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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother, July 3, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Blue Camas bloom, Missoula MT – June 2020 photo by Kurt Kohn. Camas is a plant in the asparagus family, and its bulb was a food staple for Indigenous peoples in the American West.

(Wrongo is taking a break for the July 4th holiday. Blogging will resume on Tuesday 7/7.)

Good morning fellow disease vectors! Welcome to the holiday weekend.

The legal separation of the 13 Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.

After voting for independence, the Continental Congress created a Committee of Five  to write a Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, approving it on July 4. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival… “

Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress, rather than on July 2.

Coincidentally, both Adams and Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as US presidents, died on the same day: July 4, 1826. James Monroe, a founder, but not a signatory of the Declaration, became the third president to die on July 4th in 1831.

Yale Historian David Blight had a short audio piece on NPR on Friday talking about Frederick Douglass. Blight won a 2019 Pulitzer for his book, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”

In his NPR talk, Blight recalls a speech by Douglass in July, 1852 to about 600 abolitionists gathered in Rochester, NY. Douglass had been born enslaved. He’d secretly taught himself to read and write. He became one of the best-known abolitionists and thinkers in the world. The speech that Douglass gave before that crowd in Rochester was called “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?”

Blight says it was one of Douglass’s most riveting and compelling speeches. He goes on to quote from it:

“The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice. I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand, illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”

Blight closes by saying that today, we may be seeing the third great reckoning about race in our history: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The first was the Civil War and Reconstruction. The second was the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. And now we’re probably having a third one – whatever we’re going to end up calling this…..And he’d [Douglass] warn us that the whole world is watching to see whether this thing called an American republic can really survive.”

Blight also has a series of video lectures on the Civil War that you can watch for free as part of the Open Yale program. Wrongo highly recommends them.

Here’s a fantastic and touching video in which five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read excerpts of Douglass’s famous speech. You can’t do better today than to listen to these young kids speak the words of their famous ancestor.

Time to let go of the world of politics, economics and policy for a few days. We all want a slice of normalcy: A cold beverage, burgers on the grill, fireflies after dark, and family and friends nearby. Although we want all of that right now, we’ll most likely have to settle for just some of it.

Let’s begin the Saturday Soother by brewing up a Cafe Del Sol Cold Brew Coffee ($15.99/12oz.) from San Diego CA’s Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

Now, settle back at an appropriate physical distance and listen to Mickey Guyton’s new song, “Black Like Me”. Guyton is a young black female country music singer/songwriter, one of the very few succeeding in the country music idiom. She’s decided to speak out about the subject of racism. That takes courage, even in today’s Nashville scene. Highly recommend the video, which contains the lyrics of her song:

Sample Lyric:

If you think we live in the land of the free
You should try to be black like me

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – Dixie Chicks Edition, June 29, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Delaware Water Gap, NJ – 2020 photo by Craig Conklin

OK, Wrongo was wrong, again. He said on Saturday that changing the name of the Dixie Chicks to the Chicks wasn’t going to do anything for them. Wrongo ignored the power of a great protest song, and what it can do for your career.

And the Chicks have such a protest song in the just-released “March March” which is featured below.

But first, a few words about the mostly-forgotten Dixie Chicks. They were country, but not the faux patriotic kind. Their name came from the song by Little Feat, “Dixie Chicken”. If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat, so listen at the link above.

Despite the name, they were pretty progressive in their music and lyrics. And they got in trouble for it in the Bush II administration. From Wikipedia: (brackets by Wrongo)

“On March 10, 2003, nine days before the invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks performed…in London, England. It was the first concert of their Top of the World tour in support of their sixth album, Home. Introducing their song “Travelin’ Soldier”, [Natalie] Maines told the audience the band did not support the upcoming Allied invasion of Iraq and were “ashamed” that President George W. Bush was from Texas.

Many American country music listeners supported the war, and Maines’s remark triggered a backlash in the United States. The Dixie Chicks were blacklisted by thousands of country radio stations, and the band members received death threats…”

This was a huge deal back then. The entire country music industry ostracized them. At roughly the same time as the Chicks were blacklisted, the House GOP pushed to rename french fries and french toast in their cafeteria to “freedom fries” and “freedom toast”. Freedumb!

