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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 26, 2017

From the NYT: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

33 Republicans stopped the [Trumpcare] bill. 15 were from the “Freedom Caucus,” 10 were “moderates” mostly from the Northeast (the “Tuesday Group”), some of whose districts went for Clinton, and 8 were miscellaneous (“One said he was concerned about its changes to Medicaid expansion, another preferred a full repeal and a third said he was worried about the bill’s impact on treatment for opioid abuse”).

Republicans control 237 seats of the 435 seats in the House. It requires 218 votes to pass a bill. When Paul Ryan and Donald Trump lost 33 Republican votes, the bill couldn’t pass, and had to be withdrawn. That means the GOP really doesn’t control the House, and that’s unchanged since John Boehner was Speaker.

The Republicans have majority control of the House and the Senate. They also have the self-proclaimed greatest deal-maker sitting in the Oval Office.  They have been talking about repealing Obamacare for seven years since it was signed into law, and they couldn’t get their own party to fall in line.

But Trump isn’t a deal maker, he’s a salesman.

And that’s a huge difference. Savvy business people seem willing to buy whatever he is selling. He seems to have the charisma and persuasiveness that in his prior life, made him a top earner as a real estate mogul.

But there’s a difference between making a sale and making a deal. Deal making is hard; you have to build trust, you have to establish real relationships, you need a mastery of your deal points and those of the person on the other side. It can be slow, grinding work.

Trump doesn’t do that, he’s never done that. His entire career is a lurch from one deal to the next, and his Presidency is no different. Trump closed the sale with the American people, but once elected, his job is to make deals.

On to cartoons.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Obamacare execution:

GOP’s Health Care March Madness bracket is now busted:

Boehner shows Ryan how to cope with Freedom Caucus:

Expect the GOP to keep trying to replace Obamacare until we all do this:

Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) burns the GOP:

Sadly, Menendez is also a joke of a Senator. He is about to go on trial for public corruption. Still, the tweet is funny.

Gorsuch epic head-fakes are now a required course in sports:

Trump’s Poodle, Devin Nunes can’t be counted on to keep secrets well, secret:

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February 15, 2017

The Daily Escape:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The Philology library at Berlin’s Free University. Designed in the shape of the human brain)

Trump’s National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is out. His lies or charitably, his misremembering whether his communications with the Russian ambassador included discussing the sanctions that had recently imposed by the outgoing Obama administration, were too much even for the fact-challenged Trump administration. That became patently obvious after the WaPo dropped the bombshell that Trump was warned about Flynn’s ties by the Justice Department before the inauguration.

Who notified them? Then-acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates. You remember that Yates was later fired by Trump for advising the President that his Muslim ban was unconstitutional.

She informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

When she notified the White House that the FBI had Flynn on tape talking with the Russian Ambassador, she also told then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan.

So the Trumpets had more than enough of Ms. Yates by the time she advised them that the Muslim ban wouldn’t fly.

Flynn resigned Monday night. Most Republicans say there is nothing more to see here, and that we should move along. Democrats want an independent investigation.

Whether this issue is over or not probably depends on whether you believe that Flynn was a rogue actor, operating without any cooperation or involvement by others in the Trump administration. Was something larger at work? Was it just Flynn lying to Pence, and then Flynn lying to Trump?

That’s possible, but considering the character of some of the people in this administration, from Trump to Bannon, to Miller and Conway, it seems unlikely that Flynn was acting alone.

And on Tuesday, Trump tweeted, after accepting Flynn’s resignation, that:

The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?

We all know that isn’t the real story. Thank you Sally Yates!

Here is The Who with “Behind Blue Eyes” from their album, “Who’s Next”. It was recorded in March, 1971. It describes the Orange Overlord to a “T”:

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

Sample Lyrics:

No one knows what it’s like
To be a rich man
It’s a bitch, man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be baldpated
Telling only lies

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do

And I blame you

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 15, 2017

In a week filled with news that forces you to look at it, one thing stands out: The “Dossier” on Donald Trump which purports that the Russians have collected some things that could be used to blackmail our Orange Overlord. There are many things to “get”, in order to understand this story, but let’s focus on the blackmail element.

According to the 35-page Dossier, Russia (supposedly) has blackmail material on Trump but isn’t using it. OTOH, the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community (IC), and certain media players are using it, both by making sure we know that the Dossier exists, and that Trump and Obama were told about it.

