Posts tagged ‘intelligence’

The Chaos Just Got More Chaotic

First, the Republicans on the Intelligence committee decide there is nothing there, and then the President fires Tillerson. Just another day in the week for President DFF and chaos. Let’s start with the Republican House Intelligence Committee finding that there was no collusion and the Russians did not try to help President DFF. Let’s think about that. These are the boys and girls who could not stop investigating Benghazi but can see nothing bad from Russia, even though really important witnesses refused to answer questions and the Republicans refused to subpoena them and get them under oath. “We don’t need no stink’n facts and answers.” Our intelligence agencies are unequivocal about the Russians helping Trump (or basically anyone else but Hillary) and yet they found nothing. And all those meetings with the Russians? Oh it was just friendly chit-chat. Had this been a Democrat there would have been a firing squad. This is partisanship bordering on treason.

Next, in the world of misdirection and confusion so you stop focusing on the ball, Rex Tillerson is fired (announced on Twitter) and Mike Pompeo moves to Secretary of State. Then he promotes Gina Haspel to CIA Chief. Here is what we know about her:

A 2017 New York Times report says Haspel, in 2002, oversaw the torture of two suspects at a secret prison in Thailand and later was involved in the destruction of videotapes documenting that torture. One of those prisoners was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls, and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide, says the Times.

As a result of such torture, she was shifted out of her role as head of the CIA’s clandestine service.

Haspel was picked to run the CIA’s clandestine operations unit in 2013, but Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, blocked the promotion because of Haspel’s history of torture.

Within the agency, though, Haspel is reportedly widely respected – and has support from members of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Where she stands personally on issues such as extreme interrogation techniques is an unknown, as she has not offered any public comments on policy, as you would expect for an undercover officer.

I, of course, run paranoid and I can’t help wondering if President DFF has a secondary agenda to get control of the intelligence agency. An attempt, I think, to get control of the flow of information to better control news and the Russia investigation. Republicans, of course, will rubber stamp her.

My conclusion? We are in very deep shit. We put government in the hands of Republicans and it turns out, they aren’t Americans any more, just lackeys carrying water for President DFF. Maybe the new oath of office will remove the “to defend and protect the Constitution” and replace it with “to defend and protect the Presidency only if it is Republican.” Yep, that is where we are this morning. You cannot paint this with a normalcy paint brush no matter how hard you try.

Who Needs Intelligence or Have We Just Elected the Manchurian Candidate?

Why the Trump attack on the Intelligence agencies and now a proposal to “reorganize it”?  Actually America, you should really be afraid.  Let’s first take his attempt to delegitimize American Intelligence.  It is a boldfaced attempt to redefine reality (security threats) in Donald’s belief of what it should be.  It is attempt to stiffle any real check on his definition of what is the threat.  He tells us Russia probably did not hack the Democrats, there was no plot, and Jullian Assange did not get his intell from a “state source”.  Assange is more reliable than our own intelligence agencies?  But our intelligence Agencies have real data to say he is wrong.  So first he claims a political bias, and then the plan to reorganize to intimidate.  

Now there is nothing wrong with looking at the money and efficacy of these agencies and find a better way to do it.  But it is obvious what he is about.  He is about controlling the message even if the message is a lie.  In other words who needs intelligence briefings if you have already made up your mind?  Who needs competing data and facts?  Why confuse the issue with facts and data?  He wants total control of the message and he is doing exactly what he did with his own supporters by trying to delegitimize the National Press. If he controls the information, he controls everything.  So from that perspective we have a truly dangerous man at the helm.  If you look at it this way, he is the authoritarian coming into power to crush free speech.

The other way to look at it is that he is a dufus.  The press keeps telling us how smart and charming he is and yet he blunders all over the place, either ignorant of the facts and policies, or just half cocked at all times.  You know, ready, shoot, aim.  And as a duffess, the Russians have co-opted him.  It would not have been hard as it seems his magical business accumen is highly leveraging one business deal after another and living large on the proceeds of the loans.  We don’t know that for sure because we are never going to see his income taxes.  But what if he is highly indebt to the moguls in Russia?  What if his sudden bromance with Putin is about their exerting pressure on him?  What if he is their “Manchurian Candidate”.  That would also explain his attempt to defame our intelligence and suddenly be a Jullian Assange fan.

Or worst case, what if it is both?  He is smart enought to know that he who controls the information controls the game, and he is a puppet of the Russians?  Then we are in deep shit.  I would love to explain all this away as the orange headed village idiot is, well, the village idiot, but this is too well thought out.  We are in deep do-do everyone.  These are not normal times and whatever his motivations, they are leading down a path of danger and quite possibley destruction.  What will tell the tale is whether after he is elected, if Russia makes a move.  In the meantime you and I have to do everything to return us to a nation of data and facts, and protect the free press no matter what it takes.  Everything coming out of the White House is going to be carefully filtered propaganda.  We thought it was just a character flaw in Trump to never be wrong.  It could be something much more dangerous.

What is Smart? Carson and Fiorina on the Issues

Do we know it when we see it?  Is smart, meaning knowledgable in one area, make you smart in another?  How can someone be so insightful in one indeavor and totaly clueless in another?  Great military leaders, sometimes make lousy piecetime warriors (George S. Patton comes to mind).  Some great military leaders make lousy presidents (Grant) and some make good ones (Eisenhower), arguably. Some really smart people believe in god, others chuckle at the whole edifice.  Great political strategists do not necessarily make great leaders.  Great leaders sometimes lead us off a cliff. Some studies have shown that the smartier the person, the more intricate are the arguments he/she can build support positions that are just flatly wrong.

What is generating this musing is the latest two enteries into the Republican fray, Carly Florina and Ben Carson.  Carly is the ex-CEO who seems mightily impressed with her executive skills, and Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who the media likes to geniflect to because he must be so very smart.  Both would be, in my mind, disasters as Presidents, yet they are not stupid people.  They do, however, hold some amazingly uniformed opinions about how our nation should work.  Personaly, I think smart means a couple of things, and we should never judge how right a person’s politics are by their preceived smartness.  Let me explain.

When I think about smart, first I think about someone who has a wide randing command of the facts, not to be fooled by their arrogance of believing they do when they don’t.  George Bush had a limited command of the facts but his arrogance and self confidence (you decide) lent an air of invulnerability to both his own perception of himself and to those easily fooled by appearances.  “I got this, I’m in charge.” Swagger, Swagger.

A large portion of our population is fooled by the appearance of intelligence instead of the real thing.  In fact, a truly smart person knows what he doesn’t know and is always questioning.  He/she knows the limits of their experience and knowledge.  Some might call this wisdom.  Probably the most important thing a truly smart person ever learns is the limit of their experience and understanding.  In other words to be humble in the world of ideas, and to be always questioning yourself.

Now what you get in the political world is just the opposite.  The candidate wants to show you they have complete command of the facts, and they have the only right answer.  I think the most glaring example of someone who thought they had a complete command of the facts and did not have a clue was Sarah Palin and her, “I can see Russia from my house.”  The level of her ignorance was astounding, giving much fodder to Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live, for which we will all be forever grateful. 

But the second part of that, I have the only right answer and I am never wrong, is the most dangerous. In politics it is a perceived weakness to change your mind.  Right now in the Republican Party, the litmus test for a candidate (or one of the litmus tests) is flow down economics (supply side, trickle down), yet it has never worked.  What we really need is a leader who is willing to do new things, and change when they don’t work, not continue to invent excuses why the Party dogma is not flawed.

So that brings me back to Ben and Carly.  If any of the above has made any sense to you, then the smartness of a candidate is no indicator of whether they have a clue to solve our problems.  In many ways their smartness may facilitate them holding on to failed ideas.  So the solution is to look at their policies and see if they align with reality and what we have learned.  In other words, are they really applying wisdom to our way forward, or are their policies either dogma for the base, or dressed up status quo. So let’s look at Carly and Ben with the help of the NYT.


  • Foreign Affairs – Carly sounds like a Neocon (let’s arm the Ukrainians).  She also sounds like a Hawk on Iran with tighter restictions and more inspections before sanctions are lifted.  Do you know what the presnt deal looks like?  Neither do I.  I think is just being Neocony to appeal to the neocons.  There is no there there in any of this
  • Immigration – She would support legalization of kids with some very restrictive requirements, but only after we build a bigger fence. She says nothing about legalization  of others which of course is the third rail in Republican Politics
  • Same Sex Marriage – She is straddling the issue as she does not support gay marriage, but they should have equal rights.  If you can’t get married, how are you equal?
  • Climate Change – To her credit she does not deny it, but hey, there is nothing we can do.  That from your can-do CEO.
  • The Economy – On this one she is so out to lunch that it is pretty obvious she always dined in the executive suite.  Increasing the minimum wage will hurt jobs (she look at any of the data?),   Of course we need to reduce government regulations because we all know businesses only have our best interests at heart, and the stimulus investments did not work (again did she look at the data?).  Finally, there is Nirvana in lower taxes.
  • My brain hurts


  • Foreign Affairs – He likes the Israeli settlement program where the Jews are stealing land from the Palestinians.  Generally speaking he spent his whole time in Medical school studing medicine (which is good) because he is clueless about the complexity of most foreign affairs (Egypt should just donate land for a Palestinian state failing to recognize the there might be some religious issues about land ownership)
  • Immigration – They are robbing us blind with all of their entitlements and if you give them status they will suck us dry.  Of course none of the facts support this, but that seems to be theme within the Republican Party in General that does quite well with their voters
  • Same Sex Married – Clueless in the most fundamental of all senses.  At one point he indicated that gayness was a choice and they might be allowed hospital visitation priviledges and such. but let’s not get carried away
  • Climate Change – Since government regulations in general are bad, we must do nothing to regulate green house gases, “However, to use climate change as an excuse not to develop our God-given resources makes little sense.”  We got a god person here with a capital G.
  • The Economy – Flat tax not exceeding 15% which is nice, but not a study in the world says that will raise enough money to pay our obligations.  BUT WAIT!  Suply side economics exists and there will be so much more revenue from the increased economy due to low taxes, that it will pay for itself.  Hmm.  Has read any economics studies on what has actually happened when we cut taxes?

So back to the orginal question:  What is smart?  Not these two, although I think they could pick up quite a few votes from those folks in Texas who are hunkering down for the invasion from the Feds.  They are all in the same category of smartness.  The level of ignorance in this country and our press’s pandering to it is becoming alarming.

    Well What do We Know: Syria

    Actually the critical question is what do we not know. As questions fly about how sure are we that Assad was behind the chemical attacks, the real questions kind of get ignored in the near term, They are:

    1. If he has used Chemical Weapons should we attack? If your answer here is no, why should we be the policeman for the world, then who did what is really irrelevant.
    2. If your answer to 1 above is yes, then we get to the targeting questions. Are there targets that strike a balance between unnecessary killing and really punish his behavior in away that deters him, and degrades his ability to use them again?
    3. If the answer is no, why are having this discussion? If yes, then we have to consider blowback. What are the unintended consequences and are they worth the “lesson”.
    4. What happens if we do nothing?

    Here are my answers:

    1. On the basic question, we have to have credible evidence that is shared. We have to see it and agree that there is little doubt about the use of chemical weapons and by whom
    2. On question 1, my answer is yes if we have suitable targets (see 2 above) and here is my reasoning that answers 1-3. Forget the red line stuff although there is a credibility issue especially with Iran and Nukes. Also forget about the world policeman issue. Considering the size of our military budget, our budget is more than the sum of the next 13 countries combined. If we did not want to be the world’s policeman, why are we spending like we do?

      But the real issue and my answer to 4 above is the expanded use of chemical weapons which would be the horrific weapon of choice to pacify and terrify a population. To allow their use without a response is to encourage their use, and a chemical weapons arms race in the Middle East. I think all of the other risks are minor compared to this outcome and is why I would support a strike.

    3. Finally what if we don’t have targets that really fill the bill? I think we have to then not just attack wantonly, but to make our case to the world citing the above and find other ways to turn them into outlaws and support whatever will overthrow the regime even if it is a conservative Islamic government. Find ways to strike when we can that keeps them off balance. As bad as the alternative is to al-Asadd, it is better than the example of using chemical weapons to hold on to power

    But nobody said this was an easy decision and we must remind ourselves that this is not the Bush Administration cooking the books and looking for any excuse. We have a President who does not want to get involved and I am sure he is mulling over the same questions. But before we do anything, he needs to tell us what the justification is and what the game plan is. It is why I have never wanted his job.