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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – June 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

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

Good morning fellow disease vectors!

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

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

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

Political gurus say that timing is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – Tulsa Edition, June 22, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Trump Tulsa loyalist – photo by: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

(Blogging for the rest of the week will be light and variable, as Wrongo and Ms. Right embark on our first trip since COVID entered our lives)

Wrongo’s initial reaction to the smaller-than-expected crowd in Tulsa on Saturday was that quite a few Trump supporters actually had common sense, despite what they might have said to the press about COVID.

CNN said the venue estimated that 6,200 people were in the arena. The blue section where the lone Trump supporter above is seated, is the highest level of the arena. It holds 9,000, and was largely vacant. Despite that, the Trump campaign said that 12,000 went through the metal detectors.

Wrongo was wrong about the Trumpets. It turned out that teenage users of TikTok were behind the early huge crowd estimates by the campaign:

“TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank.”

And the NYT reports there’s a story behind the story:

“Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old from Fort Dodge, Iowa, said she had been watching black TikTok users express their frustration about Mr. Trump hosting his rally on Juneteenth. (The rally was later moved to June 20.) She “vented” her own anger in a late-night TikTok video on June 11 — and provided a call to action. ‘I recommend all of those of us that want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now, and leave him standing there alone on the stage’….When she checked her phone the next morning…the video was starting to go viral. It has more than 700,000 likes, she added, and more than two million views.”

This will be spun many ways over the next few days, but a few days ago, the campaign claimed the equivalent of a quarter of Oklahoma’s population had requested a ticket. Today, they blamed invisible Antifa’s for both the cancellation of the planned overflow outdoor speech, and that the indoor venue was not even half full.

This shows how far the Trump campaign has to go in the next 132 days.

Today’s real topic is AG Barr’s firing of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Geoffrey Berman. First, Berman was asked to resign, and he refused to comply. Then Barr said that Trump had fired Berman, so Berman then agreed to leave.

Wrongo has no position on Berman’s worth as a federal prosecutor. He was the Assistant US Attorney for the SDNY while Rudy Giuliani was the US Attorney. He later became a partner at the law firm, Greenberg Traurig. Still later, Rudy Giuliani also joined Greenberg Traurig.

The SDNY has pursued a series of highly visible cases that are Trump-adjacent. It handled the arrest and prosecution in 2018 of Michael D. Cohen. Then there was the indictment last year of a state-owned bank in Turkey. Turkish president Erdogan wanted Trump to quash the investigation. Bolton’s book says Trump promised Erdogan that he would get rid of the current leadership of SDNY, and then they’d “take care of it.”

Berman also has an inquiry into Rudy Giuliani and his henchmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Berman’s dismissal seems to be either questionable judgment, or an effort to obstruct ongoing investigations. We’re way past the point of optics. Trump and Barr are in a scramble to do ANYTHING to get re-elected. Their hope is to keep the conspiracy going for four more years.

And their latest effort, to short-circuit the ongoing criminal investigations of Trump’s affiliates and associates, is only the most recent evidence. If Barr continues down this road, he will make John Mitchell, Nixon’s disgraced attorney general, who did time for his transgressions, look like a man of principle.

When Barr was up for Senate confirmation, he was the old Washington hand everyone respected and who, we were assured, had nothing but respect for the law. Now it’s clear that he’s someone who had a pedigree and the right connections, but no moral center.

Trump plans to replace Berman with the head of the SEC, Jay Clayton. Clayton is a lawyer who doesn’t have any criminal experience. His former client, Deustche Bank, is party to a Trump tax return case that is before the Supreme Court.

Time to Wake up America! None of Trump’s people have a moral center. We have a few weeks remaining to register and turn out voters in such overwhelming numbers that these bastards are thrown out of office.

