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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – April 7, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Cherry Blossoms, Tokyo Japan – March 29 photo by Eugene Hoshiko

Maybe Wrongo has Spring Fever, but how could he, when it snowed again yesterday? He promises to put the snow shovel in the garage for its three-season nap on Monday, no matter what.

The delay of spring’s arrival got Wrongo thinking about change. We like to think that little changes in our environments, either natural, or socio-cultural, but change they do, every day. And except for a few details, Wrongo is certain that this blog’s readers are all on the same page: Change is in the air, and nothing stays the same. And we’re not just talking about the weather.

Yesterday is gone
Tomorrow is already here.

Wrongo has been writing this blog since March, 2010. Over the past eight years, he has explained how our political/social/economic systems operate, and why/how they can easily fail. And how we do not seem to have a rational, coherent plan to avoid that failure. Yet, each year we seem to inch closer to failure.

Are we doing anything more than Don Quixote was doing? Wrongo, by writing and you, by reading this blog? But Wrongo persists. He’s here, you are here, and once again, as in 1968, change is in the air.

Millions of people are on the move, leaving their ancestral homes, fleeing conflict and poverty. They are trying to find a place to survive, while others who were left behind are dying in the millions. With the increased efforts by migrants to survive, both Europe and the US are closing the gates, hoping to keep the immigrant mob on the outside. But at home, we already have achieved conflict, poverty and death that isn’t caused by immigrants. It is, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, “Our own damn fault”.

On Monday in our little corner of Connecticut, we will have a very New England form of direct democracy, a special town meeting. Those citizens who show up will get to vote on whether the Town issues bonds to finance the repair of our roads, which have suffered 20+ years of deferred maintenance. Maybe 100 people will show up, (out of 8,000 voters) maybe less. Those who do show up will decide if we fix our roads, or not. They will decide if lower taxes are better than safe roads.

So Wrongo and Ms. Right spent today stuffing envelopes into mailboxes. This vote is the culmination of a two-year effort to get our town to address how poor our roads have become. We will see if our efforts today help to break voters from their Golden Slumbers, and participate.

If they fail to show up, it will be their own damn fault if the vote goes against whatever their viewpoint is on the bonds.

Wrongo believes that political change is in the air, but that change locally and nationally depends primarily on voter turnout. Turnout depends on people being motivated enough to waddle on down to their polling place and vote, even if the weather is bad, the candidate isn’t perfect, and their one vote doesn’t seem to matter.

But today’s Saturday, and it’s time to settle back, relax, and get soothed. Or work on your taxes, if you have procrastinated. To help you relax, brew up a cup of Gedeb Lot 83 Ethiopia Natural coffee ($18.95/12oz) from JBC Coffee Roasters in Madison, WI. It has a sweetly tart structure with a rich umami undercurrent and satiny mouthfeel.

Now settle back in your favorite chair and listen to “Spring Waltz” supposedly by Frédéric Chopin.

However, it isn’t really called that, it isn’t a waltz, and it isn’t by Chopin. It is actually “Mariage d’Amour” composed by Paul de Senneville in 1987. It was wrongly titled and became wildly popular, so the various YouTube channels that feature it won’t correct its name. Still it is very beautiful, and of the season:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 14, 2018

Let’s make something clear. When Trump called Africa and Haiti “shitholes”, the issue wasn’t that the president swore in the Oval Office, that surely has happened with all modern presidents. No one in the media should have a fainting spell because Trump swears. The issue was saying we should promote immigration from predominantly white countries like Norway. That made what Trump said racist. It also places Trump out of the mainstream. Americans have always looked all over the world for talent, and then lured it to our shores.

People migrate primarily for wealth and/or safety, and since the early 1900s, America has offered both. That was the main reason many waves of Europeans came at first, and later, people from other, non-white places came to this country.

Bloomberg View offers some insight about African immigrants: (emphasis by Wrongo)

According to Census data, more than 43% of African immigrants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — slightly more than immigrants from East Asia. Nigerian immigrants are especially educated, with almost two-thirds holding college degrees — a significantly higher percentage even than Chinese or South Korean immigrants…That education translates into higher household income. Nigerian-Americans, for instance, have a median household income well above the American average, and above the average of many white and Asian groups, such as those of Dutch or Korean descent.

