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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – July 15, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Hitachi Seaside Park – Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

A week with the sounds of all Russia, all the time in our ears. It nearly blanked out any discussion of the Senate’s “reform” of American health insurance. Let’s take a look at two stories that you probably missed:

First, American beef is now available in China as a result of a deal that Trump made with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In exchange, Chinese chicken is now available in the United States.

Was it a good deal by our dealmaker-in-chief?

Well, the Chinese chicken must arrive precooked, and it won’t be labeled as coming from China. So, if you’re worried about eating chicken produced in a country with notoriously lax food safety regulations, stay away from that bag of wings in the freezer aisle. Here’s another catch: The chickens that China cooks and sends us must come from the US, Canada, or Chile. So, these particular chickens fly as much as 12,000 miles one way from Chile to China, and then another 7,000 miles from China to the US.

Why isn’t chicken from China required to be labeled with the country of origin? Maybe before we start selling Chinese chicken in the grocery store, it should be used in the Senate dining room for six months.

As the Republicans are fond of saying, “Let the market decide.”

Second, Texas passed a law that allows residents to openly carry knives (or swords) with blades longer than 5.5 inches. The bill goes into effect Sept. 1st. Texans could already carry knives with blades under the 5.5-inch limit, but they generally could not purchase or carry longer weapons. The new law won’t apply to places like schools, prisons, hospitals, amusement parks or places of worship. And if you’re going to a sports event or a bar, you’ll have to leave your sword at home.

Texas is not the first state to enact such a law. Montana and Oklahoma have both passed legislation scrapping their bans on bladed weapons in the past few years

Can you take your gun into a bar? Sure, but, leave that sword at home. This raises the age-old question: If the pen is mightier than the sword, then, why do actions speak louder than words?

So, let’s have something soothing to end the week. Dr. Wrong prescribes brewing up some Peaberry coffee, getting to your favorite chair, and listening to something soothing.

Today we will listen to “Symphony No. 66, Hymn to Glacier Peak, Op. 428” by Alan Hovhaness. Hovhaness, who died in 2000, was one of the America’s most prolific composers. His official catalog comprises 67 numbered symphonies. Hovhaness had six wives during his lifetime, so he was prolific in many ways.

Here is a note from Hovhaness’s sixth wife, Hinako Fujihara Hovhaness, about Symphony No. 66:

The Seattle Youth Symphony commissioned this work for their fiftieth anniversary season in 1991. It was premiered on May 10, 1992 on Mother’s Day. In 1991 he was eighty years old, and had just had a hip operation. He walked with a cane, majestically slow, like the first movement of the symphony. But soon he recovered completely. He saw Glacier Peak from his living room windows. To look at the mountains was his daily ritual and inspiration.

Listen to “Symphony No. 66, Hymn to Glacier Peak, Op. 428”:

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

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Saturday Soother – April 1, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Wildflowers near Lake Elsinore CA March 2017 − photo by Lucy Nicholson)

The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away, and we had an excellent example this week. From the NYT:

More than 550,000 people have signed up for a federal program that promises to repay their remaining student loans after they work 10 years in a public service job. But now, some of those workers are left to wonder if the government will hold up its end of the bargain — or leave them stuck with thousands of dollars in debt that they thought would be eliminated.

The Department of Education has said in a legal filing that borrowers could not rely on the program’s administrator to say accurately whether they qualify for debt forgiveness. The thousands of approval letters that have been sent by the administrator, FedLoan Servicing, are not binding, and can be rescinded at any time.

The debt forgiveness program covers people with federal student loans who work for 10 years at a government or nonprofit, a group that includes public school employees, museum workers, doctors at public hospitals and firefighters. The federal government approved the program in 2007. And along with this bad news, there is no transparency: When the NYT contacted FedLoan, a spokesman referred questions to the Department of Education, who declined to comment on the suit, or on any of the issues it raised, including whether any mechanism exists for borrowers to challenge a denial.

Loopholes. America loves loopholes. We aren’t a nation of laws, we’re a nation of loopholes.

If all of this wasn’t enough wrong for you this week, Devin Nunes and the White House played “I’ve got a secret” with the House Intelligence Committee and the American people. That brought the usual grandstanding from Republicans, but nothing can top what Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) who unintentionally told the truth while defending Nunes on MSNBC:

You gotta keep in mind who he works for…He works for the president. He answers to the president.