The story, which had apparently been around DC since the summer, was retailed to the rest of us this week. Trump’s reaction was typical, blaming the IC, while saying it was more fake news. And it could be just that, no one seems to know.

Then, Trump was warned by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader, saying on MSNBC: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Wow! The president-elect threatened by the Senate Minority Leader, implying that the IC will get back at him if he doesn’t stand down. And there was no shock from Democrats, who have decided that they are the CIA’s best buddies, and that they love, love the rest of the IC.

Yet, when Clinton was being skewered for her emails, Dems protested loudly about the interference by the FBI. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece about the IC inserting itself into the US election, along with the Russians and others. As part of the story, he has this to say about the Democrats:

Did Russia attempt to interfere in the US election? Of course, and Democrats condemned it. Did the agents of the FBI et al attempt to interfere in the US election? Of course, and Democrats condemned it. Is the national security state today interfering in the outcome of a US election, by trying to destabilize and force its will on the incoming administration? Of course, and Democrats are cheering it.

The Dems are seeing just what they want to see, and that’s the (for now) flesh wound inflicted on Trump by the IC. They are not looking at what’s in plain sight. Which is the many efforts at false news stirring the pot of presidential illegitimacy, by domestic state actors as well as foreign.

Democrats should not support this; it’s dangerous…for them as well as for America. More about this next week.

The IC is far from happy with the Donald:

The GOP has started on their Repeal and Replace plan:

The GOP wants to take care of at least one pre-existing condition:

Trump’s cabinet nominees began their Senate hearings this week:

Secretary of State Nominee, Rex Tillerson, has to prove he’s not channeling Exxon:

Obama gave his farewell speech, and headed into the sunset:

 

 

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Amazon’s Echo and Personal Privacy

Wrongo’s daughter gave him an Amazon Echo Dot for his birthday. Bob Lefsetz says that Amazon is becoming the new Apple: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The Echo came with almost no instructions. Simple packaging. Not a work of art, like [Steve] Jobs’ creations, but far from the old Microsoft where there’s so much info you’re inundated.

Simple and slick, particularly when it comes to using Echo to listen to music on Spotify, (assuming that you have Spotify premium) because Alexa eliminates a step. Before the Echo, you navigated your PC or mobile to Spotify’s site, entered the artist or track you wanted to hear in Spotify’s clunky search engine, then waited for the track to pop up, and then clicked on it to play.

With Alexa, you say the name of the track and/or the artist, and tell Alexa you want to hear it on Spotify, and it begins playing. Very nice.

Alexa brought in yuuge sales numbers for Amazon this season. Bloomberg reported:

Sales for Echo speakers based on Alexa’s voice-recognition software were nine times more than the 2015 holiday season…Echo and Echo Dot were the best-selling products across Amazon this year…

Sales were so good that Amazon sold out of its Echo speakers in mid-December. The Echo shortage shows voice-activated assistants have found a strong niche with consumers. But there’s a potential dark side to having an Alexa device: Alexa’s job is to listen to you speak, and then recognize and use those data.

This begs the question of whether you should have any expectations of privacy if Alexa is plugged in. If you think this is an academic question, consider that police in Arkansas want to know what an Amazon Echo device may have heard during a murder:

Authorities in Bentonville issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder for the death of Victor Collins next year.

Sound Orwellian to you? Your hot new Xmas gift may be the Trojan horse that kills your privacy.

Police say Bates had several other discoverable smart devices, including a smart water meter. The water meter shows that 140 gallons of water were used between 1 AM and 3 AM the night Collins was found dead in Bates’ hot tub. The police think all that water was used to wash away evidence of what happened that night.

The data from the water meter, and the request for stored Echo information raise questions about what constitutes individual privacy in the internet of things (IoT). Due to the “always on” nature of the Echo, authorities want any saved audio the speaker may have picked up that night. The Echo is supposed to be only activated by certain words, but it spoke random answers to Wrongo, when not asked a question, if the room it was in was filled with people over the holidays.

What’s more, Echo captures audio and streams it to the cloud when the device hears a wake word, such as “Alexa.” What the owner says are called “utterances” by Amazon, and they are stored in the cloud until a customer deletes them either individually, or all at once.

Why does Amazon save your words? Probably because you can order items from them via the Echo. A record of the sale could be necessary in a dispute.

