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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The Demonstrations Get Complicated

The Daily Escape:

Summit Lake with view of Mt. Rainier WA – 2020 photo by monzar

 “I feel like a survivor from an age that people no longer understand.”Olivia de Havilland

So true for Wrongo. The video below shows one of Trump’s paramilitaries pepper spraying a Vietnam Vet. Not for anything he’s doing, or for anything he is saying, but simply because they can. The video was shot by Andrew Kimmel, who is at the Portland protests every night. Wrongo urges you to follow him:

pic.twitter.com/WDwOKem2he

The vet’s name is Mark Hastie. He was a medic in Vietnam. He’s pleading with federal agents to heed the warnings of history, and respect the oath they took to defend the people of their country. Hastie says that he has mental scars from his time in Vietnam, and that these paramilitaries will have them too, if they continue their authoritarian ways.

It’s worth noting that in Portland most nights after midnight, a few protesters escalate the confrontation which, to that point have been largely peaceful. Bottles, cans and fireworks are thrown, some try to rush the temporary fencing installed around the courthouse. That’s when the paramilitaries move in and harm the protesters.

The AP had reporters with the paramilitaries last night. Here’s some of what they saw from inside the courthouse: (brackets by Wrongo)

“[at around 11pm]…someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the [temporary courthouse] fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls….

Within minutes, the federal agents at the fence perimeter fired the first tear gas of the night.”

Ultimately, by dawn the next day, the paramilitaries had cleared the protesters away from the courthouse, and both sides retreated to lick their wounds.

Yesterday, the WaPo had an opinion piece by E.D. Mondainé, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP, saying that the message of the protests about the murder of George Floyd and the response by the Black Lives Matter movement is getting lost in the ongoing confrontations with Trump’s paramilitaries: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“….we need to remember: What is happening in Portland is the fuse of a great, racist backlash that the Trump administration is baiting us to light…..If we engage them now, we do so on their terms, where they have created the conditions for a war without rules, without accountability and without the protection of our Constitution.”

Trump’s plan of escalation seems to be working. The original protesters wanted less police violence and more accountability. But the protest now is against anonymous armed agents sent to suppress protest.

Another thing lost in the Portland protests is that Trump officials admit off the record that they are sending federal troops into cities in order to create “viral content”:

“One of the officials said the White House had long wanted to amplify strife in cities, encouraging DHS officials to talk about arrests of violent criminals in sanctuary cities and repeatedly urging ICE to disclose more details of raids than some in the agency were comfortable doing. “It was about getting viral online content,” one of the officials said.”

This takes us back to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Before the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor, the New York Journal sent Frederic Remington, the distinguished artist, to Cuba. He was instructed to remain there until the war began. Remington sent this to William Randolph Hearst:

“W.R. Hearst, New York Journal, NY:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. Remington.”

This was the reply:

“REMINGTON, HAVANA:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war. W.R. HEARST.”

“You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war”. You doubt it? Look at this:

Trump is now apparently sending more Federales to Portland. So what’s the endgame? Having set the fire, Trump will now try to make it a raging inferno.

And, protests are growing across America:

We no longer know who is demonstrating, there are too many “false flag” operators everywhere in America, as shown by who was behind the arson in Richmond, VA.

What will bring us out of our current free fall?

If Biden wins in November, he’ll inherit an America with 15%+ unemployment, tens of millions more homeless people than we have currently. Hunger will be widespread, and COVID will still be working its way through our population.

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Monday Wake Up Call, Portland Edition — July 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Paradise Pass with Crested Butte in the distance, CO – 2020 photo by glacticspark

The second biggest story of the summer is the widespread support of the protesters, those people of all races and ages, who took to the streets to say something about racism in America. Portland is and seems likely to remain the epicenter of the Trump administration’s law and order response.

America’s First Amendment rights are under attack in Portland by Trump’s paramilitaries every day. How can that be? Few have heard of US Code 1357. It allows immigration officers to operate within 100 miles of any external US border. Hence Trump could call out border troops to DC, Portland, or Chicago.

USC 1357 gives DHS jurisdiction over about two-thirds of the US population. They can enter any building that isn’t a dwelling within 25 miles of the border without a warrant.

