From Russia with love

Weird stuff is coming out of Bob Mueller’s little investigation.  It seems that Russia mounted an extensive psy-op against the American public leading up to the last presidential election.  Donald Trump says it’s a fake-news hoax, but the investigative panel seems to differ (NYT, WP, AdAge, AdAge, VOA, SF Gate).  Media companies, such as Facebook, appear to be very sorry about all of this, even as their ad revenues soar.  What’s interesting about this is not that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.  Why wouldn’t they?  What I find interesting are two things.  First, while they obviously wanted Trump to win, the main thing they were interested in was splitting the country ideologically.  (Did they really think America couldn’t do that on its own?).  Second, they didn’t care if they got caught.  It’s almost as if they thought they could get away with it.  Silly Russians!  Don’t they realize that the U.S. Congress will now put a stop to such shenanigans and the country will put aside its senseless bickering?

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Speaking of weird stuff coming out, why did the CIA just release a bunch of files on Osama bin Laden (CNN)?  That seems a very un-CIA-like thing to do.  They say they did this “in an effort to further enhance public understanding of al-Qa’ida.”  There seems to be about 600 gigs of data available for download.  I’d better get started.  I can feel the public understanding enhancing already.

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North Korean options

U.S. president Trump has said that “all options are on the table” with respect to North Korea.  A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report has now outlined what those options are.  To wit:

  • maintaining the military status quo,
  • enhanced containment and deterrence,
  • denying DPRK acquisition of delivery systems capable of threatening the United States,
  • eliminating ICBM facilities and launch pads,
  • eliminating DPRK nuclear facilities,
  • DPRK regime change, and
  • withdrawing U.S. military forces.

Notice that only one of these options (the last) is non-military.  As much as I hate to do it, I have to agree with former Trump insider/now Trump outsider Steve Bannon:

“until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

An 8th option that the CRS report failed to consider is that the North Korean nuclear test site (if not the regime) will simply collapse (laboratoryequipment.com, Bloomburg).

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Have you wondered why the U.S. has 800 military personnel in Niger?  Me neither.  I think they want the uranium.  What else is in Niger?  Cowpeas?  What are those?

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Fun fact:  Where did Adolph Hitler go after World War 2?  Russia?  Argentina?  Venezuela?  Columbia?  If you guessed Columbia, you would be in agreement with the latest JFK documents released by the CIA (Miami Herald, National Interest, HVCA-2592, HVMA-472).  Hitler’s relatives settled in Long Island, New York.  Martin Bormann escaped to Argentina.  So, why not?  I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in the last little bit of JFK documents.  Maybe we’ll finally find out how UFOs faked the moon landing.

JFK

Today, 54 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in the interests of open government and full disclosure, the U.S. government released all of the previously withheld documents related to the assassination that fail to implicate anyone in the U.S. government in the assassination.  The rest of the files are still secret (NPR, WP, The Atlantic).

If you would like to see these newly released files, you can go here.  If you want to know more about the process of releasing the files, look here.  You can also download them by clicking on the links below (Completely download all 11 files to the same directory then open jfk.zip to unzip all–you’ll need room for about 26 gigs of data.):

What’s inside?  I hope someone will sort through it all soon.  I’m curious, but who has the time?  Will we find out how Lee Oswald could fire a Carcano rifle three times in 8.3 seconds, hitting a moving target twice at 80 yards?  Will we find out why Jack Ruby shot Oswald?  Will we find out what the FBI and CIA still want to keep secret after 54 years?  Probably not.
Supposedly, there will be another chance to release the last of the records on the assassination in six months.  I guess the information they contain won’t be so dangerous then.  Will we find the smoking Carcano in April?  Probably not.
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Speaking of conspiracies, President Trump just declared the opioid crisis in America a “public health emergency.”  It seems that he was going to declare it a plain old “national emergency,” but that would have necessitated funding (NPR, CNN), so he didn’t.  So, it seems we have a label, but no plan and no money.  You know who we should hit up for cash?  The Sackler boys–Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler.  Nice guys.  All doctors.  Funded wings of a bunch of museums.  Unfortunately, they’re all dead now.  How did they make their money?  They started the opioid crisis.  Because of them, hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead.
Well, at least the Sacklers didn’t kill a president.  Then again, maybe we should withhold judgement until April.

Sputnik

The Space Age began sixty years ago, October 4, 1957, when Russia put a beach ball-size chunk of metal into orbit in earth’s atmosphere (Newsweek, Sky & Telescope, Space, Space again).  It’s funny to think how insignificant that accomplishment seems now, yet how momentous it was at the time.  I suppose the most significant accomplishments and threats of our era, from the moon landing to North Korea’s ICBMs can trace their origins to this Russian orb.

