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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – August 19, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Orchha, on the banks of the Betwa River, India – photo by Arian Zwegers cc 2.0

Quite the week: After threatening nuclear war with North Korea, musing about invading Venezuela, and equivocating over Charlottesville, Trump folded two advisory councils and then decided against forming a council on Infrastructure. He also Twitter-attacked more Republican senators than Democrats this week, a bad strategy for someone who can’t be sure what Special Counsel Mueller may come up with.

But, according to a Survey Monkey poll as reported by Axios, Trump’s statements about Charlottesville have overwhelming support of Republican voters. Survey Monkey asked whether people agreed with a verbatim quote from President Trump on Tuesday:

You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent

Republicans agreed with the Trump comment, 87%-11%. Democrats disagreed, 83%-15%. Independents disagreed, 59%-39%.

When we no longer agree on basic facts, civil debate is impossible.

This is a dangerous moment. America is split. We need to stop fighting about the little things. Wrongo usually is against “slippery slope” arguments, but will make an exception in the case of our Civil War history: What is the objective of removing Civil War statues and monuments? Will their removal change the historical record of slavery?

Of course not. How would supporters of removal say we should polarize the continuum of history? What would be next? Removal of history books that mention the Confederacy or former slave owners?

One of Wrongo’s favorite histories of the Civil War is “A Diary from Dixie” by Mary Boykin Chestnut. It is a day-to-day diary of her experience as a southern partisan during the Civil War. Most Civil War historians have read and consulted it in the preparation of their own work. Should we burn the book because it was written by a slave-holding partisan?

Of course not.

Many want to draw a red line regarding slavery and the Civil War, and that is totally understandable. But where to draw it? Can it be drawn in a way that keeps our children in touch with our past, even the sordid bits?

We need to own our history.

We should ignore the false moral equivalencies mentioned by Trump, such as Lee and Washington. Both owned slaves, so statues of Washington must go too. It is true that both owned slaves, but Washington fought to build this country, while Lee fought to destroy it in support of slavery.

Some have pointed to the fact that Jews would never let Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald be taken down. This is another false equivalency. Auschwitz is maintained not to celebrate Nazism, but to show its horrors.

Maybe that IS the lesson: Add interpretation to the Confederate monuments: Make them say that we do not want anyone to forget what happened, and that we want to make sure it can never happen again.

It’s Saturday, so we MUST get some distance between where we are as a country now, and where we need to be.

Wrongo’s prescription? Brew a cup of Brooklyn’s  Toby’s Estate El Ramo Columbian coffee. El Ramo means the bouquet in Spanish ($14 for 12oz.), close the door, and put on your over-the-ear headphones. Now, listen to G.P. Telemann’s “Concerto in G major for Viola, Strings and Basso continuo, TWV 51:G9”.

Wrongo and Ms. Right heard it last week at the final summer concert of the New Baroque Soloists at the Washington Meeting House in Washington, Connecticut. Here it is performed live by the Remember Barockorchester, in the Unser Lieben Frauen Church, Bremen, on November 21st, 2015:

The Viola Soloist is Tomoe Badiarova

Those who read the Wrongologist in email supplied by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

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Saturday Soother – July 22, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Things that are seen cannot be unseen, and so it is with OJ Simpson. Wrongo and Ms. Right watched the white Bronco chase across Southern California in June 1994 when we lived in Boston. Wrongo watched the verdict live in October 1995 in Northern Virginia. At that time, Wrongo’s outsourcing career included having DirecTV as a client, so our tech support call center had a TV monitor in each row of seats, all tuned to the OJ verdict. The demographics of the call center skewed very heavily black and Hispanic, while the supervisory team was predominantly white. The emotional disconnect at the “not guilty” verdict was palpable, with the call center staff cheering, while the supervisors were silently stunned.

OJ remains a lightning rod in our society and in our media. Guilty of armed robbery, but not guilty of murder. His parole this week caused many Americans to again debate OJ’s guilt in the Nicole Simpson murder.

No one knows how OJ will conduct himself over the remaining years he has left.

