Apocalypse Not # 5 Argumentum ab Auctoritate

Argument from authority is defined as “Insisting that a claim is true simply because a valid authority or expert on the issue said it was true, without any other supporting evidence offered.” It is a classic logical fallacy that is used to stifle conversations that are becoming uncomfortable to those in authority.  There are technical areas that I know little about, and in those areas my observations are worthless, we all have that problem. One of the areas where I am not rank amateur is epidemiology, thus I feel comfortable weighing in on this important topic.

HM2 Tim Lynch ashore in Beirut hunting down the source of a nasty typhoid outbreak in early 1984. How many men do you know with real world pathogen hunting experience?

In fact, back when combat helmets were made of steel (as were the men who wore them), I was dispatched ashore at the Beirut International Airport to find the source of a para-typhoid bug that had damn near killed several artillerymen. I was an advanced lab technician  and my job was to obtain samples from sources the Environmental Health officers ashore had identified as potential problems. I obtained the samples, put the them in transport medium to take back to the ship (USS Guam LPH-7).  I then attempt to isolate the pathogen so we could target it with effective antibiotics instead of shotgunning every antibiotic we had into the fallen Marines.

I never isolated the bug, about a week into my attempt we pulled out of Beirut and headed for liberty call in Haifa, Israel.  Once we pulled the plug on the Beirut I autoclaved all the samples and prepared to fly back home. We clearly knew the problem Salmonella Paratyphoid but we never isolated or identified the strain.

I had forgotten all this until I started the Apocalypse Not series and got so much pushback from my liberal friends that I concluded I might be an asshole for writing what I was thinking. But I know a lot of assholes and I also know I’m not like any of them, so I’m continuing my attempt to explain why what you are seeing, has little resemblance to what the experts are telling you is happening.

The pushback from my earlier posts can all be summed up with “are you an authority? No? STF up then”.  The classic argument for authority response. Turns out I am an authority, I even have a degree (associates but still a degree) in medical technology and had mad, cutting edge, microbiology skills back in 1984. So, from this point forward remember that everything I say comes from a position of authority.

Now look at this:

Graph by John Hinderaker at Powerline

And this:

I believe what we are about to experience demonstrates the limitations of modeling. I have never believed the man-made climate change hysteria because it was based on models. The United States Marine Corps is about to become completely irrelevant as it sheds infantry, tube artillery and attack helicopters in favor of missiles, and that plan is based exclusivly on modeling. The lesson we are all about to learn is that modeling and reality are different things. In reality there are too many unknowns we cannot explain or anticipate that are never captured in computer models.

A relevant example of this can be seen in the reality of our current heavy handed public health measures. The biggest concern of every emergency management official when discussing the implementation of quarantines is public unrest. Yet around the country the public has accepted these extreme measures, have cooperated with authorities, and have caused no unrest (yet). The public unrest may yet surface but to date the American public is handling the destruction of their lives and livelihoods with remarkable equanimity.

What happens in two or three weeks when the crisis we have been told is eminent fails to materialize? What about the citizens who have been ruined by lockdowns and forced closures for a bug that was no worse than a flu bug? How will we look at “the experts” in the future when, once again, they were not a little wrong, but dead wrong about the nature of this pandemic?

The overreaction to this flu should drive a stake through the heart of man made climate change because the models supporting that theory are based on more speculative data then epidemiological models. That may be the only silver lining in this crisis.  I doubt identity politics, political correctness, open borders, and encouraging homelessness have long shelf life now either.  Those are issues of concern for affluent, educated people who have the time and resources to spend a lifetime worrying over shit they can’t change or understand.

I forgot where I found this but it speaks truth to current progressive power

My 1 virus 2 strain theory is surfacing again as people who are not experience virus hunters like myself catch up.  People are starting to understand the Pandemic has failed to materialize outside of New York City and the Pacific Northwest. The fatality rate in those two areas remains low, well below the morbidity and mortality of a regular flu bug. I understand that those numbers can shoot up and the bug suddenly start killing people in Ghenghis Khan type numbers because the New York Times told me so in this nifty graph they made to explain a complex event you cannot see out in flyover country.

What the experts cannot explain is how a virulent pathogen arrived in the country last November but waited until now to start replicating.

