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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 21, 2018

You knew it would turn out to be this:

The Saudi government acknowledged early Saturday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying he died during a fist fight.

The announcement, which came in a tweet from the Saudi foreign ministry, said that an initial investigation by the government’s general prosecutor found that Khashoggi had been in discussions with people inside the consulate when a quarrel broke out, escalating to a fatal fist fight.

And who would ever doubt the House of Sawed?

They came, they sawed, and they concocted a story, after two weeks of trying. Trump was correct, it was “Rogue Killers” who did it. Trump told reporters he thought the explanation from the Saudi foreign ministry of Khashoggi’s death was “credible”. He’s one of the few. Wrongo sees very little downside to never again reporting a single word he says.

The Trump Kabuki play rolls on:

We’ve lost the moral high ground:

Another reminder that we’ve lost the moral high ground:

Times change, and nobody’s running on tax cuts in the Mid-terms:

How some people overthink election day:

Sadly, no Republican sounds like a Democrat:

Voter suppression has become a core competency:

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 14, 2018

Last week was dominated by an emerging Republican narrative about Democrats: Dems are socialists. They are an angry mob. They frighten ordinary people. The framing by Trump is that the mid-term election is “patriots vs. socialists”.

And Trump said this on Friday night in Cincinnati:

A vote for a Republican is a vote to reject the Democratic politics of hatred, anger and division.

The Democrats’ closing argument for the mid-terms is considerably more nuanced, and it may not be heard clearly. They are against Trump, and all that he and his party stand for, but they talk about wanting a chance to provide a “check and balance” against Trump’s (and the GOP’s) worst instincts.

Sure, some will vote for that, but will enough turn out to vote for it to take the House?

The Democrats haven’t recovered from the public’s disapproval of their demonstrations against Kavanaugh after his swearing in. A reasonable minority of Dems don’t understand that most Americans are uncomfortable with demonstrations. Amy Chua has an astute observation in her book, “Political Tribes” where she quotes a South Carolina student:

I think protesting is almost a status symbol for elites. That’s why they always post pictures on Facebook, so all their friends know they’re protesting. When elites protest on behalf of us poor people, it’s not just that we see them as unhelpful; it seems that they are turning us…into the next ‘meme’. We don’t like being used for someone else’s self-validation.

On one side, we have the GOP, who can apparently say anything, offer insults and tell lies. On the other side, we have the Democrats who can’t do much of that without the mainstream media taking umbrage. Dems allow the media and the Right to write their story. The GOP and the media have made the Democrats the party of identity politics, the PC party, one that is so busy protecting the big tent that it’s unable to govern.

Trump’s Traveling Nuremberg Rallies will continue until the mid-terms, and Dems must decide what messaging will be successful in 2018. It’s going to be tough, because since the dawn of time, no one has truly figured out how to deal effectively (and conclusively) with authoritarian and anti-democratic ideas.

But, Dems have to do just that, or else remain a fringe party.

In American politics, it seems like it’s always 1968. Republicans are the law-and-order party. Democrats are the party affiliated with the demonstrators in the streets of Chicago, even though those demonstrators were radicals, not Democrats. The demonstrators were furious at the Vietnam War, which was led then by Democrats. And today, that viewpoint persists.

Both parties think the other is appalling, so you don’t have to like your own party, you just have to hate the other one. And one thing the Kavanaugh mess has done, it’s made both sides feel the other is appalling.

How it all turns out 22 days from now is anyone’s guess. Let’s hope the Democrats fight hard for the issues that really matter. On to cartoons.

It’s football and election seasons, and it’s always tough to pick the winners:

It’s laughable to think back to the days when the US sent observers to other countries to ensure fair elections:

Nikki Haley resigned. Kanye went to the White House. What to expect next:

Hurricanes have become like school shootings, so many of them, and all so devastating. We treat these events the same, with thought and prayers, but no plan to deal with the causes:

What Trump and Fox want the campaign trail to look like:

Trump sprang into action after Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. He said we shouldn’t jeopardize our arms sales to Saudi Arabia:

 

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Saturday Soother – October, 13, 2018 — Voting Rights Edition

The Daily Escape:

St. Basil’s, Red Square, Moscow, RU. It was built in 1561. – 2018 photo by Wrongo

Welcome to Saturday! Forget about Kanye hugging the Orange Overlord, we have bigger fish to fry.

Yesterday, we talked about how state legislatures with help from the courts, have been disenfranchising minorities. This is likely to reduce turnout in the 2018 mid-terms, as studies have shown in the past, and despite encouraging polls, if someone can’t vote, nobody can be sure who will win in the mid-terms.

So today, we take a closer look at how some states have systematically worked to close polling places after the Supreme Court’s Shelby County vs. Holder decision that stopped federal oversight of election practices in states with a history of Jim Crow practices.

Prior to the Shelby decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) provided a process to ensure that jurisdictions known to engage in voter discrimination weren’t using budget cuts or voter modernization as arguments to disenfranchise people of color. Under Section 5, jurisdictions had to demonstrate that saving money by making changes to polling places did not disenfranchise voters of color. Now Section 5 is no longer useful for the protection for minority voters.

One reason is that Shelby triggered a fundamental shift in who was responsible for protecting minority voters, from the federal authorities, to the individuals who believed they were wronged. The cost and burden of proof that local election laws are discriminatory, is now borne by those least able to afford it.

This map makes it clear that the states formerly covered by the VRA are engaging in precisely the kind voter suppression that would have been impossible before the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision:

Source

Fewer polling places leads to longer lines, which will dissuade some people from voting, the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, DC think tank found. This means election officials can affect the outcome of an election by manipulating the number and location of polling places.

And these efforts do not only happen in the Deep South. This year, Indiana removed 170, mostly Democratic voting precincts from Lake County, home to the state’s largest Latino and second-largest Black communities. The Secretary of State said they were simply updating the map to reflect new demographic data, while local Democrats said it keeps African Americans and Hispanic voters from the polls.

According to Pew Research, other efforts are underway in counties in Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio and Wisconsin to move thousands of voters to new locations: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Some voters in Barton County, Kansas, now will have to drive 18 miles to vote in November’s election because of polling place consolidation. In the past three decades, the county has gone from 40 polling places to 11. The main reason, said County Clerk Donna Zimmerman, is cost.

Local election officials responsible for closing polling places often say that the closed locations were too expensive, underused, or inaccessible to people with disabilities. Often, local election officials fly under the radar, sometimes not even notifying voters in their jurisdictions of changes in polling locations.

This year, Georgia put the voter registrations of about 50,000 voters on hold, due to a policy implemented by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor in next month’s election. Of the 53,000 applications in limbo, 70% are from African-Americans, according to the Associated Press, even though Georgia is approximately 32% black.

So the guy running for governor is ALSO overseeing the election. He tried to close 3/4 of polling places in predominantly black Randolph County this summer. Kemp is in a close race with Stacy Abrams, an African-American. You be the judge of what’s really going on.

Americans say we live in a democracy. But, with gerrymandering and vote suppression, we have to remain vigilant if we are to keep both our civil rights, and our Constitution, intact.

Enough for today! Take a step back, unplug, and chill a bit, because it’s Saturday, the Wrongologist’s day for a little Soothing.

Let’s start by brewing up a yuuge cuppa Ethiopia Hambela Natural from Chicago’s Big Shoulders Coffee. It is said to be deeply sweet, with flavors of raspberry, dark chocolate, and cedar, along with a syrupy mouthfeel.

Now, go and sit by a large window, and take in the changing fall colors and the nip of cool air. Put on your best headphones and listen to “Autumn Leaves” by Eva Cassidy, recorded live at Blues Alley in Washington, DC in 1996. Cassidy died far too young at 33, in 2006.

