Midterm Elections Remain Vulnerable to Russian Meddling, U.S. Spy Chief Says

The November midterm elections are vulnerable to the Russian interference that plagued the 2016 presidential election, the Trump administration’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Moscow could undertake cyber-influence operations in the coming congressional elections similar to those it stands of accused of running in 2016.

.. “Influence operations, especially through cyber means, will remain a significant threat to U.S. interests as they are cow-cost, relatively low-risk and deniable,” wrote Mr. Coats, a former Republican Indiana senator appointed by Mr. Trump to the top intelligence job in his administration last year. “Russia probably will be the most capable and aggressive source of this threat in 2018.”

.. Mr. Coats, along with the leaders of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, told the panel they had already seen evidence Russian intends to interfere in the 2018 elections, but declined to elaborate, citing the public nature of the hearing.

.. Russia’s goal, Mr. Coats said, was to “create wedges that reduce trust and confidence in democratic processes.”

.. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo suggested that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un would be reluctant to give up his nuclear arsenal for fear that it would undermine his standing at home.

.. “The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possible upheaval—through 2018,” Mr. Coats’s assessment found.

The religious right carries its golden calf into Steve Bannon’s battles

At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.

.. A time to live and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to mourn and a time to embrace angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery. Yes, a time to mourn.

.. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.
.. Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees.
.. If Christian conservatives are loyal enough, Bannon promises that they can be “the folks who saved the Judeo-Christian West.”
.. All that is required is to abandon the best of the Judeo-Christian tradition: a belief in the inherent value and dignity of every life.
.. It means that the primary mission of Christians in public life is not to secure their own interests or to defend their own identity. It is to seek a society in which every person can flourish. This is the definition of the common good — which is not truly common unless it includes the suffering and powerless.
.. If there is a single reason that Republican health-care reform has failed, it is because party leaders could not make a credible case that the common good was being served.
.. Who would now identify conservative Christian political engagement with the pursuit of the common good? Rather, the religious right is an interest group seeking preference and advancement from a strongman — and rewarding him with loyal acceptance of his priorities.
.. They are associating the teachings of Jesus Christ — a globalist when it came to the Great Commission — with ethnonationalist ideology. This should be a sobering prospect for any Christian. But few seem sobered. Instead, the faithful give standing ovations to the purveyors of division and prejudice.
.. When anyone or anything takes priority over the faith, there is a good, strong religious word for it: idolatry. And the word is unavoidable, as religious conservatives carry their golden calf into Bannon’s battles.

Toward a Predictive Theory of Depression

Corlett, Frith and Fletcher linked mania to increased confidence. But mania looks a lot like being happy. And you’re happy when you succeed a lot. And when you succeed a lot, maybe having increased confidence is the way to go. If happiness were a sort of global filter that affected all your thought processes and said “These are good times, you should press really hard to exploit your apparent excellence and not worry too much about risk”, that would be pretty evolutionarily useful. Likewise, if sadness were a way of saying “Things are going pretty badly, maybe be less confidence and don’t start any new projects”, that would be useful too.

Depression isn’t normal sadness. But if normal sadness lowers neural confidence a little, maybe depression is the pathological result of biological processes that lower neural confidence. To give a total fake example which I’m not saying is what actually happens, if you run out of whatever neurotransmitter you use to signal high confidence, that would give you permanent pathological low confidence and might look like depression.

Sessions’ powerful friends stand up to Trump

The attorney general’s former colleagues in Congress, as well as conservative allies, publicly questioned the president’s attacks on Sessions.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was among Sessions’ most vocal defenders Wednesday, when he seemed to almost be taunting the president, suggesting that his failure to fire Sessions showed weakness, while also hinting that the impact of such a move could be catastrophic for Trump’s presidency.

 “He’s trying to get Sessions to quit and I hope Sessions doesn’t quit. If the president wants to fire him, fire him,” Graham said. “I think anybody who’s strong would use the power they have and be confident in his decision. Strong people say: ‘I’ve decided this man or woman can’t serve me well and I’m going to act accordingly and take the consequence.’ To me weakness is when you play around the edges and don’t use the power you have.”

One conservative activist said that an effort is underway to coordinate and amplify such statements because of fears that Trump doesn’t understand the blow his administration and the conservative movement would suffer if Sessions departs.

..  Is this fight to have right now? The danger of this fight with General Sessions is he’s not only a loyal supporter of the president which sends a bad message to supporters, but he’s also getting the job done,” said the source, referring to Session’s initiatives on such issues as illegal immigration and toughening criminal sentencing.

.. Numerous prominent conservative voices have publicly rallied to Sessions side, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), former Trump transition domestic policy chief and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

.. Gingrich said on NPR early Wednesday. “I think that Jeff Sessions, in fact, was one of his earliest and most loyal supporters. I think Jeff Sessions is a solid conservative. I think, yeah, you can argue either way. I mean, even a guy like Rudy Giuliani, who’s very pro-Trump, said he would have recused himself.”
.. The senators view Trump’s treatment of their former colleague as “offensive,” the source said.
.. Some GOP senators also fear that if Trump pushes Sessions out, the results could be dire for Trump. Such a development might lead to mass resignations at the Justice Department and it might be impossible to find a majority in the Senate to confirm a replacement for Sessions, the source added.
.. the president took another shot at Sessions Wednesday morning, faulting him for failing to remove acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.“Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!” Trump tweeted.

.. Trump’s statement was puzzling because the president has the authority to name an acting FBI director and the White House publicly toyed with the idea of bringing in another FBI official to replace McCabe, but never did so.

.. Senior White House strategist Steve Bannon is the moving force in the effort to persuade Trump to back away from his public salvos at Sessions

.. American should be troubled by the character of a person who humiliates and turns his back on a close friend after only six months.

.. Schumer—who in March called for Sessions to resign over his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak

.. “Only Trump could make Sessions into a sympathetic figure,” said James Gagliano, a former FBI agent in New York and an adjunct professor of leadership studies at St. Johns University. “It’s unifying some factions I don’t think would ever have unified. Maybe he is a unifier.”