Soon, a Yoho spokesperson was walking that back. Yoho, Yoho, and it’s back to school he goes. To learn a bit more about who Congress critters work for.

I know, these two stories sound like April fool’s day fibs, but sadly, both are true.

You need a break, so Wrongo suggests a hot mug of Tanzania Peaberry coffee. Put your feet up and brush off the week’s trail dust. Let’s relax with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major. He wrote this in 1775. He was only 19 at the time, but was already the Konzertmeister at the Salzburg court. Here is Hillary Hahn with the best 23 minutes of your Saturday:

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

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Where Boys Are Boys, and You, Ms. Warren, Are Not

(Scroll to the bottom of the page for the Daily Escape)

When we allow the silencing of our Senators, we allow the silencing of our democracy. HuffPo reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rose on Tuesday and objected to a speech Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was giving in opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general.

McConnell took particular issue with Warren as she quoted a letter written by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, when Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986.

McConnell invoked the little-used Rule XIX, which says that “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” King’s letter argues that, during Sessions’ time as a prosecutor in Alabama, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” It was that portion of the letter that McConnell read back to the presiding officer, arguing that it was over the line.

The Republican presiding in the chair, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, agreed with McConnell, ruling her in violation of the order and forcing her to sit down.

“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren replied.

It seems the voices of both Sen. Warren and the late Coretta Scott King are now unwelcome in the Senate’s old boys’ club, even though Ms. King’s words were placed in the Senate’s records 30 years ago. This from Booman: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

Rule 19 is a good rule that helps prevent canings on the Senate floor. But it really should never apply to a senator who is under consideration for confirmation to another office. If Warren and Merkley were reading these historical documents just to make Sessions look bad while they were arguing over the budget that would be a legitimate violation of the rules. But these documents [King’s letter] were germane to Sessions’ fitness for the office of Attorney General in the same way that his tax returns and voting record are germane.

Republicans regularly call their opponents corrupt traitors. The NYT reports that both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) appear to have violated the rule according to its true intent, without having it invoked against them. In 2015, Cruz called McConnell a liar. But he’s a Republican man, while Sen. Warren is out of line for quoting the widow of a titan of American history. Got it.

Apparently McConnell thinks that a Senator nominated for a Cabinet position isn’t a nominee. They remain a Senator, and the ability of other Senators to criticize their nomination is subject to Rule 19. That is a misuse of the rule, and McConnell abused his power. And he did more to raise awareness about Sessions’ racist past than he did to safeguard Sessions’ “character.” Republicans know that Warren’s Senate performances have a long afterlife on YouTube, so they tried to prevent another one, but failed.

Had they let her read it, it would have been seen by only a few thousand late night C-SPAN watchers. Instead, her Facebook video reading the Coretta Scott King letter had 7.8 million views by Wednesday afternoon.

The GOP’s self-inflicted wound is shutting down a white woman reading a letter written by a black woman who lost her toweringly famous husband in the struggle for equality, a letter which criticized the racism of a Southern white man, during Black History Month. The Oregonian reported:

Hours after GOP leaders blocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Merkley picked it up and read the document uninterrupted.

So, after they shut down one Democratic Senator, McConnell allowed a different Democrat to read the letter? What’s the difference?

Your Daily Escape: Stuttgart City Library, built in 2011

 

 

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Congress Greases the Skids for Exxon

(See below for the Daily Escape)

While America’s focus has been on the Orange Overlord’s blizzard of executive orders, and his public love-making with Putin, we were distracted from some of the actions by the GOP’s Congressional worms who are intent on chewing through our regulatory protections.

Did you feel burdened by a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule requiring that American corporations doing business overseas reveal how much money they’re spending in foreign countries? This is called the Resource Extraction Rule, and apparently, it has been a terrible burden for Exxon and other oil firms.

VOX reported that, on the same day the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, the House voted to kill a transparency rule for oil companies that Tillerson once lobbied against while CEO of Exxon Mobil. Now it’s on to the Senate and the Orange Leader for action:

Using the little-known Congressional Review Act, the House GOP voted on Wednesday to kill an Obama-era regulation that would require publicly traded oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments that they made to foreign governments, including taxes and royalties.

