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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – February 20, 2017

You’ve probably heard that at Trump’s political rally in Florida, he lamented an attack that took place in Sweden on Friday Night. He told his supporters:

You look at what’s happening…We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?

Nothing nefarious happened in Sweden on Friday, or Saturday for that matter, and Swedes were left baffled:

Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump that suggested that something terrible had occurred in their country.

Apparently the Donald has a fantasy life: He dreamed up some fake news on his own. Digby reports:

The truth is that Trump was watching Fox News on Friday night and Tucker Carlson had some wingnut documentary filmmaker on talking about his movie about refugees in Sweden committing crimes. Trump just…got the story wrong.

We used to say “truth is beauty and beauty is truth”, but there is no beauty in Truth by Trump. Consider that the Wall Street Journal had a dust-up with its own reporters, and one lost his job when they said the paper was soft on Trump. And when reporting on this false story of Swedish tragedy, the WSJ did not link to the (also Murdoch controlled) Fox News which had the Tucker Carlson story, despite most other media reporting it. From Bob Lefsetz:

This is scary on two levels that the WSJ is self-editing, and Trump believes everything he sees and reads, when they tell you in second grade not to.

This wasn’t the first time. Remember when he said he saw thousands of Muslims cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11?

Trump is a typical old, Fox News-obsessed male wingnut. They get mixed up a lot. He combines the ignorance of Dubya with none of the self-control. The story served his narrative that we live in fear and that he is the only one who can save us. Will Wheaton said this:

None of the three events happened, except in the mind of Donald Trump. Time for Republicans everywhere to Wake the F—k up! They need to stop excusing Trump’s behavior. They need to join the media in calling out the president when he makes shit up. To help with this wake-up, here is Richard Thompson with “Good Things Happen to Bad People (But Only for a While). Try to hold on to that thought when you hear Trump spout another silly innuendo, or another lie, and Republicans say nothing.

Sample Lyrics:

Well I know you’ve got a secret or two
Your hair’s in a brand new ‘do’
And you’re so happy

Good things happen to bad people
Good things happen to bad people
But only, but only, for a while
You cried the day I walked you down the aisle
And I know you’ve been bad
From the way you smile

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Monday Wake-up Call – February 22, 2016

Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right saw the musical “Fun Home” on Broadway over the weekend. The story is of a lesbian’s coming-out in the 1970s, complicated by her closeted gay father’s suicide.

And it’s way more complicated than that. Dad is a high school English teacher who also manages the family funeral home, (that the kids have renamed “Fun Home”), and who has relationships with an assortment of the young men over the years. So the play is a detective story, in which Alison Bechdel tries to solve the mystery of who her father, now dead, really was, and how their relationship contributed to the person she is as a 40-something adult.

Like many adults remembering their childhood self and their father, she has an ambivalent relationship with him, particularly since his closeted identity keeps everyone in the family perpetually unsettled.

Ok, so that may not sound like a fun time at the theater, however, it is terrific. It is staged in the round, so it feels like an intimate performance, one that makes you a part of the family on stage. The play describes the arc of Alison’s life from childhood, to college student, to middle-aged cartoonist who lives in Vermont. And three different women play Alison in the various stages of her life.

Alison the child lives in an old mansion, plays with her brothers in the funeral home’s coffins and can’t abide all those things girls are supposed to like, such as frilly dresses. Since she grew up to be a cartoonist, the adult Alison in the play often begins speaking by saying “caption”. “Caption,” she says, sitting in her studio remembering her childhood:

Dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town. And he was gay, and I was gay, and he killed himself, and I became a lesbian cartoonist.

That’s your plot summary right there. That, and the question of what Alison might do about the pain she sees in her parents, or about the pain they cause her as she assumes her identity as a lesbian. She sees that coming out as a freshman in college coincided with the end of her father’s life. She returns home to learn of her mother’s realization that mom had wasted her life in a lie. And yet, you have a sense here of a family that will just keep going, as families always have to do. That there is really no going back.

