Archive for March 2013

Help for Tobacco Addicts: Electronic Cigarettes

When I was a kid I used to steal cigarettes from my sisters, and lit cigarette butts I found in the street, so I guess addiction to tobacco was only a matter of time. I inhaled my first cigarette at the age of 12, and still remember when, where, and how it made me feel. For the next 17 years I smoked anywhere from a pack to two packs a day. From Marlboros in Missouri to Mild Sevens in Japan and Sportsmans in Tanzania, I smoked wherever and whenever I could. I even remember smoking on airplanes within the USA, something that no one under the age of 25 could remember.

After a few years of being hooked I got tired of being a servant to addiction and tried to quit. Sometimes I lasted for months, but other times I lasted just a few days before the urge would overwhelm me. I probably tried seriously quitting cigarettes over twenty times, but all ended in failure until one night in Kyoto, Japan. It was a cold night in the western part of the city, and the Wife and I were eating at a noodle joint near where we were staying. She was nagging about smoking, and I finally got tired of hearing about it. “Fine,” I said, stamping out the Mild Seven in my hand, “I quit.”

And I did. It’s been 17 years since I smoked a cigarette.

The reason I mention this little anecdote is because I’ve just tried an electronic cigarette for the first time. It looked like a movie prop, and I put it to my mouth and drew on it. The tip sprang to life with a nice reddish-orange glow, and my mouth filled up with smoke. More surprised than anything I didn’t inhale it and blew it out. It was steam, and it tasted similar to what I recall an ultra light cigarette tasting like. I didn’t light it and the electronic cigarette is completely inert until you suck on it, then it provides you a mouthful of vapor mixed with nicotine and flavor.

Does it taste like a Marlboro? Absolutely not. But if you are a smoker and are simply tired of being ruled by your addiction, an electronic cigarette is a way to help your body heal itself while you try to quit. There is no second hand smoke so it is safe to use indoors, and there are no harmful carcinogens like tar and formaldehyde found in normal cigarettes so your lungs will thank you. Your clothes will not smell of rank smoke, and your car will stop stinking like an ashtray. Would it be better if you quit completely? Yes, but the electronic cigarette is much better than the patch or nicotine gum because it keeps some of the ritual that plays an important part in making smoking psychologically addictive.

If you want to try it, one of the brands offer a free sample. Just pay for shipping and handling.

Man, looking at this post makes me think I should be paid by the electronic cigarette company to write this. But I’m doing it for free, simply because beating cigarettes was a victory that 17 years later I am still proud of. Electronic cigarettes may help people to win their own battles starting today, and as an ex-smoker who has literally walked five miles in a snow storm to buy cigarettes, I’ve been there and understand the importance of allies in the fight.

The Council Has Spoken: Mar 29, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilJoshuapundit –Narcissus In The Promised Land Redux: Obama Learns You Can’t Fool All Of The People All Of The Time

Noncouncil:  Mark Steyn-An unstable truce with the Axis of Crazy

Full voting here.

My Kim Jong Un Fan Page

My homage to the hungriest sexiest man alive.

Kim Jong Un - Sushii

Kim Jong Un - Krispy Kreme

Kim Jong Un - Rollin-Hatin

Kim Jong Un - Downton Abbey

And of course, this classic ripped from FreeRepublic many moons ago…
Kim Jong Mickey

The Day After: When Iran Successfully Tests The Bomb

Before visiting Israel President Obama said in an interview with Israeli TV Iran was about a year away from having the Bomb, and “all options were on the table” for preventing it from acquiring it. Visiting Jordan later in his trip Obama took a more conciliatory tone, saying the issue is best resolved through diplomacy and the United States will continue to apply pressure on Iran “in a non-military way.” But if what Obama says is true, that Iran is a year away from having a bomb, it would represent a failure of diplomacy and would contradict the CIA position held as recently as 2012 that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003. So what would it mean for Iran to have the Bomb? What would happen after a successful bomb test?

The first awareness of a successful Iranian underground nuclear test would come from seismic sensors detecting an earthquake  having a magnitude of 4.0-5.0 centered in a sparsely populated region of Iran. Such man-made earthquakes have a distinctive seismic signature compared to naturally occurring quakes and can be detected within minutes of a test. Occasionally an underground test, such as one conducted by North Korea in 2006, releases cesium 137 into the air which can be picked up by detectors downwind in China, India and Pakistan, but it is likely the seismic signature of a blast would be enough to announce to the world that Iran had joined the nuclear club.

