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Taliban strike ISI headquarters in Lahore, 35 killed, 250 wounded
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Page 4: Opinion
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Page 6: Politix
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What to Do About North Korea
By Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan

The North Korean launch of its Taeopodong-2 missile and its second nuclear test have laid bare the paucity of President Obama's policy options. They have exposed the futility of the six-party talks and, in particular, the much-hyped myth of China's value as a partner on strategic matters. The Obama administration claims that it wants to break with the policies of its predecessor. This is one area where it ought to. After decades of diplomacy and "probing" Pyongyang's intentions, one thing is clear: Kim Jong Il and his cronies want nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. What will dissuade them? Isolation and more punitive sanctions would make sense if China and Russia would go along. But they haven't, and they won't.

We would support military action against North Korean missiles and missile sites, if we had prepared ourselves over the past few years to protect our allies against possible North Korean retaliation. Former defense secretary William J. Perry and current defense undersecretary Ashton B. Carter recommended this course of action in The Post a few years ago. But the supposedly bellicose Bush administration didn't take such action, and the odds of this administration doing so are even smaller.

For several years, this lack of attractive options has driven many to look to the Chinese for help. Advocates of warm engagement with the Chinese have been the most enthusiastic promoters of this approach, less, we suspect, out of concern for solving the North Korea problem than to prove the worth of close cooperation with Beijing. North Korea, they have tirelessly claimed, is one of those common strategic interests that the United States and Beijing allegedly share. This proposition has been discredited. Sure, in theory China could pressure Kim to give up his weapons -- it has the power and influence. But the fact is, China doesn't want to. Beijing is content to live with a nuclear and anti-Western North Korea. While China fears a collapsed North that would flood its struggling Northeast with refugees, it also fears a unified, democratic, prosperous Korea allied with the United States. China wants a puppet state in North Korea, which is why, far from joining in sanctions, it steadily increases its economic investment there.

Given these realities, the United States probably has little choice but to wait out Kim until the emergence of a leader who can make the strategic decision to abandon the nuclear weapons program. In the meantime, Washington should embark on a three-pronged approach. First, it should enhance its deterrent to protect itself, South Korea and Japan. That means, above all, bolstering American and allied missile defenses and deterrent capabilities. Unfortunately, it is precisely American missile defense capabilities that the Obama administration is now cutting -- despite the growing missile threat from North Korea and Iran. Second, it should strengthen multilateral efforts to stem North Korean proliferation, including more active efforts at interdiction and freezing bank accounts used to fund proliferation. Third, it should give up on the six-party talks. If it ever proves useful to talk to Pyongyang -- a big "if" -- let's do so directly.

The ultimate American aim should be to help bring about a unified Korean Peninsula and not cede influence over the two Koreas to Beijing. The current diplomatic arrangements have permitted China to set the political agenda while quietly increasing its leverage over the North. But Washington doesn't need to go through Beijing to get to Pyongyang. Direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea, in close consultation with Japan and South Korea, are better than working through a middleman who has no desire or interest in closing the deal. Both Japan and South Korea would welcome greater U.S. engagement with the North. Seoul wants reassurance that it will not shoulder the burden of unification by itself. Japan wants U.S. protection and a guarantee that Washington will have some presence on the peninsula for the long term.

If we decide to talk again, American diplomacy should expand beyond nuclear talks to begin preparing for the outcome it wants: a democratic, unified and eventually nonnuclear Korea. As Korea expert Andrei Lankov has suggested, America's new approach could include the opening of cultural, educational and economic exchanges with the North. Western experts should be encouraged to teach at North Korean universities; North Koreans should be allowed to study in the West; and the United States, Japan and South Korea should undertake cooperative economic projects in the North. The United States should also open more radio and television broadcasts from South Korea and the West. In short, Washington's diplomacy with North Korea should focus on measures that raise North Koreans' standard of living and exposure to the West. This would keep our focus on long-term strategic objectives. And who knows? Maybe a new American approach to North Korea will provide an added benefit: If China sees its prominence diminished in North Korean diplomacy, maybe it will finally have some reason to act more forcefully in disarming Kim.

On FOX's Special Report yesterday, Charles Krauthammer suggested pressuring Japan to declare itself a nuclear power. Sounds great to me, but wouldn't that require real leadership? It would be nice for the Japanese government to recognize that this would be in its best interests. A unicorn pony might be nice too.
Posted by: ryuge || 05/27/2009 06:47 || Comments || Link || E-Mail|| [6467 views] Top|| File under:

#1  I'm sure the Japanese with nukes would make everything in East Asia more stable.

Our inaction is leading the world to war.
Posted by: Nimble Spemble || 05/27/2009 9:12 Comments || Top||

#2  The bigger issue here is what to do when every country has nuclear arms. Nukes are like dope to petty little tyrants everywhere. We can't stop dope so how can we permanently stop the flow of atomic weapons? Actually, I'm waiting for the courts to recognize my first amendment right to have and to hold thermonuclear devices for my personal protection from the government. My point is that this is a pandora that has been out of it's box for awhile now and no clear policy seems forthcoming on how to live with that.
Posted by: Richard of Oregon || 05/27/2009 10:23 Comments || Top||

#3  We'd piss off every Asian nation who still remembers WW2 and this would be a headache I feel giving it to Japan.

I think South Korea is the one who really should have them and should have them now to counter NK's more powerful nuke test this week.
Posted by: Clomoling Black6393 || 05/27/2009 10:29 Comments || Top||

#4  I agree- the N. Koreans are likely never going to give up their nuclear weapons. But, I do not believe that Kim Jong Il will ever start a war. He is very strong at bellicose brinkmanship but keep in mind his primarily goal: to stay in power... All of these moves are meant to bolster his own support with his own military at a time when his country is a catastrophic failure....

We must, however, continue to engage the North Koreans regardless of their intransigence. The reason why? al Qaeda and the fact the North Koreans are just plain shady. They need cash- cold hard cash. I would not put it by them to sell a nuke to someone dangerous for big bucks... a nuke that could then find its way to the US.

Secondly, lets say the North Korean government fell today and the Kim dynasty comes to an end- this would not be good. Of course it would be great to see Kim Jong Il dead but the economic tidal wave that would consume the Korean peninsula would devastate the South Korean economy. When East Germany rejoined Germany, it was very difficult to deal with their stagnation and lack of infrastructure. Well... if E. Germany was bad off- North Korea literally has no infrastructure and laughably backwards.

The best we can hope for right now is stability. We engage only to ensure they dont sell or pass weapons on to other enemies. We minimize Kim by not letting him set the rules...

Frankly, we have bigger fish to fry in Pakistan to be dealing with this shit from Kim right now.

Posted by: bgrebel || 05/27/2009 11:55 Comments || Top||

#5  What I worry about is that Kimmie has said...I've only got 6 months to live.....fuggit, let's go all out.
Posted by: Kofi Claitle6576 || 05/27/2009 12:00 Comments || Top||

#6  What I worry about if Kimmie says..."I've only got 6 months to live.....fuggit, let's go all out."

Sorry, typo and grammer fix
Posted by: Kofi Claitle6576 || 05/27/2009 12:01 Comments || Top||

#7  Let China know that it can either completely disarm NK or look forward to nuclear tests from Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan in the next 6 months. Problem solved.
Posted by: Iblis || 05/27/2009 12:47 Comments || Top||

#8  No, I think a harshly (well, not too harsh) worded memo form the UN Security Council should be all that is necessary.
Posted by: Kelly || 05/27/2009 14:09 Comments || Top||

#9  Having the Japanese rearm and go nuclear should scare everyone, especially the Norks. The US has spent 64 years trying to manage things in Asia so that Japan does not rearm. If Kimmie pushes them over the edge, may God help him and us all.
Posted by: whatadeal || 05/27/2009 15:26 Comments || Top||

#10  "What to Do About North Korea"

I've got a suggestion, but it would probably get me sink-trapped.... >:-(
Posted by: Barbara Skolaut || 05/27/2009 15:30 Comments || Top||

