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Thursday, August 30, 2007
Francoise Hardy deux

There is a cartoon up on the WFMU Blog WFMU's Beware of the Blog: Francoise Hardy A one page mini biography of the French singer Francoise Hardy: "Francoise you're too tall and too thin". This is their post so you'll have to follow the link to see it. Its been up a week, I didn't notice it earlier. I guess I havn't been checking my TFotO blog roll often enough. The cartoon is by Ivan Brunetti, who has a publisher page up with an archive of his other work h i g h w a t e r - Ivan Brunetti.

I thought it was very funny. So I showed it to Tran, who is the person who told me about Francoise. I always hope that Tran and I see humor in the same things, and that we don't come to the point where we both just throw our hands up and declare we can't understand each other at all. This will not happen. Earlier I found that Tran was aware that Francoise Hardy has written some books on astrology L'astrologie universelle : le zodiaque comme vous ne l'avez jamais vu and Les rythmes du zodiaque. In the panel where our cartoon Francoise is reading from a stack of books, at least one of them is on astrology. Some of this apparently has been translated into Vietnamese.

I also want to mention the passing of Hilly Kristal, the long time owner of the New York music club CGBG The Curator of Punk | MetaFilter. He lived to be much older than Tony Wilson Hilly Kristal, a Rock Midwife, Is Dead at 75 - New York Times. It was about a year ago that he finally had to sell CBGBs. I suppose some would have saved it and kept it as an institution of rock. That would only make it into a museum. Closing a post that started on Francoise Hardy with Hilly Kristal is fitting because Iggy Pop was a friend to Hilly and CGBGs, and Iggy Pop, for her 2000 album Clair Obscur (also a poem by Jean Cocteau), has done a duet with Francoise Hardy.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Ego Leonard 9

 Sensitized by my younger sister's kids, nephews Grant and Raine, to all things Lego I found my self unable to turn away from this story from the other week Giant Lego man found in Dutch sea | Oddly Enough | Reuters. All things Lego covers a lot of ground: Bionicles (piraka's, baraki each spikier than the last) Star Wars, urban security geographies, all equally hail from the Lego universe (legoverse). Most featuring the ubiquitous 3 inch articulated figurines. To have a six or seven foot one wash up on a beach was cause for bemusement or possible alarm.

My nephews were on vacation in Vancouver at the time. I showed them the picture when they got back. For myself the story was complete: Lego man was rescued from the tide brought up on a beach in the Netherlands where he was apparently made the mascot of a soda stand. His name was Ego Leonard 9, this was written on his back. On his front the legend "no real than you are." All this from one Youtube link. I discovered; however, you can't tell a story like that to kids. Their curiosity is of a larger nature.

I had to bother the sleeping internets to find out more. In the wake of the initial stories there was some commentary on various forums - not particularly illuminating Giant Lego man found in Dutch sea - The Something Awful Forums. I began to think this was a genuine mystery Mystery of Ego Leonard | Planetizen Radar rather than a laid plan gone awry THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Giant Lego Man Pulled From Sea. Then I came across an article in a Syracuse newspaper which had shook some information loose Monday PostScript: Giant Lego man - News Tracker on There is a Dutch Art collective Du Fois (Welkom op de website van DuFois Schilderkunst) which seems to have created these things and dispatched them to the alternative corners of europe this summer (dj dance, and solar power festivals) Ego Leonard 9 seems to have lost his way, while on the way back from the UK. There is a web site whose index page is named "No real than you are" which tells their story. From the the pictures here there seem to be at least three of them and I suspect now as many as nine - all named ego leonard. Their web page says they come to us as emissaries from the virtual world. As we have increasingly gone into their world, they have come to ours to see what beauty and experiences can be obtained here. They ask us to share our experiences with them.

From the mission statement (the ego Leonard's have a mission statement) they seek to know what it is to have an authentic and singular identity, that can be held back by being within or without a particular group. How this be overcome and mitigated while maintaining an essential self to move through the physical world and see its beauty in new ways.  I can tell you this because some of the pages on this site can be switched back and forth between dutch and english. The page of travels cannot, but there are plenty of pictures.

