29.3.11

Security checkpoints. Iraq. Culture of tribal authoritarianism.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12894372
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_building_security
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribe
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_checkpoint
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority.

A long time ago I stood guard at the vehicle gate to a certain fairly well-known compound inside a military base. I had been told that only vehicles with a particular type of sticker was allowed to park inside that compound.

A well-dressed lady in an expensive SUV rolled up, didn't have the sticker, her ID didn't have the command mark on it - and she wanted to park inside.

"My husband is the XO." I.e, the Executive Officer - 2nd in command at that unit. I was a student, not even a member of the command.
"Sorry, Ma'am - you're gonna have to park up front and the people at the front desk can help you."
"But I just need to..."
"Sorry, Ma'am."
"You guys usually let me park inside. I'm only going in and out, it'll only be a few minutes. My husband said..."
"I can't let you in here with or without the vehicle, Ma'am. You can get a visitor's badge from the front desk and they'll escort you inside. I can't leave my post."

Five minutes later here comes the same lady walking towards me from the inside of the compound. The XO is walking next to her. OH SHIT WHY ME.

"Hey there, Petty Officer."
*Salute*
"Good morning, Sir and Ma'am."
"Were you the guy that didn't let my wife into the compound?"
"Sir, yes Sir."
"Good job. I should have gotten her a sticker for her car and ID a long time ago. Carry on."
"Yes, Sir."

In the unlikely event that anyone ever wants to confirm that story it happened either in late 1999, early 2000 or late 2001 at NSWC Coronado.

An even longer time ago, I spent a year working as a bodyguard for very rich and very powerful people in the 3rd world. India, Singapore mostly. Then I spent a decade back and forth in the Middle East and Asia in the military.

This is how it works in tribal, authoritarian-culture societies:

"Let me in! Don't you know I'm the Executive Assistant to Director Such-and-such??"
"Yessir, yessir - right this way, Sir!"

or:

People in security uniforms with fake badges come up to the building checkpoint.
"Hey, what's up, we're here to see <Important Person>."
"Oh, okay."
"He'll be mad if we don't come in right now. Let us through."
"Oh, okay."

The truly powerful people with their entourage, assistants and secretaries don't even get challenged. They just sweep through.

"I am important and you must respect me and recognize my importance. You are not important and must learn that the rules only apply to the lesser people. Not people like me, can't you see that I'm important?? You must personally learn to tell the difference (you should already know!) between who is important and who is not. It's obvious. People like you have to stop at security checkpoints. People like I do not."

This creates a culture, an tribal-knowledge, unwritten, accepted way of doing things. The result:

Gunmen wearing suicide vests have stormed a provincial council building in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, killing at least 10 people, reports say. [Now up to ~20 dead.]
Dozens were reported to have been wounded in a co-ordinated series of attacks including a car bomb.
The attackers, who entered the building disguised in security uniforms, now control one of its floors, reports say.
Alternatively, you could have just bribed or intimidated the security personnel or threatened their families. They're low paid, unskilled with little training. In an environment and culture and system where their entire lives they've been conditioned to defer to authority figures. Tribal leaders. Elders. Important people. Social and business leaders.

I and my local contacts used to walk straight past security at Mumbai airport because we had an escort. The escort was the head of security. My local contact was the son of the secretary to the state governor. The state governor changed every four or five years. His secretary had had the same job for two decades. Who do you think knew everyone and everything in the state?

You have to be dressed well, or look like you're powerful and in charge. You have to have the uniform. You have to have a commanding air of authority. And as long as you don't hit someone who actually follows rules and regulations even when it's obviously not in their best career interest to do so, then you're as well as past the checkpoint already. The security guards don't make much money. They're scared of getting in trouble. They're not well educated like me and you. If you're reading this - then A) you know how to read, and B) you speak English. Congratulations - you just scored higher on the security guard aptitude test than 90% of the world's security guards and you probably have some sort of education.

You sit at a checkpoint and see the same people walk by every day. You check their IDs every day. The metal detector probably isn't working right. Every day the same damn thing. Boredom. People. Food. Boredom. Cigarette break. More boredom. Important person, look sharp! Boredom. Always the same people. Always at the same times. There's that one good-looking girl. You know their faces. You know who wears what clothes. You know who doesn't like standing in line waiting to show their security badge. You know who's easily irritated.