The regulation was adopted by the US Department of Justice in 1953. At the time, there were fewer than 1,100 Border Patrol agents nationwide; today, there are over 21,000.

These problems are compounded by a lack of personnel oversight by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the DHS. The CBP consistently fails to hold its agents accountable for abuses.

Portland has protests on most days of the year. It’s part of the DNA of the city. Now, it’s looking like Trump’s paramilitaries are trying to foment violence and create a backlash among the protesters. The NYT reports on how these troops were the instigators of recent violence: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“After flooding the streets around the federal courthouse in Portland with tear gas during Friday’s early morning hours, dozens of federal officers in camouflage and tactical gear stood in formation around the front of the building.

Then…the officers started advancing….they continued to fire flash grenades and welt-inducing marble-size balls filled with caustic chemicals. They moved down Main Street and continued up the hill, where one of the agents announced over a loudspeaker: “This is an unlawful assembly.”

By the time the security forces halted their advance, the federal courthouse they had been sent to protect was out of sight — two blocks behind them.”

What’s the end game for Trump in Portland?  His paramilitaries aren’t going to murder groups of protesters in cold blood, so what are they going to do? Have nightly tear gassing until the November election?

Trump’s paramilitaries are saying to Portland: “We wouldn’t have to violate your Constitutional rights if you didn’t insist on exercising them.”

There is libertarian support for ending the Trump paramilitary presence in Portland. Libertarians acknowledge that there is no police power in the Constitution. Policing is left to the states. To the extent the President can send federal officers into Portland or other cities, it should be limited to protecting federal property, not moving into crowds that are two blocks away.

The libertarian argument would say that the people of Portland and other cities have the right to decide who they want to elect to City Hall and how much funding they want to provide for their police. The federal government should only be brought in to defend federal property if the local police are unwilling or unable to do so.

Ironically, during the Obama administration, the GOP thought that the “arming up” of America’s internal security forces like the CPB was a risk to THEM. Now, when it’s impacting Democratic-voting cities, they’re all for it.

Trump’s election chances seem to depend on whether he’s Nixon reborn in 2020. Nixon ran on law and order and against violent demonstrations, largely by students who were against the Vietnam War. Protests never spread as broadly as this in the 1960s. To a great degree, the Vietnam protests were by white college age youth. That isn’t true of today’s protesters.

Trump’s law and order gambit is that Antifa Marxists will take over our cities and then, our suburbs. He’s clinging to the idea that there is an equivalent of the “silent majority” of 1968 still out there to elect him.

But Vanity Fair reported some new polling on the response to Trump’s anti-BLM efforts. If those polls are correct, the silent majority of 2020 is firmly on the side of Biden when it comes to issues of race and justice. Nixon’s ghost seems to have left the building.

Time to wake up America! People in Portland are not afraid of the protesters. They know that their safety isn’t in question. There’s no doubt this is a protest against the government, not their fellow citizens.

To help you wake up listen to Peter Green, guitarist of Fleetwood Mac who died this week, play “Albatross” from 1969’s “The Pious Bird of Good Omen”:

This reminds Wrongo of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” from 1959.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 26, 2020

Possibly lost in the “Terrorist Antifa Moms” news out of Portland last week was the thought that we continually say things like this:

  • Another new low for Trump.
  • How dare he?
  • Trump flaunts the Constitution.

In the past, other presidents have used governmental authority for political ends, but no other president has used a combination of the FBI/DHS/ATF and private mercenaries to literally beat down our First Amendment rights. Who’s stepping forward to stop him?

Without a principled Congress, nothing will stop him. The Republican Party steadfastly remains unshocked by his behavior. The Democratic Party can hold all the hearings it wants. It will never make a dent in Trump’s behavior. The current national dumpster fire is 100% owned by the GOP.

From Trump’s perspective, he’s doing exactly what he’s certain that he can get away with as President. He’s moved the goalposts, because our system wasn’t designed to hold back a President without principles. On to cartoons.

Protection of your Constitutional rights is now in the hands of Portland’s mothers:

Here’s the true cognitive test for Americans:

Who’s behind these secret police masks?

