UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Debate Night – Monday Wake Up Edition

The Presidential debate is tonight. Trump was reported to have invited former Bill Clinton paramour Gennifer Flowers to the debate, but now we hear from Mike Pence that it’s not so. This looks like is a case of “mind games forever”.

Millions of words have been written in advance of the debates, so no need to add to the hot steaming pile of punditry here, except to say that Hillary cannot win any news cycle. Even the one in which the NYT endorsed Hillary. Here is Tristero at Hullabaloo: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The NYT endorsed Clinton, but actually they’re heavily promoting Trump for president. How heavily? Literally by a 2:1 margin. Put another way, the Times [in their editorial] believes that what Trump says and does is twice as important as what his closest rival says and does…If you go…to the NY Times Web site and do a word search, you will come up with:

Trump: 16 mentions
Clinton: 8 mentions

2 Pictures of Trump
1 picture of Clinton

If you can’t win in THE PAPER THAT IS NOMINATING YOU, it’s hard to win overall.

Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson won’t be at the debate. Sadly, he seems to be the choice of quite a few Millennials over both Clinton and Trump. Kevin Drum noticed that polling shows there are a fairly significant number of Sanders voters saying they prefer Gary Johnson over Clinton.

It is easy to understand if you fail to look closely at Johnson’s policies: He favors legalization of marijuana. He’s good on civil liberties and wants to cut back on overseas military interventions. He’s moderate on immigration. He’s pro-choice and supports gay rights.

But he’s nothing more than a warmed-over Republican. Here is a Johnson quote from earlier this week:

fireshot-screen-capture-130-gary-johnson-page-001

Yes, he really did say that since the sun will burn up the planet someday, why should we care about climate change? BTW, it’s not likely to occur within the next 5 billion years, so this is an example of Libertarian long-range planning.

So, let’s just focus on making lots of money now. #Feel The Johnson

You still think there is lots to like about Gary Johnson? Perhaps you should review Drum’s listing of some of Johnson’s policy positions:

  • He supports TPP
  • He supports fracking
  • He opposes any federal policies to reduce student debt
  • He supports Citizens United
  • He wants to privatize Social Security
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero
  • He wants to eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent flat tax

His position on choice is that it’s up to the states. So a woman’s “personal freedom” would be subject to whatever yahoos in the state capitol decide it is.

So it’s time for Millennials to both wake up and study up on the Libertarians. In honor of Gary Johnson, here is Little Feat with “Don’t Bogart that Joint”:

Little Feat made the song famous, but the song was written by the Fraternity of Man, an American blues rock group. The song was featured in the movie Easy Rider in 1969.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 25, 2016

So many stories competing for our attention this week. The bomber, the “driving while black” shootings, the upcoming debate.

Let’s start with Tulsa and Charlotte:

cow-aaa-b4-cops

And how many news reports do we hear about a stranded white motorist being shot, or a social worker lying on the ground with his hands in the air getting shot? The smart phone camera is the only disinfectant that may end this.

The Presidential candidates’ response to NYC and NJ bomber taught us quite a bit:

 

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

This shows the difference in the way Democrats and Republicans view the world. Democrats are trying to figure out why people are getting radicalized, who they are, and how to stop them. Republicans want to carpet bomb the place until the sands glow and let (their) god sort them out.

The Wells Fargo hearings gave us a rare moment of bi-partisan solidarity:

cow-shoot-wells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrongo does not endorse killing anyone at Wells Fargo or any other bank or Wall Street firm. But is putting a few behind bars too much to ask?

The debate is tomorrow, but what on earth will they talk about?

cow-debate-topics

Facebooklinkedinrss

September 21, 2016

On-the-ground insight from the Chelsea area of Manhattan on Sunday: Long-time reader David P. gives us some, from the day after the bombing:

I just finished reading your Wrongologist entry for today.

OTOH, I find some evidence that fear is not (universally?) out of control. We drove into NYC yesterday [Sunday] after seeing TV accounts of the bombing in Manhattan at 23rd St, near 5th Ave. In a 10-block stroll through the West Village and Chelsea, I noted no businesses, of the sort normally open on Sundays that were shuttered. We had brunch at a restaurant on the corner of 20th St and 7th Ave., in the open air. The sidewalks were bustling and the street traffic seemed to be at the expected level for a Sunday. I exchanged a few social niceties and joking exchanges with waiters and other strangers; none seemed fixated on what had and was transpiring a few blocks away…

On the TV, both on Sunday and thus far on Monday (4 PM), local politicians and police administrators have given calm, factual, professional updates, with the politicians adding that the terrorist enterprise could only prevail if we were to give way to fear and allow our lives to be disrupted any more than necessary…

The ONLY sour note that I heard in the 40 hours since the first explosion was Mr. Trump’s irresponsibly premature pronouncement on a still-emerging event, coupled with his opportunistic attempt to blame it on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, from my perspective and at least in my corner of the universe, people seem to be vigilant without being terrorized.

