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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – December 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Central Park NYC, December 12th – 2017 photo by Rommel Tan

Long-time readers know that Wrongo has a very low opinion of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), who he considers an intellectual joker. He is often given a pass by the main stream media, who suggest that he is a thoughtful and principled Republican. But once again, he looked like a partially-informed hack on Thursday when he said that Americans need to have more babies or risk a collapse of Medicare and Social Security.

His concern is about the declining US birth rate. The Boston Globe reports that:

Ten years ago, the typical American woman had about 2.1 children. Today, it is about 1.77, representing a collapse in fertility on par with the declines in other countries that yielded Japan’s rapidly graying population in the 1990s, or Canada’s massive present-day demand for immigrants.

From Ryan’s news conference: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

People — this is going to be the new economic challenge for America. People…I did my part, (Ryan has three kids) but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Meaning, baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the work force…We have something like a 90% increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19% increase in the working population in America…

It is true that birth rates in the US have declined, but that’s not necessarily bad news. For example, birth rates for teenagers hit a record low last year. Also, Wrongo recently described McKinsey’s report on jobs lost to automation that showed 75 million jobs are at risk in the US by 2030.

Perhaps we already have too many workers for the jobs revolution that is occurring all around us.

And there’s an obvious solution to the problem that Ryan ignores: Allowing more immigrants into the country, either to fill the jobs being vacated by retiring baby boomers, or as necessary to meet tomorrow’s job requirements. But Ryan shows that he’s all in with Trump’s hard line anti-immigration positions.

Should American women become brood mares? This isn’t a new concept. The fear of being outnumbered by racial and ethnic minorities is the driving force behind today’s alt-right, and the view was around in earlier white nationalist movements. HuffPo interviewed Kelly J. Baker, author of “Gospel According to the Klan”. Baker says that the need to ensure that white women were having more white babies was a key part of the Ku Klux Klan’s platform during its resurgence in the 1920s: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Baker said that the 1920s Klan was “nervous” about the possibility of widespread birth control for white women…To push back against the rising availability of effective birth control, the Klan told white women that having as many white children as possible is your job and it matters for your family and your race and for America.

And now, Ryan makes this a mainstream GOP idea. For all of the political empowerment of women in today’s headlines, the Ryan argument lands in the same place as today’s alt-right, and yesterday’s KKK.

Ryan and the GOP want to see more babies, but they won’t support young kids with health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Quartz reports that next month, 600,000 American children will lose their CHIP coverage. CHIP has been instrumental in ensuring health care coverage of children in US families that aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford any other form of insurance.

Republicans talk a lot about the cost of healthcare. The cost of not providing healthcare to children in an America with failing schools is impossible to calculate. It is very high, it lasts lifetimes and possibly, generations.

Yet, Ryan is saying that American women need to have more babies to Make America Great Again.

And we know that he’s asking for more white babies.

OK, it’s Saturday, and we need a break from toxic politics, and maybe from obsessing about shopping for gifts. Hanukkah began this week, so Wrongo looked for a soothing piece of music that was inspired by the celebration of the Festival of Lights. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” by Adam Shugar.

If you look at the YouTube video, you will see that it has just 5,000 views. It should have many more. You should watch it because the music is good, and unlike most orchestral pieces, this string orchestra performs while standing. The video is shot from a high angle, and looking down allows you to see them all as they play together, almost like a choreographed dance. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” played by the Orchestre Nouvelle Génération under the direction of Airat Ichmouratov, with Mark Simons on clarinet:

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

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Is Greg Schiano a Pedophile Enabler Because He Worked With a Pedophile?

The Daily Escape:

Red- Palouse Falls State Park, photo by EarthPorn

Wrongo isn’t sure how many of you know who Greg Schiano is. He’s currently the defensive coordinator for the Ohio State football team. He was head coach at Rutgers, and a head coach in the NFL at Tampa Bay. Early in his career, Schiano was an assistant coach at Penn State.

We are talking about Schiano because he applied for the head coach position at the University of Tennessee. The two parties decided they liked each other, and reached a written memorandum of understanding, followed by a contract which apparently, Schiano signed.

Then, a few hours later, Tennessee reneged on hiring Schiano.