But the Chicks were correct. It wasn’t simply the Iraq war, it was illegal torture, the rise of the unitary executive, the attacks on free speech, and the destruction of the Iraqi state, and how that destabilized the Middle East. The Dixie Chicks’ protest grew to include all of that.

Looking back, Nashville didn’t have a clue about how to respond after 9/11. In their simplistic view, we had WWII, a story about the good guys vs. the bad guys. We also had Vietnam’s multiple shades of gray. But from a marketing perspective, and based on their collective ideology, Nashville wanted Bush’s Iraq war to be perceived at the WWII end of the spectrum.

In retrospect, the Chicks were a lot closer to where most of America was on the Iraq war than their Nashville gatekeepers. If you have any doubts about their political bona fides, listen to their anti-Vietnam song, Travelin’ Soldier, written by Bruce Robison in 1996.

So onward to the Chicks’ new song. Watch it full screen, it’s worth it.

This is protest music at its best. There have been protest songs all along, but the last time they were truly relevant was in 1970, with the CSNY song “Ohio” memorializing the Kent State shootings.

In 2020, it’s taken a pandemic, a maliciously negligent government, and disgusting abuses of authority to maybe slap us wide awake. Time to wake up America! Listen to the Chicks do “March March”:

Full Lyrics:

 [Chorus]
March, march to my own drum
March, march to my own drum
Hey, hey, I’m an army of one
Oh, I’m an army of one
March, march to my own drum
March, march to my own drum
Hey, hey, I’m an army of one
Oh, I’m an army of one

[Verse 1]
Brenda’s packin’ heat ’cause she don’t like Mondays
Underpaid teacher policin’ the hallways
Print yourself a weapon and take it to the gun range
(Ah, cut the shit, you ain’t goin’ to the gun range)
Standin’ with Emma and our sons and daughters
Watchin’ our youth have to solve our problems
I’ll follow them, so who’s comin’ with me?
(Half of you love me, half already hate me)

[Chorus]

[Verse 2]
Tell the ol’ boys in the white bread lobby
What they can and can’t do with their bodies
Temperatures are risin’, cities are sinkin’
(Ah, cut the shit, you know your city is sinkin’)
Lies are truth and truth is fiction
Everybody’s talkin’, who’s gonna listen?
What the hell happened in Helsinki?

[Chorus]

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

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Saturday Soother – June 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Rainer from the Whiteriver campground – 2020  photo by np2fast

Good morning fellow disease vectors!

Now that Florida and Texas have again closed their bars, you’re probably wondering: “Can Joe Biden’s lead in the polls get any bigger”?

Here’s your answer. On Thursday, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. They did this without any plan for replacing it, at what appears to be the height of new cases of the COVID pandemic. From Charlie Pierce:

“Imagine, for a moment, you’re a Republican. You already know that your party has hitched its wagon to the biggest ass in the history of American politics, and that he has proceeded to bungle a response to the worst public health crisis in a century, touching off a deep recession in the bargain….Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself this morning, y’know, maybe this isn’t the best historical moment to take healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans.”

Political gurus say that timing is everything.

Trump is doing this despite the fact that 487,000 new people signed up with HealthCare.gov last month after losing their company-provided health insurance coverage because of the pandemic-induced recession. That was an increase of 46% in sign-ups compared to the same month last year.

And Trump’s trying this stunt in the week when the US hit a new record for the highest daily total of reported COVID-19 cases – more than 45,500! He’s picked the perfect time to try again to throw an estimated 20 million Americans off of their insurance coverage.

This has been the GOP plan all along: we’re trimming the rolls of people on entitlement programs. We’re doing it through the courts, through legislation and by allowing the COVID-19 infection to spread.

It’s no longer clear which is the greater threat to lives in America: The Coronavirus, or Donald Trump.

This should remind all of us that we need to make Medicare for All, or another form of single payer insurance, a top priority after the November election.

Biden said it all in a speech this week: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Amazingly, he [Trump] still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this [COVID] crisis: to fix the economy we have to get control over the virus. He’s like a child who can’t believe this has happened to him. All his whining & self-pity…his job is to do something about it.”

We desperately need new leadership. Maybe we’ll get it next January.

Now it’s time to forget the Sahara Dust storm for a few minutes. You should also ignore the fact that the Dixie Chicks changed their name to “The Chicks”. How exactly does THAT rebranding improve our world, or their career?

Time to take our masks off, sit at an appropriate physical distance, and kick back: It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Let’s start by brewing up a huge mug of Ethiopia Nano Genji Agaro Gera coffee ($21.00/12oz.) from Sacramento CA’s Temple Coffee roasters. The roaster says you will experience notes of nectarine and apricot with your first sip.

Now find a comfortable lawn chair, and settle in to listen to “Summertime”, written by George and Ira Gershwin, and Dubose Edwin Heyward, in 1935. It’s performed here by George Winston from his album “Restless Wind”:

It was also memorably performed by the late, great Sam Cooke in 1957, released as the B-side on the single of Cooke’s big hit, “You Send Me”.

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

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Saturday Soother – June 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Morning surf casting, Nauset Off Road Beach, Orleans MA – May 2020 photo by Chef Bob

Happy Summer Solstice fellow disease vectors!

The political scene remains in flux. There are 135 days to go until the November election, and while things look encouraging for Biden, there’s plenty of time for Trump to mount a successful counter-attack. We’ll see the start of that effort tonight in Tulsa.

The 2020 Senate races are the most important to Wrongo. If Biden wins, Democrats need to pick up just three seats to control the Senate. If Biden loses, they need four seats, actually five, since Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) is likely to lose his seat.

The Cook Political Report just moved Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s race against incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines to toss-up status from “leans Republican”. A race of the two Steves. Daines won the seat in 2014 by 18 points.

Montana has become competitive in part due to Bullock’s successful handling of the COVID-19 issue, and because the pandemic has limited campaigning. Bullock has seen his approval ratings rise to 75% in one poll. Montana has one of the lowest per capita infection rates (49th out of 50), with only 20 deaths as of June 17, and Bullock has gotten credit for closing the state early. From Cook:

“Recent private Democratic polling in the contest gives Bullock a small lead and finds that Bullock’s approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than Daines…”

That’s fine, but Cook also reports that:

“GOP polling also shows that it’s a close race, but one where every internal poll for them has still shown Daines leading. “

Remember that Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016. Democrats argue that Biden isn’t as toxic in Montana as Hillary Clinton was in 2016, and that Obama only lost the state by 2 points in 2008, so if Biden could get close, he’ll help Bullock.

Bullock has outraised Daines by about $2.1 million in the first fundraising quarter, and again outraised Daines ahead of the June 2 primary by a nearly two-to-one margin. But Daines retains a $1.6 million cash on hand advantage.

The national state of play: There are now five GOP Senate seats rated as toss-ups: Daines, Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in NC and Martha McSally in Arizona.

There are another four Republican seats in play, albeit where they have leads in the polls. Both Georgia senators (Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue), Joni Ernst in Iowa, and Kansas’s open seat could swing to the Dems. That totals nine Republican Senate seats within reach.

Notice that Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t in the Dem’s competitive column.

If you gave money to centrist Democrat Amy McGrath, she’s trailing progressive opponent Charles Booker in the polls for the chance to go against McConnell despite raising $41 million.

It’s nearly certain that the GOP picks up Jones’s (AL) Senate seat. They’re expecting to hold on to the four seats above, so the Dems would have to win all five of the toss-ups to gain Senate control if Trump won reelection.

That could be a heavy lift. Remember that the GOP gained two Senate seats in 2018, despite the Democratic wave moving control of the House to the Democrats.

Enough calculating about what may be happening in a few months. It’s time for our Saturday Soother!

The summer solstice is Wrongo’s least favorite day of the year, since the days start growing shorter tomorrow. Temperatures at the Mansion of Wrong look to be in the high 80s to low 90s for the next week, so summer seems to have finally arrived.

In honor of summer let’s make a cold brew. Try The Dredger ($16/12oz.) from Jersey City, NJ’s Modcup brewers. The Dredger is said to have a deep toffee like sweetness and a slight fruity undertone. Note that Modcup refuses to sell any coffee 18 days after its roast date.

Now take your cold brew, settle back at an appropriate physical distance, and enjoy the hot sun. Today, you can hear a classic pop song that speaks about the power of “dreamers” in honor of the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA.

