Saturday, January 31, 2009

To Russia, With Hate

Blofeld. Rumsfeld. Pussy Galore. Dick Cheney.

Lest any doubts remain that all the above are characters dreamed up by Ian Fleming for James Bond novels, Dick Cheney dispelled them when he showed up at the inauguration last week in a wheelchair wearing Goldfinger's black fedora. (The white long-haired cat? Psst:

Actually, I have it on reliable authority that Cheney is inhabited by a vengeful ninth-level cacodaemon named Contradictus, which is why his expressions on that fateful day betrayed thoughts such as these:
"I gather the darkness to please me, usurper-fool! You will surrender, and before the hoary spirits of the netherworld eat your soul, it will grovel before me."
Bush Junior is no longer a problem, and his thoughts on the inaugural dais were uncomplicated: "Beer on the helicopter...two more on the helicopter..." All demons aside, these other husks of tedious evil are not dead yet, oh no, and they're working on a sequel. Loyal minions are constructing an impregnable fortress under the seas off Chesapeake Bay, where they will celebrate Russia's destruction and sing "Happy Death Day To You" as they survive the necessary earth-roasting cataclysm.

Seriously, these guys have been running the same play for the last 35 years, and it's worked every time. Henry Kissinger incurred their wrath for bringing about detente with Russia during Nixon's presidency. They got themselves promoted in the Ford Administration to SecDef and Chief of Staff, and their payback was to marginalize Kissinger into resigning via the device of a confabulated Soviet super-sub which could snorkel up the Potomac undetected and eradicate the US government with its WMD-laser.
Ford bought it. When the CIA challenged, saying the Red October super-sub didn't exist, the James Bond guys squashed them with steamrollers and roared, "Prove it doesn't, you traitors!" Via Thom Hartmann's reportage in Common Dreams:

Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear.

They did it by claiming that the Soviets had a new secret weapon of mass destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody knew about but them. It was a nuclear submarine technology that was undetectable by current American technology. And, they said, because of this and related-undetectable-technology weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work or have businesses relationships with.

The CIA strongly disagreed, calling Rumsfeld's position a "complete fiction" and pointing out that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed their own people, and would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.

As Dr. Anne Cahn, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1977 to 1980, told the BBC's Adam Curtis for his documentary "The Power of Nightmares":

"They couldn't say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn't find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, 'we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.'

"INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Even though there was no evidence.

"CAHN: Even though there was no evidence.

"INTERVIEWER: So they’re saying there, that the fact that the weapon doesn’t exist…

"CAHN: Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t found it."

But Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted Americans to believe there was something nefarious going on, something we should be very afraid of. To this end, they convinced President Ford to appoint a commission including their old friend Paul Wolfowitz to prove that the Soviets were up to no good.

Wolfowitz's group, known as "Team B," came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several terrifying new weapons of mass destruction, featuring a nuclear-armed submarine fleet that used a sonar system that didn't depend on sound and was, thus, undetectable with our current technology. It could - within a matter of months - be off the coast of New York City with a nuclear warhead.

Although Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's assertions of this powerful new Soviet WMD was unproven - they said the lack of proof proved the "undetectable" sub existed - they nonetheless used their charges to push for dramatic escalations in military spending to selected defense contractors, a process that continued through the Reagan administration.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz helped re-organized a group - The Committee on the Present Danger - to promote their worldview. The Committee produced documentaries, publications, and provided guests for national talk shows and news reports. They worked hard to whip up fear and encourage increases in defense spending, particularly for sophisticated weapons systems offered by the defense contractors for whom many of these same men would later become lobbyists.

As long as the villains are alive and not driven to distraction by lawsuits or hauled before criminal courts, they're a serious threat to peace, prosperity, and low tax rates. There will be sequels, and I can read the scripts. They see themselves as the guardians of Republic, its last remaining Templars. To them, the choice is between abdicating democracy to the forces of globalization and monopolistic capitalism, versus the expansion of democratic systems, American empire, and a way of life informed by Christian benevolence.

Rumsfeld and Cheney read the Stanford Research Institute's classified 1974 study, "The Changing Images of Man," and they freaked out. (Do not click on that link if you're in a good mood, or if you're not prepared for the Abyss to stare back.) I have guzzled their motivations and pissed on their methods, but they were dealing with the same perplexing existential questions as we must. Whence democracy, must it be weakened and expanded to be preserved. Is mere Christianity enough. How do we insure continuing vitality against such long odds. That's what their motivations consisted of, so here I am, empathizing with murderers, and now their baton has thwapped into my hand.

Empathy for enemies. It's what you must do. Get inside their heads and understand. I don't think Rumsfeld and Cheney are intrinsically evil, although they embraced it in brutal services which fell far short and lost all coherence. Come to think of it, that's what evil is. But we now face the same questions, and I am Mr. No-Have-Answers. Whence the power of the nation-state, the ability of the good in people to re-aggregate and rise above the organizations, philosophies, and impulses which are draining, conquering, and killing us.

I remember how it feels to be truly alone with all my faith gone. Then it was the love of people who cushioned my fall and lifted me up. The answer is in social networks, in people, not in machines. Even if the blasted, bleak future of the Matrix becomes our present, even if we humans are a virus, Mr. Anderson, we will resist, we will mutate, and we will find others like us in Russia.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Give It The Pulitzer Now

This is for real, it's available for pre-order at Chronicle Books and Amazon. A long-held personal tenet is that many works of literature should be revitalized by adding zombies. The Grapes of Wrath...and Zombies. I mean, if War and Peace had zombies in it, many, many more people would get to the last page. When I showed the description to my wife, she said "I have got to read this!" Meet one of the biggest novels of 2009:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English literature.

Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of How to Survive a Horror Movie and The Big Book of Porn.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lab Breakthrough To Bring LED Lights To The Masses

They last for over 50 years, produce 7 times more lumens per watt than filament bulbs, and they avoid breakage and disposal dangers posed by mercury vapor. A 70-watt LED light costs $60, prohibitive for most people living on the grid. But soon the same LED light will cost $6, allowing huge home electricity savings and other applications:
Gallium Nitride (GaN), a man-made semiconductor used to make LEDs (light emitting diodes), emits brilliant light but uses very little electricity. Until now high production costs have made GaN lighting too expensive for wide spread use in homes and offices.

However, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Cambridge University based Centre for Gallium Nitride has developed a new way of making GaN which could produce LEDs for a tenth of current prices.

GaN, grown in labs on expensive sapphire wafers since the 1990s, can now be grown on silicon wafers. This lower cost method could mean cheap mass produced LEDs become widely available for lighting homes and offices in the next five years.

Based on current results, GaN LED lights in every home and office could cut the proportion of UK electricity used for lights from 20% to 5%. That means we could close or not need to replace eight power stations.

And the rest.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

UN Crime Chief Has Fit Of Honesty, Must Die

The #1 rule of money is that it has to go somewhere. Banks have long reaped extra fees for laundering drug cash, they've almost certainly moved into doing open electronic transactions amongst each other, desperation being a mother, and this is the first official admission suggesting it. Via the International Herald Tribune:
The United Nations' crime and drug watchdog has indications that money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis, its head was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Vienna-based UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in an interview released by Austrian weekly Profil that drug money often became the only available capital when the crisis spiralled out of control last year.

"In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital," Costa was quoted as saying by Profil. "In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor."

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had found evidence that "interbank loans were funded by money that originated from drug trade and other illegal activities," Costa was quoted as saying. There were "signs that some banks were rescued in that way."

Profil said Costa declined to identify countries or banks which may have received drug money and gave no indication how much cash might be involved. He only said Austria was not on top of his list.

Psyche's News Roundup

The asshole gene runs in the Bush family - Feministing
Only one voter fraud case found | Cincinnati Enquirer | Cincinnati.Com
The Raw Story | Jailed governor Siegelman says Rove subpoena 'restores people's faith in democracy'

First Qassam since end of Gaza op hits Negev - Haaretz - Israel News
Who Runs Gov - Government directory
Venezuela gov't: We're honored Israel expelled our diplomats - Haaretz - Israel News

House in heated stimulus debate - Jan. 28, 2009 The final vote was 244 to 188. No Republicans voted for the bill, while 11 Democrats voted against it (what did your $300 Billion compromise get you, Mister Nice Guy? Wise up O!)
Right attacking stimulus money for health programs - War Room -
Foreign Policy: The List: The Next Iceland

Russia scraps plan to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad | World news | Move comes after Barack Obama administration says it will review Pentagon's proposed defence shield in central Europe

Russia And China Slam U.S. Economic System, Blaming It For Financial Crisis (layin' it down at Davos)

Michael Dell Slapped Down By Putin At Davos: "We Don't Need Help. We Are Not Invalids"

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 01/27/2009 | Congressional Budget Office compares downturn to Great Depression
Lawrence Lessig: HuffPost Breaks Huge Corruption Story -- And We Must Do Something About It (Bankers used taxpayer money to lobby against Employee Free Trade Act (EFCA))
Calculated Risk: House Panel Approves Cram Downs

Talking Points Memo | Won't Go There (no equity stakes in banks for taxpayers because, well, because)
Deep Capture | The Story of Deep Capture (more than you imagined)
Starbucks plans to close 300 more shops as profit drops - MarketWatch

School can expel lesbian students, court rules - Los Angeles Times (what about threesomes?)
SuicideGirls > News > Culture > The Evolution of Religion
Pharyngula: Coyne on the compatibility of science and religion

Cutting calories may boost your memory - (see below)
Marijuana could prevent Alzheimer's ("The FDA maintains that marijuana has no medical use") (see above)
Trust your gut: Too much thinking leads to bad choices (Bush vindicated)

Wikimedia blog » Blog Archive » Wiki-to-print feature now available in the German Wikipedia
Much needed invention: cop-proof auto web-uplink videophone (see comment) : programming
Qik | Product Highlight (streaming video for your personal surveillance device, aka "little brother")

US Supreme Court says passenger can be frisked - (Republicans delete another Amendment to the Constitution)
EzraKlein Archive | The American Prospect: How It Works (Atrios: CFR is "clown school for mass murderers")

TPMDC | Talking Points Memo | Republicans Irate Over Expansion of Republican-Approved Program
Nose Cone: Nick Turse: It's Time for a Trillion-Dollar Tag Sale at the Pentagon
The Poor Man Institute Bill Kristol has slithered back to Reptoid headquarters, and the NY Times is looking for a simulacrum.

Obama Officials Tells Citibank To Ditch Plans For $50 Million Private Jet
Op-Ed Columnist - The Same Old Song - - Are Republicans ... so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state? (umm...yes?) Worldwide November Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Fall 18.2% (fastest on record)
A Dark Age of macroeconomics (wonkish) - Paul Krugman Blog -
Matthew Yglesias » Accounting Identities and Straussian Economics

YouTube - No Pants Subway Ride 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blind Faith, 1969 Music & Lyrics: Come Down Off Your Throne, And Leave Your Body Alone

Come down off your throne
and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've
been waiting so long
somebody holds the key

Well, I'm near the end
and I just ain't got the time
I'm wasted, and
I can't find my way home

Come down on your own
and leave your body alone
somebody must change
You are the reason I've been
waiting all these years
somebody holds the key!

Well, I'm near the end--
and I just ain't got the time!
oh, oh, and I'm wasted, and I...can't find my way home.