#11  Sorry, typo and grammer fix

Posted by: KBK || 05/27/2009 19:34 Comments || Top||

#12  NK belligerence is directly linked to the lack of reaction to Iranian belligerence. In Iran they have an ally who sells them oil. Iran should be targeted first. And there is an outside chance that that could happen this Saturday.
Posted by: Uloluns Scourge of the Bunions1692 || 05/27/2009 20:25 Comments || Top||

#13  @#5 I agree, there may be merit to its simply happenind now because Kim realized his years are numbered, and being the megalomaniacal narcissist that he undoubtedly is, decides to take some souls with him shortly before buying the farm.
Posted by: GirlThursday || 05/27/2009 20:34 Comments || Top||

North Korea Muffs It Again, Yield About 4Kt
According to early reports, Monday's North Korea event certainly seems like a deliberate explosion in the right place. However, it was too small to be a successful Hiroshima-class crude explosive device, by a factor of three or four. The reported estimates of Richter magnitude spread from 4.5-5, and the standard conversions to explosive yield suggest a yield of 2-6 kiloton-equivalents of TNT. Most of the latest Richter magnitude estimates have come in the low half of the 4.5-5 range, so it seems likely that the yield was 4 kilotons or smaller.

That's a lot of energy, much larger than the 2006 North Korean test, but it still falls far short of an expected 12-20 kiloton yield of a crude Hiroshima-style device. For comparison's sake, the first nuclear tests of all other nations that are self-announced members of the nuclear club had larger yields than this latest North Korean test.

Because the expected Hiroshima-style explosion didn't occur, there are four options as to what did happen during the test:

*the device failed to detonate properly;
*the device was a higher-tech device designed for smaller yield with less fissile matter (e.g., missile warheads or briefcase bombs);
*the North Koreans faked a nuclear explosion with conventional explosives;
*or the North Koreans detonated a larger device in a large cavity to muffle its yield.

The first option is the most likely case given what is publicly known about North Korean diplomacy and technology.

It's important to realize that nuclear tests in the past 15 years have primarily been demonstrations of power and national will, rather than driven by engineering. The two different kinds of simple bombs are uranium 235-based and plutonium-based. The United States used one bomb of each type on Japan in the closing months of World War II, with roughly similar explosive yields. The technology for a uranium 235 bomb is so simple, relatively speaking, that such a device need not be tested. To wit, the United States dropped the uranium 235 Hiroshima bomb without testing its design in a controlled detonation. Conversely, building a plutonium-based bomb represents a technical challenge because the critical mass can blow apart in a split second before the detonation reaches max efficiency. Once U.S. weapon designers confirmed the trickier detonation scheme of a plutonium device in the famous Trinity Test in 1945, confidence in the simpler uranium 235 detonation design seemed justified.

The technology for making the raw material for each device differs. Uranium 235 must be separated from the heavier isotope uranium 238 to make a bomb, so a country that buys or builds high-tech centrifuges is investing in those types of bombs. The term "enriched uranium" refers to uranium metal with an increase of the 235 isotope that's sufficient to allow an explosive chain reaction to occur. (Complete separation of the two isotopes is neither feasible nor necessary to create a weapon.) Plutonium comes from nuclear reactor waste, many stockpiles of which North Korea possesses. In other words, North Korea is attempting to make the trickier of the two devices. When arms control experts estimate North Korea to have a nuclear stockpile of 6-8 weapons, they are converting the likely amount of reactor waste that the country has produced into plutonium bombs of the World War II-era design.

When the device is built correctly (the earliest technology used a sphere with precisely timed explosions to press an array of small plutonium masses into one critical mass), the yield is 10-20 kilotons. It's unlikely that North Korea has skipped this step and gone on to more sophisticated designs that involve other elements (for instance, tritium) to generate a smaller yield from a smaller plutonium mass. China didn't. Its tests grew in size and sophistication in the 1980s and 1990s until Beijing induced seismic events that registered higher than 6 on the Richter scale. Then they stopped. Thus, I would rule out option number two.

Option number three also seems unlikely. The 2006 test was never proven to be fake, and more largely, there's no reason for Pyonyang to fake a test if it could at least attempt a real nuclear detonation. Nor has any world leader ever publicly called out North Korea for executing a failed or fake test in 2006; such a response probably would have pushed Pyongyang to attempt a second test much more quickly. It's the same reason why the United States and Europe--despite seismic data to the contrary--didn't call India's thermonuclear bluff in 1998; they wanted to reduce tensions, not raise them.

