UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 15, 2017

In a week filled with news that forces you to look at it, one thing stands out: The “Dossier” on Donald Trump which purports that the Russians have collected some things that could be used to blackmail our Orange Overlord. There are many things to “get”, in order to understand this story, but let’s focus on the blackmail element.

According to the 35-page Dossier, Russia (supposedly) has blackmail material on Trump but isn’t using it. OTOH, the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community (IC), and certain media players are using it, both by making sure we know that the Dossier exists, and that Trump and Obama were told about it.

The story, which had apparently been around DC since the summer, was retailed to the rest of us this week. Trump’s reaction was typical, blaming the IC, while saying it was more fake news. And it could be just that, no one seems to know.

Then, Trump was warned by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader, saying on MSNBC: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Wow! The president-elect threatened by the Senate Minority Leader, implying that the IC will get back at him if he doesn’t stand down. And there was no shock from Democrats, who have decided that they are the CIA’s best buddies, and that they love, love the rest of the IC.

Yet, when Clinton was being skewered for her emails, Dems protested loudly about the interference by the FBI. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece about the IC inserting itself into the US election, along with the Russians and others. As part of the story, he has this to say about the Democrats:

Did Russia attempt to interfere in the US election? Of course, and Democrats condemned it. Did the agents of the FBI et al attempt to interfere in the US election? Of course, and Democrats condemned it. Is the national security state today interfering in the outcome of a US election, by trying to destabilize and force its will on the incoming administration? Of course, and Democrats are cheering it.

The Dems are seeing just what they want to see, and that’s the (for now) flesh wound inflicted on Trump by the IC. They are not looking at what’s in plain sight. Which is the many efforts at false news stirring the pot of presidential illegitimacy, by domestic state actors as well as foreign.

Democrats should not support this; it’s dangerous…for them as well as for America. More about this next week.

The IC is far from happy with the Donald:

The GOP has started on their Repeal and Replace plan:

The GOP wants to take care of at least one pre-existing condition:

Trump’s cabinet nominees began their Senate hearings this week:

Secretary of State Nominee, Rex Tillerson, has to prove he’s not channeling Exxon:

Obama gave his farewell speech, and headed into the sunset:

 

 

Facebooklinkedinrss

Are We Facing an Undemocratic Future?

What do you think when Trump appoints so many retired generals to cabinet-level posts in his administration? The positive side of the argument is that these are talented, well-educated individuals who bring a worldview and experience on the global stage that Trump himself lacks.

The other side of the argument is that the authoritarian president Trump risks making his government much more authoritarian than it needs to be. This from Roger Cohen in the NYT:

A quarter-century after the post-Cold War zenith of liberal democracies and neoliberal economics, illiberalism and authoritarianism are on the march. It’s open season for anyone’s inner bigot. Violence is in the air, awaiting a spark. The winning political card today, as Mr. Trump has shown…is to lead “the people” against a “rigged system,”…The postwar order — its military alliances, trade pacts, political integration and legal framework — feels flimsy, and the nature of the American power undergirding it all is suddenly unclear.

We sound like a nation that is ripe for political upheaval. Citizens are not only more critical of their political leaders, they have become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: That once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way. That bedrock assumption is called “democratic consolidation” in political science, but Mounk’s research suggests that isn’t correct anymore.

In fact, he suggests that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Data from Freedom House, an organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, showed that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. According to Mounk and his research partner Roberto Foa, who reviewed the data, early signs of democratic destabilization exist in the US and in other Western liberal democracies. They found that the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations. The survey was based on 2014 data. Here is a graph from the Mounk-Foa study:

percent-who-say-democracy-is-essential-us

The graph shows responses by age cohort. Younger Americans have substantially less need to live in a democratic society than do older individuals. (The grey shaded part of graph is the 95% confidence limit for the responses to the survey). Remarkably, the trend toward acceptance of nondemocratic alternatives is especially strong among citizens who are both young and rich.

