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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Trump’s “Religious Freedom” Executive Order

The Daily Escape:

Cinco de Mayo parade in Puebla Mexico, where Mexico defeated France in 1862

Happy Cinco de Mayo! At the Mansion of Wrong, its ahi ceviche with mango, jalapeno, cilantro, ancho chili, lime juice and tequila in toasted won-ton wrappers. And Don Julio Anejo to wash it down. Not bad.

But among yesterday’s depressing news regarding the House passage of the Obamacare Repeal and (not) Replace, was the Orange Overlord signing yet another Executive Order (EO) touted by the Trump administration to protect “Religious Liberty”:

 

The EO directs the IRS not to enforce the Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment is a part of the tax code that forbids 501(c)(3) organizations (including churches) from participating “directly or indirectly” in political campaigns.

Churches have historically been free to discuss and promote any issue or idea. So, they can address things like civil rights, reproductive rights, police violence, or the sanctity of law and order. They can also urge people to get out and vote on Election Day.

In other words, they can push and prod about all kinds of civic issues and engagement, in order to get their members to cast their votes.

The red line for the Johnson Amendment is actually endorsing a candidate. Churches can give a sermon about the evils of abortion, and let the attendees connect the dots to a candidate, but it’s a violation of the Johnson Amendment for the church to connect the dots directly, and tell the members to vote for a specific candidate or party.

Trump’s EO removes that red line. It will let churches give full endorsements so they can tell their congregants that God wants them to vote for Candidate X, and if they fail to do so, He will be angry and the baby Jesus will cry.

Trump’s EO leaves the decision whether to enforce the Johnson Amendment in the hands of the IRS. That means the IRS could pick and choose which institutions to penalize, and it might be your church, and not your neighbor’s.

In February, Trump promised to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment. But, presidents can’t “destroy” laws with EOs; that takes an act of Congress. Republicans may try repealing the Johnson amendment as part of their tax reform package.

Nancy LeTourneau thinks that:

The executive order the president will sign today isn’t really so much about “religious freedom,” as it is being framed by Trump and the religious right. This is actually designed to further erode one of the remaining restrictions on campaign finance.

LeTourneau points to the “indirect” efforts by Franklin Graham to elect Trump last fall, and offers him as an example: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

To the extent that the IRS ignores this statute, Graham will be able to accept tax-free donations to Samaritan’s Purse [Franklin Graham is president] (or another non-profit he might set up) that will go towards endorsing and advocating for the political candidates of their choice. That will likely make Franklin Graham a major player on par with the Super PACs in American politics.

LeTourneau thinks the EO has little to do with “Religious Freedom”, but instead opens a path for professional evangelists like Franklin Graham to become king-makers in our politics.

This turns “no taxation without representation” into “representation without taxation”, a Republican wet dream that could undermine whatever remains of our campaign finance regulations. Where is the lack of religious freedom here? Churches don’t have to apply for tax-exempt status, and they could then say (or do) anything they want.

They just would have to pay taxes like everyone else.

OK, here’s some music for Cinco: Here is “Oye Como Va” by Santana. It was written by Tito Puente in 1963, and popularized by Santana in 1970 on his album Abraxas:

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

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Rethinking Religion’s Place in Our Politics

The Daily Escape:

(Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart has an article called “Breaking Faith” that references polling conducted in February by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Beinart makes a few interesting points about religion and politics that are at odds with conventional thinking about its role.

He points out that over the past decade, there has been a dramatic shift in religious affiliation in the US:

Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6% in 1992 to 22% in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35%.

Beinart shows that the conventional thinking − that this new secularism would end the culture wars and bring about a more tolerant politics – was wrong. More from Beinart:

Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization. But it’s also making America’s partisan clashes more brutal…As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.

This had huge ramifications in the 2016 presidential election. PRRI reports that the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has nearly tripled since 1990, and that this shift helped Trump win the GOP nomination. Even though commentators had a hard time reconciling Trump’s apparent ignorance of Christianity and his history of pro-choice and pro-gay-rights statements with his support from evangelicals, the polls showed it had little effect:

A Pew Research Center poll last March found that Trump trailed Ted Cruz by 15 points among Republicans who attended religious services every week. But he led Cruz by a whopping 27 points among those who did not.

