Friday, December 19, 2014

Apple takes a bite out of Asian workers

Apple has been building its products in Asian factories for many years.  As with Intel, Dell, HP, and other U.S. corporations, it uses subcontractors for many parts, with Taiwanese Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contractor, being the most well-known.  Foxconn became infamous in 2010 when 13-14 (reports differ) of its employees jumped to their deaths from the roof of one of its factories in Shenzhen, China.  The details around the suicides remain somewhat murky, but Foxconn eventually installed fences and anti-suicide nets on the roof to prevent further suicides.

At the time, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in October 2011, did not fly to the factory to personally investigate the deaths as he would had the factory been located in California.  He told the fawning audience at a U.S. conference: "Foxconn is not a sweatshop" and "We're all over this."  In any case, no member of management flew to China to research the tragedy as one would expect from a company with a slogan of "Every detail matters."

In 2010, 137 workers of Apple supplier Wintek were injured while using n-hexane to clean iPhone screens.  In 2011, four workers were killed in two different explosions caused by aluminum dust from iPad polishing being ignited.  Dust explosions are a known and preventable hazard in manufacturing, with the workers having previously complained that "the ventilation of the department is poor."

GlobalPost's expose, Silicon Sweatshops: Shattered Dreams, published in November 2009 just before the suicides, noted that factories in the Philippines, Taiwan, and China used by high-tech companies did not crack down on excessive placement fees for foreign workers, allowed brokers to retain passports of foreign workers, and looked the other way when brokers misappropriated a significant percentage of the worker's salary, essentially transforming that person into an indentured servant.

At the time, the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct stated that:
Suppliers must uphold the human rights of workers, and treat them with dignity and respect as understood by the international community ... Suppliers shall not use any form of forced, bonded, or indentured, or prison labor.  All work must be voluntary ... Except in emergency or unusual situations, a workweek shall be restricted to 60 hours, including overtime, and workers shall take at least one day off every seven-days.  All overtime shall be voluntary.

Its current Supplier Responsibility and Labor & Human Rights web pages read somewhat the same as before:
We’ve strengthened our programs to help suppliers protect student interns and other at-risk workers.  We're continuing our efforts to end excessive work hours.  In 2013, our suppliers achieved an average of 95 percent compliance with our maximum 60-hour workweek ... We limit workweeks to 60 hours except in unusual circumstances.  And all overtime must be absolutely voluntary ... The average hours worked per week was under 50 for all employees.  In 2013, we also tracked employees working at least 40 hours, and found they worked an average of 54 hours per week.  Over 97 percent of all workweeks met our requirement of at least one day of rest every seven days.

However, employees are still being forced to work more than 60 hours per week.  Chinese labor laws only allow 36 overtime hours per month, but workers are typically required to work 12-hour shifts -- 60 hours per week and 80 overtime hours per month for a five-day work week -- and working six or even seven days each week is common.  Workers are housed in dormitories where as many as 12 workers share a modest room.  Workers younger than 18 are common and treated no differently than adults in terms of working hours.

Given that Apple is the fifth-largest corporation in the world and pays virtually no corporate tax, it has plenty of money to pay its workers and give them a safe and humane working environment.

BBC News Panorama recently revisited the subject, using reporters as workers, this time investigating the factories of Pegatron (UK residents and those who use a VPN to mimic UK residency can view the video program, Apple's Broken Promises).  Panorama was able to photograph workers so exhausted they took naps during their 12-hour shifts.  One reporter was required to work 18 days in a row.  One reporter worked as long as 16 hours in one day.  Unpaid meetings both before and after work were common.

Panorama also visited the grittier end of the manufacturing process, traveling to the Indonesian island of Bangka to view the conditions of tin mines.  A 12-year-old boy was seen working with his father, with him admitting that he was worried about the soil giving way and burying him.

There is no indication that Apple CEO Tim Cook intends to witness the situation for himself.  Apple declined a Panorama interview, but released a statement: "We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions."

Next time you use an Apple product, beseech Saint Steve to grant some mercy for the Asian workers in Apple's supply chain.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fiction reference points

This post can be considered to be the extended footnotes for my fiction.

Operation Yazidi Forget-me-not is my daydream of what should happen to the Yazidi girls and women who have been kidnapped by Islamic State to be used as sexual slaves.  We should have rescued them as soon as they were taken, especially since they are now being sold in Islamic slave markets.  There are many online articles regarding the kidnapped Yazidi females, but readers can peruse some of the best ones here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

This was not the first time that Islamists targeted Yazidis.  In August 2007, al-Qaeda detonated four simultaneous car bombs, killing 796 and injuring 1562.  It was the second-worst terrorist act in history, with only the 9/11 attacks surpassing it.  The Yazidis did not release casualty breakdowns, but this was probably the largest death toll of children in the history of terrorism, exceeding even that of Beslan.

Barack Obama announced support for Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), the former of which was the same group with whom John McCain posed for photos, but they are not rebels in the Western point of view.  The SRF allied itself with al-Nusra in the past because both have the goal of removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, but al-Nusra is a franchise of al-Qaeda.  Both groups applauded U.S bombing of IS, yet they decried bombing of al-Nusra.  Air strikes against IS were denounced by al-Nusra as "a war against Islam."  This is why many people are opposed to arming any Syrian groups because it is likely that their arms will end up in the hands of IS just like it was able to acquire stockpiles of weapons from the Iraqi army.

There is a growing movement to kick Turkey out of NATO for its explicit support of IS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his predecessors have fought with Kurdish groups for many years even though Kurds and Turkey are both Sunni.  Erdogan dislikes Syria's Assad because Erdogan is an Islamist Sunni and Assad is Alawite, a version of Shia, with Assad having the audacity to crack-down on Sunni "rebels" who threaten his hold on power.  Erdogan supports IS even though it has buried alive some of its victims, including women and children, as well as sexually enslaving hundreds of women and girls.  He has refused to allow the U.S. to use Incirlik air base to fight IS, even though it is by far the closest base.  Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the vehicle used in the latest car bombing came from Turkish territory.

Erdogan has not forgotten to pamper himself, having just unveiled his new presidential palace with 1,000 rooms, costing in excess of $615 million and built in a national forest, similar to how Russian President Vladimir Putin built a personal palace on the Black Sea.  Erdogan gave us a window into his soul when he ludicrously proclaimed that "Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus."  He gave us another with his misogynist comment: "You cannot put women and men on an equal footing.  It is against nature."  He referred to a female journalist as a "shameless woman," telling her, "Know Your Place!"  He pines for the return of the Ottoman Empire, just as Putin pines for the return of the Soviet Union, with Assad stating that "he [Erdogan] personally thinks that he is the new sultan of the Ottomans and he can control the region as it was during the Ottoman Empire under a new umbrella.  In his heart he thinks he is a caliph."  There's a lot of that going around today.

Erdogan's war against Kurds is typical of his hypocrisy.  He declared in front of a Turkish audience in 2008 in Cologne, Germany: "I understand very well that you are against assimilation.  One cannot expect you to assimilate.  Assimilation is a crime against humanity."  Yet Turkish leaders have insisted for years that Kurds are not actually a separate people, called them instead "mountain Turks," prevented them from speaking Kurdish, and forced them to assimilate into Turkish society.

Erdogan and Obama are two peas in a pod.  In his first presidential campaign, the latter promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide in which almost two million Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and other non-Muslims were annihilated by the Ottoman Empire starting in 1894 with the Hamidian and Adana Massacres, but then he failed to make good on his promise.  He had another chance with the Armenian Orphan Rug, woven by 400 Armenian orphan girls living in exile in Lebanon.  It was originally given to Calvin Coolidge in 1925, with his family donating it to the U.S. government in 1982.  Since then it has mostly been in storage.  It was scheduled to be displayed at the Smithsonian in 2013, but the Obama administration cancelled it for reasons of their own, but certainly having to do with the fact that Turkey denies that its ancestor, the Ottoman Empire, committed genocide.  The rug is now on display in the White House Visitor's Center, but it is mixed together with other foreign gifts to the White House in a display called "Thank You to the United States: Three Gifts to Presidents in Gratitude for American Generosity Abroad."

After a woman is raped in Islamic countries, she has little chance of marriage, with rape victims viewed as outcasts, even as prostitutes. The many Yazidi girls kidnapped and raped by Islamist savages stand little change of a normal life.  Obama could give these girls and women a second chance by opening the immigration door to non-Muslims, especially Yazidis and Christians (Coptics, Armenians, Assyrians, and others) who have been the victims of Islamists.  He should even things out by closing the door to any more immigrations by Muslims, as we have had too many instances of local jihad as it is.  We would need to rescue the girls sexually enslaved by Islamic State, but that appears to only require the will to do something.  "The international community isn't investigating. They don't believe such a large number of women have been kidnapped by IS, said minority expert Khidher Domle, with that number being around 3000.  He has been able to talk to several captive Yazidi females via mobile phones.  He verified that girls as young as nine have been sold as sexual slaves.

