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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Russia and Kavanaugh

The Daily Escape:

Moscow supermarket – October 2018 photo by Wrongo

The two topics in the headline are not related.

Wrongo and Ms. Right are back in the US, jet-lagged, and at home in the Mansion of Wrong. Our Russia trip was an eye-opener. In St. Petersburg and Moscow at least, Russia seems to be a wealthy country by global standards. People seem to be well-informed about their history, and about the current geopolitical climate in the west. They are consummate consumers.

We saw quite a few churches, but the Russians we spoke with didn’t seem to put much emphasis on their faith. Increasing their income and getting ahead in a career sense seemed to be the primary thing that interested them. “Pragmatic” best describes the people we met. They are strivers, and hope that their government won’t screw up what the citizens finally have going for them.

Mostly, we were struck by how similar the Russians we met are to the average American. We had lunch with a couple in Uglich, a poor town of about 30k residents that is about 125 miles north of Moscow. The town hasn’t benefited from the 18-year economic expansion in the Russian Federation, and has unemployment in the 25% range. It also has a declining population, and crumbling infrastructure.

The couple we met had both lost their jobs in the 1985 Perestroika period under Gorbachev. Thirty-three years later, the husband has a part-time government job, the wife is unemployed. They grow most of their food in their ¼ acre garden. Their refrigerator is covered with pictures of the grandkids, who visit every few weeks.

Their message to us was that people everywhere have the same hopes and dreams, but the politicians always want to demonize the outsiders.

We returned to American just in time to start calling Brett Kavanaugh “Mr. Justice Kavanaugh”.

It’s not worth dwelling on his confirmation process, or repeating stale arguments. It is time to gather ourselves, to register non-voters, and turn out all the votes we can on November 6.

It also isn’t the time to overthink the closing arguments for November, despite polls that show Republicans being energized by the Kavanaugh confirmation. But, it is important to understand GOP messaging for the midterms. From the WaPo’s article, ‘An angry mob’: Republicans work to recast Democratic protests as out-of-control anarchy:

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

Think back to the Tea Party protestors who disrupted town hall meetings in 2009. From today’s GOP viewpoint, they were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. And all those people who chant “Lock her up!” at the encouragement of their dear leader? They really don’t mean anything by that, they’re also exercising their right to free speech.

But when a few liberals pound on the doors of the Supreme Court, that’s mob behavior, and it can’t be tolerated. In Trump World, crowds of marching alt-right men with tiki torches = some very fine people.

And crowds of protesting women in Washington = angry mob.

We should remember that the American Revolution wasn’t a polite discussion; it involved mobs making a point, too.

Democrats are on the edge of winning the House. Before Kavanaugh, they had a long-shot chance at taking the Senate. Right now, Dems need to be smart. Richard Nixon won because he scared Middle America with pictures of immoral hippies who were demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

Let’s assume that those of us who are already energized to vote can work to figure out how to reach those who are only half paying attention, or who plan to stay on the fence all the way until Election Day.

It is clear that accusations of the type made by Dr. Ford don’t resonate with GOP voters. Roy Moore’s near-pedophilia didn’t seem to change any Republican minds in Georgia. Whenever a Republican is under attack by the liberals, it’s always the time for the rest of them to circle the wagons.

There is no single, lock-step message that Dems should use to take both Houses in November. The best antidote for those “Energized by Kavanaugh” Republicans is for the rest of us to get, or stay, more energized.

There is zero to be complacent about. The Dems could remain in the minority in both Houses after the mid-terms if they fail to turn out their voters in November.

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Let Dr. Ford Testify

The Daily Escape:

The Storseisundet Bridge, Norway. It is one of eight bridges on the Atlantic Highway — via themindcircle

Wrongo has tried to resist the developing story about Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who is accusing him of attempted rape during high school, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

And there are plenty of reasons not to write about it. It’s the subject of an all-out media blitz. Hundreds of new facts will be presented between the time this is posted, and it is read by all of you Wrong patrons. But, it’s an inescapable narrative, so here goes.

Since Dr. Ford is willing to testify, she should be asked to testify. Brett Kavanaugh has said that he would also like to testify in the matter. Marcy Wheeler offers an idea:

But she shouldn’t testify alone. Mark Judge should testify along with her. After all, according to her letter and the WaPo account, he was a witness to the event.

