I remember when System of a Down released, “B.Y.OB.” I remember driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, tanned from a day at the beach and a belly full of surf and turf while Serge Tankian screamed, “And we all live in a fascist nation!” That was 2006. I remember thinking I liked SOAD more for their music than for their astute grasp of political philosophy. On that note, let’s jump ahead to present-day China, where 850,000 informants work the streets in Beijing alone. Biometric enrollment required for admission to scenic parks or mountains. Facial recognition done by CCTV, drones, and police sunglasses. Corporatism. Gait recognition. A “social credit system” where each citizen accrues a score based on past behavior—and reaps rewards or discrimination based on it. The subjugation of an entire Muslim province. Surveillance on schoolchildren to catch cheaters, those that don’t pay attention in class, and to make note of food eaten or not eaten on a daily basis. And thanks to China’s One Belt One Road initiative, it’s coming to China’s de facto colonies. Expect to see this technology and this behavior increasing in Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, and even Somalia. It’s already making an appearance in Zimbabwe. Now, that’s what I call fascism. What word would Serge Tankian use?
With that kind of uber-Orwellian setting, forgive me for sounding a little Alex Jones-esque when I ask if anyone not employed by the Beijing Embassy Regional Security Office knows what the real story was with the explosion that went off next to it this week?
Back to China’s fascist tactics. How shocked would you be to learn that Chinese intelligence had recruited Chinese students in the US to shut down protests in San Francisco coinciding with the televised running of the Olympic torch? That is only one aspect of Politico’s fascinating expose on Russian and Chinese spying in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Meanwhile, Trump’s deal with the North Koreans is having about the same level of success as expected, which is to say, none.
Speaking of North Korea, GQ’s deep dive on Otto Warmbier is not only the most disturbing story you can read this week, it also has the most disturbing introduction. No one wants war with North Korea, but it does raise the question of how much abuse of an American citizen can we endure before deciding that war is worth it. It also makes you want to bodyslam every fawning jackass that praised Kim Jong Un’s sister and the North Korean beauties during the Olympics. Not to mention the fawning jackass that praised Kim Jong Un and thanked him for returning our Korean War “vets” stateside. For his next act, Trump is talking tough to Turkey about releasing US pastor Andrew Craig Brunson who was held in prison for 1.5 years and has now been placed under house arrest due to a “health concern.” It would be nice if Trump’s narcissism and human rights overlap here. We’ll see.
How about some good news from the Pacific Rim? Japan finally executed the last of the guys behind the sarin gas attack in Tokyo in 1995. Historically, it’s a little dicey to celebrate Japanese bloodletting, but this one is about as righteous as it gets.
In one of the biggest stories to get little traction, Alice Wells, State Department deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs met with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar last week. This is the first time the US has met with the Taliban without the Afghan government present. Is Trump cutting deals to affect an exit from Afghanistan? Is he excluding the Afghan government or was this deconflicted ahead of time? Oh – and how do you negotiate with an enemy that is, um, gaining ground? Not successfully, I’m guessing. The State Department is keeping the meeting on the hush-hush, so we have no answers yet. Helps when no one’s asking any questions, though.
In a true dog-bites-man story, several US Senators are being targeted by hackers. This would be a huge story if this were 2002.
It seems every week, there are stunning new aspects to Russia’s aggression. That’s probably because there are. This week, The Atlantic reveals the extent to which Russia exploit’s Interpol’s “Red Notices” to punish (and attempt to re-patriate) dissidents abroad. This is something that should capture the imagination of those on the Left (the issue revolves a lot around Russia and ICE); it should also alarm those on the right that still care about the Russian threat (Marco Rubio?)
As if Trump’s soft treatment of China telecom company ZTE wasn’t bad enough, it now seems that Trump might lift sanctions on a Russian company as well. This stands in stark contrast to the UK’s use of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) to go after corrupt foreign politicians and officials (read: Russians).
The Brits are getting ever more wary of Russia, something that will happen when Russia almost enters NATO airspace, and the Royal Air Force has to scramble Typhoons to patrol the skies over the Black Sea. Clearly, the Brits are getting much better at dealing with Russia than they are with Islamic terror.
In Australia, the banks are just starting to weed out illegal Russian money. It’s gratifying to see the breadth of Russian influence exposed to the light of day by mainstream outlets. One hopes it will continue with as much intensity when the targets include Leftists and not just Trump.
