American Consequences - February 2020

The Center Cannot Hold: Is there any way out of this Big Government mess? From New Hampshire to a wave of anti-Second Amendment legislation... escaping from Japan and China's coronavirus lies... the latest saber rattling in the Middle East and Mitt Romney's turncoat vote – we've got it all in this month's magazine.

In War, Revenge Equals Destruction

Virginia Today, Your State Next

How to Escape From Japan



E D I T E D B Y P . J . O ’ R O U R K E

F EBRUARY 2 0 2 0



A man who’s met a specific company’s Chairman and attended every annual meeting for the past 20+ years predicts this stock could double your money over the long run if you get in as soon as possible. His name is Whitney Tilson – a former $200 million money manager who knows more about this stock than almost anyone outside the company itself. And for a limited-time, he’s sharing little-known information on why this stock could be a huge winner , beginning this year. Keep in mind: Tilson is a Wall Street legend. He bought Apple at $1.50, Amazon at $56, Netflix at $7.78, McDonald’s

at $15… has appeared on 60 Minutes (twice), Fox Business , and CNBC – who once called him “The Prophet” for the accuracy of his predictions. Already, 5 different billionaires reached out to him to get direct access to Whitney’s insights and what he is sharing right now. If you have any money to put to work, we urge you to see what Whitney is saying about this immediate buy opportunity right now. For a limited time, Whitney is giving this stock idea away to the public at no charge. But we’ll likely take this information down soon. Take a moment while you can to access the full details here .




52 74



32 70

4 Inside This Issue

46 Socialism, Lies, and Coronavirus BY KIM ISKYAN



6 Letter From the Editor BY P.J. O'ROURKE

52 Leap Day: Fixing the Faults in Our Stars BY JAMES HETRICK 56 The Romance of a $200k Phone Call BY P.J. O'ROURKE

Editor in Chief: P.J. O’Rourke Editorial Director: Carli Flippen Publisher: Steven Longenecker Executive Editor: Buck Sexton Managing Editor: Laura Greaver Creative Director: Erica Wood Contributing Editors:

12 From Our Inbox

16 Found at Sea: Iran Has

Hundreds of Naval Mines BY PROPUBLICA

61 The $30 Fix for Your Love Life BY DR. DAVID EIFRIG

23 U.S. to Iraq: ‘Vote All You Want, We’re Not Leaving!’ BY DR. RON PAUL

64 Where Our Trust in News Lives BY SALENA ZITO

Bill Bonner, Dr. David Eifrig, Dan Ferris, Nick Giambruno, James Hetrick, Kim Iskyan, Jesse Kelly, Ron Paul, Stephen Roach, Nouriel Roubini, John Stossel, Salena Zito Cartoon Director: Frank Stansberry General Manager: Jamison Miller Advertising:

26 In War, Revenge Equals Destruction BY BILL BONNER

67 Everything on Demand BY JOHN STOSSEL

32 Financial Markets' Iran Delusion BY NOURIEL ROUBINI

70 A Global EconomyWithout a Cushion BY STEPHEN ROACH

36 Virginia Today, Your State Next BY JESSE KELLY 40 How to Escape From Japan BY DAN FERRIS

Ricky D'Andrea, Jill Peterson Editorial feedback: feedback@

74 The Third Oil Shock Is Coming BY NICK GIAMBRUNO

78 The Final Word


American Consequences



T he freedoms that you hold dear are disappearing. Common sense is a pejorative. And America will be unrecognizable a few years from now if about half the nation gets its way. Is there any way out of this Big Government mess that we’ve found ourselves in? Editor in chief P.J. O’Rourke begins with a look at the 2020 election while on the ground Amendment legislation happening in Virginia right now could be coming to your state next. Dan Ferris details how you, too, can escape Japan if you’re being prosecuted by the government... provided you have $20 million and Green Beret connections. Our globe-trotting financial analyst Kim Iskyan hits the nail on the head with his essay predicting that China’s coronavirus numbers are completely skewed. Since he originally published that essay, the New York Times has wholly supported Kim’s forecast. And don’t forget that we have an extra day this February... physics professor James Hetrick looks to the stars for the reasons behind “Leap Day” and opines on a new potential global holiday. We expose our softer side with two Valentine’s Day reads: P.J. O’Rourke shares how a $200,000 phone call resulted in a happy marriage and two children... while Dr. David Eifrig goes “down market” to find a cheaper, $30 love-life solution. from the New Hampshire primary. Jesse Kelly warns that the anti-Second

Stephen Roach notes that the world economy is much more vulnerable to all-too-frequent shocks – running at full speed without a cushion. Salena Zito reports from Small Town, U.S.A., about the difference between local news and national news. And John Stossel uses Blockbuster to show why central planning never works. Don’t miss our multi-part exploration about the latest saber-rattling from the Middle East and what might happen next... • Iran Has Hundreds of Naval Mines – But U.S. Minesweepers Find Dishwashers and Car Parts by Robert Faturechi, Megan Rose, and T. Christian Miller • U.S. to Iraq: ‘Vote All You Want, We’re Not Leaving’ by Dr. Ron Paul • In War, Revenge Equals Destruction by Bill Bonner • Financial Markets’ Iran Delusion by Nouriel Roubini • The Third Oil Shock Is Coming by Nick Giambruno And to wrap up our issue, Buck Sexton pulls no punches when discussing why Mitt Romney became the first senator in history to vote to remove a president of his own party. We’ve uploaded a PDF suitable for printing to our archive page. And tell us what you think at feedback@ Regards, Steven Longenecker Publisher, American Consequences


