The last weekend in February is now in the rear view mirror. The shortest month seemed like an eternity to most of us. Even thinking about looking forward is madness, March Madness that is, a favorite time for Wrongo, one of the few times when watching televised sports dominates at the Mansion of Wrong.
The Wrong family is off to Florida this week for the annual visit to his family. So columns may be like the Florida breezes, light and variable.
Remember Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which for some of you is your last guilt-free celebration until Easter. If you prefer less partying and more angst, by all means watch Donald Trump’s Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress.
Politico reports that House Democrats plan to troll Trump during the speech. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), is leading an effort to have his colleagues bring diverse guests to the speech on Tuesday. The effort is designed to focus on Trump’s immigration and refugee policies, perhaps stealing a bit of the spotlight from the president’s speech. Wrongo’s advice to Dems is to respect the office of the president. They can sit on their hands when Republicans applaud the Overlord, but they should avoid overt displays that make them look like loonies on the floor of the Congress. Wrongo’s further advice is not to attend this manufactured event. After all, there is no requirement in law or custom for it; it isn’t a “State of the Union” speech. And it’s the first time since Eisenhower that a president has given this type of out-of-sequence address.
So don’t expect that each time Trump tells a whopper, Dems will yell out “you lie!” despite the fact that since Republican Rep. Joe Wilson did it to Obama, it seems to be ok. And most likely if the Orange Overlord is speaking, this time, it will also be true.
So let’s wake up with a song about lyin’ politicians. Here is “Politician Lies” by Steve M:
Hide what money buys.
They know right from wrong
Still they come on like King Kong
With a fat superpac
You can’t get them off your back.
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
The NATO Defense Ministers are meeting this week, and a big issue is the financial support provided by the member nations. The US spends more of its GDP on NATO than any other member, 3.6%, or $664 billion in 2016. NATO countries have committed to spending 2% of their GDP on the military, but the only countries currently meeting that target are Britain, Poland, Estonia and Greece. At a preliminary meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the ministers would “stress the importance of fair burden-sharing and higher defence spending,”
New US Defense Secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis, warned that continued American support for NATO could depend on other NATO countries meeting their spending commitments:
Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do…I owe it to you to give you clarity on the political reality in the US and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms…If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense…
Europe is reluctant to pay for its own defense. The GDP of the EU approximates that of the US, but its military budget is less than half of ours. Trump is correct to question why Europe doesn’t pay its fair share. Of course, he isn’t the first US president to make that point.
Win/Gallup surveyed a total of 62,398 persons globally, and developed a representative sample of around 1000 men and women in each country. This is somewhat old data, the field work was conducted during September 2014 – December 2014.
In Europe, the highest number willing to fight was Finland at 74%. The Netherlands was at 15%, Germany was at 18%, Belgium, 19%, Italy, 20%, UK, 27%, France, 29%. Except for Turkey at 73%, Greece at 54%, and Sweden at 55%, a clear minority of people in the NATO countries said they would be willing to fight for their country.
Only 44% of Americans surveyed said that they would fight for our country.
We should remember that like us, most European armies have professional militaries, and that is probably reflected in the survey results. Neutral Finland still has a draft, and trained reserve of about 900 000. They also have an 830 mile border with Russia.
It is also possible that there was confusion, with some respondents thinking about fighting an offensive war, while some could have been thinking of a defensive war. Another difference could be due to whether the respondents think an offensive or defensive war is more likely for their country.
Europeans have become used to having the US foot much of the NATO bill. The bigger question is raised by the Gallup survey: What would they do if we had a real fight?
BTW, would most Americans fight for America? Survey says “no”.
With the Trump administration’s moves to deport Mexicans, let’s remember a plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon in January 1948 that resulted in 32 dead. The news reported it as four Americans and 28 migrant workers whose names were not recorded. They were simply called “deportees” in news reports, because they were being deported back to Mexico. Woody Guthrie wrote “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” to remember them. Here is Judy Collins with “Deportee”:
On Labor Day, 2013, a monument was unveiled listing the names of the 28 who perished in the crash. After 65 years, the names of the 28 were finally known.
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
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.
Everyone knows by now that Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on Friday barring people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US. But many people traveling to the US from those countries, including some who are legally permanent US residents, were in the air at the time of the ban, and couldn’t turn around.