The Resource Extraction Rule is part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. Back then, senators from both parties included a provision requiring greater disclosure from mining and drilling companies’ activities abroad. The hope was to cut down on corruption in resource-rich developing countries by increasing transparency.

Over the past six years, the SEC tried to craft a rule that would give the legislation teeth. But the SEC’s first attempt at regulation was struck down by the courts in 2012. The rule didn’t actually get finished until June 27, 2016. As Charlie Pierce says: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

In other countries, resource extraction is a polite way of describing corruption and bribery on a grand scale, and it’s also a dead serious matter for local activists who are trying to take on international corporations and their native plunderers in local government.

Remember the Congressional Review Act (CRA). It is the mechanism the GOP will use to undo much of what the Obama administration did in the areas of corporate responsibility and environmental justice.

At its core, the CRA states that any “recent” regulation (the Act’s definition of recent means it only applies to those passed by the Obama administration after June, 2016) can be repealed by a majority vote of both houses of Congress. Any repeal vote taken by the Senate cannot be filibustered, and the list includes more than 50 Obama-era regulations.

So far, the Stream Protection rule that restricted coal companies from dumping debris and waste into nearby waterways has been revoked, along with the Social Security gun rule that prevented mentally impaired persons from buying guns.

Now, they’ve gutted the Resource Extraction rule.

Under the CRA, the SEC is barred from crafting a new rule that has “substantially the same form” as the repealed regulation. So, Congress has thrown a rose to the oil and gas and mining industries that will be difficult to reverse.

Despite GOP concerns, similar rules are in place in the European Union. Reporting by the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Canada shows $150 billion in payments to governments in more than 100 countries.

Sounds like something citizens should know about.

The GOP’s argument is that American oil and gas companies need to make these under-the-table payments, in order to compete in third world countries.

This is America under the GOP: We can’t afford to provide the world’s best education to our kids. We can’t afford to take care of our elderly, but we absolutely must have policies that allow Exxon and friends to bribe foreign governments.

 

The Daily Escape: The National Library of China, in Beijing’s educational district.

(Image by Tian-yu Xiong for the National Geographic)

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 23, 2017

After the Women’s March, both Trump and his press bunny, Sean Spicer, said that the numbers of attendees at the Trump Inaugural was the largest of all time. How can Spicer explain this?

Why bother explaining? From Media Matters:

In a surreal turn, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tonight denied reality, lashed out at the press for its supposed “shameful and wrong” coverage of the size of the crowd that attended President Trump’s January 20 inaugural festivities, instructed the White House press corps on what they “should be writing and covering,” declared that the administration intended to “hold the press accountable,” and left the briefing room without taking questions

For those who think they can trust Spicer, here are a few more links:

Trump inauguration crowd: Sean Spicer’s claims versus the evidence (Guardian)

White House Disputes Inauguration Attendance Estimates (WSJ)

Trump inauguration draws nearly 31 million U.S. television viewers (Reuters) Absolute numbers were fewer than Obama, better than Clinton and both Bushes.

Trumpism Corrupts: Spicer Edition (Weekly Standard)

With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift (NYT)

If Spicer wanted to avoid a confrontation, he could have shut down the discussion by saying that Trump’s supporters had to work on a Monday, because of the terrible jobs situation in America. But he tried ju-jitsu instead.

We should be very concerned about the lying and the angry effort to turn the tables on the press by Trump and his press secretary. They wouldn’t even tell the truth for something that is totally knowable, and then they attacked those who reported truthfully.

It is clear that the Trump administration plans to bully the press until: a) they stop attending press conferences, and/or b) stop digging for the real facts behind any bald-faced Trump administration assertion.

There are just three choices here:

  • You think lying is wrong
  • You think lying is OK
  • You are a hypocrite who moves between options 1 & 2 depending on whether you’re benefiting from the lie, or being harmed by it

The Overlord thinks he has no need to speak the truth, because he can just deny that whatever he disagrees with is true, and have some 20 million of his diehard twitter followers re-trumpet that he is correct.

