Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 17, 2016

Another jam-packed news week: David Bowie stepped through the door, the Dow fell through the floor, the SOTU had the lowest ratings ever, the Republicans debated, and you didn’t win Powerball.

So, something to cheer you up at the start your week:

COW Foxes

Gonna miss ol’ Ziggy:

COW Bowie2

Wall Street longs for yesterday:

COW Lost Pet

The GOP debate followed the usual script:

COW Big Tent

Republicans are beginning to rationalize about the probable primary winner:

COW Satan for Prez

In this primary season it has become clear that facts don’t matter. How you feel matters. Other people don’t matter. How you relate to your tribe matters. Irresponsible tax policies, silly monetary policies (gold!), destructive foreign policy, no climate policy, no healthcare policy, no infrastructure policy, charter schools as an education policy, these all matter. Except for militarism, do they have any public policy positions?

The Clintons begin to understand the threat:

COW First Word

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Shouldn’t Democrats Be Doing Better?

Wrongo watched the first half hour of the Republican Debate. If you feel you must, a transcript of the whole debate is here. The focus was supposedly on the economy. Perhaps the funniest thing was that the media password for WiFi was “stophillary”.

You will be inundated with expert opinion about what was said and who the “winners” were, but none of that is important. All you need are the Wrongologist’s observations: First, the moderators couldn’t be trusted to offer a reality-based picture of the world, any more than the candidates. Maria Bartiromo asked Jeb about unemployment, saying that almost 40% of Americans are without a job and are not even looking. Really? Media Matters checked, and her number included children, retirees, college students, and stay-at-home parents.

Yep, Republican policies will get those kids and retirees into the workforce.

Regarding the candidates:

• There was oratory, little of which sounded informed
• Most denied basic facts about economic and jobs growth
• Most candidates agreed that nobody needs a minimum wage, much less a higher minimum wage
• They agreed we need a small government, but one that still can dominate the world

When a Republican says “small government,” they really mean making the government’s legal and regulatory arm ineffective enough to allow businesses to do whatever the Hades they want until something bad happens. Then Congress can say: “who could have imagined” like the morons they are, and ask the taxpayers to clean up the mess.

You would think that the debate performance by Republicans, and their relative lack of political experience, opens up a window for Democrats in 2016. It should, but Democrats may not be in a position to take advantage. Since the Reagan era, they have deserted the world view and policies that gave them an upper hand politically. They have left the New Deal and Great Society behind, and failed to replace them with anything that anyone thinks is worth getting excited about.

They have morphed into “Republican Lite.” Republicans don’t like Democrats because they won’t agree to the GOP’s fringe ideas on guns, climate change and gutting the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts.

Most of the rest of the country just doesn’t care about these new Dems. Some detest their support of abortion and gay and transgender rights. Democrats aren’t doing better because it is obvious that they have become what we used to call moderate Republicans, and why should right-of-center voters settle for the imitation flavor?

A pundit said last week that Barack Obama is only slightly to the left of Richard Nixon. Judge for yourself: Nixon instituted national price controls, ended convertibility of the dollar into gold, signed legislation that started the EPA, and endorsed the failed Equal Rights Amendment. Would Obama we know today have done all of those things?

Since 2008, Democrats have lost the electoral argument in the states. Republicans now control both houses in 31 state legislatures, and have gained 900 seats in those state legislatures on Obama’s watch.

That doesn’t sound like Democrats are following a winning strategy.

Bernie Sanders is attempting to help the Democratic Party rediscover who they once were. However, that re-discovery is not widespread, and may be occurring too late to be of service in this election cycle. If the re-awakening does not occur in this cycle, there is reason to believe that the oligarchs will have all the votes they need both in Congress and on the Supreme Court to ensure a semi-permanent reign.

So Democrats, the choice is yours: You can endorse centrist, middle-of-the-road issues, or you can represent the issues that the American people actually care about. If you go middle of the road, know that you’re putting the millennial vote in play, since they are a generation that, for the most part, remains politically independent.

