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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – October 23, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Autumn at Nictaux Falls, Nova Scotia – photo by Keith Doucet

Wrongo can’t let go of Gen. Kelly, or his comments in the White House Briefing Room.

Kelly said during his briefing that most Americans didn’t even know anyone who was in the US military. He then told the press corps that only those who knew someone in the military could ask questions. As if on cue, the first reporter who spoke started with the phrase “Semper Fi”— the motto of the US Marines in his question to the four-star Marine General.

So here, Kelly required a form of loyalty oath by reporters in order to answer their questions.

Does this concern any of you? There are risks in both our reliance on an all-volunteer military, and on our veneration of them as warrior-kings.

The all-volunteer military creates many different problems. Most important, a volunteer military has dangerously skewed the demographics of the military compared to the country. There are now big demographic differences between the professional military and America at large. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a retired Air Force major general at the Duke Law Schools says: (emphasis and brackets by the Wrongologist)

I think there is a strong sense in the military that it is…a better society than the one it serves…[The military is] becoming increasingly tribal…in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.

Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Military Service wrote about the geographical implications of a professional military in the WaPo:

By the end of the draft in 1973, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true.

Changes to the home towns of people in the military since 1973 align closely with today’s red states. The uneven pattern of military service is part of the cultural differences that characterize different regions of our country. This has broad ramifications for our democracy.

Heidi A. Urben, a Colonel, studied the attitudes of military officers, and found that about 60% said they identify with the Republican Party.

So, having a professional military exacerbates both our geographical and our political differences.

But it gets worse. The authoritarian strain in the military and the citizenry is growing. A YouGov poll  found that 29% of US citizens would support a military coup d’état. Moreover, a plurality of Republicans, (43%) say they would support a coup by the military. Republicans were the only group with a plurality in favor of a coup:

In other words, many Republicans believe a military coup might be necessary, and they can see themselves supporting it. This is a dangerous disconnect. A fascinating poll question was: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Should active duty members of the US military always follow orders from their civilian superiors, even if they feel that those orders are unconstitutional?
Should . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18%
Should not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33%

The answer implies that Republicans at least, think that our members of the military are Constitutional scholars.

The weakening of support for many of our institutions is clear: Every year Gallup asks Americans about their confidence with 15 major segments of American society. The police and the military routinely top the list with overwhelming support, while no other government institution inspires confidence among the majority of voters, including the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, the justice system, and Congress.

We all want to believe that those at the top of our military are too principled to launch a coup against the civilian government. But it’s clear that there is a current of thought running through the GOP and a significant minority of the military that believes there may be a better way to run the government.

And a highly persuasive General might easily find political support for a coup.

Time to wake up, America! The role of an all-volunteer military must be debated, as well as our veneration of them as warrior-kings.

The possibility of surrendering our democracy has rarely seemed as close as it is today. To help you wake up, here is The Who with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the last cut on “Who’s Next?” released in 1971.

Takeaway Lyrics:

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 22, 2017

We have entered a new Dark Age. Wrongo is reminded of the famous quote from the movie, “Blade Runner” where the replicant Roy Batty says just before he dies: “all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Is it all over for the America that walked on the Moon? That explored the planets, and funded basic science? That passed Social Security in 1935, and Medicare and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960’s?

Elections have consequences. Trump gave his supporters “their country back,” and his idea of making America great again is a resurgence and normalization of base comments, ignorance, and hatred of the “other”. Think about what actually happened with the Trump/General Kelly grieving widow moment:

A soldier died in combat. His widow, stricken with grief, gets a call from the President. The call upsets her.

That’s what happened. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, both Trump and Kelly should swallow their pride, and put the feelings of a war widow above their own. In Kelly’s talk in the White House Briefing Room, there was no apology to the wife, not an ounce of “we’re sorry she took it the wrong way, we of course meant to comfort her“. It’s all about: “That black congresswoman, what a fraud. Why was she there anyway”?

Wrongo served in the Army. He knows that generals are well-educated people, a part of whose job description causes other people to die. Kelly isn’t the worse person in the world; he had a kid killed in combat. That should lead him to take a hard look at what he did in the briefing room. He stood in front of the nation and told us all how sympathy for the next of kin has historically been done, how Trump did it correctly, and how unfair it is to criticize how Trump did it.

And that showed us EXACTLY what not to do.

And we didn’t need a lecture about how our professional military are the best people on earth. Kelly apparently believes that the professional military have higher citizenship status than citizens who haven’t served. Kelly stated the apparent orthodoxy among the top echelons of our military: That soldiers are the best part of America, and that they look down on the rest of us who are not soldiers.

Could anything be more depressing and scary?

Yes. It is WH Press Secretary Sarah Sanders telling the press corps: “Do not challenge the Generals” when it turned out that some of what Kelly said about Rep. Frederica S. Wilson was wrong. That theme will be repeated frequently during the Trump presidency.

Democracy has started its downward slide. It’s the start of our Dark Age. On to cartoons, assuming you feel you can smile today.

This is what the White House and Kelly are really telling us:

Maybe Next of Kin would rather just get a form letter instead of a call from the Donald-in-Chief:

Is this what we signed up for?

Kelly’s recruiting message isn’t real strong:

 

 

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Trump Suggests Active Duty Military Do Something Illegal

The Daily Escape:

Assateague Island, July 25, 2017 – photo by Kendall Lavoie

Donald Trump’s visit to Norfolk VA last Saturday probably went mostly unnoticed, because of the Senate’s attempt at three-dimensional chess with their health care legislation. When Trump spoke at the commissioning for USS Gerald R. Ford, the US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, he urged the audience to lobby their lawmakers to pass a budget that contains an additional $54 billion in Defense Department funding for fiscal year 2018: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

And you will get — believe me, President Trump, I will tell you — you will get it [the defense money]. Don’t worry about it. But I don’t mind getting a little hand. So call that congressman, and call that senator and make sure you get it…And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure that you get healthcare.

The audience was active duty military. There are at least two things wrong here. First, why would the military lobby Congress for health care? They already have a single payer system called Tricare. They are automatically enrolled, and it’s free for most in the military while their dependents and retirees pay premiums, just like civilians do. Does Trump even know how health insurance works in the military?

Second, by asking them to lobby Congress for more defense money, they would be crossing an important line. It is illegal for officers on active duty to be involved in any partisan political activity. Federal Law (Titles 10, 2, and 18, US Code), Department of Defense (DOD) Directives, and specific military regulations strictly limit a military active duty person’s participation in partisan political activities, including lobbying.

Current and former US military officers take great pride in the way that the active-duty officer corps is seen as being above politics. From the Atlantic:

Contemporary military officers, as Samuel Huntington famously observed, belong to a profession. They are professional managers of violence. We arm, train, and equip uniformed military officers to do frankly horrific things—killing, maiming, and intimidating people with force—in order to achieve favorable political outcomes.

So, many US military officers were appalled when Der Donald encouraged his uniformed audience to call their representatives to lobby for the president’s policies—including his budget increasing defense spending at the expense of other domestic priorities.

It is clear that members of the military have political views. It is also clear that they tilt Republican. In “The Role of the Military in Presidential Politics”, Steve Corbett and Michael Davidson say:

Despite the military’s official position, there has been a growing concern that the officer corps is becoming increasingly politicized. The current officer corps regularly votes and “identif[ies] with a political philosophy and party,” usually Republican. Indeed, military voting patterns indicate that members of the armed forces vote “in greater percentages than that of the general population.”

We treat our military as a privileged class—men and women who by their willingness to serve and risk all, are first among equals, slightly above the citizens they are sworn to defend. They have a credibility based on their military service. Trump risks that by attempting to politicize them. He also risks the public’s trust in our professional military as a politically neutral institution, something that has been a fundamental principle of our Nation. What Trump suggested is illegal, and against centuries of policy and practice.

That is what Trump and his speech writers failed to understand when he asked active duty military to lobby on behalf of his agenda.

We all accept that high level retired military will serve in government, or in high-ranking positions in lobbying, cable news punditry, or in corporate positions. We accept that retired military often express political opinions that they keep under wraps while on active duty.

Citizens have to trust that active duty military officers will never use their power to bring about a political result here in the US, the way it has happened so often abroad.

Here is music to take us away from this nonsense, Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightening 1952”:

Saw him last summer, still in great voice.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 15, 2017

In a week filled with news that forces you to look at it, one thing stands out: The “Dossier” on Donald Trump which purports that the Russians have collected some things that could be used to blackmail our Orange Overlord. There are many things to “get”, in order to understand this story, but let’s focus on the blackmail element.

According to the 35-page Dossier, Russia (supposedly) has blackmail material on Trump but isn’t using it. OTOH, the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community (IC), and certain media players are using it, both by making sure we know that the Dossier exists, and that Trump and Obama were told about it.

The story, which had apparently been around DC since the summer, was retailed to the rest of us this week. Trump’s reaction was typical, blaming the IC, while saying it was more fake news. And it could be just that, no one seems to know.

Then, Trump was warned by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader, saying on MSNBC: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Wow! The president-elect threatened by the Senate Minority Leader, implying that the IC will get back at him if he doesn’t stand down. And there was no shock from Democrats, who have decided that they are the CIA’s best buddies, and that they love, love the rest of the IC.

Yet, when Clinton was being skewered for her emails, Dems protested loudly about the interference by the FBI. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece about the IC inserting itself into the US election, along with the Russians and others. As part of the story, he has this to say about the Democrats:

Did Russia attempt to interfere in the US election? Of course, and Democrats condemned it. Did the agents of the FBI et al attempt to interfere in the US election? Of course, and Democrats condemned it. Is the national security state today interfering in the outcome of a US election, by trying to destabilize and force its will on the incoming administration? Of course, and Democrats are cheering it.

The Dems are seeing just what they want to see, and that’s the (for now) flesh wound inflicted on Trump by the IC. They are not looking at what’s in plain sight. Which is the many efforts at false news stirring the pot of presidential illegitimacy, by domestic state actors as well as foreign.

Democrats should not support this; it’s dangerous…for them as well as for America. More about this next week.

The IC is far from happy with the Donald:

The GOP has started on their Repeal and Replace plan:

The GOP wants to take care of at least one pre-existing condition:

Trump’s cabinet nominees began their Senate hearings this week:

Secretary of State Nominee, Rex Tillerson, has to prove he’s not channeling Exxon:

Obama gave his farewell speech, and headed into the sunset:

 

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 11, 2016

We are seeing the shape of Trump’s cabinet, and it’s clear that we will soon be working for idiots who used to be in sales. So, it’s time for some definitions: What are Kleptocracy and Kakistocracy?

Kleptocracy is a government where the rulers (kleptocrats) use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their country in order to extend their personal wealth and power.

Kakistocracy means a state or country run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. The word comes from the Greek words kakistos (worst) and kratos (rule), with a literal meaning of government by the worst people.

Posted for your reference, in case something happens after January 20th that requires you to know about either term.

Trump’s commitment to renewable energy was on display in his Boeing tweet:

cow-hot-air-force-1

His cabinet, er, his junta:

cow-general-election

We’ve had high-ranking military men serve in high positions in our government since the beginning of the country, starting with George Washington through Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, through Colin Powell.  But Trump is surrounding himself with an awful lot of them, and some of them have had issues with both their temperament and civil liberties. Just like the man hiring them.

Any issue with so many generals? The NYT offers this:

cow-7-days-in-may

Man of the Year is questioned, but it is real my friends:

cow-time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s EPA will be his undoing in the next election:

cow-mistletoe

Pearl Harbor is hardly remembered:

cow-pearl-harbor

It’s another Family of Trump voters having quality time at home. Never have so many known so little about so much.

I’m stepping through the door, and I’m floating in a most peculiar way…and the stars look very different today:

cow-john-glenn

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Are We Facing an Undemocratic Future?

What do you think when Trump appoints so many retired generals to cabinet-level posts in his administration? The positive side of the argument is that these are talented, well-educated individuals who bring a worldview and experience on the global stage that Trump himself lacks.

The other side of the argument is that the authoritarian president Trump risks making his government much more authoritarian than it needs to be. This from Roger Cohen in the NYT:

A quarter-century after the post-Cold War zenith of liberal democracies and neoliberal economics, illiberalism and authoritarianism are on the march. It’s open season for anyone’s inner bigot. Violence is in the air, awaiting a spark. The winning political card today, as Mr. Trump has shown…is to lead “the people” against a “rigged system,”…The postwar order — its military alliances, trade pacts, political integration and legal framework — feels flimsy, and the nature of the American power undergirding it all is suddenly unclear.

We sound like a nation that is ripe for political upheaval. Citizens are not only more critical of their political leaders, they have become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: That once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way. That bedrock assumption is called “democratic consolidation” in political science, but Mounk’s research suggests that isn’t correct anymore.

In fact, he suggests that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Data from Freedom House, an organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, showed that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. According to Mounk and his research partner Roberto Foa, who reviewed the data, early signs of democratic destabilization exist in the US and in other Western liberal democracies. They found that the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations. The survey was based on 2014 data. Here is a graph from the Mounk-Foa study:

percent-who-say-democracy-is-essential-us

The graph shows responses by age cohort. Younger Americans have substantially less need to live in a democratic society than do older individuals. (The grey shaded part of graph is the 95% confidence limit for the responses to the survey). Remarkably, the trend toward acceptance of nondemocratic alternatives is especially strong among citizens who are both young and rich.

Mounk and Foa found that support for autocratic alternatives is also rising. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, they found that the share of Americans who say that authoritarianism would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen from 18% in 1995 to 35% of rich Americans:

support-for-authoritianism-by-income-us

While citizen support for authoritarian rule remains in the minority, it can no longer be dismissed as a fringe group. They support “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament and elections” and they want “experts” rather than the government to “take decisions” for the country. (In the study, “Upper income” is defined as the top 20% of income. “Lower Income” was defined as the bottom 50% of income.)

Overall, the rich are also now more likely than lower income citizens to express approval for “having the army rule.” While 43% of older Americans, including those born between the world wars and their baby-boomer children, do not believe that it is legitimate in a democracy for the military to take over when the government is incompetent or failing to do its job, the figure among millennials is much lower at 19%. In the US, only 5% of upper-income citizens thought that army rule was a “good” or “very good” idea in 1995. That figure has since risen to 16%, so the young rich are much more autocratic than their rich elders.

The clear message is that our democracy is now vulnerable. What was once unthinkable should no longer be considered outside the realm of possibility. This is partially the result of an educational system that does not teach even basic civics, much less the meaning of the Constitution.

Generations have grown up believing that they can casually read the document and understand what constitutional law is. Young Americans have never known the threat of an undemocratic system, so their fear of autocracy is far less than it is in the minds of their elders.

Trump is the prime example of this. And according to Mounk’s findings, he has a receptive audience in the young and the wealthy.

Would that be enough to undermine democracy in the US?

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Paris: A Time for Bed-wetting, or Leadership?

From Krugman:

So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.

It is always better to wait a day before reacting to something like the Paris attacks. It’s easy to say “We have to do something”, that our response must be vicious and overwhelming. Let’s call that “bed-wetting.” As used here, bed-wetting isn’t a physical or psychological term, it is describing the emotional response to fear that causes us say “do something!” So put French President Hollande into the “bed-wetting” category. He said that France would engage in “pitiless war”, as if some wars involve pity.

Really? A “war” on terrorists? Does that sound familiar to anyone? We know how that ends.

It is bed-wetting when several US state governors respond to Paris by announcing the ban of Syrian immigrants.

