Who To Believe?

Could a Republican please explain why we should believe the Tweeter-in-Chief instead of The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray, and Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel.

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

“U.S. intelligence officials warned Tuesday of increased threats to national security from tighter cooperation between China and Russia, while also differing with President Trump in their analysis of North Korea’s nuclear intentions and the current danger posed by Islamic State.

The warnings were contained in an annual threat assessment that accompanied testimony by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray, Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel and other leaders of the U.S. intelligence community, who appeared Tuesday before a Senate panel. The annual exercise affords the public a look at imminent challenges facing the country, such as cyberattacks, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

The assessment cautioned that Beijing and Moscow are pouring resources into a “race for technological and military superiority” that will define the 21st century. It said the two countries are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.”

The report didn’t make any mention of a new and improved border wall, but did say:

“China . . . could disable U.S. critical infrastructure ‘such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks.'”

And the intelligence leaders’ assessment also differed with President Trump in its analysis of North Korea, Syria, Iraq and other hot spots:

“On North Korea, the assessment raised questions about President Trump’s predictions that he will be able to persuade Pyongyang to give up all of its nuclear weapons. While North Korea ‘has reversibly dismantled portions of its [weapons of mass destruction] infrastructure,’ the report said, U.S. intelligence ‘continues to assess that it is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities. North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as critical to regime survival.’. . .

On Iran, Mr. Coats said U.S. intelligence officials didn’t believe the nation was developing a nuclear weapon, challenging assertions from Mr. Trump that the nuclear pact he withdrew the U.S. from last year was ineffective.’

Mr. Trump has also justified plans to withdraw troops from Syria by arguing that Islamic State was defeated. But the intelligence assessment said the terror group would ‘very likely continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and western adversaries, including the United States.'”

In response, we got this “intelligence”. Read from bottom to top:

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Granted, at times, US intelligence has proven seriously flawed, but when asked to decide between our top intelligence officials who lead thousands of people who work tirelessly at home and abroad to provide the best possible intelligence and a man who watches cable news and does not read, is there any reason to side with the Tweeter-in-Chief? I wish at least one of the 60-63k people who “liked” the T-i-C’s tweets could explain the flaw in my thinking.

In response to those tweets, Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said in an interview that Mr. Trump’s disparagement of the intelligence agencies risks demoralizing the spy agencies’ work forces, tarnishes their credibility with allied security services, and rattles foreigners who spy for the U.S.

Again from the Wall Street Journal:

“’This is a big deal,’” said Mr. Morell, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents and now hosts the ‘Intelligence Matters’ podcast.

‘Presidents have the right to disagree with the analysis that’s put in front of them. Presidents have the right to take their policies in a different direction than suggested by the intelligence they receive. Never should a president critique his intelligence community publicly. It’s dangerous.’

Republican Rep. Michael Gallagher of Wisconsin said the Trump administration shouldn’t see the spy agencies’ assessments as an attempt to undermine the president.

‘Obviously, the intelligence community is not omniscient,’ Mr. Gallagher said. ‘But they are doing a very difficult job, and they are actually trying to advance the president’s priorities.’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted: ‘It is a credit to our intelligence agencies that they continue to provide rigorous and realistic analyses of the threats we face. It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening.'”

Add the Tweeter-in-Chief’s ego to the things I fear.

The New Language of Climate Change

Leading climate scientists and meteorologists are banking on a new strategy for talking about climate change: Take the politics out of it.

“. . . recognition is just Step One . . . once doubters see climate change as the dire threat it is, it will be easier for them to get on board with the only solutions believed to be able to rein it in: phasing out fossil fuels and scaling back our carbon footprint.”

The Tilt Left

Young voters keep moving to the left on social issues, Republicans included.

“’This should be an alert to the Republican Party as they think about generational replacement,’ said Elizabeth Bennion, a professor of political science at Indiana University South Bend.

Each succeeding generation of Americans tends to be more progressive than those that came before, Ms. Bennion noted, a trend that potentially poses a long-term threat to the Republican Party’s power.”

One caveat. That more young people vote.

What I Think I Know About The Covington, Kentucky High Schoolers

International Pressing Pausers have to be especially confused by what’s going on in the (dis)United States. I confess, I don’t fully understand what’s going on in the picture below which has prompted an intense national debate. At first glance, the central teen’s smile communicates a certain immaturity, arrogance, and disrespect for the elderly Native American in front of him.

Anyone that has worked with teens for any length of time can tell you that most are immature, some are arrogant, and a few disrespectful. So why the national outrage over one possible example from Covington, KY?

The picture probably fired up lefties because Native Americans deserve unmitigated respect for enduring centuries of oppression largely at the hands of white men. It most likely fired up conservatives because they believe the Left overreacts to any form of conservatism, thus opening themselves up to the criticism that they aren’t nearly as tolerant as they claim. Historical ignorance + a certain hypocrisy + ubiquitous social media = intense national debate.

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What I think I know about the photographed high schoolers is best explained through a short story. It’s the mid-90s, when I was a young prof at a liberal arts college in Greensboro, NC, I lead a First Year orientation mountain biking trip in West Virginia. By the end of Day One I was exasperated by the incessant immaturity of my charges. The young men in particular were crass, cliquish, and careless. Despite West Virginia’s natural beauty, I was dreading the remainder of the trip.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to have individual conservations with the participants one after another. And I was blown away by the discrepancy between their group and individual selves. One-on-one, or even two-on-one, at meals, in the jacuzzi, alone on the trail, I found them imminently likable. It was a powerful reminder of what I had forgotten about my teenage self and the hundreds of high schoolers I had taught previously. Teen males, a terribly insecure species, routinely bring out the worst in each other. The mathematical term is lowest common denominator (LCD). At it’s worst, it can contribute to a mob mentality.

When I first saw the “Covington” picture, the first thing I zeroed in on was the students in the background who were smiling and laughing at their classmate’s behavior. Classic LCD. Is susceptibility to negative peer pressure an excuse for immaturity, arrogance, disrespect; hell no, but it is reason to view the incident as more of a teachable moment than a criminal act.

Even without knowing the broader context, which is what now is being endlessly debated, the educator in me believes the teens deserve a modicum of grace. To learn about Native American history and people’s criticisms of their actions. In the expectation that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation they behave differently.

 

Sentence To Ponder

From The Guardian. The report is from Oxfam, a British-based charitable organization:

“The growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by a report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.”

Oxfam says between 2017 and 2018 a billionaire was created every two days. And then there’s this. Just 1% of Jeff Bezos’s (pre-divorce) fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.

Related.