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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

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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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 26, 2017

From the NYT: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

33 Republicans stopped the [Trumpcare] bill. 15 were from the “Freedom Caucus,” 10 were “moderates” mostly from the Northeast (the “Tuesday Group”), some of whose districts went for Clinton, and 8 were miscellaneous (“One said he was concerned about its changes to Medicaid expansion, another preferred a full repeal and a third said he was worried about the bill’s impact on treatment for opioid abuse”).

Republicans control 237 seats of the 435 seats in the House. It requires 218 votes to pass a bill. When Paul Ryan and Donald Trump lost 33 Republican votes, the bill couldn’t pass, and had to be withdrawn. That means the GOP really doesn’t control the House, and that’s unchanged since John Boehner was Speaker.

The Republicans have majority control of the House and the Senate. They also have the self-proclaimed greatest deal-maker sitting in the Oval Office.  They have been talking about repealing Obamacare for seven years since it was signed into law, and they couldn’t get their own party to fall in line.

But Trump isn’t a deal maker, he’s a salesman.

And that’s a huge difference. Savvy business people seem willing to buy whatever he is selling. He seems to have the charisma and persuasiveness that in his prior life, made him a top earner as a real estate mogul.

But there’s a difference between making a sale and making a deal. Deal making is hard; you have to build trust, you have to establish real relationships, you need a mastery of your deal points and those of the person on the other side. It can be slow, grinding work.

Trump doesn’t do that, he’s never done that. His entire career is a lurch from one deal to the next, and his Presidency is no different. Trump closed the sale with the American people, but once elected, his job is to make deals.

On to cartoons.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Obamacare execution:

GOP’s Health Care March Madness bracket is now busted:

Boehner shows Ryan how to cope with Freedom Caucus:

Expect the GOP to keep trying to replace Obamacare until we all do this:

Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) burns the GOP:

Sadly, Menendez is also a joke of a Senator. He is about to go on trial for public corruption. Still, the tweet is funny.

Gorsuch epic head-fakes are now a required course in sports:

Trump’s Poodle, Devin Nunes can’t be counted on to keep secrets well, secret:

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Saturday Soother – March 18, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Ancient Pagoda in Myanmar – photo by Steve McCurry. McCurry is best known for his iconic 1984 National Geographic magazine photograph “Afghan Girl”.)

This isn’t the millennium we thought we’d have. The 21st century was supposed to be a time of enhanced social justice, and a push toward further global integration. We thought that the arc of history bent unmistakably toward a bright Information Age.

Instead, where are we? Lurching forward towards the second decade of the century with the reins of government in the hands of an ultra-nationalist, someone who wouldn’t shake hands with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany at the close of their meeting. We also learned more about the tin ear that Republicans have when it comes to enacting a health insurance program. Here is the topper: In a conversation with the National Review’s Rich Lowry, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) bragged about how conservatives now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take health coverage away from the most vulnerable Americans:

So Medicaid…sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a kegger…I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.

Not the college experience that most of us had, but for Ryan, it was a time to dream about how, someday, he would take health care away from millions of poor people. The media thinks that this guy is the best and brightest that the Republicans have, and cover him like a serious, sober policy wonk focused on reducing deficits and poverty in market-oriented ways. They refuse to believe that a major elected official would devote his life to the Randian belief that the poor deserve what’s coming to them because they lack the brilliance of a John Galt. It’s one thing to have these thoughts at 20, and an entirely different thing to still have them at 47 years old.

To reiterate what we talked about earlier this week, Speaker Ryan’s health bill, if enacted, would lead to 24 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Of those 24 million, 14 million would lose health coverage because of the changes Ryan wants to make to the Medicaid program.

No wonder Charlie Pierce calls Ryan the “zombie-eyed granny starver”. Many Americans voted for this. Perhaps they now understand buyer’s remorse.

Time to get soothed, if it is possible this week. Grab a cup of Hula Daddy Kona Coffee (just $100/Lb. via the web), sit in the sun room with Wrongo, and watch the 20” of snow melt on the fields of Wrong.

We’ll listen to Dvořák’s “Romance for Violin and Orchestra” performed by Tanja Sonc with the Slovenian Philharmonic, conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson. Dvořák originally composed this in September and October 1873 as the slow movement of a string quartet in F minor. He re-scored it for violin and orchestra sometime before December 1877. Here is Romance of Violin and Orchestra, Opus 11:

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

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That Didn’t Take Long

((This is a re-post of Tuesday’s column which was lost after the database crash on Monday night)

In an interview in Pennsylvania, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pledged that he and his party will continue the Supreme Court nomination blockade throughout Clinton’s term, if she is elected:

I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up…I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.

