The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – September 30, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Reflection Canyon, in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. This spot became popular with hikers after Apple used it to promote its Mac Book Pro high resolution with retina display. People first learned about the location after this photograph was taken by Michael Melford in 2006.

Texas has a $10 billion rainy day fund. Now, you would think that when the rains came to Houston, Gov. Greg Abbott would say “It’s a rainy day fund, let’s send some to Houston”.

Nope. The Texas Observer reports: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

On Tuesday, after Turner [Houston’s Democratic mayor, Sylvester Turner] made a public request for money from the rainy day fund, Governor Greg Abbott joined in, telling reporters that the fund wouldn’t be touched until the 2019 legislative session. Turner “has all the money that he needs,” Abbott said. “In times like these, it’s important to have fiscal responsibility as opposed to financial panic.” The governor went on to accuse the mayor of using Harvey recovery efforts as a “hostage to raise taxes.”

This is an epic statement of Evil. The Texas rainy day fund has $10 billion. The bill for Harvey is estimated at $180 billion, but Houston has all the money needed.

The Observer also quoted Lt. Governor Dan Patrick from early August, less than a month before Hurricane Harvey made landfall:

Where do we have all our problems in America?…Not at the state level run by Republicans, but in our cities that are mostly controlled by Democrat mayors and Democrat city council men and women. That’s where you see liberal policies. That’s where you see high taxes. That’s where you see street crime.

Ideology always comes first in Texas. You would think that these ultra-conservative chimps would be looking for ways to help Houston, if not its mayor. But, it’s business as usual: Everything good in Texas is to the credit of the brave GOP legislators in Austin, and everything bad is the fault of county commissioners, mayors, city councils and school boards.

Oh, and the immigrants.

Six of the nation’s 20 largest cities are in Texas. And those six have half of the state’s population, and they generate most of its economic activity. But, Republicans consider them a threat, either because of their “liberal” values or the demographic, and thus, the political threat they represent to the Texas Republican Party.

This could be a real problem for the entire country in the future. Increasingly, we are seeing the GOP in red states using their control of the political system to make war on the blue cities in their states. Think about Flint, MI where local interference by the governor and state-level Republicans partly brought about the lead-in-the-water crisis that remains unresolved, and which the state won’t pay for.

Maybe this is a good time to remember that Greg Abbott received a multi-million dollar settlement for an accident that paralyzed him, and put him in a wheelchair. He is also the guy that subsequently proposed, sponsored and shepherded tort reform in the Texas legislature.

He’s the guy that acts as if tort reform doesn’t keep present day accident victims from getting the kind of compensation that he received. He closed the door after he got his millions in a settlement.

Texas is dominated by right-wing extremists determined to turn everything to advance their ideological agenda. Forget that Texas already has massive disparities between whites and non-whites in terms of social services, policing, and most other government functions.

Turning their back on Houston just makes the ideology more visible.

In Texas, they just do everything bigger and badder.

Time to relax and think about summer being over. Fall is officially here, the leaves are turning and falling onto the fields of Wrong. Time to brew up a Vente-sized cup of Durango Coffee Company’s Costa Rica Las Lajas Perla Negra ($16.95/lb.), put on the Bluetooth headphones, and watch the leaves fall.

While you do, listen to “Woods”, the second cut on the 1980 album “Autumn” by George Winston. It was his second solo piano album. Wrongo chose this because of the great fall-inspired video that accompanies the music:

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


Trump’s Termites

The Daily Escape:

Missouri Breaks, MT – photo (via)

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that there would be no change for the Missouri Breaks National Monument. Zinke is from Montana, so saving one for his peeps isn’t a big surprise.

Missouri Breaks is one of 27 monuments established during the previous 20 years by presidents using the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act allows presidents to set aside objects of historic or scientific interest to prevent their destruction. The law was created in 1906 to guard against looting of sacred American Indian sites.