Trump wrongly equates the worth of individuals with the place where they come from, probably like many of his supporters.

This is what Trump meant by strict vetting of immigrants:

Trump’s staffer Steven Miller auditions as the new Lady Liberty:

Mueller asks to speak with Kaiser Tweeto:

Jeff Sessions goes after marijuana. It doesn’t fully mellow him:

Why Florida is exempted from off-shore drilling:

Donny offered new words for the National Anthem when he went to the football game:

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Saturday Soother – January 13, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Wizard Island in winter. Crater Lake, OR – photo by Livid Narwhal

How do we avoid talking about him when he reveals himself so completely? We could split hairs, and discuss whether to call him a racist, or a white supremacist, but why bother? How is this any different from the way he’s always been?  We’re talking about a guy who wanted the Central Park Five executed, and took out full page ads in the New York papers to say so at the time. They were later found innocent.

Trump has become the GOP’s id. He uses an air horn while the rest of them know to use a dog whistle. He asks:

Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? Why do we need more Haitians?

Answer: For the same reason your grandfather and mother fled their countries. Americans weren’t clamoring for more Germans and Scots in their day, either.

It is possible that his comment was calculated. The far right wasn’t happy after Trump, during the bipartisan immigration photo op, showed off his stable genius skills, only to end up looking like he had no clue about the GOP’s immigration policy. GOP House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried reeling him back in, but the stable genius was insisting that the GOP try to give the Dems what they wanted on immigration and DACA.

The RW reaction was immediate: Ann Coulter went on Lou Dobbs’ show and trashed Trump. Many others on the right were pissed off.

Immigration is a red line for all deplorables. So maybe calling the countries of black and brown people “shitholes” was just the ticket, to let his base know he still has their backs. And then saying white immigrants “from Norway” are cool, drove it home.

This kind of talk has been normalized. White business leaders and politicians, as recently as the 1970s talked like that, and no one gave it a second thought. Since then, racist talk became shameful. But Trump’s open bigotry carries no shame for him, or for others who engage in it. His base loves him, because now they can come out of the closet with their hate.

And it’s ok, if you accept the argument that PC talk is a worse sin than showing your naked prejudices to the world.

This is how he was raised, and how people talk in his circle of friends. He’s mouthed off like this his entire life with zero consequences. He’s not likely to suffer any consequences from this either. Remember, this is a man who doesn’t understand why we can’t actually use nuclear weapons.

We need to remember this every day until 11/06/2018. And every day after that until Trump can no longer hurt America.

Wrongo certainly requires soothing, and so do you. Maybe we’ll go and see “The Post” this weekend, to remember a time when newspapers had the courage to take on a president.

In the meantime, sit back and make yourself a vente cup of Ethiopian Fancy ($19/lb.) from San Francisco’s Henry’s House of Coffee. Now, put your feet up and listen to the “Sonata in G Minor for Violoncello and Continuo” by Henry Eccles. Eccles was an English violinist and composer in the Baroque era. He was a member of the Royal Band of Queen Anne. He moved to Paris, and entered the service of King Louis XIV. This recording has Simca Heled on violoncello and Edward Brewer on harpsichord, although it is often played with a double bass and piano, or violin and piano:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 5, 2017

This week, we all heard about tax cuts, the NYC terror attack, Trump’s Asia trip, and the World Series.

The GOP released their tax plan. The first analysis says everybody gets something:

Tax reform also brought up an old issue:

 

Trump’s trip to China won’t bring us any new “deals”:

The NYC terror attack hit close to home. One of the dead lived in Wrongo’s home town:

Hating immigrants, and hearing cries for extreme vetting have been on the agenda for a long time, as this 1903 cartoon shows:

Hat tip to Jack Cluth for the immigration cartoon

Houston got really good news this week:

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Where Can The Working Class Afford To Live

The Daily Escape:

Quilotoa Crater Lake, Ecuador. You get there by bus, and it takes six hours to walk around it. 

The Senate is trying to pass their worst possible health care idea. They have already passed a $700 billion military budget, more than even Trump wanted. And they are trying to pass a $1 trillion tax cut for their buddies. Will any of that help you? No.

They should be focused on improving the lives of working class people, but they can’t be bothered with that, because they have no desire to accomplish it. Things are just fine the way they are for Senators.

