Category Archives: Current events

What Was On the DNC Computers?

Following revelations recently by former FBI director James Comey and Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, one question must be asked, why the Democratic National Committee would not let either the FBI or Homeland Security inspect the servers that they contend were hacked. The hacking and subsequent release of emails is the genesis of all the accusations today aimed at the president. If a person’s house is robbed and they tell the police it would be unusual, to say the least, if the police were not allowed to enter the house and investigate. The DNC instead hired an outside consultant to do the investigation and handed the results to the FBI. What is it the DNC did not want the FBI to find on its servers? More unusual is that the FBI accepted the private investigation in lieu of their own.
There is no deep conspiracy theory attached to this, or belief that the Dems intentionally did anything to confuse the issue, just a question. The best I can come up with is that the depth of the hack was not that intense and the DNC needed a diversion away from HRC’s email problems. I will be looking into this in the future so stay tuned. johnsonjeh_comeyjames09272016getty

 

 

The New Cold War

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Recent international activities are beginning to remind me of the cold war, and its heating up. Over the weekend the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 ground attack aircraft, after it had attack US supported Syrian and Kurdish forces who were in combat with ISIS. This action in and of itself is significant and indicates a sea change in US policy. But it is not an isolated incident and is a continuing march toward a new cold war that has been in development since the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those who do not remember, the cold war lasted from the end of the second world war in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet Union on 1991. During this time, there were both political and military confrontations between the West and the East. To correct the wrong impression while the term is “Cold War” there were some very hot spots during this time. From the Korean War through Vietnam and smaller conflicts in Africa and South and Central America, the west faced off against the agents of the Soviet Union in many ways. The main difference is that while the West (US) would engage directly with military force the East (Soviet Union) used proxy fighters.

Today we are seeing a rise in tension and a return to many of the same patterns we saw in the past. Both Russia and China have begun to once again challenge our military by close encounters at sea and in the air and by testing our ability to detect and react to air and submarine incursions.  The subs have mostly been in Scandinavian seas, we have not heard of others. Like the last time however this could lead to unforeseen problems. From the proxy side, we see Russia fermenting a civil war in Ukraine and a direct annexation of Chimera. They have also returned to the Middle East by propping up the regime of Assad in Syrian and this time they have committed their own forces.  China is challenging us in the south china sea by the expansion of territorial claims and an increase in military presence.

It may be assumed we won the last time and we will win this time. This time however there is a major change. The United States is seen by many as a paper tiger. Regardless of what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan it is greatly assumed we will not commit to a major defense of the west. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the current administration for its talk about NATO and the need for Europe to be more proactive in its own defense. But for the most part, on a macro level, we have over the past few years reduced our own military and shown a reluctance to engage in any meaningful way with the growing threat from Russia or China.

During the last cold war, we stayed out of direct confrontation with Russia through something called Mutual Assured Destruction, (MAD).  The concept of MAD was that in the event of a major war both sides had the capability to destroy the other. In a true sense, it was not the fear of mutual destruction that held back the missiles it was the fact that retaliation was assured. Neither side doubted the other would retaliate. In diplomacy, much the same concept is valid. Why would one side bother to negotiate with another if there is no fear of a military response that could be devastating.

Why has Russia run roughshod over the west, in the last few years presidents from both parties did little to react to Russian military adventures other than wag a finger and level ineffective sanctions. The danger today with the sea change I discussed is that it may take a lot more convincing to reign in Russia and China. This will mean there will be violence and death. Should this however work, as history has taught, then if we are still in time it will be less violent that if nothing is done. If we are not in time then nothing will reduce the carnage.

I hope I am right and we are in time. We must however present a more united front to the world then the fighting and inexcusable rhetoric that is coming out of Washington. It is a dangerous time and it will take a strong front to deflect the carnage and save civilization. PLEASE THINK before you get all bent out of shape over some mundane action of a politician, your child could have been Otto Warnbier. I am not sure if we had a better reputation for protecting our citizens there would have been a different outcome, or if he would have been arrested at all. But we need to try. We need to be that country that other would rather talk to then fight.