In April, Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review the status of every national monument designated since 1996. As a result of the review, these cultural and/or natural treasures could be significantly reduced in size or even eliminated, and the Antiquities Act itself could be severely limited. The land would remain owned by the federal government, but might lose its protected status, and be contracted to private enterprises. When you allow corporations to ‘lease’ land for oil, fracking, mining, ranching, etc. fences go up, private police forces are hired to keep people out for their ‘safety’.

Not everyone agrees that Trump has the authority to do what he wants. From the Washington Times:

If President Donald Trump or any successor desires the authority to revoke national monument designations, they should urge Congress to amend the Antiquities Act accordingly. They should not torture the plain language of the Act to advance a political agenda at the expense of regular constitutional order.

The LA Times disagrees:

Indeed, those who claim that the Antiquities Act does not grant a reversal power cannot find a single case in another area of federal law that supports that contention. To override the norm, legislators have to clearly limit reversal powers in the original law; the plain text of the Antiquities Act includes no such limits.

Who knows? Next, Der Donald will lease the Grand Canyon to China for use as a landfill.

But the bigger picture is that behind the smoke and mirrors of Trump’s pathological lying and the media’s obsession with Russia, his cabinet appointees are working like industrious termites, eating away much of the support beams of our nation’s rules-based edifice.

Consider Attorney General Jeff Sessions. From the New Yorker: (brackets and editing by the Wrongologist)

He [Sessions] has reversed the Obama Administration’s commitment to voting rights…He has changed an Obama-era directive to federal prosecutors to seek reasonable, as opposed to maximum, prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders…he has revived a discredited approach to civil forfeiture, which subjects innocent people to the loss of their property. He has also backed away from the effort…to rein in and reform police departments, like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, that have discriminated against African-Americans.

Although candidate Trump promised to protect LGBT rights, President Trump last week vowed to remove transgender service members from the armed forces, and Sessions…took the position in court that Title VII, the nation’s premier anti-discrimination law, does not protect gay people from bias. Most of all, Sessions has embraced the issue that first brought him and Trump together: the crackdown on immigration…

All across the government, Trump appointees are busy chewing through the existing regulatory edifice, ending not just Obama-era rules, but others that have been in place for decades.

Another truly damning thing is Trump’s surrogates’ efforts to undermine foreign policy. The WaPo reports:

Trump signed off on Iran’s compliance with profound reluctance, and he has since signaled that when Iran’s certification comes up again — as it will every 90 days, per a mandate from Congress — he intends to declare Iran not in compliance, possibly even if there is evidence to the contrary.

According to the New York Times: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

American officials have already told allies they should be prepared to join in reopening negotiations with Iran or expect that the US may [unilaterally] abandon the agreement, as it did the Paris climate accord.

It is difficult to see how this ends well for the US. Imagine, Iran and North Korea both pursuing nuclear weapons to deploy against the US. Why would we want to engage on two fronts, when one (North Korea) is already so problematic?

What is the Trump agenda? Are there any articulated goals? What are the strategies to achieve them?

Have we heard a concrete proposal for any of his big ideas (health care, tax reform, or infrastructure)?

We have not, but his termites keep chewing, and soon, our whole building will be compromised.


The US/Russian Confrontation in Syria

The Daily Escape:

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, 2016 – photo by Wrongo

They told Wrongo that if he voted for Hillary, we’d be at war in Syria. He voted for Hillary, and sure enough, looks like we could get into a war with Syria! Particularly after this:

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 on board the USS George Bush shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft near Raqqa, Syria after the aircraft struck ground troops in Ja-Din, south of Tabqah, near Raqqa.

According to most sources it is the first time a U.S. combat aircraft has shot down a manned enemy aircraft in aerial combat in nine years.

The pro-Assad regime Syrian Su-22 that was downed had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces aligned with the U.S. led coalition and inflicted casualties on the friendly forces as they were driving south of Tabqah before it was intercepted.

Russia was displeased. They announced that they could possibly shoot down any US air craft operating in western Syria:

In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.

