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Atomized junior

Friday, December 25, 2009
Supernumerary caribou

Once again at this time of year I like to indulge in my improvisational ritual of putting up a small, very small, bitmap image constructed in Mac-Paint, the AppleWorks version of Mac-Paint at least, on some Christmas / Santa Claus related theme.

This year reflecting on how rushed everyone seems at this season I decided on a pastoral image. Something away from the bustle and also acknowledging that the Washington DC area had a white Christmas this year. In fact we had about two feet of snow fall down out the sky on the nineteenth of December which is still here five days later.

A picture named XMass_2009 In this picture you see one of Santa's back-up caribou. Placidly he munches on a bit of grass that sticks up through a field of snow here and there. In the background is a Norwegian arboreal forest. Santa, his pack of toys and his train of on-call reindeer exit stage left. On the right we see the Russian Navy in the midst of another Test : Fail!  of a RSM-56 Bulava SLBM  Bizarre Lights over Norway | MetaFilter. The missile its corkscrewing path above the artic circle atmosphere reveled by its main blue jet flume, as half burnt fuel streams at a spiraling right angle to the spinning missile through a hole eaten in the exhaust funnel. An industrial dream-quest for northern lights. Some of the forrest creatures look up and wonder whether the Zarkons have returned, opening up an interstellar jump portal to send their space fleet through. Others have seen this before, and preferred the Alley Cats anyway.

11:55:41 PM    comment [];trackback [];
Un Chartered territory

  Liu Xiaobo, 53 leading proponent of the Charter '08 manifesto went on trial in this week China Leading China dissident to be tried Wednesday: family - Yahoo! News. This scarcely a month after a trial of an activist, Huang Qi, who was advocating for families trying to get answers for why their children's schools collapsed after last years earthquake in Sichuan Provence BBC News - China activist Huang Qi sentenced to three years. And only a week after the formal arrest of another advocate for ordinary people, Zhao Lianhai, who had been advising parents whose children were sickened in the recent tainted milk scandal. All while Zhang Zuhua the other primary drafter of the Charter '08 manifesto remains under close house-arrest-like observation.  

 Liu Xiaobo was charged with undermining the authority and natural respect of the state  China opens trial of leading dissident Liu Xiaobo - Yahoo! News. "Inciting subversion of state power" in their particular formulation. These trials are for simply believing in a Chinese democracy. Embedded within this is the idea that state power is the highest good, and may exist for its own sake if it chooses. In reality there is no state, no disinterested harmony-willing entity or spirit. There are only elites and their institutions of control.  Withdrawal of power from the individual is inescapably the withdrawal of dignity from the individual. The authority of the state is dependent on the quality of the power the people can give. If the people's power is robbed of dignity, the state's power will have none either. The steady accumulation of grievance is something that can be suppressed, but not smothered.

 At the same time there is a very similar trial for an activist, Le Cong Dinh, 41 in Vietnam In Crackdown, Vietnam Charges Le Cong Dinh With Capital Crime -  Subversion again and in Vietnam this is a capital crime. And jail an a trail for an activist in Burma Nyi Nyi Aung, 41 who is an American citizen Little word from U.S. on Nyi Nyi Aung, jailed in Burma -  This raises the question of whether there is any coordination in scheduling this cascade of trials all occurring the the fortnight before Christmas, to overwhelm western media coverage and diplomatic response, at least to apparent circumstance.

 What is needed is a clear and unabashed doctrine that the harmony of a people - for whom the state is never more than vehicle or caretaker - is never advanced by trying to steer a separate direction from the principle of self determination that lies at the heart of democracy. Every one of these trials should be cause for increased adaption of the precise language of Charter 08. By western government officials preferably. At least by opinion leaders in the media and else where where too often these events are merely relayed and not remarked upon emptily and perfunctorily. An International standard of response. That would at least attempt to meet the chilling propaganda of these trials on equal terms.

 In further contra-demos news the plane full of small arms from North Korea intercepted in Thailand seems to have been headed for Iran through Sri Lanka. At least AP  Weapons-carrying cargo plane headed for Sri Lanka - and UPI New North Korean links to Iranian arms? -  think so,  the Times  Destination of Arms Seized by Thais Is a Mystery - is not as willing to commit. Rifles for Ahmadinijhad, a sign that the Iranian revolutionary state has determined their own people cannot be trusted to their opinions and the club wielding thugs of last summer need to be armed with Kalishnikovs and machine guns to properly adjust and fine tune the will of the people  BBC News - Clashes at Montazeri ceremony, Iran opposition says.