The Russian President's last day in office is a sardonic, sometimes bawdy take on Putin's adventures in Ukraine.  Byez Rubashka translates to "without shirt," paying homage to Putin's practice of posing for photos without wearing a shirt.  The president's floozie is modeled after Putin's rhythmic gymnastics girlfriend, Alina Kabayeva, with Gimnastka translating to "gymnast."  Putin really does have a $1+ billion palace on the Black Sea.  Boobs-R-Us refers to Femen, the feminist organization famous for displaying breasts as a political protest, with "boobs" having two meanings.  The juxtaposition of Rubashka and Boobs-R-Us removing their shirts is intentional.  Femen is originally from Ukraine, but is now based in Paris.  Ubistvo Lyubovnik translates to "murder lover."  Ciao Kakao is Russian, rhyming slang comparable to a 1950's song, "See you later, alligator," and cannot be taken literally.  Kakao is the Russian word for "cocoa," referring to the chocolate factory Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko owns.  Labia Likov's last name is pronounced "lick-off."  Onher Chappedbutt was the best I could do with the name of Anna Chapman, the Russian spy and outstanding sex partner who was deported in 2010.  Sneg translates to "snow" (then add "den").  All other names can be researched via an English dictionary.

Currently there are more than 800,000 Russians from Ukraine who have moved to cities in Russia because their house or neighborhood was bombed.  It is unknown if they will return, especially given the animosity which has developed between Ukrainians and Russian separatists.  And the separatists who have stayed are ridiculing, beating, kidnapping, and imprisoning people with different points of view, as was true in the Soviet Union they idolize.  Whether volunteer mercenaries or Russian regulars, troops with modern weaponry arrive via Russia on a regular basis.  Some separatists fear that that the Ukrainian army will impress them into service, just as Bolsheviks did during the Russian Revolution, but as usual, the separatists have it backwards.  Russian soldiers are being sent to Ukraine to fight, and if they are captured, Russia disavows all knowledge of their orders and declares them to be traitors, similar to what happened after the end of WWII when recently released Russian POWs were sent to the gulag after arrival back home for allegedly consorting with the enemy.

The murder of 333 children, parents, and teachers at Beslan was Russia's 9/11, just like the downing of MH17 was the Netherlands' 9/11, with separatists not concerned that their side was responsible for the murder of 298 children, women, and men.  And just like George W. Bush who attempted to derail the 9/11 Commission because he knew it would accentuate his incompetence, Putin never supported an honest investigation of Beslan.  The mistakes made in Beslan ten years ago are many: ignoring warnings, allowing the savages to bribe their way through checkpoints, possibly allowing the pre-positioning of weapons in the school building, never securing the scene to prevent amateurs from triggering a bloodbath (there are photos on the Internet), and the lack of a coherent plan.  To this day it is unclear exactly what happened.  Another national screw-up was the Moscow Nord-Ost siege where many hostages died because Moscow planners failed to account for the highly toxic gas used to incapacitate the savages, with many hostages drowning in their vomit because no one was told to simply turn them onto their stomachs to allow them to vomit the poison out.  For further insights into the people of the Caucasus, search for "kavkaz" (or "Кавказ") on YouTube to find lots of videos of dancing at weddings, but also some videos (here's one) of wolves, pretty local women, and minarets interspersed with drawings of assault rifles and other military weapons.  Not surprisingly, the Islamic State has now declared the Islamic countries of the Caucasus, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan, to be the location of their next Islamic war.

The West must draw a line and not one of Obama's amateur-hour red-lines.  If Putin wants a proxy war, then we must give him one.  Supply Ukraine with missile-firing drones, M270 MLRS, M142 HIMARS, and other relevant weapon systems, and train Ukrainians how to use them effectively.  We can bleed Russia dry by trading drone missiles for battle tanks and armored vehicles, not to mention eliminating the many Grad, Buk, and other rocket/missile systems.  And we'd better have a plan ready in case Putin's green men appear in Estonia and Latvia.

Finland is persuaded to join NATO is my daydream of what a competent politician could do vis-à-vis Vladimir Putin's hints at annexing the portions of Eastern European countries with large Russian populations.  This story is a fictionalized version of The guerrilla solution to Vladimir Putin's threats to invade Finland if it joins NATO and Barack Obama's potential JFK moment, although Obama actually appears to be a deer frozen in the international headlights.  The story starts with a mention of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 which divided Eastern Europe between two ruthless dictators, Hitler and Stalin, and installed Trojan Horses in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the form of large numbers of ethnic Russians.  Russian soldiers keep getting lost in Ukraine, so it's likely Putin has ideas about Finland too.  Herbert Hoover was given the credit he deserves for his many humanitarian missions around the world, starting during WWI and continuing past WWII.

Press conference regarding the Malvinas reconquest by Argentina is a possible outcome of an obvious gap in the UK's defense strategy.  For a number of years, Britain will not have any carriers capable of carrying fixed-wing aircraft and will only have one helicopter carrier starting at the end of 2014.  The window of opportunity will only last until the first of the new carriers is ready in 2017-18.  Argentina would never get another chance like this.  The time frame of the press conference is February 2015.  I got the idea for this story from the online comments of Brits who believe their country is the British Empire of old, even though Britain today is the land where Muslim men groom, rape, and share Sikh and other non-Muslim girls as young as 11 and police treat the victims as "stupid, naughty" girls.  The UK is the origin for a large number of ISIS killers.  And Birmingham is ground-zero for the Islamist Trojan Horse plot to surreptitiously convert public schools into madrasahs.

The demise and resurrection of North Korea is my hopeful vision of an implosion of North Korea.  Originally it was the main narrative of a larger story called The war of immiscible ideas which was presented in multiple chapters (TWOII was deleted).  Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it is obvious that TWOII was a terrible name, though not nearly as bad as Saucy Mugwump.  I updated the narrative to reflect current events, added a character or two, and improved the writing.  It all started with a BBC News story on South Korean women becoming military officers after the sinking of the Cheonan and other provocations by North Korea.  The concept of historical fiction came from B.R. Myers' book, The Cleanest Race, which noted that North Korea publishes sycophantic historical fiction regarding the life of Kim Il-sung, though I took it in a decidedly different direction.  I continued my research in Could an implosion of North Korea result in WWIII? which speculated on the events which would follow a collapse of the DPRK.

Originally, Bling Ka-ching was meant to be a rip-off of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un's uncle, but I made him a minor character, the mayor of Pyongyang, after he was executed.  Jang's real-life wife was Kim Kyong-hui who became Kim Alco-hol in the story.  She is reputed to be an alcoholic and in poor health.  Yoo Tok-ki (whose name was created using the Korean word for rabbit) was the woman seen in a surreptitiously filmed North Korean video, with her frail body just about to give out.  The scenes involving orphans originated from stories in Radio Free Asia, the Telegraph, and PBS Frontline.  I obtained a point of view of China from a dissident, Bao Tong, via his Under House Arrest column.  Christian Talvela is, of course, my Jack Ryan, albeit with absolutely no explanation of his background.  This story just might be the longest blog post on the Internet.

The take-down of the labor camps was intentionally sparse because, for me, the immediate aftermath is the most interesting portion.  Also, I do not believe I could do justice to the dynamics of a raid along the lines of the one at Son Tay.  That said, it is fairly well accepted that prisoners in the labor camps would be executed during an implosion.  A UN report stated that guards "received orders to kill all prisoners in case of an armed conflict or revolution so as to destroy the primary evidence of the camps' existence."  The report "also explained that specific plans exist on how to implement the order and that drills were held on how to kill large numbers of prisoners in a short period of time."  Kim Il-sung was the creator of that strategy, as well as for Songbun, the DPRK's caste system, and the scheme where one's relatives suffer the same punishment as the accused.

From a project management point of view, the removal of Kim is critically essential.  He would need to be killed or at the very least, arrested and jailed, but Kim Jong-un has personal bodyguards in the Guard Command.  Soldiers from the 43rd Infantry Brigade recently fired on a vehicle carrying soldiers from the Guard Command, killing one of them.  As RFA noted, Kim "came unglued" and replaced the entire leadership of the Brigade.  It is likely that the Guards are pampered and therefore loyal to Kim, in contrast to the Brigade which is a special forces unit.  To eliminate Kim, one would need to penetrate the Guards.  Given the problems with the Brigade -- "Gunfights within the army show how lack of discipline has become a serious problem," said a source -- perhaps there is great resentment within the regular army for the special treatment of the Guard.  Or perhaps this was merely an incident of soldiers choosing to shoot rather than risk subsequent dereliction of duty charges if the vehicle had contained a lesser class of North Korean, similar to what happened in 2008 to when a South Korean female tourist walked over a forbidden line at the Mount Kumgang tourist resort.