In the Bates case, Amazon would not provide the police with any information that Bates’ Echo had logged on its servers. It later released a statement:

Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.

So, Amazon just told the Bentonville police and police everywhere what they have to do to get your stored information: Your privacy is in play if you have an Echo, and you get arrested.

We have an expectation of privacy in our homes, but these devices listen to you, they talk to each other, and to companies like Amazon and Spotify, so the challenge to individual privacy seems very clear. Governments from city to federal, will try to develop any information they can about a criminal case. If those data are gleaned from a smart device in your home, it’s just another data point, and it will become your job to make the case that your Constitutional rights were violated.

The Constitutional question is whether the data you generate in your home through internet-connected devices are data that you own at all. Do you share ownership with corporate America?

Does the state have rights to your private information if they say they need it?

Tip: Alexa has a microphone off button. Use it. Its possible that Amazon can’t hear you then.

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 21, 2016

Broadway attacked Mike Pence, not with sticks and stones, but with words. Mr. Pence went to see “Hamilton”, but was greeted with boos, and then the cast addressed him after the performance from the stage:

We, sir, we are the diverse Americans who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us…But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

Maybe it would have been appropriate for Mike Pence and Brandon Dixon, the Aaron Burr character who addressed Pence, to just duel out on Broadway after the play. But The Donald stepped in to protect Pence by dueling with the cast of Hamilton instead. As part of a tweet storm, Trump tweeted his demand for an apology. Get used to it, there will be many, many more demands via twitter by your Orange Overlord. This from Trump:

trump-apologize

If this got under Trump’s skin, maybe Hillary was right. Pence was professional in the low-key way in which he responded to the confrontation at the theater. Trump of course, was not. He could have seized the opportunity to assuage the fears of Americans who are afraid of what may be coming after January 20th.

He could have made it clear that his election night promise to be “A President for all Americans” actually meant something

Trump must know that the theater is a place to be challenged. NO one goes to the theater thinking it is a safe zone where their precious little Fe Fe’s will be safe. It is the nature of theater and the arts in general to challenge us, to force us outside of our comfort zone, to make us consider alternate ways of viewing the world. From Bob Lefsetz:

This is what artists do. They speak truth to power. They make people uncomfortable. And when there’s a reaction, they know they’ve done their job.

The negative social media response to Trump’s tweet went viral. More from Lefsetz:

…we’ve got a President-elect who uses social media to get his message across…Isn’t it funny that a contrary opinion is now being spread through the same platforms? My inbox and Twitter were ablaze last night after the “Hamilton” kerfuffle. Word spreads fast these days, and the last ones on it are the mainstream media, who go to bed at 11 when we live in a 24/7 world.

There were lots of comments supporting DJT’s tweet, that what the Hamilton cast said was “inappropriate” or was said in the wrong venue. So the Hamilton team has no right to speak up? Hogwash. So where do we go from here?

Have we ever seen this kind of spontaneous pushback right after a presidential election (other than Lincoln’s, which precipitated the Civil War)? There is demonstrable national unrest, people are pissed. And Trump now demands that people just lie down and take it?

Trump isn’t getting an apology.

Trump said that he wants to be president of all Americans. But post-election, he is acting as he did while campaigning. He expects to preside over all, attempting to quell dissent by forcing people who disagree with him to toe the line. If you want to be part of Making America Great Again, you will treat him and his administration with decorum and proper respect. Like this:

cow-healing

Yea, No. Time to be inspired to speak truth to power. Time to perfect your message of dissent. Time to develop a message that wins in 2018 and beyond. Let the Hamilton cast inspire your actions. Inspire others so that it is clear where the Orange Overlord is taking us. The time for revolution is here.

It’s time to wake up if you think that giving Trump a chance to heal America is a good idea. Healing requires a two-way street of thought and communication. But all that we are likely to get from the Orange Overlord are tweets that say get back in line, or here come the cops.

To help with your morning wake up, here is the late Mose Allison, who died last week, with his song, “Your mind’s on vacation but your mouth is working overtime”. It was said that Allison was a social critic before Dylan and a musical satirist before Randy Newman. His music has influenced many artists, including Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, the Yardbirds, John Mayall, JJ Cale, and the Who.

Here is “Your mind’s on vacation but your mouth is working overtime”.