Here is Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” from the 1989 soundtrack of the movie “Working Girl”. Simon won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for it. At the link, you’ll see throwback haircuts and shoulder pads on women’s clothes from the 1980s and a few poignant scenes of the WTC:

Sample lyric:

We’re coming to the edge

Running on the water

Coming through the fog

Your sons and daughters

Let the river run

Let all the dreamers

Wake the nation

Come, the New Jerusalem

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 15, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Bright Angel Trail, in the middle foreground, Grand Canyon NP – photo by glowrocks

The chickens are coming home to roost. Michael Flor was originally the longest-hospitalized COVID-19 patient. Somehow, he survived. He came close enough to death that a night-shift nurse held a phone to his ear while his wife and kids said their final goodbyes.

Today, he’s recovering at home in West Seattle, WA. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he just got the bill. From the Seattle Times:

“The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus:…$1,122,501.04, to be exact. All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages.”

More from the Seattle Times:

“…the charge for his room in the intensive care unit was billed at $9,736 per day. Due to the contagious nature of the virus, the room was sealed and could only be entered by medical workers wearing plastic suits and headgear. For 42 days he was in this isolation chamber, for a total charged cost of $408,912.

He also was on a mechanical ventilator for 29 days, with the use of the machine billed at $2,835 per day, for a total of $82,215. About a quarter of the bill is drug costs.”

Those charges don’t include the two weeks of recuperating he did in a rehabilitation facility.

Since Flor has Medicare, it is unclear how much he will actually have to pay out of pocket. Further, since Congress set aside more than $100 billion to help hospitals and insurance companies defray the costs of the pandemic, it’s possible that Mr. Flor may not have to pay even the out-of-pocket charges normally billed by his Medicare Advantage policy, but that remains to be seen.

The insurance industry has estimated treatment costs of COVID-19 could top $500 billion, so unless Congress steps up with more money, co-pays for COVID will soon become injurious.

One outcome of the pandemic may be that America takes a closer look at universal health insurance. There are many detractors in Congress, but the sticker shock that so many families will see from COVID-19 cases may restart the discussion. Medicare for all could work: A single payer with a set system of prices would be good for employers and employees alike.

It will be hard. Universal health insurance is such a tough problem to solve that only 31 out of 32 developed nations have managed to do it.

A second issue for today is the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta over the weekend. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Officers were called to the restaurant after receiving a complaint about a man asleep in his vehicle, which forced other customers to go around his car to get their food at the window. The man, Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks, was given a field sobriety test, which he reportedly failed…”

Brooks grabbed a cop’s Taser. More:

“…surveillance footage from the Wendy’s appeared to show Brooks turn toward the police and attempt to fire the Taser as he ran away. That’s when the officer chasing Brooks pulled out his gun and shot him…”

Tasers are a form of de-escalation instead of using firearms. The Taser momentarily incapacitates, but ultimately doesn’t threaten life. So shouldn’t it follow that if a suspect steals a cop’s Taser and threatens to use it, the cop can’t just shoot him dead since he’s being threatened by an ultimately harmless weapon?

The cops had his car, it’s likely they knew where he lived. They could have picked him up at any time. Instead, they killed him. The police tried to do something, the suspect resisted, and in the heat of the moment, the cop escalated to show that he’s in charge. It was a terrible reason to kill someone.

Time to wake up America! We have both out-of-control policing and out-of-control capitalism harming our society. To help you wake up, listen to Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 song, “Everyday People”. This is Playing for Change again, along with Turnaround Arts students. Trust Wrongo and watch:

Sample Lyric:

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah, yeah

And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee
Ooh, sha sha
We got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do

Of course there was racism back in 1968, but the musicians were preaching integration. Despite the racism back then, people were optimistic. Compare that to today.

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

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Saturday Soother – June 13, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Spring in Grand Teton NP, WY – photo by MaxFoster098

Posting on her Instagram, AOC answered a question that read: “What does an America with defunded police look like to you?” AOC’s answer:

“It looks like a suburb…”

She continued:

“Affluent white communities already live in a world where they choose to fund youth, health, housing etc. more than they fund police. These communities have lower crime rates not because they have more police but b/c they have more resources to support healthy society in a way that reduces crime.

Why don’t we treat Black and Brown people the same way?”

Words to live by.

On to the issue for Saturday. From the WaPo: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Federal officials responsible for spending $660 billion in taxpayer-backed small-business assistance [PPP Loans] said Wednesday that they will not disclose amounts or recipients of subsidized loans, backtracking on an earlier commitment to release individual loan data.”