John McCain is also someone who cannot ever be unseen. From war hero and POW to Senator, presidential candidate and his enduring role as the maverick we love to hate, McCain is never far from a TV camera. And we are never far from an eye roll or two about the things he says about domestic and foreign affairs. He is after all, the guy who made Sarah Palin a household name, and that will forever be a stain on his credibility.

His diagnosis of an aggressive form of brain cancer has made even his enemies stop to offer good wishes for his immediate future. When McCain leaves Congress, we will cross a generational bridge: Politicians who thought about the country ahead of their state or district, are leaving the stage, replaced by ideologues who have no interest in country, or their state, first.

We will be the worst for the passing of that generation.

It is Saturday and we need something soothing to get us through the end of another week of Trump theatrics.

Let’s listen to music from Henry Eccles, an English composer who died in 1742. He did not feel appreciated in England, and moved to France, where he became one of Louis XIV’s musicians. In France, he published 12 sonatas of which the Sonata in G Minor is his most famous. Here is the Sonata in G Minor for Violoncello and Continuo played by Simca Heled,on violoncello, and Edward Brewer on harpsichord. Wrongo and Ms. Right heard this on Friday night with the wonderful Samuel Magill on Violoncello at the Washington CT Meeting House’s Summer Baroque Concert:

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

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Saturday Soother – June 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Waterton Park, part of Glacier International Peace Park – photo by Steve Coyle

Yesterday, we talked about the culture of anxiety that has developed in America in the last 40 years. One thing we didn’t discuss is the growing problem of “till debt do us part”. The average American is dying in debt. According to Bloomberg, the average total household debt in America is just over $132,500. And with the Federal Reserve’s recent rate increases, repayment of that debt will become increasingly more difficult.

Difficult enough that most Americans will be saddled with a sizable chunk of it at the time of their death.

Credit.com has reported that Experian’s FileOne database includes 220 million consumers (there are about 242 million adults in the US). To determine the average debt people have when they die, Experian looked at consumers who, as of October 2016 were not deceased, but then were listed as deceased as of December 2016:

Among the 73% of consumers who had debt when they died, about 68% had credit card balances. The next most common kind of debt was mortgage debt (37%), followed by auto loans (25%), personal loans (12%) and student loans (6%).

Those consumers carried an average total debt balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt. The breakdown of unpaid balances was as follows: credit cards, $4,531; auto loans, $17,111; personal loans, $14,793; and student loans were the largest balance outstanding at $25,391.

Think about this: people who die with student loans outstanding owe $25k on average. That has to cause anxiety for the individual and any family member who guaranteed the debt.

Now, federal student loan debt can be cancelled upon a borrower’s death, but private student loan debt rarely offers the same benefit. They can go after the borrower’s estate for payment. Even then, family members are not then automatically responsible for the debt, but jointly-owned assets like the family home could be in jeopardy.

So, lots of anxiety when the average person is dying with $61.5k in debt. Considering that the median individual net worth in America is $81.1k, the average person is leaving just $20k behind when they die.

So the average American needs a lot of soothing for debt anxiety. To help with that, here are Anna Netrebko & Elīna Garanča performing “Barcarolle” from Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman”. Barcarolle is the most famous aria from the opera (Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour), performed in Act 2. The Barcarolle has been incorporated into many movies, including “Life Is Beautiful” and “Titanic”. Wrongo has featured Netrebko and Garanca before, and we return today to hear how beautifully and clearly their voices meld:

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

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Saturday Soother – June 17, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Fuji, Japan- photo by Takashi Yasui

The news and the pundits are non-stop in their analysis of the shooting in DC that critically wounded Republican Congressman Steve Scalise and 3 others. Much has been written, but Wrongo likes what Charlie Pierce wrote the best:

Violence doesn’t “intrude” on everyday life in America. Violence is a part of everyday life in America. A little more than a week ago, five people were shot to death in warehouse in Orlando. Is a warehouse in Orlando less innocent than a Virginia ballfield? Is a disgruntled worker taking his mad vengeance less of a demonstration of a country unhinged than a home-inspection specialist who fried his brain over politics? Is somebody who wounds over politics a worse murderer than someone who kills because he got fired? I admire the ability of anyone who can make that measured a moral choice.

On the whole, people shouldn’t get shot. They shouldn’t get shot in the streets. They shouldn’t get shot in school. They shouldn’t get shot in the workplace. They shouldn’t get shot while carrying snack food in the “wrong” neighborhood, and they shouldn’t get shot while they’re trying to surrender. They shouldn’t get shot while dancing in a nightclub. And they shouldn’t get shot on the ballfield on a spring morning.

In the main, one victim is not more “innocent”—and, thus, of more value—than any other one. Their occupation shouldn’t matter. Their politics shouldn’t matter. There is a violence inherent in the country’s history and there is a wildness present in its soul and, on occasion, both of these surface more clearly than is usual. Technology has made the violence more lethal and the wildness more general. The uniquely American conflation of innocence with hubris is a luxury we can no longer afford.

OTOH, according to Heather Digby Parton:

Meanwhile, 93 people on average are shot and killed every day in America, many of them in incidents involving multiple victims. More than 100,000 people are struck by bullets every year. President Donald Trump was right to speak about “carnage” in America in his inaugural address. He just didn’t acknowledge that the carnage is from gun violence. According to the gun safety website The Trace:

Using data from the World Health Organization, researchers found that America accounted for 82 percent of all firearm deaths among 23 comparable nations in 2010. Ninety percent of women killed by guns in the study were in the U.S., as were 91 percent of children under 15.

There is no solution for this that will fly politically in this country. The gun-toter, and the no guns crowds are already spinning their version of the narrative to the crowd that sits in the pews directly in front of them.

America just has to accept that this is perhaps the most concrete way in which America is exceptional, and, it.just.sucks.

It is difficult to get to a soothing place on this Saturday, with all that has happened. Also, my brother died a year ago this week. Back in the late 1970’s he was (very) down on his luck, and each weekend, he would come to visit Ms. Right and me to get fattened up for the coming week. He would walk into the house, grab the album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and play its opening track, Funeral for a Friend”. There would be no talking until 11 minutes later when it ended:

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

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Saturday Soother – May 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Baltimore Oriole

Trump returns from his international visits having moved the US into siding with the Sunnis in the Middle East. In this, he has also sided with his generals. This also puts him on the side of al Qaeda, a Sunni terror organization that did you-know-what.

Significantly, it is clear that the entire Trump foreign policy is anti-terrorism. That is one approach, but Trump’s take is mystifying: He calls Iran an enemy because they are a sponsor of terror, which is true. But he embraces Saudi Arabia, the largest sponsor of terrorism by far in the ME, and has attempted to make them his ally in the War on Terror.

The Saudis will now expect that the US will accept that their $110 billion in defense purchases and $40 billion in contributions from the Saudi state’s sovereign wealth fund will buy them enhanced power in Washington and that their demands will be greeted with great receptivity in the future.

That will probably be a difficult pill for Israel to swallow.

Siding with the Sunnis means that the “Shia Crescent” (Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria) will be difficult for the US to maintain as friends, partners, or allies. In fact, it was reported this week that Russia, Syria and Iran have been proclaimed as allies by the Iraqi Interior Minister. For all the money and blood that we spent, for all of the domestic programs that we sacrificed, the US now has little to show for its last 15 years in Iraq except a huge, and under Donald Trump, a growing national debt.

We are obviously and irredeemably ignorant, and apparently determined to remain so. The Shia Crescent will be an Iranian/Shia alliance extending through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the sea, with Russian and Chinese backing to boot.

Whomever heads ME strategy for Trump needs to hear: “You’re fired!

Trump also met with NATO and the EU, and both relationships look less confident than at any time in recent history. In fact, European Council President Donald Tusk has said that Trump and senior European Union officials failed to find common ground on the main issues at their meeting in Brussels.

Consider this: Trump emerges from this trip as closer to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel than he is with the democracies of Western Europe. We can now start preparing for US War on Terror Part B; followed by Sunni insurgency 3.0: now with even better weapons and funding.

Do these thoughts make you feel that you need something to help you calm down? Wrongo’s advice is stop watching or reading the news for a few days, as he did while traveling in Europe. Talk to locals in your area. Ask them about why they think as they do.

