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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – June 19, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Round Hill Highland Games – Litchfield County, Connecticut

From Zandar:

The slow death of the civil rights era under the Trump regime continues as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will proceed with handcuffing the department’s civil rights office, because systemic racism and sexism in education is embarrassing to Dear Leader, so in order to Make America Great Again™ it will no longer be exposed or even acknowledged.

What’s up? The DoE is scaling back investigations into civil rights violations at the nation’s public schools and universities, easing off mandates imposed by the Obama administration that the new leadership says have bogged down the agency. The NYT reports that Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the Department’s office for civil rights issued an internal memo stating that: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Requirements that investigators broaden their inquiries to identify systemic issues and whole classes of victims will be scaled back. Also, regional offices will no longer be required to alert department officials in Washington of all highly sensitive complaints on issues such as the disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses.

The new directives are Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ first steps to reshape the DoE’s approach to civil rights enforcement, moving away from President Obama’s efforts to require that schools and colleges overhaul policies addressing a number of civil rights concerns. That approach sent complaints soaring, and the civil rights office found itself understaffed and struggling to meet the department’s stated goal of closing cases within 180 days.

So, DeVos’ new protocols have the cover of “we need to move faster” to resolve the big case backlog.

But civil rights leaders believe that the new directives will have the opposite effect. Since DoE staff members would be discouraged from opening new cases, and efficiency will take priority over thoroughness, the entire process will be weakened. Catherine Lhamon, who was the assistant secretary of the Education Department’s civil rights office under Mr. Obama, and who now heads the United States Commission on Civil Rights says:

If we want to have assembly-line justice, and I say ‘justice’ in quotes, then that’s the direction that we should go.

So the logic of DeVos seems to be: “Well if we can’t close civil rights cases in six months, why bother opening them? Let’s just save the money.”

This is another example of Zero-Sum Thinking by the Trumpists.

Time to wake up America! While you are following the twists and turns of Russiagate, the Trump administration is overturning the civil rights accountability that Obama put in place for the nation’s schools. Obama’s idea was that ALL students should have their civil rights protected, not just the Taylors and Hunters out there in the suburbs, but those kids in the poorer school districts.  

To help you wake up, here is The Weeknd with his newly released “Secrets”, which owes a big debt to Tears for Fears:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – June 5, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Pink Katydid – a 1 in 500 mutation – photo from Nature Photos

Few of us have ever heard of the non-profit organization Vetpaw. It provides employment to post-9/11 veterans in support of anti-poaching efforts in South Africa. Vetpaw works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in South Africa’s northernmost province, Limpopo. They support local anti-poaching rangers. But, if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help US combat veterans with their PTSD. Vetpaw’s founder, Marine veteran Ryan Tate, says:

Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war…you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again… [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together…

Vetpaw’s job in a remote northern part of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos. Only 13 were poached in 2007. By 2015, the total was nearly 1,200. From the Guardian: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

A kilo [of Rhino horn] is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.

And the locals are on both sides of the problem. Poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support. While some resist, it is vastly more difficult without support from local police. More from the Guardian:

One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.

Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police. Another team member says:

This is textbook counterinsurgency…Its unconventional warfare…Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out…if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?

So, maybe some of the counterinsurgency lessons paid for by US blood and treasure in Afghanistan and Iraq will save the Rhinos of South Africa. Kevin, a Vetpaw team member, says:

After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything… [But] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul…It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.

So, a cause to rally around. Something that helps a few vets and a few Rhinos. A good news story for a Monday, when there is so little to be happy about in Trumpland.

Time for a wake up tune. In honor of the Orange Tweeter, here is Linda Ronstadt performing “You’re No Good”, live in Germany in 1976. She was at the height of her powers. That’s Andrew Gold on the guitar solo:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 8, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Canada Warbler

Last Thursday, Iran, Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum on the creation of “de-escalation” zones in Syria. This represents the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian civil war. If the agreement and the cease-fires it envisions hold up, it could become a de facto partition of the country into zones of influence, some based on religious sect, and a recognition that at this point, neither the regime nor the rebels can win this conflict.

A glance at the placement of the proposed “de-escalation zones” shows that they are jihadi dominated areas under the protection and support of foreign sponsors; Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, the Gulf States and possibly, the US.

The text of the agreement says the de-escalation zones allow for an improvement of the humanitarian situation and to “create favorable conditions to advance a political settlement of the conflict.” In the zones mapped out under the agreement, the use of weapons, including “aerial assets, shall be ceased.”

The agreement was not signed by the Syrian regime, which is interesting. This means that Iran, Turkey and Russia are the guarantors of the facts on the ground post-agreement, and it shifts the conflict from one between the regime and the various opposition rebel groups, to one between the powerful foreign proxies that have sent weapons and in some cases, their armed forces into the country.