The last option--detonation in a cavity--makes no sense at all. The common assumption behind the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is that countries would attempt to evade detection. But in the twenty-first century, what good is a nuclear weapon if it can't be used to openly check adversaries? Plus, a country doesn't even need a military useful device to do so. With cable news, the ability to detonate something fissionable does the trick--at least in a political sense.

So my guess is that North Korea tried and failed to get a simple plutonium bomb to detonate correctly. Make no mistake--an inefficient nuclear weapon is nothing to dismiss. Even at the low end of its estimated yield (2 kilotons), the May 25 test released as much or more explosive energy than the largest conventional-explosive air raids during World War II. But one should be mindful of the technical challenges North Korea still faces in carrying out the threats implied by its deliberate pairing of its explosive test with test missile launches.
Posted by: Anonymoose || 05/27/2009 00:00 || Comments || Link || E-Mail|| [6529 views] Top|| File under:

#1  Wouldn't the two types of bombs produce different signature radiation and fission isotope products?
Posted by: Richard of Oregon || 05/27/2009 0:22 Comments || Top||

#2  Even 2KT airburst over Seoul (or worse, Tokyo) would do immense damage, human and economic.

The equations below provide approximate scaling laws for relating the destructive radius of each effect with yield:

r_thermal = Y^0.41 * constant_th
r_blast = Y^0.33 * constant_bl
r_radiation = Y^0.19 * constant_rad

If Y is in multiples (or fractions) of 2.5 kt, then the result is in km (and all the constants equal one). This is based on thermal radiation just sufficient to cause 3rd degree burns (8 calories/cm^2); a 4.6 psi blast overpressure (equivalent to force exerted by a CAT5 hurricane max winds) and a 500 rem radiation dose.

As a general guide, in the range yielded by these equations:

The thermal effects will cause multiple fires and over 25% body area 3rd degree burns

The bast effect overpressure of 5psi cause city areas to be completely destroyed (most buildings collapse, with massive loss of life)

The radiation effect of 400-600 rem has a mortality that rises steeply in this range, from around 50% at 450 rems to 90% at 600 (unless heroic medical intervention takes place), and generally will cause large changes in organs, blood; When death occurs, it is usually 2-12 weeks after exposure and results from infection and hemorrhage. Recovery can take in excess of 1 year.

This yields:

1.5km for the 3rd degree burns and thermal damage
1.4km for the blast overpressure of 4.6psi
1.2km for the 500rem of radiation

It doesn't seem like a "large" radius, but you need to consider the densities of Tokyo or Seoul, much higher than a typical spread-out US (especially western US) city.

Plot this against populations of city centers in Seoul or Tokyop and you are looking at massive fatalities, and even more damage and casualties.

This does not include EMP effects, which would likely shut down medical equipment, radios, firefighting equipment (electronic ignition = dead firetruck/ambulance)etc, which will cause further casualties due to inability to perform rescue operations. This also does not count any casualties from fires/conflagration/firestorms that may form.

Folks, even small nukes are nothing to be trifled with.
Posted by: OldSpook || 05/27/2009 0:48 Comments || Top||

#3  What's worse - what do you think Obama would do (or fail to do) if Kimmie-boy did pop one off over Seoul or Tokyo? What do you think the UN Security Council would do?

Send yet another strongly worded letter? Hold a fucking conference in some 5-star hotel in some exotic location? More Six-minus-one party talks?

Remember the Democrats and Obama have absolutely no problem selling our allies down the river without a raft. Just as South Vietnam.
Posted by: CrazyFool || 05/27/2009 1:11 Comments || Top||

Posted by: JosephMendiola || 05/27/2009 2:01 Comments || Top||

#5  It isn't nuclear that I am worried about. North Korea would not hesitate to use chemical or biological warfare. They aren't worried about "world condemnation" as their government is already pretty much the dregs of humanity. What do they have to lose? They are starving anyway.

