Sunday, October 8, 2017

Singapore's educational system: a model for the world, or authoritarian?

A reader sent me an article on Singapore’s education system as a “world leader”.  That is CM Rubin’s World’s article.  


One can wonder if this education system particularly promotes the values of an authoritarian and nationalistic city-state which, however. Is stable and prosperous and has very activist methods to force various national groups to interact, as Fareed Zakaria has often explored. 
By Erwin Soo from Singapore, Singapore - view of MBS from the gardens, CC BY 2.0, Link

Monday, October 2, 2017

Catalonia may become independent; could Spain break up?

Catalonia leaders seem determined to make Catalonia a sovereign country, it would seem from this article this evening by Raphael Minder on the New York Times, link here

I visited Bilbao in 2001, stayed near the ETA quarters, where the Basque region has sought similar independence.

Catalonia used to refer to itself as “a country in Spain”.  Isn't that true of Portugal, too? 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Vietnam War myths exposed

Lan Cao has a long piece in the Outlook section of the Washington Post, Sunday Oct. 1, p. B3, “Five Myths: The Vietnam War”, in response to Ken Burns film (TV reviews blog, Sept. 17).

One of the myths is that the War was fought mainly by draftees, although draft calls increases sharply from 1965 through 1968. Another is that the Viet Cong were ragtag;  they were professional North Vietnamese soldiers.  Still is that South Vietnamese soldiers were unwilling to fight.  They were overwhelmed after lack of support in the final years after the US pulled out.

All of this provides lessons for how to handle Korea now. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saudi Arabia will let women drive, finally

Saudi Arabia will finally allow women to drive, as reported by CNN and multiple sources. But it may take until June 2018 to take effect.

The move is seen as necessary to help the stumbling Saudi economy.  But it breaks up a cultural norm that used to keep women more dependent on men.

CCSA 2.0 Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Six. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trump's speech "warning" North Korea evokes coming perils which Trump may not fully understand (hint: Milo)

NBC News has published Donald Trump’s first United Nations speech here. Trump also slammed Iran (the object of the movie "American Assassin" which I saw today) and Venezuela. The North Korean delegation walked out. 
Everybody is talking about the “Rocket Man” threat.  I guess we don’t need to run it further into the ground.  CNN calls this global Trumpism, shattering international norms.  Every country is for itself.  Remember history class in high school?  Remember that essay question on explaining mercantilism?  (I got 15 points off out of 20 in 11th grade on that.)

CNN reports that the "Rocket Man" metaphor has been added to the teleprompter, and that the phrase had come from the British periodical "The Economist". There is also a song by Elton John.
To put things bluntly, there are advanced “bunker buster” tactical weapons (including nuclear 4th Generation) that could take out most or all of Un’s missile silos very quickly.  The biggest danger to the US sounds like a level 1 EMP from a missile or maybe a satellite. South Korea could be bombarded with conventional artillery (for a few hours at least) and another level 1 EMP.  Does the US evacuate the South first? Maybe its own citizens? 

I think it pays to tweet “@realDonaldTrump” and urge caution.  He actually reads individual people even if he hates the establishment media.

We want diplomacy to work. But down the road (despite Fareed Zakaria’s claims about Un’s “rationality”) we could face the dominoes – demands that the US pull out of defending South Korea completely.  A grave sign would be a missile launch (or even a satellite) that actually does detonate something.  That would ratchet up the immediate risk to the continental U.S. very suddenly. The 2014 Sony hack shows that Un can lose his temper (as can Trump)  -- remember Google’s joke about defending free speech in Seth Rogen (and James Franco) movies?  What if Milo Yiannopoulos fat-shames Kim Jong Un on Breitbart or on his own site.  It sounds so perverse: Un actually gained weight to look like his grandfather, as if this would make his people worship him.  It seemed to work, more fully than any domestic religious cult here (even James Jones).  The idea of doing this sounds unthinkable in the West.  

Update: Sept. 21

In addition to the dotard remarks, North Korea has threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific, the first nuclear test outside its boundaries.  And it it detonated from a satellite or missile, that would cross a new threshold for Trump, Guardian story.

Update: Oct. 8

There's a lot of attention to Trump's tweets, about the "calm before the storm" and "only one thing will work", Washington Post story.   UK and Russian sources claim that DPRK will probably fire a major ICBM test by Oct. 10 (a Communist holiday) but it is unclear if it can detonate from a missile.  Atlantic has a major piece by Mark Bowden on four strategies for dealing with North Korea here. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dream Act's paradox about "legality"; Army refusing to process immigrant recruits

In the wake of Trump’s waffling policies on DACA, Army recruiters have stopped trying to recruit well-qualified immigrants, writes Alex Horton in the Washington Post Saturday, p. A3, link here

Many existing tentative contracts have been cancelled.

