It’s the start of a new week, the 67th week of our Orange Overlord’s tenure. Things to look forward to: Another Giuliani mistake on the Sunday pundit shows, more skullduggery about whether the US will stay in the Iran nuclear deal, and another week with no leaks from Mueller. On to cartoons. Trump admits he knew about the Stormy payment:
Dems decide they now love Rudy:
Trump administration says 57,000 Hondurans have to go in 18 months:
Donald decides where to meet Kim:
Accusations of Charlie Rose’s sexual abuse resurface:
NRA can’t allow guns inside their convention:
Ryan’s messaging didn’t pan out:
British view of Scott Pruitt by Kal, the Economist’s cartoonist:
Rua Nova do Carvalho, Lisbon Portugal – 2016 photo by Brotherside. Formerly a part of the red light district, but when the street was painted pink in 2011, it quickly became the epicenter of a vibrant party scene.
In a week with a Hawaiian volcano’s eruption, Bibi’s nuclear song-and-dance, and Rudy’s confessions on Fox that Trump had indirectly paid hush money to Stormy, you may have missed the report that the fired House Chaplain is back at work. The WaPoreported:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) reversed course Thursday and agreed to keep the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy on as House chaplain after an extraordinary showdown that included the priest alleging anti-Catholic bias among Ryan’s staff.
Ryan defended his original decision and continued to question whether Conroy was delivering sufficient “pastoral services” to the entire House. “I intend to sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House,” Ryan said.
That is how it ended. His return started when Rev. Pat Conroy rescinded his resignation in a letter to Ryan. Conroy wrote:
While you never spoke with me in person, nor did you send me any correspondence, on Friday, April 13, 2018 your Chief of Staff, Jonathon Burks, came to me and informed me that you were asking for my letter of resignation. I inquired as to whether or not it was ‘for cause,’ and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like, ‘maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’
Great job, Mr. Burks! Did you know that there have been exactly two Catholics as House Chaplain?
Fr. Conroy continued:
At that point, I thought that I had little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had the absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House chaplain.
This was mostly about the tin ear that some Republicans have when it comes to social issues. One House member, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who is also a Baptist pastor, apparently said that the next House chaplain needed to have a family.
That would rule out anyone who, like Fr. Conroy, had taken a vow of celibacy. Why do some people continually use their religion to bludgeon others?
Democrats and a few Republicans have said they believed that Speaker Ryan was facing pressure from evangelicals within the GOP conference to find a chaplain whose politics more closely aligned with theirs, but for now, this little “holy war” in the House is over. Maybe the next House Chaplain should be a Zen warrior priest who roams the halls, hitting Congress critters with his sword, you know, in a pastoral manner.
Spring has sprung with a vengeance in the Northeast. Today, Wrongo has battled a love sick bird that is trying to build a nest above the kitchen door at the Mansion of Wrong. The determined bird tried three times before finally bowing to Wrongo’s will.
It’s Saturday, and we need to downshift, to turn our focus from all that is wrong with the world, to all that’s right. To help you make the change, start by brewing a cup of Taiwan roaster Kakalove Café’s Mandheling Onan Ganjang sourced from the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra ($18.50/16 oz.). The roaster says it is deeply sweet with vibrant acidity, and a syrupy mouthfeel.
Now, sit outside, take in the nature surrounding you, and listen to Sierra Boggess singing “The Lusty Month of May” from Camelot. It is performed live in 2012 at the BBC Proms:
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Among the latest states hit by the protests is Arizona, where teacher pay is more than $10,000 below the national average of $59,000 per year. The Pendergast Elementary School District…has recruited more than 50 teachers from the Philippines since 2015. They hold J-1 visas, which allow them to work temporarily in the United States, like au pairs or camp counselors, but offer no path to citizenship.
The NYT reports that according to the State Department, more than 2,800 foreign teachers arrived in America last year through the J-1 visa program, up 233% from about 1,200 who landed here in 2010.
Are public school teachers a new class of migrant workers in America? Is teaching becoming another category of “jobs Americans won’t do” in the Trump era?
Arizona has a reported shortage of 2000 teachers state-wide. This is a direct result of Arizona’s low teacher salaries, (43rd in the nation), and poor funding for public education. More from the NYT:
According to the State Department, 183 Arizona teachers were granted new J-1 visas last year, up from 17 in 2010.
Trump opposes immigration because he says it takes away American jobs. Yet, here we have an immigration program designed precisely to take away American jobs, and it is growing, because there is no alternative but higher taxes, which is not an acceptable solution to Republicans.