Sample Lyrics:

You’re sitting there yakkin’ right in my face
I guess I’m gonna have to put you in your place
Y’know if silence was golden
You couldn’t raise a dime
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is
Working overtime

You’re quoting figures, you’re dropping names
You’re telling stories about the dames
You’re always laughin’ when things ain’t funny
You try to sound like you’re big money
If talk was criminal, you’d lead a life of crime
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is
Working overtime

Does this remind you of a certain orange someone?

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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September 21, 2016

On-the-ground insight from the Chelsea area of Manhattan on Sunday: Long-time reader David P. gives us some, from the day after the bombing:

I just finished reading your Wrongologist entry for today.

OTOH, I find some evidence that fear is not (universally?) out of control. We drove into NYC yesterday [Sunday] after seeing TV accounts of the bombing in Manhattan at 23rd St, near 5th Ave. In a 10-block stroll through the West Village and Chelsea, I noted no businesses, of the sort normally open on Sundays that were shuttered. We had brunch at a restaurant on the corner of 20th St and 7th Ave., in the open air. The sidewalks were bustling and the street traffic seemed to be at the expected level for a Sunday. I exchanged a few social niceties and joking exchanges with waiters and other strangers; none seemed fixated on what had and was transpiring a few blocks away…

On the TV, both on Sunday and thus far on Monday (4 PM), local politicians and police administrators have given calm, factual, professional updates, with the politicians adding that the terrorist enterprise could only prevail if we were to give way to fear and allow our lives to be disrupted any more than necessary…

The ONLY sour note that I heard in the 40 hours since the first explosion was Mr. Trump’s irresponsibly premature pronouncement on a still-emerging event, coupled with his opportunistic attempt to blame it on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, from my perspective and at least in my corner of the universe, people seem to be vigilant without being terrorized.

I hope that the media will show the rest of the country that, here near the center of the terrorism bulls-eye, most of us are not succumbing to fear. I also hope that the rest of the country will notice that we are not voting for someone who, faced with those who would do us harm, responds with bluster and bullshit, rather than with quiet determination and deference to professionals who know what they are doing.

David

Some media, and of course the Pant Load, are trying to fan the fear. Some are saying “New York Attacked!” They want Americans to be more afraid for their safety than for the likelihood of losing more of our American values. Interestingly, the states that have seen terror attacks, NY, CA, MA, PA and VA are solidly in Hillary’s camp, while Florida is too close to call.

Perhaps when you actually have to face your fear, you think differently.

On a separate issue: There is a growing ACLU and Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Edward Snowden, timed to the release of the Oliver Stone biopic “Snowden”. There have editorials and op-eds, pro and con appearing all over the country in recent days. Few attempt to lay out the facts. In fact, the Washington Post editorial board is against his pardon. That is the height of hypocrisy, since the WaPo won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting based on the very information that Snowden took from the US government!

Glenn Greenwald, who helped Snowden get his information to the media said:

Three of the four media outlets that received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden — The Guardian, the New York Times, and The Intercept –– have called for the US government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the US with no charges.

The exception is the WaPo.

Back to the pardon, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has recommended against a Snowden pardon. Marcy Wheeler tears their report apart, stating that in a two-year investigation, HPSCI failed to interview any of the direct witnesses, repeated known untruths about Snowden, and used the wrong methodology to conduct the damage assessment caused by the document releases. From Marcy:

One thing is certain: the public is owed an explanation for how HPSCI came to report knowably false information.

Snowden is a saint compared to the Congress jerks who signed off on this recommendation.

It is one thing to believe Snowden’s breach of a duty of confidentiality to the US government is not offset by the good that public knowledge of the NSA’s clandestine spying programs provided.

It is another to create a false report about the individual and the damage done.

There are probably a few dozen or so Dennis Hastert’s in Congress that are more than interested in suppressing any whistle blower’s information. Who knows, it could end a career.

Congress seems to have sworn an oath to complicity, not an oath to uphold the Constitution.

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The FBI and Omar Mateen

(Sorry for the lack of posts. We went straight from the trip to Santa Barbara to visit with my brother who is now in hospice. His story is a column for another day, but helping his wife has been our number one priority for the past few days.)