Press reports would appear suggesting a nuclear detonation in Iran, but in the initial hours after the blast most nations would be quiet about it, preferring to review their own intelligence before making statements, and the media in the USA and Europe will double and triple-check their sources before setting the headlines. Not so the Iranian press. A nuclear Iran has been perhaps the only thing opposition groups and the theocratic regime agree on, and Iranian media outlets will be trumpeting the news throughout the nation and the regime will be passing out sweets in the streets of Teheran in celebration. Therefore it is likely we would learn about a successful nuclear blast from the Iranian press via American and European media reports before official confirmation came from western governments.

When those official confirmations arrive expect them to be funereal in tone, of the type “The (your nationality here) people condemn the Iranian regime for its unlawful nuclear weapons test that threatens the stability of the region as well as the regime itself.” There would likely be near panic in some quarters, jubilation in others with commentators and reporters expecting the imminent obliteration of Israel. But Israel will not be in immediate danger.  Building a bomb for a test and a bomb that can be put onto a missile or airplane are two separate engineering challenges, and because of that they are most likely occurring concurrently and with assistance from North Korea and some assistance from Russia.

There will be a sense in the West that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was worthless, and the sanctions Iran has put up with for over 15 years have completely failed. Promises made by the Obama administration to Israel and other states in the Middle East that containment of a nuclear armed is not an option as Vice-President Joe Biden said to a meeting with the Jewish group AIPAC“Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, period. End of discussion. Not contain. Prevent,” would be repeated by some right wing or conservative media outlets while others more supportive of the administration would spike such “we told you so” stories.

There would likely be a window of at least a year or two beyond the bomb test before Iran could target a weapon on Israel, and during that time nothing  on the surface will seem to have changed much. In fact because of that calm, voices preaching containment and appeasement would begin to appear, saying “How are the Iranians different from the Soviets?” “The Iranians got the bomb, but they won’t use it.” “If containment worked for the Soviets why can’t it work for the Iranians?” Ron Paul said as much in the 2012 Presidential debates. Leaks would come out of the Israeli and US intelligence agencies of possible military action being launched against Iran to keep it from “weaponizing the bomb,” with the intent of undermining the rationale for the attacks in favor of non-intervention. Iranians would return to the negotiating table, promising to halt their nuclear program in exchange for this that or the other thing. North Korea plowed, graded, paved and painted lines on this road so expect the Iranian regime to ride it in comfort. As the sting from the surprise of the test wears off, liberals, anti-war type and other useful idiots of the Islamic regime will play a more active role and attempt to protect the regime. “The USA is the only state ever to use the Bomb,” expect them to say, “So why should we trust it more than Iran?”

And they’ll have a point, but for the wrong reasons. US credibility will be at a low not seen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis at this point. States such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia have already begun dusting off their own test programs, and a successful test by Iran would accelerate this research. Of  the two nations Saudi Arabia being the wealthier would probably simply buy a nuclear weapons program from Pakistan with assistance from France and other European nations, and perhaps share it with Turkey. But it would still take the better part of a decade for the Saudis to join the Nuclear Club. It would also push these nations closer to Russia who would be seen as an honest broker in the region, even when it is honestly supplying the Iranians whom the Sunni regimes in the Middle East detest. At least the Russians could be trusted while the Americans make threats and do nothing.

The time between a nuclear test and the successful weaponization of the Bomb will be the last window of opportunity for the Israelis and Americans to gather what remains of their spines and attack Iran. Failure at this point would lead to the fulfillment of promises made consistently over the history of the current Iranian regime: Israel will be destroyed. And while Israel will not go down without a fight, taking hundreds of thousands of Persians with them, it will not be said that the Iranians didn’t warn us; but it will be said that we were foolish not to believe them.

 

The Council Has Spoken: Mar 22, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilThe Noisy  Room –Marxism in Education – The Infiltration of Our School Systems by the Common Core Standards

Noncouncil:  Mark Steyn-An unstable truce with the Axis of Crazy

Full voting here.

Being Racist in Philly

Philadelphia Magazine looks at what it’s like being white in the city (“Being White in Philly“), the bedsheet wearing racists. Since I’m a racist for opposing Obama, and racist for believing that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, I figure it’s only racist of me to pass along this article to all my racist readers. If you haven’t viewed my racist article on race “You Can’t End Racism By Being Racist,” do so now. If you don’t, you’re a racist.

