Tuesday, August 30, 2016

CNN "Declassified" and Chi Mak, chilling spy from China working as a Naval engineer

Sunday night, CNN aired an episode of “Declassified” about a Chinese spy Chi Mak who gathered US Navy communications technology secrets while working for the government  as an engineer contractor in California.

The best link is here  and there  is a video (not embeddable) of how agents searched his home without leaving a trace, although it’s not clear how they were so easily able to break in (picking locks?)  The FBI bugged their home and claims that Mak and his wife did not have an intimate marital relationship but were more like business partners.

The CNN article warns that China regularly targets employees with security clearances both at home and work with phishing email attacks, possibly tracking and trying to induce clicks on drive by websites or ads.  These kinds of malware would not create ransomware demands but could transmit work secrets and PII and personal habits back to enemies  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Zakaria GPS: "Global Lessons on Guns"

Sunday, August 28, 2016. On Global Public Square, Fareed Zakaria presented a special report “Global Lessons on Guns”.

Zakaria looked at three other countries.  The first was Japan, and it is the strictest.  It is normally nearly impossible for most civilians to get firearms, except for licensed and credentialed hunters.  Even the macho Yaku cult with full body tattoos does not use guns.  There are very few gun deaths in Japan.

Next he looked at Switzerland.  With its mandatory military service for men, is it a gun owner’s paradise?  Not exactly.  Upon finishing military service, men (who keep guns but not ammo at home) turn in weapons and need licenses to continue keeping them.

Next Zakaria looked at Australia, which passed a draconian gun control law in 1996 after a particularly horrible mass shooting. It also instituted a mandatory gun buyback of assault weapons
Finally Zakaria interviewed a retired Army general, who talked about the strain of 13 years of war, with Stop-Loss repeat deployments, on an all volunteer force, as contributing to gun suicide of veterans.

Zakaria took the position that America’s problem of gun violence is systemic, and can’t be solved just by looking at the psycho-pathology of mass shooters (as with Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film “Elephant”).
But others (like Ben Swann above) present data questioning whether these measures in Australia and the UK were effective (the UK had an incident in 1997 and quickly clamped down, Australian style).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Green Party Town Hall on CNN: cancel student debt

CNN held a 90-minute town hall for the Green Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, writeup here.

Jill Stein called for forgiveness of student loan debts, most of which she said are owned by the federal government.  This would increase spending power of young adults who can’t find adequate jobs to match what they spent of college educations.  No wonder Peter Thiel regards college as a ripoff or scam and funds entrepreneurs to drop out!

Stein actually admitted that Donald Trump has raised valid criticisms of past US policy, especially in Iraq. But she said that ISIS cannot be viewed as an existential threat to the US.  She seemed to overlook the novelty of asymmetric threats (like dirty bombs, EMP, etc), or even unusual targeting of ordinary Americans.
She indicated she had changed her position on vaccinations, not opposing them since mercury has been removed.

Baraka (an ironic last name) said that Obama had behaved like an Uncle Tom or token black president. Under his administration police profiling has gotten worse.

Monday, August 15, 2016

NBC's coverage of the Olympics doesn't provide the spectacle of China in 2008

NBC’s Olympics may be going better than it might have, with all the fears about security and about Zika.

We hear Michael Phelps, 31, crowned “the greatest swimmer of all time”.  We see pictures that would please National Review’s David Skinner (“Notes on the Hairless Man” from June 1999), with even underarms shaved.  We see lots of wisecracks about pretty "thmooth" bodies on Twitter, even from established “straight” male stars.

That makes the story about a robbery of four swimmers, including Ryan Lochte, when in a taxi stopped by gunmen posed as police, extra disturbing.  Lochte felt a line had been crossed (as I would ) and at first refused to comply.  Like, it’s more honorable to die than to negotiate with terrorists, or criminals.

NBC News has the story here.

More recently, several sources have reported that Brazilian police question Lochte's claims and tried to detain him.  The details are bizarre and reported most completely in UK's Daily Mail.  It's getting more bizarre with stories about swimmers vandalizing a gas station.  Again, David Skinner will laugh at all those smooth bodies.

