Michael Wolff and the accidental president

Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, an unflattering portrait of the current U.S. president, was released today and is already a #1 Amazon best seller.  The book’s success seems to have benefited from pre-release hype (New York Magazine, The New Yorker, NYT, Reuters, the Gaurdian, Breitbart) and the president’s criticism of the author (WP, Fox (the article seems to switch to a different subject half way through) and a primary contributor to the book, former strategist, Steve Bannon (Breitbart, The New Yorker).  If coverage of the pre-released highlights is any indication, the contents of the book will likely reinforce the suspicions of those already critical of the president, and of those critical of those critical of the president.  In other words, I doubt we will see any converts.

For those nostalgic for the more ‘normal’ indiscretions of the Bush-Obama years, it’s sobering to remember that the NYT has not always been the useful foil to the administration it portrays itself as now.  In an article released this week, James Risen recalls his efforts to expose domestic surveillance in the U.S. and how the Bush and Obama administrations sought to send him to jail for it (The Intercept, DN!) while the Times did little to stand in their way.  While Trump tried to ban Wolff’s book, it was only a feeble effort at censorship and no one took it seriously.  How odd to think that democracy in America may be marked by the nation’s right to elect a narcissistic idiot to the highest office in the land, the press’s right to mock him, and the president’s right to respond only with fire and fury, signifying nothing.

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To the moon!

According the the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, President Trump is sending astronauts back to the moon.  There was even a new Space Policy Directive (the first one of its kind) to make it all official.  To hear Vice-president Pence tell it, “under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts.”  That sounds exciting, and might actually be exciting, were it not for a couple of details, noted in Secrecy News.  It turns out that Trump simply reused a 14-page document put out by the Obama administration and only changed one paragraph of it (that’s the part about the moon).  Also, that there is no funding for this grand adventure.  So, I’m not sure how the astronauts will get back there.  Maybe it’s just as well–I think if they do find some cash, they should give some new astronauts a turn.  It has to be a hard field to break in to.  Right now, it seems as if all the new ones get sent to Kazakhstan (Spaceflight Now, NPR).  Even if the US doesn’t lead everyone in space, you’d think they could beat out Kazakhstan.

And, speaking of U.S. national agencies doing spacey things, POLITICO and the New York Times just reported that the Department of Defense recently had (and perhaps still has) an Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to investigate Unidentified Flying Objects.  A highlight in the coverage (repeated in the Chicago Tribune, NPR, and covered further in the NYT) was a 2004 incident, caught on video, of two pilots in F/A-18F Super Hornets following a UFO.  It’s not that this is the first report, or even video, of this kind, but it seems to be a first to come vetted through an official agency and given credibility in mainstream media sources.  But reports of unexplained somethings flying with military aircraft are not new.  In fact, they are probably as old as aviation.  WWII pilots from several countries reported such phenomena, which American pilots termed “foo fighters.”  These were orange balls of light that would fly with the planes for while before speeding away.  Where did they go?  Maybe the astronauts will find out when they go back to the moon.

Going nuclear

Daniel Ellsberg really knows how to plug a book.  Remember Ellsberg?  He stole some 15,000 secret documents from the U.S. government.  He used half of them to show that the war in Vietnam was a sham and he use the other half for…well, nothing.  He sat on them.  Until now.  His book is called The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner and it references the other secret documents that talk about the United States’ plans to end life on the planet, in the event that that ever seemed like the right thing to do.  Now, I understand that the guy wants to plug his book and it’s all very well to make the talk shows, but it’s a bit much to come out with a movie to match.  And, I’m sure the threat of nuclear war is going to be good for sales, but did he have to get the U.S. to perform war drills in South Korea so that North Korea would all but declare war?  I think that’s going too far.  Now the U.S. has to go talk to North Korea, and they clearly don’t want to but they don’t have any better options.  The alternative would be fairly unimaginable if we hadn’t seen it before.

Film_821_DrStrangelove_original

From Russia with love

Weird stuff is coming out of Bob Mueller’s little investigation.  It seems that Russia mounted an extensive psy-op against the American public leading up to the last presidential election.  Donald Trump says it’s a fake-news hoax, but the investigative panel seems to differ (NYT, WP, AdAge, AdAge, VOA, SF Gate).  Media companies, such as Facebook, appear to be very sorry about all of this, even as their ad revenues soar.  What’s interesting about this is not that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.  Why wouldn’t they?  What I find interesting are two things.  First, while they obviously wanted Trump to win, the main thing they were interested in was splitting the country ideologically.  (Did they really think America couldn’t do that on its own?).  Second, they didn’t care if they got caught.  It’s almost as if they thought they could get away with it.  Silly Russians!  Don’t they realize that the U.S. Congress will now put a stop to such shenanigans and the country will put aside its senseless bickering?

