sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tajikistan Exports

Riding Bicycles

Riding a bicycle along the Silk Road along the Pamir Highway at the roof of the world from Dushanbe (Tajikistan) to Osh (Kyrgyzstan) has become a thing to do if you like to cycle. And while Tajikistan (95% Muslim and one of the poorest nations on Earth) is generally full of nice people, the exports are returning.

      Which means that: 

I have no idea how anyone could be so (f-ing) stupid as to voluntarily bicycle across Tajikistan, but they did and earned a set of Darwin Awards. On 29 July, a motorist drove into a group of foreign cyclists riding in Danghara. The encounter was deliberate and killed two US cyclists, one Swiss and one Dutch cyclist. Three others also were injured by the car, which then drove off.

Tajikistan Responds

Two people suspected of involvement in the incident were later killed by authorities in a special operation. According to the interior ministry, another four people were arrested in the same operation and a damaged car believed to have been involved was recovered. Another three suspects were "rendered harmless" after being traced to a village, officials said. You have to hand it to the Soviet-trained Tajiks, they do manage to torture information out of everyone suspected of involvement. Once that information is in their hands, they kill everyone suspected of involvement and their family pets as well and I admire that. The trial is handled on the streets of Daghera. No need to feed prisoners awaiting trial or to involve lawyers when a confession obtained by pulling finger nails out rendered the truth.

ISIS Takes a Bow

The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack on "citizens of the crusader coalition."

The Islamic State’s Amaq Agency posted a report on the killing on 30 July. 
"After placing their trust in God Almighty, a detachment of caliphate soldiers set out toward a gathering of Crusader coalition state citizens in the area of Danghara in Khatlon in Tajikistan, running them over and attacking them with knives. This left four dead and four wounded, praise and thanks be to God! We gladly announce to the Crusader coalition state citizenry what shall befall them, for what shall come will be more destructive and bitter, God willing!”
The mention of knives strengthens the credibility of the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility. Most reports omitted that information that the deceased also had been knifed.

The nation's primary income earners are cotton and mineral ores. One of its less attractive exports has been Tajik recruits for the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria. One concern is that Tajik fighters might now be returning from the Middle East to establish a presence in Tajikistan.

North Korea Update

The second session of North Korean-South Korean military talks is taking place at Panmunjom. North Korea did not roll over and play dead at the Summit at Singapore this summer. A negotiation is underway. That's what the take away from ongoing talks is. Negotiation.

Fox News and several US newspapers published information from “spy agencies” and from commercial satellites about continuing activity at North Korea’s Sanumdong ballistic missile manufacturing complex near Pyongyang. The news outlets reported that there is activity going on at the facility.

Imagery detected new construction. It also detected trucks at the facility. One analyst of commercial imagery judged that the facility is active. 

Sanumdong facility has been assembling missiles for decades and continues to do so, most likely including North Korea’s new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles. One of the imaged vehicles could carry a large missile airframe.

The imagery confirms that North Korean weapons factories continue business as usual. 

If satellites image a vehicle at a sensitive complex, such as Sanumdong, it means North Korea wants it to be imaged, for its purposes. In the past, Sanumdong is where North Korea has brought potential customers, including Iranians, to showcase newly made missiles and support equipment. At times, it has hung huge tarps to deny imagery of whatever was in the display area. 

Chairman Kim has not agreed to disarm or to stop making and selling North Korean military equipment. The imagery of Sanumdong conveys that message, just as the commercial imagery of the dismantling of the Sohae rocket engine test site conveys a different message. The press reports help ensure that Chairman Kim’s message gets wide dissemination.

In dealing with North Korea, deception is presumed. The North Koreans are practiced masters of showing the false, hiding the real and reinforcing mistaken perceptions and judgments. They consider deception a force multiplier, not just a national strategic security program. All branches of deception are always at work all the time, especially when its leaders are behaving well.

Over the years, satellites and other sources of imagery occasionally have detected military surprises in North Korea. Most often, the important challenge is to determine why North Korea would want a target or set of targets to be seen by the US. 

In this case, the imagery of continuity in missile production makes the imagery of dismantling at the engine test stand more vivid and, arguably, more persuasive. At this point, North Korea has agreed to suspend testing and to dismantle two sites. 

Imagery confirms the dismantlings and that everything else continues as before.

Assessing the Modern


From Harper's Weekly:

Illiberal Values  by Walter Kirn
"Puritanism," Mencken said, is 'the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.' But liberal puritanism is slightly different. It fears that the wrong sort of people might be happy, or that their happiness might be of the wrong kind."
"I see evidence that certain liberal principles, the ones that impressed me in the Seventies, have eroded. Back then, for example, the CIA was understood to be a nest of liars and psychopaths who toppled democratically chosen leaders, lied to the public to start wars, and ran sick experiments on innocents using drugs and mind-control techniques. In Three Days of the Condor, a thriller from the period, Robert Redford plays a lowly CIA officer who discovers that the agency is nothing more than a crime ring. These days, however, with Trump playing the heavy, the CIA is revered by many liberals as a bulwark of integrity, its missions sacred, its conclusions unimpeachable, and its former director, John Brennan, worthy of a high-profile cable news job. The FBI draws similar adulation, never mind its history of spying on the likes of Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, and Martin Luther King Jr. 
"This great liberal switch from skepticism to sanctimony about the most powerful arms of the Establishment is matched by a viral fear of Russia that reminds me of the John Birch Society pamphlets I’d come across now and then when I was young. Somehow, instinct told me then that they were crazy, exaggerating the cunning of the enemy, the depravity of the collaborators, and the vulnerability of America. The liberal comedians who lampooned such claims on shows such as Laugh-In were my idols. They dared to speak the most radical truth of all in a time of panic and paranoia."
Trump


The nation showed that things were changing at a tectonic level when President Trump was elected. He smashed Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, shaming the polling companies who are supposed to predict wins and losses before they occur. 

