Friday, September 10, 2010

But this is awesome - "Marines seize ship from pirates."

Marines seize ship from pirates:
"The crew - mostly Filipinos but led by Polish and Ukrainian officers - was still skeptical, so Sgt. Max Chesmore tore off a U.S. flag patch that was attached to his uniform and shoved it through the hole.

'Once we showed them the American flag, their disposition turned from scared, unsure of what was happening, to very happy,' said Staff Sgt. Thomas Hartrick, another of the commandos."

Most parents are dumb.

Which is, of course, the corollary to 'most people are dumb.' The kinder interpretation is that they, like most of the rest of us, are victims of a fear-mongering, manipulative, 'if it bleeds it leads,' sensationalistic media machine.

The one time I broached this subject with a friend who was also a parent, the predictable response received was "But what if it happened to your child?" Which, you know, misses the point completely. [But I let it go.]

Schneier on Security: Parental Fears vs. Realities:
"...the top five worries of parents are, in order:

School snipers
Dangerous strangers

But how do children really get hurt or killed?

Car accidents
Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)

Why such a big discrepancy between worries and reality? Barnes says parents fixate on rare events because they internalize horrific stories they hear on the news or from a friend without stopping to think about the odds the same thing could happen to their children."

"I append here a list of all Christian countries conquered by militant Moslems since 1529: ... "

Fred On Everything:
"...I find Buchanan, of the American Conservative, proclaiming that Islam is a Culture of Jihad, and most militant. No doubt. Very. Would it be poltroonish of me to note that just now Christian armies are busily annexing and wrecking Afghanistan and Iraq, having recently bombed Somalia? That they use robotic aircraft to murder Yemenis, that they hunt down Moslems in the Philippines (where after 1898 Americans engaged in atrocities that would win the admiration of the Japanese), encourage Israel to ruin Lebanon and to run a concentration camp for Moslems in Gaza, enthusiastically murder Pakistanis from the sky, and threaten Syria and Iran?

Those Moslems. Militant, they are. The bastards.

The Islamic countries listed above are only those currently attacked by America. Let us look at the matter in another way. I append here a list of all Christian countries conquered by militant Moslems since 1529:

Next, a partial list of Moslem countries conquered by Christians: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq (the first time), Iraq (again), Iran, Pakistan, East Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai….

This list does not include such minor Christian conquests as North, South, and Central America, India, China, Southeast Asia, black Africa, and such. Unconscionable, Moslem aggressiveness is.

Buchanan regards the events of 9/11 as no end grievous. So do I. Yet perhaps people who live in glass pots and kettles shouldn’t call names. The UN’s figures give 600,000 Iraqi children dead because of the American embargo, which didn’t allow, for example, chlorine to sterilize water. This is equivalent to 6.4 million dead children in the United States. Hmmm: If Moslems had killed this trifling number of our sprats, might we wax grumpish?

Yes, I know, the UN is a commie Marxist socialist anti-American conspiracy, and not as trustworthy as the American propaganda apparatus. All right. Let’s assume that the UN lied by a factor of ten, and thus only 60,000 Iraqi children died thanks to us. Thus, if 3,000 Americans died in New York, we owe the Moslems some 57,000. No?

If I may sally briefly into unloved seriousness: What puzzles me, as one who has lived extensively abroad, is how little Americans are able to see things through the eyes of others, how little empathy they have (this latter defect being characteristic of both psychopaths and narcissists).

...Herewith a searing insight for the ever-puzzled State Department: Actions have consequences. If you support Batista, you will engender Fidel. If you support the Shah, you will get Khomeini. If you attack Moslems, you will get bin Laden. It might be better to stay home and read a book."

The military, politics, foreign policy & the media.

Fascinating article on the increased influence of the military/the Pentagon on formulating foreign policy.

Tomgram: Engelhardt, The Pentagon Triumphant on the Media Battlefield | TomDispatch:
"The fall issue of Foreign Policy magazine features Fred Kaplan’s “The Transformer,” an article-cum-interview with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. It received a flurry of attention because Gates indicated he might leave his post “sometime in 2011.” The most significant two lines in the piece, however, were so ordinary that the usual pundits thought them not worth pondering. Part of a Kaplan summary of Gates’s views, they read: “He favors substantial increases in the military budget... He opposes any slacking off in America's global military presence.”

Now, if Kaplan had done a similar interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, such lines might have been throwaways, since a secretary of state is today little more than a fancy facilitator, ever less central to what that magazine, with its outmoded name, might still call “foreign policy.” Remind me: When was the last time you heard anyone use that phrase -- part of a superannuated world in which “diplomats” and “diplomacy” were considered important -- in a meaningful way? These days “foreign policy” and “global policy” are increasingly a single fused, militarized entity, at least across what used to be called “the Greater Middle East,” where what’s at stake is neither war nor peace, but that "military presence."