Kids have a way of forgetting as they are growing up, that their parents are simultaneously growing old. Their beginnings are their parents’ middles and endings. The play’s universality comes from its awareness of how we never fully know those closest to us, and of the undercurrent of grown-up secrets, intuited by children, that exists to some degree in every family. As “Fun Home” makes all too clear, parents, kids and their mutual happiness (or misery) are inextricably linked.

Maybe there is a moment when a child suddenly sees through the parents they love. Maybe it happens slowly over time. Whenever it happened to you, that progression from simple love to a fuller realization of the people your parents are, may not be so nice to contemplate, but “Fun Home” helps you get there. It forces you to visit your own past, and to think about your own children, whom you know get to make their own lives, and have their own fun, away from you.

No wonder the audience sprang from its seats at the ending, and at the start of seeing their own families in clear relief.

Here are three songs from “Fun Home” to help you get going this morning. First, “Ring of Keys” is about coming to an awareness of the sexual future that awaits the young Alison. Young Alison recognizes herself reflected in the body of a woman unlike any she has ever seen before:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email you can see the video here.

Second, in “I’m Changing My Major to Joan”, the college freshman Alison sings after her first sexual experience with a schoolmate, Joan:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email you can see the video here.

Finally, in “Telephone Lines”, the older Alison tries to find a way to talk to her father about their sexual identities, but fails, like many kids (and their dads) do when awkwardness overtakes the moment:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email you can see the video here.

If you can get to the Circle in the Square Theater, do it.

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News you can’t use – January 11, 2016

Powerball vs. Trump’o Rama:

COW Powerball

“They say the odds of winning are one in two-hundred and ninety-two million,just slightly better than the chance Donald Trump makes America great again.”

More political news you can’t use:

Trump supporters appear to be misinformed, not uninformed. (538) Americans who have incorrect information can be divided into two groups: the misinformed and the uninformed. Trump’s backers show signs of being misinformed. The difference between the two is stark. Uninformed citizens don’t have any information at all, while those who are misinformed have information that conflicts with the best evidence and expert opinion. Political science research has shown that the behavior of misinformed citizens is different from those who are uninformed, and this difference may explain Trump’s staying power. 538 quotes political researchers as saying the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans.

The towns that love Donald Trump the most. (WaPo) Trump is increasingly holding rallies in cities that rarely see presidential candidates in the primary season. They are also often places that are struggling. They lag behind the country (and their home states) on a number of economic measures. Their median household incomes are lower, and they often have lower rates of home ownership or residents with college degrees. Even though most of these cities have sizable minority populations, the crowds at Trump’s rallies are nearly entirely white. Is Trump planning a third-party run?

Sanders outperforming Clinton in general-election match-ups. (NBC News) Sanders outperforms Clinton in hypothetical general-election match-ups in NH and Iowa. In Iowa:

• Clinton leads Trump by eight points among registered voters (48% to 40%), but Sanders is ahead of him by 13 (51% to 38%)
• Cruz tops Clinton by four points (47% to 43%), while Sanders beats him by five (47% to 42%)
• Rubio is up by five points over Clinton (47% to 42%), but he’s tied with Sanders (44% each)

In New Hampshire:

• Clinton leads Trump by one point (45% to 44%), but Sanders tops him by 19 points (56% to 37%)
• Cruz beats Clinton by four points (48% to 44%), but Sanders leads him by another 19 points (55% to 36%)
• Rubio bests Clinton by 12 points (52% to 40%), while Sanders leads him by nine points (50% to 41%)

The primary reason why Sanders tests better in these general-election match-ups is due to his stronger performance with independent voters.

Other news you can’t use:

Who owns US business? How much tax do they pay? (NEBR) Pass-through entities, partnerships, tax code subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships, are not subject to corporate income tax. Their income passes directly to their owners and is taxed under whatever tax rules those owners face. In 1980, pass-through entities accounted for 20.7% of US business income; by 2011, they represented 54.2%. Over the same period, the income share of the top 1% of income earners doubled. The growth of income from pass-through entities accounted for 41% of the rise in the income of the top 1%. By linking 2011 partnership and S corporation tax returns with federal individual income tax returns researchers find that over 66% of pass-through business income received by individuals goes to the top 1%.