The EU: Stealing From The Poor And Giving To The Rich

The exact importance of the theft of euros from Cypriot banks this past weekend is difficult to determine at this stage but cannot be understated. The European Union government is stealing the private property from citizens and handing it to the wealthy backers of the banks. It is a bank robbery in reverse as this cartoon below shows:

EU Bank Robbery in Cyprus

The EU spin machine is trying to hide this truth, calling the 6.7%/9.9% theft a “wealth tax.” Mark J. Grant writing at ZeroHedge puts the lie to this bit of obfuscation:

Let’s get some things straight and look what has happened directly in the face. There was no tax on the bank accounts in Cyprus. There still is no tax; the Cyprus Parliament has not passed it and will not vote on it until tomorrow so whatever action takes place it is retroactive. Next, this was not enacted by Cyprus. The people from Nicosia did not go to the Summit and ask to have the bank accounts in their country minimized to help pay the bills. Far from it; the nations of Europe, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the rest, demanded that this take place, a “fait accompli,” the President of Cyprus said and Europe annexes Cyprus. Let’s be quite clear; the European Union has confiscated the private property of the citizens in Cyprus without debate, legislation or Parliamentary agreement.

If someone breaks into your home while your away and steals 10% of your possessions, we call it burglary and Society prosecutes and jails the thief if caught. If you run a small shop and the local mafia sends some thugs to extract a 10% “business tax” to do business on their turf, it’s called “extortion” and authorities prosecute it as a crime. In the United States the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states citizens “shall not be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,” but even this has not prevented the abuse of eminent domain laws, most recently in New London Connecticut in a case that reached the US Supreme Court (Kelo v. City of New London). Europeans love to take Americans to task for our outdated or overly-restrictive constitution, yet that piece of parchment does at least stand between an abusive government backed by force and the powerless citizen.

The EU spinmeisters will also tar Cyprus with the same brush they use on the Greeks, Italians and Spanish – the southern EU states that spend too much and work too little, while the industrious and spend-thrift northern EU states (e.g. Germany) bail them out. But let’s not forget what a bank bailout does and does not do. A bank bailout does not punish debtor nations for laziness, it rewards the investors and owners of banks for their failures to practice due diligence and lend accordingly. Bank bailouts shift the losses the wealthiest would suffer onto the balance sheets of governments and the taxpayers who fund them. Since the vast majority of tax payers are of modest means, bank bailouts benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. Germany isn’t bailing out Greece because it’s generous; it’s bailing them out because wealthy Germans who own the banks would lose their shirts if the banks were allowed to go bankrupt.

For months, really years now, the world has watched the EU try to hold itself together, not because it worried about Greeks or Spaniards starving in the streets, but rather to protect the rich who fund the banks and also exercise undue influence on the government. Cypriots would not lose 10% of their money if the banks failed because the banks are covered by deposit insurance, but the wealthy Germans who backed the banks would lose their investments. Similarly if Greece refused to pay its debt and left the euro, Greeks would be freed from the burden of austerity measures dictated by Germany and be able to prosper with a devalued currency, but the German investors who back the banks who lent money to Greece would suffer.

In 1992 the European Union heralded a new beginning for the continent promising economic cooperation and prosperity for its peoples. Two decades on the EU has become a grotesque caricature that resorts to petty theft to survive in order to protect its wealthy elite. Pathetic.

UPDATE: Walter Russell Meade disagrees, writing, ” Any sentient depositor in a Cypriot bank had to know that things weren’t right. The dubious nature of the Cypriot banking system has been a notorious fact for almost a generation; during all this time Cypriots seemed perfectly happy that their country was running an offshore money laundry for some of the nastiest people around.”

I respect Meade a lot, and you will will find more links to his articles on this site than any other, but I believe the good professor is wrong in his conclusions. First, as recently as July 2011 Cypriot banks passed European Banking Authority (EBA) stress tests. It’s not as if everyone knew Cypriot banks were wobbly and it was only a matter of time before they collapsed. Second, these banks were operating under EBA rules and authority so if they were indeed “running an offshore money laundry for some of the nastiest people around,” they were doing so under EU regulation. Finally, if these accounts were held by “nasty people” why didn’t the EU charge them with crimes or go to court to confiscate their money? There are all types of nasty people sitting in jails around the USA waiting for their day in court, and that day will come and they will be afforded due process and allowed to defend themselves. Would Meade support pronouncing all of them guilty and order them to serve prison sentences simply because they were nasty?

