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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 23, 2017

Sorry for the lack of columns; Wrongo has an acute case of Trump Fatigue. It is difficult to: a) think of anyone or anything else, and b) when writing a column, everything seems linked to every other thing, and none of you want to read a thousand-word rant. On to the rich harvest of cartoons.

Le Pen’s ballots in today’s election in France may be enough to force the big box to open:

The March for Science, unsurprisingly, has opposition:

 

It isn’t enough to just think about the planet on Earth Day:

Fox replaces O’Reilly with another loser:

Why do we still call it the Presidency when the differences are so stark?

Why would millions of people willingly watch a real-time murder?

 

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Is Climate Change Real?

Wrongo has never written about climate change, but will make an exception today. NASA recently released a series of then and now photos called “Images of Change” which reveal how our world has changed (not for the better) over the past 30+ years. The series provides a comparison of satellite images that depict everything from Arctic ice retreat to island building, to urbanization.

The series shows how rapidly our planet has changed in recent decades, due largely to urbanization and climate change. Perhaps, with the Trump administration firmly in control of a climate denial narrative, these photos will soon disappear from the internet, so please go and see all of them while it is still possible.

Here is one photo that shows the Arctic’s sea ice. It is clear that the ice has been shrinking for decades. The picture below compares September 1984 (on the left) with September 2016:

The total area of persistent (4 years or older) ice has declined from 718,000 square miles to 42,000 square miles in the 32 year time period. In the images, blue/grey ice is younger whereas white ice is older. But please calm down, you can’t stop the Trump express to climate Armageddon unless:

  • We take control of the Senate from the Republicans, and
  • Win the White House in 2020.

And at a time when we won’t let most Muslims into our country, and absolutely zero Syrians, maybe it’s time we chill out with a beautiful song by a Syrian national currently based in Paris, Lena Chamamyan. Here she is singing “Love in Damascus”. The accompanying video has many photos of Damascus; probably most taken before the rebellion. Wrongo could not find a reliable translation from Arabic for you, but the singing is beautiful:

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

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Congress Is Back, And the Revolution Begins!

Here is food for thought from David Weigel of the WaPo: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

When the 115th Congress begins this week, with Republicans firmly in charge of the House and Senate, much of that legislation will form the basis of the most ambitious conservative policy agenda since the 1920s. And rather than a Democratic president standing in the way, a soon-to-be-inaugurated Donald Trump seems ready to sign much of it into law…

That plan was long in the making. Almost the entire agenda has already been vetted, promoted and worked over by Republicans and think tanks that look at the White House less for leadership and more for signing ceremonies

There is little reason for Republicans to seek bipartisan support for middle-of-the-road legislation. They will simply work as a hive to turn America into Kansas. You remember Kansas, the state that has such a terrible record of job creation and economic growth? Kansas governor Republican Sam Brownback launched the orthodoxy of Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers on the state. And Brownback and Steven Moore who helped Brownback with his disastrous legislative agenda, are both economic advisors to Trump.

We have seen lots of hand-wringing about how to stand up to the Trump agenda that will begin raining down on America on January 20th. Most calls to action are from single-issue activist groups that lack the resources to get media attention, or to make a difference.

But there is a clear need for collective action on national, state and local levels. And that movement needs a leader.

How about an anti-president? Maybe Bernie Sanders? When Trump governs by tweet, he would be countered by the anti-president. Americans might come to know that, while Trump and company are cutting healthcare, the shadow government led by anti-president Sanders and vice president Warren are passing and signing a national healthcare bill.

When Trump cuts taxes on the rich and corporations, the shadow government is raising taxes on the rich and penalizing corporations that locate overseas to avoid paying tax at home.

When Trump appoints an anti-abortion, pro-Citizens United Supreme Court Justice, the shadow government appoints someone who is for social justice.

This can begin to build a consensus about what Trump is doing wrong.

We don’t have a parliamentary system, but, most Americans have no idea about political theory, or political facts. So, few will realize that a shadow government isn’t consistent with our Constitutional system!

And the new shadow government MUST not contain Pelosi, Schumer, or any of the geriatric Democrats in the House and Senate. That will de-legitimize the effort.

