Monday Morning Open Thread: Just Another Week of International Embarrassment (At Best)

But seriously, folks…


Singapore is twelve hours ahead of the US-Eastern time zone, so the next item on the public agenda seems to be a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Kim scheduled for 9am Tuesday local time (9pm Monday from our perspective). Per the Washington Post:

The two men, joined only by their interpreters, could talk as long as two hours, depending on how well their conversation goes, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private details.

Following their one-on-one time, Trump and Kim will hold an expanded bilateral meeting along with senior members of their delegations, the official said.

The private meeting without aides represents an risky attempt by Trump to build a personal rapport with the young authoritarian leader. Trump has said he believes he will be able to determine quickly whether Kim is serious about taking steps to denuclearize…

Meanwhile, it’s Duck Facepalm & Cover Time…


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Trump’s Open Door Policy…

Let anyone who wants waltz right into US cyberspace:

The White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council on Tuesday, doing away with a post central to developing policy to defend against increasingly sophisticated digital attacks and the use of offensive cyber weapons.

A memorandum circulated by an aide to the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the post was no longer considered necessary because lower-level officials had already made cybersecurity issues a “core function” of the president’s national security team.

If that seems suspiciously moronic to you too, well…y’all are not alone:

Cybersecurity experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move, though some suggested Mr. Bolton did not want any competitive power centers emerging inside the national security apparatus.

Bureaucratic politics and ongoing White House obedience to home office demands from the banks of the Moskva River trump US security once again. To continue:

President Trump began his administration with two respected veterans of cyber policy. He appointed Thomas P. Bossert, a lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush, as the homeland security adviser.

The cybersecurity coordinator who reported to him, Rob Joyce, had run the Tailored Access Operations unit of the N.S.A. — the unit that, until it was reorganized and renamed, was responsible for breaking into foreign computer systems as part of United States covert operations.

Mr. Bossert was forced out on Mr. Bolton’s second day on the job, and Mr. Joyce returned to the N.S.A. on Friday. [links in the original]

This, from the same New York Times article quoted above, seems to me not MSM cluelessness but elegantly thrown shade:

It is unclear how those issues will now be managed in the White House. Mr. Bolton has virtually no cyber-related experience.

Though I am not a lawyer, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that inexperience — not to say stupidity — is no defense against charges of treason or other malfeasance.

This has been another update in the #WASF chronicles.

(Open thread, also too.)

Image: Potter Paulus, The young thief 1649.

 



The Boltoning Continues (Memo To Self: Start Digging That Shelter)

Not even through his second day on the job and John Bolton is making real progress in his effort to fully crazify the US  national security apparatus:

[Homeland Security advisor] Tom Bossert was an ideal Trump administration official – a man with the résumé of an Establishment Republican, and the capacity for sycophancy of a Trump crony.

…In a West Wing beset by chaos and dysfunction, Bossert was regarded as one of the few competent aides still standing.

And John Bolton just got him fired. As Homeland Security adviser, Bossert would have been a subordinate of the incoming, mustachioed White House national security adviser; and Bolton would prefer to assemble his own team. [links in the original]

Official portrait of that new band of all-stars:

This is really Adam and Cheryl’s turf, of course, so I won’t foist my amateur analysis on the jackals; I hope they’ll weigh in on Bolton early and often.  But I will go so far as to say that so far the new National Security Advisor is behaving exactly as advertised: he’s the boss from hell, and no independent minds or voices will be allowed anywhere near power.  It’s all mustache all the time.  Given his wretched record as anything but a bureaucratic infighter, the US — and the world — should be damn nervous.

Open thread.

Image: Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, Fools have the most fun1661



John Bolton As Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor

When thinking about John Bolton as National Security Advisor, we should keep in mind that there is no reason for war between the US and North Korea or Iran. Iran has adhered to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the other six signatories are satisfied with the situation. It is testing missiles and is engaged in the war in Syria, which are a concern but not subjects of the JCPOA. North Korea has the capability to build thermonuclear warheads and mount them on missiles, but the numbers are few, and its leaders seem willing to talk.

The cause for talk of war is President Donald Trump’s belligerence. Without that, there are ways forward that do not involve war. Unfortunately, John Bolton has never met a war he didn’t like.

Bolton thinks that the Iraq war was the right thing to do. Now Iran and North Korea are at the top of his to-war list. Iran is much larger and better-defended than Iraq was in 2003, and a war with North Korea would mean the destruction of much of South Korea, damage to Japan, and possibly a nuclear war. Bolton has never considered diplomacy as a part of international relations. He is also connected to the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), a radical Iranian group that wants regime change.