 I was taken by surprise by the brevity of Liu Xiaobo meeting with justice. It was over before I could finish writing this China dissident jailed for 11 years for subversion - Yahoo! News. A three hour trial on Wednesday, Christmas eve, and the a sentence of Eleven (11) years in jail delivered on Christmas day  Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo sentenced to 11 years on 'subversion' charges -  A Trial as short as the legitimacy behind it. With no member of the foreign diplomatic corp or the press allowed to see it  Leading Chinese Dissident Receives 11-Year Sentence - Hallmark of a closed society and an entrenched leadership. One that believes itself unassailable to the rule of law.

9:50:59 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, December 17, 2009
Health care heroes and villians

 Rep. Cao demonstrated a certain chutzpah last month reestablishing that a representative ought to actually reflect the desires of the people of a district. Having survived a vituperative recall attempt by the locked-out Jefferson faction within the first month of his election. As well as a tsunami of hate from the neu-republican tea-styled party after being the sole republican to vote for the the House version of the health care bill back in November  'No Regrets' for Cao - Prescriptions Blog - All while being hailed from some quarters as the future of the republican party  Where lies the GOP future? | MetaFilter. Which he may yet be. For all the heft the party is able to throw behind their current tactics of obstruction and obfuscation. This republican party is not a party with real leadership, or a future.

  Both when he got elected and with this vote Joseph Cao has struck people as an enigma Who Is Joseph Cao? | TPMDC. Which he isn't. He actually seems close to the appiritian that comes to mind when I invoke the talisemic phrase compassionate conservative. This comes from his background of Catholic charity work early in his career when he was a Jesuit seminarian and as a community service lawyer more recently. As a refugee from Vietnam before any of that.

 My friend Trân is also a Vietnamese immigrant. Having lived under the Stalinist-Maoist post war regime (now tuned to the Beijing consensus future world-regime) that she didn't get out from under until her family emigrated when she was 23 or so.  Trying to be a good practicing catholic in such conditions steeled her in her convictions as much I suspect as Rep. Cao's Jesuit training. She has some very definite ideas about what she finds acceptable in a political figure, a shorter Stations of the Cross. A politician she will vote for must of necessity be anti-communist, against gay marriage, against abortion. Nominally she is content to let simply being Republican answer for all these: without any further concern for whatever xenophophia, pudding-head, know-nothingisms republicans carry around, as though it was all the cross itself.  However recognizing this is politics defined negatively she is willing to entertain whatever bleeding heart liberalism, wha' hae ye, that doesn't in any way interfere with the initial set of precepts.  Rep. Cao and Huyen-Trân Nguyen would see mutual political reference points in each other I'm sre.  It would be nice If Rep. Cao could come up to the Univ. Maryland for some speaker series or other before the 2010 elections,  I'd go to that.

 Possibly as a result of being a democrat I find soft-breezed vesper joys in subtle ironies, such as the U S Navy sending a destroyer, the USS Lawson, on a port call to Da Nang with a Vietnamese-American Skipper Commander Hung Ba Le  For U.S. Navy Commander In Vietnam, A Return Home : NPR.

  In the health care debate the republican caucus is left without a lot to say.  Due to the unanimity and extremity of their opposition. Cut off from the cameras.... having made it too clear they have no news to make on this issue. They are stuck with only a negative message, and just so many poses of indignation to perform. Unable to dispel the sense pulled in along side their strident opposition that they are in no small way afraid of this health care bill Tea party protesters' last-ditch effort to derail health care reform. - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine. Afraid that it may be welcome, timely, successful, and well received. Their rhetoric additionally must be crafted to shroud the fact that they have no plan of their own. Not currently, not in any point of the last 16 years when they controlled either congress, the presidency or both.  They are left denying there is a problem. Sanctioning with campaign fund rewards, the absolute sense of entitlement possessed by the private insurance industry to own it all. 