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

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Republicans Vote Against Funding Election Security

The Daily Escape:

Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana Cuba. Built in 1772, it was the royal post office. 2018 photo by Nestor Marti for Smithsonian Magazine

Are Republicans committed to free and fair elections? Maybe not. Republicans in the Senate had a chance to say “yes” on August 1st, when an amendment adding funding for election security failed to pass.

With all the cross talk about election meddling, you could be forgiven if you think that our very democracy may be under threat. But when given a chance to take a concrete step, adding $250 million to help confront this challenge, the Republican majority in the Senate said no. From The Hill:

Senators voted 50-47 against adding an amendment from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would have provided the funding. Sixty votes were needed to include the proposal in the appropriations legislation under Senate rules. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was the only GOP senator who voted in support of the amendment to an appropriations measure. The proposal, spearheaded by Leahy, would have provided $250 million for state election security grants.

How is this a partisan issue? Doesn’t every American want to protect our electoral system? Republicans argued that more funding wasn’t needed, that states haven’t yet spent the $380 million previously approved by Congress. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said it was “far too early” for the Senate to sign off on more money:

We don’t know how the first $380 million has even been spent, and the intelligence committee did an extensive research on how much money was needed and the $380 million amount was what was needed for the moment.

Sounds reasonable. If only there were some sort of accounting system that allowed you to find out how much was spent, and what the remaining need might be. And yet, not knowing where the Pentagon spends its money hasn’t stopped Congress from giving them even more than they asked for.

Surprising what expenditures cause the GOP to develop fiscal responsibility. They just gave $12 billion to bailout America’s farmers. They happily voted to create a $1 trillion deficit with their corporate tax cuts. Trump wants to add another $100 billion in tax cuts, because more has to be better.

But with an expenditure designed to head off a possible vote heist, that’s when America needs more fiscal accountability.

We’ve learned that Russian cyber warriors already have targeted the re-election campaign of Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-MO), and that Facebook closed 32 accounts because they exhibited behavior similar to that of accounts belonging to Russian hackers. Facebook said that more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the fake pages.

Our electoral legitimacy crisis is real. We are witnessing a slow-moving insurrection driven by the Republicans, the Citizens United decision, Koch operatives, Evangelicals, Russian cyber hacks, along with determined vote suppression by Republican state legislatures. All are working to make your vote less valuable. Republicans have been trying for years to destroy the value of your vote with voter suppression and gerrymandering.

If the Russians want to help them, the GOP seems to be OK with that, too.

From Charlie Pierce: (emphasis by Wrongo)

The only reason to vote against this bill is because you don’t want the money spent to confront the crisis. States can’t do this alone—and too many of them are controlled by people who don’t want the job in the first place….The idea that we’re nickel-and-diming this particular problem as what can only be called an anti-democratic epidemic rages across the land is so preposterous as to beggar belief. We are febrile and weak as a democratic republic. Too many people want to keep us that way.

The only thing that can save us is TURN-OUT this fall.

Kiss our democracy good-bye if you stay home!

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Commission on Election Integrity Hears a Whopper

The Daily Escape:

DUMBO, NYC – photo by Kelly Kopp

President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met Tuesday in New Hampshire, amid controversy generated by its vice chairman Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s unproven contention that illegal voting in NH swung the state’s US Senate and presidential elections in November 2016.

There is no evidence to support Kobach’s position, and there was no one bussed in from Massachusetts to vote in NH, as Donald Trump contended.

Clearly, the commission wants to make it as difficult as possible for certain Americans, in particular, poor, elderly, and young Americans to be able to vote without overcoming the kinds of hurdles we haven’t seen since the Jim Crow era.

Curiously, the commission will hear a proposal requiring a background check before a person can register to vote, using the same check as gun buyers.

John Lott, the president of the Pennsylvania-based Crime Prevention Research Center, and a Fox commentator, will present the concept during the meeting. Lott’s PowerPoint presentation, which was posted on the White House’s website in advance, would check for criminal history as well as immigration status. According to Lott, this would allow authorities to “check if the right people are voting”.

Lott, who published a book called “The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies,” said that Democrats have praised using background checks for guns, and suggested they couldn’t oppose using the same system for voting when it’s already up and running.