I don’t care a wit about how the money was acquired in those bank accounts. What I care about is the unprecedented decision to steal private property without due process. There are ways that dirty money can be tracked and expunged from the banking system. Within the USA there are numerous processes in place that prevent funds being funneled to rogue regimes like Iran or nasty characters like Mexican drug lords, but everyone, drug lord and drug abuser are afforded due process before their money is confiscated.

By stealing money from bank accounts, the EU is courting a disaster whose scale threatens world prosperity. A bank run in Europe would destabilize the entire economic system, from Cyprus to South Africa and New York to Nanjing. The international economic system is robust but it is not indestructible, and History has shown time and time again that the Achilles Heel of the system is the banks, and their weakness is the freedom of depositor to take their cash. Break the trust with the depositor, and the results are always catastrophic.

Update 2: The Cypriot parliament has told the EU to take a long run off a short pier. No one knows what happens next. Interesting times.

The Death of the Euro: Cyprus Suffers Confiscation

Imagine waking up one morning and finding out that while you were asleep someone accessed your bank account and stole 10% of your money.

That’s the rude awakening the citizens of the island nation Cyprus had this weekend, after the European Union presented the Cypriot government with an offer it could not refuse – confiscate 9.9% of bank deposits over 100,000 Euro, 6.7% of anything below that – or watch their banks go bankrupt. The Cypriot government, in power for less than a month, chose the former route, and the people of Cyprus ran to ATMs and drained the machines of as much cash as they could before the machines ran out; all attempts at electronically transferring funds were cancelled by the government.

But fear not, “European officials said it would not set a precedent.”

Funny thing about precedents: they tend to set themselves regardless of what an unelected bureaucrat in Brussels says. Banking is a fragile affair that relies on trust. People hand their money over to the bank and trust they can get it back. Once that trust is broken in Cyprus, who’s to guarantee the trust in Ireland, in Italy, Greece or Spain will remain? The same group of EU bureaucrats who broke it in Cyprus?

It’s difficult not to think a rubicon has been crossed, that punishing depositors to allow lenders to avoid the consequences of their poor investment decisions will remain localized in Cyprus. Is it the fault of depositors the banking sector is 8x bigger in Cyprus than elsewhere? Without trust, people will pull their wealth out of banks and stash it under their mattresses. They will convert it into foreign currencies not threatened by confiscation, or transform it into gold and silver.

In order to counter these moves governments tend towards oppression, banning forex transactions, limiting transfers of money abroad and confiscating and banning the ownership of precious metals, tactics used by the United States government under the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. Such tactics may annoy the wealthiest citizens of a country, but they don’t suffer much. With armies of attorneys and tax accountants at their disposal the wealthy are able to shield their assets from the thievery of governments. Lacking those resources the middle and lower classes are the ones who suffer the most.

For years the fragility of the European Union has been on display, with agreement upon agreement announced on a seemingly monthly basis. The Cassandras who have been predicting the collapse of the Euro have been shouting for so long that their din has disappeared into the background. But eventually anything that is under enough strain will break, and do so suddenly and in unpredictable ways. It’s worth remembering that on the eve of World War I, war was expected yet it began not with a massive attack on a large country like Austria or France, but with the assassination of a minor Austrian nobleman in the far-flung province leading to the declaration of war against tiny Serbia. The single bullet that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand set off World War I which in turn laid the groundwork for the following World War. Could this be the single bullet that sets the death of the European Union in motion? Have the Europeans finally broken their own economic system by stealing from the Cypriots? The confiscation is predicted to net 6 billion euro against a 13 billion euro bailout package. The relatively insignificant sum raised by the confiscation may come to haunt the Europeans for days, weeks, perhaps even decades to come just as the ghost of Archduke Ferdinand haunted Europe through the trenches, the blitzkrieg, and the Holocaust that followed decades later.

It will be interesting to see how depositors respond in Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Italy over the coming days. These economies are so fragile to begin with that it is unlikely the EU could survive even a small bank run or investor panic. It is quite likely, though I’m not foolish enough to say exactly when, the EU will unravel very soon, with countries refusing to abide by the dictates of Brussels, drop out of the Euro, and face the world on their own. There’s even a chance the government of Cyprus will renege on the deal, and the nation be forced out of the Euro. Such an action would in the short term be worse for Cypriot depositors, who could see losses of 25% or more as their Euro assets are changed into Cypriot Pounds, but over the long term such devaluation would allow Cyprus to recover at its own pace without suffering the draconian economic program demanded by the EU.

