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Musings: Weekend Edition

  • Soviet-era propaganda as kitchen art? Maybe White House press secretary Jay Carney and the family are just fans of the FX series, The Americans. One of the posters may date to the Stalin era. You know, Stalin. The fellow responsible for the death of more than 20,000,000 (a conservative estimate) to 60,000,000 people (the figure cited by Alexander Solzhenitsyn). Yes, it is an odd choice of home decor. But a family’s home is their castle even and they can hang whatever they want on their walls, even if it memorializes, like a Che Guevara t-shirt, one of the most brutal regimes in world history.
  • I guess the Carneys will pass on this movie premier: “Silence Patton: The First Victim of the Cold War.”
  • If author and financial journalist Michael Lewis is right that the stock market is “rigged,” gird your political loins. This story could put to shame the NSA-Snowden leaks. Unlike the data privacy stories, allegations that computer programs are being used to game the markets, and hurting small investors, will put just about every Congressional office on defense for a few news cycles. There is no doubt that high frequency trading will soon come under the Congressional microscope. And it has all the right elements for a political black swan event. If the markets crash this year (not because of this story, just an event some financial experts have been prognosticating for at least a year), even more so.
  • Google goes to Washington, in a big way. The Washington Post‘s spin on Google’s advocacy journey is interesting, even if it still makes it seem as if money is all evil. If Google and other tech giants had engaged in the arena decades ago, the negative publicity stemming from the NSA brouhaha could have been contained a lot sooner. It’s good to see tech giants finally navigating the halls of power.
  • Cyber Insecurity, it’s just the beginning. And the global legal regime is woefully unprepared to deal with upcoming dislocations. Look to the market for solutions, and then for government entities to muck it all up.
  • Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein has ordered an investigation into a potential leak of classified information to the media related to the interrogation memos. She even warned she would make a referral to the Justice Department. Interesting. Feinstein should apply that same bravado to her own staff who, allegedly, removed a few weeks ago classified material from a CIA secure room. In the end, the Democratic Party has wasted $50 million of your tax dollars to go after the Bush Administration’s execution of a part of the global war against radical Islam. The American taxpayer deserves better. Adult supervision, and some blunt talk, is sorely needed (Donald Trump is right.)
  • While the White House talking heads say that the NSA did not abuse Heartbleed. However, over in the House, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) said that if “media reports are accurate, rather than fixing the Heartbleed bug, the NSA exploited it to gather information, leaving Americans vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Once again, the NSA proved blind to the interests of every day Americans in its single-minded pursuit of information. This calls into serious question what the intelligence community does behind its dark cloud of secrecy and is yet another example of how our privacy and data security have been cast aside in the name of national security.”
  • DNI Clapper “Misled” Congress – Round II: earlier this month, Sensenbrenner penned a note to Attorney General Eric Holder reminding him that Sensenbrenner and other Members of Congress are still waiting for a response to a December 19, 2013 request to investigate ODNI James Clapper’s “erroneous” Congressional testimony. “Intelligence officials cannot be permitted to lie with impunity,” Sensenbrenner said on April 2. It appears the recently declassified documents have settled the matter about whether DNI Clapper misled Congress at a March 12, 2013 Senate Committee hearing. If Congress does intend to legislate IC reforms, it should revisit the very flawed ODNI, even do away with that office altogether and put those authorities back where they belong, with a super DCI and a proper budget to do the job (something that may upset the Defense Department that has a larger share of the intelligence budget, but it needs to be done if you want nimbler intelligence services). Right now there are to many cooks in this particular oversight system; as well as way too much chatter in the public domain, and, possibly some Congressional tricks as well. A little more secrecy in foreign affairs and national security is a good thing; but that’s a subject for another day.
  • The Feds backed down, for now. Cliven Bundy’s nearly two decade battle with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over his cattle grazing on “public” lands is far from over.
  • Family, friends, and clients ask me all the time, what is going on this town? Why is the news always so bad or negative? The easy answer is that bad news sells. It will always boost clicks and ratings. In political Washington, DC, political intelligence comes from a variety of sources, especially bad news. For example, take the now very public divorce of Democratic power couple, Tony and Heather Podesta. It is rich with data that, among other things, helps explain why this town is broken. This is one warped view of how things get done. It can be, as this tale tells, a very shallow place. I doubt most Americans will ever hear of the Podesta story because it involves very wealthy Democrats and Liberals; if this were a Republican power couple, it would be front page news for a week or two.
  • And while on the subject of political nepotism, a post from earlier this week: Talking about State Department contractors, turns out that the wife of House Intelligence Committee Chairman turning radio talk show, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) has been doing business with Foggy Bottom through Aegis LLC. The Zero Hedge blog, citing Dick Morris who broke the story, unloads: “While this sort of crony capitalism is seen as “business as usual” in the cesspool that is D.C., the really crazy part of this story is that as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rogers is charged with investigating the adequacy of security at the Benghazi compound prior to the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack [emphasis added by Zero Hedge].” As I routinely tell our clients, one needs a lot of patience to navigate this town. Kudos to Dick Morris for penning the piece. Seems like the American people, and the family members of the Benghazi attack victims, will soon have the oversight hearings and investigations they deserve. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) had a plan. GOP leaders, and the oversight committees, should listen.
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