Since 1991, the Small Business Association (SBA) has previously released detailed loan information for the federal 7(a) program, on which the PPP is based. More from WaPo:

“The SBA initially intended to publish similar information for the new coronavirus-related loans. An SBA spokesman told The Washington Post in an April 16 email that the agency “intend[s] to post individual loan data in accordance with the information presently on the SBA.gov website after the loan process has been completed…”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is saying that the Treasury Department won’t disclose the recipients of more than $500 billion in bailout money delivered to 4.5 million businesses through the PPP, because that the information is “proprietary” and “confidential”.

As Charlie Pierce says:

“In one sense, of course, the money is “proprietary information” and we’re the damn proprietors. It’s our damn money.”

According to filings with the SEC, nearly 300 publicly traded companies received $1 billion in stimulus funding. That led to a subsequent ruling from the SBA that public companies with access to credit elsewhere didn’t qualify. Many of those businesses subsequently returned the money, although the SBA has declined to say exactly who, or how many did so.

The reversal on disclosure comes amid a waning belief that the $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package approved by Congress in March will be subject to any oversight. The GAO, which is responsible for preparing a mandated report on the relief spending by the end of June, has requested loan data for both the PPP and a separate program for economic “disaster” loans, but has not been told if or when their request will be honored.

Republicans are not even trying to hide their true intentions any more. The overlap of people who believe in “small government” and people who do not object to Trump’s handing out $500 billion in unmarked bills is total.

But, we’ve had enough body blows for one week. Time to take a few minutes, and escape from all of the world’s chaos. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

We’re expecting a beautiful weekend in Connecticut, and Wrongo hopes there’s fine weather wherever you are reading this. Start your weekend off by brewing up a cup of Ethiopian Suke Quto coffee ($19/12oz.) from the Greater Goods Roasters of Austin, TX. This is the fourth time they have been featured in the Saturday Soother.

Now, settle back in a physically-distant chair in the shade, and listen to Playing For Change (PFC) perform Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. The message in his song is as relevant today as it was in 1971:

PFC’s focus is to record musicians performing in their natural environments as part of a series called “Songs Around the World”.

Sample Lyric:

Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Ya, what’s going on

Ah, what’s going on

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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Sunday Cartoon Blogging — Protesting and Looting Edition — May 31, 2020

Last Monday night in Minneapolis, 46-year old George Floyd was arrested. Police officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground, crushing his throat. Floyd died an hour later.

What happened next has played out time and time again in American cities after high-profile cases of police brutality. Vigils and protests were organized in Minneapolis and around the US to demand police accountability. Google the name of any large city in the US along with “police brutality” and your search will return many pages of results.

But while Minneapolis investigators waited to charge Chauvin, unrest boiled over. News reports soon carried images of property destruction and police in riot gear. This has now morphed into the Minnesota governor calling out the National Guard.

Wrongo can’t claim to understand race issues in America, but he thinks that we should take a minute to re-read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. In his letter, MLK identified “the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom” not as the KKK, or the South’s White Citizens Councils. He said it was white moderates, people who:

  • Are more devoted to order than justice
  • Prefer the absence of tension to the presence of justice
  • Say they agree with your goals, but not your methods for achieving them
  • Constantly urge patience in the struggle, saying you should wait for a more convenient time

If you have watched the news for the past 40 years, you know that the Moderate is one stumbling block to universal justice. The Moderate’s tools are things like Non-Disclosure Agreements, loyalty to the team, and to the power of the hierarchy. Moderates may not be at the top of the power pyramid, but as long as Moderates can kiss up and kick down, they’ll hang in there, waiting for a better time to think about bringing justice to all Americans.

When it comes to violence in our cities, as Elie Mystal says in The Nation, it’s hard to name a city in America where the police aren’t working for white people. The police know it. And deep down, white people know exactly whom the police are supposed to protect and serve, and they know it’s not black and brown people.

Disagree? Go to any white suburb in America. Cops aren’t wandering the streets, people aren’t being arrested and neighbors aren’t being sent to prison. It’s easy for most of us to think that the George Floyd’s of America are simply a tragic cost of doing business, that a looted Target is evidence of the need for more policing.

