Open Thread: Gimme Sanctuary

Cue the Malevolent Leprechaun, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III :


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On The Road

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Balloon Juicers who are on the road, travelling, etc. and wish to share notes, links, pictures, stories, etc. from their escapades. As the US mainland begins the end of the Earth day as we measure it, many of us rise to read about our friends and their transient locales.

So, please, speak up and share some of your adventures, observations, and sights as you explore, no matter where you are. By concentrating travel updates here, it’s easier for all to keep up-to-date on the adventures of our fellow Commentariat. And it makes finding some travel tips or ideas from 6 months ago so much easier to find…

Have at ’em, and have a safe day of travels!

Should you have any pictures (tasteful, relevant, etc….) you can email them to picstopost@balloon-juice.com or just use this nifty link to start an email: Start an Email to send a Picture to Post on Balloon Juice

Let’s go, after the fold!

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Open Thread: Trump & Russia – Fair Summary, So Far?



Late Night Open Thread: Pauli Boy (Weak & Nasty, But So Cleverly Marketed)

What I wanna know — when did “wonk” become a synonym for “soulless ideologue”? Or is that just one of those IOKIYAR exemptions?
.


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The Dearth of Expertise: My Concerns with the Recent Actions by the North Korean Government

The Kim government’s recent activities – increasing missile testing, increasing the developmental process for assembling, fielding, and potentially deploying a nuclear weapon has most people concerned. As has the recent, official US statements in regard to these actions. At Foxtrot Alpha, Terrell Jermaine Starr makes an excellent argument for why there is no good military option for dealing with the Kim government’s recent actions. Starr specifically references an excellent post at Lawfare by Jacob Stokes and Alexander Sullivan. Stokes and Sullivan make very well thought out points- about how the US should engage with China in regard to this problem set.

And here’s where we get to the real problem and my real concern: we have precious few actual subject matter experts regarding North Korea. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this: the Kim family has kept North Korea essentially closed to everyone and everything outside of North Korea while at the same time heavily indoctrinating their own population. A population that is, by the measures we’re aware of, is incredibly impoverished. There are a few Americans that have gotten permission to spend extended periods in North Korea. Two of them have written books/parts of books about this, which are, of course, partially opposed to the other’s theses (h/t: The XX Committee). And there are also defectors to South Korea and other East Asian states. And, of course, the South Koreans have a significant portion of their Intelligence Community focused on their northern neighbor.

But, the real problem here is that we don’t have the ability to know about North Korea the way we do other places. Even when Iran and Cuba were under full US sanctions, we still had some Americans, as well as citizens of other countries traveling to them. Despite the sanctions both countries tried to be engaged with the rest of the world, albeit on their own terms As a result people did advanced academic/scholarly study of both countries, their politics, culture, religion, economics, etc. And because the leadership of each country had not tried to establish complete isolation from the outside world, subject matter expertise, from many different disciplines and approaches, and from many different people in different places developed.

This dearth of expertise – the lack of a significant number of professionals with deep subject matter expertise into the politics, culture, religion/spirituality, economics, kinship dynamics, etc – in regard to North Korea is a significant shortfall that the US, its allies, and partners will have to overcome in regard to adapting existing and developing new policies and strategies, and the contingency planning in regard to the Kim government’s actions. Moreover, this dearth of expertise is, right now, compounded by the new Administration’s falling behind in staffing the critical political appointments at our National Security departments, agencies, and offices. And the folks that are in place holding stopgap positions, and some who are in more permanent ones, do not exactly inspire confidence that they actually have the credentials, knowledge, skills, abilities, and expertise to help overcome this low information gap.

Trying to work through the North Korean problem set of the Kim family government is, itself, a wicked problem. This dearth of expertise comes at a particularly bad time for the US as we’ve moved into what Tom Nichols*, Professor of National Security Affairs at US Naval War College, calls the death of expertise. The Death of Expertise, is, in fact, the title of Nichol’s recent book. And we can see, in the North Korean problem set, the combination of both dearth and depth. For instance, should the US, its allies, and its partners, most likely working in conjunction with the People’s Republic of China, have to respond with military power to either a military provocation ordered by the Kim government or using all elements of National power (diplomatic, information, military, and economic/DIME) to a humanitarian crisis the lack of significant subject matter expertise in regard to North Korea combined with what seems to be key, senior officials’ within the new Administration antagonism towards expertise will make an effective response very difficult to almost impossible.

