The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 18, 2018

What is most interesting about the #Enough movement is that it is well-disciplined, and deadly serious. These kids aren’t just looking for a chance to cut school. They realize what’s at stake: not just their lives, but the future of the country. Most of them will be old enough to vote in 2020.

When you think about high school kids marching, the Parkland kids are from FL, many WI kids marched, and Democrat Conor Lamb just won in a PA district gerrymandered to be very red. Total Electoral College votes if these three states switched from red to blue: 59. In other words, #Enough:

Dem surprise win in PA gets standard Trump response:

GOP debrief on PA rounds up all the usual suspects:

United’s problems transporting dogs makes Romney look good:

Steven Hawking enters the worm hole:

White House alums seem to be ok:


Monday Wake Up Call – February 19, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Gun Protest on Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale FL.

Trump linked two events last week, the shooting in Parkland, FL, and the Mueller indictments of 13 Russians for meddling in our election process, failing at both.

First, the Muller investigation. Trump suggested Saturday that the FBI failed to stop the Florida school shooting because it’s spending too much time on the Russia investigation:

We can agree that the FBI was derelict in investigating the tip about Nikolas Cruz. However, we can’t say that the Parkland shooting, or any other for that matter, could have been stopped. The Feds can’t foresee the future. This was another Trump ploy to discredit the FBI and the Mueller investigation as its work begins to bite deeply into the issues it was formed to investigate.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that the investigations into Russian meddling are creating chaos and divisions in the US. He said: “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

On Sunday, David Frum said this in the Atlantic: (emphasis by Wrongo)

It’s worth thinking about what a patriotic president would have done in Trump’s situation. He would be leading the investigation himself. He would be scouring his own campaign—doing everything in his power to reassure the country that whatever the Russians may or may not have done, his government owed Putin nothing… Above all, he would be leading the demand for changes to election laws and practices, including holding Facebook to account for its negligence.

Why are Trump’s reactions so off the mark? Why is The Donald so defensive about something that is of ultimate importance, the integrity of our election process? Shouldn’t that be of great interest to anyone who has sworn to defend the Constitution?

Second, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School rallied in southern Florida to protest how the lack of gun regulations affects their lives. One student, Emma Gonzales, told the crowd:

In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses…Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he’s stating for the record, ‘Well, it’s a shame the FBI isn’t doing background checks on these mentally ill people.‘ Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

Here’s what Grassley actually said after the Florida shootings:

We have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that.

Grassley twists himself into a pretzel, trying to blame the FBI for what Grassley himself did. Who has these ethics?

Another Parkland student, Cameron Kasky, told CNN that many Republicans are only concerned with things like weddings cakes at same-sex weddings:

There is a segment of this society that will shrug this off and send their thoughts and prayers but march for hours over a rainbow wedding cake…

High school kids in Florida are standing up to the President and the Congress. Teenagers are unerring in calling out hypocrisy. Their tolerance for it is lower than that of adults, too. This may be the stone that starts the landslide against the Second Amendment absolutists in Washington. Let’s hope so.

Time to help those Florida teens wake up Trump and Congress. Wake them up to the need to ban assault weapons. To have background checks for all gun buyers, to have liability insurance for every gun owned. To help them wake up, here is Pearl Jam with “Jeremy” from their 1991 debut album “Ten”. The song was inspired by a newspaper article Eddie Vedder read about a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class:

Sample Lyric:

Dead lay in pools of maroon below
Daddy didn’t give attention
To the fact that mommy didn’t care
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world

Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Clearly I remember
Pickin’ on the boy

Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed a lion

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


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 4, 2018

A few words about the Nunes memo: We had already heard all that it contains, so there’s nothing new to chew on except today’s Super Bowl nachos. Its main argument is that somehow, super-crafty Democrats, in league with the FBI, tricked four separate FISA judges into extending surveillance on suspected foreign agent, and Trump campaign staffer Carter Page. How? By omitting that the “primary source” of the information on Page was the “paid-for-by-Democrats” Steele dossier, which is “compromised by partisanship“.

Except that the Nunes Memo doesn’t prove any of this. The initial FISA warrant against Carter Page was based on the fact that the guy was a known counterintelligence risk who was in the habit of traveling to Moscow and Budapest and mixing with Kremlin officials and spies. The Steele Dossier took independent note of this, (which speaks to Steele’s ability to uncover at least some real information), but Page’s activities were already suspect, regardless of who paid Steele.

