Sunday, September 1, 2013

Syriana Part III: So Now What?

So, the question naturally arises "So Larry What do we do?"

Well as I said before its naturally not relevant in the discussion of political policy

(link here)

I don't usually post the Guardian but occasionally have a good starting point for a discussion.

Syria, Lebanon, "Palestine", Israel, and Jordan are ideas invented by men in Paris and London. The three Islamic states lack any natural unity other then the idea of "Oh well, I guess we are a country now"

In the 1990s we saw (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia) some of the collapse of the same artificial nations.

These collapses occurred after the end of a strong autocratic regime and the rise of Democratic Forces

Does that sound familiar? This combined with economic reforms in Syria leads to political instability. The economic declines also lead to Assad having less ability to offer price subsidies to his people (something that we are seeing in Iran and Egypt and related political instability.)

We have peoples united in a country lacking a charismatic political cult leader, lacking economic means to hold the country together, and lacking common cultural, political or religious ties we have the baking for a civil war. We have networks in Syria designed to destroy Iraq's government, now being turned on Syria. We have other networks in Syria designed to destroy the governments of Lebanon and Israel acting to preserve Syria by any means necessary (at the behest of their Iranian Masters).

Order needs to be restored to Syria. And I don't mean just a new government. If we look at Afghanistan we see a fundamentally disordered country. A country where town to town or region to region the enforcement of law and public safety may be radically different.

Trade, Civil Society, and the basic functions of a state are impossible without that level of order. So any action that does not promote order merely exacerbates the existing problems in Syria.

And their is only one actor (The US) who can play that role without causing problems in the region. But that would mean the President would have to affirm the power of the US state abroad to do good in all of its "Terrible Swift Sword" Glory. He would have to acknowledge that when one is President you need to play a game of decades.

So the moral political action is to Occupy Syria: because anything else will only continue the progression of violence. While occupying Syria is not a guarantee to end the violence and implosion of the Syrian regime (and its destabilizing their neighbors) but the alternative only guarantees implosion.

If we can stop Syria from leading to a war across Kurdistan (and a war to create an independent Kurdish State) we will be doing ourselves and our children a service.

If we can stop Syria from making Jordan (one of the most western like states in the region) a failed state we will be doing ourselves and our children a service.

But lets not have a false moral bravado "We blew up some facilities that the Assad Regime moved their weapons out of. That sure showed them."

If you want to use statecraft to promote morality, then by all means do it. Just don't lie to us.

Syriana Part II

In Part I I concluded that it was not only unreasonable but unlikely to assume anyone other then Assad gassed these people: So now what?

Well The Assad Regime has been an international criminal since the beginning of Papa Hafez's rule. Obama won't get the UN to approve a use of force against Syria (because of protection of Syria by China and Russia and the Bejing-Moscow consensus allied states). Key allies are backing out (so use of force by Nato is out)and there is no footing in US Law for the President to act. The President will wait for Congress to vote, but if Congress denies him he has expressed his desire to act without Congressional Approval.

Obama has a much simpler way to accomplish his goals The International Criminal Court. Syria like the US signed the treaty but never ratified it. And while that sets a very dangerous precedent lets pause for a moment and look at the broader issues.

Here is a taste of some of his crimes in Lebanon, which Pre-Date the Syrian Civil War. Rumors of the Assad regime assasinating Prime Minister Hariri are others. If the President places before the bar of the International Criminal Court these and other crimes of the Assad Regime he builds the political base of support to use force to Stabilize Syria (which I will be getting into in my third post).

We have a series of crimes against humanity, crimes against other countries, but the President does not make the case for them. Why?

The answer is very simple: The rebels winning leads to a furthering of a civil war (like their neighbor Lebanon). If Assad wins it leads to a Somalia like collapse and a civil war like Somalia/Lebanon. Thats because Syria is a actively failing state, the Civil War is only speeding that process along. Removing Assad or keeping Assad leads to no positive policy outcome for Syria or the United States. Removing Assad or Keeping Assad will not lead to a more stable Syrian regime which will be better for the Syrian people.

The truth is a force needs to occupy Lebanon to solve the problems and put the country back on the straight and narrow. But Obama ended the US Occupation of two countries (for Valid US Policy reasons), Removed a regime in another country (for invalid US policy reasons) and refused to occupy it (which has lead to further instability in Libya.). So the US Policy of Obama is a policy that's Anti-Imperial and Anti-Occupation, even if Occupation is the only way to achieve coherent and valid policy goals. But Obama feels a political need to do something.

So because we must do something, we will do something ineffective and inefficent. What should we do? That will be in Part III

Syriana Part I

A lot of talk has been going on about the events of the Syrian Civil War, and the problem is that its -Talk-. But when policy comes before the American People to a certain extent what talk came before is irrelevant to the bigger point: "What do we do now?"

So I want to start with my thoughts on the current mess in Syria and the approach of American Government Policy.

Who Gassed Who


The United States government lacks the Humanint to give us a good picture on whats going on in the Syrian Regime, and we don't have the humanint to give us a good picture of whats happening in the Syrian Polity. What we can do is take readily available facts and make reasonable deductions.

SYRIA HAS HAD A NON CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS PROGRAM


NTI: Chemical Weapons Profile, Syria

NTI: Biological Weapons Profile, Syria

NTI: Nuclear Weapons Profile, Syria

NTI is a very good resource on publicly available data on Non-conventional weapons. I highly recommend looking at it.