Last fall, a 7-inch well pipe ruptured 500 feet below the surface of Los Angeles. It was 60 years old. The resulting methane leak is now being called one of the largest environmental disasters since the BP oil spill has pushed thousands of people out of their homes. (Vox) But it’s not the first time this well sprang a leak, and Southern California Gas Company (So Cal Gas), which owns and operates the well, knew it. Will heads roll?

Licensed gun owners can now bring their firearms into Texas’ 10 state psychiatric hospitals. (American-Statesman) Until this year, guns were banned at Texas’s state-run psychiatric facilities. The new Texas open carry law allows gun license holders to openly carry their firearms, including inside the psych hospitals. A second Texas law fines state agencies for wrongly hanging “no guns” signs. Yet hospital employees are prohibited from bringing guns to work.

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 28, 2015

Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right were in South Hero VT for the weekend. Here is a pic just after sunset, looking west towards Plattsburg NY. There is little fall color in Northern Vermont yet:

Lake Champlain Sunset

A few thoughts about Boehner’s resignation. Boehner faced a choice between a coup and a shutdown. That led him to make a deal with the Teahadists: If he stepped down as Speaker, they would vote for a “clean” Continuing Resolution (CR) and avoid a government shutdown. Several members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that led the revolt against Boehner’s leadership, said they will now support the spending bill without demands that it include language to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Alex Pareene summed up the Boehner era:

It was not a distinguished tenure. His meager accomplishments came in spite of himself and to the great consternation of his Republican colleagues. He pinballed from one pathetic humiliation, usually at the hands of his own caucus, to the next. The only reason Boehner remained speaker for as long as he did—to his eternal regret, it is clear—is because his bitterest opponents were too stupid to figure out how to oust him, and his likeliest replacements never wanted the job.

So, at least as of the time this is written, the corporate wing of the GOP will get their clean funding bill (and retain a shot at the Presidency next year), at the same time, the Teahadists are allowed a “victory” by getting rid of Boehner. The corporate wing will insert another one of their guys in the Speaker position and a year down the road, Boehner is out from under the lobbyist rules, and goes on to a job paying 10 times of his current salary.

But we’ve got unfinished business, like the transportation bill, the Debt Ceiling and the Omnibus Spending Bill to keep government functioning into next year. These will be left for the next Speaker.

The GOP establishment looks to be fragmenting into two parts. They have the majority, but they have lost Eric Cantor, their rain-maker. Boehner, another rainmaker and cat-herder, is now gone. McConnell has now lost the air support he used to enjoy from the House. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may need to be the next head on the chopping block, particularly for his unwillingness to get rid of the Senate filibuster. From Salmon:

We made a lot of promises to the American people, that if we took the Senate, that we would do certain things and those things have not been accomplished…A lot of the problems we are engaged in is because the Senate doesn’t take any action on anything and there’s nothing that any presidential candidate on our side says that will ever be realized as long as the modern-day filibuster is enacted in the way it is today.

The firebrands in the House say that Sen. Ted Cruz is the defacto leader of the party. The Presidential primaries might determine a different leader, but the establishment wing of the GOP doesn’t have the control it used to have.

But, all is good in the cesspool. So, let’s try to wake up both John Boehner and the Freedom Caucus. Here are The Rolling Stones with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, recorded live at the Max in October 1990 and released in 1991:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 21, 2015

Are you familiar with the “Bad Bank” strategy? It is a new bank set up to buy the bad loans of a bank that has a significant amount of nonperforming assets. Those assets are purchased at market prices. If the assets remained on the original bank’s books, they would be forced to take big write-downs. So, the “good bank” sells the assets to the bad bank, and clears their balance sheet.

And the “bad bank” goes off to fail, be recapitalized, or liquidated. The shareholders and bondholders of the “bad bank” stand to lose money from this solution but its depositors will be bailed out by the government.

Occidental Petroleum (OXY) made a similar deal last November by spinning off California Resources, (CRC) and since then, most investors that bought into the deal got burned.