Monday, January 26, 2009

And Another Thing To Figure Out
Lord Running Boy requested armies for Christmas, and they were raised. He has since waged long-running campaigns against family proxies, and so eulogized a recent battle:
Dear brave soldiers, all 40 of you, for the men who died in two thousand and two: we are sorry. Sorry mom, sorry wife, sorry children. We are all dead and will not have any children again. "Abo, Abo, Abo" means another battle is coming. [Shifts into raspy voice.] We are dead and can't have any more children. We are not brave anymore. We are all dead and we are sorry. Knights are bravery.
Whereupon he informed his grandmother that he is the third reincarnation of Scipio, gaining the aristocratic title "Africanus" for his family, conquered Carthage and made it a tributary after winning the Second Punic War. It is an egregious injustice no one remembers him now despite repeatedly kicking the famous Hannibal's ass, not to mention those of his brothers. It seems the accusations of bribery from Antiochus were the false designs of hard-liners unhappy with his fairness of vanquished enemies. As Livy and Polybius will tell you. He is come back to correct these wrongs and wrestle with two new opponents called SAT and WASL.

The transcript is accurate. The paragraph above is only worry, bafflement, and history. I know we don't stand alone. I know we stand with all the all the others, we stand upon their stepping stones, and if this subject persists long enough, Perseus, I will advocate enlistment in the Coast Guard.

Why The NSA Spies On All Americans

Simple. Because it's much easier to record all digital communication signals than to triage them in real time. Voices and keystrokes are converted to bits which pass through surprisingly few central nodes, so "wiretapping" doesn't technically apply any longer. That's the dodge. "Monitoring" would be more like it. "Digital processing" more accurate.

You can perform some semantic analysis in real time, catch data clusters, link them to related meta-data and examine for relationships. When you find fishy stuff, you pass the suspects over to a financial transaction analysis program. If you get flags there, too, you put ears and maybe eyeballs on them and scrutinize for terrorist ties and activities. Then the optical disk slides back in place, you add the result string into the data pool so it can learn, you file report and cover butt.

The first problem with eavesdropping is intuitively obvious: it's useless if the bad guys know it's happening. The primary value is against unsuspecting people who think their communications are secure. Which brings us to the second problem, one painfully un-obvious to Americans: having the tools guarantees they'll be used against law-abiding citizens, political opponents, competitors, celebrities, defense lawyers. It's not "warrantless wiretapping." It's a huge expert system under ongoing development which can be used to drill back into anyone's communications:
National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice, who helped expose the NSA's "warrantless wiretapping" in December 2005, came forward on January 21st with more sallegations. Tice told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday that the programs that spied on Americans were not only much broader than previously acknowledged but specifically targeted journalists.

The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."

Tice further explained that "even for the NSA it's impossible to literally collect all communications. ... What was done was sort of an ability to look at the metadata ... and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected."

According to Tice, in addition to this "low-tech, dragnet" approach, the NSA also had the ability to hone in on specific groups, and that was the aspect he himself was involved with. However, even within the NSA there was a cover story meant to prevent people like Tice from realizing what they were doing.

"In one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them," Tice told Olbermann. "What I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and 365 days a year -- and it made no sense. ... I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me to fire me."

When Olbermann pressed him for specifics, Tice offered, "An organization that was collected on were US news organizations and reporters and journalists."

"To what purpose?" Olbermann asked. "I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every email sent by all the reporters at the
New York Times? Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York?"

Tice did not answer directly, but simply stated, "If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything." He added, however, that he had no idea what was ultimately done with the information, except that he was sure it "was digitized and put on databases somewhere."

Tice first began alleging that there were illegal activities going on at both the NSA and the
Defense Intelligence Agency in December 2005, several months after being fired by the NSA. He also served at that time as a source for the New York Times story which revealed the existence of the NSA's wireless wiretapping program.

Over the next several months, however, Tice was frustrated in his
attempts to testify before Congress, had his credibility attacked by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, and was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in an apparent attempt at intimidation.

Tice is now coming forward again now because
George Bush is finally out of office. He told Olbermann that the Obama administration has not been in touch with him about his latest revelations, but, "I did send a letter to, I think it's [Obama intelligence adviser John] Brennan -- a handwritten letter, because I knew all my communications were tapped, my phones, my computer, and I've had the FBI on me like flies on you-know-what ... and I'm assuming that he gave the note to our current president -- that I intended to say a little bit more than I had in the past."
Until we define digital privacy rights, we live in a surveillance state and it will be very hard, Obama Administration or no, to fold this impertinent genie back into the bottle.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Psyche's News Roundup

New Statesman - Squaring the circle Beyond Terror and Martyrdom: the Future of the Middle East
Security experts skeptical on Gitmo detainee report - (more Enron numbers from Bush)
The Raw Story | Official: UN may prosecute Bush administration, regardless of US action

Travel advisory issued for top IDF officers - Israel News, Ynetnews (war crimes prosecution in Europe)
Prosecute George W. Bush for Illegal Acts - by Ivan Eland
How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture. - By Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands - Slate Magazine

Obama Starts With 68% Job Approval
Bush left ’sickening legacy’ says Saudi Ambassador
President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area | World news | The Guardian (kills a bunch of civilians)

Review: The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future by Bruce Riedel | Books | The Guardian Raymond Bonner hails an essential primer on modern terrorism
We All Wank On « The Poor Man Institute

Moon of Alabama - Prince Turki's Threats - Onwards (last GYWO) - Bio - Juan Williams joined FOX News in 1997 as a political contributor

The Scariest Chart Ever -- Seeking Alpha (seeing doom)
Calculated Risk: PBS Interview with Warren Buffett
Obama Plans Fast Action to Tighten Financial Rules -

Downturn Accelerates As It Circles The Globe - Worse Off Than Predicted Just Weeks Ago (who could have predicted?)
Market Place - Bank of America’s Chief in Trouble Over Merrill - (who could have predicted?)
Krugman: Wall Street voodoo - International Herald Tribune

