Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I Got Nothin' to Say

From the Washington Post:

Saying "Duh!" is an Insult to Morons

Donald Trump prepares for his speech before Congress.

Donald Trump actually said this: "“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

 Ladies and gentlemen, that was the President of the United States speaking.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Does Trump = Hitler?

In early December we had a couple of posts with the title, "Kicking off the Holocaust". Here and here.  It's hard to raise the question of whether Trump has fascist tendencies without a built-in alarm going off. "How can you even make that comparison?" your inner voice scolds you.

Luckily, we have the testimony of somebody who knows Nazi Germany pretty well, British historian Richard J. Evans, author of an authoritative trilogy on the Third Reich. Evans is cautious about what he says, but confirms similarities.

He concludes an interview with Slate with this:
I think it is a critical moment, and a lot of it goes back to the credit crunch and the economic crisis of 2008, and the feeling of a lot of people that they’ve been left out, that globalization has harmed them, or they’ve not seen an improvement in living standards or reductions in social and economic inequality. I think one of the lessons of 19th-century Europe is that peace and prosperity are best guaranteed by international collaboration. There was an arrangement between different states called the Concert of Europe in the 19th century, and in the post- or late-20th century, it’s the European Union. I think it is a disaster that Britain has chosen to leave the European Union at a time when you have a very unpredictable administration in Washington with no guarantee that it will in any way protect or look after our interests, when America is effectively abdicating its role as leader of the free world.
Not just abdicating, but almost consciously or actively trying to undermine the idea of Europe.
Yeah, it’s spurning international agreements and organizations just as Hitler left the League of Nations in 1933. I think it’s a dangerous moment for Britain, and I think it’s a huge miscalculation to leave the European Union.

Meanwhile, there's this:

And then there's this:

It's Only Gonna Get Worse. For a While, at Least.

On January 5 we asked "The Question on Everybody's Mind": What did Trump know about the Russian contacts, and when did he know it?

Since then, you've probably engaged thoughts about Trump that last year you would have considered more suited to the conspiratorial ravings of a left-wing Infowars site.

Well, you're not alone. In a column called The Spy Revolt Against Donald Trump Begins, a former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer reports what he is hearing from contacts still in the government. It is not pretty.

Some excepts:
Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.


It’s debatable whether Flynn broke any laws by conducting unofficial diplomacy with Moscow, then lying about it, and he has now adopted the customary Beltway dodge about the affair, ditching his previous denials in favor of professing he has “no recollection of discussing sanctions,” adding that he “couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” That’s not good enough anymore, since the IC knows exactly what Flynn and Kislyak discussed.

In pretty much every capital worldwide, embassies that provide sanctuary to hostile intelligence services are subject to counterintelligence surveillance, including monitoring phone calls. Our spy services conduct signals intelligence—SIGINT for short—against the Russian embassy in Washington, just as the Russians do against our embassy in Moscow. Ambassadors’ calls are always monitored: that’s how the SpyWar works, everywhere.

Ambassador Kislyak surely knew his conversations with Flynn were being intercepted, and it’s incomprehensible that a career military intelligence officer who once headed a major intelligence agency didn’t realize the same. Whether Flynn is monumentally stupid or monumentally arrogant is the big question that hangs over this increasingly strange affair.


There is more consequential IC pushback happening, too. Our spies have never liked Trump’s lackadaisical attitude toward the President’s Daily Brief, the most sensitive of all IC documents, which the new commander-in-chief has received haphazardly. The president has frequently blown off the PDB altogether, tasking Flynn with condensing it into a one-page summary with no more than nine bullet-points. Some in the IC are relieved by this, but there are pervasive concerns that the president simply isn’t paying attention to intelligence.

In light of this, and out of worries about the White House’s ability to keep secrets, some of our spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office. Why risk your most sensitive information if the president may ignore it anyway? A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president’s eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT [signals intelligence] secrets.


What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.
The whole article is here. Bolded parts are my own emphasis.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Just So We Know

The estimated additional security costs for Melania living in New York City are twice the annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts.

h/t to Ryan Chapman