Syria has used brutal means against Islamists in the past

While I mock the Mustache of Understanding, Thomas Friedman, he did a great job in detailing a fact of the prior Assad Regime.

In February 1982," Friedman wrote in his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, "President Assad decided to end his Hama problem once and for all. With his sad eyes and ironic grin, Assad always looked to me like a man who had long ago been stripped of any illusions about human nature. Since fully taking power in 1970, he has managed to rule Syria longer than any man in the post-World War II era. He has done so by always playing by his own rules. His own rules, I discovered, were Hama Rules."

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 1 a.m., the assault on Hama, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, began. It was a cold, drizzly night. The city turned into a scene of civil war as Muslim Brotherhood gunmen immediately responded to the attack. When close-quarter combat looked to disadvantage the Syrian forces of Rifaat Assad, he turned tanks loose on Hama, and over the next several weeks, large parts of the city were demolished and thousands executed or killed in the battles. "When I drove into Hama at the end of May," Friedman wrote, "I found three areas of the city that had been totally flattened--each the size of four football fields and covered with the yellowish tint of crushed concrete."

In the Hama Massacre some 20,000 people were brutally murdered by the Syrian government. The young officers in the Syrian Military who took part in this crime against humanity are now the Generals and Colonels in the Syrian Army. These are men who understand that "total war" is the only way to preserve Arab Socialism from Islamism. The younger President Assad transitioned into power on the backs of the support of these very loyalists of his father. And when the Muslim Brotherhood takes down Egypt and their ideological Kin are there... these are men who would give the order to gas their own people based on prior conduct.

If the Rebels did the gassing we have much more troubling questions we need to ask ourselves.

If the rebels got the gas that means they got it from a formerly loyal member of the Assad Regime, or the Assad Regime is hiding the extent of its powerlessness. If they stole the Gas who educated them on how to use it? Any other means for the rebels to get the gas is suggestive of a conspiracy that is to silly to contemplate in a serious discussion. And the fact the rebels would not only have to seize the gas they would also have to have proper training in its use. While it is POSSIBLE they have the gas, here is a better question: Why would they gas civilians in areas loyal to them? While a rifle bullet has less probability of killing then Sarin, it has the ability to kill exactly who you want it to kill. Killing their own people to make Assad look bad is a Xanatos Gambit that has a POSSIBILITY of working but a probability of making you look foolish.


So: While we do not have Assad going to a General saying "Its Sarin time" we know that his officers are men who will go to any extent to preserve their power, and they do have the weapons. And the only other possible party to have the gas may lack means and lacks reasonable motive.

So Syria and the Assad Regime Gassed people: So now what? (*continued in Part II)

Monday, June 3, 2013

How do you say Ramius in Chinese?

It is common knowledge that China has long resented and pushed back against the presence of American surveillance ships and aircraft off its coast. China considers this bad for its national interest – after all, the Americans are presumably collecting data on Chinese military activities, among other things. China also presumably sees the ongoing presence as an insult to its national pride, a reminder of a history of humiliation by foreign powers.

Thus it was striking to hear a Chinese military officer reveal in an open discussion at this conference on Saturday that China had “thought of reciprocating” by “sending ships and planes to the US EEZ”. He then went further and announced that China had in fact done so “a few times”, although not on a daily basis (unlike the U.S. presence off China).

This is big news, as it is the first time China has confirmed what the Pentagon claimed last month in a low-key way in its annual report on Chinese military power. Buried on page 39 was the following gem:

“the PLA Navy has begun to conduct military activities within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of other nations, without the permission of those coastal states. Of note, the United States has observed over the past year several instances of Chinese naval activities in the EEZs around Guam and Hawaii … While the United States considers the PLA Navy activities in its EEZ to be lawful, the activity undercuts China’s decades-old position that similar foreign military activities in China’s EEZ are unlawful.”

It certainly does. And the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, who was present when the Chinese officer made the revelation, has now confirmed to the media that such Chinese operations are occurring.

This
is part of why the perspective of Russia and China on Foreign Policy keeps rolling out as a do as we say not as we do game of power. (and do as we say when we can't be contested)

Hobbes is right, Rousseau is Wrong

Hobbes has won the argument of history, civilization has banished violence and allowed man to develop Liberty. Will we lose the inheritance he gave us?

HEROISM

He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.”

I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife

The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away.

The teacher took notice, the principal was summoned and Briar went about his day. It wasn’t until fourth period everything went haywire.

“I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said.

That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.

“They phoned me and said, ‘Briar was involved in an incident today,’” she said. “That he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.”

Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.

As I see things like this I understand why people have a bad idea about heroism. People focus on the Superhero as a sort of "Power Fantasy" or a "Dictatorship Fantasy" told in the mythology of the people of the world. In the New Superman movie they talk about how the people are a good people but "They Need Some one to Show them the way." We have seen this before in the Mythology of the man of tomorrow. What makes the Hero Heroic is not the power itself but the will to power in a heroic vision of the world.

An overman as described by Zarathustra, the main character in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is the one who is willing to risk all for the sake of enhancement of humanity. In contrary to the �last man� whose sole desire is his own comfort and is incapable of creating anything beyond oneself in any form. This should suggest that an overman is someone who can establish his own values as the world in which others live their lives, often unaware that they are not pregiven. This means an overman can affect and influence the lives of others. In other words, an overman has his own values, independent of others, which affects and dominates others� lives that may not have predetermined values but only herd instinct. An overman is then someone who has a life which is not merely to live each day with no meanings when nothing in the past and future is more important than the present, or more precisely, the pleasure and happiness in the present, but with the purpose for humanity.