Even the Huffpo took a break in their 24/7 Trump Derangement Syndrome outbursts to publish “Is It Possible That You Had The Coronavirus Earlier This Year?” This article mirrors comments I’ve been seeing on Facebook as thousands of people speculate the flu bug that burned through the population in December/January was most likely the Wuhan flu. We will not know if that theory is true until we develop a test for COVID-19 antibodies. But the observations of my fellow citizens matches mine and I have to remind you I am an authority. My 1 virus 2 strain (which I’m unilaterally modifying to a 1 virus multiple strains because of expert reasoning I can’t explain to you damn laymen)  theory has more fact behind it than the NYT’s graph.

I am concerned about the millions of Americans who are stuck at home with no money, no food, no job, and bored children. The measly 1400 bucks that may show up in a few weeks is too little, too late to help them. What happens when the people understand that we have been fooled again by charlatans who will weather the storm they created without a problem or concern in the world? The people who are posing the unreasonable restrictions on every aspect of your life do not have to worry about getting tested, access to a ventilator if they fall ill, not having any money in the bank, or food in the house.  In fact they will make money buying stock at fire sale prices and (of course) rewarding themselves by allocating more tax money to themselves.

This analysis by the ever prescient Kimberly Strassel, writing in the Wall Street Journal, which you can now read because the paywall is down, sums up the new stimulus package nicely:

‘Missing from their list is an important category, which underlines an inescapable fact: Government mostly “Cares” for government. Bills that hand out money are written by appropriators. And appropriators never miss an opportunity to expand departments, agencies, bureaus and commissions. A rough calculation suggests the single biggest recipient of taxpayer dollars in this legislation—far in excess of $600 billion—is government itself. This legislation may prove the biggest one-day expansion of government power ever.”

Talk about never letting a crisis go to waste.

There is good news from this crisis; celebrates, professional athletes, and social influencers are no longer important or relevant. I like that because I find celebrity and pro sports culture unappealing.

Joe Rogan the actor/comedian is now irrelevant, Joe Rogan the podcaster is very relevant.   On the 10th of March he had on Michael Osterholm, an internationaly recognized expert on infectious disease, and the podcast was downloaded 17 million times. It unquestionably freaked out a large proportion of his vast audience. Here are some quotes from the interview:

First of you have to understand the timing of it in the sense that is just beginning and so in terms of what hurt pain suffering death is account happened so far is really just beginning. I think what people don’t quite yet understand and is this really is acting like an influenza virus something that transmits very very easily through the air we now have data to show that you’re infectious before you even get sick….I brought some numbers and we estimate that this could require 48 million hospitalizations, out of 96 million cases actually occurring and  over 480,000 deaths over the next three to seven months with this situation so this is not one that to take lightly.

Seventeen days later do any of those predictions sound likely to you? Granted maybe we dodged the bullet because of the lock downs and social distancing. My expert opinion is that is unlikely, the bug has been here since November and not one expert I know of can explain the curious lack of bilateral pneumonia cases that should be evident around the country given the virulence of the pathogen and delay in its detection (thanks to China, not Trump).

My county in South Texas is now on lock down,  if you leave the house for an unofficial reason and you could be fined 1000 bucks.  We have no Wuhan Virus cases in the county and the “shelter in place order” is scheduled to last two weeks. President Trump said he wanted to get the country back to work by Easter Sunday but we are on lockdown until the day after Easter Sunday….. maybe that is a coincidence, or maybe that is a dig at a President the elites despise, but who is growing more popular with the people by the day…you decide.

For now the only thing we can do is “shelter in place”, cooperate with the authorities and watch out for our neighbors. This is the land of the free which is why we should support our civic leaders but at the same time express our alarm at the destruction of our economy. Arguments from authority are a cowards way out of explaining what is increasingly obvious, cannot be explained.

Apocalypse Not #4: What Now?

I was convinced if the Wuhan Corona Virus was as virulent as advertised we would have already seen evidence of it. My theory that  a nasty strain of flu that swept the Rio Grande Valley last December was the S strain of the Wuhan was a SWAG and we can now see I was wrong. I then thought the data driven analysis explained the lack of an outbreak but that too, has been debunked.

New York City has been hit hard, but at least one hospital, Lennox Hill is using HydroxyChloroquin, and they have yet to lose anyone of the 100 plus cases that they are treating. That is encouraging. Although the number of positive tests for COVID-19 will skyrocket there as testing comes on live there has yet to be a flood of pneumonia patients outside of New York City.

That too is encouraging.

One of the most popular videos in my area on the pandemic  is this one from Dr Emily Porter, an Emergency Medicine physician from Austin, Texas.  In her analysis she assumes a low end infection rate of 45% of the population and then does the math to show how large a catastrophe  that would be.  I’m certain the forecasted numbers have decreased since she made her presentation and I don’t think we are going to see those kinds of numbers. But again I base that on the assumption that we would already be seeing a surge in emergency room admissions for pneumonia. Maybe I’m wrong and we will see a surge in hospitalizations in the coming weeks. I sure hope not.

