All posts by Dr. ESP

The Fog of Reporting

Following the less than accurate reporting about the explosion at a Gaza City hospital, the mainstream media invoked the phrase “fog of war” to minimize accountability for their rush to judgment. The phrase originally referred to the a military commander’s uncertainty about battlefield engagement based on uncertain information about the on-the-ground situation.  It is now applied to the inability of war correspondents to accurately report what is happening in a war zone.  If you think they learned a lesson from the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital story, you would be wrong.

Based on reporting by all of the major media sources, one might believe that the recently attacked Jabaliya refugee camp is a place where Palestinian civilians sought safety following Israel’s response to Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack.  Why?  Because, until yesterday, not one print or broadcast outlet had taken time to explain when and why Jabaliya was established.  You might be surprised to learn, as I was, that in 1948 Jabaliya was designated as a refugee camp for Palestinians who were encouraged to leave or expelled from their homes in Israel at the start of hostilities following formal recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland.  The assumption being that they would be there temporarily, just until the Jewish state was quickly defeated allowing refugees to return to their residences within Israel’s borders under the UN sanctioned partition.

It may have been a tent city in 1948, but that is no longer the case.  It is now one of the most densely populated locations on the Gaza Strip, 1.4 square kilometers housing over 100,000 residents in multi-story apartment buildings.  “Jabaliya Refugee Camp” is more a historical designation than a description of its current status unless you want to call the residents, some who have lived there for three quarters of a century, refugees.

Yesterday, the New York Times, buried at the end of an article titled “In Gazan Neighborhood Hit by Airstrikes, Death and Despair Reign,” finally acknowledged Jabaliya’s history.

Despite its designation as a refugee camp, Jabaliya is a developed community housing Palestinians and their descendants who fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1940s during the conflict that surrounded the creation of Israel.

Jabaliya, Israeli officials say, is a stronghold for the militants.

But it is also a home for the 116,000 Palestinians who are registered to live in the 1.4-square-kilometer area.

They are among millions of Palestinians who are still classified as refugees by the United Nations after decades of exile. Israel, which bars Gazans from returning to the land they were expelled from, objects to the U.N. definition of Palestinians as refugees in general.

Media sources have multiple reasons to avoid again jumping to conclusions. Pictures of the still-standing structures from Jabaliya confirm Jabaliya is no makeshift refuge. The fact that many buildings remain erect right next to targeted structures suggests the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has focused on strategic targets.  Plus the IDF acknowledgement of responsibility for the bombings indicates they believe there were legitimate military targets.

Civil War General William Sherman was right when he said, “War is Hell.”  Every civilian death should be mourned.  But there is a difference between collateral damage and terrorism.  There is no question about which took place on October 7.  To determine the extent to which Israel conducted its response in accordance with the international rules of combat cannot and should not be determined now, veiled in the fog of war or media coverage.

Other history about the Gaza Strip also needs retelling, especially the unexpected proposal by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to disengage from Gaza, initiated in 2003 and implemented in 2005.  This included both unilateral relocation of 80,000 Israeli settlers against their will and the turnover of administrative responsibility and governance to the Palestinian Authority.  But that is a story for another day.

For what it’s worth.

Terrorism Works

At first it was just aberrant behavior.  One can argue it began with Richard Nixon and his 1972 re-election campaign’s “dirty tricks.”  Their success by bending the rules is best described by Mark Felt (aka Deep Throat) in the film All the President’s Men. based on Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s book of the same title.

Nationwide–my God, they were frightened of Muskie and look who got destroyed–they wanted to run against McGovern, and look who they’re running against. They bugged, they followed people, false press leaks, fake letters, they canceled Democratic campaign rallies, they investigated Democratic private lives, they planted spies, stole documents, on and on– don’t tell me you think this was all the work of little Don Segretti.

Fast forward to October 3, 2023, the day House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of office by eight members of the Freedom Caucus, a subset of the larger group which forced 15 floor votes before McCarthy obtained the speakership.  As early as January 3, 2023, more pragmatic members of the GOP caucus referred to the dissenters as the “Taliban 19.”  This was nothing new.  Former Speaker John Boehner once referred to the Freedom Caucus as “legislative terrorists.”  After the chaotic attempts to replace McCarthy, it is hard to disagree.

More importantly, the self-proclaimed leader of the MAGA wing of the GOP House considered these descriptors a call to arms.  According to POLITICO.COM, “Rep. Mat Gaetz (R-FL) called the comments ‘hurtful’ and ‘false,’ though he added, ‘I too am prepared for an extended battle I will ultimately win.'” On October 24, 2023, win he did with the ascension of Mike Johnson (R-LA) to Speaker of the House.  Neither Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene could ever dream the House gavel would be wielded by such a Trumpy, election denying, America First, homophobic Christian nationalist who explains his guiding principle as follows. 

