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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 23, 2017

Sorry for the lack of columns; Wrongo has an acute case of Trump Fatigue. It is difficult to: a) think of anyone or anything else, and b) when writing a column, everything seems linked to every other thing, and none of you want to read a thousand-word rant. On to the rich harvest of cartoons.

Le Pen’s ballots in today’s election in France may be enough to force the big box to open:

The March for Science, unsurprisingly, has opposition:

 

It isn’t enough to just think about the planet on Earth Day:

Fox replaces O’Reilly with another loser:

Why do we still call it the Presidency when the differences are so stark?

Why would millions of people willingly watch a real-time murder?

 

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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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Is Climate Change Real?

Wrongo has never written about climate change, but will make an exception today. NASA recently released a series of then and now photos called “Images of Change” which reveal how our world has changed (not for the better) over the past 30+ years. The series provides a comparison of satellite images that depict everything from Arctic ice retreat to island building, to urbanization.

The series shows how rapidly our planet has changed in recent decades, due largely to urbanization and climate change. Perhaps, with the Trump administration firmly in control of a climate denial narrative, these photos will soon disappear from the internet, so please go and see all of them while it is still possible.

Here is one photo that shows the Arctic’s sea ice. It is clear that the ice has been shrinking for decades. The picture below compares September 1984 (on the left) with September 2016:

The total area of persistent (4 years or older) ice has declined from 718,000 square miles to 42,000 square miles in the 32 year time period. In the images, blue/grey ice is younger whereas white ice is older. But please calm down, you can’t stop the Trump express to climate Armageddon unless:

  • We take control of the Senate from the Republicans, and
  • Win the White House in 2020.

And at a time when we won’t let most Muslims into our country, and absolutely zero Syrians, maybe it’s time we chill out with a beautiful song by a Syrian national currently based in Paris, Lena Chamamyan. Here she is singing “Love in Damascus”. The accompanying video has many photos of Damascus; probably most taken before the rebellion. Wrongo could not find a reliable translation from Arabic for you, but the singing is beautiful:

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

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Happy Birthday to our National Park Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine Yellowstone: brought to you by Coca-Cola…

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

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

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

DSCN5657

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

DSCN5694

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

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

DSCN5676

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

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Glacier NP Musings

We stayed in Whitefish Montana for the first two days of the trip. It would be difficult to come up with a town that feels so welcoming and comfortable for tourists. It is a small place, with about 7,500 residents.

The town lives on tourists, with some 800,000 visiting this year in July alone. Anyway, notably nice people, and great food is on offer in the restaurants. We ate at the Tupelo Grille, and at 48° Latitude, both were fabulous. We spent today in the Lake McDonald area of the Park. We took a few pics.

First, on a hike on Beehive Mountain, we walked through an area that had burned in 2003, when 57,000+ acres went up after high school kids failed to put out their campfire. After the fire, plants and flowers grew in profusion. Here is a photo of fireweed, which only grows after the fire is out:

DSCN5149

We moved on to Lake McDonald. There is a fire near Missoula, some 137 miles away that had smoke drifting over the lake. So our photos were hazy, but here is a photo Wrongo took from a small boat:

DSCN5185Finally, we spent time at the Lake McDonald Lodge. It is run by Xanterra, who also have properties at the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, Crater Lake and many other National Parks. The Lodge is an old property, built in 1913, and it’s located in a wonderful spot. We were struck by the huge chandelier in the lobby:

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The chandelier was designed by members of the Blackfeet Indian tribe almost 100 years ago. Here is a detail photo Wrongo took on Tuesday:

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You know Wrongo has to close with a political comment. Montana was the first state to send a woman to Congress. Jeannette Rankin was elected to the House in 1916, four years before women won the right to vote after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was a Republican and the only Congressperson to vote against the US entering both WWI and WWII.