Other “bed-wetting” examples are Republicans ratcheting up the rhetoric, intimating that what’s being done by President Obama has failed to keep the country safe. Some are calling for an increased US footprint in the Middle East, including “boots on the ground,” and an increased role for the NSA in surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

So, can we see beyond bed-wetting to leadership? This is certainly a time for leadership. But what are the chances? Mr. Obama is in Turkey for the G20 meetings. He has conferred with Putin. Did they talk concretely about cooperating in Syria?

Obama is also meeting with Erdogan, the Saudi king and the Emir of Qatar about how to combat ISIS, despite the fact that all of them are ISIS sponsors. Will anything come from those meetings?

Bed-wetting says terror is about Islam, and leadership is about the bold use of our military. The roughly one billion Muslims who aren’t currently engaged in killing us (or each other) must be made part of the solution through leadership. Yet, bed-wetting demonizes all of them.

So, what should we do?

We need to stop pussyfooting around what we know to be true.

1. We should declare war on ISIS and Al Qaeda. A declaration of war forces us to get beyond posturing and political finger-pointing.
2. It is high time we tell Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to stop funding the head choppers and suicide bombers. We have to say, “One more dollar to the jihadists, and we no longer buy your oil”, regardless of the consequences. The friend of my enemy is my enemy.
3. We must recruit Russia and Iran as allies in this fight. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This means we must stop demonizing Putin about Crimea and Ukraine, at least for the time being.
4. Europe must re-establish strict border controls.
5. Erdogan’s facilitating of a Muslim invasion of Europe must end.
6. The West must accept that Syria’s Assad is going to stay in power for a while.
7. We must accept the cooperation of all who fight ISIS, including Hezbollah, despite what Israel might say.

Now, none of the above points will be supported by the bed-wetters. Their dependence on the politics of fear prevents them from thinking outside of the neocon box. As Charlie Pierce said:

A 242-ship Navy will not stop one motivated murderous fanatic from emptying the clip of an AK-47 into the windows of a crowded restaurant. The F-35 fighter plane will not stop a group of motivated murderous fanatics from detonating bombs at a soccer match. A missile-defense shield in Poland will not stop a platoon of motivated murderous fanatics from opening up in a jammed concert hall, or taking hostages, or taking themselves out with suicide belts when the police break down the doors.

Posturing about Russia and Iran fall into the same category.

We must accept that there will be Paris-type attacks inside the US homeland. Despite our huge anti-terror funding of the police, the possibility of jihadi success here is real. The Paris model of mostly local French and Belgian jihadis born of Muslim immigrants is also a viable model for attacks in the US.

It’s very human to fall for the ‘we’ vs ‘them’ meme. Because it feels good, and you can be sure it makes those around you feel good too. But that is only an illusion in times of fear and insecurity, when we don’t have a simple answer.

Leadership or bed-wetting. You choose.

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29% of Americans Support a Military Coup

A law professor at West Point was forced to resign after it emerged that he had authored a number of controversial articles. In one, he suggested that the US military may have a duty to seize control of the federal government if the federal government acted against the interest of the country.

Link that thought to a YouGov poll taken this month that found that 29% of US citizens would support a military coup d’état. Moreover, a plurality of Republicans, (43%) would support a coup by the military. They were the only group with a plurality in favor in the poll:

YouGov poll

They polled 1,000 people on September 2nd & 3rd. The poll has a margin of error of ±4%. Another theme of the poll was that Americans think the military want what’s best for the country, followed by police officers:

YouGov poll 2

The other categories, which included Congress, local politicians, and civil servants, went in the other direction. The vast majority of those polled thought that local and DC politicians were self-serving.

In other words, most Americans have a lot of confidence in the police and the army, the armed enforcers of government’s rules, but very little confidence in the politicians and bureaucrats who actually write and enact them. This is a rather dangerous disconnect when you think about it. A fascinating poll question was: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

5. Should active duty members of the US military always follow orders from their civilian superiors, even if they feel that those orders are unconstitutional?
Should . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18%
Should not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49%
Not sure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33%

The answer shows that many Americans think:

1. The military are all Constitutional scholars, and

2. Americans want soldiers to think for themselves, even though the civilian superior who matters is the Commander-In-Chief, or Mr. President to the rest of us.

All of this, despite the fact that the US military has long embraced the idea of civilian control of national affairs, and apart from certain rare moments, the American officer corps has faithfully followed the orders of their civilian superiors.

The weakening of support for many of our institutions is clear: Every year Gallup asks Americans about their confidence with 15 major segments of American society. The police and the military routinely top the list with overwhelming support, while no other government institution inspires confidence among the majority of voters. That includes the presidency, the Supreme Court, public schools, the justice system, and Congress. Also near the bottom, are the media, big business, and banks.

Essentially, the YouGov poll shows that most Americans have completely lost faith in the system, and the powers that run it. The only people they still trust are cops and soldiers. And a society that trusts its armed enforcers more than everyone else is a society that could be ripe for a coup. In today’s age of blanket surveillance, the military coup option may be especially appealing to quite a few US citizens who are afraid to risk their own lives opposing their government. It is a version of “let you and him fight”.

Those military officers who would make good political leaders are smart and too principled to launch a coup against the civilian government. We would likely see mass resignations of the officer corps before any attempted coup. So, a few questions:

• Why conduct this poll now?
• Who commissioned the poll, and why?

It’s clear that people are seriously disgusted with the political class. The first reasonably persuasive demagogue who comes along may give America’s political class exactly what it deserves.

Sadly, the rest of we Americans deserve better.

 

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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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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 10, 2015

The Republicans seem to have a bumper crop of presidential candidates. We can expect about 20 Republican candidates to announce before the running really starts. While it raises talk about the “Clown Car”, it also shows the strength of the Republican’s “bench.” Republicans have multiple governors and senators who could run a credible campaign in the presidential election. Contrast this with the Democratic Party. Who has what it takes to challenge Hillary Clinton’s position for the Democratic nominee?
COW Hillary Coronation

It’s partly the strength of Hillary’s resume, but the Democrats have no viable alternatives. If Ms. Clinton stumbles, the Democrats would be stuck trying to win with Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, or Jim Webb. This is indicative of a huge problem for Democrats: It has no bench. Consider this:

• Before the 2010 election, the Democrats controlled 61 of the 99 state legislative bodies in the US. By the end of the 2012 election cycle, they controlled 36; today, they control 30.
• The number of Democrats in the House dropped from 257 in mid-2010 to 201 after the 2012 election. Now, that number stands at 188.

And they are counting on older, war horse candidates for open Senate seats in 2016: Their nominee in Ohio will be Ted Strickland, who will be 75 by the 2016 election. In Pennsylvania, Democrats will likely go for former Governor Ed Rendell, or former Representative Joe Sestak. In Wisconsin, Democrats will probably look to former Senator Russ Feingold, and in New Hampshire, current Governor Maggie Hassan is the top choice.

Only in Florida and Illinois, where Reps. Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth are slated for Senate nominations, are younger incumbents likely to move up.

A party with a strong, young bench in each state is like a basketball team with lots of young talent; they may not be all that good yet, but everyone knows they will be at some point. This void threatens to limit the Democrats in the not-too-distant future, and needs to be remedied quickly, or the party will be in a minority position for a very long time.

Contrast with Republicans:

COW GOP Candidates

Jade Helm brought out the best in Texas:

COW Jade Helm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Deflate Gate” came back to haunt the Patriots:

COW Game Balls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Brady’s homoerotic moment:

COW Brady

In Great Britain’s election, the Scots declare independence from England, and England from Europe:

COW UK Election

Britons vote after six weeks of campaigning. That’s only 42 days for the pundits to make their dough. The NY Times reports that in the UK, each party is limited to spending $29.5 million in the year before the election.

All TV channels are required by law to give the main parties and their leaders carefully measured free time at peak viewing hours to state their cases. Paid TV advertisements are forbidden. And on election day, television and radio shows are forbidden from discussing campaign issues, talking about polls or dissecting individual candidates until the polls close at 10 pm.

Let’s try it, America!

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