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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

It’s Hard to Swallow Today’s Breaking News

The Daily Escape:

Autumn, Lake Mrzia Vodica, Croatia – photo by lascic

Lots of breaking news today, including Ruth Ginsburg breaking three ribs. Wrongo broke two ribs this summer, so he has some idea of how a geriatric person recovers from this kind of injury. Let’s hope she is able to get back on the job soon.

Robert Mueller is said to be preparing his final report, now that Sessions is out. It seems that the GOP is going to go all in on a cover-up.

Today though, we’ll focus on yet another mass shooting, this time in SoCal. Twelve people have been killed in a bar near Pepperdine University. Apparently, the killer committed suicide. We know that he was a former Marine (2008-2013) who served in Afghanistan for eight months, from November 2010 to June 2011. He was a machine gunner while in the Marines.  He lived with his mother. He legally owned the murder weapon.

Expect to hear more thoughts and prayers, and for good guys to carry guns when they go in a bar.

Oh, wait! One of victims in the bar actually WAS carrying a gun. He was a sheriff responding to the shooting, and was one of the 12 people killed.

For some perspective on mass shootings, Paul Campos at the LGM blog has an interesting chart showing mass shootings in the US by decade:

1950s: 0

1960s: 1 (University of Texas tower shooting)

1970s: 0

1980s: 6

1990s: 6

2000s: 7

2010s: 16

Campos says that 22 of these 36 mass shootings have taken place since 2007. Campos doesn’t include the killer(s) if they were killed or committed suicide during the incident. His source uses eight dead as the definition of a mass shooting.

When you look at the timeline of mass shootings and see just how many of them (50%) have occurred in this decade (which still has two years to go), shouldn’t we be asking what’s changed? We have been living in an increasingly safe era since the peak in violent crime, with the outlier being mass shootings. The overall homicide rate reached its peak in 1992 at 9.8/100,000 and firearm homicides are now down to about 3.5/100,000 nationally.

For a nation of 300 million people, that’s a difference of about 10,000 fewer people dying in gun murders per year compared to where we would be if the rate had held constant.

Some will blame the internet, social media and our increasingly alienated modern society for angry white guys committing more mass murders. The truth is we have no idea why this abomination is happening more frequently. One place where better data would help is knowing what percentage of the population now has access to rapid fire assault weapons with large capacity clips.

We do know that gun ownership is more prevalent than it was in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. We know that there are many people out there with guns. Per capita, the number of guns in the hands of civilians has roughly doubled since 1968, from one gun per every two persons, to one gun per person. Yet, the firearm murder rate is lower.

We haven’t gotten anywhere with gun control since the Clinton presidency. There are few issues in America that we won’t tackle if they continually cause deaths. We don’t allow drinking and driving, and we require that people wear seatbelts. We are trying to blunt the anti-vaxx’ers by now requiring kids to show proof of vaccination before they can attend public school. We’re willing to send the people who screwed up Flint, Michigan’s water system to jail.

But nothing works to restrict the availability and lethality of guns.

The new governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, has a different framing for the gun debate. He talks about limiting “gun violence” not about “common sense gun control”, which is the standard liberal meme when it comes to limiting the Second Amendment.

Maybe a focus on gun violence as opposed to gun control is a better way to create voter support for new restrictions on guns, the kind of restrictions that would help lower the number and lethality, of mass shootings.

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Tuesday Wake Up Call – July 24, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Dog Sculpture at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Doesn’t the dog look like Vladimir Putin?  July 2018 photo by Conor Morrissey.

What does domestic terrorism look like? We may soon be seeing it up close and personal. Michael Scheuer, a former senior CIA official, author of the NYT bestseller, “Imperial Hubris” (and apparent world-class paranoid) said it is “quite near time” to kill American citizens who oppose Trump. From boingboing:

In a now-deleted blog post (cached version here) Scheuer singles out “Strzok, Comey, McCabe, Page, and Rosenstein; worshipers of tyranny, like the Democratic members of Congress, the Clintons, the FBI, and the Obamas; apparent traitors like Brennan, Hayden, and Clapper; all of the mainstream media; and the tens of thousands of government-admitted-and-protected, violent, criminal, and illegal immigrants.”

