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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 21, 2020

Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020: Come because you love Trump. Leave with the Trump virus. Wrongo isn’t a futurist, but as this is written on Saturday, there’s reason to be concerned that there may be an increase in COVID-19 infections in Tulsa:

“Six of President Trump’s staffers, who were part of the campaign’s advance team for the president’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been quarantined after testing positive for the novel coronavirus…”

Wrongo has a bad feeling about the aftermath:

  • People are coming from several states, some with rapidly-rising hospitalizations
  • It’s indoors, with no way to effectively distance
  • There will be cheering, singing, and chanting
  • Some attendees will have spent hours, possibly days interacting with each other outside the venue, and will spend an hour or two in line just to get in
  • These aren’t people who have a belief in masking and distancing

Speaking of bad feelings, the Guardian reports that armed militia members and bikers are gathering outside Trump’s venue. The National Guard has been activated in Tulsa. What could go wrong?

On to cartoons. Bolton’s book inspires the rest of Trump’s team:

Trump says Bolton’s book is all lies, and they are state secrets:

They knew it and did nothing:

GOP complains about demonstrators:

LGBTQ ruling angers the elephant:

Chart shows COVID in the US, based on which presidential candidate won in 2016. Notice anything?

The cure:

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 15, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Bright Angel Trail, in the middle foreground, Grand Canyon NP – photo by glowrocks

The chickens are coming home to roost. Michael Flor was originally the longest-hospitalized COVID-19 patient. Somehow, he survived. He came close enough to death that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes.

Today, he’s recovering at home in West Seattle, WA. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he just got the bill. From the Seattle Times:

“The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus:…$1,122,501.04, to be exact. All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages.”

More from the Seattle Times:

“…the charge for his room in the intensive care unit was billed at $9,736 per day. Due to the contagious nature of the virus, the room was sealed and could only be entered by medical workers wearing plastic suits and headgear. For 42 days he was in this isolation chamber, for a total charged cost of $408,912.

He also was on a mechanical ventilator for 29 days, with the use of the machine billed at $2,835 per day, for a total of $82,215. About a quarter of the bill is drug costs.”

Those charges don’t include the two weeks of recuperating he did in a rehabilitation facility.

Since Flor has Medicare, it is unclear how much he will actually have to pay out of pocket. Further, since Congress set aside more than $100 billion to help hospitals and insurance companies defray the costs of the pandemic, it’s possible that Mr. Flor may not have to pay even the out-of-pocket charges normally billed by his Medicare Advantage policy, but that remains to be seen.

The insurance industry has estimated treatment costs of COVID-19 could top $500 billion, so unless Congress steps up with more money, co-pays for COVID will soon become injurious.

One outcome of the pandemic may be that America takes a closer look at universal health insurance. There are many detractors in Congress, but the sticker shock that so many families will see from COVID-19 cases may restart the discussion. Medicare for all could work: A single payer with a set system of prices would be good for employers and employees alike.

It will be hard. Universal health insurance is such a tough problem to solve that only 31 out of 32 developed nations have managed to do it.

A second issue for today is the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta over the weekend. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving a complaint about a man asleep in his vehicle, which forced other customers to go around his car to get their food at the window. The man, Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks, was given a field sobriety test, which he reportedly failed…”

Brooks grabbed a cop’s Taser. More:

“…surveillance footage from the Wendy’s appeared to show Brooks turn toward the police and attempt to fire the Taser as he ran away. That’s when the officer chasing Brooks pulled out his gun and shot him…”

Tasers are a form of de-escalation instead of using firearms. The Taser momentarily incapacitates, but ultimately doesn’t threaten life. So shouldn’t it follow that if a suspect steals a cop’s Taser and threatens to use it, the cop can’t just shoot him dead since he’s being threatened by an ultimately harmless weapon?

The cops had his car, it’s likely they knew where he lived. They could have picked him up at any time. Instead, they killed him. The police tried to do something, the suspect resisted, and in the heat of the moment, the cop escalated to show that he’s in charge. It was a terrible reason to kill someone.

Time to wake up America! We have both out-of-control policing and out-of-control capitalism harming our society. To help you wake up, listen to Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 song, “Everyday People”. This is Playing for Change again, along with Turnaround Arts students. Trust Wrongo and watch:

Sample Lyric:

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah, yeah

And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee
Ooh, sha sha
We got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do

Of course there was racism back in 1968, but the musicians were preaching integration. Despite the racism back then, people were optimistic. Compare that to today.

