Church to priests: stop touching all the missiles

Plus TIL what it would take for me to Zumba. SPOILER: it's a virus.

Another week, another format change.

Trying something else this week, too: Slack for NATSECTACULAR. If you’d like to be part of that, click on the link and we’ll go from there, yeah?

Because right now the idea of another Facebook page/group makes me tired, and the goal here would be to have people talking about different aspects of national security.

Might be the worst idea ever…since some of you probably already use Slack for work-related stuff, this might be a good fit. Dunno yet.

If you love it, hate it, don’t care one way or the other? Drop a line through the email: natsectacular@gmail.com, or leave a comment. Or just continue to read in silence and tell me nothing because of course I don’t need validation.


And the Oscar goes to…

Normally, I do not, in fact, care.

But.

This…is pretty cool.

Girls can pretty much do anything in the 21st century, unless they're in a warzone in Afghanistan. Nominated in the Oscars 2020 Best Short Documentary category, Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (If You're a Girl) took home the golden man tonight at the 92nd annual Academy Awards. 

This film also took home the Best Short Film win at the BAFTAs last week. The documentary follows the Esquire Middle East award winner, the Skateistan School House and Skatepark, in Kabul, Afghanistan, that teaches Afghan girls how to read, write, and skateboard.

In a past life, I kind of knew the Skateistan folks. Still have the shoes. Part of me still thinks they’re a bunch of too happy do goods, but…they are also too happy do goods. And the world needs more of those right now.

1. Secret Service has paid rates as high as $650 a night for rooms at Trump’s properties

These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization's own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. "If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping," Trump's son Eric said last year in a Yahoo Finance interview.

If you click on none of the other links today? Click on this one, because it's what good investigative journalism looks like, and the work that put this together was probably some of the most boring there is in the field. The Post has learned that instead of the $50 or so a night that Eric Trump claims Trump's properties charge the Secret Service when the Orange Emperor stays at Mar-a-lago, it's a lot more than that. And no, none of this is surprising anymore.

2. Key impeachment witness Vindman fired from White House job

Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, was pushed out of his role Friday months earlier than expected, according to a statement from his attorney. Vindman was not slated to leave until July, but had been telling colleagues in recent weeks he would likely leave soon. It was not his decision to leave, however, according to one person familiar with the situation.

If you tell the world your boss is doing bad things, and your boss gets acquitted of doing said bad things, chances are good you're out of a job. Lt. Col. Vindman was right, and it's irrelevant, because the only thing Trump cares more about than under what circumstances he could date Ivanka, it's loyalty. Also out? Ambassador to the EU and what would happen if Jeff Bezos was a used car salesman Gordon Sondland.

3. Trump is losing the support of the United States' closest ally after the president slammed down the phone on them during an 'apoplectic' call

Johnson has accused Trump of "failing to lead" and "letting the air out of the tires of the world economy."

When your brother from your colonial mother pisses you off, it's probably time for the adults, whoever they are in the White House anymore, to step in. Because Trump's pissing off Boris Johnson, quite possibly the only world leader other world leaders loathe just as much as the Donald. It's all over Huawei, which the US keeps urging other countries to not use because China, and other countries like the UK seem to be deciding they'll do whatever the fuck they want.


Welcome! Already a subscriber? Then you're awesome. Now tell a friend. If you're not a subscriber, you're missing out on regular doses of natsec+snark from the national security newsletter you never knew you needed. Fix that already.


4. Quarantined on military bases, U.S. evacuees resort to Zumba, stairwell races, accounting classes

Amid the country’s first federal quarantine in more than 50 years, complete strangers have become confidants. Many in the March Air Reserve group have started offering classes on their areas of expertise: Boxing classes led by a boxing enthusiast. A seminar on preparing income taxes by an accountant. Zumba classes from a workout fiend.

TIL 2 things: that they play American football in China, and that the only way I'd take a Zumba class is if I too was quarantined and facing death via possibly engineered virus.

5. They Fight Suicide Bombers. But Can Afghan Police Fight Crime?

For years, the bombing and infiltration attacks that racked Kabul have dominated headlines and reshaped the city. But that kind of violence in the capital has been at a relative lull for months as the Taliban and United States conduct peace negotiations that officials hope could lead to some sort of lasting cease-fire.

Now, the headlines are coming to grips with the rampant crime that has become a steady drumbeat in the city: kidnappings, robbery at gunpoint, extortion, murder. Even without the bombings, Kabul is proving a dangerous place to be.

Been saying this for years, said the asshat who is suddenly smarter than everyone, that the problem with terrorism in Afghanistan is that it's killing the ability of cops to be cops. For years now in the capital, my colleagues have said they won't go out at night anymore because they're worried about getting robbed.

6. VA improperly paid out more than $300,000 in disability claims

The system failure in Arkansas resulted in compensation that wasn't warranted, according to the IG report. In some cases, these claims were previously denied. The erroneous payments were not the fault of the veterans, the IG report stated, and no one has to pay back the money. However, VA management in Little Rock is re-evaluating the disabilities processed by the employee.

Turns out no one at the VA likes to show their work. Or check their work. Or check others' work. The good news? No one has to pay the money back, although some disability assessments may get walked back.

7. Defense firms cash in on an 'unprecedented' wave of classified spending

Northrop Grumman chief executive Kathy Warden told analysts that "restricted" work, a term that refers to classified programs, saw a double-digit increase over 2018. It now accounts for more than a quarter of the company's $33.8 billion in 2019 sales, she said.

Defense budgets are bigger than ever, and now spending on less-visible programs is also up. Way, way up. Expect the next president after Trump to take full advantage of the lack of transparency his administration has put in place.

8. US Army wants to expand pre-positioned stock in Pacific

The U.S. Army wants to expand its pre-positioned equipment in the Indo-Pacific region, Gen. Gus Perna, the head of Army Materiel Command, told reporters during a Feb. 4 Defense Writers Group event in Washington.

Pivots can mean different things to different people. Now that's going to mean that the US Army wants gear in places closer to future fights. This is one of the reasons that Trump being such a dick to allies is so worrisome. Also notable? In the Pacific, they worry more about moving stuff on boats because of climate change, probably.

9. Russian priests should stop blessing nukes: church proposal

Russian priests should refrain from the practice of blessing nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction that can inflict indiscriminate loss of life, according to new guidelines being discussed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Seems like you'd worry about the pederasty before the missile blessings but pick your battles. Getting them to stop throwing holy water on nukes is probably easier than getting them to stop diddling kids. And before you get all Russian about this and insist that's just the Catholics, Google "Russian Orthodox pedophile". I mean, don't, it's horrible.

10. Air Force wasted $17M on unneeded, never-delivered weather sensors for Reaper drone, IG finds

Over an seven-year period, the Air Force paid $17.7 million to a company to improve the MQ-9 Reaper’s ability to measure weather data, which it thought could have helped it track how fast ice is building up on its wings in-flight and avoid crashes.

Except no such weather support capabilities were ever delivered, according to a Defense Department inspector general report released Friday — or even needed. And the money — which came from overseas contingency operations funding and not through the usual appropriations process — was wasted.

Because duct-taping an iPhone to a Predator to find out what the weather was like was too out of the box or whatever. Not the most interesting of stories, but to spend $17m on something you didn't get and didn't need in the first place is what happens when you go full Kanye.


NATSECTACULAR, Elsewhere

In case you need more shenanigans.