Someone asked me today in the media, “People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?” I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”

Imagine the response by every one of the 220 GOP members of Congress who voted for Johnson if an Irani Ayatollah said, “What do I think about any issue under the sun?  Go pick up the Koran and read it.  That’s my worldview.”

Now that Gaetz, et. al., have demonstrated terrorism works, you can bet the farm this is not the last time they will use it.

POSTCRIPT–Election Deniers

If you think the 2020 “Big Lie” was a one-off or it only applies to inter-party contests, look no farther than the eventual choice of Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House.  Until last Tuesday, the rule which governed GOP caucus votes, named after former Speaker and convicted pedophile Dennis Hastert, though not specifically stating such, implies that the members of the party will abide by the wishes of a majority of the total GOP conference.

On October 11, the conference nominated Majority Leader Steve Scalise as the party’s choice for speaker.  The secret ballot vote was 113 for Scalise and 99 for Jim Jordan.  The MAGA wing of the GOP conference, however, refused to accept the outcome.  When Scalise withdrew his nomination two days later, the conference nominated Jim Jordan over seven other contenders using (drum roll) ranked voting, something the RNC opposes for national elections.  Again the losers failed to fall in line, denying Jordan the 217 votes on the House floor to secure the gavel.  The conference then nominated Tom Emmer by a vote of 117 to 97.  Within four hours (what one pundit referred to as a tenth of a Scaramucci), Donald Trump torpedoed Emmer’s nomination  because he refused to go along with the Big Lie.

Only after Johnson received 128 votes in  last Tuesday’s secret ballot, just 57.9 percent of the 221 GOP conference members, his supporters declared victory and demanded the entire GOP membership get behind him.  One more example the GOP continues to believe the only legitimate elections are those in which their candidates prevail.

For what it’s worth.


Daddy Issues

You ask me what I’m thinking aboutI tell you that I’m thinking aboutWhatever you’re thinking aboutTell me something that I’ll forgetAnd you might have to tell me againIt’s crazy what you’ll do for a friend

~”Daddy Issues” by The Neighbourhood

Just when you thought there was the slightest possibility Republican “Team Sane” might eventually land the ship safely on Earth One, it’s leader former Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney proved that once Donald Trump is gone, it will be back to business as usual.  On what do I base this pessimistic view of a functioning two-party democratic system?  Her interview with Jake Tapper on the October 22 edition of CNN’s “State of the Union.” After an opening segment on the importance of plea deals by Sydney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro on Trump’s legal peril and Jim Jordan’s secret ballot reality check, Tapper turned to the Israel-Hamas War.

TAPPER: Let me ask you, just in terms of advising a country that is an ally — a lot of people are drawing parallels to 9/11, although, proportionally, this was worse. This is about — would be the same as killing 40,000 people in Israel, as opposed to 3,000 that happened here in 9/11.

On 9/11, your father was vice president. You came to work at the State Department after 9/11. Take a listen to what President Biden said in Israel this week.

VIDEO CLIP OF BIDEN: But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.

TAPPER: Given the goal of not just defeating Hamas, but a long-term goal of Israel living in peace, of a two-state solution, if that’s even a serious proposition anymore, what lessons do you think we have learned as a country that we could tell Israel, that we could share with Israel?

CHENEY: Well, look, I think probably the biggest mistake that we made post-9/11 was President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan the way that he did.

Leave it to Daddy’s little girl to conveniently skip over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  You know, the conflict predicated on what we once thought was “the BIG lie” until Trump came up with “a BIGGER lie.” Actually it was two lies:  Saddam Hussein’s involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attack (not true) and his imminent development and potential use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States (also not true).

We can all agree the withdrawal from Afghanistan did not go as planned largely due to the fact that no one expected the Kabul government and military forces to surrender to the Taliban within days, if not hours, of the start of the evacuation.  At a time when some Americans are questioning continued support for Ukrainians who are fighting and dying in defense of democracy, they seem to forget we provided 20 years of both American treasure and lives for a regime that showed no interest in standing up for itself.  Since the U.S. withdrawal, Afghanistan, though ruled by the Taliban, has not been a credible terrorist threat to our homeland.  They have enough problems to deal with governing their own country.

Compare that to the consequences of the 2003 Iraq invasion. 

  • A total of 4,492 U.S. members of the arm services killed and another 32,292 wounded. 
  • Direct funding of more than $750 million.  Estimates of indirect costs at home and abroad raise that total to $3 trillion.
  • An ISIS resurgence in the region.
  • War profiteering of which the major financial beneficiary was Haliburton (you know, “Daddy’s corporation”) which received $39.5 billion in federal contracts during the conflict.