I hope that the media will show the rest of the country that, here near the center of the terrorism bulls-eye, most of us are not succumbing to fear. I also hope that the rest of the country will notice that we are not voting for someone who, faced with those who would do us harm, responds with bluster and bullshit, rather than with quiet determination and deference to professionals who know what they are doing.

David

Some media, and of course the Pant Load, are trying to fan the fear. Some are saying “New York Attacked!” They want Americans to be more afraid for their safety than for the likelihood of losing more of our American values. Interestingly, the states that have seen terror attacks, NY, CA, MA, PA and VA are solidly in Hillary’s camp, while Florida is too close to call.

Perhaps when you actually have to face your fear, you think differently.

On a separate issue: There is a growing ACLU and Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Edward Snowden, timed to the release of the Oliver Stone biopic “Snowden”. There have editorials and op-eds, pro and con appearing all over the country in recent days. Few attempt to lay out the facts. In fact, the Washington Post editorial board is against his pardon. That is the height of hypocrisy, since the WaPo won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting based on the very information that Snowden took from the US government!

Glenn Greenwald, who helped Snowden get his information to the media said:

Three of the four media outlets that received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden — The Guardian, the New York Times, and The Intercept –– have called for the US government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the US with no charges.

The exception is the WaPo.

Back to the pardon, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has recommended against a Snowden pardon. Marcy Wheeler tears their report apart, stating that in a two-year investigation, HPSCI failed to interview any of the direct witnesses, repeated known untruths about Snowden, and used the wrong methodology to conduct the damage assessment caused by the document releases. From Marcy:

One thing is certain: the public is owed an explanation for how HPSCI came to report knowably false information.

Snowden is a saint compared to the Congress jerks who signed off on this recommendation.

It is one thing to believe Snowden’s breach of a duty of confidentiality to the US government is not offset by the good that public knowledge of the NSA’s clandestine spying programs provided.

It is another to create a false report about the individual and the damage done.

There are probably a few dozen or so Dennis Hastert’s in Congress that are more than interested in suppressing any whistle blower’s information. Who knows, it could end a career.

Congress seems to have sworn an oath to complicity, not an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Hillary’s Challenge

Hillary’s campaign doesn’t dominate any news cycle, unless it’s a negative message about her emails, her health, or the deplorables.

She’s running lots of TV advertising, an idea that wasn’t completely effective even in 2012, and that probably hasn’t worked perfectly since the 1990s when Bill Clinton ran for president. As we pointed out in “Is Ignorance Bliss”:

Taken together, major network and cable TV accounts for 26.5 million viewers, or only 18.2% of registered voters.

Moreover, we said that more Americans are going elsewhere for information, specifically to mobile:

70% of those ages 18-29 either prefer, or only use mobile for getting their digital news, compared with 53% of those 30-49, 29% of those 50-64 and just 16% of those 65+.

Hillary was on a high right after the Democratic convention, largely because she articulated a positive vision for the country. But she was seduced by Trump’s gaffes about the Khan family who spoke at the convention, and went negative about the Pant Load for several weeks. After that, she seemed to go into a “run out the clock” strategy in August, interrupted by the “deplorables” comments and her lack of candor about her health.

Now it’s September, and she’s continuing to lose the news war, by not returning to promoting a positive vision that people can understand. She’s lost weeks, while ceding the floor to Trump and his spurious claims about her, and about the state of the country.

And she’s losing the millennials. Their attention spans aren’t attuned to the Clinton message, or to the medium that she uses to deliver it, while Trump is employing the number one axiom of celebrity: Stay in the picture, make noise, use mobile technology to deliver the word!

And Trump supporters understand that The Donald is a flawed messenger, but, like it or not, they hate Hillary, and what other people like Hillary stand for.

So that’s where we are with 50 days to go to the election. Hillary’s challenge is to reclaim her platform, and to speak about what will be different and better in America if she wins the election.

Playing down to the level of her opponent is likely to lead to a loss.

