Sunday, April 29, 2012

Karzai denies US Congressman critical of him entry into Afghanistan on diplomatic visit


Wolf Blitzer is reporting on the outrage when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was prohibited from accompanying a delegation to Afghanistan, already assembled in Dubai, at the request of Afghan President Harmid Karzai.

Roharbacher has criticized Karzai’s policies in Afghanistan as corrupt.

Wolf interviewed Rohrabacher on CNN Situation Room Saturday afternoon. They discussed Hillary Clinton's phone call to him in Dubai, where Hillary gave in to popular sensationalism over recent events. 

Rohrabacher says the US is spending $2 billion a week on Afghanistan.

The link for Blitzer’s blog entry is here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

China faces demographic winter, without western experience with immigration


The Economist, April 21 2012, p. 53, has an important perspective on demography and China, “China’s Achilles Heel”, link here. The subtitle is “A comparison with America reveals a deep flaw in China’s model for growth”.  Essentially, of course, that’s demography and population aging (or “demographic winter”), partly as a result of the one-child policy. China has recently allowed families where both spouses were only children to have more than one child.  It’s surprising that it is still asleep on this.

China will grow old before it’s rich, the article says.   It also mentions the “4-2-1” rule, where, based on notions of filial piety rooted in Confucian ethics (maybe not the legal system), an only child is likely to wind up responsible for two parents and four grandparents, although, the magazine says, retirement homes are starting to boom in China and seem much cheaper than in the US (most of the time).

China has run the well dry on low-wage labor and now runs short on manual labor.  And, unlike the US, it doesn’t have a history of immigration to help boost its labor supply in those “learn to work” areas. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Russian governments propose a variety of anti-gay measures

ABC News is reporting that "Russians" are "facing a tidal wave of proposed anti-gay laws", link here. They're not as draconian as those propose for Uganda, but St. Petersburg proposes a law prohibiting "homosexual propaganda around minors". It sounds a but like COPA in the US, which was struck down in 2007.

Apparently homosexual contact was decriminalized under Boris Yeltsin in 1993, but there is still a strong cultural bias against gays in much of Russia.

Russia is also facing a serious demographic crisis, with a failure to replace its population, leading to "conception days" being promoted by Putin.

A few years ago Poland was reported as having anti-gay policies because Muslim immigrant populations "take care of their own back home" compared to native European populations.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

North Korea now said likely to have deployable nuclear weapons already


Richard Engel and others at NBC have been reporting that North Korea may have a few dozen “advanced” (nuclear) weapons and could do an underground nuclear test this week.  The MSNBC story is here.  
 
Recently, a spokesperson for North Korea made a bald treat to obliterate South Korea with a quick invasion or aerial attack.  Such threats have been made before, but now the idea is taken more seriously since North Korea has a “new” president.

Some have suggested that North Korea could be capable of threatening Hawaii, Alaska, or the Pacific Northwest. 

The open report that North Korea may have small nukes now came as a surprise. 
 
A high altitude small nuke blast could cause an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) effect over a large, subcontinent-sized area.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thailand "lese majeste" trial will test downstream liability for Internet forum moderators


Internet intermediary downstream liability is alive and well in Thailand, according to the development of the case of Jiew (Chiranuch Premchaipoirn), who ran the site Prachatai.    She faces a long prison sentence for not quickly deleting all visitors’  comments “offensive to the monarchy” under Thailand’s “lese majeste” law.

She is accused of violating Thailand’s 2007 computer crime law.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has the story by Annie Harrison April 18, link here.  

There seems , however, to be some ambiguity in the downstream liability aspect of Thailand’s law. 



Sunday, April 22, 2012

"The People's Republic of France"?


Is France about to commit suicide?  What, a 75% income tax on income over $1 million euros a year?  Or maybe a 100% tax?  Outlaw stock options?   This sounds like the old People’s Party of New Jersey back in 1972. Unbelievable!

Right, companies are fleeing all over the rest of Europe.  I wonder what AXA, competitor to ING (my “retiring” employer) would do.

The Economist has the sorry story, “The terror: The French election and business”, link here


Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Bayeux, which I visited in 1999 (home of the William the Conqueror Museum and Bayeux Tapestry; I lost my rent car keys there!)

Am I right?   Jersey Island, off the coast of Normandy, and the other Channel Islands, are a tax haven (UK control)? 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Iran could mount guerrilla war in Strait of Hormuz

The weekend Wall Street Journal has a very important story by Nathan Hodge, "In war with Iran, US firepower would vie with guerrilla tactics", link here.  The print issue of the paper has many illustrations to support the article.

Iran could try to harass US Naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz with "smart mines" that are triggered by acoustic signatures of specific kinds of ships, as well as primitive "mini-subs" and fleets of small speedboats.

The Strait is 24 miles wide at its narrowest point.

Here's a provocative YouTube video based on the "Caspian Report".



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Florida Marlins's manager Guillen's gaffe reminds one of Gerald Ford in 1976


Miami Marlins’ baseball manager Ozzie Guillen’s remarks saying he “respects Fidel Castro” were the result of misspeaking in English something he was thinking in Spanish.

A Chicago Sun Times perspective by Mike Newberg says that Guillen was politically incorrect and insensitive to his fan base in Miami, but not necessarily morally wrong.

Newberry compares Guillen’s gaffe to that of football coach Bobby Petrino.

The link is here.

The gaffe reminds me of a misstatement by president Gerald Ford about communist satellites in Eastern Europe in 1976 in the presidential debate.  “There is no Soviet dominance ….”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

North Korea gives unprecedented access to western journalists for "satellite" launch


North Korea has granted “unprecedented access to western journalists to show the “satellite launch” which the US fears could be a test of a capability to lob a nuclear warhead toward Alaska or even the US Pacific northwest.  (George Tenet of the CIA had said as much in 2002).

Richard Engel of NBC News gives a “tour” of North Korea, showing the empty streets of the capital, and the sparse, barren, impoverished countryside while he rides on a government VIP train.  It seems like a voyage to another planet.



Wikipedia attribution link for picture of North Korean soldier in JSA.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

You can really visit the Korean JSA?


I thought I would pass this link along, “How to Visit the Korean Joint Security Area” on the border between North and South Korea.  It popped up on my iGoogle page when I logged on, maybe based on my own searching and surfing habits.

I’m rather surprised to learn that private citizens can even visit the area at all.

During the Clinton years, North Korea was perceived as the single biggest threat, while the public as a whole slept on Al Qaeda. 

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Korean JSA, link

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Britain considers increased surveillance of "ordinary people's" Internet use


Britain’s Parliament is considering a proposal to let police and intelligence services regularly monitor the Internet communications of every citizens: texts, emails, chats, and social media posts, even under privacy settings, with little court supervision, according to a story in the Tuesday by Anthony Faiola and Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post, link here.  The print front-page story is titled “U.K. considers broadening scope of online ‘snooping’; Intelligence proposal prompts outcry among privacy advocates”. 

Britain is already the most camera-monitored society on Earth (although the recent indie film on this subject, “Look”, reviewed on my Movies blog March 31, was filmed in LA). 

Britain even wants to monitor online game use and content.

The measures may have been motivated in large part by the “flash mob” problems in mid 2011.

The Post is also reporting that many Al Qaeda Internet forums have gone dark, and it’s not clear if this is because of government attacks, or because of a breakup of the group (a lot of it is likely to be the latter).