You don't want to inconvenience people. The equipment breaks down and now you have people waiting. You have to have a female guard on call for women who are veiled. People wear flowing robes that can hide anything underneath them. The metal detectors might beep but won't tell you there's a revolver in an ankle holster and your culture considers feet to be unclean so you don't check ankles or boots. Your supervisor waves people on through sometimes, so therefore it must be okay for you to do it, too.

Except you have no idea who just got fired and is now coming back in with an Uzi under their coat. You have no idea who's smuggling information in and out. You have no idea who's the insider that's gonna talk themselves and their up-to-no-good friend past you. The good guys have to get lucky to catch that one bad guy who tries to sneak in one day out of 365. The bad guys get to pick their target and when to strike, and they only need to get lucky that one single time. All it takes is a plastic knife, really. There's no metal needed to cause havoc, death and destruction, even.



Until you get rid of that tribal authoritarianism and the egotism that leads people who are "important" to feel that they have the right to walk right past checkpoints - you're gonna continue to have incidents like the 20 dead in Tikrit.

Enjoy the society growing pains. It sucks to grow up. It sucks to learn that your culture encourages things like this.

Quick tip:
Does your society vote or organize itself around religious or tribal or ethnic faultlines?
Or does your society vote according to each person's individual beliefs about conservative-liberal type issues, including for extreme liberal parties like the communists and extreme-environmental groups?

Depending on your answer to that, you know if your society has reached the point where it can reliably function fairly well without too high risk of civil war, sectarian violence and idiocies like religious fanatics taking over a government compound and killing a few dozen terrified office workers.

Good luck, Iraq. You're gonna need it. US soldiers can't change that culture. You're gonna have to do it. Of course, feel free to blame all your other problems on America. Some of those accusations may be true.

But that sectarian, authoritarianist, backwards tribal culture thing? That's on you, Iraqis. Good luck changing that - it'll take half a century or so. It took the USA and Western Europe hundreds of years.

22.3.11

Veena Malik. Pakistan. India. Islam. Mufti goes nuts.

I just became a fan of Veena Malik.

You can, too. http://www.facebook.com/VeenaMalik.OfficialFanPage

Religious nutcase goes off the hook because a Pakistani actress participates in an Indian TV show where she apparently got friendly with someone. No kissing. No sex. Some sort of romance maybe. Apparently that's un-Islamic and disrespectful of Pakistan and unpatriotic.




http://jezebel.com/#!5784246/pakistani-actress-passionate-defense-against-accusations-of-immoral-behavior

Malik responds to the mullah's attacks by telling him he has no right to judge her actions, and insisting that she did not violate Islamic law. She adds, "There are many things to talk about. Why Veena Malik? Because Veena Malik is a woman? Because Veena Malik is a soft target for you?"

19.3.11

Women's Repression in Saudi Arabia. Fix please.

We need an Islamic Reform movement. We need Saudi Arabia to look beyond Wahabism.

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/958/the-saudi-women-revolution-statement-
http://monakareem.blogspot.com/2011/03/saudi-women-revolution-statement.html
First –Women cannot have their rights until the system of Male Guardianship is completely taken off the laws and rules of the Saudi state. The Male Guardian or "Mahram" is the father, brother, husband, or even son who has all the legal rights to control a Saudi woman's life in different ways.  

- The Saudi Woman cannot work or apply to a job without the permission of her legal male guardian.
- The Saudi Woman does not have the right to travel without her "Mahram" or without his written permission. 

- The Saudi Woman cannot receive education without the permission of her male guardian and cannot travel to receive education abroad without his permission even if she was awarded a scholarship from the state.

- The Saudi woman does not have the rights of marriage and divorce without the permission from her male guardian. Human Rights Watch 2010 report stated two incidents of men marrying off their sisters five times to get money, in Braida and Riyadh.
- The Saudi Woman does not have the right to follow and finish her official documents and papers without the permission of her male guardian including her cases in court. Human Rights Watch 2010 report mentioned a woman named Sawsan Salim in Qasim who was punished with 300 lashes and one year and a half in jail for showing up to court without a "Mahram". 
- The Saudi woman cannot have medical surgery without the permission of her male guardian. 
- The Saudi Woman cannot make a bank account for her kids, enroll them in schools, ask for their school files, or travel with them without the permission of her male guardian.

Second –Saudi Arabia Should prohibit, fight, and ban violence against women and create laws to save women rights to sue everyone who use violence against them even if they were their legal male guardians.
Third – Saudi Arabia should completely ban marriage for females under the age of 18. 
Fourth –Saudi Arabia should guarantee the right of car driving to women. The Saudi woman is being obligated to hire male drivers to practice her normal daily life and to go to work.
Fifth –Saudi Arabia should impose complete gender equality in different areas and give the same responsibilities and rights to both genders including the right for the Saudi women to pass citizenship to her kids, which happens to be a natural right for Saudi males.
Sixth –Saudi Women should have their complete political rights which are guaranteed to Saudi men such as running and voting for elections in municipality councils.
Why the hell are we even talking about this kind of stuff in the year 2011? You cry about gender equality in Sweden and political correctness in the U.S. while this stuff is going on?

Way too many cultures in the world operate on a system of privilege - where the upper classes and connected people get to do whatever they want. It's changing in China. "My father is Li Gang!" won't work anymore. It'll change in the Middle East, too - but that's gonna be a hard sell and tough to get going.

I'm thinking the women of Iran might take a stab at it here sooner or later. Literally. Stab the Ayatollah.
Libya.
Tunisia.
Egypt.
Yemen.
Bahrain.

You can't stop this, bearded old men trying to tell young people how to think and act. Go ahead and try. Capitalism, facebook, twitter and universal human values will eventually just steamroll your old crap.

Brazil wants a seat on the UN Security Council. Not now, maybe later.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/19/obama.brazil.arrival/?hpt=T2
Obama landed in Brazil on Saturday for a bilateral meeting at the grand Planalto Palace with President Dilma Vana Rousseff, the first female leader of Brazil, which was one of just five nations that voted to abstain on Thursday night's vote before the U.N. Security Council.
A Brazilian official told CNN that Rousseff's government believes U.N. resolution 1973 is too wide in scope because besides opening the door to member nations imposing a potential no-fly zone over Libya, the resolution also allows those nations to take "any means necessary" against the Libyan government...
The other nations to abstain on the vote were China, Germany, India and Russia. The resolution passed anyway, by a 10-0 margin, thanks to the support of such key U.S. allies as France and the United Kingdom.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_1973

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilma_Vana_Rousseff
Although Rousseff states that her political thinking has evolved drastically — from Marxism to pragmatic capitalism— she remains proud of her radical roots.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council
Since the Security Council's inception, China (ROC/PRC) has used its veto 6 times; France 18 times; Russia/USSR 123 times; the United Kingdom 32 times; and the United States 82 times. The majority of Russian/Soviet vetoes were in the first ten years of the Council's existence. Since 1984, China and France have vetoed three resolutions each; Russia/USSR four; the United Kingdom ten; and the United States 43.

The Security Council was formed in 1946. Getting things done at the UN has always been a mess and a hopeless jumble of politics and compromise. Witness Libya on the Human Rights Council. Witness rampant anti-Israelism (not that they don't deserve censure for the settlers in West Bank and Gaza. Excuse me, I meant to write Judea and Samaria. Anyone who doesn't call it Judea and Samaria are apparently anti-Semites. Personally I think the settlers are the real anti-Semites, but I digress.) Witness the fractured coalition attempting to pull Afghanistan out of a quagmire of religious fundamentalism, intimidation of women and decades of war.

Soviet Union/Russia - then current, now former superpower.
China/PRC - East Asian powerhouse. (Incidentally, I see no reason why Taiwan shouldn't be included in most average UN functions, naming issues notwithstanding.)
UK - former colonial power with a large degree of cultural and post-colonial ties all over the world. Candidate for expulsion imho.
France - former colonial power with some few remnants of global influence, mainly in Africa. THE candidate for expulsion.
U.S. - sole remaining superpower capable of significant force projection, or capable of dealing with a nuclear bomb-tossing Iran or North Korea.

So let's add Brazil due to its rising global influence. And let's add India due to it's rising economic and regional importance. Except its lack of influence over things like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, NPT, continuing border disputes with Pakistan and lack of leadership on the international drug issues, economic issues, disasters and the fact that half the country is still mired in medieval-looking conditions is a bit of a drag. Pakistan would throw a fit if India got on the Security Council and started throwing its weight around. Let's not go there, until India and Pakistan solve their differences at least.

