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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – June 17, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Fuji, Japan- photo by Takashi Yasui

The news and the pundits are non-stop in their analysis of the shooting in DC that critically wounded Republican Congressman Steve Scalise and 3 others. Much has been written, but Wrongo likes what Charlie Pierce wrote the best:

Violence doesn’t “intrude” on everyday life in America. Violence is a part of everyday life in America. A little more than a week ago, five people were shot to death in warehouse in Orlando. Is a warehouse in Orlando less innocent than a Virginia ballfield? Is a disgruntled worker taking his mad vengeance less of a demonstration of a country unhinged than a home-inspection specialist who fried his brain over politics? Is somebody who wounds over politics a worse murderer than someone who kills because he got fired? I admire the ability of anyone who can make that measured a moral choice.

On the whole, people shouldn’t get shot. They shouldn’t get shot in the streets. They shouldn’t get shot in school. They shouldn’t get shot in the workplace. They shouldn’t get shot while carrying snack food in the “wrong” neighborhood, and they shouldn’t get shot while they’re trying to surrender. They shouldn’t get shot while dancing in a nightclub. And they shouldn’t get shot on the ballfield on a spring morning.

In the main, one victim is not more “innocent”—and, thus, of more value—than any other one. Their occupation shouldn’t matter. Their politics shouldn’t matter. There is a violence inherent in the country’s history and there is a wildness present in its soul and, on occasion, both of these surface more clearly than is usual. Technology has made the violence more lethal and the wildness more general. The uniquely American conflation of innocence with hubris is a luxury we can no longer afford.

OTOH, according to Heather Digby Parton:

Meanwhile, 93 people on average are shot and killed every day in America, many of them in incidents involving multiple victims. More than 100,000 people are struck by bullets every year. President Donald Trump was right to speak about “carnage” in America in his inaugural address. He just didn’t acknowledge that the carnage is from gun violence. According to the gun safety website The Trace:

Using data from the World Health Organization, researchers found that America accounted for 82 percent of all firearm deaths among 23 comparable nations in 2010. Ninety percent of women killed by guns in the study were in the U.S., as were 91 percent of children under 15.

There is no solution for this that will fly politically in this country. The gun-toter, and the no guns crowds are already spinning their version of the narrative to the crowd that sits in the pews directly in front of them.

America just has to accept that this is perhaps the most concrete way in which America is exceptional, and, it.just.sucks.

It is difficult to get to a soothing place on this Saturday, with all that has happened. Also, my brother died a year ago this week. Back in the late 1970’s he was (very) down on his luck, and each weekend, he would come to visit Ms. Right and me to get fattened up for the coming week. He would walk into the house, grab the album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and play its opening track, Funeral for a Friend”. There would be no talking until 11 minutes later when it ended:

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

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Some Thoughts on L’affaire Comey

The Daily Escape:

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand – photo by Niels Holm

For the past few days, it has been “All Comey, all the time”, both in America and around the world.

You can count Wrongo as one of those who thinks that Comey made some huge mistakes trying to position himself after his take-down of Hillary Clinton, and her self-inflicted email disaster. You can also count Wrongo as thinking that Hillary’s loss was mostly her own fault. That means that you can also count Wrongo as agnostic regarding whether the Russians were behind the hack into the Democratic National Committee, or that their intervention was because they wanted to help Trump win the election.

Democrats argue that Trump and/or members of his administration are “soft on Russia”. Democrats have adopted a neo-con worldview that just a few years ago, they would have hated: That policies are either pro-America or pro-Russia. And, it’s in that pro-Russian box that Democrats are trying to stuff The Donald.

This makes Democrats blind to the possibility that people (even Trump!) could genuinely believe that it’s in America’s interest to be friendlier to Russia. That we could cooperate on certain issues without being agents of Putin. Perhaps you remember that Obama said just that in his first term.

So let’s turn to Comey’s firing. Thursday’s NYT had a complete listing of members of the House and Senate and their reaction(s) to the firing. And yes, if you went back a few years to Republican calls for special prosecutors to examine Democrats, the script was flipped, with most Dems then taking the position that Republicans are taking today.

It’s the kind of game that has become acceptable in today’s Washington swamp.

