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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – January 25, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The Subway, Zion NP, UT – 2019 photo by DarthButane. This is a nine-mile round trip hike.

When it comes to the impeachment trial, nothing that’s said really matters, if you are hoping for a fair review of guilty, vs. not guilty.

Let’s spend a moment reviewing Adam Schiff’s closing remarks on Thursday night. He was off the charts brilliant:

“The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first, to put their interest first. Colonel Vindman said, here, right matters. Here, right matters.

Well, let me tell you something. If right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. It doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well-written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what he did was not right. “

Schiff concluded with: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“But here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.

This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.

He didn’t read this, he spoke from the heart. He wasn’t histrionic, or angry. However, he did deliver a sharp condemnation of Trump. He all but said “If Trump walks, and is re-elected, this country is finished.”

That fell flat with some Republicans:

Republicans have really thin skins when it comes to attacks on the guy who tweets insults for a living.

Schiff didn’t pretend that witnesses are a real possibility.  He didn’t pretend Democrats are going to get documents. He didn’t pretend that GOP Senators will do the right thing.

He made it clear to the real jury, America’s voters, what’s at stake, and exactly who is shirking their duties. He’s shown us that Republicans no longer even pretend to give a flying f__k about democracy, honesty, or the Constitution.

Was it a tough week for you? Jim Lehrer died. The long-time anchor of the PBS NewsHour was possibly the last of his kind. Wrongo often watched Lehrer’s careful, considered journalism on PBS, along with his moderation of presidential debates. He was never one of those in the news media who thrive on gotcha questions and confrontations.

Time to let it all go for a few minutes. Iit’s time for our Saturday Soother. Here, the fields of Wrong still have snow on the ground, although it is now crisscrossed by the tracks of all sorts of animals. We’re in for a rainy weekend, so let’s start by brewing up a mug of coffee that is recommended by Wrongo’s daughter, Merrill. It’s Colombia Santa Rita coffee ($16/12 oz.) with its notes of caramel, toasted almond, and powdered cocoa, from Rainier Coffee.

Now settle back near a fire, and listen to a piece of cello music from Henry Eccles, a violinist from Great Britain who was born in 1670. We will listen to the Largo section of his “Sonata for Violoncello in G minor”, played by Maxim Kozlov, who calls himself “Cellopedia”:

Wrongo and Ms. Right heard this played on New Year’s Day by Sam Magill, cellist with the NY Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He hasn’t recorded it professionally, but you will love this sad, emotional performance by Kozlov.

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

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Verdict First. Trial Later

The Daily Escape:

Joshua Tree NP CA, in snow – December 2019 photo by chase_embrace

Have you been watching the impeachment extravaganza? It’s a mind-numbing exercise that’s difficult to take in large doses. That was probably Mitch McConnell’s plan. There are a few revelations though. One is the work of Adam Schiff, (D-CA) who is the lead House manager for the impeachment trial.

Josh Marshall at TPM says that Schiff’s job is to put the Senate on trial, and put Republican senators in a box that they can’t climb out of in November:

“Adam Schiff… [is] making a really convincing, damning set of arguments about all the accusations the President’s lawyers are denying while they simultaneously refuse to release records which would quickly confirm and refute those accusations.

These are cases in which we know there are contemporaneous notes or other records. The answers are there. But they refuse to release them. It is a damning indictment not only of the President but even more his Senate accomplices.”

The Senate Republicans swore an oath to be jurors, but they want to keep all of the proof secret. So, Schiff and the other House managers are making it clear that it is the Senate Republicans that are really on trial. The weakness for Republicans is that this is the first Senate trial held in defiance of the principle of shared facts and evidence.

Republican Senators are not paying close attention to Schiff and the others. All Senators are supposed to be in attendance and listening, but a few, mainly on the Republican side, are openly flaunting the rule. Dana Milbank’s column in the WaPo:

“Just minutes into the session, as lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) presented his opening argument for removing the president, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) displayed on his desk a hand-lettered message with big block letters pleading: “S.O.S.” In case that was too subtle, he followed this later with another handwritten message pretending he was an abducted child:  “THESE R NOT MY PARENTS!”