CRC held OXY’s oil-and-gas exploration assets in California. CRC is CA’s largest natural gas producer and its largest oil-and-gas acreage holder with operations in Los Angeles, San Joaquin, Ventura, and Sacramento. OXY was the big player in the Monterey Shale formation, which had been hyped as the largest reserves of oil in the US. But, in 2014, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) downgraded the amount of OXY’s known reserves in CA. From Wolf Richter: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

The LA Times spilled the beans last week [May 2014] that the EIA is set to severely downgrade the Monterey Shale in California in an upcoming report. Once thought to hold 13.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, the EIA now believes only about 600 million barrels are accessible. Slashing technically recoverable estimates by 96% could be enough to kill off the shale revolution in California.

Six months later, OXY exited CA shale by spinning off 80.5% of CRC to OXY’s shareholders. CRC’s shares began trading on the NYSE on December 1, 2014. As part of the spinoff, CRC paid OXY a special dividend of $6 billion. To fund the dividend, CRC issued bonds totaling $5 billion and leveraged loans for the remainder. This debt now costs CRC about $330 million a year in interest.

Back in 2014, hedge funds were clamoring for energy spinoffs. They’d buy a big stake in the parent company and push the board to do a spinoff that entailed loading the spinoff up with debt to fund a fat special dividend back to the parent.

“Unlocking value,” is the Wall Street term for this kind of financial engineering. Wall Street then made sure that there were enough unwitting or yield-desperate buyers for the bonds. The hedge funds made their money, and moved on.

Then CRC reported its second quarter earnings, which showed a net loss of $68 million on revenues that had plunged 45% to $609 million. And on September 15, Moody’s slashed CRC’s corporate rating from Ba2 to B1, and the bonds from Ba2 to B2. All of it with “negative outlook”. Moody’s described CRC’s relatively high costs of production and interest costs totaling $31.71 per barrel of oil equivalent. It pointed to low oil prices that it didn’t expect “to improve materially in 2016.”

So in 2014, no investor realized that CRC’s reserves had been cut by 96%? Or, that their break-even cost per barrel was $31+?

This Cali deal is Straight Outta Enron.

Now the question is can CRC survive without having to resort to a debt restructuring, bankruptcy, and a total shareholder wipe-out?

These kinds of deals are best pulled off in a credit bubble. Low interest rates force some investors to chase yield, and the unwitting buyers that have these fruits of Wall Street’s labor in their portfolios are the ones who feel the pain. Wall Street will tell you that the dividend and spinoff were disclosed in advance, so it’s not “fraud” by the company. It’s just “stupidity” by yield-hungry investors.

Why do you care? These securities could easily be in your 401k, or in an ETF that you own directly, assuming that you are among the 48% of Americans that have investment accounts.

So it is time for We the People to wake up to Wall Street’s financial engineering and what masquerades as legalized robbery. To help with the wake up, here is John Lennon’s “Power to the People”:

You will note the nearly completed Twin Towers at the end of the video. For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 31, 2015

Today’s wake up is for Turkey. In addition to our geopolitical issues with them, they are waging a sub-rosa battle for water with Syria and Iraq. The Tigris-Euphrates river basin, which feeds Syria and Iraq, is rapidly drying up. It is drying up due to overuse, and because Turkey has dammed both rivers for its own use, both for agricultural irrigation and in some cases, for hydropower. For the geography-impaired, here is a view of the rivers and the countries:

Tigris and Euphrates

The water that now goes to farmers in Turkey used to flow down the Euphrates and Tigris to Syria and Iraq. In Syria, three drought years forced many farmers to leave the land. From Foreign Affairs:

By 2011, drought-related crop failure had pushed up to 1.5 million displaced farmers to abandon their land; the displaced became a wellspring of recruits for the Free Syrian Army and for such groups as the Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda.

A 2010 study showed that today’s Syrian rebel strongholds of Aleppo, Deir al-Zour, and Raqqa were among the areas hardest hit by crop failure. In Iraq, the story is the same:

In Karbala, farmers are in despair and are reportedly considering abandoning their land. In Baghdad, the poorest neighborhoods rely on the Red Cross for drinking water. At times, the Red Cross has had to supply over 150,000 liters a day. Further south, Iraq’s central marshes, the Middle East’s largest wetlands, are disappearing again after being re-flooded after Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Syria and Iraq cannot solve the problem on their own. While there are agreements about minimum water flows between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, they are honored in the breach. Between 1975 and 1991, on three occasions, Syria and Iraq threatened Turkey with military action over reduced river flows due to Turkey damming the rivers.