China would not readily relinquish control of North Korea.  As I first mentioned in North Korea is China's useful idiot, China uses North Korea as a buffer zone against the West.  North Korea's rare earths deposits are essential to keeping China's industry humming.  China has done whatever it took to maintain the status quo in the DPRK, including deporting North Korean refugees back to almost certain death, as my posts In memory of nine North Korean orphans and China is murdering North Korean refugees noted.  And both China and Russia covet North Korea's ice-free port of Rajin.  A likely scenario, in a Chinese remake of Sherman's March to the Sea, is that Chinese armored forces blaze a trail east, with the people trapped north of Chinese forces possibly doomed to die of starvation while the armies danced.  U.S. and ROK forces intervening to prevent mass starvation could easily trigger a five-way war, including Russia trying to safeguard its railway to Rajin, given that China would not negotiate any line of demarcation and would demand that interlopers leave immediately.

The Japanese Prime Minister's last day in office is a possible outcome of the current Japanese government's dalliances with organized crime (the yakuza) in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant clean-up, Japan's head-in-the-sand attitude with respect to its actions in WWII, and Japan's conflict with China over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands.  Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has proven to be ideology-driven.  His constant visits to the Yasukuni Shrine where Class A war criminals are enshrined play well to his base, but they are alienating his neighbors, especially South Korea with respect to the "comfort women."  One would think he would realize that Japan would need friends in the neighborhood if a war with China were to occur.  And his relentless drive to neuter Japan's righteous "comfort women" apology continues unabated, with the latest chapter being the nation's largest newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, apologizing for Japan's previous apology.

The National Archives' Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group understands better than anyone that the atrocities of the Nazis and 1934-45 Japan are comparable.  The West knows of "The Angel of Death," Josef Mengele, but is not generally aware that worse crimes occurred in Imperial Japan under Ishii Shiro.  Japanese apologists refer to Ishii's Unit 731 by its original, innocuous name, the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army.  General Douglas MacArthur allowed many of the monsters from Unit 731 to go free to allow their "research" to be used in the U.S. and Britain's Cold War fight against communism -- their vivisections on conscious patients without anesthesia were truly world-class atrocities -- though MacArthur's decisions were approved at the very top levels of government.  Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his fellow fascists often visit the Yasukuni Shrine where many of the monsters, including 14 Class A war criminals, are enshrined, yet Emperor Akihito has never visited it.

The National Archives offers two starting points for those who wish to research Japan's wartime atrocities, Researching Japanese War Crimes: Introductory Essays and Select Documents on Japanese War Crimes and Japanese Biological Warfare 1934-2006.  The authors noted that much of the material has never been used in published books, even thought the list of horrors is long and appalling.  One wonders if that is because the subject matter does not lend itself to being read by an audience which idolizes celebrity airheads or whether there are politically-correct considerations at play here.  Japanese apologists who often claim that the dropping of two atomic bombs was unnecessary because Japan was ready and willing to surrender should read the timeline of the first half of 1945: "The sharp increase in Japanese attacks using free balloons was seen initially as a potential [biological warfare] weapon threatening crops, if not people."  The reason why Unit 731 is not well-known today can be expressed in a sentence from the timeline of the second half of 1946: "Secretary of War and Joint Research & Development Board recommended that all information about the biological warfare program be held at the TOP SECRET level."  Apologists should also note that 70% of relevant documents were destroyed by Japanese authorities, unlike in Germany where most were retrieved.

The U.S. versus the accelerated dragon requires some knowledge of chess history on the part of the reader to be fully appreciated.  All character names were taken from famous chess players and the "accelerated dragon" from the title is a playing strategy.  The insects mentioned in the story actually exist and appear to be cousins of bed bugs.  Demand CS will kill them, but applying it properly and safely is crucial.

Bao Tong's commentaries, 'Mao And Deng Were The Same, And We Should Ditch Them' and Deng Xiaoping 'Opened The Floodgates' For Corruption, explained how China migrated from crazed communists to corrupt capitalists.  Another RFA editorial, The Only Thing Left For China Now is Revolution, by Wei Jingsheng, someone who served 18 years in Chinese prisons for "counterrevolutionary" activities, noted that China is essentially controlled by "26 hereditary family groups," in other words, China is no different than other oligarchies.  Last but not least is 'Everyone is Responsible For This Evil' which pointed out the evils of Mao's Red Guards who were instrumental in the millions murdered in the Cultural Revolution.  The photo on this last commentary is worth a thousand words, as it depicts a Chinese bride and groom dressed as Red Guards, suggesting that Red Guards are to China what Elvis is to the U.S.

The British Prime Minister's last day in office is fairly long and meanders through many current events and potential outcomes thereof.  It was triggered by comments from some of the survivors of the Utøya Island massacre in 2011 that they were planning to increase immigration for and give special rights to Muslims, heedless of what is happening in Britain with respect to local jihadists, in protest against the mass murder by the neo-Nazi fruitcake, Anders Behring Breivik (named Beavis, from Beavis and Butthead, in the story).  The names of the prime minister and other politicians were satirically designed, with the names of the two journalists borrowed from British and American literature.  Sweden, where headscarf fiction becomes reality was a follow-up post.  I would not write it again in its present form as it deals with too many issues.  Many people misunderstood my main point that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not a recommended practice.

Europe has a serious problem with out-of-control Muslim men.  One Muslim man struck and killed a 22-year-old woman in Germany (see video here) after she came to the aid of two teenaged girls who were being harassed by a small group of Muslim men in a McDonald's restroom.  Germany has seen a proxy war erupt between IS supporters and ethnic Kurds, similar to the real war going on every day in Kobani and other places in the Middle East.  More than 1000 people have left France and possibly more have left the UK to join IS.  British Muslims have tried to take over schools in Birmingham and convert them into madrassahs.  Teenaged girls have been groomed for sex by Muslim men in Birmingham, Burton-upon-Trent, Manchester, Oxford, Rotherham, Telford, and many other cities throughout Britain because Muslims do not respect non-Muslim girls.  One British police officer said regarding "rape jihad": "There isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.  We should start from the assumption that children are being sexually exploited right the way across the country."

In Norway, a Norwegian-Pakistani imam, Fayed Sarased Ali Bukhari, seeks to establish a madrassah for 200 children in Grønland, a Muslim neighborhood in Oslo, and said: "If a person doesn't fast during Ramadan, he is mocking Islam.  And if the person is in a Muslim state, the authorities must behead him."  And an Islamic group demanded that the country cede territory for a sharia mini-state located only a five to ten minute walk from Oslo Central Station or a 9/11-style attack will commence:
We do not want to be a part of Norwegian society.  And we do not consider it necessary either to move away from Norway, because we were born and grew up here.  And Allah's earth belongs to everybody.  But let Grønland become ours.  Bar this city quarter and let us control it the way we wish to do it.  This is the best for both parts.  We do not wish to live together with dirty beasts like you.

Religious sex dolls is a one-off, disparaging religions and pretentious celebrities via bawdy humor.  It's more of an extended dirty joke.  Only people who pay attention to the American national soap opera will fully appreciate the humor.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The rise of Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, confirms that he is firmly in control of the DPRK

The DPRK has announced that Kim Jong-un's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, is now part of the government.  She is a departmental vice director within the party’s Central Committee, a position more or less equal to a vice Cabinet minister.

This announcement would normally only be interesting to DPRK watchers, except that it confirms something which has been debated since Kim Jong-un took power after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in December 2011.

The minority view is that Kim Jong-un is merely a puppet, with the military pulling the strings.  People espousing this point of view hold him to be innocent of all DPRK crimes, blaming the military for executing his uncle, Jang Song-taek.

Another data point of the minority is that the recent visit by the top military leaders proves that they, not Kim Jong-un, are in charge.  The true believers of this theory even claim that these military leaders were accompanied by numerous bodyguards equivalent to what Kim would normally bring.  Of course, this is not that easy to prove.

But there would be no advantage whatsoever for the military in bringing Kim Yo-jong into the government, especially the male-oriented DPRK.  On the contrary, it would offer the possibility of the two Kims colluding to wrest power from the military.

