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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – August 19, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Orchha, on the banks of the Betwa River, India – photo by Arian Zwegers cc 2.0

Quite the week: After threatening nuclear war with North Korea, musing about invading Venezuela, and equivocating over Charlottesville, Trump folded two advisory councils and then decided against forming a council on Infrastructure. He also Twitter-attacked more Republican senators than Democrats this week, a bad strategy for someone who can’t be sure what Special Counsel Mueller may come up with.

But, according to a Survey Monkey poll as reported by Axios, Trump’s statements about Charlottesville have overwhelming support of Republican voters. Survey Monkey asked whether people agreed with a verbatim quote from President Trump on Tuesday:

You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent

Republicans agreed with the Trump comment, 87%-11%. Democrats disagreed, 83%-15%. Independents disagreed, 59%-39%.

When we no longer agree on basic facts, civil debate is impossible.

This is a dangerous moment. America is split. We need to stop fighting about the little things. Wrongo usually is against “slippery slope” arguments, but will make an exception in the case of our Civil War history: What is the objective of removing Civil War statues and monuments? Will their removal change the historical record of slavery?

Of course not. How would supporters of removal say we should polarize the continuum of history? What would be next? Removal of history books that mention the Confederacy or former slave owners?

One of Wrongo’s favorite histories of the Civil War is “A Diary from Dixie” by Mary Boykin Chestnut. It is a day-to-day diary of her experience as a southern partisan during the Civil War. Most Civil War historians have read and consulted it in the preparation of their own work. Should we burn the book because it was written by a slave-holding partisan?

Of course not.

Many want to draw a red line regarding slavery and the Civil War, and that is totally understandable. But where to draw it? Can it be drawn in a way that keeps our children in touch with our past, even the sordid bits?

We need to own our history.

We should ignore the false moral equivalencies mentioned by Trump, such as Lee and Washington. Both owned slaves, so statues of Washington must go too. It is true that both owned slaves, but Washington fought to build this country, while Lee fought to destroy it in support of slavery.

Some have pointed to the fact that Jews would never let Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald be taken down. This is another false equivalency. Auschwitz is maintained not to celebrate Nazism, but to show its horrors.

Maybe that IS the lesson: Add interpretation to the Confederate monuments: Make them say that we do not want anyone to forget what happened, and that we want to make sure it can never happen again.

It’s Saturday, so we MUST get some distance between where we are as a country now, and where we need to be.

Wrongo’s prescription? Brew a cup of Brooklyn’s  Toby’s Estate El Ramo Columbian coffee. El Ramo means the bouquet in Spanish ($14 for 12oz.), close the door, and put on your over-the-ear headphones. Now, listen to G.P. Telemann’s “Concerto in G major for Viola, Strings and Basso continuo, TWV 51:G9”.

Wrongo and Ms. Right heard it last week at the final summer concert of the New Baroque Soloists at the Washington Meeting House in Washington, Connecticut. Here it is performed live by the Remember Barockorchester, in the Unser Lieben Frauen Church, Bremen, on November 21st, 2015:

The Viola Soloist is Tomoe Badiarova

Those who read the Wrongologist in email supplied by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

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Saturday Soother – August 12, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Lisbon, Portugal 2016 – photo by Wrongo

Wrongo has written many times about vote suppression, including earlier this week. We now see that the GOP in Indiana (who control the place) are disenfranchising Democratic precincts, but not the Republican ones. IndyStar, a local paper in Indianapolis, reported:

From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County…and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.

Maybe now that GOP JeffBo is our Attorney General, Republicans feel they no longer even have to be subtle about voter suppression. More from the IndyStar:

That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people…And the results were immediate.

Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63% increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26% decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations.

The paper acknowledges that population growth may have played a role, but Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Richardson, a Republican, told IndyStar the rise in absentee voting in Hamilton County was largely a result of the addition of two early voting stations, which brought the total to three.

More from IndyStar:

Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout. But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population.

During that same 2008-16 period, the number of early voting stations declined from three to one in Marion County, as Republican officials blocked expansion.

Indiana voted for Obama in 2008, and apparently, that was enough for the GOP.

More early voting stations for Republican precincts in suburban white Republican counties, fewer early voting stations for Democratic precincts in urban black counties. So is this willful rigging that Republican officials are engaging in? Seems like it’s a plan.