The US was not a direct participant in the negotiations for the agreement, but was present as an observer during the discussions. US Secretary of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, stayed in touch during the discussions.

The agreement shows the degree to which Russia has outmaneuvered the US and is dictating terms in Syria. This sends a clear message to Trump that while the Americans are putting down roots in northeast Syria with the Kurdish YPG, the US role is not formally recognized by Turkey, Iran or Russia despite the fact that the area is de facto under US protection.

It remains to be seen if this agreement is the beginning of the map for a new Syria or just breathing space before the next round of war.

This is a gift for Donald Trump. He consistently called for safe zones while campaigning, so he can easily support this move. Also, Putin and Trump seem to be tacitly co-operating to keep Turkey out of parts of northern Syria. A question is whether the US will go along with the plan. The US plans to stay in Syria to finish off ISIS, while the other powers prefer to finish off the rebels fighting the Assad regime first.

Despite that, ISIS still controls much of the land mass of Syria, albeit not its population centers.

The answer may depend on how much the White House wants to take at least some of the credit for bringing peace to Syria, and Thursday’s agreement may be the best shot America’s got.

Clearly, Putin is thinking in terms of a “grand strategy”, where the Syria situation is one of a number of critical elements of a possible US-Russia relationship. If the US-Russia relationship can be genuinely reset in a better direction, then it will impact many fronts: Perhaps Putin can get Trump to agree to Putin’s land grab in Crimea and the Donbass region of Ukraine. Perhaps they can work together to end the civil war in Syria, defeating ISIS along the way.

Notably, when Tillerson and Lavrov spoke last week, Syria and North Korea were two topics on their agenda. Maybe Russia could prove to be a more important factor in the North Korea situation than most realize.

So wake up Trump administration! Take that baby step forward by supporting the de-escalation agreement. If it fails, the other guys are to blame. If it succeeds in stabilizing the refugee situation while leading to a political solution in Syria, the credit will partially accrue to America. To help them wake up, here are the Rolling Stones with “Start Me Up” from their 1981 album “Tattoo You”:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 1, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Interior of the Oculus, NYC – photo by Timothy A. Clary

On Saturday, Wrongo scoffed at David Brooks, who said that Donald Trump’s foreign policy moves:

…have been, if anything, kind of normal…

Another part of US foreign policy that is FAR from normal is our effort to square the circle between our NATO ally Turkey, and our Kurdish allies in Syria and Iraq, who are fighting with us to eliminate ISIS as a force in Syria.

Last Tuesday, Turkey triggered a crisis when it launched airstrikes on US-backed YPG Kurdish fighters. The YPG is a Syrian sister organization of the Kurdish PKK Party in Turkey. Turkey believes the YPG and the PKK are terrorist groups whose goal is to destabilize Turkey.

Within Syria, US Special Forces are embedded with the YPG and are coordinating YPG’s moves against ISIS around Raqqa. The Turkish airstrikes killed at least 18 people, destroying the group’s headquarters. The airstrikes triggered heavy artillery and mortar exchanges between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces along the border, raising concerns that Turkey might send its forces into Syria, something the US opposes.

The YPG wants to divert forces from the attack on Raqqa to protect against further Turkish adventures, something the US doesn’t want. Now we learn that the US has placed some of its very limited military resources in Syria between the Turks and the Kurds in an effort to calm the hostilities. From the WSJ:

American forces have started patrolling the Turkey-Syria border to prevent further clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters, which could undermine the fight against Islamic State, U.S. officials said Friday.

This is the second time we had to break up the fight between the Turks and the Kurds in Syria. We made a similar move last month in Manbij, a northern Syrian town at the epicenter of a fight between Kurdish forces, Syrian government troops and Turkish-backed militants.

We have become our own UN-style peacekeeping force between Turkey and our Kurdish allies in the midst of our very real effort to take Raqqa from ISIS.

So, where are we going with Turkey, the Kurds and Syria? In the ME, the Kurds are one of the few groups the US can trust to perform militarily. They have fought alongside our troops in this region for years. In the past, we have sold them out in favor of Iraqi and Turkish geopolitical desires more than once.

OTOH, Turkey is a NATO ally, one who is the enemy of our Kurdish allies. We have several Airbases in Turkey which help with the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. If the Turks asked us to leave, our military effectiveness in the ME would be seriously weakened.

More than 25 million Kurds live in the region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. They are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the ME, but they do not have a permanent nation-state. The Kurds can see that a state could be created from the NE portion of Syria, and the region they already control in Iraq, if the Turks, along with Syria and its allies would allow it to happen.

