Saturday Soother – February 27, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Boulder Beach, Acadia NP February 2021 photo via Scenes of Maine Photography

It’s Saturday, so we have a lightning round of news you can use. First, the Daily Beast reports:

“A pickup truck parked at the US Capitol and bearing a Three Percenter militia sticker on the day of the Jan. 6 riot belongs to the husband of freshman Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, who approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler a day earlier,”

The Three Percenters are a para-military group who wish to overthrow the US government. And before you ask, yes, Rep. Miller is a new Republican Congresscritter, who spoke at a pre-coup “Moms for America” rally in front of the Capitol the day before the riot. She said:

“Hitler was right on one thing: whoever has the youth has the future…”

This is Republicanism today. She later apologized for the remarks. Sure.

Second, a new poll on Covid vaccine skepticism shows that since last fall, it has come way down for Blacks and Hispanics. Skepticism remains high among white Republicans. Nearly 60% of White Republicans will either not take the vaccine or are unsure:

Source: Civiqs

One of the great challenges during the pandemic has been establishing public trust, particularly among racial minorities who have a long history of both exploitation and neglect by the medical establishment and the government.

The good news is that vaccine skepticism is falling substantially over the past few months. It now appears that the only barrier to achieving herd immunity is White Republicans.

Their skepticism about government involvement in health is part of a long trend among Republicans. In the 1960s, Reagan was against Medicare, and called any expansion “socialized medicine”. He refused to acknowledge the AIDS crisis. In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich blocked Clinton’s health care plan, although he was in favor of a similar program that was adopted by Mitt Romney as Governor of Massachusetts.

The Romney plan was the template for Obamacare, which all Republicans opposed, including Newt Gingrich, who was for it before he was against it.

It isn’t just ideological resistance, it’s a bone-deep antipathy to any collective attempt to have high quality public health in America. Their antipathy toward health is beyond ideology, it’s pathology.

Finally, a few words about just how old and out of touch members of Congress have become. Demo Memo, a site Wrongo highly recommends, posted about the demographics of Congress. The bottom line is that the Baby-Boom generation dominates both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“According to an analysis of the 117th Congress by Pew Research Center, Boomers account for a 53% percent majority of the House and for an even larger 68% percent of the Senate…”

House: number (and percent) of members of the 117th Congress by generation

Millennials: 31 (7%)

Gen Xers: 144 (33%)

Boomers: 230 (53%)

Silent: 27 (6%)

Senate: number (and percent) of members of the 117th Congress by generation

Millennials: 1 (1%)

Gen Xers: 20 (20%)

Boomers: 68 (68%)

Silent: 11 (11%)

The ages of the 117th Congress range from 25.5 years to 87.7 years. The median age of the House is 58.9. The median age of the Senate is 64.8. That may explain why Sen. John Thune (R-SD), can reminisce about working for $6/hour in a restaurant in 1978, as part of his objection to a $15/hr. wage.

A $6/hr. wage in 1978, adjusted for inflation, would equal $24.07/hr. in 2021. A person making $24.07 an hour, working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year would earn over $50,000 a year before taxes. And a person working the same hours and earning the proposed wage of $15/hr. would earn just over $31,200 a year before taxes.

A person working the same hours and earning the current national minimum wage of $7.25/hr. earns just over $15,080 a year, before taxes today.

Time to let go of the DC merry-go-round for a few minutes and enjoy a brief Saturday Soother. It’s going to rain in Connecticut today, helping to melt some of the snow remaining on the ground. So, settle back and watch this stunning video from “Playing for Change” who we’ve featured a few times in the past. Here, Peter Gabriel is singing his song “Biko”, that he wrote and performed in 1980.

It’s a tribute to the South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died while in police custody. More than 25 musicians from seven countries join Gabriel for this global rendition, including Beninese vocalist Angélique Kidjo, Silkroad’s Yo-Yo Ma, and bass legend Meshell Ndegeocello:

Lyric:

You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Extremists in the Military Edition, February 22, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Lake Willoughby VT – February 2021 photo by John Rowe Photography

For decades, domestic extremists have flaunted their ties to the US military, seeking to attach themselves both to the military’s credibility, and their tactical skills.

The January attack on the US Capitol showed us that the ties between US military members and the extreme right are deeper and more pervasive than we thought. Among the Capitol crowd were many military emblems: Some waved Marine Corps flags, many wore military gear, or specific unit patches signifying their time in service.

The AP found that at least 21 active-duty US Army and law enforcement personnel were present at the riot. We know that about 207 people have been arrested so far. The Military Times reported that 32 of the participants in the US Capitol coup had previously served in the military. If you want to get a current reading on the attitudes of the military to the Capitol coup, read the 640 comments on the article. It’s chilling.

How big is the problem? Last year, the FBI told the Pentagon that it had opened criminal investigations that involved 143 current or former service members. Sixty-eight of those involved domestic extremism and the vast majority involved veterans, not active-duty troops. Importantly, the Defense Department has no central database for tracking the allegations or disciplinary actions related to extremism.

Also, military regulations allow service members to have extremist affiliations and use extremist rhetoric if a service member doesn’t act upon them. In fact, the Pentagon reported in 2020 that only 21 service members had been disciplined or discharged over the previous five years for extremist activities. It’s doubtful that reflects the true scope of the problem.

According to a Pentagon report delivered to Congress last October:

“Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to US national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events….Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”

Military leaders say tackling the problem is difficult because the Constitution protects freedom of speech, and the law prohibits criminalizing affiliations that are deemed fundamentally political in nature, rather than a threat to harm the public. New defense secretary, Gen. Lloyd Austin, vowed at his confirmation hearing in January to:

“…rid our ranks of racists and extremists, and to create a climate where everyone fit and willing has the opportunity to serve this country with dignity.”

And Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Feb. 3:

“Extremism has risen to a top priority as the new secretary called in the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs of Staff…directing them to conduct a 60-day stand-down for leaders to speak with troops about the problem….”

Monitoring the potential extremist activities of 1.3 million active-duty service members is challenging. It’s difficult to distinguish between the casual gestures of some troops and the real warning signs of potentially illegal extremist activity by others.

Another concern is that 35 US Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their actions during the Capitol riot, and six have been suspended. In addition, the NYT reports that at least 30 police from around the country took part in the rally before the Capitol riot. Many are being investigated, and three have been arrested on federal charges related to breaching the Capitol.

The military appears to be less politically representative of society, with a long-term downward trend in the number of officers identifying as Democrats. Instead, identification with the Republican Party has become the norm. The junior officer corps, apart from its female and minority members, appears to be overwhelmingly hard-right Republican. And military personnel have for the past decade been voting in greater percentages than the general population.

In many ways, the military and civilian police seem to have, as Samuel Huntington wrote in 1957, “the outlook of an estranged minority.”

Time to wake up America! We can’t bury our heads in the sand, hoping that the linkage between the military, our police, and groups like QAnon and the fringe of the GOP won’t grow stronger. We need to call out the problem whenever and wherever we see it.

To help you wake up, listen to the group Kiwi Jr.’s “Maid Marian’s Toast” from their brand-new album “Cooler Returns”:

Sample Lyric:

now you’ve got something we want

it’s the Twenties and you’ve got something we want

so you’ve made the decision to make the decision

now spare us all from these half-assed revisions

you’ve got something we’ve always wanted

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Saturday Soother – January 30, 2021

The Daily Escape:

View of Torrance, CA from Palos Verdes, CA – January 2021 photo by Gary W. Stuart. A perfect reason to live in Palos Verdes, where Wrongo and Ms. Right lived for 10 years: Views of ocean and mountains on a rare crystal clear LA winter day. The San Gabriel Mountains in the background are ~35 miles away.

We’ve had a few bitter cold days on the snow-covered fields of Wrong. Friday morning, it was 6° with a 20+mph wind, making it a tough walk for the dog.

The emotional temperature is also icy in DC.  There is a growing rupture between Republicans who insist that the deadly Capitol riot was not the work of Trump supporters, and who insist on carrying concealed weapons onto the floor of the House, and Democrats who say they are afraid they’ll be harmed by those very same Republicans.

Since Republicans refuse to hold their colleagues accountable, some House Democrats have started refusing to work with some of their GOP counterparts, specifically those who favored the election sedition and who refuse to wear masks.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) is moving her office away from the office of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Greene and her staff are berating and harassing the Congresswoman and her staff because they wear masks. Bush said:

“I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety,”

Three weeks after the attack on the Capitol, and two weeks after the disgraced president was impeached for the second time, the GOP is wallowing in a debate over impeachment, trutherism, and… Jewish space lasers?

Yes to the Jewish space lasers: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is also a gun-toting’ QAnon disciple elected by the same Georgians who elected Biden. She says that California’s Camp Fire was started by a laser beam fired from space by “Rothschild Inc.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), sums up THE issue of 2021:

There were plenty of jokes made about the space lasers, but one thing that isn’t a joke is the palpable fear by Democrats who have to deal with this lunacy every day. We learned that the new acting head of the Capitol Police wants a wall around the Capitol:

“Vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing”

The acting head of the Capitol Police has no faith that we can satisfactorily explain to Republican-Americans that Biden was fairly elected. That his victory was reasonably large. That Trump and most of his enablers lied continually about the outcome of the election.

She thinks the only option is to put fences and razor wire around the Capitol to discourage people whose minds have been poisoned, from attacking it again. And our government may well follow her recommendation. We can’t harden a free society. Whatever you fence off will be “safe” while other places are open to attack. As Jonathan Last says,

“The fences and razor wire at the Capitol are the physical manifestation of the Republican lie. Every time you see them, remember Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz and…the hundreds of elected Republicans across the country who created this lie.”

The tragedy of Trump is that words and deeds, no matter how reckless or disconnected from the truth, carry no political consequences.

Organizer Bree Newsome translated Republicans’ current attitude:

“Sorry we tried to assassinate you & overthrow the election. We didn’t expect it to fail & create this awkwardness between us. Let’s move forward & get back to normal with us blocking any legislation you introduce while we continue to feed a racist terrorist movement. Love, GOP”

We live in disturbing times, but we must find ways to let go of the anger and fear, at least for a few moments on a Saturday. Outdoor activities are not recommended when the wind chill is below zero, so pick up that long read that you’ve been putting off, settle into a comfy chair and get going!

To help get you started, brew up a vente cup of Dafis Abafita Natural Ethiopia ($21.50/12 oz.) from Topeka Kansas’ PT Coffee Roasting Co. The roaster says you can taste mulberry, cocoa nib, tangerine zest, and agave syrup in the cup. Sounds like that cup is doing a lot of work!

Now put on your Bluetooth headphones and listen to “Born in the Right Country” by the group River Whyless, from the mean streets of Asheville, NC. This song is a powerful and elegantly drawn statement about racism in America. It’s a must-watch:

Sample lyric:

I’ll tell you baby a secret
Manufactured truth is easy to sell
When you own the factory
And you own the hearts of the clientele

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Monday Wake Up Call – Our Dangerous Future Edition, January 11, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Outside the Capitol, a crowd of thousands cheered the rioters entering the building, January 6, 2021, 2:10 pm. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII, for The New York Times.

Look closely at the size of the crowd in the photo above, because our future may look a lot like that. The GOP has become two Parties, says Timothy Snyder in an excellent article in the NYT. He says that the Republican Party is now two coalitions of politicians and their supporters. One group wants to game the system, while the other wants to break the system.

