The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 18, 2018

What is most interesting about the #Enough movement is that it is well-disciplined, and deadly serious. These kids aren’t just looking for a chance to cut school. They realize what’s at stake: not just their lives, but the future of the country. Most of them will be old enough to vote in 2020.

When you think about high school kids marching, the Parkland kids are from FL, many WI kids marched, and Democrat Conor Lamb just won in a PA district gerrymandered to be very red. Total Electoral College votes if these three states switched from red to blue: 59. In other words, #Enough:

Dem surprise win in PA gets standard Trump response:

GOP debrief on PA rounds up all the usual suspects:

United’s problems transporting dogs makes Romney look good:

Steven Hawking enters the worm hole:

White House alums seem to be ok:


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.


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:


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?



High School Kids Might Be the Real Justice League

The Daily Escape:

Sedona, AZ – 2017 photo by joanwood01

“There is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time, we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims – and we become victims. We become weak; we doubt ourselves; we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions; and we doubt the law… If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice.”
— The closing argument by Paul Newman’s character in “The Verdict” (1982)

Imagine that: Act with justice. Belief in justice is part of believing in democracy. If you lose faith in one, you will lose faith in the other. Those who have refused to give up, like Dr. King, and those who marched for civil rights and then, who marched to end the Vietnam War acted with justice.

Fast forward to today, those Florida high schoolers, who are schooling politicians, are following in those footsteps, attempting to act with justice. They are trying to live up to the founding ethos of the US.

Can the pursuit of justice that gave us successes in civil rights also fuel success in the long, impossibly hard struggle to Make America Safe Again?

Making it Safe from too many guns in the hands of too many Americans?

Before Parkland, Wrongo was about to write off the possibility that gun control activism would achieve much of anything. That we were doomed to remain the world’s most “exceptional” country when it comes to guns.

America thinks that it’s worth it to have a more dangerous society in order to have strong Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment Absolutists, including the NRA, Trump and the GOP, think the lives we’d save if we had stricter gun controls aren’t worth the freedom that owning guns buys them.

And the rest of us don’t oppose their viewpoint strongly enough to affect change.

Then along came these high school activists. They have become our last, best hope of blunting the Second Amendment Absolutists. Where did these Florida shooting survivors find their activism and organizing? Can they carry through to a place that their elders haven’t been able to reach?

What is refreshing about the students from Stoneman Douglas is that we are hearing about their lived experience.

This has a gravitas far beyond what is handed down from the Beltway. The gun discussions have been mostly led by politicians and lobbyists. But that is being eclipsed by voices with first-hand experience surviving a mass killing. It’s their intimate experience, plus the passion they are bringing that encourages the rest of us to dig in, and help bring about change.

They seem to know that their ground swell of political activism strikes fear into the hearts of politicians. They seem to know that they can make gun control a major issue in the 2018 mid-terms.

They are proving more resilient and savvy than many of us would have given them credit for on the day of the shooting. It isn’t their responsibility to fix the world, but since they have a place in it, and a voice, perhaps they can spur some real change.

They are forcing politicians like Sen. Rubio (R-FL) back on their heels. They are forcing the NRA into PR mistakes. Remember this?

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land

And don’t criticize what you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command

Your old road is rapidly aging

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin‘ – B. Dylan

At the CNN Town Hall on Wednesday night, it was obvious that the NRA’s Dana Loesch and Rubio both knew that these students were far beyond their command. But that doesn’t mean we should sit back, and expect them to do it alone.

We have to stand up, help them, and certainly vote in huge numbers.


Monday Wake Up Call – February 19, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Gun Protest on Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale FL.

Trump linked two events last week, the shooting in Parkland, FL, and the Mueller indictments of 13 Russians for meddling in our election process, failing at both.

First, the Muller investigation. Trump suggested Saturday that the FBI failed to stop the Florida school shooting because it’s spending too much time on the Russia investigation:

We can agree that the FBI was derelict in investigating the tip about Nikolas Cruz. However, we can’t say that the Parkland shooting, or any other for that matter, could have been stopped. The Feds can’t foresee the future. This was another Trump ploy to discredit the FBI and the Mueller investigation as its work begins to bite deeply into the issues it was formed to investigate.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that the investigations into Russian meddling are creating chaos and divisions in the US. He said: “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

On Sunday, David Frum said this in the Atlantic: (emphasis by Wrongo)

It’s worth thinking about what a patriotic president would have done in Trump’s situation. He would be leading the investigation himself. He would be scouring his own campaign—doing everything in his power to reassure the country that whatever the Russians may or may not have done, his government owed Putin nothing… Above all, he would be leading the demand for changes to election laws and practices, including holding Facebook to account for its negligence.

Why are Trump’s reactions so off the mark? Why is The Donald so defensive about something that is of ultimate importance, the integrity of our election process? Shouldn’t that be of great interest to anyone who has sworn to defend the Constitution?