Saudi Arabia and Russia mediated tensions among the three countries in the 1970s, but the challenge today is that no international or regional powers have been willing to force the countries to work together. Foreign Affairs says that 40 memoranda of understanding struck between Iraq and Turkey over water sharing at the height of the drought in 2009 have led to almost no concrete progress. More from Foreign Affairs: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Although current agreements between Syria and Turkey provide for 500 cubic meters per second, 46% of which goes to Iraq…According to Jasim al Asadi, a hydrologist with Nature Iraq, by the time the Euphrates reaches Nasiriyah in Southern Iraq, a minimum of 90 cubic meters per second is required for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use. Sometimes, the flow can be as low as 18 cubic meters per second…Before major dam construction in the 1970s, [in Turkey] the average flow in the Euphrates was about 720 cubic meters per second. Now it is about 260 as it enters Iraq.

Nearly two-third of the water flow Iraq used to get is gone, and there is no way to replace it. Moreover what little water is currently still flowing may soon be gone as well: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Full implementation of [Turkey’s water plans]…could reduce the Euphrates’ flows to Iraq by 80%. Now, consider that Iraq relies on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for over 90% of its freshwater, and you can imagine the potential fallout of the [Turkish] plan on Iraq’s agricultural production.

Turkey has had its own issues with drought, but Turkey is not facing a national-level water emergency like Syria and Iraq. So is there a solution? Not today. Turkey won’t help Syria. There is some hope in Iraq, since relations between the countries is better now than at any point in the past 10 years.

But Turkey controls the headwaters of the Tigris-Euphrates river system. To ignore the imminent water crisis is to ignore another major fault line in the Middle East. Turkey needs to wake up and deal with the countries downstream who desperately need a larger share of water. To help them wake up, here is Jimmy Cliff doing “By the Rivers of Babylon” live in NYC in 2013:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can see the video here.

Monday’s Hot Links:

NRA radio host says calling for new gun laws right after the VA shooting is gross. IT’S TOO SOON!!! Besides, as ANY red-blooded White Christian patriot will tell you, MOR GUNZ!!! The NRA has a radio station?

The Beatles 10 greatest guitar moments. Includes Wrongo’s favorite, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” from Abbey Road (1969).

The Onion reports that a gay teen is worried that he might be Christian. His father says, “No son of mine is going to try to get intelligent design into school textbooks.” He added, “I just want my normal gay son back.”

Alabama is trying to make it even harder to get a voter ID. As a budget cutting measure, they are shutting down the vast majority of DMV offices. The proposal to close dozens of DMVs across the state, starting in rural areas, could hurt voters who need an ID to vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, says the devil overplayed his hand with the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage. Pappy Cruz: “The basis for their decision was the 14th Amendment. That means they’re calling homosexuality a civil right…If they’re calling homosexuality a civil right, that means that the next obvious step is a homosexual may come to your church and demand to be hired.” Sadly, pappy Cruz and his hate-addled, homophobic son line their pockets as a result of this spew.

Quote for the week:
You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”− (attributed to Albert Einstein)

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 27, 2015

The Connecticut Democratic Party has decided to change the name of its “Jefferson-Jackson Dinner”. Apparently prompted by the national controversy over the Confederate flag, the state’s Democratic Party last week voted unanimously to change the name of its annual fundraising dinner and remove the names of two slave-owning American presidents.

The clear implication is that there’s something wrong with Thomas Jefferson which puts him in the same category as the Confederate Flag. The Hartford Courant reported this quote from the state Democrats’ resolution:

As members of the Democratic Party, we are proud of our history as the party of inclusion. Democrats have led the way on civil rights, LGBT equality and equal rights for women…It is only fitting that the name of the party’s most visible annual event reflects our dedication to diversity and forward-looking vision.