What this portends for the immediate future, is chilling. The Breakers have moved on from the US Capitol to statehouses. Kentucky.com reported that dozens of heavily armed people gathered on Saturday outside the Kentucky Capitol building, demonstrating against socialism, communism, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear:

“Several members of the Kentucky State Police looked on as members of the group, composed of people from self-described “militias,” made speeches interspersed with live performances of country songs. Some in the crowd held flags or wore hats supporting President Donald Trump.”

By Wrongo’s count, that makes 12 state capitols that have seen militia-style demonstrations since the attempted coup at the US Capitol. We’ve entered a period when mobs of angry individuals now feel sufficiently emboldened to just go and break any law they disagree with.

We know that the Republican Party is culpable: By defending Trump’s big lie about a stolen election even after the Jan. 6 attempted coup, they’ve set a precedent: A Republican presidential candidate who loses an election should be appointed to the job anyway. For at least the Breaker branch of the Republican Party, they will operate in the future with two plans in mind: Plan A, to win the election. And Plan B, to lose, but then to win through force.

As with Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley’s objections to the Electoral Votes of certain states, a finding of election fraud isn’t necessary. Breaker Republicans will only need to hear allegations that there was fraud. More from Snyder: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around…”

Snyder says that for the Republican Breaker faction to succeed, they need an angry minority, organized for nationwide violence, ready to add intimidation to an election. It is surprising just how close they are to having all of that in 2021. One more from Snyder:

“Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.”

How large is the cohort of Breakers? Wrongo hasn’t seen any estimates. But, a YouGov Direct poll of 1,397 registered voters who knew about Wednesday’s attempted coup found that 62% of voters perceived the mob action as a threat to democracy:

  • Democrats (93%) overwhelmingly see it this way.
  • Most Independents (55%) also agree.
  • 68% of Republicans didn’t think that mob violence to overturn an election was a threat to democracy.

One poll isn’t dispositive, but since Trump got 70 million votes, and 68% of them seemingly condone overturning an election, we’re dealing with nearly 50 million people. Not all of them will take up arms against their government. But if organized, it would be a very large and well-dispersed militia. One that communicates instantly via social media.

There is much to say about the tension between our First Amendment rights, and the use potential coup plotters and their enablers make of social media. Trump was permanently banned from Twitter, while the hard right social platform Parler has lost access to the Apple store and to Amazon’s server platform.

Freedom of speech is essential to a democracy, but using Twitter, Facebook and the far-right platforms to lie, and to organize armed resistance to our government, brings with it the danger that our democracy could fall to angry, armed people who believe the big lie.

Time to wake up America! We’ve become a pre-coup nation. All of the necessary conditions are in place: vast inequality, growing poverty, a stabbed-in-the-back narrative that a large segment of Republican voters believe, along with the storyline that a right-wing President was the victim of voter fraud.

Remember that the majority of police and members of the military are sympathetic to the right, not to the left. A very smart, would-be dictator who understands the keys to power could work to either freeze the military, or gain their cooperation.

And the Breaker group has several of those smart, ruthless people.

We gotta wake up.

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The Demonstrations Get Complicated

The Daily Escape:

Summit Lake with view of Mt. Rainier WA – 2020 photo by monzar

 “I feel like a survivor from an age that people no longer understand.” — Olivia de Havilland

So true for Wrongo. The video below shows one of Trump’s paramilitaries pepper spraying a Vietnam Vet. Not for anything he’s doing, or for anything he is saying, but simply because they can. The video was shot by Andrew Kimmel, who is at the Portland protests every night. Wrongo urges you to follow him:

pic.twitter.com/WDwOKem2he

The vet’s name is Mark Hastie. He was a medic in Vietnam. He’s pleading with federal agents to heed the warnings of history, and respect the oath they took to defend the people of their country. Hastie says that he has mental scars from his time in Vietnam, and that these paramilitaries will have them too, if they continue their authoritarian ways.

It’s worth noting that in Portland most nights after midnight, a few protesters escalate the confrontation which, to that point have been largely peaceful. Bottles, cans and fireworks are thrown, some try to rush the temporary fencing installed around the courthouse. That’s when the paramilitaries move in and harm the protesters.