Dean Baker: The Role of Government: Keeping the Wealthy Rich (of, by, and for the rich)
Healthcare: The Key To Economic Stimulus? : NPR Macroeconomist Dean Baker
The Growing Clout of the Nouveau Poor

In-flight confrontations can lead to charges defined as terrorism - Los Angeles Times At least 200 passengers have been convicted of felonies under the Patriot Act, often for behavior involving raised voices and profanity
Science News / A Prayer For Archimedes A long-lost text by the ancient Greek mathematician shows that he had begun to discover the principles of calculus
The Drug War's Collateral Damage: Drug prohibition militarizes our police, enriches our enemies, undermines our laws, and condemns our sick to suffering. - Reason Magazine

Nir Rosen: Gaza: Israel, Hamas and the logic of colonial power | Comment is free | As so often, the term 'terrorism' has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak
VIDEO; Raw Footage of Israeli Atrocities
Ban Ki-Moon lambasts shelling of UN in Gaza - Times Online

Israel accused of executing parents in front of children in Gaza - Telegraph
BBC refuses airtime to Gaza aid appeal | Media | The Guardian
Firedoglake » Gaza Update: Hiding from Justice

NSA Spied on Journalists? Whistleblower Reveals Surveillance Target |
Glinda Arrives at State—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) The reaction of State Department employees as Hillary Clinton arrived this morning apparently bears comparison to the liberation of Paris at the end of World War II

On the White House - Obama Speech Got Harsh Reviews on Bush Plane to Texas - (waa-aah!)

Nasdaq to launch options trading on bail-out index | Reuters (next up, CDO's on bailout)
ACLU Lays Off A Tenth Of Workforce: Two foundations that had heavily backed the ACLU were wiped out by fraudulent hedge-fund manager Bernard Madoff

Marijuana growers thrive in California - CNBC TV- Cash crop now accounts for two-thirds of Mendocino County economy
Want to Live Longer? Cut the Pollution - TIME
Climate Change Killing America's Trees at Ever Faster Rates | Wired Science from

Pakistan in Peril - The New York Review of Books Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
New age of rebellion and riot stalks Europe - Times Online

FACTBOX - Iceland set for early election as protests worsen | World | Reuters
Talking Points Memo | Where Ya Gonna Go? the payment by Merrill Lynch of $3-4 billion in bonuses in late December, just ahead of the closing of the acquisition by Bank of America (Merrill lost 27 Billion last year)

New Media Venture Turns Bloggers Into Print Journalists | Epicenter from
Victorian novels helped us evolve into better people, say psychologists | Science |
Phawker » Blog Archive » THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS: Whatever Happens In Room 315, Stays In Room 31

Gigapixel Inauguration (wow)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lip-Reading The Inauguration

For a non-deaf person (at least for awhile) I'm a functional lip reader and can confirm all the notes below, plus one they missed. From DNA India:
Millions may have lauded Barack Obama's Inaugural speech but what remained unheard was what was said by a First daughter to her father, and between the new President and his predecessor after the swearing-in ceremony.

According to a lip reader, the first African-American president of the United States, just after the ceremony, asked George W Bush: "You OK?"

As to what was Bush's reply, according to The Sun, the lip reader said: "So relieved."

The 43rd president had later informally handed over his former White House residence to Obama saying: "It's all yours now - good luck."

And while thousands cheered the hope brought about by their new leader, seven-year-old first daughter Sasha was said to have told her president-dad: "That was a good speech, perfect."

Right after he completed his address, Obama turned back to his daughter Sasha, leaned over and asked, "So how was that?" Funny how your staunchest supporters can be your harshest critics.

Update: Vincent, proprietor of the spiritually wayfaring Perpetual Lab, reports that his beloved caught another sotto voce moment when Obama gave his younger daughter a kiss on the cheek, and she whispered in his ear "Mister President!"

It's great to see such unabashed affection amongst America's first family. They're not guarded, distant, or dysfunctional. They're vital and strong, totally in love and proud of each other. Does this carry over into policy? No. Just into everything.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama To Sign Order Shutting Guantanamo, Halting Military Tribunals

Now that title felt good to write! A sanctioned White House leak states:
The Associated Press has learned that President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order Thursday to close the detention center within a year and halt military trials of terror suspects held there. The executive order was one of three expected imminently on how to interrogate and prosecute al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters believed to threaten the United States.

A senior Obama aide said the president would sign the order on Thursday, fulfilling his campaign promise to shut down a facility that critics around the world say violates domestic and international detainee rights. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the event has not yet been announced.
(Update) Some in the blogsphere are displeased Gitmo didn't get closed right away, but at least the war crimes trials were suspended today. The real problem is figuring out what to do with the inmates, with legal complexities ranging from merely bewildering to impossible. For example, one Canadian is accused of killing a US sergeant with a grenade in Afghanistan 7 years ago. The accused was 15 at the time. Can he really be tried in a US civilian court? As an adult? What justice could a "jury of peers" dispense? Would love to hear any case precedents for that one. Probably best to send him back to Toronto and let them figure it out.

Regardless of guilt, the US would be wise to offer each of the inmates $250,000 or more in exchange for agreement not to sue for damages arising from torture and wrongful imprisonment. Then give them a plane ride home. Many Americans would argue that doing so would let a lot of guilty people go, including Kaleid Sheik Mohammed (who would like nothing better than execution) and five other alleged 9/11 plotters.
Too bad, game over.

America lost when it tortured these men, and torture invalidated both their confessions and their guilt. To put that in perspective, most anyone who comes through here, including myself, would confess to being a Sylvania light bulb, 60 watts, after about 20 seconds of waterboarding a.k.a. drowning. I've drowned a.k.a. died, it's not pretty, and these people went through far, far more than that.

For over 7 years, they were in a place scientifically designed to elicit human misery, their keepers inclined to extract revenge. Not surprisingly, the few sane ones left recently tried to starve themselves to death, as a final protest, and feeding tubes denied the privilege. If we let these people go without agreement or closure, guilty or innocent, imagine the flight paths their grievances will take. There are crimes to be punished here, oh yes. And the orders to torture may well prove to be the instruments of it coming to that.

Reverend Joe Lowery's Invocation, The Blues & Big Bill Broonzy

In the closing seconds of the invocation, I and millions of others savored Joe Lowery's rap. It came across as the perfect cap, the high point of the proceedings, and Obama's bowed head and many others on the dais lifted into smiles as he prayed:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.
Lowery lifted his zinger from a 1948 hit song by fellow preacher and accomplished bluesman Big Bill Broonzy's "Black, Brown and White," and enlarged upon it with inclusion:
If you're black and gotta work for a living,
This is what they will say to you,
They say, "If you was white, you's all right,
If you was brown, stick around,
But as you's black, oh brother, get back, get back, get back"

I was in a place one night
They was all having fun
They was all buyin' beer and wine,
But they would not sell me none
They said, "If you was white, you's all right,
If you was brown, stick around,
But if you black, oh brother, get back, get back, get back."

I hepped built this country
And I fought for it, too
Now I guess that you can see
What a black man has to do
They says, "If you's white, you's all right,
If you's brown, stick around,
But if you black, oh brother, get back, get back, get back."
Broonzy also popularized the riff which would later serve as a rich quarry of American rock music, "Guitar Shuffle." I hope Mr. Lowery is listening to some iteration of it tonight, and that he's come down with the smilin' blues like the happiest man in town.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It Was The Worst Of Times, It Was The Best Of Times

We had an inauguration party tonight. I bought a big bottle of tequila and made margaritas, for all the girls and mamacitas. Whereas my guys were scattered, attended conferences, strewn across the globe.

We took care of kids and babies. We exchanged the foods we made. We ate, we drank, we hugged each other and agreed: today was a damned good day.


My legs and back are sore from volunteering, Martin Luther King Jr's holiday unleashed Lord Running Boy from his co-op school, and I just finished an overdue email for work. I am watching TV crowds at 3:30 AM Eastern Standard Time still celebrating on the National Mall in the District of Columbia.

The White House is lit up in background view. A contractor who works for my wife, a veterinarian with a PhD, is somewhere in the camera's vicinity; her husband volunteered for Obama without pay for the last year in Ohio. Their inaguration attendance plan was to go without invitation, car, or hotel. From the looks of it, they're not alone.

The world's turned upside down and all bets are off. Take heed, ye cynics, and believers, too: this is our gut-check, time to listen to better angels flapping about our possibilities and natures. It is urgently in our interests to believe, to be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

You've got to believe. To reap the extraordinary bounty of this moment, you've got to believe. It's never happened before. Ever. Faith of a mustard seed, you've got to believe.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

All That Was Required Of Us Was To Do Nothing

Excerpted from 'They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45,' by Milton Mayer:
"You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time."

"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. ‘One had no time to think. There was so much going on.’"

"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

--------------------------------------------------- see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing).
The change we're about to attempt is to re-acquaint ourselves with government, and to control it for common good. (Socialist utopianism, I know.) For the 95 percent, not the 5 percent. I will try to attend a project on the 19th and participate in Obama's day of service before the inauguration. He and his family will lead by example on the day before, and I am certain he will reference what they did during his speech and call us out to serve our fellow citizens in need. Will we answer, or is it too far gone?

When the concepts of service and commons seem too quaint, too exploitable for speculative ends, I think of the well-built post offices and libraries in so many American cities, of the Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Columbia River Dam, all of which enriched the commons and were built to last for another 100 years, all public stimulus projects which never would have happened otherwise without a government vigorously engaged with its populace.

I've lived and worked in many countries, and have observed: how much your government taxes you, how much it borrows pales in comparison to how and why it spends the money, and how it treats you personally.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Palestine, Gaza, And Long Shadows

In modern times it's hard to unpack all the info-maelstroms, it's easy to get snagged by electronic histrionics. They strobe-blind and strand us from seeing our natural backgrounds of time, connection and depth. The Media excel at casting, destroying, discovering, and re-casting Molochs of irrationality, erecting false yet powerful narrative arcs which demand our mental fealties. The falsities control us on the cheap, leaving collateral damages of knowledge, context, and common sense.

Israel's invasion of Gaza, for example, is utterly devoid of a context which should be completely obvious, even to Westerners, and some will soon be provided below. First, it's wise to admit my approach to thinking about politics and conflict was already unorthodox by inclination, and was kicked even further towards a "long shadows" framework by once being horribly, frighteningly wrong.

In Yugoslavia in the 1980s, I failed to see a devolution into chaos and genocide as it was happening right in front of my eyes. I cheerfully walked and stayed in places where little old women and pre-schoolers would die by sniper fire for hurrying groceries across a street, where pits would be dug to dispose of massacres, where a war against civilians (focused on Islamic Bosniaks) would soon ensue. The war consisted of ethnic cleansing, siege, mass rape, execution and torture, where it was lucky to starve in concentration camps. Rather than predict reality, however, I reported future prospects
in line with official perceptions, and pronounced the area ripe for Western expansion.

All the calling cards of chaos were there for me to see: the empty shelves, rationing, black markets, Soviet-style surveillance, sharp ethnic and religious divisions, the eroding commons, growing inequities and casual police corruption. Rather than think for myself, I chose to believe what an optimistic media told me. Here's the kicker: even if my ignorance of the area's history had been corrected, I would still have denied, and vehemently, that an imminent war of atrocity would be caused by conflicts which took place more than 400 years earlier.

There's nothing like knowing that even if you'd done the homework, you still would've failed the exam. The lesson of not being equal to that test has never left me. It has urged me to be more clinical in appraisal, more mindful of past echoes, to scrutinize first-hand observations over distant theories. It forever shook my faith in the blithe premises of unchaperoned diversity, and taught me that c
ontext, however complex, is reality's keystone.

