Thursday, January 30, 2020

How Could This Be Any More Pathetic?

Part of the wall that Trump decided to build in order to keep out people who have a legal right to come here fell over in the wind because why the hell wouldn't it fall over?

Trump ordered the government to subvert the will of Congress and divert the money into building this useless monstrosity. We'll look back on these days and wonder, "how could people have been so fucking stupid?"

Trump is the stupidest person on the whole planet. When Fran Lebowitz said that you don't know anyone as stupid as Trump, she wasn't kidding and she was talking to the whole world. She was addressing all of sentient humanity, all the people around us, all the ships at sea and the planes in the air and those living under the ocean surface and everyone in the hills. She was talking to the human race en masse. Still the smarted commentary I've seen.

You really don't know anyone this stupid with this much power and an entire country just laying at his feet.

It's an embarrassment to be an American right now. It really is. We were supposed to be a country that wouldn't let this puffy, stumblebum of a leering jackass serve as a dog catcher, let alone a governor or a Secretary of whatever the hell. We were supposed to be a forward-leaning, competence-worshipping, you better do it the right way or you're out on your ass kind of a country. Nah, we're not that anymore. An ignorant, prideful minority got suckered by a guy who figured out how to manipulate the media. He and his crass minority of bit players found just enough apathy and votes here and there (thanks again, Russia) to make it so that we're going to be living in the gutter long after Trump is hurled out of office.

Take heart. Purely from a structural point of view, no one can get re-elected president by being consistently unpopular and completely under water. George Herbert Walker Bush got thrown out of office after winning a war and after being completely and utterly smart about virtually everything he did except the economy. Trump has built an illusory economy, one that will collapse when the Democrats take over because that's what Wall Street wants. We'll have to be ready for that, of course.

I mean, Trump's wall falling over is just a microcosm of how utterly useless he has been in office. A lot of people are going to vote to keep him there, no question about it. But the Blue Tsunami of 2018 is the thing to remember. If that many people plus a handful more turn out and vote, the Republicans are going to get a taste of something awful, and it will burn as it goes down.

I'm not paying as much attention as I should to the circus. Clowns are boring. They're not going to remove him from office. They should, and they know they should, but the Republicans in the Senate signed up for a defense of a man too goddamned stupid to build a wall that wouldn't fall over. They own every ounce of failure we've seen so far and all the things we'll be finding out about for the rest of our natural lives.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Operational Security

Trump and his band of lackeys are so hopelessly compromised and susceptible to blackmail that it isn't even funny:
President Donald Trump was captured on tape at a 2018 dinner with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman demanding the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the US ambassador to Ukraine, according to an attorney for Parnas. 
"Get rid of her!" a voice appearing to belong to Trump says on the recording, according to ABC News, which on Friday first reported its existence.  
"Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it." 
CNN has not reviewed the tape. 
According to Parnas' attorney, Joseph Bondy, the recording was made by Fruman and shared with Parnas "shortly after it was recorded." An attorney for Fruman declined to comment. 
Bondy told CNN on Friday evening, hours after the tape's existence was initially reported, that he had turned over the audio to the House Intelligence Committee. He said he had Parnas go back through his "cloud" and Parnas found the audio. 
The recording appears to substantiate accounts of the dinner Parnas has provided in interviews, at a time when he has emerged as one of the central figures of the impeachment proceedings against the President.

This is absolutely sickening. The President has been tape recorded by a man linked to an oligarch linked to Putin. And now that tape is in the public domain, destroying any possibility that Trump and the people around him have been guarding America's secrets. You should now assume that the president is so hopelessly compromised that we are probably wasting our time impeaching him.

Yes, the Ukraine thing is a crime and he should be removed from office. The bigger picture is that America is entirely exposed and undefended. Intelligence agents overseas, American interests throughout the world, and every single effort underway to protect the U.S. from our enemies are all likely compromised and exposed in some way. If we had a functioning government, there would be an effort underway right now to determine how Parnas and Fruman were able to tape record Trump and whether or not we should be making wholesale changes to Trump's interactions with the public.

That would mean taking away his phone, closing him off from donors and sycophants, and restricting him to facilities that have not been compromised by Russian or Chinese intelligence agents. If there was anything resembling common sense right now guiding the people who are supposed to guard Trump, he would never set foot in a Trump property again.

Unfortunately, none of that is going to happen. Trump has terrified enough weak-minded, spineless people to maintain a hold on power that is going to be impossible to break if we don't have a free and fair election in November.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Fidget Spinners

If there is one thing you can take away from today's impeachment trial in the United States Senate, it is that they are playing with fidget spinners.

I got nothin'.

The truth means nothing, the rule of law is in tatters, and the president can break any law he wants and abuse his power and obstruct justice and the American people, by and large, don't give a shit.

When their jobs are gone, hey, maybe they will start to care.

When the farms are wiped out, maybe they'll think about giving a damn.

When their way of life collapses, maybe they'll look back at the jackasses that they elected to high office and see them with their fidget spinners and make the connection between the destruction of civic responsibility and the collapse of the republic.

By then, everyone will be huddling around fires, safe in the knowledge that at least Hillary Clinton's goddamned E-mails were dealt with responsibly.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Trump Sent His Nincompoops

Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone are a pair of nincompoops:
After remarks from Adam Schiff and Jay Sekulow, White House counsel Pat Cipollone again spoke on the Senate floor, where he railed against Schiff and the House impeachment proceedings and argued against witnesses in a Senate trial. 
An impassioned Cipollone lamented that President Donald Trump was given a “minimum of due process” during House impeachment proceedings.

“Information was selectively leaked out. Witnesses were threatened. Good public servants were told that they would be held in contempt. They were told that they were obstructing,” Cipollone said.
House Democrats, he said, held the articles of impeachment for 33 days, arguing that their case is not prepared if they need to hear from additional witnesses in the Senate.
“We hear all this talk about an overwhelming case. They’re not even prepared,” he said of Democrats.
House Democrats, he said, “concocted a process” that locked the President out, calling out Schiff, who has not provided documents regarding his staff’s work with the whistleblower. 
Cipollone went on to call the idea that Democrats want to call witnesses in the Senate trial “ridiculous.”

We were never going to get a trial, and we were never going to see an honest effort from Moscow Mitch to make the proceedings appear to be fair. We were never going to get Trump thrown out of office on his orange ass. And we were never going to see the rule of law take precedent over the coarse veneer of corrupt tribalism that has burned the GOP to the fucking ground.

Representative Adam Schiff has wiped the floor with these assholes. The other house managers all look like thoroughly prepared counselors. There is a lopsided reality at work here. Sekulow and Cipollone are going to win based on the fact that the Republican Party is sucking the teat of corruption bone dry. They're not going to win based on the truth, the Constitution, the law or a damned thing. They're going to walk out of the Senate chamber having won the case but the mockery of American history. They're going to go down as two lucky sons of bitches who woke up on third base thinking they'd hit triples.

I never thought I'd see two less distinguished men represent the President of the United States in a legal proceeding. This is the brain trust? The best and the brightest? The whiz kids of the president's legal defense team? The cream of the crop? Jesus Christ, they're the biggest idiots that ever tricked the bar into letting them practice law. These guys couldn't get a cop out of a speeding ticket.

The Empowerment Plan

This is exactly the kind of story I needed to read today. It's about solving a problem with creativity, planning, and hard work:
In the shadows of Detroit's tallest skyscrapers, dozens of homeless people shiver in the 17-degree cold. 
Ferocious wind gusts of 15 mph feel like cold knives stabbing the face.
Such conditions claim the lives of countless homeless people every winter -- especially those without warm coats. 
Now, a nonprofit aimed at solving that problem has accidentally led to one of the most successful homeless employment programs as the country's homeless crisis keeps growing.
"This is so much bigger than anything I could have imagined," said Veronika Scott, the 30-year-old CEO and founder of the Empowerment Plan.
The plan hires homeless people and teaches them how to make coats for the destitute suffering on the streets.
Problems are getting solved in every corner of this country and it has nothing to do with the government or the private sector. It's about letting people figure out what they need and putting Americans back to work making things.