By early Saturday evening, several federal judges in NY, MA, and including Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia, made rulings that would at least stall the implementation of portions of Trump’s anti-refugee executive order. The Daily Beast reported:
As a result, airports across the country turned into Lawfare zones, with cadres of volunteer lawyers squaring off against bureaucrats in the Customs and Border Protection agency. Late-night rulings from federal judges made a legally unprecedented situation even more dramatic, with all three branches of the federal government—congressional, executive, and judicial—warring with each other.
There are three things to consider in this fast-developing story. First, how unprepared the Trump administration was to actually carry out their own EO. From CNN: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized, government officials said. Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.
CNN further reports that the White House overruled that guidance, with the order coming from Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. They decided that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US. It was decided by DHS that green card holders could fly to the US and would be considered for re-entry on a case-by-case basis after passing a secondary screening. But CNN reports that the guidance sent to airlines on Friday night said:
Lawful permanent residents are not included and may continue to travel to the USA.
It gets worse for Trump: Before he issued the EO, the White House did not seek the legal guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department office that interprets the law for the executive branch.
CNN indicates that the EO did not follow the standard agency review process overseen by the National Security Council. That inter-agency process would have asked the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance, but it didn’t happen.
Brinkema…ruled that the travelers detained by Customs and Border Protection had a right to see lawyers.
After the judge’s ruling, lawyers standing by at Dulles expected they would be able to see the detainees and try to help them get into the US. But, the CBP would not let them see their would-be clients. The Daily Beast reports that it’s unheard of for government agencies like CBP to prevent people who have the legal right to live in the US from seeing their lawyers.
But, that’s what happened. In fact as the evening wore on, it became clear that CBP was defying, or at best slow-rolling Brinkema’s ruling. The lawyers at the airport believe that meant someone must be in contempt of court. The judge could theoretically have sent in federal officers to force CBP to let the lawyers meet with the detainees, but, that would have been unprecedented, and it didn’t happen.
The third issue is that Saudi Arabia was not on the banned country list. That’s right, the country most responsible for supporting and sustaining both ISIS and Al Qaeda skated. Our past few presidents found it convenient to cozy up to the Saudis, but should Trump be continuing that coziness?
If Trump’s intention was to punish sponsors of terrorism, the ban should have hit Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which is where the money and most of the actual 9/11 terrorists came from.
This is what the next 4 years are going to be like. But the question is, are the Trumpets going to become more competent as they go along, or is this what we should expect going forward?
Today’s wake up is for Donald Trump and his administration.They need to govern, not play pretend president.
To help them wake up, here is Xenia Rubinos performing “Mexican Chef“, from her album “Black Terry Cat”. It’s her ruthless critique of the undervalued labor that immigrants perform every day in America:
“All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.” –Kurt Vonnegut.
Quoting from Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” seems to catch the Trump zeitgeist. It was hard to focus on what the GOP and Trump were doing between the tweetstorms. So you could be forgiven for not noticing that Trump’s ban on immigration includes Green Card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. And Homeland Security says that’s really the policy. Legal residents holding the wrong passport who happened to be outside the US are now stranded. This includes students, business executives, and even a few US business owners. You can leave, but you cannot come back is the message of the day. Christians will be allowed in though, so here’s the best idea yet:
Trump builds a wall to keep Speedy out:
This is from Italy’s Matteo Bertelli. You can bet that in his next panel, Speedy jumps up on Trump’s head, and The Donald grabs a hammer…
Voter fraud is a yuuge problem only in the Orange Ahab’s mind:
This past Saturday, I was one of almost 500,000 women and men participating in the Women’s March on Washington. From 8 am until well after 8 pm, the streets were crowded with women wearing pink ‘pussy hats,’ carrying indignant signs, and chanting out against our newest president.
The movement was powerful, and greatly exceeded expectations: the Washington March itself had almost 2.5x the amount of people it was projected to have, and the sister marches across the States and the world had incredible turnout. After having seen so many red “Make America Great Again” caps and rioters in the streets just twenty-four hours earlier, I was encouraged to see an influx of pink hats participating in a protest that remained peaceful and could spark a global movement.
From an outside perspective, it may seem that the Women’s March had no direction and no goal. Millions of people took to the streets to protest, but for what? On the Women’s March website, it lists the ‘unifying principles’ of the march: ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and even environmental justice. From what I saw, participants in the March held signs that advocated for each of the unifying principles of the March. However, the heart of the matter is this: President Trump was elected without a majority popular vote, and while he has promised to be ‘a president for all Americans,’ his words and actions have proven that he will not.
While January 21st was an important first step in the fight against the Orange Overlord’s administration, the fight in no way stops here. As a pragmatist, I realize that many women and men will walk away after this weekend thinking that they’ve completed their democratic duty by simply showing up and chanting angrily for a few hours.