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

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Will the Demonstrations Lead to a Wave Election?

The Daily Escape:

Lenticular clouds over Utah Lake, UT – 2020 photo by jephriB. It’s Utah’s largest freshwater lake.

One thing that is giving Wrongo hope amongst the (mostly) negative voices about the protests against police violence is how universal these protests have become. People have protested in all 50 states and DC, including in hundreds of smaller towns and cities that have not been in the spotlight during previous nationwide protests.

On Sunday, our little town of 25,000 had a demonstration supporting Black Lives Matter. Here are a few photos:

Photo by Pame Ortega

Photo by Pame Ortega

There seems to be something happening on the ground that may have electoral implications in November. Wrongo’s home town is in a very conservative part of Connecticut. It voted 75% for Trump in 2016, and is 94% non-Hispanic White. The town Facebook page is a cesspool of right wing comments. Yet the march was well-attended, and the marchers skewed young, white and female. It was completely peaceful:

Photo by Pame Ortega

The speakers on the town green included politicians, police, local clergy and rally organizers.

Wrongo has regularly scheduled Monday morning meetings with the town’s mayor, a conservative Republican. The mayor had attended the march, and we spoke in passing about the demonstration. He was pleased by the strong attendance, and was happy with the response by his police, fire and public works departments. He was also happy to see peaceful engagement by the citizenry.

Are things changing in America?

The WaPo reports that the closer someone lives to a protest, the more likely it is to change their vote. Moreover, protests influence not just election turnout, but also what types of issues rise to the top of party platforms, and who gets elected to local, state and federal offices.

Demo Memo reports that most Americans believe in the right to protest, but a surprisingly small share of the public has ever demonstrated. According to a 2018 Gallup survey, just 36% of adults have ever felt the urge to organize or join a public demonstration. That is much higher than it was during the fractious 1960s. In 1965 when Gallup asked the same question, only 10% of Americans said they had ever felt like organizing or joining a protest.

What’s driving the change in the willingness to demonstrate? Maybe it’s the growing polarization of our society. Or perhaps our growing diversity and the relative youth of our population are behind the change.

WaPo also shows that young people in the outer suburbs and small towns are becoming less conservative. They report that statistical analyses suggest that rural voters age 18 to 29 went from supporting Donald Trump by a 17-point margin in 2016 to supporting Democratic congressional candidates by an eight-point margin in 2018. Votes by their older neighbors (40s and older) barely budged.

Even the smallest cities have shifted leftward in recent years.

We’re in a new era. First, COVID-19 brought home to us who were the truly essential members of the American workforce, and how many of them were minorities. Now, we’re seeing first-hand how those same people are forced to live, and how they’re mistreated by our police and by American society at large.

As they say, you can’t unsee this.

Much of what is working to bring about change is the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been an organizing force working on these issues at least since 2014. Add to that, white suburban disgust with Trump and his goon-like behavior around both the pandemic and the protests.

It has become clear to white people that Trump would have zero issues with shooting them in the street, beating them, or pepper spraying them, or turning dogs on them.

And when most families are spending concentrated time at home together, their kids are asking them unanswerable questions.

The only answers are at the ballot box. Vote for change in the White House, the Senate, in your statehouse, your county seat, at city hall and on your school board.

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Defund the Police? Really?

The Daily Escape:

Looking Glass Rock, from Blue Ridge Parkway, NC – 2020 photo by 2paymentsof19_95

On Sunday afternoon, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members announced their commitment to disbanding the city’s police department (MPD), which has endured harsh criticism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

This step is considered part of the movement that is wrongly called “Defund the Police”. What Minneapolis is doing is reorganizing, re-imagining and redirecting their police. Calling this movement “defunding” is a misnomer that some in BLM, and others on the left have advocated, while the right has jumped on it to discredit Biden along with all Democrats.

Groups advocating defunding have put forward a variety of ideas. Some simply oppose police budget increases, others advocate mass personnel reductions, and some are fighting for actual defunding as a step toward abolishing police forces. Some initiatives are linked to the fight to close prisons. All are pushing for a reinvestment of any dollars saved into community services. Only the first two are mainstream ideas.

A reasonable question is what would the defunding advocates want on their streets instead of police?

