The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 29, 2018

They found water on Mars. It appears to be salt water. Maybe we’ll build a giant desalinization device, and a few survivors of this hell on earth can give a fresh start to humanity on Mars. Also, Russian scientists found nematodes in Siberia that have been frozen for nearly 42,000 years. With climate change, they were visible to scientists. A few came back to life in the lab:

After being defrosted, the nematodes showed signs of life, said a report today from Yakutia, the area where the worms were found. ‘They started moving and eating.’ One worm came from an ancient squirrel burrow in a permafrost wall of the Duvanny Yar outcrop in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River….Another was found in permafrost near Alazeya River in 2015, and is around 41,700 years old….They are both believed to be female.

Both of those news items are more believable than much of what we hear from Washington, DC these days. For example, Trump’s speech to the Veterans this week included his caution about believing the news media. That led to this cartoon by Darin Bell:

And consider the gloating about “historic growth” in GDP by Trump. John Harwood schools us on the data:

If you think that’s fake news, check out the data.

Trump went off on Iran. What could be behind President Rouhani’s provocations?

Michael Cohen stayed in the news again this week. He’s gonna get a TV series:

Tariffs are always a tax on consumers. Donny is here to collect:

Americans no longer have unlimited voting rights, or election security in the US. This is believable:

Establishment Democrats always react the same way:

Wrongo isn’t on board with the democratic socialism platform, but he believes that corporations should be subjected to tighter regulations. They should pay more in taxes. They should be forced to reimburse the people for the deleterious impacts of their activities, like cleaning up factory sites that have polluted the land.

And every American should have access to healthcare, childcare, and some form of employment. We could make the choice to provide a free education to every American if it were a higher priority than new bombers, or aircraft carriers. ICE should be reformed, not abolished.

Establishment Democrats are trying to scare voters away from candidates who support the democratic socialism agenda. They should relax, democratic socialism isn’t about taking everything what you have away, and making it government-owned.

When you consider the perils and benefits of democratic socialism, you should think about Europe. Five of the top 10 happiest nations in the world (according to the UN) are Scandinavian: Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. And they are all democracies.

Ever since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset the 4th ranking House Democrat by running on a democratic socialist platform, Dems worry that what worked in the Bronx won’t work in Kansas. They’re right, it won’t work in Kansas. That’s why candidates need to run on issues that are important to their districts. A voter in Kansas is probably more concerned over the price of wheat than he is about gay marriage.

But, running on the economy and jobs works everywhere.

Ocasio-Cortez campaigned with Bernie Sanders in Kansas. James Thompson, a centrist Democrat running for Congress in Kansas, said she might as well come out, because the local Republicans were going to call him a socialist anyway.

Democrats were called socialists in 1992 when Bill Clinton won. They shouldn’t panic – they should own the accusation.


NIH Lifts Ban on Deadly Virus Research

The Daily Escape:

Nature tells us that while we were talking breathlessly about Trump’s tax cuts, on Tuesday, the US government lifted ban on risky pathogen research:

The National Institutes of Health will again fund research that makes viruses more dangerous. The US government has lifted its controversial ban on funding experiments that make certain pathogens more deadly or transmissible.

The research that will now get government funding involves three viruses: Influenza, SARS, and MERS, viruses that could kill millions if they mutated in a way that let the germs spread quickly among people.

More from Nature:

The NIH announcement ends a moratorium on what is called gain-of-function research that began in October 2014. Back then, some researchers argued that the agency’s ban…was too broad. The 21 projects halted by the policy included studies of seasonal flu and efforts to develop vaccines.

The NIH eventually allowed 10 of these studies to proceed, but three projects using the MERS virus and eight dealing with flu remained ineligible for US government grants, until now.

Biologists say they need to alter these viruses in the lab to understand what genetic changes matter in starting pandemics, allowing them to understand the risks, and get prepared. But some of their past efforts to tinker with viruses have made other scientists uneasy.

In 2011, scientists revealed that they had deliberately made forms of a deadly bird flu that could spread easily among ferrets, a stand-in for people in flu studies. Critics argued that the knowledge gained wasn’t worth the danger of creating a super flu that might escape the lab. In early 2012, virologists agreed to put a voluntary moratorium on their bird flu work that was supposed to last only 60 days, but ended up lasting more than a year.

Now, these scientists will once again get federal money to conduct ‘gain-of-function’ research on pathogens such as influenza viruses. But the agency also said that researchers’ grant applications will undergo greater scrutiny than in the past. NIH Director Francis Collins said the goal is to standardize:

A rigorous process that we really want to be sure we’re doing right…

Nature quotes Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, who says that gain-of-function studies:

Have done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics — yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic…

He argues that such experiments should not take place at all. But if the government is going to fund them, there needs to be the extra level of review that NIH seems prepared to implement.

Really, what could go wrong? We still don’t know precisely how weaponized anthrax that was used to attack several news media offices and two Democratic Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others, escaped from the government’s bio-defense labs at Fort Detrick in Maryland, one week after the 9/11 attack.

OTOH, basic scientific research is a public good. Samuel Stanley, the president of NY’s Stony Brook University told NPR:

Basic research on these agents by laboratories that have shown they can do this work safely is key to global security…

We’ve got to trust that the NIH will select scientists and labs that have rigorous containment procedures and manage the process to insure that what could become the world’s most dangerous bio-weapons remain safely locked away.

On to more Christmas music! Let’s listen and watch the Royal Choral Society perform the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. The Royal Choral Society has performed Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday at the Royal Albert Hall every year since 1876. We seem to like it at Christmas. This performance is from April, 2012:

This music lifts your heart up and can help wipe away the hate in the world.

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


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?



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.


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.


Happy Birthday to our National Park Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine Yellowstone: brought to you by Coca-Cola…

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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:


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:


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


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.


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:


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


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


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.