When Americans are making things, we all do better.

Russia, If You're Listening

The Russians have been caught planting listening devices at the Davos summit. Everyone else got away with it, apparently:

Russian plumbers do not tend to summer in Davos. Even those with diplomatic passports.  
Five months before world leaders began their pilgrimage to the annual World Economic Forum this week — among them US president Donald Trump — Swiss police interrupted what reports on Tuesday claimed were the beginnings of a Russian spying operation in the secluded Alpine town.   
Alerted to their unusually long stay in the high-end resort, police picked up two Russian men in Davos in August, the Graubünden cantonal police department confirmed to the Financial Times.  The men claimed diplomatic protections, but had not been registered as official diplomats with Bern, the police said. No indications of criminal acts were found at the time, the police added.   
According to Zürich’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, which carried a detailed report of the incident, police and Swiss federal officials suspected the pair of being Russian intelligence agents, posing as tradesmen in order to install surveillance equipment at key facilities around the town to monitor the private conversations of the world’s powerful and wealthy during the World Economic Forum on behalf of the Kremlin. 

I hate to say that everyone does this sort of thing, but they do. Everyone spies on everyone else, and it is important to have in place people who understand that this is the game and these are the rules. In the Trump era, you have no idea how badly they are handling "the game" as it is played. It does not seem like Trump can keep state secrets, and it does not seem like anyone understands basic operational security.

But, good for the Swiss. I hope they picked up some nifty tools and gave these dudes asylum. In Putin's Russia, they were dead before they stepped off the plane back home.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The World's Most Ridiculous Deliberative Body

The United States Senate is sure to disappoint many Americans in the weeks ahead.
The Senate convenes Tuesday at noon for leadership remarks and will adjourn at 12:30 p.m. to prep the floor for the trial.
At 1 p.m., the trial convenes and there are expected to be a few housekeeping items -- including swearing in Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, who missed last Thursday's session because of a family medical issue.  
After that, senators are expected to turn to a debate over the resolution from McConnell that will set the rules of the trial. The debate will last two hours equally divided on both sides. It is expected the debate won't take place between senators -- who are not allowed to speak at the trial -- but between the House impeachment managers and the President's defense lawyers.  
Then Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, will offer an amendment. While it's unknown what it will say, Schumer's plan is likely to call either for witnesses generally or for a specific witness to be called to testify, as well as documents to be produced.  
The Schumer amendment is debatable for two hours -- one hour for the supporters and one hour for the opponents. Time can be yielded back so the full two hours don't need to be used. A roll call vote on the amendment would then take place, with senators voting from their desks for all roll call votes during the trial. Fifty-one votes are needed for the amendment to be adopted.
Will the "trial" be fair? Of course not. The thumb is on the scale, and the Republicans in the Senate are being harangued by the president on an hourly basis to acquit him and find him innocent and make the bad lady stop impeaching him. The problem is, the Senate cannot undo the historic impeachment of Donald Trump. All they can do is meet at midnight and hope the American people are not paying attention.

Trump is a massive threat to each and every Senator up for re-election on the Republican side. They know this; they see the home state polls and they know what's happening. They are betting that they can eke out a re-election win. They know they're probably going to be thrown out of office by a second Blue Tsunami of anti-Republican voters. Anything is preferable to the vicious abuse they suffer at the hands of Trump.

Facts, reason, and the law are not going to win the day. The fix is in, and the Senate is looking for a way to run away from accountability and let the 2020 Election cycle begin.


I published this on the music blog, by accident.

I really, really hate the new "blogger" design.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Trump Has Destroyed American Credibility

The Department of Defense lied to the American people about injuries suffered by troops stationed in Iraq. These troops were injured by Iranian surface to surface missiles fired in retaliation for Trump's decision to kill Iranian terror mastermind Soleimani.

There is another casualty here. There is no one in the United States government who can be trusted to tell the truth about anything.
The troops were medevaced this week to Germany and Kuwait to be treated for traumatic brain injury after experiencing concussion symptoms.
Nearly one dozen American troops were wounded in Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on Iraq’s al-Asad air base. This week, they were medically evacuated to U.S. military hospitals in Kuwait and Landstuhl, Germany, to be treated for traumatic brain injury and to undergo further evaluation, several U.S. defense and military officials have confirmed to Defense One.

