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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

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:

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SOTU: Boring Like the Super Bowl, But Without the Snacks and Beer

The Daily Escape:

The sleeping kid is Joshua Trump. He was bullied for sharing the same last name as, you know. The kid is one Trump who has already mastered “Executive Time”.

 Young Trump kinda sums up the SOTU, along with this:

Certainly looks like an “FU” clap from Nancy Smash. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times/Getty Images

Wrongo thinks the best part of the 1 ½ hour Trumpshow were the shout outs to people in the audience. They took up about 1/3 of the time, and provided some interest, even if most were ham-handed efforts to represent administration policy. These introductions of citizens in the SOTU audience have been around since Ronald Reagan in 1982, and usually give us a bit of a break from the eternal SOTU spewing.

Other than that? Vox makes a good point:

“There were two truly well-done sections of the speech. One was the troll of the Democrats present around the divisive term ‘socialism.’ The other was a series of moments on the stories of Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans.”

Most of the speech was either recycled campaign themes from 2016, or possible 2020 themes being screen-tested for the Republican faithful. Republicans in the room were very happy to see that Dems wouldn’t clap for the war on abortion, or for Trump’s pledge that America would never be a socialist country.

Wrongo thought that Trump’s review of the economy was effective. It is surprising that he doesn’t reference America’s late-stage economic recovery from the Great Recession more often. That, along with abortion, marauding immigrants, and socialism are setting the stage for what we can expect from Republicans over the next two years.

Why did Trump threaten Democrats about investigations? He said:

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”

He’s saying that he will obstruct legislation unless Democrats stand down on investigating him. Fat chance. He also said this:

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations…”

Nobody should threaten America’s economy for personal reasons. That prompted some boos from Democrats. Even Republicans greeted Trump’s threat to economy with near-silence. And the GOP weren’t totally craven yes boys for Trump elsewhere in the speech. The part about trade was poorly received by GOP members. The part about pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Syria was also met with near-silence.

Nancy Pelosi said afterwards that even though Trump spoke of the honor of being in the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union:

“He threatened the United States Congress not to exercise its constitutional responsibility of oversight.”

The SOTU was as boring as Sunday’s Super Bowl, but without the uncertainty of knowing who would win or lose.

Even before Trump opened his mouth at the SOTU, it was clear that America would be the loser.

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 4, 2018

A few words about the Nunes memo: We had already heard all that it contains, so there’s nothing new to chew on except today’s Super Bowl nachos. Its main argument is that somehow, super-crafty Democrats, in league with the FBI, tricked four separate FISA judges into extending surveillance on suspected foreign agent, and Trump campaign staffer Carter Page. How? By omitting that the “primary source” of the information on Page was the “paid-for-by-Democrats” Steele dossier, which is “compromised by partisanship“.

Except that the Nunes Memo doesn’t prove any of this. The initial FISA warrant against Carter Page was based on the fact that the guy was a known counterintelligence risk who was in the habit of traveling to Moscow and Budapest and mixing with Kremlin officials and spies. The Steele Dossier took independent note of this, (which speaks to Steele’s ability to uncover at least some real information), but Page’s activities were already suspect, regardless of who paid Steele.

So, no matter what the Nunes memo claims, Steele’s information wasn’t crucial to their interest in Page, who had been under FISA surveillance since 2013 for his contacts with Russian spies in NYC.

The idea that the FBI only pursued Page because certain members of its management had Democratic sympathies is ridiculous. Would Trump have traded how he was treated by the FBI in October 2016 for the way Clinton was treated?

The FBI actually told the NYT that they gave Trump a clean bill of health. They incorrectly assured the public that Trump’s campaign was not being investigated for its ties to the Russians when that was exactly what they were doing. Were they in cahoots with Democrats when they did that?

Democrats must learn to pick their battles. Why scream about releasing a memo that most people (excluding Trumpsters) can now see is a nothingburger?  What exactly were they trying to keep secret?  Ordinary people don’t appreciate Chicken Little behavior. And most of the time they will give equal weight to Chicken Little A and Chicken Little B, because that’s how they have learned to deal with squabbling children.