Lets just take one, technical military concern. And it would be a concern for both a military intervention and a whole of government approach, utilizing all elements of National power response, to a humanitarian crisis: setting the theater. Setting the theater is an Army doctrinal term defined in ADRP 4-0 as:

… all activities directed at establishing favorable conditions for conducting military operations in the theater, generally driven by the support requirements of specific operation plans and other requirements established in the geographic combatant commander’s (GCC) theater campaign plan. Setting the theater includes whole-of-government initiatives such as bilateral or multilateral diplomatic agreements to allow U.S. forces to have access to ports, terminals, airfields, and bases within the area of responsibility (AOR) to support future military contingency operations. Setting the joint operations area (JOA) includes activities such as theater opening, establishing port and terminal operations, conducting reception, staging, onward movement, and integration, force modernization and theater-specific training, and providing Army support to other Services and common-user logistics to Army, joint, and multinational forces operating in the JOA (FM 3-93).

After over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan we now know, though current doctrine does not reflect it, that there are some other important things to consider when setting the theater. Specifically the broadly defined socio-cultural* context of the host country population among whom we will be operating – regardless of type of operation. Given the dearth of expertise about North Korean society, culture, religion, politics – other than what little we know of the Kim family, their retainers, and their understanding of government and governance, economics, etc we have significant gaps in the contextual knowledge we need to properly set the theater. For instance, if Myers is correct that the Kim family and their retainers have heavily propagandized the North Korean population for going on four or five generations, then simply being concerned with where to put phase lines and base troops and establish MSRs and logistics routes and/or emplace artillery is going to be insufficient as we will be operating among a population that has been acculturated and socialized to despise and distrust everyone but their own government and people. No matter how good our planners and logisticians are, without subject matter experts with deep expertise into North Korea’s different socio-cultural components, any operation – military or humanitarian – to provide inputs on how North Koreans are going to respond as people, is going to be fraught with more danger than normally accompanies such operations. To use Clausewitzian terms: responding to provocation by the Kim government or to the humanitarian needs of the North Koreans themselves, will be a response plagued by significantly more fog and friction than we have ever encountered before. And that means developing effective strategies to respond to the Kim government’s actions is going to be very, very, very difficult.

* I have never met Professor Nichols. I did correspond with him once by email, to send him a report I had done in 2011 on a topic he’d just written a column on and managed to send him a corrupted file – as in the file name was right, the title on the first page was right, but something not germane (and largely not coherent) had been saved as the document. And I didn’t bother to open the file and check it before emailing it across as an attachment to an email introducing myself. 10/10, big win, would do it again!

**  The only official doctrine/concept definition that we have of culture comes to us from CJCSI 1800.01E, the Officers Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP). The definition is also mirrored in the Enlisted Professional Military Education Policy (EPMEP). No two doctrinal publications within the Army have the same definition for culture, hence the need to defer to this default joint definition. This definition is:

An interconnected set of ideas; all the information passed on between generations through language, writing, mathematics, and behavior. The distinctive and deeply rooted beliefs, values, ideology, historic traditions, social forms, perceptual predispositions, and behavioral patterns of a group, organization, or society that is learned, evolves and adapts over time, and is transmitted to succeeding generations.



He sells sanctuary

I don’t link to TPM much because I figure everyone reads it, but I this is an important point:

Perhaps the White House had planned all along for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make an appearance at today’s press briefing to rail against sanctuary cities. But the timing is consistent with what I’ve long feared will be the impulse for the Trump administration: When the going gets rough (failed Obamacare repeal, low poll numbers, etc), it will fall back on appeals to racism and xenophobia to regain political footing.

I assume that at some point, as Trump’s approval ratings sink lower, there will be some kind of international conflict he and Bannon provoke to get people (especially the media) to rally around Dear Leader.








We Have Puppies!