Perhaps the most devastating unintended consequence of the Iraq invasion was the removal of the single most efficient counter-balance to the rise of Iran.  After eight years of armed conflict between Iraq and Iran beginning in 1980, the Iranian clerics agreed to a U.N. brokered cease-fire.  According to a 2016 report by Satgin Hamrah of the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, “While the war may have ended in 1988, its legacy lives on in the Sunni versus Shia sectarian conflicts that currently exist in much of the Muslim world.”  Without Hussein’s presence to ensure a strong Sunni counter to the Iranian Shia theocracy, the threat to America is significantly higher than it was pre-2003. According to a 2022 assessment by the Council on Foreign Affairs:

Iran has built considerable political clout in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Its wide sphere of influence could be expanding, raising domestic tensions and alarming U.S. policymakers.

When the GOP accuses the Biden Administration of enabling Iran’s rise as a global menace, politely remind them who created the opportunity by removing their preoccupation with a hostile next door neighbor.


The other piece of news coming out of the interview was Cheney’s announcement she had not ruled out a possible run for the presidency.  My first thought?  She will not have to worry about campaign financing.  Certainly, she can self-fund her campaign with Daddy’s literal “war chest.”

For what it’s worth.

The Answer to Some of Your Questions Is…

Don Ohlmeyer, former NBC president and the original producer of Monday Night Football, when asked to explain irrational choices in business, sports and politics, wisely opined, “The answer to all your questions is…MONEY.” Consider the opening week of the college football season when second tier college teams travel to Power Five Conference stadiums to be served up as human sacrifices.  Just this year, in return for a $1.5 million payday, Miami University (Oxford, OH) jetted to South Florida to be on the short-end of a 38-3 shellacking by the University of Miami.

This past week proved Ohlmeyer’s maxim to be less iron-clad than I once believed.  Two events, Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel and the congressional logjam resulting from the inability of Republicans to elect a House Speaker had little to do with money.  If not money, what is the primary factor which explains these events?  In both cases, the answer is…GERRYMANDERING.

I’ll begin with Hamas.  Comedian Dana Gould opens his “I Know It’s Wrong” album with a routine in which he claims anything, in the right context, can be funny.  You can feel the audience’s tension when he announces he will prove his point with three jokes.  One about AIDS.  One about rape.  And one about 9/11.  It is the third topic which illuminates the horror of 10/7/23 on the Gaza border.

I think my favorite part of 9/11 (pause as the audience laughs nervously) was the Muslim terrorists when they went to Muslim heaven, which we all know isn’t true.  They can’t be in Muslim heaven because they’re in Christian hell.  Unless they go back and forth which you can do because they’re both pretend.

~Dana Gould/I Know It’s Wrong

Exactly!  Muslim extremists who self-associate with one of the world’s three major religions have gerrymandered heaven.  In the territorial afterlife they control, the greatest rewards come from jihad and martyrdom. Likewise, many Christian fundamentalists have walled off their heavenly enclave, depriving entry to those who do not share their beliefs or deviate from their standards of behavior. As we learn over and over again, apartheid applied to an imaginary afterlife does little to support the prospects for peace and amity in this one.

Which brings me to the more traditional definition of gerrymandering, manipulating the boundaries of legislative districts to either create safe seats for the party in power or dilute representation of various classes of voters, both of which give disproportional weight to a percentage of the electorate. Perhaps the best example is my home state of Florida where the GOP holds 20 of 28 congressional seats although party affiliation is relatively even (GOP 36.35 percent versus Democrats 34.48 percent.)  Keep in mind the state legislature originally approved a somewhat more equitable map which Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed and then arm-twisted the legislature to approve his version.

However, as is so often said, be careful what you wish for.  Florida’s 2022 redistricting assured Matt Gaitz a safe seat which freed him up to be the chaos agent on display during the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  The same is true of the other seven firebrands who sealed McCarthy’s fate.  This is what happens when a representative no longer needs the backing of House leadership to support his or her reelection.

In other words, while the Republican Party thought gerrymandering would be the path to electoral heaven, they now find themselves corralled behind the Gaitz of hell.  Unlike the 9/11 terrorists, the GOP can actually go back and forth between the benefits and costs of gerrymandering because both are real.

For what it’s worth.


My Platinum Jubilee

NOTE:  My absence the past couple of weeks is, as is often the case, due to a convergence of two or more situations.  First, today I am posting entry #800 and wanted to make sure the content matched the milestone.  Second, I am finally recovering from a bout with the flu which has made it hard to concentrate when both researching an issue and then writing coherently about it.  Third, the fire hose of news the past month has made it difficult to focus on any single event.  Therefore, I have chosen this occasion to put a number of observations in a broader context.

