The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – May 6, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Tulips, Lisse Netherlands, April 2017 – photo by Peter Dejong

We ended the week with Republicans in the House passing the latest version of Trumpcare by a vote of 217-213. All Democrats voted against it, with 20 Republican members defecting to join them. The changes Republicans made to get this version of bill through the House will not be what passes in the Senate. It’s up to Mitch McConnell to craft a bill that can get through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process, which will require 51 votes to pass.

That will most likely be the “real” bill, and then the negotiations between the House and Senate versions will begin.

The problem for America is that the Senate has to pass something awful enough that the House will still vote for it. We are a long way from replacing Obamacare, but Republicans now own the process whereby tens of millions of Americans losing health insurance.

If that isn’t enough to worry about, Buzzfeed has a long read about tiny drones that can be used in a swarm to kill people:

A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China…A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel…You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.

The concept is achievable, while the potential consequences are unthinkable:

There will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch them. So you can just imagine that in many parts of the world humans will be hunted…This is the ever-present cloud of lethal autonomous weapons.

They could be here in two to three years.

— Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at the University of California Berkeley

They are called lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS); weapons that have the ability to independently select and engage targets once a human releases the machine to perform: no supervision, no recall, and no stop function.

Can we prevent them? Nope, they already exist. Many countries including the US already have (much larger) systems with autonomous modes that can select and attack targets without human intervention: Israel’s Harpy and second-generation Harop, can enter an area, hunt for enemy radar, and kamikaze into it, regardless of where they are set up, as long as the radars are operating.

The Pentagon now is testing drone swarm technology: Weapons moving in large formations with one controller somewhere far away on the ground clicking computer keys. Think hundreds of small drones moving as one, like a lethal flock of bees. You can see a YouTube video of a US drone swarm test here. 103 mini drones were released from two US fighter jets during the test. The drones operate autonomously and share a distributed brain. These drones will make it economical to target people (troops?) in other countries, en masse, without having to send in our own soldiers, or declare war.

Why are we wasting even more human potential devising even more ways to kill each another?

Sorry, this story adds to your stress levels after a tough week, but Wrongo thought you should know. OTOH, with all that is going on, you really need soothing. Wrongo is going for some Stumptown Colombia El Admirador coffee and a listen to “Spring”, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, arranged for four pianos.

The pianos are played by Yuja Wang, Emanuel Ax, Nelson Goerner, and Julien Quentin. The performance was recorded at the Salle Médran in Verbier, Switzerland, in 2009:

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

Bonus video in honor of Trumpcare: Jimmy Reed singing “Get Your Insurance” from 1959:

Those who read in email can view the video here.


Welcome to the TerrorDome

Last Thursday night it was in Nice, France. Next, will be another city. Maybe on another continent. In the last month, dozens of terror attacks have killed hundreds of people across the world. Every public event is a potential target for these killers, who not only welcome death, but confuse our leaders who have tried to stop them.

From Rami G. Khouri at Agence Global:

Every terror attack generates anger, shock, and powerful emotional and political commitments of our indomitable will not to be terrorized, to stand firm and strong, to affirm liberty, free speech, and pluralism. We are all, sincerely, Boston, Paris, London, Nice, Orlando, Dacca, New York, Baghdad, and a hundred other cities around the world, and a hundred more that will be attacked in due course. We will stand with them all in a steel chain of humanity against barbarism.

But, then what? What happens if after a dozen more attacks, the power of their barbarism outpaces the power of our solidarity? Do we willingly give up all of our rights to be kept safe by an authoritarian leader?

We need to debate what we can really do to fight terror, and win.

The policy responses of Western governments and the emotional responses of entire societies suggest we have no idea how to respond to defeat this monster. More from Khouri: (editing by the Wrongologist)

We see no serious questioning of whether… [our] primary focus on militarism reduces or increases the terror threat. We see no credible willingness among most governments, and most of their associated media and intellectual spheres, to transcend Islam as the main analytical…[frame in which to view] the world of terror.

Was the truck driver behind the attack in Nice an Islamic terrorist? Was he a lone wolf with psychological issues? We assume he is a terrorist because of his Arab name. Many terrorists conform to the Islamic narrative – think about the Orlando shooter, or the Muslim couple in San Bernardino. This assumption also shapes attitudes and policy responses of governments when they respond to mass killings. Our first thought is always Islamic terrorism, as in the initial response to the Dallas shooter when we heard his middle initial was “X”.

Our two flawed presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are evenly matched on protecting us: Clinton wants to push out the Assad government, in part by using ISIS mercenaries as proxies, plus US drones and bombing. Meanwhile, The Donald wants to fight an all-out war on ISIS and Islamic ‘terrorism’ in whatever shape. GW Bush anyone?

The US is now facing the consequences of our simplistic knowledge of the Middle East. We are stuck in the 1950s, a time when we could impose regime change in disobedient countries. Today, we drone them, and they kill a few of our citizens every few months. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

When will we ask the presidential candidates how long we have to put up with this steady stream of death and pain? What do they propose to do to tackle the terror problem at its roots? Anger, square-jawed determination, serial incompetence, and heavy-handed, counter-productive militarized policies are signs of cumulative failure.

Can we ask for a more serious response after Nice? Or, do we wait for a few more attacks, and ask then?

  • The Rio Olympics are starting in less than three weeks; the long list of concerns surrounding the games continues to grow.
  • The US military is eyeing a potential increase in troop engagement in Yemen to confront threats by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Why?

Our domestic terror victims are collateral damage of the decisions by the Powers That Be to support using extremists as a weapon. What we see today is not unforeseen blowback, it was knowable.

The entire world needs a wake-up. How should we answer the threat of the TerrorDome?

Here is Steel Pulse to get us going with “Find it Quick” from their 1982 album, “True Democracy”. You weren’t paying attention, but Mr. Obama said something in Dallas to the effect of “those in authority reject the cries of want” which comes from “Find it Quick“:

Sample Lyrics:

We got to find this love oh
Oh help us Jah above yeh come on
We got to find this love
Those in authority reject the cries of want
Those in power corrupt and weak in heart
This world don’t you know that
Hatred has grown
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it we got to find it
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it

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


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 17, 2016

We said last Sunday that “Events were in the saddle”, that life ran a risk of spinning out of control. Well, the past week proved that events are driving everything. We had the horrible attack in Nice, France as their Bastille Day celebration was ending, and there was an attempted military coup in Turkey on Friday night.

Hard to believe two events in one week could drive Trump off page one, but it happened. And this week, the new Pokémon is more popular than either presidential candidate.

It may seem ironic that, while France refused to participate in the Iraq War, they are a preferred target for terror. But France DID led the way in the dismantling of Libya (while we “led from behind”). They intervened in Mali, and their history in Algeria was horrific. And France’s failure to integrate immigrants is a major causal element as well.

One of the big problems with terrorism is that it always strikes innocent people rather than the bosses who led their countries into war.

Welcome to the TerrorDome:

COW Nice

France now lives under the TerrorDome:

COW Terrordome 2

On the home front, Trump selected Mike Pence:

COW Pence VP

Regrets, they had a few:

COW So Sorry

The Hill and the Bern get on the same page:

COW HernieAmerica has decided:

COW Pokemon

The GOP convention starts this week. Let’s hope it is peaceful:

COW Convention