Treating US and allied planes as “targets” does not mean the Russians will shoot at them. What they’re saying is that they will track the planes as they would track any target, they will send their own planes to observe the targets, and possibly escort the targets out of the area.

This gets tricky: what happens if the “target” refuses to be escorted away? Do the Russians then shoot at the target? They haven’t said. But until they do start shooting, we’re not in a hot war. We’ve just moved a step closer to one possibly occurring soon.

And this would be the most dangerous confrontation between the US and Russia since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wrongo remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis very well. He was in college. We sat around thinking that DC (where we lived) would be taken out by nuclear missiles launched by the Russkies.

This is one outcome of Trump’s outsourcing full control of military action on the ground to the generals.

One miscalculation, and Trump’s generals are making new foreign policy. Clemenceau was correct when he said that “war is too important to be left to the generals”. Who we decide to fight is one of our most important national decisions. From the American Conservative:

There has never been a Congressional vote authorizing US military operations in Syria against anyone, and there has been scant debate over any of the goals that the US claims to be pursuing there. The US launches attacks inside Syria with no legal authority from the UN or Congress, and it strains credulity that any of these operations have anything to do with individual or collective self-defense.

The US says we are in Syria to fight ISIS and evict them from Raqqa. But we have also been arming the Syrian opposition for at least three years. And we have been a party to the Syrian civil war for at least a year before that. But the underlying assumption, that it is in our interest to be fighting in Syria, has not been seriously questioned by most members of Congress.

Americans are so accustomed to fighting wars on foreign soil that we barely notice that the policy has never really been debated or put to a vote. If this Syrian confrontation leads us into a larger conflict with Russia, will it finally be time to notice what’s happening?  

Shooting down a Syrian jet shows the dangers that come from conducting a foreign policy unmoored from both the national interest and representative government.

It was shot down because it was threatening rebels opposed to the Syrian government, and the US supports those rebels, apparently up to and including destroying Syrian regime forces that attack them. We say we are there to fight ISIS. That has sufficient support by the people and the Congress. If we are also fighting to oust Assad, we are doing something that requires a full debate.

Without that debate, when we shoot down a Syrian plane inside its own country, we have committed an act of war against another state.

A bit of music. Here is Paramore with “Hard Times”:

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

Takeaway Lyric:

All that I want Is to wake up fine
Tell me that I’m alright
That I ain’t gonna die
All that I want
Is a hole in the ground
You can tell me when it’s alright
For me to come out


Happy Birthday to our National Park Service

100 years ago yesterday, Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created the National Park Service (NPS). The National Parks are truly a great American resource, showing us nature in a near-pristine form, much as it might have been thousands of years ago. The parks also give us insight into places that are an important part of our national heritage, such as battlefields, or landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty.

There was a time in America when protecting our heritage through preserving open space was thought to be a civic duty. Alas, that is no longer considered a responsibility by recent Congresses. Obama has used the Antiquities Act as a way around the stasis in Washington, creating several national monuments.

The most recent is the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine. There have been calls for a national park in northern Maine for a very long time, but the lack of federally controlled land and the hostility of local residents who believe the timber industry is going to make a comeback, made it impossible to get a park designation. But Roxane Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees, gave almost 90,000 acres of pristine land to the government to help make something happen.

Opinions in Maine were mixed. There are more than a few folks who want the land to remain available to the paper mills, should the paper industry ever return to Maine. Republican Gov. Paul LePage denounced Quimby’s donation:

That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine…It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and Senator Angus King. It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.

Last time we checked Quimby and King were in-state liberals, and the land was given to America, not to Mr. Obama.

Of course, the NPS faces major problems on its 100th birthday. An NPR report indicated that the service is facing challenges like climate change, overcrowding, underfunding and relevancy. Regarding climate change, the parks are having to adapt to rapid changes as we saw in Glacier National Park, where most glaciers could be gone by 2030. The parks are trying to educate the public about climate change, despite continued hostility from Republicans who refuse to fund it.

