What Did I Miss?

I went to Albuquerque for shopping today and lunch with a friend. Just before I left, the news of an explosion at Nenoksa, in northeast Russia near the city of Severodvinsk, was hitting Twitter. I come home this afternoon to the news that Sue Gordon, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, has tendered her resignation and will be leaving the DNI’s office along with Dan Coats on August 15.

The Nenoksa explosion – There’s not much news, and it’s early news, the kind that often turns out to be wrong. The official announcement is that two are dead and several injured.

Here’s a thread from Jeffrey Lewis that is probably the best summary around. I’ll just give you the top two tweets. He’s been tweeting additional material through the day.

The Severodvinsk city government reported that their radiation detector had a sudden pulse. I haven’t seen a number in the news, but a friend had some numbers, and they were very small. The fact that it was a pulse and not continuing means it was even smaller than that. Note that the Tass article that Lewis quotes says that radiation levels in Severodvinsk are normal. My best guess is that it was a blip in the detector. Other guesses from knowledgeable people were a broken “EXIT” sign’s tritium or a smoke detector. Nonetheless, the New York Times saw fit to lead with radiation.


Reporting on radiation, and public ignorance of radiation, is getting worse and worse. Radiation is the ultimate terror, and it’s coming to get YOU!

A bunch of us are speculating about what it is that blew up. It may have something to do with Russia’s planned nuclear-powered cruise missile, although I think that is mainly vaporware.


Sue Gordon Resigns – This was pretty much expected, although reasonable people hoped it wouldn’t happen. The usual noises were emitted from the upper reaches of the Trump administration indicating displeasure with having to appoint her Acting Director of National Intelligence, which is the usual prelude to moving a person out of a job. Yes, the law said that she should become Acting, but that was why she had to be made to resign. Gordon’s career has been in intelligence, and knowledgeable people think well of her. Daily Beast article here.

Joseph Maguire, the current director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Presumably he has done the proper obeisance to Trump and will give interviews on Fox News to seal his position from acting. Although for some positions, an Acting Director can’t become Director. Tune in for next week’s drama.

Trump is removing competent people and replacing them with toadies. This is one reason that I think that Nancy Pelosi’s long game is a mistake. Every one of these jobs that gains a toady or goes unfilled adds to Trump’s power. The intelligence community has not supported his Foxified view of the world. We can look back to the report, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US,” George W. Bush’s daily briefing for August 6, 2001, to see the kind of damage missing or ignored intelligence can do.

Open thread!



64 replies
  1. 1
    Gravenstone says:

    Russia seems to be having a bad week on the explosions front.

  2. 2
    hitchhiker says:

    I just lost my right to say “fuck you” on twitter for 24 hours because I got a wee bit carried away responding to smug assholes.

    They were being sanctimonious toward that little girl crying about how she needed her dad and how he wasn’t a criminal.

    Maybe it will be good for me.

    No, definitely it will.

  3. 3
    cain says:

    Trump is removing competent people and replacing them with toadies. This is one reason that I think that Nancy Pelosi’s long game is a mistake. Every one of these jobs that gains a toady or goes unfilled adds to Trump’s power.

    This is what really needs to be pushed to the Democratic leadership. If our intelligence becomes compromised we are going to be in deep shit. In fact, putting the toadies in place means that he can use the intelligence community against Democrats like ICE is used against immigrants.

  4. 4
    JLowe says:

    “Reporting on radiation, and public ignorance of radiation is getting worse and worse.” We should compare notes sometime. I thought the nadir was sometime between Them and The China Syndrome.

  5. 5

    Nadler says it. I wonder if he feels we have to turn the spotlight away from where Trump wants it and onto Trump’s wrongdoing. That would be a good thing.

  6. 6
    Duane says:

    Filling these positions with Trumpov bootlickers is partly why that jackass does so much damage right? In one way or another we’ll be stuck with them for years, much like the courts. Another four-year term is unthinkable.

  7. 7
    Jay says:

    Here’s a video of me confronting @RepJoshG about his support for Trump’s concentration camps. Invoking the Holocaust to defend present day barbarism is a disgrace to the memory of those killed by the Nazis. ‘Never again’ demands courage in the face of bigotry – this is cowardice. pic.twitter.com/psDX4VDowv— Samuel Douglas (@CANCEL_SAM) August 8, 2019

  8. 8
    WhatsMyNym says:

    Nonetheless, the New York Times saw fit to lead with radiation.

    You expected better from the TFNYT? It’s not just the political reporting that sucks.

  9. 9
    West of the Rockies says:

    I really, really, REALLY wish there’d be more IC leaks to knock this fat, destructive asshole off his game.