Lochte's "apology" seems unconvincing to me, at least;  were the "robbers" really security guards from the gas station?  Is that how things work in Brazil.  "Requiem for the Hairless Man" sounds like a title for a movie spoof about this incident, maybe.  Or maybe. "Fabulist II" (or "Shattered Glass II", if Lionsgate wants to do it).  AOL has a detailed later account from one of the teammates with more detail, and it says Lochte was "thrown under the bus". This latest account may give the right perspective.

But Sally Jenkins writes on p. D12 of the Washington Post Monday, "It's a sorry excuse for an apology from a guy who still doesn't get it", with LTE's.  Lochte and others may not have understood that in poorer countries like Brazil, "negotiations" with security at gunpoint are a way things are settled.  But he's losing endorsements and sponsors quickly.  "He'thmooth".

The best chance for geographical scenery is in the cycling.  (routes )  The longest vertical rise is about 2500 feet, but the Brazilian “Appalachians” go to about 9000 feet – Neblina Peak on the Venezuelan border reached 9827,

Wikipedia picture link under CCSA 3,0 (Robson Esteves Czaban)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"LBJ" on PBS American Experience; a retrospect for my own experience with the Vietnam era draft

Wednesday night, Aug. 9, 2016, PBS American Experience re-aired “LBJ”, a four-hour, two-part film by David Grubin, narrated by David McCollough.  Here’s the official link.

I remember election day in 1964, cool and rainy, lots of fallen leaves around. My father said, “Npbody can beat LBJ.”  He voted for Goldwater (despite the commercial with the little girl in front of the hydrogen bomb).  I was 21 then.  I think I voted for LBJ and went along with the crowd.
On February 8, 1968, I would take the oath and enter the Army, with basic at Fort Jackson, SC., shortly after the Tet offensive, which up-ended Lyndon Johnson’s previous “optimism” about prevailing in Vietnam.

The first episode covers his work in the civil rights movement as senator, and continues with the Kennedy assassination and his “accidental” presidency and his desire to prove himself in 1964.  It seems that he manipulated the Gulf of Tonkin (or USS Maddox)   to decrease the perception he could be soft of communism with Goldwater as opponent.

As covered in McNamara’s book “In Retrospect”, LBJ’s involvement in Vietnam seems insidious, but actually it escalated very quickly in 1965, after the election.

Johnson feared that the War would divert Congress away from the War on Poverty and Great Society initiatives.  He signed Medicare into law in July 1965, just two days after a critical wigwam on Vietnam (I was working my first summer at the Navy David Taylor Model Basin at the time).  John felt that America was affluent enough to be able to share wealth with the poor easily. Johnson also thought that US technology would prevail easily in Vietnam, as he did not understand guerrilla warfare led by a dictator (Ho Chi Minh) who could mobilize poor people who had little to lose into self-sacrifice.

By 1966, Johnson had to deal with a “different kind of folk” among inner city blacks in northern cities, who seemed much more combative and who, according to the documentary, wanted “black power”.  The film covers the 1965 Selma march rather summarily.

Demonstrations against the War (and the draft) started to accelerate in 1966 and 1967.  The documentary did not cover the deferment controversy as well as it might have.

Johnson's last days at his ranch the Texas Hill Country were sad, as he tried to run the ranch like it was a country.  He depended on nitroglycerin tablets, spoke for the last time in 1972 and died of cardiac arrest four days before the Vietnam peace treaty was announced in January 1973.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Chris Cuomo narrates "Got Shorty: Inside the Search for El Chapo" on CNN

Chris Cuomo hosted the CNN special “Got Shorty: Inside the Search for El Chapo” Sunday night, Aug. 8, link here. The title of the episode is an obvious take-off on the 90s film “Get Shorty”. Why did CNN's video on this suddenly disappear today?

The most impressive part of the documentary probably was the smelly underground tunnel, covered by a bathtub in a home at one point.

Also covered was the extra-legal shadow government run by the cartel.