Here are a few links you might have missed:

After the bomb exploded in NYC, Uber customers discovered that Uber had doubled their fares. The Uber app said: “Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road.” After complaints, they deactivated their surge pricing algorithm for the affected area in Chelsea. Uber was clearly following the advice of Rahm Emanuel: “Never let a crisis to go to waste.”

In some US cities, police are collecting DNA from people not charged with, or suspected of, any particular crime. Police in Florida and other states are building up private DNA databases, by asking for, and collecting voluntary samples. If you are innocent, why not comply?

ISIS has reportedly banned women wearing the burka in northern Iraq after claiming that its fighters have been targeted by a veiled female. Seems ironic that ISIS and the French are now on the same side, banning the burka for the same reason.

Chinese companies are quietly acquiring businesses in Rust-belt states. Chinese companies are setting up shop in Ohio and Michigan, key voter battlegrounds in November, where traditional manufacturing has been hollowed out — in many cases, by trade…with China. Fuyao Glass took over a GM facility and got a $9.7 million tax credit from the (Republican-run) state of Ohio, which also kicked in a $1 million grant for road work.

314 Springsteen songs ranked from first to last. Caryn Rose, of New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, ranked every Bruce Springsteen song. She put the list together in four days in a NYC hotel room. You know that the #1 song was “Born to Run”.

Tuesday calls for bonus music: Here are Dave and Phil Alvin, who founded the roots-rock band The Blasters in 1979. After not working together for years, they recorded an album in 2013. Now they’re back with “World’s in a Bad Condition” from their 2015 album, “Lost Time”:

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

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – September 19, 2016

As everyone now knows, a bomb went off in NYC on Saturday. NY Governor Cuomo later said it was a terror attack. A second bomb was found and defused a few blocks away, while a third, also thought to be terror-related, went off in Seaside, NJ. A Saturday knife attack in St. Cloud Minnesota that wounded nine was declared a terrorist act.

These events all happened the day before the UN General Assembly meets for a week in New York, so the  bombings could have serious political meaning. But politicians are telling us these events are not linked. Just a coincidence, they say.

Meanwhile, this could be Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare, as Donald Trump says we are not strong enough in the face of terrorism, while Hillary has said that we are “winning” the war on terra. Trump told a crowd in Colorado Springs:

I must tell you that just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York. And nobody knows exactly what’s going on. But boy, we are living in a time — we better get very tough, folks. We better get very, very tough…

Because we’re not tough enough on terror just yet.

So today’s wake up is about America’s fear. 15 years after 9/11, it’s hard to remember what this country was like before: How the American spirit was so much stronger at the height of the Cold War than it is today.

Back then, we feared the USSR and dying (frying) in a preemptive nuclear war. We all believed we would have no more than 20 minutes to prepare for Nuclear Armageddon. There were municipal fallout shelters. Some had shelters in their homes. We practiced getting under our desks at schools, even though we knew that would be fruitless.

But there was a very different feel to America back then. People were far from paralyzed by fear; they controlled their sense of imminent danger. There was a military draft. We worked, took the kids to sporting events, and our kids went to school every day with far less concern for their safety than today.

Since 9/11, we do face very real threats from terrorism, by actors both foreign and domestic. But, the probability of instant death like we had for 40 years, from the 1950s until 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed, doesn’t exist today.

Wrongo is not a student of mass psychosis, but asks, if the nature of today’s threat, while serious, does not lead to instant death for millions of Americans, why are we so paralyzed by fear?  No IED is going to end America as we know it, no gun or knife-toting terrorist is going to kill millions of Americans.

A zero domestic deaths from terrorism policy is doomed to failure.

For the past 15 years our last two presidents have said: “my first responsibility is to keep you safe.” But, haven’t we really needed leaders who would say: “my first responsibility is to defend your freedom and personal liberty?”

But no politician today would dare say that, because no one would vote for them. This is the nation we have become after 9/11, and we need to wake up before we surrender even more of the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.

To help America wake up, here is “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, from their 2012 album, “Night Visions”. The song was Rolling Stone’s “Biggest Rock Hit of the Year” in 2013. This video has had almost 600 million views since it was posted:

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

Sample Lyrics:

I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh,  I’m radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive

I raise my flags, don my clothes
It’s a revolution, I suppose
We’re painted red to fit right in

I’m breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse

Welcome to the new age indeed!

People should learn about England and Ireland during the Sinn Fein bombing attacks that lasted from 1969 to 2001. Wrongo lived in London for part of that time, and while fear existed and the risk was real, people dusted themselves off, and soldiered on.