Mark Judge was one of Kavanaugh’s best friends in prep school. He apparently was in the room when the attempted rape took place. Ford describes Judge as watching Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, occasionally egging him on, and eventually jumping on top of her and Kavanaugh — a move that allowed her to escape.

Judge is now a conservative writer who has written for publications such as the Daily Caller and the American Spectator. From Vox:

He’s floated some controversial ideas in his writings — including asking in 2006 whether gay people are perverts….He’s also the author of several books, including one recounting his teenage years of alcoholism and addiction.

At the risk of assassinating Mark Judge’s character, he seems to, um, have a special interest in young women. He had a variety of posts to YouTube that have been taken down in the past day. You be the judge.

And why is it always that one guy who’s in the room when an alleged rape happens, and can testify for the defense that the alleged rape totally did not happen, turns out to be a just a bit creepy?

In any event, Mark Judge should also testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Most Republicans are defending Kavanaugh with the usual tropes and memes about how it was all so long ago, and why does it matter? As Orin Hatch told the NYT:

It would be hard for senators to not consider who the judge is today, because that is the issue….Is this judge a really good man? And he is, and by any measure he is, and everybody who knows him says he is.

By all means, let’s ignore prep school indiscretions: She was a girl, and besides, she wanted it, and it’s much more important that we comfort the comfortable.

On the other hand, a whole lot of us, even when inebriated and underage, never thought we had permission to pull a woman into a room, force her onto a bed, and clamp a hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.

It really can’t be all that hard to find Supreme Court justices who have never attempted rape. Whether Kavanaugh committed an act of attempted rape yesterday, or 40 years ago, isn’t germane. Attempted rape is just a rape that was stopped.

If that’s in his makeup, then it’s always going to be a facet of his character.

There are plenty of judges who are willing to overturn Roe. There are almost as many willing to shield Trump from Mueller. But, if Kavanaugh can be brought down by one “youthful indiscretion“, no Republican is safe. So the GOP will defend him to the death.

Nothing short of multiple additional accusations will stop him. Maybe not even that.

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Brett Kavanaugh’s Just Another Republican

The Daily Escape:

Storm brewing near Vilano Bridge, St. Augustine FL – June 2018

At Vox, Dylan Matthews has a detailed review of Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s history of being in the middle of Republican wars since the 1990’s. He represented the 6-year-old Elián González pro bono in an attempt to keep him from being deported to back to his father in Cuba in 2000.

Kavanaugh also worked on GW Bush’s legal team during the 2000 Florida recount, which resulted in Bush winning a party-line Supreme Court vote to install him as president. Then:

Kavanaugh worked in the solicitor general’s office under George H.W. Bush….The SG under George W. Bush was Kenneth Starr, who took a shine to Kavanaugh and hired him to join the independent counsel’s office in 1994.

Kavanaugh became a Republican glamor boy with the investigation into Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: (link, italics and emphasis by Wrongo)

Eventually, Kavanaugh, and the rest of Starr’s team, moved on from the substance of the Whitewater real estate deal to the matter of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. In his history of the investigation, “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr”, Duquesne University’s Ken Gormley notes that Kavanaugh, “considered one of Starr’s intellectual heavy-lifters, pushed hardest to confront Clinton with some of the dirtiest facts linked to his sexual indiscretions with Lewinsky.”

In a memo to “Judge Starr” (with a copy to “All Attorneys”), Kavanaugh wrote:

After reflecting this evening, I am strongly opposed to giving the President any “break” … unless before his questioning on Monday, he either i) resigns or ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you. I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him. … In the end, I am convinced that there really are [no reasonable defenses]. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me….

The President has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles — callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. He has committed perjury (at least) in the [Paula] Jones case. … He has tried to disgrace [Ken Starr] and this Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush

It should be unimaginable for a nice young Catholic lawyer, but Kavanaugh then listed a series of ten questions that he wanted Starr to ask Bill Clinton. All of them were explicit and unsavory. Wrongo will offer one, and it is the least unsavory:

If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she [be] lying?

