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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

From Russian Hacks to Russian Collusion: Where’s the Beef?

The Daily Escape:

Image of Saturn taken from the Cassini spacecraft on July 19, 2013

Wrongo has read much of the evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 US Presidential election. He has watched House and Senate committees ask the intelligence community and the Justice Department what is known and not known about the Russian hacking story.

 It is clear that the Russians have extremely capable cyber technicians. They have a pragmatic view about getting what they need strategically, so it is both feasible and possible that they could have been disruptive to our democratic process.

But is there actual evidence that Russia interfered in our elections in 2016? And if they did, is there evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with them? The answer so far is summed up by Caitlin Johnstone:

Russiagate is like a mirage: from a distance it looks like something, but once you move in for a closer look, there’s nothing there. Nothing. Nothing solid, nothing substantial, nothing you can point at and say, “Here it is. This hard evidence justifies saturating the media waves with obsessive 24/7 coverage, escalating tensions with a nuclear superpower, stagnating political discourse in America and fanning the flames of a hysterical, xenophobic McCarthyist feeding frenzy.”

Most of what we know comes from the intelligence assessment by James Clapper when he was the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for Obama; Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections. Here are the conclusions:

  • We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.
  • Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
  • We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
  • Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”

From Sic Semper Tyrannis:

The assessment says Russia did three basic things to “influence” the Presidential election. First, the NSA, CIA and, to a lesser extent, the FBI, believed that the Russians hacked into the DNC and John Podesta emails, then passed that content to WikiLeaks and DC Leaks, who subsequently published the information. Second, the Russians supposedly obtained access to “elements” (undefined) of US state or local electoral boards. Third, Russian media outlets, RT and Sputnik News, put out Kremlin friendly messages.

There is no evidence backing up the claim that the Russian intelligence service hacked the DNC and Podesta that has been presented to the American people. The FBI did not conduct a forensic examination of the computers of either the DNC or of Podesta. The belief that the Russians did it is based on an independent firm, Crowdstrike’s examination of the DNC emails. Moreover, the release of Podesta’s emails had little to no effect on the election, while the Comey on-and-off-and on again investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails were certainly damaging to her electoral chances.

The larger point is that Democrats have convinced themselves that getting rid of Trump justifies throwing pasta (or any other sticky substance) at the wall to see what sticks. And that is what is happening with the “all Russia, all the time” hearings in the House and Senate.

An important subtext to this whole Russian conspiracy theory is the insistence that the Trump campaign colluded with Vladimir Putin to sabotage Hillary’s campaign.  That is repeated endlessly on the cable channels, and has become an article of faith to many Americans, especially Democrats. But, a few meetings do not create collusion. Possibly the intelligence community has some proof, but it has not been presented in a form that inspires credibility.

About a month ago, the DOJ appointed a Special Counsel to ferret out what is real from what is fake in the allegations about Russiagate, from hacks to collusion.

Let’s hope that he gets to the bottom of the story.

In the meantime, stay focused on the potential damage that Messrs. Trump, McConnell and Ryan are trying to do, from the gutting of Dodd-Frank to passing an Obamacare replacement that hurts many Americans.

Now for a tune. The Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” was released in 1968. It was intended to be a parody of “Back in the USA” by the Beach Boys. The song shocked many at the time for its pro-Soviet message. Years later, Paul McCartney stated he knew very little about the Soviet Union when he wrote the song. Here is McCartney doing the song live in Moscow’s Red Square:

Note Putin vaguely rocking @ 0:14

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 14, 2017

(Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right are heading to Europe today. We will be gone for 10 days, so blogging may be sparse. Please keep America great while we are away.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all. A few more thoughts about BLOTUS (Big Liar of the US): Not only does he have the worst approval ratings of any president at this point in his term, but he’s also incapable of moving the needle of public opinion toward his positions. Ironically, for all of Trump’s sycophants’ talk that Trump’s words ARE his actions, his tweets and public pronouncements are making his positions more unpopular.

