos are for some reason, blocked today, so click here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 12, 2017

Another week of the Trump administration is in the bag, just 205 weeks to go! No worries, they’ll make great progress in destroying the country while hurting our most vulnerable. Here is this week’s example:

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) wants kids to learn early in life that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To make sure they absorb that lesson, he’s proposing that low-income children do some manual labor in exchange for their subsidized meals.

He’s remembering fellow Georgian Congressman Newt Gingrich who suggested in 2011 that poor kids work in schools replacing janitors:

Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools…

As Atrios said, many people think being born in the lucky sperm club makes you a better human being, and those who weren’t need to learn just how horrible and inferior they are because their parents are poor.

Who doesn’t want to see kids well-nourished? Republicans. Before Reagan, charitable works were a good thing, but now we know that helping folks out just makes them weak, and unable to contribute to society.

On to cartoons. Leave it to the GOP. We now need three cans for recycling:

Nordstrom’s decides on a new spring line:

Ivanka’s dad tries to measure up:

New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos loves vouchers:

Dems adopt Tea Party tactics by shouting down Congress Critters at Town Halls:

Trump says that busloads of fraudulent voters were the difference in NH Senate race:

Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton. On Thursday he told a group of senators that he lost because of the “thousands” of people “brought in on buses” from Massachusetts to “illegally vote” in New Hampshire. Former NH Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who lost in November was there.

It was reported by Politico that there was an “uncomfortable silence” in the room, and here’s why: If thousands means at least 3,000, and if a bus holds 50 people, that would be 60 buses rolling up US 93 or US 91 from Massachusetts to NH that nobody noticed.

Then came the cherry on top of Trump’s crumb cake: He told Democrats in the room (Chris Coons, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester) that he was glad “Pocahontas”, his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was “becoming the face of the Democrats.”

That’s sure to win friends among the Dems that he needs to help confirm Neil Gorsuch as a SCOTUS Justice.

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Where Boys Are Boys, and You, Ms. Warren, Are Not

(Scroll to the bottom of the page for the Daily Escape)

When we allow the silencing of our Senators, we allow the silencing of our democracy. HuffPo reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rose on Tuesday and objected to a speech Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was giving in opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general.

McConnell took particular issue with Warren as she quoted a letter written by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, when Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986.

McConnell invoked the little-used Rule XIX, which says that “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” King’s letter argues that, during Sessions’ time as a prosecutor in Alabama, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” It was that portion of the letter that McConnell read back to the presiding officer, arguing that it was over the line.

The Republican presiding in the chair, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, agreed with McConnell, ruling her in violation of the order and forcing her to sit down.

“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren replied.

It seems the voices of both Sen. Warren and the late Coretta Scott King are now unwelcome in the Senate’s old boys’ club, even though Ms. King’s words were placed in the Senate’s records 30 years ago. This from Booman: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

Rule 19 is a good rule that helps prevent canings on the Senate floor. But it really should never apply to a senator who is under consideration for confirmation to another office. If Warren and Merkley were reading these historical documents just to make Sessions look bad while they were arguing over the budget that would be a legitimate violation of the rules. But these documents [King’s letter] were germane to Sessions’ fitness for the office of Attorney General in the same way that his tax returns and voting record are germane.

Republicans regularly call their opponents corrupt traitors. The NYT reports that both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) appear to have violated the rule according to its true intent, without having it invoked against them. In 2015, Cruz called McConnell a liar. But he’s a Republican man, while Sen. Warren is out of line for quoting the widow of a titan of American history. Got it.

Apparently McConnell thinks that a Senator nominated for a Cabinet position isn’t a nominee. They remain a Senator, and the ability of other Senators to criticize their nomination is subject to Rule 19. That is a misuse of the rule, and McConnell abused his power. And he did more to raise awareness about Sessions’ racist past than he did to safeguard Sessions’ “character.” Republicans know that Warren’s Senate performances have a long afterlife on YouTube, so they tried to prevent another one, but failed.

Had they let her read it, it would have been seen by only a few thousand late night C-SPAN watchers. Instead, her Facebook video reading the Coretta Scott King letter had 7.8 million views by Wednesday afternoon.

The GOP’s self-inflicted wound is shutting down a white woman reading a letter written by a black woman who lost her toweringly famous husband in the struggle for equality, a letter which criticized the racism of a Southern white man, during Black History Month. The Oregonian reported:

Hours after GOP leaders blocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Merkley picked it up and read the document uninterrupted.

So, after they shut down one Democratic Senator, McConnell allowed a different Democrat to read the letter? What’s the difference?

Your Daily Escape: Stuttgart City Library, built in 2011

 

 

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