We can hold more than one thought in our heads. People should be free to demonstrate, and that sometimes leads to rioting. Both are forms of protest. Wrongo doesn’t condone looting. But it’s also a form of protest. If you argue it’s not, then refresh your memory about the Boston Tea Party, when white protesters dressed up as minorities and looted to make a point about taxes.

If you are upset about protests, and were also pissed off at Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, you are probably a Moderate. People first need to be able to identify racism when they see it before they can understand the racial issues underpinning what happened in Minneapolis this weekend.

If you woke up today angry, confused, or frustrated about the direction our country is heading: VOTE!

Wrongo has looked hard for fun cartoons, without success. Here’s the best of the week. Sadly, her hope can only be aspirational:

How times have changed:

From 2016. All you need to know about demonstrating in America:

For Sunday, we include a rarely heard protest song written in 1966 by Malvina Reynolds (1900-1977). She wrote “Little Boxes” and many other songs. She wrote “It Isn’t Nice” as an answer to those who value order above justice. Here, “It Isn’t Nice” is sung by Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers:

Sample lyric:

It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
It isn’t nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

It isn’t nice to carry banners
Or to sit in on the floor,
Or to shout our cry of Freedom
At the hotel and the store.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

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

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Saturday Soother – May 30, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Cactus flowers, Devils Bridge, Sedona, AZ – May 2020 photo by sooperb4d

It’s hot and muggy at the Mansion of Wrong. Today we received our usual daily visit from a momma turkey and her eight chicks. Some are already able to fly for short distances, while the smaller ones just jog along.

This morning, Wrongo was thinking that he’d never expected to have to live through something as tumultuous and dangerous as 1968, but here we are. We’ve got:

  • A Plague killing people in every state
  • Economic collapse (potentially on the scale of the Great Depression)
  • An incompetent incumbent president who will say anything in order to win re-election
  • Heavily armed yahoos complaining about having to wear masks, or that they can’t get haircuts

But rather than talk about those four things, America’s talking about a racially based killing in Minneapolis that has morphed into an urban dystopia. Hennepin County finally brought charges against a cop who murdered a man in public with dozens of witnesses. That has incited urban violence. Second, Trump called for the looters in Minneapolis to be shot, tweeting:

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,”

We will assume control? Does Trump think he has the right to invade Minnesota? And that wasn’t the worst of his tweet.

You may know by now that the other phrase was notorious in the civil rights movement. It was used in 1967 by Miami’s police chief at the time, Walter Headley, after he sent police dogs and officers armed with shotguns into Miami’s black neighborhoods in what he called:

 “…a crackdown on…slum hoodlums….We don’t mind being accused of police brutality.”

Headley claimed that Miami had not experienced “racial disturbances and looting” because he had put the word out that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Headley thus elevated stealing to a capital crime punishable by death without due process. And now Trump is advocating the same thing.

Some are saying that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter has taken a courageous stand against Trump, that Dorsey is standing up for all of us. CNN reports:

“…Trump has angrily complained this week about social media companies, repeatedly accusing them of censoring conservative voices and going as far as to sign an executive order Thursday seeking to limit their power. But data from Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, pours cold water on the assertion that conservative voices are being silenced.”

Here’s the data:

The red bars represent conservative sites. CrowdTangle, the company that made the chart, says that in the last month on Facebook, Trump has captured 91% of the total interactions on content posted by the US presidential candidates. Biden has captured only 9%.

Trump and the Republicans repeatedly accuse Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms of bias, saying that they are the villains in the culture war the GOP uses to excite the conservative base.

The dispute is about whether Twitter has the right to disagree with and respond to the president. As a private company, it obviously does have that right. The chilling part is that the president and his advisers think otherwise.

Wrongo started by talking about 1968, the year that Nixon won the White House, running on a law and order message. He split the vote with George Wallace and Hubert Humphrey. That was 52 years ago, and a few things have changed. From Paul Campos:

“For one thing, the current president is somebody who makes George Wallace look like a statesman. For another, the country is much less white. (As a percentage of the total population, white non-Hispanics have declined from about 85% of the population to 60%).”

Nixon in 1968, like Trump in 2020, clearly exploited racial tensions, but a crucial distinction: Nixon wasn’t in power at the time of the 1968 elections. We’ll have to see whether Minneapolis helps or hurts Trump in November.

