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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – April 10, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Wildflowers in the Temblor Range, CA. April 2017 photo by Robyn Beck

We still have little hard evidence proving that Syria gassed its own people. Much like Iraq in 2003, we have made a military move that feels great emotionally, but that isn’t built on a solid foundation of fact. That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb its civilians became absolute truth in US media in less than 24 hours.

And once that tidal wave of American war frenzy starts rolling, questioning the casus belli is not permitted. Wanting conclusive evidence before commencing military action will get you vilified, denounced as a sympathizer with America’s enemies.

When Trump launched the tomahawks, most in the mainstream media suddenly fawned all over him. Margret Sullivan in the WaPo quoted several, starting with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria:

I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night…

And the NYT’s headline:

 On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first

Sullivan noted that the NYT’s piece failed to even mention that Trump is keeping refugees from the Syrian war, even children, out of the US. Victims of chemical weapons were “beautiful babies” to Trump at his news conference, while the children trying to flee such violence require “extreme vetting” and face an indefinite refugee ban. And this from the WSJ’s Bret Stephens, previously a Trump critic:

 President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it…Now destroy the Assad regime for good.

Perhaps the worst was MSNBC’s Brian Williams, who used the word “beautiful” three times when discussing the tomahawk missile launches. He quoted a Leonard Cohen lyric (from First We Take Manhattan): I am guided by the beauty of our weapons — without apparent irony:

We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean…I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’…They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield…

Williams might have focused on: What did they hit? What are the strategic consequences?

Many of these same media pukes were continuously expressing doubts about Trump’s judgment since before his election. But, when he orders the use of force, his judgment needs to be questioned by them more than ever. One reason that the US so easily resorts to the use of force abroad is that the very people that should be the first to question the rationale for a presidential military decision are instead among the first to cheer it and celebrate it.

We see groupthink most of the time when the American news media watches an administration step up to the brink of war. This was true in the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, the start of our longest military disaster.

Journalists and pundits need to keep virtues like skepticism, facts on the ground, and context fixed firmly in their minds. They should not be like Brian Williams, focused on spectacular images in the night sky, without contemplating their deadly effect.

For example, how can the media NOT ask how Trump, a man with little outward empathy, can change in a minute, suddenly becoming a caring individual about beautiful Syrian babies? Or, how in a period of 24 hours, Trump managed to flip-flop 180 degrees on a position about Syria that he’s held for years?

Why is the media leading the cheers on Syria, but keeping silent about Yemen?

Why are there never pictures of “beautiful”dead babies after our drone strikes go awry?

Time for the main stream media to wake up and do their jobs in an old school way. To help them wake up, here is Brian Williams’s favorite lyricist, Leonard Cohen, with “First We Take Manhattan”:

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

Takeaway Lyric:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

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Saturday Soother – February 18, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Home library, Dallas TX)

It’s Saturday, and Wrongo wishes he was sitting in that beautiful 5,000 book home library, drinking a Grande Chai Latte, listening to music, and distracted from the world at large.

But reluctantly, Wrongo watched some of Trump’s press conference on Thursday (transcript and video here). His presentation style is obnoxious. He adds opinions and adjectives to everything that he, or anyone else says. The point is that he NEEDS to tell you that his shit is great, and yours stinks.

He has memorized a list of both positive and negative adjectives, and he fires them in volleys as he speaks. He said that he has made “incredible progress” so far. Every new POTUS claims to make progress on something in the early weeks, but generally, they leave it to the media and public to evaluate the claim. Trump however, gives us the first glowing review of his work, and if possible, the first negative review of his opponents.

This is highly problematic for fact-based observers, because they have to evaluate not only “progress” but “incredible progress”

He is willing to lie about things that a ten year old could fact check. A lot of his shtick is a continuation of his basic campaign speech, and nobody needs to waste time refuting that BS. We can just roll our eyes, and move on.

However, we should be very concerned about how completely he controlled the press conference. It seemed to Wrongo that the press corps acted in a less than first-rate manner when on their feet. They had few sharp or pointed questions, and they allowed Trump to repeatedly call them out for trading in fake news.

Why didn’t anyone point out that the slow confirmation process for Cabinet positions is due mostly to Trump naming his appointees late, followed by submitting the required paperwork slowly?

Trump gets away with his whining because the press spends time trying to play “gotcha” with the Jedi Master of gotcha: Did you see what he did to Rep. Elijah Cummings? They should be exposing that half of what Trump thinks he knows is wrong. But he sure knows how to hold a press conference, and we should probably expect him to do more of them than any previous POTUS.