Here's a copy of the proposed Dream Act (S. 1615) right now.  David Bier of Cato points out that the bill would actually favor “illegality”, as paradox.

Friday, September 15, 2017

No, our missile defense is not what it needs to be; Reuters mentions EMP; so does BBC

The “mainstream” media has finally mentioned EMP again, at least in relation to South Korea (as noted by “Resilient Societies) in this Reuters story about Thursday’s intermediate range missile test from Pyongyang that flew over northern Japan, link .  But there was no mention of E1 vs. E3. 

The BBC has a disturbing article by John Marcus from July 4 about the inadequacies of US missile defense today.  We gave up on Star Wars, which Reagan wanted, in the late 1980s with some treaties that ironically are credited for helping bring down the Soviet Union.  But that made us more vulnerable, eventually, to a rogue state like North Korea.  On the other hand, a perfect missile defense could make North Korea’s threats irrelevant. 

Update:  later today

One  more story about the implicit EMP and WMD, perhaps even saboteur threats:  BBC. (Marcus)  Here's another story about missile defense

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Israel ends draft exemption for ultra-orthodox group; transgender serves openly there

The New York Times reports (Isabel Kershner) that Israel’s Supreme Court voided the military conscription exemptions for an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group, p. A9 today, link. 

In Israel, the draft (which includes women) is part of national socialization.  Rand corporation (back in a 1993 study on lifting the ban on gays in the military)  had pointed out that Israel had gradually eliminated an older ban on gays by the early 1990s. 

But here the exemption reminds one of the divisive student deferments from the draft during the Vietnam era. 

Israel allows transgender people to serve openly in the military (and requires it), CNN 

Monday, September 11, 2017

An iPhone drop over North Korea?

Alex Lockie writes on AOL News about a former Navy Seal , Jocko Willnik,who tweeted a “final solution ” for North Korea. “Drop 25 Million iPhones on them, and put satellites over them with free will”'   They'd have to be parachuted in, given the acceleration of gravity. 

Lockie thinks this might work, if ordinary peasants learn they don’t have to eat grass so that Kim can have his nukes.

Here's a Foreign Affairs discussion about what the US can do about DPRK, with Gideon Rose, Ely Ratner, Shelia A. Smith, and Scott Snyder.

Update: Sept. 12

Joby Warrick writes in the Washington Post about how Russian smuggling from Vladivostok gets around the sanctions.  The mere sanctions are likely to lead to North Korean (EMP E1) threats.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wall Street Journal ponders regime change for DPRK while Washington Post publishes dire warning from former CIA official

The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 5 printed an editorial “Options for Removing Kim Jong Un”, link here.   The WSJ had previously explored the topic July 31.  William Cohen, former Defense Secretary under Clinton, has argued that this is the best outcome.

That is not the policy of the Trump administration, of course – despite the “we’ll see” and “fire and fury” rhetoric from Trump. “We are not your enemy” Tillerson says.
So then consider the warning from a former CIA acting director, Michael Morell, in the Washington Post this morning. “North Korea may already be able to launch a nuclear attack against the United States”, this morning.  Could a complete oil or trade embargo, if really effective, really tempt DPRK into a nuclear strike if it thinks it has nothing to lose anyway? 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Trump's proposed ban on trade with nations doing business with North Korea could be economically costly to Americans

Apparently President Donald J. Trump would have the power to stop any party in the US from doing business in any country trading with North Korea.

Alexander Smith has a provocative piece for NBC News indicating that this could throw the US economy into severe recession, wipe out many jobs (which Trump has been trying to save)  There might be no iPhone8.  Broken computers might get harder to fix.

Here is the link.

Of course, one wonders why American companies (Apple) can’t move more jobs back home or to more acceptable countries.

It’s not clear if this would just stop with China or move on to other countries.  Would China really bow to such pressure.

This sounds like demanding “sacrifice” from Americans to stop war.  But would it?  Kim Jong Un could feel he’s screwed, waiting until he has a deliverable H-bomb, and attack the US anyway, or try to demand that the US leave the Korean Peninsula by launching missiles that detonate over the Pacific.  This may indeed be the old Domino Theory at work.  Those of us who got drafted during the Vietnam era know this all too well.

I rather expect Trump to address the nation on this matter Tuesday. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

North Korea claims to have tested an ICBM ready hydrogen bomb; considerable doubts remain as to credibility of claim; EMP threat reinforced in social media already

Starting Saturday night EDT there have been several provocative reports from North Korea. One is that Kim Jung Un was photographed next to what was claimed by the DPRK to be a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb supposedly miniaturized to fit on a nuclear warhead.

The second was a 6.3 Richter artificial earthquake in North Korea, felt in the South and in northeastern China, which the DPRK intends to suggest as an underground hydrogen bomb test. CNN reports here. It is possible that the underground test was deliberately conducted in a less stable area geologically to create the impression of a bigger blast.  Some observers says that this could have been an enhanced fission device.  It is possible to make a homemade fusion device to generate power (a "garage sun" as Taylor Wilson made as a teen) but not very easy (fortunately) to make a nuclear weapon from it.  