What ought be made of this all. I am inclined to like these ego Leonard's and their charge for this world. I will do what I can to help them. If I can figure out what that is. The physically world has always seemed to me to be overly dense at times and made of inferior gossamer at others. In passing, perhaps by way of contrast, I see at this years Burning Man some independent thinker decided that the wicker man needed to be set alight four days early Burning Man burns too soon, man charged with arson | U.S. | Reuters. Setting off a ball of confusion that may never be contained Burning Man Comes Early This Year - The Lede - Breaking News - New York Times Blog. It will be rebuilt and set alight properly at the end of the festival. Some will leave feeling the anarchy was doubted. A moment of irreligion. I'll have to talk this over with Ego Leonard.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007
Bare posturing

I see that Vladimir Putin has ordered out-of-area reconnaissance flights to resume Russia Resumes Patrols by Nuclear Bombers - New York Times. And with such planes as the venerable Tu 95 Bear Russia Says U.S. Intercepted 2 of Its Bombers Over Pacific -, but also the Tu 160 Blackjacks (a concorde sized version of the B-1) Tupolev Tu-160 - Wikipedia I remember when all the Navy had to worry about was the Tu 22(m) Backfire. Bear fly-overs bearsml.jpg I've seen twice personally (as we came on station, roughly as we sailed west of Guam and again half a year later as we sailed east back to the US). I have pictures I took with my own camera - not that spectacular the planes insisted on remaining way up in the air. I have these two here taken by the USS Ranger's escorting F-4s which give a better view of the eventF-4s_TU-95.jpg. The plane is a Tu 95 D, or Bear Delta.

Mr. Putin also seems to reviving the practice of stitching sorties in and out of Nato airspace especially during military exercises according to reports BBC NEWS | Europe | Russia restarts Cold War patrols. Not unrelatedly he was seen attending an Air show the other week where he signaled his desire to raise profile of Russian Air Industry Putin calls for Russian leadership in military aviation | Agence France-Presse, a global news agency. Both for the purpose of not falling a two generations behind western aircraft Moscow flexes its military muscle again, but few in west say it is fit for a fight | Russia | Guardian Unlimited, and for the export product cash and the ties and relations such deals engender.

The BBC aired a spot Friday dryly commenting that the recent images of Putin fishing bare chested in a stream in Siberia are of a piece with this "muscular, flexing" of the Russian President in airpower. I don't think anyone knows what Sarkozy may have been thinking.

In the department next door at work (the library), one of graduate students who is from India has a jet fighter of the day screen saver. We talked airplanes briefly. It happens his father is involved with the series of Indian air power exercises that match Euro and US fighters against Russian planes. The Sukhoi Flanker 27/30 varients Sukhoi Su-27 - Wikipedia, which tend to do well in these excercises, are in his opinion the best fighter planes in the world. Particularly the version the Indian air industry bought from Sukhoi and refits with Indian avionics, the  Su-30MKI. They contracted with the Russians to buy and refit 40 planes of the Russian export model the Su 30 MK (Modernised Kommerical) to the standards of a multirole air superiority fighter Su-30 FLANKER (mk-I). At which point Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has essentially built them up to the level of the Su 35, the current front-line Russian fighter [actually the MK and MKI were develped by competing branches of Sukhoi; Knaapo and Irkut]. They will build outright another 140 of these under license, and apparently more beyond that. Some of which they will sell as an export model themselves to such nations as Belarus. The phrase with friends like these who needs enemies comes to mind, but these are difficult times and it is better to say little and not antagonize anyone. As it stands the Su-30MK's have been selling like hot cakes around the world. Venezuela, for instance, has 10 and will take delivery of 14 more in the next few years. All of which are said to be a variant capable of anti-ship missions.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I look for serendipity where I can find it. MetaFilter has a thread up tonight pointing to a video by Jan Svenkmejer for the Stranglers Another kind of music video | MetaFilter. This is interesting enough on its own, but most discussions of Jan Svenkmayer bring up the Quay brothers at some point. The Brothers Quay - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (the name they used for their work) are also stop motion puppeteers and experimental filmakers.