Polling this month from Data for Progress indicates that 68% of voters answered that they would support: “Creating a new agency of first-responders, like emergency medical services or firefighters, to deal with issues related to addiction or mental illness that need to be remedied but do not need police.

According to a study from the Treatment Advocacy Center, a person with an untreated mental health issue is 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other members of the community. Even though many US police departments’ duties include responding to non-violent, non-emergency calls, departments keep expanding their military-style arsenal.

The question by Data for Progress had broad support, including 62% of Republicans, and higher percentages of Democrats, whites and blacks. Versions of this concept are already in place in Eugene, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.

It is also reasonable to ask, “Can’t we just fix what’s wrong”? The answer is yes, but efforts to do this have been underway for decades. If police and city officials in most cities had been serious about reform and policy change, we wouldn’t be hearing dumb ideas like “Defund the Police”, and people would not be this angry.

Newsweek reports that Camden, NJ had success in 2013 when it disbanded its 141-year-old police force. In its place, the surrounding county formed a new police department. This move had the result of busting the local police union. But the Camden County Police Department rehired most of the laid-off cops, along with 100 new officers, at much lower salaries and with fewer benefits than they had received from the city. From Bloomberg:

“The focus was on rebuilding trust between the city’s residents and officers. The remaking of Camden’s police department appears to have led to crime rates falling in the city. Camden recorded 67 homicides in 2012, while last year, there were 25.”

For Camden’s Black Lives Matter protest on May 30, officers left the riot gear at home, and brought an ice cream truck. The police department’s chief, Joseph Wysocki, who is white, brandished a “Standing in Solidarity” poster alongside residents holding “Black Lives Matter” signs.

And yes, the Camden police department is again unionized.

Disbanding police departments isn’t going to happen everywhere, but “reorganizing” local police departments is a necessity in most places, especially when the municipality’s police union management is not interested in reform.

The argument shouldn’t be to defund them, but to take away their military toys, and hold them to higher performance standards. With the right to exercise lethal force should come closer scrutiny for their behavior.

“Defund the Police” should mean: See what is happening in your town with clear eyes. See the original sin of placing property rights over human rights. See the original sin of racism in America and how it impacts the community.

Policing in America is deeply broken. Few departments are controlled effectively by their elected officials. America needs stronger mayors, town councils and district attorneys who can be for “law and order”, and also for protecting the rights of the people who are confronted by day-to-day policing. We will only have stronger public servants by voting them in.

It’s going to be a long struggle to rebuild our police departments into something that creates a peaceful community while valuing Constitutional rights.

That’s a struggle worth taking on.

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 8, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Banksy – June, 2020

Banksy is a well-known British graffiti artist whose identity is secret. But he’s become well-known, gaining attention for his politically charged works. The above appeared in an Instagram post where Banksy says:

“At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine. People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

Well said. We all should know where the responsibility lies for fixing the problems of racism.

Let’s hope that Americans understand the threat and the opportunity posed by this moment. Racism and the indiscriminate use of violence by police are burning the fabric of our society. How the fire is put out is entirely in our hands.

And the demonstrations continued over the weekend, mostly peacefully, at least as Wrongo writes this. These rallies have quickly become the focal point of a nationwide movement against systemic racism, and for police reform. They’re becoming better organized, and are unlikely to end soon.

Thousands gathered on Capitol Hill on Saturday to join a protest organized by Freedom Fighters DC. It drew one of the largest crowds since protests began there:

Source: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) joined the protesters outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Roll Call reported that: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…he [Sen. King] drew connections between the current uprisings and his experience at the 1963 March on Washington. He was a 19-year-old student at Dartmouth College and was on hand for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the march on Aug. 28, 1963.”

At the time, Wrongo was also a 19-year-old student, studying at Georgetown in DC. Sen. King says that this is a “full circle moment” for him, and Wrongo agrees. It’s a full circle moment for America. We appear to be on the verge of something big, politically.

More from Sen. King:

“This is what America is all about. First Amendment rights of people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances. This is a 400-year-old grievance…”

Roll Call reported that protesters and police kept each other at a distance and largely avoided skirmishes. King noted that Saturday’s crowd was about 80% white and young, which he called “significant” in comparison to Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington.

Having a large element of white support for the DC marches is important to building the political momentum for change. As Banksy said, “People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system”.

Kellie Carter Jackson, says in the Atlantic:

“Since the beginning of this country, riots and violent rhetoric have been markers of patriotism. When our Founding Fathers fought for independence, violence was the clarion call. Phrases such as “Live free or die,” “Give me liberty or give me death,”…echoed throughout the nation, and continue today.