But what about Brazil? Leading South American powerhouse. Soft power projection, culturally and economically and via foreign aid and education.

Obama's speech if I was his speechwriter:

At this time, the United States is not ready to support a Brazilian bid for a permanent place on the UN Security Council. The council is fraught with vetoes as is, and it's too difficult to get consensus and get things done as they stand today. In fact, before Brazil makes a serious bid via a concerted effort to build an international consensus for such an action, the council could stand to be trimmed to increase efficiency and reduce vetoes. Too many cooks spoil the soup. Leadership by committee is at best a very slow and ponderous way to move the world forward.
The people of Libya is a case in point of how this slow, ponderous way doesn't always cut it. Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Westerners, Brazilians and Asians agree - the people of Libya deserve better than the world dithering and politicking while they are massacred in the streets by their own government's hired mercenaries and thugs. They deserve better than to be led by a mad dog using force and his immediate circle of ruthless, corrupt and greedy family connections to intimidate and spread fear.
What's this have to do with Brazil? It has everything to do with Brazil. Brazil is a leading South American power. It's a growing economic and global power. It's a world leader in foreign aid, not just in money and goods, but in culture and education. The world has many problems, and needs the members of the Security Council to take a leadership role in areas like Iran, Iraq, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, North Korea, Afghanistan, Terrorism, Islamic Reform, reduction in trade barriers and a level economic playing field, protection against exploitation of child labour, child soldiers and sweat shops. Drug cartels and criminal activity. The explosion of slums and horrible living conditions. Global warming and the rapid industrialization of many countries. Disaster preparedness and emergency response.
Dilma Rousseff stands ready to take Brazil on this journey. The United States wish her and her country the best of luck. If things keep going the way they are and Brazil leaves its mark on all these issues I mentioned, in ten or twenty years one of my successors may very likely support Brazil's inclusion as a permanent member of the UN Security Council as part of a wider UN reform, with or without veto power.

15.3.11

Obama. Gun Control. NRA.

http://azstarnet.com/article_011e7118-8951-5206-a878-39bfbc9dc89d.html
• First, we should begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is the filter that's supposed to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. Bipartisan legislation four years ago was supposed to strengthen this system, but it hasn't been properly implemented. It relies on data supplied by states - but that data is often incomplete and inadequate. We must do better.
• Second, we should in fact reward the states that provide the best data - and therefore do the most to protect our citizens.
• Third, we should make the system faster and nimbler. We should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can't escape it.
Porous background checks are bad for police officers, for law-abiding citizens and for the sellers themselves. If we're serious about keeping guns away from someone who's made up his mind to kill, then we can't allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else.
Sounds reasonable. I expect that the people dead set against this will disregard it as it comes from a person they variously view as a Communist, anti-gun-ownership, extreme liberal etc etc. I count myself a conservative but see two posts below for my views on gun control/ownership.

http://gawker.com/#!5782152/nra-blows-off-white-house-invitation

"Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States?" said Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive of the National Rifle Association.
He named Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has almost no role in gun-related policies, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
NRA is too entrenched and has too much money from the manufacturers to want to get involved in any kind of debate with a reasonable president that they don't trust.

11.3.11

2011 Sendai Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Nuclear accident.

http://live.reuters.com/Event/Japan_earthquake2

Above link is the best live-updated news ticker I could find. I lived in Japan for 1.5 years and worked on a Navy ship out of Yokosuka as well as a bouncer in a nightclub in Roppongi, Tokyo.

The Japanese have the best earthquake-preparedness in the world. All their buildings are designed to withstand this stuff. But apparently their nuclear power plants were not quite up to snuff for Tsunamis. Heads will roll. The green advocacy groups will have a field day with this.

At the very least some radioactive steam has been released. A meltdown is possible, but at this time seems not likely. The Japanese government seems to play down the release. Human casualties from radiation seems very unlikely. Environment effects from steam pressure release seems likely to be minor, if anything at all. It's still a big deal.