Tokyo,  despite being one of the most densely populated places on earth, has weathered the Wuhan virus well.  The Japanese success at stopping the virus is an excellent argument for taking our shoes off before we enter the house. It’s not a bad habit to adopt these days.

I can no longer traffic in “Do you know anyone with Wuhan?” meme’s because my friend Smari McCarthy, who lives in Iceland, tested positive. He’s going to be OK which is good news. He reminded me about riding out the Swine Flu epidemic in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in 2009. I don’t have the ingredients for the malaria chai though, that needs some #1 hash ghee and a little tincture of opium and those are in short supply in Texas. Helps to have somebody who knows what they’re doing brewing the stuff too.

Without the malaria chai we are left to do little else but stay off the streets, help our neighbors as need and wait to see what happens.  The President was quoted as saying he will reassess where we are in two weeks and maybe lift the bans as appropriate.

I still suspect we should have isolated the venerable while protecting our economy but future events may well prove me wrong. I’m just encouraged by each new day that arrives without another cluster overwhelming a local hospital system. As long as that continues we’ll be OK, and if it doesn’t continue I think we’ll see Americans, at the community level, coming together to work through the crisis at hand.

For now the only thing to do is stay at home, look after your neighbors and check up on the elderly folks who are not getting out much to see if they need anything.

Apocalypse Not #2 -There are two COVID-19 Strains

My first Apocalypse Not post speculated that the Wuhan Corona Virus had already washed through the continental United States. I based that on my understanding of viral transmission rates combined with the length of time between the arrival of the virus and the start of mitigation efforts.  I had no explanation why the virus had passed through the population without sending massive numbers of Americans to the hospital. I have an explanation now.

On the 3rd of March The Oxford Academic National Science Review published a study titled On the origin and continuing evolution of SARS-CoV-2. An extract from the overview is pasted below:

Population genetic analyses of 103 SARS-CoV-2 genomes indicated that these viruses evolved into two major types (designated L and S), that are well defined by two different SNPs that show nearly complete linkage across the viral strains sequenced to date.

Dr Michael Skinner, Reader in Virology, Imperial College London, explained the findings this way

  • They speculate that the L form might be more ”aggressive” but that is not an adjective we normally apply to viruses, where we talk about transmissibility, fitness, virulence.
  • ”Viruses have to be able to replicate in each sequential host and transmit serially between them. It is quite possible for one form of the virus to be better at replication, another at transmission.

What he is saying is the  L strain is the most aggressive at replication which is why it is a potential killer. The S strain is easily transmittable but less aggressive. The paper went on to note that infection by the S strain provides immunity from the L strain and speculates that only the S strain is transmitted through aerosols.

This would explain the significant lag time between the arrival of the virus and a noticeable surge in hospitalizations. In fact there is still no noticeable surge of hospital admissions for pneumonia in the USA. I just goggled that and found nothing.

There are three facts at play: the first is  the virus arrived in the USA long before the first case was diagnosed. The second is there are two strains; one the is easily transmissible but not deadly and one that is not easily transmissible and very deadly. The third is there have been no reported increase in admissions or deaths from bilateral viral pneumonia.

The current panic being stoked by the legacy media and the actions being taken by  politicians are based off modeling by  highly credentialed  experts. The models have predicted that we are on the brink of a massive surge in hospitalizations due to respiratory complications (bilateral pneumonia). These results have to be taken seriously despite knowing the models have serious limitations.

In response the President has started daily press briefing with his China Virus team and they have been trying to talk down the panic with facts. Dr. Deborah Burke, who has been speaking at the daily press briefing with the President, had this to say about models.

Reporter: “Can you speak to the study predicting as many as 2.2 million people in the United States could die if there were not this kind of action taken by the government”.

Dr Burke: “ So I think you know the models are models and are  based on input and they’re based on infectiousness without any controls. I can tell you we’ve never seen that level of infection modeled up to 2.2 million in mortality… I have dealt with a lot of modelers in my time, they are wonderful people, but they all have their favorite inputs and they all have their favorite integration functions, so we’re evaluating all of those so we can integrate and create the best model for the United States based on the best data.

The State of Texas has now joined the panic and demanded all gyms, restaurants, and bars close. The damage that will done to our economy is incalculable and remember there has been no surge in deaths or hospital admissions reported yet in the USA.