As a result, Gates’s message couldn’t be clearer: despite two disastrous wars and a global war on terror now considered “multigenerational” by those in the know, trillions of lost dollars, and staggering numbers of deaths (if you happen to include Iraqi and Afghan ones), the U.S. military mustn’t in any way slack off. The option of reducing the global mission -- the one that’s never on the table when “all options are on the table” -- should remain nowhere in sight. That’s Gates’s bedrock conviction. And when he opposes any diminution of the global mission, it matters.

...If it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then you can gauge the power of the Pentagon by the fact that, at least in Iraq after 2011, the State Department is planning to become a mini-military -- an armed outfit using equipment borrowed from the Pentagon and an “army” of mercenary guards formed into “quick reaction forces,” all housed in a series of new billion-dollar “fortified compounds,” no longer called “consulates” but “enduring presence posts” (as the Pentagon once called its giant bases in Iraq “enduring camps”). This level of militarization of what might once have been considered the Department of Peaceful Solutions to Difficult Problems is without precedent and an indicator of the degree to which the government is being militarized.
...There should be, but no longer is, something startling about all this. Generals and admirals now mouth off regularly on a wide range of policy issues, appealing to the American public both directly and via deferential (sometimes fawning) reporters, pundits, and commentators. They and their underlings clearly leak news repeatedly for tactical advantage in policy-making situations. They organize what are essentially political-style barnstorming campaigns for what once would have been “foreign policy” positions, and increasingly this is just the way the game is played.

...There’s a history still to be written about how our highest military commanders came to never shut up.

Certainly, in 1990 as Gulf War I was approaching, Americans experienced the first full flowering of a new form of militarized “journalism” in which, among other things, retired high military officers, like so many play-by-play analysts on Monday Night Football, became regular TV news consultants. They were called upon to narrate and analyze the upcoming battle (“showdown in the Gulf”), the brief offensive that followed, and the aftermath in something close to real time. Amid nifty logos, dazzling Star Wars-style graphics, theme music, and instant-replay nose-cone snuff films of “precision” weapons wiping out the enemy, they offered a running commentary on the progress of battle as well as on the work of commanders in the field, some of whom they might have once served with.

And that was just the beginning of the way, after years of post-Vietnam War planning, the Pentagon took control of the media battlefield and so the popular portrayal of American-style war. In the past, the reporting of war had often been successfully controlled by governments, while generals had polished their images with the press or -- like Omar Bradley and Douglas MacArthur -- even employed public relations staffs to do it for them. But never had generals and war planners gone before the public as actors, supported by all the means a studio could muster on their behalf and determined to produce a program that would fill the day across the dial for the full time of a war. The military even had a version of a network Standards and Practices department with its guidelines for on-air acceptability. Military handlers made decisions -- like refusing to clear for publication the fact that Stealth pilots viewed X-rated movies before missions -- reminiscent of network show-vetting practices.

When it came time for Gulf War II, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the military had added the practice of putting reporters through pre-war weeklong “boot camps” and then “embedding” them with the troops (a Stockholm Syndrome-type experience that many American reporters grew to love). It also built itself a quarter-million-dollar stage set for nonstop war briefings at Centcom headquarters in Doha, Qatar. All of this was still remarkably new in the history of relations between the Pentagon and the media, but it meant that the military could address the public more or less directly both through those embedded reporters and over the shoulders of that assembled gaggle of media types in Doha.

As long as war took its traditional form, this approach worked well, but once it turned into a protracted and inchoate guerrilla struggle, and “war” and “wartime” became the endless (often dismal) norm, something new was needed. In the Bush years, the Pentagon responded to endless war in part by sending out an endless stream of well-coached, well-choreographed retired military “experts” to fill the gaping maw of cable news. In the meantime, something quite new has developed.

Today, you no longer need to be a retired military officer to offer play-by-play commentary on and analysis of our wars. Now, at certain moments, the main narrators of those wars turn out to be none other than the generals running, or overseeing, them. They regularly get major airtime to explain to the American public how those wars are going, as well as to expound on their views on more general issues.

This is something new..."

Hero - 'I'm Not Going to Be Interrogated As a Pre-Condition of Re-Entering My Own Country.'

Made of Win, Filled with Victory. Having to deal w/the TSA [and yes, this is Customs, but imho, all part of the same fear mongering, bureaucratic apparatchik] on my way out of the US, I find them all to be equally detestable. A conclusion confirmed once again for me when the TSA stooge at Dulles jammed the wand into my crotch for the 3rd time. Nonsensical, anti-intelligent security theater.