Glacier Park had its 100th Anniversary in 2010. Visit it soon if you expect to see glaciers. They are forecasted to be gone by 2030.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 31, 2016

Big week for news. The Bundy standoff winds down, Trump & Fox, Planned Parenthood, Iowa, and Barbie’s makeover. Most of Bundy Brigade have been arrested:

BUNDY STANDOFF

But Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona rancher was killed at an FBI checkpoint. Finicum seemed deluded but decent, thinking he was doing his patriotic duty. But like the rest, he was misled by bad information, and a barrage of lies. Despite what extremists claim, there are no internment camps positioned to lock up patriots, no black helicopters waiting to attack, no government agents massing to confiscate guns, and no reason for citizens to occupy government land with arms. But because there are earnest-but-gullible citizens who take these lies to heart, Finicum may not be the last martyr for a ridiculous cause.

Fox debate is shadow of former self:

COW Fox Debate

The Trump/Kelly poutrage was brilliant strategy:

COW Donald and Megan

Cruz still pushin’ his values in Iowa:

COW NY Values

Cruz looks to be auditioning for attack-dog vice presidential contender. Wherever Spiro Agnew is now, he must be smiling and nodding in approval.

Iowa will be over soon. What’s next?

COW Whats Next

Planned Parenthood grand jury surprised everybody:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Apparently we misunderstood what it meant to come to this country to practice religious freedoms – it really is the freedom for the guy on the right to force everyone else to follow his religion.

Barbie’s makeover will do nothing for women:

COW Barbie

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 24, 2016

For those in the Northeast who hate the snow, remember, there is no such thing as bad weather. There is only inappropriate clothing. Be careful driving, if you must drive.

The climate forecast is grim:

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Doesn’t matter if you call it “climate change” or “global warming”. The denialism by the right in the US isn’t held elsewhere. The scientific opinion is held by the rest of the world. Not based on a single opinion, or by snark, but from the overwhelming result of scientific research.

Palin endorses Trump, and the GOP takes notice:

COW GOP Threeway

Trump said Palin could get a cabinet job. Liberals are contemptuous of her lack of knowledge, critical thinking skills, and judgment, but none of these are crimes. A good example of Palin’s qualities occurred when she blamed Obama for her son Track beating up his (Track’s) girlfriend. Palin said that his getting drunk, beating the crap out of his girlfriend and brandishing a gun was caused by Track’s military service, that perhaps he has PTSD. She then went on to blame Obama’s policies for her son’s behavior. It takes an immense level of cynicism, opportunism, and some cruelty to exploit your child’s struggle for political gain.

The Dems have a problem:

COW What Dems Want

This is not the first year that Democrats doubt they are putting their best person forward. Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Michael Dukakis in 1988 come to mind. Oh, and they lost 3 of those 4 elections!

Bernie still has a YUUGE problem:

COW Bernie

Flint’s plan for water:

COW Flint

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Climate Talks

The climate is speaking to us, but is anybody listening? Here is what the climate is telling us:

50% of Forest Bird species will go extinct in 50 years
99% of Rhinos gone since 1914
97% of Tigers gone since 1914
90% of Lions gone since 1993
90% of Sea Turtles gone since 1980
90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995
90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950
80% of Antarctic Krill gone since 1975
80% of Western Gorillas gone since 1955
60% of Forest Elephants gone since 1970
50% of the Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985
40% of Giraffes gone since 2000
40% of ocean phytoplankton gone since 1950
70% of Marine Birds gone since 1950
97% – Humans & Livestock are now 97% of land-air vertebrate biomass, while 10,000 years ago humans were just 0.01% of land-air vertebrate biomass
1,000,000 – The number of humans, net, that are added to earth every 4½ days

But, you gotta admit, antibiotic resistant germs are doing really, really well!

Now, maybe you accept climate change as a reality. Or, you may be a climate change skeptic, or a climate change denier, but no one should misunderstand what the climate is telling us.

And, given the above, shouldn’t activists on all sides be discussing what can be done to stop the decline in flora and fauna? There cannot be a more important global problem that needs solving. Even Mr. Market should be working to help solve the die-off of species. Yet, we haven’t heard any ideas from him.

Here’s an idea: Getting human population growth and global GDP growth under control must be job one. Income inequality shouldn’t automatically prompt politicians to make calls for ever higher GDP growth, so that trickle-down will help the masses, since growing our way out of the die-off of species isn’t a viable long-term strategy.

You’d think politicians and economists would be asking: “Do we need to rethink our entire conceptual framework about population and economic growth?” Well, they aren’t interested in that thought.

