Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bumbling About the Internet

This morning I spent a few minutes looking at how the Arab world looks at ISIS.  After all, it's not likely that the United States will become a caliphate, but many Arabs are already looking at the rule of the Caliphate.  Not surprisingly, there's a good deal of ridicule out there.  One rather amateurish Palestinian production suggests that only Israel will benefit from ISIS.  Another much better piece notes that ISIS won't take over Lebanon, as they need a functioning government to overthrow.

I'm amazed, though, that our pundit class has failed to notice that (a) a lot of people in the Arab world are going to be seriously unwilling to take the hit for us and (b) that in the complicated politics of the Arab world, we're way out of our competence.  ISIS seems to have a lot more competence, having already cut a deal with the moderate Islamists in Syria that the US was planning to fund.  And why would the Saudis, who share much of the ISIS vision, be willing to help defeat ISIS, and help Iran in the bargain?  And Israel is already complaining that the struggle with ISIS will strengthen Iran.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Phone is Smarter than I Am

My stupid phone was at my level of competence.  I can't figure out how to enter contacts, how to get rid of errors, how do do anything.  A steep learning curve and a bunch of reading the manual.

Update: For some reason this is one of my most popular posts in months. Are other people afraid of their phones too?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

ISIS Has One Mother

The United States.  No, let's not blame it on NATO or Shiites in Iraq or anyone else.  ISIS would never have existed in Syria and Iraq but for our incompetent aggression.  Whenever I think of this mess, I am reminded of what should be Fidel Castro's most famous line, when informed of the selection of George W. as President--"[w]e can only hope he is not as stupid as he appears."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Technology Upgrades

We'll be learning new technology this month, as I'm getting both a new laptop (this one has the slooows) and my first Smartphone.  J has chosen to stay with his dumb phone.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Outside Agitators

Whenever I hear that unrest in a community is the result of "outside agitators," I am reminded of a story about Da Nang in Viet Nam in 1946. Two organizers from the Indochinese Communist Party were sent to organize the population there and sparked a series of riots in which the population took the stores of rice being guarded by the government.  The French blamed the communists, of course.

Now first, one should be intrigued by the competence of an organization that can spark riots by sending two people.  They must have been really good.

But then one should check out the backstory.  What was going on that led the population to riot?  We find that the French colonials were selling rice to the Occupation forces in Japan.  They had bought up all of the rice, leaving nothing for the starving population.  In one of the usual colonial acts of insensitivity, the French had the rice guarded by the Japanese prisoners of war who had been captured in the region.  The population of Da Nang was starving, and there should be some doubt that the Indochinese Communist Party was, independent of the legitimate anger of the local citizenry, so good as to bring about a demonstration, let alone rioting.

But now we find that outside agitators have come to Ferguson.  We are already finding out that the spark was the killing of Michael Brown, but the poor and black population of Ferguson had a number of long-standing issues with their local police, whether or not the cops were dressed for battle in Iraq, and that much of the municipal government's budget was raised from petty harassment of the African American citizenry. Remember that Michael Brown was first stopped for jaywalking, one of those lovely little discretionary citations that raises money for the local government.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What the F#@&?

Recently Cuba has been in the news.  Once it became clear that the demise of the Soviet Union wasn't going to collapse the Cuban government, and Fidel Castro retired (which never occurred as a possibility to anyone in the extensive spy/analyst community), Cuba dropped off the radar, except for the every-15-year-or-so "young people are disillusioned with the revolution" campaign.  But Cuba has popped up several time in the last few years, in circumstances embarrassing to the US government.

In several recent incidents USAID-funded programs have been caught trying to infiltrate Cuba and turn the rebellious youth against the government.  But before that we have the case of Alan Gross, who has been working for USAID since at least 2004, when he delivered a video camera to a Cuban Freemason, who turned out to be a government agent. So when Gross came back to deliver various technologies to Cuba's Jewish community, the Cubans had been following him for years.  One would think that Cuban DGI just got very lucky, but that isn't true.