In case your day needs some cuteness, foster puppies!

Friend of mine, LFern, is fostering…again. She and the rest of the Fern family have been very successfully fostering this past year (since losing their beloved Kodiak).

Doing the foster dog thing again. This time I have a mama and 8 puppies. There were 9, but only 8 by the time they got to me. I’ve never had puppies this young. They are so adorable. they should be weaned in about 2 weeks, neutered about two weeks after that (at 8 weeks old) and then ready for adoption. Let me know if you need a puppy or check with Weld County Humane Society. Lolly the mom is an amazing dog too.

Previous fosters have all been successfully placed..now we’ll need homes for these guys. We’re going to go see them this week, I can’t wait. Bixby won’t be able to do his foster magic (he’s been so good with all her fosters) until they are much older, so he and Bailey will have to stay home for now.

Lolly, the mom, has already stolen my heart.

To see individual photos of the whole gang, click here (I could not get them to embed properly and didn’t have time to upload them again).

Open thread!

Also, Writing Group update – anyone who wants to write up something about their experience of self-publishing or traditional publishing, please email me. (whats4dinnersolutions at live dot com)








I can see for miles and miles

I like to try to keep an eye on what’s going on in the world of right-wing media and blogs, but I find reading Fox, let alone, Breitbart, just too soul-crushing to do on a regular basis. I read alicublog and I’ve started following Will Sommer on twitter (he’s the guy who had all the great pictures of the Pizzagate rally). Sommer also has an excellent newsletter.

What do you guys read to keep up with the wingnutosphere?








Ain’t too proud to beg

Jon Ossoff is polling well ahead of the Republicans in the jungle primary in GA-6 and polls show him neck-and-neck in the general. This would be a big win for Dems and would scare the shit out of the Republicans in Congress. So make it rain.

Goal Thermometer








Jared Kushner’s “SWAT Team”: Early Contender for Dumbest Idea of the Week

I admit that’s a high bar in these turbulent days, but this new Trumpstunt is such a shining stinking exemplar of every half-bright, wholly-dishonest sackful of grift and self-deception that I’m not sure it won’t have been declared inoperative by the time this is scheduled to show up on the front page. From the Washington Post:

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements…

In a White House riven at times by disorder and competing factions, the innovation office represents an expansion of Kushner’s already far-reaching influence. The 36-year-old former real estate and media executive will continue to wear many hats, driving foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel. He also is a shadow diplomat, serving as Trump’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East.

The work of White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon has drawn considerable attention, especially after his call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But Bannon will have no formal role in the innovation office, which Trump advisers described as an incubator of sleek transformation as opposed to deconstruction…

Bannon’s a mucker and a mean drunk, but he’s not dumb or vicious enough to let his name be associated with this disaster-in-the-making. Take it away, internets!…



Monday Morning Open Thread: The End of the Beginning

A BFD win, if we can keep it — and for once, it looks like we just might. Per the NYTimes, “Democrats, Buoyed by G.O.P. Health Defeat, See No Need to Offer Hand”:

Invigorated by the Republican dysfunction that led to a stunningly swift collapse of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and relieved that President Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment remains intact, Democrats are in their best position since their embarrassing loss in the November election.

While it is far too soon to suggest that the House Republican majority may be imperiled, Democrats are newly optimistic about picking up seats in 2018, hoping to ride a backlash against Mr. Trump. Seeing an opportunity, they say they will not throw Mr. Trump a political life preserver at what they sense could be the first turns of a downward spiral.

The president’s approval rating was already mired below 40 percent in some surveys, and is likely to remain low after the health bill’s failure. He has no prospects for legislative victories on the immediate horizon, given how complicated and time-consuming his next priority, an overhaul of the tax code, would be even for a more unified party.

And while his electoral success in states represented by Democrats in Congress had been thought to put such lawmakers in a vise between their party and their president, Mr. Trump demonstrated no ability to pick off centrist Democrats in his first significant legislative push. Democrats — red-state moderates and blue-state liberals alike — formed an unbroken front of opposition to the repeal-and-replace campaign…

Though the ability of Democrats to do much more than say no remains limited, their success in helping to thwart Mr. Trump will not only embolden them to confront him again — it will also inspire activists to push them to do whatever it takes to block his path.