Starr didn’t ask any of Kavanaugh’s questions, but did ask others that were similar. We’ll never get past what Bill Clinton did to the Democrats. Hillary too.

This is the real Kavanaugh: He’s not just the guy we are told is a good father, CYO basketball coach, and feeder of the poor. He clearly had a prurient interest in Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky.

We know that he will most likely be on the Court if it is tasked with judging the constitutional validity of whatever Special Counsel Robert Mueller produces regarding the man who appointed Kavanaugh. This has nothing to do with impeachment, it is largely about Trump being compelled to testify to a grand jury, as Bill Clinton did in 1998, compelled by Ken Starr and Brett Kavanaugh.

But, we now know that in 2009, Kavanaugh changed his mind and said he is against compelling a president to testify: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Having seen first-hand how complex and difficult that job is, I believe it vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible. The country wants the President to be “one of us” who bears the same responsibilities of citizenship that all share. But I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office….

This is not something I necessarily thought in the 1980s or 1990s. Like many Americans at that time, I believed that the President should be required to shoulder the same obligations that we all carry. But in retrospect, that seems a mistake.

Now he’s for insulating the president. The Senate shouldn’t allow him to use what he wrote in 2009 as an alibi for what he would do if a Mueller-related case came before him.

Unless Kavanaugh agrees to recuse himself from any such case, no Senator should vote for him.

Given Kavanaugh’s desire to ask difficult questions of Bill Clinton, Democrats shouldn’t let these hearings pass without some very pointed grilling. Otherwise they will have failed.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 8, 2018

The trade war has started. Bloomberg has an interesting map that shows how Chinese retaliation is directed at creating political damage for Republicans in the mid-term election this November. Soybeans are among the largest targets for the Chinese, and here is how Congressional districts most affected break down by political party:

From Bloomberg: (edit and emphasis by Wrongo)

Of the 30 districts most reliant on soybeans, Republicans represent 25 and Democrats 5; all [30 districts] voted for Trump in 2016.

Bloomberg thinks this could hurt farm state Republicans in the midterms. Maybe. Wrongo will become a believer if it actually happens. These are Trump voters, they aren’t economics voters. Unless he revives DACA or creates a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship for a whole lot of people, Wrongo believes Trump is fireproof in farm country.

On to cartoons. Last week, Justice Kennedy retired, EPA head Scott Pruitt quit, and Secretary of State Pompeo met with North Korea, and it didn’t go well. Next week, Trump heads to Europe to meet with our NATO partners. He’s also meeting the Queen while in London. Then it’s off to his annual performance review with Mr. Putin.

When Kennedy hung up the robe, a few other things also got hung up:

Pruitt climbed out of the swamp:

Trump’s trade war and its potential to hurt the economy doesn’t bother the GOP so much:

Trump can’t wait for his really cool meeting:

Trump says nobody can attend the first hour of his meeting with Putin:

Trump misunderstood that what happened in Singapore was supposed to stay in Singapore:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 1, 2018

Welcome to Sunday. It’s beastly hot in the Northeast of the US. Three things to help you cool off: Did you realize that the Trump/Putin Summit in Helsinki on July 16, takes place one day after soccer’s World Cup final? We know that Trump doesn’t care about soccer, but since the World Cup is taking place in Russia, Putin wouldn’t meet until after the World Cup was over. They settled on having the meeting the very next day.

Second, everyone should read Cheryl Russell’s blog. She is the former editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine. She recently wrote about median household income:

Median household income in May 2018 climbed to $61,858, according to Sentier Research. This is a higher median than in any month since January 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The May 2018 median was 1.8% higher than the May 2017 median.

Median household income in May was 3.7% higher than the median of December 2007, when the Great Recession began. It is 13.3% higher than the post-Great Recession low of June 2011. The trend line has been positive for nearly seven years. This should be looked at very carefully by people who think Democrats have an easy path to winning the House of Representatives this fall.

Third, it’s doubtful you knew that the University of Tulsa has an Institute of Bob Dylan Studies. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa acquired the Bob Dylan Archives, and now is the national hotbed of all things Dylan. Unsurprisingly, Dylan hasn’t visited.