Do Americans understand how close we are to Trump declaring Martial Law?

Can Trump win on this debate question?

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Roberts Returns to the Dark Side

The Daily Escape:

Lake Blanche, Upper Cottonwood Canyon, UT – 2020 Galaxy S10 photo by criked

On Tuesday, the Supremes issued another opinion. This one narrows the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, was a 5-4 decision, with the five conservative justices in the majority, and the four liberal justices dissenting.

From Slate: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Montana Constitution contains a “no-aid” provision that bars the state from providing public funds to religious institutions, as do 37 other state constitutions. To work around this rule, the Legislature granted tax credits to residents who donate money to Big Sky Scholarships, which pays for students to attend private schools, both secular and sectarian. (Montana’s demographics ensure that the only sectarian schools that participate are Christian.) In other words, residents get money from the state when they help children obtain a private education, including religious indoctrination. In 2018, the Montana Supreme Court found that this program violated the state constitution’s no-aid clause. But instead of excluding sectarian schools, the court struck down the whole scheme for all private education.”

Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion revived Montana’s tax credit scheme when he announced a new Constitutional principle: Once a state funds private education, “it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico all provide tax credits or vouchers to families that send their children to private schools. Under Espinoza, they must now extend these programs to private religious schools. More from Slate:

“This decision flips the First Amendment on its head. The amendment’s free exercise clause protects religious liberty, while its establishment clause commands that the government make no law ‘respecting an establishment of religion’.”

In essence, Roberts is now saying that the Establishment Clause supersedes the Free Exercise Clause.

Some background: In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court ruled that, under the Establishment Clause, states were allowed to fund private schools through vouchers or tax credits. Now the court has declared that, under the Free Exercise clause, most states are compelled to fund private religious schools.

Over the past 18 years, the Court’s conservative majority has revolutionized church-state law.

How did the court do this? The barrier between church and state took a hit when five justices permitted state financing of sectarian schools in Zelman. It nearly collapsed when the court expanded religious institutions’ access to taxpayer money in 2017’s Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which held that states cannot deny public benefits to religious institutions simply because they are religious.

The court claimed that their new rule was actually hidden in the meaning of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause—even though, as Justice Sotomayor pointed out at the time, separating church and state does not limit anyone’s ability to exercise their religion.

More from Slate. Roberts, from the Espinoza opinion: (italics are in the quote)

“A state violates free exercise…when it “discriminate[s] against schools” based on “the religious character of the school.” The government, Roberts explained, has no compelling interest in preserving the separation of church and state beyond what the First Amendment requires. Nor does the government have any interest in protecting taxpayers’ right not to fund religious exercise that infringes upon their own beliefs.”

Said the Chief Justice:

“We do not see how the no-aid provision promotes religious freedom…”

In theory, states could abolish public funding of private schools entirely to avoid funding religious schools, but that’s what the Montana Supreme Court did. And Roberts just condemned that decision as “discrimination against religious schools”, because Montana had originally funded all private schools.

Roberts may be a master at minimizing losses (hits to the credibility or reputation of SCOTUS), while maximizing returns for his masters (conservative victories). In most of the cases where he has sided with the liberals, his opinion has basically boiled down to “lie better the next time.”

That was true in the abortion and DACA cases this term, and in the Census case last term.

So, based on this decision, religious entities (of the right sort) are not only eligible for government funding, they are entitled to it. That, and more equipment for the military.

This is what the America conservatives want. What could go wrong?

The state requires children to go to school. It also provides a school system for those children in order to meet that requirement. If you choose to send yours to a private, accredited/licensed school instead, that cost should be borne by you, not by the taxpayers.

Public funding for religious schools, along with tax-free status for churches, gives too much political power to religions.

That’s exactly why separation of Church and State is so crucial.

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Saturday Soother – June 9, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Rakotz Bridge, Kromlauer Park, Germany via @archpics

With the press busy mourning the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, you probably missed a couple of news stories about press freedom.