So, no matter what the Nunes memo claims, Steele’s information wasn’t crucial to their interest in Page, who had been under FISA surveillance since 2013 for his contacts with Russian spies in NYC.

The idea that the FBI only pursued Page because certain members of its management had Democratic sympathies is ridiculous. Would Trump have traded how he was treated by the FBI in October 2016 for the way Clinton was treated?

The FBI actually told the NYT that they gave Trump a clean bill of health. They incorrectly assured the public that Trump’s campaign was not being investigated for its ties to the Russians when that was exactly what they were doing. Were they in cahoots with Democrats when they did that?

Democrats must learn to pick their battles. Why scream about releasing a memo that most people (excluding Trumpsters) can now see is a nothingburger?  What exactly were they trying to keep secret?  Ordinary people don’t appreciate Chicken Little behavior. And most of the time they will give equal weight to Chicken Little A and Chicken Little B, because that’s how they have learned to deal with squabbling children.

Americans SO want politics to be honorable.  It’s not. It’s just war by other means, on other battlefields.

Shots were fired from the Peanut Gallery:

Nunes actually said what he meant:

State of the Union speech was damaging to Democrats:

Trump missed his real favorites in the Gallery:

Think about this during the Super Bowl:

Still relevant on groundhog day two years later:


The Nunes Memo, and the Coming Purges at the DOJ

The Daily Escape:

Hrafnabjargafoss waterfall, Iceland – 2018 photo by aryeh95

The problem with a made-by-hand blog like The Wrongologist is that we are always 24 hours behind the current news cycle. This is written in the late Tuesday afternoon prior to Trump’s 9 pm EST State of the Union (SOTU) pitch to America. Raul Ilargi has as good a forecast as any:

Donald Trump will be gloating from ear to ear, but he’ll be subdued – by his standards. Expect perhaps $1 or even $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending to be announced, plus an immigration plan that gives Democrats much of what they want in exchange for some of the things Trump wants, as well as more on trade surpluses and deficits. The Democrats will attempt to turn it into a circus of sorts by bringing guests, and they will fail.

Indeed, a circus. One Republican Congresscritter, AZ’s Paul Gosar, just asked the US Capitol Police and the Department of Justice to “consider arresting any illegal aliens in attendance”, knowing that some Democrats have invited Dreamers to watch whatever Trump says about immigration.

Perhaps Trump will stick to reading the teleprompter, and the pundits will fall over themselves to say “how presidential!”

Overhanging the SOTU is the tangled web of the Russian investigation. This week, the resignation of the FBI’s Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Congressman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) memo are top of mind. Nunes is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He appears to have taken actual information about the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign and has written a memo claiming that the investigation was based on bad information. He goes on to intimate that if they’re investigating Trump, that proves they are biased against him.

Specifically, we have learned that Nunes claims that approving a FISA warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page is ipso facto, an abuse of power, and proves that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, another Republican, is biased, and out to get Trump.

Long-time readers know that Wrongo is agnostic on whether the Russians’ interference in the 2016 election had any impact. And he doubts that collusion by the Trumps or his campaign is provable.

Saying Trump’s guilty until proven innocent is easy and convenient for Democrats, but only Mueller can make a case, and he hasn’t said anything yet.

The NYT reports that the Nunes memo singles out Deputy AG Rosenstein for approving the continuation of surveillance of Carter Page, whom law enforcement and intelligence officials suspect may have been acting as an agent of the Russian government. The NYT notes:

The reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo…indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the [Russia] inquiry.

Why? Because only Rosenstein can fire Mueller. Release of the Nunes memo may well be designed to give Trump the high-altitude air support he needs to order Attorney General Jeff Session to fire Rosenstein.

The firing of Rosenstein is their strategy to get Mueller. Trump seems to believe he can’t fire Mueller outright, so they are going about it in an indirect way. They want to replace his boss with someone who can rein in the investigation and hopefully, keep the White House apprised of all developments so they can get ahead and stay ahead of the investigation.

They might get away with it. The question will be if the people they replace them with are honest citizens.

We are staring down the barrel of a Constitutional crisis similar to when Nixon got Robert Bork to fire Archibald Cox. He then appointed Leon Jaworski, a very conservative Texas prosecutor, who by all accounts went into it thinking the president was being railroaded.

That didn’t work out as Nixon planned.

Enjoy the SOTU.

Then get some popcorn and see if the purges start at the Department of Justice. If the purges begin, drop the popcorn, and pick up your pitchforks and torches.


