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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – July 7, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Piebald fawn at rescue center, Sherman CT – June, 2018 photo by JH Cleary

It was a week in which Wrongo rode the Cape Cod bike trails every day, got up at 4:15 am one day to get to Coast Guard Beach at high tide to surf cast for Striped Bass, and catch none. We ate very well, mostly seafood. We watched fireworks on the Cape Cod Bay side, which gave a great view of fireworks displays by at least 10 towns, from Boston around to Provincetown on the Cape.

We experienced all of this with kids and grandkids, it was a relaxing time.

One benefit was that we didn’t see a newspaper or a newscast the entire week. But everyone’s phones lit up with news about Scott Pruitt’s walk off the stage in DC, the soccer kids in Thailand, and who would be Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

But as we downshift into the weekend, Wrongo wants to talk about a big, bad idea that Democrats can’t seem to stop talking about. It is “Abolish ICE”, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, that’s a part of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE has been a part of our lives since 2003, when it was created in the government’s reorganization after Sept. 11, 2001. But calls to abolish ICE take focus away from a winning issue for Democrats: Republicans separating asylum-seeking families at the border.

ICE doesn’t do that; it’s being done by Customs and Border Protection, who run the Border Patrol. As the WaPo points out, yelling about abolishing ICE is a gift to Republicans in November. Karen Tumulty says even serious Democratic contenders for president in 2020 are saying it:

ICE has become a deportation force, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told CNN. Get rid of it. Start over. Reimagine it.

Well, Wrongo thinks she’s a serious candidate.

It’s clear that ICE and the Border Patrol are staffed mostly with goons who would just as soon trample your Constitutional rights as they would separate a kid from an immigrant. But, we shouldn’t be thinking of replacing them, so much as adopting our own “zero tolerance” policy for their bad behavior and constant dickitude.

Since Democrats don’t have a clear solution for reforming ICE, they should drop the issue and focus on the child separation question, where the law and public opinion is on their side. Otherwise, calls to eliminate ICE will be spun by Republicans as undermining the security of the nation’s borders.

Also, Democrats’ calls to abolish ICE distracts from the real villain in the immigration crisis and the separation of immigrant families – Donald Trump. ICE just executes orders received from the Trump administration. ICE can certainly be improved, but the function ICE performs is necessary to the security of this country. Besides, every nation has organizations that manage immigration and customs.

Trump is the person who initiated the program to separate immigrant families. Dems shouldn’t water down his culpability with a misplaced focus on ICE.

Ok, time to see if we can get soothed a little while we wait to see who the Trump Supreme Court nominee will be. Let’s start by brewing a big cup of Tanzanian Peaberry coffee ($15.75/lb.) from Coffee Bean Direct. They say that its flavor is punctuated by an intoxicating, chocolaty aroma with a rich, winey body that is surprisingly versatile and perfect for any time of day.

Sounds like marketing lingo to Wrongo, but, go for it!

Now, find a quiet air-conditioned spot with a comfortable chair and listen to “Concierto de Aranjuez” written in 1939 by Joaquín Rodrigo. Here we see it from the 1996 movie “Brassed Off”, which is set 10  years after a strike in 1984–85 by the National Union of Mineworkers in Britain. At the time of the movie, coal mines (called pits in Britain) are being closed. One of the mines scheduled to close has a brass band. The movie shows the circumstances of the coal miners who are losing their jobs through their band’s performances.

The soundtrack for the film was provided by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band:

This might possibly foreshadow what will happen to unions in America with last week’s Supreme Court decision saying that government workers who choose not to join unions, do not have to pay for collective bargaining. This makes them free riders and dramatically cuts the money that these unions have to operate with.

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

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Fourth of July, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Wellfleet MA Oyster Farm – 2018 photo by Erin O’Shea Oakes

Today, we spent a couple of hours with Bob Wallace, proprietor of Billingsgate Shellfish, an oyster and clam “farm” in Wellfleet. We had a dozen of Bob’s oysters at C-Shore restaurant in Wellfleet the night before, and wanted to see his work up close, so Chef Bob introduced us to Oysterman Bob.

