It’s been another dizzying few days in Washington, starting with yet another border controversy, as President Donald Trump threatened to bus unauthorized immigrants to sanctuary cities, and ending with the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which turned out to be far more damning than advertised by Trump’s attorney general.
These two very different stories have more in common than meets the eye. In each case, there’s a central tension between the president and aides who refuse to execute orders from him that they believe are illegal or foolish. Mueller’s report is packed with incidents in which White House staff not only didn’t do things Trump said, but never had any intention of doing them. In the case of the border, Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff rebuffed Trump’s plan to bus migrants on legal grounds; meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan refused to turn away migrants seeking asylum, concluding that it was illegal. (Nielsen was sacked soon after, while McAleenan is now her acting replacement.)
In the end, the man who reportedly smeared feces on the walls of his lodgings, mistreated his kitten, and variously blamed the ills of the world on feminists and bespectacled Jewish writers was pulled from the Ecuadorian embassy looking every inch like a powdered-sugar Saddam Hussein plucked straight from his spider hole. The only camera crew to record this pivotal event belonged to Ruptly, a Berlin-based streaming-online-video service, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RT, the Russian government’s English-language news channel and the former distributor of Julian Assange’s short-lived chat show.
RT’s tagline is “Question more,” and indeed, one might inquire how it came to pass that the spin-off of a Kremlin propaganda organ and now registered foreign agent in the United States first arrived on the scene. Its camera recorded a team of London’s Metropolitan Police dragging Assange from his Knightsbridge cupboard as he burbled about resistance and toted a worn copy of Gore Vidal’s History of the National Security State.
Interesting analysis of Russian reaction to SpaceX’s successful docking and return of it’s CrewDragon spacecraft.
One of the big questions surrounding the first launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft was how the Russians would react. They have held considerable sway in the International Space Station partnership by controlling access to the orbiting laboratory since the 2011 retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle. So far, the Russian response has been one of throwing small bits of shade here and there but trying not to be too obvious about it.
On Sunday, when SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station, the Russian space corporation sequestered cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in the Russian segment of the station. This was, Roscosmos said, so that Kononenko could take emergency action in case the Dragon became uncontrollable and crashed into the space station.
After the successful docking, Roscosmos tweeted a Russian language congratulation to NASA, but underscored the fact “that flight safety must be above reproach.” An hour later it published a rare tweet in English, sending “its sincere compliments to the colleagues from NASA,” but without the emphasis on vehicle safety. Neither tweet mentioned SpaceX. (Later, Roscosmos said NASA ordered the ship and, therefore, deserved the congratulations.)
I was searching for stuff on my computer tonight when I came across a diary entry I created back on my 28th birthday, 21 Jan 1997. I had started journaling then mainly because I had started having trouble with my memory. It is also why I began this blog, as I’ve said before.
This entry is from a time when I was young, single, fit, and supposedly at the top of my game, yet I was deeply concerned about my future. I post it today to remind myself of just how long I’ve been dealing with Gulf War Illness.
It has been three decades of pain and frustration but I am still here.
Looking at the old clock on the wall I see that I’ve just turned 28 years old. Here I am sitting at my keyboard on my 28th birthday, all alone save for a lazy cat. I didn’t feel like staying at the party because I’m feeling down, so I guess I really didn’t have to be alone. I can’t talk to those guys about what’s bothering me because they couldn’t relate. There are very few people who could. But the party was getting my down because I couldn’t seem to jump-start myself into the conversation, and I became alarmed at this inability to speak.
On the same day that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) officially joined the Trump campaign as a senior national security advisor, the U.S. intelligence community released a statement that the Kremlin was trying to interfere in the election. But the Senator already knew those facts, and much more. Burr had been fully briefed in secret by the U.S. intelligence community a few weeks earlier. Senior U.S. officials told Burr that Russia’s interference was designed to support Donald Trump’s electoral chances. Burr decided to team up with the Trump campaign anyway, and hitch his own electoral fate in North Carolina to Trump’s political fortunes.
More than two years later, Burr now leads the Senate’s flagship investigation into whether fellow members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia’s efforts. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr’s work with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on the investigation is heading toward its final stage. The committee is expected to issue its major findings in the coming months.