We should also kindly listen to the words of Andrew Ryan

What is the greatest lie every created? What is the most vicious obscenity ever perpetrated on mankind? Slavery? The Holocaust? Dictatorship? No. It's the tool with which all that wickedness is built: altruism. Whenever anyone wants others to do their work, they call upon their altruism. Never mind your own needs, they say, think of the needs of... of whoever. The state. The poor. Of the army, of the king, of God! The list goes on and on. How many catastrophes were launched with the words "think of yourself"? It's the "king and country" crowd who light the torch of destruction. It is this great inversion, this ancient lie, which has chained humanity to an endless cycle of guilt and failure. My journey to Rapture was my second exodus. In 1919, I fled a country that had traded in despotism for insanity. The Marxist revolution simply traded one lie for another. Instead of one man, the tsar, owning the work of all the people, *all* the people owned the work of all of the people. So, I came to America: where a man could own his own work, where a man could benefit from the brilliance of his own mind, the strength of his own muscles, the *might* of his own will. I had thought I had left the parasites of Moscow behind me. I had thought I had left the Marxist altruists to their collective farms and their five-year plans. But as the German fools threw themselves on Hitler's sword "for the good of the Reich", the Americans drank deeper and deeper of the Bolshevik poison, spoon-fed to them by Roosevelt and his New Dealists. And so, I asked myself: in what country was there a place for men like me - men who refused to say "yes" to the parasites and the doubters, men who believed that work was sacred and property rights inviolate. And then one day, the happy answer came to me, my friends: there was *no* country for people like me! And *that* was the moment I decided... to build one.

Andrew Ryan's vision of rapture was a vision of a world where a man could create free from the constraint of others. Just as the "Last man" (The Anthesis of the Overman) stands side by side with the Parasite both men are not evil in their desire to survive. Survival is the most primal instinct of man. The Last Man and the Leech are evil because they seek their survival over bettering themselves and bettering their humanity. They are evil because to achieve their own survival they will do anything to appear civilized. Giving up on the fruit of civilization, its spices and its joys. In seeking to avoid nihilism they seek to make men and women who leave meaningless lives in a meaningless civilization.

While there is still some light of humanity that is not being stifled by this dark civilization, we must fight the dark civilization whenever it comes up as these people in Canada did.

The Evolving IRS Scandal

These Sources are Partisan but they all have good sourced info:

#1

“We did pose that question, and no one would acknowledge who, if anyone, provided that direction,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said in response to a question from Representative Tom Graves (R., Ga.). George interviewed employees in the IRS field office in Cincinnati as part of his audit, which found that the agency inappropriately targeted conservative organizations seeking nonprofit status.

So around 90 people decided to target political opponents of the president and they refused to answer

And they targeted A major donor to the group that was the logistical backbone for the tea party movement in its earliest days. A movement that was acting funny and whose former head had to get a golden buyout.

And when that backbone went to develop further it was targeted The Scandal here is that while groups like the NAACP, SIERRA CLUB, and other 501c4's get the chance to do this very sort of work... people who opposed the president were being denied that same opportunity

Bradley Manning

For those of you who may know me I have a "Friend" (on the Internet people you've never met can be your friend" ) named Doug Mataconis. Doug and I disagree a lot on matters of law, the constitution, and politics. But from time to time Doug and I agree.... this is one of those times

This is what makes what Manning and Wikileaks so dangerous, and why I think its perfectly proper to pursue criminal charges against him. Contrary to the pronouncements of his supporters, it seems apparent from the evidence that we are aware of that Private Manning was not some noble whistleblower trying to make public evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. military during the War in Iraq. If that were the case, then he would have only leaked discrete pieces of information about specific acts. He didn’t do that, he stole gigabytes worth of information without much real regard for what he was passing along to a shadowy organization led by a man with an agenda that nobody has ever really been able to figure out. That isn’t the action of a whistleblower, it’s the action of a man who doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions.

I recommend you read Doug's Legal Analysis. But this paragraph right here sums everything up. Manning wasn't a whistleblower. Some one asked for people to steal lots of data from the US Government and Manning stole it.

He deserves to go to jail for as long as the Court Sentences him to Serve

Peace, Land, and Bread

Why did the Russians Revolt? Lots of people have written a lot on the subject and I am not going to talk much about it with that level of scholarship or focus. But the Campaign slogan of Lenin has a lot to do with it. They wanted an end to the wars, and the ability to take control of their economic destiny and food. When people are unable to achieve their most basic needs through the political order they are willing to take more radical political action, even take to violent political action to achieve those goals.

Its one of my pet theories that when this is true (mass perception or mass reality) a society is in a lot of trouble,

I think of this when I read an article over at the Atlantic today

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.--One day when John Sherry was 10 years old, his parents picked him up from school and drove to a Ford dealership. They walked into a large showroom with Mustangs parked out front. He watched his parents, neither of them college graduates, ink the paperwork to buy a new, dark-green Taurus. Greg and Beth Sherry let their son sign his name at the bottom of one of the pages, just for fun.