First, on Thursday night, the DOJ unsealed an indictment of James Wolfe, the long-time Director of Security for the Senate Intelligence Committee. Wolfe, a former Army intelligence analyst, had worked for the committee in a nonpartisan capacity for nearly 30 years. He is accused of one count of false statements to the FBI. The indictment alleges that he lied about his conversation with four journalists, Ali Watkins of the NYT, and three others.

The NYT revealed that Watkins, who had a three-plus year relationship with Wolfe, has had years of her communications subpoenaed. The DOJ obtained her subscriber information, and additional information from her phone.

The subscriber information that can be obtained by the DOJ is invasive. It includes your name, financial and other contact information, and IP and device addresses that allow them to map out all the communications a person uses.

It gives the government all of a journalist’s sources.

And the DOJ also sought and received Ali Watkins’ her email from when she was an undergraduate at Temple. She graduated in 2014. She broke her first national security story as a senior in college, so perhaps her school emails are relevant to the government’s investigation.

But this breach of the reporter/source privilege needs to explained. The government must delineate the boundary of what is, and isn’t acceptable in terms of vacuuming up a reporter’s source information.

It is important that counterintelligence sources and information be kept secret. James Wolfe’s motives are unclear, since he shared information with other reporters that he wasn’t having an affair with.

As of now, we don’t know if there was actual damage to an investigation.

The second item is the report, originally in April, that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intends to list and track  290,000 news outlets, journalists, bloggers, and influencers following select news stories. Their intent is to share those data with federal, state, local and private partners.

Naturally, there was pushback by news organizations, enough for the DHS’s Tyler Houlton to say:

Sure. Only a crank could possibly have an issue with one of the least transparent government agencies, the one with an Orwellian name, tracking and cataloging journalists. This amounts to mass monitoring of the press by the state.

So, two attacks on press freedom by the Trumpets, one by DOJ, and the other by DHS.

Remember, the government now has virtually unlimited processing power, bandwidth, and storage, and with that: Anything that can be monitored will be monitored.

This wasn’t feasible in the past, but now it is. We are at the point when privacy, as we have understood it in America, is over. For most of our country’s first 200 years, the government accepted that reporters would never reveal their sources, and by and large, no prosecutor and no judge would force them to try. It was a sacred protection guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Well, that’s changed. And it isn’t just the hard right bunch currently running the country. They are building on the efforts by Obama’s DOJ to seize journalists’ emails using the Espionage Act, to increase surveillance pressure on journalists and prosecute leakers of classified secrets.

It will take another court case similar to the Pentagon Papers to stem this undermining of press freedom. Good luck with that, given the current and likely future makeup of the Supreme Court.

Trump must respect and obey the First Amendment, in its entirety. The First Amendment is the core of our free society. Most whistle blowers are heroes.

This is how freedom is lost a little at a time, until one day we’ll wake up and find out that we’re no longer free. Technology has made Big Brother possible, but it is Congress that has made it legal.

Only pushback from freedom loving citizens will prevent it.

Wow! We really need a Saturday soothing. So, get off the couch, and brew up a cup of Kiniyota Espresso by Madison, Wisconsin’s JBC Coffee Roasters. It is produced entirely of the heirloom Bourbon variety of Arabica. Then, taste its rich notes of stone fruit and dark chocolate ($17.60/12oz). Now, sit outside, hopefully in a shady spot, and listen to the Viola Concerto in G major by Georg Philipp Telemann. It was probably composed in 1715. It was the first concerto for Viola. Here, it is played by Midwest Young Artists Conservatory:

Someone said that the viola is like the cream in an Oreo cookie; sweet and creamy, while holding the top and the bottom together.

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

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What Is Free Speech In the Domain of Social Media?

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise with full moon over mountains at Morillion, France – 2018 photo by osg28

Can we justify taking away a person’s First Amendment right of free speech because of its content? Suppose it is hate speech? In the US, we hear people say: “I hate what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it“. Is that an inviolable default position?

Wrongo has been following this issue as it plays out in Europe. From the Columbia Journalism Review:

A toxic combination of misinformation, hate speech, and online harassment is pushing several European countries to take action against social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. But some believe their actions—however well-intentioned—run the risk of stifling free speech and putting dangerous restrictions on freedom of the press.