For better or worse, Kim Jong-un, not the military, is in firm control of North Korea.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

No one ever gave Russia a guarantee that the Baltic Countries would not join the EU and NATO

One of the justifications Russians give for the military assistance Russia is giving the Russian separatists in Ukraine is that NATO reneged on its promise to not allow the Baltic Countries to join it and especially not to place military bases there.  In other words, their claim is that NATO broke the compact, not Russia, leaving Russia morally free to coerce Ukraine into joining Vladimir Putin's Eurasian Economic Union.

However, that's just not true.

The Baltic Countries were admitted to the United Nations on September 17, 1991.  Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania participated in the first meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council as founding members on December 20, 1991, making them NATO partner countries five days before the Soviet Union ceased to exist on December 25, 1991.

NATO and Russia signed an agreement, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation, in May 1997, but it does not include language restricting NATO from expanding into the Baltic Countries or placing military bases there.  The only mention of the word "Baltic" is in this sentence: "Russia has carried out deep reductions in its armed forces, has withdrawn its forces on an unprecedented scale from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries and withdrawn all its nuclear weapons back to its own national territory."

There are other relevant sentences, with NATO and Russia agreeing to the principles of:
  • refraining from the threat or use of force against each other as well as against any other state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence in any manner inconsistent with the United Nations Charter and with the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States contained in the Helsinki Final Act;
  • respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples' right of self-determination as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents.

Both parties agreed that neither one had a veto power: "Provisions of this Act do not provide NATO or Russia, in any way, with a right of veto over the actions of the other nor do they infringe upon or restrict the rights of NATO or Russia to independent decision-making and action. They cannot be used as a means to disadvantage the interests of other states."

Both parties agreed that nuclear weapons were not to be situated in the Baltic Countries, but that's not an issue today: "The member States of NATO reiterate that they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO's nuclear posture or nuclear policy - and do not foresee any future need to do so."

The one sentence that Russians probably claim is the smoking gun is: "The member States of NATO and Russia reaffirm that States Parties to the CFE Treaty should maintain only such military capabilities, individually or in conjunction with others, as are commensurate with individual or collective legitimate security needs, taking into account their international obligations, including the CFE Treaty."

The Baltic Countries only possess a handful of modern fighter aircraft, putting the matter in perspective.  Even now, the number of fighters in the combined Baltic Countries totals to 12.  But from Russia's point of view, the part about "their international obligations" is a loophole large enough for Putin to drive a Lada through, with Russia whining that the territory near its borders should be free of foreign military equipment for a good number of multiples of the distance a BUK missile flies.

The border between Latvia and Russia was not settled until March 2007 because Russia refused to accept that its predecessor, the Soviet Union, had annexed the unwilling Latvia in 1940 via the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The border between Estonia and Russia was not settled until February 2014 because Russia refused to agree on the language and conditions. Not coincidentally, there is a large number of Russians in these countries.

The problem has always been Putin's Russia.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Kurdistan is the new Israel

The Obama administration refuses to allow the Kurds to sell oil independently of Iraq because it is showing solidarity with the Bush administration who foolishly believed that Iraq would be a stable country.  The Kurds are selling oil to Israel, but the U.S. refused to allow an oil tanker to dock in the U.S. because it would bypass the corrupt and prone-to-infighting Iraq government.  The Obama administration cannot quite grasp the reality that Iraq would only be stable under a dictator like Saddam Hussein and that preventing the Kurds from selling oil is only making the situation worse.

The Obama administration buried its head in Middle Eastern sand by thinking that some of the Islamic groups fighting in Syria were moderate and worthy of our support.  One group is the Free Syrian Army (FSA).  One Facebook posting from FSA admitted the reality of the Syrian civil war: "Tragedy with Muslims is , whenever Muslims start legit fight against barbarism and cruelty, the so called Islamic guardians hijack it and paint it in wahabism.  ISIS is not less dangerous than israel or Makiki govt. or Barbarism of Asad.  World should arm FSA ans consider it as legitimate alternative power after Barbaric Assad."

Not surprisingly, two of the "moderate" groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front, ones to which we have given sophisticated weaponry, have now surrendered to Jabhat al-Nusra, the franchise of al-Qaeda in the region, similar to what happened with the Iraqi army, the weapons of which ended up in the hands of Islamic State (IS) which now uses them against Yazidis, Kurds, Christians, and Shia Muslims.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said while participating in a Middle East panel of the Academy of Achievement in Chicago in September 2007: "Turkey is not a country where moderate Islam prevails.  This expression is wrong.  The word Islam is uninflected, it is only Islam.  If you say moderate Islam, then an alternative is created, and that is immoderate Islam.  As a Muslim, I can't accept such a concept.  Islam rejects extreme concepts.  I am not an extreme Muslim.  We are Muslims who have found a middle road."

The above explains why Erdogan supports Islamic State, because both support a literal interpretation of the Koran which always leads to brutality.  Joe Biden innocently stated that Turkey has assisted IS killers by allowing them to travel freely through the country as well as giving them aid, but he was forced to retract his words.  Biden previously annoyed the same people when he opined that aiding Islamists opposed to Syrian secular rule inflamed the situation.  In both cases, Biden was correct.

The main Kurdish group in Turkey, the PKK, was designated a terrorist group mainly because Turkey, a NATO member, wanted to eliminate Kurdish culture and have only Turkish culture within its borders.  This explains why the Kurds have been the only people to fight IS to prevent them from killing or enslaving all Kurds and Yazidis.  It also explains why Turkey allows IS to travel freely through Turkey to the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.

* * * * *

In the many photos of female Kurdish fighters (see here, here, here, and here), two things should be noted.  First, the photos look similar to those of Israeli soldiers, i.e. they are just members of a larger group.  And second, the photos rarely depict the women wearing Islamic headscarves which would be highly counterproductive for soldiers needing good peripheral vision.

The Kurds can provide what the Bush administration always dreamed of, a democratic Islamic country.  The Kurds can show the world that an Islamic country can allow its women to walk around free of headscarves, just as women used to do in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Turkey before Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Syria under Bashar al-Assad, though the last will disappear unless the Islamists can be stopped.

Iraq as a single country is doomed to suffer the 1400-year-old Sunni-Shia civil war until another dictator takes control, another legacy of the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement.  "Iraq is descending into open civil war.  Gangs of Shi'ite militia, put together to take on the Sunni-led Islamic State, now roam the country looking for battles to win -- often against Sunni civilians," John Lloyd opined.  A year ago, the main business of Baghdad's main forensics lab was paternity tests, but now cleaning up after suicide bombs, the favored weapon of IS, takes up most of the lab's time.

If Kurdistan had been created when it should have been during the Versailles Conference, it would have consisted of the current Kurdish portions of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran (for more on this topic, read "Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed The World" by Margaret MacMillan).

Iran is worried that the creation of Kurdistan might lead to other minorities demanding their independence.  Given that the current government was created via a popular uprising, they might have a selfish point.  However, Iran is worried about IS and its Sunni fanatics, so it could probably be coerced in participating.

Turkey may have accepted the reality of a Kurdistan, with Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for the Justice and Development Party, saying to the Kurdish press: "The Kurds, like any other nation, will have the right to decide their fate ... Turkey has been supporting the Kurdistan region till now and will continue this support."  Then again, Erdogan is possibly too busy creating his palatial estates, e.g. his $615 million palace which is four times the size of the one at Versailles and his $185 million custom Airbus jet.

Syria opposes the creation of Kurdistan, but given the circling of the Syrian wagons against the many Islamist groups, there might be some room for negotiation.  Islamists in Syria have accused the Kurds of collaborating with Syria because they have not mindlessly joined the Islamist cause of death and destruction on an industrial scale.  PYD leader Saleh Muslim Mohammed said of the Islamists, "They want to establish Islamic rule, and for the Kurds this is not acceptable."  Erdogan said Syria's Kurds should not try to set up an autonomous region, warning that "these steps they are taking are wrong and dangerous," contradicting what Celik said regarding a Kurdistan region in Iraq.  Perhaps Erdogan intends to carve up Syria if Assad is overthrown.

The U.S. is opposed to the creation of Kurdistan and not only because it is continuing Bush's wet dream of democracy in Iraq.  Obama promised to recognize the Armenian Genocide during his first campaign, but he immediately forgot about his pledge because Turkey, a NATO member, would have thrown a hissy fit.  Turkey firmly believes that its ancestor, the Ottoman Empire, was not responsible for the almost two million Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and other non-Muslims massacred starting in the last two decades of the 1800s and continuing to the end of WWI (for more on this topic, read "The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide And America's Response" by Peter Balakian).