Americans SO want politics to be honorable.  It’s not. It’s just war by other means, on other battlefields.

Shots were fired from the Peanut Gallery:

Nunes actually said what he meant:

State of the Union speech was damaging to Democrats:

Trump missed his real favorites in the Gallery:

Think about this during the Super Bowl:

Still relevant on groundhog day two years later:

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The GOP’s Message and the Democrat’s Response

The Daily Escape:

Lake Blanche, UT – 2017 photo by exomniac

We watched the State of the Union (SOTU) speech at the Mansion of Wrong. Outside, it was 15° and very windy. That also appeared to be the climate in the House chamber during Trump’s speech, which Wrongo saw as largely a basket of glittering generalities; rhetoric without action; lies instead of facts; and marching band patriotism. Chants of “USA, USA” in the House chamber should be beneath our politicians, but sadly, some want us to appear to be a banana republic to the rest of the world.

Americans don’t ask their politicians for much, and apparently, willingly accept even less than that without a whimper.

Wrongo wants to focus on the Democratic response to the Trump speech. Roll Call says that there were at least five responses, of which two were “official”, in that they were authorized by the Democratic Party. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA), grandson of Bobby Kennedy, delivered the English-language Democratic response. Virginia Guzman, the newly elected, and first Latina to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, gave an official Spanish-language response.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California offered an unofficial response to the presidential speech, as did former Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland.

But the most notable response came from a sitting senator who isn’t a Democrat, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He rebutted Trump’s remarks, and in some ways, rebuked Trump and his administration. This is the second year in a row that Sanders has delivered his own speech after the State of the Union. Bernie’s speech was shown on social media, and not on any mainstream TV outlet. You can read the text of his speech here.

Post-SOTU, the Dems are about to get worked over, largely because of their support of the Dreamers. If Chuck Schumer has his way, Democrats are about to charge up DACA hill once again. The outcome is likely to be the same. Wrongo thinks the Dreamers’ cause is just, but it isn’t a good idea to try to ransom them from Trump and the GOP as part of the immigration deal Trump has placed on the table.

Trump wants to alter our immigration system in a very unfair way in exchange for Dreamer amnesty. The question for Democrats is: Should they make the trade? Do they really think that the GOP will start deporting Dreamers in March? Do they think the videos of Dreamers in custody and on their way to homelands they never knew will help Republicans politically?

Take the Dreamers off the table. Proceed with other pressing issues, like funding the government.

And when the DACA protections lapse, there will be a price that Dreamers will have to pay, right along with both Democrats and Republicans, neither of whom would make a deal to extend DACA.

And when Trump wants an infrastructure deal, then Dems should bring up the Dreamers. Change the strategy. Let the “public-private” partnerships he touts for infrastructure be the way he gets his wall, and how Dreamers get amnesty.

It’s important that Dems are right on both the politics and on the merits. Compromise must come on big issues like immigration and infrastructure, and Dems shouldn’t take the first deals offered on either issue.

But to win in 2018 and beyond requires Democrats to offer a strong and compelling platform of their own, one based upon principles. Like health care being a right of citizenship. Like investing in education and infrastructure instead of spending on wars and weapons. Young Kennedy got close to identifying a compelling platform, but he isn’t the messenger for 2018.

There are many people in America who are hurting. Many are under-employed, and not getting the support they need. Simply pointing the finger at Trump is not going to inspire many to go to the polls. Democrats tried this in 2016, and it didn’t work.

People need a positive vision for the USA, and their place in it.

On Tuesday night, Trump would only speak of his plans in very general terms, because he doesn’t have the support in both Houses of Congress to get the job done. While MAGA is a successful campaign slogan, it isn’t a plan for a future that includes all Americans.

Democrats can be a part of the solution, if they find a way to prevent the GOP from taking and holding liberal issues hostage.