On New Year’s Day, Wrongo and Ms. Right attended a Baroque music concert at an old Congregational church in Washington CT that dates from 1741. Within a beautiful program, we heard a piece by the Italian composer, Domenico Zipoli. Zipoli has an interesting history. He studied with Scarlatti, he became a Jesuit, and worked as a missionary and died in 1726 in Argentina at age 38. Zipoli’s music was a revelation to us. Here is Zipoli’s “Elevazione” for oboe, violin, organ and cello. It was wonderful to hear it in a place with a good pipe organ.

The “elevation” is the point in the Catholic mass when the chalice and host are presented to the congregation. The performance lasts for eight+ minutes, much longer than what Wrongo prefers to present to you, but it is achingly beautiful, so please have patience.

It may be the perfect antidote to the shenanigans we will be seeing from the Trump administration, and we may need to watch it daily for a few months:

It begs the question, why was the 18th century blessed with so many great composers while the 21st century was given Justin Bieber?

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

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Your Holiday Gift Is Team Trump

From Ian Welsh: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Trump is now Team Trump. The two most influential people in his court appear to be his son-in-law, [Jared] Kushner, a fellow real-estate developer and the guy who made the key strategic decisions which led to Trump’s victory; and {Steve] Bannon. Bannon is an economic nationalist with white nationalist leanings, who identifies with the working class and wants to bring manufacturing back to America. He’s quite willing to have a trade war to do it.

And while we are at it, Wrongo is sure that all of the Goldman Sachs alligators Trump is dumping into DC’s undrained swamp have lots of winning in mind for America. Welsh adds:

Trump’s children are influential, and it appears that Ivanka, his daughter, is the most influential of the three. She’s probably the most liberal person in the administration (even if she, strictly speaking, isn’t in the administration.)

Despite Welsh saying Ivanka won’t be in the administration, US News reported that she will set up shop in the White House space usually set aside for the first lady, which is in the East Wing. That sounds like influence!

With almost five weeks remaining until the inauguration, attempting to understand what Trump’s administration will do to you (or for you, if you are a fan), is America’s favorite holiday party game.

Trump has loaded up on oligarchs and generals to help steer his thinking on policy. More from Welsh: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

So, for example, his shift on China policy [to confrontation] is in alignment with what a lot of generals think (China is the real threat) and with what Bannon thinks (manufacturing jobs, economic nationalism.)

In some ways, Trump’s China policy is a continuation and extension of existing policy, but his style is confrontational, and more focused. All of Trump’s complaints about Chinese actions are long-standing US complaints that had not been addressed by previous administrations.

When we look at Trump’s team, they are anti-labor, pro-corporatist, pro-Wall Street, pro-MIC, Big Oil, Big Coal, climate changing denialists. With Pruitt @ EPA, Perry @ Energy, and Ryan Zinke @ Interior, all the news looks bad for those of us who want to see more alternative energy and a radically improved global environment. And Price @ HHS will have the largest and quickest negative impact on Americans.

These proposed cabinet appointments are not the source of any Christmas cheer if you favor our current domestic policies.

And it will get worse: Congressional Republicans told BuzzFeed News that the GOP plans to re-introduce the First Amendment Defense Act. The act prohibits the federal government from taking action against private businesses and individuals that discriminate against LGBT people (or others) due to their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Trump has already stated his support for the First Amendment Defense Act:

If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths…

We got to this precipitous place after a very close election. Paul Campos tells us that the US has recorded the popular vote in 34 US presidential elections (despite having had 57 of them), and Trump received the smallest share of the popular vote of any winning candidate in US presidential election history, if we exclude elections which featured a significant third-party vote.

Jacob Levy points out that Trump eked out victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and therefore the presidency, by a combined 80,000 votes across those three states.

That is a .05% vote margin in a 137 million vote election.

This is why vast numbers of people head into the holidays scared for their families and future.

So you need an Xmas soother. It’s not bad enough to be late in buying presents for people who you know will be disappointed when they open them. Now you gotta deal with Team Trump, and all of the winning we will see in the next four years.

Here are the Piano Guys with O come, O come, Emmanuel. It was filmed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jerusalem Movie Set in Goshen Utah:

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

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Trapped in a Nightmare of Our Own Making

From Gizmodo:

cow-bald-eagle

This bald eagle became trapped in a passing car [a Saturn] in Clay County, Florida on Saturday, presumably while minding its own business. The look on the bird’s face really says it all. But police and emergency responders were able to extract the unfortunate creature and get it to a wildlife sanctuary, where it’s currently being nursed back to health.

