Peter Nichols, writing in The Atlantic, points out the problem with President Trump's credibility gap:
Trump faces the gravest foreign-policy crisis of his tenure at a time when his credibility has been shredded. It’s not yet known how Iran will respond to the killing yesterday of its military leader Qassem Soleimani, but the country is already vowing “harsh” revenge. A conflict that has been escalating steadily on Trump’s watch is at risk of erupting into an armed confrontation. In times of war, commanders in chief need people’s trust, but for large swaths of the population, Trump hasn’t earned it. As Samantha Power, who was the ambassador to the United Nations under former President Barack Obama, tweeted this morning: “This is where having credibility—and having a president who didn’t lie about everything—would be really, really helpful.”
Compounding his credibility problem is a desiccated national-security team. Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, might be leaving soon to campaign for a Senate seat in Kansas. His longtime defense secretary, James Mattis, resigned last year and was replaced only this summer. His national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has been in place just a few months—the fourth person to hold the title in three years.
Among his tweets recounting the praise he’s gotten for killing Soleimani, Trump revealed he’s still stuck on impeachment and his own political survival. He posted a video of Representative Russ Fulcher, a Republican from Idaho, delivering a speech on the House floor in his defense, in which the congressman said he would tick off Trump’s crimes and misdemeanors. Then Fulcher stayed silent.
That sight gag, in between messages of support for the killing, is what the 45th president wanted his countrymen to see as they anxiously watched the news and wondered whether war was looming.
Meanwhile, it turns out the president blabbed to anyone who would listen at Mar-a-Lago about his plans to attack Soleimani before it happened.
Yesterday, the United States assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps and its elite Quds Force.
While this may feel tactically advantageous, it makes no sense strategically. Even as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters today that the assassination made the world a safer place for Americans, his own department ordered Americans to leave Iraq immediately, and our forces overseas went on high alert.
President Trump appears to have taken this action on his own, without consulting the Gang of Eight as required by law. Or, apparently, without consulting anyone knowledgeable about Middle East policy. Jennifer Rubin:
if there is an overall strategy here, it is hidden under a pile of contradictory impulses. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper claimed that we acted to deter further attacks on Americans. Nevertheless, it is widely anticipated that Iran will make good on its threat to avenge Soleimani’s death. One immediate consequence: Instead of mass protests against the regime, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to denounce the United States.
In other words, Trump has raised strategic incoherence to new levels. Acting without so much as briefing Congress and despite his own party’s qualms about a new war in the Middle East, Trump risks not only war but also political blowback should Iran retaliate. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted the question on most lawmakers’ minds: “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
There is plenty of reason for anxiety. We stand on the precipice of an international conflagration, with a president whose word cannot be trusted and whose impulsivity and ignorance are unmatched by any modern U.S. president. He is surrounded by yes men who command little if any respect outside the Trump cult.
Colin Powell famously said you need to answer eight questions before going to war: is a vital national security interest threatened? Do we have a clear, obtainable objective? Do we have genuine, broad, international support?
I don't have any idea how we can answer "yes" to any of these questions right now. But I do know that we have lots of strategic interests in the Middle East that Iran threatens. So why kick the hornets' nest like this? Is it, as Donald Trump once said of President Obama, to win an election?
I have a very bad feeling about this.
Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Begyle Brewery Taproom and read about half of Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea. I just finished it. It delighted me, and I think it might delight you.
So one book in two days? Maybe I can read 180 books this year? Not likely. A short novel by a playwright may not take a long time. But I'm only a third the way through Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, and I started that in June.
As marijuana sales became legal (-ish) in Illinois yesterday, budding demand became overwhelming demand even before the stores opened:
Weed shops around the state opened at 6 a.m. to throngs of people. Cars packed the streets of a light-industrial park in Mundelein, home to the state’s busiest dispensary, Rise, owned by Green Thumb Industries. It’s one of the few that’s open in the northern suburbs.