February 2020



The Dow Could Hit 30,000 Five Years Ahead of Schedule. It Won’t Stop There. -Barron’s

Something bizarre is happening in the financial markets right now. The Dow is approaching 30,000 for the first time in history. And the mainstream media is flooded with mixed messages on where this epic rally is headed next. But there’s one story they aren’t covering . You see, there’s an alarming reason why stocks are hitting record highs today. And according to Finance PhD Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, it could be catastrophic for Americans who don’t know what’s coming. Dr. Sjuggerud has gained national attention for accurately predicting some of the most important financial events of the 21st century…

Including the dotcom crash of 2000, the gold boom in 2003, and DOW 20,000 in 2013. As a result, he’s been profiled by Bloomberg, Fox Business News, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. (He’s even rung the bell at the New York Stock Exchange – three times.) He says that 2020 will usher in a stock market event unlike anything else in his 25-year career: “The next few months will take everyone you know by surprise – your friends… kids… neighbors. There will be a winning side, and a losing side. Now is when you decide which side you’re on.” Dr. Sjuggerud just issued an urgent warning to the American public, explaining what’s about to happen and how you can prepare. You can hear it for yourself right here .

From Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke



February 2020




ernie did get the most votes, but it was clear that Democratic voters were looking for someone less flagrantly obnoxious to the general electorate than a “progressive” Democrat. The two self-described progressives, Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, got a combined 34.9% of the vote (25.7% for Sanders, 9.2% for Warren). The “moderate” Democrats – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden – got a combined 52.6% of the vote (24.4% for Buttigieg, 19.8% for Klobuchar, 8.4% for Biden). I’ve already come up with the yard sign for their campaign against Trump: BUTTIGIEG-KLOBUCHAR You Can’t Stand Him You Can’t Say Us The trouble is that there actually weren’t any moderates in the race. Every Democratic candidate who ran is a danger to America. And I don’t say this out of partisan ill-will.

I’m all in favor of Americans having a lively, continuing liberal-conservative debate. What can government do/not do? This argument makes our system work. It’s been going on since the American story began with the disagreement between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were political bedfellows until they both got up on the wrong side of the bed. I had an aunt and uncle like that. During their entire marriage, they only had one fight. It began at the wedding reception and lasted well past their 50th anniversary. Both sides have good points to make. (I mean liberals and conservatives, not my aunt and uncle.) Conservatives are right that we don’t want the government to be our mother. If the government were our mother, it would take an act of Congress, a cabinet department, and an enormous Washington bureaucracy to change a diaper. And federal “Pampers Police” probably wouldn’t notice the smell until the kid was 22.

American Consequences



Bernie Sanders is the, so to speak, most promising of the candidates. He’ll promise you anything. I went to a Bernie rally at Keene State University. It was the most crowded primary event I attended and very enthusiastic... especially by New Hampshire standards where, every four years, we feel like a cheap motel with a bedbug infestation of presidential hopefuls putting the bite on us. It was a school, so half of those “Feeling the Bern” were kids at the “easy believey” stage of gullible youth. They applauded loudest for Bernie’s promise to make school tuition free. The other half of the Bernie supporters looked like they were still on the outskirts of Max Yasgur’s farm, waiting for free admission to Woodstock. Bernie began promising and just couldn’t quit. (I will not stoop to make a pun on his initials, B.S.) He promised a minimum wage of “at least” $15 an hour, equal pay for men and women, a doubling of the number of unionized jobs, higher education for all, and lower education too, with no teacher making less than $50,000 a year, and childcare for children “ages zero to four.” (Although I think childcare for age zero will be tricky because at age zero the child isn’t there.) And Bernie promised “Justice.” He had a long list of all the different kinds of it: 1. Social Justice (I would have been able to get a date in high school.)

On the other hand, to give liberals their due, we don’t want to go back to the era before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the era before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. In those days, innocent people suffered from gross discrimination. And they were the lucky ones... who survived drinking the poisonous patent medicines and eating the tainted beef. But the days of rational argument seem to be over. I spent the last week here in New Hampshire covering the Democratic primary. When it comes to the American story of having a lively, continuing liberal-conservative debate, the Democrats have lost the plot. The argument “What can government do/not do?” depends on that little auxiliary verb can , meaning “to know how to, to be able to, to be at all likely to.” Government does not know how to, is not able to, and hasn’t the slightest likelihood of making you faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. But that’s what the “progressive” Democratic candidates are promising. The “moderate” Democratic candidates are more... moderate. They promise to make you faster than a Little League knuckle ball, more powerful than a Prius, and able to jump up and down with joy if they get elected president.


February 2020

2. Economic Justice (Maybe a maximum wage of $15 an hour. Although those teachers with $50k salaries would have to put in 65- hour workweeks to earn it.) 3. Racial Justice (As in the 2020 presidential race? I doubt Bernie will be pleased if he gets his just deserts there.) 4. Environmental Justice (Penguins in the jury box.) Then, Bernie seemed to leave the known universe. Getting carried away with his endorsement of the Green New Deal, he voiced a hope that his administration could “reach out to China, Russia, India, Pakistan, the Middle East” and a bunch of other countries that hate our and each other’s guts, so that the $1.8 trillion that is spent annually on weapons could be applied to fighting global climate change. This gave pause to even Bernie’s biggest fans, who looked toward the podium as if to say, “What planet are you from, Senator?” Unfortunately, it’s the same planet all the other New Hampshire Democratic primary candidates are from, even if they were less obvious about playing the lead character in “My Favorite Martian.” Elizabeth Warren’s platform is cobbled together out of the same splintery soapbox of wood and nails-through-the-heart-of-the-American- economy as Bernie’s. And she delivered her message in such a scolding tone that Bernie looked cuddly by comparison – like Statler or Waldorf in the Muppets theatre balcony.

Pete Buttigieg’s programs and policies are slightly more modestly scaled than Bernie’s and Elizabeth’s... but not really different. Pete claims there’s a difference – he’s figured out how to pay for his programs and policies. (By raising taxes, which, oddly enough, is the same way the other candidates will pay for theirs.) Amy Klobuchar is, likewise, offering a sort of “Progressive Portion Control” – everything that the left says it will heap your plate with, but no second helpings. Her claim is that she’ll be able to accomplish this through bipartisanship, working with the people on the other side of the aisle. Senator Klobuchar’s rating numbers from advocacy groups on both sides of that aisle cast some doubt on the matter: American Conservative Union – 5% Americans for Prosperity – 5% Club for Growth – 5% Americans for Tax Reform – 0% Americans for Democratic Action – 90% N.O.W. – 100% NARL – 100% National Right to Life Committee – 0% NRA – “F”

This gave pause to even Bernie’s biggest fans, who looked toward the podium as if to say, “What planet are YOU from, Senator?”

American Consequences



Joe Biden expressed his moderation at the February 7 Democratic Candidate Debate at St. Anselm College. Joe did so once by blurting out, “ How much is it going to cost?! ” in response to Bernie’s Medicare-for-All. Biden spent the rest of the debate (and the rest of his New Hampshire campaign) touting his experience in the as-progressive-as-it- could-get-away-with Obama administration. “I was part of every major initiative,” he said, and he kept repeating, “I was there!” He was there – carrying Obama’s luggage, going to get coffee, hiding Barack’s cigarettes from Michelle. (Joe’s “I was there” message won him 5th place in the New Hampshire primary and quickly turned into “I’m not here” when he made an early exit to South Carolina.) Meanwhile, at the debate, George Stephanopoulos asked the candidates, “Is anyone concerned about a Democratic Socialist at the head of the ticket?” Seven deer were frozen in the headlights. Finally, Amy Klobuchar raised a tentative hand. Then, in as close to making a joke as the man ever gets, Bernie raised his. “Is anyone concerned about a Democratic Socialist at the head of the ticket?” Seven deerwere frozen in the headlights.

Andrew Yang said, “Technological progress obliviates the capitalism/socialism dichotomy.” Elizabeth Warren went off on a tangent about corruption. Pete Buttigieg said, “The word ‘socialism’ has lost its sting. I’m not interested in labels.” Then Pete said that all the candidates were there “to galvanize, not polarize.” And the subject was dropped. Although later on in the evening, Tom Steyer (who’d get 3.6% of the vote) praised all the Democratic candidates several times, saying that each was a great improvement on Donald Trump. “Everyone on stage feels the same way,” said Tom. And Amy did not protest. But let me return to the subject of a lively, continuing liberal-conservative debate. There’s no one to debate with in this field of Democrats. They are all so far out in the left field of liberalism that they’ve leapt the ballpark fence and are on their way to the Politburo for a meeting of the Supreme Soviet. Maybe Mike Bloomberg would be the exception. But, with Mike’s stop-and-frisk comments coming to light, he’s doing a good job of shooting himself in the foot while his foot is in his mouth as far as Democratic primary voters are concerned. The winner of the New Hampshire Democratic primary wasn’t Bernie Sanders... But the loser was you.


February 2020


Before You and Your Family Gets Displaced, See this... Why American Families Are Moving to Safer Ground

Displacement of families is taking its toll on Americans…

So what exactly are Americans suddenly running from? Self-proclaimed radical socialist lawmakers want “big government” to run the country and stifle liberty and freedom, and wage war on hard-working Americans and families. And there’s nothing President Trump can do to stop it. This shocking video reveals why President Trump is helpless right now, and how socialism will be forced on you and your family overnight. In fact, you MUST protect yourself, your family, and what’s left of your wealth and assets — starting now. See this tell-all message. It’s your key to “safer ground.”

Pretty soon you may have to pack furniture, clothes, important documents, the dog, and whatever else you have and just move… You’ll have to say goodbye to family and friends, your church, and neighborhood. Why the rush to move? American families are making the pilgrimage to safer ground... For example, a former Navy officer picked up his entire family and ran to a “safe” state. Then there’s Tom S., who’s about to turn his back on his neighborhood, for life, and make the pilgrimage with his family to safety. Adrien K. and her husband made the move as well, just like thousands of other Americans.