Methamphetamine does dangerous things to the mind and we have a nation led by a cabal of tweakers holding nuclear weapons and who knows what else.

These people are dangerous. There is no point in talking to them. The only answer is to render North Korea "safe".
Posted by: crosspatch || 05/27/2009 4:01 Comments || Top||

#6  Gee, I wonder what this means:

Reuters: Russia taking preventative measures including military ones after N.Korea nuclear test - Interfax quotes security source

Reuters: The measures -- which did not include troop movements -- were needed in case a nuclear war broke out on the Korean peninsula.
Posted by: crosspatch || 05/27/2009 4:03 Comments || Top||

#7  Detonation is executed by a system similar to an array of Ignition Coils, as in a motor vehicle. It requires a high degree of synchronicity. Pentagon analysts are likely assigning primitive status to NK nanotechnology. Similarly, Pakistan's nuke tests produced poor results for controlled applications. One has to wonder if these devices would even survive a missile launch.

As to the questioning of quid pro quo in the financing, there has been speculation that the Saudis received nukes from Pakistan, in exchange for financing both the espionage and development that led to their program. The Iranians must be getting some payback from the NKs.

NK hardline status will collapse when they are totally isolated. That won't happen if Obama continues appeasing the Ayatollahs.
Posted by: Uloluns Scourge of the Bunions1692 || 05/27/2009 5:32 Comments || Top||

#8  North Korea has precipitated the heretofore impossible - the rearmament of Japan. Great job, Kimster.
Posted by: Kofi Flomotch5556 || 05/27/2009 7:01 Comments || Top||

#9  ...I still vote for option three. Why?

1. It CAN be done. In the mid-80s there was an aboveground conventional shot in Nevada (name escapes me) that piled up a kiloton or so of fertizer soaked in diesel fuel to create small scale nuclear effects. There's a great description of it in Edward Zuckerman's The Day After World War III - IIRC, the shot was also used to calibrate seismographs. Also keep in mind: they may not have food, they may not have medical care, but the one thing the Norks got in spades is HE. It would have been easy to round up 4KT worth.

2. If it is indeed a nuclear shot - and he is not producing enough material for a useful-size arsenal - why is he popping them off like this? It's like a couple years ago when Pakistan popped off like three in a row - that was an appreciable fraction of their arsenal, and I know the Norks don't have anywhere near as many. And the question also comes up - if the Paks helped them out, how come they can't get a functioning shot above a certain yield? Two apparent fizzles in a row (to us, anyways) means either a lot of Nork Nuke guys are in for the chop, or that's the best they can do...and I'm just not buying that.

Posted by: Mike Kozlowski || 05/27/2009 8:09 Comments || Top||

#10  1) A Pu mass must be compressed symmetrically and quickly or else most of the mass is blown apart before detonating (partial detonation, the classic "fizzle"). As Uloluns points out, this is technologically tricky and it doesn't surprise me that the Norks couldn't get it quite right.
2) Even a fizzle would be a potent weapon given that it would create a large amount of dispersed Pu which would cause mass panic in addition to the explosive effects noted by OldSpook.
3) In response to Mike, the point of conducting these tests is to saber-rattle, gain concessions, and for internal purposes. Their goal isn't necessarily to build an arsenal. They can realize results just by playing "big man with the bomb", so why not?
Posted by: Spot || 05/27/2009 8:44 Comments || Top||

#11  Before the 2006 test, the North Koreans told the Chinese they were aiming at a 4 kt yield.
Later they told them they used 2 kg Plutonium for the pit.
Posted by: john frum || 05/27/2009 10:38 Comments || Top||

#12  The Japanese have a solid-fuel satellite launcher that could easily be "weaponized" into an ICBM.

They also have 63 nuclear power plants and a spent fuel reprocessing facility.

I don't know if they have any nukes anywhere, but I bet they could build a few in a hurry if they thought they needed to. Bet they'd work on the first try, too.
Posted by: Mike || 05/27/2009 10:59 Comments || Top||

#13  Not just an ICBM... a heavy ICBM - MX class
The Japanese are also quite versed in ICF (shock driven fusion). Their nukes will not only work first time, they will be advanced
Posted by: john frum || 05/27/2009 11:12 Comments || Top||

#14  "there's no reason for Pyonyang to fake a test if it could at least attempt a real nuclear detonation."

