​It seems we were all hasty, according to Byron York. In a cautionary tale, he gives a warning well worth listening to in his recent piece in The Washington Examiner. Despite the AP headlines about an imminent deal between the White House and Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. it may be that the tweeting was hasty, as tweeting is wont to be.

Here’s the statement or note Pelosi passed to her Democrat colleagues in Congress the morning after the infamous dinner:

“We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMERS from deportation.”

Ok. So they agreed to a plan to work out an agreement. That’s at least 3 degrees of separation from an actual, bona fide, signed in soya sauce on a linen napkin agreement.

You agree. To a plan. To work out. An agreement. To protect. DREAMERS from deportation.

Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. couldn’t have covered their alleyways any better. But neither AP, nor NeverTrump’ers, nor Angry Trump supporters, nor the rest of us, got that detail right. The point being that the suspicion that a deal with Democrats on anything on the part of the president, might be possible after the initial pivot is what triggered much of this reaction.

Here’s the thing. Trump doesn’t need to stop tweeting. That’s impossible. He needs to have someone helping him to get out in front with his tweeting. You do dinner with Nancy and Chuck, you have a few options on what you tweet. And you tweet before they do. Or you put up with their tweets. Rather than chase their tweets from behind, like a angry Top Gun chasing a Chinese surface to air missile, which is what President Trump was forced to do.

So after the big UN week in Manhattan. And after the speculation about whether UN Ambassador Haley is already gunning for Tillerson’s job at State. And after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico and the island territory demands billions more in aid. After all that, we will still have the White House and Congress with a packed agenda this fall. And both sides of the aisle matter in whatever deals get done and whatever bills get passed. Even if it’s to ignore one side or the other on any specific issue.

President Trump needs to weaponize his tweeting impulses. No he hasn’t done that yet. They have been more like loose ordinance so far, causing smoke and debris to scatter around. He needs instead to target his tweets like well-aimed missiles, aimed straight at the narrative media groups like AP or Democrat Senators construct on a daily basis.

​It won’t be single-payer! It won’t be single-payer!

Sorry for shouting at Senator Sanders out here on the sidewalk. Here’s what I mean.

Like in the case of gay marriage or de facto open borders, the Democratic Party is shifting hard to the left on health care, and dragging some moderate or RINO Republicans with them.

Yes, this has to do with Bernie Sander’s surprisingly successful campaign, which ignited millennial interest and brought Scandinavian-style socialism to the doorstep of American politics in a way that previous hard left groups were unable to do. And attitudes are shifting. Whether attitudes are following or leading Sanders’ efforts to introduce single-payer health care in America is something that perhaps the wonks at 538.com can figure out.

But today we hear about Sanders’ plan. And here’s why it will never be truly single-payer.

To achieve single-payer it’s not Trump supporters whose corpses you will have to bulldoze out of the way. They tend to be open to entitlement goodies including government healthcare which in America mostly means Medicare.

It’s the wealthy and solidly upper middle class blue voters in places like NYC and San Francisco that will never, ever, ever give up their employer-based health insurance. To let go of a system that allows them a wealth of choices with regards to their daily health care needs and that their employer mostly foots the bill for, is asking far too much of righteous, well-paid lawyers, accountants, techies, and managerial level workers. They won’t do it, and people like Pelosi and Schumer know this perfectly well because they feel exactly the same way, because that’s also who they are.

So, if over the next few years single-payer becomes a real possibility, how do you preserve employer-based insurance and how the heck do you pay for single-payer? Goodbye corporate tax-cuts? Goodbye tax cuts period, is more like it.

And what model does America look to to consider ideas for Medicare-for-all-except-us-wealthy-liberals?

Here’s a suggestion that President Trump can use in his bargaining with Canada over the northern neighbor’s terms for a revamped NAFTA:

You want to preserve some form of NAFTA up in Canada, on which your wealth greatly depends? You get to send us a committee describing how your single-payer system works. Wait. Wait. Don’t smile. AND. We get to set up employer-based insurance policies for all of you (fairly) wealthy, liberal Canadians. Think of it this way:

Ivanka gets photo ops with their Prime Minister. Smiliing about her universal daycare policy with a rainbow of adorable little kids scattered around them on the White House lawn.

Jared gets photo ops with the CEO’s of Unitedhealth, Wellpoint Inc., Kaiser Foundation Group, Humana, and Aetna. In Ottawa. Smiling next to whoever is in charge of leading Canada’s brave new revamping of it’s creaking government healthcare system.

So Medicare for all can smooth Canadian feathers by asking for their wisdom on how to let government run health care. And American enterprise can uproot Canada’s government monopoly on healthcare and give Canadians something magical … choice of healthcare plans. All in exchange for preserving some form of NAFTA.

And Senator Sanders? He gets to work away in committees on the Hill, arguing over how much to raise taxes on wealthy liberals to pay for his scheme. Unfortunately those raised taxes won’t just be on wealthy liberals, will they?

​Donna Carol Voss makes a good point in The Federalist. Sheriff Arpaio was about to go to be sentenced this coming October for defying a judge’s order that set limits on the Arizona police chiefs practice of sweeping up Latinos in traffic stop and searches. He was judged by most people on both sides of the aisle as having broken the law. Specifically for having ignored a judges ruling on what local police can do with respect to immigration law.

Joe Arpaio disagreed with the law, or the judge’s interpretation of the law (which is the same thing really) and refused to obey it. He was roundly condemned by many on both the left and the right.

Sanctuary City Police Departments in places like San Francisco and New Orleans, and Chicago, mandate clearly and specifically against any local police or other official assisting the enforcement of federal immigration law. Section 1373 of the U.S. Code states that local officials may not prohibit or restrict communication with federal immigration officials.

Sanctuary city officials disagree with the law, and they refuse to obey it.

Has anyone charged San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee?

Hardly, but there is talk in Washington DC – especially by AG Sessions – of trying to cut funding for policing for some sanctuary cities. But not even President Trump has as of yet (I think) openly spoken of trying to have, say, Rahm Emanuel charged. Or any of his staff or local police chiefs.

And if one uses the idea of devolving power back to the local and state level as a justification for sanctuary cities’ rejection of parts of the federal law they don’t like, then logically you could use that same reasoning to justify Joe Arpaio’s behavior.

Yes, some matters definitely should be moved closer to home, as it were. Taxation (high, low, any way a state sees fit) and healthcare seem to be candidates for devolution. But immigration?

Let workers and voters decide what state they want to live and work in based on that state’s taxes and healthcare system. But have them decide based on a state’s immigration system? Based on a city’s immigration system? That’s the de facto result of sanctuary cities. And the problem of how to move around inside America becomes a nightmare in an America where immigration policy is decided locally.

So while the left sees sanctuary cities as heroic, they are really just beneficiaries of unstated, rolling pardons. Whether by a President (Obama) or not (Trump).

​Is engineering a moral endeavour? Does good engineering require as a pre-condition, good morals? This may seem a rather odd question, but it is has been explicitly raised by some resignations from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council this past Monday. Eight of 28 members of the NIAC resigned, many of them former Obama appointees. Here’s what the letter said (in part):

“The moral infrastructure of our nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built”.

And this:

“Your actions have threatened the security of the homeland I(sic) took an oath to protect.”

