Friday, March 24, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Short Takes

North Korea missile test fails.

Report: Laptop ban sparked by ISIS threat.

Paul Manafort hid a $750,000 payment from Ukrainian lawmaker.

Tweaks to GOP healthcare bill are panned.

Dow Jones begins to sink after figuring out Trump promises are falling flat.

Happy birthday, CLW.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Short Takes

F.B.I. confirms probe into Trump-Russia connection.

Neil Gorsuch goes before Senate committee.

U.S. to ban electronics on certain flights to and from the Middle East.

Stephen Hawking fears he may not be welcome in Trump’s America.

R.I.P David Rockefeller, 101, last grandchild of John D. Rockefeller.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Short Takes

Fighting erupts in Syrian capital.

GOP representative says “no evidence” of of Trump-Russia links.

Democratic representative says there’s “circumstantial evidence” of Trump-Russia links.

North Korea holds “high thrust” missile engine test.

Wildfire near Boulder, Colorado, forces thousands to evacuate.

R.I.P. Jimmy Breslin, 88, columnist and writer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Short Takes

Snow pummels Northeast.

Dutch vote puts populist support to the test.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an e-mail alias when he was head of ExxonMobil.

Female senators fiercely question Marine commandant over nude photos scandal.

Canadian Girl Guides cancel trips to U.S. because of Muslim ban.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Short Takes

UK Parliament passes Brexit bill.

UNICEF says Syrian children experiencing “unprecedented” levels of suffering.

Thousands of flights canceled ahead of Northeast snowstorm.

Department of Justice wants more time to produce “wiretap” evidence.

Beware: U.S. Border Patrol can search your cell phone.

Friday, March 10, 2017

South Korea Tosses Its Leader

Via the New York Times:

EOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court removed the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time.

Her removal capped months of turmoil, as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets, week after week, to protest a sprawling corruption scandal that shook the top echelons of business and government.

Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.

Ms. Park’s powers were suspended in December after a legislative impeachment vote, though she continued to live in the presidential Blue House, largely alone and hidden from public view, while awaiting the decision by the Constitutional Court. The house had been her childhood home: She first moved in at the age of 9 and left it nearly two decades later after her mother and father were assassinated in separate episodes.

Eight justices of the Constitutional Court unanimously decided to unseat Ms. Park for committing “acts that violated the Constitution and laws” throughout her time in office, Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said in a ruling that was nationally broadcast.

Anyone taking notes?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Short Takes

Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent.

Arms Race: Trump calls for U.S. nuclear supremacy.

Hang in there, RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’ll stay on SCOTUS as long as she can.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep protections for transgender students.

Cheap Seats — Airlines’ no-frills flying taking off.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“What He Meant Was…”

Remember when the Republicans lost their collective minds over President Obama “apologizing” for America?

So this must be a variation on that.  Let’s call it “explaining.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on the first visit by a senior Trump administration official to Iraq, worked on Monday to repair breaches of trust with Iraq’s leaders caused by his boss just as the two sides began a major offensive to oust the Islamic State from its last stronghold in the country.

Mr. Mattis found himself in nearly the same position he was in during his just-finished trip to Europe, where much of his time was spent reassuring wary allies that the United States was still committed to NATO after statements and actions by President Trump seemed to call old alliances into question.

Before arriving in Baghdad, Mr. Mattis was asked by reporters about Mr. Trump’s remarks during a visit to C.I.A. headquarters last month that the United States should have “kept” Iraq’s oil after the American-led invasion, and might still have a chance to do so.

“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mr. Mattis said during a stop in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

Don’t worry; you’re not going to hear any outrage from the right about this because, well, you’re just not, okay?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

They Don’t Trust Him

From the New York Times:

These are chaotic and anxious days inside the National Security Council, the traditional center of management for a president’s dealings with an uncertain world.

Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff members have turned to encrypted communications to talk with their colleagues, after hearing that Mr. Trump’s top advisers are considering an “insider threat” program that could result in monitoring cellphones and emails for leaks.

Say or think what you will about spies, spying, and who’s watching who, the country can little afford to be unsure about its dealings with the outside world and the person who is supposed to be responsible for preserving and protecting us.  It’s one thing to keep your political opponents guessing at what you’re doing; it’s entirely another when your own intelligence community can’t figure out what you’re doing.

But what if they don’t trust the president enough with secret information because they’re not sure he won’t blab about it on the phone or tweet about it, or that the president’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, won’t share it with the Russians?  John R. Schindler, a former security analyst at the NSA, has concerns.

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.

That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues.

That’s Mike Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who now heads the National Security Council. Widely disliked in Washington for his brash personality and preference for conspiracy-theorizing over intelligence facts, Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for managerial incompetence and poor judgment—flaws he has brought to the far more powerful and political NSC.

Flynn’s problems with the truth have been laid bare by the growing scandal about his dealings with Moscow. Strange ties to the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin himself, have dogged Flynn since he left DIA, and concerns about his judgment have risen considerably since it was revealed that after the November 8 election, Flynn repeatedly called the Russian embassy in Washington to discuss the transition. The White House has denied that anything substantive came up in conversations between Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

That was a lie, as confirmed by an extensively sourced bombshell report in TheWashington Post, which makes clear that Flynn grossly misrepresented his numerous conversations with Kislyak—which turn out to have happened before the election too, part of a regular dialogue with the Russian embassy. To call such an arrangement highly unusual in American politics would be very charitable.

[…]

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.

None of this has happened in Washington before. A White House with unsettling links to Moscow wasn’t something anybody in the Pentagon or the Intelligence Community even considered a possibility until a few months ago. Until Team Trump clarifies its strange relationship with the Kremlin, and starts working on its professional honesty, the IC will approach the administration with caution and concern.

Having a president who is proud to be “unpredictable” may sell to a base that thinks that James Bond movies are documentaries and that keeping the Russkies guessing is still part of our way of winning the Cold War, but it could end up with a lot of us getting killed.