Bob leased about 5 acres of tidal salt marsh from the town of Wellfleet in 1983. He was the original farmer of Wellfleet oysters, but now, as the popularity of these tasty bivalves has grown, he has substantial competition, with many others leasing grants all around him.

The enormous tidal flow in Wellfleet Bay is part of what makes its oysters so tasty. We were able to walk out to the farm in very shallow water, which became sand in less than an hour. But we knew that in a few hours, the sand we were standing on would be under five+ feet of water.

Its backbreaking work. The oysters and clams are moved from patch to patch at least annually as they grow. Bob has big clients in NYC, and many on Cape Cod and around New England. On Tuesday, he had to harvest, clean, bag and ship 2,000 oysters, and he had just one person helping, so his time was precious.

Thanks Bob, for spending time educating us!

We should remember that 155 years ago yesterday, the Union won at Gettysburg. On July 3, 1863, the three-day Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, PA ended in a major victory for the North, when Confederate troops failed to breach Union positions during Pickett’s Charge, their all-out assault that resulted in horrific losses.

And on July 4th, Ulysses S. Grant crossed the Mississippi River and drove into the Confederate Army’s defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, and capturing it significantly degraded the Confederacy’s ability to maintain its war effort.

And also on July 3rd, in 1775, 243 years ago, Gen. George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

That all worked out pretty well for the US. Happy 4th, but have more than a burger, or hot dog and a beer…

Think about our history, and how it makes us who we are today.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Cape Cod Edition

The Daily Escape:

Cape Cod morning – 1950 painting by Edward Hopper

(Today, Wrongo and Ms. Right are on our way to Cape Cod for a few days of bonfires, bicycling, surfcasting, and hanging with kids and grandkids. Blogging will be infrequent, but you can expect a Saturday Soother on, well, Saturday.)

This morning, Wrongo feels the need to bore you with a concept from historian Peter Turchin, taken from his book Ages of Discord, which provides some insight into where America is today. Turchin posits that historical eras are either integrative periods when people find reasons to cooperate, and join forces, or disintegrative periods, when reasons to split apart become dominant.

Turchin identifies three key factors that can create the disintegrative periods:

  • Competition and conflict among an expanding population of elites
  • Declining real wage for an expanding population of workers
  • State financial collapse (unpayable debt)

Does any of that sound familiar? Turchin’s theory is that history experiences cycles which, in non-industrialized economies, tend to last between 200-300 years. In America, the cycles from start to finish are much shorter, about 150 years, due to a faster pace of change.

His demonstrates his theory about a positive phase (the integrative phase) and a negative phase (the disintegrative phase) in the first of two American cycles, from 1780 to 1920. The positive phase lasted from about 1780 to about 1840, while the negative phase lasted from about 1840 to about 1920. Turchin contends that the second American cycle began in 1920, and is not yet complete. The positive phase lasted from 1920 to around 1970, and the negative stage has lasted from 1970 to the present.

He contends that the best parts of positive eras typically last only a generation or two, such as 1810 – 1840, and 1940 – 1970 in the US, before elite individuals and groups abandon consensus politics to pursue ever harsher exploitation and competition to enrich themselves.

A cycle begins with an undersupply of labor, such as happened after the American Revolution. This shortage of labor caused a rise in real wages and general economic progress. This positive phase peaked around 1820. It was a time that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812.

But the division between the industrial North and the slaveholding, agrarian South continued, creating rivalry among the elites, along with political polarization, culminating in the Civil War. The negative phase of the cycle continued afterward, with massive strikes, many of them violent, in the late 19th Century. Meanwhile, income inequality peaked during the Gilded Age as elites profited from low worker’s wages and poor working conditions.

In modern America, we are largely governed by religious, geographic (local, state and federal), and economic institutions. And many compete with each other for resources, and the separation of powers among them is becoming hazy. Today, our “economic” government is the corporation.