I'm going to line up with those saying this test was faked. PU has huge commercial value. NK needs the money. Why blow up your PU when you can sell it for a king's ransom? Assuming that you get the same saber-rattling effect from a faked detonation there is no reason for a real one.

The more interesting news today is that NK has repudiated the 1953 Armistice.
Posted by: Iblis || 05/27/2009 12:29 Comments || Top||

#15  The author is engaged in wishful thinking.

This is 2009. Computers are far more powerful, simulation techniques are advanced. We understand far more about the compression of Plutonium and Uranium.

Further, Korea doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. China has already provided implosion weapon designs, with detailed instructions on fabrication. These are missile deliverable warheads, not primitive 1945 technology.

The NKoreans have at least this base level (the updated early Chinese missile warhead) to work with.
They are interested in deliverable weapons. That 4kt yield is enought to ignite the secondary of a thermonuclear weapon and 2kg means it is quite physically small.

Posted by: john frum || 05/27/2009 13:15 Comments || Top||

Home Front: Politix
New Book Offers Survival Guide for Conservatives in Blue States
If you've been booed, hissed, heckled or hollered at ... scathed, scapegoated, scanted or screamed at ... if you're the bane of blue states and a gall to all the Greens ... you may be feeling lonely, but you're certainly not alone.

Author Harry Stein has written a book for the elephant in the room. It's called "I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican," and he calls it "a survival guide for conservatives marooned among the angry, smug, and terminally self-righteous."

Which is to say: liberals.

"You deal with a lot of people who pretty much hate your guts" simply because you disagree with them, says Stein, who lives in a suburban liberal enclave a few miles north of Manhattan, which generally shades a deeper blue than the rivers that surround it.

Stein, a lifelong New Yorker, traveled the country talking to other conservatives about their woes and prepared a primer for people who are locked in political exile in their very own homes. That ranges from parents worried about the education their kids are getting in elementary school ("always the Indians, everything the Indians") to professors struggling to make it in the ivory tower.

The trouble can put relationships on the chopping block too. Stein, who details his own rocky relationship with his father in the book, found he wasn't the only one suffering.

"I sat down with a bunch of conservatives in San Francisco, (including) a gay man who was talking about what it was like being a gay conservative in San Francisco.

"He said it's a lot harder being conservative than it is to be gay," Stein told FOXNews.com. "His friends all turned on him."

To avoid that kind of reception, some secret right-wingers take the extra step of pretending to be in lock-step with those around them. One studio executive he interviewed posted Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama signs around his office, depending won which way the political winds were blowing during the presidential campaign. Advertising his actual beliefs would have been deadly, Stein says.

"People out there understand that those positions are really dangerous -- they jeopardize your livelihood."

Stein, who has very harsh words for the left-wingers he calls narrow-minded and provincial, says he grew up inside the church of liberalism and knows it from the inside out.

"Growing up liberal is kind of a birthright. You come of age with that, and everyone in your family feels the same way and everyone you know feels the same way -- and to break apart from that is like leaving behind a religion."

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ashram -- Stein says he met a few conservatives and came to like them for their politeness and their personal values. "As a person on the left I never ran into people on the right. It was really a revelation, it was an eye-opener when I actually started getting to know conservatives, that they weren't monsters."

Stein's survival guide is set to come out June 22, but the release party might have to be a little bit subdued. "We'll see if I survive the book," he told FOXNews.com. "My car was keyed once already during the campaign (because of a bumper sticker), so we have contingency plans for hiding it over the next few months."
Posted by: GolfBravoUSMC || 05/27/2009 16:50 || Comments || Link || E-Mail|| [6471 views] Top|| File under:

#1  He said it's a lot harder being conservative than it is to be gay

As a gay guy, I can confirm this in my own life. Back in the late '70's or during the 80's, I would not have agreed, but I have no doubt that it is true now. Many of my old friends from back then are convinced that I am "brainwashed". They'd like to say that I'm stupid too, but they don't tend to do well in debates with me, once I get aggravated. Not that I'm bragging - generally they're smart enough, but most of them have never heard a coherent presentation of conservative ideas, nor have they had many of their premises seriously questioned.