Previously stated concerns need restating.  North Korea has yet to detonate a nuclear device from a missile anywhere.  A particularly dangerous development would be such a detonation over an uninhabited area of the Pacific, possibly at higher altitude (EMP effect for some distance) and then perhaps a demand of US withdrawal from protecting South Korea.  But it is not really proven that the DPRK is capable of such a detonation or is even as close to it as some reports (the DIA in early August) claim.  In the meantime, it sounds very unlikely that the DPRK would carry out its threat against Guam. 

The very best strategy would include making US missile defenses and NORAD as impenetrable as possible (including from submarine launch or clandestine ships that have been hijacked).  Media reports on the reliability of current missile defenses vary, but I worked on this back in 1972 for the Navy!  It has been written that the US-NATO is about a year away from a major technology upgrade
President Trump has not filled all his positions in the State Department, and needs to depend on Mattis, Pence, and Tillerson, as well as key Senators and Representatives.  McCain’s recent remarks apply. 

Trump should not be tweeting his response to this.  He may have more to say later Sunday after meetings. 

There are apt comparisons to Iran, which has not been threatening its neighbors the same way.

A Twitter account called "Resilient Societies" claims it will tweet much information about a North Korean EMP threat in the next 24 hours, and warns the established media not to deliberately hide or minimize the threat, Twitter handle.  It's well to remember that Hawaii experienced EMP effects from US hydrogen bomb tests in 1962. These were the Starfish Prime tests in July (article). This ought to be a subtle premonition. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Refugees from Somalia in Kenya camp compete for scholarship in Canada

The Washington Post has a feature story Sunday about Ayan Abdi, one of 5000 refugees from Somalia at a camp in Kenya.  She is competing for a scholarship that would enable her to migrate to Canada.

The heavily illustrated story is by Kevim Sieff, here
There is a picture of a blackboard naming the teachers in a secondary school. 
By The original uploader was Mkimemia at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Friday, August 25, 2017

North Korea fires three short range missile tests while Trump is distracted by many other problems.

CNN reports that North Korean spies were caught trying to steal plans and parts for DPRK’s long range missile program in a detailed story by Nick Paton Walsh et al Friday.  The story even shows life in a Ukrainian prison.

Today, at about the same time that Hurricane Harvey was exploding into Category 4 as it headed for the south Texas coast, and as Trump signed his transgender ban, and pardoned Sheriff Arpaio, Kim Jung Un took advantage of the distraction to fire three short range missiles into the sea of Japan (story).  All three blew up.  

All this played out on a CNN screen tonight as I was at a happy hour social in Washington DC near GWU.

Update: Aug 28

North Korea fired a single missile over northern Japan today. No info on payload.  Not sure if an ICBM.  CNN story.  If was fired from a populated area near Pyongyang to send the message that a US attack on North Korea would kill many civilians. Trump said "all options are on the table."  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Diplomats in Cuba injured by covert sonic device, a possible future terror threat?

There are disturbing reports of diplomats in Cuba being injured by covert “sonic attacks”, as in this CNN story

The associates showed symptoms of concussion and particularly hearing loss.  The device seems to have emitted a subsonic boom.

The incident is disturbing because it could be another way for a foreign agent to go after an enemy covertly in a western country or the US.  One thinks of Putin’s polonium incident.
In 1978, a man kidnapped by left wing radicals in Italy was deafened deliberately by being blasted with classical music through earphones.
There are other YouTube videos suggesting that Trump using sonic weapons against North Korea. 
By Jakub Szypulka - Own work, CC BY 4.0, Link

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Reslient Societies" twitter feed warns that Washington Post has broken media blackout on EMP

The Twitter handle Resilient Societies  “The Foundation for Resilient Societies” )  says that the Washington Post broke the unwritten media blackout on talking about EMP with a speculation that North Korea could cause a high altitude blast over Japan (high parabola) and cause temporary power disruption.  It might be more than temporary/    (Mark Fisher and David Nakamura). 

The twitter feed also noted a site “38North   saying Congress knows that a reentry survival is not essential to EMP.

By User:Photocopier - Wikipedia in english, page "High-altitude nuclear explosion", Public Domain, Link

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Terror attack in Spain comes to violent conclusion on in coastal town

NBC News has a detailed account so far of events in Barcelona, Spain and the town of Cambrils, to the south, link here

It appears that this was a complex and coordinated attack.  At least five attackers are dead as of now, as the coastal town was on lockdown.

The attack, like many others in Europe, shows the extreme nihilism of young men (and some women) radicalized into radical Islam and returning from ISIS.