The Orlando killings are being covered exhaustively on all media outlets. There is no time yet for perspective, but Wrongo uncovered a few very interesting facts in researching a future column about the role of the FBI in domestic terrorism, and rather than hold them back, here they are for your consideration:

First, we learned today that Omar Mateen’s wife allegedly tried to talk him out of the Orlando attack. Apparently, his wife was with Mateen when he bought ammo AND she once drove him to Pulse “because he wanted to scope it out”, reports the NY Daily News. An Orlando Grand Jury will get her involvement to chew on.

Second, there are at least four data points that should have indicated to the FBI that Omar Mateen was gay, or at least, closeted:

  • He hung out with a friend from high school, who is a drag queen, and the friend’s lesbian co-worker friends
  • He asked out a fellow (male) student while in cop school
  • He used a profile on a gay dating site
  • He had been going to Pulse for at least 3 years

That all likely adds some doubt to the story that he killed at the Pulse solely on behalf of ISIS, which is the theory the FBI fed the media on Sunday. Some in the gay community think this attack was more about Mateen struggling with his own sexuality than with ISIS.

But, for now, terror “pundits” are working very hard to turn Mateen’s claims of affiliations with several Islamic groups (Hezbollah, al-Nusra, and ISIS, as well as the Tsarnaevs) into some kind of coherent world view that could explain his actions as Islamic terrorism.

The FBI says they had a 10-month tail on him, which you would think should have identified the many two hour-long round trips to Orlando Mateen took to hang out at Pulse, which according to witnesses, were taking place at the time of the investigation. Did the FBI know about these things?

That is not to say that Mateen didn’t have an attraction to Islamic extremism.

OTOH, it’s doubtful that the FBI’s checklist of things to look for when investigating someone making claims such as “I luv ISIS” or “I’m with Al Qaeda” includes a box for “closeted gay male having difficulties with his sexuality”.

Third, Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian has new details on what it was that got Omar Mateen on the FBI radar in 2013: He claimed to have a tie to the Tsarnaev brothers:

Omar Mateen…told co-workers at the private-security firm employing him that he knew Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev, according to a source close to the investigation who requested anonymity.

The FBI interviewed Mateen on two occasions in 2013 related to his purported connection to the Tsarnaev brothers, the first known time Mateen drew the attention of federal law enforcement.

At the time, the FBI was focused on a member of Orlando’s Muslim community, who was actually related to the Tsarnaev brothers, Ibragim Todashev. In May of 2013, the FBI killed Todashev in his own Orlando apartment, in the midst of interviewing him.

That’s not to say Mateen had a tie. Even though the Tsarnaevs lived in Boston, Todashev lived in Orlando at the time Mateen was making his claim about knowing the Tsarnaevs, and Mateen must have been aware of Todashev’s demise.

And finally, didn’t the FBI wonder at all about the shooter’s father, Siddiqi, who posted YouTube videos praising the Taliban (in Dari) and promoting Pashtun nationalism? Those seem like the sort of things that might be red flags.

It is true that Islamic extremists want to attack this country. If you’re a Muslim wanting media attention, the easiest way to get it is to say that word, “ISIS.”

That’s a guarantee law enforcement will give your case much more attention than it gives investigating the Bundy brothers.

That is, except in the case of Mateen.

We need to look closely at the FBI’s role in the lead-up to the Pulse shooting, if only to scope out the “lessons learned” for the future.

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Monday Wake-Up Call – January 25, 2016

Today many are still digging out from the big blizzard, and are getting off to a slow start, but today’s Wake Up is for those who think the answer to domestic terrorism is to get tough with American Muslims, to isolate them, to deport them, or to prevent them from getting gun permits.

Peter Bergen has an article in the current Wall Street Journal Weekend, “Can We Stop Homegrown Terrorists?” in which he reports on the threat posed by domestic Muslim terrorists: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

We found that American jihadists are overwhelmingly male (only 7% are women), and their average age is 29. More than a third are married, and more than a third have children. A little more than one in 10 has served time in prison, similar to the rate of incarceration for all American males, and around 10% had some kind of mental-health issue, which is lower than the general population. In everything but their deadly ideology, they are ordinary Americans.

Bergen reports that in 2015, the FBI investigated supporters of ISIS in all 50 states, and more than 80 Americans were charged with some kind of jihadist crime. It was the peak year since 2001 for law-enforcement activity against Americans who had chosen to join a group or accept an ideology whose goal is to kill fellow Americans. Bergen has assembled a data base of about 300 jihadists indicted or convicted in the US for some kind of terrorist crime since 9/11.