Poor school funding and low teacher salaries are a direct result of tax cuts that then require government expense cuts. Local governments can’t engage in deficit spending for very long without ruining their bond rating, so when tax revenues go down, salaries are frozen, maintenance is deferred, and expenses are slashed.
Wrongo’s home town has this very issue in front of us. Our student population has declined by about 11% over the past few years, but the town’s school budget has steadily increased, despite the declining student census. When the budget goes to voters in a few days, it is likely to be voted down, because so few people are willing to see their taxes increased.
This should be a wake-up call to all of us. Tax cuts do not create revenue growth in our towns, states or the country, regardless of what the faux economists say about trickle-down economics.
There is no “teacher shortage” in America. Do we say there is a shortage of Corvettes because we’ll only pay the dealer $25k for a brand new one? We are seeing across many job categories that fewer skilled individuals are willing to work for the low pay offered in both the private and the public sector.
It seems like a simple concept. The people who you entrust your children to for learning and personal growth should earn an adequate wage, and be able to remain members of the middle class.
If we denigrate a profession enough so that people are wary of investing their time and money to get an education and meet the needs of the job, we will have a teacher shortage. If we then hire foreigners who are willing to do the work for peanuts, we will complete the job of making teaching a low income profession.
This is a plan designed by the right and their hedge fund billionaire buddies to privatize and ultimately, break public education.
On Monday, in a presentation in English, Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu attempted to give Donald Trump high altitude air cover for Trump’s pending decision to end the nuclear agreement with Iran. The basis of Netanyahu’s speech was that Israeli intelligence had gathered new and damaging information about the Iranian nuclear weapons program:
In a special address on Monday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented what he described as shocking, indisputable evidence that Iran had lied about its covert nuclear weapons program in the past and “continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowledge for future use” after signing the 2015 deal with six world powers to halt its nuclear activities.
Bibi presented 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs. Netanyahu said Iran hid an “atomic archive” of documents on its nuclear program. Reuters said that:
Most of the purported evidence Netanyahu presented dated to the period before the 2015 accord was signed…
But if you actually paid attention to the content of Bibi’s presentation two things stood out. First of all, the evidence isn’t so shocking. According to James Acton, the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, “everyone involved in negotiating the JCPOA assumed that Iran was lying when it said that it had never had a nuclear weapons program and the JCPOA was developed on that basis.” He also pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) already documented much of what Netanyahu presented.
All Bibi had was old, dated Intel that he presented as new. This was stage-managed so that Trump can announce in 10 days that the US is pulling out of the accord because Iran “lied.”
If you followed the debate about the JCPOA during the Obama administration, you may remember that the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) said that any nuclear weapons program Iran had was stopped in 2003, and had not been restarted. That was “re-certified” in the US 2011 NIE, with the same conclusion.
During the development of the 2007 NIE, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) believed all Iran had was a “feasibility study” which was based on the fear that Saddam Hussein might have a nuclear weapons program. But once the US invaded Iraq in 2003, and handed over control of the country to Iran-backed Iraqi political factions, Iran immediately stopped whatever “studies” they had been doing.
A nation’s files about nuclear weapons technology are among the most sensitive documents in their national security archives. They are extremely tightly controlled. Yet, the Israeli story is that they managed to steal 1,000 pounds of files from a Top Secret facility in Iran.
Apparently, unlike Wrongo, Bibi has never moved an office. A thousand pounds would take about 60 “banker’s boxes”. And you would need a truck, or two trips in a car to haul all that away.
From a top-secret Iranian warehouse.
Just try to imagine the actual logistics involved in removing that many documents, and then loading them on a truck. This isn’t a five minute operation.
Leaving the JCPOA may happen on Trump’s watch. He can reinstate US sanctions, but he can’t change UN Security Council resolution 2231. So if Trump reinstates sanctions against Iran, he will not have pulled the plug on the JCPOA accord.
To reinstate UN Security Council sanctions without Russian and Chinese agreement, Trump must state officially that Iran violated resolution 2231. After a formal investigative process, the “rollback” of UN sanctions would come to a vote where five of the eight signatories of the JCPOA would have to agree that Iran violated the deal.
Given that Trump won’t get the Iranian, Russian and Chinese votes, he must get all four European votes. That seems likely to be an uphill climb. France and the UK may buy in, but convincing the Germans and the EU may be difficult.
In effect, walking out of the deal may work to Iran’s advantage in the long run. In the short run, it may simply move Germany and the EU closer to Russia and Iran.
That surely won’t be a happy outcome for Trump, or America.
At least 50,000 teachers and their allies in red shirts flooded the streets of Phoenix on Friday as Arizona educators launched a statewide walkout for increased school funding and raises for all school employees. From Labor Notes:
“You have West Virginia who stood up, you have Kentucky who’s standing up, you have Oklahoma”, said Brittani Karbginsky, a sixth grade teacher in Phoenix. “Now you have us”.
When the cost of living is considered, Arizona’s teacher pay ranks last in the nation (but in absolute dollars, Oklahoma ranks last). Average teacher salaries in Arizona have declined by nearly $9,000 since 2003.
Vox tracked the amount of money granted to corporations through state tax incentives in Arizona and found that, according to data from the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Seidman Institute at Arizona State University, the state lost out on roughly $5 billion in corporate tax revenue since 1993 (after adjusting for inflation). Funding per student has fallen by 14%.
Welcome to another Right-Wing trickle-down economics nightmare.
After insisting for months that 2018’s one percent raise for teachers would be followed by another one percent in 2019, Arizona’s governor Doug Ducey (R) announced on April 12 that he would grant teachers a 20% raise by 2020. But, Arizona’s teachers didn’t buy that. They pointed out that the raise wasn’t in the budget. They wanted a dedicated source of funding to make sure that they were winning more than an empty promise.
This seems to be a mainstream idea. An AP poll found that 78% of Americans think teachers are paid too little. Fifty percent said they favor higher taxes to pay teachers more.
This backlash is fiercer than in other states where teachers have protested or gone on strike. And the comments aren’t coming from the ideological fringes of the internet. State politicians, lawmakers, and journalists are making these accusations to discredit teachers who are demanding higher pay and more funding for public schools.
And the state superintendent of education, Diane Douglas, threatened to investigate striking teachers and potentially revoke their license to teach in the state.
The right’s idea always seems to be that if you cannot argue your opponent’s facts, you go for the smear. Maybe the teachers should launch a full scale attack on the sponsors of those right-wing blogs and talk radio show hosts, the way Parkland’s David Hogg did with Laura Ingraham.
Last Thursday, the state legislature adjourned without introducing any bill to address school funding. They didn’t address the plan for a 20% raise that Gov. Ducey had proposed. They return today.
So wake up, Arizona! Blame the legislature, not the teachers. Stick by your teachers. To help you wake up, here is a 1941 tune written by the Almanac Singers, while working to organize the CIO. It is sung by Pete Seeger, who was a member of the Almanac Singers at the time:
Now, boys, you’ve come to the hardest time.
The boss will try to bust your picket line.
He’ll call out the police, the National Guard,
They’ll tell you it’s a crime to have a union card.
They’ll raid your meetin’, they’ll hit you on the head,
They’ll call every one of you a goddam red,
Unpatriotic, Japanese spies, sabotaging national defense!
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Haze caused by smoke from a wildfire, Wind River Range, WY – 2018 photo by UtahPictures
Their handshake made history. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in met each other at the border, then walked hand in hand into South Korea for a meeting between countries still technically at war.
Whether they can declare an end to the war will be the subject of more negotiations and trust-building over the next few months, perhaps years. They did sign an accord that commits them to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
This is either a huge step forward, or it is another case of false hope for a peace that has eluded the two Koreas for 65 years. Either way, it is an unprecedented diplomatic initiative between the two Koreas that could reduce global tensions.
South Korea’s peace offensive with the North has taken the US’s threat of military confrontation against North Korea off the table, unless the peace discussions should fail. Their preemptive diplomacy has left the US with no option but to move to the negotiating table without insisting that North Korea relinquish its nuclear weapons as a precondition. Is Trump behind this strategy? Historians will tell us some time in the future.
Strategically, North Korea looks like it is willing to work toward peace. They are in a win-win situation. If sanctions are eased, and peace talks move incrementally to a successful conclusion, a process of socio-economic rebirth in the North (a Kim Jong-un priority) can begin.
If Trump can’t agree with Kim Jong-un, we will find ourselves at odds with our South Korean ally. In that case, China might walk away from its sanctions against the North, blaming the US for not making progress in the face of the offer by Kim Jong-un to renounce his nuclear weapons.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in needs to find a middle ground between his cunning enemy to the North and his impulsive ally in the US. And no one should expect that Kim will capitulate on Trump’s key demand of total and immediate nuclear disarmament.
That’s the biggest problem. South Korea’s president favors an “action for action” strategy in which the North takes steps to dismantle its nuclear arsenal, and is rewarded for each move with economic benefits and security guarantees.
South Korean officials said that the entire process could take about two years.
But Trump’s national security team has insisted that North Korea scrap its weapons programs before any relief from the sanctions can be granted. And they say that “substantial dismantlement” should be completed much more quickly, perhaps in six months.
Moon’s position is to offer economic benefits and security guarantees incrementally, based on one small agreement after another, until both sides are comfortable. In short, his plan is: Be sensible. No one needs to be humiliated. No one has to win. No one has to lose. Deal with issues one by one. Don’t refuse to talk about anything at all. Talk. That’s what sensible people do.
No one knows where this goes. The two Koreas have struck similar agreements in the past. For example, in 1991, Pyongyang and Seoul promised to end the Korean War, but never did. And in 2005, North Korea and five other countries — including the US and South Korea — struck a deal to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program in exchange for economic aid. That deal fell through.
President Moon has acknowledged that there is a limit to what the two Koreas can agree on without American involvement:
Peace on the Korean Peninsula cannot be achieved by agreements between South and North Korea alone…It has to have American endorsement.
But, nobody knows how the Trump wild card will play out.
But today’s Saturday. For now, let’s bask in a little hope. It’s spring, and buds and flowers abound. The fields of Wrong have bluebirds in two separate nest boxes sitting on eggs. We’ve over-seeded the whole 3 acres of grass to keep our world green and weed-free. Time to brew up a cup of Red Rooster Coffee’s4 & 20 French Roast that the roaster says is dark and intense, full of complexity, with lots of spice and chocolate.
Now settle back, and listen to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, performed here by the Sydney Camerata Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Luke Gilmour, in 2011. Copland was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for this work. Here it is performed by a 13-piece orchestra, which Copland scored for the eponymous ballet, choreographed by Martha Graham. Wrongo prefers the chamber version to the full orchestra version:
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Mac-Mac Falls, Pilgrim’s Rest, South Africa – 2006 photo by Wrongo
Millions of Americans fail to vote in every election. Yet, despite the historic importance of the 2018 midterms, more than 100 million are unlikely to show up at the polls this November, according to a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll. Here is a graphic illustration from USA Today:
Source:Frank Pompa/USA Today
This tells us that many more citizens will be nonvoters in this year’s crucial midterm elections than are likely to be voters. In the 2014 midterm, only about one-third of eligible voters actually voted. We also saw in the 2016 Presidential election that only 55% of voting age citizens cast ballots. That was the lowest turnout in a presidential election since 1996, when 53.5% of voting-age citizens actually voted.
The new Suffolk poll gives us a good sense of the turnout challenge for this November. Here’s what the non-voters say:
They have given up on the political parties and a system that they say is beyond reform or repair.
They say that the country’s most important problems include: political gridlock, the economy, health care, education and immigration. Those subjects were mentioned more frequently than guns, terrorism, or taxes.
They lean left in their political choices. If they were to vote for president, they would favor a Democratic candidate over Trump, 35% to 26%, with the remaining being undecided or choosing “third party” or “other.”
In a contradiction, the respondents indicated that they lean right in their political philosophy. More than 29% called themselves conservative, 36% said moderate and 17% said liberal.
About three-quarters of respondents say religion plays an important role in their lives — and three-quarters also said the federal government also plays an important role.
55% of the nonvoters and unlikely voters said they viewed Trump unfavorably. A third said they backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, while 28% said they had supported Trump. About 30% said they didn’t vote.
The 2018 midterm prospects for both parties hinge on boosting turnout. How turnout increases, and where it will come from is up in the air, but it will have to include people who do not always vote.
Given the state of American education, it’s no wonder that some non-voters aren’t familiar with the concept of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. If you don’t vote because you think your vote doesn’t matter, then your vote won’t matter because you didn’t bother to vote.
But, some of the early special elections this year suggest a pattern of unusually high turnout among those without a history of regularly voting.
A final thought: When you don’t vote, your intent might be to say “none of the above,” but your impact is “any of the above“. If we want a better country, then we must be better citizens.
That means participating in government and above all, voting.
Do whatever you can to help drive turnout in November.
(The Suffolk survey polled 800 adults between April 2 and 18, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cellphones. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.47 %.)
Red Winged Blackbird chasing Red Shouldered Hawk, FL – photo by Lana Duncan
Wrongo and Ms. Right attended a meeting with Lynn Novick, co-producer of The Vietnam War, a 10-part, 18-hour video history of the War that aired on PBS. The series was intended to be a shared public event that sparked a national discussion about the Vietnam War and the impact it had on America.
As someone who served in the military from 1966-1969, Wrongo was on orders for Vietnam twice. That he spent his time in Germany during the war was largely good luck. Many of his Officer’s Candidate School buddies died in Vietnam.
Novick showed a short video of the first episode in the series, followed by parts of episode six and seven. The series uses no historians or talking heads. There are no onscreen interviews with polarizing boldfaced names like John Kerry, John McCain, or Jane Fonda. Instead, there are 79 onscreen interviews with ordinary people who fought or lived through the war.
Two things stand out about the series: First, that it presents the perspective of South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese, along with that of the American soldiers, a significant advancement in perception for Wrongo. Second, how little that anyone on the US side, our government, our military or our soldiers, really understood about the Vietnamese. Novick told one story that was not included in the series, about how the North Vietnamese, traveling the Ho Chi Minh trail, would find an impassible rock formation, and without dynamite, they couldn’t work around it. The solution was to expose the area to US jets, who obligingly bombed the trail, making it passable for NVA trucks.
Lynn Novick said that you could divide the War into two phases: First, from the time of Truman through Kennedy, where honorable people were trying to do the right thing, and were simply getting it wrong. Then, phase two, when it became clear that our military thought that there was less than a 30% chance that we would be victorious. Novick said that recent scholarship dates that conclusion as being presented to the White House and the generals in 1965. Yet, the war went on for another 10 years. Clearly, in this phase, the decision-makers were no longer honorable people.
From that time forward, Presidents Johnson and Nixon knew that the war was unwinnable, but like their predecessors, they were unwilling to have the War lost on their watch. Their political calculations were largely responsible for 57,797 of the 58,220 deaths in the War.
The war at home pitted college students and clergy against politicians and the National Guard. There were huge demonstrations, and ultimately, the deaths of four Kent State college students at the hands of the Ohio Guard in 1970. That wasn’t all. Eleven people were bayoneted at the University of New Mexico by the New Mexico National Guard, and at Mississippi’s Jackson State University, police opened fire at demonstrators, killing two students and injuring 12.
These shootings of American kids by our own government led to the first nationwide student strike in US history. Over four million students participated.
The Vietnam War is a very complex and difficult topic. Our military’s plan was to win “hearts and minds” but they also bombed villages. We backed incompetent and corrupt in-country leadership. Our military falsified the metrics to show we were having “success” on the ground.
There was inconsistent, and eventually, dishonest direction from the White House.
Novick thinks that Vietnam was the most significant event for America from the Civil War to 9/11. It had a major impact, creating divisions that still persist today. In the Q&A, it was clear that the audience expressed many of the viewpoints that you might have heard 40 years ago. Ideas like the politicians prevented the military from winning, or that there were really no atrocities on the ground.
But, the afternoon’s discussion also opened people to being receptive to a different conversation, to be thoughtful about the meaning and mistakes of the War, and how we might use that experience to inform decisions our political class is making today.
So let’s wake up, America! Watch the series. Give some thought to the carnage that was wrought in our names, both in Vietnam and at home. Now, link all of that to our current endless fight against the Global War on Terror.
See any similarities?
To help you wake up, listen to Neil Young singing “Ohio”:
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
While higher interest rates allowed banks to earn more from lending in the first quarter, the main boost to bank came from the billions of dollars they saved in taxes under the tax law Trump signed in December. Combined, the six banks saved at least $3.59 billion last quarter.
Before the tax law change, the maximum US corporate income tax rate was 35%. Banks historically paid among the highest tax rates, because of their US-centric business strategies. Before the Trump tax cuts, these banks paid 28% to 31% of their yearly income in corporate taxes.
Last week’s results showed how sharply those rates have dropped. JPMorgan Chase had a first-quarter tax rate of 18.3%, Goldman Sachs paid 17.2%, and the highest-taxed bank of the six majors, Citigroup, had a tax rate of 23.7%. Bank executives at the big six firms have estimated that their full-year tax rates will be about 20%-22%. If you annualize the quarterly savings, $3.6 billion is about $14 billion a year for the six largest banks in America.
Does anybody think that the savings will go to customers in the form of reduced service fees? Or employee raises? Nope, Bank of America announced in December that they will be spending $5 billion to buy back their shares.
This is a permanent annual loss of revenues for America. If the GOP stays in power, you know exactly what they plan to cut to make up these billions. On to cartoons.
Trump’s week looked like this:
(But you can’t fix FOX.)
The two guys who were arrested had a bad day. Maybe Starbucks shouldn’t say “shot”:
Rumors that you will be fired will cause anxiety:
(Maybe John Boehner can hook him up.)
What Syrians might say about Trump’s cruise missile attack: