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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – March 16, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Blue Lakes Trailhead, near Telluride, CO – August 2018 photo by Will Colebank. See 360° view here.

Remember last Monday? Since then, we’ve had a week of body blows to both the national psyche, and the economy. Thank God that the market was closed last week. Oh, wait a minute…it was open.

Please, Trumpheads: Try not to kill us while attempting to govern! The administration is literally making a pandemic worse by once again not thinking through their policies. From the WaPo:

“Airports around the country were thrown into chaos Saturday night as workers scrambled to roll out the Trump administration’s hastily arranged health screenings for travelers returning from Europe.

Scores of anxious passengers…encountered jam-packed terminals, long lines and hours of delays as they waited to be questioned by health authorities at some of the busiest travel hubs in the US.”

Q: How do you spread a virus faster?
A. Pack a bunch of people into an airport virus screening line for six or seven hours.

This dog’s breakfast was caused by the administration’s “enhanced entry screenings”, one of Trump’s travel restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus within the US. Passengers on flights from more than two dozen countries in Europe were routed through 13 US airports, where workers checked their medical histories, and examined them for symptoms.

What could go wrong?

Is it a surprise that there was no advance staff coordination to assure that people could get through a crowd of suspected Coronavirus carriers reasonably quickly? It’s similar to Trump’s 2017 chaotic implementation of the Muslim travel ban that triggered confusion and protests when travelers were detained, or sent back with almost no warning from US airports.

In some airports, the immigration line for US citizens was longer than the one for non-citizens. How can intelligent people not think any of this through? It’s clear from the long lines that there was zero planning for this policy’s implementation.

Trump has failed AGAIN.

It’s likely this clusterfuck will speed disease transmission rather than not having a travel ban at all. This is another example of “we’ve gotta do something”, and they settle on an action that exacerbates the problem!

Second, what kind of crazy, messed-up world do we live in where the most reliable information about the coronavirus comes from anyone but the government? Where Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) tells everybody to go out to a restaurant, when the NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying just the opposite?

Or, take Republican candidate for the Nevada Clark County School District Board of Trustees, Katie Williams. Williams is a former Ms. Nevada who was recently stripped of her title for posting political content supporting Trump on social media. She also ventured into pandemic denial when she tweeted this reply to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

This is America, and I’ll do what I want” = “I’m too selfish to do anything that doesn’t benefit me.” Paul Campos puts his finger on the problem of 21st Century peak Republican asshole:

“The COVID-19 crisis is a classic collective action problem. Stopping it from overwhelming the nation’s health care system so that it causes hundreds of thousands or even millions of preventable deaths requires people to act as if society actually exists, and to recognize that the fact that they themselves may face a relatively low mortality risk is irrelevant to the much higher risk faced by the tens of millions of their fellow Americans.”

Expecting Americans in general, and Republicans in particular, to voluntarily engage in the kind of behavior that’s important for the greater good is not only unrealistic, it’s foolhardy.

Back to Williams: Can you imagine Nevada parents wanting one of the most selfish people in America on their kids’ school board?

Time to wake up America! As John Pavlovitz says:

The bill for MAGA has come due, Trump supporters.

It’s time to pay up.

The deferred invoice for you selling your souls is here….

This President didn’t create this virus,
but he ignored it,
denied it,
minimized it,
joked about it,
weaponized it,
politicized it,
exacerbated it.

To help you wake up, listen to King Crimson’s “Epitaph”, from their 2018 live album, “Radical Action”. The vocalist is Jakko Jakszyk:

Sample Lyric:

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it, we can all sit back and laugh
But I fear, tomorrow, I’ll be crying
Yes, I fear, tomorrow, I’ll be crying
Yes, I fear, tomorrow, I’ll be crying

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 9, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Zion NP sunset from Watchman Overlook, UT – 2019 photo by kaushik612

Random thoughts on Monday:

Many of us have a tough time waking up on the first Monday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. It’s more a case of “spring forward, fall flat”. Isn’t it ridiculous that a period that’s around for only 4.5 months out of 12 months is called “Standard Time“?