FFI see http://twitter.com/#!/arclight

Likely total casualties: 1000+

SECSTATE said US reactor coolant had been flown in to Fukushima. USAF-Pentagon denied this, later. Either might be right. Let's just hope the plant chiefs/operators weren't too proud to ask for help if they needed it. That help may or may not have been needed or been useful at all. The Japanese are very smart, and they're also very nationalistic, proud and sometimes racist (see attitudes v.v. Koreans and Chinese). See the deaths during the night of JAL 123 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Airlines_Flight_123

I miss Japan. I miss the people and the language and the culture. Loved it. They'll pull through and emerge better, stronger.

Palestinian terror attack in West Bank. 3-5 Israeli civilians killed.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/12/us-palestinians-israel-violence-idUSTRE72B0B920110312

Israeli media said the attacker broke into a house in the settlement of Itamar overnight and stabbed to death a couple and three children, including a baby, from the same family.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itamar

Settlement is located smack dab in the middle of the West Bank. Nowhere close to Israel's internationally recognized boundaries (the 1967 Green Line).

Terrorist attack? Yes.
Hunt down and kill or capture the attacker? Sure, go ahead. You won't see me crying.
Demolish houses and punish entire communities? Hey now, easy there. What's the big rush in blaming an ethnicity for the crimes of one person or a few people? I thought we stopped doing that some time ago.

What in the hell were your civilians doing that far into enemy territory?
Three kids were obviously non-combatants. The two adults on the other hand, I really don't know. Did they regularly carry weapons? Were they there as religious fanatics? What the hell were they doing there?

A. Get your civilians out of occupied territory.
B. Go right ahead and murder the people who shoot rockets at you. Try to minimize civilian collateral damage in so doing.

The settlements are weighing down this entire process. They are gradually entrenching Israel in the affairs of the Palestinians and creating a very clear ethnic-religious dividing line inside there - which is more and more akin to apartheid. And I'd rather not be associated with that kind of crap.

I wouldn't mind fighting and putting my life on the line to defend Israel's right to exist within its 1967 borders, though. Sign me up. I'm perfectly comfortable with American lives possibly being lost, and American dollars certainly being spent - on defending that. Just not the settlers and the West Bank and Gaza. Please.

The USA as a general rule does not establish ethnically or religiously "pure" settlements in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact we're in the process of trying to get the hell out of both areas.

Yep, back in the day some really nasty things happened to Native Americans. But we kinda outgrew doing business that way.

America. Guns. Mexico. Officials caught smuggling guns south.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12708877


The police chief, the mayor and a local politician of a small town on the American side of the US-Mexico border have been charged with gun running.
Prosecutors say the officials from Columbus, New Mexico, bought some 200 guns which they allegedly planned to sell to drug cartels in Mexico.
The only thing that surprised me was that the number of guns wasn't 2000 already smuggled/sold on to groups south of the border.

Americans have a long cultural history of gun ownership. The Constitution guarantees the right to own guns. I support that, generally.

I also support the rights of people living in individual states and cities to decide for themselves whether or not they want their police departments to have to deal with a bunch of gun ownership. If people in Texas want gun ownership to be easy and simple, I'm all for it. Background check and track the guns sold so we can know after the fact who sold the gun on to someone who shouldn't have been able to buy one. Straw purchases, criminals etc.

If people in Chicago vote not to allow people to own handguns, so be it. I see no problems with that. Except the whole constitutional thing. Changing the Constitution is a very big deal and a very slow, cumbersome, conflict-ridden process. Oops. For the time being I don't see states or cities gaining the right to decide this for themselves.

Either case we don't really have a need for militias anymore. We have a standing, professional military now. We have local, state and federal police that's generally not corrupt, though there are exceptions. Not half as corrupt as many pay-to-play politicians. If you really think that you need guns to protect yourself from the government, please kindly get the hell out of the country.

Track the guns so we can know what crimes they were used in, where they were sold and to whom. Criminal walks into a gun store, points at a gun and his girlfriend buys it for him. Not cool. Kinda hard to stop but tracking the guns would be a start.

Hunting rifles. All for it. Go forth and hunt as long as you're using what you kill. Kill pests as long as it's legal. Kill for sport someplace else. Kill with bow and arrow and handgun if you so please.

Kill with assault rifle? How the hell is there a legitimate personal protection or hunting need for assault rifles? Or extended handgun magazines? Do we really need people running around with handguns that don't have to be reloaded for 15+ shots against innocent people?

"GUNS MAKE PEOPLE SAFER."

