The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

What’s JOE – 2035?

Haven’t heard of JOE- 35? Not surprising, since it is very difficult to find any mention of it in any major media news outlet. Google JOE- 35, and you get a series of links for a cast stone fire pit that is 35” in diameter.

Wrong. It refers to the “Joint Operating Environment 2035” [pdf] (JOE – 35), issued in July by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It lays out the environment that the military and the nation will be facing 20 years from now. It is written as a guide to how the Defense Department should be spending resources today in order to protect against tomorrow’s threats. They identify six broad geopolitical challenges the US Military will have to deal with in 20 years:

  • Violent Ideological Competition: irreconcilable ideas communicated and promoted by identity networks through violence. That is, states and non-state actors alike will pursue their goals by spreading ideologies hostile to US interests and encouraging violent acts to promote those ideologies.
  • Threatened US Territory and Sovereignty: encroachment, erosion, or disregard of US sovereignty and the freedom of its citizens.
  • Antagonistic Geopolitical Balancing: increasingly ambitious adversaries maximizing their own influence while actively limiting US influence. That is, rival powers will pursue their own interests in conflict with those of the United States. Think China in the Philippines.
  • Disrupted Global Commons: denial or compulsion in spaces and places available to all but owned by none. Think that the US will no longer be able to count on unimpeded access to the oceans, the air, space, or the electromagnetic spectrum in the pursuit of its interests.
  • A Contest for Cyberspace: a struggle to define and credibly protect sovereignty in cyberspace. That is, US cyberwarfare measures will increasingly face effective defenses and US cyberspace assets will increasingly face effective hostile incursions.
  • Shattered and Reordered Regions: states increasingly unable to cope with internal political fractures, environmental stress, or deliberate external interference. That means states will continue to be threatened by increasingly harsh pressures on national survival, and the failed states and stateless zones will continue to spawn insurgencies and non-state actors hostile to the US.

The report also warns that the rise of non-state actors such as ISIS, described in the report as “privatized violence“, will continue, as will the rapidity by which those groups form and adapt. The spread of 3D-printing technologies and readily available commercial technology such as drones, means those groups can be increasingly effective against a fully equipped and highly technological US military.

The study says:

Transnational criminal organizations, terrorist groups, and other irregular threats are likely to exploit the rapid spread of advanced technologies to design, resource, and execute complex attacks and combine many complex attacks into larger, more sustained campaigns…

John Michael Greer has a review of JOE-35 that is worth reading in its entirety. His criticism of the report is that:

Apparently nobody at the Pentagon noticed one distinctly odd thing about this outline of the future context of American military operations: it’s not an outline of the future at all. It’s an outline of the present. Every one of these trends is a major factor shaping political and military action around the world right now.

Like so many things in our current politics, the JOE projections are mostly about justifying current procurement/pork barreling by a linear extrapolation of today’s threats. That, and the institutional blindness that sets in when there have been no real challenges to the established groupthink, and the professional consequences of failure in the military are near-zero.

The JOE list may not be imaginative or fully predictive, but that doesn’t make it wrong. None of the problems they forecast are going away. For instance, the use of ideology to win and shore up support from potential fighters and allies is as old as ancient times, so why would ideological conflict NOT be an issue in 2035?

Threats to US sovereignty and territory go along with the Joint Chiefs’ recognition that the US is an empire most likely on a downward curve, unless there is great change in our policies, domestic and foreign.

In this sense, the report is quietly critical of our politicians.

The admission in the JOE report that we will be actively required to defend our home ground by 2035 is a mark of just how much our geopolitical environment has changed since 9/11.

It is indeed worth your time to read both the JOE report, and that of John Michael Greer very carefully.

Both will make you smarter than reading about the latest Trump outrage.


Monday Wake Up Call – October 24, 2016

The US government had a program to pay bonuses to recruits at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as an incentive to get soldiers to reenlist. Now the Pentagon wants the money back from 10,000 soldiers in California. The California National Guard used the program to entice thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war, more than a decade ago.