This is a real threat to democracy! It is looking like Trump will be the Bullshitter-in-Chief, broadcasting a daily smokescreen of “fake news” (formerly, propaganda) while his cabinet of billionaires work to enrich themselves and Trump’s friends, and the Republican Congress tries to turn America into Paul Ryan’s granny-starver version of Ayn Rand’s paradise.

Bush’s and Rove’s “we manufacture our own reality” ultimately failed, and it seems Trump is trying the same thing but with a much weaker hand. We thought that Bush was incompetent and couldn’t do the job, and he was well on his way to proving that when 9/11 happened, and suddenly everyone was “rallying around our president“. Trump would also be seen as a terrific leader by a majority if he was talking through a bullhorn from the top of a pile of rubble.

And Trump won’t miss any opportunities to tweet glowing assessments of his performance. Thus, he has no need to engage in an honest evaluation of anything when a quick, preemptive hit works so well for him.

So time for the press to wake up and flay the Trump administration whenever they dissemble. The press now has a new organizing principle called the quest for truth. Something that has been missing for nearly 30 years.

To help them wake up, here are the Eagles with “New Kid in Town” from their 1976 “Hotel California” album. Released as the first single from the album, the song became a number-one hit in the US. Glenn Frey died late last year. He is missed. Here is “New Kid in Town” in a live version from their show in Washington, DC in 1977 at the old Capitol Center:

Time to hold the new kid responsible for his lying.

Sample Lyrics:

There’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar.
Great expectations, everybody’s watching you.
People you meet they all seem to know you,
Even your old friends treat you like you’re something new.

Johnny-come-lately, the new kid in town,
everybody loves you, so don’t let them down.

There’s talk on the street, it’s there to remind you
That it doesn’t really matter which side you’re on.
You’re walking away and they’re talking behind you.
They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Won’t Get Fooled Again

Wrongo and Ms. Right watched the”60 Minutes” Trump interview on Sunday. Basically, it was a low-information session, long on atmosphere and short on what is likely to happen in the first 100 days of Trumptopia.

There were hints that low information may be emblematic of the future relationship between the press and the new administration. In the interview, there was this: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Lesley Stahl:…A lot of people are afraid. They’re really afraid. African Americans think there’s a target on their back. Muslims are terrified.

Donald Trump: I think it’s horrible if that’s happening. I think it’s built up by the press because, frankly, they’ll take every single little incident that they can find in this countryand they’ll make into an event because that’s the way the press is.

More press paranoia by the Donald-elect. To think of the media as liars destroys one of the only protections we have for our democracy.

And Fortune Magazine, not exactly a haven for lefty journalists, said this:

What does that future look like? It looks like a pitched battle between a man who made his own media rules and rode them to victory, and a traditional press that has lost much of its power.

It seems obvious that President-elect Trump’s relationship with the press could be more contentious than even that of Richard Nixon.

Trump’s spokesperson, Hope Hicks, had to go out of her way to reassure the media that Trump was planning to operate a normal press “pool,” in which the president travels with reporters who share their news reports with others. The press is concerned, since they were not permitted to travel with Trump during the campaign.

But the media holding the Trump administration’s feet to the fire was is made very difficult by Trump’s points about social media in the “60 Minutes” interview: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Lesley Stahl: But are you going to be tweeting [about] whatever you’re upset about…when you’re president?

Donald Trump: So it’s a modern form of communication, between Face– you know, Facebook and Twitter and I guess Instagram, I have 28 million people. 28 million people

Taken together, the major network and cable TV outlets account for 26.5 million viewers.

So, Trump has the ability to talk directly to more people than the networks. During the campaign, Trump took advantage of that to spread both accurate (and inaccurate) information that helped his cause. In effect, the Trumpets were using the media equivalent of modern military technology while the mainstream media (and the Clinton campaign) used tanks and bayonets.

Going forward, what will happen when Trump, who has continued to attack the motives of the press, has to deal with them as president? Will Breitbart News and Fox get preferential treatment while the New York Times and the Washington Post are left scrambling for the scraps they leave behind?

And if that happens, who is in a position to stop him? In 2016 and going forward, how will you find out what is really going on in the world?