The letter accused Trump of paying “insufficient attention” to the nation’s cyber vulnerabilities, and especially accused him of not supporting efforts to ensure that America’s electoral system is viewed as critical infrastructure. It also listed the president’s reaction to Charlottesville, and the administration’s withdrawing from the Paris Climate Deal.

What this letter does is shift our understanding of the term ‘infrastructure.’ Under this new, fairly radical view, policies that are not progressive (which nowadays means that you’re therefore a white supremacist, climate-change denier) will undermine the nation’s power grid, electoral systems, homeland security, and perhaps even damage America’s bridges and highways.

Is this true? Does infrastructure depend on morals? Specifically on currrent left wing views of economics, and society? And even science?

America’s transcontinental railroad was planned, legislated and had key construction goals achieved during and after the Civil War. And was completed as the Jim Crow system of apartheid was being put together.

Speaking of apartheid, the famous tourist attraction called the Blue Train that runs from Pretoria to Cape Town was built during the 70’s with much of the engineering done in-house because of growing restrictions and sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela sat in a cell while passengers enjoyed the apparently splendid scenery.

America’s highway system was initially conceived and built during the 50’s and 60’s when segregation was still in place, or civil rights were still being fought for in the South and elsewhere. And the satellite system that powers communications around the world, was intially a military response to the Soviet Union. And the interenet was a way to maintain to communications between various government departments and the military, in a post-nuclear attack America.

Various infrastucture projects were built with slave labor (real or indentured like Chinese laborers).

So you can get infrastructure done with violent, discriminatory policies in place. Should you get engineering done in conjunction with values that embrace tolerance and diversity? Hard to argue with that. But the resigning members of the NIAC seem to be saying that because they find President Trump’s morals objectionable, they cannot advise or participate in managing America’s infrastructure.

If you take their objections a step further so they fit with much of the hard left post-Charlottesville commentary it’s easy to take the next step and say:

You cannot participate in infrastructure projects if you’re a Republican, because that means you’re a Nazi. And then the final step (solution?) is to say:

You cannot govern if you’re a Republican. Say like in Mexico at the height of the PRI. Or Argentina in any one of it’s Peronista periods. Or even in Eastern Europe a generation ago. Or in modern communist China. If your views are not politically acceptable to us, you will not govern. So while Trump may use populism as a style, those who wish to use one-party state rule are in fact Trump’s most vocal opponents.

And that’s where they want to take things.

​The Pacific Ocean is huge. Just go back in time and ask Magellan’s starving crew as they sailed across what he would call the “horrifying” length of the new sea they had discovered. And some 500 odd years later, it’s true that the shipping lanes in the Pacific are a touch busier. But it seems strange that 2 collisions involving U.S. warships, both part of the same fleet, have occurred within weeks of each other.

Almost the same type of accident occured to the USS McCain as to the USS Fitzgerald. Ok, there are details that are different, as former Navy official and maritime experts are hastening to state. But they are eerily similar and there have been almost 20 deaths of American sailors in horrifying conditions: trapped in flooded compartments as a result of the collisions, and then drowning to death.

Either the Pacific Fleet has a problem navigating (Yes, they should have been given right of way – get your destroyer out of the way and then you can settle the matter in marine court or wherever) or the navigating systems are unreliable. Or,

The systems could have been intentionally hacked. Or the cargo or container vessels could have even hd their systems hacked. Apparently there was indeed a problem with the USS McCain’s navigation system. And the Navy is not ruling out a possible hack.

Both ships have been invovled in operations close to, or in the South China Sea where America is in a naval stand off with Chinese military forces that are attempting to build a presence and claim this part of the Eastern Pacific as their own. And they seem to be succeeding.

These accidents just may be a tragic coincidence. Until the evidence suggests otherwise, we have to conclude just that. But what if there was a hack? What does the Navy do? Release the fact that it’s systems may have been hacked or that they defintely were? And then what? If it was proved to be China behind the hack, isn’t that an act of war?

And what does President Trump do then?

 

High-Paying Annuities for the Liberal Political Portfolio

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

As the lines separating popular culture and politics continue to blur to the point where they are nearly indistinguishable, some things remain steadfast and predictable to liberal politicians and their mainstream media sycophants. The word “cliché” is too mild to describe them. These tenets are more than mere dogma; they have become credenda, beliefs so firmly and deeply held that they are accepted on faith, unquestioned by their proponents. They are high-yield political annuities, guaranteed to pay major partisan dividends year after year.

We’ll look at two of the best examples:

  1. Conservatives are Racist

This one is easy for liberals. A consistent tack for liberals is to simply point out that most conservatives come out against race-based quotas and initiatives (preferring qualification and opportunity), so conservatives must be pro-white/anti-minority. In today’s fast-paced media environment—where shallow messages can easily make lasting impressions on casually-attentive swing voters—neither historical accuracy nor the actual functional aspects of a particular policy seem to count for anything. It’s all about appearances, as filtered by the liberal media. The casually-attentive get their news and form their impressions through liberal sources like the NY Times, CNN, Comedy Central, The View and Good Morning America. These sources are only too happy to continue the “conservatives are racist” storyline, since these media sources are actively in favor of helping Democrats win elections. Damaging a Republican’s image among the undecided voter pool is perfectly in keeping with their overall intent.

Donald Trump didn’t initially use the words “white supremacists” when denouncing the recent violence in Charlottesville VA. That fed the liberal media-driven narrative of anti-minority bias by Republicans, much to the delight of every liberal newscaster, reporter and opportunistic Democratic politician. The amount of sanctimonious, self-righteous pap that flowed forth from liberal sources in the ensuing days was truly extraordinary.

Barack Obama didn’t use the words “Muslim terrorists” for the entire eight years of his administration, even as Muslim terrorists wantonly attacked and killed hundreds of innocent people all over the world. Neither the liberal media nor his Democratic political allies had any problem with that. To them, it was “just words,” and Obama not using those supposedly needlessly incendiary words was merely further proof of his sophistication at handling a delicate situation. He catches a total break, gets a complete pass. President Trump (or any Republican) is cut no slack whatsoever.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement of an America “….where our children are judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin” has been long forgotten by today’s liberal orthodoxy. Instead, the current liberal playbook demands total acceptance of the doctrine of white blame, that white American culture is responsible for all the race- and ethnically-based problems in society. For today’s Democrats, “White America” equals “conservative.” After Hurricane Katrina disastrously struck New Orleans in 2005, inflicting major damage on the predominantly-black 9th Ward of the city, President Bush was accused of “hating black people.” He was Republican. He was white. Therefore, he hated black people and by implication, their struggles and misfortunes were his fault. So it is again, now, with President Trump. He’s white. He’s Republican. Therefore, all race-based problems and conflicts are eventually deemed to be his fault.

How widely-known is it that southern Democrats blocked the 1964 Civil Rights bill and it was the overriding votes by Republicans that assured its passage? A Democratic-led filibuster prevented the bill from being voted on for over 60 days. Democratic Senator Richard Russell famously said,  “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our [Southern] states.” When the filibuster was finally broken, Republican Senate support for Civil Rights bill was 82%, while Democratic support was far lower, at 69%. That bit of factual, undeniable history is conveniently forgotten by today’s Democrats, although they do try to re-frame history by claiming that it was the Southern Democrats—from formerly Confederate states—who opposed the bill.

Democrats continually use the “conservatives are racist” storyline to their electoral benefit, even in the face of contradictory historical fact. Since the popular mainstream media favor the Democrats, this canard is a reliable influencer of the casually-attentive voter, a dependable political annuity for liberals time after time.