 

 

 

The Presumption of Innocence, the Right to Face your Accuser, and the Press

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One of the oldest concept in law is the presumption of innocence. We can trace it back to Rome and see it in Islamic readings of the hadith. It is part of English common law and an article of faith in US law. Also, a part of our law is the 6th amendment giving the accused the right to face their accuser. These two aspects of our legal system don’t seem to apply to our political leaders, at least not currently. Opposition political leadership and the mainstream media have taken it upon themselves to place rumors in front of the American people as facts. If there is a semblance of fact, a meeting took place, the content and implications of the meeting are again presented as facts where none exists.
Many of these reports from the media are credited as coming from anonymous sources or multiple anonymous sources. These sources are often cited as current or former government officials, which gives them an air of authority. Anonymous sources have been a mainstay of journalism for a long time but are also considered the least credible. While an anonymous source may be the only way to get the start of a story a good reporter will also work to confirm the information by other means.
I do not intend to go into the specifics of the problems arising from the lack of ethical journalism, I have done so in past posts ( https://pleasethink1.com/2017/05/24/i-want-to-believe-the-press-but/ and https://pleasethink1.com/2017/05/26/a-modern-witch-hunt/ ) but I would like to discuss the lack of cultural imperatives in this new reporting. By this I mean we are lacking the very basic social philosophy that has made the US great. While it is not unheard of to put a politician on trial through the press it is always wrong. It is wrong to make criminal accusations without proof and cite unnamed sources that cannot be confronted. The most famous anonymous source in recent history was Mark Felt, deep throat of Watergate fame. Felt, as it turned out, provided leads to find the information, not the information itself. Woodward and Bernstein then did the job of good investigative reporters and found the truth and reported it.
Acknowledging that news media outlets do not have the same constraints as the courts in regartds to evidence, they do have an obligation to the public to at least try to get it right. The rush to publish has caused an avalanche of reports that have not been researched or confirmed. The reports are then picked up by other outlets and reprinted as facts. No one is even asking who the sources are and no one is trying to verify the accusations. President Trump is treated in the news media as a criminal with headlines blaring that he needs to be impeached for crimes ranging from obstruction of justice to treason, yet there is no proof. On the other hand, the person who opened fire on a group of congressional republicans at a ball field in Alexandria Va., who was shoot and captured with the rifle in his hand, was initially reported as “the ALLEDGED” shooter.
A great American trait is to give people the benefit of the doubt. This concept works in all avenues of life. Before you accept a statement or claim or anonymous report PLEASE THINK to carefully check it out.

 

The Reality of Keeping Secrets

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The Reality of protecting the nations secrets is becoming more difficult by the day. The recent release of an NSA report by a government contractor, Reality Winner, has brought to light, once again, the difficulty in maintaining security. There is a lot of coverage of her being a contractor, now the discloser I was once employed by the same contractor, Pluribus International, and mention of her past six years as a linguist with the Air Force, but little about her apparent extreme political views. This is where we need to begin the discussion.

A review of the social media sites of Reality Winner shows a very activist person who bought into every anti-Trump campaign, as well as other progressive programs. After the fact, many have asked why a deeper background check was not done considering her apparent hatred of Trump and support for the Iranian government. If her Facebook page had been viewed what could have been done. Can a person be denied employment for political views? The answer of course is a resounding maybe. The problem of course is not opposing political views but lack of self-control and any sense of individual responsibility. Many have said that the release of classified material is an act of courage and proved individual integrity. I have read both the article by “The Intercept” and the redacted NSA report. What we have is a young lady who has ruined her life and the reputation of a company that did nothing more than give her a job after her service to her county, for nothing. The information provided was nothing that was not suspected, but confirmed the details. The details by the way would not indicate any influence on the election, it looked like a test run. The hacking was aimed at voter registration rolls and not at the actual election machines. While it may have affected individual voters by raising questions as to their legitimate registration it is doubtful it had any impact on the results.