  10. 10

    @JLowe: It’s never been particularly good, but I feel like I’m seeing more panic on the part of reporters and some big misconceptions, like that radiation behaves like a fluid and itself makes other things radioactive. That Times headline, “Radiation is released,” is part of that family of misconceptions.

    And on the basis of one reading in a monitor maintained in the town hall? Please.

  11. 11
    Jay says:


    Phrenology, eugenics, a Nazi hit list, and now a fabricated DSA expose — all from a website celebrated by the NYT Opinion Editor who called me a Nazi. Thrilling times!! https://t.co/y9DJh3bTbk— Eli Valley (@elivalley) August 8, 2019

  12. 12
    Martin says:

    It may have something to do with Russia’s planned nuclear-powered cruise missile, although I think that is mainly vaporware.

    Agreed. For the benefit of others, nuclear rockets are attractive because they have a high specific impulse, not because they have a lot of thrust. Rocket are fundamentally pretty simple – conservation of momentum. If you have a 1KG rocket and you can eject 0.1KG of material downward at a given speed, the rocket will go up. Double the speed, and the rocket will go up faster. Rockets are governed by two things – specific impulse, basically the efficiency how much momentum can be sustained over a given period of time, and thrust, which is the rate at which the rocket can accelerate. To get off the ground the rocket needs to have enough thrust to accelerate at more than 1G. Ideally at 2G+. To get into orbit, it needs to have enough specific impulse to sustain that long enough to get up to speed. The more efficient the engine, the less fuel you need to carry, the lighter your rocket gets, and the more acceleration a rocket with a given thrust can produce.

    Nuclear engines are VERY efficient. Upwards of 10x more efficient than chemical rockets. But their thrust is pretty low, mainly because the release of energy from a nuclear rocket needs to be kept fairly slow (very fast release of energy tends to be, uh, bad), and because it’s fairly hard to control. So nuclear rockets are great considerations for upper stages, deployed once they get out of the atmosphere, and not so good for getting the rocket off the ground. We’ve never gotten a nuclear rocket above about 10% of the thrust of a comparable chemical rocket.

    So, historically, it seems unlikely that a nuclear cruise missile could even work. If they did get it to work, it’d likely have so little payload that the whole point of the missile would be to deliver its own engine as a kind of dirty bomb. And, what would be the point? Cruise missiles already have a range over 1000 miles. If you’re willing to even just drop a nuclear engine on a US target, then just launch a nuclear warhead from one of your subs, with longer range. It’s not like we’re going to take something that we’ll certainly call a dirty bomb as something undeserving of a nuclear response – so if you’re going there, just fucking go there.

    What might make more sense to me is a nuclear powered torpedo. You need way less thrust, and it can basically cross the planet to strike a target given enough brains in the torpedo to navigate and strike a given target, and not the 100 other ships you pass on the way there.

  13. 13

    @Duane: These are political positions and will be replaced in a Democratic administration. It’s what they do to the people under them that will have lasting effects, like this foreign service officer.

  14. 14
    dr. bloor says:

    Nancy Pelosi has exactly zero control over who Trump hires and fires. If you think anything up to and including a successful vote to impeach would have any influence on that at all, I have a radioactive bridge to sell you.

  15. 15
    zhena gogolia says:

    Nancy Pelosi is doing everything she can.

  16. 16
    piratedan says:

    which means that NP has told Nadler and the other committee chairs to get the proof that will let her convince those doubters to support impeachment. I honestly believe that NJP would have impeached the sonofabitch day one if she had the votes… she simply doesn’t have the votes to have made it happen and getting the Dems ramped up to make it happen, to show the the GOP doesn’t give a shit about the law, the procedures or the rules and we’re STILL having to drag part of the Dem caucus into the light to get this shit done.

    Yes, I am frustrated, and yes, I want this guy impeached (as well as every other law breaking toady that he has employed and continues to employ) but for chrissakes, just because I want a pony, can justify having a pony, until I have the cash to buy the motherlovin pony, its not gonna happen. If there is one complaint I can get behind its that NJP refuses to out those whose votes she does not have, publicly, some of us can do the math, but as of yet, no one in the Press (to my knowledge) has outed those Dems who do not yet support impeachment of this President because that would actually be helpful information to have to apply pressure to ask them what the fuck do they need to make it happen. Perhaps in that respect NJC knows that she has to work with these people but if someone is going to sit on the fence for THIS President, we deserve to know who they are and why they DON’T support impeachment.

  17. 17

    @dr. bloor: @zhena gogolia: Hammering Trump every day with impeachment, impeachment, impeachment will distract him from breaking the government. It’s not a cure-all, but we need something more like open warfare.