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The Nunes Memo, and the Coming Purges at the DOJ

The Daily Escape:

Hrafnabjargafoss waterfall, Iceland – 2018 photo by aryeh95

The problem with a made-by-hand blog like The Wrongologist is that we are always 24 hours behind the current news cycle. This is written in the late Tuesday afternoon prior to Trump’s 9 pm EST State of the Union (SOTU) pitch to America. Raul Ilargi has as good a forecast as any:

Donald Trump will be gloating from ear to ear, but he’ll be subdued – by his standards. Expect perhaps $1 or even $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending to be announced, plus an immigration plan that gives Democrats much of what they want in exchange for some of the things Trump wants, as well as more on trade surpluses and deficits. The Democrats will attempt to turn it into a circus of sorts by bringing guests, and they will fail.

Indeed, a circus. One Republican Congresscritter, AZ’s Paul Gosar, just asked the US Capitol Police and the Department of Justice to “consider arresting any illegal aliens in attendance”, knowing that some Democrats have invited Dreamers to watch whatever Trump says about immigration.

Perhaps Trump will stick to reading the teleprompter, and the pundits will fall over themselves to say “how presidential!”

Overhanging the SOTU is the tangled web of the Russian investigation. This week, the resignation of the FBI’s Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Congressman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo are top of mind. Nunes is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He appears to have taken actual information about the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign and has written a memo claiming that the investigation was based on bad information. He goes on to intimate that if they’re investigating Trump, that proves they are biased against him.

Specifically, we have learned that Nunes claims that approving a FISA warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page is ipso facto, an abuse of power, and proves that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, another Republican, is biased, and out to get Trump.

Long-time readers know that Wrongo is agnostic on whether the Russians’ interference in the 2016 election had any impact. And he doubts that collusion by the Trumps or his campaign is provable.

Saying Trump’s guilty until proven innocent is easy and convenient for Democrats, but only Mueller can make a case, and he hasn’t said anything yet.

The NYT reports that the Nunes memo singles out Deputy AG Rosenstein for approving the continuation of surveillance of Carter Page, whom law enforcement and intelligence officials suspect may have been acting as an agent of the Russian government. The NYT notes:

The reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo…indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the [Russia] inquiry.

Why? Because only Rosenstein can fire Mueller. Release of the Nunes memo may well be designed to give Trump the high-altitude air support he needs to order Attorney General Jeff Session to fire Rosenstein.

The firing of Rosenstein is their strategy to get Mueller. Trump seems to believe he can’t fire Mueller outright, so they are going about it in an indirect way. They want to replace his boss with someone who can rein in the investigation and hopefully, keep the White House apprised of all developments so they can get ahead and stay ahead of the investigation.

They might get away with it. The question will be if the people they replace them with are honest citizens.

We are staring down the barrel of a Constitutional crisis similar to when Nixon got Robert Bork to fire Archibald Cox. He then appointed Leon Jaworski, a very conservative Texas prosecutor, who by all accounts went into it thinking the president was being railroaded.

That didn’t work out as Nixon planned.

Enjoy the SOTU.

Then get some popcorn and see if the purges start at the Department of Justice. If the purges begin, drop the popcorn, and pick up your pitchforks and torches.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 25, 2015

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” – Frederick Nietzsche

It is clear that we have entered what may be the last years when we can delay or avoid entirely, the decline of America as the world’s indispensable nation. What is unclear is what the US electorate thought they were voting for last November. Polls have repeatedly shown that the public favors the Democrats’ policy proposals, but increasingly, votes for Republicans. So polarization has ensued, and DC has already turned its focus to the NEXT election, even though we just had one.

Everything between here and there will be simply BS and time filling. Are we to lose another two years? The rest of the world will not be waiting for us.

The Republicans had many responses to the SOTU:
COW the hand

 

Then there was the official Republican response:
COW Jodi ErnstBTW: Don’t you wear the plastic bags INSIDE your shoes to keep the water out? Shoe condoms? Really?

Yet, there are always a few things we all agree with:

COW SOTA

With the unfathomable House and Senate votes that have already been taken, is there an image problem?

COW Rs Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, the pro-life peeps marched in DC, and the R’s in a show of support, tried a vote on abortion:
COW health care decisions

Could this be the way the logjam ends in DC?