The story of Kate del Castillo is also covered

Related is the film “Sicario” (January 13, 2016 on Movies), and the Rolling Stone article by Sean Penn (Books Jan 27, 2016.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

ABC Nightline covers kids who really do become fitness buffs

In preparation for the Olympics, ABC Nightline did a special on body building by young men, especially one teen  (David Laid) who started at age 14, and is interviewed at 18.  But another body builder developed organ failure problems (but that would happen with steroids). Here’s the ABC Nightline link.

I’m reminded of a kid (Hugo Cornelier -- is that French Canadian?) who took a selfie everday from age 12 to 20.  There is a noticeable difference.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

2nd LP town hall hosted by AC360 on CNN

Anderson Cooper hosted the Libertarian Party candidates Town Hall last night, the second such event, on CNN (the first was on June 22). Gary Johnson and William Weld were questioned as to whether their positions represented pure libertarianism.  Weld disagrees with “religious liberty bills” actually intended to approve of deliberate discrimination.

One particularly handsome young man said he had been fired from a job and expelled as a student from a “Christian” school.  One wonders why he even had attended.

Johnson said that a bakery should be required by law to sell a cake to any customer, under public accommodations. But it was legitimate to refuse to do the labor to decorate the cake if the owner of the shop had a religious objection to same-sex marriage.

On weapons, Johnson pointed out that full assault weapons cannot be sold legally in the US.  He felt that an old-style Clinton era assault weapons ban would simply make a lot of today’s gun owners “criminals”.

Johnson did talk about different kinds of marijuana, and accepted the idea that some forms need to be more regulated and kept away from minors.

Weld reiterated the idea that libertarianism stresses government get out of people’s wallets and out of people’s bedrooms.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

PBS: "The Nazi Games: Berlin, 1936"

On Tuesday, August 2, 2016 PBS aired “The Nazi Games: Berlin, 1936” (link ).

The opening of the 50-minute documentary talked about Nazi values, for the “perfect body”, for what is “desirable”, as an idea that had originated in Sparta in ancient Greece. I must ponder this with regards to my own gay values as to what I "want" in a partner through "upward affiliation".

Hitler gradually made allowances to allow token Jewish competitors in order to convince the rest of the world that he wasn’t “racist” or warlike, and to put on a great show when everyone showed up in Berlin in August 1936.  Particularly critical was the politics of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and support of Avery Brumbage.

Another show point was the participation of Jesse Owens.

Hitler built the Olympic venue to great scale, spending the equivalent of $450 million today.  The games were said to be a proxy for a coming war among the great powers.

Rudimentary television was available in screening rooms, which required separate tickets.

After the Olympics, Hitler moved on with his agenda of European conquest.

A factor had been a denial of games in Japan in 1932.
PBS also has an American Experience film about Jesse Owens.

Wikipedia attribution link for PD cartoon of 1936 Olympics anticipating TV, by Zeitung.

Monday, August 01, 2016

CNN continues "Declassified" with report on Ana Montes that still causes a lingering national security threat today

CNN played several episodes of “Declassified” Sunday night, with the most significant episode probably the one concerning Defense Intelligence Agency employee Ana Montes, who gave secrets to Cuba starting in the Reagan years with the operations in Central America, story here.

The episode described the mechanics of drops around the Washington DC Metro then, almost recalling the film “Five Lines”.  The FBI broke into her apartment while she was away Memorial Day weekend in May 2001, and then set up a sting in her office right after 9/11 to catch more evidence.  She was called in and interrogated just before the US announced its operation in Afghanistan, which she could have compromised.  Her skin developed a sudden rash (no, not Stevens Johnson Syndrome).  She was then arrested.  She plea bargained for "only" 25 years in prison (and she was 45 at the time).

She went to the dark side because of pro-Communist and pro-Castro ideological beliefs, which had lingered from the extreme Left from the 60s and 70s.  I ran into some of this with the “People’s Party” in 1972.

The episode is important because some of her secrets, in the hands of Cuba today, could be sold to Iran or North Korea.

CNN also aired episodes on how Saddam Hussein was finally found by Operation “Red Dawn” (named after the 1984 movie) in December 2003.

Another episode depicted the chase and killing of “insurgency” leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.   Zarqawi exploited the power vaccum in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was deposed;  people had no law and order, no stability, a lot of times no utilities.  People needed to feel that their lives mattered.