  18. 18
    Zzyzx says:

    This is one reason that I think that Nancy Pelosi’s long game is a mistake. Every one of these jobs that gains a toady or goes unfilled adds to Trump’s power

    And how exactly is Pelosi going to be able to remove Trump from that? Pelosi can count votes. Her job is to figure a path forward, not tilt st windmills.

  19. 19
    JLowe says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Well said and absolutely no argument here. I wonder if it due to laziness and sloppy scholarship on the part of journalists combined with the desire of media outlets to grow market share via clickbait, though that warrants a more systematic analysis than I’m giving it here. However, it’s wearying to those of use who are honestly trying to perform risk communication. It’s not just rad – this problem exists with recalcitrant substances in the environment or what news outlets are now lovingly calling “forever chemicals”. I think the journalism profession has a lot to answer for in this regard.

  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    More Trump Administration Resignations

    Top U.S. diplomat for Latin America resigns, officials say

    The Trump administration’s top diplomat for Latin America has resigned amid internal disputes over immigration policy for the region, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

    Two officials and a congressional aide said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier stepped down earlier this week, although they offered differing reasons for her departure. They say Breier cited personal reasons for her decision, but the two officials suggested it was prompted by differences over a recent migration accord with Guatemala. The congressional aide said Breier’s departure was mainly driven by family responsibilities…

    The Trump administration has struggled to fill numerous senior diplomatic positions and only recently were top diplomats for East Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East confirmed by the Senate. The posts of assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia and for Europe are occupied by officials on an acting basis….

    Breier was known to have an ongoing feud with Mauricio Claver-Carone, her Western Hemisphere counterpart at the National Security Council, the two staffers said. They said she also was marginalized from playing a role in policy toward Venezuela — with immigration and trade, the most-pressing foreign policy challenge in the region — after Trump named Elliott Abrams as special envoy to the crisis-wracked country.

    I agree that Pelosi can’t do much about this. I also note that Trump supporters applaud this. They see Trump taking active control of the “deep state.” They don’t see the chaos and the slow descent into mediocrity resulting from Trump’s preference for loyalty over competence.


  21. 21
    Zzyzx says:

    @piratedan: again Pelosi is a strategist. She’s not going to throw away purple district seats without gaining something tangible.

  22. 22
    HeleninEire says:


  23. 23

    @JLowe: Something came up on Twitter, courtesy of the Blogfather, that is even worse. I’m not going to embed the tweet here, but it pairs the video I posted yesterday of the Achinsk armory explosion with the news that people in Severodvinsk are buying potassium iodide in fear of radiation. The Achinsk explosion produced a showy shock wave and mushroom cloud.


  24. 24
    Duane says:

    A heavily armed man walk into a Wal-Mart in town today. Walked in, talked to people, walked out. Got arrested. In Missouri, I’m not sure he broke any laws.

  25. 25

    Sorry to have stirred up the “Nancy Pelosi can do no wrong” argument. She is not a passive actor, waiting for votes to miraculously fall out of the air like manna from heaven.

    And pressing Trump on impeachment would have an effect.

  26. 26
    debbie says:

    It’s not too early to start recruiting election monitors and poll watchers. We’re going to need a lot of both.

  27. 27
    debbie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    She’s pretty good at pressing his buttons.

  28. 28
    Zzyzx says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I’ll admit the taunt Trump into not doing anything else argument is one that I hadn’t heard before and has a logic to it. I’ll have to mull that over.

  29. 29
    Jeffro says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Unfortunately, “Repair the damage at State” and “Restore hope to IC workers” aren’t catchy campaign slogans, but they are more than enough reason to evict this criminal gang from the Executive Branch.

    And this is with 15 more months to go before the election…ugh…even if/when we win next November, it’s going to take at least the first term of Dem President just to get these agencies back to where they were on January 19, 2017. Probably the second term too.

  30. 30

    @Cheryl Rofer: She can whip votes at the margin(single digits, low double digits), but not in the triple digits.

  31. 31
    Baud says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Sorry to have stirred up the “Nancy Pelosi can do no wrong” argument.

    I’d prefer we never speak of her again. It’s been a distraction.

  32. 32
    Mike in DC says:

    @debbie: Lots of lawyers. Loud, shouty, aggressive lawyers. Happy to help!

  33. 33
    lamh36 says:

    Now see what I heard was “FUQ U…FUQ UR administration…FUQ yo family…FUQ these policies!”

    Or was it just me?

    Follow Follow @rebeccaballhaus
    Sue Gordon left her resignation letter for Trump today with this note, per WH:

    “Mr. President—

    I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference. You should have your team.