Where does the US stand on this? Would we back the Turkish aspiration to control a Syrian buffer area between the Kurds to the East in Syria and in Iraq, and the Kurds in the West in Syria?

Would Russia, Syria, and Iran allow Turkey to succeed at that? What would happen if Russia and Iran moved against Turkey, if the Turks established a foothold in Northern Syria? Would the US come to Turkey’s defense?

Turkish President Erdogan is visiting Trump in DC in mid-May. Last Friday, Mr. Erdogan said he would personally urge Mr. Trump to stop working with the YPG, but Trump plans to directly arm them. What will the US response be to Erdogan, who looks more like a dictator controlling our only Islamic NATO ally?

Time for Trump and the State Department to wake up and solve the complex issues in Syria. Who knew being president would be so hard? This is not a time for shooting from the hip, or for deal-making, but for establishing principles for the end game in Syria with our most difficult NATO partner.

To help Trump and Tillerson wake up, here is the progressive rock band Yes, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees. The ceremony was broadcast Saturday night on HBO. The band’s co-founder, Jon Anderson, reunited for a performance of “Roundabout” from 1971. He’s here with bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, guitarist Trevor Rabin and drummer Alan White:

Those who view 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 – April 10, 2017

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

And the NYT’s headline:

 On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway Lyric:

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

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 3, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Anna’s hummingbird with bees, California, 2016 – photo by Toshiyasu Morita)

The White House faces a yuuge pothole in the road to having even a marginally successful first 100 days.

Republicans need to pass a new Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government, and the current CR expires on April 28. A CR is a form of appropriations law that keeps the federal government operating. The expiring CR was passed last December, effectively kicking the can down the road to the new administration. The idea was that there would be a GOP Congress and a Republican president for the first time since 2006, and they would work together to get things done.

But, as with the failed Trumpcare legislation, House Republicans are still divided, and Democrats will sit on the sidelines and watch the GOP’s efforts to achieve consensus. Republicans are staring at the twin issues that have led them to threaten government-shutdowns in the past, the funding of Planned Parenthood (PP) and the continuing funding of Obamacare. The GOP has not solved either through separate legislation since getting control of the government, so those issues will certainly come up.

Several Freedom Caucus and other Republican conservatives have pledged never to vote for an appropriations measure that allows federal funds to go to PP (they are for the “freedom” to fund middle-aged guys taking Viagra, but not to fund PP).

NY Magazine reports that there’s even a possibility that hard-core conservatives could renew the effort they made in 2013 to block appropriations necessary for the administration of Obamacare, now that it will be around for a while.

Congressional rules will require that this appropriations bill be treated as regular legislation. So NY Mag says:

…the odds are pretty good anything other than a straight extension of the earlier continuing resolution will attract a Democratic filibuster, and produce the kind of gridlock that could shut down the federal government for at least a while.

Another complicating factor is that some in the Senate are pushing to implement one or more of the controversial changes in funding that Trump outlined in his budget proposal. For example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has said he will not vote for a CR that does not increase funding to the Defense Department: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

If that’s the only option, [a clean CR] I will not vote for a CR no matter what the consequences because passing a CR destroys the ability of the military to defend this nation, and it puts the lives of the men and women in the military at risk…

With several Senators likely to go along with Johnny Volcano, it will be even harder to get a bill that makes it past a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

Given the GOP’s control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Republicans would almost certainly be blamed for any government shutdown on their watch. That means that Democrats are highly likely to deny Paul Ryan any Dem votes in the House for anything other than a clean CR.

So wake up White House and Congress! There isn’t a lot of time to get funding of the government done. Worse, it looks like the House doesn’t even plan to take it up until April 24th for an April 28th deadline.

To help them both wake up and get on the same page about the nation’s business, here is John Lee Hooker’s “I Need Some Money” written in 1960. Today we listen to it performed by The Beatles in a January 1962 demo recording with Pete Best playing drums. The Beatles called it: “Money (That’s What I Want)”. They were auditioning for Decca records, and did 15 songs, all but three of which were covers. After the audition, Decca Records rejected The Beatles. Here is “Money, That’s What I Want”:

Takeaway Lyric:

Money don’t get ever ‘thing it’s true
But what it don’t buy, daddy, I can’t use
I need money, I need money, yeah
That’s what I want

Those who view 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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Monday Wake Up Call – March 20, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Restored American Cars at Jose Marti Airport, Havana Cuba. 2014 photo by Wrongo)

America is snoozing on the Republican effort to turn health insurance into a party for the powerful. The LA Times’ reporter Michael Hiltzik took a look at the back pages of Paul Ryan’s Trumpcare bill and found a loophole that allows health insurance companies to pay their CEOs more money:

It does so by removing the ACA’s limit on corporate tax deductions for executive pay. The cost to the American taxpayer of eliminating this provision: well in excess of $70 million a year. In the reckoning of the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank that analyzed the limitation in 2014, that would have been enough that year to buy dental insurance under the ACA for 262,000 Americans, or pay the silver plan deductibles for 28,000.