Relevance is a big issue. Surveys show that the average park visitor is 41 years old and white, not the future of a young, diverse majority America that will be here about the same time as the glaciers disappear.

Finally, the number of sites managed by the NPS has grown from 35 in 1916 to 400 sites today. That has led to substantial deferred maintenance, and given that Congress is unlikely to come up with additional funding, the NPS is seeking corporate funding, and possibly sponsorship.

Imagine Yellowstone: brought to you by Coca-Cola…

This brings into question of the very meaning of the commons: If we sell sponsorships, who owns the Grand Canyon? Who decides how Glacier National Park should be managed?

But, in a world where the GOP won’t agree to fund the parks, that’s what you should expect.

On a happier note, here are photos taken on our final days in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Here is Moraine Lake, a small, jewel-like glacier-fed lake, created by gigantic rock slide:


The distinctive color is from the sunlight reflecting off of dissolved particles of finely ground rock called “glacial flour”. And here is a photo of Lake Louise in Banff:


Lake Louise was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Apparently, the Province of Alberta is named after her as well. She never visited.

Here is a close-up of the Louise Glacier above the lake:


The glacier is 300’ thick at the edge of the cliff wall.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 21, 2016

Although the Wrongologist cannot get newspapers, and only has occasional wifi, the news does not seem to have changed much in the past week. So, here are a few cartoons curated from the wilderness:

Aetna pulled out of Obamacare. Why are you surprised?

COW Aetna

Trump accused Democrats of exploiting Blacks at Minnesota Rally:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Trump told CBS News:

I have seen them marching down the street essentially calling death to the police and I think we’re going to have to look into that…When you see something like that taking place – that’s really a threat, if you think about it. And when you see something like that taking place, we are going to have to perhaps talk with the Attorney General about it or do something.

He also painted the entire African American community as living in poverty with no jobs. Doesn’t that show he’s completely out of touch?

The Clinton Foundation’s practices continue to puzzle Clinton supporters:

COW Zip Line

Ryan Lochte and teammates entered the wrong event:

COW Lochte

Bonus cartoonage from Australia. They cover Trumpology:



Final Day in Glacier Park

Today we begin at the end of the day’s journey. We left St. Mary for Many Glacier, and after a nice hike around Swiftcurrent Lake, we had lunch and drove into Canada. Our destination was Waterton Lake Park, one of the earliest Canadian National Parks. It is adjacent to and really, part of Glacier Park.

In fact, in 1932, the US and Canada created the world’s first International Peace Park: joining together Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It was the first Peace Park, and today there are 170 of them. UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Waterton lives for the summer season. Its population is less than 90 people, and in the winter, the full-time population drops below 48 people.

We are staying at the Prince of Wales (POW) hotel. It was built in 1927. It is another of the Great Northern Railway hotels, a chalet-style place, without air conditioning, and which only recently added wifi. There are no TVs in the room. OTOH, you stay at the POW for the view, and here is the view from our room:


Wrongo is looking out the window at that spectacular scene right now, and it is a fitting capstone to our time in Glacier. The day started in St. Mary, Montana. It rained quite hard yesterday, and while the temperature in town was in the mid-50s, down from the low 80s the day before, snow fell on the mountains around St. Mary. Here is a photo taken at twilight last night:


We spent the morning at Many Glacier, an area within Glacier National Park located north of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, on the east side of the park. The Many Glacier Hotel, was also built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1915, and it fronts on Swiftcurrent Lake. The hotel sits in a bowl of mountains, the most significant of which is Mount Grinnell. Back in the day, people hiked the 12 mile round trip to view Grinnell Glacier, one of the most frequently photographed glaciers in the park. This means that there is a very well documented historical record of Grinnell’s glacier shrinking over the 176 years since the end of the little ice age in 1850. Grinnell is one of the many in Glacier NP that are likely to be gone by 2030.