Today there is the "daily hate" on the elite, corrupt, filthy, sly, lying mainstream media. Billions are spent to try and damage President Trump, and still his approval numbers improve. Progressives are bewildered. They predict that the Democrats will take back the House of Representatives in November. Look at the map and take note that President Trump is more popular now than when he was elected. It's Donald Trump and not the Republican Party that people tended to vote for. They hate the swamp, they hate the faceless, heartless bureaucracy and they wanted hope and change. They wanted to see an end to the old political way of doing things.

Remarkable.

Lee Ho Fook (London)

LSP mentioned this restaurant (right) on his blog that deals with fishing, pastoral life, and progressive space aliens among us. I recommend the food at Lee Ho Fook, particularly the beef chow mien. There was no unicorn on the menu last time that I was there... Try not to go in the later evening. A little old lady was mutilated down the street...werewolves of London again.

Iran

President Trump offered to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani personally and without conditions to avert a war. It seems that they've been building a nuclear weapon. Don't be shocked. The Saudis and the Jews are the targets and they are very uneasy. Follow these events in Iran very closely.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Foreign Policy Thoughts - Pakistan

Imran Khan, who is no friend of the USA, now runs Pakistan. He's turned to China for money, because the US understands how the place works and under President Trump, isn't throwing money around the way we did in the past. 

Khan’s initial statements portend increased instability, if he bases his policy on the topics he has mentioned. However, his most urgent problems are the state of Pakistan’s financial ruin.

Khan faces an immediate debt crisis. An analysis in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that the government has no net international reserves. Another source reported Pakistan has enough foreign exchange to pay for two months of imports and that is being depleted.

Pakistan must import most of its petroleum products, which account for one-third of all imports. The rise in oil prices worsened an already serious balance of payments problem. 

Note that in a significant portion of Pakistan
the literacy rate is lower than 20%.
Pakistani leaders are famous for evading taxes and stashing their holdings outside the country. That included massive bribes from the US in years past.  Tax evasion is a cottage industry. One news outlet reported that in a country of 200 million people, only 1 million pay taxes.

The Chinese debt burden continues to increase. Pakistan has not realized the bonanza from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. That is years in the future, but the payments for Chinese materials, equipment and labor are due as they arrive

China’s extension of a $2 billion loan over the weekend is intended to buy time for the new government to formulate an approach to the debt crisis. However, it adds to the $46 billion China has invested in the Economic Corridor.

The success of Chinese Belt and Road projects depends on stability in international affairs and in the internal affairs of target countries. Internal stability usually means continuity. Chinese advisers expected continuity in Pakistani politics and predicted the re-election of Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN government. Instead, the Chinese now must deal with Imran Khan whose past statements mark him as a critic of Pakistan’s China policy and whose post-election statements define him as an agent of instability. Khan promises reform. He is a disruptor.

Khan’s comments indicate he will try to tilt Pakistan towards China and away from the West and capitalism. He said he looks on the Economic Corridor as a great source of employment. However, no Chinese foreign investment projects have directly alleviated local unemployment conditions.

My personal perspective of the matter is that this is a money pit for the Chinese. And Khan, the new leader, is not their friend. The US needs to quietly back off and let the Chinese enjoy working with their neighbors to the south. I have been published in both Indian and Pakistani defense journals in the distant past. While I get along with the educated Pakistani Army and Navy Officer class, and with the thugs at Inter-Service Intelligence, I don't have much positive to say about the place. If Sharif had won the election, they would have become a Chinese satrap. But he didn't and things will get worse in Pakistan (if that's possible) before they get better. Maybe the military will stage a coup and will repudiate past dealings and debts with China?


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Here and There (Sunday Sermonette)


Fashion icon, Hillary Clinton put the moo in MuMu last week. Sort of a cross between a MuMu and a cape. I expect that we'll see more of her followers (male and female and gender confused) following her fashion example in weeks to come as she ramps up her run for the Presidency in 2020. (right)


Use a Plastic Straw, Go to Jail. The California insanity over plastic straws has not abated. I asked for one at lunch today (Saturday) and the waitress informed me that I had to drink from the lip of the glass. I asked if I could bring my own straw (BMOS) in the future. She said that she didn't know, but that the restaurant manager, (who was off pleasuring himself somewhere) would return shortly. When the manager returned they said that they had no policy on BMOS, so yes, for the time being, I could do that. The sermonette for the day is that if you're visiting California and wish to drink a beverage through a straw, bring your own - in some cities. In others, you can go to jail for possession of a straw. Under Proposition 36, possession of narcotics is essentially legal. Straws - no. That's how progressives roll.




There is a filthy rumor being circulated to the effect that Vikings did not drink from the skulls of their enemies. Some contend that Vikings drank from horns or cups. A skull is a cup. Admittedly you might want to line it with seal skin (waterproof) or all of your beverage will pour from the eye-holes.


Iran is continuing its "death to America" campaign to try and get the Persian public away from thinking about how miserable they are. The sanctions return in August and it will make it difficult for Iran to sell oil to anyone.

They used to smuggle it to North Korea in defiance of international law but even the Norks have stopped buying from them because they're trying to work out a deal with the US and to stop being an international pariah state. You can imagine how lonely that makes the Imam feel - the only real pariah left on the planet.

Previous rounds of sanctions have isolated Iran from the international financial system. Under the 2011 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), foreign-based financial institutions or subsidiaries that deal with sanctioned banks are barred from conducting deals in the United States or with the U.S. dollar. Since all oil must be sold in dollars, Iran can truck oil to rogue regimes  over the desert and do things of that nature, but they are denied the international oil market.  Importers of Iranian oil are blocked from making payments through Iran's central bank.