Wrongo doesn’t care if the Democratic Party stops naming their fundraisers after Jefferson and Jackson.

What is bothersome is the implication that Jefferson is a pariah. Andrew Jackson is another matter, despite the fact that the symbol of the party is the donkey, or jackass. “Jackass,” stood for Andrew Jackson. It came from an 1837 political cartoon referring to Jackson as a “Jack-ass.” Jackson thought it was funny, and used it to his advantage. Democrats embraced the symbol, and it has stuck for nearly 180 years.

What message does the CT Dems public disowning of Jefferson send? Do CT Dems understand history? We owe a debt to Jefferson. It’s easy to say that Jefferson did things that were wrong, but he wrote the Declaration of Independence, managed our relationships with France during the Revolutionary War, and was a highly successful president. It is a huge mistake to invalidate his accomplishments because of his personal foibles. He was a man of his time, and did what he did. But, without him, our revolution would have been different.

Making perfection the enemy of great is wrong-headed. It places the CT Dems in a similar intellectual place as Donald Trump, who says McCain isn’t a war hero because he was captured, or that John Kerry wasn’t a good negotiator because he fell off his bike.

Maybe we could all be adults? The effort at political correctness by the modern Democratic Party is fine, but we should remember that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a perfect man. African-Americans know that, but Dr. King is still revered by almost all Americans.

And the fact that today’s GOP embraces Abraham Lincoln does not make the modern GOP a racism-free party, regardless of how often the GOP invokes Lincoln’s name to claim credit for his greatness. Judging our founders, or our heroes by today’s standards, would condemn almost everyone past and present. Maybe, Democrats in Washington, CT, named after George, will want to change its name, since George Washington owned slaves.

Yes, there are egalitarian threads in both the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian traditions that resonate with Democrats today—but both men based the equality of some men upon the subordination of others.

Since CT Democrats are determined to replace Jefferson and Jackson as patrons of these events, and are holding a meeting to decide the new name of the event in September, without question, FDR-JFK could serve pretty well, despite each man’s foibles. Or maybe, Joe Lieberman?

Are you the one American without personal foibles?

So, wake up Connecticut Democrats. To help with their wake-up, here is #4 in our songs of summer series, “Summertime Blues”, the great Eddie Cochran tune done here by Brian Setzer on MTV, recorded live for the ‘La Bamba’ concert. It reminds that there was a time when MTV was watchable:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can see the video here.

Monday’s Hot Links:
Foreign Policy reports that back in 2000, the NSA intercepted a call to Bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen from a 9/11 hijacker in San Diego. They failed to follow-up, which should set off warning bells. Now 16 years later, the NSA denies they knew where the calls originated. That’s bullshit two ways: In 2000, the telephone network’s technology automatically provided a digital equivalent of caller ID to every phone switch, including NSA’s. And former NSA people like Tom Drake and William Binney say there’s no way the NSA wouldn’t have tapped this line.

Dark matter is the stuff that cosmologists think makes up some 85% of all the matter in the universe. A new theory says dark matter might be a known particle. If true, that would open up a window onto an invisible, dark matter version of physics.

Turkey launches war on Islamic State’s worst enemies – The Kurds. This blog site, Moon of Alabama, can be decidedly anti-American, but this is a must read article.

Gun deaths will surpass automobile deaths in the US this year, says The Atlantic. Car crashes killed 33,561 people in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Firearms killed 32,251 people in the US in 2011, the most recent year for which the CDC has data. The young are most at risk: CDC data show guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015. Surely, a small price to pay for our Second Amendment freedoms?

Marilyn Tavenner, who served as the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services from 2013 until February, is now in charge of an insurance industry lobby. This tells us all we need to know about where insurance companies see their next pot of gold. It is the Medicare Advantage program, which over the past several years, has become an increasingly important revenue stream for the country’s insurers. Revolving door much?

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 27, 2015

Last week saw the sentencing of David Petraeus, former CIA director and the highest-profile general from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to two years’ probation for providing classified information to his mistress. Mr. Petraeus was also fined $100,000.

