This Unholy Mess


Wakey, Wakey

Okay, America. I have to ask the heavy question: Who is responsible for hitting the big national snooze button when the alarm about Russian hacking of our elections went off, yea, nearly a year ago? Sure, you can put a lot of the blame where it’s due, right on the grotesquely-coiffed head of our Mattress-Salesman-in-Chief, pointing to his consistent Putin sphincter-kissing (much better targeted than his tax breaks), his refusal to impose further sanctions even after they were passed by overwhelming majorities in Congress, and his insistence on blurring the distinction between the inquiry into whether his team colluded with Russian agents in the election process and the fact that there WAS, in truth, interference in his favor. And who can forget the administration’s helpful idea last July to work cooperatively with Russia on the issue of cyber security? Rex Tillerson as U.S. Secretary of Standup Comedy. Hilarious.
All of these have served to keep the president’s mouth-breathing supporters from grasping exactly what happened—if they indeed have the mental equivalent of opposable thumbs and are capable of getting a grip.
But what about the other institutions that might speak up? Congress? You’ll find more backbone in a Jello salad. On the contrary, not only are the vast majority of Republican lawmakers not willing to call out Mr. Trump on the ease with which he places his knee-jerk self-preservation ahead of the nation’s welfare and security, some are even willing to flirt with outright treason by deliberately creating distractions to blur the hard outlines of the danger. I’m looking at you, Devin Nunes. You, a member of Trump’s transition team, the guy who recused himself from the House Russia investigation on April 6th of last year because you are under investigation by the House Ethics Panel for disclosure of classified information. You and your famous “memo.” The best you can hope for is a spot in the Craven Stool Pigeon Hall of Fame.
Consider further fun facts: the Senate Intelligence Committee, charged with looking into the election interference, had only 7 staffers working on the issue in mid-2017. By contrast, there were 20 staffers who worked on the “enhanced interrogation/torture” controversy during George W. Bush’s administration; there were 88 staff members involved in the study of the intelligence lapse surrounding Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction.” And who could forget Trey “Vampire” Gowdy and the eternal Benghazi investigation? That involved 46 staffers and a gaggle of interns—not counting the ones who were responsible for fluffing Gowdy’s casket cushions.
So: Have I got it wrong, or is this issue, crucial to national security and the very foundation of our way of life, much more important than any of those? Is it just that nobody cares, or is this national suicide by partisanship? However you explain it, you are allowed to be shocked at how few patriots are manning the ramparts.
Now how about the fact that we are already at war?
Of course we are. It’s just that Russia has been giving us such a cyber-pounding that we seem to have been knocked unconscious, unable even to acknowledge our wounds, much less strike back. The best we’ve been able to do so far is Rex Tillerson’s finger-wagging at Putin while intoning, “Cut it out.”
That would strike fear in the heart of any Exxon employee, though maybe not so much in Putin’s, if his were anything other than purely theoretical.
Are we doing nothing to defend ourselves?
It depends on how you describe “nothing.” The U.S. government now spends about $28 billion on cyber security, while total Pentagon cyber security spending in the 2019 budget looks to be about $8.5 billion—a little more than one percent of the $800 billion defense budget. If those numbers don’t qualify as “asleep at the wheel” in your mind, they should. We seem to be very good at cranking out new hardware—ships, tanks, planes—especially beauties like the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-35 Strike Fighter. The only issue is that, at a development cost of $1.5 trillion, the F-35 still won’t be worth anything if computer hacks compromise DOD and other government communication systems.
And my guess is, even a decent-sized chunk of that $1.5 trillion would buy a lot of cyber expertise. Look at it this way: Rather than building that absurd, photo-op wall along our southern border, why not use those billions to build a cyber-wall? You know, one that would have a shot at protecting our government institutions, our citizens, and their ability to communicate securely, rather than creating a monument to an inane campaign promise.

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