The Lone Gunman Comes To Town

Hundreds of films and television series were produced in the middle of the twentieth century on the theme of the lone gunman saving a town. An isolated frontier town is in trouble, usually from marauders who are stealing cattle and menacing women and children. A rugged, handsome hero rides in and saves the town.

The variations are endless. The troublemakers may be from the town or from outside. They are often nonwhite and the town primarily white, with a few people of color scattered in. The leadership of the town, usually white men, are ineffective or injured. The hero is white and may, as in the case of the Lone Ranger, have a nonwhite sidekick. He may become romantically involved with one of the women of the town, but he seldom stays. The narrative is gendered and racialized. Read More

Links – April 7, 2018

Thinking out the North Korean standoff. From Robert Jervis and Mira Rapp-Hooper. A somewhat similar commentary from Jeffrey Lewis. South Korea’s recommendations for negotiations with North Korea. Bolton’s illegal war plan for North Korea. Verifying North Korea’s nuclear disarmament if we get that far.

Two similar analyses of activity around North Korea’s light water reactor: From 38 North and Institute for Science and International SecurityRead More

Paul Manafort in Ukraine’s 2010 Election

Back in 2010, a couple of things seemed strange to me about the Ukrainian election. Yulia Tymoshenko came across as much more corrupt and autocratic than I had recalled. At the same time, Victor Yanukovych had greatly upgraded his image from unimaginative apparatchik.

I don’t follow Ukraine as closely as I do the Baltic states, so I figured that I had missed some things about Tymoshenko and that maybe Yanukovych was transcending his origins. This week I learned that those impressions were a result of Paul Manafort’s work with Yanukovych’s campaign. Read More

Links – March 30, 2018

Three similar op-eds about the unified expulsions of Russian diplomats, from Kadri Liik, Shashank Joshi, and Mark Galeotti. Bottom line: In the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Vladimir Putin has supplied the last straw so that other world leaders will not tolerate his attempts at deniability, which are no longer plausible.

One of the reasons that this broad rebuke has a good chance to influence Russia is that Putin would like to rebrand Russia as a great power, but he’s having difficulty doing so. Read More

John Bolton as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor

When thinking about John Bolton as National Security Advisor, we should keep in mind that there is no reason for war between the US and North Korea or Iran. Iran has adhered to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the other six signatories are satisfied with the situation. It is testing missiles and is engaged in the war in Syria, which are a concern but not subjects of the JCPOA. North Korea has the capability to build thermonuclear warheads and mount them on missiles, but the numbers are few, and its leaders seem willing to talk.

The cause for talk of war is President Donald Trump’s belligerence. Without that, there are ways forward that do not involve war. Unfortunately, John Bolton has never met a war he didn’t like. Read More

Links – March 23, 2018

How Trump has split with his administration on Russian meddling. And now he’s congratulated Vladimir Putin on his electoral “win,” against the advice of his national security staff. Apparently now he is planning to meet Putin, but it’s always hard to know for sure.

The secret Russian military labs that deal with nerve agents. I am seeing a number of contradictory articles with interviews of former Soviet scientists said to have worked on the Novichok agents. The articles contradict each other to some degree. I won’t post them until I can figure out more about which (if any) to believe. Frequently asked questions about the Salisbury poisoning. An article from an expert I feel is reliable.

Long article on Ivan Ilyin, whom Putin likes to quote.

Nice takedown of a fear-mongering New York Times article on hacking and the power grid. I think part of the reason for clickbait articles like that is that too many reporters turn off their brains when confronted with anything that looks like it might involve math.

Why not start the North Korean talks by dealing with nuclear safety?  Jon Wolfsthal suggests that planning for negotiations develop some goals and expectations. This would be an obvious thing that did not need to be said in an alternate universe. The dirty secret of nuclear arms in Korea in the early 1960s. There were over half as many nuclear weapons in South Korea as the US has deployed overall today.

Very cool schematic of the SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. An August 2016 article about SCL and CA. And an article from December 2015.

The Security and Exchange Commission has charged Elizabeth Holmes with massive fraud in Theranos Corporation. Here are her seven biggest lies.

It looks like Israel is trumpeting its 2007 bombing of a nuclear reactor site in Syria to encourage those who would like to believe that the many hardened sites in Iran and North Korea, locations unknown, could be as easily taken out. That’s not true, but look for this to be used as an example by people like John Bolton and Mark Dubowitz. Top photo is of the reactor building before the bombing and after the bombing and site clearing of the debris.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This week is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. This NIE was part of its justification.

 

Copenhagen and Cambridge

Over the weekend, I went to a reading of Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen.” When I came home, I saw this long Twitter thread.

I’ve long been annoyed with what I often refer to as “Silicon Valley boys.” It’s becoming more acceptable to say that out loud, and I occasionally do on Twitter. The shallowness of their exhortations for everyone to learn coding, their ignorance of human relations, and their belief that they can change the world for the better with code alone are at best naïve.

Revelations of Facebook’s ethics-free policies in taking advertising and manipulating its users have been dribbling out for over a year. Christopher Wylie’s insider view of Cambridge Analytica and Britain’s Channel 4 investigation have made questions of responsibility impossible to ignore. Read More

Just Say No

This story got buried under the news of Andrew McCabe’s firing on Friday, but it’s important if we want to elect people who can bring about responsible government. That starts now, as we move toward November’s elections.

You know those cute little quizzes that are supposed to tell you something about who you are? Which movie star are you? Are you a cat or a dog person? What is your color? So much fun to compare with what you think of yourself and with your friends’ results. In fact, you could share on Facebook and urge your friends to see what their favorite color was. Those quizzes asked you to share most of your Facebook data before you could play.

You may have been contributing data to Cambridge Analytica’s work to help elect Donald Trump. Read More

Links – March 16, 2018

No, Scott Kelly’s year in space didn’t mutate his DNA. There is a lot of VERY bad reporting on this. Top photo from here – Mark Kelly on the left, and Scott on the right.

A good proposal for how Britain might respond to the Salisbury nerve agent attack. Another possibility: Take Putin to the International Criminal Court. Some basic information about nerve agents. Legal basis for options. Decoding the Prime Minister’s speechBackground on Sergei Skripal.

If you read only one thing on the Trump-Kim summit, this should be it. And here are a couple more, from Evans Revere and Jeffrey Lewis. An interview with Siegfried Hecker.

Update: The New York Times has a clickbait article on Russian hacking of the US electrical system. Philip Bump at the Washington Post actually reports on the grid and why it’s not that vulnerable.