There is no reason to believe the models without seeing evidence that the models are correct. Tweets like the one below are not helping anyone, Dr. Scott Gottlieb has less observable truth behind his tweet then I do with my two strains, no apocalypse theory.

Each day that ends without a reported spike in viral pneumonia deaths should be raising questions. In this era of diminished corporate  media, desperate for clicks and page views, it is difficult to tease out what is important. What is important is an explanation as to why so many senior leaders are taking such drastic action. Is this based solely of computer models and WHO concerns? That is hard to believe but what other explanation is there?

I do not know if the testing being developed for the Wuhan virus can differentiate between the L and S strains. I suspect,  just as Dr Burke has said repeatedly, that the number of reported cases will skyrocket as more testing comes on line. I also suspect that there will be no giant spike in COVID-19 deaths because the COVID-19 S strain has already washed through the population.

Time will tell, but if we don’t see a giant spike in hospital admissions soon we’ll know we have dodged a huge bullet thanks to the hyper competitive nature of Mother Nature. Having a mild flu out-compete a deadly flu for hosts, thereby saving the host reservoir for another day…you can’t make that kind of stuff up.

Apocalypse Not: The Fear of COVID-19 is Unwarranted

There is something about the current Wuhan virus response that is not adding up. The first case appeared in America on 17th of January, we then stopped direct flight from China on the 31st of January. From the time this pathogen surfaced in November until the end of January, there were daily flights from the Wuhan area to Seattle, LA, San Francisco, New York and Toledo, Ohio. This flu strain is unusually virulent and if that is true (which is not in doubt), by the time it surfaced in America it had already spread across the land.

Farr’s Law, named for British epidemiologist William Farr in 1840, states that epidemics, develop and recede according to a bell-shaped curve. This happens with or without human intervention. Farr’s Law undoubtedly is in play for the Wuhan virus.

Last Christmas my wife and several neighbors had a horrible flu bug that mimicked the Wuhan virus symptoms exactly.  She was miserable and did not respond to a Z-pack or a course of Levaquin our family doctor prescribed.

The bug she had was no joke, and when she mentioned my theory that the Wuhan had already washed through the population last Christmas her friends saw it immediately. She started hearing other stories about the Christmas bug that ravaged the Rio Grande Valley for a good four weeks. The stories all matched up to the symptoms for Wuhan virus.

The President’s early attempts to calm the situation were ridiculed as was his suspension of air travel to China. Then the narrative changed on a dime and the cancelations started with, as I recall, the Ivy League Universities leading the way. Once they did that every other major sports league (with the exception of the UFC) did the same.

The various leagues and venues that have closed had no choice, ignoring the experts advice and example would risk a devastating backlash if the Wuhan virus turns out to be as deadly as advertised.

But  Ivy League role in starting the current chain reaction of closing public venues is not a coincidence. The very experts who are on the TV daily had just  staged a Pandemic table top exercise. The response we are seeing is based off the dire predictions made in that exercise.

On the afternoon of Friday, 18 October 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hosted  a Virtual Exercise Called Event 201 and described as:

“a 3.5-hour pandemic tabletop exercise that simulated a series of dramatic, scenario-based facilitated discussions, confronting difficult, true-to-life dilemmas associated with response to a hypothetical, but scientifically plausible, pandemic”.

The pathogen used for the exercise was a COVID virus with properties similar to COVID-19. The exercise predicted that the virus would overwhelm the medical systems in North America resulting in catastrophic loss of life.

Tabletop exercises like Event 201 happen all the time, the fact that this one was played out a month before COVID-19 surfaced in Wuhan China is not that significant. What is significant is how different the current crisis is playing out compared to the one our experts war-gamed.

There were a seven recommendations made following the exercise (they can be found here). Every recommendation focused on the need for international cooperation with the free flow of information and people across national borders which is consistent with the ethos and vision of globalists like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other major donors, like Open Philanthropy .

But our response to the Wuhan virus has been the exact opposite of the “viruses know no borders” narrative of Event 201.  Instead we (and the rest of the world) have closed the borders, rebuffed international offers of help and turned to the private sector to fight the virus ourselves.

The Centers for Disease Control was not up to the task of testing for or tracking the Wuhan virus and they were rapidly sidelined by the President. This was the exact opposite of  Event 201 in which the CDC and every other similar international organization performed flawlessly. The ‘experts” may have been surprised the CDC failed so spectacularly but this is expected from those of us who know and understand government bureaucracies.