We should not let fear decide our Presidential election, or further vitiate the Constitution.

Let’s all WAKE UP!

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 18, 2016

Luckily, it only comes up every four years:

cow-cialis-election

Colin Powell’s emails were hacked, and America loved it:

cow-colin-powell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTOH, Powell lied at the UN about WMDs. That helped start an unnecessary war in which many died. People have short memories. His standing should not be revived by a few blunt emails.

Hillary is back on the road. Is it too little vision, too late?

cow-fainting-spell

Dems should be ashamed, ashamed that their candidate runs so poorly with the young. That she is an ineffective campaigner. This is reminiscent of the summer of 1988, when Dukakis spent a week in August in Nantucket thinking he was ahead in the polls (Clinton spent two weeks in the Hamptons). She and her team are badly misdiagnosing what drives voters. Every response seems weak and ineffective.

Wells Fargo caught in phony account scheme:

cow-wells-fargo

Wells fired 5300 “low level” employees, roughly 1% of the workforce, for signing up customers for checking accounts and credit cards without their knowledge. About 2 million sham accounts were opened, complete with forged signatures, phony email addresses, and fake PIN numbers, created by employees who were hounded by supervisors to meet daily account quotas. But the executive at the top of this hot steaming pile, Carrie Tolstedt, left in July with a $125 million retirement package.

Trump retracts his birther scam with an untrue swipe at Hillary Clinton:

cow-trump-admits

From Mark Shields  on the NewsHour about Trump’s birther nonsense:

He wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump…lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton…he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.

From David Brooks on the NewsHour:

Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth…But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules. And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in “1984.” And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored…And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Who Moved My Cheese?

Some may remember the book by this name by Spencer Johnson, published in 1998. The underlying message of the book is “Don’t waste time fighting against change: accept that bad stuff will happen to you for no good reason and just keep moving”.

This outdated and simplistic message remains the message of the Democratic Party to the White Working Class (WWC). Donald Trump’s message is different. He offers them nothing but a dream, to limit immigrants working in the US and to cut off the US market from China. And since the WWC knows that more of the same isn’t going to work, they’re voting for Trump.

It is useful to remember that since our “Most Favored Nation” trade deal with China in 1979, we have lost 35% of all manufacturing jobs in this country.

The WWC thinks that the Democrats have not been able to do anything to help them keep their jobs. The reasons for failure can be at least equally shared by the Parties, but since Dems have said for years that they are the party of the working class, they are getting the greater share of the blame for 35 years of no results.

There are two issues that dominate the discussion: Illegal immigration and transition assistance when jobs are lost. Regarding Immigration:

  • The WWC knows that Dems need the political support of the Hispanic community, and that requires Dems to show sympathy with illegal immigration.
  • The WWC believes that illegal immigration has put downward pressure on job opportunities and wages in the trades, in restaurant and hotel work, and in service sectors where immigrants may be overly represented.
  • That’s why Trump’s stance on immigration is so popular with the WWC. They probably know in their hearts that kicking all the Mexican workers out, or building a wall is ridiculous. But the Democrat’s position on immigration is diffuse, and is viewed as “soft” on illegals by the WWC.

Despite anything the Dems say about retraining or “transition assistance”, the WWC knows that someone on job transition assistance can’t earn enough to support a family. Other problems:

  • Identifying the fields/industries that workers can train in that will produce stable, living wage employment is an inexact science. So, demand for retrained workers is often less than the supply for any given job type.
  • Businesses have been very successful at shifting the burden (and cost) of training displaced workers from themselves to society. This is helped along by a corporate critique that public and not-for-profit private schools are failing to maintain standards, and they can’t churn out sufficient grads with qualifications that meet the corporations’ highly specific requirements.
  • Hence the continuing financial opportunities for for-profit technical schools and for-profit universities, (can you say Trump University?)

And Ford Motor Co. just gave Trump a big wet kiss:

Ford Motor Co. says it’s moving all of its US small car production to Mexico…The company is building a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It will make small cars there starting in 2018.

What can the Pant Suit say about this that would go beyond what the Pant Load will certainly say? And if she did, would WWC people believe her?

On the macro level, our current capitalism has turned to technology to produce much of what is needed with far less human labor input than ever before. That leaves job growth (and job opportunity) in only the low-skilled, low-paid “service” jobs; or in highly advanced, specialized jobs requiring very advanced training/skills/talent.