The AP had reporters with the paramilitaries last night. Here’s some of what they saw from inside the courthouse: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[at around 11pm]…someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the [temporary courthouse] fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls….

Within minutes, the federal agents at the fence perimeter fired the first tear gas of the night.”

Ultimately, by dawn the next day, the paramilitaries had cleared the protesters away from the courthouse, and both sides retreated to lick their wounds.

Yesterday, the WaPo had an opinion piece by E.D. Mondainé, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP, saying that the message of the protests about the murder of George Floyd and the response by the Black Lives Matter movement is getting lost in the ongoing confrontations with Trump’s paramilitaries: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“….we need to remember: What is happening in Portland is the fuse of a great, racist backlash that the Trump administration is baiting us to light…..If we engage them now, we do so on their terms, where they have created the conditions for a war without rules, without accountability and without the protection of our Constitution.”

Trump’s plan of escalation seems to be working. The original protesters wanted less police violence and more accountability. But the protest now is against anonymous armed agents sent to suppress protest.

Another thing lost in the Portland protests is that Trump officials admit off the record that they are sending federal troops into cities in order to create “viral content”:

“One of the officials said the White House had long wanted to amplify strife in cities, encouraging DHS officials to talk about arrests of violent criminals in sanctuary cities and repeatedly urging ICE to disclose more details of raids than some in the agency were comfortable doing. “It was about getting viral online content,” one of the officials said.”

This takes us back to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Before the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, the New York Journal sent Frederic Remington, the distinguished artist, to Cuba. He was instructed to remain there until the war began. Remington sent this to William Randolph Hearst:

“W.R. Hearst, New York Journal, NY:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. Remington.”

This was the reply:

“REMINGTON, HAVANA:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war. W.R. HEARST.”

“You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war”. You doubt it? Look at this:

Trump is now apparently sending more Federales to Portland. So what’s the endgame? Having set the fire, Trump will now try to make it a raging inferno.

And, protests are growing across America:

We no longer know who is demonstrating, there are too many “false flag” operators everywhere in America, as shown by who was behind the arson in Richmond, VA.

What will bring us out of our current free fall?

If Biden wins in November, he’ll inherit an America with 15%+ unemployment, tens of millions more homeless people than we have currently. Hunger will be widespread, and COVID will still be working its way through our population.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 26, 2020

Possibly lost in the “Terrorist Antifa Moms” news out of Portland last week was the thought that we continually say things like this:

  • Another new low for Trump.
  • How dare he?
  • Trump flaunts the Constitution.

In the past, other presidents have used governmental authority for political ends, but no other president has used a combination of the FBI/DHS/ATF and private mercenaries to literally beat down our First Amendment rights. Who’s stepping forward to stop him?

Without a principled Congress, nothing will stop him. The Republican Party steadfastly remains unshocked by his behavior. The Democratic Party can hold all the hearings it wants. It will never make a dent in Trump’s behavior. The current national dumpster fire is 100% owned by the GOP.

From Trump’s perspective, he’s doing exactly what he’s certain that he can get away with as President. He’s moved the goalposts, because our system wasn’t designed to hold back a President without principles. On to cartoons.

Protection of your Constitutional rights is now in the hands of Portland’s mothers:

Here’s the true cognitive test for Americans:

Who’s behind these secret police masks?

Do Americans understand how close we are to Trump declaring Martial Law?

Can Trump win on this debate question?

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Alpine lake, High Uintas Wilderness, UT- 2020 photo by anteaterpinkytoe.

Which is better: Gorbachev’s Chernobyl response, or Trump’s COVID response? It’s a high bar for Trump’s response to be worse than Gorbachev’s.

The Chernobyl disaster exposed the Soviet government’s ineptitude to both the Soviet people and the international community. The reactor’s core meltdown and its aftermath drained the Soviet Union of $billions in clean-up costs. It led to the loss of a primary energy source and dealt a serious blow to national pride. Thirty-four years later, the site remains a waste land.

