Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Trump and Kim start second summit in Hanoi, ironic given the Vietnam war of the past

Meg Wagner and Veronica Rhoda have a summary story of the prep for the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

Kim, shown smoking cigarettes and still fat in the media, took a 1300-mile armored train ride through eastern China.

It’s interesting that Trump and Kim had a preparatory dinner tonight.

Trump seems to have flipped 180 degrees, and seems content as long as Kim doesn’t do tests outside his boundaries.

One year ago this date, there was concern from some observers that even on the US mainland US civilians could be put in measurable danger by Trump’s aggressive attitude, which had perhaps started to soften a bit during the winter Olympics.

Trump is trying to push the idea that North Korea could become like Vietnam, and have a kind of statist capitalism under a Communist party – essentially like China.  That's ironic for all of us who were drafted during the Vietnam war.  But that would undermine the idea of “a god king”.  If you’re going to rule the world, at least look physically fit.

Update: Thursday, Feb. 28 

The talks ended without an agreement, because Kim insisted on lifting the sanctions first. John Hudson and Simon Denyer give a pessimistic assessment in this op-ed in the Washington Post. Could missile tests start to happen again?

Monday, February 25, 2019

Is the Venezuelan mess related to Russian and Chinese meddling? Then what about El Salvador?

Hal Brands writes in Bloomberg that the unrest in Venezuela is partly provoked by Russian and Chinese influence in Latin America, in other countries like Ecuador and Nicaragua, using business deals to support authoritarian leaders who promote instability. 

It wouldn’t be hard to extend this reasoning to what is happening in El Salvador with the gangs and breakdown of rule of law. 

But of course it is easy for the US (most of all Trump) to say that Maduro’s behavior, blocking aid, shows how socialism can collapse into outright immorality. 

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by Roger Noriega encourages Trump to double down on Maduro.
Look at this PDF showing the sentencing Maduro.  

Wiki: By The Photographer - Own work, CC0, Link

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Putin doubles down on missile threat to US over European policy

Putin has threated the US with missile deployment that could target “decision centers”, should the US place missiles in Europe (so as to defend the Baltics or possibly even Finland). Neil MacFarguhar writes for the New York Times.  Russian interference is likely already affecting EU politics and breakup movements.

Putin is responding to Trump’s withdrawal from a nuclear weapons containment treaty.

Putin has also claimed hypersonic missiles which would threaten any NORAD defenses.

Yet, there were stories last night on CNN claiming that Trump could be a “Russian agent”.

And Trump believes North Korea has no missiles capable of reaching the US because Putin told him so.

Reuters reports that Putin threatened a "Cuban missile crisis" if the US invites it.
Expect more unusual tactics from the Russians, maybe even “libel trolling” the media.  

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Hungary offers the most energetic pro-birth incentives yet

Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban just nixed the income tax lifetime for women who bear four or more children.  NBC News has a typical story (AP sources) here.  This story definitely presents the values of the "alt-right".

Some of the provisions encourage marriage, some just encourage reproduction.  There is a subsidy for the purchase of large vans for large families.  There is a low-interest loan for women under 40 marrying for the first time, forgiving a third of the debt with a second child and the entire loan after the third child.  There is also a loan program for children with two or more children.

But what sounds offensive is the idea that Orban wants “Hungarian children” and a group identity, with “zero tolerance” for immigration, which takes Trumpism to extreme.

As a gay male, I can’t see getting it up to give my group more children or copies of my genes.

I don’t seem to have those tomcat instincts.   Hungary doesn't seem like a good place for men who don't reproduce. 

Wikipedia: By Il conte di Luna from Brescia - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Trump claims Obama/Hillary would have started a war with North Korea and that he restrained himself

In a story “The War that Wasn’t”, Peter Baker writes about Donald Trump’s claim that Barack Obama was prepped for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea as if Hillary Clinton would have done it.

In fact, there was a lot talk about a very dangerous “bloody nose attack” (maybe magnetic flux on infrastructure) until at least the Winter Olympics. Mattis had to remain the officially recognized adult in the room for a while.  By March 2018 the president seemed much less likely to do it and gradually set up the summit, where he buttered up Kim Jong Un.