Saturday Soother – January 13, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Wizard Island in winter. Crater Lake, OR – photo by Livid Narwhal

How do we avoid talking about him when he reveals himself so completely? We could split hairs, and discuss whether to call him a racist, or a white supremacist, but why bother? How is this any different from the way he’s always been?  We’re talking about a guy who wanted the Central Park Five executed, and took out full page ads in the New York papers to say so at the time. They were later found innocent.

Trump has become the GOP’s id. He uses an air horn while the rest of them know to use a dog whistle. He asks:

Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? Why do we need more Haitians?

Answer: For the same reason your grandfather and mother fled their countries. Americans weren’t clamoring for more Germans and Scots in their day, either.

It is possible that his comment was calculated. The far right wasn’t happy after Trump, during the bipartisan immigration photo op, showed off his stable genius skills, only to end up looking like he had no clue about the GOP’s immigration policy. GOP House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried reeling him back in, but the stable genius was insisting that the GOP try to give the Dems what they wanted on immigration and DACA.

The RW reaction was immediate: Ann Coulter went on Lou Dobbs’ show and trashed Trump. Many others on the right were pissed off.

Immigration is a red line for all deplorables. So maybe calling the countries of black and brown people “shitholes” was just the ticket, to let his base know he still has their backs. And then saying white immigrants “from Norway” are cool, drove it home.

This kind of talk has been normalized. White business leaders and politicians, as recently as the 1970s talked like that, and no one gave it a second thought. Since then, racist talk became shameful. But Trump’s open bigotry carries no shame for him, or for others who engage in it. His base loves him, because now they can come out of the closet with their hate.

And it’s ok, if you accept the argument that PC talk is a worse sin than showing your naked prejudices to the world.

This is how he was raised, and how people talk in his circle of friends. He’s mouthed off like this his entire life with zero consequences. He’s not likely to suffer any consequences from this either. Remember, this is a man who doesn’t understand why we can’t actually use nuclear weapons.

We need to remember this every day until 11/06/2018. And every day after that until Trump can no longer hurt America.

Wrongo certainly requires soothing, and so do you. Maybe we’ll go and see “The Post” this weekend, to remember a time when newspapers had the courage to take on a president.

In the meantime, sit back and make yourself a vente cup of Ethiopian Fancy ($19/lb.) from San Francisco’s Henry’s House of Coffee. Now, put your feet up and listen to the “Sonata in G Minor for Violoncello and Continuo” by Henry Eccles. Eccles was an English violinist and composer in the Baroque era. He was a member of the Royal Band of Queen Anne. He moved to Paris, and entered the service of King Louis XIV. This recording has Simca Heled on violoncello and Edward Brewer on harpsichord, although it is often played with a double bass and piano, or violin and piano:

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


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 7, 2018

Via the NYT comes proof that satire is dead:

Trump, in an extraordinary defense of his mental capacity and fitness for office, described himself on Saturday as a ‘genius’ and ‘a very stable genius at that.’

Very Stable Genius has the Biggest Button. Very Stable Genius could probably solve the opioid crisis on his first try, if only he would try. This is Trump’s version of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” The fact that he has to say he’s smart says he has a really big problem. And if America doesn’t believe him, it could be enough to cripple him.

If he could read, shit would really hit the fan:

The vaudeville act ends:

Trump is the best negotiator:

The two Koreas are taking about NorKo participating in the Winter Olympics. What could go wrong?

Iran takes up Trump’s mantra:

Mitt looks for his principles. They seem to be missing:

Trump gives Congress a message about the 2018 legislative agenda:


Saturday Soother – January 6, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Athabasca Glacier, Alberta, Canada. It’s the most visited glacier in North America – 2013 photo by Yan Gao

The publication of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” about Trump, seems to have validated what we on the outside already knew, that the election of Der Donald was a terrible mistake.

Wolff struck a chord that resonates by saying that everyone he talked to in the West Wing of the White House during his year researching the book agrees that Trump is “like a child”, and that every one of them agrees that Trump simply cannot function in the job.

Joe Scarborough asked in the WaPo if we can survive Trump: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

We are a nation that spent the past 100 years inventing the modern age, winning World War I, defeating Hitler and winning World War II, and liberating half of Europe by beating the Soviets in the Cold War. But today we find ourselves dangerously adrift at home and disconnected from the allies abroad that made so many of those triumphs possible. The world wonders how the United States will survive Donald Trump. And I ask, what will finally move Republicans to deliver a non-negotiable ultimatum to this unstable president? Will they dare place their country’s interests above their own political fears? Or will they move to end this American tragedy only when there is nothing left to lose?

