UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – May 13, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Bluebells, Brussels Belgium April 2017 photo by Francois Lenoir

In many ways, it is too easy to criticize Donald Trump. While we can have differing opinions on matters of policy, they only account for a few of the issues Wrongo has with Trump. Most are his unfathomable attempts to avoid telling the truth. Consider his interview with The Economist which posted the entire transcript on Thursday. Let’s focus on this excerpt:

The Economist: Another part of your overall plan, the tax reform plan. Is it OK if that tax plan increases the deficit? Ronald Reagan’s tax reform didn’t.
Trump: Well, it actually did. But, but it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down.

[Snip]

Economist: But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
Trump: It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?

Yes.
We have to prime the pump.

It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?

Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?

Yes.
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

Ok, so how did the guy from the Economist keep a straight face? The reporter is thinking John Maynard Keynes, the great British Economist, who came up with the idea of “priming the pump” in the 1930’s. By the way, Keynesian pump-priming is temporary government spending to boost temporarily weak demand. It is designed to boost growth, (and jobs) during a downturn, but we can’t assume that it will boost the economy’s growth rate.

Trump’s idea for pump-priming is more tax cuts. He’s following classic trickle-down economics, and claims that his tax cuts will boost investment, productivity growth, and labor supply, and thus raise the long-term growth rate of the economy. In this regard, Trump conflates Keynes, who’s been proven right, with Arthur Laffer, who wasn’t.

But, didn’t Trump graduate from Wharton with a business degree? Nobody gets out of Wharton without knowing that Keynes was the “pump primer”. And his saying that he coined the phrase ‘prime the pump’ a few days ago? Unfortunately, there are only two explanations: first, Trump is 70 years old and his cognitive skills are starting to desert him. Or second, he is a pathological liar.

Wrongo wants to go with #2.

He just wants to sell America something with his name stamped on it. But since America isn’t buying a hotel, he’s trying to sell Trumponomics, Trumpcare, etc. He does not really care about the details, he just wants to pass it, and to claim it is a success. That’s America’s tragedy.

So with Comeygate, Trumpcare and pump-priming, we all need to unplug and try, just try to relax on Saturday. We had a full moon and clear skies over the fields of Wrong on Thursday, so today we listen to “Claire du Lune” by Claude Debussy. It is the third movement of “Suite bergamasque”. Its name comes from Verlaine’s poem Clair de Lune, “moonlight” in French. Here it is played by Dame Moura Lympany, British pianist, who died in 2005:

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

Facebooklinkedinrss

Trump’s Syrian Mistake

The Daily Escape

(Aleppo’s Umayyad mosque, photographed before the war, in 2009)

Joshua Landis edits a blog called “Syria Comment”, and his last post was about Trump’s strategy for taking Raqqa from ISIS. He thinks allying with Turkey at the expense of the Kurds is a mistake.

Wrongo’s March 13 post discussed Trump’s Syrian strategy:

We are watching a continuation of the policy that predates the Trump presidency, the balkanization of Syria by alternative means…Trump’s “A Team” of generals seem to have fallen back on the old plan.

Landis thinks that Trump is planning to give the Turks free hand in taking Raqqa and most likely all of the Euphrates Valley. Turkey has proposed taking Raqqa from the north at Tel Abyad. The map below points out the geography:

Tel Abyad is the large black dot near the top of the map. This approach would drive through the middle of the Kurdish region (the purple shaded area above), cutting it in two. This splitting of the Kurdish territory is the main reason Turkey has offered to take Raqqa. From Landis:

Turkey hopes to establish its Arab proxies in a new “Euphrates state” in eastern Syria. This would partition Syria into three states: a western Assad-ruled state; an eastern Turkish and Sunni Arab rebel-ruled state, and a northern Kurdish state.

If the US allows Turkey to do this, it will lose the Kurds as allies in the attack on Raqqa, or in any other part of ISIS territory. Turkey says it is the only way that they can participate, because Assad’s army has already taken territory east of Aleppo, which has cut off Turkey’s access to Raqqa via al-Bab. Landis asks:

Why are the Kurds willing to take Raqqa even though they do not have territorial interests in and around Raqqa? They are investing in their relationship with the US. They assume that it will serve them well over the long run when it comes to their political aspirations.