Scheuer just gave us the far-right’s hit list. He approves of the growing interest on the right in assassinating those opposed to Trump. Boingboing continues: (emphasis by Wrongo)

American patriots have so far, praise God, been remarkably disciplined in not responding to tyranny and violence with violence. For now they must remain so, armed but steady. But the time for such patience is fast slipping away; indeed, that patience is quickly becoming an obviously rank and self-destructive foolishness. If Trump does not act soon to erase the above noted tyranny and tyrants, the armed citizenry must step in and eliminate them.

He didn’t stop there:

In a later blog post, published July 17, says The Inquisitr, Scheuer accuses ‘Israel and wealthy Jewish-Americans’ of conspiring to ‘destroy the Western tradition, manipulate U.S. elections, and to tear American society apart.’

That’s a lot of enemies. But you are thinking this is just a wacko former CIA guy whose government power base is gone. He may be a wacko, but he’s married to a current high-ranking CIA officer, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. And Scheuer seems to have a long and very precise list. Chekhov said:

One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

Well, the gun is sitting on the stage. Was Charlottesville simply their training camp?

Wake up America, your time may be running out. The mid-term election may be our final chance to turn the country back on a positive direction. To help you wake up, here is Mary Gauthier performing “Mercy Now” in 2010 at the Music Fog studio in Nashville, TN. Gauthier didn’t begin her singer/songwriter career until she was 35, after struggling through alcoholism and drug addiction. This is from her 2005 album, “Mercy Now”:

Sample Lyric:

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now

She apparently wrote this about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, but it is even more relevant today, when there is nearly zero mercy in our culture.

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

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Saturday Soother – June 30, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Spice Stall, Istanbul, Turkey – 2013 photo by Wrongo

This week, there was plenty of talk about “Trump Fatigue”. This, from Just Above Sunset is a good example:

The Trump presidency has been exhausting. Maybe that was the idea. It’s one outrageous thing after another. Everything is “big news” – but when everything is big news nothing is. Everyone goes numb. The United States now has concentration camps for children? Canada is now our enemy and North Korea is not? CNN gave up. Every single news story is “Breaking News” there…but everyone else is tired of this. That was the idea. Make America shrug. They won’t know what hit them. They just don’t care. They’ve had enough. They’ll worry about their own lives. Trump will be Trump. Life will go on.

The biggest, baddest, worst-est bad news was the retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. When the court reconvenes in October, there is likely to be a majority willing at least to gut, if not formally overrule, Roe v. Wade. The hope that the Supreme Court will enforce voting rights is now dead. The Court will not strike down gerrymandering, despite ample evidence that it renders quite a few elections undemocratic. And this week, in supporting Trump’s Muslim Ban, it said it was overturning Korematsu vs. The United States. In fact, it really reaffirmed it, under the guise of overruling it.

We had another mass shooting. This time it’s five journalists dead at the hands of a shotgun-toting man with a grudge against the paper: he lost a defamation suit against it in 2015. So the media presents us with yet another day of video loops from helicopters showing police cars and emergency vehicles lined up, and a ceaseless round of cable TV reporters trying new ways to say they have nothing new to report.

Trump is planning a summit with Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Finland. Maybe it’s his annual performance review, maybe it’s just an effort to get superpower relations on a better track. Hard to know.

We will be getting a new Democratic Congressperson in NY’s 4th district. A 28 year-old first-time candidate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will replace Joe Crowley in the Queens-Bronx district that includes Archie Bunker’s old neighborhood. But the old neighborhood ain’t what it used to be. Today the district is roughly 50% Latino and 25% other minorities. It is unclear if this portends anything for Republican House seats in November.

Wrongo knows that our only hope is voter turnout in November. But, has there been a fair election in this century? Probably not. The media and the Republicans will say that our democratic process continues, but as the NYT reported:

Eight of the tech industry’s most influential companies, in anticipation of a repeat of the Russian meddling that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign, met with United States intelligence officials last month to discuss preparations for this year’s midterm elections.

The conclusion was that the US government is doing nothing to secure the 2018 vote. Apparently, the Trump administration is hoping for a red wave in November. Combine their hope with SCOTUS’s apparent support of gerrymandering, and we can practically guarantee that our democracy is dying.

