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How the hell can Un trump Trump

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a face-off between two impulsives, and thoughtful planning at a tabletop exercise ]

How the hell can Un, with one star and no stripes, hope to trump Trump, with fifty stars and thirteen stripes backing him up?



How the hell can Un, with maybe a dozen nukes, one of which might be a hydrogen bomb, and some untested missiles designed to reach anywhere in the continental US, hope to trump Trump, with a stockpile of 1,411 nuclear warheads deployed on 673 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers [Wikipedis] and an impressive array of generals, admirals and such, one of whom — Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — is positively pushing his way out of the photo-frame into at least simulated warfare with North Korea:


The simulation in question was described, as far as is visible under a cloak of secrecy, in a recent NYT article titled U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans:

A classified military exercise last week examined how American troops would mobilize and strike if ordered into a potential war on the Korean Peninsula, even as diplomatic overtures between the North and the Trump administration continue.

The war planning, known as a “tabletop exercise,” was held over several days in Hawaii. It included Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.

Anything that occupies two generals “over several days” plus planning and debriefing is serious business — especially those two generals.

War with North Korea — Hawaii their nuclear targets.


Oops, the NYT article also features some awkward questions commanders of the US battleforce would face:

  • How many conventional and Special Operations forces could be deployed, in phases, to target North Korean nuclear sites.
  • Whether the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions could be charged with fighting in tunnels
  • Exhaustive plans to take down North Korea’s integrated air defenses, allowing American manned and unmanned aircraft into the reclusive country.
  • Plans for the morbid but necessary details of personnel recovery plans, such as if pilots are shot down, and the evacuation of the dead and wounded.
  • **

    And Un considers the very fact of the US President agreeing to meet with the dictator of N Korea, ie Donald Trump with himself, to be a clear and unequivocal demonstration of parity. As CNN puts it:

    with the simple fact of the meeting, Kim has already achieved his objective: he’s at the table on the world stage, being taken seriously.

    Or MSNBC, in a piece titled On North Korea, Trump gambles from a position of weakness:

    Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: it would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.

    Equal? Mirror image?


    Nota bene:

    China, Japan and Russia have cheered an impending meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “significant first step” towards the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    China, Japan and Russia, India, and obviously South Korea, are all actors with significant interesta in any US – North-Korean diplomacy — giving us a seven-node tug-of-war for our planners to map — and Donald Trump to intuitively grok.

    Of steel, low-background steel, and my father’s bones

    Saturday, March 10th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — low-background steel is no longer so necessary, but the remains of naval lives lost at sea are still of passionate concern ]

    With all this talk of tariffs on steel, I was reminded of the rare steel salvaged from sunken warships at Scapa Flow, in Indonesia and elsewhere. I read about “low background steel” in this Guardian title: Lost bones, a mass grave and war wrecks plundered off Indonesia. As you’ll note, bones — the long-inaccessible remains of sailors — are also part of the story.


    Let’s tackle the steel first. Here’s how the Guardian explained it:

    As well as brass, copper, and bronze, one reason the salvaging has gone wholesale is the ships are a source of “low background steel” – produced before the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.

    Virtually radiation-free, low-background steel is used in sensitive medical and scientific instruments. These old sunken warships are among the few remaining sources.

    Cecil, however, knowledgeable as ever, tells us that supposedly rare and invaluable subset of steel isn’t anything we need to concern ourselves with:

    Sorry, the market for old steel is now pretty much sunk. Reduced radioactive dust plus sophisticated instrumentation that corrects for background radiation means new steel can now be used in most cases. There’s some lingering demand for really old maritime metal, though. When researchers at one national lab wanted shielding that emitted no radiation whatsoever, they used lead ballast retrieved from the Spanish galleon San Ignacio, which had been lying on the bottom of the Caribbean for 450 years.


    That more or less leaves the bones..

    The Guardian has been following different aspects of the story, and the bones come in focus in their article, The world’s biggest grave robbery: Asia’s disappearing WWII shipwrecks:

    Dozens of warships believed to contain the remains of thousands of British, American, Australian, Dutch and Japanese servicemen from the second world war have been illegally ripped apart by salvage divers, the Guardian can reveal.

    An analysis of ships discovered by wreck divers and naval historians has found that up to 40 second world war-era vessels have already been partially or completely destroyed. Their hulls might have contained the corpses of 4,500 crew.

    Governments fear other unmarked graves are at risk of being desecrated. Hundreds more ships – mostly Japanese vessels that could contain the war graves of tens of thousands of crew killed during the war – remain on the seabed.

    And from the first article:

    “You can imagine the massive outrage if someone drove a bulldozer through the big first world war Commonwealth war grave at Saint Symphorien,” [British naval historian Phil Weir] says, referring to a military cemetery in Belgium. “But taking apart a shipwreck doesn’t seem to have the same effect. It is kind of out of sight, out of mind, I fear.”

    Let’s put it this way. I don’t care.

    But if HMS Sheffield had been sunk with my father aboard by the Hipper’s superior guns [8″ vs Sheffield’s 6″] at the Battle of the Barents Sea — a not implausible alternate history — you can bet I’d be up in arms if divers harvested Sheffield for its steel, with my father’s remains trashed as worthless in the process..

    Oh, except that if my father had gone down with the Sheffield, I’d never have been conceived. Thank God, things didn’t work out that way.

    DoubleTweeting moolah

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — somewhere between Lietaer, Bitcoin and a leisure-driven future ]

    Please note, I am not using moolah in the sense in which Arthur Conan Doyle used it in A Desert Drama:

    The squat lieutenant, the moolah, and about a dozen Dervishes surrounded the prisoners.


    There’s a quality of surprise to the two tweeted stories that follow, which highlights our usual acceptance of the idea that money is value. Consider:

    And then, from a different angle:


    Conan Doyle again:

    But I am ordered to gather you together, for the moolah is coming to convert you all.

    Getting religion, forgetting circumcision

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — some characteristicc lacunae in journalisti praxis ]

    As you know, I used to work for Lapido Media, which in turn used to be a media-eductional outlet that emphasized the major role of religion(s) in world affairs, so often overlooked by typically skeptical, secular journos.

    Get religion is a fine site with a similar purpose, and today it has a fine article titled With Russia all over U.S. news map right now, how fares its huge Orthodox Church? For instance:

    In addition to politics, there’s a historic religious turnabout in Russia that stateside reporters could well develop through interviews with the experts. The dominant Orthodox Church, which managed to survive Communist terror and regained freedom, has latterly emerged as a strategic prop for Putin’s Kremlin.

    If that election day peg doesn’t work for your outlet, another signal event comes July 17. That’s the Orthodox feast day of the doomed final czar, Nicholas II, and his family, shot to death by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 and canonized by the national church in 2000 as saints and “passion-bearers.”


    It’s not just journos who forget / don’t get religion — pols in the extreme north do it, too. How else explain this header from Iceland: Iceland male circumcision ban: MP behind plan ‘didn’t think it was necessary to consult’ Jewish and Muslim groups, amid growing anger. The subhead is (from my POV) idf anytbing even more mind-boggling:

    ‘I don’t see it as a religious matter,’ insists Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir

    What does Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir imagine the origin of the practice was?


    What else do journos tend to miss?

    Well, there’s female obits, for onr thing — although things may be improving in that regard. Here’s a New York Times’ obit, belated but in a good faith effort to catch and patch up: 1932-1963 Sylvia Plath –A postwar poet unafraid to confront her own despair. It begins:

    She made sure to spare the children, leaving milk and bread for the two toddlers to find when they woke up. She stuffed the cracks of the doors and windows with cloths and tea towels. Then she turned on the gas.

    And it quotes her poetry:

    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.
    I do it so it feels like hell.

    Okay, it’s International Women’s Day 2018.

    Thank you, Anemona Hartocollis and the NYT editors. We mourn you, Mrs easily forgotten behind your husband Hughes.

    Shorts 5: Apocalypse to Almond blossoms

    Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — mostly about beauty — let’s start with apocalypse and end with the blossoms, eh? reverse engineering! ]


    Putin’s apocalyptic blackmail

    In the Orthodox tradition, the Book of Revelations has not been among the most important texts. Yet there is something positively apocalyptic about the recent speech of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most important convert, Russian President Vladimir Putin. A nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile that could circumnavigate the planet avoiding US missile defenses! A nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarine drone! And, most of all, a hypersonic “meteorite” too fast for American interceptors, a mighty ognennyi shar, a great “ball of fire”! (Jerry Lee Lewis was not credited, but then Putin’s Russia is not known for overly scrupulous honoring of property rights.)


    Jerry Lee Lewis ? That’s a pop refeerence in an otherwise serious context. Let’s see..

    Pop paradise:

    Religion (Zen??) in games:

    Following the massive initial success of Alto’s Adventure, the team released a major update that added a Zen Mode to the title in 2016, which removed obstacles to create a more relaxing experience for players who simply wanted to drift off into the game world. It was around that time that Cymet moved his family from Vancouver to Toronto to work more closely with the team at Snowman, and he said that the ordeal helped “give me a sense of groundedness in this emotion we’ve tried to capture with the game, of going outside your comfort zone and putting yourself somewhere completely new that’s beautiful and interesting, and trying to find the beauty there.”

    IMO, and with ref to the above and to zen, seeking beauty leads to prettiness, whereas seeking truth leads to beauty.


    Placing that game art in a binary context:


    Like many émigrés, Adorno was initially disoriented by US mass culture, which had not yet overrun Europe as it would after the war. This disorientation became a principled distrust. He claimed that capitalist popular culture – jazz, cinema, pop songs, and so on – manipulates us into living lives empty of true freedom, and serves only to distort our desires. Popular culture is not the spontaneous expression of the people, but a profit-driven industry – it robs us of our freedom and bends us to conform to its needs for profit.


    When Metallica appeared at the 2014 Glastonbury festival there was a wake-up moment of this kind – the recognition that these guys, unlike so many who had performed there, actually had something to say. Yes, there are distinctions of quality, even in the realm of pop.


    Okay, and to close with authentic beauty, art, culture….

    A brilliant DoubleQuote in a single tweet:

    Encouragingly, there are just such blossoms outside my window.

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