This just makes the GOP look like jerks. We haven’t had the election yet, and the obstruction has begun. It blows up their earlier argument that they wouldn’t hold hearings for Merrick Garland because of it came so late in Obama’s term. Now we know what they really meant:

We won’t confirm your nominees because Democratic presidents aren’t entitled to nominate Supreme Court justices anymore, because of abortion and the gays.

This of course, coming from the “Constitutional conservatives” in the GOP.

Ya gotta love them. If Trump, an unfit megalomaniac who potentially could destroy the country is elected, the GOP will gladly confirm any choice he makes.

McCain’s slogan when he ran for president in 2008 was “Country First!” Now, its #Partybeforecountry.

If Clinton wins and Democrats gain a Senate majority but less than 60 seats, Republicans will oppose her nominee, and then, eventually, Democrats will change the Senate rules to abolish filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. (Republicans will decry this foul measure and justify any subsequent actions of theirs as justified.) And if Clinton wins and Republicans hold on to 51 seats, they will simply refuse to let any nominee through.

Can we please stop pretending the Republican Party will stare into the abyss after this election and come out a different, more centrist party? They are sure that the Federalist Papers said that a Supreme Court vacancy shall not be filled except by permission of the Family Research Council.

538 has the chances of a Democratic Senate at 74% right now. So please, get out and vote, particularly for House and Senate candidates. Remember, America redistricts every 10 years. We have been paying the price for letting the GOP win the redistricting effort in 2010, so winning down-ballot races will help get started on that too.

What continues to shock Wrongo more than anything is that in 2016, if you want to actually govern the wealthiest, most powerful democracy in the world, Democrats are the only game in town. The other major party is controlled by opportunists and cranks, and the third parties are run by kooks.

This is a big problem for everyone, because Democrats do not own all of the good ideas and good policies, despite the best efforts of McCain and Trump to make us believe just that.

Anybody out there voting for Gary Johnson: Do you want to chime in now, and say there is absolutely no difference between the parties?

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 17, 2016

(This is a re-post of Monday’s column which was lost after the database crash on Monday night)

Random Monday thoughts:

First, Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan is a huge part of the soundtrack to the lives of boomers, so the average person has no problem with his winning the award, despite maybe pulling for Phillip Roth, or Dom DeLillo. From Dwight Garner:

This Nobel acknowledges what we’ve long sensed to be true: that Mr. Dylan is among the most authentic voices America has produced, a maker of images as audacious and resonant as anything in Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson.

Dylan is probably the only Nobel Prize for Literature winner who was a household name. Most are people whose work is known only to the elites. Harvard Professor Richard Thomas teaches a course called “Bob Dylan”:

I don’t see any difference between a poet like Catullus or Virgil and Bob Dylan. I think they are doing the same things. It has to do with control of language, connecting of lyrics and melodies. That’s what makes it timeless.

The professor notes that in songs like “Lonesome Day Blues”, there’s a stanza that goes:

I’m going to spare the defeated, I’m going to speak to the crowd
I’m going to spare the defeated, ’cause I’m going to speak to the crowd
I’m going to teach peace to the conquered, I’m going to tame the proud

And it’s pretty much a direct quote of lines spoken in the “Aeneid” by the ghost of Aeneas’s father, Anchises, who he sees in the underworld, and who basically says to him: “Other people will make sculpture. Your art, your job as a Roman, is to ‘spare defeated peoples, tame the proud.’”

Second, what is the point of having a third presidential debate? We already know almost everything about the Pant Suit, because the Right has been studiously putting her public and private life on display for the past 30 years. There is more we might learn about Mr. McGropey Pants, but don’t expect to hear anything that sounds like policy. Expect the Pant Load to do nothing to elevate the discourse. If he says: “is the bitch through talking?” don’t be surprised.

Third, his supporters will remain loyal, even after the election. The Boston Globe reports that election night could be the start of something terrible. For the past two weeks, Trump has been stoking fears that you can’t trust what happens at the ballot box. This, from Cincinnati:

And if Trump doesn’t win, some are even openly talking about violent rebellion and assassination, as fantastical and unhinged as that may seem.

“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton…“We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take…I would do whatever I can for my country.”

But, isn’t Trump your garden-variety Republican, and aren’t his supporters absolutely regular folks? After all, a sitting US Senator, Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.) said in New Hampshire on Saturday that anti-Trump forces are trying to rig the election. All these people are mainstream GOP for sure.

And Mr. “in prison or shot” Bowman is just another peaceful American who is deeply concerned about the economic well-being of the working class.

Can’t you see Putin asking the UN to send in election monitors to certify the results?

Time to wake up America!  You brought this on (i) by not voting in off-year elections, (ii) by not supporting media that search for truth, and (iii) by not insisting on the best possible education for your kids.

To help you wake up, here is Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue”, recorded in 1975:

Sample Lyrics:

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

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

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