Beinart reports that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful. Since the early 1970s, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college. And that was a big part of Trump’s support. According to PRRI:

White Republicans who seldom or never attend religious services are 19 points less likely than white Republicans who attend at least once a week to say that the American dream “still holds true.”

And secularization created political differences on the left too:

In 1990, according to PRRI, slightly more than half of white liberals seldom or never attended religious services. Today the proportion is 73%. And if conservative non-attenders fueled Trump’s revolt inside the GOP, liberal non-attenders fueled Bernie Sanders’s insurgency against Hillary Clinton: While white Democrats who went to religious services at least once a week backed Clinton by 26 points, according to an April 2016 PRRI survey, white Democrats who rarely attended services backed Sanders by 13 points.

Beinart point out that the trend is also true among Blacks, where the Black Lives Matter movement exists outside of the influence of Black churches:

African Americans under the age of 30 are three times as likely to eschew a religious affiliation as African Americans over 50. This shift is crucial to understanding Black Lives Matter, a Millennial-led protest movement whose activists often take a jaundiced view of established African American religious leaders.

Beinart speaks about Chris Hayes’s book Twilight of the Elites, in which Hayes divides American politics between “institutionalists,” who believe in preserving and adapting the political and economic system, and “insurrectionists,” who believe it’s rotten to the core:

The 2016 election represents an extraordinary shift in power from the former to the latter. The loss of manufacturing jobs has made Americans more insurrectionist. So have the Iraq War, the financial crisis, and a black president’s inability to stop the police from killing unarmed African Americans. And so has disengagement from organized religion.

The grim conclusion is that secularization may be dividing us more than we realize. Beinart closes with:

Maybe it’s the values of hierarchy, authority, and tradition that churches instill. Maybe religion builds habits and networks that help people better weather national traumas, and thus retain their faith that the system works. For whatever reason, secularization isn’t easing political conflict. It’s making American politics even more convulsive and zero-sum.

The corollary seems to be that religious affiliation brings at the very least, some appreciation of community and civility to our culture.

But, the increasing distrust in institutions in America continues to grow. If it’s big and rules-based, people are less interested than ever in participating, and that includes churches.

Now, let’s hear a song for Zeus’ sake! Here is REM with: “Losing My Religion” from their 1991 album, “Out of Time”:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 26, 2017

Five weeks into the Trump Ascendancy, and things look worse than ever. Wrongo has not had much time for the Trump/Russia conspiracy. If anything beyond the DNC hack surfaces, we can discuss the possibility of election interference. But as of now…unpersuaded. That is, until this coincidence occurred at CPAC:

From the Atlantic:

Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.

The stunt made waves on social media, as journalists covering CPAC noticed the scramble to confiscate the flags. It was a gutsy and (mostly) harmless gag, unless you count the damage to Conservative egos. That the gag was carried out by two people who should fit the neo-con profile for Normal and Safe shows that the tribe cannot tell members from interlopers.

Trump’s team refused to let accredited journalists from certain news outlets attend Trump press secretary Sean Spicer’s “gaggle” on Friday. This is where American news is heading:

It is more important than ever to know who the real enemy is:

Kim Jong-Un channels the Donald, and there are surprising similarities:

Trump walks away from supporting LGBT rights:

GOP Congresscritters are terrorized about meeting their constituents:

 

 

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Saturday Soother – February 25, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Crab Eater seal, under ice in the Antarctic)

Today, Democrats will select a Chair for the Democratic National Committee, someone who will be tasked with moving the Party towards relevancy after its 2016 election debacle. In typical Democrat fashion, there are 10 candidates who seem on the surface to be saying exactly the same things. One of the top candidates, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) promises to provide the party with a megaphone for a message of economic solidarity with the working class. Ellison said:

I am not afraid to say that I care about poor people…the rich people have a party, the Democratic Party needs to be the party of the working people.

Ellison proposes a 50-state strategy; listening to the grass roots; better candidate recruitment, and more effective organizing. Ellison is supported by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer (!)

Tom Perez, former Secretary of Labor under Obama, and front-runner, is supported by both the Obama and Clinton camps. He promises principled progressivism with some organizational change.

Perez’s focus on DNC organizational change could prove appealing to the insider voters, who want the action to take place at the state level. Last week, Perez’s team said he was nearing the 224 votes needed to clinch the race in the first round, while Ellison called that count “unverifiable”.

