Links – February 20, 2018

North Korea is upping its cyber attacks. Washington Post. Guardian. Photo from Washington Post.

The indictment of 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statement about the indictment. Rosenstein’s letter appointing Robert Mueller Special Counsel.

The world after Trump: How the system can endure. We need to be thinking of how we will mend our institutions after the damage Trump and his people are doing. This is not all bad. Our systems are resilient, and there will be opportunities to improve on what we had before. The United States and Europe. Read More

Links – February 9, 2018

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would like eventually to enrich uranium. They also want to buy nuclear reactors. How should the agreements around those reactors be structured?

Russia hasn’t disposed of 34 tons of plutonium. It’s our fault.

How America Could Accidentally Push Russia into a Nuclear War. The Nuclear Posture Review gets Russia wrong.

Russian scientists at Sarov, Russia’s equivalent to Los Alamos, arrested for mining bitcoins. 

The education of Kim Jong-Un. Long read on North Korea’s leader, with bonus on how to think about intelligence analysis.

Here’s what war with North Korea would look like. A full-blown war with North Korea wouldn’t be as bad as you think. It would be much, much worse. Long read.

What if North Korea had won the Korean War?

Gene Sharp, Global Guru of Nonviolent Resistance, Dies at 90.

Beautiful jellyfish and radiolarians. (Top graphic from here.)

 

Nuclear Policy In The Trump Administration

A couple of weeks ago, the administration released its Nuclear Posture Review. All administrations like to put their stamp on policy. The last review was in 2010.

There are lots of things in this one to talk about, and many articles out there about them. I’ve been trying lately to stand back from the trees and look at the forest. So, as a former project manager, some of the first questions I come up with have to do with budgets and timelines. Things like resource availability and scheduling. I wrote that up for Physics Today.

Short version: Looks to me like they can’t do what they want with the resources they’ve got. Plus it will take a decade or more to build the nukes they want, so maybe diplomacy can achieve our ends faster.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.

 

Links – February 1, 2018

Cool dinosaur and mammal tracks at NASA. Top photo from here.

The first thing Congress needs to do, when it can get away from the fever dreams of the worst of its members, is to reconstruct the process for passing a budget before the end of the fiscal year.

Americans Are Rising to This Historic Moment. I’m not as convinced as Eliot Cohen, but I think there are positive signs.

Heather Cox Richardson on creeping authoritarianism.

Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer. What is at stake – the grand bargain with the intelligence community. And why aren’t we hearing more from the intelligence community?

Is the Trump foreign policy great-power competition or America First? It depends on whom you ask.

Zeynep Tukfeci on the latest data privacy debacle. It’s not enough to ask individuals for their permission.

Leaks, feasts and sex parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia. There are simple ways to avoid this kind of corruption. We need to know why the Navy didn’t apply them.

Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans. Cha was to be US ambassador to South Korea, but apparently the ideas expressed in this op-ed were felt to be disqualifying.

This is definitive, if you have friends who are still pushing the Sy Hersh narrative about nerve agents in Syria. It was the Syrian government who were responsible for the sarin attacks.

 

Too Much Information

Do you wear a Fitbit?

If you do, satellites may be watching you.

Yesterday, Strava, a social network that collects data from devices with GPS, uploaded a heat map of its users around the world to the internet. Intelligence services are now combing that map for data about hidden military bases and other tidbits. It’s apparently not just fitbits, but mobile phones and a lot of other devices.

The Guardian gives a few examples. A few more after the jump. Read More

Links – January 23, 2018

Ursula LeGuin has died.

A balanced look at Donald Trump, totalitarianism, and American resilienceAbandoning Science Advice: One Year in, the Trump Administration Is Sidelining Science Advisory Committees.

The Hawaii alert was an accident. The dread it inspired wasn’t.

How homicide charges for two skippers will shake up the entire Navy.

Database: the 270 people connected to the Trump-Russia probes.

North Korea’s Goals are Limited: It couldn’t Absorb South Korea even if it Won a WarBest Advice for Policymakers on “Bloody Nose” Strike against North Korea: It’s Illegal.

Europe Must Fight to Preserve the Iran Deal.

Dmitri Trenin has strong words on Russia’s adventure in Ukraine.

U.S. tests nuclear power system to sustain astronauts on Mars. Top photo of the Kilopower system from this article.

The Protection Racket

Donald Trump has a pattern: take something that is working well – DACA, S-CHIP, JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement) – break it just a little, then “negotiate.”

So much of the current crisis atmosphere is due to his love of chaos and his mistaking a protection racket for negotiating.

He broke DACA and set up a six-month timetable for Congress to do something about it. The Republicans in Congress refused to reauthorize S-CHIP.

One of the concessions to the Republicans in Congress in the JCPOA was that the president would have to certify that Iran was in compliance every three months. Trump has used that to call into question the United States participation in the deal. Meanwhile, opponents of the deal are explicitly using Trump’s position as a protection racket to get the Europeans to take steps that would damage the deal. Read More

Russia and the NRA

McClatchy reports today that the FBI is investigating whether the National Rifle Association received money from the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. The NRA, of course, backed Donald Trump heavily. I’m going to work through the article in some detail, because it’s hard to get at the bottom line.

The news is that there is an investigation into Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sources did not say whether there was evidence that the NRA received Russian money. Read More

Estonia Considers Its Monuments

Estonia’s Justice Minister, Urmas Reinsalu, said early in January that the government could take down the Soviet war memorial at Maarjamäe because it is falling apart and it is not on the official list of historic monuments. This led Prime Minister Jüri Ratas to suggest that the entire area, which includes a German cemetary and a memorial under construction to the victims of Communism, be designated a historic area.

The Soviet Union built many war memorials across its territory, particularly to commemorate World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as they call it. I find those monuments moving; they are, after all, memorials to people who died in wars and who had families who grieved them. I’ve been to the Maarjamäe memorial a few times. Read More

Links – January 13, 2018

For this Martin Luther King weekend, memories of Mississippi in the 1960s. Top photo: The author, Danny Lyon, outside the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee headquarters, 1962.

The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal. This article should be reprinted and quoted everywhere.

Inter-Korean talks are more than just “a good thing”. The myth of a limited strike on North Korea – worse than dumb.

Speaking loudly and carrying a little stick – the myopic US debate on Iran. Why regime change in Iran wouldn’t work.

Do-it-yourself drones attack a Russian airbase in Syria.

This is the best summary I’ve seen of the Steele dossier recently.

Would 90 Percent of Americans Really Die from an EMP Attack? NO!