Tuesday, December 31, 2019

PragerU presents an interesting take on democracy in a fragile Islamic country

I found this PragerU video today, about whether Sharia and Democracy can coexist in Pakistan.

The incident the video describes is horrific.  But the video makes the point that the extremist parties are multiple and fractured.  If they came together, they would make Pakistan into another Saudi Arabia, to say the least. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Senate needs to call and hear John Bolton, and his comments on North Korea really matter right now

ABC News provided more coverage of Kim Jong Un’s possible “Christmas present”, which Donald Trump sounded blasé about from his desk in his resort at Mar a Lago today.  “We’ll see what happens.”

USA Today, in a story by Jeanine Santucci, reports on Bolton’s tweets and articles, to the effect that Trump really does not have a policy to deter North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and missiles that can reach the US, and that Trump is playing a rhetorical game.
Axios has an article by Jonathan Swan that “goes deeper” Dec 22, link.
Democrats want the Senate to call John Bolton to testify in any impeachment trial, but did not try to do so themselves, claiming that courts could delay the impeachment.


Update: Dec. 25

A speaker on CNN reminded viewers today that apparently North Korea had never proven it could launch an ICBM that could survive re-entry.  Maybe it has now.  But even without that possibility, it could try a high-altitude EMP blast, maybe a test over the mid Pacific.

The Washington Post has a sobering article by Joby Warwick Christmas Day which includes speculative discussion of possible DPRK submarines and anti missile detection technology.  It also reposted an article from Bloomberg by Jon Herslovitz (paywall). 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

More nuanced interpretations on CBS (from Trump's own camp at Bedminster) of Kim Jong Un's Christmas card

CBSN interviews prof. Chang in Bedminster NJ, recommending that the US pay more attention to Kim Jong Un’s increase of missile test threats, probably a long range test right after Jan 1, 2020.

North Korea has taken a vacation from this while doing unit testing under the radar right now.  And Peter Bergen’s recent book explains Trump’s softening in March 2018 as a response to South Korea’s overtures right after the Winter Olympics (p. 214-215);  my book review will come later.  But Trump’s softening did not lead to the respite from long range tests, as Trump claims;  North Korea’s work schedule did.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

CNBC studies health care in other countries: Germany

CNBC explains with a recent video, “How Germany’s Universal Health-Care System Works”

The main point is to make the commitment to cover everybody.

Germany has a private and public system with mandatory insurance and carefully managed premiums and actuarial rating. But it spend less per patient than American systems and has better outcomes.
CNBC covers some other countries, which we’ll cover over time. 
In the US, a federal judge has thrown out the individual mandate as potentially unconstitutional since Trump’s tax package removed the “tax” penalty.

I visited Berlin and Dresden in 1999.  I also visited Germany by Eurailpass in 1972 and saw the East German border from the train. 
By Mfield, Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com; edit by Waugsberg (rotation 0,4°) - Own work, GFDL 1.2, Link

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Gay "civil union" in Israel, which still does not formally recognize gay marriage, but accepted gays in the military long before the U.S. did

Although Israel has been seen as progressive on LGBT issues, allowing (even requiring) gays to serve in the military after about 1992, it does not fully recognize gay marriage, although it recognizes gay marriages from other countries. (Rand corporation had used Israel as an example in recommending how to lift the ban in the U.S.) 

The video above notes a same-sex wedding, which is more what we would call a civil union. 
Wikipedia: By Foto: Bernd Schwabe in Hannover - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fareed Zakaria: Democracy is in recession (to quote a Stanford professor)

Liberty and Law Are Under Attack WorldWide;  Consider the Impeachment Crisis in that Context” Fareed Zakarai opines on CNN, Washington Post op-ed today here. Fareed presented this on his Global Public Square on CNN this morning. 
All over the west, even with the Brexit rout, voters seem to want voters and jobs and are willing to accept more rules to see others toe the line.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Singapore court considers its sodomy law, to follow the recent example of India among former British colonies

Singapore has a court battle going on about whether to declare its anti-gay sodomy law, 377A, unconstitutional.

A complication comes from the fact that there are two laws, 377 and 377A, to cover different forms of gay male sex, and sex among lesbians is legal (SCMP article).

Singapore has always been a socially strict conservative country because it feels it needs to be stable for business.  It also has housing laws that require some ethnic balance in condos and apartments.

Singapore has what is practically the inside of an O’Neill cylinder at its airport.

Despite the social conservatism, it has a low birthrate (CNA News). 

Wikipedia attribution: By Matteo Morando - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Saturday, December 7, 2019

North Korea suddenly reported to have conducted a major solid fuel test; protests return in France

North Korea is said to have conducted a solid fuel test today, as a possible prelude to another ICBM test of a missile capable of reaching the US. (CNN)  

North Korea also has said that “denuclearization is off the table” but seems to insist on resuming some sort of discussion in December, even as the impeachment vote comes up.
Will Ripley of CNN tweeted a picture of the DPRK test site tonight. 

Trump blew the idea off and said Kim isn't interested in interfering with our elections. Unfortunately, Trump doesn't make very interesting videos.  Consider this now:

Also, Timcast has a disturbing video about the lastest protests in France, and a very disturbing take on them.  Ford Fischer, with steel pot and avoid tear gas himself. had covered similar protests in February for News2share (content that YouTube would soon demonetize).  What is so disturbing now is that MoveOn seems to be calling for similar massive protests here. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

North Korea sends cryptic threat of a "Christmas Present" if Trump doesn't respond to their "offers" this month

AOL has republished a Business Insider story that North Korea has sent a cryptic warning to the US to expect a “Christmas present” if it does not make progress in “talks” this month, link here

North Korea had promised to stop testing of ICBM’s or similar missiles in April 2018 but many in the intelligence community are not convinced (BI story)

A “Christmas present” or New Years could be a longer missile test, or possibly a demonstration of an ability to make an EMP attack, from a satellite or missile, or perhaps some kind of cyberattack (that sounds harder for them to do now).  EMP by non-nuclear magnetic flux is possible and has been used on the ground in the middle East. The US had contemplated a flux attack in early 2018 on some of North Korea’s facilities (which might be protected by being largely underground) in early 2018 before Trump toned his talk down around the first of March, after the Olympics.

Trump is reported today in some conservative outlets to have, when meeting in the EU with NATO,  renewed his threat of military action against DPRK “if we have to”

NBC News offered a video (with ads that seem inappropriate for the material) speculating a long missile test or nuclear test. The video is a little more alarming than the text Associated Press article.

It strikes me that this matter is especially provocative in that Santa Claus would pay his visit right at the time of an impeachment vote, perhaps.  Really getting dangerous.  Isn't anybody connecting the dots? 
Wikipedia attribution link for P.D. photo of Trump in DMZ in 2019