Time to take a break from our worst year in 52 years, and calm ourselves with a Saturday Soother. There is more yard work to do on the fields of Wrong, but we’re starting with a cold brew coffee from Greater Goods roasters in Austin TX. Food & Wine named them the best coffee in Texas in 2019. Their cold brew is called “Connections” ($15/12 oz.) and features the sweet, chocolatey goodness of beans sourced from Colombia and Brazil.

Now settle back and listen to the Tedeschi Trucks Band play a stunning live version of “Midnight in Harlem“, written by Minnesota band member Mike Mattison. Stay for the fantastic slide guitar solo by Derek Trucks:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 18, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Colorado River, from South Kaibab trail, Grand Canyon NP, AZ  – photo by DJ Memering. The bridge is called the Black Suspension Bridge. It is 5,260 ft below the canyon rim.

The CARES Act was sold as emergency funding for individuals and small businesses. In all, Congress has authorized $3.3 trillion in coronavirus relief in four separate acts over the last two months. The stated intent of those bills was to protect the American economy from long-term harm caused by the overall impact of the virus.

Alas, Congress also took care of their true constituents, Big Oil and other fossil fuel companies. Those companies got CARES Act tax breaks. The subsidies were supposed to help bail out small businesses pounded by the pandemic, but at least $1.9 billion of it was sent to fossil fuel companies and their executives.

Bloomberg News reports:

“$1.9 billion in CARES Act tax benefits are being claimed by at least 37 oil companies, service firms, and contractors”

Bloomberg used the example of Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. who manipulated the bailout: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“As it headed toward bankruptcy, Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. took advantage of a little-noticed provision in the stimulus bill Congress passed in March to get a $9.7 million tax refund. Then, it asked a bankruptcy judge to authorize the same amount as bonuses to nine executives.”

But, Diamond’s refund wasn’t all. Some went to their larger competitors. More from Bloomberg:

“…$55 million for Denver-based Antero Midstream Corp., $41.2 million for supplier Oil States International Inc. and $96 million for Oklahoma-based producer Devon Energy Corp.”

In addition, Kevin Crowley reports that Marathon Oil got $411m, Occidental $195m, and Valero $110m.

Hats off to all of our Senators, Congresscritters and the Trump administration! They all continue pursuing a pro-fossil fuel agenda, even as the economic disaster of the pandemic unfolds. Bernie Sanders tweeted:

“Good thing President Trump is looking out for the real victims of the coronavirus: fossil fuel executives,”

But, Bernie apparently voted for the bill, which passed the Senate in a unanimous vote. Hypocrisy much, Bernie?

These loopholes in the Act were deliberately written in so that corporations could feed at the trough along with small businesses, and we the people. Moreover, the initial bill was written in the House, although presumably in consultation with Trump and the Republicans. So, you can view this as either the cost of doing business for Democrats, or as just another day at the office listening to the lobbyists. Subsidy legislation has been a bipartisan objective.

Its always been this way. Here’s a cartoon from 1920 that could be drawn today:

Let’s remember that a big issue was the requirement for oversight, particularly after Trump said he wasn’t interested in having any. A compromise was struck so that an oversight commission could be empaneled to keep track of how the money was spent.

Today, it remains without a leader. Four of the five members of the Congressional Oversight Commission have been appointed, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) have not agreed on a chair.

While the current members of the panel can perform some oversight, without a leader, it can’t hire staff or set up office space. In addition, the four members have not met as a group since the economic rescue law was passed. The PBS NewsHour quotes John Coates, a professor of law and economics at Harvard Law School:

“If the commission is not functioning — which it is not — then there is no oversight on a huge part of the economic rescue law…”

We seem to be able to bail out the rich every few decades, and we always seem to do it on the backs of the poor. It will probably happen again in another 10 years or so. Between these bailouts, politicians and pundits appear on all of the news shows, and write very serious articles proclaiming the need to resist socialism and to preserve “the free market” for the sake of “wealth creation and innovation”.

Time to wake up America! This great con has been going on for all of Wrongo’s lifetime and by looking at the cartoon above, for a few lifetimes before. Yet voters seem to be oblivious to this insidious form of corruption each and every time they go to the polls.

To help America wake up, let’s listen to Drive by Truckers, and their tune “Armageddon’s Back in Town” from their 2020 album, “The Unraveling

Sample Lyric:

There’ll be no healing
From the art of double-dealing
Armageddon’s back in town again

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

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