Who thinks that a 70-year-old (Trump) going on TV and telling a bunch of other 70-year-olds (Fox News viewers) that the Coronavirus is no big deal because it only kills old people, is a winning message?

Wrongo would like to think Trump can’t bullshit his way through an epidemic (“The tests are perfect!”). But GW Bush managed to bullshit his way through years of war in Iraq, including refusing to let us see lots of American body bags flown back to Dover AFB on TV.

The latest body bags now contain virus victims, and we’re seeing them up close and personal. Maybe that will matter to Americans who still think Trump is doing a helluva job.

You should read this article from The Atlantic on our botched test kits. South Korea has tested 200,000+ people, but The Atlantic could only confirm 1,895 tests in the US.

The region of Lombardy in Italy has enacted a forced quarantine for around 16 million residents. A doctor in Lombardy Italy reports that 9% of cases require hospital admittance. Recall that yesterday, Wrongo said that even a 5% admittance rate would overwhelm America’s ICU bed capacity.

Your virus coping strategy may be different than this one, since you follow the news:

The AP is telling us that the White House overruled the CDC, who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the Coronavirus. The administration has since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC.

We learned that an attendee at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which Trump also attended, has tested positive for Coronavirus. Trump and Pence spoke at the gathering, which took place two weeks ago. Secretary of State Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Azar, and newly-appointed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also attended.

This is hilarious. Will they believe their own stories, or what?

Trump’s plan is simple. Offload the crisis to Pence. Run a bus over him if it goes wrong. Take credit if it goes right. There are no steps after that.

Finally, to banish the grogginess of your first “spring ahead” work day, take a moment and watch this video panorama of the Mars landscape. It was taken between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 2019. It’s composed of more than 1,000 images carefully assembled over the ensuing months, and contains nearly 1.8 billion pixels of Martian landscape that look surprisingly sharp and clear:

Think how far we’ve come in our ~200,000 years of Homo sapiens existence: Our ancestors were fascinated by the bright orbs above, and here we are, seeing the geographic features of another planet in mind-boggling detail from our home/office on a magical screen thingy.

We take this all for granted, but we’ve come a very long way in Wrongo’s lifetime. Mars looks so familiar, yet at the same time, so alien. It’s hard to fathom that we’re looking at another planet.

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – March 2, 2020

The Daily Escape:

St. Augustine, FL – photo by Wrongo

Hot takes:

First to politics: Joe Biden rolled to a big win in South Carolina, and billionaire Tom Steyer and former mayor Pete Buttigieg both folded their tents. Some in the media say that Biden is once again the front runner, but Sanders’s win in Nevada remains significant, and he remains on track to pick up a lot of delegates in California and Texas.

The real news from South Carolina is that Biden has become the Not-Sanders candidate. For Super Tuesday, Bloomberg essentially replaces Steyer as the billionaire in the race. Super Tuesday results are less than 48 hours away, and after that, we’ll have a real idea of who really remains a viable candidate.

Second, peace in Afghanistan: After 18 years of war, we signed an agreement with the Taliban. The deal does not end the civil war, but it has placed the outcome of the conflict in the hands of the Afghan people. Heather Cox Richardson quotes Laurel Miller, the former deputy and then acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2017 for the State Department: (emphasis by Wrongo)

 “There’s nothing new in the Joint Declaration signed in Kabul today. It reaffirms existing commitments and it re-states some of US-Taliban agreement. Its purpose is evidently political symbolism.”

She explained: It includes the Afghan government and its opposition in future discussions. It draws down US troops to 8600 people—the number who were there when Trump took office, and promises “all” will be gone within 14 months. The 8600 drawdown has long been planned. In exchange, the Taliban will “not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

Miller’s conclusion:

“The Taliban got a lot. It got its main goal—a clear timeline for US withdrawal—and fast removal of sanctions and prisoner releases. The US got the power to decide whether “vaguely-stated conditions are met, so that in reality can withdraw when it chooses—will be political not military decision.” The Afghan government didn’t get much, but “this deal wasn’t really about the Afghan government.”

