The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 4, 2017

Re: The Trump severed head “joke”: Kathy Griffin isn’t funny, and this wasn’t a joke. Here’s the problem with what Griffin did: A joke has to be funny, and this simply wasn’t. The only message you can take from her severed Trump head photo is: “look at me, I’m Kathy Griffin!” Griffin is getting what she deserves for putting her desire for attention ahead of everything else.

Yes, she has the right to produce the image, but that doesn’t mean it has to be accepted by the rest of us. If you mimic what ISIS does to their victims, you deserve to lose your job on CNN. She needs to grow up; CNN did the right thing.

On to cartoons. Quite the week for climate change drama. Trump’s action on Paris could have been inspired by the Saudi sword dance, but it is it different than Griffin’s?

Trump said he was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris. Trump lost Pittsburgh to Clinton, and Pittsburg’s mayor says the city will follow the Paris Accords. But, in Trump speak:

Trump seems intent on completely eradicating the Obama legacy:

The news about back-channel communications with Russia leads to Jared Kushner:

The medicine in Trumpcare II is no better than in Trumpcare I:


Saturday Soother – June 3, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue) Norway – photo by B. Krustev

What is left to say about Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement? The world is looking at a post-agreement future as if we were standing on the edge of Troll’s Tongue. The Paris deal wasn’t a binding agreement, it was aspirational, with voluntary targets and no mechanism for enforcement. But, this quote from Abu Ivanka tells all:

At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment. We don’t want other countries and other leaders to laugh at us anymore.

This is the core problem with Trump’s view of the world: He and the members of his Party see the world agenda as a zero-sum game, in which only one nation can win. Therefore, we gotta win, or else we lose, and God forbid, we can’t lose. At anything.

Zero-sum thinking is what causes voluntary agreements to fail; they require non-zero sum thinking to succeed.

But, in a zero-sum world, there will always be someone in some country who thinks, rightly or wrongly, that they’re being screwed over, that other countries are using the climate issue to pursue an economic advantage.

In this case, Trump gets into power. He then abandons the agreement, or attempts to renegotiate it.

The new terms on offer will be unacceptable, possibly even designed to fail. So it will be with Trump, who is looking to force both China and India into binding targets in order to continue with the agreement. That’s what Republicans consider “fair treatment”.

In other climate news, the Tampa Bay Times points out that the hurricane season started with nobody in charge at FEMA or NOAA.

What could go wrong?

And farther south, a massive crack in the Antarctica ice shelf grew 11 miles in only 6 days.

But America’s coal miners gotta work. Trump is in thrall with an industry that is among those dying out in America. In March, the WaPo reported that:

The coal industry employed 76,572 people in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. That number includes not just miners but also office workers, sales staff and all of the other individuals who work at coal-mining companies.

That’s fewer people employed than at other shrinking industries, like travel agencies (99,888), used-car dealerships (138,000), or carwash employment (150,000).

Maybe Trump will gin up a reason why climate change is killing jobs in those industries as well.

You need to relax, you need to think about something other than Trump, Ivanka and Jared, or Putin and Megyn Kelly. In other words, you need to turn off your devices, sit quietly and take a long look out the window at the natural world. It helps if you can have a strong cuppa something while you kick back.

Wrongo recommends brewing some Sumatran Mandheling coffee (only $11.44 for 16 oz.) and some beautiful music. This morning, we are listening to a Russian and a Latvian singing beautifully together. Here are Anna Netrebko & Elina Garanca performing the Flower Duet by Léo Delibes at the Baden-Baden Opera Gala in 2007:

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


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 23, 2017

Sorry for the lack of columns; Wrongo has an acute case of Trump Fatigue. It is difficult to: a) think of anyone or anything else, and b) when writing a column, everything seems linked to every other thing, and none of you want to read a thousand-word rant. On to the rich harvest of cartoons.

Le Pen’s ballots in today’s election in France may be enough to force the big box to open:

The March for Science, unsurprisingly, has opposition:


It isn’t enough to just think about the planet on Earth Day:

Fox replaces O’Reilly with another loser:

Why do we still call it the Presidency when the differences are so stark?