The bird will be fine, but isn’t this the perfect meme for 2016? And we still have 25 days left until we are also liberated from being stuck in Trump’s grille.

Does anyone else see the irony of our great American symbol being stuck in the grille of a discontinued car brand? Here is a pic of the rescue:

eagle-in-grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine the dialogue between the first responders and the eagle:

“You have to come outta there. America needs you!”

“Nope. I’m not coming out until November 9th. Maybe not even then.”

“Oh come on. You can’t just stay in there forever.”

“Fix America’s Grille Again”, or as one Gizmodo commenter said, imagine: Before help showed up, there had to be a 911 call:

911: “911 what is your emergency?”

Driver: “I have a bald eagle stuck in my grill.”

911: “You are choking on a chicken? Sir, please use slang we can understand.”

Feel free to add your own humorous observations.

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Debate Night – Monday Wake Up Edition

The Presidential debate is tonight. Trump was reported to have invited former Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate, but now we hear from Mike Pence that it’s not so. This looks like is a case of “mind games forever”.

Millions of words have been written in advance of the debates, so no need to add to the hot steaming pile of punditry here, except to say that Hillary cannot win any news cycle. Even the one in which the NYT endorsed Hillary. Here is Tristero at Hullabaloo: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The NYT endorsed Clinton, but actually they’re heavily promoting Trump for president. How heavily? Literally by a 2:1 margin. Put another way, the Times [in their editorial] believes that what Trump says and does is twice as important as what his closest rival says and does…If you go…to the NY Times Web site and do a word search, you will come up with:

Trump: 16 mentions
Clinton: 8 mentions

2 Pictures of Trump
1 picture of Clinton

If you can’t win in THE PAPER THAT IS NOMINATING YOU, it’s hard to win overall.

Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson won’t be at the debate. Sadly, he seems to be the choice of quite a few Millennials over both Clinton and Trump. Kevin Drum noticed that polling shows there are a fairly significant number of Sanders voters saying they prefer Gary Johnson over Clinton.

It is easy to understand if you fail to look closely at Johnson’s policies: He favors legalization of marijuana. He’s good on civil liberties and wants to cut back on overseas military interventions. He’s moderate on immigration. He’s pro-choice and supports gay rights.

But he’s nothing more than a warmed-over Republican. Here is a Johnson quote from earlier this week:

fireshot-screen-capture-130-gary-johnson-page-001

Yes, he really did say that since the sun will burn up the planet someday, why should we care about climate change? BTW, it’s not likely to occur within the next 5 billion years, so this is an example of Libertarian long-range planning.

So, let’s just focus on making lots of money now. #Feel The Johnson

You still think there is lots to like about Gary Johnson? Perhaps you should review Drum’s listing of some of Johnson’s policy positions:

  • He supports TPP
  • He supports fracking
  • He opposes any federal policies to reduce student debt
  • He supports Citizens United
  • He wants to privatize Social Security
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero
  • He wants to eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent flat tax

His position on choice is that it’s up to the states. So a woman’s “personal freedom” would be subject to whatever yahoos in the state capitol decide it is.

So it’s time for Millennials to both wake up and study up on the Libertarians. In honor of Gary Johnson, here is Little Feat with “Don’t Bogart that Joint”:

Little Feat made the song famous, but the song was written by the Fraternity of Man, an American blues rock group. The song was featured in the movie Easy Rider in 1969.

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Happy Birthday to our National Park Service

100 years ago yesterday, Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created the National Park Service (NPS). The National Parks are truly a great American resource, showing us nature in a near-pristine form, much as it might have been thousands of years ago. The parks also give us insight into places that are an important part of our national heritage, such as battlefields, or landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty.

There was a time in America when protecting our heritage through preserving open space was thought to be a civic duty. Alas, that is no longer considered a responsibility by recent Congresses. Obama has used the Antiquities Act as a way around the stasis in Washington, creating several national monuments.

The most recent is the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine. There have been calls for a national park in northern Maine for a very long time, but the lack of federally controlled land and the hostility of local residents who believe the timber industry is going to make a comeback, made it impossible to get a park designation. But Roxane Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees, gave almost 90,000 acres of pristine land to the government to help make something happen.