And here’s a cartoon that can’t wait until Sunday:

Sorry to be so negative on your Saturday morning. We need to drop this, at least for a little while, and find some way to get a little soothing going. Start by brewing up a vente cup of Laderas del Tapias coffee from Barrington Coffee Roasting Co. in Lee, MA ($21.95/12 oz.), with its chewy fruit flavors of blackberry, plum, and apple. Bostonians can visit their store on Newbury Street.

Head outside to a shady spot. Now, listen to Hugo Alfven’s Swedish Rhapsody No. 1: “Midsommarvaka” (midsummer vigil), written in 1903.  It is performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petri Sakari. The section from ~5:45 to ~9:00 is particularly beautiful:

Percy Faith had a US Top 30 hit with a selection from it in 1953, so it may sound familiar to older readers.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 8, 2018

Another week of news from the teacher’s strikes, to the unjustified shootings, to Trump’s tariffs, Pruitt’s condo deal and sending troops to the southern border, there was plenty of room for fun.

The GOP dilemma with the teacher’s strike:

Maybe the best poster from the March:

A too common a reason why Daddy’s gone:

Not everyone wins with Trump’s tariffs:

Pruitt was in bed with these guys before the condo deal:

The reasons why Trump wins with Evangelicals:

When he testifies, Zuck will try calling the kettle black:

Trump faces resource allocation decision:

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1968 – America Has Never Been The Same

The Daily Escape:

National Guard, March 29, 1968 during a strike supporting sanitation workers in Memphis, TN. MLK would be assassinated in Memphis on April 4th.  

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. It was a signal event that for practical purposes, ended the era of 1960’s activism in the US.

Dr. King was an exemplar who reached all Americans with a peaceful, moral message that still resounds today. Wrongo is aware that many blog readers were not alive in 1968, and thus have no personal connection to a time when doing the right thing was still paramount in our society.

All of us, those who lived through the 1960s and those who did not, should stop today and look back on the events of 1968, and their meaning for today. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would not run for another term. Despite all of his legislative achievements, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Acts, his undoing was the Vietnam War.

Four days later, Dr. King was killed in Memphis. Subsequently more than 100 riots took place in our cities.

Two months later, Robert Kennedy too would be dead, assassinated like both his brother and Dr. King. Their murders dashed the hope that figures like King and the Kennedys had stirred in the American people earlier in the decade. In August, anti-war riots also had a large impact at the Democrat’s national convention in Chicago.

The riots showed the frustration and fury felt by many African-Americans who lived in poor housing with minimal opportunities, thanks to institutional racism and discriminatory government policies. For others, however, the riots reinforced the sense that the country was spinning out of control and that only a heavy hand with rioters and criminals would restore peace and keep our prosperity.

This dichotomy continues to shape our politics today.

In November ‘68, Richard Nixon was elected by 512,000 votes over Hubert Humphrey. He would continue the war, and later resign over Watergate.

The assassinations and the riots, combined with the lack of trust caused by the Vietnam War and Watergate eroded Americans’ faith in government. Without trust in government, America moved in many different directions. And voters eventually soured on liberal activist policies for more than a generation.

According to Lenny Steinhorn, a historian at American University who has studied the 1960s:

1968 was the perfect storm that crystallized the differences in society. The Tet offensive drove home the un-winnability of the war, and the assassinations drove home the despair…. All these clouds that were gathering became an electrical storm…. What was clear was how we were divided and this played out for the next 50 years.

Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution, says:

It was a terrible year. I think it was the worst year for American society since the Civil War. It was a combination of race, gender and Vietnam that was a lethal cocktail…. We were in even worse shape than we are now. We were divided about things that are more fundamental than we are now. It felt like the country was coming apart at the seams, the fabric pulling apart. But we got through it.

1968 illustrated how change can arrive suddenly and fundamentally, even in America. And many Americans see 2018 shaping up as another 1968.

We are as polarized as we were then, and this time it’s also along ideological and partisan lines. Deadly violence is again regularly erupting, this time in the form of mass shootings such as the massacres in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino and Parkland. And we saw ideological violence in Charlottesville.

Our political system is under attack again, led by President Trump and his followers who believe in disrupting the status quo, without a coherent thought about what should replace it.