See, it’s all just a joke, presided over by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Hell, Trump said out loud at Davos that he’s withholding evidence: (brackets by Wrongo)

“I got to watch enough [of the Senate trial] — I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”

The second article of impeachment is obstruction of Congress by withholding witnesses and documents. Trump confessed to it on live TV to reporters, and Senate Republicans don’t care.

Wrongo’s been waiting for Republicans to pay a significant price for their lying, hypocrisy, constant defiance of the rule of law, and disrespect for our institutions, norms, and Constitution, ever since the days of St. Ronnie.

From Martin Longman: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In a way, it’s something the Democrats are getting used to. From the hanging chads in Florida in 2000 to the Electoral College loss in 2016, the Republicans make a living winning despite losing. They’ve become dependent on cheating and rigging the rules of the game, and they’re experts at it at this point.”

The impeachment trial Kabuki play is no different. The GOP is gleefully waiting out the ceremonial “trial” in order to deliver their pre-ordained verdict.

Is it just Wrongo, or does it seem like America is screwed beyond redemption? If, by some cosmic quirk, Democrats one day hold the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, anything they attempt to do that does not align with Republican orthodoxy will end up being decided by one of McConnell’s right-wing courts.

You can expect that they will find a way to tie up, or simply negate anything the savior Congress tries to do. Will some great leader show up? Does the current crop of Democratic candidates have anyone able to make the case for wholesale change?

Do any of them have coattails sufficient to win the Senate?

Wrongo proposes that we think about Adam Schiff as the Democratic Presidential nominee. Sure, you think it’s too late, but is it really?

Here’s what the WaPo’s conservative writer Jennifer Rubin said about Schiff’s opening statement: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And that is what the trial is about. It’s about making clear to the entire country that Trump did exactly what he is accused of, but that his own party, suffering from political cowardice and intellectual corruption, do not have the nerve to stop him. If that is the goal — prove Trump’s guilt and Republicans’ complicity — Schiff hit a grand slam. And we have days more of evidence to hear.”

He’s someone who can make a tightly reasoned argument. He’s well-spoken, and knows Constitutional history. He’s a liberal from a liberal state, and at 60, he’s not a geezer.

President Adam? Sure, why not!

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Saturday Soother – January 11, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Road in Yosemite after rain – December 2019 photo by worldpins

Did we just avoid a war, or was a future war thrust upon us? You have to go way back to find a time when the thought of an overseas conflict united Americans behind the plan.

Today, all we have are questions about which war we consider to be a war worth fighting. Certainly it wouldn’t be a war on climate change, or vote suppression, or spiraling health care costs. Those aren’t considered just wars in today’s politics.

One Party is always willing to fight the other when the topic is intervention in the Middle East. Doug Collins, the mouthy Republican Congress Critter from Georgia, who’s willing to self-promote on any TV channel, went on Fox (Lou Dobbs) to criticize Democrats:

“They’re in love with terrorists. We see that they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families, who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani. That’s a problem.”

That led Preet Bharara, former US Attorney, to clap back at Collins: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“No American is “in love” with terrorists or “mourns” the death of that Iranian general on an airstrip in Baghdad. Many of us do, however, mourn the death of decency, honesty and reason here at home.

I realize that you are a politician and that hyperbolic, hyperpartisan claptrap is the unfortunate fashion of the day. But even allowing for the new normal of nastiness in political rhetoric, your casual slur of countless good Americans hits a new bottom. Americans can, in good faith, differ about the legality or efficacy of killing Soleimani. That doesn’t make them unpatriotic or lovers of terrorists. It is hostility to differences of opinion that is un-American.”

More:

“You are a pastor, an attorney and a sitting member of Congress. Therefore, the evidence would suggest you should know better. To utter such garbage, which you know to be false and defamatory, goes against all the training and teaching you must have received. But you got your cheap shot across, and perhaps that’s all that matters to you.”

Iraq War veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) chimed in about what Collins said:

“I’m not going to dignify that with a response. I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorists. I don’t need to justify myself to anyone.”

Collins then recanted:

“Let me be clear: I do not believe Democrats are in love with terrorists, and I apologize for what I said earlier this week.”

But, even though Collins appeared on Fox on Friday morning, he didn’t apologize. Instead, he later apologized on his Twitter feed, which has less than 300k followers.