A consensus seems to be emerging that we have a president who is not capable of performing his duties. And so the question before the GOP powers that be is: Should they try to remove him? It looks like denial of the obvious is no longer enough. The GOP’s dilemma is: which is worse, continuing to cover for Trump? Or cover in the 2018 mid-terms for a Congress that didn’t acknowledge the danger he poses?

This is where we are at the start of 2018: In the midst of an accelerating decline of America’s capabilities at home, and a weakening of our global reach. The gap between what the US used to be able to do, and what it can still do today is widening, and we really don’t know just how wide that gap is. We don’t know what has fallen into the gap, or what remains on firm ground.

With Trump in the Oval, each passing day looks more like a crap shoot, both domestically and globally. Egypt, a US ally, has quietly leased several air bases to the Russians. This is the first time since 1973 that Russia has had a military presence in Egypt. In the past, the US would have moved heaven and earth to stop this from happening; now Trump does nothing.

The pressure will be to wait and see if Robert Mueller comes up with something.

That is understandable, but Trump’s possible criminality isn’t the primary risk to the country. Events in the world may overtake Mueller’s investigation. Korea could erupt in a nuclear confrontation, the Iranian government is being challenged in the streets, and if weakened, Saudi Arabia and Israel may see a chance to attack Iran, something that would otherwise be far too risky.

We’re entering a period of great consequence. It is probable that some of the most crucial events in the year ahead (Korea, Middle East) will be decided by one man’s gut feeling that is set in motion by tweeting at three in the morning, in response to fragmentary data about a situation too complex for him to understand, or to solve.

And we’ll live with those consequences for decades to come.

Now it’s up to the GOP, who are in a position to solve this problem. They didn’t ask for Trump, but they got him. And then, they caved until he owned them. Every Republican has jumped on the bandwagon.

Otherwise, we must force Republicans from control of the House in the 2018 mid-term election.

Nothing soothing in any of those words. But, it’s Saturday, and time to kick back. If you are in the Northeast, the prime directive is to stay warm. Grab a cup of Death Wish coffee, the world’s strongest. Death Wish has a saying:

Be the best you can be with the clarity and focus that comes with strong coffee.

It’s probably not strong enough to turn Trump into a thinker, but your mileage may vary.

Now, listen to “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America, a 1984 epic crime film co-written and directed by Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro. The music is by Ennio Morricone, who was Sergio Leone’s long-time musical collaborator:

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


There is no War on Christmas

The Daily Escape:

River Bann, Northern Ireland

Wrongo isn’t sure how many of you are Spotify users, and it isn’t clear whether Spotify is a true barometer of America’s opinions. But, if you look at Spotify’s “Charts” page for Christmas Day, 2017, this is what you see: Nine of the top ten songs streamed were Christmas songs, with the exception being #10, Post Malone’s “rockstar”.

And the next ten were all Christmas songs. And from #21-30, nine were Christmas songs. From #31-40, six were Christmas songs.

Mariah Carey dominated with her “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at number one, with daily plays of 2,075,827 and cumulative plays of 311,319,704. Brenda Lee was #2. Even Burl Ives makes the top ten at #7 with “A Holly Jolly Christmas”, among Wrongo’s least favorite Christmas tunes.

But Trump says that we have a War on Christmas; that it has been stolen by godless, PC elites. The fear that Christmas is “under attack” has been a recurring phenomenon in the US for the better part of the last century.

But we should see that the real war is elsewhere. Trump should take a minute and understand that legally, Christmas isn’t a Christian holiday in America. Congress passed a bill in 1870 making Christmas a national holiday. The NYT wrote about this in 2013: (emphasis by Wrongo)

If you read the language of the bill, it’s clear that Congress chose dates commonly celebrated as holidays by the American people, not for religious reasons but because of a history of recognition and celebration on those dates…they did not deny religious association with two of the dates, Dec. 25 and Thanksgiving. But the religious association with these days was not the reason behind proposing them as holidays.

Congress got it right in 1870. We get a holiday on Dec 25, and it’s “commonly called Christmas“. You could call it anything you want, or nothing. That’s simply the name commonly used. The government doesn’t presume or direct the manner in which you will spend the day, you can choose to worship the baby Jesus, or you can go bowling, or head out to the gun range to practice your precious Second Amendment rights. The government doesn’t care.