CLICK HERE to watch the full video


Reading a book about the Soong Dynasty, (Chinese 20th Century). Came across some interesting info regarding Sun [Yat-sen], just a reference in passing, about 1918 to 1925. In order to get money for his revolution, Dr. Sun contacted just about every government in the world. One contact was with Russia and a Russian named Borodin. Borodin assisted with security and other items. Security meant discipline. Soviet discipline was the responsibility of the “Cheka”, (forerunner of KGB). The Cheka was run by Leon Trotsky and they developed the “Red Terror.” During the Terror, Cheka agents shot, drowned, bayonetted and beat to death about 500,000 people in Russia, all authorized by the socialist-communist party. – Ted F. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Ted, two lessons here, both applicable to politics everywhere. 1. Be careful when you ask other countries to “help” you. (CC Donald J. Trump #Ukraine) 2. Be wary of all revolutionaries. Making an entire society revolve 180 degrees always leads to a lot of people getting rolled over and crushed. Re: If No One Has to Work, No One Will Isn’t it obvious that you cannot take from some (productive) and give to others without the productive people stopping to produce. They are truly pushing for an Atlas Shrugged moment. – Paul K. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Paul, I always thought Ayn Rand’s ideas about America were a bit

Re: Our Newest Readers Weigh In

Great magazine. I remember laughing to P.J. O’Rourke’s writing while reading National Lampoon back when I was a teen. Great to see that, even after all these years, he is still whipsmart laugh out loud funny. I look forward to each issue and the free thinking information it brings from each writer. Kudos. – Tom D. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Thanks, Tom. Humor writing has been a blessing to me. What I remember from back when I was a teen was being laughed at . Not that I meant to be funny... I meant to be cool. Apparently my attempts to be cool were hilarious. Fortunately, the National Lampoon came along and gave me a chance to be funny on purpose. “If enough people call you a horse’s ass, saddle up and ride out of town.” Love the stuff you put out there about diet and life choices for healthy living. Thank you!!! – Kathleen E. Dr. David Eifrig comment: Thanks for the kind words, Kathleen. I’ve always said that without your health, wealth is meaningless. That’s why I spend so much time keeping up on the latest in health-related news and giving out common sense advice from how to start sleeping better to the heavy cost of taking drugs like Lipitor. I’m always happy to hear when a reader is able to apply that advice to their own life.


February 2020

$1,000 monthly income from the government are also likely to volunteer to fight fires. As for equating an honest job with slavery – we all could use more time outside the workplace, but you’re not literally chained to your desk, right? Re: Socialism, Lies, and Coronavirus What is China driving at concerning the inability to release full details of how deadly the virus is? Or the level to which the virus is spread in China? Can we say that the government of China poses a threat to the health of the world at large by not revealing the true statistics of the rate of the spread of [coronavirus]? Thanks American Consequences for the updates. – Ayoola O. Kim Iskyan comment: Thanks for your question, Ayoola. I think it’s sometimes easy to forget that governments everywhere are made up of lots of individuals, each of whom wants to be perceived in the best possible light... And sometimes they’ll embellish the truth or sugar- coat something dire in order to keep (or improve) their standing in the eyes of others.

pessimistic. But now she’s starting to sound like a little ray of sunshine around the house. It can’t work it won’t work you have to work for everything to work! – Rad L. Steven Longenecker comment: Rad, we love it. You’ve got a future thinking up political slogans! Not working people will benefit our society by providing services to the community that have always been highly regarded: volunteer firemen, church support, caring for elders, and other important duties in life. We are facing a crisis in overproduction and are drowning in our own garbage! There are many ways to spend our time other than creating more garbage. Time is our most valuable commodity and spending time outside of enslavement would improve the world for everyone. – Claudia J. Steven Longenecker comment: Claudia, I applaud your optimism. But I doubt very much that the folks who stop working when they’re paid a


American Consequences



We fear that our democracy is coming apart at the seams due to partisanship, ideology and issue/identity politics. – Lester L. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Lester, what I like to call us concerned citizens is “Militant Moderates.” (See, Mack, told you I’d steal it.) We’re sick of being stuck between the “Gimmies” and the “Gotchas,” tired of a political system where one side doesn’t know about “Please” and the other side has never heard of “Thank you.” Re: Welcome to the End of Hong Kong Thanks for the interesting piece on Hong Kong. A few months ago I took down a copy of Jefferson’s autobiography (short thank God). One thing struck me as very relevant to Hong Kong’s situation: he mentioned that in the forming of the first committees of correspondence between the various colonies to deflect the King’s increased predations the initial grievance was one brought up by Rhode Island, well before the contentious Stamp Act: a demand by the British government that Rhode Islanders accused of a crime be extradited to Great Britain to stand trial, rather than be judged in a local Rhode Island court. Almost an exact parallel to Hong Kong today. This was quite a few years before the Boston Tea Party, the initial shooting skirmish at Concord and full blown war. Of little things are sometimes born greater. I’m not saying that such an apparently tangential matter as a threat of extradition could eventually unravel a mighty government... but stranger