I was trying to sell my niece, Nicole, on the Brothers Quay over the weekend. I hadn't thought to go looking on YouTube for their films. Somehow I just didn't figure they would be there. But everything is on YouTube now. It's hard to explain what the Brothers Quay do to someone who hasn't already seen any of their work already. Gilgamesh; a little boy-creature doll rides around in circles on a toy tricycle. It's named Gilgamesh, it refers to itself as a reduction of the Epic of Gilgamesh. I take them at their word. It is a quest of some sort. That it is a paleo-mythic quest follows without much additional duress.

I came across their work first years ago when PBS showed Street of Crocodiles, which is taken from the Polish writer Bruno Schultz's book The street of crocodiles [] mostly from the story the Tailor's Dummy (I had that book once, but lent it to someone). PBS doesn't show much of this nature anymore. Frankly PBS strikes me as really falling down on the job recently. It's unlikely that they will attempt to broadcast the Quay's most recent movie The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005) when it becomes available. This is how I got into the discussion with my niece. When I see that movie I'll come back and write about it.

The two pieces pointed to in the MetaFilters thread were the videos they did for His Name Is Alive. I recommend Are we still married?  After that you're on you own.

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Friday, August 17, 2007
hello central

Last week I saw an article which indicated that the CIA is interested in recruiting a more diversified work force Intelligence Agencies Urged to Hire Minorities - This was Jose Rodriguez, director of the National Clandestine Service at a border security conference in Texas. I imagine part of this was using a good platform to make a statement that would get some public resonance. Part of it was earnest pragmatism. The CIA simply does not have enough people of different language and cultural backgrounds. As Mr. Rodriguez said (making a quote of the Post's paraphrase) "diversity...[is] an important means of protecting against group-think."

At this point I drew a mental line through the last couple of articles I've read on the CIA and intelligence work (other than the wiretapping story more an NSA matter.) There was an article on contractor intelligence work being done in Iraq and Afghanistan, by a British company In Iraq, a Private Realm Of Intelligence-Gathering -"

 The obvious problem with this is while this company's expertise may have made them integral to the counter-insurgency effort, it is not organic and probably cannot be immediately reproduced by the US Military if the theater becomes inhospitable to civilians. Still this is operational, tactical intelligence work, and responds to procedure and technology.

More surprising is the degree to which overall community, the CIA, relies on contractors in general. Something which seems to have even surprised them Who Runs the CIA? Outsiders for Hire. - Arguing for: most of these contractors are from within the intelligence community. They came up and learned the trade (trade craft) through the institutions of U S intelligence community. This allows an expansion and flexibility to professional intelligence. Arguing against: while the founding workforce will have come from within the community and will have the culture of being a government servant dedicated to disinterested public service. Those who come after increasing will not. They will have the interested mindset of a supplier focused on the buyer with particular service in mind Analyst counters Bush on Al Qaeda - The Boston Globe.

Back in April some people from the Office of Naval Intelligence gave a talk at the University. I went after I heard of it because, well, what could be better than an evening with ONI. It was, for the duration of the event, the whitest room in College Park; filled with the usual upper middle class conservative suspects. This was in itself ironic. It had been a special micro job-fair talk. They came around looking specifically for people with engineering and/or language skills they would take on in an accelerated hiring process (GSA lite). "Does anyone here know Chinese", they asked. "Ever thought about learning Chinese? Do you like to just sit back with a good avionics techincal manual?" Still they devoted most of the talk to an overview of the ONI and what it does. Having worked with the ONI many years ago as enlisted person (intelligence rating) I had the strong feeling I was following their talk better then most in the room. It was a curious feeling of dislocation; the feeling of being an outsider mingled with familiarity. They weren't looking for people like me, though.

The end point of the reverie the article on the CIA's minority outreach put me to were the book reviews Covert Action - and Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA - Tim Weiner - Books - Review - New York Times I read for Tim Weiner's book. Which details that the CIA has gotten much wrong in its half century of existence. Notably the collapse of the Soviet system, and the attacks on 11 September 2001. This last is just part of the Middle East extremist movement which has existed for more than a generation now. Being roughly the same age as the current geopolitical order regiment for the middle east, and for all that time being just below the critical level of interest, comprehension or funding. As the reviews indicate the CIA's misjudgments were not just limited to those incidents, but have been continual through its existence. Though they make claims for it happening, its hard to tell what they may have gotten right. They don't feel they should say. Which is convenient for them.