Fewer opportunities for early voting disproportionately affects those who don’t get the early voting opportunity.

The real message here is that Indiana is showing us another level of rigging of the voting system by GOP operatives. With gerrymandering and restrictive voting practices across this country, voter suppression is the real threat to our democracy, not the very few cases of voter fraud. The question is: How do we correct this, and build a system with accountability?

We have previously reported on voter suppression here, here, here and here.

This is yet another Wrongologist column for those people who say “both parties are the same, it doesn’t matter who you vote for”. Do you get it yet?

Timeout.  Let’s go somewhere to escape from the noise and the madness of the week.

Wrongo recommends Bluetooth over the ear headphones, and a VERY generous pour of Bushmills 21-year old Irish, matured in a mixture of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks, before a two year marrying period spent in Madeira casks.

For those who cannot abide alcohol, just the headphones for you.

Now, listen to the Casta Diva prayer from the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, performed by Anna Netrebko in 2007 with the Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden und Freiburg. This opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre. The soprano prayer Casta diva occurs in Act I:

The most prolific Norma was Maria Callas, who gave 89 stage performances of the opera.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email sent by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

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IMF Reports US Standard of Living is Falling

The Daily Escape:

Haleakala Crater, Maui

Is it the best of times or the worst of times? This is no longer a partisan discussion. We have an economy in the midst of a long expansion, the third longest since 1850. The statistics say we are close to full employment. But, our mortality rate is moving in the wrong direction, and we have an opioid epidemic that is serious enough to cause jobs to go unfilled. The NYT reports that in Youngstown Ohio, middle class factory jobs go begging:

It’s not that local workers lack the skills for these positions, many of which do not even require a high school diploma but pay $15 to $25 an hour and offer full benefits. Rather, the problem is that too many applicants — nearly half, in some cases — fail a drug test.

The Fed’s regular Beige Book surveys of economic activity across the country in April, May and July all noted the inability of employers to find workers able to pass drug screenings.

So the best of times? Probably not. Bloomberg reports that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) looked at the US economy. This is what they see:

For some time now there has been a general sense that household incomes are stagnating for a large share of the population, job opportunities are deteriorating, prospects for upward mobility are waning, and economic gains are increasingly accruing to those that are already wealthy. This sense is generally borne out by economic data and when comparing the US with other advanced economies.

The IMF then goes on to compare the US with 23 other advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in this chart:

The chart is a bit of an eye test unless it’s viewed on a big monitor, but its overall point is that the US has been losing ground relative to its past OECD reports by several measures of living standards. 35 countries make up the OECD. The members include all of Western Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia, and several developing nations like Korea and Panama.

This from Bloomberg:

And in the areas where the US hasn’t lost ground (poverty rates, high school graduation rates), it was at or near the bottom of the heap to begin with. The clear message is that the US — the richest nation on Earth, as is frequently proclaimed, although it’s actually not the richest per capita — is increasingly becoming the developed world’s poor relation as far as the actual living standards of most of its population go.

This analysis is contained in the staff report of the IMF’s annual “consultation” with the U.S., which was published last week. The IMF economists haven’t turned up anything shocking or new, it’s just that as outsiders, they have a different perspective than what we hear from our politicians and economists.

For example:

Income polarization is suppressing consumption…weighing on labor supply and reducing the ability of households to adapt to shocks. High levels of poverty are creating disparities in the education system, hampering human capital formation and eating into future productivity.

What is to be done? Well, the IMF report concludes:

Reforms should include building a more efficient tax system; establishing a more effective regulatory system; raising infrastructure spending; improving education and developing skills; strengthening healthcare coverage while containing costs; offering family-friendly benefits; maintaining a free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade and investment regime; and reforming the immigration and welfare systems.

In other words, they suggest substantial reform. It’s doubtful that America can take care of these things anytime soon.

The subtext to most of their suggestions is that other affluent countries have found ways to improve in these areas, while the US has not. We don’t have to look too far into the past to see when those countries were modeling their economies on ours. But today, on all sorts of issues, like taxation, labor markets, health care, and education, the opposite is now true.

One major difference between the US and the rest of the developed world is ideological: Voters and politicians in the US are less willing to raise taxes to finance a better life for our citizens.