At the very least it makes one realize how little governments respect the hard work and sacrifices of their own citizens, and that the gold bugs aren’t completely nuts after all.

Update: Via ZeroHedge, RBS analysts explain the situation (I’ll pretend to forget that RBS itself went down in flames only to be resurrected by bailout a few years back). Cyprus deposits total €126.4bn, or over 7-times GDP. Much of that money is of Russian origin, which is why the EU thinks the Cypriots will swallow the medicine. But Russians aren’t the ones draining ATMs, Cypriots are. When Spaniards, Italians and Greeks see the freak out in Cyprus, even the dullest of them will question whether their assets are safe from EU bureaucrats. And it will also be interesting to see how Russia takes the hit. Russia isn’t the most magnanimous nation, so expect it to gain something from the mess – like a Mediterranean port.

The Council Has Spoken: Mar 15, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilThe Razor –What If The Experts Are Wrong About North Korea?

Noncouncil:  Victor Davis Hanson-Explaining the Inexplicable

Full voting here.

Why I Am Not A Conservative Either

I like Robert Spencer. I’ve read several of his books. Once a cat knocked my copy of The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion
on the floor and a puppy found it, gnawing it to shreds. Since it contains highlights and notes I couldn’t just throw it away, so I taped it back together and put it onto the shelf.

As Joshuapundit writes, Spencer is getting screwed at this year’s CPAC. Spencer confirms this, writing at Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugged in “Why I Am Not A Conservative,”

And just last week, after my website www.jihadwatch.org overwhelmingly won a vote for CPAC’s “People’s Choice Blog Award,” John Hawkins of Right Wing News (whether on his own initiative, as he now claims, or as the errand boy of shadowy and unnamed higher-ups, as he initially told me over the phone) told me that I was not to speak about the Muslim Brotherhood ties of Norquist and Khan when I received the award. Needless to say, I could not accept this gag order, and will not be receiving the award: the truth is more important than a trophy.

But that was the end of my identification as a conservative. Grover Norquist is a conservative. Suhail Khan is a conservative. John Hawkins is a conservative. Thus I must not be one. I am not acceptable either as a speaker or an award recipient at the nation’s foremost conservative gathering. I must not be a conservative.

If Conservatism has been corrupted by Islam then there is no need for me to belong to it. I support Gay Marriage: conservatives do not. Conservatives have an inner cadre of morality police just as the Left does, and I find them just as annoying. Most conservatives like Big Government, they just want it to run for their own benefit. I’d rather be left alone, but if that’s not possible I value the small government laid out for us by the Founder in the Constitution.

But I thought Conservatives accepted the existential threat Islam poses to our core values. If it has been corrupted and made peace with Islam, then I want no part of it. CPAC’s treatment of Spencer proves that it is indeed corrupted and willing to give a pass to those who are sworn to our destruction whether we are straight or gay, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

If Robert Spencer isn’t a conservative, then I am not either and I cordially invite Grover Norquist and his merry band of fascist sympathizers to go f*** themselves.

The Truth Revealed: The Real Reason Cats Knock Things Onto the Floor

Gravity is important to cats. Their deep understanding of the subject allows them to accomplish acrobatic feats such as always landing on their feet in a fall. Therefore it is critical for felines to constantly check its state in case someone somewhere stumbles on a disproof of the Theory of Gravity and it ceases functioning. They do this by knocking things at random onto the floor. Some have suggested that this behavior is due to a cat’s instinctive dislike for anything containing an abundance of potential kinetic energy, and that by knocking such objects onto the floor they release the kinetic energy stored in the object and feel better. Of course having 8 cats I can assure you that while an attractive theory, the kinetic energy theory of cat behavior is incorrect. In order to know the truth one must consider the problem from the cat’s perspective.

Imagine what a cat would look like if gravity failed and it was unceremoniously plastered on the bedroom ceiling. No cat would survive the embarrassment, so all cats do the proper thing: test gravity by knocking things onto the floor. In the unlikely event such a test sends an object floating to the ceiling a cat knows gravity has failed and is prepared to execute a graceful turn and land paws first on the ceiling, saving it from embarrassment and impressing anyone – or anything – that witnesses the acrobatic maneuver.