It’s pretty obvious that, at a moral level, the KKK and ISIS are about on the same plane.  Trump could say that.

Wikipedia attribution link for Cambrls by Kuhn, CCSA 3.0 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Washington Post explains how Trump can use the nuclear football, and warns about August 15 particularly as North Korea's "Liberation Day"

The Washington Post has a speculative article, “Who Is Kin Jong Un, and What Will He Decide to Do?” There have been reports about his education in Switzerland, as a boy, where he looks more engaging.  His appearance now seems to be modeled after his grandfather, and does not appeal to me, and probably not to many westerners.  The Post piece by Anna Fifield discusses the speculations about his personality and apparent ruthlessness.  I have to admit that even an independent blogger making fun of him could start an incident.

The Post points out that Tuesday Aug. 15 is Liberation Day (from Japan).  This logically leads to speculation that Un could launch a missile over Japan two days from now.  Given the position of the International Date Line, that means that a volley could occur as early as perhaps 4 PM Monday Aug. 14 EDT. 

The other big date is Monday Aug. 21, when US military exercises start. 
It sounds likely that if there is an incident a missile(s) would land in the ocean much farther from Guam or any other populated location than North Korea warned.  There could be a risk that a nuclear detonation at sea could be attempted to make a statement, if the vehicle survives re-entry.  There could be a danger of an EMP strike over some areas, if an explosion at higher altitude was possible.  That idea has been mentioned “in passing” maybe twice on CNN by commentators, but former CIA director James Woolsey has warned that the DPRK can do this from a satellite now. 

Update: Aug 15

The Wall Street Journal reports Kim Jong Un has blinked, feeling pressure from China.  Trump, in NYC in his own suite now, can claim his tough talk worked.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Susan Rice: "It's not too late for North Korea"

Susan Rice, national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 under Obama, does have an op-ed in the New York Times, p. A21, “It’s not too late for North Korea”.  
But Bari Weiss retorts to this column with “Are We All Doomed?” and questions whether people on the East Coast need to be ready to house nuclear refugees (I asked that myself recently on Wordpress). 

Jimmy Kimmel keeps making fun of “Drunk Donald Trump’s” threats. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DIA reports that North Korea has miniaturized nukes for ICBM's; Trump's threats; analysts mum on EMP

The cat’s away the mice play.  I got a bizarre message from a Facebook friend today as I pulled in to a gas station, and a half hour later in a restaurant I looked at the news. Here it is, from the Washington Post, by Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, and Anna Fified, “North Korea now makingmissile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say.” 

President Trump later made this fire and brimstine statement from his summer home in New Jersey, in a meeting. He had his arms crossed as he spoke.

Some good questions arise.  Why did the DIA come up with this assessment so suddenly.  Two weeks ago, just before a major missile test, the DIA hinted that North Korea could launch miniaturized nukes at the US by maybe early 2018. But apparently it is right now.

There are two provisos. One of these is that the ICBM tests apparently have burned up on re-entry.  

We don’t know whether on a “line drive” path they would survive re-entry. 

The other idea is that North Korea could likely produce more devastation with a high altitude blast, causing an EMP effect, if in fact it was still high enough when entering North America.  James Woolsey has said that North Korea can do that with satellites now.  But there seems to be very little reliably reviewed information on how difficult this would be for an enemy to do. It's not clear how much power a weapon would need.  

One possible provocation that comes to mind is the idea that North Korea could prove its ability to survive reentry by launch a nuclear blast out in the middle of the north Pacific Ocean well away from any land.  Another is that it could launch an EMP blast in this unpopulated area, possibly disabling ships below and aircraft.  It could then demand that US completely withdraw from protecting South Korea.  Trump cannot let things get this far.  In fact, there are also reports that North Korea issued threats against Guam today. 
DIA says North Korea has about 60 nuclear devices.  Some of these are thought to be about twice the size of Hiroshima.  Still, the blast effects would be much smaller than from Soviet or Chinese hydrogen bombs.

US military commentators did express confidence in the ability of US systems to shoot down DPRK missiles today.

Kim had uttered threats right after the UN sanctions were applied this past weekend.

Update: Aug. 10

DPRK's "4 missile test" aimed at Guam seems silly.  When does an enemy give away its plans?  Is this a feint?  The missiles would get shot down. The latest.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The idea of "shared responsibility", homophobic purges in Chechnya (and Russia), and the dangers to free speech in democratic societies

Tara Isabella Burton has an important article in Vox, “HowRussia’s strongmen use homophobia to stay in power.” 

There is particular attention to Chechyan Republic president Ramson Kadyrov, with the purges of gays.

Burton goes on to explain how the idea of an “honor killing” is part of a larger political concept called “shared responsibility” which is more common in authoritarian cultures.  Every extended family member is considered responsible for the actions of one person.  The idea then invites the idea of “otherness” or exclusion which tends to connect to racism, anti-Semitism, or other ideas that we find in the US sometimes with the alt-right.