After years of emphasizing big donors, it seems that all candidates are expressing a desire to return to the hard work of a state-based, grassroots, 50 state strategy.

To some, this election is a choice between a populist, grass-roots organizer in Ellison, and the technocrat mainstream Democrat Perez, who calls himself a turnaround artist. Sounds like the Democrat’s 2016 primary all over again. Regardless of who wins, it will be spun as a victory for either the status quo, or for the agents of change in the party. OTOH, either of the two front-runners will be better for the future than were Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and her predecessor, Tim Kaine.

So, after another tough week in Trumplandia, you need to chill out, and so does the rest of America. Sit back, grab a cup of Peet’s Sumatra Batak Peaberry, and listen to today’s Saturday Soother. Here is Russian soprano Anna Netrebko in 2006 with the Berlin Opera Orchestra singing the aria O mio babbino caro” from the opera, “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini:

A nice way to spend 3 minutes, and you get to see in English what she is singing about. Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 13, 2017

Wrongo and Ms. Right went to a concert by Buster Poindexter on Saturday. Poindexter is a stage persona for David Johansen, a glam rocker from the 1970s, when he fronted a group called the New York Dolls. Poindexter’s thing is to look suave and sophisticated, holding a drink, while singing an eclectic song book. He tries to say something humorous as a lead-in to the next song. His first comment was that he had been drinking steadily since November 9th.

The venue is in rock-solid conservative territory, but the line mostly drew laughs from a decidedly middle-age audience, except for one guy who screamed “bullshit” loudly and often during Poindexter’s first song. Eventually, the local police came, and the guy became a model of passive resistance, going to the floor limp, and unresponsive. After assuring themselves he hadn’t collapsed, the police ushered him out to a standing ovation, again, in a solidly Republican part of Connecticut. But think about this:

That sort of indicates that Trump voters are a forgiving lot. They were prepared to lock up Hillary Clinton for using a private email server because it jeopardized national security. Now the Trump administration is doing the same thing, and many think its no big thing. From The Hill: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The [poll] results are surprising, considering Trump’s campaign included calling out Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while she was Secretary of State.

According to Newsweek, at least four senior officials in President Trump’s White House have active accounts on a private Republican National Committee (RNC) email system. Counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, chief strategist and senior counselor Stephen Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner all have rnchq.org email accounts. More from Newsweek: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The system (rnchq.org) is the same one the George W. Bush administration was accused of using to evade transparency rules after claiming to have “lost” 22 million emails.

Think about that. If it weren’t for double standards, Republicans would have no standards at all. But maybe the crowd reaction at the Poindexter concert showed us something: Buyer’s Remorse.

Remorseful Republican voters can help bigly in 2020 (and maybe in 2018), because all it takes is a few of them to make a difference in who becomes the next president. Presidential elections are won on the narrowest of margins, so if, 3-4% of Trump voters show remorse and flip, or decide to stay home, Trump could lose by a wide margin, even while maintaining the vast majority of his support.

Moreover, if many of them are demoralized or turned off by 2018 that could flip midterm Senate seats. Think back to 2006: the Democratic Senate pickups that year were in four states Bush had won (MT, VA, MO, OH) and one he had only lost by 2.5% (PA), which ended up in a 17 point blowout. Why? GW Bush voters stayed home, or switched.

OTOH, the only Republicans up in 2018 are the ones who survived 2006 and 2012, the year the Tea Party decided to debate “legitimate rape”).

There is virtually no way to make the 2018 map good. There are only 9 Republican-held seats up for election at all; three of those would have to go to Democrats in order to flip the Senate, even if all the vulnerable Democratic seats were held. The best that can be hoped for is mitigating the damage.

As Kathleen Parker in the WaPo said:

Thus far, Trump and his henchmen have conducted a full frontal assault on civil liberties, open government and religious freedom, as well as instigating or condoning a cascade of ethics violations ranging from the serious (business conflicts of interest) to the absurd (attacking a department store for dropping his daughter’s fashion line). And, no, it’s not just a father defending his daughter. It’s the president of the US bullying a particular business and, more generally, making a public case against free enterprise.

Parker is a conservative columnist. To an objective observer, it would seem that quite a few Republicans will decide not to defend the indefensible.

To help them arise from their slumbers, which at least a few did on Saturday night, here is Buster Poindexter with Hot, Hot, Hot from 1987:

That’s Bill Murray pouring the martini @ 2:00.