In analyzing the threat, Bergen says:

These individuals represent just a tiny fraction of an American Muslim population estimated at more than 3 million, but 300 homegrown jihadists is still 300 too many. Is the US intelligence and law-enforcement community any closer to knowing how to identify such would-be terrorists and stop them before they act? There has been definite progress, but the sobering truth is that…we are likely to be dealing with this low-level terrorist threat for years to come.

We have no way of knowing if we are at the start of a wave of domestic terror, but it sure feels ominous right now, like something could be coming. But we need to get one thing straight – domestic terrorism, whether by Muslims, Christians or others, can never be totally eradicated. As long as there are people with grievances who don’t believe they have a means to get those grievances addressed, there will be terrorists.

Bergen found that post 9/11, 45 Americans have been killed by jihadists in 15 years. That’s three per year.

But not all homegrown terrorists are Muslims. We had terror attacks by the Unabomber, the “Mad Bomber” and McVeigh at Oklahoma City. Ted Kaczynski, George Metesky and Timothy McVeigh weren’t Muslims, they were angry. Anger can transcend religion or even, the lack of a religion. And today, we have not only our general gun death epidemic, but more specifically, our homegrown red blooded Americans who like to shoot up schools, malls, theaters and churches.

Just last week, two Colorado teen-age girls were indicted for planning to replicate Columbine.

Can we stop homegrown terrorists? No, not even if we take all of We, the People’s Rights away (well, maybe not the Second Amendment). No free society can stop free citizens from doing whatever they freely decide to do, up to and including converting to Islam and blowing themselves up. So that’s our choice: are we going to continue to be a free society?

Our choice is between having the government acquire more power and spending money in the name of our safety. Or, keep what remains of our Bill of Rights and accept that lone wolf terrorist acts will happen on our soil.

All that can be done is to reduce the amount of terrorism to the absolute minimum. Bergen’s article talks about some of those techniques, but terrorism will always be with us.

And acknowledging that reality is not appeasement. Those who choose to be terrorists will become so, regardless of what the law requires or the people desire.

To help you wake up to the routine prejudice Muslims face in the homeland of the free, here is “Terrorism is not a Religion”, a poem by Hersi. He is a former US Marine and veteran of Iraq, and is by birth, a Somali Muslim. In this video he recounts his experience as a Muslim in the American school system and the US military:

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

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2016

Dr. King is one of Wrongo’s few heroes. He set an example for activism and success in the political arena that few other activists have matched, except for the founders of our Republic. Maybe that is why he is one of only two individuals (George Washington is the other) who have their names attached to a federal holiday.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, MLK transformed America. In the ‘50’s , America was a place where you didn’t question why we did things the way we did, you just followed your parents. By the end of the ‘60’s we were questioning everything. We changed a few things, and by the 1970s, many of us were living under a very different set of social mores than those of our parents.

MLK, along with others in our churches and a courageous few politicians created a real “moral majority” (not the phony ideal espoused by Jerry Falwell 25 years later), comprised of people of all races, educational and economic strata who came together to support the Big Idea that Separate was not Equal. MLK gave voice to that Big Idea.

His presence, power and persuasiveness drove our political process to a place and to an outcome in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These ideas were completely unthinkable 10 years earlier in 1954, when Brown vs. Board of Education was decided by the Supreme Court.

Wrongo participated in the Civil Rights movement from 1958 to 1962. That participation changed my viewpoint on race, religion and politics. Sadly, and wrongly, Wrongo left active participation in the movement, thinking that Dr. King’s Big Idea had taken hold, and that it permanently altered our political landscape.

Yet here we are in 2016, with all of the New Deal and Great Society reforms under attack.

Here is something Wrongo guarantees you have never heard. It is a 1986 recording by Eartha Kitt detailing Dr. King’s activism, his many, many arrests, and the few attempts on his life before he was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Kitt made an album called “My Way: Musical Tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” with The Black Academy of Arts & Letters (TBAAL), the nation’s largest African-American cultural arts institution. Here is Ms. Kitt, not singing, but speaking about MLK:

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

It is clear from that recitation that MLK paid a high price for his beliefs. Ms. Kitt also paid a price for hers. In 1968, during LBJ’s administration, Kitt made anti-war statements at a White House luncheon. When Lady Bird Johnson asked her about Vietnam, Eartha replied:

You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.