France, Germany, and the UK are all either discussing, or are already in the process of implementing requirements for social networks to take measures to remove, or block online hate speech, and/or harassment.

Germany in particular is a laboratory for these issues. The Guardian reports that social media firms must remove hate speech, or face fines under a law that went into force on January 1st. The law is known as NetzDG. Under the law, online platforms face fines of up to $60 million if they do not remove “obviously illegal” hate speech and other postings within 24 hours of receiving a notification. A New Year’s Eve tweet by a far-right politician was the first post to be taken down. From the Economist: (emphasis by Wrongo)

‘WHAT the hell is wrong with this country?’ fumed Beatrix von Storch to her 30,000 Twitter followers on December 31st: ‘Why is the official police page in NRW [North Rhine-Westphalia] tweeting in Arabic?’ The MP for the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party detected in the force’s multilingual new-year greeting a bid ‘to appease the barbaric, Muslim, rapist hordes of men’. The next day her tweet—and, for 12 hours, her entire account, vanished from Twitter.

In Germany, freedom of speech is considered an “inalienable human right”, and is protected under Article 5 (1) of the German constitution:

Everyone has the right freely to express and to disseminate his opinion by speech, writing and pictures and freely to inform himself from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by radio and motion pictures are guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

From the Economist:

Germany’s memories of the Gestapo and the Stasi undergird its commitment to free speech. “There shall be no censorship,” decrees the constitution. Even marches by Pegida, an Islamophobic and anti-immigrant movement founded in 2014, receive police protection. But the country of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust also takes a punitive attitude to what it deems “hate speech”. Inciting hatred can carry a prison sentence of up to five years…Irmela Mensah-Schramm, a Berlin pensioner who spray-paints over swastikas and other racist graffiti, is a national hero.

The debate in Germany is whether the NetzDG law should be repealed or modified. How practical is it in an age when a tweet, Facebook post, or YouTube video can spread around the world in minutes?

But the largest question is how can countries balance the people’s legitimate right to free speech with others’ desire to be protected against harmful material? In another German case, Israeli flags were burned in Berlin in response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital. Even with accompanying chants of “Israel, murderer of children”, local police said the act was covered by freedom of speech legislation, and was thus protected.

But should a Muslim immigrant anti-Semite in Germany be allowed to use hate speech that a native German cannot?

Facebook and Twitter have added German-fluent moderators and a few features for flagging controversial content. They have trained their moderators to cope with the NetzDG Act.

Another question is why should the giant social media firms have to regulate free speech? Is it acceptable that private US companies act as a brake on freedom of opinion and the press in Germany?

And how do we “equalize” enforcement of the Free Speech laws in the physical and cyber domains? And where does free expression cross the line between a viewpoint and hatred and incitement to violence?

Should we be ceding control of Free Speech to poorly-paid (and possibly poorly-educated) Facebook and Twitter moderators?

Finally, how will private firms create a tool that grades how hateful a Twitter post is? Who decides that something is beyond say, a seven on the scale, has crossed into hate territory, and must be deleted?

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 6, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Balloon Festival, Armenia. In the background is Mt Ararat – photo by Karen Minasyan

As bad as you think it is in Trumpland, it’s actually worse.

It’s likely that you missed the letter that 84 members of Congress sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last Monday. The letter suggests to Sessions that those engaged in activism disrupting or damaging pipeline operations should face criminal prosecution as an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act.

The letter’s broad definition of terrorism, if adopted, would allow prosecutors to treat people who chain themselves to pipelines or construction equipment involved in pipeline projects as terrorists. This would treat climate activists in a harsher way than Charleston killer Dylann Roof, or the congressional baseball shooter James Hodgkinson were treated under existing laws.

Interestingly, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), a victim of Hodgkinson’s attack, co-signed the pipeline terrorism letter.

While the letter cites a series of pipeline-cutting operations by radical environmentalists that occurred last October as its principal motivation, its language would include even the nonviolent resistance tactics employed by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The 80 Republicans who co-signed the letter are from states with significant oil and gas industry activity. Four Texas Democrats also signed the letter.