We've been spying on Cuba since the Revolution in 1959, and they've been setting us up since 1959.  And we know this.  In 1987 a Cuban defector reported that every blessed agent the CIA thought it had recruited was a double agent.  Some of the stories in the Cuban press at the time indicated that the Cuban government was sending out potential agents to be recruited.  In one case the head of Cuba's medical operation in Maputo, Mozambique, was first approached when he went to a meeting in Mexico. He returned to Cuba and was "prepared for recruitment."  Yeah, they dangled, we bit.  The good doctor then headed off to Mozambique and spent his off-time hanging out in bars, complaining that the Cuban medical system required that he spend more time on Marxism-Leninism than on anatomy and physiology.  Oh, puleese.  Are we really that stupid? Apparently so.

Clinton tried to re-start our spying program in 1994, but it went so badly that it was shut down a few months later.  Cuban agents videotaped alleged diplomats (and sometimes their wives) delivering radios and the like to drops at 3:00 A.M.  I'm sure there was some reasonable explanation for this, but I've yet to hear it.

Time passes.  In 1998 Ricardo Alarcon gave an interview in which he noted that dissidents could do anything they wanted except advocate for return of the exiles or take money from the US government.  No more than two months after the interview, President Bill announced that the US would begin sending resources to the dissidents.  And unless diplomats were going to carry cans of peas in their luggage, that meant we'd be sending money.  Which we did.  We sent the money through Canada to Marta Beatriz Roque, a well-known dissident, for distribution to others. Distribute she did, and her secretary kept records of the distribution.  In 2003 when the dissidents were arrested and tried for taking money from the US, the secretary, a government agent, testified for the prosecution. The case was a slam dunk.

What this did, aside from getting a bunch of ineffectual people sentenced to long prison terms (most have since been released), was to entirely discredit the dissident movement, as many of them had claimed they had not, and would never, take money from the US government.  So our government went looking around for other opportunities.  And came upon Cuban youth.

First up was the ZunZuneo operation.  Cuban youth liked it, not because it was a USAID project, but because it was very cheap.  After some twists and turns, ZunZuneo was shut down, much to the consternation of the young people who used it.  Then we moved along to our latest debacle, where we sent young people from other Latin American countries to sow dissent under the cover of of an HIV-prevention project.  Now it's all well and good to engage in HIV prevention but, from what I can gather, there's hardly a 12-year-old kid in Cuba who doesn't know about HIV prevention and hasn't seen the condom-on-a-banana demonstration.  There are lots of countries that could really use sex education assistance, but Cuba isn't one of them.

I wonder what they'll come up with next.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Iraq

Peon did not support the war in Iraq.  She was clear on that.  She attended demonstrations against it.  She had read books on Iraq during the First Iraq War and knew that Iraq was very complicated.  She did not like Saddam, who delighted in knocking off members of the Iraqi Communist Party and other leftists, as well as, so far as she could see, anyone else he didn't like.  In the run-up to the Second Iraq War, she also read up and found that it was unlikely that the Iraqis had any weapons of mass destruction.  In particular, the nuclear weapons program was dead. Why?  Because nuclear weapons require a lot of money and the Iraqis didn't have any money.  See, so easy.  Doesn't require any "inside" information--just a little bit of thinking.

And Peon was more than a little irritated when, after killing lots of people and spending lots of money, VSPs decided that the war had been A Bad Idea.  How about illegal?  How about immoral?

But now that the government we left in Iraq appears to be collapsing, the VSPs want to drop some more bombs.  More shock and awe?  More precision-guided weaponry?  They've got to be kidding.  C'mon guys (and they are almost all guys), you screwed up. You made a hash of it.  You made Saddam look good, and that took some doing.  No amount of bombing is going to fix this mess.  Instead go off to one of those fancy resorts and do a goodly amount of soul-searching.  Think about the mess you made and resolve, over lobster and fois gras, not to do it again.