It would require bold negotiations, but the Kurdish portion of Iraq should be used to create a permanent homeland for Kurds and Yazidis, where Christians could live without fear of Islamists.  If Iraq's government complains, it should be told to go and pound sand regarding its claim on the territory.  Iran's government should be reassured that no one is intending to slice off the Kurdish section.  The PKK should be told that secessionist movements would not be tolerated because they would jeopardize the new country.  The tricky part would involve negotiations with Syria, but Assad might welcome the prospect of Kurds in the eastern region of his country fighting against Islamists attempting to install sharia, allowing Assad to concentrate on the Islamists closer to home.  All countries would be required to allow Kurds to travel freely within the Kurdish regions which would reduce the inflaming of secessionist emotions.

The U.S. should give heavy weapons to the Kurds and not worry about them being transferred to Islamists because of their good behavior in the past.  And Turkey must be persuaded to close its border to Islamists looking to join the fight in Syria and Iraq.

Peter Galbraith, longtime advocate of the Kurds, stated: "The desire to become independent is part of the consciousness of every Kurd ... They really feel like they are fighting and dying for something."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Purging Islamists worldwide and the dogs of war

I visited Ottawa about ten years ago in the month of September.  As an American, I was struck by the similarities between it and a typical northern U.S. city.  American comedians sometimes make fun of Canadian accents, but in truth it is difficult to distinguish between Americans and Canadians.  I really liked the city, not least because I did not experience any "wilding" gangs as I would have in Chicago and other U.S. cities.

I visited the mint.  We were required to complete paperwork before entering the mint and an employee asked which province I was from.  I told him "the really big one down south with the obnoxious residents."  All of the employees chuckled at my remark.

I walked along the Rideau Canal.  I walked though the streets of the ByWard Market and ate in a delightful seafood restaurant.  I perused the artwork in the National Gallery.  I explored the Ottawa Locks and admired the views from the riverbank.   Then I walked to Parliament Hill.  Perhaps Parliament was not in session that day, but I was surprised that I was able to walk around the building with no interference whatsoever.  I did not see any guards with serious expressions on their faces, let alone assault rifles, as one would see in Washington.

I'm sure there are guards everywhere now that yet another Islamist, ironically the son of Susan Bibeau, Deputy Chairperson of the Immigration Division of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, has committed in-country jihad.  Mark Steyn accurately noted that "the price of welcoming and incubating and growing Islam in the west is, ultimately, the loss of everything else."

* * * * *

Early in From Russia with Love, there is a scene where Rosa Klebb, Spectre's #3, is being shown around a Spectre training camp by Morzeny.  He shows her agents engaged in target practice, hand-to-hand combat, and other endeavors.  She comments, "Training is good but there is no substitute for experience."  Morzeny answers, "I agree, we use live targets as well."  During their conversation we are treated to the sight of men running across a stage with others trying to burn them with flamethrowers.

* * * * *

The reasons Islamic State has sexually enslaved Yazidi girls are arcane, but they boil down to Muslims believing that Yazidis are the lowest ranking infidels and ripe for the picking.  Muslims believe that Christians and Jews, while ranking much, much lower than Muslims, deserve better treatment than all other non-Islamic religions because they are "of the book," meaning that God introduced himself in both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospels.  Religions that are not "of the book" are deserving of no pity whatsoever.  Add to that the fact that Yazidis have a belief structure which can be misinterpreted as devil worship and the reasons for the Yazidi slaughter and enslavement become clearer.  Muslims believe that all prophets later than Muhammad are false ones, with Bahais and Mormons being considered equal to Yazidis, but Christians and Jews could easily consider Muhammad to be a false prophet and enslave them without pity.

France24's Leela Jacinto blogged that sexual tourism is a prime reason why IS has specifically enslaved Yazidi girls, with most IS savages joining because it is their only chance to rape many girls, especially virgins.  She noted that the IS publication "The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour" ends with the authors pining for the good old days of slavery and includes the following justification: "The desertion of slavery has led to an increase in fahishah (adultery, fornication, etc.), because ... a man who cannot afford marriage to a free woman finds himself surrounded by temptation and sin ... many Muslim families who have hired maids to work at their homes [face this problem] whereas if [the maid] was his concubine, this relationship would be legal."

So, to summarize: Muslim men have absolutely no self-control and are therefore justified in sexually enslaving non-Islamic women.  And it's not their fault; it's the fault of women for being there.

IS released a video which succinctly summarized the position of Islamists: "If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French-- or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war ... then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner."

Note that a variant of the word "disbeliever" was used three times in the one sentence.  This is in keeping with the Koran which orders Muslims to give non-believers three choices: convert to Islam, pay the jizya (a tax on infidels), or fight to the death.  And it should not surprise that Muslim boys are demonstrably more violent than non-Muslim ones.

Der Spiegel interviewed an Islamic State recruiter who largely quoted from the Koran:
  • "A Muslim is a person who follows Allah's laws without question.  Sharia is our law.  No interpretation is needed, nor are laws made by men."
  • "When we someday have power, inshallah, in the entire world, then Sharia will be imposed.  Such people will then have to atone for their behavior."
  • "It is every Muslim's duty to fight those of a different belief until only Allah is worshipped around the world.  Everybody has the opportunity to accept Allah and to change to the right path."
  • "They (the Unbelievers) wish that you reject Faith as they have rejected Faith, and thus that you all become equal.  So take not protectors or friends from them till they emigrate in the Way of Allah.  But if they turn back from Islam, take hold of them and kill them wherever you find them and take neither protectors nor friends nor helpers from them."
  • "One should kill or expel unbelievers wherever one finds them."

We can get a taste of sharia by remembering what happened in March 2002 in Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabi doctrine of which overlaps with that of Islamic State in "puritanism and xenophobia toward non-Muslims and Shiite."  A girl's school was engulfed in flames, but the religious police, a/k/a the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, refused to allow the girls to exit without wearing suitable Islamic clothing.  15 girls died in the fire.  One witness described seeing three religious policemen "beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya."  The religious policemen prevented passers-by from assisting, saying that "it is a sinful to approach them."

Western countries have devised three solutions to Islamists who believe that they have the right to kill and enslave infidels:
  1. Prison.  The U.S. created Islamic prisons in Guantanamo but liberals constantly rail against them, claiming that the inmates should be set free.  There is recidivism rate of around 30% for released Guantanamo inmates, so the inmates are not the cuddly innocents liberals would have us believe.  And it is a very costly solution, with each inmate costing the U.S. $900,000 per year because they are so dangerous they must be managed by small teams of soldiers.  Liberals sometimes assert that Guantanamo inmates must be set free because they are merely soldiers in a war, and soldiers cannot be held indefinitely according to the Geneva Accords, but they ignore two important points.  First, Islamists have not signed the Geneva Accords.  And second, we are legally entitled to hold them in POW camps until the war is over.
  2. Deport to Islamic country.  At first glance, this would appear to be the best solution but all it does it send the problem somewhere else.  And given what we have seen in Iraq and Syria, we end up substituting innocents of another country for the ones who would have been killed locally.
  3. Retain in country.  This is the solution of choice for the West, but it has a major disadvantage in that these savages are determined to commit jihad, so they simply do it in their home country.  As the old liberal saying goes: think globally, act locally.  This results in Islamists attacking police officers with hatchets, Islamists shooting soldiers, Islamists exploding bombs in public places and cutting throats, Islamist women demanding to dress and act as they do in Islamic countries, and countless other incidents.

The above solutions do not really account for the many Islamists who travel to foreign countries to commit jihad.  The liberal press had great fun with the two hapless Islamists who ordered Islam for Dummies and Koran for Dummies before their adventure, asserting that the incident proved that Islam has nothing to do with their murderous urges, but that just proved that some Islamists are too impatient to learn Arabic so they can read the Koran in its original language.  One of the killers in Kenya's Westgate mall was a 23-year-old Norwegian national of Somali origin.  The wife of one of London's 7/7 bombers, Samantha Lewthwaite, is on the run and dangerousJihad Jane set out to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks who drew unflattering cartoons of Muhammad.

And Islamists are joining IS from all over the world: from Canada, Germany, Chechnya, Australia, and Central Asia.  More than 1000 IS recruits enter Syria each month, contradicting the politically-correct, popular opinion that IS is merely a fad and will end soon.  Child soldiers are being taught how to behead "blonde, blue-eyed dolls."  Kyung-wha Kang, U.N. assistant secretary-general, said: "In the past month nearly 200,000 people have fled ISIL's brutal advance and sought refuge in Turkey."

We need a different solution.

