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Tuesday, May 16, 2017


I assume that everyone reading this is aware of the basic facts revealed yesterday concerning Trump’s meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States.  I cannot possibly make useful up-to-the-minute comments about this because during the time it takes me to type this, more information will be revealed.  But I think it might be useful to remind ourselves what is actually at stake here.

It seems that ISIS has been developing a bomb, hidden in a laptop computer, that is not detectible by the machinery used to scanned airline passengers.  Apparently there are technical limits on the explosive power of these laptop bombs, such that they can be expected to bring down an airplane only if the explode fairly close to the hull, or metal skin, of the plane.  This means that putting them in checked luggage with a timer is probably not going to work.  They must be carried onto the plane by a suicide bomber who gets a window seat.  OK, got that?

The threat of such an attack has been considered sufficiently serious to lead airlines to ban carry-on laptops on flights originating in a number of Middle Eastern countries, and a world-wide ban on laptops on all flights is under consideration, disruptive as that might be.

Some nation [we do not know which one] has an intelligence plant in a city controlled by ISIS, and that person [it helps to remember that this is an actual human being, not a drone or a listening device] has garnered information about the ISIS project, which that nation has shared with the United States.  These sharing arrangements are super-secret for two reasons:  First, because the nation doing the sharing may not be officially an ally of the United States, so that it would be compromised by the revelation that it is sharing intelligence with us [and hence would be less inclined to do so in the future], and Second, because revealing the mere fact that someone in that ISIS-controlled city is an agent could easily endanger that person’s life.

Donald Trump blew all of this by shooting his mouth off to the Russians, who are, with regard to ISIS, not at all our allies.  Trump’s action could lead ISIS to delay its planning for the laptop bomb attacks until it has discovered the mole, or it could just as well lead them to accelerate the timing of the attacks in order to carry them out before they are stopped.  That Trump did in fact do what he is reported to have done is demonstrated by the report that immediately after the meeting, persons in the meeting rushed off to contact the CIA and the NSA to alert them to what the president had done so that they could try to contain the damage.

Why did Trump do this?  I have looked at the still photos of the meeting released by the Russian news photographer and I have read the account of what Trump said [an account which the Washington Post and the NY TIMES edited so as to delete the actual information, by the way.]  It seems to me self-evident that Trump was trying to show off, to establish that he was a big deal in the eyes of the Russians.  He was bragging about the wonderful intelligence he gets every day and then, to prove it, rather like an insecure ten year old trying to gain street cred with the big kids in the playground, blurted out some juicy details.

Let me emphasize:  Trump’s braggadocio has put at risk countless air travelers as well as one or more moles in ISIS, and has made it very much less likely that foreign intelligence services will share information with the U. S. in the future.

In a tweet this morning, Trump declared defiantly that he has every right to do what all of his advisors are desperately trying to claim he did not do.  He is correct about that.

All of this caused me to delay my morning walk.  This is serious stuff, folks.


Enam el Brux said...

This sounds completely correct, and appalling. I suspect dementia. Trump overwhelms through a kind of swarm attack. It never lets up.

The Mad Socrates said...

This is both hilarious and alarming.

Anonymous said...

Where's Sejanus where we need him?

s. wallerstein said...

It's hard to believe, after this, that there are not enough "responsible" Republicans in Congress to vote Trump's impeachment, especially since if Trump goes, they'll get Pence who is equally or more rightwing and less of an insecure ten-year-old or so they say.

Chris said...

I think you may be on to something regarding dementia.
Trump seems to much more self aware and articulate in this video from some time ago when he analyzes citizen kane than he does today:

Enam el Brux said...

Chris, those were my thoughts. I had this Charlie Rose interview from 1992 in mind: Clearly sharper than he is now.

Chris said...

He even seems to both know how to read and have read in that interview!

Now...I would sincerely be surprised if he could get through a single op-ed in a low grade magazine and ascertain what it says.

s. wallerstein said...

Wow, the deterioration from the time he talked about Citizen Kane is frightening. Although the last line, "get yourself a different woman" comes from the Trump we know all too well.....

David Auerbach said...

It was obvious 20 seconds after the story hit that it had to be Israel.

LFC said...

The Citizen Kane video doesn't contain v. profound remarks nor, as another video available on youtube pts out, does Trump really seem to grasp the pt of Kane's downfall as rooted in the latter's deep character flaws.

Chris said...

No one said the video was profound or unique, only that it was more articulate and self-aware. Donald Trump presently is neither of those two.

Enam el Brux said...

LFC, do you discern a profound upward leap in cognitive ability, comparing 1992 and today?

Jim said...

Everyone --

Good news from Philadelphia. Today we had a city and state election for court justices and judges, as well as District Attorney. Lawrence Krasner, far and away the most progressive candidate in the field, won the DA race. He is a defense lawyer who represented participants of the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter. Several progressive judges were also elected. Finally, we have a new progressive City Controller, Rebecca Rhynhart. This is how it starts. I feel hopeful -- at least for now.

-- Jim

LFC said...

LFC, do you discern a profound upward leap in [Trump's] cognitive ability, comparing 1992 and today?

No, but I'm not really persuaded that there's been a serious downward progression, either. Which is not to say the present level is anything one could call impressive, since it obvs. isn't.

Anonymous said...

Russia has a direct interest in fighting jihadists. They threaten its southern borders. Russia has joined Syria, Iran, and Hezballah in fighting jihadists in Syria. (The US had to be coaxed into genuinely fighting jihadists and then only ISIS, all the others were its allies at one remove.) If the Russians are "with regard to ISIS, not at all our allies", what does that say about the US?

LFC said...

What the Russians really care about in Syria is supporting Assad. They are fighting 'jihadists' in Syria mainly b/c extremist Sunni groups are among those fighting Assad. The operative principle here for Russia is that 'the enemy of my friend [Assad] is my enemy'. The threat to Russia's southern borders may be a factor, but I don't think it's the main thing driving Russian policy.

Anonymous said...

Whether you are right or not (and jihadists in the Caucasus are something more than just a "factor" in Russia's thinking), the fact remains, as you say, that Russian policy requires it to fight jihadists. The US has been way more ambivalent. Sometimes it promotes jihadists. Sometimes jihadists indirectly further US policy. Sometimes they cut loose and it attacks the jihadists. If I were under threat from jihadists, I know whose help I could rely on. So, I ask again, if the Russians are "not at all our allies with regard to ISIS", what does that say about the US vis a vis jihadists? (Also, Russia has observed international law in its support of Syria; the US has broken international law in seeking to overthrow the government of Syria. Which is preferable, observance of international law, or utter disregard?)