Wrongo isn’t happy with Comey’s performance as FBI director, but we now stand on the edge of a precipice without him. He ran into trouble because AG Loretta Lynch had to recuse herself during the Clinton email investigation. That led to his free-lancing, and his inexplicable testimony. Then AG Sessions had to recuse himself from any Russia-related investigation. And shortly thereafter, the tempo of the investigation changed, and Comey needed someone to approve additional resources for the Russia investigation. The WSJ reported:

Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago…Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion.

Now, the firing of Comey opens up the FBI and the DOJ, by custom and tradition an agency that is independent from politics, to outside political control, to a new director forcing a reduction in funding or other resources critical to the investigation.

Ostensibly, the issue isn’t the fact that Comey was fired. It’s about the timing. In turn, that is directly linked to the fact that the FBI is investigating Trump. Most think that the FBI Russia operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives. They think that the Comey firing is an effort to slow down, or wind down, the investigation prematurely.

The question is, will the new FBI director do either of those things? Wouldn’t the FBI agents involved in the investigation revolt/go public if a new director defunded the effort, and/or reduced the commitment to it? And the FBI is not running the investigation by itself. Their investigation is overseen by prosecutors. We heard this week that there is a grand jury. We hear that they’re issuing subpoenas. That’s not being done by the FBI. It’s being done by prosecutors in the DOJ.

And that’s where the ball sits. The American people have to rely on AG Jeff Sessions, who may be recused, but who guarantees that? Or it rests with Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein, who is in the job for a couple of weeks. Or it rests with a to-be-appointed FBI Director. Bloomberg is reporting that Trump is considering former Congressman and former FBI agent Mike Rogers, who is far too political, or former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is all hat and no cattle.

There are hundreds of thousands of stories and millions of words being written about this. Trump shouldn’t expect this to go away.

In fact, he should publicly support getting to the bottom of it, rather than acting like Richard Nixon. That didn’t end well.

Some music: Here are the Waifs, an Australian blues/rock band formed in 1992, fronted by two sisters, doing “Crazy Train”. It’s the train America is on right now:

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

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Sean Spicer Searches Staff

The Daily Escape:

(Baby Baboon – Kenya)

Trump press secretary Sean Spicer is trying to catch the sources of White House leaks. (Link below sourced by the Wrongologist)

Spicer called his White House staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the continuing leaks of WH information, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, is a violation of the Federal Records Act.

NOW they care about the law? Using a Republican National Committee email server for official business is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped the White House from using it. Does Spicer have any concerns about the unsecured Android smartphone his boss tweets from every day? More:

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

Spicer then specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media.

But someone in the room leaked all of it. They leaked that the leaky White House is trying to stop the leaks, (except for WikiLeaks) which, of course they love. Maybe someone should take a look at The Donald, who is currently taking a leak on the First Amendment.

Perhaps the gang who can’t shoot straight should have realized that people could delete incriminating information, or communicate with reporters in some way that might not be on their phones at all. Wrongo reveres the TV series “The Wire”. Apparently, Mr. Spicer has never watched it, and hasn’t heard of “burner” phones.

And it’s got to be difficult trying to maintain your loyalty to a team when the boss distrusts the team members. Unless there is a national security issue, there can’t be a reason to allow a government official to “inspect” your private mobile phone.

Many fun nicknames have been suggested for Sean Spicer (Cranky Spice, Whiny Spice). Wrongo’s current favorite is “Searchy Spice”, although his nickname in college was “Sean Sphincter” suggesting that he is in the right job: Hanging out with one of the world’s biggest assholes.

Thank you to the brave Americans inside the belly of the beast who put their country first. LEAK ON!

Next week in Spicer’s office: colonoscopies.

Here is a video about office investigations from the ever-popular TV series, “Office” (BBC version):

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

And enjoy (not) watching the Overlord’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight.

After all, you can read both fake news and alternative facts about it everywhere tomorrow.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(A Great Grey Owl on the hunt – photo by Christina Anne m)

The last weekend in February is now in the rear view mirror. The shortest month seemed like an eternity to most of us. Even thinking about looking forward is madness, March Madness that is, a favorite time for Wrongo, one of the few times when watching televised sports dominates at the Mansion of Wrong.