We can’t automatically assume that the many people who make up the Chinese government are telling the truth. The hospital worker or the local councilman each have their own interests that may not overlap with those of the rest of the world... which is to know as much as possible about, in this case, the spread of the Wuhan virus. Of course, this isn’t only true in China... We can look to the U.S. and point to coverups like the Tuskegee experiments, the Pentagon Papers, and the Afghanistan Papers. People may have different reasons to obscure reality... But the fact remains that people often don’t tell the truth. And governments, consequently, don’t either (even if they want to!). We don’t know, and we can’t know, whether it’s the highest levels of the Chinese government that’s covering things up... or whether it’s that they’re just not receiving correct information. Re: We Need a Political System That Isn’t So Sure of Itself Yo, PJ. We are called Militant Moderates. Welcome to the club! – Mack R. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Thank you, Mack, for my membership card! And, by the way, I am so going to steal the phrase “Militant Moderates.” Great piece! Kudos! We are concerned citizens worried about the world and country our children and grandchildren will live in.


February 2020

P.J. O’Rourke comment: Mike, we are biased at American Consequences – biased against all politicians. One of the reasons for our bias is that every president takes the credit for a good economy and blames a bad economy on the president before him. Public opinion tends to follow suit. Being that we at AmCon are members of the public too, we sometimes fall into the same trap of talking about “The Obama economy” and “The Trump economy” as if they controlled it. They didn’t and they don’t. We the people control the economy. Sometimes we make bad choices. But, that said, the worst choice we could ever make is to let politicians actually control the economy. You wrote: “Wages for rank-and-file workers are rising at the quickest pace in more than a decade, even faster than for bosses, a sign that the labor market has tightened sufficiently to convey bigger increases to lower-paid employees.” Not where I live. People are working two to three jobs just to cover basic expenses. Basic expenses like, you know, rent? – Bob R. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Bob, note the wording in what you quote. “Bigger increases” doesn’t mean “big enough.” And I sure do know about rent. One of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes, had a brief and brilliant poem about it: I wish the rent Was heaven sent .

things have happened (few believed the Colonies could separate from the mother country at the time). – Mark N. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Mark, an A+ in American History for you! And an excellent point (borne out in the long part of the Declaration on Independence nobody ever reads), that the American Revolution was based on a perception that the British government was gradually impinging on the previously well-established rights of Americans. Alas, the fact that the protests in Hong Kong have a happy precedent doesn’t ensure a happy outcome for Hong Kong’s residents. True, Britain was a bigger power than the 13 colonies. But not that much bigger. The population of Britain in 1776 was about 8 million while the colonies had about and a half million people. Mainland China has a population of 1.3 billion versus Hong Kong’s mere 7.4 million. Another major factor: Distance between Philadelphia and London, 3,539 miles. Distance between Hong Kong and China, none. Re: If You Can’t Get a Job Now... Watch Out for the Next Recession You reel off stats on the current economy “under Trump” and the prior economy “under Obama.” As if Trump is managing us to greatness. And as if all the good things about the ‘previous’ economy were irrelevant other than the unemployment rate. Your pro- Trump and anti-Obama bias is staggering. Seems you have already forgotten what was going on in 2008. – Mike B.

Send us a message, question, or criticism at feedback@

American Consequences





February 2020

IRAN HAS HUNDREDS OF NAVAL MINES. U.S. NAVY MINESWEEPERS FIND OLD DISHWASHERS AND CAR PARTS. As tensions heat up in the Persian Gulf, the Navy’s minesweeping fleet may once again be called into action, but its sailors say the ships are too old and broken to do the job. “We are essentially the ships that the Navy forgot.” By Robert Faturechi, Megan Rose, and T. Christian Miller

The U.S. Navy officer was eager to talk. He’d seen his ship, one of the Navy’s fleet of 11 minesweepers, sidelined by repairs and maintenance for more than 20 months. Once the ship, based in Japan, returned to action, its crew was only able to conduct its most essential training – how to identify and defuse underwater mines – for fewer than 10 days the entire next year. During those training missions, the officer said, the crew found

it hard to trust the ship’s faulty navigation system: It ran on Windows 2000. The officer, hoping that by speaking out he could provoke needed change, wound up delaying the scheduled interview. He apologized. His ship had broken down again. “We are essentially the ships that the Navy forgot,” he said of the minesweepers. Thousands of miles away in the Persian


American Consequences



The Avenger-class ships were built in the late 1980s and early ‘90s and slated for retirement years ago. But their

Gulf, another officer – this one assigned to a minesweeper in the Navy’s 5th Fleet – offered much of the same account. While tensions with Iran seem to escalate by the day, the officer said the four minesweepers based in the Gulf were so physically unreliable that he doubted his superiors would actually send them into action in a crisis. The ships are one of the Navy’s primary tools for finding and neutralizing mines. They use sonar to hunt for them. The bombs are then disabled by divers, underwater drones, or towing equipment dragged behind the stern. But the aging minesweepers routinely need repairs, the officer in the Persian Gulf said, and the companies that used to make a variety of spare parts no longer exist. A sailor recently aboard one ship said that the sonar meant to detect mines was so imprecise that in training exercises it flagged dishwashers, crab traps, and cars on the ocean floor as potential bombs. Clearing mines from the Persian Gulf effectively would require multiple ships underway for a sustained period. A Navy spokesman acknowledged that the service has struggled to put a “fully mission-capable” squad to sea. Only a quarter of the time over the last year did more than one ship meet that definition – although he said the ships could still be sent out. “We are eager to operate if called upon,” the officer aboard one of the Persian Gulf ships said. “We’ll operate the systems as best as they can operate. My concern is the ships are old and, like any old ship, they break.”