Mounk and Foa found that support for autocratic alternatives is also rising. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, they found that the share of Americans who say that authoritarianism would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen from 18% in 1995 to 35% of rich Americans:

support-for-authoritianism-by-income-us

While citizen support for authoritarian rule remains in the minority, it can no longer be dismissed as a fringe group. They support “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament and elections” and they want “experts” rather than the government to “take decisions” for the country. (In the study, “Upper income” is defined as the top 20% of income. “Lower Income” was defined as the bottom 50% of income.)

Overall, the rich are also now more likely than lower income citizens to express approval for “having the army rule.” While 43% of older Americans, including those born between the world wars and their baby-boomer children, do not believe that it is legitimate in a democracy for the military to take over when the government is incompetent or failing to do its job, the figure among millennials is much lower at 19%. In the US, only 5% of upper-income citizens thought that army rule was a “good” or “very good” idea in 1995. That figure has since risen to 16%, so the young rich are much more autocratic than their rich elders.

The clear message is that our democracy is now vulnerable. What was once unthinkable should no longer be considered outside the realm of possibility. This is partially the result of an educational system that does not teach even basic civics, much less the meaning of the Constitution.

Generations have grown up believing that they can casually read the document and understand what constitutional law is. Young Americans have never known the threat of an undemocratic system, so their fear of autocracy is far less than it is in the minds of their elders.

Trump is the prime example of this. And according to Mounk’s findings, he has a receptive audience in the young and the wealthy.

Would that be enough to undermine democracy in the US?

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – October 17, 2016

(This is a re-post of Monday’s column which was lost after the database crash on Monday night)

Random Monday thoughts:

First, Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan is a huge part of the soundtrack to the lives of boomers, so the average person has no problem with his winning the award, despite maybe pulling for Phillip Roth, or Dom DeLillo. From Dwight Garner:

This Nobel acknowledges what we’ve long sensed to be true: that Mr. Dylan is among the most authentic voices America has produced, a maker of images as audacious and resonant as anything in Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson.

Dylan is probably the only Nobel Prize for Literature winner who was a household name. Most are people whose work is known only to the elites. Harvard Professor Richard Thomas teaches a course called “Bob Dylan”:

I don’t see any difference between a poet like Catullus or Virgil and Bob Dylan. I think they are doing the same things. It has to do with control of language, connecting of lyrics and melodies. That’s what makes it timeless.

The professor notes that in songs like “Lonesome Day Blues”, there’s a stanza that goes:

I’m going to spare the defeated, I’m going to speak to the crowd
I’m going to spare the defeated, ’cause I’m going to speak to the crowd
I’m going to teach peace to the conquered, I’m going to tame the proud

And it’s pretty much a direct quote of lines spoken in the “Aeneid” by the ghost of Aeneas’s father, Anchises, who he sees in the underworld, and who basically says to him: “Other people will make sculpture. Your art, your job as a Roman, is to ‘spare defeated peoples, tame the proud.’”

Second, what is the point of having a third presidential debate? We already know almost everything about the Pant Suit, because the Right has been studiously putting her public and private life on display for the past 30 years. There is more we might learn about Mr. McGropey Pants, but don’t expect to hear anything that sounds like policy. Expect the Pant Load to do nothing to elevate the discourse. If he says: “is the bitch through talking?” don’t be surprised.

Third, his supporters will remain loyal, even after the election. The Boston Globe reports that election night could be the start of something terrible. For the past two weeks, Trump has been stoking fears that you can’t trust what happens at the ballot box. This, from Cincinnati:

And if Trump doesn’t win, some are even openly talking about violent rebellion and assassination, as fantastical and unhinged as that may seem.

“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton…“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take…I would do whatever I can for my country.”

But, isn’t Trump your garden-variety Republican, and aren’t his supporters absolutely regular folks? After all, a sitting US Senator, Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.) said in New Hampshire on Saturday that anti-Trump forces are trying to rig the election. All these people are mainstream GOP for sure.

And Mr. “in prison or shot” Bowman is just another peaceful American who is deeply concerned about the economic well-being of the working class.

Can’t you see Putin asking the UN to send in election monitors to certify the results?

Time to wake up America!  You brought this on (i) by not voting in off-year elections, (ii) by not supporting media that search for truth, and (iii) by not insisting on the best possible education for your kids.

To help you wake up, here is Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”, recorded in 1975:

Sample Lyrics:

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

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

Facebooklinkedinrss