They offer the same old thinking, just rearranged. If you want a Thanksgiving metaphor, your dinner plate is filled with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. And you take your fork and mix them all up, but they’re still the same. Even when you put gravy over all of it, it’s still not new. But it looks new, if somebody doesn’t think too carefully about what’s behind the new analysis.

Here is a view of the political divide on global warming in the US from The Economist:

Pew Global Warming top priority

And the NYT reported that on Tuesday, Republicans undercut Mr. Obama’s pledge at the Paris Climate Summit by approving two measures that Obama is sure to veto. The vote was largely along party lines. After the votes, Sen. John Barasso, (R-WY) said: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

While the president is at this climate conference, the American people [believe] that [his pledge] has a very, very low priority…

When Republicans in the Senate think the American people see climate change as a low priority when the poll above says they actually think its a pretty big deal, you know why we can’t get at solutions to the die-off of species.

Isn’t it curious that intelligent, educated conservatives denigrate climate change and its consequences, as some kind of phony science? They must see that there are plenty of business opportunities, and fortunes to be made as a result of climate change. This would normally have their hearts all aflutter at the chance to put their money behind a few disruptive innovations. But they have no interest, and are simply standing pat on the problem.

They are not alone. The Economist says the climate change just ain’t a big issue globally: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

A giant opinion-gathering exercise carried out by the UN finds that people in highly developed countries view climate change as the tenth most important issue out of a list of 16 that includes health care, phone and internet access, jobs, political freedom and reliable energy. In poor countries—and indeed in the world as a whole—climate change comes 16th out of 16.

It’s beginning to look like a few billion lemmings are just gonna follow their reproductive organs off a cliff.

And even if a few of today’s lemmings think they’re doing something new, for all of them together, well, things look grim.

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Soon, Antibiotics Won’t Work

It’s estimated that more people will die from bacterial infections than from cancer by 2050. Two disparate factors are driving this. First, scientists in China say they’ve identified a gene that makes common, dangerous bacteria resistant to “last-resort” antibiotics called polymyxins. The mutated gene, called mcr-1, was found in the Enterobacteriaceae germ in both pigs and people in South China, according to a report published in The Lancet.

Study author Jian-Hua Liu, a professor at South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, China, said:

The polymyxins (colistin and polymyxin B) were the last class of antibiotics in which resistance was incapable of spreading from cell to cell…

The new gene was found on mobile forms of DNA that are easily copied and transferred between different bacteria. According to the researchers, this suggests a much greater potential for the gene to spread and diversify in different types of bacteria.

Liu went on to say that the discovery points to the emergence of a gene which can create multidrug resistance that:

is readily passed between common bacteria, including E. coli and the Klebsiella pneumoniae germ, which can cause deadly pneumonias or bloodstream infections.

We have all heard that extensive use of antibiotics in agriculture may contribute to this resistance gene. Liu’s team said that pigs were more likely than people to have bacteria with mcr-1 gene-related colistin resistance. That suggests that the resistance originated in animals and then spread to people.

The discovery bodes ill for public health worldwide. Timothy Walsh, Professor at the University of Cardiff in Wales, told BBC News: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

All the key players are now in place to make the post-antibiotic world a reality. If MCR-1 becomes global, which is a case of when not if, and the gene aligns itself with other antibiotic resistance genes, which is inevitable, then we will have very likely reached the start of the post-antibiotic era.

According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050 if new antibiotics are not found. That’s 350 million people lost. By 2050, this could cost the world around $100 trillion in lost output: That’s more than the size of the current world economy, and roughly equivalent to the world losing the output of the UK economy every year, for 35 years. Here is a graphic representation of the scale of the problem:

Anti Mocrobial Resistance

The second factor driving this disaster is our Bad Corporate Citizens. There are two classes of these bad actors. The food conglomerates that feed antibiotics to animals raised for meat, so that pig farmers can make more profit, and the Big Pharma companies that spend their intellectual calories on corporate inversions (such as Pfizer is doing in its merger with Allergan) rather than on antibiotic research. As David Cox reports about drug company research:

They’re happy to sell existing antibiotics, but they’re not interested in researching and developing new ones.

