Sunday, August 06, 2017

PBS News Hour on North Korea

Bob Gallucci and Michael Pillsbury were on the PBS News Hour as the hawk and the dove on North Korea.  Pillsbury, the hawk, is a Pillsbury doughboy heir, and worked in the Pentagon back 30 years ago.  Of course, the Pentagon was almost always the enemy of the State Dept, and Pillsbury was the enemy.  I can’t remember exactly what issue he was involved in, probably missile proliferation and North Korea, but he was affiliated with Asst. Sec. of Defense Richard Perle under Reagan and Steve Hadley, who replaced Perle under G.H.W. Bush.  

To PBS’ credit, in the run-up to the panel, they talked to Sigfried Hecker, the former head of the Livermore National Lab.  Like Los Alamos, Livermore builds America’s bombs.  For some reason the North Korean’s liked Hecker and showed him all kinds of stuff when he visited years ago.  Maybe it was  just scientists showing off.  But because he builds bombs, he understood it all.  I think he probably knows more about North Korea’s bombs than anybody outside of North Korea, but people seldom talk to him.  On PBS he was less alarmist on N.K.’s bomb, saying they probably still have a few years to go to develop one for a missile.  

Of course, the Missile Technology Control Regime, which I worked on off and on for five or  more years was supposed to prevent countries like N.K. from getting strategic missiles.  But it was only an export control regime, and the Chinese have never fully committed to it.  It may have helped slow down N.K., but now I think they probably have the national capability to develop long range missiles without outside help.  So, export control doesn’t help much.  

I found this interesting old article about Michael Pillsbury.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

NYT on Iran, Russia, and Myanmar

Today’s NYT has a huge editorial calling on Trump not to go to war with Iran.  I agree with the editorial, and I think it is a good sign that Trump so far seems to be more interested in criticizing Iran than in taking concrete actions against it.  I am less sanguine about the Republicans in Congress, who will pressure Trump to take stronger actions against Iran.  Trump seems inclined to do the right thing, but he might bow to GOP pressure, especially if it is linked to healthcare or tax legislation.  

On the other hand, I find it disturbing that the NYT is so jingoistic about fomenting war with Russia.  It has not called for war with Russia, but its harsh criticism of Putin seems to characterize him as a latter-day Hitler, who needs to be stopped.  Putin is not a saint, but I don’t see him as evil as the NYT does, or ther other Democratic media outlets like CNN or MSNBC.  Putin has many nuclear weapons.  War with him would be a disaster for the whole world.  A little moderation in our dealings with Russia, as well as with Iran, is called for.  The NYT needs to tone down it hate-Russia rhetoric.  

Finally there is an article in the NYT about growing Chinese influence in Myanmar (nee Burma), by Jane Perlez, who interviewed me in Poland about 20 years ago.  She blames Trump for the coolness in relations between the US and Myanmar, yielding the Chinese a leading role in Myanmar's development.  However, she barely touches on the fact the the main foreign policy issue with Myanmar during the Obama administration was the Rohingya Muslim minority.  As a champion of Muslim rights, the US loudly criticized the government of Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya.  Making criticism of human rights the central point of our policy was not likely to build better relations between the two countries.  The Chinese are much less squeamish about human rights abuses, and thus are a much preferred interlocutor than the US.  Perles ignores this irritant in US-Myanmar relations in her analysis.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Two Million Added to ObamaCare Group of Uninsured This Year

The media have made a big deal out of the fact that about two million people have been added to the group of people with no health insurance this year.  Examples of coverage are in Time, CNN, and the NYT.  When commentators talk about this decrease in coverage on TV, they try to pin responsibility on Trump and the GOP, when in fact it is due to problems with ObamaCare.  All of these print articles point out that the reason for the decline is that millions of young, healthy people are leaving ObamaCare, because it’s a bad deal.  ObamaCare counted on young, healthy people’s insurance payments to subsidize coverage for older people with higher medical expenses.  Younger people are apparently deciding that it’s better to pay the ObamaCare tax penalty than to buy the ObamaCare insurance.  

This phenomenon is to some extent evidence that the Republicans are right.  If left alone, ObamaCare will self-destruct.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Echoes of Old Anti-Communists Days

Joe McCarthy & Roy Cohn

The current hearings of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence look ominously like the 1950s  hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee and the hearings led by Senator Joe McCarthy in the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations.  Ironically, McCarthy’s chief lawyer, Roy Cohn, was a mentor to President Donald Trump early in his business career.  

The current committees are seeking connections to Russian spies, while their predecessors in the 1940s and 1950s were seeking connections to Communist spies.  In the Senate today Senator Mark Warner is playing the role of Joe McCarthy, screaming treason and treachery at the top of his voice.  Today Congressman Adam Schiff is playing the role of Congressman Richard Nixon in pursuit of Alger Hiss for spying, as reported by the Washington Post.  

