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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – June 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Rainer from the Whiteriver campground – 2020  photo by np2fast

Good morning fellow disease vectors!

Now that Florida and Texas have again closed their bars, you’re probably wondering: “Can Joe Biden’s lead in the polls get any bigger”?

Here’s your answer. On Thursday, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. They did this without any plan for replacing it, at what appears to be the height of new cases of the COVID pandemic. From Charlie Pierce:

“Imagine, for a moment, you’re a Republican. You already know that your party has hitched its wagon to the biggest ass in the history of American politics, and that he has proceeded to bungle a response to the worst public health crisis in a century, touching off a deep recession in the bargain….Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself this morning, y’know, maybe this isn’t the best historical moment to take healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans.”

Political gurus say that timing is everything.

Trump is doing this despite the fact that 487,000 new people signed up with HealthCare.gov last month after losing their company-provided health insurance coverage because of the pandemic-induced recession. That was an increase of 46% in sign-ups compared to the same month last year.

And Trump’s trying this stunt in the week when the US hit a new record for the highest daily total of reported COVID-19 cases – more than 45,500! He’s picked the perfect time to try again to throw an estimated 20 million Americans off of their insurance coverage.

This has been the GOP plan all along: we’re trimming the rolls of people on entitlement programs. We’re doing it through the courts, through legislation and by allowing the COVID-19 infection to spread.

It’s no longer clear which is the greater threat to lives in America: The Coronavirus, or Donald Trump.

This should remind all of us that we need to make Medicare for All, or another form of single payer insurance, a top priority after the November election.

Biden said it all in a speech this week: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Amazingly, he [Trump] still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this [COVID] crisis: to fix the economy we have to get control over the virus. He’s like a child who can’t believe this has happened to him. All his whining & self-pity…his job is to do something about it.”

We desperately need new leadership. Maybe we’ll get it next January.

Now it’s time to forget the Sahara Dust storm for a few minutes. You should also ignore the fact that the Dixie Chicks changed their name to “The Chicks”. How exactly does THAT rebranding improve our world, or their career?

Time to take our masks off, sit at an appropriate physical distance, and kick back: It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Let’s start by brewing up a huge mug of Ethiopia Nano Genji Agaro Gera coffee ($21.00/12oz.) from Sacramento CA’s Temple Coffee roasters. The roaster says you will experience notes of nectarine and apricot with your first sip.

Now find a comfortable lawn chair, and settle in to listen to “Summertime”, written by George and Ira Gershwin, and Dubose Edwin Heyward, in 1935. It’s performed here by George Winston from his album “Restless Wind”:

It was also memorably performed by the late, great Sam Cooke in 1957, released as the B-side on the single of Cooke’s big hit, “You Send Me”.

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

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Trump Defrauded Veterans and Nobody Cares

The Daily Escape:

Replica New Orleans Trolley made of gingerbread, Ritz Carlton Hotel, New Orleans. It took two months to make.  – December 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

From Tuesday’s NYT:

“President Trump has paid $2 million to eight charities as part of a settlement in which the president admitted he misused funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his presidential bid and pay off business debts, the New York State attorney general said on Tuesday.”

Wrongo wrote about this in November, calling it “The Only Article of Impeachment We Need”:

“We should stop the current impeachment deliberations in Washington, because we know all that we need to know right now. An American president who defrauds veterans has met the bar of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’. We shouldn’t need any more testimony about bribery and extortion of a foreign power.”

While the fraud was committed before Trump became president, it is by itself, the greatest presidential crime in American history. And the case has already been decided in front of a judge. In the end, the president admitted in court documents that he had used the foundation’s money to settle legal obligations of his businesses, and to purchase a portrait of himself.

Trump also used the charity to boost political campaigns — first, Pamela Bondi’s Florida attorney general campaign, and then his own 2016 campaign. Trump gave away Trump Foundation checks onstage at rallies, despite strict rules barring nonprofit charities from participating in political campaigns.

Trump settled the case, because the alternative would have been litigation that would have exposed parts of his finances. Think about what his finances look like when his lawyers tell him that the better option is to admit that he stole $2 million from American veterans.