With people I don't know well, it regularly puts me in an awkward position. Because I'm gay, it's just assumed that I hate Bush and like Obama. I tend to be ambiguous in these situations, because I will get sarcastic when I'm fed up. I usually just ask questions about their opinions in a way that leaves them wondering what my exact positions are. It usually dawns on them that I may not share their point of view. It gets even more complicated when my partner is with me with his own opinions! LOL
Posted by: ryuge || 05/27/2009 20:17 Comments || Top||

Home Front: Culture Wars
Times TV critic looks down patrician nose at new ABC show
Sounds like a winner to me. Let's find the Times buzzwords, shall we?
Like “South Park,” “King of the Hill” arrived in 1997 as one of the indelible culture-war comedies of the Wal-Mart versus Williams-Sonoma era. Created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, “King of the Hill” forged a brilliant neutrality, affectionately portraying the common-sense, ranch-house life of a Christian family in Texas while mocking provincial mediocrity enough to appease the yen for regional condescension on the coasts. You could love it in Cambridge; you could love it in Little Rock.
Something you could discuss with the peasants over a domestic beer perhaps...
Everybody won until everybody didnt: just a few days before the November presidential election, Fox canceled the animated series after 13 seasons, its ratings in decline, testament perhaps to a national exhaustion with values-bashing, even when the weaponry produced few scars and little bloodshed.

Mr. Judge, though, apparently still feels the gentle combatants calling. His new animated comedy, “The Goode Family,” created with John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky (beginning on Wednesday on ABC), shoots from a different tactical angle, similarly striving to alienate no one. As if he had been required by the Federal Communications Commission to devote equal time to jeering at liberal pieties (which, by the way, he did plenty of on “King of the Hill”), he has produced the Goodes, a family of zealot, vegan, recycling nut cases who dont fight over paper versus plastic because they believe in neither.

"I know a lot of people are comfortable shopping with reusable bags,” Helen Goode (the voice of Nancy Carell) explains as she piles her groceries into her arms in the checkout line of a pseudo Whole Foods. “But Im not. Theyre made in sweatshops.” The Goodes have a dog named Che who leers at rodents because he isnt allowed to eat meat, and an adopted teenage son named Ubuntu (David Herman) who they thought was black but who turned out, once they got him from South Africa, to be the blond child of Afrikaners.

To compensate for Ubuntus racist lineage, the Goodes dress him each day as if he were being sent off to a parade in honor of Nelson Mandela. His brand-new drivers license identifies him as African-American.

When he apologizes for using too much gas during his initial spins around town, his father assures him that it is not really the consumption that matters: “Its O.K., Ubuntu, whats important is that you feel guilty about it.”

The voice of the patriarch, Gerald Goode, an administrator at a community college where even students qualify for tenure, is provided by Mr. Judge, who could not have improved on his tone of narcoleptic earnestness if he had apprenticed for “All Things Considered.” He is exceptionally funny in the role (as he was playing Hank in “King of the Hill”), and a lot of the writing is too.

But the show feels aggressively off-kilter with the current mood, as if it had been incubated in the early to mid-90s, when it was possible to find global-warming skeptics among even the reasonable and informed. Who really thinks of wind power — an allusion to which is a running visual gag in the show — as mindless, left-wing nonsense anymore?
Ah, yes. Those halcyon days of the 90's, when global-warming skeptics abounded. Not like today, when everthing is Hope and Change and Obama...
Mr. Judge, who remains obsessed with the absurdities of political correctness, still has his head very much in the Clinton years, and it is possible to watch “The Goode Family” feeling so thoroughly transported back to another time that you wonder where all the Monica Lewinsky jokes went. Sometimes youve just got to grab your cup of free-trade coffee and move on.
I may give this a look.
Posted by: tu3031 || 05/27/2009 14:34 || Comments || Link || E-Mail|| [6488 views] Top|| File under:

#1  Waiting for the complements from Linux users...1, 2, 3.
Posted by: Eric Jablow || 05/27/2009 21:30 Comments || Top||

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