So the next time you find your keys, your watch or anything important on the floor that you didn’t put there, rest assured that by continuously testing gravity the cat not only insures himself against embarrassment, but his human companion from stepping outside during a gravity failure and floating into the void of space.

Cats: Newton’s Gravity Inspectors

The Footman Magazine – Special Downton Abbey Issue

A recent conversation after the discovery of Amazon Prime Video.

Wife: I’ve heard Downton Abbey is good.
Me: I tend to side with the Jacobins and Tudors when it comes to the aristocracy. I like my nobles headless.

Now we’ve almost finished Season 2 and watch little else. The show is simply a delight, and contains witty, acerbic and even occasionally tender writing. For repartee devotees, the show is an absolute must (though tonight’s episode with the war ending among other things was a bit contrived.)

So just for fun I put together this bit of Photoshop, imagining Downton Abbey real and full-color magazines and photography existent in 1914, with a magazine geared towards servants.

Downton Abbey Magazine

What If The Experts Are Wrong About North Korea?

Today making good on its threats the North Koreans cancelled the 1953 armistice ending the Korean war. It has also threatened a nuclear attack against the United States.

Despite the strong language, analysts say North Korea is years away from having the technology necessary to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target.
And, analysts say, North Korea is unlikely to seek a direct military conflict with the United States, preferring instead to try to gain traction through threats and the buildup of its military deterrent.

What if the analysts are wrong?

A 2006 article in the Asia Times states North Korea has some of the most developed missile systems in the world. According to a 2009 report by the International Crisis Group, North Korea has 6-12 nuclear weapons. Experts remain divided as to whether North Korea has the capability of weaponizing these nuclear warheads, or fitting them to a missile. This is a nice way of saying 50% of experts believe the North has this capability.

The truth is the Hermit Kingdom is living up to its moniker and our intelligence there isn’t very good. The Chinese have the best intelligence, but they aren’t willing to share it with us. But Chinese support of new sanctions says a lot. If the Chinese know the North is bluffing again, they would have resisted additional UN pressure because a belligerent North suits their foreign policy interests. If they know that North Korea has both the weapons and the means to deliver them and is considering attacking the US and its allies, supporting sanctions would be the final act in the hopes of leashing the regime before sending in Chinese troops and taking the country over. By supporting the sanctions China may be giving a sign that the regime is serious, and the danger it presents is real.

There are three likely targets if North Korea used a nuke. The first is Seoul, South Korea. Being only 60 km from the border with the North attacking this city would be the easiest. It is well within range of its missiles, and the short flight time and low trajectory would make shooting down the missile more difficult. The downside of such an attack is that it would pretty much guarantee a conventional invasion from the South as well as invite a retaliatory response from the US. In such a case it’s unlikely the Chinese would come to the aid of the North Koreans, and the North Koreans probably know that. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans also would not go down well in the North either, and would shock the regime internally increasing the likelihood of an internal coup, possibly one backed by Chinese intelligence and special forces units.

The North Korean regime would really like to hurt the United States. An attack on the US would contain the element of surprise, and is ideologically the best target. But it’s also the hardest to hit. The continental US is over 9000 km away, meaning the North would have to rely upon its longest range missile to fly in a suborbital trajectory, providing ample time for the US to determine its trajectory and likely target and to employ its anti-missile defense systems. It has tested such a missile twice, and neither test was a complete success as far as our intelligence has learned, so not only would the missile have to survive US countermeasures, it would also have to avoid falling apart.

If the North Koreans are rational even in their apparent craziness, the only target is Japan – likely a sprawling metropolis such as the Kanto containing Tokyo and Yokohama or the Kansai area where Nara, Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka sit. These areas would not require precision guidance systems beyond current North Korean capabilities and fall well within range of its Taepodong 1 missile that North Korea fired over Japan in 1998. An attack on Japan would temper the response by both China and South Korea: China would be hard pressed to punish the regime for attacking a foe China itself is threatening war against over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and both North and South Koreas hold deep historical animosities towards Japan for its treatment as a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945.

If Japan was nuked by North Korea it cannot retaliate. It lacks nuclear weapons and its conventional forces do not have the capability for an invasion. Japan would therefore have to rely upon the United States. Would the US launch a nuclear attack against North Korea on Japan’s behalf? It’s not a given, and such uncertainty increases the risk of an attack on Japan.