'I'm Not Going to Be Interrogated As a Pre-Condition of Re-Entering My Own Country' - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine:
"'Why were you in China?' asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.

'None of your business,' I said.

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

'Excuse me?' she asked.

'I'm not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country,' I said.

This did not go over well. She asked a series of questions, such as how long I had been in China, whether I was there on personal business or commercial business, etc. I stood silently...

A male Customs and Border Protection officer appeared to escort me to “Secondary.” He tried the good cop routine, cajoling me to just answer a few questions so that I could be on my way. I repeated that I refused to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country.

“Am I free to go?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

The officer asked for state-issued ID. I gave him my California Identification Card. I probably didn’t have to, but giving him the ID was in line with my principle that I will comply with an officer’s reasonable physical requests (stand here, go there, hand over this) but I will not answer questions about my business abroad.

The officer led me into a waiting room with about thirty chairs. Six other people were waiting.

The officer changed tack to bad cop. “Let this guy sit until he cools down,” the officer loudly said to a colleague. “It could be two, three, four hours. He’s gonna sit there until he cools down.”

I asked to speak to his superior and was told to wait.

I read a book about Chinese celebrities for about 15 minutes.

An older, rougher officer came out and called my name. “We’ve had problems with you refusing to answer questions before,” he said. “You think there’s some law that says you don’t have to answer our questions.”

“Are you denying me re-entrance to my own country?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, and walked away.

...The officer asked if the bags were mine; I handed him my baggage receipt.

He asked if I had packed the bags myself. I said I declined to answer the question.

He asked again, and I made the same reply. Same question; same response. Again; again.

“I need you to give me an oral customs declaration,” he said.

“I gave you a written declaration,” I said.

“I need to know if you want to amend that written declaration,” he said. “I need to know if there’s anything undeclared in these bags.”

I stood silently.

Visibly frustrated, he turned to a superior, who had been watching, and said that I refused to answer his questions.

“Just inspect his bags,” the senior officer said. “He has a right to remain silent.”

Finally! It took half an hour and five federal officers before one of them acknowledged that I had a right not to answer their questions.

* * *

Principal Take-Aways

1. Cops Really Don’t Like It When You Refuse To Answer Their Questions. The passport control officer was aghast when I told her that my visit to China was none of her business. This must not happen often, because several of the officers involved seemed thrown by my refusal to meekly bend to their whim.

2. They’re Keeping Records. A federal, computer-searchable file exists on my refusal to answer questions.

3. This Is About Power, Not Security...

4. U.S. Citizens Have No Obligation To Answer Questions...

Of course, if you don’t, you get hassled.

But that’s a small price to pay to remind these thugs that their powers are limited and restricted."

Awesome - "Woman Living In A 84 sq foot Home."

Having just moved obscene amounts of stuff halfways across the planet, I find this very, very cool.

I could get behind a cellphone like this.

Simple, clean lines, no crapware, no nonsense.

Warren Ellis - John’s Phone:
"John’s Phone is the most simple mobile phone. Just call and hang up. John’s Phone is easy for anywhere, anytime. Finally a separate unit with no frills and conditions. A simlock free phone with large keys, an address book, a pen and over three weeks of standby time."

The real Sugar Ray.

Via Blog

Annoyances and Outrages.

Internets in the land of Liberia is sloooooow. Like dial-up slow. Days of loading up multiple YouTube clips while downloading video via torrents while surfing graphics intensive pages and running streaming music are long gone. Otoh, with my newly enforced by technological limitations net-surfing habits, I may actually get more things done with my life. Okay, unlikely, but I can dream, can't I?

Unpacking all our stuff from the move confirms I have too much crap. Once unpacking is all done, there will be a huge cull. Oh yes, there will. [It will of course be defeated by the Mrs' packrat/just in case/you never know tendencies, but still.]

AFN commercials make me want to shoot myself in the face.

Lies, damn lies, statistics and scientific studies - Fat Head - The ‘Atkins’ Study (ahem, ahem) According To Ornish:
"Some of these “low carbers” were eating up to 60% of their diet as carbohydrates (first decile), which-last time I checked-is kind of not low-carb. Even the lowest low-carb eaters were still eating over 37% of their calories from carbohydrates. Whoever decided to call this study “low carbohydrate” is nuttier than a squirrel turd.

