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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

DeVos Trashes DOE Unit Investigating For-Profit Fraud

The Daily Escape:

Cherry Trees in spring, Japan

From the NYT: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

It is difficult to say which Cabinet Secretary is the worst member of the Trump administration. EPA head Scott Pruitt makes the list, judging by his personal proclivities, and that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s destructive impact is far-reaching.

But Wrongo’s vote goes to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for doing the most damage to America because of her undermining of America’s education system. And her relentless efforts continue the entrapment of millions of young people in the for-profit student loan system that has now reached $1.5 trillion. This will threaten America’s economy for decades.

More from the NYT: (emphasis by Wrongo)

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group. The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

With the reorganization, now just three employees still work on the team, their mission has been scaled back to focus on processing student loan forgiveness applications.

This is Trumplandia, where agencies are run based on the personal motivations of the head of the agency. DeVos has long had personal and financial interest in the for-profit segment of education. She has pursued funding of private charter schools and religious schools using public funds.

Corporations and moneyed interests now directly control several of our key agencies. Trump has opened the doors wide to industry lobbyists. Pruitt is running the EPA at the behest of industry, at the expense of the well-being of the American people. Zinke is out to shrink public lands to aid private interests.

People who want the best for the nation clearly are not welcome in the Trump administration.

This is another reason for people to go out and vote in huge numbers in November. It is the only way to change the dangerous course that Trump has placed us on.

And it’s not simply Trump. This is who and what the GOP is now.

Time to take the country back from those in Washington who see privatization as the holy grail of corporatism.

People are talking about impeachment if the Democrats take back the House in 2018. Rather than focusing on Trump, the idea should be to impeach DeVos. The Constitution provides for impeachment of cabinet secretaries.

But, it will be tough to choose between Pruitt and DeVos when it comes to high crimes and misdemeanors.

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Public Schools Are Hiring Immigrants As Teachers

The Daily Escape:

Another view of spring flowers in the Tejon Pass, CA – May, 2018 photo by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel

While it appears that the teacher walkout in Arizona is over, red state education cuts are bad enough that teaching jobs are now being outsourced. The NYT reports that many US schools are filling low-paying teaching jobs with immigrants:

Among the latest states hit by the protests is Arizona, where teacher pay is more than $10,000 below the national average of $59,000 per year. The Pendergast Elementary School District…has recruited more than 50 teachers from the Philippines since 2015. They hold J-1 visas, which allow them to work temporarily in the United States, like au pairs or camp counselors, but offer no path to citizenship.

The NYT reports that according to the State Department, more than 2,800 foreign teachers arrived in America last year through the J-1 visa program, up 233% from about 1,200 who landed here in 2010.

Are public school teachers a new class of migrant workers in America? Is teaching becoming another category of “jobs Americans won’t do” in the Trump era?

Arizona has a reported shortage of 2000 teachers state-wide. This is a direct result of Arizona’s low teacher salaries, (43rd in the nation), and poor funding for public education. More from the NYT:

According to the State Department, 183 Arizona teachers were granted new J-1 visas last year, up from 17 in 2010.

Trump opposes immigration because he says it takes away American jobs. Yet, here we have an immigration program designed precisely to take away American jobs, and it is growing, because there is no alternative but higher taxes, which is not an acceptable solution to Republicans.

Poor school funding and low teacher salaries are a direct result of tax cuts that then require government expense cuts. Local governments can’t engage in deficit spending for very long without ruining their bond rating, so when tax revenues go down, salaries are frozen, maintenance is deferred, and expenses are slashed.

Wrongo’s home town has this very issue in front of us. Our student population has declined by about 11% over the past few years, but the town’s school budget has steadily increased, despite the declining student census. When the budget goes to voters in a few days, it is likely to be voted down, because so few people are willing to see their taxes increased.

This should be a wake-up call to all of us. Tax cuts do not create revenue growth in our towns, states or the country, regardless of what the faux economists say about trickle-down economics.

There is no “teacher shortage” in America. Do we say there is a shortage of Corvettes because we’ll only pay the dealer $25k for a brand new one? We are seeing across many job categories that fewer skilled individuals are willing to work for the low pay offered in both the private and the public sector.

It seems like a simple concept. The people who you entrust your children to for learning and personal growth should earn an adequate wage, and be able to remain members of the middle class.

If we denigrate a profession enough so that people are wary of investing their time and money to get an education and meet the needs of the job, we will have a teacher shortage. If we then hire foreigners who are willing to do the work for peanuts, we will complete the job of making teaching a low income profession.

This is a plan designed by the right and their hedge fund billionaire buddies to privatize and ultimately, break public education.

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Teacher Strikes Are Pointing the Way to Change in 2018

The Daily Escape:

Baltimore Oriole in crab apple tree – 2014 photo by Wrongo

Happy (or unhappy) tax day!

Yesterday, we talked about two red state revolutions led by teachers who are demanding better pay and funding to address educational needs. We also talked about the shameful reactions of the governors of Kentucky and Oklahoma to the demonstrators.

But the governors are not the only local officials with tin ears. Valerie Vande Panne, writes in AlterNet:

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) is the primary teacher’s membership organization. It recently announced that the strike is over. But, Oklahoma teachers continue to strike, and are seeking a new union that would actually represent their interests. Meanwhile, legislators are seeking ways to punish the striking teachers, and have accused them of bussing in protesters, and local police call the teachers “terrorists.”

2018 is a gubernatorial election in Oklahoma, in addition to seats in the House and Senate. There are rumblings in the state to replace every single elected official this year.

Wrongo is indebted to Ms. Vande Panne’s article for the facts about Oklahoma below.

Despite the common view that Oklahoma is Republican red, most voters in Oklahoma are registered Democrats or are unaffiliated. Bernie Sanders won the 2016 presidential primary. Bernie got more votes in the 2016 primary than Trump. A third of Oklahomans are African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, or are of mixed race.

And the demographics are changing rapidly: In Guymon, a small town in the Oklahoma panhandle, just north of the Texas border and hours from the nearest shopping mall, 37 languages are spoken in the public school system of 3,000 students.

Everyone knows that Oklahoma should be a wealthy state: Oil, gas, and coal are kings of the economy, but decades of sweetheart deals have left the state paying those industries more than those industries pay the state.

There seems to be a lot of red state unrest right now.

Are people finally getting fed up? Is the right wing’s mantra of too much government and not enough freedom starting to lose its grip? Has social media ended that mass media’s control of the narrative so much that opinion can easily be mobilized?

The strikes in West Virginia and Oklahoma are “wildcat” strikes. The rank and file basically decided to advocate for their own interests, and when “leadership” in WV (and apparently in OK) made an agreement with the legislature that was less than what the strikers had demanded, the rank and file defied its own union “leaders”.

These states have right-to-work laws, and few protections for labor, but when the teachers act together, they have political power. Without strong unions, labor has nothing to lose, if they mobilize enough of their rank and file. The union leadership has for years cozied up to local politicians, and now seems to have lost control over their own rank and file.

These reliably “red” states have a very different political history than we might expect. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Oklahoma, Kansas and much of the Confederate South were hotbeds of populist uprisings, from the Farmers’ Alliance and the Peoples’ Party. These parties even elected Members of Congress, and Senators. The Peoples’ Party merged into the Democratic Party in 1896.

This sets the stage for the 2018 elections. Those who want change on the local or national level shouldn’t run simply as anti-Trump. They need to address local issues that are resonating, like teacher pay and school funding. At the root of these issues is the continued cutting of taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Without revenues, schools cannot be improved, and teachers’ pay will stagnate.

Fight for equal pay for the same jobs, work to eliminate the barriers to voting, and end gerrymandering.

Run on these issues. See what happens.

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 16, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Dumbo, NYC – August 2017 photo by Kelly Kopp

In Republican-land, it’s not as if we don’t have plenty of awful things to process. And, just when you think that it can’t be coarser, or darker, it is! Last week, the Republican governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, vetoed the state budget, tax reform, and pension reform bills. Bevin scrapped all three bills in their entirety because he wanted significantly deeper budget cuts, especially to education and infrastructure. He sent the bills back, and announced that unless his cuts were passed, he would call a special session and keep it open until he got his way.

But, the day before Kentucky’s state legislature overrode all three vetoes, Bevin, who has opposed Kentucky teachers’ rallies for pension protection and public education funding since the rallies started, told reporters this:

I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them….I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have enough money to take care of them.

Is this state-of-the-art 2018 Republican messaging? A Republican governor is saying children are safer in the care of government workers than with their own families. If Bevin is correct, summer vacation must be a season of child carnage in Kentucky. Maybe Kentucky schools should be open 24/7.

Bevin subsequently “apologized” to those who may have been offended.

A larger question: What will it take to eliminate the societal myth that teachers are co-parents? Teachers have huge responsibilities for the children they teach, and most live up to this, but they’re not the kids’ parents. They’re not equipped to co-parent.