Shortly after the intended hiring became public, anyone with a stake in Tennessee football was slinging poo at Schiano. Why? A group raised the issue that Schiano’s time at Penn State overlapped with a Penn State coach, the convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky. The sum of the Schiano character assassination was this: Greg Schiano worked at Penn State. Someone told someone else that Schiano may, or did know what was going on with Sandusky.

It’s true that Schiano coached at Penn State. He has not been named in any lawsuit. No charges have been filed against him. No witnesses have come forward with any evidence direct or circumstantial, that he knew anything about Sandusky’s acts. The “evidence” of Schiano’s wrongdoing is a third-hand, ten-year old hearsay (one sentence) in a deposition. That’s what triggered the outrage by Tennessee fans.

There were protests on campus. There were statements criticizing Schiano’s hiring from a boatload of Tennessee politicians, including four of the five candidates for governor. It appears that the University and its Athletic Director, John Currie, capitulated to public demand by implying his new hire enabled child rape.

If that wasn’t enough, the White House press secretary weighed in:

Guess who’s the new head football coach at the University of Tennessee. Yup. The guy who covered for Jerry Sandusky. #GregSchiano

The Trump administration takes a position on a football coaching job based on unsubstantiated hearsay, while it openly supports Roy Moore for the US Senate despite reams of potentially credible allegations. Roy Moore says he didn’t do it, and that’s plenty for Trump. But Schiano is guilty as charged based on uninvestigated third hand hallway comments.

Let’s remember that Greg Schiano is not guilty of anything. Rumors are not facts unless proven. If somebody has something that proves that Schiano knew about Sandusky, let’s see it, and then let’s run him out of town.

Wrongo doesn’t believe that the people of Tennessee are outraged about what Schiano might have witnessed a quarter-century ago as a young assistant coach. They were furious because they didn’t think he was “worthy” of a Tennessee football job that used to be prestigious a decade ago. With Schiano’s middling 68-67 record as a head coach at Rutgers, and his failed two-year tenure as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they wanted someone better. And they found a way to torpedo Schiano’s deal.

If Schiano had been a hot-shot coach headed into the upcoming college football playoffs, would the Tennessee fans be up in arms? Highly doubtful.

The real story here is the power of the internet. Baseless charges make their way around the world, the White House has a hot take, fans protest, and outraged state pols demand answers. And then the guy falls like a sack of rocks.

What school is going to hire Schiano after seeing the reaction in Knoxville?

Whoever Tennessee hires next won’t be significantly more or less talented at coaching than Schiano. It’s important that the country sees how loud and ugly it can be when the fan base runs with a false narrative.

This is a teachable moment for our politics as well as for our universities. We need to do a much better job teaching critical thinking, or the mob will always find an audience for guilt by association.

Let’s hope this is something the next school, the next coach, and the next fan base (or voter base) remembers.

 

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A Year Later…

The Daily Escape:

Chalk Pyramids, Oakley Kansas – photo by Marlon Flores

(Wrongo is writing this on Election Day, and will not know any national or local results before you read the column on Wednesday. Two years ago, Wrongo’s hometown turned out 20+ years of Republican control in a deeply Republican county. The subsequent efforts by local Republicans to block change mirrors exactly what we have seen on a national level. Despite that, much was accomplished. We’ll know on Wednesday if vision or blockage controls the town’s next two years.)

We are one year into the Trump administration. Many of us are still dealing with the reality that the country elected someone who is incapable of empathy, who has very little understanding of how the world works. Someone who treats women, minorities, and people who disagree with him so appallingly.

The worst thing is how bad behavior (by Trump and many in his administration) has become normalized in the eyes of the press and the people. It started immediately with the administration lying about the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd. Martin Longman took a look back and sums it up perfectly:

Looking back a year later, it’s a struggle not to succumb to a well-earned cynicism. We don’t like to repeat our mistakes, which makes it tempting to over-correct for them.

There were…times when President Obama stood up and told the American people that we’re better than this, that we can do better and be better. It’s not a good feeling to know that the response [by voters in 2016] was, “No, we’re not, and no we can’t.”