Other wealthy countries have figured out how to raise revenue, provide quality education, help the the unemployed, reduce poverty, and keep their citizens healthier than America has.

We must catch up, or admit our time as the world’s indispensable economy is over.

Today’s music (dis)honors the turmoil in the White House. See ‘ya Mooch! Remember that in just six months, Trump has gone through two National Security Advisers, two Chiefs of Staff, two Communications Directors, two Press Secretaries, and two Directors of the FBI.

Here is “Disorder in the House” by the late Warren Zevon and Bruce Springsteen:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 31, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Mont Saint-Michel, France – photo by Stephane L’olliver

We start this week like all the others in the past six months, staring at the latest shiny thing that the Trump-obsessed media produced for our inspection. But we need to shift our focus to what Der Donald is doing with his nominations to the federal judiciary. From the Fiscal Times:

When it comes to nominating judges to the federal bench, Trump is moving at a breakneck pace. And the number of nominees for vacant US attorney positions, a crucial area, is dwarfing that of the past administration this early on.

The media tells us that Trump isn’t getting his nominations for key posts either submitted or approved, but that’s not true for the federal bench. Here, Trump is rushing to fill what are lifetime appointments.

More from the Fiscal Times:

Through July 14…he had nominated 18 people for district judgeship vacancies, 14 for circuit courts and the Court of Federal Claims, and 23 for US attorney slots. During that same time frame in President Barack Obama’s first term, Obama had nominated just four district judges, five appeals court judges, and 13 US attorneys. In total, Trump nominated 55 people, and Obama just 22.

Of those 55 nominees, 45 are from, or are nominated for, jobs in states Trump won outright in the election. If you remove the positions based in Washington, DC, that number becomes 45 of 48, a remarkably high 94%. Just 64% of Obama’s initial nominees hailed from states he carried in the 2008 presidential election. And there’s a reason for that:

It’s known as the “blue slip,” or the consent of both home-state senators. And it’s a Senate tradition to not advance any judicial or US attorney nominee without having the blue slip.

In states with two Republican senators, Trump has made 30 of the total 55 nominations. In states with two Democratic senators, he has nominated just five.

Trump has an impressive number of vacancies to fill. The federal bench has 136 vacancies. Trump fired half of the 93 US attorneys in March, creating a need for nominations, though seeking to quickly replace US attorneys is not uncommon at the start of a new administration. In August 2009, Obama faced 85 vacancies on the federal bench.

One of Trump’s most controversial nominees, John Bush, was confirmed last week to the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush, a Kentucky lawyer, cleared the Senate with unanimous Republican support and unanimous Democratic opposition. Bush came under fire for his past blog posts, written under a pseudonym that compared abortion and slavery and called them “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” Bush had also promoted the Obama birther conspiracy.

Trump’s targeting the low-hanging fruit first, but ultimately he will need support from the Democratic side of the aisle to fill appointments where Dems might put a “hold” on a nomination.

Maybe the partisan chickens will come home to roost when that happens.

So, time to wake up America! Stop browsing just the mainstream media and work a little harder to get educated about what’s going on in the background. To help you wake up, here is Mick Jagger.

You are saying “Wrongo, why music from another old guy?”

But, just when you think Mick Jagger has become old and irrelevant, he writes two new things with overtly political messaging. Could he become relevant again? Today, listen to “Gotta Get a Grip”. He released this as a straight video, with great production value, but it was boring. Luckily, he also worked with young artists to make a series of cool remixes of the songs, all with the same crummy video, but all are compelling listening. Here is “Gotta Get a Grip”, the Seeb remix:

 

Gotta Get A Grip (Seeb Remix) by Mick Jagger & on VEVO.

Takeaway Lyrics:
Everybody’s stuffing their pockets
Everybody’s on the take
The news is all fake
Let ’em eat chicken and let ’em eat steak
Let ’em eat shit, let ’em eat cake

I tried diversion and I tried coercion
Mediation and medication
LA culture and acupuncture
Overeating and sex in meetings
Induced insanity, Christianity
Long walks and fast drives
And wild clubs and low dives
I pushed and I strived
But I can’t get you, can’t get you
Can’t get you out of my mind

Immigrants are pouring in
Refugees under your skin
Keep ’em under, keep ’em out
Intellectual, shut your mouth

Chaos crisis instability, ISIS
Lies and scandals, wars and vandals
Metadata scams and policy shams
Put ’em in a slammer

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 30, 2017

Boy Scouts, Priebus out, Mooch in power, Sessions on the ropes, GOP fumbles Repeal and Replace. Hard for the White House to have had a worse week than we just saw. Let’s hope it gets better. The worst thing this week was how the supposedly non-political boy scouts cheered or booed just when Trump wanted.