This strategy may lead to Hillary taking the White House, but it will make taking back the Senate harder, and it will not reduce the Republican majority in the H0use.

Democrats need to do better.

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Hillary?

An important survey by Pew released this week says that Republicans are looking for “New Ideas”: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Since March, the share of all registered voters who say it is more important for a presidential candidate to have “new ideas and a different approach” has surged – with virtually all of the increase coming among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Today, by more than two-to-one (65% to 29%), Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say it is more important that a candidate have new ideas than “experience and a proven record.”

(The survey was conducted on Sept. 22-27 among 1,502 adults, including 1,136 registered voters.)

Pew reports that Democrats have less interest in new ideas: 50% say it is more important for a candidate to have experience and a proven record, while 42% view new ideas and a different approach as more important. This is little changed from March (46% experience, 49% new ideas).

And Pew reports that Hillary has a bigger lead over Sanders than other polls show. Their poll includes Biden:

PEW Support for Dem CandidatesThis is a very different result from other polls which tend to show Sanders just a few points behind Clinton, (at least in New Hampshire) and which say that Biden hurts Clinton enough to open a path to the nomination for Sanders, should Biden enter the race.

But despite the Pew results, many Democrats think 2016 looks grim. Here is the Denver Post reporting that Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper used those exact words:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday became the latest Hillary Clinton supporter to express doubt about her candidacy for president, telling a Denver audience that the 2016 election is ‘kind of grim, to be blunt’.

The Denver Post also quoted former Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm, who (speaking about the email issue) said he believes:

There’s a one in three chance that if something worse does happen, that will cost her the nomination.

From 30,000 feet, the presidential race includes Hillary, a person many people don’t trust, who seems to lack the vision thing, and Bernie Sanders, who self-describes as a democratic socialist when he’s merely an FDR Democrat.

It just shows how ingrained the memes of the right are in our society, when a New Deal Democrat honestly believes that he is a Democratic Socialist.

Bernie should call himself an FDR Democrat, since he has to deal with corporate media in order to win. The Democratic Socialist label easily morphs into socialist, and then on to Marxist by our media elite. This means that intellectually lazy voters will misunderstand what Sanders is really about. Better for him to conflate his candidacy with a period of American economic recovery than for him to get twisted by the media echo chamber into a second coming of Lenin, or a Jewish Fidel.

And right now, Pew says that the Republican voters are more engaged in the process:

PEW More engaged votersThis shows that Dems are about as engaged as they were when Barak Obama was running against Hillary for the nomination, but Republican engagement has increased steadily since 2007.

Considering that the Democratic base seems mostly on auto pilot, it could be a lot worse, particularly since the Democratic National Committee is headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who gave us a Republican House and Senate.

 

 

The key question is which candidate can keep the Obama coalition together. Today, it seems to be Hillary:

• If Bernie is the candidate, money is going to be a huge problem and not just for him. How does the DNC raise money? How do other Democratic candidates raise money with Bernie running against the big money donors? It’s all well and good to rail against the campaign financing laws, but Senate and Congressional candidates have to raise money too.
• Can the Dems win the White House AND the Senate on $30 individual donations?

If Hillary is the candidate, the issue will be Hillary making the case that she won’t preside over a third Obama term. Or, the central issue in Hillary’s candidacy could be her husband Bill, and a third Clinton term.

The assumption by Democrats in the primary contests should be that Republicans will still control the House. Even with a Democratic win, neither Hillary nor Sanders would be able to get much of a domestic agenda passed.

Either way, 2016 will be a repeat, more or less, of 2012, with the significant addition of Iran, Russia, and ISIS on the foreign policy front. That may make 2016 more of a balanced issue election.

All Dems can reasonably expect from a presidential win in 2016 is Supreme Court nominations, holding on to the Obama gains, and pushing the country to return towards more economic equality than in the years since 2008.

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More Iraq??

