Distractions

Mark Warner (D, VA), Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has objected to President Donald Trump’s revoking ex-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance.

This might be a convenient way to distract attention, say from a damaging news story or two. But politicizing the way we guard our nation’s secrets just to punish the President’s critics is a dangerous precedent.

This is neither politicization nor punishment, but a safeguard of our nation’s secrets.  No one, regardless of rank, once they leave government service should have a security clearance.  They neither have a need to know nor a need for access, the two Critical Items—both of which must be present, not just one of them—for granting clearances.  Trump’s only error here is in not ordering the revocation for all persons who have left government service.

There’s Help, and There’s Help

Recall that Alphabet Inc, through its Google arm, has refused to help the US defend itself by refusing to work with DoD on the application of artificial intelligence to military projects.  After the resignations described at the link, Alphabet pulled its Google arm out of the project altogether, with effect in 2019 when its current contract expires.

On the other hand, Alphabet is enthusiastic about its Google working within the People’s Republic of China.  Mobvoi Inc, headquartered outside Beijing, makes smart watches and smart speakers for sale within—and outside—the surveillance state.

Its engineers build apps using TensorFlow, Google’s free set of development tools for artificial intelligence.

Some Thoughts on NATO

Stephen Walt, writing in Foreign Policy, had some, and as a result, so do I.

Walt’s first thought concerns the actual content of NATO’s Article V: it’s not a tripwire for war.  On this, he quoted the salient part of that Article [emphasis his]:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence … will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area….

“As Necessary”

Recall the kerfuffle over whether senior government officials—an ex-CIA Director, for instance—should have their security clearances continued when they leave government services.  As Sean Bigley put it in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed,

The idea was that senior administration officials should be allowed to retain their security clearances after leaving government so they could consult with successors as necessary.

Bigley suggested that this particular rationale even “makes sense for a brief, defined period.”

He’s overstating the case, though.  “As necessary” doesn’t justify an automatic continuance of a clearance that’s no longer automatically needed, nor does “as necessary” come close to representing a continued need to know that is a Critical Item in granting clearances.

Are Syrian Refugees Human?

Syrian MFWIC Bashar al-Assad wants Syrian refugees to come home.  The civil war is winding down, after all, and soon everything will be jake.

But obstacles the regime is throwing up to their return show that President Bashar al-Assad—mindful of the strain refugees are putting on neighboring countries—is willing to use the exiles as bargaining chips to secure foreign aid and sanctions relief, Western diplomats and analysts in Beirut say.

Al Assad still doesn’t see his own people (I’m using “his own” loosely) as human beings. To him, they’re not human at all, just chits to be cashed in for dollars and euros.

Progress?

Is northern Korea starting to fulfill the commitment Baby Kim supposedly made to begin denuclearizing?

An American research group [38 North website] on Monday claimed that North Korea has begun dismantling its main missile-engine test site [Sohae Satellite Launching Station], a possible sign that Pyongyang is fulfilling the promises North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made to President Trump at the summit in Singapore last month.

Or is it simply taking the site apart and moving it somewhere else?  A lot of engine tests, after all, can be done underground.  Only time will tell.

Musical Desks

The Acting Director of the Veterans Administration is replacing his acting head of Veterans Health Administration with another acting head.  The current acting head needs replacement, not through any malfeasance, but because the incumbent acting head is moving to take another position within the VA.

Bad as the VA is, it isn’t helped by this instability in its management team.  Not a bit.

This continues to illustrate the waste of resources that is the VA.  Get rid of it, and use its current and future budgets for vouchers for our veterans.

Veteranos Administratio delende est.

A Couple of Interesting Graphs

This, via Stratfor, illustrate the level of commitment and its nature of NATO member nations toward their own defense.  The first shows the breakdown of expenditures of those monies aimed at each member’s commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense.

Notice who’s spending the most on equipment—that actual teeth of defense.  Most of the nations spending the most are right across the fence from the Russian Bear.

This graph shows which nations actually are meeting their 2% commitment.

In case the note is unreadable, the asterisk for Bulgaria notes that its figure does “not include persons.”

Allies

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, the main governing body of the European Union, says

Dear America, appreciate your allies, you don’t have that many[.]

That’s true enough; we certainly don’t have that many who aren’t demanding to freeload off American blood and treasure for their defense while being unwilling to contribute much of their own to their defense.

Tusk tweeted soon after,

US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China.

Gun Control

done right.

A disgruntled customer in a George Webb restaurant took his anger out on one of the women employees, going behind the counter to physically attack her.

He didn’t get far: a fellow employee, another woman, drew her pistol and drove the thug off.  It seems that she has a concealed carry permit to go with her weapon, and George Webb allows its employees to carry on the premises.  With good reason, it seems.

But those on the Left would rather have the good guys—and girls—unarmed, so thugs like this can have their way.  Talk about a war on women.  Geez.