Friday, September 9, 2016

Fact Check - Hillary Acid Washed Her Emails

Photo credit: POLITICO
Initial concerns over the usage of a private server and emails by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton goes back to 2009. The scandal began to grow in 2012 and has become a major issue during the 2016 presidential campaign. Not a day goes by where the major networks don't at least mention it.

As the story unfolded, we learned that Hillary deleted tens of thousands of emails and the release of thousands of others have been slow-walked. Multiple congressional hearings have taken place, she was investigated by the FBI, and today only 35% of Americans see her as trustworthy. Many questions remain unanswered and it is highly likely that new controversies will arise related to the email scandal before the November election. But this post isn't about rehashing what everyone knows. A fairly recent and new attack line has been showing up in conversations and in the media - the idea that not only did Hillary (and her aides) destroy 'evidence' but that she "acid washed" her email servers in an attempt to get away with breaking the law.

From what I can tell, the first use of the term "acid wash" (in relation to this topic) came in Sept. 2016. Both Donald Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have used the phrase repeatedly, and even Trump's vice presidential pick Gov. Mike Pence has employed it to attack Hillary.

The idea of acid washing servers, to me at least, conjures up images of "Walt" from the TV series Breaking Bad using acid to dissolve a body. And while destroying electronics is no where near as gruesome, the impression is unmistakable: Hillary will do anything to avoid being held accountable. 

Trump told ABC on Sept. 6, "she had her emails -- 33,000 emails -- acid washed. The most sophisticated person never heard about acid washing. Acid washing is a very expensive process and that’s to really get rid of them."

The catch is, there is no such thing as acid washing emails. That's why his "sophisticated person" never heard of the practice. The reality is that Hillary used a free, widely available computer application called BleachBit to clean her devices. BleachBit is so proud of their product's ability to "stifle" officials investigating, that they boast about it on their website.

Now, Donald Trump is known for exaggerating things. So much so that Art of the Deal ghostwriter Tony Schwartz coined the term "truthful hyperbole" to describe many of the things Trump says. The problem is, there's no such thing. You're either telling the truth or you're not. And as I have said many times before, there's no reason to invent lies and spread misinformation about people with whom you disagree. If the truth of their ill deeds isn't enough to sway people and your ideas (and the strength of those ideas) aren't enough to persuade people to support you, then resorting to 3rd grade tactics only serves to denigrate you and your supporters.

I am staunchly anti-Hillary, but Trump's penchant for twisting the facts while refusing to directly acknowledge any wrong doing, while claiming to be the best and greatest (with zero evidence), really turns me off. Hillary may be a liar, but so is Trump. The fact Trump clearly had no clue what he was talking about, but kept forging on ahead should be deeply disturbing. Simply attacking someone because you fear or hate them, or lashing out wildly, should be beneath any self-respecting American.

--Jacob Bogle, 9/9/2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

America Funds 73% of NATO: Fact or Fiction?

The claim that the United States funds 70% (or more) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been around for years, however, 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been using that figure in defense of his foreign policy ideas - specifically that we get nothing from NATO while paying the "lion's share" of funding. In short: we're subsidizing Europe's defense and thus it's a "bad deal" for America.

NATO was formed out of the chaos of World War II and not only helped to keep western Europe stable after so much disaster, more importantly, it served as a bulwark against a highly aggressive Soviet Union. And, the organization has always been dominated by America, after all we were the only democratic superpower in the world during the post-war era. Today, NATO still serves as a military deterrent to Russia and is involved in fighting terrorism, but it also enables an overarching sense of security that the trillion-dollar European marketplace needs.

Not only does NATO provide military security, but military security and a peaceful and stable region contributes to economic well being. As I discussed in another article, trade between the US and European Union amounts to $700 billion a year. I think that's a pretty good bang for the buck.

So, let's take a look at the reality of American funding.

NATO is funded based on a cost sharing arrangement that allows each of its 28 members to pay a percentage based on their respective GDPs and other factors.

For 2011, NATO's entire common budget - both military and civilian - amounted to $3.5 billion (3.1 billion euro). Meaning the US paid approx. $775 million. That's less than 40% of the current city budget of Nashville, TN.

Then where does the 73% figure come from?

NATO is a joint-security & coordinating organization that is based on the NATO treaty agreement. It has no standing army of its own. The military of NATO is similar to the military of the European Union, or even NAFTA (though the latter two aren't military organizations). In other words, the military capacity is whatever the combined domestic militaries and military spending of all of 28 member states equal.

The combined forces of NATO amounts to 7.3 million active and reserve personnel and costs $920 billion. Now, Spain spends $12.7 billion a year on their military. Does that somehow mean Spain funds 1.38% of "NATO"? No. In fact, Spain funds 5.78% of NATO's "common budget", which is the budget of NATO. Likewise, of the $920 billion in combined, domestic military spending, the US spends around $610 billion. That equals 66% of the combined expenditures of those 28 countries.

Thus, the 73% figure is actually an older number based on what the US spent as a percentage of the combined military spending of all NATO states. Another way to look at it would be: annual global military spending equals $1.2 trillion. Since America's spending is $610 billion, is it fair to say America "funds" 50.8% of the world's military? Not at all. The "world" doesn't have a military, it has ~190 different militaries, all of which are funded by the respective ~190 sovereign countries.

So if Trump really wants things to be fair and logically consistent, since America's military spending represents 66% of the combined spending of those 28 states, we should be paying for 66% of NATO's common budget, not the 22.1% we actually pay. But even that 66% would only equal $2.3 billion - or 18% of the cost of a single new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier.

In the end, Donald Trump either really doesn't understand the distinctions between NATO's actual budget and the domestic budgets of its members combined or he is willfully spreading misinformation to achieve his goals. Either way, it's a bad thing.

--Jacob Bogle, 5/18/16