Whatever did the Donald say to the Boy Scouts?

Spicer and Priebus are out. Who’s next through the revolving door?

The foul-mouthed Scaramucci is the new Trump front man:

GOP is on to their next idea:

Expect the GOP and McConnell to be back at what they do best very soon:

Trump decides to ban Trans GIs:

 

Trump’s best deal:

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Book Review: “The First Congress” by Fergus M. Bordewich

The Daily Escape:

251 1st Street, Brooklyn, NYC – photo by Miguel de Guzman

It is time to review “The First Congress – How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government” by Fergus M. Bordewich, which has been on Wrongo’s reading list since winter.

Bordewich says that the First Congress was the most important in US history, because it established in some detail how our government would actually function. Had it failed − as it nearly did − it’s possible that the US would exist in a different form today.

Congress began its work in New York City, then a fast-growing and chaotic shipping port of 30,000. Its first meeting was hardly auspicious: On March 4, 1789 they met as the new government after ratification by 11 of the 13 original states. But, there was no quorum to do business in either house. Bordewich outlines how difficult it was to make overland journeys: Boston to New York required six days, trips from the South were much longer. The House achieved a quorum of 29 members on April 1st, and the Senate followed on April 5th, but some members did not arrive until late summer.

Bordewich states that the need to accomplish something quickly was pressing:

Confidence in government was abysmally low…contempt for politicians was rife…and many political men held an equally low opinion of the voting public.

Sounds just like today.

The members were sharply divided, with huge differences of philosophy and opinion. The anti-federalists were opposed to a strong federal government, and had largely been against the ratification of the Constitution, preferring that power remain in the hands of the states. The Federalists wanted a stronger national government and supported the new Constitution.

Underlying everything were issues of North vs. South, rural agrarian vs. urban manufacturing economies, and pro-slave and anti-slave views.

During two years of political struggle, they passed the first ten amendments to the Constitution; they resolved regional rivalries to choose the location for a new national capital; they set in place the procedure for admitting new states to the union; they created the Supreme Court, and worked through the respective roles of the federal and state judiciaries. They established a national bank that was later dissolved by Andrew Jackson in 1832.

But the First Congress also confronted issues that are still with us: the appropriate balance between states’ rights and the powers of national government, and the proper balance between legislative and executive power. The issue of slavery would fester for almost seven decades before being resolved.

The reason that the First Congress succeeded was that they compromised. Without a willingness to compromise, all might have been lost. The great motivator behind their willingness to compromise was the fear that the anti-Federalists would walk away from the new Constitution. There was real reason to fear secession, and it was threatened many times by both the slave-holding South, as well as by the New England states.

Bordewich shows the regional splits that played out in the effort to create a national bank:

The balloting also had a disturbing subtext: all but one of the twenty votes against the bank hailed from the South…Of the thirty-nine votes in favor of the bank, all but five were from the North – yet another omen of the embryonic divide that would dominate the nation’s politics for years to come.

There are wonderful nuggets like this: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The First Amendment…became so only by default, when the two preceding amendments – on congressional apportionment and compensation for members – failed to achieve ratification by enough states…Three states – Massachusetts, Connecticut and Georgia – would not officially ratify even the ten amendments until…1939. (pg. 140)

In all, 39 amendments received meaningful debate. As important as passing the 10 we know about, was the rejection of others that would have imperiled a strong federal government, including one that gave voters the right to give legislators binding instructions on how to vote.

There was nothing inevitable about the survival and success of the new government. It came about by men from all sections of the country, each with an agenda, who overlooked their prejudices to create a government. The result of their spirit of compromise was the successful launch of our government.

Sharp divisions, rural vs. urban, states’ rights vs. federal authority: We face many of the same issues today that the First Congress had to face in 1789.

But, they had Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton.