Regardless of the impact, it is an attack on the integrity of the United States and must be handled as such and with caution. The leak and leakers are also an attack on the integrity of the United States and must be dealt with. Reality Winners is a product of her time and one of many leakers who probably feel that they are doing a service to their country. They are wrong. Releasing intelligence, even finished product without the raw data, can cause great national harm even death. There are reasons some information is classified and they are good reasons. Many people with many years of experience work to insure the security of this information and a 25-year-old with 6 years of experience in the Air Force is not experienced enough to override this process. By releasing this information Winner has let the Russians know what we discovered and reduced the effectiveness of any countermeasures.

The extremism and virulence of the attacks on the current administration have opened a process of uncontrolled anger and given people like Winner the excuse to put the country in danger in the name of resistance to a President they did not vote for. This is just a furthering of what has been happening across society to include colleges shutting down free expression and segments of society segregating themselves from the rest. It needs to stop.

It must stop. I feel for both Reality Winner and her family. Her uncontrolled anger, feed by an out of control media (I hesitate to call it News Media) resulted in a very unwise choice. She is the first to be caught and will likely suffer greatly for her transgression. Unlike Edward Snowden, protected by Russia, or Bradly Manning, pardoned by President Obama, she is in a time and administration that will not be kind to her.

 A recent article in the Wall Street Journal spoke to the fact that colleges are not teaching our children how to make a cohesive argument and they leave school with no greater critical thinking skills then when they entered. Add this to politicians and pundits on television constantly yelling and refusing to listen to any opposition arguments and you have an up and coming community that feels no remorse in deciding on their own what should go public.  

There are many ways that a person can get information to the right hands if they truly feel it is necessary. They are long and cumbersome by design. There are even shortcuts that can be taken that do not require public disclosure. Today however we seem to need instant gratification of our passions. We have raised a generation, or two, that glory’s in its independence but in fact has fallen into the trap of groupthink.

I am sorry Reality, but you need to be strongly and publicly punished to stop those who follow from making the same mistake, or at least give them pause before they make a move.  To all who would defend Reality PLEASE THINK of the consequences of your actions.   

McCarthyism or Clintonism

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In a recent post, I spoke about the term witch hunt and how it applies to the current House and Senate committee hearings into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. One example used was the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s into communist activity in the US. I began to wonder how closely these two paralleled and what impact the current hearings will have on America.

First a little history. Joseph McCarthy was a little know circuit court judge from Wisconsin when he was elected in 1946, to the Senate in an upset victory over a more established Republican. While at first remaining quite he was propelled to prominence in a 1950 speech in which he claimed 205 communists had infiltrated the State Department. When asked to testify in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations he was unable to name a single person. Undaunted and after winning reelection in 1952 he was given the chairmanship of the Committee on Government Operations of the Senate and the permanent sub-committee on investigations. From this point McCarthy carried on a 2-year witch-hunt that destroyed lives and altered life in the US for years after. The atmosphere of fear and intimidation that resulted in the continuous hearings and interrogations had an impact on society

  Quantification aside, it may be helpful to look at the specific sectors of American society that McCarthyism touched. Such an appraisal, tentative though it must be, may offer some insight into the extent of the damage and into the ways in which the anti-Communist crusade influenced American society, politics, and culture. We should keep in mind, however, that McCarthyism’s main impact may well have been in what did not happen rather than in what did the social reforms that were never adopted, the diplomatic initiatives that were not pursued, the workers who were not organized into unions, the books that were not written, and the movies that were never filmed.” Schrecker, Ellen. The Age of McCarthyism. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Marvin’s Press, 1994.

  Could the current round of investigations, congressional hearings and unquestioned interrogations lead to a similar intimation of American government and society? It is not widely known today but McCarthy spread a wide net to include President Eisenhower and both Democratic and Republican leaders. Today the greatest claim to fame for this period is to give us something to call that time.