A defense contractor who has worked with the ships in recent years said the minesweepers suffered the highest rate of mechanical problems of any Navy ship. the minesweeper fleet was “fully capable” of fulfilling its mission of finding and neutralizing mines. The Navy’s underwater drones, the spokesman said, “have a high rate of success,” and the sonar systems on the ships “are very accurate at detecting mines.” While the spokesman conceded “there are challenges with all older ships, including maintenance and repair” that might make it take longer for the ships to accomplish their mission, he said maintenance problems have “dramatically improved” of late. He noted that as recently as July 6, all four of the older minesweepers based in the Persian Gulf had been at sea at the same time. (An officer aboard one of the ships called it a retirement date has been continually delayed because the service still doesn’t have a working replacement. The Navy’s latest estimate is that the ships will all be decommissioned by fiscal year 2023. Senior Navy officials have called their mine warfare fleet in the Persian Gulf — a mix of aging ships, high-tech drones and helicopters — “the best and the brightest around,” and a Navy spokesman recently said


February 2020

“photo exercise” and said it was “extraordinarily rare” to see all four out at once.) ProPublica has spent this year examining the Navy’s state of readiness, including its response to known vulnerabilities in its ranks and arsenal. As part of that effort, ProPublica spoke with a dozen Navy officers, sailors, contractors and experts about the mine warfare unit. Those interviewed asked for anonymity so they could candidly discuss what they allege is neglect in the unit. The weakness they describe is in a relatively modest and unglamorous division of the Navy – 11 ships with a limited mission – but they nonetheless feel the problems have become more pressing given the United States’ volatile relationships with Iran and North Korea. Those interviewed said Navy brass had made damaging budget decisions that have kept them from having a well-functioning mine warfare fleet. “It’s not that they don’t want it, it’s that they want other things more,” one officer said. “Every dollar you’re spending on [mine countermeasures] is a dollar you’re not spending on some cool new submarine.” To make matters worse, efforts to replace the aging ships with newer ones have been met with repeated costly delays. And the quality of the training given to the sailors in the unit had suffered. A defense contractor who has worked with the ships in recent years said the minesweepers suffered the highest rate of mechanical problems of any Navy ship. (A

The USS Dextrous, front, USS Gladiator, USS Devastator and USS Sentry, minesweepers based in the Persian Gulf, at sea for a “photo exercise,” according to one officer, on July 6, 2019. They are followed by the guided missile destroyer USS Mason. (Antonio Gemma More/U.S. Navy)

Navy spokesman declined to comment on that assessment, but he said that “recent metrics show that there has been substantial improvement.”) The USS Devastator, or MCM 6, was recently out of commission because the Navy couldn’t fix a key part, according to a sailor who recently served a long tour on the ship. The ship was out of the water so long the sailors started jokingly referring to it as “Building 6,” since it never actually moved. Another military contractor, who has worked with the minesweepers, said the Navy has historically relied too heavily on computer- based training instead of hands-on exercises. Sailors on the ships, he said, often do not know how to use their equipment. “I’m telling you they can’t do it, not with any degree of operational proficiency,” the contractor said.

American Consequences



The Navy built its first modern minesweeper during the 1940s. The fleet proved critical during World War II for clearing heavily mined waters in the Pacific for warships to pass ahead of large amphibious assaults, such as the war-defining Battle of Okinawa. Some of those ships were then recommissioned to do the same job during the Korean War after hundreds of Soviet-made mines were dropped by the North Koreans. Decades later, the Korean-era ships were part of an international effort led by the British in the Persian Gulf to try to keep the shipping lanes safe during the mining campaigns of the Iran-Iraq War. And then again in 1991, those old minesweepers – along with the first commissioned Avenger ship – were in the same waters struggling to clear a path for U.S. warships to approach the coast of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. Two U.S. vessels had been damaged by mines. After the war ended, the minesweeper units trolled the waters off Kuwait to find and disarm the

more than 1,000 mines Iraq had dropped in concentric arcs for miles. As the rest of the new class of minesweepers were commissioned, they deployed to the region and became a regular fixture there. The Avenger-class ships were called into service during the 2003 invasion of Iraq to stand ready for any mining near an Iraqi port that would be key for getting supplies and humanitarian aid into the country during the war. Iran, which is also believed to have thousands of naval mines, has stepped up its aggressiveness in the Persian Gulf in recent weeks. He knew of only one time when the crew was able to find a mine, and that was during a training exercise when it had the GPS coordinates for it. The mines are dropped into the sea and explode when ships pass. Iran’s arsenal includes a mix of cheaper, older ones that float and blow up on impact, and more sophisticated ones that can be dropped from planes. They sit on the ocean floor and explode after detecting nearby ships. “We certainly have the ability to do it,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said last month about closing the Strait of Hormuz (a critical commercial passageway). “But we certainly don’t want to do it because the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are our lifeline.”

