The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A year closer to death

It is, as a good many people here in our happy little burg keep reminding me, my birthday, specifically my 60th birthday,  for those of you who like to keep track of such things. I generally do not keep track of such things, either for myself or for other people; birthdays after age forty are simply an annual reminder that you are now officially one year closer to death. And I especially do not like birthdays that come in years that end with eight, as this means that the number on my age year clicks over to zero. This is an enjoyable experience when you turn ten or twenty; in the first instance it means that you are no longer a little kid, no matter what your mom and dad think, and in the second instance you are a.) no longer a teenager, b.) two years past the point where you can indulge your baser instincts with an adult without penalty of law, and c.) just a year short of being able to drink legally everywhere in the United States; but beyond those two points the accumulating zeroes are just annoying as hell—to find out how annoying, simply ask any woman in her late twenties just how many times she intends to turn twenty-nine before reality forces her to turn thirty—and the fact that I can now take money out of my IRA without accruing sizeable penalties is not making me feel better about reaching this age. 

So I am stuck, it seems. I was going to mark the day by buying a bottle of tequila, going home, and then getting completely hammered, but my coworkers tell me that this is more than vaguely inappropriate for a man of my gathering years and that my head will hurt like a son of a bitch tomorrow morning, so I think I will skip the tequila and just make myself a baloney sandwich instead. I have enough age-appropriate aches and pains without adding new ones to the mix. I do wish, though, that people would stop wishing me a happy birthday; I keep asking that they not do this and they keep insisting on doing it anyway, which is starting to get on my nerves, very frankly. I am waiting for next week, wherein people will stop with the Happy Birthdaying and even the belated Happy Birthdays will go away, and I can be chronologically miserable without everyone's best wishes making me feel even worse.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Security clearances, or how the Highlanders came to America

In case you have better things to do with your time than peruse Wikipedia or the New York Times for this sort of information, John Brennan became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in March of 2013 and he stopped being the DCI in January of 2017. It is now 24 July 2018 (just five shopping months to Christmas, folks, so get ready; the holidays will be here sooner than you think). So if you will pardon me for asking this, why does Mr. Brennan still have a security clearance a year and a half after he left his job at the CIA? This is an excellent question, I think, and one for which no one seems to have an equally excellent answer. It is entirely unlikely that anyone in the Trump Administration is going to ask for his advice about anything. Given the animus between the two men, I doubt that President Trump would call Mr. Brennan if his life depended on it. Now, what follows is just my opinion, you understand---your mileage may vary, but I think that when your  time in the spy business is up, your time in the spy business is up. You hand in your secret decoder ring and the double secret Rolodex with the head of the Mossad’s personal phone number in it and you just go away. You do not pass go, you do not collect $200, and you especially do not get to ask the people who used to work for you what’s new out there in the big bad world these days. If the Administration wants to chat with you informally about something important, they will bring you in—I assume that you will not have to pay for the parking, or, if you do have to pay, maybe the IRS will let you deduct the valet’s tip as a tax deduction—and the new guys at your old job will show you whatever it is they want to show you and then that's it; you give them your two cent’s worth and then you go home and you keep your mouth shut about what they told you and about what you told them. 

For all the media screaming about Trump acting childishly with these threats of pulling security clearances, it seems to me that what is happening here is that Trump is not so subtly warning the Obama holdovers still on the IC payroll that passing secrets to these guys is no longer a safe way to undermine the Trump presidency. Up to now, Clapper and crew could get deep background briefings from their former employees and it would not technically be a leak since they still have their security clearances. If Trump gets his way, an active (but very disloyal) member of the intelligence community telling Brennan, Clapper & Company anything more secret than the CIA’s monthly budget for office supplies will be a violation of the Espionage Act. And even if Trump doesn't have the insubordinate Obama types charged under the Act, my guess is that forced retirements and demotions will be the order of the day, as well as transfers to places where the air conditioning isn't always up to snuff and the inhabitants have never heard of toilets, toilet paper, or the salubrious effects of indoor plumbing. There is something about the smell of ordure in the morning that doesn’t smell like victory and makes you want to stay in Virginia or Maryland, even if it means taking early retirement.  In the United States, after all, it is good for a President to crucify a spy every now and again; it encourages the others.

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