Why, almost 150 years later, Trump and his henchmen in the media are bringing up yet again what individual Americans call the day or the season, or what they do not call it, or whether they celebrate, or do not celebrate it, is not worth anyone’s time.

We live in a time of cultural transition, but one thing is sure: December seems to be about Christmas music.

Despite the fake War on Christmas.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 17, 2017

The GOP tries to recover from going all in on Roy Moore. They now have the votes to pass their tax cuts, thanks to a few Senators who said they had reservations, but who really have no moral center. The Mueller investigation may be sidelined by the Senate, and the new Star Wars movie hit theaters.

Moore was supposed to be a deal with the devil, but the GOP had nothing left to offer him:

Xmas tax cuts come early for Trump supporters:

Tillerson and Trump try to get on same page about North Korea:

Her Majesty The Queen tries to think of a way to uninvite The Donald to the UK: (hat tip to Gloria G. and Jane T. Gloria says she loves the Corgi in the background)

Muller investigation moves to new phase:

Newest Star Wars movie reminds us of how old we are:

Trump’s scale back of National Monuments shows us his REAL monuments:


Monday Wake Up Call – Weaponizing Patriotism Edition

The Daily Escape:

Fish Drying in Shenzhen, China earlier in September. Shenzhen is home to Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer. It is about 30 min. from Hong Kong.

Our national nightmare; The Apprentice: POTUS Edition, has the Donald regularly turning up the outrageousness. It is frightening how easily many of us are manipulated by his antics, because we are intellectually lazy. Wrongo was happy to see Nicolle Wallace coin a new term for what Trump is pedaling:

Weaponized Patriotism. Isn’t Trump’s effort to equate standing for the National Anthem to “patriotism”, weaponizing patriotism? If you follow Trump’s ideas, all that really matters are the symbols. This was Trump on Saturday:

Wouldn’t you like to see one of these [NFL] owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!

He then went on to state that any player so exercising free speech should be “fired” and unemployable at their career job. Trump added that he believes fans should walk out if players don’t stand for the anthem:

If you see it, even if it’s one player…Leave the stadium.

Phony patriotism is a strong argument to use against a population that is ignorant of civics.

The refusal to stand for the playing of the National Anthem causes Trump and his fellow travelers, (who all profess to understand, and believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights), to claim that the NFL players’ expression is disrespectful and intolerable.

What are we saying when we say that someone “disrespected the flag,” or “disrespected the country,” when they choose to not stand for the National Anthem? The flag is a piece of cloth that represents many complex things, including the Constitution.

If we let Trump deny this expression of resistance, we are creating a situation where all of our rights are just privileges that can be denied on a whim. Trump can’t be allowed to say, “I believe in the 1st Amendment, but not for people who kneel during the National Anthem”.

If Trump’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick is unchallenged, Trump gains the position of defining which actions are “respectful” for Americans. But, it is a very American thing to resist, or rebel against what we perceive to be the symbols of the government’s abuses of power.

It may be disrespectful, but it must be tolerated.

This is today’s America: People allow their perceptions to control them. And who controls perceptions controls the people. Many Americans equate the flag and the National Anthem with patriotism. And according to Trump, patriotism means you support the government, and you support our foreign wars. Anything less is “un-American”.

But one can love his country while hating his government, or some of its actions. This phony form of Trumpist patriotism is a weapon against independent thinking. It’s a weapon that keeps people ignorant of the underlying problems that make our government ineffective.

Time to wake up America! We are a free people, and most of us want to stay that way. We need to look for the story behind the story when someone equates not standing for the Anthem with “unpatriotic”. Perhaps it is just Trump’s politics. Perhaps he is trying to deflect people from thinking about his latest struggling effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, or how Trump is bungling the effort to blunt North Korea’s aggression.

To help us wake up, here is the late Liam Clancy with “The Patriot Game”. The song is about the death of a young man during a campaign by the Irish Republican Army during the 1950s. He bought the story:

The words were written by Dominic Behan, brother of Brendan Behan. Dominic was angry that the Clancy Brothers cleaned up the lyrics by removing this verse that referred to head of government, Eamon de Valera:

This Ireland of mine has for long been half free,
Six counties are under John Bull’s tyranny.
And still de Valera is greatly to blame
For shirking his part in the patriot game.

Bob Dylan stole the song, turning it into “With God on Our Side”, and Dominic Behan wanted to fight Dylan physically for the theft.

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