Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I'm Sure You Know This, But Just in Case You Don't ...


When the Washington Post reports that ...

North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, U.S. officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that dramatically shrinks the timeline for when Pyongyang could strike North American cities with atomic weapons. ... The DIA has concluded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be able to produce a "reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM" program sometime in 2018, meaning that by next year the program will have advanced from prototype to assembly line, according to officials familiar with the document.

... what the Post is really reporting is that we're being prepped with propaganda to justify a US attack on North Korea.

That doesn't mean the attack will happen. It just means that we're being conditioned to accept it as absolutely, regrettably necessary if it does happen, in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons that we were told about Kuwaiti babies being thrown out of their incubators in 1990, Saddam having a chemical weapons program circa 2003, Iran being within six months of having a nuclear weapon (for 20 years running), etc.

My best guess:


  • North Korea probably doesn't even have a true nuclear weapon yet. They've tested some old-timey fission weapons like those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Max yield, 30 kilotons at the outside. Will they get a real nuke in the next year? I suppose it's possible, but I wouldn't count on it. A fission weapon is pretty forgiving. If you mash two pieces of fissile material together hard and fast enough, in a fairly simple container, you'll get the fission chain reaction you want. An H-bomb is orders of magnitude more complicated. A whole bunch of stuff has to happen in exactly the right order, at exactly at the right time, and within very narrow measurements, for the thing to work.
  • Even if North Korea does have a working fusion weapon (unlikely) and even if North Korea  does have a missile capable of reaching the US (not terribly unlikely but not certain either), putting those two things together and expecting the former to detonate successfully at the end of the latter's flight isn't a task on complexity par with changing the oil in a 1966 Impala. It's complicated too.
  • Pegging the likelihood that North Korea will be able to "field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile" and the nuke to put on it by next year at one in a million is wildly optimistic (from their perspective).
The "assessment" is moonshine, and the "leak" is one of the pre-approved ones I allude to in today's Garrison Center column. The entire purpose of both is practical politics a la HL Mencken.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Brief Musing on the Prospective Role of Capital Punishment as Imposed by Non-State Actors


I am, generally speaking, opposed to capital punishment as it is used by the state.To my mind it violates any reasonable conception of "limited government." What's "limited" about the legal power engage in the leisurely, cold-blooded, unnecessary killing of a disarmed prisoner? That kind of power of life and death is unlimited government in my opinion.

I do support the death penalty for violent crimes, if administered at the time and scene of the crime, by the victim or someone plausibly acting on the victim's behalf, based on reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm if they don't kill the attacker.

But lately I'm thinking about a different sort of death penalty. This sort would be administered by non-state actors, and only semi-discriminately in that anyone involved in the criminal conspiracy known as "the state" would be subject to it as required to correct or retaliate for violent state criminal action.

To wit, I believe that denizens of the "Dark Web" and other unauthorized entrepreneurs would be justified in notifying the US government that there will be lethal consequences to actions like:


  • The abduction of Ross Ulbricht for (absent successful appeal or clemency) two life terms plus 40 years without the possibility of parole for the "crime" of operating a web site without state permission; or
  • The death (allegedly a suicide) of alleged Alphabay founder Alexandre Cazes in Thai custody pursuant to an extradition request by the United States.
The problem here is that  it would be difficult to set up a successful operation to arrest, try and incarcerate someone like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Andrew G McCabe or US District Court judge Katherine Forrest for their crimes against humanity. Or, for that matter, to arrest, try and incarcerate anyone, especially members of the world's largest criminal gang, the US government. So the only really available penalty is death.

On the other hand, there's no "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" problem when it comes to that gang. By definition, its employees are all parties to conspiracy to commit the crimes that the gang commits, and for the most part they do not hide their identities or the fact that they are functionaries of said gang. So any random conspirator could be easily identified and selected to bear the brunt of the penalty.

What I have in mind is some sort of Dark Web Security Consortium with a judicial body and an enforcement arm, funded by contributions from the entrepreneurs (maybe a "please fund this" voluntary add-on of a fraction of a percent on each transaction), that adjudicates incidents, passes sentence, and funds execution of said sentence (perhaps through a Jim Bell "Assassination Politics" style prediction market if a particular culprit is sentenced, perhaps in some other way like the "pick a random conspirator or conspirators" approach). The consortium goes into action when the US government criminally assaults any consortium member (and possibly even non-members if the case comes to the consortium's notice).

Something like this:

The next time a Ross Ulbricht is arrested, the consortium notifies the US Department of Justice that if bail is denied, one US government employee of GS-5 or lower rank, said employee to be selected randomly or at opportunity, will be executed.

As the stakes increase (obviously fixed trial, insane sentence, etc.), the number and rank of conspirators to be executed increases incrementally, with due advance notice to the Department of Justice at each step that if DoJ buys the ticket, US government employees are going to take the ride.

Of course, if this consortium comes into existence and threatens to take those actions, they're going to have to follow through and actually put those .22 bullets in those skulls. Holding the state's actors accountable for their crimes ain't beanbag. But it looks like it's ceasing to be an option and starting to become an imperative.

... And He's Back


Sorry for the week-long absence, guys.

My father died early last Monday evening, and I headed down to Tampa that night to catch an early morning flight to Missouri.

I had planned on blogging at least a little while I was up there, but various factors made that difficult.

Of course, there was a funeral to help prepare for, and the funeral itself, and so forth.

Instead of the usual hotel with wi-fi, I stayed with my mother. That mean using a cell phone "hot spot" for Internet access, and since someone else pays for that data, I didn't want to use it any more than absolutely necessary. In addition to which, I thought paying attention to Mom was more important than paying attention to y'all at the moment. Nothing personal, understand. Just a matter of priorities. Last week, she got top slot at your expense. I trust you understand.

So, I'll get back with the blogging now.

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