Two days after the Congressional letter to AG Sessions was published, the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance’s (EEIA) announced the creation of an “Energy Infrastructure Incident Reporting Center.” The initiative also is a reaction to pipeline protests. Their database initiative says its purpose is tracking:

Incidents of eco-terrorism, sabotage, arson, vandalism, and violence are on the rise as severe actions have become a regular feature of pipeline protests, endangering public safety, the environment, jobs, and leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars…

Annie Leonard, executive director for Greenpeace USA, denounced the database. Leonard told the AP:

Corporations and their governmental enablers are desperate to silence dissent every way they can… [the database is] more fear-mongering by corporate bullies hoping to see what they can get away with in Trump’s America.

Peaceful protest = terrorism.

Attacking peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and water cannons = law enforcement.

Sentencing peaceful protesters as terrorists = the end of the First Amendment

Should our elected and non-elected co-conspirators be able to say peaceful civil protests against pipelines are an act of terrorism under the Patriot Act?

Time to wake up America! We need to fight to keep our Constitution or face the Orwellian future that Jeff Sessions and Trumplandia want so badly for all of us. To help you wake up, here is Neil Young and Crazy Horse with “Rockin in the Free World” from his 1989 album “Freedom”:

Takeaway Lyric:

There’s colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin’ their feet
People sleepin’ in their shoes
But there’s a warnin’ sign
on the road ahead
There’s a lot of people sayin’
we’d be better off dead
Don’t feel like Satan,
but I am to them
So I try to forget it,
any way I can.

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 11, 2017

The Daily Escape:

On September 8th 2017, a full moon passed through a test of the Tribute in Light at the National 911 Museum. By Gary Hershorn

Sixteen years post-9/11, we are mostly healed, but it was difficult to get here. Before 9/11, we had the luxury of dealing with one domestic disaster at a time: The San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire, the Galveston hurricane, Mt. St. Helens, and hurricanes Andrew and Sandy.

With the collapse of the twin towers, the Shanksville PA crash and the Pentagon attack, we had to find the ability to process the enormous shock and grief of three simultaneous events. That wasn’t easy, particularly since the media constantly reinforced the scale of the disaster, and how things would never be the same.

But most people grieved, and some helped those who were more afflicted. The government helped by shifting our focus to the foreign enemy who had committed these terrible acts.

Now on 9/11/2017, we have had two hurricanes back-to-back in the east, and have more than 100 wildfires are burning in the west. How do we process all of the shock and grief? Now our sole focus is on how to dig out, resume our lives, and rebuild. Where will the resilience come from?

And where will we find the money?

In retrospect, 9/11 helped to show us the way to heal when these unspeakable disasters happen. That’s a pretty thin smiley face on an awfully grim day in our history, but it’s true. Some healing began that very day, and time and distance from it is still (slowly) bringing people to a better place.

Some healing has yet to occur. Many still mourn family and friends who died on that day 16 years ago. Wrongo has adult children who worked in Manhattan at the time, who still will not ride the NYC subways.

The NPR show “Here and Now” had a brief segment with Rita Houston, the program director and an on-air personality for WFUV, Fordham University radio. They discussed the station’s most-requested songs on 9/11, and in the days and months afterward.

Surprisingly, the top tunes requested were those that referenced New York in a sentimental way. Mostly, they were songs that took listeners back to an earlier, more innocent time. Not many requests were for patriotic songs, or “pick us up by the bootstraps” messages. Rather, people wanted to hear songs of sweetness and emotion. Amazingly to Wrongo, the most requested song was Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from his album “Honky Château”, written in 1980.

But for music as a healer, the October 20, 2001 “Concert for New York” can’t be beat. It was a highly visible and early part of NYC’s healing process. It has been described as one part fundraiser, one part rock-n-roll festival, and one part Irish wake.

One of the many highlights of that 4+hour show was Billy Joel’s medley of “Miami 2017 (seen the lights go out on Broadway)” and his “New York State of Mind”. Joel wrote “Miami 2017 in 1975, at the height of the NYC fiscal crisis. It describes an apocalyptic fantasy of a ruined NY that got a new, emotional second life after he performed it during the Concert for New York. 

The concert brought a sense of human bonding in a time of duress. It isn’t hyperbole to say that the city began its psychological recovery that night in Madison Square Garden.

Joel now plays it frequently. Here he is with “Miami 2017” and “New York State of Mind” from the October, 2001 Concert for New York:

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

Most of the visible scars of 9/11 are gone, but America still lives in persistent fear. We fear Kim Jong-un and his missiles. We distrust Russia. We are afraid that ISIS will attack us on our streets.

We worry that our budget deficit will bankrupt us. We fear for our kids’ safety if they walk to school alone. We fear the mob outside our gates. We fear the immigrants already inside the gates.

So today’s wake up call is for America. We can never forget the heroes and the victims of 9/11, but we have to stop letting fear drive our actions.

Check out the audience reaction to Joel’s songs. That doesn’t look like fear, and that’s where we all need to be emotionally in 2017.

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Getting Past Charlottesville

The Daily Escape:

Upper Peninsula MI, 2017 – photo by Otto Heldring

There’s a depressing overtone to Charlottesville that suggests the arc of history is the energy behind the story. Is the nation’s soul about to be divided as it has been many times before? Americans get two chits: One for the ballot box, and another for the soap box. Many people feel compelled to use both. The existential question is how best to use them.

The Charlottesville incident left a woman dead, and many others badly injured from a car-ramming. It has the flavor of a “first shot” in a new civil war. And the president’s criticisms of counter-protesters in Charlottesville seem to be far outside the mainstream. Frank Bruni, NYT:

We’re stuck for now with a morally bankrupt plutocrat for president, someone so defensive and deluded that he’s urging more nuance in the appraisal of neo-Nazis.

Still, many Republicans have been reluctant to condemn Trump’s Charlottesville rhetoric. The right would do well to excise any association with the Hitlerites who chanted “blood and soil” in their torch-lit pseudo Nuremberg rally in Virginia. America remains the land of the free and the home of the brave, but Nazis? Nein, Danke.

We have two conflicts arising from Charlottesville:

  • Does every group still have the right to assemble (peacefully) and speak their minds?
  • What are we to do about the symbols from our divided past?

The 1st Amendment protects most speech, but not the sensibilities of those who are exposed to it. Some speech is guaranteed to be offensive. America has lived with neo-Nazis, the KKK, et al for Wrongo’s entire lifetime, and has survived it, no matter how odious. Even the ACLU assisted the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

But there are recognized limits. No one has a right to incite violence. Individuals have no right to defame someone. Some of the limits are easier to define than others: The concept of inciting a riot can lead to a subjective reading of the facts and the application of nebulous standards.

Today’s wrinkle are the armed demonstrators. They imply that a peaceful assembly could be placed at grave risk at any moment. It shouldn’t be difficult to foresee that local people will come out to confront neo-Nazis and white supremacists that are marching in their town. That creates even greater risk of physical violence, and requires that local police are well-trained and disciplined.

Second, there are Confederate statues all over America. The white supremacists who went to Charlottesville to “protect” Lee’s statue need to hear that we will not re-litigate the Civil War. The south’s and the nation’s history are what they are. The Civil War should be given due weight, learned from, pondered, and not shunted aside. Are Robert E. Lee’s existence, deeds, and historical relevance news to anyone?

A suggestion: In Bulgaria, the USSR monuments were removed and placed in a single museum park. The museum’s collection covers the period 1944 to 1989, from the introduction of communism in Bulgaria, to the end of the totalitarian regime. Herding those statues into one place makes a statement that speaks loudly about the era, and how the USSR deprived Bulgarians of their rights.

Maybe a few such statue parks could have a similar effect here.

Let’s not get sidetracked from the most important issue before us: How we remake the US economy so that it provides a decent standard of living and expanding opportunity to as many people as possible.

There are plenty of “deplorables” who would benefit from universal health care, inexpensive college tuition for their children, infrastructure that worked, and good-paying jobs. Uniting the US population around programs that achieve these goals would do much to subdue the angry ethnic divisions that these “political entrepreneurs” are trying to foment.

Moreover, this program is not of the right or the left.

It’s a path toward political stability and a better society – one that would allow people the opportunity to develop into contributing, thoughtful citizens, capable of fully participating in the Republic.

Ok, a tune to help you think about peaceful assembly and whether the statues should stay or go. Here is Depeche Mode with “Where’s The Revolution” from their 2017 album “Spirit”. Wrongo didn’t know they were still working, much less producing relevant tunes:

Takeaway Lyric:

You’ve been kept down
You’ve been pushed ’round
You’ve been lied to
You’ve been fed truths
Who’s making your decisions?
You or your religion
Your government, your countries
You patriotic junkies

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

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Somewhere, Bull Connor is Smiling

You don’t remember Bull Connor? He was Commissioner of Public Safety (chief cop) in Birmingham, Alabama when, in 1963 he used fire hoses and attack dogs against civil rights activists. The films of the confrontation and Connor’s disproportionate response, became an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He became an international symbol of Southern racism.

Now, science has come up with a better, more efficient crowd control product. From the Daily Dot:

Imagine being soaked, head to toe, in a frothy mix of pureed compost, gangrenous human flesh, and road kill, and you might get some idea of what it’s like to be sprayed with Skunk, according to those who’ve had the misfortune of being doused.

A few police departments in the US, including the St Louis Metropolitan Police, have reportedly purchased the spray, a non-lethal riot-control weapon originally developed by the Israeli firm Odortec, and used first in the occupied West Bank in 2008 against demonstrators. The sticky fluid, which Palestinians say smells like a “mixture of excrement, noxious gas and a decomposing donkey,” is usually fired from armored vehicles using high-pressure water cannons.

Decomposing donkey? Where and when do you learn what THAT smells like?

It was used in Hebron on February 26, 2012 to disperse a crowd of an estimated 1,000 people which clashed with Israeli soldiers during a protest described as commemorating the anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre.

Mistral Security, based in Bethesda MD, offers Skunk products to US police and the military. According to the company’s website, they sell it using a number of delivery systems, including 60 ounce canisters with a range of 40 feet; a “skid sprayer” equipped with a 50 gallon tank and a 5 HP motor that can shoot over 60 feet at up to 7 gallons per minute; and a 40mm grenade that can be fired by a 12-gauge shotgun.

The company reports that Skunk is made from 100% food-grade ingredients and is 100% eco-friendly – harmless to both nature and people. From their website:

Applications include, but are not limited to, border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations and sit-ins. Decontamination soap is available to mitigate the odor.

So what we have here is another way that our police spend money to create citizen compliance. Police have an ethical problem: How do they control (or disperse) a crowd that gets unruly without causing injury?

In the past year, we have seen several examples of “comply or die” in cities around the US. Now, we see that the technology is evolving from Bull Connor’s days of attack dogs and fire hoses, to tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags, and now, Skunk. Policing seems to be headed in a strange direction. You better do what you’re told, and not participate in any, you know, civil disobedience, like sit-ins, protests, demonstrations and such, or we will Skunk you, (or worse).

A fundamental Constitutional issue has emerged in police response to civil disobedience in the past few years. City property has been “privatized”, with the municipal corporation as the owner. Public space is not owned, it is supposed to be available to the public with only limited conditions. But, we now see a growing number of examples where police, mayors and municipalities are limiting access for the press, for demonstrators as well as for ordinary citizens to public spaces.

When our laws are manipulated in order to suppress a free press, or personal speech, it shows contempt for the entire idea of a free people or a government of laws. When our police continually purchase new weapons to insure compliance with police orders, peaceful protest is at risk.

Consider this: At Donald Trump’s Dallas rally on Monday night, Politico reports that as the mostly white attendees filed out, they clashed with 200 or so protesters, mostly black and Hispanic.

Dozens of police officers, including several on horseback, pushed protesters off arena property. After being pushed to the other side of the street, one protest leader encouraged the rest to arm their families and teach them to protect themselves:

You’re only going to get Martin Luther King so long before you get Malcolm X.

Our police should be careful what they wish for.

See you on Sunday.

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