Opinions in Maine were mixed. There are more than a few folks who want the land to remain available to the paper mills, should the paper industry ever return to Maine. Republican Gov. Paul LePage denounced Quimby’s donation:

That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine…It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and Senator Angus King. It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.

Last time we checked Quimby and King were in-state liberals, and the land was given to America, not to Mr. Obama.

Of course, the NPS faces major problems on its 100th birthday. An NPR report indicated that the service is facing challenges like climate change, overcrowding, underfunding and relevancy. Regarding climate change, the parks are having to adapt to rapid changes as we saw in Glacier National Park, where most glaciers could be gone by 2030. The parks are trying to educate the public about climate change, despite continued hostility from Republicans who refuse to fund it.

Relevance is a big issue. Surveys show that the average park visitor is 41 years old and white, not the future of a young, diverse majority America that will be here about the same time as the glaciers disappear.

Finally, the number of sites managed by the NPS has grown from 35 in 1916 to 400 sites today. That has led to substantial deferred maintenance, and given that Congress is unlikely to come up with additional funding, the NPS is seeking corporate funding, and possibly sponsorship.

Imagine Yellowstone: brought to you by Coca-Cola…

This brings into question of the very meaning of the commons: If we sell sponsorships, who owns the Grand Canyon? Who decides how Glacier National Park should be managed?

But, in a world where the GOP won’t agree to fund the parks, that’s what you should expect.

On a happier note, here are photos taken on our final days in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Here is Moraine Lake, a small, jewel-like glacier-fed lake, created by gigantic rock slide:

DSCN5657

The distinctive color is from the sunlight reflecting off of dissolved particles of finely ground rock called “glacial flour”. And here is a photo of Lake Louise in Banff:

DSCN5694

Lake Louise was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Apparently, the Province of Alberta is named after her as well. She never visited.

Here is a close-up of the Louise Glacier above the lake:

DSCN5676

The glacier is 300’ thick at the edge of the cliff wall.

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Glacier NP Musings

We stayed in Whitefish Montana for the first two days of the trip. It would be difficult to come up with a town that feels so welcoming and comfortable for tourists. It is a small place, with about 7,500 residents.

The town lives on tourists, with some 800,000 visiting this year in July alone. Anyway, notably nice people, and great food is on offer in the restaurants. We ate at the Tupelo Grille, and at 48° Latitude, both were fabulous. We spent today in the Lake McDonald area of the Park. We took a few pics.

First, on a hike on Beehive Mountain, we walked through an area that had burned in 2003, when 57,000+ acres went up after high school kids failed to put out their campfire. After the fire, plants and flowers grew in profusion. Here is a photo of fireweed, which only grows after the fire is out:

DSCN5149

We moved on to Lake McDonald. There is a fire near Missoula, some 137 miles away that had smoke drifting over the lake. So our photos were hazy, but here is a photo Wrongo took from a small boat:

DSCN5185Finally, we spent time at the Lake McDonald Lodge. It is run by Xanterra, who also have properties at the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, Crater Lake and many other National Parks. The Lodge is an old property, built in 1913, and it’s located in a wonderful spot. We were struck by the huge chandelier in the lobby:

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The chandelier was designed by members of the Blackfeet Indian tribe almost 100 years ago. Here is a detail photo Wrongo took on Tuesday:

DSCN5201

You know Wrongo has to close with a political comment. Montana was the first state to send a woman to Congress. Jeannette Rankin was elected to the House in 1916, four years before women won the right to vote after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was a Republican and the only Congressperson to vote against the US entering both WWI and WWII.

Glacier Park had its 100th Anniversary in 2010. Visit it soon if you expect to see glaciers. They are forecasted to be gone by 2030.

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 6, 2016

We know that D-Day was June 6, 1944, but what does the “D” in D-Day, stand for?

Apparently, this is a frequently asked question by visitors to The National WWII Museum. But the answer isn’t simple. Disagreements between military historians and etymologists about the meaning of D-Day abound. Here are two explanations:

In Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Ambrose writes:

Time Magazine reported on June 12 1944 that ‘as far as the U.S. Army can determine, the first use of D for Day, H for Hour was in Field Order No. 8, of the First Army, A.E.F., issued on Sept. 20, 1918, which read, ‘The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient.’ (p. 491)

In other words, Ambrose reports the D in D-Day stands for “Day.” But In Paul Dickson’s War Slang, he quotes General Eisenhower:

When someone wrote to General Eisenhower in 1964 asking for an explanation, his executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schultz answered: ‘General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.’ (p.146)

It’s an enigma wrapped inside of a mystery. A continuing enigma is the lack of accountability by both our elected officials and our state and national bureaucrats. Today’s travesty was reported in the UK’s Guardian:

Despite warnings of regulators and experts, water departments in at least 33 cities used testing methods over the past decade that could underestimate lead found in drinking water.

These tests are taken annually and sent to the EPA in Washington. The 33 offending cities were in 17 different states. Of the cities, 21 used the same failed water testing methods that were used in Flint MI. Additional findings:

  • Michigan and New Hampshire advised water departments to give themselves extra time to complete tests so that if lead contamination exceeded federal limits, officials could re-sample and remove results with high lead levels.
  • Some cities denied knowledge of the locations of lead pipes, failed to sample the required number of homes with lead plumbing or refused to release lead pipe maps, claiming that would be a security risk.

Since the Flint water crisis erupted last year, school districts from coast to coast have stepped up testing of fountains and sinks. From Newark to Boston to Detroit, city after city has reported elevated levels of lead in the water of some educational buildings. The Portland OR schools have the problem and the school district has been aware of it for years. But the federal government doesn’t actually require most schools to test, so few do.

Apparently, the federal EPA has known since 2001 that its testing guidelines were weak. They are working on “long-term revisions” to its lead and copper rule, which are expected in 2017. Or sometime.

From Ian Welsh:

No regulator worth its salt, who is doing their job, could have missed entire States and large cities cheating, because any regulator worth its salt does its own audits and testing.

Republicans do not see this as a problem. Yes, there have been apologies, but no federal funding to remediate the problem. In fact, Fitch Rating Service estimates that capital costs to replace the nation’s lead water service lines could exceed $275 billion.

Republicans expect Mr. Market to take care of issues like this, once we privatize our water supply.

After all, aren’t invisible hands already cleaning the lead from the brains of America’s children?

It’s the miracle of market self-regulation.

Time for a wake-up call for all who think that business as usual is acceptable for our aging infrastructure, and in the case of our water supply, our poisonous infrastructure. Let’s look back to a time when America could do great things, even if it cost real dough. In 1977, we sent the Voyager I and II interstellar satellites off into space with a record of the things we thought made Earth unique. The music we sent was picked by Carl Sagan. This link lists all of the music we sent into the cosmos. One of his picks was by Blind Willie Johnson, “Dark Was the Night”, which has no lyrics, but creates a mood of loneliness. Here is “Dark Was the Night”:

This song will likely last longer than the human race. It’s doubtful that Blind Willie ever thought THAT was gonna happen.

What isn’t gonna happen is that our politicians decide on their own to be accountable to the rest of us.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 29, 2016

Californians will be pleased to know that when Donald Trump becomes president, he can stop their drought overnight. California just went through the driest four-year period on record.

But Trump isn’t sold. He told supporters in Fresno, CA that the dry spell is bogus. Trump said the state was denying water to Central Valley farmers to prioritize the Delta smelt, a native California fish nearing extinction — or as Trump called it: “a certain kind of three-inch fish.” He told the crowd:

We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea…

At least we know where Trump stands on the issue:

If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive.

Never mind that this is a state, not a federal issue, because Trump will win on the environment too.

In other news, Hill’s email problem gives her a few hurdles:

COW Hillarys Hurdles

So far, we’ve heard what we already knew, she broke a rule that others had broken before her. Of course, to Republicans, breaking an agency rule is proof she’s broken the law. Maybe, but rules ain’t the same as the law. She needs to put this behind her, or face death by a thousand cuts.

We got our first look at Hill’s emails:

COW Hills Emoticon

Bill & Hill feel the Bern in CA:

COW kids in car

Trump and Bernie wanted to debate. You know who the target was:

COW Trump Bernie

Apparently, we have no antibiotic for the Superbug:

COW Superbug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GOP plans to make the transgender toilet rule a centerpiece in the campaign:

COW Toilet

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