    And here’s a pic of the letter w/note: https://twitter.com/rebeccaballhaus/status/1159625289950990337

  34. 34
    randy khan says:


    just because I want a pony, can justify having a pony, until I have the cash to buy the motherlovin pony, its not gonna happen.


  35. 35

    @lamh36: That was what it seemed to me to say too.

  36. 36
  37. 37
    Don P. says:

    “A bunch of us are speculating about what it is that blew up. It may have something to do with Russia’s planned nuclear-powered cruise missile, although I think that is mainly vaporware.”

    Sure, now.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    She is not a passive actor, waiting for votes to miraculously fall out of the air like manna from heaven.

    True, but would it benefit the impeachment process for Pelosi to call out about half of her caucus for what? Cowardice? I am sure that would change some minds, right? That work needs to be done behind the scenes.

  40. 40

    @Omnes Omnibus: Cheerleading and Trump-heckling can be done in public at the same time she is working behind the scenes.

  41. 41

    @Don P.: I refer you to my long post on the subject. Actually, I’ll link that in the top post.

  42. 42
    Mary G says:

    @lamh36: Sick burn! Good for her.

  43. 43
    Elie says:

    I believe the Democratic candidates need to talk mainly about the damage that is being done and stop nitpicking details in their health plans. We are at war to keep our government and way of life. Nothing less

  44. 44
    randy khan says:


    Wow, that’s cold. Impressive.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Elie: I agree. As long as the candidates acknowledge that universal healthcare coverage is the goal, I couldn’t give a shit at this time how we get there. Beating Trump and beginning to rebuild our institution and reputation are the priority.

  46. 46
    counterfactual says:

    @Martin: I hope I’m not arguing with and actual rocket scientist, I’m just a sf fan.

    The project that got farthest in the US was Project NERVA, which went with high ISP/low thrust since it was a high-priority program and that was simplest. In the early 60s, NASA and the Air Force were expected to have deep-space manned missions flying in the 70s.

    There were high-thrust nuclear thermal rocket designs, Project DUMBO in the late 50s and IIRC Project Timberwind in the Reagan Star Wars 80s. Both were designed for ground-to-orbit work. Neither had any obvious show-stoppers but neither progressed further than a few blueprints.

    The nuclear cruise missile gets compared to Project Pluto from the 50s. That was a nuclear-thermal ramjet design. Since the design required the design have no radiation shielding around the reactor, the reactor put out lethal gamma radiation out to 100 meters. No material available then would stand up long to the radiation and heat, it would spray radioactive particles behind it. At the time, the designers made those advantages (sic), the cruise missile would cruise at 100 meters altitude, irradiating everything underneath it before the mach-4 shockwave smashed buildings.

  47. 47
    Brachiator says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    That Times headline, “Radiation is released,” is part of that family of misconceptions.

    I’m not sure what the problem is. I think the Times used to be better at asking the right questions to get the science and tech detail right.

  48. 48
    lamh36 says:

    kamala is my preferred candidate, so yeah, I may post pro-Kamala type stuff more than not…but here’s what I can promise…I’m not gonna be posting clip from Trump oppo research folks on Dem canddiates…I’d hope other folks would be smart enough to do the same.

    Folks sharing that clip of JB…notice who the original tweet is from… Donald Trump 2020 campaign direct…let’s maybe not spread oppo research from Chump folks against the Dem candidate, even if that candidate is NOT our preferred candidate!

  49. 49
    Philbert says:

    @lamh36: I wonder what her resignation letter says in the white ink..

  50. 50
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Hammering Trump every day with impeachment, impeachment, impeachment will distract him from breaking the government.

    Very strong point, thank you. (And for making it so concise.)
    I also think the House timing (re impeachment/investigations) could be a little more aggressive, but not more than a week or two.

  51. 51
    Bill Arnold says:

    If you’re a sci-fi fan then you may be familiar with the nuclear thermal engine list at Atomic Rockets, but if not,
    It’s basically a sci-fi spaceship sourcebook, with many interesting links to original sources.

  52. 52
    Bill Arnold says:


    I wonder what her resignation letter says in the white ink..

    Polonium ink. Just kidding, poisoning is … an un-American method.
    Seriously, though – was B. Obama ever as fearful of the Intelligence Agencies as D.J. Trump obviously is? The fear itself is suspicious.