And think about the parallels to the GW Bush presidency: Pence has the operations role. This could very well turn into another Cheney Administration, where Pence actually runs the government in the background while Trump soaks up all the attention playing Mister President on Twitter and for the cameras.

The parallels are frightening. Fortune has this vision of the future:

A weakened and increasingly marginalized traditional media, fighting with the tools of a previous era, surrounded by more nimble adversaries who know how to use social platforms for their own ends, and a president who is actively hostile to the traditional press. Not that long ago, it probably felt like things couldn’t get any worse for the media—but they just did.

Let’s not lose hope completely. Why? This administration will enter office with close to zero credibility with the press. Think about how few newspapers endorsed Trump.

Second, the media remembers its failures to follow the facts during the Bush administration. So, the fear of being called unpatriotic as those few in the media were when they spoke out against Bush’s Iraq policy, will be tempered by the press’s memory of their complicity in Iraq War.

Finally, blogs and social media can work both ways. They may have helped elect Trump, but social media in particular will not allow Trump to operate unchallenged.

That challenge will force the MSM to follow stories in a way that didn’t happen in the GW Bush administration.

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Is Ignorance Bliss?

If so, we all must be blissed out. Yesterday, we talked about how the media love to air candidates’ ’’dirty laundry”, rather than concentrate on examining their policies. Today, we ask the question, “Where and how do people get their news?”

The current US population is around 320 million. Of that number, there are 219 million people eligible to vote, of which 145.3 million (66%) are registered to vote in the US. So, how many people are watching the news on ABC, CBS or NBC?  In August 2016, the number was 22.5 million. That’s down from 48 million in 1985, and from 24.5 million in 2013.

And how many watch the cable giants Fox News, MSNBC and CNN? Overall, Fox News averaged 2 million total viewers while MSNBC averaged 1.13 million, and CNN trailed with 844,000. That’s four million viewers total, folks.

Taken together, major network and cable TV account for 26.5 million viewers, or 18.2% of registered voters. And we have no data on the overlap between viewers and voters.

How else do the campaigns reach voters? Social media. From the Wall Street Journal:

Of the two candidates, Mr. Trump has the largest following on social media — with 10.3 million Twitter followers and 9.9 million Facebook likes, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s 7.78 million followers and 4.8 likes.

This means that the two campaigns have more direct reach than any individual TV or cable outlet. Clinton has nearly as many Twitter followers as CBS has viewers, while Trump has even more, and also has FIVE times as many Twitter followers as his friends at Fox have viewers. And we can assume that all of those followers are likely voters, not passive viewers.

The campaigns use different strategies. A new Pew study of the campaign websites of Clinton and Trump found that Clinton’s website focused on original news content, while Trump mostly re-posted stories from outside news media. Clinton’s campaign has almost entirely bypassed the news media; instead, they post news stories produced in-house. Trump’s site offers mostly content from articles produced by outside sources like Fox News or CNN.

Pew also surveyed where people get their news:

where-to-get-news-png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • As of early 2016, just 20% of US adults get their news from print newspapers. This has fallen from 27% in 2013.
  • This decrease occurred across all age groups, though the age differences are stark: Only 5% of 18- to 29-year-olds often get news from a print newspaper, whereas about half (48%) of those 65 and older do.
  • Compared with print, nearly twice as many adults (38%) often get news online, either from news websites/apps (28%), on social media (18%), or both.
  • TV continues to be the most widely used news platform; 57% of U.S. adults often get TV-based news, either from local TV (46%), cable (31%), network (30%) or some combination of the three.

If you are watching a traditional TV newscast, you are a dinosaur: Fully 70% of those ages 18-29 either prefer, or only use mobile for getting their digital news, compared with 53% of those 30-49, 29% of those 50-64 and just 16% of those 65+.

According to Pew, radio is a more frequently used news source than newspapers. In fact, 13.25 million people listen to Rush Limbaugh, while 12.6 million listen to NPR’s Morning Edition, making both more followed than any of Fox, MSNBC, CNN, CBS, NBC, or ABC.

