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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The Biggest News Story of 2018

The Daily Escape:

Santa Dash, Glasgow Scotland, 2012 photo via Just Run lah

Hope that you had a relaxing Christmas, one that you will remember, and not because you bought a Lexus. Here at the Mansion of Wrong, the party is still underway. Our last guests will be leaving on January 2nd.

In reading the endless lists of the most important news stories of 2018, Wrongo felt that the major news story was Trump’s awesome amount of lying. Back in the dark ages, before GW Bush and Cheney, the idea of a president lying outright to the American people was cause for outrage. The liar’s poll numbers would drop immediately and all of the press would call out the transgression.

Now, when Donald Trump actually lies daily, telling whoppers that are stunning to behold, there is little outrage, and certainly none from the Right. This is exacerbated by the main stream media, many of whom report Trump’s lies as if they’re news stories, often without providing any context that tells the truth of the matter. They have become complicit in Trump’s dishonesty, and we all suffer as a result.

It’s Orwellian: Lies become truth, truth is devalued. We can’t be an informed people when the information we receive is often full of lies and distortions.

This is without question, the biggest story of 2018.

Next column, Wrongo will reprise his 2018 Wrong predictions, looking back on the year that was, scoring his successes and his prognostication failures.

Now, listen to Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss perform “The Wexford Carol”, an ancient Irish carol. The great Canadian violinist, Natalie MacMaster joins them. This is from their 2008 album, “Songs of Joy & Peace”:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 11, 2018

Possibly the best news about the mid-terms was that the long-promised youth vote was finally real.  A study by Tufts University found that: (brackets by Wrongo)

Approximately 31% of youth (ages 18-29) turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms, an extraordinary increase over the CIRCLE estimate in 2014 [when 21% voted] and the highest rate of turnout in at least 25 years.

Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that, in 2014, approximately 10.8 million young Americans voted, with Democrats preferred 54%-43%, compared to 14.7 million in 2018 (Democrats preferred 67%-32%). So the Dem’s share of the youth vote increased by 13 percentage points in four years.

The actual number of Republican votes cast by those under 30 remained stable from 2014 to 2018. So, nearly all of the 4 million increase in turnout came from those supporting Democrats.

Wrongo tried to stay away from Jim Acosta and Jeff Sessions for today’s cartoons. It wasn’t easy.

Another place where thoughts and prayers are really needed:

After the CA shooting, there was a fire, followed by a shower for the GOP:

2020 is right around the corner:

From the cartoonist, Clay Jones: After the 2014 midterms, the first major candidate to announce a presidential bid, not an exploratory committee, was Ted Cruz in March 2015. Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll have an announcement in four months…but we don’t have long.

Media madness starts on Monday:

We wouldn’t need to throw the TV out the window if the media actually covered ISSUES. You didn’t hear that last Tuesday, HHS published Final Regulations that will allow employers and universities to deny health insurance coverage of contraception to any woman based on the company’s “moral” or “religious” belief. Did anyone see coverage of this issue before it happened? Which news organizations are covering it now?

Florida, same as it ever was:

Back to the usual totally repellent ads next week:

 

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Saturday Soother – November 10, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fall colors on the Katsura River, Kyoto, Japan -2018 photo by DillonCohen27

Larry King on Trump:

Trump is the story in America. I would bet that ninety-eight percent of all Americans mention his name at least once a day. And when it’s come to that, when you focus on one man, I know Donald 40 years — I know the good side of Donald and I know the bad side of Donald — I think he would like to be a dictator. I think he would love to be able to just run things. So, he causes a lot of this. Then his fight with the media and fake news. I’ve been in the media a long time….And at all my years at CNN, in my years at Mutual Radio, I have never seen a conversation where a producer said to a host “pitch the story this way. Angle it that way. Don’t tell the truth.” Never saw it. Never saw it.

I know, you weren’t sure that Larry was still alive. He is, and he’s not wrong. Here are more of King’s quotes:

So when CNN started covering Trump — they were the first — they covered every speech he made and then they made Trump the story. But, they covered him as a character. They carried every speech he made. They carried him more than Fox News, at the beginning. And so they built the whole thing up and the Republicans had a lot of candidates and they all had weaknesses.

Larry has a point. We spend waay too much time talking about what Trump talks about. People haven’t been addicted like this to the news before, and it isn’t healthy for us as individuals or as a country.

Sure, it would be terrific if people knew all the facts about issues before they voted, but social media, the internet and cable news no longer trade in truth. They’re in it for the money, not for the news.

We can’t uncover the truth without serious digging.

Think about the Jim Acosta affair at Trump’s Thursday press conference. Acosta confronts Trump, Trump wants to move on, but Acosta doesn’t think they are done, and wants to follow up with another question. A young female intern tries to take the microphone away from Acosta without success, and the WH says Acosta laid hands on the intern, then sends out a video to shame Acosta.

But, the video was doctored, according to the WaPo:

White House shares doctored video to support punishment of journalist Jim Acosta: https://wapo.st/2JPGGSA

And the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, defends releasing a doctored video.