Now, then: let's go back to Israel, Palestine, and Gaza. All the way back to
Zephaniah chapter 2, verse 5:
For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.
The scripture above was written circa 630 B.C. by one of the most obscure prophets of the Old Testament. "Philistines" is a Hebrew term derived from the root p-l-sh, or פלש‎, which means to invade, divide, or overwhelm. Referring to that same people, the Romans used the word to rename Israel as "Palestina," a final insult to the Jews after their million-corpse rebellion was put down late in Hadrian's reign, 135 A.D. As for the Philistines, no one knows where they came from originally. The available evidence indicates they were ethnically distinct Caucasian refugees or prisoners, (likely from one of the Aegean islands, maybe Mycenae) sent by an Egyptian pharaoh to the southwest coast of Palestine some 14 centuries ago.
They were a sea people, remarkably skilled mariners, iron-smiths, and merchants.

At that time, and until its name was changed to Judeah post-Exodus, "Canaan" was the name for all the lands east of the River Jordan to the sea, which had been a province of Egypt dating to 2000 B.C. Beautiful purple fabrics, prized above all others, were made in Canaan with dyes coaxed from an indigenous murex snail. The dye was called Knaa, and t
he Phoenicians (Greek for "purple people") became famous for shipping the fabric all over the known world from Jaffa (Haifa). It signified royalty.

Many peoples existed in the land other than Philistines and Judeans, most of which are even more lost to history than the Hittites. The Old Testament remains the only document to list the tribes and clans apparently displaced following the Exodus (see Genesis 10: 15-19). Today's Palestinians and Israelis are the survivors of those ancient disputes, in which one can imagine a violent churning of migrations, innovations, and assimilations. The southwest coast of Canaan which the Philistines first seized is now known as the Gaza Strip.

Gaza ("strong point") was named for the most formidable of its five city-states, and the Philistines gained their pejorative stature after gaining them by Egyptian mandate. They became wealthy, built up and pushed further out into Hebrew-held lands. And so it came to pass that the Hebrews developed a special hatred for the Philistines--and they must by no means have been alone in reviling the strange and powerful usurpers of choice coast-line. In the Bible, conflict between them seems to be a constant, and several hundred Old Testament scriptures are devoted to heaping scorn on Philistines over and above the other unwanted occupants of Canaan. The stories of Samson and Delilah, Saul, Samuel, and David all feature Philistines as villains, and when David slew Goliath to become King of Judah, he slew one of their champions.

To a contemporary Israeli with even a cursory knowledge of tradition, Palestinians are synonymous with Philistines
, the Gazans most of all, and ancient Canaan is geographically synonymous with the outer borders of modern Israel. As a policy, revenge and cleansing of them and the other cattle-people ("goyim") are deeply embedded in Israeli tradition, and more. It's repeatedly spelled out in sacred text as the will and commandment of god. as it is in Deuteronomy 7, verse 1:
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
Fast forward to last November, stop, and note: it's handy to keep deep background in mind while you debate whether to fire up your Bullshit Detector. Our media now tells us that Gaza's Hamas Party broke a cease-fire with Israel, easy enough to believe. But rewind two years, stop. Hamas won a democratic election held in 2006 at the behest of the Bush Administration. The US, Canada, and the EU froze Palestinian government accounts and withheld all payments. Israel then blockaded the Gaza Strip, where 2.5 million people are crammed into a hundred square kilometers, and the industrial output and trade promptly shrank by 95%. The only food Gazans get is from humanitarian aid, and Israel supplies the electricity (not!). All manner of subterfuge, spy-craft, and force have been applied to throw Hamas out, and have failed.

Israel broke the cease-fire on November 4th, 2008 when its forces killed a Palestinian in Gaza. Some people there responded with a single mortar barrage towards Israeli positions, no casualties. Israel then killed six Gazans, to which Hamas responded with its "advanced" Qassam rockets. This fits the pattern. 79% of Israel-Palestine conflict pauses were interrupted when a Palestinian was killed. 8% of pauses were interrupted by Palestinian attacks, with the remainder unclear because 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same date. Of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel broke 24, or 96%. Israel attacked and killed Palestinians every time after 14 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than 9 days (data source: Israeli Consulate, New York).

The picture above is of a Qassam rocket impact on a road. It didn't even leave a pot-hole. Rewind 2638 years, Deuteronomy 7, verses 2-3, stop:
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them:

Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
The shadows are long and often ugly, but the sun also rises on the naked and the dead. On Jew and on Muslim. Israel has finally lost a PR battle for narrative arc in the West, as we have seen the pictures and video unravel on the InterNews. When the next Gazan school is bombed, the next family lies in a house entombed, Hamas will gain strength. It's not enough for Israel to stop now, the ship embarked and is cruising for a distant boycott. To survive another 20 or 30 years, Israelis have to pull their heads out from where they are so deeply stuck: from the dream of a Zion that never was, and from the Bible's ass.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Counter Culture

Graffiti artist Banksy depicts a street worker power-washing cave art.

Palestine, Gaza

Remnants of Hamas leader and his family, after being hit by 2,000 lb. bomb.


Sister and little brother, selling vegetables north of Kabul.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Blagojevich Might Skate, Pt. II

Soon after the Blago complaint was announced by Patrick Fitzgerald, I described it as a unique case, with profound implications for future lobbyists and politicians in the event of a conviction. In reading the complaint, there was no clear evidence of actual crime, contrary to what was being said in the media. Crime was intended, yes, but not consummated, and intended malfeasance is conjoined with US politics like actually don't want to know my mental imagery right now. Really. Point being, Nixon wasn't impeached and jailed and other pols weren't nailed for wanting to be criminals, but for being criminals, past-tense.

I'm trying not to admire Blagojevich, uncouth as he is, corrupt as he may be. Yet he took cool appraisal of a foregone situation, stood up and told his accusors to go *$(* themselves, and professed to go about his job while circling the pay-to-play wagons. The circling must have been pretty effective, and the guy knows how to make the best of a coming impeachment (Update: since starting to post this, Illinois reps voted 114-1 to impeach).

Next, he lawfully selected Roland Burris, his (African-American) former fund raiser to fill Obama's seat, then sat back to watch Majority Leader Harry Reid light his own ass on fire, along with 50 of his Senateers. (Everyone has a talent. It doesn't mean they have to use it.
And as Reid's Empty Threat Syndrome progresses, I reflect on the rising stock of Biden as Veep, he being President of the Senate and all.) They disgraced themselves by ignoring various laws, case precedents, and Constitutions to vow to not seat Burris--Marcy Wheeler at Empty Wheel has the nitty legal gritties on it, as usual. Obama himself narrowly avoided broiling his own ass, belatedly endorsing Burris. The disapproval and hokum is understandable, to a degree. A likely felon gets to name a Senator by decree. But haven't we seen enough of Congress and the White House trying to wriggle out of the law, sometimes merely on the basis of some compliant professor's opinion?

At the end of their 30-day time limit on January 6th, Patrick Fitzgerald's team failed to file an indictment, and instead asked the judge for a 90-day extension. 90 days! Doesn't sound like they've got their act together, or maybe much of a case. And that's coming from me, one of Fitzgerald's big admirers. He put Blago's predecessor in Illinois, George Ryan, behind bars for 6-1/2 years, and somehow managed to get Dick Cheney's long-time assistant convicted.

One would think that Fitz's best chance of making the conspiracy charges stick is to go back to the Chicago Style Politics crowd he's already put behind bars, and start playing carrots and baseball bats. He also will squeeze or indict somebody else in the Blago ring during the 90-day extension period (assuming it's granted). Even so, how easy can it be to get a conspiracy case to stick, when the conspiracy demonstrably failed? The positives here, and they're big positives, are that an effort to sell a Senator's seat failed because the takers were too cautious, Team Obama didn't play ball, and Blago's already been convicted in the biggest court of all: Public Opinion. Jail time would be gravy.

CIA Torture Shake-Up

Team Obama flexed when it nominated intelligence outsider Leon Panetta as CIA director. He's a former Chief of Staff in the Clinton cabinet, former director of the OMB (Office of Managment & Budget), former Congressman, and teaches at a Jesuit-run university, Santa Clara.

Feinstein and Rockefeller, the new and departing Senate intelligence committee chairs, were kept completely cut out of the loop. Both Senators, known for their support of torture policy under the Bush Administration, issued injurious public responses. You can imagine what they and their staffers said in private. Rockefeller blabbed his "concerns" to the papers, the LA Times among them. Feinstein, who will run the confirmation hearing, voiced her opposition. Team Obama views Feinstein and Rockefeller as part of the problem, and bulldozed them. Within 24 hours the intelligence chairs rolled over and played nice.

It's frosty and clear. Panetta has been deputized to go in and perform the intellecutal cleansing routine on anybody who supported torture, or extraordinary rendition, enhanced coercion, special KKK, and whatever other embellishments it went by. If you're pissing off Rockefeller and Feinstein, you're starting off right. It would suck to be the CIA right now. Yay!

(Danger Room and The Cable have some insider quotes. And Americablog speculates here.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Psyche's News Roundup

Derfor trykker vi dette bildet ("Therefore we ran this picture") : Stavanger Aftenblad (Norwegian paper breaks policy to print image of dead bodies for first time, shows girl in the rubble of her Gaza home)

Scenes from the Gaza Strip - The Big Picture -
g07_17466021.jpg (Globe image: here's the "advanced" Kassam rocket worth killing school children for)

Cease firing to find truth | The Daily Telegraph | how many Israelis have been killed, not since Saturday's invasion but since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005? The answer is closer to 20.
Russia has cut off all Europe's gas supplies, says Ukraine - Telegraph
Philippe Sands Considers A Legacy Of 'Torture' : NPR

Rick Warren's Africa Problem - The Daily Beast: Team Obama likes to cite Warren’s work on AIDS in Africa to combat criticism about the controversial pastor. But how does burning condoms in the name of Jesus save lives?
Black support for Prop. 8 called exaggeration (only 58%, blame someone else, Mormons)
Whiskey Fire: Red State, Next Right -- The "Online Conservative Revolution" Will Be Spammed ("there is no brand of "conservatism" that is not completely insane")

Firedoglake » I Want to Play Poker with Harry Reid (even takes beatings from Blagojevich)

Roland Burris: Senate Will Seat Him, AP Says
Harry Reid: 'I Don't Work For Obama' (you do now, byotch!)

Specter Attacks Choice for Attorney General - - Questions his political independence (head explodes)
Obama picks RIAA's favorite lawyer for a top Justice post | Politics and Law - CNET News (infinite copyright, throw your kids in jail)

Joe the Plumber to Become War Correspondent - (satire dies)
End Times - The Atlantic (January/February 2009) Can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint? Can journalism? (about to default on some $400 million in debt, Times out of business by May, 2009?)

Stocks in biggest fall in a month on jobs and tech - Yahoo! Finance
Minutes Show Depth of Fed’s Concern - - In Fed Rate Cut, Fears of Long Recession
Private job losses mount in December - Yahoo! Finance: 693,000 jobs in December, up sharply from the revised 476,000 jobs lost in November and far more than economists estimated

The Sec Watchdog Who Missed Madoff - New York Post - Don'T Blame Me: Cheung
Saxo Bank predicts 2009 will hit all economic lows | Saxo Bank (Switzerland) SA ("“It is not even outrageous to call this the worst economic crisis ever.")