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

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Congress Greases the Skids for Exxon

(See below for the Daily Escape)

While America’s focus has been on the Orange Overlord’s blizzard of executive orders, and his public love-making with Putin, we were distracted from some of the actions by the GOP’s Congressional worms who are intent on chewing through our regulatory protections.

Did you feel burdened by a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule requiring that American corporations doing business overseas reveal how much money they’re spending in foreign countries? This is called the Resource Extraction Rule, and apparently, it has been a terrible burden for Exxon and other oil firms.

VOX reported that, on the same day the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, the House voted to kill a transparency rule for oil companies that Tillerson once lobbied against while CEO of Exxon Mobil. Now it’s on to the Senate and the Orange Leader for action:

Using the little-known Congressional Review Act, the House GOP voted on Wednesday to kill an Obama-era regulation that would require publicly traded oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments that they made to foreign governments, including taxes and royalties.

The Resource Extraction Rule is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. Back then, senators from both parties included a provision requiring greater disclosure from mining and drilling companies’ activities abroad. The hope was to cut down on corruption in resource-rich developing countries by increasing transparency.

Over the past six years, the SEC tried to craft a rule that would give the legislation teeth. But the SEC’s first attempt at regulation was struck down by the courts in 2012. The rule didn’t actually get finished until June 27, 2016. As Charlie Pierce says: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

In other countries, resource extraction is a polite way of describing corruption and bribery on a grand scale, and it’s also a dead serious matter for local activists who are trying to take on international corporations and their native plunderers in local government.

Remember the Congressional Review Act (CRA). It is the mechanism the GOP will use to undo much of what the Obama administration did in the areas of corporate responsibility and environmental justice.

At its core, the CRA states that any “recent” regulation (the Act’s definition of recent means it only applies to those passed by the Obama administration after June, 2016) can be repealed by a majority vote of both houses of Congress. Any repeal vote taken by the Senate cannot be filibustered, and the list includes more than 50 Obama-era regulations.

So far, the Stream Protection rule that restricted coal companies from dumping debris and waste into nearby waterways has been revoked, along with the Social Security gun rule that prevented mentally impaired persons from buying guns.

Now, they’ve gutted the Resource Extraction rule.

Under the CRA, the SEC is barred from crafting a new rule that has “substantially the same form” as the repealed regulation. So, Congress has thrown a rose to the oil and gas and mining industries that will be difficult to reverse.

Despite GOP concerns, similar rules are in place in the European Union. Reporting by the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Canada shows $150 billion in payments to governments in more than 100 countries.

Sounds like something citizens should know about.

The GOP’s argument is that American oil and gas companies need to make these under-the-table payments, in order to compete in third world countries.

This is America under the GOP: We can’t afford to provide the world’s best education to our kids. We can’t afford to take care of our elderly, but we absolutely must have policies that allow Exxon and friends to bribe foreign governments.

 

The Daily Escape: The National Library of China, in Beijing’s educational district.

(Image by Tian-yu Xiong for the National Geographic)

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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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Monday Wake Up Call -MLK Holiday Edition

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience….Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”Howard Zinn

Today we remember the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was America’s icon of civil disobedience, and a hero to most. And while injustice and inequality continue in the US, the thought that civil disobedience will deliver the astonishing results it did in the 1950s and 1960s seems nearly impossible. In the next four years, we will have trouble enough holding on to the reforms of the New Deal and the Lyndon Johnson years.

Here is a small proof: This week, the city of Biloxi Mississippi tweeted that some municipal offices would be closed on Monday “in observance of Great Americans Day, a state-named holiday”. That was news to citizens of Biloxi. How had the city changed the name of a federal holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr to celebrate unnamed “Great Americans”?

It hadn’t. This from the Guardian:

The incident, however, highlighted an awkward truth about Mississippi’s Martin Luther King Jr Day: that it is also Robert E Lee Day…Arkansas and Alabama also jointly celebrate Martin Luther King Day and Robert E Lee Day, despite annual protests.

States and municipalities were slow to recognize the MLK holiday, with New Hampshire being the last state to officially observe the day, in 2000. You may remember Arizona’s resistance to a holiday honoring MLK. It became a big issue in the late 1980s. In 1986, the year the federal holiday honoring King was first observed, Arizona’s House of Representatives voted down a measure observing it. But, Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt, who was about to leave office, proclaimed the holiday on his own.

Babbitt’s designation of the holiday became an issue in the next election. Republican Evan Mecham promised to overturn Babbitt’s order if he won. And after his election, Mecham reversed the proclamation. Mecham’s move led to dozens of groups cancelling conventions in Phoenix. After Mecham left office, (he was indicted and impeached), the debate continued, eventually leading to a statewide vote in 1990, but Arizona voters rejected the holiday.

That cost Arizona a chance to host its first Super Bowl in 1993 (the NFL’s decisions are made about 5 years in advance). Losing the 1993 game cost the state at least $200 million. The ongoing refusal to create an MLK Holiday also cost Arizona scores of additional conventions and tourist business. Not long after the vote, the NCAA turned down Arizona State’s request to host a portion of the 1994 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

It took until November 1992 for the state to finally designate the MLK Holiday.

Does any of this sound familiar? A Republican governor stands against an idea that the majority of America thinks is important, and the right thing to do. The state loses tourism and other business. It becomes a pariah, standing on ground that makes its governor look more like George Wallace than a modern political executive. We’re talking about you, North Carolina! Why is it always a Republican?

In 1991 the rap group Public Enemy released a song called “By the Time I Get to Arizona” on their album, “Apocalypse 91”. They wrote the song in response to Arizona’s’ refusal to create the MLK Holiday. The song is controversial, since the music video showed Public Enemy’s willingness to kill Gov. Mecham. Rolling Stone praised the album, stating that Apocalypse 91attempted nothing short of setting a sociopolitical agenda for the black community.”

Best wishes on MLK day. The struggle is gonna get way more real this year. Here is “By The Time I Get to Arizona”:

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

Sample Lyrics:

I’m countin’ down to the day deservin’
Fittin’ for a king
I’m waitin’ for the time when I can
Get to Arizona
‘Cause my money’s spent on
The goddamn rent
Neither party is mine not the
Jackass or the elephant
Why want a holiday Fuck it ’cause I wanna
So what if I celebrate it standin’ on a corner
I ain’t drinkin’ no 40
I B thinkin’ time wit’ a nine
Until we get some land
Call me the trigger man
Looki lookin’ for the governor

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Wrongo’s Useless 2017 Predictions

It’s tough to make predictions. Especially about the future.”Yogi Berra

Since you have already plunged a stake into the heart of 2016, it is time for some predictions about 2017, which most likely, won’t happen. We can expect the following:

  1. There will be more global political and social turmoil:
    1. The EU could collapse. France is a Marine LePen government away from pursuing an exit from the EU, so there would be a Frexit to go along with Brexit.
    2. China’s economy is wobbling, and China’s president Xi has leaned into a populist message:

On this New Year, I am most concerned about the difficulties of the masses: how they eat, how they live, whether they can have a good New Year…

  1. The US will continue to lose influence globally despite “Mr. Unpredictable” becoming our Orange Overlord: Trump brags about winning when he negotiates. That has been undeniably true in his real estate and name brand licensing. He will find that when the other side doesn’t need access to his brand in order to succeed, he will have to resort to instilling fear. That may work once, but it will not work consistently.
  2. A corollary: Trump arrives in the Oval Office as an overconfident leader, the man with no plan but with a short attention span, and within six months, he will have his first major policy failure. Getting his hand burned will make him more subdued, more conservative and less populist thereafter.
  3. A second corollary: The triumvirate of Russia/Turkey/Iran will elbow the US firmly out of the Fertile Crescent, and secure friendly regimes in Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran. This will push American influence in the Middle East back to just the Gulf States, a weakened Saudi Arabia, and an increasingly isolated Israel.
  4. Domestically, drug abuse, suicide, and general self-destructive behavior will continue to climb and become impossible to ignore.
  5. The Trump stock market rally has already turned into the Santa Selloff. The Dow peaked on December 20 at 19,975, 25 points away from party-hat time. But since then, Dow 20,000 slipped through our fingers like sand. It closed the year at 19,719, down 281 points from 20k.
  6. Regarding the stock market, many people who want to sell stocks waited until 2017 in order to pay lower capital gains tax. Selling in January could lower prices further.
  7. The growing antibiotic resistance to main stream drugs will impact health in the US.