We have solved nothing in 12 years in Iraq. As Tony Wikrent says at Naked Capitalism,

The sheer imbecility of American leaders is brought into glaring light [by] Bush’s attempt at the transformation of Iraq from among the Middle East’s most repressive states to a multiparty democracy.

As Col Lang says, we own it [Iraq], but cannot fix it.

So naturally, we will send more troops there in the next month or so. And to a new location. This will bring American troop levels to 3,500 since we left Iraq in 2011. The air base where the additional US forces are to deploy is al-Taqqadum, which sits about halfway between ISIS positions in Ramadi, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) to the west, and Fallujah, to the east.

Pat Lang reminds us that al-Taqqadum was originally a British air force base called RAF Habbaniya, which later became an Iraqi air force base. It had been abandoned for a long time when US forces occupied it in March, 2003. We initially called it Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ridgway before settling on the more Iraqi-friendly Camp Taqqadum in 2004. Pat Lang on our plans:

Former RAF Habbaniya was the center of the…British presence in Iraq. Look at the pictures of chapels, cemeteries, and swimming pools for the British troops… Habbaniya is the place we will defend and try to make Sunni tribesmen and Shia cowards into fighters? The omens for this are not good.

Think about it: It is an airfield we know well and maintained for years, but it’s only 24 miles from the ISIS lines. We are by design putting our newest effort right where the enemy could take out our planes and our soldiers. Makes you think that it is a trip wire of sorts, leading to a large re-deployment to Iraq when ISIS crosses our wire. We will have to fortify and defend this place very heavily. Otherwise, ISIS will see it as a place to engage us directly in battle.

Da Nang anybody?

The idea behind the new site is to provide greater support for Sunni tribal fighters, who have yet to receive all of the backing and arms promised by the Shiite-led government. But there may be a glitch. The Guardian quotes Mr. Obama at the close of the G7 summit, saying that there were not enough recruits to train:

We’ve got more training capacity than we’ve got recruits…It’s not happening as fast as it needs to.

The Guardian also quoted Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi scholar and expert on ISIS that:

Only 1,100 Sunnis had taken part in the US training program, and none of them have graduated from it. In total, about 9,500 fighters have completed the training.

Washington wants to revive the “Sunni Awakening” strategy that we used in 2007 when large numbers of Sunni tribal fighters joined with US troops to help defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised us that he would incorporate the Sunni fighters into Iraq’s standing security forces and pay them regular salaries, but failed to do so, sparking the sectarian anger across Anbar Province that left some Sunni tribal leaders amenable to working with ISIS.

Mr. Obama originally said that we did not have a strategy, now, a year later, he sends an additional 450 troops to train Iraqi recruits that he himself says don’t exist. The Wrongologist has supported President Obama, however, this has the makings of a fool’s errand.

Why do we keep talking about training Iraqis to fight? The evidence shows that lots of Iraqis already know how to fight, and many of them are fighting very effectively against the very government that America installed.

This is almost like early days in Vietnam. We dribbled in more and more advisers and support. But it’s not what’s in the hands of the soldiers, it’s what’s in their hearts, and we have no control over that.

The NYT says this will cost us $8 million per week, or $47,619.05 per hour, which is more than many people earn in one year. Do the American people want their tax dollars spent in this way? When our infrastructure is falling apart? When our kids have to take out onerous loans to go to college? When Social Security, which we paid for, is under threat from the right side of the aisle?

Thomas P. M. Barnett has advised US leaders on national security since the end of the Cold War, including the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Central Command and Special Operations Command. Barnett said in a TED talk:

We field a 1st half team in a league that insists on keeping score until the end of the game

Barnett is correct. We have not learned how to play the 2nd half in Iraq.

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Maximizing Shareholder Value

The Guardian highlights a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about the level of global subsidies paid by governments to the fossil fuel industry:

Fossil fuel companies are benefiting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

That’s $5.3 trillion per year. The subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total annual health spending of all the world’s governments. The subsidy is created by polluters not paying the many costs imposed on countries by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused by air pollution.

The IMF said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. They argue that ending the subsidies would also slash the number of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 50%, or about 1.6 million lives a year.