Most towns fail to fully equip them to be educators, much less co-parents. And we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) pay them enough to assume that responsibility.

Bevin’s comments are unusual and despicable, but other politicians talk about teachers in similar ways. Consider that Oklahoma’s Republican governor Mary Fallin told CBS News that teachers striking for a salary increase are like “a teenager wanting a better car”.

Newsweek reported that Fallin also suggested that the anti-fascist group Antifa was involved in the ongoing teachers’ protests, claiming it was among the “outside groups” that were demonstrating alongside educators. There was no evidence that Antifa was anywhere near the teachers who were demonstrating.

Governors Fallin and Bevan had a golden opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to educating the children of their states. They could have made it clear that education would be a priority for as long as they remained governors.

But like most Republicans, they feel tax cuts are more important than kids. And in the typically arrogant and dismissive tone Republicans tend to assume, they decided to belittle teachers who are demanding they be fairly compensated for the important work they do.

Fully funding education is a no-win situation for Republicans. They don’t want to fund education because they know that ultimately, it works against their best interests. Their intransigence means they’re facing an angry, empowered, and unified group even in red states that have weak unions. The teachers now fully understand that they have political power, and they intend to exercise it.

Teachers don’t take the job expecting to get rich, but they’re certainly within their rights to expect fair compensation for their work. They’re also right to expect each state to adequately fund public education.

So, it’s time for Republicans to wake up! There really could be a blue wave in the voting booth this fall if red state politicians fail to support public education, despite whatever spew Betsy DeVos is spraying this month. To help them wake up, here is “High School Never Ends” by Bowling For Soup, from their 2006 album, “The Great Burrito Extortion Case”:

Sample Lyrics:

The whole damned world is just as obsessed
With who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex
Who’s got the money, who gets the honeys
Who’s kinda cute and who’s just a mess

And I still don’t have the right look
And I still have the same three friends
And I’m pretty much the same as I was back then
High school never ends
High school never ends
High school never ends
And here we go again

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 25, 2018

March for Our Lives  in DC – 3/24/18 NYT photo by Erin Schaff

The March for Our Lives took place yesterday. High schoolers led the rest of us, marching against America’s gun culture, and against politicians who do nearly nothing to solve the slow-moving disaster that is our government’s response to mass murders in our country.

Nobody knows where this will lead. It could be part of something big that changes our society, or it could lead to nothing. But, we can be sure that nothing can change without electing a different set of politicians.

That won’t happen unless the public gets behind the demonstrators. MLK Jr. knew this. Wrongo is sure that Emma Gonzalez, and the other activists from Stoneman Douglas know this too. We must support them, and demand that our politicians actually do something about gun violence, or lose their jobs.

On to cartoons. MLK approves:

Unlike Congress Critters, these kids seem immune to cash that comes with strings attached:

Austin TX is safe, but the bomber didn’t fit the stereotype:

John Bolton’s mustache grows even more alarming:

Facebook’s mismanagement of personal information makes Zuckerberg look bad:

GOP lost gerrymander case in PA. What’s next?

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Maryland Ruling Shows Way Forward On Banning AR-15s

The Daily Escape:

Near the Cho La Pass, Nepal – 2018 photo by northern_eyes

It is another depressing week in America. Trump may, or may not fire Robert Mueller. Facebook is, or is not the enemy of the people. We will, or will not have a government shutdown on Friday. There is one or more bombers loose in Austin, TX.

And Maryland is in the news about guns, with yet another high school shooting on Tuesday in a town called Great Mills, MD, about 70 miles from Washington, DC.

The shooter is dead, killed by a single shot from an armed school resource officer. Two students were shot by the gunman, who used a pistol in his attack. Pat Elder told the Institute for Public Accuracy:

I was at Great Mills High School last night, teaching GED.

Elder is a director of an organization that confronts militarism in the schools. They just launched a new campaign to shut down high school marksmanship programs. Elder also said: (emphasis by Wrongo)

There are hundreds of trailer homes around the school. There’s tattoo shops and liquor stores. Nearby, there’s Lockheed and CACI and other military contractors….My son went to the school….Regardless of the specifics of this attack, we have to face up to the reality that militarization of our society, especially our schools, fuels the violence that causes so much suffering….

At least the Maryland school shooter only had a pistol. While it isn’t clear that the shooter only having a pistol is connected, Maryland’s law banning 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines was upheld by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA in February. From NBC:

In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the guns banned under Maryland’s law aren’t protected by the Second Amendment.

Judge Robert King wrote for the court:

Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage….

He is referring to the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia. You can read King’s opinion here.