We should create a deadly game between Islamist suicide bombers and mercenaries, a cross between the aforementioned scenes in From Russia with Love and The Running Man, with jihadists and discredited soldiers of fortune, starting with former Blackwater employees, battling in a controlled and televised environment.  This would give jihadists the opportunity to earn their 72 virgins via combat with infidels, as well as allowing the world to rid itself of rabid animals.

The Islamists already being held in Guantanamo and other camps, as well as the ones collected in the many battlefields around the world or arrested while planning or committing acts of jihad are available.  Islamists traveling to battlefields for jihad can be detained.  But the remainder will require more devious means.  I'm sure government psychologists can devise schemes similar to the ones U.S. law enforcement arranges from time to time, where criminals are persuaded to attend a gathering after hearing that they won the lottery or another event designed to appeal to their greed.  Perhaps we could arrange a remake of the Love Boat, only this time call it the Jihad Boat where jihadists will ostensibly be entertained with appropriate activities, educated in armed combat, and study the Koran.

We should hold it in a burned-out city devoid of innocents and surrounded by razor wire to prevent collateral damage.  Mercenaries would be allowed to bring the shotgun of their choice -- rifles would not be sporting -- with them being offered their choice of ammunition containing 12-gauge buckshot supplied by the emcee to prevent cheating.  Jihadists would be given a fully-functional suicide vest with a radio-controlled on/off switch to prevent them from simply killing their handlers.  Vests would be designed to explode if struck by buckshot on any side and would contain shrapnel in the form of embedded, steel nuts, i.e. this would be the same type of vest Islamists use to kill innocent people around the world.  Jihadists could explode their vests via a switch mounted on the vest.  Video cameras would be situated throughout the area to allow viewers to witness the entire spectacle, with viewers paying a hefty pay-per-view fee to benefit victims of jihad around the world.

Given that Muslims think dogs are unclean and that Sunni Islamists will issue death threats for Muslims who pet them -- a clear illustration of why Islam is incompatible with the West which loves man's best friend -- we should call it Dogs of War.

Another alternative would be to find an uninhabited island or group of small islands somewhere in the world, perhaps one(s) used in the past for nuclear tests.  We'd need to first scour the land and surrounding waters for shipwrecks and airplane wreckage that could be used to craft boats with which to escape.  Given that the Islamists would eat every animal they find, we'd need to choose islands with no endangered and/or intelligent species.  Then we would transport Islamists -- men only to prevent breeding -- to the island and allow Darwin's laws to take effect.  Female Islamists generally follow the lead of their men, so we might be able to place the small number of incorrigible ones in traditional prisons.

We'd kill many birds with one stoning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

FICTION: Operation Yazidi Forget-me-not


This is an international group.  Every team going into action will have Kurds for language duty and French troopers because France has a great deal of expertise in Africa and the Middle East.  The vast majority of the armored troops are Americans.

Islamic State acquired T-72 tanks and other weaponry largely because Iraqi soldiers ran away like little girls in Mosul and other locations, leaving their weapons behind, but also because Gulf oil states have given military aid to Islamists in the region.  IS has Chinese-made, shoulder-fired missiles which they used to shoot-down Iraqi army helicopters and Yugoslavian-made anti-tank weapons, both of which were once owned by so-called moderate Syrian rebels.  Today's rebels are tomorrow's terrorists.  These weapons forced us to make certain decisions.

We will be working in the border region bordering Iraq and Syria.  We made an arrangement with Syria so its air-defense systems will not bother us -- I mean, here we are in Syria -- not to mention that we have elements in and coordination with Jordan.

IS believes us to be infidel pansies, afraid to get our boots dirty.  That was a fatal error on their part.

IS savages kidnapped hundreds of Yazidi girls and forced them into sexual slavery.  We have a high degree of confidence that we know their current location from interviewing escapees and drone surveillance.  More than a few have been given as gifts to older Muslim men, but we believe we know where those girls are as well.

Over the past week, we air-dropped serious weaponry, not just grenades and rifles, to Kurdish fighters.  We made an arrangement with them to not use them until this morning, when they started an all-out offensive in Kobani and other locations.  IS is now being forced to defend its territory; they are on the defensive.

At the same time we initiated a massive air assault on all tanks, flak guns, armored vehicles, pickups with machine guns or anti-aircraft guns, artillery pieces, heavy mortars, arms depots, and targets of opportunity, in support of Kurdish forces and independently, all over IS territory.  We have not played favorites, geographically-speaking, so IS will not be able to discern our intentions.  Perhaps most importantly, we eliminated all threats near our landing zones.

Up until now, our fighters and bombers were handicapped by the fact that they needed to launch via carriers sitting many hours away or airbases located many hundreds of miles away, necessitating mid-air refueling and resulting in tired pilots.  Incirlik air base would have been perfect for this because it is in the vicinity, but Turkey forbade us to conduct operations from it.  However, by my definition of operations, aircraft depart with weapons and return without them.

We have been staging aircraft at Incirlik over the past week.  We added F-16s, some stealth aircraft, and a good number of A-10s.

This morning, Incirlik was used to launch these aircraft, in a reverse Roach Motel, if you will, because aircraft will leave, drop their ordnance, and not return to Incirlik.  Some will go to Poland to defend it and the Baltic Countries against Russian aggression, and others will be flown back to their home bases.  Turkey will complain, but it is already at risk of being kicked out of NATO for its explicit support of IS barbarians.  It is irrelevant to our mission here, but Incirlik is most likely going to be retired from the U.S. point of view.

Early tomorrow morning will kick-off the final phase of this operation.  Commando teams will fly to all known locations of kidnapped Yazidi girls and women.  Some will be locations where we expect to only find one or two females.  Those will be quick missions: land, shoot-em-up, grab them, and depart.  However, there will be a few locations where we will find too many females for safe helicopter exfiltration.  In that case, you will hold until relieved.  Commando teams are carrying massive firepower and will be able to repel any attacks.  A-10s and drones will ensure that nothing worse than small arms makes it there.

Tomorrow morning will also witness the start of ground operations.  For every location with a multitude of females, we will launch an armored column consisting of Bradleys and Strykers fitted with bench seats to maximize capacity.  We have packed as many extra party favors as will fit in the form of .50 caliber, 7.62 mm, and 25 mm ammunition.  It would have been nice to bring a few M1 Abrams tanks, but their poor fuel economy precludes their inclusion.  Missile-firing drones will accompany all convoys.

The armored columns will travel via the most direct route on the way in, but they may or may not take that route for egress.  If IS congregates along the entry routes as we expect, we'll take different ones on the way out and rain fire and brimstone down on their brutish heads using A-10s.

We'll have M1s, Bradleys, Strykers, Blackhawks, Apaches, and refueling trucks in reserve in case of trouble.

We informed all Kurds to avoid the routes of the columns, so there will be no friendlies in your fire zones.  So the rules of engagement are simple: everyone you see without a U.S. or French uniform and carrying a weapon, dies.  Anything which looks like a bazooka, hand-held missile, or RPG is a high-priority target; destroy the weapon and its handlers.

One thing which could cause confusion is whether a female is Yazidi, Kurdish, or Sunni, even IS.  If she is armed, you will handle it using your professional discretion, but otherwise Kurdish team members will decide if she is fit to join your convoy.

There might be surprises.  As I mentioned, we have been keeping collections of Yazidi girls under drone surveillance.  We will know if they have been transferred to another location, but we might not know if they have been moved to an adjacent house.  If so, you will pursue and retrieve them.  By tomorrow evening, we intend to have rescued all Yazidi females from the Islamist headhunters.

Our mission is called Operation Yazidi Forget-me-not.  Saddle up!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

My Russian 9/11, Bush's debacles, and calling Vladimir Putin's bluff in Eastern Europe

Growing up, I entertained the idea of visiting the Baltic States as they seemed so exotic to me, entrenched behind the Iron Curtain.  I had studied Russian and German even though none of my ancestors hail from either country.  I thought they would be useful languages in traveling around Eastern Europe.  I was never fluent, but I could get by accompanied by my trusty dictionary.

I took a vacation in late August and early September 2001.  One stop was Tallinn in Estonia.  During the Cold War, Estonia was the most informed of the Soviet republics because of its location, just 90 miles away from the West in the manifestation of Finland.  Radio and television broadcasts could be received, so the lies of the Soviets were apparent.

I took a tour to orient myself.  The tour guide, a woman, told us that the very first bananas she had ever seen were during the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the ones that Jimmy Carter foolishly prevented U.S. athletes from attending.  The bananas disappeared immediately after the Olympics ended and were only present in an attempt to show the world that the Soviet Union was equal to the West.

Tallinn's old town was filled with restaurants of every description filled with scrumptious food.  A number of beers were available, but a local one, Saku Original, was the most appetizing.

Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania were similar.  Vilnius had restaurants filled with food as tasty as found in restaurants in the Lithuanian suburbs of Chicago.  I readily found tasty local beer in both capitals.  In Riga I signed up for a tour to see Rundāle Palace, a Baroque and Rococo masterpiece designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli who designed some of the Russian tzars' palaces.

Next up was Moscow.  I remember my Russian textbook had a photo of people lined up for blocks waiting to see the preserved corpse of Lenin.  I found my way to Red Square via the metro and noticed that there was no line at all to see the Lenin mausoleum.  A woman approached me and asked me if I wanted to see Lenin.  She was clearly an experienced tour guide and spoke very good English.  The rules stated that no cameras could be brought in to the building, but she was crafty enough to place my camera inside her bag which the security guard did not check.  Lenin looked exactly like the photos found in books, with one hand clenched and the other straightened.

At the end of a long day touring the city, I stopped in a store with a matrix of televisions showing a daylight New York view with smoke rising from the base of one of the buildings, or so it appeared.  The camera was probably situated in New Jersey, as we could see a large part of Manhattan.  I was unfamiliar with the New York skyline and did not realize any buildings were missing.  I could have pointed out the Sears Tower or John Hancock Center in Chicago, but the World Trade Center was not known to me.  I stayed there for ten minutes, but the scene never changed.  I assumed it was another truck bomb in the basement of a building similar to what happened in February 1993.  The sound coming from the televisions was in Russian and too fast for me to understand.  I did not realize then that many of the younger people would have spoken English and I hesitated to ask one of them what had happened.  So I left.

I walked down Old Arbat Street as that was the way to my hotel.  A busker with a British accent mentioned something along the lines of, "It's okay, it wasn't our country that was attacked."  So much for that special relationship.

In my hotel room in a Russian hotel, i.e. one where non-Russians generally do not stay, there was only Russian television.  One station kept showing the same scene over and over, a 40-ish story building collapsing in a heap.  I assumed that a truck bomb had caused it to collapse, but since the footage was taken at night it had probably been evacuated.  Interspersed with the images of the collapse was an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  I tried my best, but I could only glean phrases here and there.  It seemed to me that Putin was sympathetic with the tragedy that had occurred to the U.S., but perhaps I was leaning too heavily upon my inadequate knowledge of Russian.  The other stations were useless for news.

The next morning I left my room to eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  On my door was an obviously custom printed note along the lines of, "The hotel management would like to take this opportunity to express its deepest condolences."  I had a really bad feeling about what I had seen the previous night.

I asked at the front desk for the location of an Internet cafe.  I walked there and paid the fee.  The young woman working there asked me a question in Russian and I replied in my pathetic Russian.  She switched to English and when I replied in English, she realized I was an American and blurted out something along the lines of, "I'm so sorry for what happened to your country."

I sat down and started reading CNN and other news web sites.  I was possibly the very last American to learn of the four airliner attack by Islamists and subsequent collapse of WTC 1 and 2.

I bought some flowers and found my way to the U.S. embassy, which in those days was not a fortress.  I was not the first one to bring flowers as there were too many to count.  One man appeared to be reflecting upon the tragic events.

I had read what happened in St. Petersburg shortly after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.  Americans were not terribly welcome then because Serbs and Russians are very close.  A few ugly Americans had food thrown at them in McDonald's and other places.  In contrast, on this trip not a single Russian was anything less than nice to me after they realized I was an American.  There was a genuine outpouring of support for a country which had been attacked by savages.

I was scheduled to leave Moscow on Saturday via Swissair, which was really lucky for me because all flights out of Russia via U.S. carriers had been canceled, a perfect example of the U.S. government missing the forest for the trees.  I flew out of Zurich on Sunday, which was only the second day flights were allowed within the U.S.  The security line that morning was the longest I have ever seen, but there were a few attractive Swiss women working the lines so it was not all bad.

On the flight to Atlanta, my seat mate was a Delta pilot.  He predicted that there would never be another hijacking in the U.S. again.  If he was flying, he would simply get on the intercom and announce that he was going to land the plane at the nearest airport -- and the passengers should just beat the hijacker senseless any way they could.  His prediction came true when the shoe and underwear bombers tried to blow up their planes.

When we flew over New York, I looked down below as the smoke rose from the remains of the WTC, along with my seat mate and other people .  It became very quiet for about ten minutes.

When we arrived in Atlanta, immediately after passport control there was a line of Delta Airlines employees with signs reading "Welcome home!"  It wasn't until I overheard some conversations that I learned that most people in the airport had been forced to stay in Canada for the past few days.  They were weary and just wanted to get home.  My flight from Atlanta to Denver was almost empty, with the flight attendants telling us to sit anywhere we liked.

* * * * *

Bush famously looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and "saw his soul'' just three months before 9/11.  After 9/11, Bush announced his Texan policy -- "You are either with us or against us" -- and turned his back on the world.

When I first heard George W. Bush's declaration that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea constituted the "Axis of Evil" in January 2002, I had a feeling that something was wrong.  Iraq and Iran had fought a war in the 1980s, with the U.S. supporting Iraq because of the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80.  Iraq and Iran were still deadly enemies so how could they constitute any kind of axis?

Bush and Dick Cheney tried very hard to derail the 9/11 Commission's investigations.  At first Bush named Henry Kissinger to lead the commission, with him being world-class at keeping secrets, but luckily his nomination fell through.  Bush refused to fund the commission for a time, tried to influence the commission's findings, and denied access to many White House officials.  And worst of all, Cheney and others played the patriotism card to paint those who wanted to investigate 9/11 as traitors.

The wicked witch of the right, Ann Coulter, said regarding women who lost husbands on 9/11, "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."  She said this because, in her role as a Republican groupie, she was defending Bush And Cheney's incompetence.  New York Republican Governor George Pataki said regarding Coulter's odious cheap-shot, "I was really stunned and I don't think it's at all fair or accurate."

In February 2003, Colin Powell made his infamous speech at the U.N.  I was watching live because I was taking a sick day.  As soon as he mentioned that the now-famous aluminum tubes were anodized, I knew the Bush administration was lying to the world.  The analyst on CNN explained this, revealing that anodizing is actually not suitable for centrifuges.  And since removing it is non-trivial, these tubes were definitely not going to be used for centrifuges.

Damn the facts, full speed ahead!

The school massacre in Beslan in early September 2004 may have been the turning point for relations between the U.S. and Russia.  Beslan was the perfect opportunity for Bush to declare that the U.S. and Russia were fighting a common enemy, Islamists who kill for pleasure.  However, he didn't travel to Beslan to show solidarity with Russia in its 9/11 moment.

Both the U.S. and Russia suffered further Islamist murders after 9/11 besides Beslan, including but not limited to:

Beslan was not a shining example of Russian military prowess.  Russian forces never secured the surrounding area as evidenced by the many photos of amateurs holding weapons.  There were indications that the bloodbath was triggered by a Russian incendiary grenade and that Russian security forces fired inappropriate weapons, possibly even including flamethrowers, into the school where 334 children, parents, and teachers died.  Russian tactics are brutal and often grossly incompetent, e.g. almost all of the hostages who died during the Moscow theater siege did so because they were gassed, laid on their backs, and drowned in their own vomit.

We will never know if Putin would have stolen two regions of Georgia in 2008 and invaded Ukraine if Bush had partnered with Putin to kill Islamists.  It's probably hopelessly naive to think so, but perhaps Putin's KGB instincts and pining for his lost Soviet Union could have been tempered, or at least delayed, even though he told Bush at the 2008 NATO summit, "You have to understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a country.  Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe and the greater part was given to us."  He was referring to the fact that Ukraine's borders were moved to the west after WWII in an attempt to quell Stalin's paranoia.  Poland is another country which had its borders moved to the west, with Polish-Russian relations often being strained.  Putin may have felt that Bush would be sympathetic to misadventures in Ukraine after Bush's ones in Iraq.  Putin may have seen a kindred spirit in Bush as Kathleen Turner's character saw in William Hurt's character in Body Heat, especially given that Russia today has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, with just 110 Russian citizens now controlling 35% of total household wealth.

Bush threw away a great deal of sympathy from Russia and the world when he invaded Iraq to satisfy his personal agenda and that of the "swivel eyed neo-cons and ultra-nationalists" who yearned to settle old scores.  Funny how we invaded Iraq, the fourth-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, which was suspected to have WMD, yet we did not invade North Korea when we learned it had developed nuclear weapons a few years after the Iraq invasion.