  53. 53
    Jay says:

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  54. 54
    Jay says:

    Greg Zanis drove from Chicago to El Paso w/20 crosses he hand made to honor those who lost their lives.He delivered 22 bc 2 more victims died while he was en route.He drove to Dayton the next day to deliver 9 more crossesHe's made crosses for 25,000+ victims since Columbine pic.twitter.com/cp7kPZTJxY— Trinity Resists 💚☮️🇺🇸✊🍑 (@TrinityResists) August 7, 2019

  55. 55
    rikyrah says:

    Excellent segment by Hayes tonight


  56. 56
    Jay says:

    About 40 white collar Walmart employees exited their office building in San Bruno, Calif. for a moment of silence Wednesday. They're protesting their employer's sale of guns, @abhabhattarai and @GregBensinger write.https://t.co/EG23UY0GbI— Post Technology (@PostTech) August 8, 2019

  57. 57
    Jay says:

    Yes! Please consider donating to and uplifting the amazing work of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance @MIRAStruggle who have been on the frontlines of the raid aftermath in MS. https://t.co/BxMMlyp8lt— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) August 8, 2019

  58. 58
    Jay says:

    If you're a licensed attorney and can help, fill out this form and share with your networks. Legal rep is crucial right now.https://t.co/Ugq1e9JhqI— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) August 8, 2019

  59. 59
    Jay says:

    Here is Donald Trump's current approval rating in all 50 states converted into Electoral College format, per @Civiqs daily tracking poll.🚨 Trump is now underwater in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Iowa & Utah 🚨 https://t.co/I9N8fmN4KT pic.twitter.com/ii2wGg7kl9— Matt Rogers 🎙 (@Politidope) August 8, 2019

  60. 60
  61. 61
    Jinchi says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Hammering Trump every day with impeachment, impeachment, impeachment will distract him from breaking the government.

    Exactly. Every time Trump thinks he’s in the clear he pushes his limits. Like threatening investigators for daring to ask why his campaign had so many ties to the Russians, or lifting sanctions on the men who attacked our elections, or taking new hostages in his ever expanding series of atrocities.

    Think of how giddy he was greeting the Russian ambassador at the White House.

    “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to The Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. I’m not under investigation”

    Think of his response when Stephanopoulos asked him point blank if he would take aid from a foreign agency targeting on of his political rivals.

    “I think I’d want to hear it,” he said on Wednesday in an interview with ABC News. When asked if his campaign should accept information from Russia or China or call the federal police, he said: “I think maybe you do both. I think maybe you’d might want to listen.” https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-willing-to-accept-foreign-intelligence-on-election-rivals/a-49168769

    He literally was telling the world he would be happy to collude, because he thought he had just gotten away with that very thing.

    He will get as bad as we let him. Only pushback slows him down.

  62. 62
    cwmoss says:

    @hitchhiker: I got permanently banned when I told Ari Fleischer that, since he won’t do the decent thing and self-deport to The Hague, he should instead self-deport himself away from the land of the living

  63. 63
    Chris Johnson says:

    She does say “I am confident in what the Intelligence Community has accomplished, and what it is poised to do going forward”.

    If, as I think, Trump and a pile of Republicans are Russian assets, that could be ‘shots fired’. Regarding Pelosi, how probable is it that she knows all this? The moderation could be ‘we could squish this guy like a bug, so it becomes a political question of how NICE we can seem while doing it’. And all the Trump position-filling could wind up fruit of the poison tree, provided his fall is truly epic and his guilt truly blatant.

    One thing about Trump appointing lots of people: it completely depends on our norms and conventions remaining valid and respected. If Trump is legitimate, then these actions are a threatening tactical move. If he’s a cheaty-pants but still legitimate, then it’s doubly worrying. But if he’s a complete nightmare run by Putin, everything he’s done and everyone he’s appointed, especially if there’s documentation that he’s doing them on purpose to wreck the country, becomes illegitimate, enemy action. I’m not saying you line ’em up and shoot ’em but it seems like it would be grounds for re-evaluating the lot of ’em, up to Kavanaugh.

    Back from the con in Baltimore, had a great time. It was nice :)

  64. 64
    artem1s says:

    No matter what I think of the FYNYT, I’m even less inclined to believe anything the Russians tell the world about their environmental disaster that is their handling of nuclear power, waste and missile grade plutonium. And frankly the US doesn’t have a stellar history in being honest about our own handling of chemicals and nuclear waste. We are in the process of deregulating the reporting of the storage of chemicals in this country (see Houston fires after hurricane Harvey) and the NRA consistently has covered up nuclear contamination – see Fernald . Let’s not forget what fracking is doing to Nebraska and ground water wells in Texas.

    When things in the former USSR start to go boom, I’m betting it might be a good idea to be a little concerned. I’d also bet Angela Merkel is demanding some answers about what was stored at these two sights.

Comments are closed.