John, who's now 29, says it was the first time he realized that purchasing a car was a bigger deal than buying groceries or a shirt. "I thought, 'Someday, I'm going to be doing that.' " But now, he says, his lips tight and flat, "I don't see myself buying a new car"--ever. "That seems out of my grasp."

John is part of the Majority of Americans with no college degree that our political and economic system are permanently exluding from the economy. Now I won't buy a new car unless I get a substantial amount of money, because I find the purchase of a new car to be wasteful. John as he was demoralized by being a part of his parents process views it as part of becoming a man and a fully actualized citizen thats being denied to him by the constitution of our society.

Greg Sherry, who works for a railroad, is 58 and is chugging toward retirement with an $80,000-a-year salary, a full pension, and a promise of health coverage for life. John scrapes by on $11 an hour, with few health benefits. "I feel like I'm working really hard," he says, "but I'm not getting ahead."

This isn't the lifestyle that John's parents wished upon their younger child. But it reflects the state of upward--or downward--mobility in the American economy today.

You see a generation working harder outside of the home but failing to get ahead like their parents expected them to.

And when the generation of John (and my ) Parents leave the work force in larger and larger numbers should people like John and I get jobs that pay as well as theirs: We will be stuck paying the bill for a retirement that our Parents and Grandparents generation ran up on a credit card.

We also have a health care system where the Insurance Industry and government are selling a bill of goods that are impoverishing even those Americans who never see a doctor.

When people talk about large scale political violence in the United States I tell them we are a long way from there. But the saga of John and people like him are how we might get there

The Arab Winter

The events we have seen in Egypt and a swatch of other countries that is popularly called the Arab Spring is viewed as a disappointment by those who embrace the Liberal Democratic (or Neoliberal democratic) perspective across the world. My friend Mohamed Zeeshan, such a person from India, on his blog commented about the fate of the Arab Spring:

There are reasons why the Arab Spring didn't quite work out as well as it should have. The foremost reason is the goal of the Spring itself. In the Information Age where people from all parts of the world are connected with each other merely by the click of a button, ideas spread fast. Democracy was one such idea that traveled to places it had never been to. What makes democracy so attractive to the millennium youth is the fact that it is the only political system under which one has the power to script his own destiny, no matter who his father is or how much gold he possesses. It delivers power to the people and denies unilateral control to the hands of any individual, thereby making society a more level playfield and creating a whole world of untold opportunities. Well, that's in the ideal.

I Respect Mohamed as a young aspiring scholar but his youthful observance mistook the Arab Spring for something new, and mistook it as a sea change in the broader Dar Al Islam for a positive political change. He is hardly alone in this but the Arab Spring is not a spring but is in fact a fall, and we are coming onto the dawn of an Arab Winter.

One begins to see it as a winter when we began to follow the Breadcrumbs of the conflict between those who seek a broad coalition democracy (which ends up becoming pluralistic and free) and those countries like Iran and the Patron of many of these countries Russia which has pioneered small coalition democracies (where outcomes are democratically achieved but they are achieved by focusing on a smaller subset of the population)

You can look back at Ahmadinejad and his two elections: The monitors show no irregularities but you have areas where 90 percent of the population turns out for one candidate. This irregularities show a potamkin sort of democracy. We look at the Hamas electoral victory in 2006, the Iraqi Elections where Pro-Iran and Pro-Islamist candidates became players in the system, We look at Putin's Presidential Terms ending so he moves all the powers to the Prime Minister's office and when the laws are changed he moves all the powers back to the Presidency. We look at the actions of Hugo Chavez as well as his knock offs in Latin America who are following the same trend.

These Autocrats learned what Democracy really means:

The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "rule of the people", which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) "people" and κράτος (kratos) "power" or "rule" in the 5th century BCE to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states, notably Athens; the term is an antonym to ἀριστοκρατία (aristocratie) "rule of an elite".

The greeks refer to who rules, and not who governs. As governance and rule are very different things as some of the latest issues with the IRS in the united States shows us. The civil society and those features of it that touch the state are how we are governed. The Code Inspector besets the businessman and homeowner with the Governance of the State. The City Councilman rarely meddles in how the building code is set up unless their are extreme issues (Such as Hurricanes or Tornados). This rule in turn is developed into governance. Or the Rule of Law vs the Law of Rules.

In the middle east a civil society is mostly non existent. So those at the top of the political order are not constrained by the needs of shop keepers to keep their business orderly. And what elements of a civil society DO exist are those that are advocating the excesses of the Arab Spring from the power of the state now.

The Arab Spring didn't fail: It did what the people pushing for it on the ground (who are not the Middle Eastern and other Neo-Liberals) wanted. It gave them the state where they had the political power to achieve their dreams

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Russian Standoff in Damascus

In this chess game The Russians are playing Chicken.

If it does nothing else, the recent Syria summit arranged by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry formally marked the re-emergence of Russia as a power in the Middle East, after a hiatus of more than 20 years. Yet Moscow’s objectives today are vastly different. Russia is out to raise the stakes for U.S. military intervention, which it sees as destabilizing for the world order; to minimize the impact of Islamist radicalism and extremism born out of the Arab Spring; and to try to find political solutions to a host of issues, from the civil war in Syria to Iran’s nuclear issue to post-American Afghanistan.

Dear Tablet Magazine: Your ideas are terrible and you should stop forming them into words.