When the CDC failed the President  went straight to the private sector, suspended regulations inhibiting the development and production of test kits and protective wear, and solved the testing problem rapidly. He then held a press conference with these Titans of industry and did a good job of calming frayed nerves. After his poor start briefing the nation last Wednesday night watching him get back into the grove was gratifying.

This is not playing out as the experts who ran Event 201 thought. Then, in another move a blatant dishonesty, on the same day that China launches an IO campaign to deflect criticism from them onto the USA, our legacy media decides the Wuhan virus is now to be called COVID-19.  Any mention of the word Wuhan was now racist and news anchors were getting apoplectic about this new muh racism.

As events across the land started to close. Governors and DC mandarins ran to the TV cameras to announce the draconian measures they were going to take. These pronouncements have to moldy scent of Virtue Signalling. The men and women making these decisions have themselves, no skin in the game.  Regardless of how long this lasts or how bad it gets the people running Ivy League institutions, the federal legislatures, state governors and the media infotainment complex insiders – all of them will weather the storm just fine. In fact, most of them will make millions off  low interest rates while buying blue chip stock at a significant markdown.

You and your family? Not so much.

“I don’t claim to know what’s motivating the media, but, my God, their reporting is absolutely reprehensible. They should be ashamed of themselves. They are creating a panic that is far worse than the viral outbreak. The bottom line, everybody, is to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC [Centers of Disease Control and Prevention]. Do what he tells you, and go about your business.… Stop listening to journalists! They don’t know what they are talking about!” Dr. Drew Pinsky commenting on the media yesterday (17 March 2020)

An anonymous  source quoted in The Spectator points out the only salient (and obvious) fact now which is:  “We know the numerator (the number of deaths), but we don’t know the denominator, which is the number of people who have been infected by COVID-19. And without the denominator, we have no way of estimating either the spread or the fatality rate of COVID-19.”

That bothers me and it should bother you too, but at the moment there is nothing to be done except hunker down, avoid panic shopping, and wait to see what happens. How long Americans will tolerate these measures will be interesting to see.

There is no reason to think that this time the experts warnings about a catastrophic event are correct. They have a perfect record of being wrong with every prediction in the past because their models are incapable of predicting complex events reliably.

When the people discover that once again, they were manipulated by a partisan press, compromised academic shills, and virtue signalling politicians there is going to be hell to pay.  When the dust settles maybe we will de-couple science from politics and even dismantle the narrative driving legacy media.

It is time to keep your head down, and your powder dry. Courage and cowardice are contagions and few of our elected leaders seem to operate with an abundance of courage. Their default is finger pointing, name calling, and blame shifting. The rest of us should refrain from that behavior and focus on helping, not panicking our neighbors. When this emergency passes we may be able to hold incompetents to account but for now all we can do is what we do best; refuse to panic.

Light at the End of the Tunnel in Afghanistan

Last week news broke of a possible peace deal in Afghanistan leading to a firestorm of speculation in the media about what’s really going on. The reporting was not consistent but the consensus is the peace deal would call for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict to start next month, an eventual countrywide cease-fire and a commitment from the Taliban not to harbor terrorist groups like al Qaida, while setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

A famous quote incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill dictates “Jaw Jaw is better than War War” (actually he said “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war” which makes more sense ) reinforces this is (potentially)  good news. The devil is in the details and we do not know what “reduction of violence”means to the United States  or “withdrawal of U.S. troops” means to the Taliban.

TheTaliban are not a monolithic organization but several competing factions. We have been dealing with the Quetta Shura who is representing, but cannot speak for, the other players like the Miranshah Shura (primarily the Haqqani Network) or the Peshawar Shura. That being said the Taliban did deliver on an Eid ceasefire agreement last year and that ceasefire held.

Taliban fighters taking selfies with Afghan army troops during Eid ceasefire last year.

We can get a reliable read on what the Taliban considers a reduction of violence in this detailed report from the always reliable Afghan Analysts Network. From the linked report:

Another Pakistani newspaper, quoting an un-named Taleban official, reported that the movement had agreed not to carry out attacks in major cities including Kabul and would not use car bombs and that the Taleban had also offered not to attack US bases and US soldiers, and that they wanted the US to cease air strikes in return. The newspaper said it had learnt “that Khalilzad had urged” the Taleban to agree to more measures, including a halt to IED attacks, but that they did not agree “as they have planted IEDs in many areas and it is difficult for them to remove all [of them].” Furthermore, the paper reported, the US also wanted a pause in Taleban attacks on Afghan government forces’ check posts, “which was also a concern of the Afghan government.”