He has no place in the United States government. But Trump is in the process of removing the advisors who might have supplied some restraint on his impulsive and emotional responses, and has settled on Bolton as the person to coordinate his foreign policy. The position of National Security Advisor is not subject to Senate approval. Read more



Inside Job Open Thread: Brad Parscale Bobs Up Again

The NYTimes handles the story as delicately as only the Grey Lady can:

With just 980 days to go until the next presidential election, President Trump said Tuesday that he would run again in 2020, an announcement that several White House advisers said simply meant the president would step up his preferred and much-missed activity of performing for an adoring crowd.

In effect, it continues the permanent campaign of a president who, from the time he took office over a year ago, has signaled his interest to run again and has kept holding campaign-style rallies. The president officially filed for re-election with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration…

But another part of Mr. Trump’s announcement — that Brad Parscale, his 2016 campaign digital director, would be elevated to campaign manager — signaled a more complicated political maneuver on behalf of the president’s family, and specifically Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, according to the president’s advisers.

Mr. Kushner was close to Mr. Parscale during the 2016 campaign, and putting him in an expanded role was widely seen as a power play by the president’s son-in-law. It was first breathlessly reported by the Drudge Report — and billed as both a “historical record” and a “bold move. Matt Drudge, the website’s proprietor, is in frequent contact with Mr. Kushner.

Mr. Parscale, 42, is a frequent presence in Washington. The rare scruffily bearded man in Mr. Trump’s clean-shaven orbit, Mr. Parscale often spends one or two nights a week holding court with vendors and people he describes as “fans” in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel…

Mr. Parscale did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but in an interview with The New York Times in June, he described himself as a “blue-collar kid from Kansas who understood what Trump was saying,” and spoke at length about his devotion to the Trump family.

“I was always the family guy on the campaign,” Mr. Parscale said. “If I saw or heard anything that I didn’t think was good for the family, my loyalty was to the family first.”

In another interview, in August, Mr. Parscale described his role on the 2016 campaign.

“I build the plumbing,” he said. “I changed the plumbing of campaigns, from moving it from TV to digital.”…

Last year Mr. Parscale also took a sizable cut from the Trump campaign. The biggest single expenditure of the $17 million it spent in 2017 was the $5.5 million it paid for digital advertising, nearly all of which passed through firms owned by Mr. Parscale…

He does what Mr. Trump wants done, without asking nosy questions about ‘ethics’ or ‘legality’. Of course he’s entitled to his due rewards, a little taste off the top. That’s how family is defined, in Trumpworld!

Politico:

Trump’s 2016 campaign and the digital operation that Parscale oversaw are under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Earlier this month, Mueller indicted 13 Russians for trying to sabotage the last presidential campaign — helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton — through fake social media posts and other measures.

The special counsel in his charging documents said Trump campaign staffers were “unwitting” participants in the Russia effort, but he did not name any aides as co-conspirators.
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Lest We Forget Russiagate Open Thread: Hey, What About Those “Sanctions”?


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The Secret For Comedy Is….

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

Timing:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to postpone its session on nuclear attack preparedness next week. Much attention had been drawn to the timing of the agency’s session, which was publicized just days after President Trump touted the size of his nuclear button compared with North Korea’s.

That’s via Sheila Kaplan in yesterday’s New York Times.

Scheduled for January 16, the session was to be on “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation”

It was intended, as the Times reported the week before:

for doctors, government officials, emergency responders and others whom, if they survived, would be responsible for overseeing the emergency response to a nuclear attack.

And, certainly, such a meeting was well within the CDC’s purview:

“While a nuclear detonation is unlikely,” the C.D.C. wrote on its website,which included a picture of a mushroom cloud, “it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps. Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.”

The agenda for the disaster session included “Preparing for the Unthinkable,” “Road Map to Radiation Preparedness” and “Using Data and Decision Aids to Drive Response Efforts.”

In the event, the agency swapped out this session for one on the flu.  CDC staffers made a decent argument for the swap:

“To date, this influenza season is notable for the sheer volume of flu that most of the United States is seeing at the same time, which can stress health systems,” the agency said. “The vast majority of this activity has been caused by influenza A H3N2, associated with severe illness in young children and people 65 years and older.”

But it’s hard to shake the sense, as Kaplan hints in her story on the switch, that der Hair Führer’s fee-fees may have been involved:

The C.D.C.’s announcement that it was holding a nuclear preparation workshop drew widespread media coverage and embarrassed the public health agency. It also gave ammunition to administration critics who believe that the president is bringing the country closer to a nuclear Armageddon.

And now, Hawaii!

Timing.

And with, over to y’all. Open thread, I guess, though here’s a question to get things going:  How’s it all going to end. Fire? Or ice? (Preferably w. several fingers of good bourbon poured over it.)

Image: Jan Fyt, Mushroomsbefore 1650.