Petraeus remains a four-star US Army general. His retired pay is $220,000/year, plus the perks of shopping at the PX and the commissary store, full medical benefits, free travel on government aircraft, free legal advice; the list goes on.

A US officer convicted in a US civilian court of a felony is subject to dismissal from the service, at the discretion of the service secretary. A dismissal is the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge for an enlisted soldier. It strips the former member of all the perks, everything.

What Petraeus was convicted of would normally be a felony in a civil court. But he was charged by the Obama Administration with a misdemeanor so he wasn’t vulnerable to an administrative dismissal. This misdemeanor conviction will have about the same impact on his life as a conviction for littering. From the New York Times:

As part of the plea agreement, Mr. Petraeus admitted that he gave his lover, Paula Broadwell, who was writing a biography about him, black notebooks that contained sensitive information about official meetings, war strategy and intelligence capabilities, as well as the names of covert officers.

War strategy. That would be the strategy written by the guy giving it to Broadwell, along with the names of covert officers? Compare that to the crimes for which Jeffrey Sterling and 8 others are facing hard time in prison. Sterling was convicted on 9 counts of violations of the Espionage Act for providing much lesser information to a guy writing a book, James Risen. Manning got 35 years, John Kiriakou gets 2, Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for 3 years and counting, Snowden is on the run, and no military brass is doing time for Abu Ghraib.

Petraeus gave Broadwell that information for personal profit. It helped him in his amorous adventure and, most likely, helped the sales of her book. He has since moved on to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., a New York investment firm where he is a partner.

That makes Petraeus just another example of too big to fail.

The Justice Department and the Obama administration need today’s wake-up, for not pursuing Mr. Petraeus to the fullest extent of the law.

So here is your Monday wake-up, the White-Throated Sparrow. These guys are all over our property right now:

If you read the Wrongologist via email, you can view the video here.

Your Monday Hot Links:
Everyone wants to appear smart when in a meeting. Here are a few tricks:

Kochs were defeated in Montana after spending a bundle to defeat Medicaid expansion. What? Medicare expansion passed in a Red state?

How much water is in your food? See this graphic. Everyone should look at this, not just Californians.

Wall Street Journal says more people are out of the stock market than are in it. About 52% of Americans are not investing in the stock market, and 53% of them say they don’t have the funds to invest. A different study from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that 45% of working-age households had no retirement savings at all; among the 55-64 age group, the average was only $12,000.

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 2, 2015

The lands surrounding the Mansion of Wrong remain deeply snow-covered, and we picked up another 6” of snow last night. Where is Spring? In other weather-related news, February 2015 was officially the coldest February on record here in the Nutmeg State. So, let’s turn to Pete Seeger for a lovely Wake Up song about snow, with a gentle political message buried inside. Here is “Snow, Snow”:

Sample Lyrics:
Snow, snow, falling down;
Covering up my dirty old town.

Covers the garbage dump, covers the holes,
Covers the rich homes, and the poor souls,
Covers the station, covers the tracks,
Covers the footsteps of those who’ll not be back.

In news of the stupid, a branch of the Republican Party in Idaho voted to take up a measure to declare the state is Christian. The Idea was to bolster what supporters called the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of the US. The proposal was that Idaho be “formally and specifically declared a Christian state,” guided by a Judeo-Christian faith as reflected in the US Declaration of Independence. Jeff Tyler, a member of the committee and backer of the draft resolution, said:

We’re a Christian community in a Christian state and the Republican Party is a Christian Party.

It’s possible that the county Republicans had never heard of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, which says…”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”…Oh, and that applies to the states as well.

Well, when the news got out of Kootenai County, the county’s Republican Central Committee decided to shelve the measure, Now, Republicans will tell you it was just a small splinter group, and the resolution was going nowhere, so the US Constitution was never in danger from Republican religious extremists. Perhaps the more realistic way to look at it is that the Constitution is safe for the moment, until another, larger Republican extremist group comes along.

Here are your Monday hot links:

A study of frozen ice cores from the Tibetan Himalayas shows that international agreements on phasing out the use of toxic organic pollutants are working. It’s cheaper to take an ice core sample than it is to place air quality sensors everywhere and monitor them.