If you think about it, our current political struggles are between geographic governments and both the religious and economic ones. Republicans, and many Democrats, support the efforts of both to increase their influence over the lives of the people, often through the geographic governments.

And this isn’t simply a minor change in who is doing the governing, they threaten our democracy.

We’re blowing up our institutions, but it’s not in reaction to any looming danger. It’s because we’ve been conned into thinking that September 11 was the same as Pearl Harbor. And the threat of immigrants today is the same as the threat of a Japanese invasion was in 1941. And that modern social policies threaten the religions of some people.

Time to wake up America! We cannot surrender to fear, to corporatism, or to forever war. We have entered a disintegrative phase, but there is time to pull out of it.

If you care.

To help you wake up, here is Pink Floyd with “Ordinary Men” from their classic album, “Dark Side of the Moon”:

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

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 1, 2018

Welcome to Sunday. It’s beastly hot in the Northeast of the US. Three things to help you cool off: Did you realize that the Trump/Putin Summit in Helsinki on July 16, takes place one day after soccer’s World Cup final? We know that Trump doesn’t care about soccer, but since the World Cup is taking place in Russia, Putin wouldn’t meet until after the World Cup was over. They settled on having the meeting the very next day.

Second, everyone should read Cheryl Russell’s blog. She is the former editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine. She recently wrote about median household income:

Median household income in May 2018 climbed to $61,858, according to Sentier Research. This is a higher median than in any month since January 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The May 2018 median was 1.8% higher than the May 2017 median.

Median household income in May was 3.7% higher than the median of December 2007, when the Great Recession began. It is 13.3% higher than the post-Great Recession low of June 2011. The trend line has been positive for nearly seven years. This should be looked at very carefully by people who think Democrats have an easy path to winning the House of Representatives this fall.

Third, it’s doubtful you knew that the University of Tulsa has an Institute of Bob Dylan Studies. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa acquired the Bob Dylan Archives, and now is the national hotbed of all things Dylan. Unsurprisingly, Dylan hasn’t visited.

On to cartoons. Mitch is large and in charge:

Republicans treat the Constitution like they do the Bible, picking and choosing parts they like for personal benefit:

Trump picks a surprising nominee:

(And the GOP would probably confirm him.)

Kids need to get their priorities straight:

Trump has new idea for the Wall:

Supreme Court hands public unions a big loss:

Bonus: 2012 Tom Toles cartoon on the Court. Bottom line − we all lost:

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Saturday Soother – June 30, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Spice Stall, Istanbul, Turkey – 2013 photo by Wrongo

This week, there was plenty of talk about “Trump Fatigue”. This, from Just Above Sunset is a good example:

The Trump presidency has been exhausting. Maybe that was the idea. It’s one outrageous thing after another. Everything is “big news” – but when everything is big news nothing is. Everyone goes numb. The United States now has concentration camps for children? Canada is now our enemy and North Korea is not? CNN gave up. Every single news story is “Breaking News” there…but everyone else is tired of this. That was the idea. Make America shrug. They won’t know what hit them. They just don’t care. They’ve had enough. They’ll worry about their own lives. Trump will be Trump. Life will go on.

The biggest, baddest, worst-est bad news was the retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. When the court reconvenes in October, there is likely to be a majority willing at least to gut, if not formally overrule, Roe v. Wade. The hope that the Supreme Court will enforce voting rights is now dead. The Court will not strike down gerrymandering, despite ample evidence that it renders quite a few elections undemocratic. And this week, in supporting Trump’s Muslim Ban, it said it was overturning Korematsu vs. The United States. In fact, it really reaffirmed it, under the guise of overruling it.

We had another mass shooting. This time it’s five journalists dead at the hands of a shotgun-toting man with a grudge against the paper: he lost a defamation suit against it in 2015. So the media presents us with yet another day of video loops from helicopters showing police cars and emergency vehicles lined up, and a ceaseless round of cable TV reporters trying new ways to say they have nothing new to report.