Roles are reversed.  Now it’s Democrats who see Russian spies under every rock, spies so powerful they can turn an ordinary American like Donald Trump, Jr., into a traitor, simply by being the the same room with him for a meeting. The Democrats portray Rinat Akhmetshin as just such a man.  Strangely for such a powerful spy, Akhmetshin is a US citizen and lobbyist, who meets regularly with American politicians without turning them into traitors.  

I think the hearings are ridiculous, just like the old 1040s and 1950s anti-Communist hearings.  Their pursuit of Russian spies is a kangaroo court or a “witch hunt” as President Trump has said.  The Democrats are profoundly embarrassed by having lost an election that should have been an easy victory because of their gross incompetence and contempt for the electorate.  Now the Democrats are trying to blame the Russians for the failures of the Democratic Party.  They are so obsessed that slander and persecution are acceptable tools to an end.  They are disgracing themselves a second time and befouling the halls of Congress in the process.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hillary’s and Donald’s Emails

The media are going mad about a handful of emails from and to Donald Trump Junior.  It’s not clear that the emails are incriminating, although the Democrats and the media are doing everything than can to make them sound incriminating.  When the New York Times printed the emails in question, it printed seventeen.  On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s staff destroyed 33,000 emails after they had been subpoenaed by Congress.  Hillary’s staff actually ordered that they emails be destroyed before they were subpoenaed, but they were not physically destroyed until after the subpoena had been issued.  Hillary claimed the emails were personal, but we will never know because no one who was not working for or with Hillary ever saw them.  This is the time line by Politifact:  

At the second debate between the two presidential nominees, Trump criticized Clinton for turning over half her emails held on her server to the State Department and deleting the rest. He said Clinton should be "ashamed" of herself for deleting 33,000 emails.

Clinton and her campaign don’t dispute that she deleted these 33,000 emails. They argue that these were personal in nature, rather than work-related, and therefore were not necessary to turn over.

Politifact’s ruling was:

Trump said, "You (Hillary Clinton) get a subpoena, and after getting the subpoena you delete 33,000 emails."

Clinton’s staff received a subpoena for Benghazi-related emails March 4. An employee managing her server deleted 33,000 of Clinton’s emails three weeks later.

The FBI found no evidence that the emails were deleted deliberately to avoid the subpoena or other requests. Clinton’s team requested for the emails to be deleted months before the subpoena came. They also argued that all the emails that would be relevant to the subpoena had already been turned over to the State Department.

We rate Trump’s claim Half True.

While Trump Junior is being pilloried in the press for seventeen emails, it is useful to remember that Hillary deleted 33,000, and we will never know what they said.  Since Hillary was Secretary of State, some of them may have involved conversations with Russians.  Sen. Tim Kaine has said that Trump Junior may have committed treason by talking to Russians for a few minutes.  Is it not likely that Hillary talked to Russians much more than Trump did, and that she talked about more important subjects, making it more likely that she would have committed treason by Kaine’s standard (not by any real definition of treason).  .  .  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trump Junior Emails

The media has gone wild over the Trump emails obtained by the New York Times, and then released by Trump Junior himself.  How did the NYT obtain these emails?  If they came from intelligence sources, they illustrate the violations of the Fourth Amendment by the intelligence community that led Ed Snowden to defect to Russia.  Of course, once Trump himself released the emails, their veracity is confirmed, but where did the NYT get them in the first place?  Did someone violate Donald Junior’s Fourth Amendment rights?  Is the NYT not concerned about violations of the Fourth Amendment?  It has repeatedly relied on its protection under the First Amendment.  Is one amendment more important than the other?  

It’s interesting that liberal journalists across the board have no concern about reading other people’s emails.  A hundred years ago reading someone else’s mail was a very bad thing to do.  Someone who did it would have been considered an immoral, impolite voyeur.  Today there is no concern about reading other people’s mail.  The talking heads delight in it and feel no shame.  President Trump is certainly boorish and impolite, but so are the talking heads who criticize him.  A pox on both your houses.  

I found it interesting that on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” Sen. Tim Kaine said Americans were deployed to fight the Russians, and because of that confrontation, what Donald Trump, Jr., did was potentially treason.  Since the penalty for treason is death, Kaine presumably believes that Trump Junior should die for meeting with a Russian lawyer.  

The Trump discussions look like nothing compared with the Reagan campaign’s negotiations with the Iranians to help Reagan defeat Carter in 1980.  See this report in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.  Although most of these negotiations were secret, the Iranian release of the Iranian hostages the moment after Reagan took the oath of office was very public.  Compared to Reagan, Trump is as pure as the driven snow.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Media Coverage of Donald Trump, Jr.