The real question is whether the reconfiguration of the intelligence community represents a genuine move to reform US Intelligence: Are the Reforms Working? Or whether it represents policy makers essentially giving up on any program of predictive intelligence analysis, and making it into something that could at least be politically useful.

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Monday, August 13, 2007
Some Velvet Morning

I heard the song Some Velvet Morning on the radio a number of times last week. Lee Hazelwood who wrote it passed away over the weekend Lee Hazlewood: 1928-2007 | News | NME.COM. DJs were pulling out their Hazelwood records and Hazelwood cover songs. There are a lot of Hazelwood covers out there Songwriter, Singer Lee Hazlewood Passed Away. Blixa with Einsturzende Neubauten covered both Sand and Morning Dew. Now we'll never know about Phaedra. That's how that song goes: "Some velvet morning when I'm straight. I'm gonna open up your gate. And maybe tell you about Phaedra..." That was one of the songs he sang with Nancy Sinatra. His biggest success came when he wrote "Boots" for her, quaintly a mainstay of the Doc Martens era in the early 80's.

Another death last week was Tony Wilson founder of Factory Records and Manchester's Hacienda club King of 'Madchester' music scene dies | News | Guardian Unlimited Music. Think Joy Division, New Order, Vinny Reilly, Happy Mondays. They made a movie of all that a few years ago, Steve Coogan played him in that one (Craig Parkinson plays him in another). I was thinking of the Cath Carroll song "When it all comes down" (which she did with Miaow) a couple of weeks ago. She was a Hacienda regular at one one point, before moving to the States. Tony Wilson seemed to have died young at age fifty-seven, but - I'm now put in mind of that LCD Soundsystem song all my friends - its hard to tell what is old for 24 Hour Party People.

More untimely was the death of Solvieg Dommartin earlier this year. I hadn't even heard about that. She was the trapeze artist from film Wings of Desire; Himmel Uber Berlin, Der (1987). I just got around to watching that last Sunday for the first time. I recalled all my friends who saw it said how great it was. I made a mental note to see it at some point. It just took seventeen years or so. I went to imdb after watching it, and saw that she had died of a heart attack in January.

To balance the somberness of this post I'll consider someone I'm not sure I had ever heard of before, who is still very much alive: Francoise Hardy. She was a French chanteuse from the 60's Francoise Hardy - Wikipedia. Apple of Tran's secret pop side. Previously Tran has admitted only to an affection for traditional Vietnamese folk music. I did catch some of that at this years Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, which featured the cultures of the Mekong river. This French pop is something new. I refer to to Hardy as a chanteuse, which she may be, but mainly because I have ever typed the word chanteuse before in my life.

Tran pointed out two of her greatest songs Tout les garcons et les filles, and Mon amie la rose. The majority of her records are sung in French, but she also recorded songs in English    Spanish Italian and German. I've spent some time looking over her video samplings in YouTube trying to pick out songs from her iconic early work. She never stopped recording, there are records from the sixties, on to the present. I can't think of what english or american singers were similar, Dusty Springfield maybe? I was thinking of Marianne Faithfull briefly, but we would need a somewhat different Marianne Faithful than the one we have. Perhaps there is no one really like her.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Alpha Neo

A little over a month ago I finally bought something I had looked at for a while. A device from the company  AlphaSmart called the Neo. On a clerks wages such viscous material pleasures come only rarely. Of course they dropped the price 30 bucks right after I bought it. Essentially it is a small thin keyboard, a dark forest green in color. It has a built-in word processor with a five line LCD display and flash memory for 8 text files equaling some 230 pages total. AA batteries power it. A USB cable allows you to send a ascii file to a printer or into the clipboard register of a PC or Mac, for a slowish transfer. Or more quickly with a manger program that installs on your computer and can pull or push files to or from the Neo. The upscale version, the Dana Wireless, can mobilely email files. The Dana runs on the Palm Pilot OS

