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 Decline of the United States of America

One of a series.

I drive under the bridge that the Amtrak train tragically jumped the track on in Dupont, Washington over 300 times a year. A considerable part of the coverage was surprise at how fast the train was going. “Even faster than the freeway traffic.” Turns out it was maxing out at 80mph or 129kph. The train lacked the “smart” self-stopping brakes that are de rigueur on trains in other developed countries.

Here’s some perspective for the globally challenged.

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At 320-350 kilometers an hour, Seattle to Portland would take about 50 minutes. Once up and running again, our new, ten minute faster train, will still take over three hours. Plain and simple, we’re getting our ass kicked.

Some PTA’s Paying Teachers’ Salaries

Like in Seattle Washington. Here’s the district’s rationale.

Many well-to-do parents’ fear their children will not enjoy the same economic privilege they have. That anxiety explains a lot of the inequities embedded in our public education system. In fact, I’m surprised super wealthy parents in the U.S. haven’t followed the lead of the super wealthy 30-something Chinese parents I met twenty years ago in a Beijing suburb. Focused intensely on English language instruction, those parents built a K-8 boarding school specifically for their children. It was a weird, disconcerting place, but I bet the teachers made quite a bit more money than their public school Chinese counterparts.

I wonder. Why haven’t any multi-millionaire parent groups (that I know of) created schools exclusively for their children staffed with teachers making $200,000/year? I suppose the answer is they feel the best public and private K-12 schools are good enough. If that changes, I will not be surprised. And yes, I will say, I called it.

 

On Traveling

A nice insight:

“If you travel a lot, you should not restrict yourself to “nice” places, which are more likely to disappoint.”

Instead, make your way to places like Shenyang, China. What are some other “off the path” not so nice places one should go?

Addendum: How much of travel decision making is inspired, at least in part, by status anxiety? For the self actualized among us, with no status anxiety, sources tell me Picqua, OH is on the upswing. Fort Picqua Plaza, the Midwest’s Taj Mahal.

Update: Sources tell me I can’t spell. It’s Piqua, OH. Apologies to the Heartland.

Asia’s Rise

Such a sad headline, “Billionaires Fall on Harder Times“. Tucked in the article though is a telling factoid:

“The billionaire population in the U.S. grew by only five last year to 538, but that was offset by Asia, which is creating one billionaire every three days led by China.”

Meanwhile, a Chinese car and battery maker has invested $750 million in mass transit. More specifically, monorail.

BN-QG487_cbyd10_GR_20161014000646.jpgThe company says, “. . . building a monorail system requires only a fifth of the capital expenditure of a metro line and a third of the construction time.”

A Life Built on Service and Saving

If my ticket gets punched sometime soon, I’ll have lived a life filled to the brim. Almost disorientingly so. I’ve crouched in the final passageway of a West African slave fort, been drenched by Victoria Fall’s mist, walked on the Great Wall of China, ran around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hiked in Chiapas, and cross country skied in Norway. I’ve lived in the Midwest, the West, the Southeast, and as one six year old here says, “the Specific Northwest”. I’ve interacted with thousands of young people, the vast majority who appreciated my efforts on their behalf. I’ve cycled up and down mountains in the Western United States. I’ve taught guest lessons in my daughters’ elementary classrooms. I’ve been blessed to know lots of people more selfless than me, some who will read this today. I’ve been loved by caring, generous parents, and been privileged to know my wife and daughters and their friends.

My life has been so full that I tend to think about whatever my future holds as extra credit. Everything from here on out is a bonus.

Maybe I don’t look forward to too much anymore because my cup has been overflowing for some time. Apart from a story well told and nature, not a lot moves me these days.

So getting choked up in church yesterday, during the announcements of all things, was totally unexpected. A guest was invited to the front to make a surprise announcement. A tall, dapper man in his late 30’s began describing his relationship with ChuckB, a member who had passed away a few months ago. He had been Chuck’s financial planner for eight years.

I didn’t know Chuck until I attended a celebration of his life that was planned nine months ago after the church community learned of his terminal illness. He worked as a forester for the Department of Ecology for a few decades and kept a low profile at church, driving the van, tutoring after school, doing whatever was needed behind the scenes. At his celebration I was struck by how everyone described him as one of the most humble, caring, and giving people they had ever known. He lived a simple life in a modest neighborhood that revolved around participating in church activities.

The financial planner announced that Chuck and his wife, who had passed away previously, were leaving the church $925,000, divided four ways, the largest portion for international aide, another for local charities, another for Lutheran World Relief specifically, and about $220,000 in the church’s unrestricted fund to use as the Council sees fit. A Council that has been seeking about $35,000 to fund a half-time position dedicated to strengthening our ties to local people in need.

There was an audible gasp. Two people stood and began applauding and soon everyone followed. My favorite part, and probably what moved me so much, was that Chuck wasn’t there for his standing ovation. Shortly before he died, he confided to one member that he was leaving “the bulk of his estate to the church,” but that person said she had “no idea it was anywhere near that much money.” No one did.

The most beautiful and moving part to me is that Chuck intentionally passed on his standing ovation. He didn’t need it. A life filled with service and saving was more than enough. Blessed be his memory.