More from Carter Jackson:

“Black rebellion and protest, though, have historically never been coupled with allegiance to American democracy. Today, peaceful demonstrations and violent riots alike have erupted across the country in response to police brutality and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Yet the language used to refer to protesters has included looters, thugs, and even claims that they are un-American.”

Particularly by Trump and Barr.

In reality, if we are to fix what’s wrong, it’s going to be fixed town by town and city by city. That means that domestic policing in the US needs to be reinvented from the ground up. It will be a huge job, since there are more than 18,000 police departments in the US.

It’s time to wake up America! We’re again seeing a grand revealing of what’s been behind the curtain since 1619.

We’re waking up to: “this is what’s going on in America?” Hopefully, it’s not too late.

And with COVID-19 added to the mix, we’re looking around, saying: “Wow. Why is everyone so vulnerable? Why is everyone living paycheck to paycheck? “What’s with the police brutality?”

Time to wake up and get busy. It will take an overwhelming turnout in November to right this sinking ship.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 7, 2020

There have been many kinds of protests by athletes about race, gender, and unequal use of power in American sports history. With the killing of George Floyd, many athletes have decided to use their voices and iconic positions in our society to speak out, hoping to change our society.

Here are a few examples from the past that seem heroic today.

1967: Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Lew Alcindor meet to show support for Muhammad Ali, who had refused induction into the US Army as a conscientious objector. Two weeks later, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison and stripped of his heavyweight title.

1968: It’s an iconic image, two American athletes raise their fists on the podium in Mexico’s Olympic stadium during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos used the black power salute, and were asked to leave the US Olympic team.

1996: Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf decided to stop standing for the national anthem. NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Abdul-Rauf for his protest. They later came to an agreement: Abdul-Rauf could close his eyes and look downward during the anthem, but had to stand.

2012: To protest the death of Trayvon Martin, members of the Miami Heat, including Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, donned hooded sweatshirts before their game on March 24, 2012.

2014: Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose came onto the court for warmups wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt, supporting Eric Garner, who died when a white police officer used a choke hold to arrest him. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

2016: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before his preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. When asked to justify his actions, he told the media that he couldn’t show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed black people and other people of color.

In 2020, people are finally coming around to Kaepernick’s position. We see many examples of police and protesters kneeling together as a sign of solidarity and de-escalation of possible conflict on America’s streets. Michael Jordan, long an apolitical athlete, just announced he will donate $100 million over the next 10 years to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Also in 2020: While Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser isn’t an athlete, she renamed 16th Street “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and had “Black Lives Matter” painted in large yellow letters on the street which leads straight to the White House. Bowser said:

“We want to call attention today to making sure our nation is more fair and more just and that black lives and that black humanity matter in our nation.”

Trump responded by complaining that the mayor keeps asking “us” for “handouts.” Apparently, Trump doesn’t realize that it’s the federal government’s job to partially fund the district.

DC, where the streets have two names:

Trump’s photo-op was too revealing:

America’s twin viruses are hard to take:

And it’s only June:

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First Person Report: Boston’s March for George Floyd

The Daily Escape:

Boston, May 31, 2020 – all photos by Kendall Lavoie

(What follows is a first person report by friend of the blog, Kendall Lavoie. She, her fiancé and a few friends drove from western Massachusetts to show support for George Floyd at a demonstration in Boston.)

Eight years ago, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, my eyes were opened to how cruel and unjust the world can be for people of color, especially in this country. Every year since then there have been multiple instances of unpunished police brutality, many lives lost, and still no progress or real change.

When I saw the video of George Floyd being killed in the street I was filled with sadness, anger, and a drive to do something.

Yesterday, we haphazardly constructed signs that we decorated with our slices of free speech, gathered medical supplies, and headed to Boston to join our fellow citizens in need. We wore PPE and tried our best to socially distance, which is difficult in a crowd, and we will be self-quarantining for 14 days as a result of the contact we made yesterday.

When we arrived in Boston, we first joined an early march along the streets to the Boston Common. We listened to people talk about how they felt while we knelt in the gravel and grass. Some quotes from the early march include:

“Don’t let this moment be fleeting. You gotta live this shit as a lifestyle.”
“Why is my color a crime?”
“This is a movement of us, all of us.”
“True allies that are out here today willing to put their health on the line, that’s what makes this different- everybody had to take a risk to be the fuck out here today.”