How would the United States respond, and more importantly, how do the North Koreans believe the United States would respond? Unfortunately it’s impossible to know what the decisionmakers in the regime are thinking about the Obama administration, but monolithic regimes tend to see the world much differently than those living and working in Democracies. The arguments and contrasting opinions within a Democratic government tend to be ignored by those living under democracy or discounted as “coalition building” or “policy formulation.” A North Korean general, having never lived under such a regime and seen any dissenting opinions end in front of a firing squad, cannot understand how such behavior could present anything but the inherent weakness of Democratic regime. Like a large stone riven with cracks and fissures, a single, solid blow can reduce it to a pile of gravel. It wouldn’t be the first time an authoritarian regime misunderstood the United States; Japan made the same mistake at Pearl Harbor, believing a single decisive strike that destroyed the Pacific fleet would fracture the will of Americans and force it out of the Pacific. While we in the United States have been taught the lesson of History that this was a grave miscalculation by the Japanese and the attack united Americans behind the war effort, a North Korean general likely sees the history of World War 2 very differently.

It is the job the State Department to translate these cultural differences that could encourage North Korean bellicosity into ideas and language that the North Korean leadership can understand. The way to do that is to provide a simple, clear and consistent message to the North Koreans: any attack on South Korea, Japan or the United States will mean the end of the North Korean regime. Period. Have the North Koreans gotten that message?

Perceptions are reality in diplomacy and the perception in East Asia is Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a cool reception in Washington DC last month by an administration displeased with Abe’s hawkish behavior towards China. Such perception could contribute to a belief in North Korea that an attack against Japan would not trigger immediate retaliation by the United States, and without retaliation North Korea has nothing to lose by attacking Japan. The US held back the South Koreans from retaliating for North Korea shelling of Yeonpyeong Island near the border, and a year earlier the loss of the South Korean warship Cheonan killing 46 crewmen. Such patience shows as weakness to an authoritarian regime and encourages it to undertake more extreme action.

If Japan were struck with a nuclear weapon, would the US retaliate on its behalf? What if China said doing so would result in war between the US and China? Would President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel risk a wider war over the deaths of tens of thousands of Japanese? Retaliation would kill hundreds of thousands of North Korean civilians, people who are too weak from starvation to overthrow their dictator and innocent of his crimes. Would the Obama Administration countenance such a retaliatory attack knowing that even more would suffer needlessly? To a North Korean general, it is quite possible that the regime could indeed get away with it and the Obama administration would not retaliate for fear of igniting a wider war with China or killing innocent civilians.

A successful attack on Japan would boost North Korean credibility in China. It would undermine the arguments voiced recently within China that North Korea was more of a liability than asset to China. It would also force the United States to take its threats seriously, something that decades of making them without action have taught otherwise. Internally it would also raise the popularity of those who backed such aggressive action at the expense of those who supported more of an accommodation with the West. And the pain felt by Japan would also be felt in South Korea, making its neighbors much more antagonistic towards US imperialism in the region. It may be easy for us to see the exact opposite happening, but we have to place ourselves in the ill-fitting shoes of the North Korean general to understand the world from his perspective, and such a perspective would likely include a bold military gesture that would leave America and its allies reeling.

It is difficult for anyone in the West who has paid attention to the bombast coming out of Pyongyang for decades to take recent threats seriously. Like Aesop’s Fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” Pyongyang has cried “wolf!” so many times that ignoring the new threats seem the only sensible move. But it’s worth remembering that in the fable in the end a wolf does appear.

The Council Has Spoken: Mar 8, 2013

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

CouncilJoshuapundit“Yes We Can” – Al-Qaeda’s English Mag Publishes Wanted Dead or Alive List

Noncouncil:  Victor Davis Hanson-Why Do Societies Give Up?

Full voting here.

Yet Again The Useful Idiots Lionize A Tyrant

And Michael Burleigh writing for The Daily Mail calls them out for it,

The truth is that Chavez was a brutal despot who strutted the world stage basking in the international celebrity status he gained as a result of his anti-American rhetoric and relentless attacks on Britain.
He was a master of propaganda who deftly wooed the ‘useful idiots’ of the Left — to use the phrase Stalin applied to Britain’s Labour politicians and trade unionists — while clamping down on free speech in his own country, rigging the political system in his favour and presiding over a nation drowning in bloodshed and mired in poverty.

But the Left shouldn’t fret. There will always be someone else coming along to show their loyalty to.