On to cartoons (and we’re sure there are much ruder cartoons and animations made my people to depict leaders in compromising situations, for example www.cartoonporno.xxx go right here if you want to look for yourself). Mitch is large and in charge:

Republicans treat the Constitution like they do the Bible, picking and choosing parts they like for personal benefit:

Trump picks a surprising nominee:

(And the GOP would probably confirm him.)

Kids need to get their priorities straight:

Trump has new idea for the Wall:

Supreme Court hands public unions a big loss:

Bonus: 2012 Tom Toles cartoon on the Court. Bottom line ? we all lost:

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Saturday Soother – March 25, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Bobcat in Yosemite – photo by Rollie Rodriguez)

It’s Saturday of a week filled with political body blows. First, Rep. Devin Nunes acted as Trump’s Poodle by grandstanding in front of the press and then running to the White House to tell on the Intelligence Community. Then we all watched the Trumpcare fiasco. Trump issued an ultimatum to pass or forget Trumpcare, and Congress (as of this writing) can’t do either. Considering that Trumpcare has support of about 17% of the people, what special hell do Republicans wish on the country?

Finally, Neil Gorsuch. The Supreme Court nominee carved his way through the Senate Judiciary Committee, dodging substantive questions, and playing hard not to lose the nomination. A Supreme Court decision that potentially impacts Judge Gorsuch’s chances was announced during his second day of testimony. You probably didn’t hear anything about it, what with all of the cacophony Trump generates, so here you go:

 About 40 minutes after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began his second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight of the justices he hopes to join said a major disability decision Gorsuch wrote in 2008 was wrong.

That’s right, the Supremes voted 8-0 against a Judge Gorsuch opinion.

Both the Supreme Court’s decision this week and Gorsuch’s 2008 opinion involved the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that public school systems which take certain federal funds provide a “free appropriate public education” to certain students with disabilities.

These were two different cases, but Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the unanimous opinion that mentioned Gorsuch’s opinion. In Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P., a case brought by an autistic student whose parents sought reimbursement for tuition at a specialized school for children with autism, Gorsuch read IDEA extraordinarily narrowly. Under Gorsuch’s opinion in Luke P., a school district complies with the law so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’”

De minimis” means so minor as to merit disregard. So Gorsuch essentially concluded that school districts comply with their obligation to students with disabilities so long as they provide those students with slightly more than nothing. But, the Supreme Court rejected Gorsuch’s approach. The IDEA, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

Is markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit is Judge Gorsuch’s. Roberts added that Gorsuch’s approach would effectively strip many students the disabilities of their right to an education:

When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to “sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to ‘drop out.’

To the contrary, the unanimous Supreme Court concluded, in most cases a student’s progress should be measured according to whether they are able to keep up with their peers without disabilities.

When even Clarence Thomas goes against you, you know your ruling isn’t mainstream. The last thing we need is another justice who votes for the big-guys (business and government) over the little people.

Unfortunately, Gorsuch is a mainstream Republican. Another one who has a policy of doing “de minimis” for everyone in America who isn’t a big donor to the GOP’s mean-spirited agenda.

As the weekend begins, you really need a break. Take a few minutes and think about Annie Moore, who was the first person to enter Ellis Island when it opened for immigrants in 1892. Annie came from Ireland.

This song, “Isle of Hope and Tears” was written by Brendan Graham. It has been performed by many Irish groups over the years. Today, we hear the Irish Tenors:

America used to be the hope of the world. It’s time to decide how it can become that again.

Sample Lyrics:

On the first day of January,
Eighteen ninety-two,
They opened Ellis Island and they let
The people through.
And first to cross the threshold
Of that isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland

Who was all of fifteen years.

Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it’s not the isle you left behind.
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you’ll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 5, 2017

Another Orwellian week. We have a Supreme Court nominee who joked in his yearbook that he was president of a “Fascists Forever” club in prep school (its just a JOKE, why are you so upset at a joke?), the GOP redefined “repeal and replace” Obamacare to “repair” and “replace”. There was a botched special ops raid by Trump in Yemen that he later blamed on Obama. And Fox News gave helpful instructions to the hive:

The article is called: “How to behave in the age of Trump? Five essential lessons for Republicans”. Their guy did win, but even patriotic, heterosexual Conservatives aren’t always going to buy everything that the Orange Overlord is selling, without some instruction. Here are a few of Fox’s commandments:

1 . Don’t help the Democrats

We get it, maybe you don’t like Trump…maybe you are not certain he is a real conservative…Maybe you are right…But this is not about you. The Democrats are busily marginalizing themselves by being shrill, caustic, and vulgar. Give them room to do this…

  1. Show Restraint

Don’t take potshots…One more tweet on the oddity that was the first press briefing by the press secretary helps no one…See point number 1, do not help the Democrats.

  1. Give the Trump Presidency a Chance to Succeed

Trump had no chance of winning. So now, the same line of thinking holds that he has no chance of being a successful president…Every Republican needs to accept this truth — you need him to succeed, for the good of the country, and the party.

Having been the vocal, disrespectful minority for a considerable time, it stands to reason they might not yet know how to deal with success.On to humor.

Hypocrisy was on full display by Mitch McConnell:

Gorsuch’s nomination proves that the GOP knows nothing about irony:

The National Prayer Breakfast showed Trump at his best:

Trump’s call for allowing religion in politics is Islam tested, Ayatollah approved:

Trump fails in his first use of our military in Yemen:

The reality of Super Bowl parties:

 

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Notes on the Supreme Court Nominee

(Wrongo is watching the NCAA Basketball tournament. This takes a yuuge amount of time, and beer. Therefore, this is a brief, poorly researched post. Luckily, it has a great cartoon!)

Obama has nominated a potential new justice, Merrick Garland. Now, the ball is in the GOP’s court to consent or not:

COW 2040

The smart move by the GOP would be to schedule or hold confirmation hearings so it looked as if Garland Merrick has a shot.

Of course, it would be smart, if the GOP Senators hadn’t already staked out the position of “no hearings, no votes, no nothing” the day after Scalia died. The problem is that some of these Republican Senators have their primaries as late as August, so they have to fend off attacks from their right flank until then.

Going back on their position now would give their further-right opponents something to run on, and they really don’t want that. So they will want to delay any hearings until after August, at which point we’re into election season, and, it gets easier to say “we’re holding hearings” even though you’ve spent months giving the media quotes about why there would be no hearings. If there are no hearings, the Dems get to target those Republican Senators who are in tight races, saying that they are simply blocking the nomination because they hate Obama, an idea that doesn’t test well with independents.

McConnell could have said, of course there will be hearings, but that Obama shouldn’t expect any of his nominees to get confirmed because of “grave concerns” that the Republicans in the Senate had about the politics of a confirmation battle during an election year, how they prefer not to turn the Court process into presidential partisan politics.

In other words, he should have taken the high road. Instead, he just said “NO”, (like Nancy Reagan did, and we know how great that worked out).

Mitch the Turtle made the GOPs red meat base happy, but has also made this into a mess that makes the GOP look as petty and incompetent as possible. A big part of the value of the Garland nomination is that he comes “pre-approved” by prominent Senate Republicans which forces their hand: Either cave on their obstruction threats (which would frustrate their base) or see their empty posturing exposed for what it is.

Either way they look like chumps.

The Garland nomination could help increase turnout against the GOP in the general election, and put a few Senate races in play.

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Bonus Cartoon Thursday – March 3, 2016

How about an extra helping of political cartoons in honor of the silly season? After Super Tuesday, you might need some Bernie Crème:

COW Bernie Creme

Instead of “Yes we can,” Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: “Why try?” In spite of Hillary’s Miami victory speech, which sounded like it was written by Bernie, Clinton supporters believe we shouldn’t aim high, that we shouldn’t try for broad fundamental change, because we might fall short. Why is it better to proceed incrementally, to settle for less than we deserve because we might not get everything we want? Why do the establishment Dems proceed from the presumption that settling for incremental change is the only way to real change? Didn’t they learn anything from the 2014 mid-term elections?

Justice Scalia non-nomination creates GOP euphemisms:

COW GOP euphamisms.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Parties have selective views of what is realistic when choosing a candidate:

COW Trump Bern

Why is a huge corporation protecting us from our government? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

COW Hal Phone

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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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