Trump, America’s Man of Peace. This looks a lot like what he did in North Korea, a PR moment that resembles a deal, but turns out not to be much of a deal.

Finally, the WaPo features a new report published by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, that clearly demonstrates the disconnect between the “great” economy described by economists, and the economy experienced by regular people. This chart shows the problem:

 

From the article (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In 1985, the typical male worker could cover a family of four’s major expenditures (housing, health care, transportation, education) on 30 weeks of salary….By 2018 it took 53 weeks. Which is a problem, there being 52 weeks in a year.”

Lead study author Oren Cass (formerly Mitt Romney’s domestic policy director) calls this calculation the Cost-of-Thriving Index. It measures the median male annual salary against four major household expenditures:

  • Housing: the annual rent for a three-bedroom house in the 40th percentile of the local housing market
  • Health care: the annual premium on a typical family health insurance policy
  • Transportation: the average cost of owning and operating a car driven 15,000 miles per year
  • Education: the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at a four-year public college

In 1985, the typical male breadwinner could cover those costs, and still have 22 weeks of pay left for other family needs, such as food, clothing, entertainment and savings. Today, the typical salary doesn’t even cover the four basics.

They also looked at female earners. The typical woman needed to work 45 weeks to cover the four big annual expenses in 1985. Today she needs 66 weeks. The most astonishing conclusion is that it was easier for a female breadwinner to provide for her family in 1985 than it is for a lone male earner today.

Remember that the study comes from a conservative-leaning institute. Here’s Cass:

“You can have a rising GDP….but if it’s in the context of collapsing families and people no longer getting married and declining fertility rates and so on and so forth, you haven’t necessarily enhanced well-being.”

Wake up America! The GOP has undone 50 years of economic gains that produced a robust middle class and vastly more economic and social justice than the country had ever known before, or since.

They have chosen candidates whose real agenda was to assist the corporatocracy in fleecing the very people who voted for them. Their candidates ran on issues like the Second Amendment, abortion, gay marriage and immigration. And then, the GOP shifted the tax burden onto the middle class. They deregulated industry and socialized corporate losses, eliminating any downside risk for banks.

We can begin undoing these things by electing Democratic majorities in the  House and Senate in November.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 24, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Rainier from Crystal Mountain – 2108 photo by papageorgio120

At lunch this week with a wealthy owner of a commercial construction company who is also a committed Trumper, Wrongo said that the Democratic Party could split into two parties, assuming that the Dems fail to unseat Trump in November.

That’s because neither of the two wings of the party seem likely to gain majority victories in the primary elections over the next few months. That could lead to a weak national candidate heading the ticket. The race remains static, with a progressive Democratic wing led by Sanders and Warren, and a center-right wing, comprising Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

Bernie’s Nevada win indicates that he’s on a path to consistent, 30%-40% finishes in many states. The only age demographic Sanders did not win last Saturday was the 65-and-older vote. We know that the older cohort votes heavily, while younger voters historically have not. If Sanders can bring along a portion of the older demographic, while turning out the youth, he changes the delegate game, and maybe the 2020 presidential election.

On his current track, Sanders could have the delegate lead in July when the Democrats meet in Milwaukee, but since he’s winning pluralities not majorities, he’s unlikely to have the 1991 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. Depending on how large his delegate lead is, the other candidates should concede, but none of them have to.

And that means there will be a second ballot, when the dreaded Democratic Super delegates will have their say. We know that the Establishment Democrats are not Bernie fans, and they comprise the majority of the Super Delegates, so we could see a Democratic schism in July.

While Bloomberg looks like a terrible campaigner, he forces the other moderate Ds to compete with each other, because they aren’t going to get much, if any of the voters who are committed to Sanders. And they can’t compete monetarily with Bloomberg. If they all stay in the race and keep going after each other instead of Bernie, it guarantees that Bernie will get pluralities, with few opportunities for majority wins by anyone.

What will the average Democrat do when faced with a choice between Bernie the democratic socialist, and if it comes to that, the 12th richest man in the world? The Democratic Party has always been a coalition of varied interests but in July, Dems could face the choice between either concentrated ideology or concentrated wealth.

Many are concerned that Bernie or any of the center-right Dems, won’t deliver the necessary voter turnout in the fall. But the 2020 election really has two parties, the Trump and the Not-Trump Party. Who really believes that the Not-Trumpers won’t come out to vote?

The Not-Trumpers came out to vote in 2018, when there was no one at the head of the ticket. In 2018, Not-Trumpers won in suburbs, in the cities, in some conservative districts, and in liberal districts.

The Dems running as the 2018 Not-Trump Party ran women, children of refugees, men, black people, white people, gay people, and won some races with all of them. So we know that team Not-Trump will be motivated, but we don’t yet know how motivated Team Not-Socialist will be.

So the questions (that we have asked before) remain:

  • Will the Dem progressive and center-right wings coalesce on a Not-Trump candidate?
  • Will that candidate appeal to all of the Not-Trumpers?

Regardless of which Democrat is the Party’s candidate, the anti-Democrat messages from the Republicans will be unprecedented. That will scare many middle-of-the-road voters, and possibly depress turnout. Whatever the pundits’ and the party establishment’s misgivings, right now, Sanders is clearly doing something right, while the others are spinning their wheels.

Next Saturday’s South Carolina primary will show us whether a different candidate can be a serious challenger to Sanders.

A brokered convention would, and should be hotly-contested. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bloodbath. If it is a bloodbath, that’s on the people who make it one, and they will be the people who break the Democratic Party into two distinct minority parties.

So, it’s time to wake up, Democrats! The divide(s) in the Party are clear: Older candidates vs. younger candidates. Progressive candidates vs. moderate-right candidates.

It’s time for the Party of inclusion to figure out where it’s going in 2020.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Looking west at sunset with Merced River in foreground, Yosemite NP, CA – 2019 photo by OlafIowa

“The general culture is often stupid or evil, and would vote out God in favor of the devil if he fed them back their hate and fear in a way that made them feel righteous”  -Charles Frazier, from his book, Varina, Pgs. 328-329

We’re living in the terrible present, an unprecedented time when Trump can say “Make me!” and we can’t, although Democrats have been trying since 2016.

That we’re in the middle of a “put the oxygen mask on your democracy first” emergency is shown by all that the Trump administration has done since his impeachment acquittal. Democracy is dying right in front of us, and in broad daylight. And the people trying to kill it are making no bones about it to the rest of us.

In this primary season, people are fighting over which Democratic presidential candidate will be the best at beating Trump, but that’s the wrong question. Strategically, Democrats win if they hold the House and take back the Senate. With both Houses of Congress, Trump will be neutered, even if he wins. If the Democrat wins, and the Party holds both Houses, passing progressive legislation becomes possible.

So the real decision is which candidate will have the best coattails.

That brings us to doctrinal purity tests. Most Democrats see the purity test as a doctrinaire standard of ideological purity. In 2016, Hillary Clinton objected to Bernie Sanders’s saying in a primary debate that she didn’t measure up as a progressive. Clinton argued that according to Sanders’s criteria, even Obama wouldn’t measure up, “because he took donations from Wall Street.”

Democrats must overcome their obsession about who is the most progressive, or who isn’t progressive enough. Otherwise, the Party will go into the November fight disunited.

In a column last week, Wrongo talked about Democrats’ disunity in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2016. But we can go back to an earlier event, the campaign of George McGovern in 1972. Nixon shellacked McGovern by a 23-point margin in the popular vote, carrying 49 states.

McGovern was a progressive who called for tax reform. He proposed payroll tax-funded single-payer healthcare. He was for a form of guaranteed income called a “Demogrant” of $1,000 per year for every adult, regardless of income, as an alternative to Nixon’s complicated means-tested welfare overhaul plan. Yang’s plan is similar to McGovern’s

Many Democrats failed to support McGovern, thinking he was too liberal. After McGovern’s defeat, Democrats began running towards the center, even though “the center” has moved further and further to the right with each presidential election.

We’ll have to play hardball to defeat Trump in November. But to play hardball, one must first have balls, something Democrats haven’t shown in a very long time. It’s not surprising that despite winning the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections, Dems have little to show for it politically.

Consider that two of the top 2020 contenders include Bernie and Bloomberg, who aren’t Democrats, and have at times, held the Party in clear contempt. Think about where we are: Biden couldn’t beat Obama or Hillary in 2008. Sanders couldn’t beat Hillary in 2016. Hillary couldn’t beat Trump.

Is it logical that either of Biden or Bernie could win in 2020?

Wrongo isn’t sold on Bloomberg. Criticisms of other candidates are as least as applicable to Bloomberg:

  • Biden and Sanders too old? Bloomberg is just as old
  • Biden too gaffe-prone? Bloomberg feasts on his own foot frequently
  • Sanders health a concern? Bloomberg also had a heart attack and the same operation to treat it
  • Sanders’s commitment to the Democratic Party? Bloomberg has actually bankrolled Republican office holders at the state and federal level
  • Biden and Klobuchar too conservative? Bloomberg is more conservative
  • Klobuchar an evil boss? Don’t read Bloomberg’s management philosophy. It’s best if you aren’t a woman

For Bloomberg, maybe it’s as Cyndi Lauper said: “Money changes everything”.

Still, after the disaster of 2016, there are people who will sit on their hands and let Trump be re-elected, rather than support a Dem they find ideologically impure.

You probably don’t remember the 1972 campaign clearly because you were too young, but 2000 wasn’t enough? 2016 wasn’t enough?

Wake up America! The best candidate is the one with the longest coattails.

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – Iowa Caucuses Edition, February 2, 2020

We had a very consequential week, followed by a consequential weekend. Sunday was both the Super Bowl and Groundhog Day. It was also a very rare eight-digit palindrome when written as 02/02/2020, the first since 11/11/1111.

We had the “deal of the century” that isn’t, and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. But the Constitution died.

And so did Kobe Bryant and his daughter, along with seven others. It doesn’t take a basketball fan to feel shocked and saddened when a Dad and his 13-year old daughter are suddenly killed. Of course we know about Kobe Bryant, a basketball genius who, in his retirement, helped young people and championed women’s basketball. His life story was complicated, but if you think that people can work hard and redeem themselves, Kobe Bryant is your prime example:

The movie that’s always on repeat:

Peace? Or pieces?

Brexit happened, the UK is now going it alone:

Failing to call witnesses shows that the GOP’s loyalties have shifted:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder:

Brown paper bags have replaced the MAGA hats for GOP Senators:

With Iowa voting tomorrow, it’s important to know your enemies:

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, West End Overlook, Pittsburgh PA – photo by Kevin Simpson Photography

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected….Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins….This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.” G.K. Chesterton

Remember that Chesterton was British, and he died in 1936.

Wrongo’s really dreading the prospect of looking down a double barreled shotgun of Biden vs. Bernie. This confession is brought on by the WaPo, who reported on its poll with ABC News:

“Nationally…the competition has moved in the direction of Biden and Sanders, with Warren, Buttigieg and others now clearly behind. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters, Biden is favored by 32% with Sanders at 23%…In both cases, those percentages are slightly better than what each received in an October Post-ABC national poll.

Warren is currently running third but has seen a significant drop in her support nationally, falling from 23% in October to 12% in the new poll…..she is the only other candidate for the Democratic nomination in double digits.”