Professor William Fenical at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego discovered a new antibiotic capable of attacking the bacteria MRSA, a hospital superbug. However, most large pharmaceutical companies abandoned their antibiotic programs by 1995. And even though we know that animals raised with no antibiotics are less likely to contain drug-resistant bacteria than those routinely given antibiotics, about 80% percent of antibiotics sold in the US are given to animals raised for food production.

So, we have a perfect storm brewing: To enhance corporate profits, we give antibiotics to animals, weakening the value of those antibiotics in controlling human disease. And we look the other way when the big drug companies use innovation to avoid taxes, while saying that research into new antibiotics is “too risky” for their shareholders.

Again, the strategy of big business is “privatize the gains, socialize the losses.” And maybe when you get sick, the doctor will only be able to prescribe you a pork chop.

The world needs a new capitalism. Mr. Market isn’t going to fix this.

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More GOP Dickitude

Dickitude was on display at the House Oversight Committee hearing into Planned Parenthood (PP). Committee Chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) repeatedly interrupted PP President Cecile Richards as she tried to answer his questions Tuesday. Richards’ testimony was part of an investigation into PP’s business practices after sting videos were released that allegedly showed company executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Chaffetz took the time to note Richards’ salary.

Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct? he asked. ‘I don’t have the figures with me, but —‘Richards said. ‘It was,’ Chaffetz replied, ‘Congratulations.’

That had to be the first time in the recorded history that a Republican has criticized a CEO for making money. But, Richards provided the best moment of the day when Chaffetz was caught in a Fiorina-like lie after he pontificated on a projected slide:

CHAFFETZ: You’re going to deny that…
RICHARDS: I’m going to deny this slide that you just showed me that no one has ever provided us before! We’ve provided you all the information about everything — all the services that Planned Parenthood provides. And it doesn’t feel like we’re trying to get to the truth here. You just showed me this.
CHAFFETZ: I pulled those numbers directly out of your corporate reports!
RICHARDS: [legal team tells her something] Excuse me. My lawyers have informed me that the source of this is Americans United for Life, which is an anti-abortion group. So I would check your source.
CHAFFETZ: [looking caught off-guard, stammering] then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that.

Shouldn’t they call the anti-abortion groups that created the fake chart (and the fake videos) to testify?

But, Dickitude doesn’t require a dick. We know that Carly Fiorina did not start the PP fire, but fanned the flames by her vivid comments during the 2nd Republican debate on Sept. 16th. Then, no one could find the section of the video that Carly said she saw.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse when a new video entitled “Carly Fiorina was right”, issued by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and purporting to show a PP abortion showed up this week. It quickly got traction in the media, but then things went from bad to worse: Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a board-certified OB/GYN took to her blog after viewing it. Dr. Gunter’s conclusion is that it was a premature delivery. She disputed Greg Cunningham, curator of the video, and the founder of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s finding, who told Time Magazine that it had to be an abortion:

Owing to the lack of medical treatment offered to the fetus.

Dr. Gunter says that Cunningham was wrong, since the fetus is 17-18 weeks and thus, previable, and that no doctor would render care in that circumstance. She goes on to say:

A neonatologist who attempts to resuscitate a 17 week delivery would be considered unethical.

Her final point was that there is no proof this video is in a PP clinic much less in the US. And hours after the publication of the video, several medical experts contacted by Time Magazine raised questions about whether the video showed an abortion.

These attempts to defund PP are a form of pandering to the anti-abortion wing of the Republican base. The base doesn’t care about literal truth when all them little angel babies are being massacred by the socialists.

Fiorina’s description of video evidence of PP performing a horrible procedure looks to be untrue, particularly since the footage:

• Didn’t come from the videos Fiorina was discussing
• There’s no evidence that the footage comes from PP
• There’s very good evidence that it doesn’t involve an abortion

Even if we grant that Fiorina was confused on the night of Sept. 16th when she made her statement about the video, the only way to explain her continued insistence that what she saw is real is to say she’s too stupid, too stubborn to admit she’s wrong, and/or that she’s a liar.

None of these are good qualities to have in a president.

Yet, the Right sees it exactly the other way: They think these are great qualities to have in a president. It’s a perfect projection of themselves onto an extremely powerful person, one who doesn’t give two fucks about reality, facts and evidence, and will lead from the gut.

That’s how we ended up in Iraq.

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