Who do we have?

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Toronto Canada – photo by Carlos D. Ramirez

We sometimes forget what the Amendments to the Constitution are about. We remember the 1st Amendment and these days, with several in the Trump administration about to testify before Congress, we have renewed interest in the 5th, but who knows anything about the 17th Amendment?

It provides that Senators are directly elected by citizens.

The idea that we directly elect our senators seems uncontroversial, but the Tea Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), want to change that. ALEC has proposed new “model legislation” to do away with an elected Senate.

The idea of reversing 104 years of representative democracy and returning to the days when senators were chosen via backroom deals, is not new. The John Birch Society peddled the proposal decades ago. But with the rise of the Tea Party, the notion moved into the conservative mainstream.

In 2010, the Tea Party called for revision or repeal of three Constitutional amendments: the 14th (which is the basis for federal protection of civil rights), the 16th (the income tax) and the 17th. Some Tea Partiers even linked evangelical Christianity and Libertarian economics to argue that the original 1789 Constitution and the Bill of Rights were divinely inspired, but all subsequent amendments were of human origin and the 14th, 16th and 17th in particular had been Satanic perversions of the divine plan.

From The Nation:

Let’s focus on the 32 legislatures where Republicans have control: If Republicans were to maintain their current advantage, and if they were empowered to replace all sitting Democratic senators at the end of their current terms, they could shape a Senate with at least 64 Republican members.

There is already a political imbalance in states with large urban populations. In 2016, for instance, 51,496,682 Americans cast ballots for Democratic Senate candidates, while 40,402,790 cast Republican ballots, yet the Republicans took 22 seats to 12 for the Democrats.

If the resolution is approved by ALEC’s members, it will become part of ALEC’s agenda for the states—advanced in each by legislators who have a long-established pattern of rubber-stamping ALEC’s “model legislation.”

But, it is a long distance from model legislation to an amendment to the Constitution. ALEC controls some states, but it doesn’t control 38 states to the extent that they are capable of repealing one of the nation’s core political reforms. OTOH, if they were successful, it would reverse one of the great strides toward democracy in American history: the 1913 decision to end the corrupt practice of letting state legislators barter off Senate seats in backroom deals with campaign donors and lobbyists.

People in the 19th century knew that votes for state representatives were proxy votes for electing their Senators. The Lincoln-Douglass debates involved two Senate candidates trying to sway the elections of state legislators in order to get one of them elected to the Senate.

But, in 2017, returning the nation to direct election of Senators by state legislators is just one of the many ideas Republicans have for revamping the American system into a one-party state, including extreme gerrymandering of Congressional and state legislative districts, restrictive voter-ID laws, ending early voting, and other tricks designed to make sure that people unlikely to vote Republican have difficulty voting at all.

It’s amazing, and downright scary that the American Right looks at the structure and apportionment of the Senate and decides it’s not yet tilted enough in their favor. The Senate is already an undemocratic, unrepresentative institution that overweights small states at the expense of large ones.

The idea of a 17th amendment repeal is a classic example of “we had a serious problem, and then we fixed it, but so much time has passed, people have forgotten what the problem was”.

They want to undo the fix without bothering to check history.

America! It’s time to wake up and learn your history. It’s crucially important to you, your kids and grandkids. We don’t want to repeat past mistakes. To help you wake up, here is “Non-Stop” from the play “Hamilton”. It reprises the time of writing The Federalist papers, and the establishment of our Constitution, in hip-hop format:

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

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Our Democracy in its 242nd Year

The Daily Escape:

Three Sisters, Alberta Canada

… the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people. — George Washington’s First Inaugural Address (1789).

It is worth thinking about the state of our Democracy on our 241st birthday and how the American people are handling Washington’s experiment. At the time of the country’s founding, seven of the 13 states, representing 27% of the population, could command a majority in the Senate. Today, more than half of the US population lives in just nine states, while the other half of America lives in the other 41 states. The voters in the biggest nine states have equal representation in the House, with 223 Representatives, while the other half has 212.

But in the Senate, it’s a different story. Because of the population concentration, the half of the US living in the largest nine states are represented by just 18 of 100 Senators. The other half of the country living in the other 41 states have 82 Senators, more than four times as many. Today, with the filibuster, 21 of the 50 states, representing 11% of the population, can muster the 41 votes necessary to reject a bill, or to stop the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice.