But the idea of “shared responsibility” (“I am my brother’s keeper”) can be politically dangerous in democratic societies, was with proposal in the US to gut laws relieving service providers of potential downstream liability for crimes committed by their users which they cannot know about in advance (the “Backpage” controversy, see my main blog, Aug. 2). 

A related essay is “A psychological assessment of Trumpsupporters has revealed 5 key traits about them”, on Raw Story by Bobby Azarian. Note the “authoritarian personality syndrome”, “social dominance orientation” and especially “relative deprivation.” 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Australian town bars construction of synagogue out of fear of targeting; an existential problem for any person or group that others dislike?

Milo Yiannopoulos reports a story from Australia where Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, denied permission for construction of a Jewish synagogue near a beach over fears that it would make the area a target for radical Islamic terrorism. 

It’s pretty easy to say that the terrorists win, that this is giving in.  Of course, when there is an actual incident, it is the victims who personally pay; in the end there are no victims. This is all basic existentialism. But it is also official cowardice. 

But following this example, it is too easy, for example, for a landlord to refuse to rent to an outspoken Jew or perhaps gay person on the fear that it could make a whole building a target.  I’ve wondered about this ever since 9/11 in the days of permissive self-publication.   

Even on AC360, it sometimes seems that Anderson Cooper is loose with the passive voice of the words “was targeted”.  

Milo has made some other provocative posts, criticizing the EU for requiring some countries to take more refugees and take their fair share of the supposed risk of more terror attack. 

By Adam.J.W.C. - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Trump's "Raise" Act and a bizarre confrontation at the White House press briefing

Today, President Donald Trump announced support for a “Raise”  Act that will reduce legal immigration by up to 50% over the next several years, and that would increase competitive requirements for getting most green cards.

The immigration system would shift more away from a family basis to one based on individual skill and merit, including job skills and especially speaking English.
White House policy wonk Stephen Miller got into a bizarre confrontation with Jim Acosta over a poem on the Statue of Liberty and on the English requirement.  Miller said that to suggest that immigrants from countries outside Britain and Australia were unlikely to speak English would be profoundly insulting to most immigrants.  Miller spoke of Acosta's "cosmopolitan bias" as if that were elitism.

Acosta himself is Cuban American, whose ancestors were taught English in the US.  Acosta's grandparents came to the US about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Acosta has questioned the point system, which would, for example, discriminate against older immigrants. 

The CNN story is here
Trump insists that immigrants who come here be able to support themselves.  That is quite different from Canada, which has a program to allow individuals to sponsor and financially support refugees. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

North Korea's second ICBM launch could have reached well into continental US

Early Friday EDT time, North Korea launched an ICBM that stayed in the air over 40 minutes, seems to have longer range than the July 4, and has been reported by various sources as capable mathematically to reach Denver, Chicago, or conceivably New York.  Washington DC and Baltimore, maybe Philadelphia seem just beyond range by Great Circle routes.  The test came on the 64th anniversary of what North Korea claims is its victory day.  There have been firings from multiple land locations in North Korea and from a submarine, at various times of day, to make missile launches hard to predict and detect in advance. 

Here’s a New York Times op-ed on the “new normal” by the AP, link. 

Jay P. Lefkowitz argues that we need a “new approach” here

It sounds likely that the missile this time had no payload. A weapon would increase its mass and reduce its range on this particular test. However, the acceleration of the range of DPRK's weapons is striking, much more than what was expected, and the idea that a nuclear strike on the US from DPRK would be possible by mid 2018 sounds credible.

Any official talk (or even public "trash talk") of “regime change” could trigger a pre-emptive strike from Kim Jong Un, who may be less stabled and less tolerant of indignation than we want to believe.  But note that no tests so far have traveled as far as Japan, although they have landed in Japanese-controlled water 50 miles out.

We won’t be able to follow DPRK’s ability to put a nuclear warhead on a missile as well as we can calculate the parabolic ranges of his missile tests.  But it does sound like a sudden attempted attack, perhaps out of a temper tantrum after one of Trump’s outbursts or even over a private company’s actions (Sony case) on America by mid 2018 is possible, at least a “marginal” or even “slight” risk in SPC terminology.  It’s likely that any device would be crude and small.  But we don’t know for sure, and James Woolsey has repeated warned about the possibility of EMP attacks from satellite, so presumably that is possible from an ICBM, especially over northwestern North America, although not much has been written about the comparative engineering challenges an enemy faces in actually doing this.
There are conflicting reports about the readiness of US missile defenses and NORAD, and the capacity to improve defenses before 2018.  I worked for the Navy Department as a civilian computer programmer 1971-1972 on missile interception algorithms, so I presume there have been considerable advances since then.   If NORAD did intercept a missile approaching Alaska, for example, would Trump immediately retaliate?  If an EMP blackout happens over South Korea or Japan, it will be pretty clear who is guilty. But what if it happens over Alaska and Western Canada?  Have technology companies figured out how to protect their hardware and databanks? 