What matters most to Wrongo is his non-adherence to basic rules and norms, and here, there’s a lot to be concerned about. His fear of an investigation into possible Russian influence, and his refusal to release his tax returns probably mean he’s hiding something. Now we learn that Trump’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, which wrote a statement saying Trump’s tax returns showed no significant business ties to Russia, itself has extensive ties to Russia, and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016. The swamp is reaching flood stage. On to cartoons.

Trump wanted a different dog:

Comey’s resume shows poor reviews by former employer:

McConnell plans to protect The Donald:

Trump thinks any negative story about him is made up:

Trump creates new versions of the truth faster than his team can spin them:

Trump hears from a guy inside the White House that he doesn’t know:

 

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United Airlines: Try Doing The Right Thing

The Daily Escape:

Kravica waterfall in Bosnia Herzegovina -photo by Vedrana Tafra

Wrongo needs to start by saying that he has nearly 800,000 lifetime air miles on United Airlines (UAL) and, after the forcible removal of a paying passenger, he will try to avoid flying them again.

You know the story: United Express in Chicago loads passengers on a plane heading to Louisville. Then four employees arrive, needing seats. United was unwilling to offer enough compensation to induce passengers to give up their seats, and ordered four passengers off of the aircraft. Three left, but one refused, saying he had to be in Louisville in the morning.

United officials called the Department of Chicago Aviation, (part of the City of Chicago), the type of government agency that you never even knew existed, to remove him. Officers grabbed his arms, dragged him screaming across the armrests and along the floor and off of the aircraft, apparently injuring him in the process.

Unusual situations like this test organizations and their leadership. The key information here is that UAL wanted to make space to carry their own staff. The flight was not “overbooked”, UAL wanted to take back seats of a few paying passengers to accommodate their own staff. Apparently, UAL had bungled its own logistics, and then looked to its paying customers to solve the problem.

Poor customer service like this exists because of corporate culture, and because the company rarely has to pay a price for it.

In Wrongo’s past, he managed 1000 employees who had technical support and/or customer service contact with the public. We had a mantra: Know when to Do The Thing Right, and know when to Do The Right Thing. 95% of the time, the job is to follow established procedures, to guide the customer to a pre-established solution that had been vetted, one that was company policy.

Our staff’s job was to “do the thing right” in those cases, to follow our processes.

5% (or less) of the time, our people would see something novel, outside the scope of established policy. Something that called for reaching an equitable solution that wasn’t in any manual.

Then, our employees needed to “do the right thing”.

These aren’t difficult concepts to instill, they are entirely consistent with most people’s personal experience, and usually with their views about fairness.

United should try empowering people to do the right thing, when going by the book fails the customer. Whatever it might have cost to compensate volunteers, it would have been far cheaper than what UAL will now pay to this passenger.

This also illustrates how America is changing: Large corporations are willing to use the police to enforce their policies. The passenger’s choice was to comply with police demands, or face physical intimidation, or worse. And Chicago’s sub-contracted police were too eager to jump into the fray.

We should ask: Did the injured passenger break any law by refusing to give up his seat? If that’s the case, the plane was filled with lawbreakers. If not, why was an element of the Chicago police doing UAL’s dirty work?

The Seventh Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a jury trial for civil cases in the federal courts:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved

The $20 amount is trivial in today’s economy. But that idea of a jury trial has been killed by corporatist judges on the Supreme Court, and other courts, and has been replaced the company’s terms of service. When you agree, it takes away most of your rights — disputes are resolved through arbitration that the corporation almost always wins. In this case, UAL’s terms of service gives them almost unlimited authority when dealing with its passengers, including a rule regarding “refusal of transport” (Rule 21) and “denial of boarding compensation” (Rule 25).

But that doesn’t justify bad corporate behavior. Or violence.

But, thanks to Congress’s bipartisan policy of ignoring anti-trust laws for several decades, just four firms now control the vast majority of domestic flights, and they don’t really compete with one another. This is from the DOT’s report on airline competition:

Less competition means you don’t have to worry as much about annoying people with delays or overbooked flights. It also means you can make a lot more money. There’s less pressure to cut ticket prices — even when the price of oil, an airline’s biggest cost, is plummeting — and it’s easier to introduce ever-more obnoxious fees and charges.

UAL isn’t worried about you sharing a video of a passenger being dragged off their plane, because you have no real choice when you fly from certain cities.

Ultimately, the responsibility to blunt this trend is ours. Replace Citizens United. Remove corporatist judges. Keep our police on a short leash.

Don’t just upload a video, organize your neighbors and vote!

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 20, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Restored American Cars at Jose Marti Airport, Havana Cuba. 2014 photo by Wrongo)

America is snoozing on the Republican effort to turn health insurance into a party for the powerful. The LA Times’ reporter Michael Hiltzik took a look at the back pages of Paul Ryan’s Trumpcare bill and found a loophole that allows health insurance companies to pay their CEOs more money:

It does so by removing the ACA’s limit on corporate tax deductions for executive pay. The cost to the American taxpayer of eliminating this provision: well in excess of $70 million a year. In the reckoning of the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank that analyzed the limitation in 2014, that would have been enough that year to buy dental insurance under the ACA for 262,000 Americans, or pay the silver plan deductibles for 28,000.

This is the opposite of the executive pay strategy under Obamacare. The ACA decreed that health insurance companies could deduct from their taxes only $500,000 of the pay of each top executive.

That’s a tighter restriction than the limit imposed on other corporations, which is $1 million per executive. The ACA closed a loophole for insurance companies enjoyed by other corporations, which could deduct the cost of stock options and other “performance-based” pay; for insurance companies, the deduction cap is $500,000 per executive, period. The reduced deductions would have been the equivalent of raising $600 million in new taxes over 10 years.

Well, that was more than the executives and their bought and paid for Congress critters could stand, so buried in the 123 pages of the House Republican bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, Hiltzik found that:

The House Republican bill repeals the compensation limit as of the end of this year. The GOP hasn’t exactly trumpeted this provision; it’s six lines on page 67 of the measure, labeled “Remuneration from Certain Insurers” and referring only to the obscure IRS code section imposing the limit. Repeal of the provision apparently means that the insurers will be able to deduct $1 million in cash per executive, plus the cost of “performance-based” stock awards and options, like other corporations.

So now, insurance companies’ executives will have a level playing field with other CEO’s. This fits in with the rest of the GOP bill: It does nothing to bring coverage to more Americans or make it cheaper. But it does help to further line the pockets of the privileged, and maybe that’s the point.

Wake up America! As Don Henley once said, “The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away”. We need to read what the GOP is really doing on the back pages of their legislation. To help us wake up, let’s pay tribute to Chuck Berry. To call him a legend of American musical history is an understatement. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Kennedy Center Honors. Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” was the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Space Probe Record.

Among the bands in which you hear his influence are The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Both recorded his songs, and John Lennon said this:

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.

Berry played a Gibson model ES350. Sadly, while many great Rock and Roll guitarists have signature Gibsons, there is no Chuck Berry model. Here is Berry with a live version of “Roll Over Beethoven” from 1956. While the video isn’t the best, check out his guitar work on the intro:

Chuck probably duck-walked up to the Pearly Gates.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 19, 2017

Welcome to the start of another week in Trumplandia. The WaPo had a depressing story about how little some voters know about what in America’s politics impacts their lives:

Soon after Charla McComic’s son lost his job, his health-insurance premium dropped from $567 per month to just $88, a “blessing from God” that she believes was made possible by President Trump. “I think it was just because of the tax credit,” said McComic, 52, a former first-grade teacher who traveled to Trump’s Wednesday night rally in Nashville

She thinks that Trump has already made an important and favorable change to her family’s health insurance. Her son’s price decrease was actually due to a subsidy he received under the Affordable Care Act that Ms. McComic doesn’t realize is still in place. It has nothing to do with the tax credits proposed by Republicans as part of the Trumpcare bill still making its way through Congress.