Trump is planning a summit with Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Finland. Maybe it’s his annual performance review, maybe it’s just an effort to get superpower relations on a better track. Hard to know.

We will be getting a new Democratic Congressperson in NY’s 4th district. A 28 year-old first-time candidate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will replace Joe Crowley in the Queens-Bronx district that includes Archie Bunker’s old neighborhood. But the old neighborhood ain’t what it used to be. Today the district is roughly 50% Latino and 25% other minorities. It is unclear if this portends anything for Republican House seats in November.

Wrongo knows that our only hope is voter turnout in November. But, has there been a fair election in this century? Probably not. The media and the Republicans will say that our democratic process continues, but as the NYT reported:

Eight of the tech industry’s most influential companies, in anticipation of a repeat of the Russian meddling that occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign, met with United States intelligence officials last month to discuss preparations for this year’s midterm elections.

The conclusion was that the US government is doing nothing to secure the 2018 vote. Apparently, the Trump administration is hoping for a red wave in November. Combine their hope with SCOTUS’s apparent support of gerrymandering, and we can practically guarantee that our democracy is dying.

And here’s a cartoon that can’t wait until Sunday:

Sorry to be so negative on your Saturday morning. We need to drop this, at least for a little while, and find some way to get a little soothing going. Start by brewing up a vente cup of Laderas del Tapias coffee from Barrington Coffee Roasting Co. in Lee, MA ($21.95/12 oz.), with its chewy fruit flavors of blackberry, plum, and apple. Bostonians can visit their store on Newbury Street.

Head outside to a shady spot. Now, listen to Hugo Alfven’s Swedish Rhapsody No. 1: “Midsommarvaka” (midsummer vigil), written in 1903.  It is performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petri Sakari. The section from ~5:45 to ~9:00 is particularly beautiful:

Percy Faith had a US Top 30 hit with a selection from it in 1953, so it may sound familiar to older readers.

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

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We Need a Real Immigration Policy

The Daily Escape:

George Peabody Library, Baltimore MD – via themindcircle

The immigration issue confounds all the developed countries. People who yearn for a better life hit the road (trail), and try to resettle in a better place. That’s ingrained in human nature, and is unlikely to change. The US has its illegal immigration problems, as does Europe. It is hard to reconcile branding the US as the “shining city on the hill” and then wall America off when people are seduced by the image.

In order to plan for our future, we have to look carefully at forecasts of long term population growth in Central and South America. That’s where the pressure by illegal immigration will most likely come.

According to Worldometers, the current population of Central America is 179.5 million, and it is forecasted to reach 231.6 million by 2050. That means it will be growing at an annual rate of less than .5% by then, down from about 1.3% today. The census bureau forecasts that the US population in 2050 will be 388.4 million.

Importantly, the census bureau says that in 2050, the foreign-born Hispanic origin population will be 6.89% of our total population, up from 6.08% in 2016. If they are correct, we are tearing ourselves apart about what will be an increase of Hispanic origin population of about .8%.

For what it’s worth, the foreign-born white population will grow from 7.91% in 2016 to 9.28% in 2050. It’s growing faster and will be larger than the Hispanic foreign-born population.

All the talk that the majority in the country in 2050 will be minorities is true. However, Whites will still be 47.83% of the population, while Hispanics will be substantially smaller at 25.66%.

We already know that Hispanic immigration isn’t driving the Hispanic percentage of the total, so what problem are we trying to solve? Also, arrests of illegal immigrants at the Southern Border are down significantly in the past couple years. From the WaPo:

But, it appears that the political fallout in 2018 could be immense. Trump paints a picture of societal disintegration if we allow illegal immigrants into the country. He says that Democrats want open borders:

What we have is very simple: We want strong borders, and we want no crime. Strong borders, we want no crime. The Democrats want open borders, and they don’t care about crime, and they don’t care about our military. I care about our military. That’s what we want, and that’s what we’re going to get, and we’re going to get it sooner than people think.