The Russians have not played as large a roll int he middle east as they have during the cold war in the last 20 years, which is true, because Russians over the last 20 years have had bigger fish to fry. They have had their attempt to use oil and gas diplomacy to try to push their will on the good folks of the EU.

But where they see the play in Syria as a play of power, it is a play that comes from Weakness.

During the George W Bush Years The Moscow-Bejing Axis (called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) began to form an alternative to the Washington Consensus on Foreign policy. The Washington Consensus didn't just form because the US was the cock of the walk after World War II (But that helped) it formed because a lot of the global interests of the NATO Powers and later the Asian Developed powers were very similar. Only during the 80s did we see Authoritarian Capitalist regimes crop up did we begin to see some friction against the Hypothesis.

This play came out in one of my best moments on twitter: Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter said that Susan Rice was going to get the UN Security Council to come down hard on Syria. I guffawed and bet her that would not happen (and I was right). Allowing Syria to deal with an internal issue was within the Conservative Westphalian wheelhouse of the SCO.

But China and Russia underestimated the Paradox of the Security Council. When the Communist Interests were united against western interests in a regional conflict it didn't stop the conflict: It just kept the major players out of the conflict until things begun to get out of hand (Bosnia and Vietnam are great examples, Korea happened because of the chaos involving China). The Western Powers have a domestic political interest that is influenced by the world they see on their cable news and on their Internets ( which is a series of tubes). This Pressure even in times of Austerity brings rise to the Western Consensus. Russia is not talking with John Kerry because they are a power in the Syria mess: They are at the table with John Kerry because this situation is getting out of control.

Russia and China are both Status Quo powers. They ally with those countries that promote their internal political status quos and allow them to move the ball a few yards forward. Unfortunately for Russia and China some times you end up on 3rd and 9 and your opposition forms a prevent defense. The only way for Russia and China to move the ball forward is either war, or to give up this drive and let Assad get what he deserves.

But the problem is if Assad gets what he deserves, what will happen in Iran if their regime gets whats coming to it? Its the same Paradox the US is in with Israel and Taiwan. If we let those countries fall it changes the expectations across the board with our allies. so we both get backed into a corner: and that's how wars start.

And if the Islamist "Rebels" win in Syria after winning in the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia, Egypt, and other places: Will these same elements within Russia become animated and think they can have their own Arab Spring?

Bayit Yehudi are putting on their big boy pants

One thing about living in a 2 party state we lose the parties that come out of the chaos of a multi-party system and either fade out or fall into the ashpile of history.

Bayit Yehudi however has decided to get into the mix on a major issue the big three parties in Israel have been working on: Breaking the back of Ultra Orthodox Power.

(As a Convert to the Right Wing of Liberal Jewish thought this is a personal big deal to be. Should I come to Israel this sort of action makes Bayit Yehudi more appealing to me)

If Naftali Bennett has his way, for the first time in Israel’s history, the Jewish state will begin funding all rabbis—including those from non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. The Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is headed by Bennett, announced today that it will be instituting reforms to abolish the position of state-appointed communal rabbis, replacing the current system with one in which rabbis are appointed by their communities, and then funded by the government. This revamping of the rabbinate would effectively take these positions out of the control of the ultra-Orthodox dominated Chief Rabbinate and place them into the hands of Israel’s citizens, who would be free to choose whichever rabbi they wish. As the Ministry’s brief on the reforms put it, the rabbis would receive state funding “independent of which Jewish denomination the relevant community belongs to.”

A Secular-Religious Right Wing Israeli Party (as opposed to a Secular Right Wing party or a Religious Right wing Party).

Finally the Israeli political system has something more appealing to me.

Maybe Next Year I can vote for them in Jerusalem

When Speech is silenced

I thought it was bad and an abuse of our first amendment. It appears however this sort of moral cowardice is not unheard of

At least one newsman was alarmed, however. And on the day of the 1933 elections, he gained a brief audience with the future Fuhrer. That man was Cornelius “Neil” Vanderbilt IV, great-great-grandson of the railroad tycoon. Fed up with the malaise of his privileged peers, Vanderbilt had moved to journalism from his position as a driver during the First World War. His name gave him access to Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler, whose impending Reich became the subject of Vanderbilt’s documentary film, called Hitler’s Reign of Terror, released on April 30, 1934, a short portion of which you can see above.

The New Yorker obtained the clip from Brandeis University professor Thomas Doherty, who rediscovered the film in a Belgian archive while researching a recent book. Vanderbilt’s documentary might well be the first American anti-Nazi film, but its contemporary reception speaks volumes about how criticism of the new Nazi regime was suppressed in the mid-thirties; the film was censored across the U.S., denied a license, and banned.

People say things like "Never Again" but we miss out on one of the great evils of civilization. Civilization makes us averse to violence. We abandon Hobbes right to "War" in exchange for more peaceful and productive avenues. But when we hide from evil some times evil comes to rise, and we must take action against it.

Before a patterned curtain, the newsman asks the correspondent what he thinks of Hitler, and Vanderbilt replies: “Unquestionably he is a man of real ability, of force. But the way I sized him up after interviewing him is that he is a strange combination of Huey Long, Billy Sunday, and Al Capone.” He goes on, “I had never heard a man so able to sway people. He said Germany refused to forget her two million war dead. In the hour and a half that Hitler talked to that packed audience that night, he was as effective as a barker in a sideshow travelling with a circus. The German people had suffered so long that they were ready to accept the promises of anyone who held out some hope for the future.”