You don’t have to be good at math to see how much less representation in Congress those living in the big states have today. The four smallest states have eight Senators combined, giving California, with two Senators, only a quarter as many as Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming, even though California has 14 times the combined population of these states.

Wrongo raises this as a structural example of the now near-permanent political division in America. It is difficult to see what big idea, or great emotion, can bridge that divide and bring us back to some semblance of unity.

Beyond structural divisions, there are huge divisions of policy and perception. A new Marist poll for PBS NewsHour and NPR News finds that 70% of Americans believe the country has become less civil since the Trump regime came to power, with 61% saying they have little or no trust in the White House right now.

(Marist contacted 1,205 US adults using landline and mobile phones between June 21 and June 25. There is a 2.8% margin of error).

The poll shows that Republicans in particular are very receptive to Trump’s attacks on the media, and a healthy chunk of Republicans want the media restricted. When asked if they trust the media, only 30% of US adults overall said they do trust them to at least a “good” amount. But there are stark differences along party lines:

  • 9% of Republicans say they trust the media, while 56% of Democrats and 28% of Independents say they do.
  • And on the Constitutional right to freedom of the press, four out of 10 Republicans said the nation had “gone too far in expanding the right,” while two out of 10 Independents and one out of 10 Democrats agreed with that statement.
  • Overall, a quarter of US adults said the press had too many rights.
  • 52% said the nation should preserve the right to protest and criticize the government. But 41% percent of Republicans think the right to protest should be scaled back. Only 7% of Democrats and 11% of independents said they feel the same way.

When asked about the right to vote, six out of 10 Americans overall think that our right to vote is fine the way it is. But among Republicans, 25% think the US has gone too far in expanding that right.

Some of the cross-tab results are dismal: 

  • Among people making less than $50,000 a year, only 1 in 4 trust the media at all.
  • More 18-29 year olds trust Trump (27%) than trust the media (22%).
  • Meanwhile, 40% of Trump supporters think America has gone too far in allowing people to criticize the government.

Let that sink in, and then try to think about how we ever battle back to a middle ground where America has a chance to once again row the boat in the same direction.

On to music. Here are the Grateful Dead with their take on “Smokestack Lightning”, originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1956. The Dead performed this 18+ minute version in February, 1970 at the Fillmore East:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Bald Eagle with Great Blue Heron – photo by Bonnie Block

(The Wrongologist site was hit by a Denial of Service attack on Sunday, April 23. If you had difficulty accessing the site, Wrongo apologizes. We are working with the hosting company to sort it out, but the problem may continue until the end of day today.)

Congress returns today. They will try to pass an increase to the Debt Ceiling before the April 28th funding deadline. After that, at least a partial government shut-down looms.

The Republicans are not in agreement about their stance on the extension. The Orange Overlord complicated the negotiations by saying that he wouldn’t sign a Debt Ceiling increase unless it contained funding for the Wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

Consider the exchange between Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday and Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney said that it was the Democrats who are guilty of “stunning” obstructionism because they will not negotiate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Wallace noted that President Trump had offered Democrats a deal: If you fund the border wall, payments to Obamacare would not be cut. Wallace:

You are holding hostage health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans.

Mulvaney replied:

Actually, what I would say is they’re holding hostage national security…

Then he brought up obstructionism by Democrats:

The Democrats will oppose everything that this president wants to do, which is stunning to us, especially when we are offering them something they want in return.

Wallace countered:

You’re saying, ‘give us what we want. And if you don’t, we’re going to cut off funding that would provide health insurance for millions of lower income Americans’.

The laugher was that Mulvaney’s logic is that Trump is trying to build a border wall to protect millions of low income Americans who may lose their health care benefits in the trade-off.

So Mexico won’t pay for the wall, and Republicans don’t want to pay for the wall either. They would prefer that Democrats agree to pay for Trump’s wall to give the GOP cover for those Republicans who won’t fund Trump’s ghastly promise of a wall.