…But one giant mistake doesn’t condemn us in perpetuity. I actually find comfort and a cause for optimism that so many people were unable to imagine a Trump victory. It means that I wasn’t alone in having some standards or in believing that we can be better than this. It’s just going to be harder and take longer than I was willing to imagine.

Wrongo thinks Martin is too optimistic, and we shouldn’t expect any real change in his lifetime. Why? One reason is that the Democrats can’t stop playing inside baseball long enough to have a winning vision for the country. The Donna Brazile kerfuffle tells all we need to know: There is no leadership in the Democratic Party.

So, no leadership and no vision. The Dems are like your kids fighting in the back seat of the SUV. While the GOP is a well-oiled machine, staying on message, even when they don’t agree with whatever it is that the Donald just did.

The Democratic Party leadership has to go, we can’t stand by them, not even for another election cycle. Mike Allen at Axios suggests we look to mayors for the next Democratic leaders:

Here’s something unusual and refreshing: There are two highly ambitious Democrats who don’t even bother hiding their strong desire to run [for president] in 2020 — and to reshape the party: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, president of the US Conference of Mayors.

Allen thinks that Democrats could be led back from the wilderness by a mayor:

  • Garcetti: “We’re too busy talking to ourselves, and about ourselves…People don’t care about our inner workings, or even our inner leadership battles…We’ve got to get back to speaking plain English. We are so inside baseball right now…Are you a Bernie person? Are you a Hillary person?”
  • Landrieu, speaking about the bipartisanship of the Conference of Mayors: “The one thing we never do in any of our meetings is think about what the Democratic caucus or the Republican caucus in Washington, DC, is doing. It never enters our mind…People in America are feeling unbalanced right now.”

Allen asked top Dem donors and operatives about possible candidates like Garcetti and Landrieu, and heard that they think DC experience is a vulnerability not an asset for a presidential candidate.

Wrongo agrees. America’s mayors actually do things, and getting things done energizes them. Wrongo has seen this from up close in his hometown. Mayors don’t talk like DC pols, they seem to love their jobs.

And it’s a level of government where Democrats have a deep bench.

The GOP’s goal is to destroy the New Deal, the environmental legislation passed during the Nixon administration and all of Johnson’s domestic achievements.

We won’t defeat their goals without a new message and a new messenger.

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Gen. Kelly Likes Robert E. Lee

The Daily Escape:

Fall at Lac Bleu, Switzerland – photo by Denis Balibouse

Wrongo’s internet was down for a few days, and a lottta things happened before he could get back on the air. We will take up trucks killing tourists on NYC bike paths, and Mueller’s indictments at some point, but today, Wrongo again finds that he just can’t quit John Kelly.

You know the headline, Kelly, in an interview with Laura Ingraham, expressed his view that the Civil War was the tragic result of “the lack of an ability to compromise,” fought between “men and women of good faith on both sides,” including the “honorable” Robert E. Lee.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Kelly’s comments:

All of our leaders have flaws…Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, Kennedy– that doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country, and it certainly can’t erase them from our history. And General Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean that it’s not our history.

Did you notice that she mentions JFK and Kennedy with one name in between? Or maybe she means John F. Kelly.

Was the leader she referred to Robert E. Lee? We can only hope that some reporter asked Sanders what Lee’s actual contributions to the country were.

Of course, he owned the land that is now Arlington National Cemetery, but that wasn’t a voluntary contribution, it was seized. Or perhaps she means the battle at Gettysburg, where he provided generations of military officers with lessons on the importance of managing your subordinates, and not charging fortified positions across a mile of open ground.

Or maybe it is that he lent his name to the 1969 Dodge Charger used in the TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”.

The next day, Sanders said that Kelly’s comment that the Civil War was caused by a failure to compromise came from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War” documentary. But let’s not go down the rat hole of whether Burns’ documentary is an accurate telling of Civil War history.

Kelly’s claim that the War was caused by a failure of both sides to compromise is totally undercut by the fact that most of the Confederate states seceded before Lincoln was even inaugurated. The election of Lincoln triggered the conflict; notwithstanding that he had not yet put the question of ending slavery on the table.

John Kelly was 40 years old when the Burns film came out. You would expect that he would have known more about the Civil War than you get from a video, even a multi-episode show. After all, he has a BA from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA from Georgetown. Most educated people do know better.