Second, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School rallied in southern Florida to protest how the lack of gun regulations affects their lives. One student, Emma Gonzales, told the crowd:

In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses…Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, ‘Well, it’s a shame the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.‘ Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

Here’s what Grassley actually said after the Florida shootings:

We have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that.

Grassley twists himself into a pretzel, trying to blame the FBI for what Grassley himself did. Who has these ethics?

Another Parkland student, Cameron Kasky, told CNN that many Republicans are only concerned with things like weddings cakes at same-sex weddings:

There is a segment of this society that will shrug this off and send their thoughts and prayers but march for hours over a rainbow wedding cake…

High school kids in Florida are standing up to the President and the Congress. Teenagers are unerring in calling out hypocrisy. Their tolerance for it is lower than that of adults, too. This may be the stone that starts the landslide against the Second Amendment absolutists in Washington. Let’s hope so.

Time to help those Florida teens wake up Trump and Congress. Wake them up to the need to ban assault weapons. To have background checks for all gun buyers, to have liability insurance for every gun owned. To help them wake up, here is Pearl Jam with “Jeremy” from their 1991 debut album “Ten”. The song was inspired by a newspaper article Eddie Vedder read about a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class:

Sample Lyric:

Dead lay in pools of maroon below
Daddy didn’t give attention
To the fact that mommy didn’t care
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Clearly I remember
Pickin’ on the boy

Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed a lion

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


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 18, 2018

Friday brought Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for “information warfare against the United States of America“. The best part was that the special counsel’s work was totally under the radar, and there were zero leaks.

And thus far, nobody on the right is claiming Mueller’s indictments are “fake news”.

One interesting takeaway was that Russian cells were formed to establish phony Facebook, Twitter and other accounts that pushed divisive politics in the US. We already knew this, but we didn’t know specifics: At one point, a supposed Islamophobic group protested outside a Texas mosque, and it was met by a pro-Muslim counter-demonstration. Both demonstrations were called for by fake Russian sites. These sites eventually had hundreds of thousands of followers. They spread false memes, including that Clinton supported Sharia law.

Russian sites that were disguised as a part of the Black Lives Matter movement argued that African-Americans should not vote. While it is impossible to show cause and effect, Clinton underperformed with Black voters.

The jury is still out on the extent of Russian influence, and we may never know if it mattered. Still, it is way past time for the Democratic Party to own up to its own failures, rather than continually blaming the Russians, Bernie Sanders, the Green Party, or the deplorables.

After Mueller indictments, Trump and friends now have some ‘splaining to do:

Mitch, Paul and the rest of the GOP think they have zero responsibility for gun violence:

The issue is always the guns:

American Exceptionalism was on display again last week:

Pledge of Allegiance needs new words:

Blockbuster Black Panther movie may help beyond entertaining us:


Saturday Soother – February 17, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka – photo by jcourtial for dronestagram. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress. The site was the palace for King Kasyapa (477 – 495 BC). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We live in a seemingly endless loop of outrage. Nothing ever changes, because we waste energy on the “what-about?” arguments from both sides, each attempting to reframe the issue to their side’s advantage. These discussions yield nothing, and solutions are never agreed. This adds to a generalized feeling of powerlessness: The view that everything that is important is out of our hands, and insoluble.

So it is with school shootings, with protecting the DACA kids. And with whatever Russiagate is.

At least the Mueller investigation will run its course. We have to hope that the results will be made public. But if they are released, it will only lead to more debate and disagreement. Until then, we’ll continue to gleefully argue our respective Russiagate viewpoints in a fact-free vacuum.

We have experienced hysterical political times before, but they tended to be single issue events. Has there ever been a time when so many people in both political parties have been so single-mindedly determined to whip up anger?

When we’re looking at just a single issue, one side or the other often simply runs out of steam. Then the issue can be resolved both in Washington and in the mind of the public.

When we experience multiple issues simultaneously, the available energy is expended across the entire spectrum of problems. Thus, there isn’t enough energy to direct successfully at a single issue. So nothing is resolved.

This is where we are in February 2018, in a kind of nervous exhaustion: Too many issues and too few resolutions.

Can something, or someone unite us? Will a big event allow a majority to coalesce around a point of view, or a leader?

History shows that when we are in the grip of anxiety, it can be a relief if something we fear actually happens. Think about when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It was widely reported that the response of the public, including anti-war activists, was relief. There was a feeling that at last a course had been set, a key decision made. FDR united the disparate groups behind a war.

While the same situation doesn’t quite apply today, we crave some sort of decisions, perhaps some sort of decisive act. What would that be? It isn’t possible to see from where we are today.

As John Edwards said, there are two Americas. The one that sends their children to private schools, and the second one that sends their children to public schools. The second group has the kids who get shot by the gunmen. And politicians get away with platitudes about their thoughts and prayers.