  1. 97% of Climate Scientists Believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming

This is a big one, a cornerstone of liberal doctrine. This is one that defines conservatives as being nothing more than anti-science troglodytes, willfully ignorant of unquestioned fact, naively beholden to the interests of profit-driven Big Business to the detriment of mankind. (Or is it personkind? Do we have to say personkind now?)

There is no single, overriding study that has produced the magical 97% figure so oft-cited by Global Warming hysterics, but the one that has garnered the most attention was published in 2013, based on research done between 1991 and 2011 by Australian scientist John Cook—author of the popular 2011 book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand. This is the famous study that touts some 12,000 published reports by ‘climate scientists’ and that the findings were in 97% agreement about man being the cause of rising global temperatures.

Ooops. That darned fine print. If you read the study, it turns out that only 34% (4014) of the papers studied expressed any opinion about the cause of Global Warming. Of that 34%, 33% said, yes, man is the predominant cause. So 33 out of 34 delivers the much-prized “97%” you hear bandied about so often. 97% is indeed a far more impressive number than 33%, especially when there are conservatives that need to be criticized and exposed for being callously indifferent to the well-being of our precious, fragile planet.

Let it be stated in a most unequivocal manner that the verity of anthropogenic global warming is not being questioned here. It may be real, it may not be. There are indeed many studies supporting the hypothesis of anthropogenic warming. Choose your side. But what is undeniably real is the willfully disingenuous manipulation of research “statistics” for the purposes of political influence. That 97% figure in this particular study is a linchpin of the liberal argument that “conservatives are anti-environment.” It serves liberals well. It has likely become the most frequently-quoted number in the history of political debate. By any measure, the number “97%” delivers consistently rewarding political returns for the liberal side.

There are certainly other lucrative liberal clichés and mantras:

  • Conservatives give tax cuts to their rich donors
  • Conservatives side with Big Insurance against the ‘little guy’
  • Conservatives favor a military build-up over vital infrastructure improvements
  • Conservatives want to eliminate welfare and food stamps for the needy

Liberals use them all to their political advantage when the situation calls for it, buttressed by the ever-sympathetic mainstream media. But the two we’ve cited here—Conservatives are Racist and 97% of Climate Scientists—are their most steady, reliable political monetary devices. Those two generate guaranteed high returns, every time.

Reunification is such a beautiful concept, shimmering like a vision in front of the minds’ eyes of academics and diplomats. No, not reunification of South Asia, where partition in the 40’s led to the terrorist-sponsoring state of Pakistan and the flotsam of Bangladesh, two thorns in the side of the world’s largest – if flawed – democracy, India.

Rather reunification of the Korean peninsula, where a war in the legal sense was never fought. Where a “police” action caused American soldiers to endure some of the most brutal enemy attacks they had seen, as bad as what the Japanese did to Allied prisoners in The Philippines. Where a nearly 70 year stalemate has persisted, with the already brutal North Korean regime (just ask any vets that were captured by the North Koreans – assuming they survived) still in place: a Stalinist terror regime with the characteristics of a Latin American tinpot dictatorship from years gone by.

And this regime is led by a trio of crazed family members: grandpa Kim Il-Sung, daddy Kim Jon-il, and grandson Kim Jong-un. Each one crazier than the last as the decaying corruption of absolute power has turned the third generation leader into a true psychopath unconstrained by any of the tactical or strategic considerations that his father and grandfather apparently displayed at least a little of; this regime is the one that diplomacy will work it’s steady persuasive magic on.

Just ask Robert Gallucci, who is calling President’s Trump’s tough words crazed and irresponsible. Who negotiated the 1994 agreement that apparently froze the DPRK’s nuclear program for up to a decade. Who worked alongside Jimmy Carter on this deal on behalf of the Clinton administration. And who – at the George W. Bush Center’s website – says this:

The result is a call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society, to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea … We advocate for a new U.S. policy that integrates the call for human freedom with denuclearization in our engagement and diplomacy with North Korea.
__
In other words, diplomats, wonks, trade, and ONG’s are going to solve the North Korean stalemate and standoff. Just like Germany. Like the Berlin Wall crumbling from within East Germany. Freedom rising up in the DPRK.

The problem is how do you negotiate with a madman and with one of the most brutal, crazed regimes the world has ever seen? And not only that, in an article in The Cipher Brief, Mike Chinoy – of long-lasting Asian correspondent fame – emphasizes how America must be careful not to annoy China and how China has its own set of interests which run against a reunified Korean Peninsula. And in a telling moment, Chinoy lets slip this phrase:

… the logic of boosting deterrence is clear. But that will do little to prevent the North from continuing to develop its nuclear and missle capabilities, which, even if not used in conflict, will give Kim Jong-un new leverage to apply in his ongoing contest with the capitalist South, and his long-standing hostile relationship with Japan.

The capitalist South?? He forgot to add “running dog”. Mike Chinoy has spent a little too much time surfing the bowels of Asian communist regimes it seems. He and Gallucci and the conventional wisdom of the policy wonks on North Korea can be summed up by Chinoy’s quote at the end of his piece in The Cipher:

Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, Kim Jong-un is not crazy. He is a ruthless, cold-eyed dictator with a clear idea of what he is doing. The danger in the current situation is that he – like the rest of the world – cannot be clear what the Trump administration is aiming to achieve.
__
There you have it. Kim Jong-un is not crazy. President Trump is. This is what much of the foreign policy establishment truly believe. Like Stalin’s admirers who refused to see him for what he was: a psychopath. Maybe it’s time for exactly someone like Trump to shake up the foreign policy establishment’s cherished shibboleths and actually solve the Korean stand off. That doesn’t mean that conflict won’t be bloody. Nor does it mean that conflict is unavoidable. It means that a new approach is clearly needed, if Korea is actually to be solved by defeating the North rather than cozying up to it’s crazed, “cold-eyed” leader. And his soon to be ready nuclear missiles.

One can assume that the National Security Council had so-called kill lists long before the Obama administration formalized the process with the unnervingly named Disposition Matrix. What exact process within this Disposition Matrix gets someone on a kill list is not made public for very understandable security reasons, but apparently John Brennan had a lot to do with it. And yes, it’s supposed to unnerve people. That’s the whole point.

In view of the fairly recently developed Disposition Matrix – it was put together in 2010 – it is more than interesting that the apparent blood letting going on at the NSC has more than a little to do with an enemies list. But in this case the list in question has to do with the Trump administration’s enemies and not America’s most wanted enemies.

The battle is between General McMaster and Steve Bannon and by extension Bannon’s side seems to include General Flynn’s recently removed allies at the NSC as well. And the battle has heated up greatly in the past week with a series of articles out to damage McMaster, with a few asides aimed at General Mattis at DOD thrown in for good measure. And the battle is rumored to have started – if you believe the Daily Beast – over a disagreement over this list of internal enemies or Obama administration holdovers who were or are fundamentally hostile to much of Trump’s policies in places like Iran and Afghanistan and Syria, for example.

Bannon’s side wanted as many of these supposed political enemies fired as possible. McMaster has resisted and prevailed, so the narrative being leaked out by the bucketful at sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart, claims. But wait, it gets much better. Breitbart has now claimed that McMaster was essentially on Soros’ payroll as a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) where he worked as a world leading authority on “global security, political risk, and military conflict.” The Ploughshares Fund seems to be a donor to the IISS, and Ploughshares is funded by Soros’ Open Society.