The final straw was the Obama administration's distracted attitude with respect to Europe.  In 2009, former Polish president Lech Walesa, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, ex-Estonian prime minister Mart Laar, ex-Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, ex-Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, and other dignitaries wrote a letter to Barack Obama asking him not to turn his back on Europe.  The letter included a prescient paragraph regarding their fear that Putin would not be satisfied with Georgia and would attempt to annex other former parts of the Soviet Union:
Our hopes that relations with Russia would improve and that Moscow would finally fully accept our complete sovereignty and independence after joining NATO and the EU have not been fulfilled.  Instead, Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods.  At a global level, Russia has become, on most issues, a status-quo power.  But at a regional level and vis-à-vis our nations, it increasingly acts as a revisionist one.  It challenges our claims to our own historical experiences.  It asserts a privileged position in determining our security choices.  It uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of Central and Eastern Europe.

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As Jack Matlock wrote in his book Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union:
When the independence referendum and vote for president were held in Ukraine on December 1, 1991, it was no surprise that a majority voted for independence and for Leonid Kravchuk.  The proportions and distributions of the vote, however, astonished observers.  Eighty-four percent of eligible voters went to the polls, and more than 90 percent of those voted for independence.  Even in the oblasts in east Ukraine and in the [sic] Crimea and Odessa, which had large Russian populations, comfortable majorities voted for independence.

Matlock continued five pages later referring to the agreement between Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus on December 8 to create a Commonwealth of Independent States, the Belavezha Accords, as crafted by Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislav Shushkevich:
A commitment to "recognize and respect one another's territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders within the Commonwealth" was also important, because as recently as August and September, some Russian spokesmen had talked of the need to revise borders to bring areas with a large Russian-speaking population into Russia.  The eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine and northern Kazakhstan were most vulnerable in this respect, and this provision was the price the Russian leadership paid the other republics for their adherence to the Commonwealth.  Though it would remain controversial in Russia for years to come, it was potentially of historic significance, since it represented a renunciation of territory that Russia had claimed for centuries.

The Supreme Soviets (parliaments) of the three countries quickly ratified the agreement.  On December 21, the three original countries, along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, signed the Alma-Ata Protocol which added them to the CIS.  Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post on December 25, effectively ending the Soviet Union.

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, was signed three years almost to the day after the creation of the CIS.  Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine promised to remove all Soviet-era nuclear weapons from their territory and sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  These three countries kept their promise.  Russia and the Western signatory countries promised to forever respect Ukraine's territorial integrity.  Russia did not keep its promise.

In early 2013, it was announced that the original Belavezha Accords document is missing.

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Russia has been very busy attempting to intimidate its neighbors this year, with Barack Obama's "leading from behind" philosophy presenting not even a speed bump.

In April, Russian naval vessels, while in Lithuania's special economic zone in the Baltic Sea, ordered civilian ships to clear the way for a Russian missile test.

In August, Finnish airspace was violated three times in six days.

In September, Russia kidnapped an Estonian official on Estonian soil, jamming Estonian radio communications and using smoke grenades in the process.  Russia refuses to allow Estonian officials to see him.

Also in September, Russia announced that Russia intends to prosecute Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet military during the time period between Lithuania's declaration of independence in March 1990 and the breakup of the Soviet Union in late 1991.  Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare independence.

Also in September, a Lithuanian fishing boat, the Juros Vilkas, was seized along with its crew of 30 in international waters.  The ship and crew await a court ruling in the Russian port of Murmansk.

Also in September, Russian military aircraft violated both U.S. and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zones near Alaska.  Sweden announced a similar incursion, with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt saying that the incident was "a major violation."  He added that it was the worst he had seen since he became foreign minister in 2006.

Not to mention never having taken responsibility for killing 298 people on MH17 while taking Crimea.

The current peace treaty has been broken many times by Russian separatists.  The latest incident is the attack on the airport of Donetsk.  This was not a case of a few men firing automatic rifles at an outpost.  Separatists are using drones and Grad rockets to hammer Ukrainian positions.  The Donetsk airport and the one in Luhansk are essential for the transport of weapons, supplies, and soldiers directly into the cauldron.  Russia understands this and is willing to break the ceasefire to do so.

The attacks during the cease-fire remind us of the attacks on Lithuanian border posts in 1991 by Soviet OMON troops, with the worst incident being a slaughter of seven Lithuanian border guards.  Another incident was the brutal takeover of the Vilnius radio and television center in January 1991, where OMON tank troops mowed down bystanders, crushing them with tank treads, killing 13 and injuring 140.  These incidents occurred during the death rattles of the Soviet Union when Russian nationalists attempted to maintain their empire by any means available.

The Polish foreign minister is not the only one to suspect that Putin's end game is to establish a land bridge to Crimea, in other words, he wants to usurp southeastern Ukrainian territory so that Russian military vehicles and tourists can drive unimpeded from Russian territory to Crimea.  Putin knows only too well that Kaliningrad, the territory it seized from Germany, formerly called Königsberg, at the end of WWII, has no land access from Russia proper.  During the Cold War, this presented no problem, as travel via Lithuania-Latvia or Lithuania-Belarus was within the Soviet Union.  But now that Lithuania and Latvia are EU and NATO countries, access to Kaliningrad is only via the Baltic Sea or air.  The same is true of Crimea which is currently only accessible via ferries from Russia or air.

Russia is engaging in perhaps the finest propaganda the world has ever seen.  Its media organizations and troll army invented the concept of Novorossiya (new Russia) to represent the aforementioned land bridge starting at the border with Russia near Luhansk and stretching all the way to Crimea and beyond to Transdniester, a sliver of Moldova which broke away in 1992 and is being administered by Russia.  Before the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which divided Eastern Europe between the Nazis and the Soviets, Moldova was called Bessarabia and was territory Stalin demanded. Russia is "wagging the dog" with its use of video from other conflicts to fool Russians into thinking that the Ukraine government is on a par with the Nazis.

And just to introduce an element of Slavic farce into the proceedings, Russia's Constitutional Court head Valery Zorkin announced that that the abolition of serfdom exacerbated "social tensions" between the tzar and the peasantry by eliminating the "main shock absorber" between them: the nobility.  "This became one of the basic reasons for the growth of 'rebellions' and then organized revolutionary processes in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries," wrote Zorkin.

Some things never change.  Today the nobility in Russia is well-represented by the oligarchs.  Literary critic Vissarion Belinsky wrote to Nikolai Gogol in 1847 that Russia is "a country where there are not only no guarantees for individuality, honor, and property, but even no police order, and where there is nothing but vast corporations of official thieves and robbers of various descriptions."  That could describe the U.S. today with its convergence of corporate and government interests as manifested in Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United.

The majority of cyber-thefts for money are committed by Russians, though China is the world leader at stealing intellectual property.  Whether the Russian government directly plays a part in this is unknown, but it is clear that Russian nationalists are involved.  The Russian government always refuses to extradite its cyber-thieves, but ethnic Russians are usually extradited from Eastern European countries, e.g. Estonia.  Credit card data stolen from Home Depot is being sold on Russian underground forums in categories labeled "American Sanctions" and "European Sanctions."

Putin has boasted that Russian forces could take Warsaw or Baltic state capitals within days.  NATO has publicly dismissed such talk as bravado, but it is well within the realm of possibilities.  One counter-strategy would be to warn Putin that all Russian submarines at sea will be immediately sunk if NATO countries are invaded, with U.S. submarines being the ones to implement such a policy.

The surge in Iraq failed not because of a shortcoming on the part of the U.S. military, but because the responsibility was then handed over to Iraqi soldiers who ran away like little girls when Islamic State attacked.  Not to mention the fact that Islamists are relentless, cruel, brutal, and eager to rape, torture, slaughter, enslave, and behead non-Muslims.  As usual, Obama was slow to react when Yazidi girls were treated as spoils of war, with many of them being kept as sex slaves or given away as gifts to Islamic State commanders.

A surge in Ukraine would be very different.  It would consist of a pincer movement to reclaim the Ukrainian border to prevent any more soldiers, small arms, ammunition, Grads, tanks, and Buks from entering the country.  Retaking any airports in the region would prevent Russia from bypassing the border.  When Russia was no longer able to resupply the separatists, they would slowly run out of food, supplies, and weapons, forcing them to surrender.  The Ukrainian military could afford to wait patiently until that happened.

Ukraine has asked both the U.S. and NATO for weapons.  This request should be honored immediately.  This is not another Islamic country where today's rebels will emerge as tomorrow's terrorists.  This is a country on the doorstep of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania which are all NATO countries.  The issue of whether Ukraine joins the EU can wait, especially given its high level of corruption, but a peaceful and stable Ukraine would benefit Europe in many ways.