I have been appalled by most media coverage of the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., and Russian lawyer .. Veselnitskaya.  As an indictment of Ms. Veselnitskaya, the New York Times said on July 8

Ms. Veselnitskaya was formerly married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region, and her clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting. Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the F.B.I., according to a former senior law enforcement official.

In other words, the NYT condemned this lawyer for having unsavory clients.  But that standard, virtually every lawyer in the US would be condemned as untrustworthy.  Ms. Veselnitskaya may be a bad person, but not through guilt by association with shady clients.  The NYT has sunk to the level of the National Enquirer in terms of denigrating people.  It shows trashy writing and trashy editing.  The NYT’s hatred of Trump is so strong that it has lost its professionalism.  

The NYT article also included this paragraph:

American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to tip the election toward Mr. Trump, and a special prosecutor and congressional committees are now investigating whether his campaign associates colluded with Russians. Mr. Trump has disputed that, but the investigation has cast a shadow over his administration for months.

This paragraph has nothing to do with the story about the Russian lawyer, but it sticks in something nasty about Trump.  It’s equivalent to writing, “Many people say Trump is ugly and stupid.”  Such a comment does not say that he is ugly and stupid, it just plants that idea in readers’ minds, much as the paragraph about ongoing investigations does.  Two years ago, the Times would never have stooped to writing such slanderous garbage.  

I’m not saying the Donald Trump is a great man or a great President.  He is not.  But if you are going to make the case that he is not, you should be honest about it.  You should stick to the facts.  Trump hatred has driven the “old gray lady” to become a slutty whore.  The Times has fallen off its pedestal.  

It is possible to report the Trump, Jr., story accurately, but I have watched or read four versions and found only one to be fair.  The fair version was tonight’s Vice news on HBO.  It stuck to the facts and indicated that while this meeting was probably not the smartest thing Donald Junior had ever done, it was probably not terrible.  It does not look like that TV interview has yet been posted on the Internet.  

Meanwhile, both CBS and PBS followed the NYT in linking Donald Junior’s meeting to Russian spying, if only by implication.  The CBS Evening News report by Jeff Pegues included a clip by an ex-FBI agent who said that in any meeting the Russians were “always trying to use you,”  the implication being that Trump was compromised, when in fact as a businessman he probably meets people everyday who are trying to use him, get him to do something he doesn’t want to do.  Why does the FBI think that the Russians are so much smarter than New York real estate developers?  CBS implies that Trump Junior is a hopeless dupe, that no businessman would ever take a meeting because a friend asked him to.  CBS no doubt believes Trump Junior is an idiot and a traitor, but they need better information than this to prove it.  This just more guilt by innuendo and association.  The PBS Newshour report followed much the same pattern.  

Oddly, although Democrats and the news media believe that no one can resist the wiles of the Russians, American officials at the embassy in Moscow meet with Russians everyday.  Have they all be compromised and turned into traitors?  If so, none would be more guilty than former Ambassador Michael McFaul.  However, McFaul was a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton and still appears frequently as a commentator on TV.  How is it that he escaped being brainwashed by Putin, while they believe Trump officials were brainwashed by spending a few minutes with Russians.  Of course, there are Trump associates who spent more than a few minutes with Russians and who are suspect of being under Russian influence, particularly Paul Manafort and maybe Gen. Michael Flynn.  Flynn certainly did some things wrong, but I find it hard to believe that an Army general who was the head of military intelligence would have become a pawn of Russian intelligence, while Michael McFaul escaped any contamination whatsoever.   

Ed Snowden and Russian Hacking

If the House and Senate intelligence committees were really serious about investigating Russian hacking, they would be looking into and talking about the role of Ed Snowden, the former NSA contractor who is now living in Russia.  If even half of the terrible things the committees, particularly the Democratic members, have said about Putin are true, then Putin has made Snowden spill his guts about some of NSA’s most closely held secrets and how to hack American computer systems.  Snowden is one of the foremost hackers in the world, if only because he hacked America’s foremost hacking agency, the NSA.  He is a gold mine of information for Russian hackers; yet, neither the intelligence committees nor the intelligence community has mentioned him.  We are led to believe that Putin and his henchmen have respected Snowden’s privacy and have never asked him a question about US cyber intelligence operations.  If you can’t trust an American businessman like Trump to sit down with a Russian businessman and talk, (and the New York Times and the Washington Post can’t) then how can you expect to trust an American intelligence agent, who has defected to live in Russia and talk to Russians everyday, not to disclose anything of value.  