Folks in the Animal Group were more likely to smoke and had higher BMIs than adherents of the Vegetable Group. Along with influencing mortality outcomes, this suggests the Animal Food group, in the aggregate, may have been somewhat less health-conscious than the dieters lumped into the vegetable category. And that’s the type of thing that has repercussions for other diet and lifestyle choices that weren’t measured in the study.

The Vegetable Group was nowhere near plant-based: They derived almost 30% of their daily calories from animal sources (animal fat and animal protein), versus about 45% for the Animal Group. If we compare the middle (fifth) decile, the Vegetable Group was eating a greater percent of total calories from animal foods than the Animal Group was. D’oh!"
NONE. OF. YOUR. FUCKING. BUSINESS. You are not doctors, you brain dead rednecks. I can say that because I was born & raised in NC - North Carolina Sheriffs Want To Know Who Is Taking Painkillers | The Agitator:
"Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances.

The state sheriff’s association pushed the idea Tuesday, saying the move would help them make drug arrests and curb a growing problem of prescription drug abuse…

In addition to the obvious privacy, doctor-patient privilege, and Fourth Amendment concerns, a policy like this is likely to exacerbate the undertreatment of pain. The sheriffs argue that giving them access to the database will help them catch doctors who over-prescribe and patients who shop from doctor to doctor when they’re denied access to painkillers. I’m sure there are examples of both misbehaving doctors and patients. But in the past, law enforcement officials’ definition of over-prescribing has sharply diverged from that of pain professionals. High-dose opiate therapy, a promising new treatment for chronic pain, has basically been cut off at the knees because of high-profile cases in which DEA officials, U.S. attorneys, and state and local law enforcement with no medical training have taken it upon themselves to decide what is and isn’t appropriate treatment."
Culture of fear, lies, manipulation and nonsense - The FBI: Foiling its own plots since 2001 - Terrorism -
"The Liberty City Seven, the Fort Dix Six, the Detroit Ummah Conspiracy, the Newburgh Four -- each has had their fear-filled day in the sun. None of these plots ever came close to happening. How could they? All were bogus from the get-go: money to buy missiles or cell phones or shoes and fancy duds -- provided by the authorities; plans for how to use the missiles and bombs and cell phones -- provided by authorities; cars for transport and demolition -- issued by the authorities; facilities for carrying out the transactions -- leased by those same authorities. Played out on landscapes manufactured by federal imagineers, the climax of each drama was foreordained. The failure of the plots would then be touted as the success of the investigations and prosecutions."
Obama Fail - GWB with better rhetoric - The Obama Age of No Federal DEA Raids on State Medical Marijuana Clinics Leads to More Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Clinics in Las Vegas - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine and Obama wins the right to invoke "State Secrets" to protect Bush crimes - Glenn Greenwald -
"In a 6-5 ruling issued this afternoon, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ's argument that Bush's rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are 'state secrets' and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts."
Simple minded, yellow ribbon, support the troops nonsense bugs me. Because of stuff like this. Evil shit - US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies' | World news | The Guardian:
"Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret 'kill team' that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians."
This - Various matters - Glenn Greenwald -
"I share Adam Serwer's discomfort with David Petraeus' purporting to instruct us all on what is and is not appropriate speech based on the danger it creates for troops; that's the same rationale used to demonize war opponents (they embolden the Enemy) and justify suppression of torture photos (disclosure would cause harm to the troops), among other things. And while I'm glad to see civilian administration officials speaking out against anti-Muslim bigotry on the ground that it inflames anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world (though there should be no question -- none -- that a Church has the absolute right to burn Korans under several First Amendment guarantees), Blue Texan's observation is quite true:
Well, yes -- burning Korans is deeply stupid and inflammatory. But, um, so is haphazardly invading, bombing, Predator striking, torturing, and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people, just for the hell of it.
It's a bit strange to watch American officials express such profound concern over the way in which a Koran burning may inflame anti-American sentiment while they simultaneously pursue policies which create precisely that sentiment on a much, much larger scale."
Petraeus should shut the hell up actually. This will sound cold, but I don't buy into this whole deification/defer to the General's crap that sweeps through the left so they can shore up their "We're really patriots too! Look how we love the military!" nonsense. And the unfeeling part is this - Americans aren't supposed to be giving up their freedoms, including the asinine freedom to burn the Koran, to protect the troops. The military is designed to sacrifice for the freedoms of Americans. So they say. Bah.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Using her OCD powers for good; not evil.

Organizing our overly large DVD collection, in front of our new ludicrously wide TV.

Monrovia, Liberia Tour w/photos.

So, on the very second day of my time in country in Liberia the Mrs arranges for us to join a 6 hour/all day Orientation Tour.  Despite my general misanthropy and introversion and jet lag, I join in because I am a goodly husband and surely this will score me points for down the road.  With just the ride from the airport plus the tour - Liberia is definitively "developing world" in a way I've never experienced first hand.  They've had the holy hell kicked out of it by nearly 15 years of war.  And it shows.  I'm sure if you compared it to how it was even a few years ago, it's probably vastly improved, and there's all sorts of construction and rebuilding evident, but still...  this is a country clearly working to get back on its feet.

Mamba Point Lighthouse at Cape Mesurado - where expatriate slaves who would go on to found Liberia first came ashore.
"This cannon is known as the Matilda Newport cannon and is located at Fort Norris on Ducor Hill.   The hill overlooks the city and bay of Monrovia, Cape Montserrado.  During the early days of the settlement that is now Monrovia, Matilda Newport as the story goes,was taking an evening stroll smoking her pipe, when she saw a group of  native Liberians in war paint advancing on the settlement.  She use her pipe to light this loaded cannon that was facing the direction the attackers were coming from... The sound was so loud, it frighten the attackers who had never seen such a discharge of firing power before..." - via The Liberian Connection Photos
Kids playing soccer...

The Ducor Hotel.  Once a 5 star resort, looted during the wars, victim of fires, home to refugees and squatters in the years since.  Apparently a Libyan company has signed a lease to renovate it.
And how it used to look back in the day, picture via. 
Views from the hotel...
Group, officially orientated.
Liberia's first President.
Pic o' the day.  She'll do whatever's necessary for a photo, she will.
The Liberian National Museum.
Walking sticks denoting positions of authority.
Liberian National Museum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "...approximately 5,000 artefacts were looted during [the Liberian Civil War] less than 100 larger artefacts remain...  During the war, valuable museum items were often sold to fleeing expatriates and the museum itself came under fire during rebel attacks in 2003."
A painting meant to depict the ending of the First Liberian Civil War.
The Liberation Monument.
Which reminded me of the plebes climbing the Herndon monument at the Naval Academy at the end of 4/C year...  too funny.
"The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here." 
And then "...the Americo-Liberian minority worked to dominate the native people, whom they considered savage primitives." Sigh...

The Centennial Pavilion, constructed in 1947, where Liberian Presidents are sworn in.
Oldest church in Liberia.
Me, not bursting into flames in the oldest church in Liberia.  Clearly, I'm not trying hard enough.
Always working.
Evelyn's for lunch...
Pretty good.  I liked the Palm Butter Rice w/fish dish.  Spicy, reminded me of an Indian or Thai curry.  
Melting gold dust to make jewelry.
A couple Monrovia shots...

To Liberia; Accra Airport/Ghana's most unusual Welcome sign.

So, JFK to Accra, Ghana enroute to Liberia.  Exit the plane, going through immigration and lo and behold, what do I see.  The most polite sign ever warning off pedophiles and sexual deviants.
Didn't have my camera handy, but knew - just KNEW - somebody would have already put it up on the internets.  Via Liberia Stories: A Welcome Sign

And you know, it's kind of funny - for being just so unusual - until it's not.  First, the fact that this kind of sign is needed at all is really kind of disturbing.  And second, when you know that in Ghana "sexual deviants" means any form of male homosexuality is illegal and punishable by jail time, it changes the perspective.

This is genius/hilarious/I used this textbook in Japan.

Remix Win.  [And considering the 'net in Liberia took 45m to load an 8m video...  well, we'll just say it was still worth my time.]

Via Weird English Conversation | Japan Probe

PostSecret - that's pretty harsh.

Via PostSecret: Sunday Secrets

Of course he did - "Hitler 'had Jewish and African roots', DNA tests show..."

Hitler 'had Jewish and African roots', DNA tests show - Telegraph:
"Saliva samples taken from 39 relatives of the Nazi leader show he may have had biological links to the “subhuman” races that he tried to exterminate during the Holocaust."

Having just flown out of Dulles, I can confirm the security there sucks - "Dulles security treat Pakistani military officers as terrorists."

United Airlines and Dulles security treat Pakistani military officers as terrorists - Boing Boing:
"United Airlines threw nine high-ranking Pakistani military officers off a Washington-Tampa flight on Sunday and turned them over to Dulles security, who detained and grilled the men. The officers were on a junket in the USA, and had been travelling extensively; one of them said words to the effect of, 'I hope this is my last flight.' This was interpreted as a terrorist threat by a flight attendant. Dulles security did not let the men contact their embassy or the US military officials who were hosting them."

Last pic from Japan.

Sent to me from my old supervisor, from the local monthly newsmag...  Japan rocked.