75 years of life is a milestone birthday, often referred to as the platinum celebration. (

Carl Jung would suggest it is no coincidence that someone like myself, who is so steeped in the study and practice of politics, was born on January 20th, the date established under the 20th Amendment (a mnemonic which makes it easy to remember), adopted in 1933, on which a newly elected or re-elected candidate for president of the United States takes the oath of office. Even though January 20, 1950 was not an inauguration day, but the mid-point of Harry Truman’s full term as president, the die was cast.  And assuming you can do the math, you already realize the milestone referenced in the title of this post is still more than 14 months away.  Most people have no idea what they want for their next birthday, much less one that is more than a year in the future.

Why, then, would I have an obsession with this far off event?  Simple.  While it may be a personal milestone for me, what happens at noon on January 20, 2025 may be the defining moment for what is often referred to as the “American Experiment.”  The next president and commander-in-chief could be someone who:

  1. Refused to accept the outcome of what his own chief of election security called the “most secure election in the nation’s history.”
  2. Incited followers, whom he knew were armed, to march on the U.S. Capitol to disrupt certification of the electoral college votes.
  3. Illegally retained and shared classified information with donors and journalists.
  4. Said he would terminate provisions of the U.S. Constitution if  they got in his way.
  5. Called Americans who gave their lives in defense of the United States “suckers” and “losers.”
  6. Was embarrassed to be seen in the presence of wounded warriors because “…it doesn’t look good for me.”
  7. Called for the execution of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Any one of these offenses would have disqualified an individual as unfit to serve in a pre-MAGA world.  Which raises the question, “What changed?”  This morning, I got my answer watching Morning Joe.  Host Joe Scarborough interviewed Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) who is co-chair of a bipartisan caucus of House members referred to as the “Problem Solvers.”  To their credit, this group was instrumental in assembling the bi-partisan votes to avoid a national default earlier this year and a government shutdown last weekend.

The conversation then turned to Scarborough’s suggestion that Democrats had put party loyalty above institutional well-being when they voted in mass to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  If you had just turned into the program, this might seem like a reasonable question.  However, in previous segments, Scarborough proclaimed McCarthy’s downfall was just the latest example that appeasement never works.  Furthermore, he and guest panelists made reference to the multiple times McCarthy violated institutional norms to win and then hold on to the speaker’s gavel.  Gutting a bi-partisan agreement which governed when and how members could file a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair.  Giving a disproportionate share of key committee assignments and chairmanships to extreme Freedom Caucus members. Promising an impeachment inquiry even though GOP leaders have yet to identify a single instance in which Joe Biden committed a high crime or misdemeanor.  Giving exclusive access to Capitol security tapes to Tucker Carlson.  Unilaterally initiating the impeachment inquiry without the promised floor vote.

Although Gottheimer did not make the analogy, he implied that for Democrats to keep giving McCarthy cover based on empty and broken promises was equivalent to Neville Chamberlain’s pact with Adolph Hitler which would guarantee “peace for our time.”  After peppering Gottheimer, Scarborough admitted he probably would have done the same thing if the circumstances were reversed.

The exchange between Gottheimer and Scarborough is just the latest example of projection and disinformation which unfortunately has corrupted civil discourse in the U.S.  Democrats are accused of being anti-institutionalists when, for the last nine months, the GOP majority has pounded House norms harder than Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry banged the gavel to declare the House in recess Tuesday afternoon.  Violent rhetoric is said to be protected under the First Amendment (which it is not).  At the top of the list is the sadly successful GOP campaign to convince voters there is no difference between the parties.

Then how do you explain this.  Donald Trump who was declared liable for defamation and sexual assault in the case of E. Jean Carroll, was found liable of persistent business fraud and faces 91 criminal counts has the support of  57.9 percent of GOP primary voters according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls.  In contrast, the first poll following the indictment of Democratic New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez shows the incumbent has the support of just five percent of likely primary voters.  For Democrats, character still matters.  And none have called for defunding the Department of Justice or FBI or firing any prosecutor following indictments of members of their tribe including the president’s son.

One more thing. Given the chance to start fresh with a new speaker, the two front-runners to replace McCarthy, majority leader Steve Scalise and judiciary chairman Jim Jordan both voted to decertify Joe Biden’s 2020 victory just hours after they were seen running to save themselves from the violent mob that invade the Capitol building on January 6.  In an early morning post on Truth Social, Trump endorsed Jordan, a man who cannot remember when and how many times he talked directly to Trump on January 6th and later inquired about the prospect of pardons, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, although he never specifically requested one as did six other members of the Freedom Caucus.

Yes, January 20, 2025 will be my personal platinum jubilee.  All I wish for on that occasion is Americans hopefully made the right choice to ensure the United States remains a nation governed by the Constitution, the rule of law and people of character.  If they choose otherwise, we will need to coin a new phrase to describe something that dies on its 236th anniversary.

For what it’s worth.