Here are a few photos of the Swiftcurrent Lake area that were shot this morning. Here is the Lake with Mount Grinnell on the right:


Finally, here is a shot across Swiftcurrent Lake. Mount Grinnell is to the left in this picture, and we are looking at a part of the Garden Wall that makes up the Continental Divide as we discussed yesterday:


There was wildlife in abundance at Many Glacier. We saw bear scat while hiking around the lake, and later a couple traveling with us, saw a Grizzly Bear in the lake. There were Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep visible grazing on the slopes above us, and on the drive from Many Glacier to Waterton, we stopped to watch a Black Bear devouring berries, and for the ten minutes or so that we watched, the bear was totally oblivious to humans at the side of the road.

Tip: If you plan to cross into Canada, take Route 17 (Chief Mountain Highway). It is only open from May to September, at Chief Mountain Crossing. It had no traffic when we passed through.



Glacier Park: Days Two and Three

We spent Wednesday traveling the Going to the Sun Road (GTTSR) across Glacier National Park from West to East. The weather was perfect for the 50 mile trip, which we took in one of the red, “Jammer” coaches. Below is a photo taken at Logan Pass, a place to view the Continental Divide, or what the park rangers call the “Garden Wall”. The Garden Wall was formed by glaciers scouring both sides, making it a knife-edge like series of mountains. The Blackfeet called the Continental Divide the “Backbone of the World”:


The horizontal white line on the photo above is the GTTSR coming from the West Glacier area.

Only 25 glaciers remain in Glacier National Park, down from 150 in the 1850’s, which was at the end of the so-called Little Ice Age that predated the start of the industrial revolution. Here is a photo of one of the most accessible remaining in the park, Jackson Glacier:


If you want to witness one of the last glaciers, this one is easy to view, and as they say, it’s going, going, gone for Jackson Glacier, maybe in the next five years.

Towards the end of our trip on the GTTSR road, we moved from above the tree line to a “Parkland” forest at about 4500’, Upper St. Mary Lake, on the East side of the Continental Divide. It is almost 10 miles long. Here is a view of Upper St. Mary Lake, looking up the lake at the steep mountains that surround it:


The little island visible in the photo is Wild Goose Island. This is considered to be the most iconic view of Glacier Park. Triple Divide peak is on the left. It is one of a few spots where water can flow in three different directions, to the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. The area was scarred by a forest fire in 2015, so while evidence of the fire is very apparent, so are the many wild flowers that grew in the fire’s wake.

No story about Glacier Park would be complete without a discussion of the Blackfeet Indians. The Blackfeet owned the land that became Glacier. In 1895, representatives of the US and Blackfoot leaders met to discuss the purchase, but the Blackfoot were reluctant to sell.

After pressure, the leaders agreed to the sale for $1.3 million.

Glacier Park was created because the Great Northern Railway wanted a destination venue for their railroad. The park provided a tourist destination; the Great Northern provided the transportation and also owned the hotels adjacent to the park. Great Northern promoted the park as an “Indian” destination and referred to the Blackfeet as “Glacier Park Indians.”

Great Northern arranged for these thespian Indians to meet tourists as they got off the train, and tipis were installed near the park lodges. Thursday’s visit by Wrongo and Ms. Right to East Glacier, home of the Glacier Park Lodge, confirmed that the tipis are still onsite.  Glacier National Park Lodge was the brainchild of Louis W Hill, son of the railway’s founder, James J Hill. The lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a photo of the iconic great hall of the lodge:


As a part of its Glacier National Park promotion, the Great Northern Railway in 1915 produced a movie entitled A Day in the Life of a Glacier Park Indian.

If you ever get to East Glacier, make time to visit the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning Montana; it is well worth your time. Browning is located on the Blackfoot Reservation, and is the capital city of the reservation. If Gregg is there, you will hear a straight forward talk about how the Europeans won the land grab war with many different Indian tribes, and how the Blackfeet have been on their ancestral lands for 10,000 years.

In a sad commentary, Browning is considering bankruptcy