This means that the dogma of Endless Economic Growth, which we have accepted since the Industrial Revolution, is dead. Along with killing that, we need to kill off the current organizing principle of our economic system, where humans exist solely to fulfill the needs of businesses.

Work helps us find our place in society. It is something that we see as having an inherent value, something that fills a basic human need, similar to food and shelter. But our current economic system no longer recognizes that, and our economy provides little opportunity for fulfilling that basic need for a large portion of American citizens, including many in the WWC.

The idea of government deploying under-utilized labor to build and repair our infrastructure, or to re-tool our country to reduce carbon emissions would be a step that might return the WWC to jobs and a place in society. It would cost a ton.

But the idea that the government would create demand is too socialist for most politicians to accept, despite the fact that the rest of the tools just haven’t worked in 35+ years.

Tell me again why Bernie Sanders was a terrible choice.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Isn’t It a Pity?

Wrongo and Ms. Right were in PA on 9/11, and we attended an outdoor concert at the Longwood Gardens, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. We went to see Taj Mahal, who was in fine voice, and the crowd loved him.

The opening act was Bettye LaVette, who has spent the last 50+ years trying to become a success in blues music, finally winning Best Soul Blues Female Artist this year. She acknowledged that we were gathered on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and sang a searing version of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity“. It redefined the song for the audience, who like Wrongo, remembers it as a statement on the breakup of the Beatles.

Ms. LaVette’s version packed a fantastic wallop, and seemed entirely correct as a way to think about the 9/11 tragedy, and the various other tragedies that 9/11 has spawned over the past 15 years.

Harrison wrote the song in 1966, but it was rejected for inclusion on at least two Beatles albums. He included it on his solo album “All Things Must Pass”, issued in 1970. The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 1971.

Ms. LaVette had included “Isn’t It a Pity” on her 2010 CD called “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook”. Here she is doing it live back then, although it lacks the searing emotion that we heard from her on Sunday night, it is worth a listen:

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

Partial Lyrics:

Isn’t it a pity, isn’t it a shame
How we break each other’s hearts, and cause each other pain
How we take each other’s love without thinking any more
Forgetting to give back, now isn’t it a pity.

Some things take so long
But how can I explain
When not too very many people
Can see we’re all the same

Thinking about 9/11, brings to mind this from the Pant Load:

trumps-big-building

Its always been about The Donald!

The Pant Suit has problems of her own, what with Pneumonia gate and the “Basket of Deplorables”. Wrongo has had pneumonia a few times in his long life, and it failed to disqualify him for anything. The Basket of Deplorables used to be sold by Harry and David for Thanksgiving, aimed at the budget-conscious consumer.

Hillary’s apologized. Is there anything more quintessentially Democratic than making a perfectly legitimate attack, and immediately apologizing when there’s pushback?

(Mostly) weird links you probably missed:

Turkish prosecutor thinks that Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen (who lives in the US), was appointed as a secret cardinal by John Paul II in 1998. Turks apparently love conspiracy theories, particularly when they can link Gulen, the enemy of Turkish president Erdogan with the US, the enemy-in-waiting.

There was a sushi chef fight on Long Island: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The violence at the Ichiban Sushi restaurant on Montauk Highway in Oakdale left one of the kitchen combatants so sliced up, he had to be rushed to Southside Hospital. His injuries were not life threatening, police said. Police busted Kong Chen for assault. It was not clear what caused tempuras to flare.

Newly discovered blood fluke is named after Obama. What a way to help burnish his legacy! Left wing anglers now prefer the new Obama flatworms when fishing in fresh water. Right wing anglers are resisting calls to take the bait.

Here a list of North American companies producing edible insects for sale. Start wherever you are comfortable with your alternative sources of protein. Billions were killed so you could try eating bugs.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Cartoon Blogging – September 12, 2016

Another action-packed week. There was no limit to the craziness, from Gary Johnson on Aleppo to Matt Lauer’s interviewing performance, to North Korea’s Kim dropping another bomb.

When presidential candidates answer questions with another question:

cow-stump-the-candidates

Matt Lauer tried to rebound from his poor interview performance:

cow-matt-lauer

Lil’ Kim is pissed off again:

cow-kims-bomb

Trump reveals his secret plan to defeat ISIS:

cow-trumps-plan

Both Parties tried to keep their campaigns afloat:

cow-parties-bail

He’s a bull shitter, and a bull in china shop:

cow-bull-in-china-shop

Facebooklinkedinrss

September 11, 2016

(There will be no cartoons today. Instead, Sunday cartoon blogging will be tomorrow, Monday 9/12.)

wtc-idealized

After 15 years, some of the sharp pain of the events of 9/11 have faded, and an idealized view of the towers like this one, is all we need to take us back to that point in time when American invincibility ended. We remember the tragedy, but perhaps we now have enough distance from it to begin to put 9/11/2001 in a context for today.