Here’s the placement of the rest:

  • Bloomberg: 8%
  • Yang: 7%
  • Buttigieg: 5%
  • Klobuchar: 3%

The WaPo indicates Democrats are motivated in this election. An amazing 73% said that they are certain to vote in their state’s primary or caucus, significantly higher than the 59% who said the same in January 2016. Importantly, 9 in 10 Democrats who named a candidate said that while they are enthusiastic about their choice, 53% still would consider another candidate.

Warren has slipped particularly among women, where her support fell from 26% to 12%. But while she trails Biden and Sanders as the first choice among Democratic voters, she does well when people are asked who their second choice is.

Overall, 23% name Warren as their second choice, slightly higher than either Sanders or Biden. When first and second choices are combined, Biden leads at 48%, followed by Sanders at 41%, and Warren at 35% percent. No other candidate is within 20 points of this combination.

But, this eye-catching poll is based on a very small sample. The Post-ABC poll only sampled 388 Democrats nationally. It includes 349 who are registered voters. Most important, the margin of error is ± six percentage points.

It’s also important to remember that Warren got the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, which probably means more than her earlier co-endorsement by The Times. Nate Silver notes that despite the WaPo poll, Warren is closer in Iowa:

“…the Des Moines Register endorsement tonight could actually matter. Historically, it helps the endorsee by 3 points which matters in a race where the top 4 candidates are separated by ~5 points.

https://t.co/L8iMGV5hPH— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) January 25, 2020

It’s unlikely that 3 points would make Warren the winner of the Iowa primary, but it does seem likely to keep her above the critical 15% threshold for delegates. That would probably keep Iowa from making this a two-man (literally) race.

Wrongo doesn’t know who he’d support if it comes down to Biden vs. Bernie. Wrongo doubts that Bernie would be a good president. Would he be able to get much done? It’s easy to imagine Trump beating Bernie to death with Marxist-Socialist epithets.

Biden would probably be able to staff a professional administration. But his lack of an ambitious progressive agenda means that even if he were elected, his presidency might not amount to much either. OTOH, he may help other Democrats for House and Senate more than Bernie can. Bernie’s “Our Revolution” movement endorsed about 80 candidates in 2018, and just 6 of them were elected.

Warren seems to be a better choice than either, and it’s really depressing that she can’t get much traction with voters.

All of this means that there is a distinct possibility Trump gets reelected in a replay of 2016 no matter who is the ultimate Dem candidate. They all have serious weaknesses. Each has a core group of enthusiastic supporters, and a core group that says that candidate underwhelms them.

Can whoever is the nominee eventually become a consensus candidate?

Wake up America! A lot of people like Biden because they want the politics out of politics. They want “the people in DC to cut out the political shit, and just work together to do what’s right for the country“.

But as Chesterton said, this is just another example of our traditional American way of really wanting to keep the politics IN politics.

The Parties like things just the way they are.

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 13, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Many Glacier, Glacier NP, MT – 2019 photo by MDodd

Let’s clear the air about Iran and their use of terror. Wrongo isn’t an apologist for Iran, although he thought that the Nuclear Deal was a positive step forward. We need to look carefully at the data supporting what our government and the US media say about Iran’s terrorist activities.

Here’s what the US State Department says about Iran and terrorism:

“Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. The regime has spent nearly one billion dollars per year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe. Tehran has funded international terrorist groups such as Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

It also has engaged in its own terrorist plotting around the world, particularly in Europe. In January, German authorities investigated 10 suspected Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force operatives. In the summer, authorities in Belgium, France, and Germany thwarted an Iranian plot to bomb a political rally near Paris, France. In October, an Iranian operative was arrested for planning an assassination in Denmark, and in December, Albania expelled two Iranian officials for plotting terrorist attacks.

Furthermore, Tehran continued to allow an AQ facilitation network to operate in Iran, which sends fighters and money to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it has extended sanctuary to AQ members residing in the country.”

From Larry C. Johnson:

“You notice what is absent? A list of specific attacks that caused actual casualties. Plans and plots are not the same as actions. If Iran’s malevolent influence was so powerful, we should be able to point to specific attacks and specific casualties. But you will not find those facts in the U.S. State Department report because they do not exist.”

This State Department Annual Terror report details who is really responsible:

  • The Taliban was responsible for 8,509 deaths and 4,943 injuries, about 25 percent of the total casualties attributed to terrorism globally in 2018
  • With 647 terrorist attacks, ISIS was the next-most-active terrorist organization, responsible for 3,585 fatalities and 1,761 injuries
  • Having conducted 535 attacks, al-Shabaab was responsible for 2,062 deaths and 1,278 injuries
  • Boko Haram was fourth among the top-five terrorist perpetrators, with 220 incidents, 1,311 deaths, and 927 injuries

Not a single group linked to Iran or supported by Iran is identified. Here’s a table from the report’s statistical annex that identifies the worst offenders:

Iran doesn’t make the list. The attacks are predominantly from Sunni affiliated groups that have ties to Saudi Arabia, not Iran.

America takes exception to Iran because we have a long and negative history, but with justifiable complaints on both sides. Recently, Iran has thwarted the US’s actions in Syria. We should remember that Iran is a Shia Muslim state. When we removed Saddam Hussein and destroyed Iraq’s government, the Bush Administration installed Iraqi Shias in leadership. No GW Bush administration policymakers expressed any concern that these Iraqi politicians and military personnel had longstanding relationships with Iran, which naturally increased Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Iran also had a longstanding relationship with Syria. Obama decided that by eliminating Syria’s Bashir Assad, Iran would be weakened, but that policy backfired. Iran, along with Russia, came to the aid of Syria. Assad is now secure, and America’s influence in the ME has been weakened.

Time to wake up America! We need to get educated about which terror groups are committing what terror acts. Back in the 1980s, Iran was very active in using terrorism as a weapon to attack US military and diplomatic targets, but not so much lately. Iran was behind the early development of the IEDs used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many US soldiers died. That technology is now globally ubiquitous.

The real issue we should be asking our government to resolve is whether we can (or should) halt the expansion of Iran’s influence in the Middle East. Administrations since Carter have bet that isolating Iran diplomatically, ratcheting up economic pressure, and using limited military power will somehow energize the Iranian regime’s opposition and lead to the overthrow of the Mullahs.

They forget that we’ve used that exact policy with both Cuba and North Korea. How has that worked out for America?

We shouldn’t mourn Gen. Soleimani; he was a bad actor who tried to build shadow Shia militaries in many ME Countries. But Trump and Pompeo need to stop ranting about Iran and terrorism.

The actual issues driving Iran’s growing influence in the ME aren’t based on acts of terror. Our recent policies and actions towards Iran are now accelerating their cooperation with China and Russia, not diminishing it.

Is that in the long term interest of the US?

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Monday Wake Up Call — Onward Christian Soldiers Edition

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Tucson Mountains, west of Tucson – January 1, 2020 photo by eleminohp

What’s America doing in Iraq? Everyone with an internet connection knows that Trump authorized a lethal drone strike on Iran’s Gen. Qassam Soleimani, a senior member of the Iranian military who was on his way to a meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister.

You may not be aware that the meeting was called by Iraq’s PM at the behest of the US, as reported by the normally reliable Elijah J. Magnier:

The information that #Iran Qassem Soleimani had an appointment with the PM in Baghdad and came to #Iraq to meet him the next day with established appointment, following a request of Trump for mediation, has been read to all MPs today by the #Iraq/i PM himself.

It seems that the PM’s request of Soleimani was in writing. Let’s be clear about what America did: We assassinated two key military and political leaders on the sovereign territory of Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi Government. The key Iranian guy was heading to a meeting about calming tensions between the US and Iran. It’s a classic hit that could have been in “The Irishman”.