Europeans and others don't think so. This isn't Europe. The gun lobby has a point in that one person buying a gun does make that person feel more safe. Tons of people buying guns make all of us less safe.

Kids' accidents. Untrained gun owners. Illegal gun owners. Add alcohol to the mix. Crimes of passion. People getting very angry when they're mistreated by their significant other. Or getting tossed out of a business, club or restaurant or party and coming back with a gun.

"ADD MORE GUNS THEN, TO QUICKER STOP THE NUTCASE/IDIOT/CRIMINAL."

There is a certain logic to that. Once the criminals and crazies have ready access, wouldn't you want to be able to protect your home, your family and your loved ones? I sure would. I don't currently own a gun but add a family and a house and a kid and I'd like a shotgun for home defense at least. With a trigger lock. With a key for me and my wife and a hidden key someplace where only me and her know or can reach it. With a license and a background check and training and yearly or semi-annual trips to the range to re-up the skillset needed.

Shotguns - fine.
Handguns - fine.
Hunting rifles - fine.
Assault rifles - not fine.
Selling kits to make silencers and fully automatic rifles - not fine.
Extended magazines - not fine.
No background check - not fine.
No tracking of who sold what to whom - not fine.

8.3.11

Max Mosley, Nazi sex orgy and a free press.

http://jalopnik.com/#!5779810/how-a-five+hooker-nazi-sex-orgy-scandal-may-cripple-the-press

Max Mosley as far as I know is not a nazi sympathizer or a white supremacist or a racist. I could be wrong. He lead a bit of a double life indulging in wild parties and BSDM stuff without informing his wife or family. Oh well. He's guilty of lying to them.

Whether the stuff on tape proves Nazi sympathies I'm not so sure. I am however sure that the tabloid News Of The World went out of its way to play up this angle and make him look as bad as possible in order to create a scandal and sell newspapers. Mr. Mosley is now suing for invasion of privacy and losing his job.

NOTW Editor Colin Myler said of the decision "It is not for the rich and the famous, the powerful and the influential, to dictate the news agenda, just because they have the money and the means to gag a free press."

Personally I'd rather say that there's a few different factors at work here, as well. What you do in the privacy of your own home is your business. If you're famous or a public figure then I recommend not hanging around people dressed in gear that will heavily offend the vast majority of neutral uninterested, reasonable people. So maybe he's guilty of that, too.

The right of the Free Press is not so absolute that you should just be able to go after anyone just for having some embarrassing sexual fetish. I couldn't care less what you do outside your work. It might say something about your character, but oh well. Do what you want, as long as it's between consenting adults. Try not to lie to people, maybe.

Right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Freedom of Press.

Somewhere between there lies a good spot where modern society needs to be. Does anyone have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside a private club? I don't know that.

Either case:
It is not for the powerful and the influential tabloids, to dictate the news agenda, just because they have the money and the means to destroy people's lives.


Call him out on his living a lie with respect to his family? Sure, go ahead. Shoot surveillance video inside a private club? Not so sure that's really moral or legal. Blow up the "nazi" angle just to make money? Well, that's how you make money, I suppose. But that also leaves you wide open to charges of libel and getting sued. Which I'm very fine with.


Hit them where it hurts, Max. And all the people lying and cheating - think about what you're doing. Especially if you have things to lose, like a family or a career. 

6.3.11

US Options on Libya Sunday 06 March 2011

The current situation in Libya is one of functional civil war that can turn into a long-running stalemate or be won quickly by either side. This short note outlines in broad terms US options and recommends future avenues of exploration.

  1. Do nothing.

Risks an unfavorable outcome (Gaddafi wins or long stalemate) and completely misses a historic window of opportunity. Advantages include not causing more damage to the already damaged view of the US in the so-called Arab Street. Not recommended.

  1. Air strikes.

Risks very unfavorable media coverage due to civilian casualties – not needed in the age of Abu Ghraib and continued losses of civilian life in Afghanistan. Unless reliable and independently confirmed intelligence can be gathered on the exact whereabouts of loyalist forces or Gaddafi himself, this could result in extreme backlash worldwide. Even success risks making a madman into a martyr. Not recommended unless in very specific, “100% intelligence” circumstances or the US political leadership is again comfortable with assassinating an Arab leader.