Despite this, I am extremely hopeful. Many speakers at the Washington March implored the participants to get politically active. We were told to write our representatives every single day, join and become active in the organizations that we were working to support, and finally, to run for public office. Protesters held signs echoing those same sentiments, urging us to vote and to get involved. To top it off, the Women’s March website published an article outlining what exactly we can do during Trump’s first 100 days to make sure our voices are heard in the Capitol.
In the same way that it is our democratic responsibility to vote in local, state and national elections, it is also our democratic responsibility to peacefully protest and make sure that our representatives are accurately representing our interests. It’s hard to evaluate if the Women’s March will lead to concrete actions – the commitment of the crowd could easily be attributed to mob mentality, and people lose resolve over time. Still, the Women’s March was the largest protest to ever occur over the inauguration of a US President, and that fact cannot go unnoticed. My hope is that, with clear guidance and resources from the Women’s March administrators, the majority of participants in Saturday’s movement will abandon their excuses and take it upon themselves to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities.
I can promise you that this protester will refuse to sit by idly, and will take action.
My favorite chant from Saturday sums up the movement perfectly: “This is what democracy looks like”. Here are a few photos from the DC March. This one shows size of the crowd:
Sign from person near the Smithsonian:
One of the main purposes of the March was to address reproductive rights:
“I’m with her” sign shows marchers’ solidarity. View towards the Washington Monument:
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 thinktanks 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.
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.
The assumption undergirding the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States is simple: More Muslims equal more terrorism and a less secure United States. And while there is utterly no evidence of a relationship between increased Muslim immigration to the US and increased rates of domestic terrorism, as many as 50% of Americans support at least a temporary ban, one poll has found.
The question that no one is asking is: Why? Why would half the US electorate think that banning nearly one-quarter of the world’s population from entry is a good idea? Are we just a country of bigots?
No, we are not. As the push for marriage equality demonstrates, we are actually very tolerant – once we get to know the group or the idea. But that’s precisely the problem with relation to Muslims: We don’t really know many.
Muslims are only 1% of the US population, and they’re disproportionately concentrated in a handful of urban areas. A 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 40% of respondents had never spoken to a Muslim and 24% had done so occasionally. Only 6% reported speaking with a Muslim daily.
What these numbers lay bare is that for the average American, their only reference points for Muslims are the occasional glimpse of a foreign-looking woman in a veil and, well, the likes of [domestic terrorists] Omar Sadiq Mateen, San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook or the Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Since we barely know the 3.3 million already here, we have no idea what it could mean to live with 3 million, 4 million or 5 million more.
Well, I do. For 10 months out of the year, I live with 20 million Muslims…Since accepting a position at the American University in Cairo, I have lived cheek by jowl with Muslims. Cairo, an urban megalopolis of 22 million to 24 million, is just plain teeming with them… From the moment I open my door in the morning until I close it at night, there are Muslims at every turn. The family down the hall from me is Muslim, as are four of the five families on the floor below. The crossing guard who scolds my son for not looking twice before crossing the street is a Muslim, and so are the guards checking IDs at the entrance of his school. I sit next to Muslims on the bus to work and gripe with them about the traffic.
In an environment where being Muslim is the common denominator, it is absolutely certain that the person committing an act of terror will be an adherent of the faith. But Muslims are also the victims, the police coming to investigate, the reporters covering the event, the people queuing to give blood and the leaders charged with devising the best policy to counter what they and their constituents know is radical extremism promoted by groups of extremists.
And when you live with 20 million Muslims, you hear them talk about this danger to their lives, their nations and their faith every single day.
Ms. Hodgkins’s point is we should assess the risks of Muslim immigrants to our homeland. Maybe get to know a few facts about Muslim involvement in acts of domestic terror, and meet a few Muslims before we ban all Muslim immigration.
You can hear the argument from the Trumpeteers: Of course the vast majority of Muslims are good, peace loving people who want the same for their families as the rest of us. But we can’t tell the good ones from the bad ones, so NO Muslim immigration until we get better vetting, screening, monitoring in place.
We couldn’t tell the good ones from the bad ones: That was the logic that led us to the internment of American Japanese in WWII.
OTOH, nearly all Americans agree that the vast majority of gun owners are good, peace loving people. But, since we can’t tell the good ones from the bad, how about banning all sales of guns until we get better vetting, screening, monitoring in place?