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I also want to follow up on my last post, which didn’t seem to come out quite right.  I think I was trying to say something like this:

Perhaps there’s no single one factor to blame for this gun violence. However, there is a common denominator, and that is a war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex that has invaded almost every aspect of our lives.

Ask yourself: Who are these shooters modelling themselves after? Where are they finding the inspiration for their weaponry and tactics? Whose stance and techniques are they mirroring?

In almost every instance, you can connect the dots back to the military.

We are a military culture.

We have been a nation at war for most of our existence.

Or, like this:

Americans do not merely engage in violence; they are also entertained by it.

I was just too lazy to get it right.  So, please take a look at those articles.  They’re a bit more ambitious.

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In other news, it seems that Santa Claus is (or was) real after all (Daily Sabah, BBC).  Now I wish I had been better this year.

Las Vegas

Two nights ago I watched Expendables 3 on Netflix.  Last night I watched the news unfold as a bunch of wonderful people lost their lives.  The Expendables franchise is fairly well conceived, I think.  It’s a simple formula–show what’s left of the pool of aging action heroes engaging in witty banter, then show a massive body count, then repeat the cycle.  After a few cycles, you have a movie.  After a few movies, you have a franchise.  The bizarre thing is that it’s not all fiction.  In real life if you aim an automatic weapon at a crowd of people and fire, lots of them die.  The problem is, they’re not bad guys and they’re not pretend.  They’re you.  They’re me.  They’re just people going about their business.

So now, once again, we start the familiar cycle that follows these events.  Gun opponents will seize the ‘opportunity’ to make the obvious point that U.S. gun culture facilitates these kinds of mass shootings.  Gun advocates will go on a shopping spree in fear that the government will finally crack down on their Second Amendment ‘rights’.  And no one wants to admit that no matter how many current gun laws get enforced, and no matter how many people in the crowd are legally carrying guns, every now and then somebody clever and weird snaps and a lot of good people die.

It’s tempting to suggest a connection between the glorification of mass violence in the entertainment industry and the mentality of folks who commit mass murders.  When I was a young child, I chased a girl I was playing with with a hammer.  I was going to bop her on the head with it.  I knew it wouldn’t hurt her because I was an avid Bugs Bunny fan and I knew that she would just get dizzy and see birdies fly around her head, then shake her head and be fine.  I had seen it in cartoons dozens of times.  Thank god my mother was there to stop me and explain the gravity of what I was trying to do.  I remember another time, watching Bugs Bunny with my mom, when she told me never to shake a baby the way Bugs Bunny was doing.  I remember being struck with the thought that it never would have occurred to me on my own that this was a bad idea.  Did Stephen Paddock, firing a machine gun from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, think he was Sylvester Stallone the way I, as a kid, thought I was Bugs Bunny?  Did James Holmes think he was the Joker?  And no, I don’t think censorship of the entertainment industry will prevent mass violence.  Crazy people will always find some source for their crazy ideas.  But, I don’t let my kids watch Bugs Bunny; and, I should probably stop watching the Expendables.

And, I’m really sad to see Tom Petty go.  Somewhere, somehow, I do hope he’s running down a dream.

Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis just landed in Afghanistan and was greeted by a volley of mortar fire at the airport (FOX, CBS, RT, in, CNN).  Granted, the attack came late and, even had it come on time, probably would have failed to down the plane on which he arrived.  What I find telling, though–and absent from the news reports–is any discussion of how the Taliban knew that Mattis was on the plane.  It seems to me that’s the kind of information one would keep from one’s enemy–if one could.

I know this is just a trip by SecDef Mattis, but it causes me to think about Afghanistan again and wonder how things are going over there.  They seem to be going like this (NYT)…

afghanistan_taliban_map_large5

…which makes me wonder what exactly the U.S. administration hopes to gain by continuing this losing war, other than having an excuse to train its troops and buy and test weapons.  I also find it interesting that media sources seem to all use maps like this generated by the Institute for the Study of War , which seems to be a fairly gung-ho proponent of military expansion.  If this is the map we’re getting from the folks trying to sell the war, how much worse is the real situation on the ground?

Rocket man and the dotard

It’s difficult to imagine that the leaders of North Korea and America could show significantly more antipathy toward each other than they do at present.  There is, unfortunately, room for escalation of tensions.  North Korea is currently threatening to detonate a hydrogen nuclear bomb in the earth’s atmosphere (NBC, BBC, The Atlantic, Business Insider).  It’s been about  37 years since anyone has thought to do something this stupid.  As regrettable as it would be to lose the millions of humans who live in Seoul and Tokyo, a neutralized North Korea does have a sort of appeal to it.