Let’s give Preet the last word: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…I am not making some old and familiar naive call for a return to “civility” in our politics. I don’t have much hope for that….I just want people like you to knock off the worst scurrilous nonsense…..If we are going to come together, protect the homeland and heal the hearts of people who have suffered the scars of terrorism, we need our leaders to do better than lazy trash talk.”

Collins was deployed as a Navy Chaplain to Iraq in 2008, so he knows better. He’s certainly seen Democrats die fighting terrorists. Yesterday, Wrongo said Democrats can’t let Republicans slide, they need to be called out when they are wrong, like Bharara and Duckworth just did to Collins.

Sometimes, Wrongo wonders if all this is happening because he didn’t forward at least a thousand Facebook messages to ten people. If so, Wrongo apologizes, America!

Time for all of us to de-stress from the first week of the new decade. Let’s hope most weeks are calmer than what we just lived through. To help calm things down, it’s time for our Saturday Soother!

Start by brewing up a mug of Panama Esmeralda Geisha Natural ($19.95/4oz.). Wrongo knows that’s expensive, but the stock market had a great week, even if Gen. Soleimani didn’t, so you can afford it. It’s from Paradise Roasters in Minneapolis.

Now, grab a seat by the window and listen to something soothing. Today, we hear Beethoven’s “Für Elise” played on glass harp by Robert Tiso. The score was not published until 1867, 40 years after the composer’s death. And it may not have really been dedicated to Elise:

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

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Saturday Soother – November 23, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lockhart Mountain, Lake George, NY – November 2019 photo by goldengoddess69

After seven public hearings with 12 witnesses over five days, the impeachment inquiry moves to a new stage: a public report and a handoff to the House Judiciary Committee. What’s not clear is whether witnesses close to Trump, like Bolton, will ever testify.

The House Intelligence will deliver a report to Judiciary that lays out their case for impeachment. The Republicans will submit a minority report of their own, once Dems publish theirs.

We’ll have new editions of the same two narratives that have been with us since the start of the Mueller investigation. This leads to the weekly question: How can Republicans not see the facts? Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s misdeeds with Ukraine as an inconvenience, an annoyance which will blow over. Here’s a quote from Harwood:

“Lawmaker #3 “No. I think the attitude is, so what? “Sondland did his best to protect the President. Over half the Dems were for Impeachment before the whistleblower. People see what they want. This is still too complicated for the average person to understand. But follow the polls.”

And we need to think about what will happen in the Senate after they receive the referral for impeachment. The GOP will use the Senate trial to put both the Bidens and whatever they think the Dems did in 2016 on trial.

It will be a circus. Trump says he wants a trial, and wants to be the first witness. They will out the whistleblower. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And now we’re going on to the main event and that’s in the U.S. Senate…So we’ll finally be able to get to the truth. So I’m talking to my colleagues in the Senate, these are some of the witnesses that you need to call and these are some of the questions that you need to ask. First, you have to hear from the whistleblower.”

It won’t take much for the Republicans in the Senate to convince themselves that they were right all along, that Trump was justified in pressuring Ukraine president Zelensky. They’ll say that nothing happened, there was no harm, no foul and hypocrisy be damned.

Are the Dems smart enough to hold simultaneous hearings in the House to surface more about Trump’s obstruction? BTW, don’t you think Hunter Biden’s Burisma board seat is unseemly at best? Why don’t the Dems just do a proper investigation? But for his last name, Hunter’s credentials for a paid board position seem quite weak.

If you haven’t become cynical about Republicans in the years since Obama was elected, just wait two months.

America will have national elections in 2020. The circus in the Senate will hopefully lead to historic turnout for local, state and federal candidates. Wrongo feels optimistic that something new and better is coming. The path to that new political reality is steep and difficult, and we all must walk it.

Enough! Let’s slide into a Saturday Soother, that time of the week when we try to escape the horror show around us for a few minutes, and contemplate both our inner world, and the world around us.

The first snow covered the fields of Wrong on Tuesday. The short days and the drab colors remind us that spring is a long ways off. This weekend is about preparing for Thanksgiving, the arrival of friends, and a quiet celebration of all that we enjoy, from family, to friends, to our great country.

Let’s kick things off by brewing up a mug of Warm November Rain coffee ($20/12oz.) from Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee. The roaster says it has notes of black tea, tangerine, and baker’s chocolate.