The Washington Post has an editorial today, "What if sanctions on North Korea don't work? "  Are we all "On the Beach" listening to "Waltzing Matilda"?

Update: July 30

Max Fisher has a balanced perspective on North Korea's intentions in the New York Times today, link.

Update: July 31

Presumably North Korea could prove it can mount a small nuclear payload with another blast that lands near its own coast after parabolic high altitude route. The reduction in height and distance would give a mathematical idea of how much the payload reduces range. Possibly DPRK could try a test like this from a Chinese-designed submarine in the open Pacific.  It's not clear how effectively the US Navy detects foreign submarines approaching its own territory.  Some "right-wing" pundits have suggested that a terrorist (with help of a rogue state like North Korea or maybe Iran) could launch a scud from a hijacked commercial ship with a small nuclear weapon to produce an EMP blast.  See Michael Maloof's "A Nation Forsaken" reviewed on Books blog April 13, 2013.

Logically, demands from DPRK for the US to withdraw from dedending South Korea (the "hostage") would seem justify a pre-emptive strike, but these might not be made until DPRK had launched a test like described above.  Diplomacy with China does not look promising right now, as Trump has previously said "China is not your friend."

Senator Diane Feinstein's remarks on CBS "Face the Nation" July 29 are here. Wall Street Journal is quite blunt about nuclear blackmail of American cities and urges "regime change" from within. That is exactly what could prompt a nuclear strike or EMP attack om us if we're too late. I llike the line "Thanks for letting us know.

And Trump, among all the Carnage in his White House (no one as vomited yet like in Roman Polanski's movie), says, "I'll take care of it,"  There may be some post-mortem comfort food in the fact that so far North Korea's ICBM's apparently burned up in re-entry, so they may not be advanced as quickly as DIA estimated. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Immigrant teens say Trump's crackdown makes them more vulnerable to gang recruitment

Dan Lieberman has a major report on CNN about the possible unintended consequences of Trump’s and Jeff Sessions’s policy on sanctuary cities and quick deportations for illegals.  

Teenagers immigrated from El Salvador, speaking from Long Island suburbs east of NYC, report that gang members try to force them to join, even with physical attacks, because the teens or their parents fear deportation if they talk to police.

Trump, on the other hand, claims he is cleaning up MS-13, Washington Post story by David Nakamura, link. Trump may have some leverage in talking about this problem in his own suburban back yard, not far from the expensive homes on the Hamptons. 

Here is the White House's own video of Trump's Suffolk County NY speech today on the issue. Yet Dara Lind of Vox called this "the most chilling speech of the Trump presidency." It's the "don't be too nice" stuff -- indeed, what if the cops are wrong and profile you.   

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

North Korea has its own elite, and does business with Qatar

The Washington Post and other sources report that North Korea has sent weapons through Qatar to terrorists for cash, and apparently supplies slave laborers also, story by Adam Taylor here. Does DPRK have similar contact with Iran and with terror groups? 

The Post also reports on the Internet access by North Korean elites, here (Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima).

This is all significant.  Communist countries have always had a ruling party elite, although this was more pronounced with the Soviet Union than Red China.  Soviet chess masters were in the elite, as the Soviets viewed chess the way the US viewed pro football. 

The possibility of an elite means that North Korea can get young men to be trained in cyberwar, and in designing and testing missiles and nuclear weapons, even satellite-based EMP. 

The New York Times is a little skeptical of Washington Post reports on DIA studies saying North Korea could be able to reach the continental US with a nuke in early 2018, but says that US missile defenses are way behind and the Pentagon is running out of time.  
Wikipedia attribution link for Qatar picture by Stellar under CCSA 4.0. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

North Korea said to be capable of hitting US with nuke on ICBM in 2018, much sooner than previously expected

Ellen Nakashima, Anna Fifield, and Joby Warrick produced a Washington Post story this afternoon that raises alarms that North Korea is making progress toward an ICBM that could reach most of the continental US much faster than expected.

The major link is here.  The Washington Post treated this as breaking news right before Trump's press conference today. 

The story implies that North Korea may well be capable of striking continental US with a nuclear weapon from an ICBM before the end of 2018, less than two years into Donald Trump’s presidency. It’s rather frightening to imagine the blackmail schemes Kim Jong Un could come up with, not to mention giving stuff to Iran or even rogue terror groups.   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trump applies "Atlanta" to asylum seekers around the country; hosting of LGBTQ aslyees seems to pick up in some cities

A couple of big news stories that can affect refugees and asylum seekers today.
First, SCOTUS apparently let the Trump refugee ban stand for now but slightly expanded family exceptions on the country-based travel ban.

