Nuclear Policy In The Trump Administration

A couple of weeks ago, the administration released its Nuclear Posture Review. All administrations like to put their stamp on policy. The last review was in 2010.

There are lots of things in this one to talk about, and many articles out there about them. I’ve been trying lately to stand back from the trees and look at the forest. So, as a former project manager, some of the first questions I come up with have to do with budgets and timelines. Things like resource availability and scheduling. I wrote that up for Physics Today.

Short version: Looks to me like they can’t do what they want with the resources they’ve got. Plus it will take a decade or more to build the nukes they want, so maybe diplomacy can achieve our ends faster.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.

 

Links – February 1, 2018

Cool dinosaur and mammal tracks at NASA. Top photo from here.

The first thing Congress needs to do, when it can get away from the fever dreams of the worst of its members, is to reconstruct the process for passing a budget before the end of the fiscal year.

Americans Are Rising to This Historic Moment. I’m not as convinced as Eliot Cohen, but I think there are positive signs.

Heather Cox Richardson on creeping authoritarianism.

Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer. What is at stake – the grand bargain with the intelligence community. And why aren’t we hearing more from the intelligence community?

Is the Trump foreign policy great-power competition or America First? It depends on whom you ask.

Zeynep Tukfeci on the latest data privacy debacle. It’s not enough to ask individuals for their permission.

Leaks, feasts and sex parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia. There are simple ways to avoid this kind of corruption. We need to know why the Navy didn’t apply them.

Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans. Cha was to be US ambassador to South Korea, but apparently the ideas expressed in this op-ed were felt to be disqualifying.

This is definitive, if you have friends who are still pushing the Sy Hersh narrative about nerve agents in Syria. It was the Syrian government who were responsible for the sarin attacks.

 

Links – January 23, 2018

Ursula LeGuin has died.

A balanced look at Donald Trump, totalitarianism, and American resilienceAbandoning Science Advice: One Year in, the Trump Administration Is Sidelining Science Advisory Committees.

The Hawaii alert was an accident. The dread it inspired wasn’t.

How homicide charges for two skippers will shake up the entire Navy.

Database: the 270 people connected to the Trump-Russia probes.

North Korea’s Goals are Limited: It couldn’t Absorb South Korea even if it Won a WarBest Advice for Policymakers on “Bloody Nose” Strike against North Korea: It’s Illegal.

Europe Must Fight to Preserve the Iran Deal.

Dmitri Trenin has strong words on Russia’s adventure in Ukraine.

U.S. tests nuclear power system to sustain astronauts on Mars. Top photo of the Kilopower system from this article.

The Protection Racket

Donald Trump has a pattern: take something that is working well – DACA, S-CHIP, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement) – break it just a little, then “negotiate.”

So much of the current crisis atmosphere is due to his love of chaos and his mistaking a protection racket for negotiating.

He broke DACA and set up a six-month timetable for Congress to do something about it. The Republicans in Congress refused to reauthorize S-CHIP.

One of the concessions to the Republicans in Congress in the JCPOA was that the president would have to certify that Iran was in compliance every three months. Trump has used that to call into question the United States participation in the deal. Meanwhile, opponents of the deal are explicitly using Trump’s position as a protection racket to get the Europeans to take steps that would damage the deal. Read More

Russia and the NRA

McClatchy reports today that the FBI is investigating whether the National Rifle Association received money from the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. The NRA, of course, backed Donald Trump heavily. I’m going to work through the article in some detail, because it’s hard to get at the bottom line.

The news is that there is an investigation into Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sources did not say whether there was evidence that the NRA received Russian money. Read More

Do Not Let Me Hear Of The Wisdom Of Old Men

Donald Trump’s North Korea tweet was obvious enough that the instant responses to it included the word “dick-measuring” and the thought that he probably can’t find the button. It is becoming more and more obvious that he is indeed the WYSIWYG president. “There is no wizard behind the curtain — just an old, angry, obnoxiously ignorant man.”

The world is changing fast – away from the assumed preference for old white men. Even when their privilege was intact, within their value system they had a lot to be angry about. First, the physical decline. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to keep weight off, more difficult to maintain muscle tone. Joints begin to ache. Men’s sexual abilities decline starting at around age 20. There’s some cognitive decline; reflexes slow down.

Additionally, society keeps changing. People of color, women, people whose sexuality differs from cis-het all are being legitimated. Some are taking prominent jobs away from their rightful owners, those cis-het white men. Read More

Links – January 5, 2018

Happy New Year! Twenty years ago today, I came back to work after the holiday to find a faxed invitation that began my Estonian adventure. Top photo: The marker for the Sillamäe tailings pond cleanup, 2011.

Demonstrations continue in Iran. Donald Trump is determined to tweet about them. As usual, his tweets are not helpful but rather inciting. Here’s an article by two people on opposite sides with respect to the nuclear agreement. Here are some good suggestions from (gasp!) a Republican. How to ensure that Iran never starts reprocessing. Read More

Trump’s Nonexistent Cyberdeterrence

Michael Morell and Mike Rogers argue that the United States has failed to deter Russia from its attacks on our electoral system because those attacks continue. They rely on a model of deterrence that assumes that what Russia is doing is in some way equivalent to physical war. They feel that the Barack Obama administration and Congress did not administer heavy enough penalties. They want “policies that prevent adversaries from achieving their objectives while imposing significant costs on their regimes.” but do not say what those policies would be. Read More

Links – December 17, 2017

I don’t usually link to big news stories, thinking you’ve probably already seen them, but if you haven’t read this Washington Post story about Donald Trump’s feelings about Russian interference in the 2016 election, you are missing something. The article is framed around Trump’s unwillingness to accept the idea that his win might have had any other factors than his great charisma. I can see why the authors and editors might have done this to preserve some unity in a very complex story, but it is hard to believe that Trump’s ego is the only factor in play.

The secret history of the Russian consulate in San Francisco. Top photo of the roof of the consulate, with its multiple antennas. Read More

Today’s Flynn Story: More Questions Than Answers

Stuff that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t fit together always catches a scientist’s eye. Today’s Michael Flynn story has caught my eye. There is a fairly straightforward story on the surface: Flynn had a business deal involving Russians. He is reported, by one whistleblower, to have texted a business associate during the inauguration to say that the sanctions on Russia would be coming off soon, so they would be able to make a gazillion dollars. The New York Times and NBC broke the story this morning, and Politico, McClatchy, and Reuters have followed.

If that is what Michael Flynn discussed with the Russians, it is at least dishonest, and probably illegal. Read More