King said that weapons similar to those banned by Maryland have been used to perpetrate mass shootings in places “whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there.” King listed Newtown, Aurora, CO, San Bernardino, and Orlando in his opinion.

King also noted that Maryland’s enacting of the law is:

Precisely the type of judgment that legislatures are allowed to make without second-guessing by a court…. Simply put, the State has shown all that is required: a reasonable, if not perfect, fit between the (Firearms Safety Act) and Maryland’s interest in protecting public safety….

The purpose of laws such as the Maryland ban is to protect the public from the criminal misuse of highly dangerous weapons. Perhaps we are on a good arc with this ruling. It answers the question of whether the Second Amendment provides a blanket right of a citizen to own weapons of a very high degree of firepower and lethality.

Wrongo has fired the AR-15 and the M-15 many, many times. At one point, he could disassemble and reassemble the M-15 blindfolded. He has no issue with people owning guns. But, there can be no debate that semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 have one purpose, the destruction of human life. These weapons of war don’t just kill people; they wound in ways which often make it exceedingly difficult to patch people back together again.

No law will ever stop someone with a pistol from shooting up a school. But it’s past time for rational Americans to seize control of the conversation about semi-automatic rifles, and change a few laws.

Make ‘em like Maryland’s.

Let’s hope that the ruling by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals is the first step in that direction.

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Saturday Soother – March 17, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Mt Kilimanjaro – March 2018 photo by Peter Madonia

The #enough movement is about school kids protesting school violence. America watched this week as thousands of high school kids left their classrooms. Some wanted their government to do more to end gun violence, some simply wanted to show solidarity with 17 dead Florida kids.

These children may not be able to vote yet, but they’re learning how to make themselves heard. Let’s hope they grow up and vote, because we are living in a country where many, including most Republicans in Congress, think that universal health care is tyranny, but dead school children are part of the cost of freedom.

They think that access to medical treatment is a privilege you earn based on what’s in your wallet. Meanwhile, they defend the right of virtually anyone over 18 to own an AR-15.

And in New Milford, here in Litchfield County CT, there was a big dust-up over the town’s walk out. A group of parents hired an attorney to tell the school district that they were not happy that the kids got to participate in the national student walkout. Their lawyer wrote to the school district, saying:

My clients have asked me to notify you that this event violates state law, on the basis that state and local public funds are being used improperly to advocate for a political issue and to influence how voters will vote. Because it violates state law, we demand that the New Milford Public School District’s Superintendent and Board of Education immediately cancel the event, and rescind any association or prior involvement in it.

Since the event is over, it’s doubtful that it can be canceled. They also emailed Breitbart: (editing and brackets by Wrongo)

…the parents – who wish to remain anonymous – argue [that] the decision involves issues concerning adherence to law and policy, the manipulation of minors, the misuse of tax dollars, and indoctrination and political activism during school hours.

These parents think their kids are being manipulated. They surely must realize how difficult it is to manipulate one teenager, much less to simultaneously manipulate hundreds of thousands of them all across America.

George Soros just isn’t that powerful.

The #enough movement is somewhat reminiscent of the Vietnam-era marches, which included high school and college kids spontaneously standing in public places protesting something that was a legitimate threat to their physical safety. The primary concern of students back then was being killed.

It is also the primary concern of these kids today.

Back in New Milford, solidly Trump country, a few anonymous parents obviously want to micromanage their kids’ experiences and to politicize them. Here is a Facebook page quote by a student at NM High School:

Any student who wanted to go to the gym did, and those who chose not to participate were not forced to. A few students gave speeches, one of which contained a list of the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting. With each name a bell was rung and a moment of silence was given. A memorial for the innocent lives that were lost. The other speeches focused on being positive and spreading kindness; one given from a student who used to live in Parkland and who was very personally affected by this tragedy. Students and teachers alike listened and felt for the losses. It was a powerful and beautiful movement for all who watched. There was NO mention of guns in any way.

These kids didn’t leave the building! But, despite knowing this, these anonymous parents hired a lawyer to intimidate the school district, and politicize the intentions of high school kids. The parents then involved Breitbart, a right wing rag. They wanted to highjack the message of these kids, turning it into yet another right wing, Second Amendment moment.

As Paul Simon said: “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest”.

This really makes Wrongo feel like we all need a soothing experience. To help with that, Wrongo suggests brewing a cup of Al-Durrar Single Farmer Lot coffee from Yemen, ($45/4 oz.) imported and roasted by Port of Mokha coffee. Wrongo heard about this on the PBS News Hour. It is a very interesting story.

Now, take your cup, and settle into your most comfortable chair to listen to “Sicilian Blue” by Hiromi Uehara, a Japanese jazz composer and pianist. Her work is a perfect blend of emotion and control. Here, she is performing live at the Jazz in Marciac (France) Festival in August, 2010:

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

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March 1, 2018

The Daily Escape:

The Wrong family is at its annual temporary winter headquarters in Florida, enjoying this view. Blogging will be intermittent until March 12th, when we will be back in residence at the Mansion of Wrong. 2015 photo by Wrongo.

A few cartoons. When will the GOP start complaining, saying “Armed union thugs are patrolling our schools”:

Trump refines his role:

US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers said Trump hasn’t granted him the authority to disrupt increased cyber threats. Trump, no longer jumping to the rescue. He’s just the security monitor:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 25, 2018

Well, two things Wrongo never thought would happen: Revived student activism, and the US winning an Olympic gold medal in Curling! Wrongo cares deeply about the former, but not so much about the latter.

The week was dominated by the continued fall-out from the Parkland shooting. The gun debate produced a rich harvest of appropriate cartoons, like showing how the NRA would re-write the Second Amendment:

The gun debate points out some GOP inconsistencies:

McConnell and Ryan try reframing the issue:

LaPierre has a message for Mitch:

NRA says only one Amendment really matters:

Trump says we should arm teachers and pay them bonuses for carrying. Think of the consequences:

Where teachers packing heat will lead:

And how would kids react to guns in the classroom?

 

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Saturday Soother – February 3, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Redwood logging, Humboldt County CA – 1915 Photo by AW Ericson, hat tip Eric Loomis

Our problem as Americans is we actually hate history. What we love is nostalgia –Regie Gibson

Can we survive a mal-educated population? The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) just released a study called “Teaching Hard History, American Slavery” that indicts our high school education system, at least as it relates to teaching about the Civil War and slavery. Here are their most damning conclusions:

  • Only 8% of high school seniors surveyed identified slavery as the central cause of the Civil War
  • Almost half identified tax protests as the main cause
  • 68% didn’t know that it took a Constitutional amendment to formally end slavery

Tax protests? Possibly, the kids who thought slavery had to do with “taxation” are conflating the Civil War with the Revolutionary War.

We teach vignettes, not context. We talk about individuals and concepts like the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, or abolitionists. There is little discussion about how slaves were the most important element of net worth in the south, or how hard southern landowners fought to protect that source of value.

The SPLC says that teaching lessons rarely connect slavery to white supremacy, the ideology that grew up to sustain and protect it. They point out that the American ideology of white supremacy, along with accompanying racist dogma, developed precisely to justify the perpetuation of slavery. The report concludes:

If we don’t get the early history of our country right, we are unlikely to be equipped to do the heavy lifting necessary to bridge racial divides now and in the future…

Most towns probably devote an hour a day to history class in high school. If a class year is 180 days, which means kids have 1,000 hours of history a year, at least for high school. That totals to 4000 hours, plenty of time to truly teach American history, regardless of protests about teaching to the test or Common Core.

We can surely do a better job, or we face the consequence that our future is in the hands of Trump’s “poorly educated”, most likely, an easily swayed group of voters.

Welcome to the weekend. By now you, like Wrongo, know what is in the Nunes Memo. The NYT denounced the Memo in advance, but with the caveat that:

None of this is to say the FBI and the rest of the federal law enforcement apparatus should be immune from criticism or reform.

Nope, not when back in the day, the FBI was run by a cross-dressing maniac addicted to blackmail.

Anyway, to get distance from the world, Wrongo is making chili today. That way it can rest overnight before we eat it during the Super Bowl. What are you having?

To help you read The Memo, get in your most comfortable chair and drink a fresh-brewed vente cup of Kicking Horse Coffee. You can choose between “Smart Ass” blend or, their “Kick Ass” blend. Wrongo suggests Smart Ass, only $11.99 for 10 oz at Amazon.

BTW, they sell “Half Ass”, but no “Bad Ass” or “Dumb Ass” brands. Why?

To help you relax and forget DC, Dumb Ass Democrats, and Trump for a while, settle back and listen to the West Ocean String Quartet perform the old Irish melody “The Lark in Clear Air”. This is one of many versions, some include lyrics from a poem by Belfast’s Sir Samuel Ferguson. The tune is from a folk song called “Kathleen Nowlan” or, alternatively, “The Tailor’s Son” from the early 19th Century:

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

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