Senior military and Trump administration officials had said on Jan. 8 that 11 Iranian missiles had caused “no casualties, no friendly casualties, whether they are U.S., coalition, contractor, et cetera.”

In the past week, news organizations that were granted access to the base to film the damage and interview military personnel have reported that no Americans were killed, wounded, or “seriously injured.” But the New York Times reported on Monday that some personnel had been treated for concussions.

In a Jan. 16 statement, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in Baghdad said, “As previously stated, while no U.S.service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”

Casualties are supposed to be dutifully reported and are sacrosanct. The families knew these troops were injured probably within minutes or hours of it actually happening. And yet, the DoD was under some sort of official pressure not to report the serious injuries of American troops. The instant ability for troops to communicate with their loved ones back home has been a feature of our wars in the Middle East and South Asia for decades. What's most important is that the families were not kept in the dark, likely because it would be impossible for that to happen.

The American people were lied to, however. That's the death of truth, the stripping away of credibility, and the removal of trust that is a direct result of trying to keep Trump from yelling at people who should really have the stones to tell him to go fuck himself. I have watched this play out and I have come to the conclusion that there are but a handful of patriots in this country. Everyone else is afraid of speaking truth to power, and is derelict in their duty to the country. There is no duty to Trump, no need to protect Trumpism from being exposed as the fascist ideology that it has become. There is just a terrified group of people who are afraid of losing their careers and their political viability because no one wants Trump to get on the phone and start yelling at generals and flunkies.

When an American service member is injured, the truth about what happened to them should be shared with great discretion, but without any censorship or lying about the extent of their injuries and how they were hurt. I cannot believe that I even have to write this down. It's shocking that protecting Trump's political ass from being humiliated has taken precedence over all else. But that's where we are, and it has to stop. It has to stop.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Calls Are Coming From Inside the House

In 2016, Hillary Clinton's campaign was forced to spend all of May and June fighting off Bernie Sanders. This meant that the time and money she could have spent defining Trump was spent trying to keep an insurgency campaign from her left from derailing her candidacy. She should have won in a landslide, and were it not for the Russians, the Sanders dead-end campaign to the end, and Jill Stein,  she probably would have.

Well, this is where we are right now. Sanders is, once again, making an aggressive move against the very idea of a candidate for president being a woman. He is, once again, raking in millions promising hopeful people change he cannot deliver and using his base of supporters as a weapon against Democrats. And, once again, the Democratic National Committee is allowing this slow-motion train wreck of a primary to happen. It's been a disaster. Horrible debates, lackluster fundraising, and confusion reigns supreme. The money should be pouring in to beat Trump and his GOP enablers.

Instead, the money is pouring into an effort by Sanders to build an alternative to the Democratic Party. The goal is not to beat Trump. The goal is to spend the next five years raising money from hapless lefties who are mad at what Trump is doing but aren't smart enough to figure out that if they keep throwing away their votes because a candidate can't pass their purity test, they'll end up with Trump's kids running the country until the 2050s.

It should be as easy as pie to figure out how to define Trump as unpopular, incompetent, and an un-indicted co-conspirator. It should be a simple path forward at this point--bring forward a candidate who has America's future as their central organizing principle and let Trump's actions and words hang him.

The very act of writing about this invites attacks and harassment. The notion of pointing this out brings on more headaches than it solves. But, this is where we are at until voters in the Democratic Party get their heads out of their asses and figure out what matters. Are we going to throw it all away in November?