“McCarthyism, name given to the period of time in American history that saw Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S.  government. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/McCarthyism

Jumping forward 60+ years the question is, are we looking for an actually crime committed by the now sitting President and his campaign or are we entering the period of time that will be known as Clintonism?  

When McCarthy started down the road to capture communist and save the USA, there was some truth to what set him off. The cold war was just starting and there was fear of communist aggression because of the Korean war. Communist in the US under the direction of Moscow were indeed trying to infiltrate the government as evidenced by Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss. It was never as widespread or successful as many have made it out to be. Just like today we can look at actually activities that point to a Russian attempt to do something. But as McCarthy blow out of all proportion the Red Threat in the ‘50s so has Hillary Clinton and the democratic party with the impact of Russian activities.

 The facts that we know today are that the Democratic National Committees emails were hacked. The most likely perpetrator was the Russian government, which evidence by the way would not likely stand up in court. We also know that members of the Trump campaign and transition team met with Russians, in what is likely legitimate and legal activities. We also have illegal actions in this time period, most notable is the unmasking of us citizens based on electronic intercepts. Electronic intercepts would most likely be called wiretaps by the general public. Unmasking of US citizens, except under extraordinary conditions, caught up in this surveillance is illegal. The driving force to much of this is the initial discovery of classified information on a private unsecured server in Sec. Clintons home. This became critical when then FBI Director James Comey had to admit that Clinton’s actions did in fact violate the law but used a legal excuse, Mens Rea, that said she did not intend to break the law so she is excused.

The Clinton campaign then beat the drum of Russian hacking vice her violation of law as the most damaging activity. While there are some suggestions that Russia was using released emails and propaganda like fake news releases to swing the election toward Trump, the intelligence reports and exit polls show the Russian activity had little to no impact on the election results.  

Like the McCarthy hearings of the ‘50s there was some basis in fact to raise concern. Like the McCarthy era the hearings of today are out of proportion to the actions and the net is being spread far and wide beyond the scope of the problem. Normal activity is being cast as suspicious, reputations are being ruined and the level of hysteria and paranoia is outsized to the facts.

The driving issues for the election were economic, static wages and a very slow economy. Clinton represented the failed policies of the government and Trump was an unknown who appeared to understand how to get the economy moving. Clinton was expected to win and Russia was likely more interested in disrupting her administration then actually winning the election for Trump. The current hearings to date have discovered nothing that shows collusion between the Trump campaign, according to the Democrats on the committees, but they continue to work hard. There hard work is beginning to look like the McCarthy hearing however. No evidence is being given just rumor, innuendo and supposition.

What effect this will have on the governing of the country or impact this will have on future elections, is hard to tell. It is time for everyone to PLEASE THINK of what they are doing and remember what happened in the past.     

 

The First Amendment and Kathy Griffin

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Today a tearful Kathy Griffin told the world how she has become a victim of bullying from President Trump because of a photo she posted showing her holding the severed head of the President. Later in a news conference with her lawyer she was portrayed as someone being denied her first amendment rights. Her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, even went so far as to call this the sign of an authoritarian state.

If this were indeed an authoritarian state Ms. Griffin would be in jail (see Turkey under Erdogan). The question then is does she have a first amendment right to do what she did. The answer is yes. Unlike what many college students of late have said, even hate speech is protected. What Griffin and others have to learn is that legal rights are a two way street and there are consequences for actions.

Tearfully Kathy Griffin cried out that the president and his family had attacked her and broken her and destroyed her career. What the president and family said and the reaction of CNN, which fired her and the venues that cancelled her act, acted legally and within their constitutional rights to express opinion and act in the best interest of their companies.

This is a short post to say to Kathy Griffin that while you have the right to do what you did you must also accept the blow back. Put yourself in the shoes of the family of David Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan and his head displayed online for the world to see. Think of all the families of those beheaded live online by ISIS. PLEASE THINK of the impact of your actions before you or anyone else doses anything this foul and disgusting, albeit legal and protected, again.