The USS Devastator, a Navy minesweeper, is pulled into position as it arrives in Bahrain in 2012. (Jayme Pastoric/U.S. Navy)


February 2020

ships are typically underway only 15% of the time. Sometimes, those interviewed said the training missions that get done prove as frustrating as being stuck in drydock. The sailor who’d been on the Devastator said the underwater drones are successful in finding mines only about 20% of the time. He knew of only one time when the crew was able to find a mine, and that was during a training exercise when it had the GPS coordinates for it. “We joke about it all the time,” said the officer who is based in Japan. “It seems like somebody’s doing a social experiment. They take 80 or 90 well-intentioned, talented or motivated people and put us on a ship with broken and unreliable equipment and give them an impossible task and see how they handle it mentally and emotionally.”

Sailors in the 5th Fleet’s minesweeping operations said they have watched the escalation of hostility in the Persian Gulf – the downing of drones by Iran and the U.S., masked gunmen rappelling from an Iranian helicopter to seize a British-flagged oil tanker – with a mix of excitement and pessimism. They are eager to contribute but doubt their ability to do so. Asked if the ships could effectively find and remove mines in the Gulf if they had to, one officer was blunt: “No.” The Bahrain-based minesweepers, more than two times the length of a basketball court, are made of wood so they can more safely approach magnetic naval mines. Sailors have to be cautious about bringing anything made of metal on board, mindful even of where they store canned foods. Like all ships deployed abroad, the minesweepers operate on a cycle: a planned ship maintenance phase, followed by basic training when the crew practices finding and disarming dummy mines, and finally underway periods, which include shows of force and joint exercises with allied navies. Those interviewed said the four ships do receive all of their allotted maintenance time, but the ships frequently require their crews to cannibalize working parts from other minesweepers – a challenge considering how few of them there are – or wait for new replacements. “It takes a long time,” one officer said. “Many, many months.” As a result, the officer said each of the four

That there are problems with the mine warfare unit is well known to the Navy. The Navy’s former top officer, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, told ProPublica that when he took command in 2011, he was immediately notified of the deteriorating mine warfare units in the Persian Gulf by the combatant commander in the Middle East at the time, General Jim Mattis.

Greenert said he responded by putting more of an emphasis on the use of newly developed unmanned vehicles that could be dispatched to find and detonate mines. And he ramped up mine-clearing exercises with other navies, including those of the British and Gulf states.

American Consequences



The effort didn’t resolve some of the unit’s issues, however. In 2013, the USS Guardian, a minesweeper, accidentally ran into a sensitive coral reef in the Philippines. No one was injured, but the $212 million ship had to be decommissioned, and the U.S. ambassador was forced to apologize for the damage to the World Heritage site. Three years later, the Navy’s Sea Dragon helicopters, which stream cables that dislodge mines moored to the ocean floor, came under damning scrutiny. In a lengthy examination in The Virginian-Pilot, the Sea Dragons were found to have been used long after they were supposed to be retired. Over a three-year period, they had crashed at a higher rate than any other military aircraft, including a 2014 crash that killed three service members. The Navy’s plan to replace the minesweepers with a new class of vessels, known as Littoral Combat Ships, has been repeatedly delayed by cost overruns and technical deficiencies. The push to develop the new line of ships has been a financial drain on the minesweeping budget and the maintenance of the existing fleet. Congress, concerned about resources being diverted, has required the Navy not to decommission the ships or reduce how many sailors are assigned to them until

there’s a replacement that would “meet or exceed” their capabilities. The Navy, in the shipbuilding plan it submitted to Congress this year, said that in the next year it would begin retiring three of its 11 minesweepers – the ones based in the U.S., in San Diego – and harvest their parts to service the eight ships based in Japan and Bahrain. An officer briefed on the planning said top Navy officials were reluctant to pump more money into maintaining the older minesweepers and were taking a gamble that the new ships would finally be ready just as the legacy minesweepers were decommissioned. “We’d be extremely lucky if those lined up,” the officer said. “There has been a conscious decision by Navy leadership to assume risk in the present.” Asked whether the Navy was taking a risk assuming the new line of ships would be ready to take over before the Avengers were decommissioned, the Navy’s spokesman would only say that the Navy is constantly reviewing its capacity for the mission. In the Persian Gulf now, one officer described the difficulties of instilling a sense of urgency and mission in sailors who doubt the senior ranks of the Navy will ever trust their prowess if Iran were to deploy mines. “I have to tell them, ‘We always have to be ready,’” the officer said. “But it is tough to put your people through very hard conditions when you privately think you’re not going to go out.” © ProPublica

Robert Faturechi , Megan Rose and T. Christian Miller are reporters at ProPublica , a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.