Tom Englehardt makes the point that on 9/11, al-Qaeda launched a four-plane air force against the US, and now, 15 years later, the air war still has not ended. Englehardt states that the costs have been staggering. Pentagon figures show that just since 2014, the cost of the air war to the taxpayers has been $8.4 billion.

The point behind these numbers is that America’s air war in the Greater Middle East and Africa has become institutionalized, and is now a part of our politics. No future president will end our drone programs. In fact, both The Pant Suit and The Pant Load are essentially committed to continuing the US air war for at least their first term in office.

Mohammad Atta, the kingpin hijacker, pursued a master’s degree in city planning at the Hamburg University of Technology, where he wrote his thesis on urban planning in Aleppo, Syria. Slate’s Daniel Brooks traveled to Hamburg in 2009 to read the thesis and try to get a sense for how Atta saw the world:

The subject of the thesis is a section of Aleppo…Atta describes decades of meddling by Western urban planners, who rammed highways through the neighborhood’s historic urban fabric and replaced many of its once ubiquitous courtyard houses with modernist high-rises. Atta calls for rebuilding the area along traditional lines, all tiny shops and odd-angled cul-de-sacs. The highways and high-rises are to be removed —in [Atta’s] meticulous color-coded maps, they are all slated for demolition. Traditional courtyard homes and market stalls are to be rebuilt.

We see Atta’s commitment to the culture of Islam:

For Atta, the rebuilding of Aleppo’s traditional cityscape was part of a larger project to restore the Islamic culture of the neighborhood, a culture he sees as threatened by the West…In Atta’s Aleppo, women wouldn’t leave the house, and policies would be carefully crafted so as not to “engender emancipatory thoughts of any kind,” which he sees as “out of place in Islamic society.”

As a student, Atta called for demolishing the western-style high rise buildings in Aleppo. He then got the assignment to crash a plane into America’s tallest and most famous high-rise.

The circularity is striking. The decision to attack America led to the US decision to invade Iraq. That led to the Shia takeover of Iraq, which led to a Sunni exodus into Syria. The Sunni exodus, along with the Arab Spring, led to the on-going anti-Assad revolution in Syria, which led in time to the destruction of the rebel-held parts of today’s Aleppo.

Atta’s demolition plans have been wildly successful.

Finally, we have spent $1 trillion since 9/11 to protect the homeland from terrorists. Are we safer? On the positive side of the ledger, the 9/11 attack killed almost 3,000 people, while the total deaths by jihadists on US soil since 9/11 is 94 people. On the negative side, it remains questionable if we are safe from future terrorist attacks.

We are safer from the 9/11-style orchestrated attack. It’s harder for terrorists to get into the country, and harder for them to pull off something spectacular. But, as the Orlando massacre reminds us, the world is populated by lone wolves, and those living among us can easily obtain military-grade weapons. This makes their attacks much more lethal, and harder to detect in advance.

Our defenses are stronger, but we are trying to defend against more and different threats.

Again, focus on the political: We live in an America where one terrorist slipping through the armor is deemed to be total failure politically. Sooner or later, we must accept that we can’t continue a “zero terrorist events” policy, and Congress can’t use “zero events” as an excuse to make everything a top priority.

Politicians won’t prioritize among the programs for anti-terrorist funding, because they fear looking weak on terror. They also want to keep getting PAC funds from defense contractors. That means our political leaders will declare everything a top priority. In fact, 119 Congressional committees or subcommittees assert some kind of jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Everybody has a finger in the pie.

We need to start making better decisions and fewer enemies. Let’s start by asking the presidential candidates:

  • What have you learned from our 15 years of unsuccessful wars in the Middle East, and how would you apply those lessons in your administration?
  • Do you agree with the Obama administration’s plan to spend a trillion dollars modernizing our nuclear weapons?
  • What is your strategy to protect against cyber warfare?
  • How will you address the on-the-ground complexities of the Syrian civil war and of the Greater Middle East?
  • Is China, Russia, or ISIS our greatest threat?

At 15 years post-9/11, these questions should be answerable by ANY prospective US Commander-in-Chief. (Sorry, Gary Johnson)

Insist on better answers.

Facebooklinkedinrss