Senior U.S. military officials (speaking off the recored)  in Afghanistan stressed that U.S. counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida will continue, separate from the truce agreement. This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that ISIS-K in Nangarhar Province has been defeated.

Their fighters have mostly surrendered to the government or gone to ground. There are ISIS-K cells in the north of the country but they are not large or powerful and are in the sights of the same fighters who rid Nangarhar Province of ISIS and those fighters are Taliban.

The counterterrorism mission in the eastern part of Afghanistan has been focused on ISIS-K (Daesh to the locals) for years. Now that ISIS-K is gone the Special Forces teams are flying around the province conducting ‘Key Leadership  Engagements’ like the one I wrote about last week. That occurred in the Sherzad district which is very close to Jalalabad and full of former HiG fighters who have cooperated with the Taliban  on and off over the years. They cooperate mostly because Taliban shadow courts settle land disputes quickly and, they feel, fairly.

The land deed office for Nangarhar Province – some of these documents are hundreds of years old

The time for our SF troops and the Afghans varsity Commandos to be running around district centers meeting with key elders seems long past. The local elders know all about the dysfunctional government in Kabul and are not going to be convinced it has their interests at heart until the government  demonstrates it.

With ISIS-K on the ropes trying to separate Taliban connected fighters from al Qaida will be problematic. The remaining senior al Qaida leaders have successfully gone to ground inside the tribal areas of Pakistan and have no need to move anywhere. al Qaida has a presence at Taliban training camps and may even run a few but I have no doubt the Taliban understand the consequences of allowing them to use their territory  for international Jihad.

If there no independent al-Qaida formations so if you go after them you are still going after the Taliban.

The incident rate in Afghanistan has plummeted this year. Some of this is due to the pounding the Taliban have taken from American air attacks which increased dramatically in 2019. Some of this can also be attributed to the Taliban winding down operations as the peace talks continued. The stats below come from The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

This is from The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) – note the sudden steep drop in incident rates as we move into 2020

Time will tell but it seems that the end to American involvement in Afghanistan is near. But if you pull all the training support mission out and leave a Special Forces task force to continue hunting “al-Qaida and ISIS” it will test, if not break, the fragile peace. We need to pull everyone out and let the Afghans settle things themselves. Continuing night raids and killing bad guys in Afghanistan does not reduce any threats to our homeland. It’s time to admit that and act accordingly.

It’s Groundhog Day for Afghansitan

Fellow Afghanistan Free Ranger Dr. Keith Rose released a podcast the other day describing where we are now in Afghanistan as Ground Hog Day. The people of Afghanistan are talking a beating with no end on the horizon which is 180 degrees out from where I thought they would be when I flew into Kabul in 2005.

Using Keith’s analysis as a point of departure (it’s a great podcast) there are some dynamics in play with Afghanistan that need require emphasis as our involvement continues. Fans of the international hit podcast The Lynch/Kenny Hour on All Marine Radio have heard Jeff, Mac and I talk about our campaign in AF/PAK  at length using blunt terms that sound harsh to those not familiar with infantry guy talk.

As I pointed out last week, that podcast (and this blog) have a ton of Afghan fans who know me. Afghans do not communicate with each other in blunt, no- BS terms, but I know they appreciate it when we do. Nothing will freak out Afghan project managers more then saying the word “inshallah” at the conclusion of a discussion about a scheduled payday.

Blunt fact number one is our stated reason for remaining in Afghanistan is an obvious fabrication. The US Government has consistently maintained we have to stay to make sure al-Qeada does not come back, establish training camps, and conduct terrorist deprivations on the international community from safe havens in Afghanistan.

The fact is they already have training camps in Afghanistan, we took out “Probably the largest” one in Kandahar province back in 2015. The leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri has had a safe haven in Pakistan since 2001, and has now (obviously) drone proofed his lifestyle. Why would he leave Miranshah to live in Khost or Kandahar?  The international airport in Peshawar is much nicer than any airport in Afghanistan, it is served by more international airlines (including Emirates, my favorite), and it services more destinations. Who in their right mind would fly Kam Air Kabul to Dubai when you can fly Emirates from Peshawar and rack up the sky miles?

Ayman Al-Zawahir and bin Laden in a file photo released in 2002. I would bet big money (based on the finger behind them) is on the Jbad this photo was taken on the Jbad-Kabul road just west of the old Soviet hydro dam  outside Jalalabad.  There was an al Qaeda training camp out that way (ISAF still uses it and calls it Gamberi)

You are thinking terrorist don’t use sky miles but I must point out the largest covert operation ever launched by CIA agents (not contractors which is the norm) was compromised because the agents used their covert ID to fly into Italy but had used their own credit cards to book the flights and hotels. That’s the CIA who are supposed to be high speed and low drag – the Taliban has to be worse on the operational security vs. sky miles test.