Then grab a vente cuppa chamomile tea and listen to Janine Jansen play French composer Jules Massenet’s “Meditation from Thaïs”:

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

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Saturday Soother – May 6, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Tulips, Lisse Netherlands, April 2017 – photo by Peter Dejong

We ended the week with Republicans in the House passing the latest version of Trumpcare by a vote of 217-213. All Democrats voted against it, with 20 Republican members defecting to join them. The changes Republicans made to get this version of bill through the House will not be what passes in the Senate. It’s up to Mitch McConnell to craft a bill that can get through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process, which will require 51 votes to pass.

That will most likely be the “real” bill, and then the negotiations between the House and Senate versions will begin.

The problem for America is that the Senate has to pass something awful enough that the House will still vote for it. We are a long way from replacing Obamacare, but Republicans now own the process whereby tens of millions of Americans losing health insurance.

If that isn’t enough to worry about, Buzzfeed has a long read about tiny drones that can be used in a swarm to kill people:

A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China…A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel…You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.

The concept is achievable, while the potential consequences are unthinkable:

There will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch them. So you can just imagine that in many parts of the world humans will be hunted…This is the ever-present cloud of lethal autonomous weapons.

They could be here in two to three years.

— Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at the University of California Berkeley

They are called lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS); weapons that have the ability to independently select and engage targets once a human releases the machine to perform: no supervision, no recall, and no stop function.

Can we prevent them? Nope, they already exist. Many countries including the US already have (much larger) systems with autonomous modes that can select and attack targets without human intervention: Israel’s Harpy and second-generation Harop, can enter an area, hunt for enemy radar, and kamikaze into it, regardless of where they are set up, as long as the radars are operating.

The Pentagon now is testing drone swarm technology: Weapons moving in large formations with one controller somewhere far away on the ground clicking computer keys. Think hundreds of small drones moving as one, like a lethal flock of bees. You can see a YouTube video of a US drone swarm test here. 103 mini drones were released from two US fighter jets during the test. The drones operate autonomously and share a distributed brain. These drones will make it economical to target people (troops?) in other countries, en masse, without having to send in our own soldiers, or declare war.

Why are we wasting even more human potential devising even more ways to kill each another?

Sorry, this story adds to your stress levels after a tough week, but Wrongo thought you should know. OTOH, with all that is going on, you really need soothing. Wrongo is going for some Stumptown Colombia El Admirador coffee and a listen to “Spring”, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, arranged for four pianos.

The pianos are played by Yuja Wang, Emanuel Ax, Nelson Goerner, and Julien Quentin. The performance was recorded at the Salle Médran in Verbier, Switzerland, in 2009:

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

Bonus video in honor of Trumpcare: Jimmy Reed singing “Get Your Insurance” from 1959:

Those who read in email can view the video here.

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Saturday Soother – April 15, 2017

Bombs Away! Another week of American Trumpceptionalism is in the books. Dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat left 36 ISIS fighters dead in a tunnel complex in Afghanistan. The so-called Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) used 11 tons of explosives in one shot. One MOAB costs about $16 million, and 20 have been produced. $16 million for 36 ISIS fighters.

That’s $444.4k per dead fighter if you are keeping score.

The MOAB looks mostly like another “boys and their toys” deal. It is hard to see this kind of weapon doing much against the Taliban or ISIS in Afghanistan. It seems more likely that our military has run out of better ideas.

We are in the final countdown to Tax Day on April 18th. Tax preparation at the Mansion of Wrong is the reason for the skimpy column production this week. By the way: about 22% of taxpayers wait until the last two weeks before the deadline to file.

So you and Wrongo need a Soother today at least as much as we did last week, and today’s Soother is a feel good story from Croatia, where a pair of Storks have become a national obsession. From the Daily Mail:

A stork has melted hearts in Croatia by flying to the same rooftop every year for 14 years – to be reunited with its crippled partner. The faithful bird, called Klepetan, has returned once again to the village of Slavonski Brod in east Croatia after a 5,000 mile migration. He spends his winters alone in South Africa because his disabled partner Malena cannot fly properly after being shot by a hunter in 1993. Malena had been found lying by the side the road by schoolteacher Stjepan Vokic, who fixed her wing and kept her in his home for years before helping her to build a nest on his roof. After placing her there, she was spotted by Klepetan 14 years ago. And now every year they are reunited in the spring. Klepetan keeps a very strict timetable, usually arriving back at the same time on the same day in March to be welcomed by locals.

Here is Klepetan’s flight plan:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klepetan didn’t arrive on time this year, but things worked out for the love birds:

But this year he was running six days late, causing panic among local media and fans of the stork couple. Such is the popularity of the pair that there is even a live feed on the main square in the capital Zagreb showing the two storks. There was huge excitement when stork-watchers saw what they thought was Klepetan circling over the nest, and then coming in to land. But the new arrival turned out to be a different stork that was attempting to woo Malena. She quickly attacked him and drove him off and continued to wait for Klepetan. Stjepan Vokic, whose roof the couple nest on, said: ‘She was pretty clear about the message, I doubt he will be back again.’ Vokic has taken care of Malena since she was first injured by hunters and says that she – like her partner – is now part of the family.

But he’s back, and on the case! They are raising this year’s brood of little storks:

And what about Malena in the winter? She goes indoors:

During the winter, Vokic keeps her inside the house, and then lets her go to the roof each spring where she patiently waits for her partner. This year, Malena made a rare flight and the couple were reportedly inseparable for hours. She does have the ability to make very short flights but her wing has not healed well enough for her to make the trip to Africa, or even to properly feed herself. Every summer, the pair bring up chicks, with Klepetan leading their flying lessons in preparation for the trip south in summer. The oldest recorded living stork was 39. Locals are hopeful the couple’s long relationship will continue for years to come.

This is proof that some animals live their lives by a higher moral code than some humans.

Hat tip to Raul Ilargi for posting this.

Here is Fleetwood Mac’s “Wish You Were Here”, a 2016 remastered version of the song from 1982, a song the storks might sing, if they could play guitar:

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

Takeaway Lyric:

There’s distance between us
And you’re on my mind
As I lay here in the darkness
I can find no peace inside
I wish you were here holding me tight
If I had you near it would make it alright
I wish you were here
‘Cause I feel like a child tonight

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Saturday Soother – April 8, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Mount Etna eruption, March 2017 – photo by Salvatore Allegra

Ready, Fire, Aim! Aren’t you glad we didn’t elect Hillary, the neo con warmonger? From Booman:

Our Bush Era PTSD has been reactivated in a big way. While I offered a limited and cautious and conditional defense of President Trump’s decision to authorize the strikes against Syria, I was at pains to note that it’s very important that the administration provide convincing evidence that the Assad regime is responsible for the sarin attack that served as the predicate for the missile launch.

Russia and Syria have denied that they are behind the Syrian Chemical Weapons (CW) attack. We know there was an attack, and that some kind of chemical was used. The media are saying it was sarin gas.

They also, nearly unanimously, say it is the fault of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Earlier in the week, both US Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson and US UN envoy Nikki Haley said removing Assad was no longer a priority in US Middle-East policy.

Now, Assad has to go.

Most news outlets and pundits support Donald Trump’s spanking of the Assad government, but what is Trump’s strategy? Enforcing norms against the use of chemical weapons (CW) is a good thing. But it’s hard to see how Thursday’s all-out reversal of our level of engagement in the Syrian civil war is justified by the use of CW, particularly since it has been used several times before in Syria, and since it brings with it many other risks/issues, like a potential military confrontation with Russia and Iran.

After Thursday’s Tomahawk missile attack, we are now simultaneously confronting the two strongest factions in the Syrian civil war, Assad’s army and ISIS. While Trump and the MSM are going bananas about the horrors of CW, no one was going bananas last week, or in all the prior weeks, about the daily death count of Syrian children who were collateral damage in the country’s civil war.

The attack took place in the midst of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping This was where one of the hottest topics was what to do about North Korea’s continuing long-range missile tests and its work on completing a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Clearly there were implicit messages for both North Korea and China in the Syrian attack. This has something to do with Syria, and a lot to do with the Chinese. Military types would tell us that Trump firing 59 cruise missiles to take out an airfield is overkill.

But, it will not be lost on Xi that 50+cruise missiles could also devastate any of those new atoll airfields cropping up in the South China Sea. Donald Trump just proved to Xi that he is a man with 4,000+ nuclear weapons at this disposal and a military that follows orders. It looks to Wrongo like Xi and Putin now have a giant incentive to become better allies, and invite Iran to the party.

Once again, Wrongo thinks that the best option for the US would be to concentrate on humanitarian efforts and helping refugees. And to work with Russia and Syria’s other allies to end the threat from ISIS in the greater Middle East.

Unfortunately, that also admits there is a limitation on the US’s ability to control events solely based on its military strength. Despite its flaws, if there’s no reason to believe any strategy will improve results, then the best course is inaction. That was Obama’s approach.

It’s just not true that we “Must Do Something”. People think that if we Do Something, then nothing bad that subsequently happens is really our fault, because AT LEAST WE DID SOMETHING. Whereas if we do nothing, then every bad thing that subsequently happens is our fault.

Thanks, Obama.

We really don’t have to do anything. The problem is that by following the do-nothing strategy, America doesn’t get to be the biggest, baddest ass on the Middle East Street.

Yes, if we do nothing, lots of people will die, but that doesn’t exactly distinguish it from what will happen anyway. Our inaction won’t transfer blame for those deaths onto us, any more than an action to take out Assad will shift it from us.

Who knew running the world’s superpower was so complicated? Certainly, not someone who said “I alone can fix it”.

With all of this Bush-era Déjà Vu, we really need some soothing today. Here is the first movement (Allegro) from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata No.5 in F Major, “Spring” Op. 24, for violin/piano, played by Ilya Itin and Igor Graupman from a live performance at the Miami International Piano Festival.

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

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Saturday Soother – March 25, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Bobcat in Yosemite – photo by Rollie Rodriguez)

It’s Saturday of a week filled with political body blows. First, Rep. Devin Nunes acted as Trump’s Poodle by grandstanding in front of the press and then running to the White House to tell on the Intelligence Community. Then we all watched the Trumpcare fiasco. Trump issued an ultimatum to pass or forget Trumpcare, and Congress (as of this writing) can’t do either. Considering that Trumpcare has support of about 17% of the people, what special hell do Republicans wish on the country?

Finally, Neil Gorsuch. The Supreme Court nominee carved his way through the Senate Judiciary Committee, dodging substantive questions, and playing hard not to lose the nomination. A Supreme Court decision that potentially impacts Judge Gorsuch’s chances was announced during his second day of testimony. You probably didn’t hear anything about it, what with all of the cacophony Trump generates, so here you go:

 About 40 minutes after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began his second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight of the justices he hopes to join said a major disability decision Gorsuch wrote in 2008 was wrong.

That’s right, the Supremes voted 8-0 against a Judge Gorsuch opinion.

Both the Supreme Court’s decision this week and Gorsuch’s 2008 opinion involved the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that public school systems which take certain federal funds provide a “free appropriate public education” to certain students with disabilities.

These were two different cases, but Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the unanimous opinion that mentioned Gorsuch’s opinion. In Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P., a case brought by an autistic student whose parents sought reimbursement for tuition at a specialized school for children with autism, Gorsuch read IDEA extraordinarily narrowly. Under Gorsuch’s opinion in Luke P., a school district complies with the law so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’”

De minimis” means so minor as to merit disregard. So Gorsuch essentially concluded that school districts comply with their obligation to students with disabilities so long as they provide those students with slightly more than nothing. But, the Supreme Court rejected Gorsuch’s approach. The IDEA, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

Is markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.

The Tenth Circuit is Judge Gorsuch’s. Roberts added that Gorsuch’s approach would effectively strip many students the disabilities of their right to an education:

When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to “sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to ‘drop out.’

To the contrary, the unanimous Supreme Court concluded, in most cases a student’s progress should be measured according to whether they are able to keep up with their peers without disabilities.

When even Clarence Thomas goes against you, you know your ruling isn’t mainstream. The last thing we need is another justice who votes for the big-guys (business and government) over the little people.

Unfortunately, Gorsuch is a mainstream Republican. Another one who has a policy of doing “de minimis” for everyone in America who isn’t a big donor to the GOP’s mean-spirited agenda.

As the weekend begins, you really need a break. Take a few minutes and think about Annie Moore, who was the first person to enter Ellis Island when it opened for immigrants in 1892. Annie came from Ireland.

This song, “Isle of Hope and Tears” was written by Brendan Graham. It has been performed by many Irish groups over the years. Today, we hear the Irish Tenors:

America used to be the hope of the world. It’s time to decide how it can become that again.

Sample Lyrics:

On the first day of January,
Eighteen ninety-two,
They opened Ellis Island and they let
The people through.
And first to cross the threshold
Of that isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland

Who was all of fifteen years.

Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it’s not the isle you left behind.
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you’ll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind.

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

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Saturday Soother – March 11, 2017

(Wrongo and family are repositioning from a week at our annual [comparatively] low-rent  Mar-a-Lago equivalent to the Northeast. As a result, there will not be Sunday Cartoon Blogging or a Monday Wake Up Call this week)

The Daily Escape:

(Photo by Wrongo. Friday sunrise, 6:30 am)

With Trumpworld continuing to both amaze and depress, you need a soother today more than ever. Grab a hot cuppa something and take a walk on the beach with Wrongo. Here are two random thoughts that seeped into Wrongo’s consciousness while on the beach in 75° for the past few days:

Ancient DNA found in the dental plaque of Neandertals shows that they used plant-based forms of aspirin and penicillin. They’re the ones that went extinct, while it took us another 40,000 years to discover penicillin.

In 1943, a US destroyer accompanying the USS Iowa that was carrying FDR, fired a torpedo at the President. That destroyer, the USS William D. Porter, was only in service for two years, and had many mishaps in its short life. The flotilla was secretly taking FDR to Europe, and were maintaining radio silence as they sailed through waters thought to contain German U-boats. Not long into the journey, there was a massive explosion that shook the little fleet. All of the ships immediately began anti-submarine maneuvers. The chaos continued until the William Porter admitted that a depth charge had fallen off of the stern of their ship. The safety on the charge had mistakenly not been set, and when it crashed into the rough sea, it detonated.

Soon after detonating the depth charge, a huge wave smashed into the Porter, washing a man overboard, never to be seen again. As a result of the wave, the engine room lost power in one of its boilers. The mission, which had demanded total silence, turned into a fiasco of hourly reporting by the William Porter to the Iowa.

And it got worse. On Nov. 14th, the four ships were east of Bermuda when FDR wanted to test the defenses of the Iowa in the event that they came under an air attack. The crew of the Iowa launched weather balloons to simulate anti-aircraft targets, and fired its guns.

The Porter’s crew shot at the balloons the Iowa had missed. They also practiced torpedo drills, taking practice shots at the Iowa, which was 6,000 yards away. During live torpedo drills, the tube primers, (small explosive charges), were supposed to be removed for practice, but one torpedo man forgot to remove the primer from one of the torpedo tubes. The torpedo officer ordered the fake firing command, and an armed and launched torpedo whizzed across the sea straight toward the Iowa.

When Roosevelt heard that a torpedo was zooming toward him, he asked to be moved by his wheelchair over to the railing so that he could see it. Fearing an assassination plot, the Iowa turned its guns on the William D. Porter, but the crisis ended when the torpedo detonated as it struck heavy waves created by the Iowa’s increased speed.

After calm was restored, the torpedo man, Lawton Dawson, confessed to having accidentally left the primer in the torpedo tube and then attempting to conceal the evidence by throwing the primer overboard. An inquiry proved that the situation was merely a string of unfortunate events and the information was kept from the public.

Dawson was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor, and the rest of the crew’s careers were to be ended, but Roosevelt intervened, asking that no punishments be levied on the crew for the series of accidents.

Later, the William D. Porter was reassigned to the Aleutian Islands for a simple patrol mission. However the William D. Porter’s crew accidentally shot a five-inch artillery shell that landed on the base commander’s front yard: Situation Normal, all Fucked Up.

In honor of our stay at the beach, where we had remarkable sunrises daily, here is The Cyrkle with their 1966 song “Red Rubber Ball“. Few know that it was co-written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. The tune hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The band had one more Top 20 hit, “Turn-Down Day,” later in 1966. That was the year Wrongo entered the US military.

Listen to “Red Rubber Ball”:

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

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