Lott told the WaPo that Democrats have long said that the federal background check system doesn’t infringe on people’s ability to own a gun, so they shouldn’t have a problem using it to combat voter fraud. He thinks it’s a cool “gotcha” idea for the GOP.

In politics, there is no easier gig than pitching an idea to the shrinking GOP Base.

It’s an argument made by a guy who thinks the background check system doesn’t work. According to WaPo, Lott has repeatedly criticized the background check system as ineffective, arguing, that it “only makes life easier for criminals” and that the background check databases are “rife with errors.”

 WaPo quotes Adam Winkler, a constitutional law specialist at UCLA: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The [Lott’s] idea is “patently absurd”…Given the previous criticism of the background check system by John Lott, and the fact that the structure of voting regulation is entirely different than the regulation of guns, it’s hard to believe this is a serious proposal.

WaPo also quotes Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, who said that the selection of presenters at Tuesday’s commission meeting:

Seems to mirror the selection of commissioners — this is not the group you’d assemble if you were serious about real research into real solutions to real problems with the voting system.

Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law told NPR:

It’s a commission that is about promoting this false and dangerous narrative that vote fraud is something that’s widespread across our country, and we know that that’s just not the case.

The object of the exercise by Mike Pence, the commission’s chair and Kris Kobach the vice chair, is to make registering to vote difficult, exactly the opposite of what a democracy should support.

And they talk like these are reasonable proposals, put forth by responsible people.

The reality is that they are framing an argument that our elections cannot be trusted. And in the background, Pence, Kobach and company will come up with policies that exclude many Americans who otherwise would have the right to vote.

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Saturday Soother – August 12, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Lisbon, Portugal 2016 – photo by Wrongo

Wrongo has written many times about vote suppression, including earlier this week. We now see that the GOP in Indiana (who control the place) are disenfranchising Democratic precincts, but not the Republican ones. IndyStar, a local paper in Indianapolis, reported:

From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County…and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.

Maybe now that GOP JeffBo is our Attorney General, Republicans feel they no longer even have to be subtle about voter suppression. More from the IndyStar:

That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people…And the results were immediate.

Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63% increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26% decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations.

The paper acknowledges that population growth may have played a role, but Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Richardson, a Republican, told IndyStar the rise in absentee voting in Hamilton County was largely a result of the addition of two early voting stations, which brought the total to three.

More from IndyStar:

Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout. But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population.

During that same 2008-16 period, the number of early voting stations declined from three to one in Marion County, as Republican officials blocked expansion.

Indiana voted for Obama in 2008, and apparently, that was enough for the GOP.

More early voting stations for Republican precincts in suburban white Republican counties, fewer early voting stations for Democratic precincts in urban black counties. So is this willful rigging that Republican officials are engaging in? Seems like it’s a plan.

Fewer opportunities for early voting disproportionately affects those who don’t get the early voting opportunity.

The real message here is that Indiana is showing us another level of rigging of the voting system by GOP operatives. With gerrymandering and restrictive voting practices across this country, voter suppression is the real threat to our democracy, not the very few cases of voter fraud. The question is: How do we correct this, and build a system with accountability?

We have previously reported on voter suppression here, here, here and here.

This is yet another Wrongologist column for those people who say “both parties are the same, it doesn’t matter who you vote for”. Do you get it yet?

Timeout.  Let’s go somewhere to escape from the noise and the madness of the week.

Wrongo recommends Bluetooth over the ear headphones, and a VERY generous pour of Bushmills 21-year old Irish, matured in a mixture of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks, before a two year marrying period spent in Madeira casks.

For those who cannot abide alcohol, just the headphones for you.

Now, listen to the Casta Diva prayer from the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, performed by Anna Netrebko in 2007 with the Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden und Freiburg. This opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre. The soprano prayer Casta diva occurs in Act I:

The most prolific Norma was Maria Callas, who gave 89 stage performances of the opera.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email sent by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 29, 2017

“All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.”Kurt Vonnegut.