Perhaps you have heard that Mr. Trump will not be attending the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner roast. Instead, maybe the press can get George W. Bush to show up, and search under the podium for a free press, like he did when pretending to look for WMD at the WHCA Dinner in 2004.

The Wrong family is off to Florida this week for the annual visit to his family. So columns may be like the Florida breezes, light and variable.

Remember Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which for some of you is your last guilt-free celebration until Easter. If you prefer less partying and more angst, by all means watch Donald Trump’s Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress.

Politico reports that House Democrats plan to troll Trump during the speech. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), is leading an effort to have his colleagues bring diverse guests to the speech on Tuesday. The effort is designed to focus on Trump’s immigration and refugee policies, perhaps stealing a bit of the spotlight from the president’s speech. Wrongo’s advice to Dems is to respect the office of the president. They can sit on their hands when Republicans applaud the Overlord, but they should avoid overt displays that make them look like loonies on the floor of the Congress. Wrongo’s further advice is not to attend this manufactured event. After all, there is no requirement in law or custom for it; it isn’t a “State of the Union” speech. And it’s the first time since Eisenhower that a president has given this type of out-of-sequence address.

So don’t expect that each time Trump tells a whopper, Dems will yell out “you lie!” despite the fact that since Republican Rep. Joe Wilson did it to Obama, it seems to be ok. And most likely if the Orange Overlord is speaking, this time, it will also be true.

So let’s wake up with a song about lyin’ politicians. Here is “Politician Lies by Steve M:

Sample Lyrics:

Politician lies
Hide what money buys.
They know right from wrong
Still they come on like King Kong
With a fat superpac
You can’t get them off your back.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 26, 2017

Five weeks into the Trump Ascendancy, and things look worse than ever. Wrongo has not had much time for the Trump/Russia conspiracy. If anything beyond the DNC hack surfaces, we can discuss the possibility of election interference. But as of now…unpersuaded. That is, until this coincidence occurred at CPAC:

From the Atlantic:

Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned “TRUMP” in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags.

The stunt made waves on social media, as journalists covering CPAC noticed the scramble to confiscate the flags. It was a gutsy and (mostly) harmless gag, unless you count the damage to Conservative egos. That the gag was carried out by two people who should fit the neo-con profile for Normal and Safe shows that the tribe cannot tell members from interlopers.

Trump’s team refused to let accredited journalists from certain news outlets attend Trump press secretary Sean Spicer’s “gaggle” on Friday. This is where American news is heading:

It is more important than ever to know who the real enemy is:

Kim Jong-Un channels the Donald, and there are surprising similarities:

Trump walks away from supporting LGBT rights:

GOP Congresscritters are terrorized about meeting their constituents:

 

 

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February 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Baby duckling from Amazed By Animals)

Republicans in Arizona came up with a legislative response to Democratic and Independent protesters now that their party has started seeing energized protests at town halls and in their downtown areas. (There was a 15,000 person protest in Tucson in January) They plan to criminalize protests by seizing the assets of anyone involved even in lawful assembly.

On a party-line vote of 17-13, Arizona Republican state senators voted to give police new powers to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration — even before anything bad actually happens. From the Arizona Capitol Times:

SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others. But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association — and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated.

It’s beginning to sound like you could join a protest in Arizona, and face RICO charges if someone so much as breaks a window.

With their new-found political power, Republicans will no longer tolerate dissent, and they plan to use the police power of the state to crush those who disagree. Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that chilling effect is aimed at a very specific group of protesters:

A lot of them are ideologues, some of them are anarchists…But this stuff is all planned.

There’s more: By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest even those who are planning events. Kavanagh added:

Wouldn’t you rather stop a riot before it starts? Do you really want to wait until people are injuring each other, throwing Molotov cocktails, picking up barricades and smashing them through businesses in downtown Phoenix?

The bill now moves to the Arizona House. While that moves forward, we have moved into an era of authoritarian rule in America.

And you are watching it happen in real-time.

Americans have the right to peacefully assemble, we have the right to free speech, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Even though the Tea party was very vocal for the last 8 years; GOP legislators didn’t think that their protests needed to be shut down, or their organizers prosecuted.