Without oil sales and the revenue that brings, their economy is difficult. In addition to sanctions, The IMF estimates that Iran’s break-even point, the price per barrel at which the country can balance its budget, is $92.50. As today Brent crude oil sold for $74. Several years of austerity budgets have raised public demands for increased domestic spending, including for oil-industry infrastructure that has fallen into disrepair.

When President Trump repudiated the misguided Obama policy of appeasement toward Iran, the EU announced that it would lift sanctions. That only worked until the Saudis said that if the EU did business with Teheran, they would not do business with THEM. The EU reversed itself quietly and is on board with sanctions. 

Will Iran make a deal with the US (the Great Satan) that the US Congress will be able to agree to? That is the question.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday Follies

Socialism 

Compare Venezuelan currency by value to one dollar (right).

North Korea Update

USGOV confirmed North Korea has transferred the remains of soldiers from the Korean War to US custody. The Associated Press reported that a US C-17 transport aircraft carrying the remains of soldiers who died in the Korean War left Wonsan, North Korea, and arrived at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea on 27 July.

The transfer was made on the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. Chairman Kim visited a monument dedicated to the North Korean soldiers who died in the “Fatherland Liberation War.”

North Korea is acting to ensure that the peace dialogues continue. In light of Chairman Kim’s personal assurance to the US President on 12 June, a transfer of remains was certain to take place. They will be taken to the central identification laboratory in Hawaii for processing.

North Korea has now kept two commitments to the US President – dismantling the rocket engine test stand and transferring remains. It needs relief from sanctions and expects some resolution of the issue of a declaration of the war’s end. In a commentary on 24 July, the North Korean leaders said they want a bold move towards peace.

Footnote to history: Defector sources provided a possible explanation for Chairman Kim’s failure to meet the US Secretary of State on 6 and 7 July in Pyongyang. Their sources in North Korea reported that Kim’s VIP aircraft experienced an inflight problem that forced it to make an emergency landing at Hyesan, a remote mountainous area on the Chinese border. 

The official story was that Kim was on an inspection trip to Samjiyon. The defector sources reported that the real story is that his aircraft was stranded at Hyesan City. Kim also missed an inter-Korean basketball game which was scheduled in the same time period and which he first proposed.

How does the former First Family feel about these big wins?


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Proxy Attack by Iran

Context: The Houthis, officially called Ansar Allah ("Supporters of God"), are members of an Islamic religious-political-armed movement that emerged Northern Yemen in the 1990s. Keep in mind that there are no "nice parts of Yemen". From my perspective, it's one of the worst places on Earth. The Houthis are Shia, funded by Iran. We can parse words on this, but the money that keeps them going comes from Iran, therefore Iran calls the shots.

On 25 July, a statement from Saudi Aramco said "two Very Large Crude Carriers [VLCCs], each with a two million barrels capacity … were attacked by terrorist Houthi militia this morning in the Red Sea. One of the ships sustained minimal damage. No injuries nor oil spill have been reported."

Saudi-led Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the terrorist attack in international waters off Hodeidah port failed due to the immediate intervention of the Coalition’s fleet.
The tanker sustained minimal damage, he said. "This attack is a dangerous threat to the freedom of navigation and international trade in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb strait, which may result in environmental and economic losses," he warned. 
"The continuation of such attempts demonstrates the real threat of these militias and their backers to regional and international security," Maliki added.
Following the attack, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the Kingdom will immediately halt oil shipments through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

The Houthis said they targeted a Saudi warship.

Saudi Aramco was the first to announce that it had halted all its oil shipments until safe passage could be assured. 

It is unclear whether the Coalition will halt all shipments or just all Saudi shipments. A Coalition halt to all oil shipments through the Strait could internationalize this conflict by threatening to increase oil prices and reduce availability in Europe. 

Both sides have an interest in internationalizing the civil war, for different reasons. The Houthis fired a missile at a tanker in April in an effort to generate international pressure on Saudi Arabia to stop the fighting and reach a settlement. The threat was hollow because the attack did little damage and the Houthis could not sustain the threat to make it credible.

The Saudis already have an international coalition but have lacked the leverage to pressure Iran to restrain the Houthis. Until now. Closure of the Strait to all tankers (restricting access to the Suez Canal) also would reduce Iranian oil shipments, adding to US sanctions

European countries might be persuaded to pressure Iran to use its influence with the Houthis to stop the fighting. The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) has issued threat warnings for boat-borne explosive devices, sea mines and missile attacks from the Houthis. These warnings are in addition to the normal warnings against piracy.

It may mean higher prices at the pumps. 

I have no idea how any American president could have done for Iran what Barack Obama clearly did. Bribes, kickbacks, and secret bank accounts HAVE TO BE INVOLVED. When we look at the skulduggery of the entirety of the Obama years, it's difficult to be surprised if that is the case.





Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Random Musings

White Wolf Mine (update)

I reminded the general contractor yesterday that "winter is coming" even though it's mid-summer. You always have to keep in mind that summer won't last forever and I'm waiting to move into the hovel. 

The drywall is complete, and the framers are finishing up last bits before the finish carpentry begins, kitchen cabinets are installed, etc. So things are moving forward toward a September 15 finish date. 

Things have been very hectic with deaths in the family and so forth and business has also been insane for me. Combine the two and I don't get up to the mine as often as I'd like to. I can bolt into the desert for day trips in 122 degree heat, but my "winter is coming" philosophy does not effect the weather gods one bit. Ask LSP in Texas. They don't regard his fishing schedule at all.

While it's hot as the surface of the sun in the Phoenix valley, it's a balmy 85 at the mine. Sometimes it gets warmer in the high country but not often and not for long.

Feeding Detained Illegal Aliens

Illegal aliens facing deportation are unhappy with the meals that they are served. Ok, it's prison food, the same sort of meals that Fredd's Aunt Sally feeds the people she loves most in the world. It's sort of like basic Army chow. I was in the Navy and we ate better (not the t-bones and lobster that the Air Force eats, but better than the Army).