It is difficult to get behind the IMF headline to the methodology that leads to their findings. They are basically estimating how much damage global warming is doing and listing that as a government subsidy. The benefits that fossil fuels have delivered to mankind are massive. The pro-fossil fuel argument is that if you could put a price on these things, it would outweigh the $5.3 trillion figure by many thousands of times.

That is true, but the argument misses the point. We need fossil fuels. We use fossil fuels. The issue is why are the costs socialized, while the profits are privatized?

This again highlights the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the “Maximize Shareholder Value” movement in corporate governance. The 1970-era Clean Air and Water Acts and the 1980-era Superfund, TSCA, and RCRA Acts were among the first attempts to shift the costs of the socialized pollution costs back onto the corporate and municipality originators. Ironically, given today’s political environment, all of the major environmental acts (except the 1980 Superfund) were signed into law by Republican presidents Nixon and Reagan.

In the IMF report, China provided $2.3 trillion of the subsidies. The US was 2nd with $700 billion.

China will be focusing on reducing their pollution and other impacts as their society gets wealthier. Once people’s basic needs are met, they will be looking to improve their lot, and breathing in poisonous smog and living next to putrid water will not be high on their list of desires. As an example, it only took 25 years after the end of WW II for Americans to insist on an improved environment.

And all of the above ignores the costs of wars to keep the fossil fuel supply lines open, as well as the regular costs of our defense and intelligence establishments, and the destruction of democracy as necessary collateral damage.

All that for something we burn. Along with our tax dollars, that is.

Cartoon of the Day: The real truth about DC’s Think Tanks:
Think TanksLinks:

Hillary Clinton on Trade Agreement: “I have been for trade agreements, I have been against trade agreements.” Anybody want syrup with those waffles?

Is Japan becoming extinct? The Japan Times wonders what the projected drop in the country’s population says about its future. They cite a report, “Local Extinctions”, which says that that 896 cities, towns and villages throughout Japan are facing extinction by 2040. Factoid: In 2013, 8.2 million of the more than 60 million homes nationwide were empty, and 40% percent of the 8.2 million empty homes were not being offered for sale or rent.

Here’s how much of your life the United States has been at war. The link shows a ginormous chart of how many years of your life were in wartime. For the Wrongologist, it is 43.8% of his life.

Millions of tiny spiders rained from the sky in Australia. Residents of Goulburn, Australia woke one day this month to find their town shrouded in silken webs, while millions of tiny spiders rained down from above. Apparently this is called “Spider rain.” It happens when large groups of arachnids migrate all at once, using a technique called “ballooning.” Creepy much?

After decades of maintaining a minimal nuclear force, China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple warheads, or MIRVs. China has had the technology for decades, but the decision to put three or more warheads atop a single missile is recent. So far, China has declined to engage in talks with the US about their decision to deploy MIRVs. If America treats China like an enemy, then China WILL BE our enemy. Maybe that’s what the Pentagon and CIA want. They need something to justify their big budgets, and their secret slush funds.

See you on Sunday.

 

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Drones: A Big Bad Nightmare

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), better known as the drone, is revolutionizing military power around the world. Despite the Pentagon’s Sequester, certain programs, like drone procurement have emerged unscathed, in part because the last two US administrations have embraced use of drones in combat theaters overseas. Meanwhile, a “drone caucus” has emerged in Congress that fiercely protects UAV funding and touts them as a way to help save money on defense, protect the lives of US soldiers, better patrol America’s borders, and assist domestic law enforcement agencies in surveillance.

In 2013, President Obama made a high-profile speech announcing plans to curb US use of drones. But events in the Middle East and North Africa, especially the rise of ISIS, have forced the US to shelve those plans. Yesterday, the Wrongologist reported that China was selling drones to Saudi Arabia. Consider this:

• More than 70 countries have acquired UAVs of different types. Of these countries, the US holds the largest share of UAVs
• 23 countries are reportedly developing armed UAVs
• The Teal Group forecasts an increase in global spending on UAVs from $6.6 billion in 2013 to $11.4 billion in 2022
The Diplomat reports that China will be the largest UAV manufacturer over the next decade

Many countries want drones, and many will turn to China with its lower manufacturing costs, and similar drone technology. A report last year by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated:

Chinese companies appear to be positioning themselves to become key suppliers of UAVs in the global market.