Jason Dzubow wrote an article in the Asylumist noting that Trump had placed judges from Atlanta, which has a very low asylum seeker approval rate, in higher positions in the immigration system. “We’re all in Atlanta now” he writes, here. 

And Slate has a long article by Oscar Lopez, “For LGBTQ refugees in the United States, visibility is still a two-edged sword”, link .
The article notes a few asylum seekers who were hosted privately from homeless shelters, and also says that undocumented LGTBQ people are not told they could try to apply for asylum when put into detention (in practice, parole is very difficult).  Being “out” could be seen as challenging the immutability aspect of the “particular social group” rule, an idea I don’t’ remember reading before.  There is a lot to study here. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Local DC pastor slams travel bans, and the automatic coupling of Islam with political motives

Today Amanda Taylor gave a sermon at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC centered on religious freedom.

The emphasis was on recognizing faith for what it is, and always separating faith from political precepts.

She talked about freedom as requiring more than just toleration, and pluralism as a much more inclusive concept than simple diversity.

She also was critical of both versions of Trump’s travel bans toward the end of the sermon, but recognized that the Supreme Court will rule on them this fall.

Also today, on the TV blog, I mentioned Fareed Zakaria’s covering of the idea that Putin wanted Trump to be elected in order to undo the Magnitsky Act, which could threaten Putin’s hold on power.  It would be a good question as to whether some of the human rights abuses in question are related to the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law.  Putin has banned American couples from adopting Russian children in retaliation, although Putin is also concerned about a Russian population bust. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Former CIA director James Woolsey reiterates North Korea's EMP threat from a current satellite, making the ICBM launch moot

On CNN’s Don Lemon show tonight, former CIA director James Woolsey reiterated a statement he had made in March, that North Korea can launch an EMP attack against the US from an orbiting satellite at any time.

He had said this in March.

That would presume that DPRK can place a nuclear warhead on the satellite and detonate it when it passes over the US.

Woolsey says that DPRK has had this capability for four years, since about mid 2013.  Ironically, that’s when I made my visit to Oak Ridge, TN.

Woolsey says that this threat makes the targeting of current or future ICBM’s a side show.  He said Trump is uninformed on this matter.

Here is Woolsey's original WSJ article.

The cable stalled a moment tonight, making me wonder if the EMP had happened.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

North Korea apparently has launched a "primitive" ICBM; a game-changer with Trump in office?

The very latest scuttlebutt today is that North Korea’s claimed ICBM missile test probably was a two-stage ICBM.  Some accounts claim that were the trajectory made less of an uppercut and more like a line drive, it could have reached parts of Alaska.  It seems to have landed just barely within the DPRK’s claimed international waters.

The latest CNN story and analysis is here.  The Washington Post has more recent analysis, and it's grim, here. Vox's Alex Ward writes that is is a test for Trump, and that China has little motivation to help destabilized the regime because it doesn't want a refugee crisis (ironic).

The Wall Street Journal has a gif warning about the possible range of North Korea’s missiles “launch pattern” here.

It is unclear how close North Korea is to putting an operable nuclear warhead on an ICBM and having it re-enter.  But the most dire threat of all could be an EMP blast, now over South Korea or Japan, and later over western US / Alaska/ Canada. The projected range of DPRK’s missiles keeps increasing.

Update: July 5

Most news analysts believe that Un is insisted on becoming a nuclear power (comparable to Russia and China) to protect himself from having the same fate as Saddam Hussein and Qadaffi.  But the US already is unwilling to let Iran become a nuclear state.

Fox calls North Korea "the Mob State" that, like a crime family, will do anything to the bloodline. But Un especially has shown a willingness to go beyond mere self preservation.  Consider the unusual ugliness of the Warmbier death, which might have been a set-up  (how did anyone get to the 5th Floor, anyway, in the first place?)  The extreme Left has been capable of horrific personalized crimes in the past -- consider Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974.  North Korea seems to be behind some of the recent malware attacks, and consider what happened to a private company, Sony Pictures, over a movie that portrayed Un unfavorably?  (He expects to be worshiped by his people when he looks like the antithesis of binary cis  manhood.) Could Un out of a temper tantrum, threaten to use nukes in the future over a public insult from an American company or even a private citizen online?

CNN has a video on why North Korea hates the US, even personally. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"Countercultural hospitality"

Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, youth pastor Alyssa Aldape gave a sermon “Countercultural hospitality”. 

The acoustics of the church made it a little hard to follow, but the sermon seemed to argue the need for openness among Americans to be of personal assistance to some immigrants, such as potential refugees and asylum seekers, beyond the observance of the law.  This might have been applicable to the recent law proposed attacking sanctuary cities, and might have defended some people who, out of commitment of faith, are willing to house some undocumented people, especially in the border states, as has been in the news sometimes.