“Having tasted victory, the resistance forces will feel even more empowered to insist that Democrats continue withholding any cooperation and not granting Trump any victories when he is so wounded,” said Brian Fallon, a Democratic strategist…

Cult-of-the-Savvy high priest and Politico founder Mike Allen, at his new brand Axios:

It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the Day 64 defeat. President Trump, who made repeal-and-replace a central theme of his campaign, and House Republicans, who made it the central theme of every campaign since 2010, lost in a publicly humiliating way despite controlling every branch of government and enjoying margins in the House rarely seen in the past century.

This virtually guarantees no substantive legislative achievements in the first 100 days. And it creates rifts and suspicions and second-guessing that make governing much harder.

What’s on the agenda as we start the new week?



So now what?

So now what?

That is a hell of a question but I think the right way to start probing towards some of boundaries of the possibility space is to ask what happened.

As I see it, the winning coalition that blocked the bill was a combination of unanimous Democratic opposition plus state level Republicans who actually have to balance a state budget and deal with real issues plus Republicans in districts that make them inherently vulnerable during a mid-term swing against the incumbent party plus the reactionaries of the House Freedom Caucus. We were also aided by the ineptitude of the wank “wonk” Paul Ryan and his coterie of enablers.

We told our stories. We mobilized. We stiffened the spine of Democrats whose spines probably did not need much stiffening. We put the fear of god into vulnerable Republicans. We scared the people who have to balance a state budget. We had on our side almost all of the interest groups that had bought into the ACA — doctors, insurers, hospitals, big drug makers and everyone else that gave a bit to get a bit. The only people who were not aghast at the AHCA were high income tax cut fanatics and policy illiterate decision makers.

We had a huge and unusual coalition pushing back against a bum’s rush. Most of this coalition was assembled in 2009 and 2010 to push the ACA through. And it was re-activated days after the election as everyone recovered from their shock, dismay and hangovers. Any time something changed, wonks were ripping through the documenation and making fast, rough and directionally right analysis with maps, figures, graphs and other hooks to allow advocates to tell personal, powerful stories that landed. And we kept on iterating powerful and emotionally connecting truth on every iteration of the bill.

We won. And our win helps our community:

Does it mean I finally can breathe again? That my health care won’t be pulled in a matter of weeks or months, on the eve of my starting biologic therapy for my Crohn’s?

This is why we fight. We’re not going to win every time. But we have to fight for conceding defeat and defeatism without making an effort means throwing ArchTeryx and others to the dogs. We’re not going to win every time, but we need to fight for both the chance to win as we did this week and to be able to look at our friends, our countrymen and ourselves with honesty as we say that we are doing everything that we can. We will need that for immigration. We will need that for global warming. We need that for our LBG and especially T allies. We might not win every time, but we can mitigate some damage, impose some delay, inflict some cost, and build effective coalitions for future action and progress every time that we hold to our values and our ideals.

So what does this mean for policy? The fear is that the ACA is here, but that the Trump Administration will sabotage it. This is a real fear, and it is one that the coalition that won this week will need to be engaged on to protect the implementation of the ACA.

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On The Road

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Balloon Juicers who are on the road, travelling, etc. and wish to share notes, links, pictures, stories, etc. from their escapades. As the US mainland begins the end of the Earth day as we measure it, many of us rise to read about our friends and their transient locales.

So, please, speak up and share some of your adventures, observations, and sights as you explore, no matter where you are. By concentrating travel updates here, it’s easier for all to keep up-to-date on the adventures of our fellow Commentariat. And it makes finding some travel tips or ideas from 6 months ago so much easier to find…

Have at ’em, and have a safe day of travels!

Should you have any pictures (tasteful, relevant, etc….) you can email them to picstopost@balloon-juice.com or just use this nifty link to start an email: Start an Email to send a Picture to Post on Balloon Juice

Just a few pictures to start out the week, to ensure a good supply throughout!

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Late Night Open Thread: How You Like Me NOW?….