Gorbachev would later say that he thought the Chernobyl meltdown, “even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”

But Trump is up for the challenge! From Umair Haque at Medium:

“America’s in free fall. It’s having a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a social implosion, and a political implosion all at once. And all those things have been brought to you by Donald Trump, whose negligence, irresponsibility, recklessness have allowed them to flourish.”

Nobody in the world is in free fall like America. America has the highest number of new cases in the world, higher than Brazil’s 50K, or India’s 30K. Even individual Red States have worse outbreaks than many of the world’s poorest countries with far higher populations.

The EU has about 5,000 new cases. America has more than fifteen times the number of cases Europe has. Texas alone had more than twice the number of cases, (more than 10K) and the population of Texas is 7% of the EU’s.

Trump nails the win over Gorbachev with his most egregious action, putting armed secret police on the streets of Portland, OR. Dozens of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters, threw them into unmarked cars, and took them for interrogation without specifying a reason for arrest.

It appears that at least some of the agents involved belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (the Border Patrol), a US government organization that has no business conducting actions against Americans in Portland.

Both the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon have asked them to leave. A US Attorney for the State of Oregon is calling for an investigation into the arrests.

Now, the acting head of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, is vowing to ramp up these actions both in Portland and elsewhere. This is Wolf on the DHS website:

“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it. A federal courthouse is a symbol of justice – to attack it is to attack America.”

We’ve seemingly reached a point where Trump’s brown shirt police force is reality.

Could it be that Trump is trying to foment unrest? His campaign can’t be happy that protests and urban unrest have quieted down across America in the last few weeks. Is Trump hoping this action will spark a revival of what we were seeing in June?

The calculation would be that an upsurge in protest will divert the country’s attention from the ongoing COVID-19 disaster while scaring moderate voters. It allows Trump to keep playing the law and order president, someone who will protect white suburbanites from scary black/brown anarchists.

This is the same week when Trump claimed Biden wants to abolish suburbs.

We’ve heard this Republican tune before during earlier presidential elections. It’s a mash up of Nixon’s law and order strategy, and Bush I’s Willie Horton strategy. It’s important to point out that both won their elections.

Trump is using Executive Branch agencies that he controls. AG Barr knows there is nothing “Constitutionally” Congress can do about this. They’re trying out various actions to see what they can get away with: for now, it’s the dreaded ANTIFA. Before that it was immigrants and asylum seekers. Later, it could be any opposition.

Time to wake up America! This is who and what we have become. The only question remaining is whether enough non-authoritarian Americans will vote in November to stop the madness.

To help you wake up, here is Big Country’s “We’re not in Kansas” performed live in 1991 in Bonn Germany:

Sample lyrics:

What did you learn in school today
Did you learn to run when the teachers pray
Did they teach you enough to know the state you’re in
Not enough to get out, not enough to win

What did you learn at home today
Did you learn to hate in the proper way
Did your liberated parents patronize your friends
Cos they had enough money cos they had the right skin

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

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Saturday Soother – D-Day Edition, June 6, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Normandy – 2016 photo by Wrongo

Today, let’s tie a few things together. D-Day was 76 years ago. Less than three months later, by the end of August, the allies had entered Paris, and the rout was on. Germany would surrender in May of 1945. That was the original Antifa war.

What’s going on today, with Trump and Barr trying to gin up a domestic Antifa enemy is bullshit.

First, a bad experience for a multi-racial family of four in Washington State that was accused of being members of Antifa. They were followed and prevented from leaving their campsite when the bad guys cut down trees to block the roadway out. From the article: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The family had shopped for camping supplies at Forks Outfitters and were confronted by seven or eight carloads of people in the grocery store parking lot….The people in the parking lot repeatedly asked them if they were Antifa protesters. The family told deputies that at least four vehicles followed them as they drove northbound out of Forks. They said that two of the vehicles had people in them carrying what appeared to be semi-automatic rifles.”