Hence, according to Breitbart, McMaster shares the views of Plougshares and is therefore anti-Israel and pro-Iran Deal. Maybe. Maybe not. President Trump has pushed back and expressed his support for McMaster, but one has to ask if Trump was truly wedded to his earlier views on the Iran Deal, or if his disinterest in policy detail means he is fine with McMaster’s purges of former Flynn aides at the NSC. And fine with a less disruptive Middle East policy than many of his voters had been expecting of the president’s new administration.

Will Chief of Staff Kelly put the dampers on this simmering feud? And how will he do it? Will Bannon once again be seen as heading for the exits? And if he does actually go, does he take much of Trump’s America First foreign policies with him? And leave it in the hands of the generals?

Jeff Sessions might tough it out as AG, despite receiving fire from all sides:

  • The left, especially the radical Southern Poverty Law Center, decry his supposed racism based on a biased interpretation of a decades-old comment that more than likely was innocent than revealing of any true prejudice. There’s also a rather silly and yes somewhat untactful joke about the KKK and weed, attributed to Sessions as well.
  • Limited government conservatives and libertarians (which should mean the same thing but doesn’t) are up in arms about Sessions apparent move to increase the power of civil forfeiture by local authorities, meaning that search and seizure will become even more unreasonable if Sessions gets his way on this one. The 4th amendment may very well be at stake here.
  • Experts on drug policy disagree strongly with his revoking the easing of minimum sentencing guidelines for first time offenders, and his jail-em-all policy preferences on any drug offenses.
  • And … President Trump is still really mad at Sessions for the AG’s recusal, which gave Deputy AG Rosenstein the reins, which led to Special Counsel Mueller. And Trump, of course, publicly dissed his AG for this in a recent interview with the NYTimes.

Will Sessions finally resign? Will he join Spicer as a former Trump official? An AG is much much more than a spokesman, and it is a key position given the FBI’s investigation and the Russia probes in general. One in which process is godly, and in which the independence of the DOJ is a sacred torch. At least according to anonymous, partisan, leak-prone DOJ officials.

But how much will the drama at DOJ matter? A lot? Yes and if Sessions does quit, it will cause a media storm filled with sturm und Drang. A passionate cry to the heavens about how America is drifting, divided and crumbling!

Maybe. And it will make for lots and lots of hysterical headlines.

But a more rational event is happening over at Microsoft. In a fascinating piece in The Daily Beast, (yes that hysterically anti-Trump webrag), Kevin Poulsen outlines Microsoft’s strategy against Fancy Bear, the notorious Russian hacking group with probable links to Russian intelligence and the Putin regime. And it’s both targeted, nerdy, and effective. Here’s how the Seattle Behemoth is fighting against Russian hacking:

To do the dirty work of stealing documents and hacking emails, the malware used by Fancy Bear needs command-and-control servers that provide encrypted commands to the malware sitting on your laptop, or wherever. The servers – rented from providers around the world – are the spymasters if you will that give the instructions and receive the stolen documents. So what Microsoft’s teams of lawyers are doing is going to court to gain control of the domain names that route to the command-and-control servers. Domain names like: livemicrosoft[.]net or rsshotmail[.]com. They then divert traffic from the Russian servers to Microsofts own servers, cutting off the chain of communications that provide the backbone for these malware attacks.

Not only that, Microsoft has run algorithms that predict likely new domain names that Fancy Bear operators might try next. And go to court to ensure that they are under Microsoft’s name. Thousands of them.

So who needs the DOJ or the Russia Probes? Just let a team of Microsoft lawyers convince a few judges to let them have control over domain names that are being maliciously used by bad actors to harm America.

Imagine. It’s January, 2025 and the President names his or her Deputy AG for Net Security: a former Microsoft programmer, who picked up a law degree in his spare time while working on the Fancy Bear project. It might not happen in 2024, but the way Washington is sinking into deep, partisan, swampy, quicksand, that moment is indeed coming. Just a matter of when.

There is a way around so-called whataboutism. The pointing out of similar sins committed by Democrats as a response to charges that Trump’s team may have colluded with Russia. A charge that is far more weighty now than it was a week or two ago.

And that way is to ensure that any and all actors involved on both – or all – sides of the 2016 campaign are compelled to testify before Mueller’s team or either of the two Senate investigations, or the House investigation. That will mean a significant number of key players from Trump’s campaign team. Some are even suggesting that Brad Parscale and even the Mercers should be questioned.

That is ridiculous by any standard. The Mercers did indeed fund – mostly through PAC’s – much of Cambridge Analytica’s data mining work for Ted Cruz and even Ben Carson, before the firm began doing work for the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016. To suggest that the Mercer’s are suddenly persons of interest – as some but only some have suggested – shows how partisan the Russia probes can still be.

Unfortunately if any one of the committees decide to compel the Mercers to testify, then they will have to. That’s what happens when investigations reach a certain mass, and when there appears to be evidence of attempts at some sort of collusion with Russian actors.

So we now have the media looking for and leaking information on who might somehow be involved in any aspect of any relationship that may have taken place between any possible Russian actor and anyone at all related to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Fair enough. Which means Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS’s co-founder should be compelled to do what he is apparently refusing to volunteer to do. Appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next July 19. Let’s not forget about Fusion GPS and their role in the Trump Dossier, which was another brazen attempt at Russian interference in the election and in the post-election period as well. Let’s hope that the various committees, and especially Mueller’s team are methodical and bi-partisan enough to call Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson and whoever else might be involved with the Trump Dossier.

Which brings up an interesting point. When the Trump Dossier and Fusion GPS were first becoming publicly known news stories, there was a brief news item about how Fusion GPS was initially hired by GOP opponents of Trump. Actually, the news item was more specific than that. They named Senator John McCain as possibly one of the first to hire Fusion GPS, whose shoddy and almost certainly manipulated information – manipulated by Russian intel most likely – was then passed on to Democrats and was perhaps used by the FBI as a reason to open their probe, sometime in 2016, or perhaps earlier.

Or did Senator McCain merely pass the Dossier to the FBI this past January and also perhaps help leak it? The media occasionally mentions that the dossier started out as GOP opposition research, but they don’t get specific on who the GOP opposition was who initially contracted GSP Fusion. Senator McCain would certainly have had a motivation or two to dig up dirt on Trump.

Investigate it all. Methodically and thoroughly.

The hacks on the DNC server – and the server itself should be investigated by Mueller’s team and not remain in the DNC headquarters. The hacks of Podesta’s emails. Hillary’s homebrew server. And absolutely any and everything relevant to anything that Trump’s campaign may have done with regard to Russia. All of it needs to be investigated. Not to excuse anybody, but to bring political, and if necessary legal, judgement to bear on the 2016 campaign.

So get used to learning to pronounce Russian names like Natalia Veselnitskaya (break it up into syllables, that makes it easier to get your tongue around it) the Russian attorney whose main purpose was and maybe even still is to get the Magnitsky Act (sanctions levied against Russia due to a brutal prison killing of a whistleblower in Moscow) repealed. And who was the main bait in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. Or Rinat Akhmetshin, the former Soviet intel officer/possible spy who was also at that meeting. Or Aleksej Gubarev, an internet entrepreneur who works out of Cyprus, and who was accused of running a spy operation on the DNC by Christopher Steele in the dossier. And who is suing in the U.S. and the U.K. for damages.