If the decade of the 1960’s marked an American apogee of sorts, will the 2020’s mark its perigee? We have not faced this particular set of circumstances before, so we can’t know just now, but it is likely we may know soon.

One bright spot is the return of teenagers to activism. We have had many marches over the 50 years since 1968, but few have felt as if they would deliver political change. The Parkland activists, joined by teens all across America are media-savvy. They use different tools, and seem to be more than a flash in the pan. So maybe, the mass movement-type of activism will make a comeback.

Parkland’s student leaders have accomplished something, but we’ll have to see if it delivers results in the voting booth.

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 achieving your Big Idea remains possible.

Can we get it back?

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 1, 2018

Hopefully, none of you brought any of these cute little babies home for Easter. Wrongo’s parents once brought home some baby chicks for the holiday. The family dog ended their stay very quickly. Just don’t do it!

Easter falls on April Fool’s Day. We’ve been invited to a family party. We’re hoping someone’s really home when we get there. The men’s college basketball championship is sandwiched around April 1st, and Wrongo will be watching. Sadly, the UConn women’s basketball team lost in their final four for the second year in a row.

We endured another week of non-stop foolery by our elected representatives, and this week’s cartoons show just that.

There will be new census questions, but its doubtful that these will make the cut:

The new questions come with a few new tools:

The Roseanne show reboot was cause for concern by Dan:

Trump has the best irony. Trump should pay more and so should Amazon:

We didn’t hear Bob Dylan at the #March for our lives, but Congress should have:

Trump’s legal problems actually have an easy solution:

Trump’s careful diplomatic approach will certainly win the trade negotiation with China: (from the Economist)

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 26, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Emma González during her silence at the March for Our Lives

From the NYT:

Emma González spoke for just under two minutes on Saturday before tens of thousands of demonstrators at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, describing the effects of gun violence in emotional detail and reciting the names of classmates who had been killed.

Then she said nothing for four minutes and 26 seconds.

It was uncomfortable for many in the audience. Then a timer went off, and she said:

Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives, before its someone else’s job,

Wrongo likes this analysis by Melissa Byrnes at Lawyers, Guns & Money: (brackets by Wrongo)

[Her silence] It is the loudest call to action I have heard in a long time. We need to be unsettled. We need to question our assumptions about what is possible. We need pay attention to the silent woman who insists that we hear the multitude of silences of those we’ve failed. We need to recognize when that woman is commanding us to listen. We need to rethink what leadership looks and sounds like.

Because this is a woman I am ready to follow.

There is reason to hope that these kids will drive change in our politics. They have stepped into a vacuum caused by our divided politics. They shouldn’t have had to do this, it was our job, and we have failed.

Now, we can’t just become their passive admirers. We have to participate in this movement for political and social change. On the one hand, we are being led by an amazingly courageous person in Washington DC. And on the other, your titular leader, Donald Trump, chose to go golfing in Florida this weekend.

Remember this in November.

For the first time since Trump’s election, we are seeing how issues like gun control, #metoo, BLM and the frustration caused by economic inequality are melding together in a leftward political tilt.

It’s way past time for Trump and politicians on all sides, who purposefully make no progress on the great issues of the day, to wake up, listen and ACT!

To help them wake up, here is Ed Sheeran with his 2017 song “What Do I Know”? Sheeran says that his dad’s advice was to never mention politics, never mention religion and never get involved in other people’s battles. From Sheeran:

The song ‘What Do I Know’ was me looking at the world and being like ‘we aren’t doing too well are we?’ and writing a song about it…

Listen up:

Sample Lyrics:

The revolution’s coming, it’s a minute away

I saw people marching in the streets today

You know we are made up of love and hate

But both of them are balanced on a razor blade

 I’ll paint the picture let me set the scene,

You know the future’s in the hands of you and me

So let’s all get together, we can all be free

Spread love and understanding positivity

 Everybody’s talking about exponential growth

And the stock market crashing and their portfolios

While I’ll be sitting here with a song that I wrote

Saying love could change the world in a moment

But what do I know?

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

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2018/mar/24/emma-gonzalezs-powerful-march-for-our-lives-speech-in-full-video

 

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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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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:

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