On the obstructionist claim, everyone knows that the Republicans made obstructionism an eight-year strategy when Obama was president. Now, Mulvaney’s pearl-clutching about obstructionism can’t possibly sound legitimate to anyone other than people who watch Fox News. We need to remember that it was the Republicans who picked the 100th day of the (now Trump) administration for last year’s Continuing Resolution that funded the government, to expire. The idea was to make Hillary Clinton look bad after she won, and then couldn’t get a Debt Ceiling increase passed without Republican help.

It never occurred to them that if the Republican nominee won, that he wouldn’t be able to get much done without support of Democrats.

So it’s time for Republicans to wake up, and pass a Debt Ceiling increase. After all, they control the House, Senate and White House. It is their job to avoid a government shutdown.

To help them wake up, here is the UK group Stone Foundation, a modern UK soul band with a tune from their new album, “Street Rituals”. The song is “Your Balloon is Rising”, featuring Paul Weller formerly of the punk rock group The Jam, and later, Style Council.

Here is “Your Balloon is Rising”, a blue-eyed soul tune that allows Weller to show all of us that he still has it:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, August 2016 – photo by Wrongo)

What’s next for the White House? Many are saying that the collapse of the Republicans’ failed effort to pass Trumpcare demonstrated that the ideological cleavage within the House and Senate Republicans will not be easy to overcome. This could make it more difficult for Trump to get much of his agenda passed in the immediate future.

Trump wants to move on many things, including tax reform and passing a budget, but the biggest challenge facing Republicans is the Debt Ceiling. The clock started ticking on the need to raise the debt limit, because it already expired on March 15th. That was a “soft” deadline, since the Treasury department can fire up a well-used arsenal of “extraordinary” measures to delay a reckoning, meaning that Congress can take until the early fall to enact a debt ceiling increase.

More time may not mean that a solution will be forthcoming, since the main adversaries to increasing the debt ceiling are the same people who helped derail Trumpcare. The House Freedom Caucus and their allies in the Senate have in the past, expressed a willingness to let the country default, rather than increase the level of the Treasury’s debt.

Since they were able to face down Trump on health care, they may well be emboldened to stand up to the president and Congressional leadership again on an issue that is so close to their hard hearts.

If America were to default on its debts, Trump would be presiding over the Bananaization of our Republic, and our ability to lead in the world would be eclipsed. Wrongo plans to write more about this in the future, but it will take real management by Trump to head this off, at a time that his management skills have been called into question.

So far, he has shown himself to be little more than a salesman for his ideas.

The famed management guru Peter Drucker, who wrote about management for corporations, non-profits and governments, at one point wrote management rules for presidents, in a 1993 article for the WSJ:

It’s hard to imagine a more diverse group than Bill Clinton’s predecessors in the American presidency — in abilities, personalities, values, styles and achievements. But even the weakest of them had considerable effectiveness as long as they observed six management rules. And even the most powerful lost effectiveness as soon as they violated these rules.

Wrongo has condensed Drucker’s management rules for presidents for your convenience:

  • What Needs to be Done? Is the first thing the President must ask. He must not stubbornly do what he wants to do, even if it was the focus of his campaign
  • Concentrate, Don’t Splinter Yourself. There usually are half a dozen right answers to “What needs to be done?” Yet unless a president makes the risky and controversial choice of only one, he will achieve nothing.
  • Don’t Bet on a Sure Thing…Roosevelt had every reason to believe that his plan to “pack” the Supreme Court…would be a sure thing. It immediately blew up in is face – so much so that he never regained control of Congress
  • An Effective President Does Not Micromanage…the tasks that a President must do himself are already well beyond what any but the best organized and most energetic person can possibly accomplish
  • A President Has No Friends in the Administration…they are always tempted to abuse their position as a friend and the power that comes with it
  • Sixth rule? Harry Truman advised JFK: “Once you’re elected, stop campaigning”

(h/t Barry Ritholtz)

Just how many of these rules does Trump follow, and how many does he violate? Discuss.

Perhaps if he followed all of them, the country would avoid Trumageddon, be less divided, and get a middle of the road agenda enacted.

So here’s a wake-up call for Donald Trump and his advisors: FOCUS!! To help them wake up and get focused, here is the Canadian group Bachman Turner Overdrive with their big hit (#12 in the US) from 1973, “Takin’ Care of Business”:

Wrongo used to take the 8:15 in to the city. Working from home is a major improvement.

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

Sample Lyrics:

And I’ll be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
I’ve been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime, work out

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