Right now, any Russian name remotely related to the investigations will do. Get used to it.

Let The Daily Beast gleefully call President Trump a “snowflake” president for heading to Warsaw before attending the G20 Summit in Hamburg. A more reasoned analysis comes from a former Obama administration official – Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs in the former administration. She has this to say about the president’s use of Poland as his first stop in this trip:

He is going to Poland to say ‘I favor this kind of Europe, as opposed to our more traditional allies in Europe.’ It was probably quite conscious to go there first to send a message about his priorities.

One can make the argument, as Douglas Murray does, that Western Europe is dying. Culturally, philosophically, politically. And yes it is aging demographically as well, at a rate much greater than America currently is. While Eastern Europe, having lived nearly two full generations under communist rule from Moscow, has a far different reading of the continent’s future. Unfortunately, it is true that many countries in the East of Europe tend to balance between former communist leaders and bureaucrats and xenophobic blood and soil nationalists. Exactly the way Western Europe did during the middle years of the 20th century.

Given this background, Trump’s following words from his speech in Warsaw have a double resonance:

The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
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This is both a challenge to Western Europe and a cautious call to arms to Eastern Europe. It will never be compared to JFK’s Berliner speech, but it was a sweeping declaration of intent on Trump’s part. You can parse it for it’s politically impolite reprimand of countries like Germany who belatedly have realized their disastrous move in unconditionally opening up their borders was unhelpful. You can sneer that it is an embrace of nationalism in countries like Poland and Hungary where they have resisted allowing any significant number of refugees in. But you cannot ignore it’s strong call to action against Russian threats.

So how do you square that with Trump still walking back his admission that Russia could indeed have interfered in America’s election? Yes, he’s fighting a battle against Democrats and much of media who have declared his presidency illegitimate from the day after the election last November. But there may be another reason. Perhaps he’s received intelligence about the matter and has been advised not to reveal how much is known on the part of America’s intel community about Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 elections, regardless of what specific purpose Putin’s cyber agents actually had.

Neither reason is good enough to not acknowledge an attempt, a dangerous attempt, by Russia to destabilize America. Yet both are good enough reasons to word carefully any acknowledgement on Trump’s part. The problem, of course, is that by the time he actually does do that, the president will face a tsunami of questions about whether is presidency is legitimate. And that, in part at least, is his fault.

The Daily Beast lament that the Democrats have yet to “crack the code” for turning the resistance (to Trump of course) into political victory. What if they have the code but the code is wrong?

The resistance will not accept the legitimacy of President Trump’s election. Whether they be DOJ officials or intel community analysts horrified by Trump’s aesthetics, or street level radicals, or Sleeping Giants.

Sleeping Giants? They’re a progressive group that target right-leaning sites and corporations and try to scare advertisers away with high pressure name and shame tactics. And it seems to work. Is this a case of business merely trying to make sure they understand their clients – and maximize profits by minimizing losses according to Warren of the Warren (Henry) Report? Clients who are now in the majority deeply concerned with gender-flexible pronouns and will boycott your company? Or are they being bullied into ridiculous stances?

In other words, even though the resistance and the radical cultural and political politics they espouse can’t seem to gain enough traction with voters, maybe they can achieve their goals through economic boycotts and produce a change in behavior of large corporations rather than a majority of voters. Which is a much larger group.

This is Ben Domenech’s fascinating thesis in a recent issue of The Transom. And it’s a very troubling look at the corporate concentration in the hands of companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and oh yes, Netflix. An overwhelming majority of advertising budgets get spent on these companies’ platforms. That means a key slice of speech in America is controlled by these four giants.

Wait a second. Hold on. Hold on. See where this is going? Because of the inherent networking effects that give successful technology platforms such dominance, they crowd out speech. That means we need government to break these companies up. So we can have free speech?? What strikes you as wrong with that statement?

In other words, can government create the conditions for a more diverse range of opinions in the world’s most powerful tech companies (and media companies because social media is really tech taking over media) by telling them and their shareholders what to do with their invested capital? Is speech, therefore, free? And can government mandate free speech?

Well yes, in a way. It’s called the constitution and especially the First Amendment. But that involves a warning not to prohibit, rather than to prohibit. Should the FANG gang (Facebook et al) be broken up into smaller pieces? You can argue that de-regulation of telecom in the 80’s helped pave the way for the 90’s boom and the explosion in communication technology that itself created the conditions for the FANG companies to thrive so wonderfully. But that was government getting out of the way, rather into the way.

But any attempt to do the same to the FANG gang should be viewed cautiously and with skepticism over what could result from government interference. If Google and Facebook and Apple want to honestly be companies with progressive and very liberal values then that’s their property right. Isn’t it?

Just Get Someone

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

The November 2016 election of Donald Trump has so incensed the liberal mainstream media and the Democratic establishment that they’ve become virtually unhinged emotionally in their zeal to delegitimize and torpedo his presidency. Far from “coming together as one country after a hard-fought election campaign,” the Democrats and their liberal media collaborators have embarked on a non-stop, all-out crusade to destroy the Trump administration, thereby somehow reversing and overturning last November’s election result. That is their objective, make no mistake: Disqualify, reverse and oust.

The Democrats’ disqualification vehicle of choice is some vague, unspecified illegal connection that the Trump people had with Russian operatives before the election that enabled the Russians to manipulate the American voting process in a targeted manner to alter the vote, away from Hillary Clinton, and give it to Donald Trump.

There are a lot of words and phrases being tossed around by hysterical, sanctimonious, hyperventilating sources, saying things like, “Trump colluded with Russia to influence our election!” “The Russians hacked our voting process!” “Clinton’s insider information was revealed by the Russians to Trump’s benefit!”

Beyond these breathless, screeching headlines, there aren’t any real specifics of any kind. When the question is asked to define “influence,” or “hacked,” or “colluded,” the answers that come back are mostly along the lines of, “Well, you know! They did! Trump lied! Our democracy is at stake!” But exactly what was done, the actual methodology, where, the specific people involved, how many votes were altered, how many counties were illegally shifted from Clinton to Trump, how those counties added up to state wins for Trump instead of Clinton, none of that information is forthcoming. After seven months of non-stop Democratic investigation, none of those details are forthcoming.

Absent any tangible, verifiable proof of Trump-caused election manipulation, we’ve now entered the next, highly-predictable phase: The Get Someone phase. The Democrats already “got” Michael Flynn, since Trump fired him early on for not being forthcoming about some foreign contacts and financial arrangements. The President fired him. He was criticized for it by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment. If he hadn’t fired him, he’d have been criticized for it by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment.

But Flynn wasn’t high enough; he wasn’t a big enough scalp to satisfy the anti-Trump fervor. Besides, President Trump fired him; he didn’t defend him and try to keep him on. It’d be oh-so-much better if we could force the resignation of a truly high-level Administration official that the Administration is actively defending. The bigger the scalp an opposition party can claim, the more embarrassment and damage they can show the world they’ve inflicted on their enemies. When the embarrassment and damage reaches a critical tipping point, the media talk about it non-stop, night and day, and the issue manages to pierce through the fog of indifference that surrounds most casually-attentive, non-partisan-engaged swing voters.