Aliens can self-deport and ask to be returned to their points of origin at any point in time. All they need to is ask. USGOV will ship them home (maybe with a box lunch to eat on the airplane?). If they don't like the prison food in the US, they can go back to beans, tortillas and rice. Nobody is keeping the people who entered the US illegally one day longer than they have to.

Elections in Pakistan

General elections are in progress in Pakistan. Voting began early on 25 July. Imran Khan’s Pakistani Movement for Justice (PTI) party is still considered the front runner.

There are reports of violent clashes between party workers. One person was killed and two were injured in one location. Several people were injured by gunfire at another location. In Quetta, an explosion killed 25 people and injured several dozen. The number of violent incidents continued to increase.

A summary of the election follows, from Pakistani newspapers.
-The Pakistani National Assembly contains 342 seats. From the total seats in the National Assembly, elections are held for 272 seats; 10 seats are reserved for religious minorities and 60 are reserved for women to be filled by proportional representation among parties with more than 5% of the vote. 
- A single party needs to obtain at least 137 of the directly elected seats to form the government on its own. Otherwise the winner in a plurality must form a coalition government. 
- A total of 3,459 candidates are contesting the 272 general seats in the National Assembly; 8,396 are running for 577 general seats in the four provincial assemblies – Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces. 
- Eligible voters can cast their ballots for two seats in each constituency: one for the National Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) and one for their Provincial Assembly (which runs their provincial government).
The election campaign has featured violence and animosity among candidates. This is an important election because the stakes are high.

One Pakistani commentator observed that the PTI’s electoral success would be significant. It would mean that a third party succeeded in breaking the hold on civilian government by the Sharif family and the Bhutto family. 

The Sharif family is synonymous with the Punjabis, read Lahore. The Sindhis -read Karachi- are the base of the Bhuttos. Imran Khan represents the peoples west of the Indus River- read Peshawar and Quetta- plus Islamist parties. The traditional civilian power structure appears to be fracturing with the help of the Pakistan Army leadership.

There are several additional implications. If the PTI forms a government, it would mean that the Pakistan Army leadership had found a way to control the civilian government through elections, without resorting to a coup or an overtly military -backed administration. It also would mean that Islamic fundamentalist parties in the PTI will have gained more political clout than ever.


Just Another Scam

One overarching thought for this blog post, and one that I'm always faced with is the concept of fairness. We teach the concept to children so that they will share toys and food and not pound each other to dust. Outside of that, there's nothing that links the concept to the real world. The concept of treating others as you would have them treat you is a high and lofty goal for the clouds that is rarely present down here in the mud and the blood and the beer.

Planned Failure

2014 Raptor out of the shop today.
Planned failure has become a part of many modern automobile manufacturers design parameters. It makes money primarily for dealerships because they make most of their money in service and parts.

Is there a brand of automobile that doesn't do this? Possibly Honda and Toyota and their luxury brands, Acura and Lexus (respectively).

I paid cash for the Raptor. I was serious about keeping it...forever or until I died, whichever came first, maintaining it as I do by replacing every part that even looked as if it might be worn.

Let me tell you MORE about my 2014 Ford Raptor, which just spent SEVEN DAYS at the dealership for the repair of a motor and an actuator that controls airflow in the cabin of the vehicle. Ford lists the repair as a six hour job in their book.
Part #  AL8Z19E616F   Motor Asy  &  Part # DL3Z19A618A  Duct Air
Before I move forward with the rant, I need to point out that I bought an extended factory warranty on the vehicle, so this is not about the repair costing me anything beyond the original outlay for 'insurance' at point of sale. The dealership's rental department called me every day that my rig was in the shop, asking me if I wanted to rent a vehicle from them...not a loaner. I explained that I have several vehicles, over and over, and no, I did not need a rental.

The Raptor (a souped up Ford F-150 pick up) is Ford's entry in the truck market for people who want a pick-up that drives like a Ferrari with premium off-road/rough road suspension. I bought the fourth year model of the Raptor because (a) I thought they had time to work the bugs out; (b) future models would not have a steel I-beam frame - they'd be aluminum unibody; (c) future models would have a 6 cyl engine with a supercharger, not the 6.2L V-8 that my rig has.

The Easter Egg

I have 35,000 miles on my four year old Raptor and it looks and smells like new. Even the tires look new. There I was, driving it from there to here and I noticed a sound accompanied by vibration when I turned up the A/C.

The service associate was as cynical as I was. I asked, "If this is such a common problem, why didn't Ford fix it?"

He replied, "If Ford was interested in fixing things, why hasn't it fixed the transmissions in the Ford Focus that implode at 75,000 miles?"

(see above) I pointed out that Honda and Toyota never to seem to have these problems, and used my Honda Accord as an example. He said, "See that guy over there? That's the service manager. He drives an Accord. What does that tell you?"

Future Plans

The Raptor is living on my driveway on borrowed time. Eventually, and I am not sure when, I'll sell it to a private party and then I'll replace it with a Toyota Tundra pick up with a large V-8 engine and steel I-beam construction. The Trump Administration is trying to roll-back mileage mandatory on vehicles made and sold in the US and to allow smaller diesels into the market. (Imagine a Toyota HiLux making its way into the American market - almost a guaranteed 500K miles) That may bring about positive changes in manufacture, but I don't trust Ford, Chevrolet or Chrysler not to screw me. This planned failure event underscored my concerns.

Some say that it's not 'fair' for me to buy a Japanese truck. I say that it's not fair to plan failures that cost thousands in labor in my American truck.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

North Korea Update

My morning news feed carried a report from CNN that is completely false regarding North Korea. "Of course," I hear you respond. Everything on CNN is false, biased and partisan.

So what really is going on in North Korea? Is Kim Jong Un keeping his word so far?

North Korea is dismantling facilities at Sohae launch center. The imagery analysts at 38 North reported on 23 July that their analysis of commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae satellite launch complex from 20 and 22 July shows significant new activity.

At the launch pad on 20 July, the rail-mounted transfer and security structure was moved to the middle of the pad. The roof and structural framework had been partially removed. Numerous vehicles were present—including a large construction crane.

On 22 July, imagery showed the continued presence of the crane and vehicles. A major section of the rail-mounted structure had been removed, and the parts were visible on the concrete pad. 

At the high-energy engine test stand, imagery on 20 July showed the presence of a crane and several vehicles. The rail-mounted environmental shelter, which hadn’t been moved since December 2017, had been removed. The older fuel/oxidizer bunkers were in the process of being razed, and portions of the test stand’s upper steel framework have been dismantled and its paneling removed.

On 22 July, fewer vehicles were present and the test stand superstructure had been completely dismantled, leaving only the base, which also was in the process of being removed. 

The 38 North analysts judged that given the state of activity, work probably began within the past two weeks.

On 12 June, after the official summit meetings, the US President asked Chairman Kim Jong Un to dismantle a rocket engine test site. Kim agreed to the request. He kept his word to the US President. 

The facilities at the Sohae complex are less than 20 years old. Even the limited de-construction work to date is a major step in building confidence and creating an atmosphere of trust, as Kim describes it. The disassembly of the large transfer and security structure is intended to be imaged. Its de-composition suggests that the future uses of the launch pad at Sohae will be open to satellite detection

As for the rocket engine test stand, its dismantling looks irreversible. It also is being conducted so that it is certain to be detected by the US. The work reinforces Kim’s decision that North Korea no longer needs the facilities that have been and are being dismantled.

Kim announced earlier this year that North Korea would begin mass production of missile engines. That announcement indicates North Korea’s missile team judges it has the engine designs it needs and the scientific expertise to manufacture the engines. 

The openness of the de-construction work conveys a message that the next step, in the step-by-step process, is for the US to take. Kim will be expecting a major US reciprocal move. He might be expecting some easing of sanctions.

At the Aspen Security Forum, over the weekend, the Commander of US Forces Korea, General Brooks, said that North Korean leader Kim is keeping his word thus far. He also said that US Forces Korea has detected “some diminution of training for military readiness,” but they are still training. 

General Brooks said his command judged that fuel shortages resulting from shortages probably contributed to less training. He said that the ripple effects of the US summit also probably contributed.

He also said the Korean Peninsula has gone 235 days without a provocation. The period without a provocation is a good start and might be a record. Even during the Agreed Framework period (1994-2003), some kind of incident occurred every three or four months. 

The comment about the diminution of North Korean conventional forces training is the first report of this kind in open sources. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Note on Sealed Indictments

One of our blogging friends asked me to comment on an allegation that the US DOJ is sitting on 40,000 sealed indictments. 

The Federal court system is sitting on 40,000 sealed court actions and there is a big difference between the two. A major case could have dozens of search warrants (an authorization in writing by a judge to search a specific location for specifically enumerated evidence which would show that persons committed (a) felony(s). Since almost every crime enumerated in 18USC is a felony, it's not difficult to get a search warrant. These are often sealed so the defendant can't read the affidavit and learn who is cooperating with the government. There are also grand jury subpoenas that are generated in almost all federal cases and there could be a thousand in a complex financial investigation. Those are often sealed as well.

In the criminal justice system, it all comes out in trial. It's not a FISA court. And an indictment is not a conviction. It's an allegation.

Let's take a moment and differentiate between state courts and federal courts. They different with different crimes and different bodies of law. My experience with the California Court System and the Federal Court Systems are roughly equal. Going into great detail on what those differences are and how they play out would take a (thick) book. Suffice that they are different.

There are essentially three kinds of grand juries. Blue ribbon grand juries are usually made up of citizens nominated for one year terms by judges and look at specific government processes to determine whether or not there is a problem. They rarely delve into criminal matters. Criminal grand juries, made up of citizens like you, chosen because you are licensed drivers, sit as investigative bodies (investigative grand juries) and as accusatory grand juries, which issue true bills of indictment. The Federal System always uses grand juries for indictments, and state systems tend to use preliminary hearings unless it's a complicated organized crime case/gang case, etc. 

I have no idea how many sealed indictments the US DOJ is sitting on but wouldn't be surprised if there are 1,000(s) nationwide. That would leave 39,000+/- grand jury subpoenas, search warrants, returns to search warrants, proffers, and other documents out there. Those numbers wouldn't surprise me at all and they're manageable by the courts.

The systems (state and federal) both have 14th Amendment/due process time requirements to bring the case to a speedy conclusion ONCE CHARGES ARE FILED. Investigations are timed-out by the statute of limitations, which varies based on the system and the crime. There are not statutes of limitations in homicides - but the federal government has very few homicide cases. Most of them take place on Indian reservations. 

Thoughts?

The Difference between Vlad and Hillary?


Plots, Plans and Clickbait

2 million

I rarely check blog stats but I did today
and this obscure blog has over two million
page views. Thank you for taking time out of
your lives to drop by.

_______

Russian Plan

Clearly it will involve Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader.

The only way to thwart their evil plot to conquer America is to require voter ID and demand that people appear personally at each voting place.

It might not stop the dead from voting in Chicago because it's a tradition there, but most of the damage can be averted...if the Democrats are interested in stopping Russian meddling.

Victor Davis Hanson has a good piece. It's short, worth a read, "Just How Far will the Left Go?"


How Low will they Go?

Sen. Rand Paul called Monday for President Trump to revoke former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance, as he questioned whether the Obama-era spy boss was “monetizing” his access to sensitive information in his new role as a pundit.

“Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump?” Paul tweeted early Monday.
Is former CIA Director John Brennan cashing in with the corrupt, lying, smug, scamming, elite mainstream media by trashing President Trump? That much is undeniable. CNN pays Brennan to go on its shows and lie about the President. Same with Big Jim Comey, now a Democrat Party insider. They're paid millions to keep the ratings up in the failing networks, and we all know the business of media is in the ratings.

What is John Brennan's access to CURRENT intelligence? Getting the information requires two things: (a) clearance and (b) access. My sense is that while Brennan and other former DCI's have clearance, their access to current information is very limited. They're still allowed in the CIA HQ, can go to the executive cafeteria and have lunch and hang out (clearance), but that's about it.

Bottom Line: John Brennan accused President Trump of being a traitor. It's one of if not the only federal crime punishable by death. In exchange, Rand Paul is asking that Brennan's ticket to the 7th floor at CIA be canceled. 

Personal Note: I've met John Brennan and Jim Clapper. Brennan is a consummate stuffed shirt with a personal love of Islam, which explains his appeal to President Obama. 

General Clapper is a 77 year old retired Air Force Lt. General. Clapper isn't as cunning as Brennan but he knows the Pentagon game and made his living doing insider fighting in the heart of the largest and best funded Byzantine Empire  (the Pentagon) the world has ever known. While General Clapper has proven to be a bit of a cur, lying to Congress about NSA spying activities on US Citizens, I can't help but admit that I still like him - sorta. In much the same way that I like a cobra in a zoo that is behind safety glass. Brennan, on the other hand has all the endearment of a New Orleans wharf rat.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Charlie's Ride

I heard that somebody snagged Charles Manson's Dodge Power Wagon out of Ballarat, CA and took it to parts unknown - possibly to restore it.

FAKE NEWS

It's still there.


The Manson stayed at the Barker Ranch, in the mountains, southeast of Ballarat, sacrificing, etc. 

One of the girls, rather than be raped and sacrificed to Satan, ran down the mountain while the rest of the "family" was sleeping and made it to Ballarat. The sheriffs were called and Charlie's Power Wagon has been there ever since.

Now and Then


There are a lot of little "living ghost towns" in Arizona. They were mining communities at one time that drew people. Sometimes they survived long enough to have a post office and a school. All of them had saloons, honky tonk girls and served pop-skull, tanglefoot, red-eye, and oh-be-joyful. Jimjams (delirium tremens) were said to be a problem.
“Rattlesnake Valley, over yonder, ain't never been good for much exceptin' the finest breed of serpents an' horn-toads a man ever see outside a circus or the jimjams.”- Jackson Gregory.
One of them is in the spotlight on Virtual Mirage today -- Chloride, AZ. The place is far removed from the rush and crush of humanity, being but a fifteen mile or so drive north of Kingman.

Your sermonette for this Sunday is that you need to stop and take in some of the local color when you're rushing down the Interstate, because every place has its story, and it's likely more interesting than the Gulp-and-Guzzle, snooze and stop where you bolt down carbs and stretch your legs.

Chloride Today

Chloride about 80 years ago

Best guess, there are about 250 people living in Chloride today.


It was a more lively place 80 years ago. Yes there were gun fights (usually an ambush), claim jumping, run aways (soiled doves) working their way west to San Francisco, etc. But most of those took place more than 80 years ago.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Passing Observations

Arizona


Indian petroglyph, circa 1000 AD - a giant bird holding a man in its beak. Puerco Village, Petrified National Forrest National Park, Arizona.


It's officially hot in Arizona when a snake steals your beer.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Dark Horse?

An interesting rumor has been quietly circulated through the Washington DC Beltway by Democrats.

"Forgive Jim (Big Jim) Comey"

Yeah, I didn't believe it either when I heard it the first or second time, but there is a strategy afoot to rehabilitate him among Democrats and to run him against President Trump in 2020. Unlimited self-righteousness, professional bullying, preening self-importance, and entitled arrogance are all elements of today's FBI, and nowhere is it more apparent than in disgraced former Director Jim (Big Jim) Comey. They could round out the ticket with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who checks two boxes by being both partly African and a woman. 

Jim Comey's dedication to the deep state and to the power mongers has been proved in the octagon in the Senate and the House as they questioned him about unethical practices while in power. Will he rise to win the nomination of his Party? That remains to be seen. It would help his chances if he came out of the closet as a tranny or something, shaved his legs, wore a mini-skirt and walked like a duck. But even without that, there are some serious people who believe that he has a chance to be President. 

Would he put Robert Mueller back in as FBI Director? It would be very progressive. Would FBI absorb ICE and all other federal law enforcement to be the uber agency in America. I'm sure that John Podesta is offering blood sacrifices to Moloch (his chosen deity according to insider accounts) to make it happen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Some Updates

North Korean Update

     Repatriation of Remains

After two days of talks, North Korea agreed to return 50 to 55 sets of remains believed to be those of US soldiers missing from the 1950-53 Korean War -- possibly within two weeks, according to media reports.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) but the reports. However, a US official in Seoul said the remains would be flown out of North Korea on 27 July in what would be the first repatriations since 2007.

     Secret Facilities

On 16 July, North Korean media denounced US reports that North Korea built and has been operating a covert uranium enrichment facility for over ten years just outside Pyongyang. 

On 13 July, The Diplomat published a detailed analysis, including satellite images, of open source information about a facility known as Kangson.

The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported on 16 July that during the 6-7 July visit to Pyongyang, the US Secretary of State accused North Korea of operating one or more secret uranium enrichment facilities and of continuing to make ballistic missiles. He made the accusation directly to Kim Yong-chol, who is Chairman Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisor. 

Kim Yong-chol insisted that North Korea has never built or operated a covert uranium enrichment plant or other secret facilities. Yeah...about that.

Accusations of covert facilities by the US Secretary of State would explain the strong denunciation of the Secretary in the statement the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued after his departure. 

Construction and operation of secret facilities is a normal business practice for North Korea. The existence of additional secret and/or underground nuclear and missile facilities has been rumored for years. At least one core from the Yongbyon reactor was removed and has never been found in over 30 years. Secret nuclear facilities do exist.

Analysts have known about the Kangson facility for at least ten years, but its function was a mystery. Its function is still not confirmed. Analysts reportedly suspect a third uranium enrichment facility exists but is unlocated.

At this point in negotiations, North Korea has made no commitment to stop producing warheads or missiles. According to The Diplomat, the Defense Intelligence Agency estimated in 2017 that North Korean possesses enough fissile material for at least 60 nuclear weapons, and it can produce fissile material for up to 12 weapons a year. 

Kim Jong Un insists he is committed to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but he has said nothing about disarmament. His definition of denuclearization of the Peninsula is elaborate and complex.

The 3rd plenary session of the 7th Central Committee on 20 April declared the “realization” of the strategic deterrent is the condition that enabled Kim Jong Un to announce the switch in strategic direction to socialist economic construction. In this strategy, economic development is a function of and is enabled by the strategic deterrent.

The continuing operation of covert facilities suggests that Kim is being duplicitous, and that North Korea is cheating. Those judgments are premature because no agreements have been reached about production of fissile materials or nuclear weapons. Additionally, North Korea has no reason to change its normal security practices or production schedules.

It is reasonably clear that Kim now is pushing socialist economic construction, as directed by the Central Committee in April. In the terms of the 20 April Central Committee plenum resolutions, that pursuit requires that the strategic weapons programs remain active and healthy. 

The revelations of secret facilities confirm that denuclearization of the Peninsula will take a long time and will be extremely complex. The planning cycle for socialist economic construction is five years. That seems to be a measuring time for denuclearization talks.

Problems in Gaza

On 15 July, Israel announced that it was closing the Gaza Strip's Kerem Shalom border crossing to all fuel and gasoline imports. Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies would continue to be permitted through the crossing on a case-by-case basis.
"Due to continuing attempts by Hamas to carry out terrorist attacks, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, after consultation with the Israel Defense Force (IDF) chief of staff, decided to halt the transfer of gasoline via Kerem Shalom until next Sunday," read a statement released by the Defense Ministry.
Israel also decided to reduce the Gaza fishing zone from six to just three nautical miles.

Israel tightened restrictions on the Gaza Strip because Palestinians continue to send balloons and kites with incendiaries into southern Israel. 

Gazans already experience a shortage of electricity because of technical and financial problems. Residents, businesses and medical facilities rely on diesel fuel to run generators for electricity. The local UN officials estimate that emergency fuel supplies will run out in a week.

The Israeli government has given Hamas until Friday, 20 July, to stop the flaming kite and balloon attacks on Israeli territory. 

The Israeli leadership has reportedly instructed the country's military forces to prepare to invade the Gaza Strip if the flaming kite attacks don't cease by this week, according to a report cited by The Times of Israel.

Israel sent the message directly to Hamas via Egyptian intelligence services. The report also says Hamas responded by saying its forces will work to stop the rogue attacks by Friday.

On Sunday, the 15th, the Israeli 162nd Armored Division launched a military exercise simulating an attack on the Gaza Strip and the capture of Gaza City. The IDF claimed the exercise had been planned in advance and was not related to current events.

Another Gaza war campaign does not seem imminent, but a show of force is clearly in preparation. Israel has many options short of a full-scale invasion. 

The cut off of fuel might stop the incendiary attacks because Egypt also closed the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. The Egyptians closed the crossing for technical reasons, they said. Egypt brokered the three-day ceasefire last weekend and is working with all parties to avoid further escalation.

Excellent Advice


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Updates

Some of you have asked, "LL do you have a life?" The answer is that no, I do not. While I'm waiting for things to happen as I am at the moment, I sometimes chop these things out because I have a few readers who are interested. I was on the phone from 5:00 am this morning (8 on the East Coast) trying to get some people to move. As of this moment, I've been assured that things are happening, but I have yet to get a detailed report. Unfortunately I can't clone myself 1000 times and be everywhere at once.

Now for the updates

North Korea Update

Kim visited the northeast on an inspection trip. On 16 July, North Korea media published accounts of Chairman Kim Jong Un’s inspection visit to eight facilities in North Hamgyong Province, whose capital is Chongjin.

The facilities included the Chongjin shipyard, a large greenhouse project for growing vegetables, a machine tool factory, a salmon fish farm, a hotel, a power plant and hydroelectric dam and a holiday camp. Most of the visits were morale boosters, with lots of encouragement to work harder for the people. He boarded a patrol boat built at the shipyard and went for a brief cruise. At four locations he was critical of provincial or facility management.

At the Orangchon Power Station, Kim said that it has been under construction for 17 years but is still only 70% complete. He reprimanded the leading officials of the Cabinet for leaving the project to the province only and not paying attention. He also inspected the dam that will serve the hydroelectric power station.

At the Yonmunjin Hotel, he noted that the hotel has been under construction since 2011 and was associated with his father, Kim Chong-il. Kim Jong Un described the location as ideal for use by the people with clean sea waters and a good white sandy shore.

The exterior of the structure is finished, but the interior is not. “The Supreme Leader referred to the fact that the plastering of the inside of the hotel has not yet been finished though six years passed since the completion of its frame project.”

There is no motivation to complete anything because there is no profit. Capitalism works. Communism doesn't and this is emblematic of a system that has no future.

Kim directed that more central supplies and help be provided to the hotel project. Its incomplete status embarrassed his father’s memory. It's a world where executions bring short term motivation.

At the Chongjin bag factory, Kim found the factory working poorly. He criticized the provincial party committee.
“The Supreme Leader pointed out that the Provincial Party Committee is working in a perfunctory manner, disregarding an important policy to be prioritized by it and that its attitude toward the acceptance and implementation of the Party policy is very wrong and the committee has no revolutionary spirit and responsible attitude of working hard to implement the Party policy.”

“He charged that there is a problem in the work of the Provincial Party Committee as it has not yet built a design room, paying no attention to a poor products show room.”
Kim inspected the Onpho Holiday Camp late at night, which apparently caught the mangers by surprise.
“Looking round the bathroom of the camp, he pointed out its very bad condition, saying bathtubs for hot spring therapy are dirty, gloomy and unsanitary for their poor management.” 
He had other criticisms and ordered the camp to be completed in 2019 by the Korean People’s Army.

All the locations were civilian. The Chongjin shipyard was the only military-related visit. The late Kim Chong-il almost always visited military facilities as part of his songun – military first – policy. Kim Jong Un visited military bases during the first years of his leadership tenure, in and after 2012. North Koreans pay attention to the Supreme Leader’s visits as a signal of his priorities.

Kim fired no one nor punished anyone but ordered everyone to work harder. He apparently is reshaping his image and reputation for summary, harsh punishments. The Daily NK reported that the security apparatus has lifted the tight security measures in effect prior to the summit with the US President.

Kim is doing internally the economic tasks he promised to do in his three visits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and in the summit with the US President. At some locations, Kim sounded more like Chinese President Xi than a Kim scion.

Turkey-Syria-Russia Update

Turkish President Erdogan concerned about Idlib. According to Reuters, Turkish President Erdogan told Russian President Putin that the de-escalation agreement covering Idlib could be jeopardized by a potential Syrian army offensive in Idlib.

Erdogan said that if the Syrian government targeted Idlib in the same way they did in Dara’a, the essence of the Astana agreement would be destroyed.

President Erdogan apparently now senses that Syrian President Assad is serious about liberating all of Syria and about the withdrawal of foreign forces. What might have worried the Turks is the Russian advice to the rebels in Dara’a to not evacuate to Idlib because the Syrians are heading there in September.

After the summit between Presidents Putin and Trump, Turkey should be concerned because Putin reaffirmed Russian support for the Syrian government.

The Russians in Syria do not trust the Turks. President Erdogan remains determined to overthrow the Assad government and has converted Turkish-occupied Syria, including the Idlib de-escalation zone, into a base to support future operations against Assad. Come September, Turkey could be on a potential collision course with the Syrians and the Russians, if it insists on protecting the Islamists in Idlib.

Israel-Syria Update

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the Israeli attack near an airport on the outskirts of Aleppo on 15 July killed nine Syrian soldiers. 

Six of those killed in the attack held Syrian citizenship. There is no information regarding the other three soldiers killed. According to the report, the attack targeted a site near the Al-Nayrab airfield. The Syrian state news agency (SANA) quoted a Syrian military source as saying that the attack caused only material damage. 

Other sources said the attack targeted arms depots belonging to the Syrian army and Iranian militias were kept, claiming that 22 soldiers were killed, including nine Iranians.

This is the only report to assert that Iranians were killed in the Israeli attack.

US-Russia Update

The hysterical Western press reaction to the US-Russian summit contrasts sharply with the measured statements by President Putin at the joint press conference. 

Putin’s adjectives to describe the meetings were “frank”, “businesslike” and “very fruitful.” He did not describe President Trump as his new best friend. He said nothing about a personal relationship but said he hoped trust could be built. 

Putin mentioned the main issues between the US and Russia. They are strategic nuclear weapons; anti-terrorism’ regional crises including Syria, Iran, North Korea and Ukraine; economic business relations; interference in US elections and cyber-security and humanitarian and cultural exchanges.

The two presidents agreed that the Cold War is ended and the two countries should cooperate more. Putin’s denials of meddling in US elections were disingenuous plays on words about the meaning of “state” action. The US meddles, Russia meddles, China meddles, everyone meddles in everyone else's business. Even the British service worked to try and get Hillary Clinton elected...

Putin summed up the summit, “In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full-scale meeting, because previously we only had a chance to talk briefly on international fora. We had a good conversation with President Trump, and I hope that we start to understand each other better…. Clearly there are some challenges left when we were not able to clear all the backlog, but I think that we made the first important step in this direction.”

Nothing Putin said suggests he was exuberant about a diplomatic breakthrough with the US, regardless of anything the US President said or tweeted. 

This summit was similar to the Singapore summit in that the heads of state took the measure of each other. Putin and Kim Jong Un both described their summits as first steps. The major concession for the parties was to meet, which is always the first step in making deals.

The Israelis were delighted with Putin’s support for restoring the 1974 separation of forces agreement along the Golan Heights. Syrian President Assad also said he was committed to that, in a statement on the 16th. Western media did not bother to mention that Russia, thereby, reaffirmed that it will not defend Syria against Israeli attacks. The Israelis understood the message.

Russian support for Syria as it was before the civil war will not please Turkish President Erdogan. 

Concerning Iran, Putin’s support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iranian nuclear deal, was a point of disagreement. Iran will be pleased by Russian support. Putin did not mention Iranian personnel in Syria, though the US President pressed him that the Iranians must withdraw.

They also disagreed about Ukraine but supported the need for peace there.

Chinese media have not commented on the summit. The Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping will support any action that promotes international stability. This summit does that by opening communications between the US and Russian leaders.

The summit also would seem to afford Putin greater flexibility in international affairs. That means he can be less reliant on the Chinese relationship in achieving strategic goals. To the extent that a relationship with the US President weakens Russia’s relationship with China, the summit is good for US interests.

A careful reading of the press statements shows that both Presidents were straightforward in stating their positions and in acknowledging disagreements. Neither yielded to the other. On most issues, they agreed to disagree, except for counter-terror and on restoring the Golan Heights separation of forces agreement. Putin’s language in the press statement suggests he remains wary of the US President.

They said all the right words about cooperation, but, in the end, they agreed to support peace between Israel and Syria, to keep communications open and to maintain existing counter-terror cooperation.