His message is that outsiders sap our strength, they’ll take our jobs, and exploit the freedom and openness of America. Trump is playing politics with people’s lives, and that’s both cruel and immoral. There should be no doubt about his playing politics. He said so in a White House meeting last Friday, as reported by the NYT: (emphasis by Wrongo)

…One person close to the president said that he told advisers that separating families at the border was the best deterrent to illegal immigration and that he said that “my people love it.”

Trump is ginning up the same paranoia about ‘the other’ that is prevalent all over Europe. So far, the GOP has allowed this to happen because in the background, they’re making gains in their overall political agenda, and polls show that the Democrat’s 2018 advantage is narrowing.

We need to take a longer view about immigration, both legal and illegal. Congress has to exercise its law-making prerogative over the migrant issue. We need to stop governance by tweet and executive order.

We shouldn’t forget that we are a vast country, with vast resources. We have been defined by migration, wave after wave of it. Despite the current chaos on the Southern Border, we have the resources to process migrants efficiently. We simply need lawmakers with the courage to see the problem for what it is.

Let’s leave the final word to Bobby Cramer:

Long after we’ve forgotten about what jacket Melania Trump wore, where Sara Huckabee Sanders ate dinner, and all the little “oh-look-at-the-kitty” distractions have come and gone, we’re going to be left with the clean-up that comes after a disaster.  No matter where those refugees end up, we will still be confronting not only what was done to them in the real sense, but also the cost to our nation in terms of being able to set an example of morality and democracy for the rest of our civilization.

We are blending chaos with callousness. What’s the fix?

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Monday Wake Up Call – Bad Journalism Edition

Raul Ilargi of The Automatic Earth gets us thinking about truth in journalism:

The two most viral photographs of the ‘Trump Separation Scandal’ have now been debunked, or at the very least been proven to have been used ‘out of context’. This is a dangerous development, as are the reasons to use them the way they have been. Both pictures are of children who had not been separated from their mothers at all. But both were used to depict just that: a child being taken away from its mother.

Here are the two pictures. The first shows a Honduran toddler sobbing. The photo was taken on June 14th.  It was used widely by the media, with the accompanying message that the child was about to be separated from its mother:

But the NYT reports the child was not separated from her mother. That was reported on June 23rd. Pro-Trump news outlets have had a fine time calling the photo fake news. And the same photo was photoshopped by Time Magazine for a cover that used the little girl juxtaposed with Donald Trump looming over her, with the caption, ”Welcome to America”:

Now, Time may not have known the true status of the child at the time when they made the choice to place her on the cover with Trump, but they’re absolutely ok with using it. The NYT quotes them:

Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment.

But, there is a major difference between illustrating a moment, and reporting. A Facebook funds-raising page using the original photo above inspired hundreds of thousands of people to donate $19 million for a nonprofit legal defense fund for immigrants and refugees.

Is that a good outcome from bad reporting? If people are interested in donating, why trick them into doing it? Back to Ilargi:

That’s what is dangerous: seeing a photo of a child in distress makes people halt their critical thinking. That’s also why such photos are used. They help build a narrative that doesn’t have to be factual to shock people. But at that point TIME becomes a fiction magazine; it’s where it leaves journalism behind.

There also was a picture of a caged little boy crying, “Detained by ICE at a border facility” said the caption:

But the image of the crying, caged young boy, which went viral, was actually taken at a demonstration. RT reports that this photo was shared by activist journalist Jose Antonio Vargas as a comment on the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown on families. More from RT:

It has since emerged that the picture was in fact not from a detention facility at all, and instead was taken at a protest against Trump’s immigration policies held on June 10 outside Dallas City Hall.

Some activists argue that the origin of the photo is irrelevant, that it portrays a true problem, even if this particular image is not a true representation of the facts on the ground.

But we’re on a slippery slope with that reasoning. We shouldn’t be using any available means to message against even a wrong policy.

What’s dangerous about this approach is that if journalists are allowed to spread a narrative that isn’t confirmed as true, they may be “reporting” unsourced stories simply to make a point. Then, no one will ever know fact from fiction.

This is the downside of instant, global communications. The narrative can outrun the truth, the myth can become fact. Since social media compensation is often tied to “clicks” on an article, publishers and editors have a conflict of interest: sell the truth, or sell the narrative?

Children are being taken from parents at US borders, and Trump’s policy needs a healthy debate. But playing loose with the facts cannot be permitted by the media.

Time for the media to wake up! It helps no one if the charge “Fake News” is true. To help them wake up, here is Billy Bragg doing “It Says Here” from his 1984 album “Brewing Up with Billy Bragg”:

Sample Lyrics:

It says here that the Unions will never learn
It says here that the economy is on the upturn
And it says here we should be proud
That we are free
And our free press reflects our democracy

If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 24, 2018

We wake up each day and think: “There’s no way this could get any worse.” And every day, we’re proven wrong. Our reality is now anger and inhumanity. It is in most instances, instigated and promoted by the Trump administration.

What does all that anger and inhumanity say about America today? It says we must change for the better. It also means 63 million Americans are as morally deficient and as complicit as the president they voted for. Nice work.

Melania needs better jackets in her wardrobe:

ICE has cornered the market on huddled masses:

Science has determined how he does it:

Captain Bone Spur’s trade War is not off to a perfect start:

GOP doesn’t resemble its founder anymore:

Republicans prefer certainty for the midterms:

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Saturday Soother – June 23, 2018

Apologies for the lack of posts, but it wasn’t a good week at the Mansion of Wrong. We said goodbye to Ms. Right’s favorite dog, the 15 year-old Havanese, Tuxedo. Tux lost his two-year battle with congestive heart failure. He was a brave little boy right to the very end.

Here is a picture of Tux when he was young, with his favorite yellow ball:

Tuxedo in California – 2007 photo by Wrongo

All in all, another week filled with big issues: Toddler care by government contractors, a real trade war, and the World Cup without a US team. But let’s focus on small, but significant indignities. From Thursday’s Bangor Daily News:

US Customs and Border Protection agents set up a checkpoint Wednesday on Interstate 95, stopping drivers and asking them questions about their citizenship before letting them proceed.

Agents set up cones narrowing the highway to one southbound lane, and then asked vehicle occupants about their citizenship. One agent was quoted as saying:

If you want to continue down the road, then yes ma’am. We need to know what citizen — what country you’re a citizen of…

When questioned about what would happen if a driver declined to answer, he said the car would only be able to keep going if, after further questioning and in the agent’s judgment, “the agent is pretty sure that you’re US citizens.”

These same border agents perform immigrant checks at Maine bus stops, where agents have been captured on video asking riders about their citizenship. More from the Bangor News:

In recent months, the bus stop checks have come under fire from the Maine American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the federal agency for records to learn more about the practice. Lawyers for the Maine ACLU said they have questions concerning “the intrusive operation,” and whether it infringes on the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of bus passengers.

The Bangor Daily News quoted attorney Emma Bond:

People have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, whether at a bus station or on the road.

Bill of Rights? We have no stinkin’ rights where Homeland Security is concerned. The tradeoff is to accept that immigrants, or possibly, terrorists, could make their way into the US from the enemy outpost of Canada. They could be infiltrating America.

For that, we are giving away the Constitution.

This isn’t some abstract abuse of internet privacy rights, these are uniformed federal government agents rousting people to produce their papers. Americans shouldn’t be required to answer questions about their comings or goings, unless law enforcement has probable cause to believe a violation of the law has occurred.

Stopping people for no reason is against the Constitution. It must be called out, and should be stopped immediately. We should not have to answer to anyone while driving down the roads our taxes pay for.

These are shock troops, exercising government power in a direct, one-on-one way. Let’s close with a cartoon that can’t wait until Sunday to be seen:

Another tough week. Unplug from the web and social media, it’s a time to cherish those closest to us, and to spend a little time away from the world.