Great read on Russia and the world of Islam from the Hoover Institution. You gotta download it. It’s worth the effort to understand more about two entangled cultures that both impact US foreign policy in significant but complex ways. If you want a less intellectual and more straightforward read, three Russian sisters killed their mafia father who was abusing them. So there’s that.
Once, when I was working in the heart of a lawless African country, I had to meet up with the UN’s Department of Security Services officer in charge in the area. He spent thirty minutes giving me his resume—25 years in Spanish special forces! Counterterrorism expert with experience on four continents! 13 years with the UN as a senior agent! I almost expected him to say he was also the fourth Planet Hollywood investor. I was too polite to ask the obvious question as to why such a lethal weapon as he was cooped up in a lawless area with no strategic value, sucking espresso from a machine and staring at a dirt road. I later found out, from other UN folks, that he’d worked for the UN in the capital, but was discovered to be bedding 13-year-old local girls. The UN, living up to their morally corrupt standing, simply transferred him to the bush where he was now free to bed more 13-year-old girls, except with more plausible deniability from his supervisors and fewer witnesses, oversight, and accountability. I share that story to say that until you’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with supposedly altruistic agencies, you can’t appreciate the frustrating levels of incompetence, corruption, and moral rot. It makes me less than surprised to learn about Oxfam’s culture of sex trafficking and cover-up.
Africa, in particular, is the land of corruption, so I’ll stay on the topic for a minute. This video is a one-sided, but interesting, look at the Islamic rehab centers in the “Little Mogadishu” neighborhood of Nairobi. Trapped in a rehab center? It’s almost as bad as being held hostage for three years by Somali pirates. I read this and thought of all those Ivy League kids complaining about freedom of speech, claiming it’s a tool of oppression. I think many African journalists know better.
Shifting to West Africa, a pair of articles detail the tensions between pastoralists and nomads in Nigeria. It’s an on-going argument whether the tensions in Nigeria are religious (Christian v. Muslim) or territorial.
The official report is out on Flight MH370, which was bound for Beijing when it disappeared over the Indian Ocean. You probably remember that CNN covered this ad nauseam for a month or two. SPOILER ALERT: the plane might have been hijacked.
Shifting to terrorists we can identify, ISIS’ manipulation of the mentally ill seems to have paid dividends. Turning the mentally ill into their foot soldiers makes stopping lone wolf attacks about as daunting as Ricardo Montalban promised in Naked Gun (be nice if there was a hyperlink, but YouTube failed me. But just go ahead and rent the whole movie).
Are you one of those Americans who can’t figure out where to stand on the whole Israel/Palestine issue? If you are, do us all a favor and hold off running for office or, at least, pontificating on it until you understand the established positions of both sides. Two ways of reporting this: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Arrested By Israeli Border Police, May Have Been Beaten” or “Two Palestinian Teens Caught Sneaking Into Israel with Bag of Homemade Machine Guns.”
Everyone loves a civil rights hero. That said, civil rights heroes often possess an understandably, narrow aperture when it comes issues outside their lane. Martin Luther King Jr. called the US government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” ignoring the evils of Khrushchev, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao Zedong’s one-year old Cultural Revolution (for starters). Ghandi’s advice to Winston Churchill? “This manslaughter must be stopped. You are losing; if you persist, it will only result in greater bloodshed. Hitler is not a bad man.” Ghandi’s advice to the Jews? “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs…As it is, they succumbed anyway in their millions.” Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) was closely aligned for decades with the South African Communist Party, even receiving military training from the Soviets. In that light, it’s not surprising, but no less disappointing, that Nelson Mandela’s grandson will invite Palestinian provocateur Ahed Tamimi to South Africa to receive a special award for “bravery, resistance, and being a symbol of hope for millions.” Tamimi is maybe the most vocal member of an activist family, one of whom was the mastermind behind the 2001 Sbarro massacre, which killed 15 people.
How does Syria’s actions and the ensuing jihadist reactions intersect with Israel’s security?
Care to tell the NY Times how your time in the military has impacted your views on race? The Times’ angle appears to be praising the military as a tool of social engineering; hopefully your views conform. Maybe it’s time we ask Times staffers how their time at the Gray Lady has impacted their views on race?