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.