It looks like it. Instead of rallying to the cause of defeating Trump, the Democratic Party has decided to create a circular firing squad and open fire.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Republicans Want an Unstable, Racist President

I like what Jamelle Bouie is saying here, but regular observers of Trump have been warning everyone about these things for the last decade or more:
Trump is not a steady hand. He’s never been one. Three years in office have neither changed his character nor enhanced his capabilities. He is as ignorant and incurious as a president as he was as a candidate (and as a would-be mogul before that). His main goal is self-preservation, and he’ll sacrifice anything to achieve it. His current assault on the authority of Congress — his refusal to have the White House or members of his administration release documents or obey subpoenas — is an attempt to escape responsibility for his own unethical (and potentially illegal) actions. He is self-involved, unethical and unstable — a dangerous combination to have for the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military forces, under pressure from impeachment and a re-election campaign.
I think most observers know this. But the implications are terrifying. They suggest a much more dangerous world than the one we already believe we live in, where in a fit of pique, a single action taken by a single man could have catastrophic consequences for millions of people. This isn’t a new observation. When he was still a rival — and not one of Trump’s most reliable allies — Senator Marco Rubio of Florida warned Republicans that they shouldn’t give “the nuclear codes of the United States” to an “erratic individual.” Hillary Clinton said Trump was “temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility” and that “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
If you were vehemently opposed to Trump before he even announced he was running for president, then you understand the argument here. The country, and the world, should be horrified to have him in charge of anything, let alone the presidency. Hillary Clinton was as right about Trump as anyone could have been. The 65 million people who voted against him were right as well. The world that opposes Trump, they were right. The people that have died as a result of his unstable, demented presidency aren't able to speak up, but they were caught up in all of this.

We should all be cognizant of the fact that Trump's approval numbers are stuck at an absurdly high (but incredibly unpopular) level. There really are that many Americans who are supporting him for the nationalism, the racism, the ignorance, the stupidity, the venality, the viciousness, and the shock value. 

They do not care about their communities, the country, the wellbeing of others, and the fate of the world. They just want to watch it all burn, and they are big, big fans of stories where innocent lives are destroyed. 

Never underestimate the abject cruelty of the Republican next door. Vote accordingly.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Mark Esper Contradicts Trump

Today was a day where the Secretary of Defense actually contradicted the President of the United States on a matter of national defense and was not summarily fired. That's the sort of thing that gets your attention when there is an avalanche of horrifying developments.

It is difficult to imagine anything like this happening without there being some sort of repercussion, but there wasn't one, at least not right away. Esper is a virtual unknown to the vast majority of Americans and is just trying to keep his boss from being impeached again:
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday contradicted President Donald Trump by asserting the US would not target Iranian cultural sites amid rising tensions after a US strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. 
"We will follow the laws of armed conflict," Esper told CNN Monday.
When pressed if that meant not targeting Iranian cultural sites, Esper replied, "That's the laws of armed conflict."
The comments come one day after Trump reiterated his threat to target Iranian cultural sites in a conversation with reporters aboard Air Force One.

"They're allowed to kill our people, they're allowed to torture and maim our people, they're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, and we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump said, according to a pool report.
The threats have been met with criticism because it is against international law to target cultural rather than military sites, and the US military's policy has long been to avoid striking areas of cultural importance.
I mean, more kudos to whoever this Esper guy thinks he is. Nobody ever heard of him, outside of the "let's make expensive planes that don't work" industry. He went from being some defense sector flunky to being the man in charge of the Pentagon precisely because he didn't appear on Trump's radar and cause himself to get fired. He avoided the sort of career-ending attention that the likes of Anthony Scaramucci could only fantasize about. It's hard to be a rando in the orbit of this president. He likes to lash out, and he likes to see people squirm when forced to praise him.

What happens next? Who the hell knows? We live in crazy town, and the mayor has no marbles left.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Fire in the Sky

Yeah, some people deserve to die. Leave it to the Trump Regime to screw everything up:
Prior to the strike that targeted Qasem Soleimani, White House administration lawyers in consultation with national security officials put together a "strong rationale" specifically for the strike against the Iranian general that President Trump, as commander in chief, had the authority to not ask for congressional authorization over a matter of self defense, the administration official said.

That legal rationale formed the basis for not going to Congress for authorization beforehand.

"We did not feel the need to ask for authorization over basic rights of self defense," the official said.

A separate administration official says the strike was fully vetted by three different sets of lawyers from the White House, Department of Justice and Department of Defense. All three sets of lawyers deemed the strike was a fully appropriate action and 100% lawful.
Part of the legal reasoning was that Soleimani was deemed an enemy combatant because he was in the process of planning specific attacks in the near future on US and allied personnel and citizens, including military personnel.
The fact that they have to use the same specious arguments that prevent Congressional oversight is telling enough. However, you make the case that someone deserves to be killed BEFORE you actually kill them, not after. Then, you go and kill them.

This man, Soleimani deserved what he received. Better yet, he should have been taken care of like many of his victims, who were disfigured and blown to pieces with shaped charges that gave them traumatic brain injuries. This fellow was responsible for directing and funding the killing of an untold number of Americans. Someone who deserved the fate that he received had the good fortune to get it from the most incompetent fools in American history. This was a one car parade, and they fucked it up.

We are looking at another debacle. This is the fatal flaw of every action undertaken by the people who work for Trump. They are screamed at, goaded, and forced to do things and then they have to make up an excuse or justification after the bodies have been blown to pieces. It is hardly the way adults make foreign policy. And, now that we can press a button and rain fire down from the skies, thanks to our policy of remote control killing with drones, we have handed the worst possible people in American history the most lethal tools imaginable with which to do stupid shit. Yay!

I have heard some commentators state the obvious, but the interagency process that used to guide American foreign policy has been destroyed under Trump. Instead of reason and logic, you have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his chubby cheeks sitting in front of you, daring you to give him a reason to tell you to go fuck yourself because he's such a tough guy. Instead of the infrastructure needed to inform and guide the president's actions, you have Putin and some jackass with a Mar-a-Lago access card running things. Instead of notifying Congress, you have the Gang of Eight completely out of the loop and Lindsey Graham bragging that he has known what's happening for days.

This is not how things are ever supposed to work. So many things are broken right now, God help us when the Iranians start sinking ships and turn the Strait of Hormuz into a shooting gallery.

As a bonus, read this and remember what the Iranians can and can't do.

The Strategic Threat from Iranian Hybrid Warfare in the GulfBy Anthony H. Cordesman 