In the US, just three out of ten workers produce and deliver all of the goods we consume. Everything we extract, grow, design, build, make, engineer, and transport – down to brewing a cup of coffee in a restaurant kitchen – is done by roughly 30% of the country’s workforce. Another 30% of us spend our time planning what to make, deciding where to install the things we have made, performing personal services, talking to each other, and keeping track of what is being done, so that we can figure out what needs to be done next. The rest are kids, elderly and out of work. Which 30% are you in?

Last week, the Muslim World League, a Saudi-backed alliance of Islamic NGOs, held a three-day conference in Mecca on “Islam and Counterterrorism.” The conference’s organizers cast their mission as developing a coordinated campaign to promote a moderate, peaceful vision of Islam that disavows the violence and apostasy that ISIS thrives on. They also think only Muslims can solve the ISIS problem.

You Tube makes no money. The Wall Street Journal reports that while YouTube accounted for about 6% of Google’s overall sales last year ($4 billion), it didn’t contribute to earnings. After paying for content, and the equipment to deliver speedy videos, YouTube’s bottom line is “roughly break-even”. You Tube has 1 billion users per month. By comparison, Facebook generated more than $12 billion in revenue, and nearly $3 billion in profit, from its 1.3 billion users per year.

An abandoned Walmart is America’s largest 1-floor library. This is an old story, but worth checking out if you missed it. The architect firm of Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle transformed an abandoned Walmart in McAllen, Texas, into a 124,500-square-foot public library, the largest single-floor public library in the United States:

Library

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 5, 2015

Let’s start the first Monday of the New Year with this photo of a hermaphrodite Northern Cardinal:

Cardinal

The half-red, half-white plumage of this northern cardinal is caused by its sex chromosomes not segregating properly after fertilization, so the bird is half-male, half-female. You can read more in New Scientist magazine here.

Last night, Wrongo watched Martin Scorsese’s film, The Last Waltz, which documents the last concert by the roots-rock group, The Band. Late in the movie, Robbie Robertson recounts jamming with the great harmonica player, Sonny Boy Williamson in the early 1960s, and making (never-realized) plans to work together. Obviously, Robertson, Helm, et al. went on to be the band that backed Bob Dylan in the 1970s.

Here is your Monday musical wake-up: Sonny Boy Williamson playing and singing “99”, in which he can’t come up with that last dollar to make the $100 his girlfriend wants:

Here are links that you may have missed:

Drone etiquette is one of several issues covered in the WSJ’s21 Tech Do’s and Don’ts for 2015.” Really, drone etiquette is gonna be a thing in 2015?

Dynamic scoring is not about succeeding in the bar scene, it’s a new Republican way of using the Congressional Budget Office to make tax cuts look good. The Wrongologist wrote about this in December.

Georgia police chief shoots wife (twice) while “moving” his Glock pistol in their bed. Yea, well, more for the “good guy with a gun” file. BTW, Glocks don’t accidentally fire, they have a unique safety mechanism, so you have to pull the trigger to fire it.

California colleges see surge in efforts to unionize adjunct faculty. At nearly a dozen private colleges in California, adjunct professors are holding first-time contract negotiations, or are campaigning to win the right to do so.

Almost one-fifth of the nation’s enclosed malls have vacancy rates considered troubling by real estate experts (10% or greater). Over 3% of malls are considered to be dying, with 40% vacancies or higher. That is up from less than 1% in 2006. Another impact of income inequality: High-end malls are thriving, while malls with anchor stores like Sears, Kmart and J. C. Penney falter.

Don’t try this at home: In 2015, the European Union is increasing taxes on purchases of digital content like e-books and smartphone applications. The taxes are part of a continuing push to tax the region’s digital economy more heavily. It will raise over $1 billion.

The latest ISIS offensive in Iraq’s Anbar Province may have reversed weeks of progress by Iraq’s government forces. And it only took a few hours. No airstrikes were launched by US coalition forces in time to support the ground troops.

From 07:00 until 11:00, we lost territory that had taken us two weeks to gain. In a few hours, it was gone,” said a senior officer from the Iraqi Army’s 7th Division.

 

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