Start by brewing a vente cup of Nicaragua Jinotega (Dark Roast) coffee ($13/12 oz.) with its bold and toasty notes, from Connecticut’s own Sacred Grounds Roasters.

Take your hot steaming cup outside, where you can hear the birds singing, maybe hear a distant lawn mower, and get comfortable. Now, listen to Aaron Copland’s “Quiet City” with solo trumpet by Winton Marsalis, backed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble. It is from the album, “Works by Copland, Vaughan Williams, and Hindemith”:

Now, let go of another pretty difficult week.

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

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White People’s Problems

The Daily Escape:

Point Lobos Reserve, CA – 2018 photo by HeroicTaquito

Today we have two linked stories about the often deminimus problems of white people, and how they can take generations to resolve. That’s older, upscale white people.

Wrongo and Ms. Right spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon at a venerable music venue in Falls Village, CT called Music Mountain. This unique facility has been around since 1929 as a performance space for classical music and jazz, with classical music performed on Sundays, and jazz on Saturdays.

This year, they are staging 16 consecutive Sundays of chamber music, including six by the Shanghai Quartet, in which the Quartet will perform all of the Beethoven string quartets. We saw them perform three, including his Opus 132. It was being performed at Music Mountain for the 23rd time. And it was a blissful experience.

The crowd was about 200 older, white-haired music lovers. We saw just one kid under the age of 15, and very few in their 20’s and 30’s, except those who were a part of the production crew. It isn’t a new question to ask if classical music as we know it today will survive in the next century. City orchestras around the world are financially stressed. The audience is aging, and is not being replaced by younger fans. In fact, even though Music Mountain has been around for 89 years, like most niche venues, they are constantly raising money.

A connected story is about Lime Rock Park (LRP), a track for sports car enthusiasts that is located a few miles away, in the town of Salisbury, CT. If you know about it, it’s probably because Paul Newman’s career as a race car driver started at Lime Rock.

The track has been in a fight with the town and with Music Mountain, since it opened in a reclaimed gravel mine in 1957. Lime Rock has always attracted an overwhelmingly upper-crust clientele. Simply put, the crowd isn’t your average NASCAR bunch. These people are predominantly wealthy country club types, the kind who have room in their garages for multiple (often antique) sports cars.

Salisbury itself isn’t demographically very different from the track’s clients: It is 95% white with a median family income of $69,152. Seven percent live in poverty. Meryl Streep lives here. It is the home of a renowned prep school, Hotchkiss.

Yet the town and the track have been at odds with each other since 1957. The major issue is loud noise from sports car engines. However, since 1959, LRP has been prohibited from hosting racing events on Sundays when the Litchfield Superior Court issued an injunction banning Sunday racing.

That injunction stood until recently, when the track obtained a court decision to allow racing on Sunday afternoons and unmufflered racing as well. The track owner’s argument was that the zoning regulation made the track uncompetitive with others in Connecticut, and the judge agreed.

You would think that the town’s and the track’s interests would align. Wealthy people visit Salisbury every summer to see and be seen, to crash their little cars and live to talk about it. But their interests do not work together. The track employs very few locals, and the taxes it pays don’t amount to much (~$90k).

So, a legal appeal is working its way up the food chain, starting in the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission. And later on, probably going on to the state courts. Music Mountain, located close enough to hear the engines, now asks for donations for the costs of appeal, along with funds to underwrite their performance space. How deep can the pockets of classical music lovers be?

This is a fight by and among white people that has been ongoing since 1959. It’s a battle of property rights: The right to quiet enjoyment on the locals’ side, and the right to use your property as you see fit on the other. It’s the dominant culture in America at work, engaged in a decades-long pissing contest.

It doesn’t matter much in the global scheme of things: Putin isn’t involved, and kids aren’t being separated from their parents in this town. People aren’t marching for “Medicare for all”.

This is a high quality problem being fought by only the “best” people, a fight that is characterized as a threat to the American way.

Perspective, people, please!

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