Hill’s newsman wonders, “Is it your belief that Europe is getting ready for another world war? Has she forgotten the horrors of the last World War? Is she trying to force another such war on humanity?”

Vanderbilt answers with a touch of sorrow, noting the clear desire for revenge.

“It all seems a ghastly, incredible nightmare,” Hill says.

Vanderbilt, in his boarding school pronunciation, “Yes, I agree with you.”

I wonder if we are facing the same sort of storm clouds waiting for as Hitler called himself "the man of the hour, not because he has been appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg but because no one else could have been appointed Chancellor instead."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chuck Hagel: Part of the sterling competency of the Obama Administration

SINGAPORE — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took China to task Saturday for alleged cyberespionage, drawing a sharp response from a Chinese general who questioned whether the United States’ growing military presence in Asia is anything more than a challenge to Beijing’s rise.

Delivering the keynote speech at the annual security summit here known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, Hagel said the United States is “clear-eyed about the challenges in cyber” and echoed past assertions by the Obama administration that multiplying cyberattacks on U.S. government and industry portals “appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military.”

In this brilliant bit of speechification Chuck Hagel was made to look the boob by the Chinese speaker at the conference.

If we want to cooperate with other parties instead of poking China for their Cyber-war program (which will make china work with you) try a different approach.

"There will be legitimate uses of Cyber-warfare on the fields of battle, and in the fields of espionage. But allegations that we have countries compromising power, water, and other resource grids that in times when no shot is being fired in anger could lead to the deaths of civilians. This should not be tolerated. So as Secretary of Defense and speaking on behalf of the President I want to sound out a call for an International Protocol to the Geneva Convention on Cyber-warfare."

This is a positive statement, a statement where you could challenge China to stand up and be a great civilizational power. This is the sort of diplomacy men such as Chuck Hagel and "The Huntsman" should have been doing. But even with the pivot of the Obama administration's foreign policy to east asia we still see a lack of fundamental diplomatic competency

The IRS Front on the War on the First Amendment

The "Few" Bad Employees in the Cincinnati office...

well of course the Cincinnati office runs operatives all over the United States. How many of them were involved with the targeting of IRS groups?

90 Employees

90 Employees that had at least 1 supervisor, 3 managers, the director of the Cincinnati office, and Lois Learner all participating in some level in the targeting of Tea Party, Religious Conservative, and Pro-Israeli groups for political purposes. Now while its possible these groups were targeted for non political purposes the memorandum focusing on specific groups by ideology shows there was a non financial reason for the targeting.

So we have a US Attorney saying you can be prosecuted for your face book posts and IRS agents attacking you if you seek to use your first amendment rights in the political realm

Also the IRS has a warning system if cases take to long to be resolved which means reports went all the way up the chain of command (past Lois Learner) so on the desk of the director of Internal Revenue was a report of all the cases going late in the Cincinnati office.

This corruption is far more wide spread then these 90 people

The War on the First Amendment Continues

So our President and his administration continues their assault on our constitution and on the relationship between the state and the citizen.

Special speakers for the event will be Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Kenneth Moore, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville Division.

Sponsor of the event is the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee — a 15-member board formed two years ago when the General Assembly was considering passing legislation that would restrict those who worship Sharia Law, which is followed by Muslims.

Killian and Moore will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media.

This is how policies change. Small little interpretations are spoken by US Attorneys and people in a place of political power, and they become part of the background discussion of the living constitution. As speech takes on a new form speech is not respected as the right of all free men (who are the sovereigns of the country) but a right doled out by the state that identifies it as the new sovereign. Eventually these ideas form a doctrine that everyone accepts.

But just as with the famous broccoli doctrine question we are faced with a parallel on the most fundamental of all constitutional rights. If what some weirdo in his pajama's can post on the internet so long as it does not promote -criminal- conduct, what speech can the state not stop online or offline?

Their was a line drawn in the sand (called the Brandenburg test)

The Brandenburg test (also known as the imminent lawless action test)

The three distinct elements of this test (intent, imminence, and likelihood) have distinct precedential lineages.

Judge Learned Hand was possibly the first judge to advocate the intent standard, in Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten, 244 F. 535 (S.D.N.Y. 1917), reasoning that "[i]f one stops short of urging upon others that it is their duty or their interest to resist the law, it seems to me one should not be held to have attempted to cause its violation." The Brandenburg intent standard is more speech-protective than Hand's formulation, which contained no temporal element.

The imminence element was a departure from earlier rulings. Brandenburg did not explicitly overrule the bad tendency test, but it appears that after "Brandenburg", the test is de facto overruled. The "Brandenburg" test effectively made the time element of the clear and present danger test more defined and more rigorous.

If a post on facebook that is rude, crude, inappropriate, and wrong: Does it meet this clear standard of law to cross the line into violence. Short of the sort of conduct that people only commit in isolated and hidden parts of the internet there is no speech on the internet that meets this standard of law.

Killian referred to a Facebook posting made by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West that showed a picture of a man pointing a double-barreled shotgun at a camera lens with the caption saying, “How to Wink at a Muslim.”

Killian said he and Moore had discussed the issue.

“If a Muslim had posted ‘How to Wink at a Christian,’ could you imagine what would have happened?” he said. “We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”

Except their are innumerable posts of that sort of nature by Muslims on Facebook and other places on the internet. And when confronted with such conduct in the past we have British law enforcement officers saying that they can't monitor every crazy post by a Muslim Imam on the internet.

