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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – December 18, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Island Park ID, November 2017

The WSJ’s Weekend Edition had an article about the cultural and economic split between small towns and big towns in America. In “One Nation, Divisible”, Michael Phillips follows a young woman, Caity Cronkhite, who left rural Indiana for San Francisco. Caity recalls:

All growing up, if we were too smart or too successful or too anything, there was always someone ready to say, ‘Don’t be so proud of yourself’…

Caity was smart. She bucked the system to graduate from high school a year early, but the school would not let her be named valedictorian, because she had skipped a grade. She left town, got a scholarship to Carnegie-Mellon, graduated and became a technical writer for SalesForce.com.

Still, she remained attached to her home town. She wrote an online 5000+ word essay about Kingman IN. It brought thousands of hateful responses from Kingman, including:

So keep your elitists’ rear ends in your little office cubicles while we handle the tough, physical things that keep you and your perfect friends alive…

That anger about town vs. city brought to mind Merle Haggard’s 1969 tune, “Okie from Muskogee”. Haggard and the band were on a bus outside of Muskogee when a band member joked that the citizens in Muskogee probably didn’t smoke marijuana. In about 20 minutes, Haggard had the song. The band played it the next night at the Fort Bragg, NC officers club. And after the verse:

We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street,
We like living right and being free.

The officers stood and gave huge applause. They had to play the song four times to get offstage. The song later went to number one on the Billboard country music charts. At the time, Reuters reported: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Haggard has tapped, perhaps for the first time in popular music, into a vast reservoir of resentment against the long-haired young and their underground society.

So in 2017, a young woman worries about being accepted in her small home town after finding success while living in San Francisco. While 48 years earlier, “Okie” was telling small town America to have pride, and that it was ok to be for the Vietnam War, and against student protesters.

These two events made Wrongo think about the roots of today’s fractious sociopolitical divide in America.

People in small towns have to fit in, the place is too small to look different, or subscribe to ideas that are outside the main stream in their town’s culture. If they do, the local hierarchy has ways of enforcing conformance with the dominant ethos. People insist that you should fit in. They think that everybody should fit in, and they don’t understand why there are places in America that don’t operate that way.

Haggard’s hit brought small-town America self-identification and pride. And it galvanized the “us” vs. “them” attitudes in small-town USA that were opposed to the growing counter-culture of the 1960’s, and the student opposition to the Vietnam War.

Americans always gather into relatively small groups. People in cities have misconceptions about small town life, just like rural Americans have them about cities.

The nature of today’s politics, and the nature of group identity in America pushes us into sparring camps. You can call it your “tribe”, your “people”, or your “team”, but groups in small-town America have a well-defined sense of identity. It is different from the identity politics in big-city America, where there are hundreds of examples of people of many different groups. Large metropolitan areas are much more diverse, but they are also knitted together by a transcendent identity with place.

Ms. Cronkhite’s parents planned on selling the farm and retiring, but Caity wasn’t ready to let it all go:

If I ever have kids, they’re never going to understand this huge part of me…I want there to be a reminder of where I come from and who I am.

Her parents sold her about 10 acres for the per-acre price her father had paid in 1972. Caity plans to build a small house. She said:

I’m still a rural American.

But she doesn’t plan on moving back just now. Fewer and fewer of us are rural Americans, and while those societies shrink, no dominant identity is replacing it.

But the sometimes-toxic sociology of small groups, or Merle Haggard’s sentiments, can’t be allowed to destroy what America has in common. In fact, appropriation of culture and patriotism by one tribe is a threat to our common good. Thus when Haggard says:

We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,

He’s misappropriating, since every town has always flown Old Glory at the courthouse, and wouldn’t dream of taking it down.

Time to wake up America! Fight the appropriation of our symbols and ideals. To help you wake up, here is Merle Haggard with “Okie from Muskogee”:

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 4, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Old railroad tracks near Folsom, CA – December 2017 photo by Merrill Dodd

This will be Wrongo’s last column discussing the tax bill. Here is a chart describing the differences between the Senate and House tax bills:

Source: WSJ

The big question is will the tax bill really go through reconciliation, or can Paul Ryan convince House Republicans to vote for it essentially as is? The three factions Ryan has to deal with inside his own party might make a straight agreement a hard sell. Will a successful reconciliation happen? Odds seem to be in its favor. However, things could go sideways. There’s plenty in the bills to anger just enough of the three Republican House factions, and they’re more exposed to a potential 2018 wave election than the Senators. State and local tax deduction are a sticking point, and what about the deficit? It will be an interesting and stressful next few weeks.

Returning to yesterday’s David Stockman’s analysis: The standard deduction is doubled in both bills to $24,000 per household, costing $737 billion while changing the tax brackets from seven to four (in the House bill) costs $1.17 trillion.

When all the puts and takes are finished on the personal income tax side, what America gets from 2018-2027 is a $1.20 trillion net reduction in personal income taxes. But, as we showed in yesterday’s chart, dead people and rich people stand to benefit the most.

So, what’s left is a tiny $352 billion tax cut for rest of America’s 145 million tax filers over the entire next decade. On average, that’s about $242 per person per year!

Couldn’t $1.4 trillion been better spent on refurbishment of our infrastructure rather than in giveaways to corporations? Do corporations really need more government aid at a time when they are recording near-record profits, and hold huge cash reserves that they are not spending on hiring, wage increases or investment in the USA?

It’s long past time for America to wake up!! Whether you support the tax bill or hate it, it’s also past time to clean out the sewer that is Congress. It will take about six years of organizing, finding progressive candidates, and GETTING OUT THE VOTE, to deliver mostly new faces in DC.

We must break up the “old thugs club” that Congress has become. To help us wake up and start on political renewal, let’s listen to George Harrison’s “Taxman”. This was the Beatles’ musical complaint about how much they were paying in taxes in the UK. “Mr. Wilson” and “Mr. Heath” are mentioned in the lyrics. They are former British Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, who contributed to writing English tax laws that at one point had a 95% marginal tax rate.

There are no high-def video recordings of the tune available online by the Beatles (it was released in 1966 on “Revolver”), so here is Joe Bonamassa performing “Taxman” live at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, in June 2016. It’s his bluesy take on the Beatles’ pop sensibilities:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Coyote, Housatonic River – Litchfield County, CT – photo by JH Clery

At the risk of sounding like the discredited Democrat John Edwards, we do live in two Americas. The top rungs of the ladder are living a good life, benefiting from the nine-year rebound from the Great Recession. The other 90% haven’t done well at all. Check out this chart of median household income:

Source

The chart shows median (not average) household income for the US, adjusted for inflation. Unlike average income, median income is not distorted by the enormous gains made by the one-percenters during the past decade.

The chart shows that for a household in the center of the US income distribution, 1999 was the best year ever. The housing bubble brought median household income almost back to its 1999 level in 2007, but not quite. Today, median household income (adjusted for inflation) is slightly lower than it was in 1989, in the first year of the George H.W. Bush administration.

How can this be? The economy is growing, and the US should have a squeaky-tight job market, since unemployment is at a 17-year low at 4.1%, a jobless figure that is near the definition of full employment. We’ve had seven straight years of job growth; job searches lasting 15 weeks or longer are now only 1.5% of the work force, down from 2% a year ago.

But wage growth is anemic. According to the law of supply and demand, employers should be sharply bidding up wages in order to capture increasingly scarce workers. But they aren’t. In October, they raised wages just a bit more than inflation, at an annual rate of 2.4%, down from September’s rate of 2.8%.

This is what imperial decay looks like to the middle class. Keep spending your seed corn tilting at windmills in the Middle East, and pretty soon some in the middle class are dumpster diving.

And consider this: Only a little more than half of America has a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account, according to the Federal Reserve. And the typical household with a retirement account had a balance of $60,000 last year, but there are big variations. Among the top 10% of households by income, the typical amount of savings was $403,000. Middle-income households had a median of $25,000.

Everyone who isn’t in the top 10% knows just how bad things are, and those below the top 20% feel it every day.

But what can they do about it? They work, many working multiple jobs. They get home exhausted. They’re too poor to run for office in a rigged plutocracy. So they go to bed and get up and go to work again in the morning, either depressed and angry, or simply depressed.

That’s about all they can do, except to vote for politicians who have no intention of working to change their economic situation.

Each resulting government is worse than the last. Not to mention at this point in terms of power over people’s lives, even the government is dwarfed by the power of multinational corporations.

It’s long past time to wake up America! We’ve got to stop the hostile takeover of the middle class by plutocrats and corporations, but how to do it? We all have to get off the couch and work for local candidates who will be the bench strength of progressive politics down the road. We also must work to insure that our voting rights are not further eroded by polls that close early, or by efforts to prune the rolls of people who haven’t voted in a few years. This is particularly heinous when less than 55% of eligible people vote even in our presidential elections.

To help us wake up, here is the 1970’s British group XTC with their tune “Wake Up”:

Takeaway Lyric:

You put your cleanest dirty shirt on
Then you stagger down to meet the dawn
You take a ride upon a bus, it’s just a fuss
You know it keeps you born
You get to know a morning face
You get to join the human race
You get to know the world has passed you by

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 13, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Western Greenland – photo by Marek Biegalski

Remember when conservatives said “activist judges” were a bad thing? Sure you do. Well, last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, 11-9, approved 36 year-old Brett J. Talley, a right-wing activist, for consideration by the Senate to be a federal judge in Alabama.

Talley has never tried a case. He was unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association’s judicial rating committee. Since 1989, only four people have been ranked not qualified to be federal judges by the ABA, and two of these ratings have taken place under Trump.

Talley has practiced law for only three years, and while blogging last year, he denounced “Hillary Rotten Clinton” and pledged his support for the NRA. Talley said on his blog that he:

Agree[d] completely with a reader’s “thoughtful response” which stated…We will have to resort to arms when our other rights — of speech, press, assembly, representative government — fail to yield the desired results…

BTW, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), that proud beacon of conservative sanity, and the lamenter-in-chief of the current sorry state of the GOP, voted to approve him.

Talley is not without some qualifications. He earned his BA in philosophy and history, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Alabama, where he was Phi Beta Kappa. He got his law degree from Harvard, where he served as an articles editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

In his brief legal career, Talley served as an associate in the DC, offices of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He was a law clerk for Judge Joel F. Dubina on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and was also a law clerk to Judge L. Scott Coogler of the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. He served as the Deputy Solicitor General in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. Earlier, Talley was a speechwriter for Senator Rob Portman and as a senior writer for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Remember when conservative pundits argued that Sonia Sotomayor was unqualified?

Dianne Feinstein asked Talley how many times he had appeared in a federal district court. This was his reply:

To my recollection, during my time as Alabama’s deputy solicitor general, I participated as part of the legal team in one hearing in federal district court in the Middle District of Alabama…

So, while we were distracted by Trump’s Asia trip and the Judge Roy Moore disaster, a rabidly partisan 36-year-old attack dog with scant legal experience was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote for a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary.

This is another example of how the Republican Party has lost its moral and ethical bearings. They also spent the weekend rallying around their other prize Alabamian, Roy Moore, the sanctimonious candidate for the US Senate, who is accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old adolescent girl.

A brief meditation about on-the-job experience: A person who lacks significant job experience will always be a poor problem-solver. Job knowledge is a prerequisite to solving problems in your occupation. There are things that you just can’t learn in the classroom, or by reading a textbook. Does anyone want a first year medical student performing surgery on them? If Talley had sat as second chair for 10+ jury trials, he would have had experience equivalent to a doctor’s residency.

How can this guy be turned loose to run an appeals court courtroom?

This is one area where the GOP is just willing to win. Seemingly, they have a killer/competitive instinct that the left lacks. “Holding your nose” isn’t necessary for the GOP. Standards be damned, this Talley guy can be counted on to vote correctly on the key social issues of concern to the Republican base.

Time to wake up America! Trump will fill nearly 100 judgeships that were vacant when Obama left office, thanks to a slowdown engineered by Mitch McConnell during the final two years of Obama’s term.

Now, not all of them will be lightweight, right-wing ideologues like Brett Talley. So, it’s time for America to beat on the heads of Republican senators whenever an awful nominee is put forward. We have to hope that not all Republican senators will march in lock-step, and appoint all of the Brett Talley’s that the GOP can find.

To help you wake up, here is the J. Geils Band with their 1974 cover of “Funky Judge”, originally by Bull & the Matadors:

While on the subject of judges and music, Stephen S. Trott, a justice of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, was a member of the folk group, The Highwaymen.

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 6, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Balloon Festival, Armenia. In the background is Mt Ararat – photo by Karen Minasyan

As bad as you think it is in Trumpland, it’s actually worse.

It’s likely that you missed the letter that 84 members of Congress sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last Monday. The letter suggests to Sessions that those engaged in activism disrupting or damaging pipeline operations should face criminal prosecution as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act.

The letter’s broad definition of terrorism, if adopted, would allow prosecutors to treat people who chain themselves to pipelines or construction equipment involved in pipeline projects as terrorists. This would treat climate activists in a harsher way than Charleston killer Dylann Roof, or the congressional baseball shooter James Hodgkinson were treated under existing laws.

Interestingly, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a victim of Hodgkinson’s attack, co-signed the pipeline terrorism letter.

While the letter cites a series of pipeline-cutting operations by radical environmentalists that occurred last October as its principal motivation, its language would include even the nonviolent resistance tactics employed by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The 80 Republicans who co-signed the letter are from states with significant oil and gas industry activity. Four Texas Democrats also signed the letter.

Two days after the Congressional letter to AG Sessions was published, the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance’s (EEIA) announced the creation of an “Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center.” The initiative also is a reaction to pipeline protests. Their database initiative says its purpose is tracking:

Incidents of eco-terrorism, sabotage, arson, vandalism, and violence are on the rise as severe actions have become a regular feature of pipeline protests, endangering public safety, the environment, jobs, and leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars…

Annie Leonard, executive director for Greenpeace USA, denounced the database. Leonard told the AP:

Corporations and their governmental enablers are desperate to silence dissent every way they can… [the database is] more fear-mongering by corporate bullies hoping to see what they can get away with in Trump’s America.

Peaceful protest = terrorism.

Attacking peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and water cannons = law enforcement.

Sentencing peaceful protesters as terrorists = the end of the First Amendment

Should our elected and non-elected co-conspirators be able to say peaceful civil protests against pipelines are an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act?

Time to wake up America! We need to fight to keep our Constitution or face the Orwellian future that Jeff Sessions and Trumplandia want so badly for all of us. To help you wake up, here is Neil Young and Crazy Horse with “Rockin in the Free World” from his 1989 album “Freedom”:

Takeaway Lyric:

There’s colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin’ their feet
People sleepin’ in their shoes
But there’s a warnin’ sign
on the road ahead
There’s a lot of people sayin’
we’d be better off dead
Don’t feel like Satan,
but I am to them
So I try to forget it,
any way I can.

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 30, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Fall at the Statehouse in Augusta, Maine – photo by Robert F. Bukaty

Welcome to what we may start to call Robert Mueller Monday. Ray Dalio, the founder of the Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund has serious concerns about the uneven recovery of the US economy.

In a LinkedIn post, Dalio said that if politicians and business people look only at the economy’s average statistics about how Americans are doing, they could easily make “dangerous miscalculations” because the averages mask deep differences in how people in various income segments are doing.

Dalio divides the economy into two sections: the top 40%, and the bottom 60%. He then shows how the economy for the bottom 60% of the population, (that’s three in five Americans for you English majors), has been much less successful than for those in the top bracket.

For example, Dalio notes that since 1980, real incomes have been flat or down for the average household in the bottom 60%. Those in the top 40% now have 10 times as much wealth as households in the bottom 60%, up from six times as much in 1980.

Dalio says that only about one-third of people in the bottom 60% (20% overall) save any of their income. Only a similar number have any retirement savings. These three in five Americans are experiencing increasing rates of premature death. They spend about four times less on education than those in the top 40%. Those in the 60% without a college education have lower income levels, and higher divorce rates.

Dalio believes these problems will intensify in the next five to ten years. The inequality problem is caused by our politics and our fiscal policies, not by the Fed’s monetary policies.

OTOH, Dalio’s concerns aren’t a surprise to anyone who follows the political economy. In fact, it isn’t a surprise to anyone who has walked through any mid-sized American city, or driven through any small town in the heartland.

The problem is not low wage growth.

The problem is not long-term unemployment, as degrading and humiliating as that is.

The problem is that the US economy has been restructured over the past 30 years as an underemployment, low-wage economy in which most new jobs created are temporary jobs (whether you are a laborer, a technician, a service worker or a professional) with no job security, low wages and few benefits.

The real question is can we solve the problem? Many old lefties argue for a Universal Basic Income, (UBI), but Wrongo thinks that’s, er, wrong. If the UBI were high enough to provide even a subsistence living for every American, it would be massively inflationary. And it would merely allow businesses to pay lower wages, which is why some wealthy business people, like Peter Thiel, support a UBI.

Wrongo thinks we should support guaranteed work, not guaranteed income. Most people need and want to work in order to keep their place in our society. Getting a check just isn’t sufficient. If people matter at all, and if 95% of them lack the means to live without working, society must strive to employ all of those who have been deemed redundant by the private sector.

And there is plenty to do around America. Start with the 5,000+ bridges and dams that need replacing, or the 104 nuclear power plants that are falling apart.

We need real tax reform that can’t be loopholed. Corporations must pay more, not less. Stop the move to give corporations incentives to repatriate offshore earnings by lowering their effective tax rates. That only compromises our future tax stream. Corporations have to pay more in taxes, and agree to increase the wages of average workers.

Economically, we are in a pretty scary place. People across party lines and socio-economic levels are frightened for their financial security. We need a jobs guarantee, not a UBI.

So, wake up America! Letting corporations and the rich dictate our investment in human capital or infrastructure has us on the road to eclipse as a country. To help you wake up, here is Todd Snider performing “Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White American Male“, live at Farm Aid 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina in September, 2014:

Why aren’t the Dixie Chicks singing harmony on this?

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 23, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Autumn at Nictaux Falls, Nova Scotia – photo by Keith Doucet

Wrongo can’t let go of Gen. Kelly, or his comments in the White House Briefing Room.

Kelly said during his briefing that most Americans didn’t even know anyone who was in the US military. He then told the press corps that only those who knew someone in the military could ask questions. As if on cue, the first reporter who spoke started with the phrase “Semper Fi”— the motto of the US Marines in his question to the four-star Marine General.

So here, Kelly required a form of loyalty oath by reporters in order to answer their questions.

Does this concern any of you? There are risks in both our reliance on an all-volunteer military, and on our veneration of them as warrior-kings.

The all-volunteer military creates many different problems. Most important, a volunteer military has dangerously skewed the demographics of the military compared to the country. There are now big demographic differences between the professional military and America at large. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a retired Air Force major general at the Duke Law Schools says: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

I think there is a strong sense in the military that it is…a better society than the one it serves…[The military is] becoming increasingly tribal…in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.

Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Military Service wrote about the geographical implications of a professional military in the WaPo:

By the end of the draft in 1973, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true.

Changes to the home towns of people in the military since 1973 align closely with today’s red states. The uneven pattern of military service is part of the cultural differences that characterize different regions of our country. This has broad ramifications for our democracy.

Heidi A. Urben, a Colonel, studied the attitudes of military officers, and found that about 60% said they identify with the Republican Party.

So, having a professional military exacerbates both our geographical and our political differences.

But it gets worse. The authoritarian strain in the military and the citizenry is growing. A YouGov poll  found that 29% of US citizens would support a military coup d’état. Moreover, a plurality of Republicans, (43%) say they would support a coup by the military. Republicans were the only group with a plurality in favor of a coup:

In other words, many Republicans believe a military coup might be necessary, and they can see themselves supporting it. This is a dangerous disconnect. A fascinating poll question was: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Should active duty members of the US military always follow orders from their civilian superiors, even if they feel that those orders are unconstitutional?
Should . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18%
Should not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33%

The answer implies that Republicans at least, think that our members of the military are Constitutional scholars.

The weakening of support for many of our institutions is clear: Every year Gallup asks Americans about their confidence with 15 major segments of American society. The police and the military routinely top the list with overwhelming support, while no other government institution inspires confidence among the majority of voters, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, the justice system, and Congress.

We all want to believe that those at the top of our military are too principled to launch a coup against the civilian government. But it’s clear that there is a current of thought running through the GOP and a significant minority of the military that believes there may be a better way to run the government.

And a highly persuasive General might easily find political support for a coup.

Time to wake up, America! The role of an all-volunteer military must be debated, as well as our veneration of them as warrior-kings.

The possibility of surrendering our democracy has rarely seemed as close as it is today. To help you wake up, here is The Who with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the last cut on “Who’s Next?” released in 1971.

Takeaway Lyrics:

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

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Monday Wake Up Call – Weaponizing Patriotism Edition

The Daily Escape:

Fish Drying in Shenzhen, China earlier in September. Shenzhen is home to Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer. It is about 30 min. from Hong Kong.

Our national nightmare; The Apprentice: POTUS Edition, has the Donald regularly turning up the outrageousness. It is frightening how easily many of us are manipulated by his antics, because we are intellectually lazy. Wrongo was happy to see Nicolle Wallace coin a new term for what Trump is pedaling:

Weaponized Patriotism. Isn’t Trump’s effort to equate standing for the National Anthem to “patriotism”, weaponizing patriotism? If you follow Trump’s ideas, all that really matters are the symbols. This was Trump on Saturday:

Wouldn’t you like to see one of these [NFL] owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!

He then went on to state that any player so exercising free speech should be “fired” and unemployable at their career job. Trump added that he believes fans should walk out if players don’t stand for the anthem:

If you see it, even if it’s one player…Leave the stadium.

Phony patriotism is a strong argument to use against a population that is ignorant of civics.

The refusal to stand for the playing of the National Anthem causes Trump and his fellow travelers, (who all profess to understand, and believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights), to claim that the NFL players’ expression is disrespectful and intolerable.

What are we saying when we say that someone “disrespected the flag,” or “disrespected the country,” when they choose to not stand for the National Anthem? The flag is a piece of cloth that represents many complex things, including the Constitution.

If we let Trump deny this expression of resistance, we are creating a situation where all of our rights are just privileges that can be denied on a whim. Trump can’t be allowed to say, “I believe in the 1st Amendment, but not for people who kneel during the National Anthem”.

If Trump’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick is unchallenged, Trump gains the position of defining which actions are “respectful” for Americans. But, it is a very American thing to resist, or rebel against what we perceive to be the symbols of the government’s abuses of power.

It may be disrespectful, but it must be tolerated.

This is today’s America: People allow their perceptions to control them. And who controls perceptions controls the people. Many Americans equate the flag and the National Anthem with patriotism. And according to Trump, patriotism means you support the government, and you support our foreign wars. Anything less is “un-American”.

But one can love his country while hating his government, or some of its actions. This phony form of Trumpist patriotism is a weapon against independent thinking. It’s a weapon that keeps people ignorant of the underlying problems that make our government ineffective.

Time to wake up America! We are a free people, and most of us want to stay that way. We need to look for the story behind the story when someone equates not standing for the Anthem with “unpatriotic”. Perhaps it is just Trump’s politics. Perhaps he is trying to deflect people from thinking about his latest struggling effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, or how Trump is bungling the effort to blunt North Korea’s aggression.

To help us wake up, here is the late Liam Clancy with “The Patriot Game”. The song is about the death of a young man during a campaign by the Irish Republican Army during the 1950s. He bought the story:

The words were written by Dominic Behan, brother of Brendan Behan. Dominic was angry that the Clancy Brothers cleaned up the lyrics by removing this verse that referred to head of government, Eamon de Valera:

This Ireland of mine has for long been half free,
Six counties are under John Bull’s tyranny.
And still de Valera is greatly to blame
For shirking his part in the patriot game.

Bob Dylan stole the song, turning it into “With God on Our Side”, and Dominic Behan wanted to fight Dylan physically for the theft.

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 11, 2017

The Daily Escape:

On September 8th 2017, a full moon passed through a test of the Tribute in Light at the National 911 Museum. By Gary Hershorn

Sixteen years post-9/11, we are mostly healed, but it was difficult to get here. Before 9/11, we had the luxury of dealing with one domestic disaster at a time: The San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire, the Galveston hurricane, Mt. St. Helens, and hurricanes Andrew and Sandy.

With the collapse of the twin towers, the Shanksville PA crash and the Pentagon attack, we had to find the ability to process the enormous shock and grief of three simultaneous events. That wasn’t easy, particularly since the media constantly reinforced the scale of the disaster, and how things would never be the same.

But most people grieved, and some helped those who were more afflicted. The government helped by shifting our focus to the foreign enemy who had committed these terrible acts.

Now on 9/11/2017, we have had two hurricanes back-to-back in the east, and have more than 100 wildfires are burning in the west. How do we process all of the shock and grief? Now our sole focus is on how to dig out, resume our lives, and rebuild. Where will the resilience come from?

And where will we find the money?

In retrospect, 9/11 helped to show us the way to heal when these unspeakable disasters happen. That’s a pretty thin smiley face on an awfully grim day in our history, but it’s true. Some healing began that very day, and time and distance from it is still (slowly) bringing people to a better place.

Some healing has yet to occur. Many still mourn family and friends who died on that day 16 years ago. Wrongo has adult children who worked in Manhattan at the time, who still will not ride the NYC subways.

The NPR show “Here and Now” had a brief segment with Rita Houston, the program director and an on-air personality for WFUV, Fordham University radio. They discussed the station’s most-requested songs on 9/11, and in the days and months afterward.

Surprisingly, the top tunes requested were those that referenced New York in a sentimental way. Mostly, they were songs that took listeners back to an earlier, more innocent time. Not many requests were for patriotic songs, or “pick us up by the bootstraps” messages. Rather, people wanted to hear songs of sweetness and emotion. Amazingly to Wrongo, the most requested song was Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from his album “Honky Château”, written in 1980.

But for music as a healer, the October 20, 2001 “Concert for New York” can’t be beat. It was a highly visible and early part of NYC’s healing process. It has been described as one part fundraiser, one part rock-n-roll festival, and one part Irish wake.

One of the many highlights of that 4+hour show was Billy Joel’s medley of “Miami 2017 (seen the lights go out on Broadway)” and his “New York State of Mind”. Joel wrote “Miami 2017 in 1975, at the height of the NYC fiscal crisis. It describes an apocalyptic fantasy of a ruined NY that got a new, emotional second life after he performed it during the Concert for New York. 

The concert brought a sense of human bonding in a time of duress. It isn’t hyperbole to say that the city began its psychological recovery that night in Madison Square Garden.

Joel now plays it frequently. Here he is with “Miami 2017” and “New York State of Mind” from the October, 2001 Concert for New York:

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

Most of the visible scars of 9/11 are gone, but America still lives in persistent fear. We fear Kim Jong-un and his missiles. We distrust Russia. We are afraid that ISIS will attack us on our streets.

We worry that our budget deficit will bankrupt us. We fear for our kids’ safety if they walk to school alone. We fear the mob outside our gates. We fear the immigrants already inside the gates.

So today’s wake up call is for America. We can never forget the heroes and the victims of 9/11, but we have to stop letting fear drive our actions.

Check out the audience reaction to Joel’s songs. That doesn’t look like fear, and that’s where we all need to be emotionally in 2017.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 28, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Rats Restaurant, NJ Grounds for Sculpture – 2017 photo by Wrongo

The politics of disruption brought us Donald Trump. With hindsight, the evidence was everywhere. Americans were unhappy with our political system. Voters had lost faith in the government and political parties. About 10% of voters believed Congress was doing a good job. Both political parties had favorability ratings of less than 40%.

In 2008, people were frustrated and angry. By November 2016, with continued economic discontent, worsening conflicts in the Middle East, and serious public policy issues left unattended, people voted for the guy who promised to break our politics.

Trump won 53% of the over-65 vote, but was supported by only 37% of 18-29-year-olds. He won the white vote by 58% to 37%. And 51% of American women voted for him.

Mark Leonard  says that the election was decided by pessimistic voters. They were attracted by Trump’s anti-free trade arguments, his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, his (false) statistics about increased crime, and the loss of American jobs to Asian countries.

Trump said all of this was caused by Washington and could be fixed by a disruptive billionaire. The pessimists won, and felt very hopeful that Trump would change America.

Are they having buyer’s remorse today? No, most say that they still support their guy.

Yesterday, we highlighted some findings of the Public Policy Polling (PPP) national poll taken after Charlottesville. PPP found that Donald Trump’s approval rating was steady despite all of his backtracking around the Charlottesville attack:

40% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 53% who disapprove, little change from the 41/55 spread we found for him in July.

This despite that just 26% of Trump voters think he has delivered on his promise to “drain the swamp”, to 53% who say he hasn’t. When asked if Trump has come through on “Making America Great Again,” just 33% of his voters say he has, to 59% who say he hasn’t.

PPP found that 57% of Republicans want Trump to be the party’s nominee in 2020, compared to 29% who say they would prefer someone else. That 28 point margin for Trump against “someone else” is the same as his 28 point lead over Mike Pence. Both Ted Cruz, with a 40 point deficit to Trump at 62/22, and John Kasich, a 47 point deficit to Trump, are weaker potential opponents than ‘someone else’.

All in, Trump is keeping his base together, while losing a few moderate Republicans. So the question is, what will it take to make Trump a one-term president?

If you want to defeat Trump, focus on how his political disruption has only caused destruction. It isn’t enough to tear shit down. Any president has to be a builder, and not just for a phony wall.

Have there been any gains from the disruption? Is there any evidence that Trump has the leadership skills to bring policies into law that will improve the lives of those who voted for him?

The winning message is about building: Build unity. Build the economy. Build a vision for a growing middle class.

Be a builder, not a disruptor.

Wake up America! Find a builder, or be a builder. To help you wake up, here is John Mayer with his 2006 Grammy-winning hit “Waiting On The World To Change”:

Takeaway Lyric:

It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

Don’t wait to be a builder. Dr. King didn’t wait, neither did Mandela. They changed the world. WE have the power to change America.

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