 The scripture was Matthew 10:40-42 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Congress cracks down on sanctuary cities; Kate's law; MS-13 recruits unaccompanied minors from Central America

The Cato Institute has an important piece opposing the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (H.R. 3003) by Dave Bier, link here.  It would appear from a reading that the Bill probably does require local police to ask immigrant status in routine arrests or traffic stops (“don’t ask, do tell”).  Police departments have said that his approach may sometimes hinder cooperation in immigrant communities.

I don’t see mention of enhancing penalties for people who host immigrants who turn out to be illegal (which is possible but unusual).  Nevertheless, in some border areas, some faith groups have tried to encourage the practice based on their personal moral beliefs.

Bier also writes against “Kate’s Law”, which doesn’t seem too effective.  Bier points out that there are serious questions about federalism with both laws.

The Epoch Times has a big article by Charlotte Culbertson about unaccompanied minors from Central America (not including Mexico) being recruited by MS-13 once in the U.S.  It also mentions “sponsors” for the children in some states, but I don’t have any details on how this exist. In some cases, it is possible to remove minor children from detention and place them in foster care (LGBT blog, April 1).

Last Sunday, I did drive by the jail in Snow Hill, MD (SW of Ocean City) where some ICE detainees are held. It is not said to be a desirable facility.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Supreme Court allows most of Trump revised travel ban to go into effect temporarily until it hears case in October

The Supreme Court has allowed a limited travel ban from six “Muslim” countries to go into effect temporarily, while saying it will take up the full case in October.

The Court has ruled that the Trump administration cannot ban travel for foreigners who have a legitimate relationship (probably familial) with someone in the United States (who can provide financial support through the I-864 mechanism)   It would not authorize some kind of de facto “private sponsorship” however for people not yet in the country.  It does seem that people with job offers, or work or study arrangements could be admitted.

The Court seems to buy the idea that security validation from countries with chaotic or very hostile governments is very difficult.

The CNN story is here.

The court was unanimous on the partial ban but 6-3 on allowing the exceptions (Gorsuch voted against allowing them).

The case is Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project, link.

Jeffrey Toobin points out that the “90 day” period keeps moving forward.

Friday, June 23, 2017

EU rules Russian anti-gay propaganda law in violation of treaty

The European Court has ruled that the 203 law in Russia banning the discussion of LGBTQ issues in public in a way visible to minors violates articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, which apparently Russia had signed.  The law was said to be discriminatory and a bar to free speech.
Michael Lavers has a story in the Washington Blade.

The law seems to have been inspired by a concern over the low Russian birth rate.

The law seem also to have indirectly inspired vigilante violence against LGBT people and led to closing or bars.  Some people have sought asylum in the US and Canada.

The EU ruling could make it safer for LGBT people from western countries, who are visible as such online, to travel in Russia.

Wikipedia attribution link for Moscow House of Music, CCSA 3.0, by pxNick. . 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cato study compares European and US immigrant terror risks, and in the US it is very low

Alex Nowrasteh has authored a study comparing the relative risk of deaths from immigrant terror attacks in European countries to that in the United States, where it is much lower, link here.

But the article admittedly implies that the greater volume of emergency immigration into Europe (asylum seeking rather than refugee) has resulted in larger civilian fatalities in Europe.
Many perpetrators have been in these countries a long time and have varied and complicated criminal histories beyond mere immigration.  And in the U.S., many perpetrators obviously had disturbing behavior and difficulties assimilating for a long time, often as adult children of people who had come here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

North Korea makes its treatment of civilian POW's as ugly as possible

Peter S. Kim in the Asian Review writes about how na├»ve behavior with North Korea (especially by the South) could mean that nuclear weapons or EMP devices wind up in the hands of terrorists as well as the “terror state” itself, link.

Kim Jong Un looks fat and foppish, even girlish.  And his people worship him as a god?  Clay feet?

Otto Warmbier’s family will not allow future updates on their son’s condition, apparently awake but not aware. That makes this easier to bear for members of the public.   The DPRK has deliberately provided a situation as ugly as it can make it.  But the responsibility for this will remain with government, state, and the Trump administration (though the legacy goes back to Obama) and won’t become a subject of personalized fund-raising campaigns.

North Korea is a real enemy.  And eventually enemies can become personal responsibilities.

Wikipedia attribution link for DPEK-China picture by Roman Harak, CCSA 2.0

Update: June 20

The young man passed away Monday June 19 at about 2:30 PM.

There was a viewpoint expressed (by La Sha, on Huffington) that westerners should not feel privileged and express any contempt when they are there.

Some sort of tourism travel ban to North Korea (a reverse of Trump's ban now) sounds likely (as with  Trump on Cuba), Washington Post story.

Update: June 21

On Don Lemon's show, there were warnings that North Korean could be capable of launching an EMP blast over South Korea now.