Blunt fact number two is that the American people in general, and her military veterans specifically, believe we have done more than our fair share to give Afghanistan a chance, and they blew it, so the hell with them. Clearly President Trump is looking for a way out and is willing to do almost anything (to include inviting former Gitmo detainees to Camp David for a round of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’)  to end our commitments in the region. President Trump has said we are not getting any return on our considerable investments and asks why should we stay in Afghanistan or Pakistan?

The reasons to remain in the region are no doubt varied and complex but the fact is that as long as we have thousands of servicemen, along with thousands more internationals in the country, we have to keep funding the government in Kabul. The next round of international funding is in 2020 and the funds are tied to anticorruption metrics that have not been met. If the international money pipeline closed suddenly how do you think the tens of thousands of internationals would get out of the country as the government folds and the security services crumble?

That is a scenario you don’t have to worry about because the specter of Gandamak II will keep funding going indefinitely. Nothing terrifies western government politicians more than the slaughter of their citizens for which their accountability is unavoidable. The Taliban will continue to attack both military and civilian targets because they are terrorists and that is what terrorists do. The Taliban no longer resembles the popular uprising of the religiously righteous in the face of anarchy. They are now narco-terrorists first, Islamic Jihadi’s second, and Afghan nationalists (maybe) third.

TheTaliban were once competent enough to protect the people of Afghanistan from anarchic violence, but they are now the source of anarchic violence. Tyrannical rule is bad, but chaos is worse and there are many Afghans who have lived through both. The Afghan people will side with the side that delivers them from chaos; especially if that side is committed to keeping Pakistan the hell out of the country.

That is the other great unknown; what happens to the safe havens in Pakistan when the Taliban cut a deal with us? The Afghan Taliban claim to be their own movement but they are Pakistan’s puppets just as sure as the government Kabul is America’s. In fact it is obvious Pakistan exerts more direct control over the Taliban then America has ever been able to establish in Kabul. For the past 50 years the Taliban have been Pakistan’s bitch.

The investment in Afghanistan’s human capitol came from every corner of the globe to include Burning Man

America no longer has the stomach for staying in Afghanistan but that’s too bad; we’re not going anywhere for the reasons outlined above. So how does this end? I have no idea but I’m a fan of the Afghan people and I believe they can, and will, sort things out given time and space. It is arguable if our  continued meddling is helping, but that is irrelevant now.  We aren’t leaving and are incapable of staying without meddling, so there it is.

Groundhog Day

We (the international community) have made serious investments in Afghanistan’s human capitol. We have no idea how that is going to pay off in the long run. There are plenty of smart, dedicated, tough Afghans who want nothing to do with Taliban rule (but aren’t too thrilled with us either).  Inshallah they will prove decisive at some point in the future.

There is one known (in my mind) regarding Afghanistan and that is the Taliban will never rule that country again. Their day has passed and they are now little more than petty narco traffickers with mortars and a ton of machine-guns. They no longer have a route to legitimacy as a governing entity but it may years before they figure this out on their own. In the meantime…..Groundhog Day.

Digging for Truth in the Age of Fake News

I have articulated a theory based on two known facts concerning the loss of our newest national hero, Droney McDroneface, to Iran last month. I based my theory from two known facts; the drone that was shot down was a demonstration model for a program that has been completed. It was, to the pentagon, an expendable asset, and it was shot down four days after arriving in theater.

To buttress my speculation I have  been searching the news for more information the cyber attack. What I have found was not what I was looking for.

First up is the New York Times and I have the perfect cartoon to set this up:

On February 13th the New York Times published this article: U.S. Revives Secret Program to Sabotage Iranian Missiles and Rockets.  The article was based on the current failure rate of Iranian orbital missile launches as seen in the graphic below:

The article states that the CIA has been running a program for years targeting the supply chain for Iranian missile components. It  implied that allies such as Great Britain, France and Germany are cooperating with us on this program. There is something the observant professional knows to be true, but is rarely written about, and that is the CIA’s use of leaks to disseminate misinformation. when I read a story saying the CIA has gotten dozens of  parts manufacturers, in Europe (where the CIA is less popular than President Trump), to insert flawed parts into a supply chain,  I am skeptical.