She is a sample of one, but, Ms. McComic completely trusts Donald Trump. More from WaPo:

McComic said she’s not worried about her disability benefits changing or her 3-year-old granddaughter getting kicked off Medicaid or her 33-year-old son’s premiums going up. “So far, everything’s been positive, from what I can tell,” she said, waiting for Trump’s rally here to begin Wednesday night. “I just hope that more and more people and children get covered under this new health-care plan.”

Anecdotes like this reveal how surprisingly widespread ignorance of the political world is among voters.

Worse, it shows that people who are true believers don’t worry about how political decisions will impact them. Trump voters heard the Overlord promise to take away their healthcare insurance by repealing the ACA.

But they believed him when he said they would get something else that would be much better, so it’s all good.

There are decades of research about how people process information which would probably support the thinking that Ms. McComic is demonstrating cognitive bias. Her trusted news sources tell her that Trump is replacing Obamacare with tax credits, and she concludes that’s why her costs are magically lower.

Is there a way to cut through this and get voters like McComic to think more deeply, or to consider returning to the Democrats? Maybe not. But candidates in 2018 should pound these voters with: “This program you like was brought to you by Democrats.”

You like public parks? High-quality public schools? Medicaid? The GI Bill and Veterans’ benefits? Clean air to breathe? Clean water to drink? The fact that you are much less likely to be injured or killed on the job?

All were brought to you by Democrats. And the 2017 version of the Republican Party is planning to take away ALL of them.

The Guns vs. Butter argument will be resolved in favor of guns. Feeling safer?

The real kicker is that if Trumpcare and Trump’s Budget are both enacted, they will kill tens of thousands more Americans than will all of the Islamic terrorists and Mexican immigrants in America combined.

Certain things that were certain, seem different under the Republicans:

What did Trump REALLY mean?

But don’t worry, you know he has no real intention of making America great…

There are very few things he means “Literally”:

Trump cries “wolf”, and the White House mobilizes to explain:

Care? None of them care:

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February 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(London library during the Blitz)

Politico reports that President Trump has actually done little since entering office despite White House aide Stephen Miller’s bragging on the Sunday Pundits:

We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.

That simply isn’t true, but the thrust of the article is that, when you tune out the noise coming from the White House, very little has actually happened. From Politico:

So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.

Sorry, but this is characteristic of the gleeful DC narrative that Trump is failing, that he’s bumping up against the institutional/Constitutional realities of Washington. This meme seems to repeat the same mistakes that smart people made during the campaign — misreading and underestimating Trump. They see him challenged on a few things and assume that since Trump thought he’d show up, wave a wand, and make things happen immediately, and is now stymied, therefore he must be frustrated. They presume that clashes with other branches of government, or with the unfawning press, or the “resistance” from the 52% that didn’t vote for him to begin with, has made him cool his jets.

Why should we think it upsets him that his first bolts out of the gate are stymied?

Wrongo thinks that so far, Trump is winning. His fights with what he calls “the Establishment” and the “fake news media” are a win from the perspective of the Trumpets. They figure that’s what he was sent to DC to do.

If he’s not trying to learn the ropes? That goes in the plus column. And if it’s reported that he shows impatience or impulsiveness? Plus column. To his base, the furor in the media makes the infuriated ones, and those who report it, seem like smug elitists, determined to enforce the status quo through the usual DC tactics.

Really, everything Politico says are problems for Trump are the opposite. He’s ginned up a national hissy fit over his ill-conceived Executive Order on immigration, while managing to mostly get his cabinet choices confirmed (sorry Mr. Pudzer) − a cabinet more radical and unqualified than any traditional Republican would dare to nominate.

Dems obsess over each offense and announce “resistance” but have no real strategy. They raise money but can do little, while being viewed as unseemly in Trump’s flyover country.

When the Republican obstruction to Obama took shape in 2008, they assumed a posture of cooperation, only to be “disappointed” by the “extreme” positions of the President. Rarely in Obama’s first term did they announce obstruction in advance of his actions. By his second term, Democrats had lost enough seats that they no longer had the ability to override Republican inertia, and the GOP’s naked obstruction was visible.

Now Democrats have fewer votes as a minority party than the GOP had in 2016, and have no way to block anything but the most obnoxious Trump moves, assuming that a few Senate Republicans join in the blockage.

Trump has no need to figure out or to get along with Washington — in fact, that’s the opposite of what he wants. He has staked his political fortune on an “own the mob” strategy — which worked just fine in November. He doesn’t need to deliver on his election promises. He needs to let Republicans push through the horrifying agenda they’ve salivated over for decades. And he will.

He needs a riled up Establishment to blame for any stymied efforts. This means the more cartoonish his behavior the better, as the Establishment will be all too happy to jump on his missteps.

Trump won’t suffer if he never comes up the learning curve.

The rest of us, the country, the world, will. We actually need things to work.

Here is Robert Cray with “Smoking Gun” recorded in 1986. With all the Trump people who seem to be on the wrong side of the CIA and FBI, it seems appropriate:

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

Sample Lyric:

I’m havin’ nasty nasty visions,

And baby you’re in every one.

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 13, 2017

Wrongo and Ms. Right went to a concert by Buster Poindexter on Saturday. Poindexter is a stage persona for David Johansen, a glam rocker from the 1970s, when he fronted a group called the New York Dolls. Poindexter’s thing is to look suave and sophisticated, holding a drink, while singing an eclectic song book. He tries to say something humorous as a lead-in to the next song. His first comment was that he had been drinking steadily since November 9th.

The venue is in rock-solid conservative territory, but the line mostly drew laughs from a decidedly middle-age audience, except for one guy who screamed “bullshit” loudly and often during Poindexter’s first song. Eventually, the local police came, and the guy became a model of passive resistance, going to the floor limp, and unresponsive. After assuring themselves he hadn’t collapsed, the police ushered him out to a standing ovation, again, in a solidly Republican part of Connecticut. But think about this:

That sort of indicates that Trump voters are a forgiving lot. They were prepared to lock up Hillary Clinton for using a private email server because it jeopardized national security. Now the Trump administration is doing the same thing, and many think its no big thing. From The Hill: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The [poll] results are surprising, considering Trump’s campaign included calling out Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while she was Secretary of State.

According to Newsweek, at least four senior officials in President Trump’s White House have active accounts on a private Republican National Committee (RNC) email system. Counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, chief strategist and senior counselor Stephen Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner all have rnchq.org email accounts. More from Newsweek: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The system (rnchq.org) is the same one the George W. Bush administration was accused of using to evade transparency rules after claiming to have “lost” 22 million emails.

Think about that. If it weren’t for double standards, Republicans would have no standards at all. But maybe the crowd reaction at the Poindexter concert showed us something: Buyer’s Remorse.

Remorseful Republican voters can help bigly in 2020 (and maybe in 2018), because all it takes is a few of them to make a difference in who becomes the next president. Presidential elections are won on the narrowest of margins, so if, 3-4% of Trump voters show remorse and flip, or decide to stay home, Trump could lose by a wide margin, even while maintaining the vast majority of his support.

Moreover, if many of them are demoralized or turned off by 2018 that could flip midterm Senate seats. Think back to 2006: the Democratic Senate pickups that year were in four states Bush had won (MT, VA, MO, OH) and one he had only lost by 2.5% (PA), which ended up in a 17 point blowout. Why? GW Bush voters stayed home, or switched.

OTOH, the only Republicans up in 2018 are the ones who survived 2006 and 2012, the year the Tea Party decided to debate “legitimate rape”).

There is virtually no way to make the 2018 map good. There are only 9 Republican-held seats up for election at all; three of those would have to go to Democrats in order to flip the Senate, even if all the vulnerable Democratic seats were held. The best that can be hoped for is mitigating the damage.

As Kathleen Parker in the WaPo said:

Thus far, Trump and his henchmen have conducted a full frontal assault on civil liberties, open government and religious freedom, as well as instigating or condoning a cascade of ethics violations ranging from the serious (business conflicts of interest) to the absurd (attacking a department store for dropping his daughter’s fashion line). And, no, it’s not just a father defending his daughter. It’s the president of the US bullying a particular business and, more generally, making a public case against free enterprise.

Parker is a conservative columnist. To an objective observer, it would seem that quite a few Republicans will decide not to defend the indefensible.

To help them arise from their slumbers, which at least a few did on Saturday night, here is Buster Poindexter with Hot, Hot, Hot from 1987:

That’s Bill Murray pouring the martini @ 2:00.

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

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Saturday Soother – February 11, 2017

Tons of moving parts this week. Jeff Sessions and Tom Price were confirmed; the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed Trump a setback in his plan to keep most Muslims out of the country, making our Overlord 0-2 vs. the justice system. The tweets continued; Elizabeth Warren was told to shut up, and Kellyanne was shut down for pumping Ivanka’s merch on a Fox news show.

But the big news for Wrongo was hearing on the BBC about National Security Advisor Michael Flynn: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

[Flynn] couldn’t be certain that he didn’t discuss sanctions with Russia’s Ambassador [Kislyak] to the US on December 29, 2016.

In December, it was rumored that Gen. Flynn had done exactly that, which brought denials from the Trump transition team. You may remember that Mike Pence said in an interview with CBS News that he had spoken with Flynn about the matter. Pence said there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. To suggest otherwise, he said: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the [Trump’s] candidacy.

Of course, December 29, 2016 was not during the campaign. Now, the WaPo has a blockbuster story indicating that Flynn did talk to the Russians:

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn privately discussed US sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former US officials said.

More from WaPo:

Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

All of those officials said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.

MoJo reports that on Friday, the Trump administration confirmed that Flynn did speak to the Russians about sanctions.

This means that Flynn was working against established US policy. He was telling Moscow not to worry about new sanctions imposed by Obama, and to stand by until Trump was inaugurated, which is what Russia did.

In some quarters, this is aiding an enemy. It also was dumb, since US intelligence routinely intercepts Russian conversations. The WaPo indicates that a transcript of Flynn’s conversation was passed among the intelligence community.

This is not the way a senior national security official should behave. He isn’t fit for the office he holds, he should be fired.

Gen. Flynn clearly needs a soothing something after the week he is having, and you do too. So grab a hot cup of cocoa, put your feet up and listen to “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” by Franz Liszt, composed in 1847 and performed here by Katica Illényi, a Hungarian violinist, with the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011:

If you grew up with Saturday cartoons on the tube, this will sound familiar. It has been featured in Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Krazy Kat and Tom & Jerry cartoons, and in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

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

A Bonus Video: Illényi is one of the few people who plays the Theremin. Here she is playing “Only You” by the Platters:

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

 

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Where Boys Are Boys, and You, Ms. Warren, Are Not

(Scroll to the bottom of the page for the Daily Escape)

When we allow the silencing of our Senators, we allow the silencing of our democracy. HuffPo reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rose on Tuesday and objected to a speech Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was giving in opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general.

McConnell took particular issue with Warren as she quoted a letter written by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, when Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986.

McConnell invoked the little-used Rule XIX, which says that “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” King’s letter argues that, during Sessions’ time as a prosecutor in Alabama, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” It was that portion of the letter that McConnell read back to the presiding officer, arguing that it was over the line.