Unfortunately, they then decide that fixing the problem is not worth their time.

We may have reached a breaking point. Shitty jobs, shitty pay, shitty hours, and little hope of advancement. No easy access to medical care, an uneven social safety net. Wrongo lived through the chaotic 1960’s. He endured Reagan’s show-no-mercy 1980’s. Those were bad times.

But, in a lot of ways, 2018 is worse. Today, there is an immense lack of mutual respect. And there is a ubiquitous atmosphere of a powerless people.

Wow, who said all that??

We desperately need a weekend where we can unplug from the media and focus on other things. In other words, we need a Saturday soother. Start by brewing up a big cuppa Stumptown Coffee’s Holler Mountain Blend, ($16/12oz.) The Stumptown people promise flavors of blackberry, citrus and toffee in a creamy, full body. Your mileage may vary.

Now, get in your favorite chair and listen to some, or all of the musical score from the film “Dunkirk”. Both the score and the film are Oscar-nominated. The film’s director Christopher Nolan suggested to the musical director Hans Zimmer, that they use Elgar’s “Nimrod” from the 1898-99 “Enigma Variations” as part of the theme. They decided that the movie’s music should be about time, and how for the men on the beaches, time was running out. They picked the “Enigma Variations” because it’s part of English culture, less a national anthem than an emotional anthem for the nation. Along the way, consistent with using time, they slowed it down to 6 beats per minute. Listen to their version from the movie:

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


Too Many Guns

The Daily Escape:

“Don’t tell me tomorrow isn’t the appropriate time to debate gun violence. If you’re a political leader doing nothing about this slaughter, you’re an accomplice.” – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Can we get politicians to deal with gun violence? Politicians like to reframe the problem, like saying that we need more “good people” with guns. But, there were two armed police officers stationed at the Parkland FL school. Upon hearing that, the gun absolutists might argue: “If only the teachers and students had their own weapons, it probably would have worked out just fine…

At Trump’s inaugural, in the “American Carnage” portion of his speech, he said that “Your child isn’t going to be shot” on his watch. But after 18 shootings just this year, it’s clear that Trump has no plan to stop gun violence. Attacks like this can’t be eliminated, but Trump could have done something, other than blame the students and neighbors who didn’t turn the shooter in. That, and last year, he made it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns.

And we are getting numb. The LA Times editorial asks: (emphasis by Wrongo)

When does an epidemic stop being an epidemic and become just a basic part of regular life? It’s been 19 years since the nation was horrified by the carnage at Columbine in suburban Denver. It’s been just over five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Quick: What was the most recent mass shooting incident (at least four wounded) at a school before the one on Wednesday? Here’s the sick part: There have been so many school shootings that it takes a bit of work to answer what should be an easy question.

Who remembers clearly the particulars of the last school shooting? Not Wrongo, and probably not you. We have grown weary of being outraged after so many shootings. We’ve become numb to the sensations of outrage and pain for the victims and their families. It’s official. Guns have more rights than humans in our 21st Century America.

We have to control guns if we want to turn the tide. Consider this chart from the Tewkesbury Lab that graphs gun deaths by gun ownership:

There is a clear relationship between gun access and gun violence, and the US clearly has the most gun violence and the most guns. We might ask why some countries are above the trend line, and others are below it. When your country is above the line, your citizens not only own more guns per capita, they also have a harder time keeping their guns pointed away from other people.

Trump and Congress should have a goal of minimizing the risk of gun deaths. The best way to accomplish this is reducing access to guns. If you want to reduce your personal risk from gun related violence, you can move to a state or a country where gun laws are stricter and cultural norms surrounding guns are more progressive.

If you can’t or don’t want to move, you need to work to pass stricter gun laws where you live.

Politicians can argue about details, but the fundamentals are clear. It is like smoking. If you want to reduce smoking, you make it harder and more expensive to smoke. Only the tobacco industry and the politicians they had purchased really argued with that logic.

Why should it be different with guns?

We are unique in our worship of guns. The Second Amendment provides a big blanket of excuse for gun lovers to wrap themselves in, but Second Amendment rights shouldn’t be superior to the right of your kid to return home from school alive.

We need to control the number of guns. We also need to figure out how to change our acceptance and glorification of violence. It is young men like the kid who killed 17 in Parkland FL, who avoid mental health advice, because they don’t want to look weak. They are the same ones who are perpetually angry. They pick up a gun, and they let their gun do some punishing. And guns do that quickly and efficiently.

We have to stop them. Republicans are owned by the NRA. So first, we need to regain control of the House and Senate. We also need to have the gun control legislation ready for when that time comes.

We need better ad campaigns ads that spell out about what America loses with every shooting.

We can’t stop every wacko from harming people, but we can sharply reduce the percentage of wackos that have guns!