Why are the Democrats afraid to mention Snowden?  Because Snowden defected when he thought Obama and the Democrats were violating the rights of millions of Americans by spying on them.  If Snowden thought Obama was bad, he must have thought that Hillary Clinton as President would have been ten or a hundred times worse.  Of course, he did not expect Donald Trump to become President; nobody did.  Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Snowden helped the Russians work against Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  By the time it became clear that Trump would be her opponent, Snowden had probably spilled his guts to the Russians.  It may be that even now, because of his contempt for the widespread spying on ordinary citizens by the CIA and NSA under Obama, he thinks that he did the right thing in trying to level the playing field against the intrusions of these aggressive American spy agencies.  

If Putin, the FSB, and Russian hackers have refrained from talking to Snowden, then the American intelligence community and the intelligence committees should establish that fact, and we would know that Putin is not all bad.  Of course the implication is that Putin, a former KGB agent, is now interested only in money and politics and doesn’t give a damn about spying.  John Brennan, do you really believe that Putin has neutered the FSB?  No, I think Brennan was more interested in electing Hillary Clinton than in protecting the cyber security of the United States.  

Has Representative Adam Schiff or Senator John Warner, the senior Democratic representatives on the Congressional committees, ever mentioned Ed Snowden?  I don’t think so.  A quick Google search revealed only a Bloomberg interview with Adam Schiff around June 2013 while Snowden was being held temporarily at the Moscow airport.  Schiff said he thought that if Russia granted asylum to Snowden, it would harm US-Russian relations.  I see nothing about Snowden from Schiff or Warner since Trump’s election.  Snowden is clearly the biggest cyber hacking thing to happen in the last few years, but it goes unmentioned.  What role did Snowden’s information play in Soviet hacking of Ukraine, or the DNC, or the worldwide ransomware attacks, which used an NSA-developed hack?  Nobody knows, and the Democrats are afraid to ask, because it might turn out that Snowden’s defection under the Obama administration was one of  the main things that made these hack attacks possible.  

Unless they deal with Snowden, the Congressional investigations are just Soviet style show trials aimed at destroying Donald Trump.  Meanwhile, CIA director John Brennan was too politicized to do his job competently.  It’s a nasty mess, and Adam Schiff and John Warner, the two Democratic attack dogs, are two of the nastiest people involved.  But they are afraid to touch Ed Snowden.  

Intelligence Community Loyalty

I believe that CIA Director John Brennan corrupted the CIA and made it an arm of the Democratic Party.  Brennan was a strong supporter of his boss, Obama, and used his position to further Obama’s goal, which was to get Hillary Clinton elected President.  When the Democrats failed to elect Hillary in one of the greatest election debacles ever, the remaining Democrats used the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate to leverage the CIA’s Hillary-love into a way to remove Trump from office.  The Democrats are trying to use the CIA to overturn the results of the 2016 election, and there appear to be senior officials still at CIA who support this goal.  If Trump ever gets around to appointing his own ambassadors, he may find that there is disagreement between embassy station chiefs and his ambassadors.  The policy independence of station chiefs was illustrated to some extent by the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” in which the Pakistan station chief refused to cooperate with Congressman Wilson, because he thought Wilson’s ideas on Afghanistan policy were wrong.    

The CIA, like the State Department Foreign Service, attracts a fair number of elite intellectuals from the political establishment who want to play a role on the world stage.  As a result, many senior CIA officials in the clandestine service and intelligence analysis would tend to be supporters of progressive Democratic policies and candidates, e.g., Hillary Clinton.  On the other hand, CIA paramilitary types would probably be Trump supporters, but they are not going to be senior CIA officials.  As a result, the CIA tilts strongly left, and that tilt is reflected in its intelligence reporting and analysis.  

Therefore, I think Trump is correct not to trust the CIA.  I think the CIA is out to get him.  The other day on Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough kept referring to “intelligence patriots.”  I think this is just liberal propaganda from Joe’s liberal MSNBC network.  Because the CIA shares his hatred of Trump, he sees them as “patriots,” when in fact they are just political allies.  

Of course there is a lot of intelligence produced by the CIA that is not politicized -- sizes of armies, capabilities of weapons, even political situations in second-tier countries.  There are a lot of smart people producing useful intelligence. But the whole business of Russian involvement in the US, and particularly the election hacking, is politically motivated and untrustworthy.  Almost open rebellion by the leading intelligence agency against the President is dangerous for political stability in the US, and Democrats in Congress are exacerbating this tension by encouraging the CIA to provide them dirt on the Trump administration.    

When John Brennan appeared on “Meet the Press” yesterday, he talked about treason.  Brennan said, “the process of committing treason against one's country frequently takes place in an unwitting fashion in the early stages.”  The clear implication is that some Trump administration people may have unwittingly been committing treason, a very strong accusation.  But Chuck Todd implies that the Obama administration did nothing in response to what appeared to be treason because it did not want to look like it was interfering in the election on behalf of Hillary, whom everyone expected to win.