Now settle into a comfy chair and listen to the enchanting “Pavane, Op. 50” by the French composer, Gabriel Faure, written in 1887. It was originally written for piano, but is better known today in Fauré’s version for orchestra. Here it is played live without an orchestra by 12 Cellists (!) from the Berlin Philharmonic.

If one cello is great, imagine just how fantastic 12 cellos can be!

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

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Dateline London — Banana Republicanism Edition

The Daily Escape:

Royal Albert Hall, London, noon sound check for tonight’s DJ Spoony’s Garage Classical show. The show is sold out – October 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

The yelling of Republicans in the House can seem muted when you’re 3,000 miles away in England. This, from the Guardian:

“House Republicans who tried to storm the secure area in the Capitol where Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official on Ukraine was testifying, have effectively shut down the interview, according to a senior Democratic lawmaker…More than two dozen House Republicans, led by representative Matt Gaetz, tried to force their way into Cooper’s deposition, even though they are not members of the three committees leading the inquiry…”

The “secure area” is what’s called a SCIF, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. These are sealed conference rooms that are protected from electronic intrusion. They exist so that members of Congress can receive highly classified information about how the nation collects information on its adversaries, and on very sensitive intelligence operations. They exist all over the government, in the military, and in the defense contracting industry. Meeting attendees have to leave their electronic devices outside of the room, under the supervision of a security-cleared attendant.

Some, but not all of Gaetz’s Congressional storm troopers surrendered their devices at the door of the SCIF. Those that didn’t caused a serious security breach. Despite their mob efforts, the deposition itself took place, but after a five-hour delay.

This single party effort to disrupt testimony is significant, and possibly symbolic of where the GOP is today. Cooper’s testimony is on the DOD’s response to Trump’s refusal to provide funds to Ukraine, funds that had been duly appropriated by Congress.

This is the effort by a mob to suppress evidence. From Marcie Wheeler: (brackets by Wrongo)

“In short, a bunch of Republican Congressmen (and a handful of [Congress] women) are staging a faux riot in order to prevent the DOD from telling Congress how the White House prevented them from following the law that prohibits the White House from withholding funds without a good reason….”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tweeted this:

Hat tip to Rep. Pascrell for the term Banana Republicanism.

Marcie also reported that nine of the 43 rogue Congress critters actually sit on the committees that are conducting the inquiry inside the SCIF. Those nine are in the room all the time. They can ask questions of the witnesses. They can file minority reports if they disagree with the majority findings. So they can’t expect anyone to believe that they’re shut out of hearing the classified testimony.

In fact, it is most telling that they apparently aren’t leaking anything to the press, or to their colleagues!

Here in the UK, Boris Johnson, the British “Trump-light” head of government, reluctantly follows the dictates of the law despite his desire to force feed Brexit to his country. In the US, Trump and his Banana Republican cohort no longer bother to pretend.

Some of these rioters sit on the Judiciary Committee. Others apparently sit on the Armed Services, and Homeland Security Committees. Their actions should lead to getting booted from those committees and instead, being relegated to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, or to the Joint Committee on Printing.

The press should be asking GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy if he’s going to remove these people from the committees that handle sensitive information for violating security protocols.

A question for Mac Thornberry, (R-TX), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee:

“Should Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Bradley Byrne lose their seats on Armed Services for the manner in which they violated security protocols?”

A question for Mike Rogers, (R-AL), ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee:

“Should Mark Walker, Debbie Lesko, and you, lose your seats on the Homeland Security Committee for violating security protocols?”

This kind of breakdown in the orderly function of the House represents an existential threat to this country. If an opposition party can freely intimidate witnesses and shut down depositions without consequences, then the Constitution’s power of impeachment is useless.

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 9, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Cape of Good Hope, 6:00pm, South Africa – September 2006 photo by Wrongo

Last week, the NYT’s Thomas Edsall discussed an award-winning academic study focused on the nihilism of the Trump GOP’s hardcore supporters. The paper illustrates that among this slice of the American electorate, the temptation to cause or support chaos may be overwhelming. Edsall says the study argues that a segment of the American electorate that was once peripheral is drawn to “chaos incitement” and that this segment has gained decisive influence through the rise of social media:

“The rise of social media provides the public with unprecedented power to craft and share new information with each other….this technological transformation allows the transmission of a type of information that portrays….political candidates or groups negatively…and has a low evidential basis.”