Wrongo has been remiss by not turning you on to howmuch, a site that creates visualizations about money, and in-depth tools about what things cost in the US. You should spend time checking them out. They created this very interesting chart about where working class people can afford to live in the US:

Source: howmuch

Each bubble represents a city. The color corresponds to the amount of money a typical working-class family would have left over at the end of the year after paying for their living costs, such as housing, food and transportation.

The darker the shade of red, the worse off you are. The darker the shade of green, the better off you are. The size of the bubble has meaning — large and dark red means the city is totally unaffordable. Bigger dark green bubbles indicate a city where the working class can get by. So, where are the best places from a financial perspective for a working-class family to live? These are the top five cities with the net surplus remaining after living expenses:

  1. Fort Worth, TX ($10,447)
  2. Newark, NJ (($10,154)
  3. Glendale, AZ ($10,120)
  4. Gilbert, AZ ($9,760)
  5. Mesa, AZ ($7,780)

The worst five cities are:

  1. New York, NY (-$91,184)
  2. San Francisco, CA (-$83,272)
  3. Boston, MA (-$61,900)
  4. Washington, DC (-$50,535)
  5. Philadelphia, PA (-$37,850)

Yes, a typical working-class family would need to make an additional $91K+ per year in NYC just to break even on a reasonable standard of living. And most job creation is taking place in cities, so the challenge for anyone, working class or higher, is how to afford living in one of them. There are exactly zero affordable cities on the West Coast. More from howmuch:

Of the ten most populous cities in the country, the only place where you can enjoy a decent standard of living without taking on debt is San Antonio. Out of the top 50 largest cities, only 12 are considered affordable. Low-wage workers are better off in smaller cities.

Kevin Erdmann, who blogs at Idiosyncratic Whisk, says the problem is that most coastal cities have closed access to housing, while inland cities have open access. Open access cities have relatively liberal housing and zoning codes that allow for new building, including relatively low-cost housing. Houston is the most prominent example. Closed access cities artificially reduce supply of housing, driving prices up. NYC is the most prominent example. From Erdmann:

You can tell what type of city it is just by looking through the newspaper. In open access cities, people complain that poor people are moving in and taking away jobs, pushing down wages. In closed access cities, people complain that rich people are moving in and bidding up rents.

People in red states have experienced high in-migration of low income people, both natives and immigrants. Poor people are leaving the closed access cities.  So, to someone living in a closed access city, it seems racist for people to focus their ire on Mexican immigrants.

And think about what happens if folks in a bad neighborhood manage to do the hard community work to make it somewhat livable. In New York or Los Angeles, the minute that a neighborhood becomes safe, the plots that hold those $100,000 duplexes will be worth $500,000, and the neighborhood will gentrify.

Rinse, lather and repeat, and the cycle starts again.

Can a working-class family live comfortably in your town? If so, can they find work?

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February 17, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(National Library of Ireland)

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.

This issue is well known, but a Win/Gallup survey provides a disturbing portrait of the will of people in Europe to defend themselves. The survey shows that 61% of people polled across 64 countries would be willing to fight for their country. However, there are significant differences in willingness to fight by region. It is highest in the Middle East (83%), but, it is lowest in Western Europe (25%).

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.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Immigration Edition

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.

The second issue was that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, at least at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport apparently disregarded the stay orders from Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia. More from the Daily Beast:

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:

Sample Lyrics:

French bistro

Dominican chef

Italian restaurant

Boricua chef

Chinese takeout

Mexican chef

Nouveau America

Bachata in the back

 Brown walks your baby

Brown walks your dog

Brown raised America in place of its mom

 Brown cleans your house

Brown takes the trash

Brown even wipes your granddaddy’s ass

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 29, 2017

“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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voter fraud? Or, voted for a fraud?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump wants at least one Chinese import:

Trump keeps his focus on the real enemies:

 

 

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Living With Muslims

Wrongo recently read a first-person article in the June 24th edition of Maine’s Portland Press Herald by Allison Hodgkins. She is an assistant professor of security studies and conflict management at the American University in Cairo. Hodgkins lives with 20 million Muslims for 10 months a year, returning to Maine for the summers. Her point is that they are not so different from the rest of us. Here is a long excerpt from her article: (brackets and editing by the Wrongologist)

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.

/snip/

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.

/snip/

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.

/snip/

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.

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