When CEO Ben Kovler arrived at 5:30 a.m., there were more than 500 people lined up in the parking lot. “Our first customer said he got here at 5 last night,” Kovler said. “It’s a bigger crowd than we expected. The tidal wave (around recreational cannabis) is real.”
The first sale in the state was recorded at Dispensary 33 on North Clark Street in Uptown.
Cresco said it sold more than 9,000 cannabis items to about 3,400 customers at its five shops around the state. The average ring was $135.
So that's a lot of tax revenue. Let's hope it stays high. I did not wait in line to buy weed yesterday and I'm unlikely to do so any time soon. But I'm glad people can relax when they relax now.
And if you don't know how, the Chicago Tribune published some tips.
Every part of the world has now entered the '20s. There is a "UTC-12" time zone for ships at sea traveling between 172°30'W and the International Date Line (180°E/W), which as you might imagine is 12 hours behind UTC. So at noon UTC on January 1st, it's midnight UTC-12, and the whole world has the new year on their calendars.
The last inhabited places to get here were the Hawai'ian Islands two hours ago.
As I've done several years running, I'm taking a look at my statistics for the past year:
- I flew the fewest air miles since 1999 (14,462 against 1999's 11,326), and took only 9 trips out of town (up 1 from 2018). As in 2018, I took 11 flights, but because I took two road trips I wound up visiting 9 states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado) and 2 foreign countries (UK and Ontario, Canada) to 2018's 8 and 1, respectively.
- I posted 551 times on The Daily Parker, up 33 from last year and a new all-time annual record! (The previous record was 541 in 2009.)
- Parker got 187 hours of walks, up 54 hours and 40% from last year.
- I got 5,135,518 Fitbit steps and walked 4,630 km, down 2½% from last year. But I went 207 days in a row, from April 15th to November 7th, hitting my 10,000-a-day step goal, which I did 352 times overall. Also during the year I passed 25,000,000 lifetime steps and 20,000 lifetime kilometers.
- Reading jumped a lot. I started 36 books in 2019 and finished 33, up 50% from 2018, and my best showing since 2010 (when I spent several days on airplanes and read 51 books). With at least three trips to Europe planned for 2020, both my flying and my reading should improve.
Let's see what 2020 brings. I'm especially bummed that my Fitbit numbers declined, even though Parker got 40% more walk time. (But he walks 40% more slowly than last year, so...)
We typically think of January 1st as the day things happen. But December 31st is often the day things end.
On 31 December 1999, two things ended at nearly the same time: the presidency in Russia of Boris Yeltsin, and the American control of the Panama Canal Zone.
Also twenty years ago, my company gave me a $1,200 bonus ($1,893 in 2019 dollars) and a $600 suite for two nights in midtown Manhattan because I volunteered to spend four hours at our data center on Park Avenue, just so that Management could say someone was at the data center on Park Avenue continuously from 6am on New Year's Eve until 6pm on New Year's Day. Since all of the applications I wrote or had responsibility for were less than two years old, literally nothing happened. Does this count as an anniversary? I suppose not.
And one hundred years ago, 31 December 1919 was the last day anyone could legally buy alcohol in the United States for 13 years, as the Volstead Act took effect at midnight on 1 January 1920.
I'm DD tonight, but I will still raise a glass of Champagne to toast these three events.
Photo by Harris & Ewing - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Link
Specifically, it's 2020 in the UTC+14 zone occupied by Kiribati and Kiritimati, the latter being somewhat to the east of Hawai'i (UTC-10). So begins the 24-hour period where some part of the world goes from 2019 to 2020 every hour (or, in the case of India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Newfoundland, and a couple of other places, at the half- or quarter-hour).
So welcome to the '20s, Kiribati.
For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.
We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.
The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.
And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.
Watch this blog for more updates.
- The Chicago Tribune has a rundown of the 100 best news photos they published in the last 10 years.
- The New York Times has satellite photos of various spots around the country showing human-engineered changes from 2009 to 2019.
Take a few minutes this afternoon to go through them. They're worth it.