A major issue with following Turkey’s plan is that they have dangerous Islamic fundamentalist allies. Turkey’s Arab rebel allies include Ahrar al-Sham, (similar to the Taliban, and adamantly opposed to the US). If the Turkey/Ahrar coalition rules the Euphrates post-ISIS, it will become a haven for Salafists and al-Qaida’s coalition.

For the past five years, Turkey has teamed with al-Qaida’s forces in Syria. It allowed them to mass inside Turkey in 2013. Turkey has no problem with them being part of its Arab force, since their strategy is to use the Salafists as proxies in thwarting Kurdish regional ambitions. More from Landis:

These…are the reasons that American generals do not want to work with Turkey. They don’t trust it, both because it wants to attack our Kurdish allies and because it is soft on al-Qaida-like rebel groups.

Our generals don’t fully trust this NATO partner to act in America’s interest!

What’s more, there is a likelihood that Iran, Russia, Syria, and Iraq would move against a Turkey-led Sunni land grab. They will not allow a Sunni rebel enclave in the middle of their spheres of influence. Landis: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

The US would [then] be expected to side with Turkey and the Sunni rebels in a long and escalating war against the Shiites. I think this is a swamp waiting to suck the US into its malodorous depths.

For more than 15 years, we have been engaged in a war in the Middle East. Now, the Pentagon is planning to send another 1, 000 troops to Syria in the coming weeks. This is indeed an endless war.

Let’s get ISIS, but we shouldn’t be teaming solely with the Turks in the effort to destroy ISIS. The great Orange negotiator should stand up to the Turks on this.

Now for some Syrian music. Here is Refugees of Rap with their song, “Haram” (“Forbidden” in Arabic):

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

Sample Lyrics (translated):

Came out of the house
I smelled gunpowder
Voices from the minarets

Say go back to your houses
Shells on the neighborhoods come down like rain
I felt more scared, I felt a sense of danger
I completed my way and approaching death to me more and more
Average people say Allahu Akbar
I saw the neighborhood; neighborhood was red in color
The smell of blood and body parts in front of me scatter
I ran to help my friend was injured
Hospitals in dire need of blood donation and mosques shouting
Walls in the streets become white in color

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – September 19, 2016

As everyone now knows, a bomb went off in NYC on Saturday. NY Governor Cuomo later said it was a terror attack. A second bomb was found and defused a few blocks away, while a third, also thought to be terror-related, went off in Seaside, NJ. A Saturday knife attack in St. Cloud Minnesota that wounded nine was declared a terrorist act.

These events all happened the day before the UN General Assembly meets for a week in New York, so the  bombings could have serious political meaning. But politicians are telling us these events are not linked. Just a coincidence, they say.

Meanwhile, this could be Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare, as Donald Trump says we are not strong enough in the face of terrorism, while Hillary has said that we are “winning” the war on terra. Trump told a crowd in Colorado Springs:

I must tell you that just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York. And nobody knows exactly what’s going on. But boy, we are living in a time — we better get very tough, folks. We better get very, very tough…

Because we’re not tough enough on terror just yet.

So today’s wake up is about America’s fear. 15 years after 9/11, it’s hard to remember what this country was like before: How the American spirit was so much stronger at the height of the Cold War than it is today.

Back then, we feared the USSR and dying (frying) in a preemptive nuclear war. We all believed we would have no more than 20 minutes to prepare for Nuclear Armageddon. There were municipal fallout shelters. Some had shelters in their homes. We practiced getting under our desks at schools, even though we knew that would be fruitless.

But there was a very different feel to America back then. People were far from paralyzed by fear; they controlled their sense of imminent danger. There was a military draft. We worked, took the kids to sporting events, and our kids went to school every day with far less concern for their safety than today.

Since 9/11, we do face very real threats from terrorism, by actors both foreign and domestic. But, the probability of instant death like we had for 40 years, from the 1950s until 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed, doesn’t exist today.

Wrongo is not a student of mass psychosis, but asks, if the nature of today’s threat, while serious, does not lead to instant death for millions of Americans, why are we so paralyzed by fear?  No IED is going to end America as we know it, no gun or knife-toting terrorist is going to kill millions of Americans.

A zero domestic deaths from terrorism policy is doomed to failure.

For the past 15 years our last two presidents have said: “my first responsibility is to keep you safe.” But, haven’t we really needed leaders who would say: “my first responsibility is to defend your freedom and personal liberty?”

But no politician today would dare say that, because no one would vote for them. This is the nation we have become after 9/11, and we need to wake up before we surrender even more of the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.

To help America wake up, here is “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, from their 2012 album, “Night Visions”. The song was Rolling Stone’s “Biggest Rock Hit of the Year” in 2013. This video has had almost 600 million views since it was posted:

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

Sample Lyrics:

I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh,  I’m radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive

I raise my flags, don my clothes
It’s a revolution, I suppose
We’re painted red to fit right in

I’m breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse

Welcome to the new age indeed!

People should learn about England and Ireland during the Sinn Fein bombing attacks that lasted from 1969 to 2001. Wrongo lived in London for part of that time, and while fear existed and the risk was real, people dusted themselves off, and soldiered on.

We should not let fear decide our Presidential election, or further vitiate the Constitution.

Let’s all WAKE UP!

Facebooklinkedinrss

July 25, 2016 – Philadelphia Trip Edition

Wrongo visited Philadelphia last week, leaving just prior to the start of the Democratic Convention. The city seemed eager for the Democrats to arrive and start spending. We met with several local retailers who had high hopes for throngs of Democrat shoppers. The many Uber drivers we spoke with were looking forward to busy days, but were concerned about getting around town with the crush.

As part of the security plans, trucks are forbidden from using I-95 through central Philadelphia during the convention. Perhaps the thinking is that big bombs are only delivered by truck. One of the local colleges is housing police in its dormitories, presumably cops brought in from other jurisdictions to assist in maintaining the peace.

Speaking of maintaining the peace, on a walk through the South Philly Market (SPM)  the iconic mural of former Philadelphia Police Chief and Mayor, which graces the SPM website above, had been tagged thusly:

Frank Rizzo

It reads: “Fuck Racist Pigs 4 Eva”, and “End Cops”. In talking to vendors, we heard that it had happened the night before. An elderly local resident on Market Street who was looking on, said it was the first time the mural had been tagged. But, in speaking with the two men who came to clean it off, they said it happens from time to time. Rizzo was controversial in his lifetime, and remains so today.

A law and order guy, Rizzo said during his 1975 re-election campaign:

Just wait after November, you’ll have a front row seat because I’m going to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot…

There were many incidents of police brutality and alleged racism during his years as Chief and as Mayor, culminating in a 1979 Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit charging pervasive police abuse. Rizzo’s handling of the first MOVE incident in 1978 has been interpreted as supporting the charge of racism. This radical group lived in squalid conditions, and when members of the group refused entrance to city inspectors and social services agents, Rizzo evicted them through police action. The final MOVE incident occurred in 1985, after Rizzo was out of office. At that time, a police helicopter dropped a bomb on a heavily fortified row house occupied by MOVE. The bomb sparked a firestorm which killed 11 MOVE members and gutted 61 homes, leaving 250 people homeless.

Some see political and stylistics resemblances between Donald Trump and Frank Rizzo. You be the judge.

Philadelphia has decorated its downtown with 56 plastic donkeys, one for each state and US territory.

Here is North Carolina:

NC Donkey

And here is Missouri:

Mizzou Donkey

It’s unclear why Missouri chose to make its donkey a green zebra, but it is also unlikely that Democrats will win Missouri any time in the next 20 years, so the artistic choice doesn’t really matter.

Today, the Democrats didn’t disappoint, if your standard for convention success is WrestleMania.

First, discredited and soon-to-depart Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was repeatedly interrupted and booed as she sought to speak to Florida’s convention delegation. Florida is her home state.

Later, Bernie Sanders spoke to his supporters, and they booed every mention of Hillary Clinton. Nothing like a lefty frenzy against the “Democratic Establishment.”

Circular firing squad, here we go!

 

Facebooklinkedinrss

Resolved: Have a New Year

Calvin & Hobbes meditating on 2016:

COW Calvin New Year

 

 

Personal Note:
The Wrongologist doesn’t like New Year’s resolutions. People should change whenever they feel a need for self-improvement, but few of us carry through, and achieve real change.

The one catalyst for change that works for Wrongo is to ask: “Why am I here?” and “What do I want to do with the time I have left?” These days, the answer is the same as it was in my twenties; to tell people about important things they may have missed, and put them in a context that has meaning to their journey through life.

But like many, the intervening 50 years between Wrongo’s twenties and today were largely spent being accountable to whoever was signing the paychecks. That didn’t leave time to look carefully at the issues that threaten our world, much less talk about them to whoever would listen. So the answer to the annual “Why are you here?” question became rationalizations that had little true meaning.

That’s now in the past.

I am an incredibly fortunate person: I have someone who loves me, I live in an awesome place, and have family and friends who seem to love me for who I am. I don’t have to worry about if I’ll be able to pay the mortgage, or concern myself with other difficulties so many others face.

So, last year, I posted 243 columns about what’s wrong in our country and our world. A few people read all of them, while most read just a few. I’m happy to have found any readers at all.

The objective remains to speak about issues that have a big meaning in the lives of my readers, and to place them in a context that may lead the reader to take political action.

In recognition of the fact that it took Wrongo 40 years to return to his life’s work, here is Bob Dylan and the Band playing “Forever Young”.  Although this song gets most play these days at funerals, Dylan wrote the song as a lullaby for his son, Jesse. In 1973 when he first recorded it, he did a fast and a slow version on the album “Planet Waves”. The song has been covered many times, but here is Dylan and the Band playing it live in the movie, “The Last Waltz” with Robbie Robertson on the guitar solos:

Sadly, this great video does not include the second stanza of the lyric to the song, which is Wrongo’s favorite. So here it is:

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

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

Let’s promise each other to stay forever young, to stay open to new ideas and to remain forever hostile to intolerance and greed.

Here’s to 2016, a year in which the Wrongologist blog hopes to make its content as rich, meaningful and enjoyable as possible. That’s my resolution – not just for the Wrongologist blog − but for myself, and for you.

May your 2016 be filled with joy and peace, and may you strive to live your life in as authentic and meaningful way as possible.

Facebooklinkedinrss

News You Can’t Use – December 30, 2015

Merchandise returns take a new turn:

COW Drone Return

News you can’t use:

The Cop who shot Tamir Rice was not indicted:

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said it was “indisputable” that the boy was drawing the weapon from his waistband… He called it “a perfect storm of human error” but said no crime was committed.

2016 will see more of these controversies. It may be that a year from now, the failure to indict police for killing Tamir Rice will be a seen as a turning point in community/police relations, but don’t count on it.

This tweet captures an interesting thought about the Tamir Rice shooting:

FireShot Screen Capture #075 - 'Parker Molloy on Twitter-page-0

 

Tamir Rice had not committed a crime. Ohio is an open carry state, where an adult is entitled to be carrying a REAL weapon. Rice did not have a gun and as far as we know, he never did anything wrong. How are people in open carry states supposed to walk around in such a way that does not seem to ‘threaten’ the police? Sure, being white helps a lot, but no one should rely on that.

A few 2016 predictions:

2016 predictions: the emoji edition. (Wired) Article states the obvious using emojis. And provides translations. Didn’t know the emoji for Thanksgiving.

The 2016 Fortune Crystal Ball. (Fortune) They think Apple will buy Tesla. So does most of the world.

Five Tech Predictions for the Year Ahead. (WSJ) Chris Mims says that predictions are worth what you pay for them. We all agree.

Cybersecurity predictions for 2016. (USA Today) One that seems completely scary is this:

The health care industry will remain the largest segment of the economy to be victimized by data breaches both because, as an industry, it does not provide sufficient data security and because the sale of medical insurance information on the black market is more lucrative than selling stolen credit and debit card information.

So, who are the buyers for black market medical insurance information?

China’s economy: Seven predictions for 2016. (LA Times) One prediction worth following in 2016:

“One Belt, One Road”, also known as “OBOR,” is a new development strategy initiated by China in 2015 to promote its economic connectivity and cooperative relationship with nations in Eurasia by helping them develop infrastructure. These initiatives should also help Chinese exports.

2016 will a big year for OBOR as the three institutions lined up to fund its projects, the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, will be in full operation by 2016.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving! Gratitude is the word for today.

This is our 837th column, and Wrongo wants to thank all those who have stuck around since the beginning, all of you who read them, and those who comment. The Wrongologist started this blog with the idea of highlighting what is wrong and providing it to you in digestible bites. So on this day of huge (possibly indigestible) bites of turkey, gravy, pies, dressing, etc. Wrongo is very grateful to all of you!

It turns out the more grateful people are, the healthier they are. NPR reported on a study by Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at UC San Diego, that showed people who were more grateful had better cardiac health:

We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health…

More from Dr. Mills:

Taking the time to focus on what you are thankful for…[and] letting that sense of gratitude wash over you…helps us manage and cope.

So, who knew? Being thankful can keep your heart healthy. That, and no seconds on stuffing and gravy on Thanksgiving.

Here is a short video that captures the need by some to be controlling about the Thanksgiving Day dinner. It is by Ms. Oh So Right’s film producer daughter.

Any similarity to our family, or to her mother, or her foodie sister, is purely coincidental:

Finally, here is one of the great non-Thanksgiving Day tunes of Thanksgiving: “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got” by William DeVaughn. This one-hit wonder sold two million copies in 1974, reaching #1 on the US R&B charts and #4 on the Billboard chart. It has that great Philly sound, and reminds us of a time when there was more optimism in America.

Since you are reading this, you woke up on this side of the dirt! Another reason to be thankful…

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view them here and here.

(The next Wrongologist post will be Sunday)

Facebooklinkedinrss

Soon, Antibiotics Won’t Work

It’s estimated that more people will die from bacterial infections than from cancer by 2050. Two disparate factors are driving this. First, scientists in China say they’ve identified a gene that makes common, dangerous bacteria resistant to “last-resort” antibiotics called polymyxins. The mutated gene, called mcr-1, was found in the Enterobacteriaceae germ in both pigs and people in South China, according to a report published in The Lancet.

Study author Jian-Hua Liu, a professor at South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, China, said:

The polymyxins (colistin and polymyxin B) were the last class of antibiotics in which resistance was incapable of spreading from cell to cell…

The new gene was found on mobile forms of DNA that are easily copied and transferred between different bacteria. According to the researchers, this suggests a much greater potential for the gene to spread and diversify in different types of bacteria.

Liu went on to say that the discovery points to the emergence of a gene which can create multidrug resistance that:

is readily passed between common bacteria, including E. coli and the Klebsiella pneumoniae germ, which can cause deadly pneumonias or bloodstream infections.

We have all heard that extensive use of antibiotics in agriculture may contribute to this resistance gene. Liu’s team said that pigs were more likely than people to have bacteria with mcr-1 gene-related colistin resistance. That suggests that the resistance originated in animals and then spread to people.

The discovery bodes ill for public health worldwide. Timothy Walsh, Professor at the University of Cardiff in Wales, told BBC News: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

All the key players are now in place to make the post-antibiotic world a reality. If MCR-1 becomes global, which is a case of when not if, and the gene aligns itself with other antibiotic resistance genes, which is inevitable, then we will have very likely reached the start of the post-antibiotic era.

According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050 if new antibiotics are not found. That’s 350 million people lost. By 2050, this could cost the world around $100 trillion in lost output: That’s more than the size of the current world economy, and roughly equivalent to the world losing the output of the UK economy every year, for 35 years. Here is a graphic representation of the scale of the problem:

Anti Mocrobial Resistance

The second factor driving this disaster is our Bad Corporate Citizens. There are two classes of these bad actors. The food conglomerates that feed antibiotics to animals raised for meat, so that pig farmers can make more profit, and the Big Pharma companies that spend their intellectual calories on corporate inversions (such as Pfizer is doing in its merger with Allergan) rather than on antibiotic research. As David Cox reports about drug company research:

They’re happy to sell existing antibiotics, but they’re not interested in researching and developing new ones.

Professor William Fenical at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego discovered a new antibiotic capable of attacking the bacteria MRSA, a hospital superbug. However, most large pharmaceutical companies abandoned their antibiotic programs by 1995. And even though we know that animals raised with no antibiotics are less likely to contain drug-resistant bacteria than those routinely given antibiotics, about 80% percent of antibiotics sold in the US are given to animals raised for food production.

So, we have a perfect storm brewing: To enhance corporate profits, we give antibiotics to animals, weakening the value of those antibiotics in controlling human disease. And we look the other way when the big drug companies use innovation to avoid taxes, while saying that research into new antibiotics is “too risky” for their shareholders.

Again, the strategy of big business is “privatize the gains, socialize the losses.” And maybe when you get sick, the doctor will only be able to prescribe you a pork chop.

The world needs a new capitalism. Mr. Market isn’t going to fix this.

Facebooklinkedinrss