It turns out that government audits have revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard, who handed out the money more liberally than other state Guards. As a result, nearly 10,000 soldiers, many who served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay their enlistment bonuses, and if they refuse, they are slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens.

Are we missing something? These soldiers signed a legal contract with the government in order to get the re-enlistment bonuses. The soldiers certainly delivered on their end of the contract; the time they spent in the service was honorably served. So why shouldn’t the CA National Guard have to give the money back, rather than individual soldiers? They caused the problem.

Isn’t the correct pressure point Gov. Brown and the CA state legislature, rather than individual soldiers?

This is way beyond wrong. Not the soldiers’ mistake, and it shouldn’t be their problem.

The forced repayment by veterans of their enlistment bonuses to the government a decade after they were given the bonuses specifically to re-enlist is unconscionable. As a veteran of an earlier era, it makes Wrongo’s blood boil to read this piece.

Monday’s Links:

A Twitter account tracks dictators’ planes to and from Geneva. The planes are registered to or used by despots when they fly into and out of Geneva, Switzerland. The 80 or so planes being tracked, are registered to governments, or known to be used by royal families or leaders. Only 80 planes? Shouldn’t that list be expanded?

This is what work-life balance looks like at a company with 100% retention of moms. For 33 years Patagonia has had an on-site child care center that bears little resemblance to what anyone might imagine corporate on-site child care looks like. It is run by teachers, some of whom are bilingual and trained in child development. Learning takes place outdoors as much as in. Parents often eat lunch with their kids, take them to the farmer’s market or pick vegetables with them in the “secret” garden. And the worst is that this is not all that hard to do.

The White House hosts South by South Lawn (SXSL), the Obama administration’s riff on Austin’s annual multimedia showcase, South by Southwest. From poking fun at Kanye West, to curating playlists, to singing with Willie Nelson, to hosting this SXSL festival, President Obama has taken advantage of his musical know-how in ways that we will surely miss. On the mainstage, Common makes an unannounced appearance, rapping about the racial injustices of the prison system; he’s later spotted chatting with Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. At sunset, the Lumineers played “Stubborn Love”—which Obama included on his 2015 summer playlist.

Feral cats are being deployed in NYC war on rats. There are a lotta rats in NYC, some of whom are in suits and office suites. The feral cat is designed to help address the brazen denizens of NYC garbage. However, in the book Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores, we learn that there are over 5,000 coyotes living “underground” in NY City that are already on rat patrol.

Time for our Monday Wake up, and it’s the Pentagon’s turn. They should wake up and rescind those re-payments, and refund any money that they have collected from GIs who paid the price to get their enlistment bonuses.

To help the Pentagon get back on track, here are the Talking Heads with “Life During Wartime” from their 1979 album, Fear of Music. This live version comes from the 1984 movie “Stop Making Sense”, a Talking Heads concert:

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

Sample Lyrics:

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some grave sites, out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance,
I’m getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto,
I’ve lived all over this town

 This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,
This ain’t no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,
I ain’t got time for that now


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – Rigged Election Edition

Donald Trump was in Gettysburg on Saturday.  In what was supposed to be a serious-minded policy speech where he would outline his first 100 days as president, he couldn’t restrain himself from re-litigating grievances with Hillary Clinton, the media and especially the women who have come forward in recent days. He started by saying he would sue every woman who has accused him of sexual assault or other inappropriate behavior:

All of these liars will be sued once the election is over…I look so forward to doing that.

The election is rigged, Hillary shouldn’t be allowed to run, and those women are liars. Maybe he was hit so hard in the last debate that he can’t remember saying all of these things before.

Hillary vs. Donald, III. The outcome was the same as Ali vs. Liston:


Trump’s stump speech attacks the roots of our democracy:



Rigged, or what?



Your bill for participating in our democracy is due, Don:

cow-stiffed-himIn completely unrelated news, Snoopy was fired by Met Life:






Debate III Debrief

There were mucho fun takes on the Debates that surfaced on the internets. Here are a couple of videos that tickled Wrongo.

First, Weird Al with “Bad Hombres, Nasty Women”:

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

And this one, which many may have seen, reprises Debate II and sets it to “Time of my Life”:

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

Trump handed a gift to Janet Jackson when he called Hillary “such a nasty woman”. With that phrase on Wednesday night, Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit “Nasty,” spiked 250% on Spotify after the debate.

Then the Clinton campaign embraced it, and Nasty Woman quickly emerged as the meme of Wednesday’s presidential debate.

This is a fantastic mash-up of Janet Jackson and Hillary that is winning the Twitter machine:


Trump’s “such a nasty woman” inspired instant merchandising opportunities, like this:


Or this:


Or this:
















For those keeping score, polls in Hawaii opened yesterday.

  • NC polls opened today
  • Nevada tomorrow
  • Colorado Monday
  • Florida Monday

See you on Sunday.


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Ok, that’s the title of a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, but it describes World War III the third presidential debate.

The headline coming out of the debate has to be that Donald Trump refused to say that he would accept the election result if he lost. Basically, he said when Chris Wallace asked him a second time, that people should just “stay tuned”.

This has never happened before. Consider our history: George Washington was the center of gravity in American political life from 1775 all the way to 1796. He was our first president. People asked: What would happen to the republic when Washington went home? They worried that we were being held together by a single person, not by a system of laws, because the laws hadn’t yet had a chance to put their roots down into the political system. At that point, America was a government of men, and then John Adams became the second president. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when Adams took the oath of office, he stood aside to let Washington lead them out of the chamber. Washington turned to Adams, and said: “after you Mr. President.”

That simple act of respect established the preeminence of the presidency and the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

In 2016, who is qualified to lead the country? Could it be a guy that disrespects one of our bedrock traditions?

Wallace asked if Trump will go along with the election result, Trump answers by saying the election is rigged. Clinton says Trump always claims things are rigged if they don’t go his way. Her observing that Trump said he lost the Emmy because the contest was rigged was a thing of beauty.

Hillary Clinton won tonight and won the first debate. The second debate was a draw. At this stage in the campaign, people expect the candidates to be knowledgeable and prepared for the debate, but it devolved into the same kind of hair pulling show as debate II. Trump saying near the end of the debate that Clinton shouldn’t have even been allowed to run (who should have disallowed her?) was a crazy moment.

Overall, Clinton was solid steel, coated in platinum. Trump, of course, was Bakelite.

Chris Wallace was by far the best of the moderators, at least for the first hour, although he had a slight right wing bias. It went south after that, and he had a hard time keeping the candidates on track.

It was very difficult to fact-check either candidate, but again, Trump stood out, denying things we all knew to be true. Long-time blog reader FVK had a thought:

The Trump excuses reminded me of the old John Lovitz routine on SNL. When a new excuse for his screw-ups came to him, he’d say, “yeah, that’s the ticket!” “I’m behind because election is rigged”.

John Lovitz had a character on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s called Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar. Flanagan would tell outrageous whoppers, like claiming he was married to Morgan Fairchild, and thus had seen her naked “more than once.”

Doesn’t that sound like the GOP candidate we saw last night?

Whatever the debating points, Trump couldn’t get out of the way of the avalanche of wrong created by the Access Hollywood video, and his response to it.

That defined Trump 2016, and he did nothing in debate III to recover from it. Here is Trump’s avalanche of wrong:


Debate Prep III – October 19, 2016

“I’m addicted to placebos. I’d give them up, but it wouldn’t make any difference.”Steven Wright

The nation is addicted to Presidential debates, which cannot even remotely be characterized as a placebo. And tonight’s debate in Las Vegas is unlikely to make a big difference to voters around America, unless one of the Pant Load or the Pant Suit are extremely clever. You can expect that The Pant Load will try to make this week’s WikiLeaks disclosures a torpedo below the waterline for the Pant Suit’s campaign. There are some nuggets in the emails, but do they really add up to all that much?

This from USA Today:

Companies used Clinton fundraisers to lobby [the] State Department. At least a dozen of those same companies lobbied the State Department, using lobbyists who doubled as major Clinton campaign fundraisers. Those companies gave as much as $16 million to the Clinton charities.

Sounds terrible, until you get down to paragraph #26 in the article:

In all, 181 foundation donors lobbied State during Clinton’s leadership tenure, Vox reported last year.

These relationships and giving on their own aren’t illegal, or even unethical. But critics, including Trump, have argued they at least pose potential conflicts of interest.

So, no quid, and apparently, no smoking gun of quo. Trump asks repeatedly how these disclosures are not dominating the news cycle and blames the media for being in the bag for Hillary. The emails often don’t prove what Trump says they do: that the Clinton campaign hates Catholics, that Clinton “openly colluded” with the Justice Department during its investigation of her private email server.

Even if there is some there, there with the emails, the real issue is that The Donald remains the story of this presidential election.

It has come down to a referendum on Donald Trump.

Unless Trump can get more than 43% of the vote, he can’t be president. And focusing on Trump’s personal attributes has been Clinton’s strategy all along. Still, if we fix on personal foibles and temperament, although relevant, we will miss any discussion of the issues.

Take tax plans. Hillary shouldn’t focus on Trump’s taxes. His taxes are relevant, although no worse than Mitt Romney’s low average tax rate: This just illustrates a problem with the tax code that Trump is well within his rights to exploit. The real problem with Trump, when it comes to taxes, is not what he pays or doesn’t pay, but how his proposed tax plan would affect everyone’s tax burden.

The numbers are not pretty.

Trump’s plan is the most Oprah-esque tax proposal since Ronald Reagan in 1980: You get a tax cut! You get a tax cut! You get a tax cut! But it’s mostly a massive tax cut for the top 1%, similar to those proposed by nearly every Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. Without that revenue, the government has to collect more in taxes from middle-class and low-income households, which will not reduce income inequality, or the federal deficit, or grow the economy.

Trump’s plan is spun as a “growth plan. The idea is that if the US runs huge deficits by slashing taxes, most of that money will be spent, creating wealth and jobs. Sorry, but the failure in Trump’s plan is foreshadowed in the failed economy in Kansas, where the Republicans handed big tax breaks to a few of the highest-income taxpayers and businesses, hoping that would magically trigger an “adrenaline shot” to the Kansas economy. That didn’t happen. Since cutting taxes drastically, the state’s debt load has ballooned to an all-time high of $4.5 billion, a jump of 50% in two years.

So no growth, and mucho debt.

Trump’s plan doubles down on this failed “trickle-down” GOP fantasy as the answer to GDP growth and income inequality. Economic growth will never come from giving tax cuts to the rich. Why? Because they just sock their gains from tax cuts away in offshore tax havens.

Hillary needs to attack the Pant Load’s BS tax plan, not his failure to pay taxes. People should think hard about each candidate’s tax plan and how it could contribute to economic growth before deciding to cast their vote for president. An attack by Clinton on Trump’s tax plan will go directly against one of the core beliefs of Trump supporters, that tax cuts will give them better jobs and pay. Sow some doubt there, and it could pay dividends at the ballot box.

Hillary’s plan is to build infrastructure with tax increases on the rich and corporations. That creates jobs.

This is a message she needs to drive home in tonight’s third presidential debate.


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?


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.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 16, 2016

(this is a re-post of Sunday’s column after the site’s database crashed)

“Important issues in the presidential campaign are like the Oakland A’s. You aren’t going to see much of them in October” Rocky Mountain Mike

The best things that happened last week were the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan and Michelle Obama’s speech. Perhaps the worst thing last week was the US’s deeper involvement in Yemen: The Saudis bombed a funeral. An American naval vessel was attacked at sea by the Houthis. We launched cruise missiles at Yemen. The Iranian navy started patrolling off of Yemen in the same space as the US navy. Escalation, and what does the US get out of this? The Obama administration must be held to account for this.

Dylan wins the Nobel:


Trump’s decline in the polls means his call “Hillary for jail” has a new meaning:


The GOP establishment walks away from Trump just a little:


Trump admitting sexual assault has given some Christian supporters a moral dilemma:



Trump gets a new campaign logo: