A Red Warning on Taiwan

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conducted a study of multiple outcomes should the Chinese invade Taiwan. The results are not encouraging.

Although "most" of the scenarios they studied resulted in a US victory, all of them were very costly. The happy case is already bad:
This defense comes at a high cost. The United States and Japan lose dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of servicemembers. Such losses would damage the U.S. global position for many years. While Taiwan’s military is unbroken, it is severely degraded and left to defend a damaged economy on an island without electricity and basic services. China also suffers heavily. Its navy is in shambles, the core of its amphibious forces is broken, and tens of thousands of soldiers are prisoners of war. 
There are two additional warnings contained in the report on the study. The first is that the worst, "Ragnarok" scenario -- one in which Japan chooses to stay neutral and the PRC finds a way to keep US bombers from playing a significant role, an admittedly difficult task -- results in even more terrible losses.
In total, the United States lost four carriers, 43 cruisers and destroyers, and 15 [nuclear attack submarines].

That outcome ends in the PRC conquering Taiwan, and the US withdrawing in abject defeat. 

The second is contained in a later section of the report, which analyzes why the CSIS report has much cheerier outcomes than internal, classified US military war games. As bad as this is, it is a much rosier picture than the one the military has been coming up with during its own studies.

A Norse Curse and Poem

A metal interpretation of the sort of cursing described in Egils saga Skallagrímssonar
[Egil] took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse's head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: 'Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse's head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.'

This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse's head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse.

Immediately after this is a nice poem, which is not part of the curse. 

After this Egil went aboard the ship. They made sail, and sailed out to sea. Soon the breeze freshened, and blew strong from a good quarter; so the ship ran on apace. Then sang Egil:

'Forest-foe, fiercely blowing,
Flogs hard and unceasing
With sharp storm the sea-way
That ship's stern doth plow.
The wind, willow-render,
With icy gust ruthless
Our sea-swan doth buffet
O'er bowsprit and beak.'

"Forest-foe" is a hard wind, as is "willow-render"; the "sea-swan" is of course the ship itself. 

Go Mighty Bulldogs

I missed the first quarter due to Fire/Rescue training, which I suppose demonstrates my dedication to the latter. Tonight’s National Championship College Football Game is the most important game in any sport all year; indeed, as any true Southerner knows, college football is the only actual sport played anywhere in the world. 

Go Dawgs. 

UPDATE: Final score 65-7. Congratulations to the back to back champions. 

CounterPunch: COINTELPRO is Back

I noted this article last week, but I wanted to avoid politics for the holidays. It is highly unusual for the radical, normally-left site CounterPunch to publish something that is sympathetic to the right wing, but criticism of the FBI is in their lane. 
The Senate report on COINTELPRO concluded: “Only a combination of legislative prohibition and Departmental control can guarantee that COINTELPRO will not happen again.” But the Ford administration derailed legislative reforms by promising an administrative fix. In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft threw out many of those reforms as part of “a concerted effort to free the [FBI] field agents… from the bureaucratic, organizational, and operational restrictions” imposed after their prior abuses. Ashcroft declared: “In its 94-year history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been… the tireless protector of civil rights and civil liberties for all Americans.”  ...

The FBI’s latest war on wrong-thinking Americans took off after the FBI helped fabricate the 2016 RussiaGate fraud.... In our time, FBI officials pressured Twitter to suppress Americans based on false claims of fighting foreign influence.  The same pretext was used by the Department of Homeland Security to massively suppress Americans’ criticism of election procedures (especially mail-in ballots) for the 2020 presidential election. As the covert war against “misinformation” expands, the list of federally prohibited online thoughts is snowballing. DHS is targeting “inaccurate information on the… U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine,”...

One of the biggest “misses” in the media coverage of the Twitter Files is the stunning failure of Congress to expose the abuses that Elon Musk is revealing.... Is Congress terrified of the FBI nowadays like congressmen were in the COINTELPRO era? In 1971, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs revealed the shameless kowtowing on  Capitol Hill: “Our very fear of speaking out [against the FBI] … has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny…. Our society cannot survive a planned and programmed fear of its own government bureaus and agencies.” 

That last point is one I've been hearing more often lately. Society cannot survive a collapse of trust in public institutions; therefore, it is suggested, we have a moral obligation to extend trust to those institutions. High-trust societies definitely do better than low-trust ones. 

Trust has to be earned, however. When our institutions regularly betray their society and defy their constitutional limits, trust is not merited. 

More on Viking Age "Migration"

A few years ago there was a famous study that showed that the early population of Iceland was made up almost 50-50 of Norsemen and Gaels -- that is, of Viking men and Scottish or Irish women. Now a study shows that there was a substantial amount of Celtic migration to Scandinavia proper, too. 
The circumstances and fate of people of British-Irish ancestry who arrived in Scandinavia at this time are likely to have been variable, ranging from the forced migration of slaves to the voluntary immigration of more high-ranking individuals such as Christian missionaries and monks. 

OK, although the monks should have been celibate, so their influence on the population's genetics ought not to have been great.

I have long reflected on the fact that the Norse sagas don't really mention Irish female slaves in great numbers -- in fact I can't think of even one example -- but they must have been pretty thick on the ground if they made up half the genetic heritage for a while. The sagas weren't written down until much later, and tend to be about high-status families or individuals, but still you'd think they'd come up. 

Now there's a parallel discussion as to whether the Jews were ever slaves in Egypt, with some reform Jews arguing that the traditions are falsified because the only evidence for them is Biblical. However, the historic evidence for Jewish slaves in Egypt is much stronger than the evidence for female Irish slaves in Iceland; and there were very clearly a lot of Irish slave-women in Iceland. Maybe the Egyptians were no more interested in documenting their slaves' activities than were the Vikings, and the Irish women less literate and capable of documenting it themselves.

A Familiar Story

Writing from the southern Philippines, Georgi Engelbrecht describes a failed jihadist movement's attempts to establish a stronghold there.

I was in the southern Philippines myself in 2007, and this story about the Islamic State's attempt to do so is almost precisely a mirror of the earlier attempt by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf - both of whom get mentioned.
A landmark peace agreement in 2014 reconciled the Philippine government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest — and formerly secessionist — Moro Muslim rebel group. Bringing about peace, however, has been more complicated. Islamist outfits have formed outside the MILF and gained increasing popularity as the pact was delayed and formal Moro autonomy slowed despite the peace deal....

Things escalated after the third battle in Butig in November 2016. Isnilon Hapilon, one of the few surviving leaders of the infamous Abu Sayyaf Group, a loose network of criminal and militant cells in the Sulu Archipelago, arrived in Lanao and was appointed emir (commander) of the local Islamic State franchise. Hapilon had left his home island, Basilan, when his group came under military pressure. Details remain murky, but the plan to take over Marawi likely emerged around this time, with militants linking up with criminal syndicates. Local politicians supported the militants with cash and protection. Foreign money was arriving through remittance centers and bank accounts.

To appreciate how similar these stories are, you need to know that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was itself an offshoot of the Moro National Liberation Front, which had signed a "landmark peace agreement" in the 1990s. The MNLF deal brought in most of the militants in the southern Philippines, who were moved as much by Moro nationalism as by Islam; but a radical offshoot, MILF, splintered off and continued the fight. 

Abu Sayyaf, meanwhile, was an ally of Al Qaeda instead of the manner in which this new ultra-radical group was an ally of the Islamic State (itself containing members of the old Al Qaeda in Iraq, an offshoot of AQ that came to exist only to fight us in Iraq, and who married to Saddamist insurgents in American prisons in Iraq where they were kept from killing each other long enough to find common cause). Al Qaeda friends Jemmah Islamiyah helped set up and fund 'the sons of the Sword' (a literal translation of Abu Sayyaf) to push for a Qaeda-led caliphate in the very same Islam-friendly territory. They used the MILF as militia capable of holding territory; the MILF used them as shock troops. 

I guess you could say that the waves are getting smaller and smaller, which might be reason for hope. The same process happened in Ireland, where the Irish Republican Army was brought in but the Provisional Irish Republican Army stayed out, until the Provos came in but the Real IRA stayed out, until at last there is relative peace. That too makes this a familiar story; I hope it works out well. The Southern Philippines are one of the most beautiful places on earth, unbelievably beautiful, and it is a shame that such paradise has so long been marred by poverty and war.