No one argues that Soleimani wasn’t our enemy. Democrats were caught flat-footed by Trump’s action. Most of the 2020 candidates tried to walk a thin line, glad Soleimani was dead, but deploring the process. Biden said it could leave the US:

 “On the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”

Bernie:

“Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

Warren:

“Trump’s reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”

And House Leader Nancy Pelosi:

“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions.”

Some Dems claim that this is Trump’s “Wag the Dog” play. Plenty of Republicans celebrated Soleimani’s death as a decisive blow against terrorism. Their comments can be summed up as: “Boy, we showed those Iranians who is boss”.

Are we getting the real story? Here’s a series of tweets by Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a ME journalist who says the reports that the Iraqi government voted to expel US troops is not correct:

Continued from Abdul-Hussain: (emphasis by Wrongo)

…to kill Soleimani). What happened is different.

1- Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi sent a letter to Parliament in which he argued US troops exist in Iraq, not based on a treaty ratified by Parliament, but on 2 letters from past cabinets to the UN. Hence, Parliament has no role in ejection.

2- Iraqi PM’s trying to trade disarming Shia militias for limiting scope of US troops. He wrote: “Whoever wants to become a political power, has to surrender arms, join armed forces, and forgo any political allegiance (i.e. to Iran) other than to military and commander-in-chief.”

(He’s talking about the militias that attacked the US Embassy)

“3- #Iraq parliament barely had a quorum for session on ejecting US troops. Sunni and Kurdish blocs boycotted the session (thus taking America’s side over Iran), and thus quorum was 170 of 328 (half + 4)…

4-The text Iraqi Parliament voted on was not a legislation, but a non-binding resolution.”

/snip/ (brackets by Wrongo)

“6- In his letter to Parliament, [PM] Abdul-Mahdi clearly states that Iraqi interest is to maintain neutrality between America and Iran, and that if Iraq antagonizes America, it risks losing its international status (and implicitly oil revenue, just like Iran).

7- NYT is, by far, much more pro-Iran than Wash Post. The post reported that “tens of thousands” mourned Soleimani in Ahwaz. NYT made the number of mourners “hundreds of thousands.”

Abdul-Hussain concludes:

“The most probable outcome of #Soleimani‘s killing is more of the same: Low-intensity Iranian warfare against America, Iran never engaging in direct war, but maintaining her proxy war, fighting America to the last Arab. But with Soleimani out, Iranian proxy war will be much weaker.”

Wake up America! We should be asking: “What’s our end game with Iran and Iraq?” That’s the question that Trump should have asked before giving the green light to kill Soleimani. Getting that answer should be a non-partisan request of the Trump administration.

The game remains the same. Republicans say here’s another very bad man who had to go. Democrats are saying he was a very bad man, but have you people thought through the consequences of taking him out?

The question of why, in the minds of Trump and his generals, Soleimani had to die this week is what needs to be explained to the American public.

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 23, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Hoboken, NJ Santa Run, 2019 via

Nothing about politics, economics or power today, unless you think that this season has a power to bring joy to the world for at least a brief period of time. Around the mansion of Wrong, it will be a busy time, with many, many guests (a total of 98, but not all at the same time) passing through. The last of the group leaves on January 5th.

While Wrongo can’t be sure, this may be the last post until the New Year, assuming all remains quiet at Mar-a-Lago.

Here are a trio of seasonal musical selections for your holiday enjoyment. First, spectacular guitar work by Don and Wendy Francisco and Jerry Palmer, playing a medley of “What Child is This?” and “Greensleeves”:

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

Next, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” performed in 2011 by the chorus at King’s College Cambridge:

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

Third, the Piano Guys playing “O come, O come, Emmanuel” for Piano & Cello:

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

From Wrongo and Ms. Right to all of you, best wishes for peace on earth, and a fact-based New Year!

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