Hold that thought. On Friday, Trump says that he doesn’t know Matt Whitaker, the guy he just appointed as Interim Attorney General. That sounds strange, no executive appoints a person that he/she doesn’t know. So, here are two quotes from Trump about Whitaker. They are both as uncomplicated as a statement can be:

“I know Matt Whitaker.” –October 10, 2018
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” –November 9, 2018

The truth is that he clearly knew Matt Whitaker when he said he didn’t know him. The sad part for America is that he has no guilt, and no shame, when he contradicts himself on something knowable.

There is little truth from Trump, or in his administration, so why does the media cover him so slavishly?

Wrongo recommends that the Main Stream Media immediately reduce their coverage of Trump by 50%. By cutting it in half, two wonderful things will happen:

First, the country’s obsession with his lies will weaken. People’s stress levels will be reduced.

Second, it will drive Trump crazy. He will say even bigger whoppers to try and get America to reconnect, and mainline more Trumpiness.

Both outcomes would be completely acceptable to Wrongo.

Enough for today! Time for Wrongo to heed his own prescription. Let’s all take a few deep breaths, and relax. Poke around in the pantry, find your favorite coffee, and brew up a nice, fresh cup, just the way you like it.

Station yourself near a big, south-facing window, and take in the natural world. Here in the northeast, it’s raining for the third weekend in a row, so we’re staying inside once again.

Now, listen to “Spiegel im Spiegel for Cello and Piano”, written by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt in 1978. Wikipedia says that since 2010, Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world.

This is a beautiful, although minimalist piece. It is said that Keith Jarrett once said classical music showed him how to play fewer notes and make more music.

This piece proves Jarret’s point. It should calm you down, because it’s so pleasing to the ear:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 10, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Wildflowers in the Temblor Range, CA. April 2017 photo by Robyn Beck

We still have little hard evidence proving that Syria gassed its own people. Much like Iraq in 2003, we have made a military move that feels great emotionally, but that isn’t built on a solid foundation of fact. That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb its civilians became absolute truth in US media in less than 24 hours.

And once that tidal wave of American war frenzy starts rolling, questioning the casus belli is not permitted. Wanting conclusive evidence before commencing military action will get you vilified, denounced as a sympathizer with America’s enemies.

When Trump launched the tomahawks, most in the mainstream media suddenly fawned all over him. Margret Sullivan in the WaPo quoted several, starting with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria:

I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night…

And the NYT’s headline:

 On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first

Sullivan noted that the NYT’s piece failed to even mention that Trump is keeping refugees from the Syrian war, even children, out of the US. Victims of chemical weapons were “beautiful babies” to Trump at his news conference, while the children trying to flee such violence require “extreme vetting” and face an indefinite refugee ban. And this from the WSJ’s Bret Stephens, previously a Trump critic:

 President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it…Now destroy the Assad regime for good.

Perhaps the worst was MSNBC’s Brian Williams, who used the word “beautiful” three times when discussing the tomahawk missile launches. He quoted a Leonard Cohen lyric (from First We Take Manhattan): I am guided by the beauty of our weapons — without apparent irony:

We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean…I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’…They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield…

Williams might have focused on: What did they hit? What are the strategic consequences?

Many of these same media pukes were continuously expressing doubts about Trump’s judgment since before his election. But, when he orders the use of force, his judgment needs to be questioned by them more than ever. One reason that the US so easily resorts to the use of force abroad is that the very people that should be the first to question the rationale for a presidential military decision are instead among the first to cheer it and celebrate it.

We see groupthink most of the time when the American news media watches an administration step up to the brink of war. This was true in the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, the start of our longest military disaster.

Journalists and pundits need to keep virtues like skepticism, facts on the ground, and context fixed firmly in their minds. They should not be like Brian Williams, focused on spectacular images in the night sky, without contemplating their deadly effect.

For example, how can the media NOT ask how Trump, a man with little outward empathy, can change in a minute, suddenly becoming a caring individual about beautiful Syrian babies? Or, how in a period of 24 hours, Trump managed to flip-flop 180 degrees on a position about Syria that he’s held for years?

Why is the media leading the cheers on Syria, but keeping silent about Yemen?

Why are there never pictures of “beautiful”dead babies after our drone strikes go awry?

Time for the main stream media to wake up and do their jobs in an old school way. To help them wake up, here is Brian Williams’s favorite lyricist, Leonard Cohen, with “First We Take Manhattan”:

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

Takeaway Lyric:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

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Which Candidate’s Dirty Laundry Loses The Election?

Mark Twain said: “If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them you are misinformed.”

The media are having a field day reporting about the candidates’ dirty laundry.

The Pant Suit’s problem is her dirty laundry. The relationship between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State seems a bit unseemly. Yet, isn’t this basically “how things work” in the real world?

Given Wrongo’s 40+ years in corporate life, including a stretch where lobbying the White House and Congress was part of his job description, there doesn’t seem to be much that’s different in the Clinton Foundation’s efforts to link up like-minded people.