Sorry, we willingly accept the risk that American shooters will kill Americans. Since we are Second Amendment absolutists, those deaths are just collateral damage in the fight to protect our gun rights.
But if there is one death by a Muslim immigrant, the terrorists win.
Some may remember the book by this name by Spencer Johnson, published in 1998. The underlying message of the book is “Don’t waste time fighting against change: accept that bad stuff will happen to you for no good reason and just keep moving”.
This outdated and simplistic message remains the message of the Democratic Party to the White Working Class (WWC). Donald Trump’s message is different. He offers them nothing but a dream, to limit immigrants working in the US and to cut off the US market from China. And since the WWC knows that more of the same isn’t going to work, they’re voting for Trump.
The WWC thinks that the Democrats have not been able to do anything to help them keep their jobs. The reasons for failure can be at least equally shared by the Parties, but since Dems have said for years that they are the party of the working class, they are getting the greater share of the blame for 35 years of no results.
There are two issues that dominate the discussion: Illegal immigration and transition assistance when jobs are lost. Regarding Immigration:
The WWC knows that Dems need the political support of the Hispanic community, and that requires Dems to show sympathy with illegal immigration.
The WWC believes that illegal immigration has put downward pressure on job opportunities and wages in the trades, in restaurant and hotel work, and in service sectors where immigrants may be overly represented.
That’s why Trump’s stance on immigration is so popular with the WWC. They probably know in their hearts that kicking all the Mexican workers out, or building a wall is ridiculous. But the Democrat’s position on immigration is diffuse, and is viewed as “soft” on illegals by the WWC.
Despite anything the Dems say about retraining or “transition assistance”, the WWC knows that someone on job transition assistance can’t earn enough to support a family. Other problems:
Identifying the fields/industries that workers can train in that will produce stable, living wage employment is an inexact science. So, demand for retrained workers is often less than the supply for any given job type.
Businesses have been very successful at shifting the burden (and cost) of training displaced workers from themselves to society. This is helped along by a corporate critique that public and not-for-profit private schools are failing to maintain standards, and they can’t churn out sufficient grads with qualifications that meet the corporations’ highly specific requirements.
Hence the continuing financial opportunities for for-profit technical schools and for-profit universities, (can you say Trump University?)
Ford Motor Co. says it’s moving all of its US small car production to Mexico…The company is building a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It will make small cars there starting in 2018.
What can the Pant Suit say about this that would go beyond what the Pant Load will certainly say? And if she did, would WWC people believe her?
On the macro level, our current capitalism has turned to technology to produce much of what is needed with far less human labor input than ever before. That leaves job growth (and job opportunity) in only the low-skilled, low-paid “service” jobs; or in highly advanced, specialized jobs requiring very advanced training/skills/talent.
This means that the dogma of Endless Economic Growth, which we have accepted since the Industrial Revolution, is dead. Along with killing that, we need to kill off the current organizing principle of our economic system, where humans exist solely to fulfill the needs of businesses.
Work helps us find our place in society. It is something that we see as having an inherent value, something that fills a basic human need, similar to food and shelter. But our current economic system no longer recognizes that, and our economy provides little opportunity for fulfilling that basic need for a large portion of American citizens, including many in the WWC.
The idea of government deploying under-utilized labor to build and repair our infrastructure, or to re-tool our country to reduce carbon emissions would be a step that might return the WWC to jobs and a place in society. It would cost a ton.
But the idea that the government would create demand is too socialist for most politicians to accept, despite the fact that the rest of the tools just haven’t worked in 35+ years.
Tell me again why Bernie Sanders was a terrible choice.
Welcome to Labor Day weekend. This means that summer is over, and mercifully, there are only nine weeks until Election Day:
Donald Trump did a drive-through in Mexico. His souvenir sombrero says “Culero”. For those who do not speak colloquial Spanish, Culero means asshole:
Some thought he looked presidential while with President Nieto, but then he looked more like an ultra-nationalist in Phoenix. A Trump advisor said that without enforced deportation, we would soon have a taco truck on every corner. America responded:
Even better, there were some estimates that a taco truck on every corner might deliver enough jobs to eliminate today’s US unemployment. Great idea Donald!
The Pant Suit did not have a good week. The FBI released some of the information they had collected while investigating the email issue. The outrage by those who believe Clinton is the worst candidate ever was palpable. Should we be buying it?
OTOH, for many it’s just too much appearance of guilt:
49rs QB Colin Kaepernick has touched a nerve. It is surprising to see who is for and against his position: