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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

No Blogging Today

Happy Sunday! The world headquarters of Wrong has been without power, internet or telecom since last Tuesday, because tropical storm Isais actually did more damage in northwest Connecticut than did the ledgendary storm Sandy.

This means that Wrongo will not be resuming his crummy columns today as originally intended. He is writing this note on his mobile phone with his thumbs, a completely unstainable proposition.

Our incompetent power utility has promised we will return to the 21st century by Wednesday, so please continue to talk among yourselves.

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Are Trump’s Pandemic Failures Incompetence?

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Fuji Japan, in springtime, with pink phlox in bloom – May 2017 photo by mysuitcasejourneys

It’s finally beginning to sink in just how wretched America’s going to look after the fight against the pandemic over the next month or two.

Our failed response will lead to many more deaths than would happen if we had been prepared. Is this failure caused by incompetence, or something much, much worse? It may not be worth debating, since people will die either way.

Let’s look at a few jaw-dropping examples. The Pentagon has just ordered 100,000 body bags. Sounds as if we really DO know how to do federal procurement, even though the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers is approaching emergency levels. We’re missing PPE because the Trump administration wouldn’t take responsibility for ordering those items centrally, to get the best price and the fastest deliveries.

Worse, Trump repeatedly assured Americans that the government had 10,000 ventilators in reserve to ship to the hardest-hit hospitals when needed. But many of the federal government’s remaining undistributed ventilators are broken! Apparently, 2,109 of them are unavailable because the contract to maintain the government’s stockpile lapsed last summer. Work on repairing them only began in January.

Isn’t cutting through red tape supposed to be a GOP strength? Didn’t they find the time to gut auto emissions just last week? But this $38 million ventilator repair contract simply couldn’t be expedited.

And CNN reports that Trump simply “took a gamble” that warmer weather would cause the virus to dissipate, siding with aides who were pushing back on the dire warnings coming from doctors on the coronavirus task force. Here’s Trump on February 10:

“You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat…as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases — 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.”

April is here, and 12 cases have become 214,039. The Coronavirus isn’t going away.

Did Trump just “get it wrong”? Are we looking at incompetence, or an inability to escape the GOP’s worldview about states’ rights?

More: As Abbott Laboratories began shipping its new 5 minute tests, the question of which states should get the new tests became an issue: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“During a Tuesday meeting of the White House coronavirus task force in the Situation Room, Vice President Pence and other officials discussed diverting new tests to areas where there are relatively few cases, according to two individuals familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.”

The final consensus in the meeting seemed to be, “Let’s send it to the South and low density areas.”

Sure, forget about America’s current pandemic hotspots, where the virus has sidelined many first responders and health-care workers. Send the scarce resources to states where Trump can win in November.

That’s more than incompetence, its misappropriation of vital resources and self-dealing. What’s the point of forcing tests on people who think the virus is a hoax? There are plenty of spots clamoring for tests. Supply should follow the demand, unless you’re trolling for votes.

With the shortage of tests, testing has stalled at about 100,000/day, nationally. So long as the virus keeps spreading at a near-exponential rate, we will fall further and further behind, and fail to catch more new infections.

And the longer this continues, the longer it will be until the total lockdowns can be lifted.

The lag in delivering more and faster test results deprives hospitals of workers who could be responding to medical emergencies. It sows uncertainty among hospital officials who must decide what precautions for their staff to take. The competition for the new tests is so intense that governors and mayors are personally calling Abbott executives to try to get deliveries.

We need tens of millions more tests, and tens of millions more masks. The health care workers on the front lines need tens of millions more sets of gowns and gloves.

But this administration can’t seem to do anything that is rational and decent. Through incompetence, greed, and self-interest, they are botching this crisis at every possible point.

The Republicans were able to find $500 billion for Boeing, the airlines, and other large corporations, but just couldn’t see how to find a couple of $ billion to provision the sorely needed tests and PPE for America. Trump has blown every crucial decision he needed to make so far in this crisis.