The Pant Suit’s email problem is another issue. You can take a deep dive into the web’s feast on Clinton’s private servers and emails. It takes you to a series of questions about what was classified and when, her gone-missing mobile devices and what she said in email, or to the FBI. Nothing Wrongo has seen undermines the FBI’s judgment that Clinton was grossly irresponsible in handling classified information but still did nothing warranting prosecution.

The question is whether bad judgement undermines her chances to be president.

The problem with the Pant Load is his dirty laundry. Among his multiple scandals, is what appear to be payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University.

It might surprise you to learn that Trump has a charitable organization, since he personally gives almost no money to charity, but the Donald J. Trump Foundation does in fact exist, and it was fined by the IRS this year for making an illegal political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. At the time, Bondi’s office was investigating claims that Trump University was a fraudulent organization designed to bilk people out of their money. After receiving the contribution (which she had solicited), Bondi decided to do nothing.

HuffPo reports that after Bondi dropped the Trump U. case, the Pant Load hosted a funds-raiser for her at Mar-a-Lago. They also say that the Trumps collectively (foundation, Donald and Ivanka) donated $125,000 to the Florida Republican Party, which was the largest donor to Bondi. Was that solicitation of a bribe? That’s a crime. Offering a bribe? A crime. Accepting a bribe? A crime. Acting on a bribe? A crime.

This happened in 2013, but few media covered it until this week. Nobody pretends that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty, but it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve when compared to Hillary Clinton, if press coverage is the yardstick.

So, why the focus on dirty laundry?

The fairest viewpoint is that the continued airing of dirty laundry is the media’s effort to offer a case against both candidates. A skeptic would say they are chasing ratings, trying to follow the money. They play up the Clinton scandals, and downplay the “ridiculous man running a ridiculous campaign” meme.

And the result is that the polls seem to be tightening.

The continuing avalanche of negative and unflattering press is probably going to accelerate that process, and some of the press are punting: Chris Wallace, one of the upcoming presidential debate moderators, is on record as saying that his job as the moderator does not include calling out bullshit when he hears it.

Who knows what the possible consequences will be for the nation and the world?

Charlie Pierce gets the important role of the media just right: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

More than anything else, and more than any other election in my lifetime, this election will go one way or the other based on how well-informed the electorate is that ultimately turns out.

NPR reported that Hillary Clinton spent 20 minutes answering reporters’ questions on a wide variety of topics on the campaign plane, but “her answers didn’t make news”, while her coughing fit did.

So that’s become the new standard. Trump’s utterances are minimized, yet Hillary’s coughing is a thing to discuss incessantly, while her answers to press pool questions are not worth reporting.

The press is desperate to report foibles, or scandals. What else an we do but to listen to “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley, which was #1 on the Billboard chart in 1982:

The song’s theme is that TV news coverage focuses too much on negative and sensationalist news; in particular, deaths, disasters, and scandals, with little regard to the consequences, or what is important.

Partial Lyrics:

I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry

Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry

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

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Focus on the Doughnut

(There will be limited blogging until 7/26, as Wrongo and Ms. Right spend an extended weekend in Philadelphia)

From Vox:

The first night of the Republican National Convention ended dominated by one bizarre question: Was Melania Trump’s convention speech plagiarized from a Michelle Obama convention speech from 2008?

OK, she probably would have gotten an “A” from Trump University, but pulleez, people! This isn’t a big deal.

Melania Trump is not a major figure in the GOP, and plagiarism of parts of a speech doesn’t have the same connotation in political speeches that it does in academia. So she stole a few lines from a Michelle Obama speech. So what? She isn’t running for anything, and the statements were largely clichés. If you are hoping to show the incompetence and dishonesty of the Trump campaign, there are bigger more important examples.

Why should anyone care about this? If Melania Trump has one interview with the press, and says she liked the ideas in Michelle Obama’s speech, this is over. Why is the media so focused on this? Why are they not focusing on the things of substance that were said in Cleveland yesterday, things that are legitimately terrifying because they could actually become policy?

They could have focused on Rep. Steve King (R-IA) going full white supremacist.

Or, Rudy Giuliani going off about the imminent (?) terrorist threat facing America, saying:

You know who you are, and we are coming to get you.

Or, the extended poutrage about “The Battle of Benghazi”.

Or, convention speaker actor Antonio Sabato Jr. who questioned Obama’s religion, saying the president is “absolutely” a Muslim.

Or, if they were truly interested, they could analyze the GOP 2016 Platform, its most socially conservative platform ever.

But our media wants to keep it simple: Everything else spoken from the stage last night requires explaining something complex, like matters of policy. That’s hard work for the reporters, and maybe for the people to understand. But when a candidate for first lady steals parts of the opposing party’s speech, that’s easy to report and to understand.

It appears that the media is incapable of making the sort of deep, factual critique of policy that we need from them. Wrongo can be annoyed about it, but that’s how it is.

The press should focus on the doughnut, and not the hole, particularly when the hole isn’t a policy speech.

OTOH, when a goofy low-stakes gaffe like this one gets the media saying negative things about Trump, we’ll just have to go with it.

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