Maybe the White House will prove Kelly’s view of the Civil War with facts, you know, Hannity-style facts, not fake news out of some liberal text book that’s not approved in Texas.

Denis McDonough was Obama’s Chief of Staff for four years, the entire second term. Does anyone know what his opinion is about civil war monuments? About Robert E. Lee? About how a certain female Congresscritter from Florida is an empty barrel?

Kelly has become the empty barrel he complained about two weeks ago.

Let’s close with “Autumn in New York” by Billie Holiday. After the truck terror attack, we learned that six of the eight victims were foreign tourists. And despite the attack, it is still a wonderful time to be in NYC:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 22, 2017

We have entered a new Dark Age. Wrongo is reminded of the famous quote from the movie, “Blade Runner” where the replicant Roy Batty says just before he dies: “all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Is it all over for the America that walked on the Moon? That explored the planets, and funded basic science? That passed Social Security in 1935, and Medicare and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960’s?

Elections have consequences. Trump gave his supporters “their country back,” and his idea of making America great again is a resurgence and normalization of base comments, ignorance, and hatred of the “other”. Think about what actually happened with the Trump/General Kelly grieving widow moment:

A soldier died in combat. His widow, stricken with grief, gets a call from the President. The call upsets her.

That’s what happened. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, both Trump and Kelly should swallow their pride, and put the feelings of a war widow above their own. In Kelly’s talk in the White House Briefing Room, there was no apology to the wife, not an ounce of “we’re sorry she took it the wrong way, we of course meant to comfort her“. It’s all about: “That black congresswoman, what a fraud. Why was she there anyway”?

Wrongo served in the Army. He knows that generals are well-educated people, a part of whose job description causes other people to die. Kelly isn’t the worse person in the world; he had a kid killed in combat. That should lead him to take a hard look at what he did in the briefing room. He stood in front of the nation and told us all how sympathy for the next of kin has historically been done, how Trump did it correctly, and how unfair it is to criticize how Trump did it.

And that showed us EXACTLY what not to do.

And we didn’t need a lecture about how our professional military are the best people on earth. Kelly apparently believes that the professional military have higher citizenship status than citizens who haven’t served. Kelly stated the apparent orthodoxy among the top echelons of our military: That soldiers are the best part of America, and that they look down on the rest of us who are not soldiers.

Could anything be more depressing and scary?

Yes. It is WH Press Secretary Sarah Sanders telling the press corps: “Do not challenge the Generals” when it turned out that some of what Kelly said about Rep. Frederica S. Wilson was wrong. That theme will be repeated frequently during the Trump presidency.

Democracy has started its downward slide. It’s the start of our Dark Age. On to cartoons, assuming you feel you can smile today.

This is what the White House and Kelly are really telling us:

Maybe Next of Kin would rather just get a form letter instead of a call from the Donald-in-Chief:

Is this what we signed up for?

Kelly’s recruiting message isn’t real strong:

 

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 1, 2017

(There will not be a Monday Wake Up Call column tomorrow, you are on your own! There will be a Tuesday Wake Up, however.)

A few last thoughts on the controversy about kneeling during the National Anthem. This is by David French at the National Review, not some liberal snowflake:

If we lose respect for the First Amendment, then politics becomes purely about power. If we no longer fight to secure the same rights for others that we demand for ourselves, we become more tribal, and America becomes less exceptional.

A comparison for your consideration: A year ago, Colin Kaepernick knelt for the Anthem, and then pledged to donate $1 million to American citizens in oppressed communities. He has donated $800k so far. In the past eight months, now deposed HHS Secretary Tom Price has sat on chartered jets, stealing $1 million from American citizens.

And who do most Americans think is a real patriot?

On to cartoons. Trump’s helping hand for Puerto Rico is insufficient:

Trump’s tax plan looks like it will cost $2.4 TRILLION, but he alone can fix it:

Trump moves on in his quest to make America great:

With so many pre-existing conditions, the GOP should insist they are included in Trumpcare:

Wrongo doesn’t understand the Hefner mania:

 

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Our Military Needs to Take Charge in Puerto Rico

The Daily Escape:

Floating lanterns in Motoyasugawa River, Hiroshima Japan. The lanterns mark the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. There is one lantern for each person who died in the bombing – photo by the Asahi Shimbun

Why hasn’t Trump mobilized America’s military to help rescue Puerto Rico from the disaster that grows worse every day? Why the Band-Aid of repealing the Jones Act?

After eight days of delay, the Trump Administration has issued a Jones Act waiver. The Jones Act prohibits the transportation of cargo between points in the US, on any vessel owned or operated by a foreigner. The Trump administration issued a Jones Act wavier earlier this month, for petroleum products to be delivered for relief assistance in anticipation of the effects of Hurricane Irma.

Similar to many things that happen in Washington, the Puerto Rican Jones Act waiver is a sham. Why? Because it is a 10-day waiver. This, from the DHS announcement: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

This waiver will ensure that over the next ten days, all options are available to move and distribute goods to the people of Puerto Rico. It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms…

And the clock has already started. Wrongo used to handle shipping finance in Europe for a top-three bank. It will take a few days to get foreign ships loaded with the appropriate goods. Then it will take many days, possibly a week or more, for them to travel to Puerto Rico.

As an example the US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, leaving from Norfolk Virginia will take at least five days to reach Puerto Rico. And the Comfort travels at about the average speed of a container vessel, or a tanker, 17 knots. Even if a foreign tanker or container ship was already loaded and ready to go this morning, it is clear that few, if any, could arrive and unload in less than 5-7 days.

So, Trump’s “waiver” is a sham. OTOH, the situation in Puerto Rico is already far beyond needing a waiver of the Jones Act. Bloomberg reports that:

Thousands of cargo containers bearing millions of emergency meals and other relief supplies have been piling up on San Juan’s docks since Saturday. The mountains of materiel may not reach storm survivors for days.

Distributors for big-box companies and smaller retailers are unloading 4,000 20-foot containers full of necessities like food, water and soap this week at a dock in San Juan operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. In the past few days, Tote Maritime’s terminal has also taken the equivalent of almost 3,000 containers. The two facilities have become choke points in the effort to aid survivors of Hurricane Maria.

Mark Miller, a spokesman for Crowley, said:

…that’s where the supply chain breaks down — getting the goods from the port to the people on the island who need them…Trucks are ready to be loaded with the goods and precious diesel for backup generators, but workers aren’t around to drive. Instead, they’re caring for families and cleaning up flood damage — and contending with the curfew.

The buildings that would hold the supplies are either destroyed, or have no power. The over-the-road transport companies that have staff available and diesel on hand encounter downed poles and power lines while attempting to navigate on washed-out roads.

Planning for something of this scale should have started once we knew that Maria was a CAT 5 storm making a direct hit on Puerto Rico. But that didn’t happen, and now, the number of people who are out of money, food, water, fuel and critical medical supplies grows every day.

We should be sending vast amounts of equipment and manpower to help clear roads, and get things in a condition to where people can begin to rebuild. We should be sending mobile medical teams that can move in and out of remote areas and evacuate those who may die without medical intervention.

Our military has divisions of logistics experts that can supply an army even under very difficult conditions. They have units that can build bridges in a day, or rapidly repair roads for supply convoys.

Our military has the mobile medical teams that can handle wartime injuries. They need to be on the ground. We need a military-style operation to stem the tide of this disaster.

Why hasn’t General Little Hands ordered them into action?

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 24, 2017

Elton John inspires WWIII:

Most people know that Donald Trump was in Alabama on Friday, hoping to turn out the vote for Luther Strange, one of two Republican candidates for the US Senate.

What you may have missed was Trump’s divisive words at his rally in Huntsville, Ala. He argued that NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem should be fired. This was directed at the free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who since protesting during the Anthem, can’t find a job in the NFL: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

You know what’s hurting the game…When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. [audience boos.]

The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. [Applause.] Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!

Kaepernick’s mom said in response:

Guess that makes me a proud bitch!

Trump has re-ignited a debate that on its face, is something he’s tried to put behind him. Think about it: He calls a largely white crowd “people like yourselves,” and refers to protesting professional athletes, who we all know are mostly African American, as “those people“. Guess that he didn’t really mean he’d try healing the wounds caused by Charlottesville.

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, on CNN:

I think we’re going to see, potentially more NFL players taking a knee this weekend than we ever would have thought…maybe even college players, too.

Trump wasn’t done. He questioned the manliness of NFL players and the NFL itself regarding its concussions policy:

15 yards, throw him out of the game! They had that last week — I watched for a couple of minutes. And two guys — just really beautiful tackle. Boom: 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him — they’re ruining the game. [Applause]…They’re ruining the game. Hey look, that’s what they want to do. They want to hit, OK? They want to hit.

What is it with this aging, totally out-of-touch former pro football team owner? Could he be unaware of the latest medical research linking concussions to CTE in football players?

If this wasn’t bad enough, on Saturday he tweeted about the NBA’s champion Golden State Warriors and their star player. Apparently Golden State is trying to decide whether they should go ahead with the traditional White House visit. That got this from Trump:

And thus begins a twitter war between Trump and black athletes. Here is LeBron James:

Then, Chris Paul of the NBA’s Houston Rockets weighed in:

Benjamin Watson of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens made the obvious point about free speech that Trump’s Kaepernick comments ignore:

And then, Richard Sherman of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks:

Trump won’t let this go. He continued tweeting about black athletes as Wrongo writes this:

It is very difficult to see what Trump thinks he will get out of a war with wealthy black athletes. He is also putting the NFL on the spot, since they have worked hard to minimize the controversy about football players not standing for the National Anthem.

Maybe there is some insight in this Sports Illustrated article describing reactions to a reporter wearing a Kaepernick jersey at a Buffalo Bills football game. There are some predictable reactions, and many that are mostly “live and let live”. But that’s not something Trump would willingly do.

No Democrat who wanted to energize African-American voters for the 2018 mid-terms and the 2020 presidential election could possibly do better than Donald Trump is doing today.

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The Worst Person in the World (this week): Lindsay Graham

The Daily Escape:

Lighthouse in Husavik, Iceland – photo by Milonade. Husavik is the center of whale watching in Iceland.

Lindsay Graham has never been a favorite of Wrongo’s. Often, he gets the same treatment here as does John McCain, and for similar reasons. But the 62-year old who replaced Strom Thurmond in the Senate in 2003 hit a new low in an interview on BBC World Service radio show, Hard Talk. Graham was with McCain attending an economic conference in Lake Como, Italy, when he sat down with the BBC’s Steven Sacker for an interview. (transcription and emphasis by Wrongo)

At 4:08 into the interview, Sacker asks Graham:

Isn’t that the point that he (Trump) right now looks like a president who is polarizing the US in a way that we have not seen before?

Graham:

I would say that the country has been polarized for quite a while, just like your country. Brexit is a result of disenchantment with globalization. There would be no Donald Trump if President Obama had brought us together.

There, right there. Its Obama’s fault that Trump won the Republican nomination for president, because Obama didn’t bring us together. Graham implies that Republicans are uniters, but the Kenyan socialist just wouldn’t help them out with that.

Wait – the Republican Party didn’t want Trump, but Obama nominated him?

To say Obama created Trump is a poor projection. The GOP created Trump. Trump’s political success is the logical result of decades of efforts by the GOP to discredit government, and more recently, by their acceptance of virulent, and in some cases, racially tinged opposition to Obama.

The GOP wanted Obama to fail. Time’s Michael Grunwald reported on the Republican plot to obstruct Obama even before he even took office. He uncovered secret meetings led by then-House GOP whip Eric Cantor, and then-Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in 2009 where they laid out their “no-honeymoon” strategy of all-out resistance to the President-elect.

Remember that was a time of national economic emergency.

The Republican’s active resistance also tried to demonize Obama as a “king”, or a kind of Hitler. They fought against most of his policies. They shut down the government. Policy differences are understandable, and expected. What was unexpected and unacceptable was the unified GOP effort to make Obama fail as president.

The big Republican move to elect an anti-immigrant nationalist was fueled by the Tea Party surge in 2010, which was also in opposition to Obama. And it isn’t just the Tea Party. Republicans have long-struggled with various anti-establishment, ultra-conservative insurgencies seeking to upend the party.