 

We marched to the State House and peacefully stood outside for a bit, and then dispersed and went our separate ways.

The late march started at 6:30 in Dudley Square. The amount of people who showed up was just incredible- almost the entire time I couldn’t see the front of the crowd or the end of it. Community support from residents and businesses was amazing throughout, motorists showed their support despite being blocked by our marching at times, and there was a real sense of people coming together for change.

We marched toward the Common once again for about an hour and a half. I heard one man say:

“This is the proudest I’ve been of my city in a long time. Look at all these people, they actually care.”

The sun set while we sat in the Common and made our way up the steps to the State House once again. Some started setting off fireworks, and others climbed the fence and architecture in the front of the statehouse. Aside from a few people who threw trash over the fence (and were immediately called out by the rest of the protesters with the chant “stop throwing shit”), we were completely peaceful. We weren’t blocking traffic as there were no civilian cars at this point, and later when there were, we made a pathway for them to get through.

The crowd began to thin out as people went home, and we decided to give it a few more minutes before we headed back to the car. We started handing out our medical supplies since it looked like we wouldn’t be needing them, and maybe others would want them for later protests.

That’s when the Boston PD sent three cruisers speeding into the crowd. No warning, I just turned to my right and people were running and screaming. The first one sped past, and the second one was inches from me. I actually hit the third with my sign out of instinct to “push” it away from me because it was so close.

This was a blatant baiting tactic to incite the violence that ensued. I was angry, the people around me were angry, we started chanting “THIS WAS PEACEFUL!” and some started throwing things over the fence. When they sent the cruisers back through, they got blocked this time and the National Guard came out of the State House and began firing rubber rounds into the crowd, striking one girl in the ankle who we helped, and another in the ribs.

On another pass through, a protester threw a frozen water bottle at the side mirror of a cruiser and it detached. The back window was shattered by another flying object. People threw their milk jugs at the cruisers and the National Guard sent an armored car through the crowd.

The crowd fractured and began to move off in different directions. We walked down the side of Boston Common where a garbage fire burned in a barrel and many had embedded their signs in the wrought iron fence. Police were in full riot gear, and in the distance smoke billowed from something large burning, which we later learned was a cop car.

We crossed the street and a girl stood there rubbing her face and crying. She had been pepper sprayed, saying she was too close to the perimeter as she was trying to videotape a man being beaten in the corner by police. This 18-19 year old girl apologized profusely for seeming to inconvenience us as we poured milk in her eyes. Her friends stood by her and helped her find her phone and we parted ways.

Another man down the street had someone guiding him because he had been tear gassed, but refused our help. Farther, we came to a street where police were surrounding a girl on the ground. People were shouting and I started recording, getting closer so she wouldn’t be alone. The police came at us with wooden batons and pushed us back. The girl was helped up and stood at the edge of the crowd crying and demanding to know the name of the cop who pushed her down, breaking her box of belongings and dragged her across broken glass. I didn’t get the name or badge number of the officer because he refused to turn around, but another officer retrieved her box of things and we left as they radioed in to “come wipe down the street.”

We helped get glass out of her ankle and gave her a bandage. We gave her the badge number of one of the officers, in hopes that she could get the other one via that, somehow. The man who assaulted her refused to identify himself and is paid by tax dollars.

While we were helping her, squads of police cars flew past us down the street. In the distance we could hear popping, and I’m still unsure if it was fireworks or rubber rounds. We walked an hour back to the car, checking in with people on the way who let us know where to avoid as we did the same.

We learned later that the police had shut down the T after demanding that everyone go home.

As we drove home, I tried to process what I had just been a part of. I’ve always supported police. I was raised with the mantra, “don’t talk to strangers… except for police.” They were always heroes, always there to protect me, and the bad ones were negligible in comparison to the greater good. After last night my opinion has changed.

I saw how my fellow Americans are treated by police when they try to protest peacefully for their rights. I saw how the Boston Police Department acted like cowards and used their vehicles as weapons. And I saw the power that people can wield when they come together.

We won’t stop until they stop, WE DEMAND CHANGE NOW. Get out there and do something about it!!!

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Can America Avoid Becoming a Failed State?

The Daily Escape:

Fall sunset, Shenandoah NP, VA – photo by juliend73

Sorry, but this column is going to be a downer.