The study says that the chaos-inducing information transmitted on social media includes conspiracy theories, fake news, discussions of political scandals and negative campaigns.

The study’s authors, Michael Bang Petersen and Mathias Osmundsen, both from Aarhus University in Denmark, and Kevin Arceneaux, a political scientist at Temple, conducted six surveys, four in the US, interviewing 5,157 participants, and two in Denmark, interviewing 1,336. They identified those who are “drawn to chaos” through their affirmative responses to the following statements:

  • I fantasize about a natural disaster wiping out most of humanity such that a small group of people can start all over.
  • I think society should be burned to the ground.
  • When I think about our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking “just let them all burn.”
  • We cannot fix the problems in our social institutions, we need to tear them down and start over.
  • Sometimes I just feel like destroying beautiful things.

The responses of individuals to three of the statements are horrifying:

  • 24% agreed that society should be burned to the ground;
  • 40% concurred with the thought that “When it comes to our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking ‘just let them all burn”;
  • 40% also agreed that “we cannot fix the problems in our social institutions, we need to tear them down and start over.”

Despite interviewing 5,000+ Americans the study doesn’t conclude if the results represent the actual percentage of Americans who share this view. They did use a YouGov nationally representative survey of Americans. They say the data are weighted to achieve national representations on gender, age, education and geography.

As bad as this sounds, what if we reframed the “need for chaos” as “a need for things to change in ways that work for everyday people“? Instead of casting them as evil or as deplorables who wish to destroy nice things, we could see them as people who have been left out, or cheated by the system.

In that light, it might be reasonable for the marginalized on the left and right to wish for major changes in our system. So, let’s treat this study as an example of one dead canary in a coal mine. At this point, it’s a potentially terrifying glimpse of what may be America’s (and the entire developed world’s) future.

Nihilism is a symptom of needs not being met. Our current neoliberal capitalism is a prime cause behind this nihilism. Our system must change to be more inclusive, to create more “winners”.  We won’t blunt nihilism with more trickle down policies.

Time to wake up America! Our society has to change, or die.

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Saturday Soother – January 5, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon NP, looking down at the Wall Street trail – this photo was taken on New Year’s Eve by natsmith69. The photographer says he didn’t hike down because of the government shutdown.

Two topics for today: First, the December jobs report, which was encouraging in the face of a roller-coaster stock market. Employment rose a very strong 312,000 jobs in December, bringing the full count of jobs added for 2018 up to 2.6 million, the strongest year for job gains since 2015.

Unemployment ticked up to 3.9%, largely because more people were drawn into the labor market as measured by the civilian labor force participation rate. It moved up two-tenths to 63.1%, its highest level since 2014. That’s a reminder that the job market still has capacity to expand.

Wage growth accelerated slightly, and tied cyclical highs. Weekly hours worked edged up, job gains for the prior two months were revised upwards, and a very high 70% of private industries added jobs.

It seems that low unemployment has finally started to lead to pressure to raise pay.

Despite all of this positive labor market news, there are economic headwinds in the volatile stock market, Trump’s trade war, and slower economic growth abroad.

Some economists are forecasting a grim outlook for near-term US economic growth. OTOH, low unemployment, job gains, and higher wages should boost consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70% of the US economy.

Try to keep calm about the stock market. There isn’t much definitive economic news that should make you decide to bail out of stocks just now.

Item two: The shut-down. On Friday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) after another meeting about the shut-down, said that Trump threatened to keep the government closed for “months or even years” until he gets his desired wall funding.

Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) described the meeting as a “lengthy and sometimes contentious conversation with the president.” She said both sides agreed to continue talks. She then said: (brackets by Wrongo)

 We cannot resolve this until we open up [the] government…

So far, most Republicans are keeping a stiff upper lip, saying just what Trump says. But there are a few cracks, notably Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and possibly, Susan Collins (R-ME), who are asking to re-open the federal government without a deal on funding the border wall.

Clearly there is a deal to be had. It probably looks like funding Trump’s wall, which is a rounding error in the federal budget, in return for passing a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) relief bill as part of immigration reform. Lawmakers in both parties are sympathetic to immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.

The Hill reports that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of GOP leadership, said that while he hasn’t been involved in overall immigration discussions, expanding the scope of negotiations could be one way to break the logjam:

You know, sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to make it bigger, and that’s always one of the options here…

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is urging Trump to strike a deal on comprehensive immigration reform:

Why would he not agree to such a thing…We could go small, we could go a little bigger… but I’d like to see the president say, ‘OK, we’ve got a new Congress. We’ve got divided government. I’m the president who can actually make this happen.’

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is pitching his proposal that would establish a $25 billion border trust fund and codify protections for DACA recipients. Remember that Trump rejected a similar offer from Senate Democrats last year, so it isn’t clear where the goalposts for such a deal are today. We’ll have to watch the drama unfold.

Time to let go of the news and settle into a Saturday soother, maybe while taking down ornaments. Start the process of soothing by brewing up a yuuge cup of Panama Ninety Plus Perci Lot 50 coffee ($60/8 oz.) from Birdrock Coffee of San Diego, CA. Coffee Review rates it at 97, with tastes of fruit while being giddily brandy-toned. Maybe that’s a rave.

Now settle back in a comfy chair and listen to the “Adagio for Oboe, Cello, Organ and Strings” by Domenico Zipoli. Zipoli was an Italian Jesuit priest who lived much of his life in what is now Argentina. He studied with Scarlatti, became a Jesuit, worked as a missionary and died in 1726 in Argentina at age 38:

If fate had granted Zipoli another 20 to 25 years, he would be regarded today as a major composer.

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Brett Kavanaugh’s Just Another Republican

The Daily Escape:

Storm brewing near Vilano Bridge, St. Augustine FL – June 2018

At Vox, Dylan Matthews has a detailed review of Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s history of being in the middle of Republican wars since the 1990’s. He represented the 6-year-old Elián González pro bono in an attempt to keep him from being deported to back to his father in Cuba in 2000.

Kavanaugh also worked on GW Bush’s legal team during the 2000 Florida recount, which resulted in Bush winning a party-line Supreme Court vote to install him as president. Then:

Kavanaugh worked in the solicitor general’s office under George H.W. Bush….The SG under George W. Bush was Kenneth Starr, who took a shine to Kavanaugh and hired him to join the independent counsel’s office in 1994.

Kavanaugh became a Republican glamor boy with the investigation into Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: (link, italics and emphasis by Wrongo)

Eventually, Kavanaugh, and the rest of Starr’s team, moved on from the substance of the Whitewater real estate deal to the matter of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. In his history of the investigation, “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr”, Duquesne University’s Ken Gormley notes that Kavanaugh, “considered one of Starr’s intellectual heavy-lifters, pushed hardest to confront Clinton with some of the dirtiest facts linked to his sexual indiscretions with Lewinsky.”

In a memo to “Judge Starr” (with a copy to “All Attorneys”), Kavanaugh wrote:

After reflecting this evening, I am strongly opposed to giving the President any “break” … unless before his questioning on Monday, he either i) resigns or ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you. I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him. … In the end, I am convinced that there really are [no reasonable defenses]. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me….

The President has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles — callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. He has committed perjury (at least) in the [Paula] Jones case. … He has tried to disgrace [Ken Starr] and this Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush

It should be unimaginable for a nice young Catholic lawyer, but Kavanaugh then listed a series of ten questions that he wanted Starr to ask Bill Clinton. All of them were explicit and unsavory. Wrongo will offer one, and it is the least unsavory:

If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trashcan in your secretary’s office, would she [be] lying?

Starr didn’t ask any of Kavanaugh’s questions, but did ask others that were similar. We’ll never get past what Bill Clinton did to the Democrats. Hillary too.

This is the real Kavanaugh: He’s not just the guy we are told is a good father, CYO basketball coach, and feeder of the poor. He clearly had a prurient interest in Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky.

We know that he will most likely be on the Court if it is tasked with judging the constitutional validity of whatever Special Counsel Robert Mueller produces regarding the man who appointed Kavanaugh. This has nothing to do with impeachment, it is largely about Trump being compelled to testify to a grand jury, as Bill Clinton did in 1998, compelled by Ken Starr and Brett Kavanaugh.

But, we now know that in 2009, Kavanaugh changed his mind and said he is against compelling a president to testify: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Having seen first-hand how complex and difficult that job is, I believe it vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible. The country wants the President to be “one of us” who bears the same responsibilities of citizenship that all share. But I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office….