Trump wasn’t the first to tap into the anger of disaffected white voters. Pat Buchanan challenged Bush in the 1992 primaries and again in 1996, when he led a populist revolt he described as “peasants with pitchforks.” Buchanan ran on a platform similar to that of Trump: anti-free trade, tough on immigration and focused on the plight of the white working-class.

So, Republicans own Trump now and forever, despite what Sen. Graham wants people to think. Graham’s contention about Obama is irrelevant to today’s situation, where Trump has failed to even try to unite America on any issue. And specifically, he failed to call out the evil posed by fringe Nazi groups, or show us how a president should deal with a national disaster.

When will the lying stop?

Since this is the first column since Saturday, here is a pro-labor song from the Rolling Stones, “Salt of the Earth”, written by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, the closing track on the 1968 album’ “Beggars Banquet”:

Sample lyrics:

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

 

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter: They brought us Donald Trump.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Totality Edition

“Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun
Whoa, but mama, that’s where the fun is” – Bruce Springsteen

The Daily Escape:

“Diamond Ring” portion of a total solar eclipse, 2009 − photo by Rick Fienberg

Welcome to totality Monday. We live in a time when few things are certain, but eclipses are highly predictable. Some think that a total eclipse is awe-inspiring, and possibly, life changing. Count Wrongo as a non-believer, despite the fact that this is the first total eclipse in the continental US for 99 years.

Wrong advice? Go outside, but despite Springsteen’s thinking, do not look directly at it, unless you have the correct protective glasses. Get the flavor, and watch it later online.

Over the weekend, country singer Charlie Daniels compared the removal of Confederate statues in the US to ISIS’ demolition of historical sites in Iraq and Syria:

That’s what ISIS is doing over in places…there were pieces of history that they didn’t like, they were taking them down…

Wrongo had a similar thought, but lands in a completely different place. Everyone was appalled when the Taliban blew up the world’s two largest standing Buddhas in Afghanistan in March, 2001, six months before 9/11. We were also appalled when ISIS  rampaged through Iraq’s Mosul Museum with pickaxes and sledgehammers, and again, when they destroyed the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria in May, 2015.

The Muslim radicals claim the destruction of ancient sites is a religious imperative. They have targeted ancient sites, graves and shrines belonging to other Muslim sects as well as those of non-Muslims to conform to their religious beliefs. Most Americans regardless of politics or party, denounced what the Taliban and ISIS did to these antiquities.

Today, Americans are angrily divided about the removal of Confederate monuments. Is Charlie Daniels correct? Are those who would take down the statues no better than ISIS?

This is a false equivalency. ISIS is an extremist movement. Americans who want to remove Confederate statues are morally opposed to slavery, and understand that their goal will only be accomplished lawfully. Many have ancestors who were slaves, and feel that statues celebrating the Confederacy are morally wrong.

This debate has been hijacked by today’s white supremacists, white nationalists and American Nazis who say they wish only to “defend” the appropriateness of Confederate monuments in the public square. Their view is promoted by the “both sides do it” talking points in the media, by Donald Trump, and by Charlie Daniels.

The Taliban and ISIS destroy religious monuments and statues either because they are not Islamic, or because they were not their particular flavor of Islam. The push behind removal of Confederate statues comes from a different place. They symbolize the Secession, and Slavery. Those who would remove Confederate statues see the Confederates as people who placed preservation of the unjust economic system of slavery above the very idea of our nation.

ISIS destroyed antiquities, while the vast majority of Confederate statues were placed by neo-confederates less than 100 years ago to celebrate the Confederacy, an insurrection that lasted just four years. One similarity that Charlie Daniels missed is that ISIS and the neo-confederates both try to manipulate reality, one by building, the other by destroying, monuments and statues.

One stark difference is that ISIS cuts people’s heads off, and eats their livers. That isn’t the modus operandi of Americans who want the Confederate statues removed.

Charlie Daniels, wake up. Just because an idea flits through your mind is no reason to spew.

To help you reflect on all of this, hear the great Carlos Santana in collaboration with the Isley Brothers. Together, they have just released the album “Power Of Peace”. The album covers peace-and-love-themed songs such as “Higher Ground“, “Gypsy Woman”, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”,What The World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love”, and others. Here are the Isleys and Santana with “Love, Peace and Happiness” originally by the Chambers Brothers:

 

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