As part of the settlement, Trump’s adult children; Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump all of whom were on the board of the foundation although they never met to discuss its operations, will have to take training to make sure they don’t make similar missteps in the future. That’s a minor wrist-slap.

This story was reported by major outlets but it doesn’t seem to have made a dent in the public consciousness. You’d think a story about $2 million worth of admitted presidential crimes would break through the noise but there’s always competition. Today, it’s a possible trade deal, the ongoing impeachment inquiry and Boris Johnson winning in the UK.

Nobody really cares. Outrage fatigue is a real thing. After a while, you just get worn down and become numb to the next headline. His admission of fraud would have ended any other presidency. But for him, it was Tuesday. Maybe the red hats are immune to outrage fatigue.

The Dem’s impeachment strategy is a farce, as will be the Senate’s “show trial”. Impeaching him will happen by a straight Party line vote, followed by the Senate’s acquittal by a Party line vote by the other Party. This means that both houses of Congress are a farce.

OTOH, not impeaching him would also be a farce. Because not impeaching someone who has done the things Trump has done, someone who makes a mockery of the law every day he’s in office, would make the rule of law a farce as well.

Defrauding veterans is something that the public can understand, and can get angry about. It’s not complicated, most citizens won’t be able to tune it out. His counter argument is weak, despite incessant talking about the Clinton foundation.

These things are not equal. This isn’t a “both sides” situation.

Democrats should be shouting about this every day until November, 2020. This is an arrow right at the heart of Trump’s base: Those purported law and order, military-loving people who populate his rallies. It’s indefensible, and it’s unlikely they will take kindly to his being guilty of defrauding veterans.

Remember when the Republicans were the “Party of Principle“?

Have we seen anything from them (or from Trump) that makes you think that they truly believe in providing a safety net? They think that the primary benefit of charitable giving is to telegraph their relatively high position in society compared to that of the needy.

Conservatives have always used their supposed morality as a cudgel to beat others. Alleviating suffering isn’t really important. They like the “virtue signaling”. That is, feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior by condemning others.

And they plan on keeping it that way.

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Saturday Soother – October 20, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fall near Halifax, Nova Scotia – October 2018 photo by zenox

Trump visited Montana on Thursday, where he praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year:

Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of – he’s my guy… By the way, never wrestle him…

He said that even though the US is hip-deep in the Jamal Khashoggi mess.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs during the final days of Gianforte’s special election race in May 2017. When Jacobs tried to interview him about the GOP health-care plan, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs, threw him to the ground and punched him. Gianforte won the special election, and later pleaded guilty, receiving a six-month deferred sentence.

There was way more Trumpiness at his rally in Missoula, Montana. Trump framed the midterms as:

An election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order, and common sense. That’s what it’s going to be. It’s going to be an election of those things: law and order, Kavanaugh, remember common sense and remember that it’s going to be an election of the caravan, you know what I’m talking about…

And Trump debuted a new campaign slogan:

Democrats create mobs. Republicans create jobs.

Then he pivoted to the caravan.

Facing a sharp increase in unauthorized immigration, President Trump on Thursday lashed out at Democrats and the leaders of Latin American nations, seeking to deflect blame and mitigate political damage by riling up his base just weeks before the midterm elections.

Trump signaled with zero proof, that Democrats are somehow behind the caravan of immigrants moving toward the US:

But a lot of money has been passing to people to come up and try and get to the border by Election Day, because they think that’s a negative for us. Number one, they’re being stopped. And number two, regardless, that’s our issue.

He has also tweeted that he might summon the military to guard the southern border, cut off aid to Central American nations and upend the new trade deal with Mexico if those governments fail to stop a caravan of migrants from Honduras making its way toward the US.

He wants to use the military to mow them down at the border.

Stop in the name of your sanity! It’s time for a Saturday Soothing. Fall is upon us, and yard work beckons, but let’s take a few minutes to unplug from the mid-terms and focus on…quiet.