We’ve been talking for the past few days about how hard it is to get politicians to focus on fixing what’s wrong in America. Wrongo originally started down this path in 2009. His plan was to lay out the problems, and to suggest ways in which America might fix them.

But 11 years later, little of what has been suggested here has occurred. Explaining what’s wrong has made very little difference.

Our really big problems now seem to be locked in: Climate change will happen. We can’t (or won’t) deal with the burgeoning disinformation platforms that threaten civil society. It’s difficult to see what will change our growing income inequality. As always, politicians are itching for a fight with some country. Today, the villain is China. Globalization has won, our supply chains now hold us hostage, and our economic future is increasingly controlled by Asia.

America is fast becoming a failed state: Our president tells people to drink bleach. There are more than 100,000 dead in the pandemic, and a significant percentage of them probably were needless deaths.

We have the ability to deal with the crises,but we’re choosing not to. Trump and McConnell, along with Biden, Pelosi and Schumer, all have access to the same, or more likely better information than we do.

They are choosing to ignore that the country is going to hell. Instead, they use each individual crisis for their own political benefit, and for their patrons’ financial benefit. They choose to ignore the near-certainty of a second wave of infections in the fall of 2020, bringing with it the possibility of a second economic collapse, along with more deaths.

We no longer provide the basics for our citizens. We live in a nation where income, savings, happiness, trust in government, and social cohesion are all in free-fall.

This is a recipe for social collapse.

In America most infrastructure is decrepit, from airports, to schools, to roads, because there hasn’t been much public investment. That’s because Americans don’t want to pay higher taxes like the Europeans do. Politicians on both sides still believe the evidence-free ideology of neoliberalism: We’ll all be rich if we invest in nothing, and wait for Mr. Market to correctly allocate resources.

No one cares about anyone else. Nobody will support any group’s pursuit of any goal unless it is also their goal. American life is becoming purely individualistic, adversarial, and acquisitive.

We haven’t invested in the systems that provide healthcare, education, retirement, and childcare. As a result, the average American family now goes without many of these things, since they’re priced out unless they have high paying jobs.

We pay absurd prices for health care. Having a child? That’ll be $50K. An operation? It will cost about what you would pay for a starter home. If she didn’t have health insurance, Wrongo’s daughter’s medication would cost $10,250/month. These basics of life are affordable in the rest of the rich world, but in America, they cost more than the average person can pay.

The average American now dies with $62k in debt. Life has become a sequence of unrepayable loans. Student debt becomes credit card debt and a mortgage, which leads to medical debt. These forms of debt define life in America. The average American is now a poor person, in the sense that they barely make enough to pay for the basics of life. Today, 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, struggle to pay their basic bills, and 63% can’t raise $500 for an emergency.

These are the statistics of a nation that is descending into poverty.

Can it be fixed? Sure, but who’s going to pay for it? If taxes can’t be raised, if deficits can’t grow, what will happen? Nothing.

Except that we will move closer to a collapse. Our leaders say it’s because there isn’t an alternative. They say that we don’t have the money to pay for the changes we want. 70% of Americans say they want decent healthcare, retirement, and education, but they never vote for it.

Not even when it is offered during the primaries.

And it’s never offered in the general election, because nobody will vote for higher taxes to fund a functioning society. The idea simply isn’t acceptable to either of our political parties.

Wrongo’s decade of writing about what’s wrong hasn’t changed anything. Change requires a commitment to taking political risks, and massive voter turnout.

Otherwise, same old, same old is the path to our society’s destruction.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 24, 2020

From the Atlantic’s article, How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic.

The agency confirmed to The Atlantic…that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons. This is not merely a technical error.

States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points….Viral tests, taken by nose swab or saliva sample, look for direct evidence of a [current] coronavirus infection.…Antibody tests, by contrast, use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past.

A negative test result means something different for each test. If somebody tests negative on a viral test, a doctor can be relatively confident that they are not sick right now; if somebody tests negative on an antibody test, they have probably never been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus….The problem is that the CDC is clumping negative results from both tests together in its public reporting.”

The CDC stopped publishing a complete database of daily test results on February 29. When it resumed publishing test data, the website explaining its new COVID Data Tracker said that only viral tests were included in its figures:

“These data represent only viral tests. Antibody tests are not currently captured in these data,”

On May 19, that language was changed. All reference to disaggregating the two different types of tests disappeared.