While there has been an explosion on the digital front, readership (viewership?) is now totally fragmented. This fragmentation is a key to understanding today’s political landscape. Twenty-five years ago, we had a core of news outlets that helped the political parties build a public consensus. That’s no longer the case. Traditional media are at best, just one stream in a whole chaotic flow. Picking and choosing whom to follow (and trust) in this river of chaos isn’t easy. The fundamental questions are:

  • Does watching a specific news feed inform you, leave you asking questions, or create confusion?
  • Does the power of images displayed on an individual news feed interfere with understanding the context of a complex situation?
  • Are news outlets providing users with both education about events, AND a sense of civic responsibility?
  • How do you know you can “trust” a given news feed?

With so many options for learning about our world and government policy, we could either be on the cusp of a reboot of the Age of Enlightenment, or, the news feed chaos could help bring on another Dark Ages.

Choose wisely.

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Learned Ignorance in Texas

Why does conservative America try to intentionally withhold historical information?

Consider the latest effort to whitewash American history textbooks. Here is this interpretation of slavery as immigrant labor in the “Patterns of Immigration” section of McGraw-Hill’s textbook, “World Geography”:

McGraw Hill slavery book

The photo above was texted by 15 year-old Coby Dean-Burren to his mother, Roni. The WaPo quoted Roni Dean-Burren:

This is erasure…This is revisionist history — retelling the story however the winners would like it told. In calling slaves ‘workers’ and their move to the United States ‘immigration’

As she noted in Facebook posts last Wednesday and Thursday, the textbook suggests not only that her African American ancestors arrived on the continent willingly, but also that they were compensated for their labor.

This is another skirmish in a broader effort to promote theocracy and remove references to major social justice issues in American textbooks. The NYT 2010 story that is linked above reported on the Texas Board of Education approving a social studies curriculum that put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. For example, the board:

Cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

Anyway, McGraw-Hill Education sought to address the issue with a statement saying that while their geography program:

Meets the learning objectives of the course…our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves. To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor.

Apparently the changes will be made in the textbook’s digital version and included in its next run. WaPo reports that Dean-Burren has mixed feelings about the outcome:

On a surface level, ‘yay’…I understand that McGraw-Hill is a textbook giant, so thumbs up for listening.

On the other hand, she indicated that few students use the digital version, and since her son’s textbook is brand new (copyright year 2016), another print version is unlikely to come out for ten years.

According to WaPo, as recently as last year, scholars reviewing textbooks based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills guidelines found a number of historical misrepresentations, among them several in McGraw-Hill’s proposed textbooks. The issues included:

• Declaring that a Muslim garb hinders women’s rights
• Mitigating the inequalities African Americans faced under Jim Crow
• Representing slavery as only a secondary cause of the Civil War

After all, if they can keep kids from learning about the reality of our history, they’ll be less likely to be sensitive to solutions that address long-term inequality, or that promote religious and cultural diversity.

Conservatives give us lots of information, it just isn’t usually completely true. There is a large group of pundits who are well paid to spread disinformation in comment pieces each week, and it’s hard to recall any of them ever suffering any discomfort for lying.

Think about how conservatives attempt to block progress–whether it is our history, climate change, or civil rights. They use three basic arguments: 1) it didn’t (isn’t) happening; 2) its too late to do anything anyway; 3) it will cost too much. They emphasize whichever argument the circumstances require.

The modern conservative game plan includes learned ignorance. They know they’re wrong on many of the issues, so they hope to limit access to data and truth.

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Is Snowden the First, or Last of His Kind?

Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right saw “CitizenFour” a few days after the Oscars. It is interesting that the Academy recognized both “American Sniper” and “CitizenFour.” The former bagged one Oscar, for Best Sound Editing, while the latter won for Best Feature Length Documentary. One made big bucks, the other is already on HBO. Both celebrate heroes, one a tool of the Global War on Terror, the other a whistleblower computer geek who saw that the War on Terror was compromising our Constitution.

Laura Poitras accepted her Oscar, but Edward Snowden couldn’t, because of that little “treason” thing.

As Kunstler says: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

He [Snowden] appeared to know exactly what he was doing, and with quiet, unshakable moral commitment. And then he disappeared down the gullet of America’s modern times nemesis, Russia, where he continues to taunt with his very existence, the NSA gameboys, lizard-lawyers and puppet-masters who cordially invite him back home to face, ho-ho, our vaunted justice system. Of course any six-year-old understands that they would love to jam Snowden down some federal supermax memory hole as an example to any other waffling NSA code-jockey having second thoughts about reading your grandpa’s phone records.

Snowden is a much more interesting hero than the sniper, Chris Kyle. The documentary follows Snowden, who was hiding in plain sight in Hong Kong in the spring of 2013, after he stole over 220,000 files belonging to the National Security Agency. Glen Greenwald, Barton Gellman, and Laura Poitras later began revealing to the public the extent to which the American government was spying on everyone’s electronic life while ignoring that pesky US Constitution, and setting the USA on a track towards becoming a police state.

Listening to Ed talk, you’re pleasantly surprised. He gets the concepts, he articulates them beautifully.

Towards the end of the movie, one of the characters (Greenwald?) makes an amazing statement. He says:

What we used to call liberty and freedom we now call privacy. And now people are saying privacy is dead.

Is that what we’re all fighting for? Liberty? Is that a concept that unites the left and the right in America?

You’d expect people to be up in arms about “CitizenFour” but the truth is they just don’t care. That’s our government’s job. If we don’t let the agencies run wild, ISIS will attack Kansas. So we suspend your rights for a while. That’s right, the head fake of fighting “terrorism” has caused us to let our First Amendment freedoms go down the drain, and if someone like Snowden blows the whistle, they are a traitor, or a pariah.

Snowden sparked a debate about how to preserve privacy in the information age—and whether such a thing is even possible. If Snowden hadn’t come forward, the steady encroachment of the surveillance state would have continued, and most people might never have known about the government’s efforts.

There’s something hollow in the soul of America today. Right and wrong used to matter. But now, the government works to keep the average person off balance via subterfuge and fear. And very few of us grasp the facts, even when they’re staring us in the face.

So, we’re dependent on lone wolves to help us see. Snowden says he’s only the first, that the government may get him, but others will follow in his wake. Really?

Once upon a time, “CitizenFour” would have incited a national debate. Now it’s just grist for the mill, Snowden’s character has already been assassinated by the main stream media, and his Oscar-winning movie will come and go.

All of the political debating about immigration, DHS funding, taxes, and ISIS are the sideshow. The main event is how they’ve got our number and we’re already living in 1984. And you believed it couldn’t happen here.

The truth is it already has. We need more Snowdens. People who will say, as Snowden did:

There are things worth dying for.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 5, 2014

Our country is hated abroad, and frightened at home. We have reached a point where we could reasonably refer to the great American Republic in the past tense. We have edged into a post-constitutional era, no longer a nation of laws, but an autocracy run by law evaders and law ignorers, a culture in which corruption is no longer a form of deviance, but the norm.

We all live in a Mafia-run neighborhood:

COW Banker Brutality
By now, everyone knows about the evils of bankers and their Washington facilitators: Wall Street lobbies Congress for favorable deals, Congress then approves them at taxpayer expense. When things are this bad, the very structure of our society is threatened, and voters have to stress fundamentals over issues. We need to move beyond the divisive cultural issues, all the single issues, even critical things like the environment, war and peace, and the “economy”, and focus on structural issues. We have to leave the culture wars and even big political differences behind, and make alliances among voters–because right now, none of us are being heard.

Will White House security improve with new leadership?

COW Behead

 

However, a new threat jumped the fence:

COW Fence Jumper

For months, the Ebola outbreak was confined to West Africa, a region more than 8,000 miles away. But this week a patient was diagnosed with the deadly virus in Dallas, Texas, bringing Ebola hysteria right on home. We have heard typical reassurances from the CDC, while some politicians have engaged in fear-mongering. But, unless lots of Americans plan on exchanging bodily fluids with people who live or work in West Africa, we’ll be fine.

Politicians talk about terror and say: “we could all be killed”. They speak about Ebola and say: “we could all be killed”. Mothra could also come back, and you know the nation isn’t prepared for Mothra. Where will we get enough Raid? Do we have Godzilla’s cell number? OK Obama, what are we supposed to do?

Meanwhile, the actors in the Middle East continue to mis-hear each other:

COW MidEast Talks

And in HK, not only no hearing, there is no listening:
COW HK

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