Not dangerous, and no connection to Barr and Trump, just a coincidence, right?

Next, HuffPo reports that a shipment of hundreds of cloth masks that read “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police” that an Oakland, CA Black Lives Matter-affiliated organization was sending to cities around the country was seized by law enforcement. The group’s objective was to protect demonstrators against the spread of COVID-19:

“The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) spent tens of thousands of dollars on the masks they had planned to send all over the country. The first four boxes, each containing 500 masks, were mailed from Oakland, California, and were destined for Washington, St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis, where on May 25 a white police officer killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, setting off a wave of protests across the country.”

The items never left the state. The US Postal Service tracking numbers indicate they were “Seized by Law Enforcement”. Again, what is behind Barr’s and Trump’s thinking here? The government has been urging independent groups to make masks to help protect against COVID-19. The difference here is that the government objects to the message on these masks?

Finally, Trump is now living behind a tall and imposing fence wall that was hastily erected around the White House:

The fencing is intended to provide security for the White House. Trump may have thought that the show of force in Lafayette Square made him seem more powerful, but the more he closes in—physically and figuratively—the more isolated and small he seems.

Don’t you wonder how carefully the White House has thought out their strategy?

  • Do they have an exit strategy for how their daily undermining of people’s Constitutional rights will play out?
  • Do they intend to have troops on our streets indefinitely?
  • Do they plan to make protesting so dangerous that there will be ever increasing violent incidents that, in the administration’s eyes, justify the continuing use of force?

On this D-Day weekend, things aren’t looking good for the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.

It is hard to write this stuff, and it’s certainly hard to read about all the new insults to democracy that are now occurring daily by this president.

So, let’s take a break from the news, and find a little bit of time to forget the ominous place where all this seems to be heading. Time for a Saturday Soother.

First, we brew up a cup of Mocha Java ($14.50/12oz.) from Fort Bragg, CA’s Thanksgiving Coffee. They call it Mocha Java, but this version replaces the original Java with a wet-hulled Sumatra, and replaces the Yemen Mocha with a similar coffee from Ethiopia. You be the judge.

Today, partially to mourn George Floyd and all the others who died before, including those who died on D-Day, let’s listen to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, played in its original version by the Dover Quartet.

This is the second time Wrongo has chosen this recording, primarily for the deep sadness in the music. Usually played by a string orchestra, here it feels raw and vulnerable, and much more intimate and powerful than with an orchestra:

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

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Is The Cure Worse Than The Disease?

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine, CA – photo by kristophershinn

Here are the latest national pandemic numbers from The COVID Tracking Project: (as of 4/5)

  • Number of daily cases: 333,747, up 27,992 or +9.2% vs. April 4
  • Rate of case increase: 9.2% vs. 12.4% on 4/4 and 13% average for the past week
  • Number of deaths: Total 9,558, up 1,244 vs. April 4
  • Rate of deaths increase 4/5 vs 4/4: 14.9% % vs. 19.4% on 4/4
  • Daily number of tests 4/5 vs. 4/4: 1,778,487, up 154,680 over 4/4
  • Rate of increase in tests: +9.5% vs. previous day

The rate of growth in cases and deaths are slowing. Testing is still growing, although slowly.

Two pandemic-related stories today, each purporting to offer a cure. First, from the Guardian:

“Neo-Nazi groups in the US are looking for ways to exploit the coronavirus outbreak and commit acts of violence, according to observers of far-right groups, law enforcement, and propaganda materials…”

The Guardian says that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) raised an alarm about opportunism from far-right so-called “accelerationist” groups who believe sowing chaos and violence will hasten the collapse of society. More from the Guardian:

“Late last month, the FBI warned such extremist groups were encouraging members to deliberately spread the virus to Jewish people and police officers.”

Apparently, the shorthand in a variety of extremist and fringe movements and subcultures is the word “boogaloo”, used as shorthand for a future civil war:

“From militia groups to white supremacists, extremists on a range of online platforms talk about—and sometimes even anticipate—the “boogaloo.” The rise of “boogaloo,” and its casual acceptance of future mass violence, is disturbing.”

Similar sentiments may have motivated a Missouri man who planned a car bomb attack on a hospital which was treating coronavirus patients. He was shot dead by FBI agents who were seeking to arrest him on March 24th. The man was active in chat rooms associated with two neo-Nazi groups: the longstanding National Socialist Movement (NSM) and the accelerationist group Vorherrschaft Division (VSD).

The NSM was involved in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and is facing a federal lawsuit for its role there. VSD is an organization that urges members to engage in mass shootings or terror attacks to help bring about the collapse of modern civilization. This is disturbing and distracting when we are seeing a few nascent signs that Americans are coming together in the fight against COVID-19.

Second, many saw, or have heard about Trump’s Sunday “briefing” where he doubled down on his pushing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for Coronavirus. Trump again said “what do you have to lose?” Remember that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are used to treat malaria and lupus.

It turns out that many of us may indeed have something to lose. In an abstract from researchers at Johns Hopkins entitled: “Fatal toxicity of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine with metformin in mice” they say: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…we report a cautionary note on the potential fatal toxicity of chloroquine (CQ) or hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in combination with anti-diabetic drug metformin. We observed that the combination of CQ or HCQ and metformin, which were used in our studies as potential anti-cancer drugs, killed 30-40% of mice.”

Metformin is the fourth most prescribed drug in the US and is used by more than 150,000,000 people worldwide. It is usually the first drug prescribed for Type 2 diabetes. Its side effects are usually mild, and it is even being researched as a possible “longevity” drug.

Now, these mice results aren’t conclusive, so it may or may not be lethal in humans. This is why we test before prescribing an approved drug for another disease.

BTW, Drugs.com says there are 332 HCQ drug interactions (59 of them are major), but it doesn’t list Metformin as one of them. Feeling lucky?

Despite this, the NY Post reports that as many as 4,000 patients are currently being treated with hydroxychloroquine:

“A state Health Department official said the DOH has shipped doses of hydroxychloroquine to 56 hospitals across New York…”

And NYU Langone Medical School is conducting a random trial with a $9.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Sooner or later, we’ll have some proof if it helps with COVID-19, and whether it is safe for people who take Metformin.

So, the answer is, at this point, you may have a lot to lose.

Remember the guy pushing this told us that the cure can’t be worse than the disease, so we should all go back to work, before he had to admit that he had spoken too soon. Now, he’s pushing a cure that MIGHT be worse than the disease.

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The Future: Will It Be Just More of The Past?

The Daily Escape:

Wrongo said he wouldn’t look back, but has reconsidered. It’s time to declare war on those who refuse to use facts or science. Think about what these true believers in either faith or ideology have brought us:

Will we continue on this road, or will we make a turn for the better? Will 2020 usher in a better decade than the one we just closed? Doubtful, unless each of us stand up and do what we can to make a difference.

Those who think Trumpism is so new and novel should remember that Norman Lear made a hit TV show about it in the early 1970s. Since then, many American white people have taken a dark turn: They would rather have Trump’s government enforce a whites only voting policy than put in the work required to make our system benefit everyone equally, while decreasing the cut taken by the corporate class.

Building this better society requires hard cognitive work. So far, Americans aren’t up to thinking about solutions beyond “Build that wall!”

Another example: 50% of white people are actively against government bureaucrats making their health care decisions. They insist that something that important should only be decided by employer HR departments and multinational insurance companies.

They’re perfectly fine casting their fates with insurance bureaucrats. Even if those corporate bureaucrats deny their care most of the time. Worse, they’re told by the media that they shouldn’t pay any more damn TAXES for health care when they could be paying twice as much in premiums to insurance corporations.

Remember the song In the year 2525? “If man is still alive…”

That’s 505 years from now. What do you think the odds are that we’re still here?

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