Wrongo’s message for Republicans: There is something worse than having a Democratic president appoint judges for four years, and that’s having an incompetent in charge of the federal government during a national crisis that is unprecedented in living memory.

The man is beyond infuriating and demoralizing, he’s lethal.

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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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Random Tuesday Thoughts

(Wrongo and Ms. Right are away until July 9th visiting our CA family. Expect the next column to be posted then.)

The Daily Escape:

White Sands National Monument, NM – 2019 photo by Bernard-F

#1: Wrongo watched the video of Trump walking across the Korean DMZ. While most foreign policy professionals will have a cranky reaction to the event, it represents progress. Both sides had stopped negotiations and in fact, were not even talking, after Trump walked out of the Hanoi meeting.

Whether it is a breakthrough that leads to a deal remains to be seen. OTOH, Trump took his daughter Ivanka and Tucker Carlson to the DMZ, while sending John Bolton (who he called “Mike”), and Mike Pompeo on to other tasks. Anything that drives the GOP neocons crazy can’t be all bad.

The incoherence of Trump’s global strategy shows itself in extending himself to North Korea, a country that has nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them. The US has no agreement with NorKo to contain its weapons of mass destruction. We don’t even have a peace agreement after the War that ended in 1953, but we’re talking.

Contrast that with Trump’s walking away from the signed Iranian nuclear deal, which was negotiated to prevent an exact North Korea-type situation from happening. Inexplicable.

#2: Forbes has a very interesting article on new solar power capacity in California:

“Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, with a prestige solar battery supplier, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.”

Cheaper than fossil fuels, the new plant will be built north of LA, in Kern County. LA officials said that it will be the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery storage project in the US. When up and running, it will operate at half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant. The plant is expected to deliver its first megawatt by April 2023.

#3: Reuters reports that Trump’s “deal” with China may not be a deal at all. In their article, China warns of long road ahead for deal with US after ice-breaking talks, Reuters quotes the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world. It warned there was no guarantee there would ever be a deal: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”

#4: Next, it’s that time of year again where Americans camp out for days in order to visit with a pop-up rural clinic nurse. Why? Because we have the most expensive “health care” on earth, and a system absolutely designed to keep it that way:

“They were told to arrive early if they wanted to see a doctor, so Lisa and Stevie Crider left their apartment in rural Tennessee almost 24 hours before the temporary medical clinic was scheduled to open. They packed a plastic bag with what had become their daily essentials after 21 years of marriage: An ice pack for his recurring chest pain. Tylenol for her swollen feet. Peroxide for the abscess in his mouth. Gatorade for her low blood sugar and chronic dehydration.”

A view from the volunteers:

“…a clinic volunteer….patrolled the parking lot late at night and handed out numbers to signify each patient’s place in the line. No. 48 went to a woman having panic attacks from adjacent Meigs County, where the last remaining mental-health provider had just moved away to Nashville. No. 207 went to a man with unmanaged heart disease from Polk County, where the only hospital had gone bankrupt and closed in 2017.”

With Republicans doing everything they can to break the Affordable Care Act, and then refusing to fix it, this is what their actions have caused. Rural hospitals are closing, people in rural counties have no health care. And the GOP tells them to blame Democrats. The reality is that Republicans in these states have cut funding for the programs that kept red state rural clinics and hospitals operating.

#5: Columbia University reported that scientists have discovered a gigantic aquifer of relatively fresh water trapped below the Atlantic Ocean. This undersea aquifer stretches from Massachusetts to New Jersey, extending more or less continuously out about 50 miles to the edge of the continental shelf.

The water was trapped in mile-deep ice 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. When the ice melted, sediments formed huge river deltas on top of the shelf, and fresh water got trapped there. It would have to be desalinated for most uses, but the cost would be much less than processing seawater.

See you next week!

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Should America Intervene in Venezuela?

The Daily Escape:

Bald Eagle on the Housatonic River, CT – February, 2019 photo by JH Clery

On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Trump was asked about Venezuela and whether he’d negotiate with President Maduro to convince him to exit. Trump put military intervention squarely on the table:

“MARGARET BRENNAN: What would make you use the U.S. military in Venezuela? What’s the national security interest?

DONALD TRUMP: Well I don’t want to say that. But certainly it’s something that’s on the- it’s an option.”

This seems to be part of a larger Latin American plan. The WSJ reports that the Trump administration’s plans include regime change in Venezuela, Nicaragua and eventually Cuba. This is a multiyear neocon project that has at least some bipartisan political support. It may require military force, as Trump indicated to CBS that he’s willing to consider. One thing that the WSJ reports is this:

“US law-enforcement officials say they have evidence Mr. Maduro directed state resources to create what they allege has become one of the most powerful international narco-trafficking operations in the world, and with links to Hezbollah, the Lebanese group designated by the US as a terror organization.”

So, there you have the first Western Hemisphere argument to “fight them over there, rather than fight them here”.

As we said on Saturday, nothing unites a country like a sovereign enemy on its borders. Venezuelans may hate Maduro, but they also hate the US. China and Russia may be worried about the $50 billion and $17 billion Venezuela owes each respectively. Turkey has also supported Maduro. Although they all are Maduro’s allies, it is unclear if they would be willing to help, should the US intervene.

The consequences of all of our former interventions should be screaming at us. But, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump seem deaf to the messages. Bolton said:

“We think stability and democracy in Venezuela are in the direct national interests of the United States right now…The authoritarian regime of Chávez and Maduro has allowed the penetration by adversaries of the United States, not least of which is Cuba.

Some call the country ‘Cubazuela’, reflecting the grip that Cuba’s military and security forces have on the Maduro regime. We think that is a strategic significant threat to the United States and there are others as well, including Iran’s interest in Venezuela’s uranium deposits.”

Maduro is no prize. The Economist reports: (brackets by Wrongo)

In the past five years GDP has fallen by half. Annual inflation is reckoned to be 1.7m%…which means that Bolívar savings worth $10,000 at the start of the year [will] dwindle to 59 cents by the end….People are malnourished and lack simple medicines, including antibiotics. Hospitals have become death traps for want of power and equipment. Blaming his troubles on foreign conspiracies, Mr. Maduro has rejected most offers of humanitarian aid.

Juan Guaidó, head of the Maduro opposition, and President of the National Assembly, has support from the EU, and the Lima Group of 12 Western Hemisphere countries (including Argentina, Brazil and Canada). The US recognized Guaidó early.

The question is, should we intervene at all? And if the answer is yes, how should we intervene?

The US is still Venezuela’s main trading partner. Last week, we imposed curbs on purchases of the country’s crude oil, and a ban on imports from the US of the diluents that must be blended with the extra-heavy oil from the Orinoco Belt to allow it to flow through domestic pipelines. The first hits Venezuela’s oil exports, while the second curbs their production. This will reduce revenue from oil exports by more than $11 billion.

By ordering that payments for Venezuelan oil be put in bank accounts reserved for Guaidó’s government, the US hopes to asphyxiate the regime, expecting that the armed forces will then switch sides to Guaidó.

Venezuelans face the dreadful task of having to topple their own government. This primarily means persuading their army to change sides. Other nations can pledge moral support to Juan Guaidó. But sanctions and US threats may prove counterproductive.

Venezuela poses no threat to US security. Since GW Bush, we’ve found excuses to attack Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. We’ve imposed economic sanctions on Russia, Iran and Myanmar. The gain for our security has been negligible.

Military intervention has become an occupational disease of America’s leaders.

The urge to help Venezuelans in need is natural. Doing nothing is painful and seems callous. But will intervening really help? Even states with despotic leaders are sovereign. They must make and correct their own mistakes, and ultimately, be strengthened by doing so.

Regime change in Caracas is one possible outcome of our intervention. Civil war is another.

It is a certainty is that American lives and money will be lost.

Trump must choose wisely if intervention is on the table.

Any bets on that?

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Saturday Soother – December 8, 2018

The Daily Escape:


Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park, Canada – photo by BlakeRandall

Ho hum. Another alleged Republican criminal is taking office,but there’s nothing to see here, so move on. The GOP wants to focus some more on Hillary’s emails.

What’s Wrongo talking about? The Senate is about to seat a Republican Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley. Missouri attorney general. Josh Hawley was the Republican Party’s nominee to take on Senator Claire McCaskill, and he won. It seems as if he improperly used his old office to run for Senate. McCaskill raised this issue in the last days of the campaign, but Hawley won. However, Hawley’s problem didn’t go away.As Ed Kilgore explains:

On October 31, the Kansas City Star reported that Missouri Attorney General and GOP Senate nominee Josh Hawley had let his campaign staff coordinate activities with public employees on state property,violating a constitutional provision banning use of state resources for political or personal use….
Hawley’s out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff, and followed up to ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records obtained by The Kansas City Star.

Now, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has launched an investigation into the way Josh Hawley ran his office as Attorney General. Jay Ashcroft is the son of former US Attorney General and Missouri Senator John Ashcroft.

Kilgore says that Ashcroft lacks subpoena power, so it’s unclear how far his investigation can go, and it’s highly doubtful that a new election will be called.

With this, and the current fiasco over absentee ballots in North Carolina’s Ninth District, criminality is now a feature, not a bug, for Republican politicians.

At a minimum, the Republican who “won” in the NC Ninth, Mark Harris, is unlikely to be seated if the North Carolina State Board of Elections doesn’t certify the district’s vote.

And when Missouri’s Josh Hawley walks into the Senate, his fellow GOP’ers will circle the wagons to protect him from facing justice, unless and until the time comes (if ever), when it is no longer politically viable to support him.

The wheels of justice will grind pretty slowly on this, but a six-year term is a long, long time for a junior senator Josh to brazen it out.Unless, of course, Mitch McConnell is on your team.

In other news, Wrongo assumes that this week, you binged on the George HW Bush funeral. Maybe it’s just that it takes a few years to rehabilitate a reputation, but after 25 years out of office, why did America treat HW like he was Lincoln?

Time to move on to the weekend. Let’s unplug from Trumpworld, forget how many shopping days remain, and spend a few minutes detached from our responsibilities.

Here’s how we’ll do that: Start by brewing up a vente cup of Red RoosterCoffee’s new seasonal roasting, Holiday Sweet Blend ($16.99/12oz.). Red Rooster is an organic-certified micro-roaster focusing on socially conscious and high-quality coffee that The Wrongologist has featured before. The Holiday Sweet Blend is said to be a harmoniously balance of sweet, tart and savory flavors.

Now settle back where you can look out of a south-facing window, and listen to Fauré’s “Cantique de Jean Racine Op 11”, for choir and piano or organ. Here, it is performed by choir and orchestra, and doesn’t suffer.

Faure´ composed this as a student project when he was 19. It was first performed in 1866. At the time, using work by Jean Racine was frowned upon, and the clergy banned its performance, but here it is:

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

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Thanksgiving 2018

The Daily Escape:

Turkeys on the fields of Wrong – November 2018 photo by Wrongo

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual”Thoreau

Our house is filling with the smells of today’s feast cooking in the kitchen. It’s also filled with the sounds of people, old friends and family, talking about their lives, and the world at large.

Thanksgiving is Wrongo’s favorite, because it is among our few secular holidays. No one commands you to do anything, celebration is subdued, and at least around here, it focuses on gratitude.

Here’s Wrongo’s thanks to the readers of the Wrongologist. He started this adventure nine and a half years ago, and this is the 1,563rd post. That works out to a little less than a post every other day. Maybe it’s a sad commentary on the world we live in, or just Wrongo’s luck, there seems to be no shortage of wrong things to write about.

So, to Monty, Fred, David, Marguerite, Kelly, Terry and the rest of those who read, comment and send me private emails saying the equivalent of “What’s wrong with Wrongo?”, I am grateful that you stick with it, and with me.

Wrongo is grateful every day for this journey he’s on. Sometimes, it seems like cynicism and despair is all we have. But, then there are days like today, a crystal clear morning, and at sun up, the temperature outside was 10°F.

We’ll have a fire in the fireplace, “Alice’s Restaurant” playing in a semi-continuous loop, along with good and grateful thoughts about our family, friends and the great country that we are privileged to live in.

Enjoy Thanksgiving Day.Facebooklinkedinrss

Limited Blogging

(There will be limited or no blogging until Tuesday, 11/20 since Wrongo and Ms. Right are heading to Florida for a family event. It doesn’t hurt that we are leaving snow and ice in the Northeast)

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, St Augustine Beach, FL – 2018 photo by Wrongo

 

 

 

 

 

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Russia and Kavanaugh

The Daily Escape:

Moscow supermarket – October 2018 photo by Wrongo

The two topics in the headline are not related.

Wrongo and Ms. Right are back in the US, jet-lagged, and at home in the Mansion of Wrong. Our Russia trip was an eye-opener. In St. Petersburg and Moscow at least, Russia seems to be a wealthy country by global standards. People seem to be well-informed about their history, and about the current geopolitical climate in the west. They are consummate consumers.

We saw quite a few churches, but the Russians we spoke with didn’t seem to put much emphasis on their faith. Increasing their income and getting ahead in a career sense seemed to be the primary thing that interested them. “Pragmatic” best describes the people we met. They are strivers, and hope that their government won’t screw up what the citizens finally have going for them.

Mostly, we were struck by how similar the Russians we met are to the average American. We had lunch with a couple in Uglich, a poor town of about 30k residents that is about 125 miles north of Moscow. The town hasn’t benefited from the 18-year economic expansion in the Russian Federation, and has unemployment in the 25% range. It also has a declining population, and crumbling infrastructure.

The couple we met had both lost their jobs in the 1985 Perestroika period under Gorbachev. Thirty-three years later, the husband has a part-time government job, the wife is unemployed. They grow most of their food in their ¼ acre garden. Their refrigerator is covered with pictures of the grandkids, who visit every few weeks.

Their message to us was that people everywhere have the same hopes and dreams, but the politicians always want to demonize the outsiders.

We returned to American just in time to start calling Brett Kavanaugh “Mr. Justice Kavanaugh”.

It’s not worth dwelling on his confirmation process, or repeating stale arguments. It is time to gather ourselves, to register non-voters, and turn out all the votes we can on November 6.

It also isn’t the time to overthink the closing arguments for November, despite polls that show Republicans being energized by the Kavanaugh confirmation. But, it is important to understand GOP messaging for the midterms. From the WaPo’s article, ‘An angry mob’: Republicans work to recast Democratic protests as out-of-control anarchy:

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

Think back to the Tea Party protestors who disrupted town hall meetings in 2009. From today’s GOP viewpoint, they were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. And all those people who chant “Lock her up!” at the encouragement of their dear leader? They really don’t mean anything by that, they’re also exercising their right to free speech.

But when a few liberals pound on the doors of the Supreme Court, that’s mob behavior, and it can’t be tolerated. In Trump World, crowds of marching alt-right men with tiki torches = some very fine people.

And crowds of protesting women in Washington = angry mob.

We should remember that the American Revolution wasn’t a polite discussion; it involved mobs making a point, too.

Democrats are on the edge of winning the House. Before Kavanaugh, they had a long-shot chance at taking the Senate. Right now, Dems need to be smart. Richard Nixon won because he scared Middle America with pictures of immoral hippies who were demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

Let’s assume that those of us who are already energized to vote can work to figure out how to reach those who are only half paying attention, or who plan to stay on the fence all the way until Election Day.

It is clear that accusations of the type made by Dr. Ford don’t resonate with GOP voters. Roy Moore’s near-pedophilia didn’t seem to change any Republican minds in Georgia. Whenever a Republican is under attack by the liberals, it’s always the time for the rest of them to circle the wagons.

There is no single, lock-step message that Dems should use to take both Houses in November. The best antidote for those “Energized by Kavanaugh” Republicans is for the rest of us to get, or stay, more energized.