  1. Air-dropping supplies.

Low risk, high gain strategy that depends on not getting the aircrews shot down. Accomplished at night for increased security with decreased accuracy/effectiveness. More intelligence and communication/coordination with rebel forces would increase effectiveness and decrease risk. Needs fighter escort.
  1. Special Operations

High risk, medium gain strategy that could heavily backfire if crews were captured or killed and paraded publicly. Arab Street would go ballistic. Not recommended unless in situation of long-term stabilization of stalemate in which case some foreign training personnel could be kept away from actual areas of conflict.

  1. Drone attacks

Low risk, high gain strategy that risks some ire in the rest of the Middle East but doesn't involve anything that will explode all over Al-Jazeera and specifically doesn't make for good cable news images or video, even if unsuccessful or shot down. Depends on somewhat accurate intelligence, but if Gaddafi-loyalist armor or “technicals” (pickup trucks with an AA gun or heavy machine gun on the back) are seen leaving loyalist strongholds striking them will carry a low risk while severely impacting loyalist ability to project force or fire on rebel-stronghold civilians with impunity.

  1. Blockade

Low risk, low gain strategy that would be ineffective in the short run without the cooperation of Niger, Chad and Sudan. Should be explored further, especially in conjunction with supplying rebel-held strongholds like Benghazi.

  1. Overt ground forces

High-risk, medium-gain strategy that would decisively end the conflict in our favor while accepting a significant blow to the US reputation in the Arab Street and further push us into the “bad guy” corner for many in the Middle East. A botched operation that didn't immediately capture or eliminate Gaddafi would incur further costs in lives and US international prestige. Recommend immediate withdrawal in the aftermath in order to minimize a “Black Hawk Down” risk scenario and letting Libyan rebels carry the day.

  1. “No-fly zone”

High risk, low gain strategy in the absence of broad international support. Risks captured, killed pilots and would not have a drastic impact on the battlefield as Libyan loyalist air force is not terribly effective against lightly armed, armored rebels. Not recommended as it would take a sustained, costly and manpower-intensive operation while those same assets are better employed in Iraq/Afghanistan or rotated out.

In summary, a combination of increased intelligence-gathering using Libyan expats coupled with increased efforts to contact and coordinate with rebels while pursuing the various low-risk strategies can positively impact the situation while remaining free from charges of imposing infidel Western power on another Arab country. This author recommends air-dropping supplies, initially at night, exploring possible drone attacks and exploring tightening the noose around Gaddafi-loyalists' ability to pay their people and supply their forces.

3.3.11

Pakistani Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti assassinated. Good man.


"They say there's a terrorist plot to assassinate me," he said. "They've told me to be careful, but didn't tell me anything else. I haven't been given any extra security. It's just the same as it has been since I became a minister."
Though his voice sounded weary, the minister's commitment was unwavering. "I have struggled for a long time for justice and equality," he said.
"If I change my stance today, who will speak out? I am mindful that I can be assassinated any time, but I want to live in history as a courageous man."

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12639925




Another good guy bites the dust. Hopefully some will pay attention to him, eventually. Might get worse before it gets better, though. Eventually freedom, facebook, twitter and the internet will pull through, but that might take a good 50 years or so.

Kids growing up will find out for themselves what's going on. China won't be able to keep the internet under an official thumb forever. Chinese and Japanese and North Korean arch-nationalists will eventually go under in the face of smart, young people.

Same thing with Pakistani fundamentalists and conspiracy theorists. It's gonna be a rough ride, though. Hopefully without a nuclear war in the Middle East, but that'll happen sooner or later.

1.3.11

U.S. Military. DADT. Heteronormativity. LGBT. Gay rights. Pedophilia. Bestiality. What's next?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation_and_the_United_States_military#LGBT_veterans
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_ask,_don't_tell

If you were offended by the title to this post I am genuinely sorry. I'm guessing the LGBT people would be offended that I include that latter stuff in this post. The pedophilia apologists would no doubt be offended that I include the stuff after them. The "normal" heteronormative people are just plain offended. Just trying to make one single all-inclusive coherent framework for myself regarding people's sexuality and its impact on official stuff like military and society and taxes and whatnot.

I like to consider myself a reasonable, fairly even-handed person. I've got my biases and my prejudices. Been around a fair number of LGBT people and military personnel in my ten years in the Navy - never had a problem with any of them while working, while working as a bouncer in Roppongi, on ships or in ports. The very weird subculture of eunuchs in India weren't very much fun to deal with though - being accosted while riding in cabs and whatnot wasn't fun.

Plenty of gay people involved in CrossFit. Two females that I know very well got married to each other and $50,000 later they finally had a kid and are planning on another. I did NOT mention that I know people who provide non-artificial insemination for free. I'd like the court of public opinion to keep that last fact in mind, at least. I'm not a completely horrible person.

I elect to not associate with transgender people. In fact just talking or writing or reading about it gives me the creeps. Dunno why. I tolerate them. Hopefully they tolerate me and leave me alone. They did when I was heavily into clubbing and worked as a bouncer. They didn't cause trouble and I didn't cause them trouble. If trouble found them I would have tried to solve that as quickly as possibly by removing the trouble-maker, no matter who or what sex (or "not" sex).

If a good-looking girl comes up to me and wants to talk I'm generally in favour of that.
If a dude comes up to me and wants to talk I'm generally NOT in favour of that.
If a transgender person comes up to me and wants to talk I'm generally creeped out. If I'm in an official position like an on-duty CrossFit trainer or working for the government then I really kinda have to deal with them in a professional manner, but that's about where it stops. Act professionally and I will respond the same way. No further. No more. Step across that line and bother me needlessly and I will ask that person to leave, or find a way to not have to deal with that person anymore.

So, the subject. DADT is dead and a good thing, too. What you do in the privacy of your own home or barracks room is your business, not mine. Be considerate to other people. Even diehard conservatives and religious fundamentalists. Ok, maybe not the last ones.

Gay marriage. Doesn't bother me. Go for it. Pay your taxes just like everyone else. Deal with the money and the paperwork like everyone else. I still kinda think you could let the conservatives have the word "marriage" and settle for the term "civil union" with the explicit law that the two are the same for all legal and social purposes - knowing that ten years from now the fight would be won for that particular word. But separate is never equal after all.

The US military will adjust to this new paradigm and will work to stop discrimination. It will not succeed completely. People will get hurt. Watch out.

Ten years from now there'll be another push for transgender people to join. Personally I'd prefer if you completed your surgery and therapy FIRST, and then joined. If you're already in you might be able to get the government to pay for it, but it'd be kinda underhanded to have that as someone's main motivation to join. The US military has a mission. You work toward that mission, and if that's not your main concern, please kindly GTFO. It is not your personal social or political petri dish. People are getting killed left and right and you are primarily concerned about this or that social transformation. Bugger off.

BUT YOU'RE DISCRIMINATING AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE!

Yes. To some extent that's true. But don't use the military as a cash cow to get your surgery paid for. Do what you need to do, then come on in and serve with honour. Anything else, including lying about it and trying to force the issue, is going to be found out and have to be dealt with and you WILL make a lot of average, uninterested people who just want to get the training or the war over with - VERY uncomfortable. Now you're rocking the boat. The person rocking the boat during already hazardous and troubling and difficult circumstances - needs to get out of that boat and back onto shore.

So polygamy. Sure. Bring it on. I don't really see the big deal if a group of people want to be married with one guy and 5 women. I don't think it's necessarily good for society but a bunch of women seem to disagree. As long as it's open and freely entered into, who cares? It's not part of the US tradition or even Western tradition but oh well. Live and let live. Investigate. Transparency is a good thing. As long as it's not a cultish thing where you're forcing people to do this or that.

The money and taxes and immigration aspect of that would be a thorny problem. Some sort of reasonably fair solution should be possible.

Some people like to have sexual relations with animals. Not cool. Incapable of giving informed consent. Same with minors. What's that got to do with LGBT stuff? The LGBT crowd would no doubt be offended by me including that at the end of a post like this. The regular people otoh see the whole thing as kind of a slippery slope with the whole bestiality/pedophilia thing at the end. The vast majority of LGBT people would probably be just as horrified as I was to see the kinds of images I have seen when called over to a Navy computer in the middle of the night by a supposed "buddy" who said "Hey, come check this out!"

Personally I'd like to focus on the fact that I just plain don't care what you do in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults. Adults defined per country and culture. That was the point. Feel free to quote me out of context and be upset.