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

 

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Thoughts Before Tonight’s SOTU

Mr. Obama will make the State of the Union (SOTU) speech tonight. Much of what he is likely to outline as his program for 2015 has been leaked, and pundits have focused on the tax cut for the middle class and tax increases for the 1%. Given that the Republicans control both houses of Congress, this is never going to happen, so why now, and not in 2009 and 2010?

On Sunday, the Wrongologist wrote about Mr. Obama’s appalling coattails. Among the reasons his party lost 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats and 11 Governorships since 2010 is that Dems think they can win as “Republican Lite”. In the case of Democrats, they became the “less taste, less filling” brand.

It’s a lot easier to propose these tax policies when there is absolutely no prospect that these policies will ever be enacted. So, the real significance of these proposals will be how it sets up the eventual Democratic nominee for the contest against Bush 3.0, or Romney 3.0, or whoever winds up with the Republican nomination in 2016. But, will the electorate care that the president proposed something that the Republicans laughed out of town over the weekend? Probably not.

Political scientists point out that the 2016 congressional elections will be more favorable to the Democrats than the 2010 or 2014 elections were, because of the higher turnout in the presidential elections and the makeup of Senate seats that will be contested in 2016.

So, why won’t Democrats turn out for off-year elections? Think about it: Voters seem to be perfectly capable of finding their way to the polls in certain years and are motivated enough to take the time to do so. Yet, these same people consistently lose either their motivation or sense of direction, two years later. Democratic pros say that turnout is all about how to “message” better, which for Democrats means how to say the same old things in new ways. But, Democratic candidates, and their messaging have lost credibility, or are no longer relevant to the day-to-day issues of average people. So voting for Democrats is no longer a priority.

Nor is election turnout the only answer. In 2006, Democrats did extremely well with a 37.1% turnout. Yet, Democrats did poorly in 2010 when turnout was 37.8%. Turnout was higher in 2008 than it had been in any Presidential election year since 1968, probably due to the Obama factor. But, turnout in 2002 when Republicans did well, was only slightly off from 2006 when they did badly, at 37.0%.

Strategically, Republicans may not have much left in the potential electorate to motivate, if demographics are now really tilting towards Democrats. Thus, the R’s have no choice but to repress (or suppress) unenthusiastic and unmotivated Democratic voters.

The R’s got a huge assist in 2014 from Democratic candidates that didn’t stand for much, except the meta-message of “we suck less.” Even if a majority of the electorate sort of agrees with that, a certain portion also says, “Yeah, but not enough to care who wins.”

The issue is what strategies will work politically. The bind can be explained simply: to be successful, Democrats must convince the electorate that Washington can and should do things to improve their lives, but the Republicans have enough firepower to ensure that the D’s premise is a loser. With Hillary, Dems won’t beat them badly enough in 2016 to change that.

It’s clear that electing Democrats (usually) leads to better outcomes than electing Republicans. Change came in bunches: in 1933-1945, 1961-1973, 2009-2010. Think about it, in that 35 year period, Dems passed financial regulation, FDIC, SEC, Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights Act, Equal Opportunity, Voting Rights Act and Obamacare.

If you doubt this, look at the 50 states. Each has its own set of policies. In many cases, states have adhered to a generally consistent policy for decades. So the economic conditions in the states is a strong indicator of the effects those policies. To see whether the economy performs better in red states or blue states, simply look these 2014 statistics for red vs. blue states. The differences in that regard are stark:

Median HH income by state

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, you can look at poverty by red vs. blue state:

Poverty by state

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, per student education spending by state:

Education Spending by state

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This may suggest a strategy on the state and local levels, based on: “Why can’t we have the success the blue states have?

On the federal level, Democrats have not received credit from voters for proposing popular policies that never came to pass. In fact, the entire success of the Republicans in the 2014 elections was predicated on the idea that the president would receive more blame for gridlock and dysfunction in Washington than they would for causing it.

They were correct. And there are zero reasons to believe that the same playbook won’t work again. You can already hear Republicans decrying the “Obama/Clinton failed policies” of the past 8 years.

See what YOU think after the SOTU tonight.

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