 The democratic caucus (those on board keeping their heads down) is reduced to a public face of fatuous showboats and prima donnas, Nelson and Lieberman come to mind.  All jockeying for the prime position of centrally positioned and oh-so-televised deal maker or deal breaker to history.  I understand the attraction of distraction; sports and movies, television. Following congress and politics is like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

11:48:12 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, December 10, 2009
No Bull

 The Iraqi government fired the security chief of Baghdad after a day of multiple bombings left more than 150 dead  BBC News - Baghdad security chief fired after bombings. That was probably an overdue firing. Leaving aside the grim prospect of a wave of destabilizing violence sweeping across Iraq, sweeping aside the fragile order and normalicy which was to be the legacy of our six year involvement  Election Date Set in Iraq as Bombs Kill Scores - These bombings may be the inevitable result of one aspect of Iraqi forces replacing American policing. A pervasive unscientific sentiment in operations.

 One particular bizarre part of this of this is the widespread reliance by Iraqi security forces on a certain bomb detection device. The use of this device was covered in a number of articles about a month ago Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. Sees as Useless - They are small handheld boxes, that purport to be electronic, about the size of a hand gun made of black plastic. With a telescoping metal wand sticking out of one end very much like a transistor radio antenna. They don't take batteries (they are "charged" by their operator walking slowly in a straight line with them) to have batteries might invite too much speculation about what the electricity might be doing inside them, along what circuitous paths. The claims made for them are astounding. They can find bombs - any type of munitions in fact - in things, under things, and from a hundred paces. They can only perform these feats; however, in the hands of a properly experienced controller. What they really are is clear enough: they are witching wands, divining rods, forked sticks updated.

 They are also 16,500 to 60,000 dollars a piece. The Iraqi security forces have bought hundreds of them. It's hard to see that that wouldn't involve U S money at some level. When I first read about these devices I considered the possibility that the people in charge of buying and deploying these devices know they are well within the category of magical thinking, but that they wanted to deploy an earnest fiction. Faced with an impossible security task, trying to maintain traffic checkpoints in many dozens of locations throughout a city of five or six million people, they went with a plan that gave the appearance of control and efficiency, and allowed traffic to move. A managed irrationality. To the extent they were fooling themselves a pseudo-rationality. I reflected at the time this was a gambit which would to work well for a time, then fail horrifically if not catastrophically.

 The person who was fired was the Baghdad security chief Lt Gen. Abboud Qanbar. The article on his firing made no reference to these devices. A man who ought to be fired as well, is  the general from the NY Times article: Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri a higher ranking officer identified as the head of the Ministry of the Interior[base ']s General Directorate for Combating Explosives. He came across sounding more pompous and condescending than a man in his position needs to be. His pull quote from the article: "I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world" offers a taste. Even if a placebo effect was what was sought, why would you pay such exorbitant sums for an empty plastic box?  The possible idea that they would have to cost enough to justify a belief in what they could do doesn't cut it. Everybody knows there is nothing a good twig of hickory doesn't know. It would work just as well and a thousand colonial New England wells stand dug in testimony. A towering malfeasance of some kind lies at the bottom of this. Another man who should be dealt with; the man whose address in London ought to be handed out to every relative of every man women and child killed in these latest bomb blasts is Jim McCormick a head of the soulless British (based) company ATSC (UK) Ltd. that sells these swindle sticks.

 The U S military people the NY Times spoke to were uniform in denouncing the abominable absurdity of this device. I'm sure at some point they got a hold of one and took it apart. So the question is why is this company still in business? Perhaps questioning the defense/security industry is simply outside the parameters of the game. The IED is still the unmet threat of these small wars  Gates to lead 6-month push against roadside bombs - Yahoo! News. The roadside bomb, market-bomb and car or truck bomb still defeats our attempts to ameliorate its effect. Its low tech nature belaying the effectiveness that high tech and omnipresent consumer electronics used as triggering mechanism give industrial chemicals and mass manufactured military explosives. The disruptive nature of these weapons places pressure on the political advancements in Iraq, and in Afghanistan they work toward making the Long War ever longer. With the eye on making it too long. 

 The whole story of the ADE 651 device, which is not the way forward here, is emblematic of the incongruous mix of cultures and strained alignment of Iraqi sensibilities to western technological bureaucracy.

11:45:30 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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Last update: 12/31/09; 9:06:37 PM.