Here, the Democrats have a huge advantage. The sources from which those aforementioned “casually-attentive, non-partisan-engaged swing voters” get their news and form their opinions are overwhelmingly liberally-biased. Whether late night like Colbert or Kimmel, Comedy Central’s Daily Show, the network morning shows like GMA and Today that people watch while dressing or having a quick breakfast, and of course, CNN and the NY Times, these are all Democratic-sympathetic sources. The common default mode among them all is Positive Democrat, anti-Trump. Operating under the reasonable 40-20-40 rule that says 40% will always vote Dem no matter what and 40% will always vote Repub no matter what, the fact that the 20% swing segment gets their impressions and forms their opinions from overwhelmingly liberal sources means that there is a very high likelihood that the majority of the 20%-ers will swing Dem once the liberal media start harping on something “important” day after day after day.

The Democrats’ goal with non-stop hearings, investigations, panels and Special Counsels is to break through from being unidentifiable background white noise to being something important and significant that will become the overriding issue on peoples’ minds every day.

If the Democrats can get someone of high standing, anyone, and force that individual to resign or be fired in disgrace—casting a huge negative pall on Trump’s presidency—then the Democrats will consider themselves successful. That’s the end-game here.

Although Republicans may try to run some offense of their own in reverse (for instance, trying to subpoena former Obama administration officials over their role in supposed questionable activities or unethical behavior), history shows us that Republicans are astonishingly bad at playing hardball partisan games of this sort. When they do manage to get a witness before a Congressional panel, they never seem to have prepared the questioning strategy needed for unequivocal success. Instead they meander around with peripheral questions, grandstand for personal gain, or—incredibly—they fail to hold together as a party and some “flexible, high-minded” Republicans actually undercut their own party’s efforts in order to try to seem “reasonable” to the general public. That never works, of course. The liberal media never give any Republicans credit for being “reasonable;” all that happens is that those misguided Republicans sabotage their own party’s chances for success.

For the Democrats, the goal is get someone. Anyone. Call for endless panels, hearings and investigations. Hold press conferences. Show off for the cameras. Ignite the passions of the hosts at CNN and MSNBC. Provide humorous fodder for the Daily Show, Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert at the Republicans’ expense. Try to make Trump and his administration look like buffoonish lying thieves and use the overwhelmingly liberal media to influence the 20%-undecideds.

Getting someone of significance—holding a scalp up high for all to see (metaphorically, of course)—accomplishes that goal.

Over at thecipherbrief.com – the intel communityish newsletter with a heavyweight line up of expert contributors – John Sipher (no it’s not his site), a former CIA analyst, gleefully sets up a Catch-22 that many in the intel community hope leads to some way to impeach Trump.

After outlining the difference between a counter-intelligence investigation, which is open-ended and does not rely on the same standards of evidence or legal proceedings that a criminal investigation does, and a criminal investigation where evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt is usually necessary, he tells those who are asking ‘where’s the evidence?’ to hush and sit patiently.

That’s because the FBI, in its counter-intelligence investigation, will take its sweet time in thoroughly combing through the evidence as Mueller’s prosecutors – among the best in the business apparently – set up endless interviews with whoever they feel will help move their investigation forward. Hopefully in their view means only one thing: towards a conviction. Even if it means one related to obstruction of justice and not collusion of any shape or form with Russian actors. But hey, that depends on what evidence they may theoretically turn up at some point during what may be a multi-year process. And until they do, it’s only a counter-intelligence investigation, which does not go by the same rules. Ha ha. Ha ha. No wonder John Sipher has such a big grin in his impressive photograph at cipherbrief.com.

And that’s a Kafkaesque open-ended process that could take years to complete, and is and will continue to undermine Trump’s presidency, even if doesn’t lead to an impeachment. Why? Because we have an FBI counter-intelligence investigation against a sitting president’s associates, and perhaps even the president himself. An investigation that may have originally been set in motion by Christopher Steele’s absurd dossier. There are several factors one can point to or blame: a D.C. bureaucracy and especially intel community wary of candidate Trump and openly hostile to President Trump; a churlish delight on the part of Trump himself to provoke and gloat; a self-righteous FBI Director, James Comey, who got burned by his decisions regarding Hillary’s server and was perhaps eager to compensate by going the other way; a Democrat opposition that is being pushed by a base that is still hysterically furious that Trump actually won; and a media that is working hand in glove with any and all beltway leakers.

But how the Russia probe got started is unfortunately so much history now, and the question for the administration is how to get out of this mess? Fire Mueller and also fire Rosenstein, who seems to think only he can fire Mueller? Instruct Rosenstein to tighten up Mueller’s mandate? Actually listen to your legal advice?

Or wait it out and meanwhile try to focus on your agenda? And hope the media finally tires of the Russia headlines they publish nearly every day? In the end that may be all that’s left for Trump’s White House. If they can balance the waiting with at least some major bills like tax cuts and healthcare reform of some kind. Unfortunately that will also mean being very careful when interviewed by Mueller’s prosecutors. And that will be a herculean task. Are they up to it?

First it was class warfare. The first wave of marxism was all about eliminating private property rights and ownership in order to control the means of production and liberate the working class. By the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of liberation struggle (usually violent) was extended to gender, then race, then even age, and finally an increasingly bewildering range of categories of being as witnessed by trans liberation. The last of which went from a fairly marginal cultural place seeing it involves an infinitesimal portion of any given population, straight into the courts and legislatures across the country with astonishing speed.

But wait a second! That’s so old-school isn’t it really? There is only one true war of liberation that matters to the true cutting-edge freedom fighters of 2017. Information, flow freely across the globe! You have only your encrypted chains to lose! And unlike the narrow group of trans activists who have bludgeoned those who disagree with screeching name and shame tactics, the info-anarchists can come from anywhere: an Australian hacker-activist-possible abuser living in an embassy in London. An NSA subcontractor or two. A criminal group in the Ukraine or Russia or China or anywhere who pillage personal identity data to resell on the deep web. A top-level State Department Official who decides she really really doesn’t like President Trump’s latest tweet. A three-star General who wants his policies listened to a heck of a lot more by the White House. A journalist who loves a good scoop and righteously refuses to reveal sources even when lives are at stake because the integrity of the media is sacred as we all know.

We’re not all Keynesians now. We’re all hackers now apparently. At least all of us who matter.

Information wants to be free. Michael Moore has launched Trumpileaks and will take gossip/leaks/dangerous security information/anything from anywhere and anyone because the more information we all have, the better. And because maybe the leaks can help the Democrats take back the House and even the Senate and impeach Trump who we all know was put in the White House by the Russians. How do we know this? The leaks, follow the leaks. Go to the leaks and learn the truth!

And now in what is akin to Trotsky getting a pick-axe plunged into his skull, Wikileaks Assange is blasting an unnamed journalist at The Intercept for bringing in the FBI to review a leak the online media site received in the mail. From who we now know to be the uniquely named Reality Winner. A young former Air Force veteran working as a … you guessed it, NSA subcontractor. How dare any journalist be concerned whether a law was broken!! Or whether lives may be put at risk!! We want to know!! All of us!

Hackers have been counter-culture heroes of a sort for a few decades now. Nothing new there. But the view of hacking and leaking as a legitimate political policy tool is rather new. Michael Moore has apparently called upon “Patriotic Americans in Government, law enforcement, and the private sector … to blow the whistle in the name of protecting the United States of America from tyranny.” Or from the current democratically elected administration, in other words.

The X-files, after sitting in our subconscious minds for a couple of decades, has borne fruit. No, I don’t mean the remake. I mean that Mulder (and Scully to a lesser extent) are our heroes nowadays. In a world filled with conspiracy theories – some of them maybe even possibly and partially true – only a hacker and leaker can save us.

But it’s helpful to remember what event caused The X-files to tank in the ratings and be cancelled. And also helped us all to rid ourselves of all that fantasy conspiracy wanking? 9/11.

So as leakers see themselves as heroes and are feted by a press determined for the most part to see Trump as an illegitimate president, let us remember that what made us not want to watch Mulder and Scully for a long while is still very much around, in new and mutating forms that still threaten our way of life. What will it take to stop or at least slow down the current out of control leaking? I pray to God that it will not be another 9/11.

Ok, this is not good and is very troubling in fact. Byron York writing in the Washington Examiner a day or two ago, points out that the Russia Investigation is now a far more dangerous thing for President Trump. Never mind the surprisingly Reagan-like budget the White House has released. Never mind Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia or his visits to Jerusalem and the Vatican. Never mind that Obamacare repeal is sloshing along in some form or other – at least theoretically – in committee rooms somewhere on the Hill. Never mind all that.

President Trump may now possibly be targeted only for obstruction of justice, without there being any underlying collusion or crime, in other words. Special counsel Bob Mueller apparently has been delegated powers by Deputy AG Rosenstein under 28 CFR 600 4(a) which give Special Counsel Mueller to investigate “crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the special counsel’s investigation.” CFR being the Code of Federal Regulations and specifically the part of that code that deals with special counsels. And yes, that would include obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.

Never mind that President Trump may have been merely trying to jawbone himself a little slack. Never mind that the intent may not have been as clear as many are implying. Never mind that it was surely clumsy – to be charitable – of him to do so. Never mind that many of his advisers would have likely advised against that.

Never mind, because if Mueller decides to get medieval on the Russia Investigation’s posterior, then he will do just like Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald did, and look for process crimes, if you will. And jail – or recommend impeachment perhaps in the president’s case – anyone who is judged to have committed them.

Isn’t it fitting? In a world where process is king, and relativism the reigning ideology (read Morrisey’s Facebook post about “violent extremists”); and relativism is one long apology for any terrorist act, especially from islamic terrorists, how could process errors not end up being a capital crime?

You didn’t file your IRA contributions on Form 5498?! You hear the sound of your front door being bashed in? That’s us! The IRS! Yes, we carry guns!

You didn’t provide a safe space you old white male academic for a transgendered, modern dance student? You will be hounded off campus and physically assaulted!

You suggest slowing down the rate of growth of entitlements in your budget plan Mr. President? Murderer!

So yes, it is fitting that an administrative state would find any hint of possible obstruction of justice to be the perfect excuse to lay the groundwork for charges against the president himself. And thus attempt to lay the groundwork for any attempts at impeachment.

And if Special Counsel Mueller doesn’t do precisely that, then he in turn will be attacked mercilessly by the administrative state and it’s allies in the media. Just watch.

So yes, the president is doing the right thing and lawyering up. Because it no longer matters if there ever was any collusion between any members of his campaign team and the Russians. Why? Process is our king and country.

Have you heard of Automated Indicator Sharing capability? No? Well, rumors are that the Trump administration is hoping you get to find out a little more about this intel-sharing program run through the Department of Homeland Security. It apparently involves intelligence sharing between several intel actors in the international community. Does it include Russia? That seems to be the question that President Trump would like asked of DHS. Perhaps as a pushback against the leaks that portrayed (rather accurately) the president as unwittingly sharing at least some classified information with top Russian officials.

The way it works is companies provide information on hackers and potential vulnerabilities to DHS who then use the data to run super-duper-real-secret algorithms that analyze the data (which includes IP addresses) and thus create threat profiles that can be acted on before any planned hacks occur.

As a former official (gee what previous administration might have he or she worked for? Bush 43?) stated:

…there’s certain information out there that’s beneficial for everyone to have, like, ‘Hey, this Windows program has a bug.’ When we share cybersecurity information with the Russians, we’re protecting their systems, making sure that no one hijacks their planes and missiles.

Ah. So in that case it’s cool to share, as long as you follow standard protocol. And yes, there is a logic there. You have to compartmentalize information and just give what you need to give. And no more. Fair enough.

But guess what? There is a bug in a certain Windows program that’s been around for awhile. And boy did that little bug have consequences as the world has seen in the last few days. And who first found how to exploit that bug for their own intel gathering purposes? Who else but the NSA!

Welcome to the worm-ridden world of SMB V.1, apparently a rather old bit of Microsoft code that lets users share files and other stuff. And which if you’re not still using Windows XP and have actually allowed Microsoft to update your operating system, is probably not on your laptop or other devices. But many people still love their XP and don’t like downloading every update from Microsoft. So we have a problem.

What problem you say? Well, back around 2013 the NSA found out how vulnerable this bit of code – our SMB V.1 – could be and hijacked it to use to get inside the SWIFT banking system for transferring funds between banks. With a focus on the Middle East. Follow the money as they say. Unfortunately, the Shadow Brokers cyber criminal group released this flaw and other related tools in their notorious data dump a few months ago.

And now we have the logical consequence of this meshing of private hackers and public spy agencies: WannaCry, the ransomeware that shut down Hospitals and Banks and Trains and PC’s on a couple of continents. And that seeks out and exploits that old bit of Microsoft code: SMB V.1; in order to search for and seal with an encrypting key any documents and other valuable files that your infected computer might contain. You get your files back if you deposit BitCoin at an address, with a conveniently located button on the screen that shows up on your infected machine. And it’s not impossible that WannaCry is being run by Russian hackers.

So just one question for the DHS’ Automated Indicator Sharing capability folks. Did you get the IP addresses of the Shadow Brokers or whoever hacked the NSA and dumped all those vital software tools into the public domain? Or of the cyber thugs who launched the ransomeware? And will you help out the public in general with some useful intel? Or is WannaCry just an unfortunate bit of collateral damage in the current landscape of cybersecurity warfare? And the DHS and NSA and whoever else will not be revealing anything that a good Russian hacker can’t steal.

We’re back at the 25th amendment it seems. Thanks to the NYT’s Ross Douthat, who has followed up on fellow, so-called conservative David Brook’s assessment of President Trump as a child, with the only possible solution according to Douthat: remove President Trump from office by using the 25th amendment.

The presidency has become too imperial to be run by someone with the president’s character, according to Douthat. And he has plenty of proof he insists, from those who work in or near the White House. Interesting. Douthat receives a phone call or two, or calls someone in said position and hears them complain about their boss. Something that surely has been happening lately with increasing frequency. From that Douthat assembles a psychological profile, or polishes up Brooks and others caricatures of the president and uses it … as justification for an unprecedented use of a fairly recent amendment. All to remove the duly elected president. Has Douthat had a vacation from New York lately?

In other words, intellectuals despise Trump’s characters, so off with the imperial president’s head. And Douthat is not alone, unfortunately, in this. The hounds from both sides of the aisle are already howling for blood, their appetites wetted by an increasing stream of leaks from the intel community. All that differs are the methods.

An inquiry and then impeachment. Or …

A special prosecutor and then impeachment. Or …

A select committee that lasts until just before the midterms. Then Democrats retake the Senate and then impeachment. Or …

Straight to the 25th after first trying to convince Trump’s own cabinet including the Vice President to declare their boss unfit to govern the country. Which is what the 25th amendment requires. Why unfit? Because maybe, perhaps, he unwittingly and clumsily gave out a few clues to the Russians. Yes, that was not a good move, but the 25th?

Ben Domenech in his newsletter responds to Ross Douthat with a sternly ironic rebuke regarding frothing anti-Trump hysteria in the media. If such an attempt was made, Domenech points out, it would in fact truly be a virtual, political assassination. And one of the very man that heartland voters sick of coastal elites elected to the White House. Done by the elites to keep their grip on power. Why? Because Trump has such questionable character, as “everyone” from Park Slope to Beverly Hills knows. Not including points in between.

As an antidote to this raving, rolling madness (with ex-Director Mueller now appointed as special “counsel” by DOJ’s deputy AG Rod Rosenstein) is a fascinating piece by Joel Kotkin and Michael Lind in New Geography about America’s heartland, or flyover country, or where “those” people live if you’re Ross Douthat. It provides compelling evidence that jobs and yes people are migrating back east or out west towards the Mississippi, if you will. To where companies – many of them manufacturing or industrial as well as the many companies that service or supply the supposedly vanishing manufacturing sector – are providing new jobs. Where taxes are lower and where homes are cheaper. And where it’s a good place to raise your kids.

Could it be that as elites on the coasts are trying to find any non-violent way of removing a president the heartland elected, places like New York and California are losing people and jobs to that very heartland? Is this the final scattered cannon shots from a crumbling Bastille run by a self-important and decadent aristocracy who have no idea that their power may be far less going forward than they could ever imagine? Or at least, that the vanishing and rusting interior of America is actually starting to thrive once again?

It’s hard to predict how President Trump will deal with this growing attempt to oust him. But he should take heart from the vigor and growth displayed by those parts of America that elected him.

If there is indeed a very unfortunate ISIS double agent – perhaps in Jordan whose King received a phone call from the White House during the past day or so it is reported – who is being or has been tortured to death because of the latest leak about Trump and the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, then whose fault is it?

Let’s put it this way: is a Washington Post headline story the best way to protect intel sources in the Middle East? Ones that are involved in the islamic terrorist scene in places like Syria, Iraq or perhaps Jordan?

It takes reading through quite a few paragraphs in said WaPo story to get to the following:

Russia and the United States both regard the Islamic State as an enemy and share limited information about terrorist threats. But the two nations have competing agendas in Syria, where Moscow has deployed military assets and personnel to support President Bashar al-Assad.

President Trump broke no law – he is allowed to share any information he deems vital to protecting America’s national security interests. What info did FDR share with Stalin during the later years of WW II for example? So the question is, in departing (perhaps) from standard protocol in these types of meetings did President Trump betray a naivety that undermines America’s crucial relationships in the international intelligence community?

And almost as importantly: what has been gained in terms of America’s national interests by this attempt to humiliate and expose an apparent faux-pax by the president? Or is that (or those) double agent(s) in perhaps Jordan who may be hanging by his fingernails and about to be tortured to death, mere collateral damage in the war between D.C. bureaucrats in the intel community and the Trump administration, or even between the media and Trump himself?

That depends on what your perspective is and what your goals are. Do you want to ensure robust relationships with allied intel communities? Then you deal with this fairly subtly. Yes, that means keeping things off the front page, for example.

Do you want to find any possible means – short of a military coup or an assassination – to end Trump’s presidency ASAP? Then you leak, leak, and leak. And do it with a hysterically righteous sense of purpose, like a Soviet actor in The Battleship Potemkin. Ok, that’s a little exaggerated. Just like the media and Trump. Isn’t it?

Look, if Trump did slip up because of a boast, and if he did so in front a couple of grinning Russian officials, whose minds are meanwhile working like Swiss watches lubricated by the finest Vodka you can buy in the West, then there’s a steep learning curve ahead for the president. (It’s actually a flat learning curve if you put time on the x-axis and knowledge gained on the y-axis but never mind, y’all know what I mean)

This raises an important question: have these sorts of unintentional slip-ups always been an unfortunate part of top-level meetings between officials of rival or even allied countries? And is Trump getting a rougher ride precisely because of the media, bureaucratic, Democrat, and academic campaign to portray him as unfit to be Commander in Chief? Or was this truly a cringe-worthy event? Because of the partisan warfare swirling around the president, that’s a really tough question to answer with any reasonable amount of objectivity.

But in something as key as counter-intelligence sources in the fight against ISIS, it’s a question that must be asked.

There are important reasons why Trump was elected President, that have to do with how the country deals with it’s rural and urban divides. Even as broad labels like rural and urban or coastal and heartland bely enormous diversity within even individual regions in America. These reasons may not matter much longer if President Trump keeps using Twitter the way he has the last few days.

Why fricking set up an institutional process (or at least claim to, to key journalists like Byron York and others) in order to determine that Comey should be fired, if Trump then tweets out contradicting reasons a few days later? Why carefully try to explain the president’s reasons or the administration’s reasons for the dismissal if the president himself both threatens to stop press briefings and to circumvent Spicer and his staff with printed handouts?

It is precisely at key moments like this that the president needs to understand that business practices have to be applied to politics – especially presidential politics – with at least some regard for how Washington works on an institutional level and a cultural level. Yes, you want to drain the swamp. No, you don’t want to pump your basement full with swamp water because you thought you could avoid a mess by draining the growing swamp on the White House lawn that way.

Trump has apparently threatened Comey with possible recordings, slapped down his communications staff, and is still furious at the media coverage, as if he actually expected his firing of Comey at this time to have resulted in a different sort of reaction from a media that is openly and hysterically critical of him. What was he thinking?

And what truly sucks about all this is that there is still no real evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. Yes, Flynn and Carter Page, and Roger Stone, and Manafort have displayed questionable ethics at best. Yes, the investigation should continue. But no, it’s not a criminal investigation. It’s an open-ended intel investigation. That means spy v spy. That means that much of what might be evidence can be kept from public view due to it’s being classified information. At least in the intel community’s judgement.

Thanks to Trump’s blunders, it now feels like a criminal investigation has been thwarted. It isn’t one and it hasn’t. The investigation will resume, with more intensity and more coverage, and more witnesses – even if they merely rehash the same evidence. President Trump has fanned the flames of the investigation and continues to do so, with the clumsy banning of the press from his meeting with Russian foreign officials. The Russian news agencies published their photos of what had apparently been agreed to as a private event. Great optics guys. And then the president later tweets out the White House photographer’s pics in an angry reaction to the obvious move that Putin pulled on him. Not good.

Again, this is not Watergate, but President Trump is doing his best to behave as if he was Nixon, and as if it was. There needs to be a Congressional committee charged with investigating this – not a special prosecutor please – so that this can be openly investigated – to hell with classified concerns; America needs this right now – and to finally put the issue to rest. If possible. Wherever the investigation does lead. It needs unpartisan – if that’s possible anymore – members. No Schumer. No Schiff. No Sessions. It needs to issue a report.

We also need a credible new FBI Director. Would anyone anywhere who is not a partisan warrior for one side or the other take this job on right now? Condi Rice? Who knows right now. Wait for the next tweet maybe?