The Republican presiding in the chair, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, agreed with McConnell, ruling her in violation of the order and forcing her to sit down.

“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren replied.

It seems the voices of both Sen. Warren and the late Coretta Scott King are now unwelcome in the Senate’s old boys’ club, even though Ms. King’s words were placed in the Senate’s records 30 years ago. This from Booman: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

Rule 19 is a good rule that helps prevent canings on the Senate floor. But it really should never apply to a senator who is under consideration for confirmation to another office. If Warren and Merkley were reading these historical documents just to make Sessions look bad while they were arguing over the budget that would be a legitimate violation of the rules. But these documents [King’s letter] were germane to Sessions’ fitness for the office of Attorney General in the same way that his tax returns and voting record are germane.

Republicans regularly call their opponents corrupt traitors. The NYT reports that both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) appear to have violated the rule according to its true intent, without having it invoked against them. In 2015, Cruz called McConnell a liar. But he’s a Republican man, while Sen. Warren is out of line for quoting the widow of a titan of American history. Got it.

Apparently McConnell thinks that a Senator nominated for a Cabinet position isn’t a nominee. They remain a Senator, and the ability of other Senators to criticize their nomination is subject to Rule 19. That is a misuse of the rule, and McConnell abused his power. And he did more to raise awareness about Sessions’ racist past than he did to safeguard Sessions’ “character.” Republicans know that Warren’s Senate performances have a long afterlife on YouTube, so they tried to prevent another one, but failed.

Had they let her read it, it would have been seen by only a few thousand late night C-SPAN watchers. Instead, her Facebook video reading the Coretta Scott King letter had 7.8 million views by Wednesday afternoon.

The GOP’s self-inflicted wound is shutting down a white woman reading a letter written by a black woman who lost her toweringly famous husband in the struggle for equality, a letter which criticized the racism of a Southern white man, during Black History Month. The Oregonian reported:

Hours after GOP leaders blocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Merkley picked it up and read the document uninterrupted.

So, after they shut down one Democratic Senator, McConnell allowed a different Democrat to read the letter? What’s the difference?

Your Daily Escape: Stuttgart City Library, built in 2011

 

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 5, 2017

Another Orwellian week. We have a Supreme Court nominee who joked in his yearbook that he was president of a “Fascists Forever” club in prep school (its just a JOKE, why are you so upset at a joke?), the GOP redefined “repeal and replace” Obamacare to “repair” and “replace”. There was a botched special ops raid by Trump in Yemen that he later blamed on Obama. And Fox News gave helpful instructions to the hive:

The article is called: “How to behave in the age of Trump? Five essential lessons for Republicans”. Their guy did win, but even patriotic, heterosexual Conservatives aren’t always going to buy everything that the Orange Overlord is selling, without some instruction. Here are a few of Fox’s commandments:

1 . Don’t help the Democrats

We get it, maybe you don’t like Trump…maybe you are not certain he is a real conservative…Maybe you are right…But this is not about you. The Democrats are busily marginalizing themselves by being shrill, caustic, and vulgar. Give them room to do this…

  1. Show Restraint

Don’t take potshots…One more tweet on the oddity that was the first press briefing by the press secretary helps no one…See point number 1, do not help the Democrats.

  1. Give the Trump Presidency a Chance to Succeed

Trump had no chance of winning. So now, the same line of thinking holds that he has no chance of being a successful president…Every Republican needs to accept this truth — you need him to succeed, for the good of the country, and the party.

Having been the vocal, disrespectful minority for a considerable time, it stands to reason they might not yet know how to deal with success.On to humor.

Hypocrisy was on full display by Mitch McConnell:

Gorsuch’s nomination proves that the GOP knows nothing about irony:

The National Prayer Breakfast showed Trump at his best:

Trump’s call for allowing religion in politics is Islam tested, Ayatollah approved:

Trump fails in his first use of our military in Yemen:

The reality of Super Bowl parties:

 

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