She had trouble finding work after that. Whatever you may think of her talents, it is contemptible that she was branded “a sadistic nymphomaniac” by the CIA. This was in the late 1960s, not the 1940s.

Today, the mass movement type of activism is dead. In our current political climate, holding large rallies rarely results in political change. Most people just send a tweet, and think they’ve accomplished something. The failure of demonstrations today is a symptom of a failure in our democracy. And the way the Occupy Movement was forcibly removed from American cities makes it difficult for anyone to want to engage in civil disobedience.

Consider how quick the police are to shoot unarmed black men today. How long would MLK be able to demonstrate, or drive his car, or march to Montgomery before being shot, not by an assassin, but by the police on the streets of America today?

Our founders wrote the Constitution in a way that explicitly provides for “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. Despite that protection, legislation in cities across America has chipped away at those rights in the name of public safety. Along with this erosion of rights, comes the military-style weapons and tactics, the pepper spray and temporary suspension of civil rights that we saw in NYC, Ferguson. MO, and Oakland CA.

Today America urgently needs a political movement with a forceful, charismatic leader.

Someone who can tie together the various threads of what is wrong in our society. Someone who can show us how these things are interrelated, and who can point us in a direction that could restore our now-fading civil rights and our middle class.

MLK remains the hero of a generation of Americans for whom activism was a building block of their personal journey to adulthood.

In most ways, our nation has never recovered that sense of can-do, or that all things are possible for your Big Idea. Today there is no one like MLK who can rally us to drive Big Ideas to reality.

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Los Estados Banditos

Today, let’s consider the bombshell dropped by the Wall Street Journal. Apparently the NSA spied on the efforts of the Netanyahu government to purchase win support in Congress when they were considering approval of the Iran Nuclear Deal. A US intelligence official familiar with the intercepts said Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as:

How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take?

There’s more. The Hill reported: The NSA helped the White House figure out which Israeli government officials had leaked information from confidential US briefings our government gave to the Israelis:

The NSA’s snooping allegedly found Netanyahu and his aides leaked details of the negotiations gained through Israeli spying, coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal and asked those lawmakers who were undecided on the deal how it could get their vote…

So, the WH knew that the NSA was spying on both Netanyahu and certain Congress critters. Some will say that the Executive Branch was spying on Congress. But there are two other ways to look at this.

• The NSA was spying on an ally, which we have done in the past (Merkel, Hollande).
• And that spying revealed that members of Congress were apparently working with Israel.

Either way, some in DC will be outraged. In fact, Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-CA) has already started an investigation into the allegations in the story. That is hilarious, since that spying is authorized by NSA procedures, procedures that Rep. Nunes has said are more than adequate to protect the privacy of US persons. You know, in his role as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. From Emptywheel:

If NSA’s minimization procedures are inadequate to protect US persons, the first thing Nunes should do is repeal [the] FISA Amendments Act, which can expose far more people than the tailored…tap placed on Bibi…

However, you could also return to the basic question from last fall: Why are members of Congress working to help a foreign government derail a major foreign-policy initiative of the US? And be outraged yourself.

This is the reason that allowing lawmakers’ communications to be incidentally collected is such a risk — because it inevitably collects details about the legislative process. That can also disclose an untoward quid pro quo by foreign governments to members of Congress. Finding that is within the purview of the Executive branch’s mandate.

Maybe more privacy protections, including for Members of Congress, are needed. But wiretapping the communications with foreign leaders is solidly within the parameters of Congressionally-approved NSA spying, even if it incidentally collects information about members of Congress. Congress itself has deemed these actions may sometimes be important to protect the US.

And didn’t Congress approve all of this spying to catch terrorists? Or, was it just to get intelligence to assist our drone attacks. Or, to assist in the war on drugs, so that we can play catch-and-release a few more times with El Chapo. The problem is, when you build an intelligence gathering system this big and this technologically capable, it will inevitably intrude into domestic politics. Or vacuum up not-so-innocent information that is incidental to its intended target.

As for surveillance of members of Congress, surely everyone in Congress knows how that game works, THEY VOTED TO IMPLEMENT IT!

There’s a substantive difference between direct surveillance of members of Congress, and surveillance of a foreign ambassador’s reporting back to his government about communications with those Members.

If Nunes, et. al were simply trying to hang on to the remnants of our Constitution like the rest of us poor schlub voters, maybe the poutrage would be understandable.

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