June 13, 2019
The threat of war with Iran may seem distant to many in United States and Europe, but its strategic implications became all too clear only hours after two freshly loaded tankers – the Frontline and the Kokuka Courageous – were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 12, 2019 – just outside the "Persian" or "Arab" Gulf. These attacks came less than a month after four previous attacks on tankers near a port in the UAE, and after months of rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programs, the war in Yemen, and the growing arms race in the region.
The fear of further attacks, and interruption in the continued export of petroleum sudden raised the global price of crude oil by 4% – a global price rise that everyone in the world must pay – including Americans – regardless of the fact the U.S. is no longer a major petroleum importer.
The reasons why such incidents can lead to immediate price rises, as well as growing concerns over far more serious patterns of conflict are simple. First, the military confrontation between Iran, the U.S., and the Arab Gulf states over everything from the JCPOA to Yemen can easily escalate to hybrid warfare that has far more serious forms of attack. And second, such attacks can impact critical aspects of the flow of energy to key industrial states and exporters that shape the success of the global economy as well as the economy of the U.S.
The Threat of Hybrid WarfareIran can use its naval, air, and/or missile forces and proxies to attack ships anywhere in the Gulf, around the Strait of Hormuz, in the Gulf of Oman outside the Gulf, and in Indian Ocean waters near the Strait of Hormuz. It has long threatened to "close the Gulf" at the Strait of Hormuz, but its military exercises involve dispersing its naval of Revolutionary Guard forces broadly in the Gulf and near it.
Iran also does not have to launch a major war. It can conduct sporadic, low-level attacks that do not necessarily provoke a major U.S. or Arab reaction, but create sudden risk premiums in petroleum prices and the equivalent of a war of attrition. Tankers are inherently vulnerable to relatively small anti-ship missiles and UCAVs, and attacks by submersibles and radio-controlled small craft filled with high explosives. Iran can plant "smart" mines in the bottom of tanker routes that can detect large tankers and home in on them, and be set to arm at widely space intervals.
These methods of "hybrid" attack can be carried by individual ships and dhows that are not part of Iran's armed forces, that do not have Iranian flags or operators wearing Iranian uniforms, and that cannot be directly tied to actions by the Iranian government. They can be operated by proxies like the Houthis or "false flag" groups made up for the occasion, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) have established a growing presence in the Gulf of Oman based at Chabahar – to "prevent smuggling" – and in the Gulf of Aden and near Yemen to "deal with Somali pirates."
Its growing role in the Gulf of Oman includes basing for its Kilo submarines to reduce U.S. ability to track and cover their movements, and IHS Janes reports that Iran plans to establish three new bases on its Makran Coast on in the Gulf of Oman – one of which at near Pasabandar (close to the Pakistani border) was completed in February 2017.
At the same time, outside extremist groups like ISIS can also carry out such attacks – potentially dragging Iran, the U.S., and Arab states into some form of clash or war. No one cans safely assume that Iran is the cause in the absence of reliable intelligence or evidence. Even "implausible" Iranian denial can limit the military response of other states, particularly since virtually any such response risks triggering a far more serious conflict and an even more serious reduction in the flow of Gulf oil.
The Threat to the Global and U.S. EconomyPetroleum is a global commodity, and any serious risk or reduction in the supply affects prices everywhere in the world. The Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf are critical sources of exports, and some 60-million barrels of oil, plus product and natural gas, move out of the Gulf by sea every day.
While the volume of the Gulf petroleum exports varies over time, the U.S. government's Energy Information Agency's estimates note that the volume has risen by about 9% in the half-decade between 2011 and 2016, and that,
The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s most important chokepoint, with an oil flow of 18.5 million b/d in 2016. The Strait of Hormuz connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, and in 2015 its daily flow of oil accounted for 30% of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids. More than 30% of global liquefied natural gas trade also transited the Strait of Hormuz in 2016. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, separated by a two-mile buffer zone.
There are limited options to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. Only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pipelines that can ship crude oil outside of the Persian Gulf and have additional pipeline capacity to circumvent the Strait of Hormuz. At the end of 2016, the total available crude oil pipeline capacity from the two countries combined was estimated at 6.6 million b/d, while the two countries combined had roughly 3.9 million b/d of unused bypass capacity.
The only options to this traffic by sea are a limited pipeline through Iraq to a port in Turkey that offers little real-world surplus capacity. There is another comparatively small Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline that can more 1.5 million barrels per day (MMBD) of crude to a point on the Indian Ocean Coast of the UAE where tanker loadings are almost as vulnerable as those in the Gulf.
And finally, these is a bigger 4.8 MMBD Petroline (East-West Pipeline) through Saudi Arabia from Abqiaq near the Gulf to a port at Yanbu on the Red Sea. This pipeline has had less than 2.9 MMBD in surplus capacity in recent years. Even in a best case, this amounts to less than 20% of the petroleum that now flows daily out of the Gulf. In practice, however, Saudi Arabia already had to shut this pipeline down after an attack in mid-May 2019 when the Saudi Press Agency reported that it suffered limited damage from armed drones and a "terrorist and sabotage act."

Trump Will Burn it All to the Ground

It is difficult to see how the latest war in the Middle East will end. I don't have any answers, and, really, no one else does, either.

Here's what people should pay attention to--this happened just as evidence of Trump's orders to the Department of Defense landed on the front page. This happened after the major holidays and just as we are beginning the 2020 primary season in earnest on the Democratic side (the GOP has decided to prevent another Pat Buchanan moment, circa 1992, from happening).

Every life that is lost is because of Trump's decisions.

Every penny that this increases the price of gas is a tax on the poor and allows people who regularly have access to Trump to maximize their profits.

Every American traveling overseas is less safe.

Everyone who cares about peace will be shouted down and marginalized because that is the media's job.

Every attempt to hold Trump accountable will probably fail because the GOP is complicit in all of his crimes.

Everyone cheering this war is mindful of keeping their own son or daughter out of harm's way.

Every Democrat who tries to do the right thing will be attacked.

Every moment that we ignore the global climate crisis and engage in a war with Iran is a colossal waste of resources and energy.

Every day brings us closer to an opportunity to defeat Trump and take back our democracy.

How will you spend the year ahead?