As Tran pointed out "Why do you need that, you have an iBook?" Yes and I like my iBook, my third in five years. I try not to lead it into danger (anymore). Another part of the answer is in the gathering. Writing deliberately on subjects that seize your attention, that you want to make sense of involves marshaling a modicum of notes and information about them. This is somewhat in counterpoint to staring at a blank page or blank screen, then writing whatever comes off the top of your head. It may not produce more interesting writing, which is why I write to Atomized in different ways. Writing to an idea you bring with you requires process.

First it needs either a photographic memory, or taking notes. Short-form notes I have got a grasp on by keeping a small notepad. This keeps me from finishing a week with a dozen glyph-covered scraps of paper scattered over a dozen different locations. Longer form notes presented a different problem. Of course you can always write more into the little notepad. I don't hesitate to do this when encountering certain types of ephemeral situations. Things akin to taking notes for a class; the professor starts talking you start writing - second nature really. There were two gaps I wanted to fill. One was my own thoughts, moments when phrases, sentences, the order and argument of something comes to me and I'm not in front of my iBook. I rarely note these down, because I believe I will remember them. I never do.

This thing is small enough that I can and do keep it around with me. Writing sketches and kicking pieces towards completion as thoughts strike me. I've used it for taking notes on books and articles, particularly where I feel I want to quote or paraphrase the material. I despise the time-stealing chore of typing up hand written notes. I've written the last eleven posts on the Neo while I been learning how to use it. I can hardly imagine not using it now. Mostly for the greater informality to writing I've had since I learned to type in sixth grade. Since the point in the last 20 years where if you were writing in longhand, if you weren't on a keyboard, you were just talking to yourself. I like word processing I like sentences and paragraphs being mutable malleable and rearrangeable, editing on the fly. For the canonical writers of our generation, whoever. If they write like this as well, future biographers and critics may miss the physical trail of mutation. Marginal notation on manuscript. It may leave them with less to say; left wrestling rattling bones without the counterpoint of rustling paper, but I doubt it.

While I mused about this I processed a book into the library. A photo essay on the process. Interrogating a wide range of authors. For each writer you get a single photograph of their workspace or some object from their workspace. The book is called How I write : the secret lives of authors [] edited by Dan Crowe and Philip Oltermann It would be unfair to try to describe or characterize it. A small sample that made me laugh: Jonathan Franzon's chair. I had a chair just like it (a GSA chair from the previous century) I threw it out recently. Actually mine was a four-legged chair; although, it had identical torn vinyl. If it had been one like Franzen's, a wheeled revolving chair, I would certainly have kept it, duct tape and all. Then there was Will Self's post-it notes. Every one their own system I suppose. This is what the book is about; writer's fetish objects. The objects environments and arrangements, that people make fetishes out of in order to write. Most of these writers had specific and self acknowledged fetishes. I doubt these writers needed the editors of this book to spend much time explaining what they were looking for. A nod of understanding and then led the way

I recognize in my 'Neo' part of what it is: a practical processing talisman. A charm of sorts that frees me from writing between walls, or to write where ever I find a wall I like.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007
Further Iraq

At the risk of redundancy I am going to essentially repeat the argument of my post from 25Jul07. Abandoning any feint towards subtlety and as well harnessing the power of lists, ain't nothing like a good list.

After I wrote that post there appeared an opinion piece by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institute, titled A War We Just Might Win - New York Times . While they took care not to observe the turning of yet another corner, and sighted no express light at the end of the tunnel. It was at the same time a familiar Washington exercise in opportune credulous optimism. Perhaps the war in the middle east will turn out all right, and to the writers of history its proponants will crow that the war was won. 'All right' will have little resemblance to the terms with which the war was sold to us  Dems want to keep GOP from votes on Iraq - Yahoo! News. And it will seem little right to what is left of Iraq Why the latest good news from Iraq doesn't matter. - By Phillip Carter - Slate Magazine. I would not want to seem like a "glass half full guy" as the President likes to term it. I am willing to see the glass as half full by any measure, but I see it is full of dead sand and not living water and you can't drink your thirst away from it.

I see in the new Iraq strategy 7 red flags.

  1. The founding concept of a limited surge made to seem painless, to seem do-able. A compartmentalized clear and hold strategy focusing only on a handful of critical Bagdad neighborhoods. Which would somehow leave the insurgents unable to regroup and continue an as effective insurgency in (or from) other locations. It presupposed the ability to hold which was to be Iraq responsibility. It presupposed a uniqueness to certain Baghdad neighborhoods. That controling them would matter. It presupposed a lack of adaptive reaction from the insurgency.
  2. The related need for the surge in US forces to essentially double as it got under way, to overcome these initial internal even deliberate faults.
  3. Comprehending that the genuine force level in Iraq is twice as large as commonly understood with over 250,000 armed individuals answering to American strategy. That this has produced only the result that can be seen today
  4. The changing nature of the military mission. Of the surges goals. From violence suppression to facilitate political progress, political reconciliation. In the near absolute abeyance of which, to population protection, even to force protection  BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraqi progress 'disappoints' US. A program of pacification indeterminate of political progress.
  5. A simplified singular enemy for public consumption. Encompassing by day and turn various actors on Iraq's complex battlefield. It's all al qaeda (but we will leave out telling you that individually these al qaedas are often Saudi's). It's all Iran or trained by Hezbollah for Iran. It's the Sunni militia's (supposedly our allies now). No, it's the Shiia militias' (essentially one with the government we are backing).
  6. Then there is 'being behind the power curve', the notion of a conflict being fought by two forces chasing each other along a logarithmic curve. Underpinning this somewhat metaphoric notion is the reality that it cost the U S ten times as much money and effort to ameliorate the effects of the disruption the insurgency inflicts on Iraqi civil society as it does the insurgency to cause it  Budget for 'Surge' Is Hill Topic -
  7. Judging the surge. Proponents of the surge have spent great rhetorical effort keeping the surge from being examined. Saying that even though the surge was proffered as a months-long operation. We needed to give it six months then a year or two years. That it only really started when troop numbers arrived at the full surge level. They worked to soften any date given for assessment and to reduce expectation. Yet they are quick to point out with triumph any new element which appears favorable. This behavior reveals a brittleness to their opinion and doubt and uncertainly as to the final outcome.

All these are bright red flags of warning

Now I would be willing to admit - on a purely theoretical basis that All in or All out are preferable options to halfway in or out Kuwait Facilities Could Handle Big Troop Pullout, General Says - Both of the former serve the purpose of transforming this into a primarily Iraqi political struggle (that would conduct itself as a political struggle) with reduced outside interference. Both would get the job done. Ulterior motives aside.

For the purposes of the administration and those pressing this line to have an Iraqi government that will acquiesce to long term US occupation is good. In its absence the goal is to prevent the accumulation of national political power in Iraq that might tell us to leave, and quit our enduring presence in their land The Cost of 'Enduring' in Iraq -

At the same time there are signs that the Administration sees or would like to see new Grand Strategy covering their middle east affairs. Where some see only that grand strategy confirming a grand imperialism in arab and persian eyes A New Mideast Military Alliance? - Early Warning. Secretary Rice's last trip to the Middle east played like the old Warren Zevon song: Lawyers guns and money. Now perhaps the Saudi's will join her push for a Palestinian settlementment Rice says Israel ready to talk peace fundamentals.

We are selling who planes, guns and bombs? The Saudi's and Gulf States. To do precisely what with? The Administration, inspired by the cold war, is testing strategies of opposition and containment. By turns they consider some or all of Sunni v. Shia (Sunni's v. Shi'ites), Moderate Islam v. Extremist Islam, National coalitions: Israel Saudi Arabia the Gulf States v. Iran. And finally Nationalism v. well what exactly... sub-nationalism, transnationalism, intr/a/nationalism. Who and what is it that fights us and why? Perhaps not these last, it makes The Struggle seem too much like police work

They should take a rubric from al qaeda and consider first: The near enemy and the far enemy.

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