Meta Prediction: It is certain that few Trump voters will get the results they voted for. Some people who voted for Trump have incompatible outcomes in mind, so it’s a virtual guarantee that a sizable minority are going to feel cheated when they fail to get what they were promised.

OTOH, when Trump fails, most of his base will blame anyone but the Donald. The question is, when disillusionment sets in, will the reaction be a turning away, or a doubling down on the anger?

Wrongo thinks anger will win out.

The coming Trump administration will seem like a fractious family outing: Just under half of the family (the “landslide” segment) wanted to go out, but now, the whole family has to go. Those who wanted to stay home will sulk in the back seat while Daddy tells them to stop bitching.

Meanwhile, once we are out of the driveway, it dawns on everyone that Daddy hasn’t decided yet where to go. Everyone pipes up with suggestions, but Daddy again tells everyone to shut up, because it’s his decision alone. There will be the usual “are we there yet?” complaining, some motion sickness and incessant fighting over who is touching whom.

Daddy won’t reveal the destination, but insists everyone will love it once they get there, even those who wanted to stay home, those who wanted to go the beach, and those who wanted to head over the cliff like Thelma and Louise.

Time for our Monday Wake Up Call, “Wake Up Everybody”, originally by Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy left the group for his solo career after this album.

But, today we will hear and watch John Legend’s cover of the tune, backed by the Roots Band along with Melanie Fiona, and Common. The song is as strong as it was 42 years ago when it was released:

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

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Did Fake News Swing the Election?

This from Paul Horner:

I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me.

Who is Paul Horner? He is the leader of a fake news empire, including his ABCnews.com.co site that The WaPo wrote about today:

Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire, has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years. He has twice convinced the Internet that he’s British graffiti artist Banksy; he also published the very viral, very fake news of a Yelp vs. “South Park” lawsuit last year.

But he really hit his stride in the 2016 presidential election. From WaPo:

In March, Donald Trump’s son Eric and his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, tweeted links to one of Horner’s faux-articles. His stories have also appeared as news on Google:

faux-news-google

He also pushed a story that Trump protesters were paid by Democrats. Even Trump on the campaign trail, said it was true. Here is the story behind the story by Horner:

My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.

Horner is correct. Here is (then) Trump Campaign Manager Lewandowski tweeting it:

lewandowski-retweets

WaPo asks Horner, why do his stories go so viral?

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it

Real news is so boring. Fake news is so compelling.

Despite Horner’s “dumber people” comments, satire should not need to be fact- checked by the reader to determine that it is satire, not false news. When Horner writes a purported news story reporting that a protester was paid thousands to protest at a Trump rally, that story presented itself as news, not satire. It also generates revenue for him while providing ammunition for Trump supporters.

NPR reported yesterday on how Facebook reviews news sites that post on their platform. They said that FB:

Turned to the consulting firm Accenture to put together a dedicated team of subcontractors. Sources say the team is now several thousand people, with some of the largest offices in Manila…and Warsaw.

Ok, outsourcing isn’t necessarily good or evil, but NPR also reported that:

Current and former employees of Facebook say that they’ve observed these subcontractors in action; that they are told to go fast — very fast; that they’re evaluated on speed; and that on average, a worker makes a decision about a piece of flagged content once every 10 seconds.

The 10 second rule means that a worker on an eight-hour shift, at the rate of one post per 10 seconds, means that they’re clearing 2,880 posts a day per person. How do you evaluate something as fake news in 10 seconds, particularly when you don’t even live in the US?

There’s another huge barrier: The subcontractors typically don’t get to see the full story, because the messages are truncated. Therefore, no one can really evaluate a particular story’s context.

This is America in the 21st Century. How can people develop good bullshit detectors, when the platform that 1.7 billion people worldwide subscribe to, can’t be serious about checking to see if something posted is true?

We are in an era where facts are increasingly irrelevant.

The solution is to fund independent social media organizations that really fact check BS statements. And then, reach out to counter the faux that easily-manipulated individuals want to believe. Their fact-checking will have to be part of social media, since that is what people who live mostly on social media understand. Next, treat them with respect, and work hard to relieve their underlying anxieties.

Consider Obama’s last press conference: He treated the reporters well, and they were respectful of him. He paid homage to the death of the respected newsperson, Gwen Ifill, including thanking her for holding his feet to the fire.

That’s the kind of presidential temperament we need.

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