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Speaking of weird stuff coming out, why did the CIA just release a bunch of files on Osama bin Laden (CNN)?  That seems a very un-CIA-like thing to do.  They say they did this “in an effort to further enhance public understanding of al-Qa’ida.”  There seems to be about 600 gigs of data available for download.  I’d better get started.  I can feel the public understanding enhancing already.

North Korean options

U.S. president Trump has said that “all options are on the table” with respect to North Korea.  A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report has now outlined what those options are.  To wit:

  • maintaining the military status quo,
  • enhanced containment and deterrence,
  • denying DPRK acquisition of delivery systems capable of threatening the United States,
  • eliminating ICBM facilities and launch pads,
  • eliminating DPRK nuclear facilities,
  • DPRK regime change, and
  • withdrawing U.S. military forces.

Notice that only one of these options (the last) is non-military.  As much as I hate to do it, I have to agree with former Trump insider/now Trump outsider Steve Bannon:

“until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

An 8th option that the CRS report failed to consider is that the North Korean nuclear test site (if not the regime) will simply collapse (laboratoryequipment.com, Bloomburg).

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Have you wondered why the U.S. has 800 military personnel in Niger?  Me neither.  I think they want the uranium.  What else is in Niger?  Cowpeas?  What are those?

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Fun fact:  Where did Adolph Hitler go after World War 2?  Russia?  Argentina?  Venezuela?  Columbia?  If you guessed Columbia, you would be in agreement with the latest JFK documents released by the CIA (Miami Herald, National Interest, HVCA-2592, HVMA-472).  Hitler’s relatives settled in Long Island, New York.  Martin Bormann escaped to Argentina.  So, why not?  I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in the last little bit of JFK documents.  Maybe we’ll finally find out how UFOs faked the moon landing.

JFK

Today, 54 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in the interests of open government and full disclosure, the U.S. government released all of the previously withheld documents related to the assassination that fail to implicate anyone in the U.S. government in the assassination.  The rest of the files are still secret (NPR, WP, The Atlantic).

If you would like to see these newly released files, you can go here.  If you want to know more about the process of releasing the files, look here.  You can also download them by clicking on the links below (Completely download all 11 files to the same directory then open jfk.zip to unzip all–you’ll need room for about 26 gigs of data.):

What’s inside?  I hope someone will sort through it all soon.  I’m curious, but who has the time?  Will we find out how Lee Oswald could fire a Carcano rifle three times in 8.3 seconds, hitting a moving target twice at 80 yards?  Will we find out why Jack Ruby shot Oswald?  Will we find out what the FBI and CIA still want to keep secret after 54 years?  Probably not.
Supposedly, there will be another chance to release the last of the records on the assassination in six months.  I guess the information they contain won’t be so dangerous then.  Will we find the smoking Carcano in April?  Probably not.
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Speaking of conspiracies, President Trump just declared the opioid crisis in America a “public health emergency.”  It seems that he was going to declare it a plain old “national emergency,” but that would have necessitated funding (NPR, CNN), so he didn’t.  So, it seems we have a label, but no plan and no money.  You know who we should hit up for cash?  The Sackler boys–Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler.  Nice guys.  All doctors.  Funded wings of a bunch of museums.  Unfortunately, they’re all dead now.  How did they make their money?  They started the opioid crisis.  Because of them, hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead.
Well, at least the Sacklers didn’t kill a president.  Then again, maybe we should withhold judgement until April.

Sputnik

The Space Age began sixty years ago, October 4, 1957, when Russia put a beach ball-size chunk of metal into orbit in earth’s atmosphere (Newsweek, Sky & Telescope, Space, Space again).  It’s funny to think how insignificant that accomplishment seems now, yet how momentous it was at the time.  I suppose the most significant accomplishments and threats of our era, from the moon landing to North Korea’s ICBMs can trace their origins to this Russian orb.

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I also want to follow up on my last post, which didn’t seem to come out quite right.  I think I was trying to say something like this:

Perhaps there’s no single one factor to blame for this gun violence. However, there is a common denominator, and that is a war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex that has invaded almost every aspect of our lives.

Ask yourself: Who are these shooters modelling themselves after? Where are they finding the inspiration for their weaponry and tactics? Whose stance and techniques are they mirroring?

In almost every instance, you can connect the dots back to the military.

We are a military culture.

We have been a nation at war for most of our existence.

Or, like this:

Americans do not merely engage in violence; they are also entertained by it.

I was just too lazy to get it right.  So, please take a look at those articles.  They’re a bit more ambitious.

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In other news, it seems that Santa Claus is (or was) real after all (Daily Sabah, BBC).  Now I wish I had been better this year.