This is not something I necessarily thought in the 1980s or 1990s. Like many Americans at that time, I believed that the President should be required to shoulder the same obligations that we all carry. But in retrospect, that seems a mistake.

Now he’s for insulating the president. The Senate shouldn’t allow him to use what he wrote in 2009 as an alibi for what he would do if a Mueller-related case came before him.

Unless Kavanaugh agrees to recuse himself from any such case, no Senator should vote for him.

Given Kavanaugh’s desire to ask difficult questions of Bill Clinton, Democrats shouldn’t let these hearings pass without some very pointed grilling. Otherwise they will have failed.

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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 – December 16, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Central Park NYC, December 12th – 2017 photo by Rommel Tan

Long-time readers know that Wrongo has a very low opinion of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), who he considers an intellectual joker. He is often given a pass by the main stream media, who suggest that he is a thoughtful and principled Republican. But once again, he looked like a partially-informed hack on Thursday when he said that Americans need to have more babies or risk a collapse of Medicare and Social Security.

His concern is about the declining US birth rate. The Boston Globe reports that:

Ten years ago, the typical American woman had about 2.1 children. Today, it is about 1.77, representing a collapse in fertility on par with the declines in other countries that yielded Japan’s rapidly graying population in the 1990s, or Canada’s massive present-day demand for immigrants.

From Ryan’s news conference: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

People — this is going to be the new economic challenge for America. People…I did my part, (Ryan has three kids) but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Meaning, baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the work force…We have something like a 90% increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19% increase in the working population in America…

It is true that birth rates in the US have declined, but that’s not necessarily bad news. For example, birth rates for teenagers hit a record low last year. Also, Wrongo recently described McKinsey’s report on jobs lost to automation that showed 75 million jobs are at risk in the US by 2030.

Perhaps we already have too many workers for the jobs revolution that is occurring all around us.

And there’s an obvious solution to the problem that Ryan ignores: Allowing more immigrants into the country, either to fill the jobs being vacated by retiring baby boomers, or as necessary to meet tomorrow’s job requirements. But Ryan shows that he’s all in with Trump’s hard line anti-immigration positions.

Should American women become brood mares? This isn’t a new concept. The fear of being outnumbered by racial and ethnic minorities is the driving force behind today’s alt-right, and the view was around in earlier white nationalist movements. HuffPo interviewed Kelly J. Baker, author of “Gospel According to the Klan”. Baker says that the need to ensure that white women were having more white babies was a key part of the Ku Klux Klan’s platform during its resurgence in the 1920s: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Baker said that the 1920s Klan was “nervous” about the possibility of widespread birth control for white women…To push back against the rising availability of effective birth control, the Klan told white women that having as many white children as possible is your job and it matters for your family and your race and for America.

And now, Ryan makes this a mainstream GOP idea. For all of the political empowerment of women in today’s headlines, the Ryan argument lands in the same place as today’s alt-right, and yesterday’s KKK.

Ryan and the GOP want to see more babies, but they won’t support young kids with health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Quartz reports that next month, 600,000 American children will lose their CHIP coverage. CHIP has been instrumental in ensuring health care coverage of children in US families that aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford any other form of insurance.

Republicans talk a lot about the cost of healthcare. The cost of not providing healthcare to children in an America with failing schools is impossible to calculate. It is very high, it lasts lifetimes and possibly, generations.

Yet, Ryan is saying that American women need to have more babies to Make America Great Again.

And we know that he’s asking for more white babies.

OK, it’s Saturday, and we need a break from toxic politics, and maybe from obsessing about shopping for gifts. Hanukkah began this week, so Wrongo looked for a soothing piece of music that was inspired by the celebration of the Festival of Lights. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” by Adam Shugar.

If you look at the YouTube video, you will see that it has just 5,000 views. It should have many more. You should watch it because the music is good, and unlike most orchestral pieces, this string orchestra performs while standing. The video is shot from a high angle, and looking down allows you to see them all as they play together, almost like a choreographed dance. Here is “Hanukkah Overture for String Orchestra and Clarinet” played by the Orchestre Nouvelle Génération under the direction of Airat Ichmouratov, with Mark Simons on clarinet:

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

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