Why would millions of people willingly watch a real-time murder?



Is Climate Change Real?

Wrongo has never written about climate change, but will make an exception today. NASA recently released a series of then and now photos called “Images of Change” which reveal how our world has changed (not for the better) over the past 30+ years. The series provides a comparison of satellite images that depict everything from Arctic ice retreat to island building, to urbanization.

The series shows how rapidly our planet has changed in recent decades, due largely to urbanization and climate change. Perhaps, with the Trump administration firmly in control of a climate denial narrative, these photos will soon disappear from the internet, so please go and see all of them while it is still possible.

Here is one photo that shows the Arctic’s sea ice. It is clear that the ice has been shrinking for decades. The picture below compares September 1984 (on the left) with September 2016:

The total area of persistent (4 years or older) ice has declined from 718,000 square miles to 42,000 square miles in the 32 year time period. In the images, blue/grey ice is younger whereas white ice is older. But please calm down, you can’t stop the Trump express to climate Armageddon unless:

  • We take control of the Senate from the Republicans, and
  • Win the White House in 2020.

And at a time when we won’t let most Muslims into our country, and absolutely zero Syrians, maybe it’s time we chill out with a beautiful song by a Syrian national currently based in Paris, Lena Chamamyan. Here she is singing “Love in Damascus”. The accompanying video has many photos of Damascus; probably most taken before the rebellion. Wrongo could not find a reliable translation from Arabic for you, but the singing is beautiful:

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


Saturday Soother – January 21, 2017

Did Wrongo miss anything yesterday? We had multiple meetings, and thus, no chance to see the “You Bet Your Country” reality show that premiered in DC.

Look on the bright side, there are now only 1,459 days left in the reign of DT, so two things to focus on:

  • Work hard to save the ACA, and
  • Remember to toast to the health of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer every day.

Today is the Women’s March in Washington DC. Two days in a row of firsts for our Orange Overlord. Yesterday, he was sworn in as the 45th president. Today, he sees his first mass protest in the form of the Women’s March, and companion marches (600 at last count) around the country and the world.

New York Magazine tweaks the main stream media’s coverage thusly: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

…the media’s treatment of the [women’s] march has been so fretful that you’d be forgiven for thinking that this grass-roots demonstration of hundreds of thousands on behalf of women’s rights is an example of feminism in crisis and disarray.

Whenever there are protests from the left, we’re always adjured that we’re doing it wrong and/or that our “message” is defocused or unclear. Leftwing protests get little coverage in the MSM. Wrongo has observed that when there are rightwing protests, they are typically universally covered by the MSM. Plus their “message” is always described as clear, and unequivocal.

There have been protests at most recent inaugurals, but they have been generally along the parade route, as there were in DC today. The car and trash can burnings made today’s DC protests look more like what we see in European capitals.

What the Women’s March envisions is a protest that creates as much buzz as the inauguration itself. That means the organizers are attempting to create a widespread, and diverse coalition for this event. The hope is: (1) a huge crowd shows up to protest; (2) the protest is marked by its size and the quality of its direct action (without violence); (3) the obvious fissures in the coalition remain unclear to the public until long after the march.

The March on Washington in August, 1963 was one of the largest political demonstrations in American history. The organizing idea was a protest for “jobs and freedom”. You may not remember that John Lewis’s original speech at the March on Washington was highly controversial. Now, 54 years down the road, no one cares, because of the power of Lewis’s personal history, and the fact that the march ultimately led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The March on Washington was broadcast on TV, because we had not yet become jaded about protests, and the White House was vulnerable from both sides of the racial divide. The Women’s March is only expected to be live-streamed via cell phone. The networks will give us highly edited snippets on the evening news.

The value of these large public protests are in building a more unified opposition movement. Perhaps it will happen this time, although there is a risk that it fizzles like the Occupy Movement did.

The Tea Party began building their national presence with a rally of maybe 7000 people in tri-corner hats, enabled by a few Congress Critters. That was enough for the media to legitimize their birth. Perhaps it will work for the Women’s March: it will become a viable movement only if the commitment to messaging and building a national presence in Congressional districts and statehouses is carried through.

What will be more significant for the future are the state capitol and major city rallies once the protesters leave Washington. Resistance IS the message: The voters did not deliver Trump an overwhelming mandate to do the things his juggernaut is planning to shower on America.

Handled correctly that could make Trump and the GOP vulnerable. The Wrongologist will post a first-person report from an attendee at the Women’s March, on Tuesday.

But today is Saturday, and you need to mellow out a little. Here is something radically different, yet completely familiar. This is the Austrian brass ensemble Mnozil Brass performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. What better tribute to Freddie Mercury? These guys are demonstrably horny and have lots of brass. High energy, and completely entertaining:

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


What’s JOE – 2035?

Haven’t heard of JOE- 35? Not surprising, since it is very difficult to find any mention of it in any major media news outlet. Google JOE- 35, and you get a series of links for a cast stone fire pit that is 35” in diameter.

Wrong. It refers to the “Joint Operating Environment 2035” [pdf] (JOE – 35), issued in July by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It lays out the environment that the military and the nation will be facing 20 years from now. It is written as a guide to how the Defense Department should be spending resources today in order to protect against tomorrow’s threats. They identify six broad geopolitical challenges the US Military will have to deal with in 20 years:

  • Violent Ideological Competition: irreconcilable ideas communicated and promoted by identity networks through violence. That is, states and non-state actors alike will pursue their goals by spreading ideologies hostile to US interests and encouraging violent acts to promote those ideologies.
  • Threatened US Territory and Sovereignty: encroachment, erosion, or disregard of US sovereignty and the freedom of its citizens.
  • Antagonistic Geopolitical Balancing: increasingly ambitious adversaries maximizing their own influence while actively limiting US influence. That is, rival powers will pursue their own interests in conflict with those of the United States. Think China in the Philippines.
  • Disrupted Global Commons: denial or compulsion in spaces and places available to all but owned by none. Think that the US will no longer be able to count on unimpeded access to the oceans, the air, space, or the electromagnetic spectrum in the pursuit of its interests.
  • A Contest for Cyberspace: a struggle to define and credibly protect sovereignty in cyberspace. That is, US cyberwarfare measures will increasingly face effective defenses and US cyberspace assets will increasingly face effective hostile incursions.
  • Shattered and Reordered Regions: states increasingly unable to cope with internal political fractures, environmental stress, or deliberate external interference. That means states will continue to be threatened by increasingly harsh pressures on national survival, and the failed states and stateless zones will continue to spawn insurgencies and non-state actors hostile to the US.

The report also warns that the rise of non-state actors such as ISIS, described in the report as “privatized violence“, will continue, as will the rapidity by which those groups form and adapt. The spread of 3D-printing technologies and readily available commercial technology such as drones, means those groups can be increasingly effective against a fully equipped and highly technological US military.

The study says:

Transnational criminal organizations, terrorist groups, and other irregular threats are likely to exploit the rapid spread of advanced technologies to design, resource, and execute complex attacks and combine many complex attacks into larger, more sustained campaigns…

John Michael Greer has a review of JOE-35 that is worth reading in its entirety. His criticism of the report is that:

Apparently nobody at the Pentagon noticed one distinctly odd thing about this outline of the future context of American military operations: it’s not an outline of the future at all. It’s an outline of the present. Every one of these trends is a major factor shaping political and military action around the world right now.

Like so many things in our current politics, the JOE projections are mostly about justifying current procurement/pork barreling by a linear extrapolation of today’s threats. That, and the institutional blindness that sets in when there have been no real challenges to the established groupthink, and the professional consequences of failure in the military are near-zero.

The JOE list may not be imaginative or fully predictive, but that doesn’t make it wrong. None of the problems they forecast are going away. For instance, the use of ideology to win and shore up support from potential fighters and allies is as old as ancient times, so why would ideological conflict NOT be an issue in 2035?

Threats to US sovereignty and territory go along with the Joint Chiefs’ recognition that the US is an empire most likely on a downward curve, unless there is great change in our policies, domestic and foreign.

In this sense, the report is quietly critical of our politicians.

The admission in the JOE report that we will be actively required to defend our home ground by 2035 is a mark of just how much our geopolitical environment has changed since 9/11.

It is indeed worth your time to read both the JOE report, and that of John Michael Greer very carefully.

Both will make you smarter than reading about the latest Trump outrage.


Debate Night – Monday Wake Up Edition

The Presidential debate is tonight. Trump was reported to have invited former Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate, but now we hear from Mike Pence that it’s not so. This looks like is a case of “mind games forever”.

Millions of words have been written in advance of the debates, so no need to add to the hot steaming pile of punditry here, except to say that Hillary cannot win any news cycle. Even the one in which the NYT endorsed Hillary. Here is Tristero at Hullabaloo: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The NYT endorsed Clinton, but actually they’re heavily promoting Trump for president. How heavily? Literally by a 2:1 margin. Put another way, the Times [in their editorial] believes that what Trump says and does is twice as important as what his closest rival says and does…If you go…to the NY Times Web site and do a word search, you will come up with:

Trump: 16 mentions
Clinton: 8 mentions

2 Pictures of Trump
1 picture of Clinton

If you can’t win in THE PAPER THAT IS NOMINATING YOU, it’s hard to win overall.

Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson won’t be at the debate. Sadly, he seems to be the choice of quite a few Millennials over both Clinton and Trump. Kevin Drum noticed that polling shows there are a fairly significant number of Sanders voters saying they prefer Gary Johnson over Clinton.

It is easy to understand if you fail to look closely at Johnson’s policies: He favors legalization of marijuana. He’s good on civil liberties and wants to cut back on overseas military interventions. He’s moderate on immigration. He’s pro-choice and supports gay rights.

But he’s nothing more than a warmed-over Republican. Here is a Johnson quote from earlier this week:


Yes, he really did say that since the sun will burn up the planet someday, why should we care about climate change? BTW, it’s not likely to occur within the next 5 billion years, so this is an example of Libertarian long-range planning.

So, let’s just focus on making lots of money now. #Feel The Johnson

You still think there is lots to like about Gary Johnson? Perhaps you should review Drum’s listing of some of Johnson’s policy positions:

  • He supports TPP
  • He supports fracking
  • He opposes any federal policies to reduce student debt
  • He supports Citizens United
  • He wants to privatize Social Security
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero
  • He wants to eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent flat tax

His position on choice is that it’s up to the states. So a woman’s “personal freedom” would be subject to whatever yahoos in the state capitol decide it is.

So it’s time for Millennials to both wake up and study up on the Libertarians. In honor of Gary Johnson, here is Little Feat with “Don’t Bogart that Joint”:

Little Feat made the song famous, but the song was written by the Fraternity of Man, an American blues rock group. The song was featured in the movie Easy Rider in 1969.


Happy Birthday to our National Park Service

100 years ago yesterday, Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created the National Park Service (NPS). The National Parks are truly a great American resource, showing us nature in a near-pristine form, much as it might have been thousands of years ago. The parks also give us insight into places that are an important part of our national heritage, such as battlefields, or landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty.

There was a time in America when protecting our heritage through preserving open space was thought to be a civic duty. Alas, that is no longer considered a responsibility by recent Congresses. Obama has used the Antiquities Act as a way around the stasis in Washington, creating several national monuments.

The most recent is the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine. There have been calls for a national park in northern Maine for a very long time, but the lack of federally controlled land and the hostility of local residents who believe the timber industry is going to make a comeback, made it impossible to get a park designation. But Roxane Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees, gave almost 90,000 acres of pristine land to the government to help make something happen.

Opinions in Maine were mixed. There are more than a few folks who want the land to remain available to the paper mills, should the paper industry ever return to Maine. Republican Gov. Paul LePage denounced Quimby’s donation:

That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine…It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and Senator Angus King. It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.

Last time we checked Quimby and King were in-state liberals, and the land was given to America, not to Mr. Obama.