The change has made the CDC’s testing data look more favorable. Last Monday, a page on the agency’s website reported that 10.2 million viral tests had been conducted nationwide since the pandemic began, with 15% coming back positive. But on Wednesday, after the CDC changed its terms, the same page said that 10.8 million tests of any type had been conducted nationwide, and the rate of positive tests had dropped by one percent.

Blending viral and antibody tests will drive down the rate of positive tests dramatically. It makes it look safer to reopen the economy. On to cartoons.

Reopen the economy. What could go wrong?

America needs a better role model:

Social cohesion used to be a thing:

Trump demands churches reopen. Where will he be on Sunday?

After WFH ends, will there be regrets?

Biden’s doing great by doing nothing:

We shouldn’t get cocky. Remember that Trump “won” in 2016 when just 25.5% of eligible American voters voted for him.

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Saturday Soother, Economic Damage Edition – May 16, 2020

The Daily Escape:

View of grasslands, south of Denver, CO – 2020 photo by crappydenverphotog

Happy Saturday fellow disease vectors!

Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that the effects of the pandemic could permanently damage the economy if Congress and the White House did not provide sufficient financial support. Job losses average 25% currently, and are higher in some states.

Powell thinks the country needs more funding for the segments of the economy that are seriously underwater. While the House has offered up a plan for new money, Mitch McConnell says he’s far from interested in new money for the states, or those who are out of work.

We can’t say often enough how badly federal leadership has failed us throughout this crisis.

In the executive branch, we’ve seen incompetence and political ideology overwhelm what little crisis leadership there might have been. Test kits were available from the WHO in January, but the CDC choose not to use them. Then, their own tests didn’t work.

Testing was deliberately limited by the administration as disease transmission grew, and the virus escaped early containment. Supplies of PPE were not allocated to hospitals according to need. And, no federal system to manage the global medical supply chains exists, despite every governor saying it’s needed.

Congress wasn’t much better. Action was marred by politics, and a misunderstanding of the economic issues. Instead of simply replacing lost wages, the SBA issued rules that firms found difficult to comply with. Banks gave preference to their big clients, and the money soon ran out. The effort to save the economy by pouring money into it through conventional channels was inadequate, inefficient, and in some cases, corrupt. The only thing that can be said is that it was better than doing nothing.

The push to reopen the economy is premature. Some state governments facing fiscal disaster are reopening. Georgia, for example, has now lost the jobs of 39.5% of those who were employed in February 2020. It is unclear that closed retail businesses can be profitable when reopened, since their capacity will be limited for public health reasons. Right now, many businesses may face bankruptcy.

In any event, rents, mortgages, utility bills and other debts continue to accrue for individuals and businesses. And we found out that 40% of low income households have experienced job losses, compared to 20% overall.

Employees are also potential victims of the reopening. The Trump administration is advising state governments on how to remove workers from unemployment insurance.  Employers can demand workers show up, and if they refuse, they no longer qualify. Why would the workers refuse? Because their workplaces will still be unsafe.

It gets worse: Nearly half of people surveyed by Magnify Money now say they have to draw money from their retirement accounts because of the COVID-19 lockdowns:

The majority of respondents who withdrew funds to cover basic expenses is disheartening. The survey revealed that 60% of respondents used their retirement funds to pay for groceries, 42% spent it on household bills, 31% used it for rent or mortgage payments and 27% used it for debt payments.

Although the scale of the pandemic-caused economic catastrophe was known almost immediately, the Trump administration had limited interest in the health and well-being of the rest of us. Their main interest appeared to be winning the presidency in November.

But you can’t beat something with nothing.

People need help. If they aren’t offered anything good, many will accept something pretty awful, like more Trump for example. Biden is promising a return to the status quo ante, but that’s magical thinking.

The economy wasn’t working for many Americans before the pandemic. Now, the pandemic has taken a sledgehammer to it, and we are looking at what is left. American Capitalism needs to be reformed.

Sorry that we’re entering the weekend on a gloomy note. Since it’s our Saturday Soother, let’s kick back and forget about all that’s weighing us down. Let’s free our minds for a few moments. It’s going to be a spring-like weekend here at the fields of Wrong, so time for more yard work.

To help you settle into the weekend, start by listening to Vaughan Williams composition from 1903, “The Solent”, played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Paul Daniel.

The Solent is the channel between the Isle of Wight and southern England:

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

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