There is zero to be complacent about. The Dems could remain in the minority in both Houses after the mid-terms if they fail to turn out their voters in November.Facebooklinkedinrss

Review of: “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World”

The Daily Escape:

Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs is a region of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Photo via Khaan Tours. In the early 20th century, these cliffs gained worldwide fame for an incredible collection of fossils.

While in Europe, Wrongo finished reading “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” a history of the Mongol dynasty written in 2004 by Jack Weatherford, a former professor of anthropology. It is a fascinating journey from the 13th Century through the 14th Century. His specialty is histories of tribal peoples.

Weatherford presents Genghis Khan and his dynasty in wonderful detail. But the book reads as much like an adventure story, as it does history. Wrongo’s view of Khan was shaped as much by Hollywood caricatures as it was by his degree in history. It turns out that Khan was not simply the ring leader of a group of barbarians, he unified the Mongols, forming them into a fighting machine that conquered nearly all of Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe.

The book shows the important role of the Mongols in creating a precursor to the modern world. Initially, through warfare. Their military innovation was the lightly armed warfighter on horseback. Charging horsemen went against foot soldiers often accompanied by a relatively small, heavily armored cavalry. Genghis Khan was the original inventor of blitzkrieg. Time after time, the Mongols’ disciplined horsemen, moving in coordinated units, defeated much larger armies. The Mongol armies were undefeated for nearly 100 years.

But Khan’s greatest achievement was the redrawing of the boundaries of the modern world. His armies united a dozen Slavic principalities and cities into a large Russian state. They created a single state of China, and unified Korea and India.

It was the Mongolian Khans, rather than the Han Chinese, who founded Beijing. Their Yuan dynasty ruled until 1368.

The Mongols captured both Baghdad and Damascus in two years, something the European Crusaders had been unable to achieve in two centuries. The last Mogul in India was removed by the British in 1857. The Russians took over the original homeland of the Khans in Mongolia, in 1920.

Weatherford tells the story of the rise of Genghis Khan from a yak herding slave to ruler of the greatest empire on earth. Along the way, he ended the Mongols’ feudal system of aristocratic privilege and birth, replacing it with a system based on individual merit, loyalty and achievement. In most countries, the Khans expanded both cultural communication and trade. They were the first builders of the “Silk Road”.

Trade was key to the empire. Silk was the apex trade item, but cotton and wool were sent both to the East and the West. The Mongols made culture portable. It wasn’t just trade in goods, whole systems of knowledge were sent in both directions. Persian and Arab doctors went to China. Chinese doctors went to the Middle East.

And Khubilai Khan, the Great Khan emperor of China, recognized the need for paper money to facilitate trade, so it was used throughout the empire until its collapse. There was a dazzling array of innovations that can be ascribed to his reign: in addition to paper money, printed passports gave access to the entire Empire. There was a synthesis of knowledge from all corners of the Empire.

The Empire was ultimately carved up between Genghis Khan’s grandsons. They held cross-ownership in each other’s territories of trade networks and manufacturing facilities, which moderated their desire to fight each other. But, once the Black Death erupted in their networks, the Empire collapsed. It took about 300 years to finally end.

Genghis Khan was tolerant of all religions in a conquered country. He abolished torture, and brought back to Mongolia the learned and skilled members of each conquered nation to help to build the skills of his empire.

But the Mongols weren’t saints. In each conquest, the ruling class was rounded up and killed. The peasants and professionals were spared if they swore allegiance to the Great Khan. Although there are instances of extreme violence, these are balanced by the thoughtfulness and care that the various Khans took to administer and improve their vast empire.

We learn that some of his family were practicing Christians. That there was more religious freedom in Mongolia than in Europe at the time. He was willing to learn from his mistakes, a quality rarely seen in today’s leaders. And his attitude toward women was also surprising: his daughters became leaders, right along with his sons in the empire.

You end with a sense of how visionary and complex Genghis Khan was: An illiterate who appreciated learning, a marginal person from an obscure corner of the world who led a global empire.

This is a marvelous journey through time, about an era we rarely think of today.Facebooklinkedinrss