Burr has received remarkably favorable press coverage for his stewardship of the investigation. Many mainstream commentators have heralded his committee as a bipartisan effort to follow the facts and tell the American public what it finds. Closer observation, however, raises serious questions whether that’s how this chapter in the 2016 election saga will end.
What’s largely escaped scrutiny is the case of Burr’s own words and deeds during the 2016 campaign. It was impossible to put the pieces together back then. We now have a much clearer picture due to news reports, court filings by the special counsel, and congressional testimony by former administration officials. We have learned a lot about what Russia was doing, what the U.S. intelligence community knew, and what Burr was told. The picture that emerges is neither favorable for Burr personally, nor for what truths Americans can expect to receive from his stewardship of the committee in the months ahead.
Here’s a great intro to what the West is doing wrong with regards to Vladimir Putin: building him up. Mark Galeotti says we should “laugh at Russia more,” and I agree.
Mark Galeotti is an expert on Russian politics and crime. He is a Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute, a non-resident fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He has published extensively on Russia. Galeotti’s latest book, We Need to Talk About Putin, argues that the Russian leader is widely misunderstood.
What is the biggest popular misconception about Vladimir Putin?I think it is precisely that he runs everything. There is still this notion that he is some kind of James Bond super-villain. First, that’s just not the way the world is; also, he could be considered something of a lazy autocrat who sits back and lets others come up with all kinds of plans and stratagems of their own.
I was reminded again of this story, where in 1979 100,000 Iranian women took to the streets to protest the repressive ways of the Iranian Revolution on women. Perhaps one day Iranian women will regain the rights they lost in this sorry episode.
Iranian photographer Hengameh Golestan was married to the award-winning Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan, who died while on assignment in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2003.
Hengameh took her first images aged 18, and for a brief time attended photography school in England, but learnt most about taking pictures from working as her husband’s assistant. “To say that working with Kaveh was inspiring would be an understatement,” she says. “He was always critiquing my work and offering advice to help me improve. Technically and also spiritually I got everything from him.”
Hengameh liked to photograph everyday life in her home city of Tehran, in particular the lives of women and children, and quiet, often mundane domestic details. But in 1979, when she was 27, revolution came. In January, following two years of demonstrations, the last Persian monarch – the Shah – left Iran for exile. In Feburary, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to the city, bringing about the final collapse of the royal reign and a new Islamic Republic.
“It was the best time of my life,” says Golestan. “I was in the streets from morning until night as something was always happening. Every day was so unpredictable. The mood was one of anticipation and excitement, and a bit of fear. We were actively taking part in shaping our future through actions rather than words and that felt amazing.”
Source: Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979
Here’s a really good, in-depth look at what the U.S. withdrawing from the INF Treaty means for the world.
One of the major accomplishments of the Cold War is on life support. The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles, is currently in a coma and two of the signatories, the United States and Russia, are bickering over who is responsible. Barring major action, it is set to expire in just under six months The absence of the treaty could make the world a much more dangerous place, needlessly restarting an arms race that nobody wants. And this whole thing started decades ago, in large part because of geography.
We’ve already covered a lot of this ground before, but it’s complicated, so let’s go over it again.
The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. The U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more waste (nuclear fuel that is “spent” and is no longer efficient at generating power) than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep. The U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program has generated spent nuclear fuel as well as high-level radioactive waste and accounts for most of the rest of the total at about 14,000 metric tons, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated—at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States. After spending decades and billions of dollars to research potential sites for a permanent disposal site, including at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that has a license application pending to authorize construction of a nuclear waste repository, the future prospects for permanent disposal remain unclear.
On its 60th anniversary, the civilian age of nuclear power in America appears to be almost over. But with the country awash in radioactive waste and plutonium stockpiled for warheads, the task of managing this atomic legacy grows ever more urgent. Opening a long-delayed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is imperative.
President Dwight Eisenhower formally opened America’s first commercial nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pa., near Pittsburgh, on May 26, 1958. He declared it would “put the atom to work for the good of mankind, not his destruction.” His nuclear cheerleader, Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had promised power “too cheap to meter.”
Today, with cheap gas and falling prices for wind and solar energy, nuclear power is often now too expensive to sell. Six plants closed from 2013 to 2017. At least seven more — from the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey to the Diablo Canyon plant in California — have been earmarked for final shutdown, often years before their operating licenses expire. About a quarter of the nation’s nuclear power plants don’t cover their operating costs, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Callan report can be found here. [PDF]