The CIA historical record regarding human intelligence is spotty at best. An intelligence operation involving some many different people, firms, governments and international organizations would be an extraordinary achievement requiring  extraordinary evidence to be considered  believable.

Who needs to sabotage supply chains when you have Droney McDroneface?

Then I noted the insertion of legacy media spin as fact to enhance the believability of the story. Here is an example:

When Mr. Pompeo arrived at the C.I.A., there was relatively little nuclear activity underway in Iran. Most of Tehran’s centrifuges had been dismantled under the 2015 agreement, and 97 percent of the country’s nuclear fuel had been shipped to Russia.

There is not a shred of evidence to back that claim. The United States (and the UN) have no idea where the 8.5 tons of enriched Iranian Uranium, reportedly turned over to Russia, is currently located. Hit this link and you can watch youtube footage of Ambassador Stephen Mull, the Obama administration’s State Department lead coordinator on Iran, tell the house exactly that back when he was testifying before congress.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to tease facts from the media narrative.  The New York Times does some excellent, in depth reporting, but they have often been accused of publishing damaging national security secrets. Everyone in the game knows this, and it is another reason to doubt their sources are intentionally revealing real secrets. If I were concerned with information operations for the United States Government the first thing I would do is establish a reliable back channel feed to the New York Times. That way I could get them to print deception pieces when I needed that done. It’s not like it’s hard to get a bite from the press these days; any Orange Man Bad angle will do.

Digging deeper into the mystery of Cyber Warfare I turned to my facebook buddy and managing editor of the Lima Charlie website, John Sjoholm who just published Cyber Warfare Now – Tales From the Digital Battlefield.  John is a former Swedish Army Ranger as well as a contractor who I consider a trustworthy source, particularly in the cyber warfare realm.

John had some awesome graphics, like this one in his piece. There is some serious evil afoot in the cyber warfare world.

I was working my way briskly through the piece thinking it was great stuff (and it is an excellent read that I recommend highly) when I ran into this:

One of the premier Russian hacker signatures, Guccifer 2.0 has been tied to the GRU as well. Guccifer 2.0 became known for the so-called “DNC Hack”, the 2016 Democratic National Committee email theft which appeared on Wikileaks.

In March 2018, details from the Mueller investigation leaked attesting that Guccifer 2.0 was in fact a collective of persons working for GRU’s Unit 26165 and Unit 74455. This after server logs revealed that on at least one occasion someone utilising the Guccifer 2.0 persona had failed to activate a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to obfuscate his IP address. It was then revealed to investigators that his connection originated from a computer at the GRU headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow.

I don’t know John well enough to know his political leanings (if any) and I acknowledge that the Muller report may well make this claim. What I also know, for a fact, is the data breach on the DNC server was an inside job. The data transfer rates were too high. The narrative has always ignored this point which is how it finds it way into legitimate reporting by guys like John. This is from the website  Knowledge is Good:

The time stamps contained in the released computer files’ metadata establish that, at 6:45 p.m. July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes (not megabits) of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. This took 87 seconds, which means the transfer rate was 22.7 megabytes per second, a speed, according to VIPS, that “is much faster than what is physically possible with a hack.” Such a speed could be accomplished only by direct connection of a portable storage device to the server. Accordingly, VIPS concluded that the DNC data theft was an inside job by someone with physical access to the server.

The truth is that Muller and the FBI never examined the DNC servers and have no idea what was or was not on them. The reporting concerning the data breach was done by a firm hired by the DNC. My assumption is whoever included the time stamp did not realize that it invalidated everything that followed regarding “Lucifer 2.0.”. But it did, and it is the one fact that cannot be explained away, so the narrative moves on knowing full well their story is false, but that you won’t care because Orange Man Bad.

For two years and counting the American public debate has been focused, by our media and elites, on a story concocted out of thin air, and paid for by the DNC, concerning the legitimacy of our elected President. While that has been happening our economy, stock markets,  and jobs have grown while federal taxes dropped. North Korea is not launching missiles over Japan or South Korea. Iran’s missile control systems are crippled, the European powers are escorting their own tankers through the Persian Gulf. Which caused the Iranian President to accuse the United Kingdom of being “scared” of Iran’s military prowess.

Things appear to be on a positive trend which defies the predictions of imminent doom, by our credentialed elites, featured prominently in the recent resignation of the British Ambassador to America. The reason President Trump is so popular with the American people is he is not a politician or one of the credentialed elite. He is getting things down while pissing off all the right people.

For progressives virtue signalling has replaced civic virtue. This is how open borders and giving free health care and a college education to any person in the world who wants to come here becomes acceptable rhetoric.