Of course, the NPS faces major problems on its 100th birthday. An NPR report indicated that the service is facing challenges like climate change, overcrowding, underfunding and relevancy. Regarding climate change, the parks are having to adapt to rapid changes as we saw in Glacier National Park, where most glaciers could be gone by 2030. The parks are trying to educate the public about climate change, despite continued hostility from Republicans who refuse to fund it.

Relevance is a big issue. Surveys show that the average park visitor is 41 years old and white, not the future of a young, diverse majority America that will be here about the same time as the glaciers disappear.

Finally, the number of sites managed by the NPS has grown from 35 in 1916 to 400 sites today. That has led to substantial deferred maintenance, and given that Congress is unlikely to come up with additional funding, the NPS is seeking corporate funding, and possibly sponsorship.

Imagine Yellowstone: brought to you by Coca-Cola…

This brings into question of the very meaning of the commons: If we sell sponsorships, who owns the Grand Canyon? Who decides how Glacier National Park should be managed?

But, in a world where the GOP won’t agree to fund the parks, that’s what you should expect.

On a happier note, here are photos taken on our final days in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Here is Moraine Lake, a small, jewel-like glacier-fed lake, created by gigantic rock slide:


The distinctive color is from the sunlight reflecting off of dissolved particles of finely ground rock called “glacial flour”. And here is a photo of Lake Louise in Banff:


Lake Louise was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Apparently, the Province of Alberta is named after her as well. She never visited.

Here is a close-up of the Louise Glacier above the lake:


The glacier is 300’ thick at the edge of the cliff wall.


Final Day in Glacier Park

Today we begin at the end of the day’s journey. We left St. Mary for Many Glacier, and after a nice hike around Swiftcurrent Lake, we had lunch and drove into Canada. Our destination was Waterton Lake Park, one of the earliest Canadian National Parks. It is adjacent to and really, part of Glacier Park.

In fact, in 1932, the US and Canada created the world’s first International Peace Park: joining together Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It was the first Peace Park, and today there are 170 of them. UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Waterton lives for the summer season. Its population is less than 90 people, and in the winter, the full-time population drops below 48 people.

We are staying at the Prince of Wales (POW) hotel. It was built in 1927. It is another of the Great Northern Railway hotels, a chalet-style place, without air conditioning, and which only recently added wifi. There are no TVs in the room. OTOH, you stay at the POW for the view, and here is the view from our room:


Wrongo is looking out the window at that spectacular scene right now, and it is a fitting capstone to our time in Glacier. The day started in St. Mary, Montana. It rained quite hard yesterday, and while the temperature in town was in the mid-50s, down from the low 80s the day before, snow fell on the mountains around St. Mary. Here is a photo taken at twilight last night:


We spent the morning at Many Glacier, an area within Glacier National Park located north of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, on the east side of the park. The Many Glacier Hotel, was also built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1915, and it fronts on Swiftcurrent Lake. The hotel sits in a bowl of mountains, the most significant of which is Mount Grinnell. Back in the day, people hiked the 12 mile round trip to view Grinnell Glacier, one of the most frequently photographed glaciers in the park. This means that there is a very well documented historical record of Grinnell’s glacier shrinking over the 176 years since the end of the little ice age in 1850. Grinnell is one of the many in Glacier NP that are likely to be gone by 2030.

Here are a few photos of the Swiftcurrent Lake area that were shot this morning. Here is the Lake with Mount Grinnell on the right:


Finally, here is a shot across Swiftcurrent Lake. Mount Grinnell is to the left in this picture, and we are looking at a part of the Garden Wall that makes up the Continental Divide as we discussed yesterday:


There was wildlife in abundance at Many Glacier. We saw bear scat while hiking around the lake, and later a couple traveling with us, saw a Grizzly Bear in the lake. There were Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep visible grazing on the slopes above us, and on the drive from Many Glacier to Waterton, we stopped to watch a Black Bear devouring berries, and for the ten minutes or so that we watched, the bear was totally oblivious to humans at the side of the road.

Tip: If you plan to cross into Canada, take Route 17 (Chief Mountain Highway). It is only open from May to September, at Chief Mountain Crossing. It had no traffic when we passed through.