Trump has said that placating Kim was necessary to avoid war, which is un-Trump-like behavior generally.
Trump has also said that he does not believe North Korea can reach the continental US with nuclear missiles because "Putin told him so" (CNN).  That contradicts US intelligence.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Russia will test blocking international Internet within its borders

MSNBC reports that Russia is testing limiting the Internet to its own borders (quasi-China) at least as a temporary national security test, link here. This follows Fareed Zakaria's discussion of the Internet kill switch in many countries Sunday. 

Dan Coates talked about this as he also warned that Russia could turn off electricity in New England in the dead of winter.  EMP would do that – but air gaps make that very hard to do with cyberthreats alone.

In the meantime, note the bad news from the EU on the Copyright Directive on my main blog == it's getting worse and more ominous. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fareed Zakaria GPS looks at the Internet kill switch around the world

Fareed Zakaria today, on his Global Public Square, discussed the inclination of depots overseas to use the “Internet Kill Switch”, breaking down the original promise of “Intrinsic Liberty”. 
Apparently Internet access has been cut off completely for some periods in Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Bangladesh.

There were partial blackouts at least 188 times in 2018.

In Egypt, any content provider with at least 5000 followers must register with the government, and Russia has similar rules.

India has had 128 partial shutdowns in its history.

And China’s Internet is, as we know, a “walled garden”.
Less developed countries take incitement and political instability very seriously.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

News2Share is livestreaming Yellow Vest protests from France; more on LGBT at southern border

Ford Fischer (News2Share) is in Paris filming Yellow Vest protesters who are still active, with somewhat diffuse political objectives.
Here is a typical video now. 

The Daily Mail has a recent story indicating that the protests are now in their 13th straight week. 

There are protests in other cities, like Nantes.  There is talk of a recall referendum.  Could France to a Brexit or Frexit?
Fischer has made over videos on Facebook showing the safety gear press needs to cover protests.
Other reporters whom I know are abroad.  Trey Yingst works as a foreign correspondent in Jerusalem for Fox and reports on problems with Gaza.  Michael Lavers of the Washington Blade has visited Puerto Rico and now the southern border areas (esp. Texas) to look at issues for LGBTQ asylum seekers.

The New York Times now has a detailed story by Adam Nossiter.

By Thomon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Thomas Friedman unscrambles immigration and border security history and policy for Congress and Trump

Thomas L. Friedman, the futurist opinion writer and author who has talked about flat Earth, sort of (call it projection of a tesseract), asks “What if Trump could explain as well as he inflames?  

I guess this essay would get maximum points on any AP history test.  Right, he explains why smaller countries tend to become despotic and why people in these countries need to leave, and how better policy could lessen the need for emigration.  Friedman’s prose rather reminds me of the vlogger “Economic Invincibility”  -- who makes perfect sense most of the time in a world not ready for a 26 year old to be president, perhaps (let alone an 18-year-old).  Well, Friedman is constitutionally old enough to run for president now.

The role of cellphones and Internet is well noted.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Colonialism may have contributed to today's tribalism

Journalist Christine Mungai, in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post, decries the use of the term “tribalism”, as explaining our political domestic political schisms.  Amy Chua and even Sebastian Junger (back in the spring of 2016) notwithstanding, Mungai says “we don’t understand tribes” and this popular political shorthand is “racist”. 

She argues that colonialism helped shape the character of tribal behavior in Africa, and goes on to discuss the intricate social customs of the 44 tribes that make up Kenya.

Then there is the issue specifically of how France (Macron) treats the formerly French areas of Africa, which used to be part of the sovereign territory of France. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Trump and Putin up the ante; the Deepfakes problem menaces

Two headlines:

First, it’s common sense that Trump’s pulling out of a Cold War arms pact and Putin’s reciprocation is Milo-dangerous.  Here’s a typical story, on The Hill.  The biggest concern may be forgetting about the nuclear threat initiative’s (Sam Nunn) to police up all loose nuclear or radioactive caches around the world, especially former Soviet republics.

I’ll also share CNN’s feature page on the Pentagon’s war on Deepfake videos, particularly before the 2020 elections.  Off hand, if President Trump wanted a legitimate reason to declare a national security emergency, this development could provide the cannon fodder. Right now even amateurs can mimic others and make it appear others have said things they really didn't.  How this could be met will generate more blog posts – if our speech environment can stay up and survive all these political threats.