This is the opposite of the executive pay strategy under Obamacare. The ACA decreed that health insurance companies could deduct from their taxes only $500,000 of the pay of each top executive.

That’s a tighter restriction than the limit imposed on other corporations, which is $1 million per executive. The ACA closed a loophole for insurance companies enjoyed by other corporations, which could deduct the cost of stock options and other “performance-based” pay; for insurance companies, the deduction cap is $500,000 per executive, period. The reduced deductions would have been the equivalent of raising $600 million in new taxes over 10 years.

Well, that was more than the executives and their bought and paid for Congress critters could stand, so buried in the 123 pages of the House Republican bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, Hiltzik found that:

The House Republican bill repeals the compensation limit as of the end of this year. The GOP hasn’t exactly trumpeted this provision; it’s six lines on page 67 of the measure, labeled “Remuneration from Certain Insurers” and referring only to the obscure IRS code section imposing the limit. Repeal of the provision apparently means that the insurers will be able to deduct $1 million in cash per executive, plus the cost of “performance-based” stock awards and options, like other corporations.

So now, insurance companies’ executives will have a level playing field with other CEO’s. This fits in with the rest of the GOP bill: It does nothing to bring coverage to more Americans or make it cheaper. But it does help to further line the pockets of the privileged, and maybe that’s the point.

Wake up America! As Don Henley once said, “The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away”. We need to read what the GOP is really doing on the back pages of their legislation. To help us wake up, let’s pay tribute to Chuck Berry. To call him a legend of American musical history is an understatement. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Kennedy Center Honors. Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” was the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Space Probe Record.

Among the bands in which you hear his influence are The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Both recorded his songs, and John Lennon said this:

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.

Berry played a Gibson model ES350. Sadly, while many great Rock and Roll guitarists have signature Gibsons, there is no Chuck Berry model. Here is Berry with a live version of “Roll Over Beethoven” from 1956. While the video isn’t the best, check out his guitar work on the intro:

Chuck probably duck-walked up to the Pearly Gates.

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 6, 2017

Wrongo’s investment in popcorn futures is looking better all the time. The circus surrounding whether Trump’s people had, or didn’t have a secret relationship with Russia has a life of its own. Now that Trump has accused Obama of wiretapping his campaign, it is time to sit back and watch what’s gonna happen next.

As the WSJ’s Peggy Noonan said in 2000, it would be irresponsible not to speculate: While the story is moving fast, and new players pop up almost daily, Trump’s inopportune tweet opens the door for Republicans to investigate Obama, and that’s exactly what the Trump administration has done:

Republicans are of course happy to enable Trump’s fantasy, vowing to investigate this “latest Obama scandal:

A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee says he believes President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that his predecessor ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower will become part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton says, “We’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead us. And I’m sure that this matter will be a part of that inquiry.”

This is more likely than not to lead to more damaging revelations about Trump’s associates’ ties to Russia. Then, in mock sorrow, the GOP will have to go after Trump, or else look like they ignored evidence in order to get a few Right Wing policies enacted.

Wrongo’s guess is that the GOP will start preparing the Proletariat for Trump’s departure, and the investiture of President-in-Waiting, Michael Pence. Sadly, Trump doesn’t see two moves ahead:

  • FBI gets a warrant to wiretap a target, via the ordinary FISA procedures.
  • The reaction of a normal person when they learn of that should be: “There must be something going on
  • The reaction of any normal target would be: “I’d better start covering-up (or come clean)”
  • But not Trump: “They wiretapped me! That’s an illegal crime, and I will investigate/prosecute!

When the Overlord learned that the FBI was using a FISA warrant to look at Trump Tower emails and phones, he didn’t see an arm of the US government legitimately investigating a possible crime. He didn’t think “if they find anything, I could be in trouble“.

No, he doubled down, saying, “Obama attacked me, with wiretaps! That’s illegal!” Even though it’s not even remotely illegal, as any 21st Century Republican knows full well, because they wrote the legislation that made it legal.

In the meantime, Jeff Sessions is in damage control mode. He was the butt of the joke on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Republicans who support Sessions need to wake up and remember that it is never the action, it is always the cover-up that kills members of the political class. Here is Lynyrd Skynyrd doing their monster hit “Sweet Home Alabama”, the redneck national anthem, in honor of native son, Jeff Sessions:

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

Key Lyric:

Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

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