February 2020

Dr. Ron Paul



American Consequences



No doubt the Iraqi leadership recognized these kinds of deceptions... The same kinds of lies were used to push the U.S. into attacking their own country in 2003. So it should not have come as a big surprise that the Iraqi government met last week and voted that all foreign military personnel should leave Iraqi soil. Then, a funny thing happened when Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attempted to communicate to the U.S. government the will of the Iraqi people through their democratically elected officials. Mahdi phoned Pompeo to urgently request that Washington enact a U.S. troop “withdrawal mechanism” in Iraq. American troops are in Iraq by invitation of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi government had just voted to revoke that invitation. No doubt the Iraqi leadership recognized these kinds of deceptions... The same kinds of lies were used to push the U.S. into attacking their own country in 2003 The State Department responded with a statement titled “The U.S. Continued Partnership with Iraq,” which essentially said that the U.S. would not abide by the request of its Iraqi partners because the U.S. military is a “force for good” in the Middle East and that as such it is “our right” to maintain “appropriate force posture” in the region. The U.S. invaded Iraq based on Bush administration lies and a million Iraqis died as a result. Later, President Obama ramped up the drone program and also backed al-Qaida-

resident Trump’s decision last month to assassinate Iran’s top military general on Iraqi soil – over the objection of the Iraqi government – has damaged the U.S. relationship with its “ally” Iraq and set the region on the brink of war. Iran’s measured response – a few missiles fired on an Iraqi base after advance warning was given – is the only reason the U.S. is not mired in another Middle East war. Trump said his decision to assassinate Gen. Qassim Soleimani was intended to prevent a war, not start a war. But no one in his right mind would think that killing another country’s top military leader would not leave that country annoyed, to say the least. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) said the Trump Administration’s briefing to Congress on its evidence to back up claims that Soleimani was about to launch attacks against the U.S. was among the worst briefings they’d ever attended. After initially claiming that Soleimani had to be taken out immediately because of “imminent” attacks he was launching against the U.S., Trump administration officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have been busy walking back those claims. Esper claimed over the weekend that he had not seen the intelligence suggesting an attack on U.S. embassies was in the works. If the secretary of defense did not see the intelligence, then who did?


February 2020


affiliated terrorists to overthrow the secular Syrian government. Obama also attacked Libya based on lies, leaving the country totally destroyed. Trump is assassinating foreign officials and threatening destruction of Iran. And the State Department calls that a “force for good”? The United States can be a true force for good, however. End the military occupation of the Middle East, end foreign military aid, and stop using the CIA to overthrow governments. Allow Americans to travel and do business in any country they wish. Lead by example and demonstrate how free markets and peace benefit all. A “force for good” means not forcing others to bow to your will.

Dr. Ron Paul is a 12-term member of Congress and three-time presidential candidate. While in Washington, D.C., he was one of the few voices advocating for limited government, individual liberty, and sound fiscal principles. He is the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestselling books The Revolution: A Manifesto and End the Fed . This article originally appeared at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Copyright © 2020 by Ron Paul Institute.

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American Consequences



February 2020

I ran seems to have taken the bait. It couldn’t resist having its revenge on the avenger. But what’s this... ? Is that giggling noise coming from the graveyard... ? Today we return to our study of the two disastrous, society-destroying mistakes of the 21st century. We remind Dear Readers that what is at stake is not just losing wars... or losing money... or a crash in the stock and bond markets... or a depression... ... we’re talking about a hellish collapse of American society itself... TWO COLOSSAL MISTAKES In 2001, George W. Bush put the empire in a state of perpetual war. That was Mistake No. 1. In 2008, Ben Bernanke et al. began a policy of perpetual fake-money inflation. That was Mistake No. 2. And how the dead generations must have laughed!



American Consequences



Fake money and forever wars go together, like road kill and maggots. And then, when Ben Bernanke cranked up his money-printing machine, the specters clutched their bellies and howled again... what fun! “How did that work out for – ... “And they cited a long list of countries... ending now with Venezuela... and waited for a roar of laughter after each one. They’d seen fake money and debt ruin cities, countries, and whole empires. Never had they seen one, not a single one, made rich by them. But wait... America was “exceptional.” It was “indispensable.” This was a New Era, after all. Ha, ha, ha, ha... Sparta – the ultimate warrior kingdom – formed its own empire. What happened to it? The shades laughed again. They recalled an old Sicilian proverb: When you go looking for revenge, take two caskets. They knew what happened to Sparta. It was what always happened. Sparta kept fighting until it lost the battle of Leuctra against the Thebians. Then, its women were ravished. Its men and children were enslaved. And who could name a major Spartan leader of today? Who bought Spartan wine... Spartan cheese... or a Spartan-made automobile? Ha, ha, ha...

Would stocks go up? What industry would new technology disrupt? Who would win the next election? They didn’t know any more than we did. But when nations sought revenge on one another? When empires launched forever wars? When people spent money they didn’t have... and printed up pieces of paper to cover their deficits? These were their favorite songs. The dead knew every verse. And chuckled every time. The Akkadians? Ha, ha, ha. The Sumerians? Ha, ha, ha. The Hittites? Ha, ha, ha. On and on... from the Mongol Empire to the Thousand-Year Reich... ha, ha, ha... “Where are they now?” the shades ask each other. Didn’t the Greeks burn the Persian city of Sardis? And didn’t Darius the Great invade Greece to get revenge on them? And then, didn’t Xerxes invade again to get revenge for the humiliation at Marathon? The spooks laughed after each question. “Hit back ten times as hard... “ one quoted America’s president. Ha, ha, ha. And now they knew: they were soon going to add America to the list! WARRIOR KINGDOMS The ghosts knew that each attempt at revenge led to a further disaster. In Greece itself,


February 2020

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