Johann Hari: You Are Being Lied to About Pirates (who are the pirates?)
Terror Experts Warn Next 9/11 Could Fall On Different Date | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
On Truth: The West’s selective reading of history

Technology Review: Stem Cells Undo Birth Defects - Transplanted stem cells restore normal behavior in brain-damaged rodents
A Novel Way to Treat a Writer | Standpoint.Online
R.I.P. Dr. Dobb's

Porn Industry Seeks Federal Bailout

"I never thought it could happen to me...or my government." Another gem from Larry Flynt's fecund mind:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Another major American industry is asking for assistance as the global financial crisis continues: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.

Francis said in a statement that “the US government should actively support the adult industry's survival and growth, just as it feels the need to support any other industry cherished by the American people."

“We should be delivering [the request] by the end of today to our congressmen and [Secretary of the Treasury Henry] Paulson asking for this $5 billion dollar bailout,” he told CNN Wednesday.

Flynt and Francis concede the industry itself is in no financial danger — DVD sales have slipped over the past year, but Web traffic has continued to grow.

But the industry leaders said the issue is a nation in need. "People are too depressed to be sexually active," Flynt said in the statement. "This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex."

"With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind. It's time for congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America. The only way they can do this is by supporting the adult industry and doing it quickly."

This must be filed under "Spreading Democracy." (Googling "Penthouse" for that cover above was, umm, interesting.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Surge Unbound: Russia's Role In Iraq And Afghanistan

The "Surge" in Iraq, the brain-child of General David Petraeus, has been gushed over by a gormless MSM booboisie as a success. The logic for it was borrowed from an Australian ex-Colonel, David Kilcullen, who had in turn ripped it and most of his Twenty-Eight Articles (current COIN field manual) off from an extraordinary Austrian-French insurgency scholar-soldier in Vietnam named Bernard Fall. Everyone's logic got FUBAR'd in a hell-hole and buried with cash. So it is that most Americans think the #1 Darwin-Award-dumb move their generals made in Iraq...was the smartest. Hunky Dory instead of Humpty Dumpty.

Petraeus, while kissing political ass and mulling a White House run in 2012, is set to take the show on the road to the rustic mountains of Afghanistan. Where it will virtually guarantee another thirty years of war. It's easy to see why the Surge seemed successful in Iraq; if I were in the Sunni triangle and someone armed me to the teeth, gave me a little training, and paid me $300-500 a month to stay home and NOT fight, I'd say, "Sign me up!" But what happens if they suddenly stop paying me and 100,000 of my relatives? The Maliki government was supposed to take over responsibility for payments on October 1st, 2008. Right. That was so going to happen.

(Aside: as previously noted, you can't pay Afghani tribesmen with money, so their Surge will differ. They prefer trade in weapons, sex slaves, poppy paste, toothpicks, shovels, and mules. And goats! How could I forget goats? Instead of "Surge II," we could call it "The Goat A Month Club." Toilet paper is a status symbol of princely proportion, so "Operation Charmin" can be launched. But funny things happen in Afghanistan. During Russia's occupation, they noticed when a surplus of well-fed mules started showing up. Which had been sent in by the CIA and ISI to lug an influx of new weapons. Naturally the Russians got serious about killing mules, so the CIA scrambled to get more of them, causing global mule inflation. And you can't get your hands on 5,000 mules in a hurry. If Obama goes through with this expanded Afghan adventure, and regular-army units are encouraged to "think outside the counterinsurgency box," similar hilarity is sure to ensue.)

The 100,000+ militiamen of the Sunni Awakening lack sponsors. Their trigger fingers have Parkinson's. Their commanders, the guys who ran the former Iraqi army, have planned operations ready to go. Iraq is about to have another round of elections, and when they're over, the country will likely re-detonate and proceed to break into three parts, as was completely predictable if ye olde bullshit umbrella was deployed back in 2002. The Sunni groups will seek sponsorship in two places: Saudi Arabia and Russia. Having just throttled al-Qaeda in Iraq, they're unlikely to find much succor in the Saudis. This presents Russia with a compelling scenario, one filled with sweet irony, one where they win either way.

Russia's restraint from fiddling in Iraq has been marvelous, perhaps stemming from an idea that the Bush Administration was not merely acting crazy. But now they've got a new guy to analyze, one who emphasizes pragmatism. Pulling out of Iraq, for example, would demonstrate pragmatism. If you're a Russian strategist, you wouldn't really want to see us leave and, say, save our empire from hemorrhaging to death, so a temptation to send weapons to the Sunnis may prove irresistible. It would stave off a Sunni genocide, and militarily, the ROI (Return on Investment) would be stratospherically large. A hundred-year opportunity to take down an empire. Here is what Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's former foreign minister, has been saying:

The United States' Achilles' heel is Iraq.... The US colonialist project to have absolute control over our planet can be buried in Iraq.

Only through backing the patriotic Iraqi resistance and strengthening its military capabilities can we accelerate the end of US colonialism all over the world.... The key to defeat the United States in the world and to corner it into isolation is Russia providing support to the Iraqi resistance directly or indirectly.

The key to freeing the world by muzzling the United States requires Russian involvement in the Iraq battle.

The Khyber Pass supply route was closed for much of last month due to insurgent activity. And is closed right now. The US/NATO command proposed an alternative supply line. One which goes through Russia. Yep. We're that dumb. Analysts who earnestly reiterate it's in Russia's interests to keep us in Afghanistan are right...for an obvious reason, and they apparently can't remember as far back as 20 or 30 years. Yet they're respected in my society. Is LSD back?? And where should I report to for my show-trial?

The only large maneuver-room we have left as a country (screw Empire) is to stop pissing away treasure into shit-pits. Obama should designate a Base Closure Czar, but the fact that anyone who admits defeat will be cut in half somewhat complicates decisive moves to cut losses. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, Russia is now completely in the driver's seat. Depending on what they decide, the choices range between slow death and fast. I'm afraid they'll choose "Slow."