Start by brewing up a tall cup of Esmeralda Estate Porton Geisha Natural ($75/8oz.) It’s expensive, but you donate more than that to candidates who have zero chance of winning two weeks from now. So why not treat yourself? It’s from Dragonfly Coffee, a Boulder, Colorado-based micro-roaster that also supports worthy causes.

Now, move outside with your coffee, put on a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and listen to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, played in the original version by the Dover Quartet. Barber finished the arrangement in 1936. In January 1938, Barber sent an orchestrated version of the Adagio for Strings to Arturo Toscanini. The conductor returned the score without comment, which annoyed Barber.

Toscanini later sent word that he was planning to perform the piece, and had returned it simply because he had already memorized it! It was performed for the first time by Toscanini in November, 1938. Here is the quartet version of “Adagio for Strings”:

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

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Saturday Soother – September 15, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Putin and Xi making blinis at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, RU last week. As usual, Putin looks like he knows what he’s doing. Xi, not so much.

Wow, what a week! We seem to say this all the time, and Wrongo thinks we have become inured to all the drama. On Friday, Hurricane Florence made landfall in NC. And what lies in her path? The New York Times reports that Florence’s path is strewn with toxic hazards, including:

…ponds of coal ash, toxic sites, and thousands of industrial hog farms with lagoons of pig waste.

THAT should be one stinky clean-up. Speaking of dirt, the Kavanaugh confirmation was delayed a week, and up popped a confidential memo about a possible sexual assault that occurred while he was in high school. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) sent it to the FBI, who say they do not plan to investigate. The details are salacious. Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker tweeted:

A woman alleged to two democrats that, during high school, Brett Kavanaugh held her down and attempted to force himself on her, placing a hand over her mouth and turning up music to conceal her protests.

Sadly, this accusation is too old, and since the accuser wishes to remain anonymous, it will have no effect on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Has the biggest rat turned on Trump? Paul Manafort has agreed to a plea and cooperation agreement in his continuing legal troubles with the Special Counsel. He has agreed to sit for interviews with Mueller’s special counsel team, testify in any future cases, and submit related documents. Whether he truly cooperates, and whether he has information of any value, remains to be seen.

Finally let’s turn to Donald Trump’s inexplicable claims about hurricane deaths in Puerto Rico. He denied that a mass casualty event, equivalent to 9/11 in its loss of life, ever happened. Political Wire reported:

President Trump tweeted that he didn’t believe that roughly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Said Trump: “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

He added that it was “done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

So, 3,000 people didn’t die in Hurricane Maria, but 3 million people voted illegally for Hillary in 2016.

We’re talking here about the President of the United States denying a carefully and professionally researched study of the hurricane death toll, while blaming his opponents, and without a scintilla of evidence to back up his claim.

He asserts that his administration didn’t screw up first, by neglecting the disaster, and second, by not staying the course to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid. Plus, do you believe he actually raised “billions” to rebuild PR? He might as well say Wrongo personally donated a million dollars to PR relief.

The bottom line from this week is that the next two years will be about Trump defending himself from impeachment charges, while Kavanaugh gleefully repeals Roe v. Wade.

It’s way too much! Time to unplug from all the cacophony, and seek some Saturday soothing. Start by brewing up a pot of Finca El Socorro Maracaturra ($22.50/12 oz.) from PT’s Coffee Roasting Co in Topeka, KS.  The roaster says that it is richly sweet, balanced, and intricately layered. They say it tastes of frankincense (!), almond nougat, honeysuckle, and dried black cherry.

Now, find a comfortable place to sit where you can view the world outside, and listen to 2CELLOS play “Gabriel’s Oboe” from film “The Mission” by Ennio Morricone. Here, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, who are the 2CHELLOS, perform with the Zagreb Soloists at their “Back to the Roots” concert at the Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb, June 2015:

The American cellist Matt Haimovitz, has said that the cello’s range is closest to the human voice. Maybe that’s why the cello is Wrongo’s favorite instrument.

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

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Saturday Soother – June 30, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Spice Stall, Istanbul, Turkey – 2013 photo by Wrongo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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