Republicans are making a hash of the Constitution, they have no intention of acting in the best interest of all of their citizens. This is a violation of their oath of office. Taking away our right to protest by penalizing potential protesters with threats of asset forfeiture and/or intimidation, is not our America.

Here is Peter Garrett with “It Still Matters”. You may remember Garrett as the lead singer of the Australian band Midnight Oil. He was also a Labor Party member of the House of Representatives for New South Wales from October 2004 to August 2013. Here is “It Still Matters”:

Tell Arizona Republicans that the Constitution still matters to the rest of us.

Sample Lyrics:
Watching the parade on the news last night
I was one that walked that road before
When everything feels like its crumbling
Like the writing’s on the wall

It still matters to me
I hope it matters to you

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 19, 2017

President Trump is engaged in an open war on the US press. While he can’t be impeached for that, it is time to recognize what he intends: His plan is to neutralize what is our most vital check on authoritarianism. If he succeeds, it will still be called the “free press”, but we will hear only the official story from the White House. Our media must change its game, or democracy will die. Right now, its Trump’s facts first, and THE facts second, if at all. This is a battle the public must make certain Trump loses. Only 47 months to go…

Trump’s press conference was all we needed to know:

The Westminster dog show was controversial in some circles:

There were leaks on both coasts last week:

Netanyahu met with the Donald:

Betsy DeVos hit the ground running:

The conclusion after one month in office:

But it’s a tiny handbasket.

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Saturday Soother – February 18, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Home library, Dallas TX)

It’s Saturday, and Wrongo wishes he was sitting in that beautiful 5,000 book home library, drinking a Grande Chai Latte, listening to music, and distracted from the world at large.

But reluctantly, Wrongo watched some of Trump’s press conference on Thursday (transcript and video here). His presentation style is obnoxious. He adds opinions and adjectives to everything that he, or anyone else says. The point is that he NEEDS to tell you that his shit is great, and yours stinks.

He has memorized a list of both positive and negative adjectives, and he fires them in volleys as he speaks. He said that he has made “incredible progress” so far. Every new POTUS claims to make progress on something in the early weeks, but generally, they leave it to the media and public to evaluate the claim. Trump however, gives us the first glowing review of his work, and if possible, the first negative review of his opponents.

This is highly problematic for fact-based observers, because they have to evaluate not only “progress” but “incredible progress”

He is willing to lie about things that a ten year old could fact check. A lot of his shtick is a continuation of his basic campaign speech, and nobody needs to waste time refuting that BS. We can just roll our eyes, and move on.

However, we should be very concerned about how completely he controlled the press conference. It seemed to Wrongo that the press corps acted in a less than first-rate manner when on their feet. They had few sharp or pointed questions, and they allowed Trump to repeatedly call them out for trading in fake news.

Why didn’t anyone point out that the slow confirmation process for Cabinet positions is due mostly to Trump naming his appointees late, followed by submitting the required paperwork slowly?

Trump gets away with his whining because the press spends time trying to play “gotcha” with the Jedi Master of gotcha: Did you see what he did to Rep. Elijah Cummings? They should be exposing that half of what Trump thinks he knows is wrong. But he sure knows how to hold a press conference, and we should probably expect him to do more of them than any previous POTUS.

The Trumpets like the notion that he’s going to “Shake things up“, but he plans to go well beyond shaking things up. For example, he wants to change the balance of power with the other two branches, and it appears that many of his supporters actually want that to happen.

It he pulls that off, say bye-bye democracy.

Wrongo gets incensed when powerful people attack the weak and vulnerable. He believes in the importance and value of facts and rational thought. But Trump, and his so-called mainstream Republican buddies keep moving farther and farther away from these values.

We could try to look at each lie or obfuscation in Trump’s press conference, but something is lost when you look at the trees rather than the forest.

And its Trump’s forest of total bullshit that needs to be chopped down by what remains of the independent media.

Enough! It’s Saturday, and we need to kick back and relax. Here is Anne-Sophie Mutter playing “Méditation”, which is a symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs by French composer Jules Massenet. The piece is written for solo violin and orchestra. The opera premiered in Paris in 1894:

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

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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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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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