Secrecy Isn’t What It Used To Be

Results of CIA investigations continue to be leaked. Concern was expressed at this norm-breaking. The norms exist for a reason, though. The CIA’s reason for existence is national security.

The President of the United States is acting in conflict with the recommendations of his national security agencies and in conflict with national security. Sending troops to the border for political effect. Sharing another nation’s highly classified intelligence with an adversary. Bragging about a plane that he believes is invisible. Failing to visit the troops in war zones. And more.

This is a conundrum for the national security agencies. The internet and the availability of information are changing their roles too.

Information once of limited availability is now on the internet. Some are free, some for sale. Overhead satellite photos, court documents, historical archives, social media that inadvertently shows significant features. Read More

The Fourth National Climate Assessment

Friday afternoon the government released its Fourth National Climate Assessment, mandated by Congress. Friday afternoon of the four-day weekend, of course, is a good time to bury it. But we’ve become accustomed to these tactics, and the report did not go unnoticed.

Thirteen government agencies contributed. The report looks solid, an indication that Donald Trump and his climate deniers couldn’t mess with the agencies’ mandates. This is a pattern that has shown up before in sanctions against Russia. Trump tweets one thing, his political appointees toe his line, and the agencies do their job. It’s encouraging that parts of the government can do their jobs. Read More

A Lovely Day For War With Iran

Hey, what better way to spend the holiday weekend than pushing for yet another war?

I can’t imagine why anyone would think that a war with Iran is a good idea. We are already involved in two wars in the region, one of them a direct consequence of the 2003 war on Iraq. Iran is a larger country, in a more strategic geographic position. As I continue to read material from the warmongers, I recall a saying attributed to Michael Ledeen:

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.

This, presumably, is consistent with the swagger Mike Pompeo wants to bring to the State Department. Read More

Who Is Sam Clovis?

This is a small point in the larger Russia investigation. But in my science, I have found that small points that don’t seem to make sense can be important. I am not putting forth a theory here. I want to raise questions that I think reporters should be looking at. The overarching question is Who is Sam Clovis and how did he develop his contacts?

When Donald Trump announced his foreign policy advisors in March 2016, a great many of us said “Who?” The five people announced were Joseph E. Schmitz, Gen. Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Walid Phares. Three had policy experience. Two didn’t. None were obvious choices.

Page was off to Russia that June. He had meetings with at least one high-level official, although his answers to congressional committees on that subject are evasive. A few years earlier, two Russian agents attempted to recruit Page as an informant.

Papadopoulos was convicted of lying to the FBI earlier this year. His wife worked for Joseph Mifsud, who had Russian connections and a job that looks like a cover. Mifsud has disappeared.

Who recommended Page and Papadopoulos? Eventually it came out that Sam Clovis, the national co-chair of the Trump campaign, had brought them into the campaign. Read More

Love And Death In The Incel World

When incels started shooting women, it seemed to me that I had read an analysis of something similar. It took me a while, but I recalled Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, from the early 1960s. Seems like now might be a good time to look at that book.

In the early 1960s, second-wave feminism was just getting started in the United States. Birth control pills were new. The civil rights movement was ramping up. AIDS and public recognition of gay issues were in the future. I wondered whether Love and Death could still be relevant. I hadn’t read it in a long time and didn’t remember much of it.

I looked it up and bought a copy of the revised edition from 1966. The original was 1960, before Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, although after Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex. I skimmed the sections about earlier literature, but the critique of 19th century literature, particularly James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, and Mark Twain was clearly relevant. Read More

Links – October 27, 2018

The Khashoggi Affair – A summary of Trump interactions with the Saudis and some good questions. Background on Turkey’s role by Graham Fuller and Aaron Stein. It’s time for the US to take a stand against the destructive bond that Donald Trump has with Saudi Arabia. Some of the things that might be done.  What Congress might do.

Why withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty is a bad idea, and a possible alternativeJohn Bolton’s role in the decision. EU statement. Interview with Richard Burt, who negotiated arms control treaties under Ronald Reagan.

Interview with Sig Hecker on recent developments with North Korea.

Mapped: The Absent Ambassadors.

Russia is coming back to Afghanistan.

How much does Russia spend on nuclear weapons?

The Bullying Swagger – from me in Pakistan Politico.

Jeffrey Lewis highlights a problem that I continue to deal with in Trump’s America: There is policy analysis, and then there is how Trump makes decisions.

This is exactly how a nuclear war would kill you. How a nuclear war might start and what it would be like.

The misunderstood roots of international order – and why they matter again.

Joachim Roenneberg has died. He led the mission to blow up Norway’s heavy water plant in 1943, when Germany occupied Norway. That heavy water could have helped the Nazis develop an atomic bomb. BBC. New York Times.

Basic Science For Global Warming

Over at Balloon Juice, I’ve promised to write more about global warming. It’s the most important problem facing us now. I’ll cross-post here too. This is the first substantive post in the series.

In order to understand discussions of global warming, you need a few basic scientific facts. I’m stripping them down so they’re easy to remember.

Thermodynamics is an imposing word that means “movement of heat.” Thermodynamics fundamentally establishes boundaries on what chemical reactions can take place and what other kinds of work can be done. Facts derived from thermodynamics cannot be bent or gotten around. Heat is a type of energy, so I’ll use the two words interchangeably here.

Fact #1: Carbon dioxide and water result from the production of energy by burning fossil fuels. In order to make them into something else, energy must be supplied. Not only that, but more energy must be supplied than was produced by burning, sometimes a lot more.

Any claim that a process can turn carbon dioxide back into fuels, or that water can supply hydrogen as a fuel, should be met with the question “Where does the energy come from?” If the answer is non-carbon power, the claim may be worth pursuing. If the claim says nothing about energy sources, more information is needed.

Fact #2: Separating something from a mixture requires energy. The lower the concentration, the more energy is required.

Carbon dioxide is about 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, or 0.04%. That is a very low concentration. Any claim of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere should be met with that same question, “Where does the energy come from?”

Windmills get their energy from wind, solar cells from sunlight, and plants and algae from sunlight. Some of the schemes involving them may seem to counter Facts #1 and #2, but careful energy tracing will show that they do not.

Electricity and hydrogen, while clean in their immediate area, are only as clean as their sources. They are energy carriers rather than energy sources – they put a source of energy, say a nuclear reactor, into a form you can tuck into your car or home.

That’s all the thermodynamics you need to understand most of global warming.

The Khashoggi Affair: A View From 40,000 Feet

In this post, I’m going to take a 40,000-foot view of the Khashoggi affair, to clarify some things as the Trump propaganda machine swings into action.

Jamal Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and resident of the United States. He was a critic of the Saudi regime and a columnist for the Washington Post. On October 2, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and has not been seen since. A 15-man Saudi group, including a forensic pathologist with a bone saw, entered Turkey just before Khashoggi disappeared and left just afterwards. The Saudi consul has left Turkey and has not been available to the press. Evidence is available that suggests that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, and dismembered.

Official statements from the Saudi government have denied that they had anything to do with Khashoggi’s probable murder. Government statements have also threatened economic and political retaliation. Read More

John Bolton Is Worried About His War

Donald Trump says he told John Bolton when he hired him as National Security Advisor, “No, no wars.” But Bolton is a smart man who knows how to operate in the government to get his way. And his way is unabated hostility to the rest of the world. He has recently condemned the International Court of Justice. He supported the Iraq war. He is an advocate of preventive war against Iran and North Korea.

But the Jamal Khashoggi murder is standing in the way of a war against Iran. John Bolton must be sad. And, probably, working hard to find a way through this crisis. Read More