To help you wake up, consider this quote from John Adams:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And right now, we have a government without ethics or morals.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 21, 2020

Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020: Come because you love Trump. Leave with the Trump virus. Wrongo isn’t a futurist, but as this is written on Saturday, there’s reason to be concerned that there may be an increase in COVID-19 infections in Tulsa:

“Six of President Trump’s staffers, who were part of the campaign’s advance team for the president’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been quarantined after testing positive for the novel coronavirus…”

Wrongo has a bad feeling about the aftermath:

  • People are coming from several states, some with rapidly-rising hospitalizations
  • It’s indoors, with no way to effectively distance
  • There will be cheering, singing, and chanting
  • Some attendees will have spent hours, possibly days interacting with each other outside the venue, and will spend an hour or two in line just to get in
  • These aren’t people who have a belief in masking and distancing

Speaking of bad feelings, the Guardian reports that armed militia members and bikers are gathering outside Trump’s venue. The National Guard has been activated in Tulsa. What could go wrong?

On to cartoons. Bolton’s book inspires the rest of Trump’s team:

Trump says Bolton’s book is all lies, and they are state secrets:

They knew it and did nothing:

GOP complains about demonstrators:

LGBTQ ruling angers the elephant:

Chart shows COVID in the US, based on which presidential candidate won in 2016. Notice anything?

The cure:

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Let’s “Defang” Not “Defund” the Police

The Daily Escape:

Great Falls, VA – photo by Zev Steinhardt Photography. These falls on the Potomac River are about 15 miles west of DC.

A few distressing stories about police and their relationship to our society came up in the past few days. First, the NYT reported on a claim that anti-police employees at a NYC Shake Shack restaurant had “intentionally poisoned” three officers who ordered milkshakes.

The story was initially broken by the Detectives’ Endowment Association in New York, who claimed on Twitter that the officers had been targets of an attack:

“Tonight, three of our fellow officers were intentionally poisoned by one or more workers at the Shake Shack…”

The NY Police Benevolent Association (PBA) chimed in, insisting that the attack was part of a larger, nefarious anti-police crusade:

“When NYC police officers cannot even take a meal without coming under attack, it is clear that [the] environment in which we work has deteriorated to a critical level. We cannot afford to let our guard down for even a moment.”

Numerous media outlets then reported that NYC officers had been poisoned on purpose.

But, the story was misleading. NYPD found that no crime had been committed. The problem may have been that the milkshake machine wasn’t properly cleaned. Eric Boehlert:

“The false story played right into a right-wing fantasy portrayal of police critics and the Black Lives Matter mindset — the idea that activists are plotting ways to poison and kill members of law enforcement….the mainstream media is too quick to buy into the false portrait and to embrace bogus stories that support that characterization.”

So much paranoia. Who knew police are such snowflakes?

Second, Atlanta police reacted to the murder charge against Garrett Rolfe, the policeman who was fired after he shot Rayshard Brooks twice in the back, killing him. Hours later, CNN reported that Atlanta police stopped responding to calls in three of the department’s six zones.

The WaPo reported that Vince Champion, the southeast regional director of the International Brother of Police Officers said:

“This is not an organized thing, it’s not a blue flu, it’s not a strike, it’s nothing like that…What it actually is, is officers protesting that they’ve had enough and they don’t want to deal with it any longer.”

The “blue flu” is a de facto police strike in which a large group of officers simultaneously call in sick. Essential state employees, like police and first responders, are legally forbidden from actually walking out on the job in many jurisdictions.

These police are protesting about no longer being automatically above the law in Atlanta. This is a form of extortion by some police who fail to perform their duty; it is another form of abuse that is being shown by elements of the police in our nation. Trump gave them air support on Fox News:

“I hope he [the former officer] gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country…”

Once again, the myth that police are the real victims persists. The road to reform will be long and torturous. We will not succeed in reforming the police by calling it “defunding”, or “reimagining” them. We have to start by taking away their military style weapons and by holding them accountable for their actions.

In other words, we have to defang the police.

Law enforcement has simply been allowed by towns and cities to rot. The problem has lasted because people of color are the police’s primary targets. White people aren’t harassed by the police anywhere near as much as people of color. So if something doesn’t affect you, you tend to ignore the problem, or do nothing to eliminate it.

Cops and their supporters keep going on and on about the supposed “good apples”.  Yet those supposed good cops seemingly keep protecting the “bad apples”.  How is it possible for them to be “good cops” when they keep protecting the bad guys.

We have to start by DEFANGING the police, but it won’t be easy.

Let’s remember that the last person to successfully break up the police was Sting.

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Will the Demonstrations Lead to a Wave Election?

The Daily Escape:

Lenticular clouds over Utah Lake, UT – 2020 photo by jephriB. It’s Utah’s largest freshwater lake.

One thing that is giving Wrongo hope amongst the (mostly) negative voices about the protests against police violence is how universal these protests have become. People have protested in all 50 states and DC, including in hundreds of smaller towns and cities that have not been in the spotlight during previous nationwide protests.

On Sunday, our little town of 25,000 had a demonstration supporting Black Lives Matter. Here are a few photos:

Photo by Pame Ortega

Photo by Pame Ortega

There seems to be something happening on the ground that may have electoral implications in November. Wrongo’s home town is in a very conservative part of Connecticut. It voted 75% for Trump in 2016, and is 94% non-Hispanic White. The town Facebook page is a cesspool of right wing comments. Yet the march was well-attended, and the marchers skewed young, white and female. It was completely peaceful:

Photo by Pame Ortega

The speakers on the town green included politicians, police, local clergy and rally organizers.

Wrongo has regularly scheduled Monday morning meetings with the town’s mayor, a conservative Republican. The mayor had attended the march, and we spoke in passing about the demonstration. He was pleased by the strong attendance, and was happy with the response by his police, fire and public works departments. He was also happy to see peaceful engagement by the citizenry.

Are things changing in America?

The WaPo reports that the closer someone lives to a protest, the more likely it is to change their vote. Moreover, protests influence not just election turnout, but also what types of issues rise to the top of party platforms, and who gets elected to local, state and federal offices.

Demo Memo reports that most Americans believe in the right to protest, but a surprisingly small share of the public has ever demonstrated. According to a 2018 Gallup survey, just 36% of adults have ever felt the urge to organize or join a public demonstration. That is much higher than it was during the fractious 1960s. In 1965 when Gallup asked the same question, only 10% of Americans said they had ever felt like organizing or joining a protest.

What’s driving the change in the willingness to demonstrate? Maybe it’s the growing polarization of our society. Or perhaps our growing diversity and the relative youth of our population are behind the change.

WaPo also shows that young people in the outer suburbs and small towns are becoming less conservative. They report that statistical analyses suggest that rural voters age 18 to 29 went from supporting Donald Trump by a 17-point margin in 2016 to supporting Democratic congressional candidates by an eight-point margin in 2018. Votes by their older neighbors (40s and older) barely budged.

Even the smallest cities have shifted leftward in recent years.

We’re in a new era. First, COVID-19 brought home to us who were the truly essential members of the American workforce, and how many of them were minorities. Now, we’re seeing first-hand how those same people are forced to live, and how they’re mistreated by our police and by American society at large.

As they say, you can’t unsee this.

Much of what is working to bring about change is the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been an organizing force working on these issues at least since 2014. Add to that, white suburban disgust with Trump and his goon-like behavior around both the pandemic and the protests.

It has become clear to white people that Trump would have zero issues with shooting them in the street, beating them, or pepper spraying them, or turning dogs on them.

And when most families are spending concentrated time at home together, their kids are asking them unanswerable questions.

The only answers are at the ballot box. Vote for change in the White House, the Senate, in your statehouse, your county seat, at city hall and on your school board.

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 8, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Banksy – June, 2020

Banksy is a well-known British graffiti artist whose identity is secret. But he’s become well-known, gaining attention for his politically charged works. The above appeared in an Instagram post where Banksy says:

“At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine. People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

Well said. We all should know where the responsibility lies for fixing the problems of racism.

Let’s hope that Americans understand the threat and the opportunity posed by this moment. Racism and the indiscriminate use of violence by police are burning the fabric of our society. How the fire is put out is entirely in our hands.

And the demonstrations continued over the weekend, mostly peacefully, at least as Wrongo writes this. These rallies have quickly become the focal point of a nationwide movement against systemic racism, and for police reform. They’re becoming better organized, and are unlikely to end soon.

Thousands gathered on Capitol Hill on Saturday to join a protest organized by Freedom Fighters DC. It drew one of the largest crowds since protests began there:

Source: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) joined the protesters outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Roll Call reported that: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…he [Sen. King] drew connections between the current uprisings and his experience at the 1963 March on Washington. He was a 19-year-old student at Dartmouth College and was on hand for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the march on Aug. 28, 1963.”

At the time, Wrongo was also a 19-year-old student, studying at Georgetown in DC. Sen. King says that this is a “full circle moment” for him, and Wrongo agrees. It’s a full circle moment for America. We appear to be on the verge of something big, politically.

More from Sen. King:

“This is what America is all about. First Amendment rights of people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances. This is a 400-year-old grievance…”

Roll Call reported that protesters and police kept each other at a distance and largely avoided skirmishes. King noted that Saturday’s crowd was about 80% white and young, which he called “significant” in comparison to Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington.

Having a large element of white support for the DC marches is important to building the political momentum for change. As Banksy said, “People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system”.

Kellie Carter Jackson, says in the Atlantic:

“Since the beginning of this country, riots and violent rhetoric have been markers of patriotism. When our Founding Fathers fought for independence, violence was the clarion call. Phrases such as “Live free or die,” “Give me liberty or give me death,”…echoed throughout the nation, and continue today.

More from Carter Jackson:

“Black rebellion and protest, though, have historically never been coupled with allegiance to American democracy. Today, peaceful demonstrations and violent riots alike have erupted across the country in response to police brutality and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Yet the language used to refer to protesters has included looters, thugs, and even claims that they are un-American.”

Particularly by Trump and Barr.

In reality, if we are to fix what’s wrong, it’s going to be fixed town by town and city by city. That means that domestic policing in the US needs to be reinvented from the ground up. It will be a huge job, since there are more than 18,000 police departments in the US.

It’s time to wake up America! We’re again seeing a grand revealing of what’s been behind the curtain since 1619.

We’re waking up to: “this is what’s going on in America?” Hopefully, it’s not too late.

And with COVID-19 added to the mix, we’re looking around, saying: “Wow. Why is everyone so vulnerable? Why is everyone living paycheck to paycheck? “What’s with the police brutality?”

Time to wake up and get busy. It will take an overwhelming turnout in November to right this sinking ship.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 7, 2020

There have been many kinds of protests by athletes about race, gender, and unequal use of power in American sports history. With the killing of George Floyd, many athletes have decided to use their voices and iconic positions in our society to speak out, hoping to change our society.

Here are a few examples from the past that seem heroic today.

1967: Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Lew Alcindor meet to show support for Muhammad Ali, who had refused induction into the US Army as a conscientious objector. Two weeks later, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison and stripped of his heavyweight title.

1968: It’s an iconic image, two American athletes raise their fists on the podium in Mexico’s Olympic stadium during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos used the black power salute, and were asked to leave the US Olympic team.

1996: Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf decided to stop standing for the national anthem. NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Abdul-Rauf for his protest. They later came to an agreement: Abdul-Rauf could close his eyes and look downward during the anthem, but had to stand.

2012: To protest the death of Trayvon Martin, members of the Miami Heat, including Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, donned hooded sweatshirts before their game on March 24, 2012.

2014: Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose came onto the court for warmups wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt, supporting Eric Garner, who died when a white police officer used a choke hold to arrest him. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

2016: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before his preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. When asked to justify his actions, he told the media that he couldn’t show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed black people and other people of color.

In 2020, people are finally coming around to Kaepernick’s position. We see many examples of police and protesters kneeling together as a sign of solidarity and de-escalation of possible conflict on America’s streets. Michael Jordan, long an apolitical athlete, just announced he will donate $100 million over the next 10 years to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Also in 2020: While Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser isn’t an athlete, she renamed 16th Street “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and had “Black Lives Matter” painted in large yellow letters on the street which leads straight to the White House. Bowser said:

“We want to call attention today to making sure our nation is more fair and more just and that black lives and that black humanity matter in our nation.”

Trump responded by complaining that the mayor keeps asking “us” for “handouts.” Apparently, Trump doesn’t realize that it’s the federal government’s job to partially fund the district.

DC, where the streets have two names:

Trump’s photo-op was too revealing:

America’s twin viruses are hard to take:

And it’s only June:

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

The Daily Escape:

Normandy – 2016 photo by Wrongo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump’s Authoritarian Impulses

The Daily Escape:

Lake Superior from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario CN – photo by crazytravel4

If you want to know where Trump is headed on civil disobedience in 2020, consider this about China’s Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Nicholas Kristof reminded NYT readers what Trump had to say about it in 1989:

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, Trump told Playboy Magazine….Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

Overwhelming force is Trump’s plan, just like the Chinese. Here’s a list of the military, government police units and militia-like components of the US Government that are walking the streets in Washington DC:

That’s 14 discrete police and military groups patrolling DC. And it didn’t stop there. The Trump campaign just changed his MAGA hats from red to camouflage, and is calling supporters the “Trump Army“:

Yep, Trump wants an army to fight off the liberal mob.

The Daily Beast reported that Trump and Barr have come up with a possibly legal way to bring troops into America’s cities:

“The idea was to…rely on the FBI’s regional counterterrorism hubs to share information with local law enforcement about, in Barr’s own words, ‘extremists’.”

More from the Beast:

“That’s when Barr turned to an existing counterterrorism network—Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)— led by the FBI that unite federal, state and local law enforcement to monitor and pursue suspected terrorists….The construction we are going to use is the JTTF. It’s a tried and true system. It worked for domestic homegrown terrorists. We’re going to apply that model….It already integrates your state and local people. It’s intelligence driven. We want to lean forward and charge… anyone who violates a federal law in connection with this rioting.

We need to have people in control of the streets so we can go out and work with law enforcement…identify these people in the crowd, pull them out and prosecute them…”

See any reason to be concerned?

According to multiple current and former Justice Department and law enforcement officials, Barr is misusing the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in support of Trump’s insistence that antifascists are “terrorists” exploiting the nationwide protests. Using the JTTF against the protesters is a political ploy to make being anti-Trump look like terrorism.

Authoritarians world-wide call domestic demonstrators “terrorists”. Saddam did it in Iraq, so does al-Assad in Syria. Duterte does it in the Philippines, as does Erdogan in Turkey. Xi does it in China.

And now, it’s happening here.

On Wednesday, Trump again violated the First Amendment by authorizing federal police to block clergy’s access to St. John’s Episcopal Church (the one he used for his photo-op), effectively “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.

That, from the holy defender of religious rights.

Monday wasn’t the worst day in American civilian-military relations. But the use of force to create a photo-op, including ordering military helicopters to fly low, scattering protesters with the rotor downwash, broke many established norms.

Trump followed that by deploying many different groups of uniformed “peace-keepers” to the streets of DC. So Monday became the worst day for American civilian-military relations since the military attacked the veterans march on Washington when Herbert Hoover was president.

Political Violence at a Glance asks a few questions:

  • If Trump insists on sending troops to states where governors don’t want them, will they go? On Monday, elements left their bases for operations in DC, which has a special status that Trump could legally exploit. That’s different from sending regular US forces into states without an invitation. That would cross a red line.
  • What would Congress do in response? The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, vowed to bring the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to testify. Would they even show up to the invitation?
  • How will the public react? The US military is one of America’s most popular institutions. In part, because it is seen as non-partisan, whereas most other government institutions are viewed as partisan. If the US military enters American cities, public support of the armed forces will surely drop.

Trump’s rhetoric continues to support white supremacists and far-right militias, while encouraging violence by his followers.

His effort to label the demonstrators as outsiders is meant to justify an increasingly aggressive police/military response. In the past few days, we saw them attack regular people on the streets, along with the journalists reporting on what was happening.

Former high-ranking military officers are finally calling out Trump, but his authoritarian instincts combined with Barr’s right-leaning reflexes pose a clear and present danger to our democracy.

Let’s hope the republic is still here for us to defend by overwhelmingly voting him out on November 3d.

They’re already telegraphing how they might respond if they lose.

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Is Insurrection Brewing in Our Cities?

The Daily Escape:

Mt. McLoughlin, Cascades Range, OR – photo by kayalfainart. Unclear if that’s another mountain in the background, or Godzilla peeking at us.

…and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” ― John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath

This could be written today, because new grapes of wrath could again be harvested.

Think about the grim future ahead for today’s high school and college graduates. With 40 million unemployed, jobs will be scarce. Wages will be stagnant. Many of those 40 million may be out of work for quite a long time, as will many of the new grads. Many families will go hungry.

Add to that the people who are protesting the killing of George Floyd. This uprising involves a direct challenge to police power, along with a clear challenge to political power as well. That’s visible in Trump’s militarized reaction to Constitutionally-guaranteed protest.

We’re experiencing confusion and tension that has put many cops on edge at a time when their goal should be de-escalation, not escalation. There have been an untold number of similar incidents in the past where police officers have been exonerated in cases of seemingly obvious abuses of power.

That has led America to understand that its police forces can act with almost total impunity. As Wrongo has said earlier in the week, historically, this has hurt black and brown people the most. Here’s a chart that shows American’s current attitudes towards the police:

Source: Morning Consult

People may finally be fed up. There’s the tension over the pandemic, and the economic pressures it’s created. And there’s Trump, who seems only capable of pouring gasoline on what is already a bonfire.

The militarization of American law enforcement, already a massive problem, has been taken to the extreme by Trump. He thinks nothing of brutalizing a crowd of protesters so that he can be filmed walking across the street to wave:

“…an upside-down Bible in front of a church he rarely attends and whose leaders and congregation work against the policies he trumpets.”

Trump has threatened to use the US military to put down protests, even if state leaders do not want the US military in their states. Secretary of Defense Esper has spoken of a need to “dominate the battlespace” (he subsequently recanted) in reference to something that is not a battle, and that involves civilians, not a hostile enemy.

Our military is monitoring protests in multiple states, including flying drones over Minneapolis.

On Monday, Washington DC saw a bizarre “show of force” with helicopters hovering much lower than permitted over crowds of peaceful demonstrators. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley, was patrolling near the White House in his camouflage uniform.

On Tuesday night, troops of the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division arrived at Joint Base Andrews near Washington DC.

But who would they be fighting against? These tactics — mass arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, intentional and unconstitutional attacks on peaceful demonstrators and journalists — are familiar, because they’re the tactics employed by authoritarian governments all over the world in response to local insurrection.

But, is what’s happening in our cities an insurrection?

Replacing the police with the military would only escalate the situation. Violence begets violence. But creating more “resistance” may well be the Trump Administration’s plan.

Let’s agree that there was unnecessary violence and property damage in many cities. Facebook and Twitter are ablaze with comments saying that a massive show of force is absolutely necessary to put down the insurrection.

Out of nowhere, GOP politicians from local to federal levels are singing a chorus of “Antifa” is a terror group, and the primary cause of the problems on the streets of America. Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes an amorphous group of people whose political beliefs lean far left, and do not necessarily conform to the Democratic Party’s platform.

The problem with Trump’s claim that it’s a terror group is that it doesn’t have central leadership, according to federal law enforcement officials. Worse for Trump is that many of Antifa’s Twitter accounts turn out to be run by fascists in Europe.

“Antifa” is vapor in the US, and recognizing it as some defined group is a joke that has been taken seriously only by America’s Right.

Painting disparate punk assholes as some kind of formal group is ridiculous and counterproductive.

We desperately need to get the twin problems of the coronavirus and the nationwide civil disobedience behind us.

These infections need to be cured.

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