Quoting from Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” seems to catch the Trump zeitgeist. It was hard to focus on what the GOP and Trump were doing between the tweetstorms. So you could be forgiven for not noticing that Trump’s ban on immigration includes Green Card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. And Homeland Security says that’s really the policy. Legal residents holding the wrong passport who happened to be outside the US are now stranded. This includes students, business executives, and even a few US business owners. You can leave, but you cannot come back is the message of the day. Christians will be allowed in though, so here’s the best idea yet:

Trump builds a wall to keep Speedy out:

This is from Italy’s Matteo Bertelli. You can bet that in his next panel, Speedy jumps up on Trump’s head, and The Donald grabs a hammer…

Voter fraud is a yuuge problem only in the Orange Ahab’s mind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voter fraud? Or, voted for a fraud?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump wants at least one Chinese import:

Trump keeps his focus on the real enemies:

 

 

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Voting Rights and John Roberts

From USA Today:

National and local voting rights activists, worried about threats to casting ballots nationwide, are setting up command centers, staffing hotlines and deploying thousands of monitors to polling sites across the country to ensure voters can get to the polls.

There has been plenty of talk about “rigged’’ elections in the 2016 presidential campaign. Link that with the Supreme Court’s rejection of a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and civil rights and voting rights activists say they’re concerned about possible roadblocks at the polls next week.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states will have new voting restrictions in place, ranging from photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks, to registration restrictions.

Some of the blame for this can be laid at the door of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts. Stephanie Mencimer in MoJo writes that Roberts “had it in for the Voting Rights Act”:

In 2013, when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. issued the most far-reaching Supreme Court decision on voting rights in the 21st century, he finally succeeded in gutting a civil rights law he has been fighting his entire career. For three decades, Roberts has argued that the US has become colorblind to the point where aggressive federal intervention on behalf of voters of color is no longer necessary—and this case, Shelby County v. Holder, was the pinnacle of that crusade.

Roberts honed his views on race and voting as a clerk for Justice William Rehnquist and later in the Reagan DOJ. Rehnquist redefined opposition to civil rights laws as a commitment to color blindness, using this leap of logic to undermine the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Atlantic reports that Roberts has a history of insisting that the US is a post-racial, colorblind society, a viewpoint he emphasized in his 2013 Shelby County v. Holder opinion. That decision removed a critical component of the Voting Rights Act: the requirement that jurisdictions with a long history of voting discrimination submit any changes in voting procedures to the DOJ for “preclearance,” to ensure those changes didn’t have a discriminatory impact.

Preclearance blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes between 1982 and 2006. But in the Shelby opinion, Roberts asserted that such protections were no longer warranted. He said that federal oversight of the jurisdictions in question, mostly states in the Deep South, was outdated and unjustified.

After the Shelby decision, several states passed new voting restrictions that were overwhelmingly directed at minorities. On the day the Shelby decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked.

  • Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20% in one instance.
  • Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75% of voters were African American.
  • The most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the NC law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans.

Some lower courts are walking back the Shelby decision. In July, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of North Carolina’s voting law, saying its provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Will the lower court ruling cause Roberts to rethink his Shelby opinion? No.

In August, the Supreme Court, without a Scalia replacement, would not hear an appeal of the 4th Circuit’s blocking of North Carolina’s voting law, but Roberts wrote that he personally would have allowed most of the law to take effect.

According to Harvard’s Alex Keyssar, the popular vote in North Carolina for the state legislature and members of Congress for the last several years has been pretty much evenly split, but the seats are overwhelmingly Republican. And that matters. That’s how the Republican legislature put together its voting laws.

Voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering are the greatest threats to our democracy. Suppression provides the opportunity to gerrymander. Taken together, suppression and gerrymandering provide the means to disenfranchise groups of the electorate from our democracy.

The anger in this nation is because people can feel things slipping away, even if they don’t all agree on why it is, or who to blame.

At some point, it won’t matter anymore. But by then, we might have a Republic in name only.

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