So instead of monitoring the law abiding, we should monitor the law breaking

Star wars prequels a rebuttal of a rebuttal

The fact people still try to defend the prequels is the most disappointing thing since ...well I could rip off plinket but that would be silly 

A friend of mine opened up some George Lucas Apologism Exhibit A ; 

Exhibit B   Exhibit C

So I want to address some of these points and why they are just awful

This is a trilogy of movies that opens with a kid who just wants to help, and ends with him reduced to a literal shell of the man he could have been. It shows a republic — no, THE Republic — losing sight of what it stood for in the first place and becoming an empire — no, THE Empire. It’s the story of keepers of peace who give themselves over to war. It shines new light on places we’ve been, and takes us to places we’ve never seen before.

And it dovetails narratively with an iconic film trilogy that was made thirty years ago with surprisingly little complaint.

Look I have used Joseph Campbell as much as the next guy to start off with Iconic Monomyths. But when I new that I was B-Sing the professor (and I usually did that with the professor who would buy that sort of a game plan)

The Prequels as Monomyth:

We see Paralleled the rise of Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. At the end of the first trilogy Luke and the plucky rebels (with the help of the cute teddy bears) defeated the empire, healed their family, and restored the rightness of the universe. He also healed the Jedi order by using his feelings for good (instead of evil).

So the same sort of game plan is involved in the Prequel Trilogy : The prequals are about the fall of the tragic hero (and we know that tragic hero was one Anakin Skywalker). So what does a Fall of the Tragic Hero Saga look like when done correctly? Wikipedia tells the tale

Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. In the most well-known version of the myth, Laius wished to thwart a prophecy saying that his child would grow up to murder his father. Thus, he fastened the infant's feet together with a large pin and left him to die on a mountainside. The baby was found on Kithairon by shepherds and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope in the city of Corinth. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy, but believing he was fated to murder Polybus and marry Merope he left Corinth. Heading to Thebes, Oedipus met an older man in a chariot coming the other way on a narrow road. The two quarreled over who should give way, which resulted in Oedipus killing the stranger and continuing on to Thebes. He found that the king of the city (Laius) had been recently killed and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the monster's riddle correctly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king and the hand in marriage of the king's widow, his mother, Jocasta.

Oedipus and Jocasta had two sons (Eteocles and Polynices) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). In his search to determine who killed Laius (and thus end a plague on Thebes), Oedipus discovered it was he who had killed the late king: his father. Jocasta also soon realized that she had married her own son and Laius's murderer, and she hung herself. Oedipus seized a pin from her dress and blinded himself with it. Oedipus was driven into exile, accompanied by Antigone and Ismene. After years of wandering, he arrived in Athens, where he found refuge in a grove of trees called Colonus. By this time, warring factions in Thebes wished him to return to that city, believing that his body would bring it luck. However, Oedipus died at Colonus, and the presence of his grave there was said to bring good fortune to Athens.

We see the hint of danger (a prophecy gone wrong) we see a hero rise, slay a king (which was the old hero) defeat the great monster become a BDH, become the king, marry the queen, and have kids

But the twist isn't a twist. We watch Oedepius become a bigger hero only to see him fall and fall hard.

We wanted Oedipus to rise high and we wanted him brought low. At the end when he plucks out his eyes (LOL, Spoilers)

Using Wikipedia again (because its easy to use)

Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning "purification" or "cleansing") refers to the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art[1] or to any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.[2][3] It is a metaphor originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the effects of tragedy on the spectator.[4][5]

So the fall of Anakin Skywalker needs to promote a sense of pity and fear (or an extreme of emotion) and we need to feel a sense of being purged from it. In seeing this change in Anakin we need to be changed through his experience

The fall of the Republic and Rise of the empire flows along a similar line at the saga of atlantis

"For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them."

...

"...when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power."

While George did not have the ability, in the story, to show the empire at its height. We could see the grandeur of the Republic. Not to throw CGI at the screen but to show its greatness, and how that greatness was falling into disorder. And then Palpatine is the inevitable fall caused by the worst of human nature.

What ties these two together? The Jedi Order. The Jedi Order is viewed as almost mythic by the people in the Original Trilogy, and Luke's defeat of the dark side is about embracing attachment, and rejecting the Jedi's views on emotional attachment.

So: The Republic fell because its guardians of order became so detached from the people that they were viewed almost as mythical figures, and Anakin Skywalker fell because he was unable to be a detached Jedi

This is a simple and Mythic Story. This simple story even allows much of the "Story" lucas created to have a richness. The Civil War draws from the fact that the Jedi have been detached from the politics of the Republic. Which allows a simple trade dispute to spiral out of control into a Civil War.

The Republic to keep itself from being destroyed clones a Mandalorian, one of the greatest enemies of the republic, to save it. This is the tragic moment in the fall of the republic. That was when the soul of the republic became possessed of the Dark Side.

To go along with something my friend said in his moment of being wrong on the internet.

George Lucas broke new cinematic ground in each of them, told a complex literary story

What made the Prequels less mythic then the Original trilogies is they were complex, they were cluttered, and did not allow the mind to fill out the universe.

Its why we see Romeo and Juliet retold again and again (and Romeo and Juliet was itself a retelling of an older story).

The Complexity takes away from the story lucas wants to tell. We cannot focus on the Fall of Anakin Skywalker, we cannot focus on the collapse of the republic, we cannot focus on the Jedi as an institution that is so detached from the galaxy that it is unable to see the rise of the sith, and unable to see the Dark Lord of the Sith destroying the Jedi Order and taking control of the Republic. Because we have to see the secret origin of Bobba Fett and R2d2 and c3po, and darth sideous we cannot focus on the larger parts of the story. Because we have to have a storyline about the Gungans and the Naboo being out of balance and coming into balance to restore their planet (which doesn't go anywhere) we can't focus on the heart and soul of the story. We have three throw away villians (Dooku, Maul, and Grievous) we can't focus on the heart and soul of the movie.

I am not going to go into the numerous problems with the story. The problems with the story come down to the fact George Lucas doesn't know the story he is supposed to be telling. Instead of focusing on creating a new monomyth he is focused on telling "Star Wars: The authoritative origin story." Thats why the Prequel Trilogies are such disappointing stories. They don't really go anywhere but check off a list of fan service and tell the story that George is Interested in telling (but is not interesting at all).

George wants to show a republic declining into Tyranny and such themes were present in the original Star Wars focusing on the 60s and 70s. But the problem is just as the Jedi should be detached and disconnected from the world, George Lucas is disconnected. He focuses on Tax policies and militarism but he does so without attaching any humanity to the struggle. And without the humanity in the story no one has a reason to care. The same struggles existed in the original trilogy but were humanized by the characters you cared about.

Beyond the fact that the story is disjointed, and isn't creating the monomyth that Lucas wants to establish, the story fails because it doesn't have characters anyone would care about beyond those you care about due to a nostalgia for the old movies.

Thats where the complexity of Lucas fails, and with it the movies: A bad story which goes in the wrong direction, thats cluttered up with unnecessary material designed for no other purpose then fan service, with uninteresting characters.




Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Foreign Policy threat of Cobra EPISODE I

The Foreign Policy threat of Cobra EPISODE I

When we discuss the nature and threats the United States Military faces we are often bogged down by the “Reality” of the US Military and Foreign policy dimensions and they can sometimes distract from talking about the implications of some of our choices. So for this thought experiment I am choosing COBRA

Why do I pick COBRA? In its run a small town in Missouri, major corporations, its been its own country, overthrown governments, did fake UFO’s, associated with a ninja clan, had an army of robots... it is truly a criminal organization determined to rule the world. So the threat of COBRA represents the Black Swan Foreign Policy threat that can be any threat the US Military needs to be handling.

So I want to lay out a few threats of COBRA to explain some of the things I think people miss out on.

North Korea:
The Crimson Guard Commandos and Extensive Enterprises (through Japanese, Korean, and Chinese Joint Venture subsidiaries) have begun some rudimentary businesses within existing North Korean Business zones. The reality is of course these businesses are part of a front to develop a binary chemical weapon that Cobra plans through its front organization Robca reality to place in homes throughout the United States to terrorize the populace. The first binary agent supply will roll off the assembly line in North Korea soon.

Once it gets off the assembly line in North Korea the US Military isn’t going to be able to stop it and millions of Americans may die as the binary chemical agent renders large sections of American suburbs uninhabitable

The North Korean Government doesn’t know anything. The people in the Chinese Government when they asked The North Koreans about it were given a signal from the North Koreans that the US Could do whatever it wanted to the factory and they wouldn’t complain to much.

So how does the Department of Defense handle it? Do they send in a Joe team? Sending in a Joe team requires a certain kind of intelligence capacity. A cobra defector (if your lucky) which means you need Human Intelligence to either recruit him or find him. A Cobra traitor: which would again require Human Intelligence to do. Try to analyze things going on with Satellite and other data and a nerd in a CIA cubicle?

Each of these prefered solutions require certain investments in the intelligence community. That means you have to hire spooks and/or nerds. If its nerds they need the right nerd tech.

We find out where COBRA’s facility is. So we are put on the clock.

Do we send in a JOE Team? Well the further out you are the more likely the JOE team is to be successful. But if you want the JOE team to be your go to response that means you need to again put certain levels of investment in Intelligence above and beyond that needed to find them. But lets take a more practical solution (Send in Snake Eyes and have him get any intel before we blow it up )

Do you want to send in a Drone? Well if your going to do that there needs to be a drone base in either Japan or South Korea (or possibly a long distance drone ). If you move the drone into South Korea or Japan that means you will likely have problems with the Chinese and North Koreans . Likewise if you have a fighter or Fighter Bomber in the neighborhood you have similar problems. But if its based in the US that puts a time constraint. (And if you want to move a carrier into the neighborhood that puts in time constraints and constraints with dealing with the other powers in the region). The further away you move these bombers/fighter bombers/ or Drones the less surprise and secrecy we have.

The type of Military that can reply to the threat of COBRA will need specific sorts of Diplomatic/Political/and Resource investments. But lets say we don’t try to stop COBRA with our military but instead trust the department of homeland security.

How many extra agents will you need at every point of entry in the US? If you want to rely on Homeland security to stop COBRA your going to have to deploy a much larger amount of manpower (and even larger amount of equipment). So you have to make a choice then: Do I front load the higher cost (with DoD) or do I back load (with Homeland Security)

In the next episode we will discuss COBRA’s Plot to overthrow the government of Venezuela.