Chinese UAVs are especially attractive to countries in Africa and the Middle East given their low cost and China’s the lack of export restrictions compared with their Western competitors.

Even the new US drone export policy is not competitive with China, since it requires countries buying our armed drones to assure the US that they won’t use them to carry out illegal surveillance, that they will abide by international humanitarian laws, and that they use them for legal purposes. Just how will we enforce that? Will the US assign personnel to the control vans and centers to monitor each flight, or depend on self-reporting by foreign governments?

In the past year, drones have crashed onto the White House lawn, placed radioactive cesium on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office in Tokyo, and worked the battlefields in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq.

It is a formidable weapon that we are only beginning to understand. The concern is that they can be used against a nation’s homeland, since they are hard to detect and difficult to bring down. With drone proliferation, what will the impact be if large public gatherings become indefensible targets? Will sporting events like the Super Bowl be “protectable” by the city and state that hosts the event? Probably not. So, will they have to be protected by the US military? Images of US military patrolling the streets around the Super Bowl would provide an Orwellian cast to the big game.

The small quad-copter commercial drones that anyone can purchase (for between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars) signal the biggest problem for the future. They are equipped with GPS technology and high-resolution cameras. They could carry (small) loads of plastic explosive, or even chemical weapons to a precise location and cause havoc. Jamming GPS signals could be an effective solution, provided we had some idea about a targeted area. Universal GPS jamming probably would be impractical, since GPS is so important to our everyday lives.

We don’t seem to have much of a clue as to what to do about this emerging threat.

How will we adapt when drones (commercial or military) become ubiquitous? What would be the societal impact? Fear is already a great driver of our domestic politics. It is difficult to imagine how much more of our 4th Amendment rights could be sacrificed to protecting us from terrorist drones. Armed drones deployed against a densely-populated Western country is a terrorist dream!

Drone design of the future is receiving huge amounts of venture capital. The current new idea is swarming drones. The US Navy is currently testing a weapon that can fire 30+ small armed drones at once. The Navy calls the program “Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology”, or LOCUST. The Navy is also concerned about defending drone swarm attacks on its ships, since the vessels are relatively large targets.

Imagine if a terrorist could fire a “drone swarm” at Manhattan.

We won’t be putting this genie back in the bottle. Think of all the things that could possibly go (horribly) wrong by the US making drones the AK-47 of the future.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 11, 2015

Peter, a new reader to the Wrongologist asks: “Is there a Rightologist?” Wrongo has no idea. His first thought was maybe the Pope qualifies, because infallibility. Few people know that Pope Francis wrote a book in 1998 about Cuba called “Dialogues between John Paul II and Fidel Castro” that was a collection of observations between the two leaders on the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba. Popes have been pushing to end Cuba’s isolation for decades. Among them were Pope Benedict, who visited Cuba in 2012, and John Paul II, who visited in 1998 along with then-Archbishop Bergoglio.

And today, we know that Pope Francis had a key role in the diplomatic thaw between the US and Cuba. It was the right move. So, the Pope can be the Rightologist.

For today’s Wake-up, here is the Tocororo, the national bird of Cuba. It is found only in Cuba, is rare, and few Cubans have seen it:

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

Monday’s Hot Links:

North Korea said Saturday that it had successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine. If true, this would be a game-changer in North Asia. It would pose a new challenge to the US and South Korea and Japan, since submarine-launched missiles are much harder to detect and intercept, and these countries are very close to each other.

We don’t know jack about Joe: Joe is General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps and Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He’s only been the top officer of the Marines since October. Before that he was commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan for 18 months, not a lot of time in grade, but Obama likes him.

China has signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to sell it Chinese drones. Saudi is buying the Wing Loong medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, called the Pterodactyl I. Chinese media have indicated that the drone has a wide variety of military applications, including “precision strikes and long-duration, long-distance reconnaissance.” Some say it is a knock-off of our Predator. Isn’t Saudi Arabia supposed to recycle petrodollars into US military hardware, or wouldn’t we sell our drones to them?

For the past 15 years, the Pentagon has used a $90 billion slush fund to keep certain defense spending “off budget”. It’s called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. Remarkably, the $90 billion in the OCO account for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 exceeds the budget of every federal department and agency, except for the Defense Department. Last September, the Defense Department tried to use $2 billion of OCO funds to pay for eight F-35’s.

Skeletal evidence from the last 30k years suggests that our brains have become smaller. Scientific American says that that our brains have shrunk by an amount equivalent to a tennis ball, for two reasons. First we have smaller bodies, so the brain would naturally be smaller. Apparently, SA has never been in Indiana. Second, we now store and process information externally, like in the cloud. Your tennis ball is in a data storage facility somewhere in the NSA’s data center in Bluffdale, Utah. This explains why we can’t paint like the cavemen anymore.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) reminded us that God “wrote the Constitution”. He told Matt Hagee:

I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government…When we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution…

Despite those like Mr. DeLay and Minister Hagee, who would have us believe that America is only a nation for Christians, we’ve somehow managed to keep religion out of our government. Perhaps it’s the recognition of what theocracy does to places like Pakistan, Iran, and Somalia.

Couldn’t be respect for the Constitution, written the way George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison intended.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 4, 2015

The 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon passed unnoticed by this blogger last week.

Wrongo was drafted in 1966. He was on orders for Vietnam twice, but managed to spend most of his service time in West Germany, running a nuclear missile unit. He lost many friends in Vietnam, but was home, and out of the service in time for most of the big protest marches of the 1970’s. By 1974-75, no one in the States truly expected a “victory”. The debate was, according to Richard Nixon, how to achieve “peace with honor.”

For Nixon, that meant selling America on the premise of “protecting the troops as they withdraw,” or, “securing the release of POW’s”, which Nixon used to extend the war for years.

Since the 1970’s there has been a meme among conservatives that the reason we lost in Vietnam was a lack of national will, brought on by liberals and the war protesters. We still hear this today from a few career military, and many Republican chicken hawks. But, the idea that the primary reason we lost Vietnam was a liberal stab in America’s back is ridiculous, when you realize that Nixon stretched out the war for 6 years beyond the announcement of his “secret plan” to end it.

And if you remember how rapidly the South Vietnamese regime collapsed when it was no longer being propped up by the US military, you know their argument falls apart.

Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all places where our boys bled on foreign soil. All are places where our money was recycled to our war profiteers, and where we left behind no ability to bring about the “democratic” way of life that some of us had wished for them.

War profiteering for private corporations, socialized losses for the people. US soldiers dead or maimed for life. This is the legacy of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And do Chicken Hawks care about taking care of our veterans after the fact, here at home? They do not. Their mantra is cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes on the war profiteers. Cut social programs, because how can a war profiteer (including those in Congress) possibly make any money off a government-run non-profit social program?

Wake up America, time to throw the Chicken Hawks out of office! Today’s wake up song is “There’s A Wall in Washington” by Iris DeMent:

Sample Lyrics:
A boy, he traveled from far away
to walk the path ’til he finds that name
He reaches his hand up and traces each letter
He stares at the name of his unknown father
His heart is young and it’s filled with pain
in anger he cries out
‘Who is to blame for this wall in Washington
that’s made of cold black granite?
Why is my father’s name etched here in it
On this wall in Washington?’

Your Monday Hot Links:

Czech libertarians received 200,000 applications for citizenship of Liberland, a seven-square-mile microstate established between Serbia and Croatia. The economy will be based on a digital cryptocurrency. Libertarian paradise. What could go wrong?

Reuters says that China will crack down on strippers who perform at rural funerals. Apparently, the Ministry of Culture is taking aim at performances which corrupt “social morals”. Strippers at funerals?

Statues of Snowden, Manning and Assange were unveiled in Berlin. All are considered heroes on the German political left for leaking US intelligence documents. The life-size statues will be going on a world tour, since they have fewer travel restrictions than the real people.

Want to carry a gun in your pants without risk of becoming a gelding? Try Thunderware, a holster designed to give you security while you pack heat near your meat. Is it pants stuffing? Is this for the guy who want you to think he has more down there than he really has? You be the judge. Gun fanatics bristle when people say that their attachment to guns is very phallic, yet they market Thunderware with a straight face.

Audi has announced that it is making synthetic diesel fuel from just water and carbon dioxide. In a bid to put an end to our fossil fuel crisis, Audi’s experimental diesel fuel is made from air and water. Called “e-diesel,” it has less sulfur and fossil-based oils, so it is more environmentally friendly. Audi claims an overall energy efficiency of around 70%. Sounds too good to be true and so far, they can only make 42 gallons/day. Invest at your own risk. If you have an Audi vehicle take a look at this VW service Melbourne as the provider also specialises in the same for Audis.

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Has The Saudi Military on Yemen’s Border Deserted?

Just saw a disturbing story about Saudi Arabia’s fight in Yemen, a story that has not surfaced in our media. It comes from News786, an alternative news channel that calls itself the largest Hindi news website of Punjab. It covers news from India and the world:

Here is the real reason why Saudi Arabia halted operation `Decisive Storm’ and failed to launch a ground invasion of Yemen: in a stunning revelation, it has come to light that on 25-26th April, almost 4,000 Saudi forces fled their border bases in anticipation of Riyadh’s order for sending its troops inside Yemen.

News786 goes on to say that the West knows this:

The Intel gathered by the western intelligence agencies shows that the Saudi military forces have fled their bases, military centers and bordering checkpoints near Yemen in groups…European Intel said that Saudi forces’ mass AWOL forced Riyadh to declare ceasefire and dissuaded it from launching ground attacks against Yemen.

Col. Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis, is a retired US Military Intelligence officer who served in Yemen and was the first Professor of Arabic Language at West Point. He said this:

Saudi Arabia has no ground forces worthy of the name. They are the worst sort of rabble recruited in economically distressed parts of SA where the chance of an easy, well paid job in an army that has never fought anyone is a pleasing prospect. That is the Saudi Arabian Land Forces in a nutshell. Then there is the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a Sunni, largely Wahhabi internal security force.

Now, the news that the Saudi National Guard and its regular Army forces are deserting could all be put down to disinformation. Some of the information cited by News786 comes from Al-Manar, a Lebanese TV network owned by Hezbollah that has been designated as a terrorist entity by the US. Much of the original reporting was by FARS News Agency, usually described as Iran’s semi-official news agency.

So, is it disinformation put out by Iran and Hezbollah to cause Egypt and the US to think before they jump in? More from Col. Lang: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

I have told people here endlessly that information and sources must be evaluated separately. IMO the Saudis have no ground forces worthy of consideration and will not invade Yemen in any significant way. One must remember that SA has a government controlled press and any such news would be ruthlessly suppressed in SA sources.

So, what’s the point of starting a war you cannot fight yourself? Could it be that the Saudis did not have a realistic assessment of their military strength? Or that their officers were yes-men, who didn’t want to upset the Saudi royals?

America knows too well how difficult it is to win a ground war in a Middle East country.

A Saudi ground war in Yemen could likely end in a defeat, one with huge repercussions for our ME strategy. America thinks of the Saudis and the Israelis as our best pals in the ME. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are enthralled with these two racist countries, and believe what they tell us is the truth about the geopolitical situation in the ME. We have backed our belief with money and arms.

Imagine our surprise if after all the arms we have sold them and after all the training we have provided them, Saudi Arabia turns out to be unable to defend itself. Like Iraq, or Afghanistan.

Let’s start the weekend with a song. Here is “Blame It On Obama” by Andre Williams. This came out in September, 2012 inspired by the presidential campaign. Williams is a 77+ year-old R&B singer who is better known for his salacious R&B than his political commentary:

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

 

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Transformative Ideas – Part III, Make America A Humanitarian Force in the Middle East

What is our grand strategy in the Middle East? Do we have a strategy at all?

We are now escalating our military role in Yemen. The USS Roosevelt battle group is deploying from the Persian Gulf to the northern Arabian Sea to….do what?

Both the US and Iranian navies have now sent ships to the waters around Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing rebel targets since March. The press says the Iranians are bringing weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen; the Iranians say they are not. This sets up a scenario that can lead to miscalculation, like we saw in 1988, when US officials said they were trying to keep shipping lanes open, and a fight between Iran and the US wiped out half of the Iranian Navy.

Traditionally, we say that our Navy ensures freedom of the sea. So, are we again ensuring the freedom of the sea in the Bab al-Mandab Strait? Who threatens freedom of passage there?

Since 1980, US forces have invaded, occupied or bombed 14 countries in the Islamic world, and American soldiers have killed, or been killed, in them. Here’s the list:

Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-present), Bosnia (1995), Kosovo (1999), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-present), Sudan (1998), Yemen (2000, 2002-present), Pakistan (2004-present) and Syria (2014-present).

What is the outcome of our intervention in the Middle East? We should look at what we have accomplished in the Middle East, and what our sustained war footing has cost us.

Are Middle East nations more favorable to us? Are we more secure at home?

What of the millions of internally displaced persons and refugees in the Middle East? Estimates are that 3.1 million refugees are living outside their countries, while 13.1 million are displaced within Iraq and Syria alone.

A Brookings report, Arab Youth: Missing educational foundations for a productive life concluded that the percentages of primary school students who did not meet basic learning levels (average of numeracy and literacy) in 2011 was:

Around 90% in Yemen, 77% in Morocco, 69% in Kuwait and 63% in Tunisia. The best performers, with 30-40% of non-learning students, were Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, though in wealthy Qatar…over 53% of children at the secondary level were not learning.

It can’t have gotten better since 2011. These are flashing red lights. These tens of millions of uneducated young Arabs will prove to be homemade weapons of mass destruction, some directed at us. These young men and women cannot look forward to employment or meaningful roles in their societies. They are the feedstock for armed groups, criminal cults, and extremist militias, as we see in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, and Libya.

Here is the transformational idea: It is time we move away from US military intervention in the Middle East. Since it has failed us as a primary means of US policy, let’s change direction.

Let America keep a forward military position in the region, but we should stop bombing, shooting and droning. The National Priorities Project estimates that we have spent $1.6 Trillion on ME wars since 2001.

Instead, let’s use a big slice of that money to become the primary supplier of humanitarian and educational aid to the refugees and displaced people in the Middle East. We should position ourselves as a positive force for change among many millions of Muslims, and not be just another country in a long line of crusading infidels.

We can’t use military might to bring stability wherever it’s needed. We can’t remake parts of the world in our image, and the world doesn’t want us to even try to do so.

America has many fine attributes, but there is a naïve and possibly ignorant side of the American psyche that gets us into trouble. It is the myth of American exceptionalism. It bleeds into our politics, our popular culture, and much of our military. It makes us very hard to like in the ME.

Mr. Obama decided that we should try something different in Cuba, when 50 years of doing the same thing didn’t produce results.

Well, we have been doing the same thing in the Middle East for at least 60 years. In 1953, Iran’s military, financed by the CIA, overthrew Prime Minister Mossadeq. The Shah took power and, as thanks for the American help, signed over 40% percent of Iran’s oil fields to US companies. You know the rest of the Iran/US story.

Let’s try something different in the Middle East.

(This is the third in an occasional series about transformative ideas. You can read the first about capitalism here and the second about restoring the military draft, here)

 

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