The Trumpets like the notion that he’s going to “Shake things up“, but he plans to go well beyond shaking things up. For example, he wants to change the balance of power with the other two branches, and it appears that many of his supporters actually want that to happen.

It he pulls that off, say bye-bye democracy.

Wrongo gets incensed when powerful people attack the weak and vulnerable. He believes in the importance and value of facts and rational thought. But Trump, and his so-called mainstream Republican buddies keep moving farther and farther away from these values.

We could try to look at each lie or obfuscation in Trump’s press conference, but something is lost when you look at the trees rather than the forest.

And its Trump’s forest of total bullshit that needs to be chopped down by what remains of the independent media.

Enough! It’s Saturday, and we need to kick back and relax. Here is Anne-Sophie Mutter playing “Méditation”, which is a symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs by French composer Jules Massenet. The piece is written for solo violin and orchestra. The opera premiered in Paris in 1894:

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

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February 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(London library during the Blitz)

Politico reports that President Trump has actually done little since entering office despite White House aide Stephen Miller’s bragging on the Sunday Pundits:

We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.

That simply isn’t true, but the thrust of the article is that, when you tune out the noise coming from the White House, very little has actually happened. From Politico:

So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.

Sorry, but this is characteristic of the gleeful DC narrative that Trump is failing, that he’s bumping up against the institutional/Constitutional realities of Washington. This meme seems to repeat the same mistakes that smart people made during the campaign — misreading and underestimating Trump. They see him challenged on a few things and assume that since Trump thought he’d show up, wave a wand, and make things happen immediately, and is now stymied, therefore he must be frustrated. They presume that clashes with other branches of government, or with the unfawning press, or the “resistance” from the 52% that didn’t vote for him to begin with, has made him cool his jets.

Why should we think it upsets him that his first bolts out of the gate are stymied?

Wrongo thinks that so far, Trump is winning. His fights with what he calls “the Establishment” and the “fake news media” are a win from the perspective of the Trumpets. They figure that’s what he was sent to DC to do.

If he’s not trying to learn the ropes? That goes in the plus column. And if it’s reported that he shows impatience or impulsiveness? Plus column. To his base, the furor in the media makes the infuriated ones, and those who report it, seem like smug elitists, determined to enforce the status quo through the usual DC tactics.

Really, everything Politico says are problems for Trump are the opposite. He’s ginned up a national hissy fit over his ill-conceived Executive Order on immigration, while managing to mostly get his cabinet choices confirmed (sorry Mr. Pudzer) − a cabinet more radical and unqualified than any traditional Republican would dare to nominate.

Dems obsess over each offense and announce “resistance” but have no real strategy. They raise money but can do little, while being viewed as unseemly in Trump’s flyover country.

When the Republican obstruction to Obama took shape in 2008, they assumed a posture of cooperation, only to be “disappointed” by the “extreme” positions of the President. Rarely in Obama’s first term did they announce obstruction in advance of his actions. By his second term, Democrats had lost enough seats that they no longer had the ability to override Republican inertia, and the GOP’s naked obstruction was visible.

Now Democrats have fewer votes as a minority party than the GOP had in 2016, and have no way to block anything but the most obnoxious Trump moves, assuming that a few Senate Republicans join in the blockage.

Trump has no need to figure out or to get along with Washington — in fact, that’s the opposite of what he wants. He has staked his political fortune on an “own the mob” strategy — which worked just fine in November. He doesn’t need to deliver on his election promises. He needs to let Republicans push through the horrifying agenda they’ve salivated over for decades. And he will.

He needs a riled up Establishment to blame for any stymied efforts. This means the more cartoonish his behavior the better, as the Establishment will be all too happy to jump on his missteps.

Trump won’t suffer if he never comes up the learning curve.

The rest of us, the country, the world, will. We actually need things to work.

Here is Robert Cray with “Smoking Gun” recorded in 1986. With all the Trump people who seem to be on the wrong side of the CIA and FBI, it seems appropriate:

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

Sample Lyric:

I’m havin’ nasty nasty visions,

And baby you’re in every one.

 

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Saturday Soother – January 21, 2017

Did Wrongo miss anything yesterday? We had multiple meetings, and thus, no chance to see the “You Bet Your Country” reality show that premiered in DC.

Look on the bright side, there are now only 1,459 days left in the reign of DT, so two things to focus on:

  • Work hard to save the ACA, and
  • Remember to toast to the health of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer every day.

Today is the Women’s March in Washington DC. Two days in a row of firsts for our Orange Overlord. Yesterday, he was sworn in as the 45th president. Today, he sees his first mass protest in the form of the Women’s March, and companion marches (600 at last count) around the country and the world.

New York Magazine tweaks the main stream media’s coverage thusly: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

…the media’s treatment of the [women’s] march has been so fretful that you’d be forgiven for thinking that this grass-roots demonstration of hundreds of thousands on behalf of women’s rights is an example of feminism in crisis and disarray.

Whenever there are protests from the left, we’re always adjured that we’re doing it wrong and/or that our “message” is defocused or unclear. Leftwing protests get little coverage in the MSM. Wrongo has observed that when there are rightwing protests, they are typically universally covered by the MSM. Plus their “message” is always described as clear, and unequivocal.

There have been protests at most recent inaugurals, but they have been generally along the parade route, as there were in DC today. The car and trash can burnings made today’s DC protests look more like what we see in European capitals.

What the Women’s March envisions is a protest that creates as much buzz as the inauguration itself. That means the organizers are attempting to create a widespread, and diverse coalition for this event. The hope is: (1) a huge crowd shows up to protest; (2) the protest is marked by its size and the quality of its direct action (without violence); (3) the obvious fissures in the coalition remain unclear to the public until long after the march.

The March on Washington in August, 1963 was one of the largest political demonstrations in American history. The organizing idea was a protest for “jobs and freedom”. You may not remember that John Lewis’s original speech at the March on Washington was highly controversial. Now, 54 years down the road, no one cares, because of the power of Lewis’s personal history, and the fact that the march ultimately led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The March on Washington was broadcast on TV, because we had not yet become jaded about protests, and the White House was vulnerable from both sides of the racial divide. The Women’s March is only expected to be live-streamed via cell phone. The networks will give us highly edited snippets on the evening news.

The value of these large public protests are in building a more unified opposition movement. Perhaps it will happen this time, although there is a risk that it fizzles like the Occupy Movement did.

The Tea Party began building their national presence with a rally of maybe 7000 people in tri-corner hats, enabled by a few Congress Critters. That was enough for the media to legitimize their birth. Perhaps it will work for the Women’s March: it will become a viable movement only if the commitment to messaging and building a national presence in Congressional districts and statehouses is carried through.

What will be more significant for the future are the state capitol and major city rallies once the protesters leave Washington. Resistance IS the message: The voters did not deliver Trump an overwhelming mandate to do the things his juggernaut is planning to shower on America.

Handled correctly that could make Trump and the GOP vulnerable. The Wrongologist will post a first-person report from an attendee at the Women’s March, on Tuesday.

But today is Saturday, and you need to mellow out a little. Here is something radically different, yet completely familiar. This is the Austrian brass ensemble Mnozil Brass performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. What better tribute to Freddie Mercury? These guys are demonstrably horny and have lots of brass. High energy, and completely entertaining:

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

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January 20, 2017 – Trump Inaugural Edition

Today is the Trump Inaugural. So many preparations, and so much detail for the transition team to worry about. From the no stone left unturned department, comes this from the WSJ:

 Workers preparing for the Trump Inaugural have taped over the name of the company — “Don’s Johns” — that has long supplied portable restrooms for major outdoor events in the nation’s capital…Virginia-based Don’s Johns calls itself the Washington area’s top provider of portable toilet rentals. But the name apparently strikes too close to home for inaugural organizers.

Too close to Donald John for Donald John Trump? Of course. Somebody placed blue tape over the company name on dozens of portable restrooms installed near the Capitol for the inauguration. The company says they didn’t do it. But, the company’s name is clearly blocked from the TV cameras:

Once Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the US, he will certainly push the agenda that got him elected. We all will need a way to sort the signal from the noise that we will hear from both his partisans and his opposition (which includes the Wrongologist). When you hear people raising reasoned questions and objections to Trump’s proposed policies, odds are that you’re listening to the kind of dissent that’s essential to our democracy, and you ought to take it seriously. For the kinds of arm-waving, emotional, knee-jerk support (or criticism) that you will hear every day, feel free to ignore that. You will know the knee-jerk stuff, since it will be sung in harmony by all the other partisans. And the media will repeat it often for your consideration.

Wrongo has serious problems with Trump, but is hopeful that his administration will:

  • Live up to his populist domestic promises, and
  • Simplify our country’s confusing foreign policy

If he normalizes relations with Russia, extracts us from the messes in Iraq and Syria and if he encourages domestic jobs growth, Wrongo will likely sign up for all of that. If he pushes through a big infrastructure bill that isn’t a wealth transfer to corporations, Wrongo will probably go along with that as well.

Wrongo does not trust Trump or the GOP on health care insurance. He worries that Republicans will throw a number of Americans under the bus, causing a great deal of unnecessary pain.

You can be sure that Trump is going to try to do some terrible things over the next four years, such as appointing ideologues to the Supreme Court. But, Congressional Republicans will clearly attempt far worse things than will The Overlord.

So the terrible fact is, we have to count on Trump to rein in the worst of the GOP’s ideas and instincts.

Needing to trust Donald Trump is enough to frighten anyone.

Trump tweets continually to rally his supporters while simultaneously manipulating the media. It’s unnerving. Saying that Trump is terrifying, while correct, is useless. The most obsessive of his opponents focus on worst-case scenarios that are designed to rally (and raise money from) the anti-Trump troops among us. Sadly, that strategy largely guarantees that the opposition will look disorganized and fragile. It also causes the American center-left to be fragmented issue by issue, and therefore, unable to broadly challenge the GOP, at least in the short run.

The Dems need to coalesce around only the potentially win-able issues. Otherwise, they should “just say no” to any Trump legislation intended to weaken or break our social contract. Sen. Schumer is correct when he says that the GOP needs to own 100% of the pain they cause the average person, whenever they break the contract. Any Democrat that breaks ranks to support issues like cuts to Medicare or privatization of Social Security must be challenged from the left in the next primary.

Democrats did not believe they would be in this political mess. They are trying to find their footing, but establishment Democrats want to simply tweak the message, and stay the course.

However, the battle against Trump and the GOP majority must move from “Republican Lite” to a fight to put social justice and progressivism back on the table as viable options for all Americans.

Otherwise, it will be a precipitous fall from political relevancy for Democrats.

Establishment Democrats who profit from the status quo, have no incentive to come up with an agenda that appeals to people who are suffering because of that status quo. The great weakness of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was that she aimed her appeals at the minority of voters who would benefit from the established neoliberal order, while largely ignoring those who suffered under it.

That decision could cost the Dems for a generation.

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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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Clinton Is (Not) The Issue

As we go down the stretch to Tuesday’s election, the political dynamic has switched from being a referendum on Donald Trump to a referendum on Hillary Clinton.

It seems fitting that in the final stretch of a presidential campaign that has been completely indifferent to policy issues, from Russia, China, and the Middle East, to jobs and income inequality at home. Our news outlets are now focused on an apparently impregnable story about the Pant Suit’s private e-mail server, and the Clintons generally.

Since FBI Director James Comey’s announcement, we’ve seen the drip, drip of musings by the cableistas about whether Clinton can hang on to her lead, or if Trump can win on Tuesday.

There have also been a series of leaks by the FBI that appear to be designed to damage Hillary Clinton and benefit Donald Trump. An anonymous source leaked to the Wall Street Journal that there was an FBI investigation  — including “secret recordings” —  into the Clinton Foundation.

Fox News reported on Wednesday that the FBI is intensifying an investigation into the Clinton Foundation over allegations that it traded donations for access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

And there’s more. Judd Legum reports that the FBI’s Inspection Division is launching an investigation into why its FBI Records Vault Twitter bot re-released the files on Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich.

The FBI Twitter account was inactive from September 2015 until October 8th. Then there were a flurry of tweets, concluding with the Marc Rich tidbit. It has not been active since that tweet, so:

Candice Will, Assistant Director for the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said she was referring the matter to the FBI’s Inspection Division for an “investigation.” Upon completion of the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility will be referred back to the Office of Professional Responsibility for “adjudication.”

According to Marcy Wheeler, the Inspection Division and the Office of Professional Responsibility doesn’t have statutory independence from the rest of the FBI, which means their investigation can be influenced (or quashed) by FBI executives. So, nothing will be done, despite the fact that Federal law and FBI policy prohibit employees from using the power of the department to attempt to influence elections.

Now, we read this in the Guardian:

Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.

Current and former FBI officials, none of whom were willing or cleared to speak on the record, have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over director James Comey’s July decision not to recommend an indictment over Clinton’s maintenance of a private email server on which classified information transited.

“The FBI is Trumpland,” said one current agent.

This was also confirmed to Wrongo recently by an in-law who used to work for the FBI. It’s as if the ghost of ole J. Edgar showed up early in October, and has decided to hang around for a while, even though Halloween is over.

The FBI has now entered parlous political territory. This is law enforcement trying to force its will on civil authority. We need to put a choke collar on this dog, before it tries to bite us all.

We all should care about how FBI’s apparent misconduct is affecting the election.And if the FBI is this politicized, it is an enemy of We the People, and will remain an enemy, even if Comey is ousted as Director.

Wrongo is now beginning to think of Comey as another John Boehner, a guy with decent instincts who is completely ineffective at controlling his team, with disastrous results for the country.

Imagine how The Donald as president, would use a vast public police force that is comprised of Trump true believers.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 30, 2016

Enough already about your damned emails Hillary!

Apparently not. This, from Booman: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

FBI Director James Comey just angered everyone in the country by sending a letter to key Republican committee members in Congress:

1) eleven days before Election Day
2) that implies that Hillary Clinton may have committed a criminal act
3) that doesn’t provide any details
4) that makes no commitment to shed any further light on the issue before the voting is over

For Democrats, they wonder why Comey would impugn Clinton’s character while voting is already going on when he can’t even say with certainty that the information is pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s emails or whether it involves any classified information.

For Republicans, they wonder why the FBI cannot commit to giving the American people more clarity before the election is over. If the information is indeed damning then isn’t it a little late to find that out after Clinton has already become president-elect?

We all need to take a cold shower and help break our fever. Why do the scandals keep proliferating? Because the media loves them. They attract lots of eyeballs for very little work.  Partisans love them because they can take their opponent completely out of the political game.

The Senate becomes even more important now, regardless of the outcome of this investigation of the Abudin/Weiner emails.

If Congress is under divided control, there will not be a purely partisan impeachment action, and at least the Senate will not be running nonstop bullshit investigations in its various Committees. OTOH, If Clinton wins and the GOP retains control of the Senate, we will have an immediate, full-blown constitutional crisis on our hands, and bullshit investigations may be the least of our worries. This cartoon says it all about James Comey and her damned emails:

cow-comey-kiss

In cases like this, it would require the wisdom of Solomon to determine the precise ratio of malevolence-to-incompetence involved in Comey’s action.

Amon Bundy and friends were acquitted of conspiracy for their white guy, “guns and god” takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge. The question that must now be addressed is: What does “peaceful protest” mean in America?

cow-bundy-2

Our eyes are blind to what must be seen:

cow-bundy-3The Pant Load hates what’s on TV:

cow-baldwin

In October, the witch isn’t always Hillary, and the pumpkin head isn’t always Trump:

cow-halloween-hillary

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The Lyin’ Game

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was, and never will be.”Thomas Jefferson

We received quite a few emails about the column “Lie to Me – It’s a Post-Truth World.” In it, Wrongo called for a means of rebutting lies as they emerge and crawl across our political landscape. Citizens who otherwise lead commonsensical lives cannot seem to hold on to facts when in a political argument.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at how things work in the Lyin’ Game. Charlie Pierce’s 2009 book, Idiot America, lays out what he calls the Three Great Premises that explain how lies take the form of truth:

1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.

It seems that the 2016 election is confirmation of Dr. Pierce’s diagnosis. The prognosis is not necessarily fatal, though left untreated, it surely could be. Here is a quote from his book:

In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

So, it’s not just that we are fact free, it’s that we, the people, are unable or unwilling to learn the facts.

Susan Jacoby also wrote about the risks of a fact-free society about the same time as Pierce, the 2008 presidential election. In her book, “The Age of Unreason,” she made a great point about FDR and his relationship with citizens and the truth. In FDR’s radio fireside chats, he would ask the people listening out there to spread a map of the world out in front of them so that as he talked about the battles that were going on, they would understand what he was saying about the places, the geography, and the strategy of what was happening. Doris Kearns Goodwin said in a lecture at Kansas State University that one of her favorite fireside chats was the “map speech,” delivered in February, 1942. Millions of Americans went out and bought maps, and they sat by the radio and followed what FDR was talking about.

And FDR wasn’t on the radio every week as presidents are today. He only delivered two or three of these fireside chats a year, deliberately holding himself back for the moment when the country needed to hear from their president. He understood something that we have lost, that less can be more.

In 2009, Pierce offered a prescription about how to get out of the “perception is reality” paradigm: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

I’ve given that a lot of thought and the best answer I can give is that we, as citizens, simply have to do better at self-government. We have to distinguish between entertainment and information. Our powers of discernment have to be sharpened…Any journalist who accepts “perception is reality” as axiomatic is committing professional malpractice. Our job is to hammer the reality home until the perception conforms to it.

When our journalists accept “perception is fact” there is no hope for truth.

Jacoby says that the spread of ignorance and the acceptance of non-truth as fact is caused in part by the absence of national education standards, combined with the anti-intellectualism that we see everywhere. America’s insistence on local control of schools means that children in the poorest areas of the country have the worst school facilities and teachers with the worst training.

Among OECD nations, only in the US, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

This gives us an America in which anti-intellectualism is not only tolerated, but celebrated by many politicians and the media. Meanwhile, 25% of Texas high-school biology teachers believe that human beings and dinosaurs shared the earth, and more than a third of Americans can’t name a single First Amendment right.

Facts don’t matter, because more and more Americans cannot recognize facts as true. Jacoby says:

This level of scientific illiteracy provides fertile soil for political appeals based on sheer ignorance.

Our 2016 presidential campaign has clarified what’s wrong with us as a nation. Yet, we’ve proven to willingly to put up with it.

Instead of putting up with what’s wrong, how about fixing it?

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Lie to Me: It’s a Post-Truth World

Trump’s approach to lying is new, and it’s on a totally higher level. The essence is to undermine the concept of truth itself, to confuse and persuade and convince. From the Economist:

Mr. Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics − a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.

When someone is for Trump, it doesn’t matter if he comes out with some outrageous statement because either a) the media is blowing it out of proportion or b) he’s just telling it like it is or c) he’s just being Trump. Below is a fact-checking by David Leonhardt of the NYT published the morning after the second debate:

He lied about a sex tape.

He lied about his lies about ‘birtherism.’

He lied about the growth rate of the American economy.

He lied about the state of the job market.

He lied about the trade deficit.

He lied about tax rates.

He lied about his own position on the Iraq War, again.

He lied about ISIS.

He lied about the Benghazi attack.

He lied about the war in Syria.

He lied about Syrian refugees.

He lied about Russia’s hacking.

He lied about the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.

He lied about her health care plan.

He lied about her immigration plan.

He lied about her email deletion.

He lied about Obamacare, more than once.

He lied about the rape of a 12-year-old girl.

He lied about his history of groping women without their consent.

Dishonesty in politics is nothing new. Remember Nixon? Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, thus getting the country into a war in Vietnam. In 1986, Ronald Reagan insisted that his administration did not trade weapons for hostages with Iran, before having to admit a few months later that:

 My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not…

Reagan’s words point to what is different. Political lies used to imply that there was a truth. Evidence, consistency and scholarship had enough political power to make Nixon resign.

Today, many voters, a few politicians like Trump, and some pundits simply no longer care:

  • They deal in insinuation (“A lot of people are saying…” is one of Mr. Trump’s favorite phrases) and question the provenance, rather than accuracy, of anything that goes against them (“They would say that, wouldn’t they?”).
  • And when the distance between what “feels” true and what the facts say grows too great, it can always be bridged by trotting out a conspiracy theory.

But the manner (and frequency) of Trump’s lies, are different, and more worrisome. When you are a Trump-like chameleon, you can be all things to (most) people.

The magnitude of this information change is greater than any since Gutenberg started printing pamphlets. People who are bombarded with new information do not know what/who to trust. Old media that used to be trusted sources of information have been destroyed or forced to change by the new technology.

There is no source of authority which is not intensely disputed. As an example, there is hardly an article in the old media which a few commenters do not challenge, often calling into question the integrity of the writer, the editor, or the owners; this was not true in 2000. The net result is a lessening of trust, which has many serious implications.

We need a language/methodology for rebuttal. People have suggested real-time fact checking, but in a divided post-truth society, who can be a non-biased fact-checker? And in a divided society, some, like televangelists  Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell Jr. won’t even accept that the Pant Load committed sexual assault when there is video evidence. What is it that Donald Trump has to offer that these preachers will sell their souls and misquote scripture to support him?

It could take us a few generations to decide who to trust. In the meantime, a few populists will become leaders, a few wars may be started, more young people will be inspired to express their political beliefs through terrorism, and some young people will opt out of our political process.

It will remain very difficult to have a reasoned conversation with anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the same version of the truth as you do.

Donald Trump’s statements are only true or mostly true 15% of the time. He has largely rejected reality and entered a delusional realm where what “feels right” is fed to a portion of the public that wants to believe his lies.

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