10/04/2016 § Leave a comment
If you haven’t please read Pt. I first
In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and had then President Amin “removed” in favor of Babrak Karmal, who had become a Marxist as a student, and using him the Soviets tried to make Afghanistan a soviet-style republic, but the Afghani people rejected their “reforms” which blossomed into full scale civil war. The old Pashtun tradition of the warrior defending his homeland against invaders reconstituted once again in the form of the Mujahideen.
Queue Charlie Wilson, famous Texas politician, and his friend from the long horn state and benefactor Joanne Herring. Using both money and their political contacts all over the world, not just in the US (Herring happened to be a friend of General turned President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq) the Texas power brokers exerted pressure on those who could tip the tide in Afghanistan. Using overt and covert means and their own Vietnamesque problems battling the Mujahideen the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989. It was about this time that the then prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, warned G. W. Bush that he was “…creating a Frankenstein (sic)” through the US funding of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. One of Hekmatyar’s deputies was the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.
Remember those dams American firms like Morrison Knudsen built in the early 50’s? They did indeed turn Helmand province into a fertile place. The slightly salty water turned the soil more base in Ph, which is perfect for the growing of papaver somniferum, the opium poppy. This cash crop was a ready supply of money for the many warlords in a post-Soviet Afghanistan trying to plug up the power vacuum.
Osama bin Laden “was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a son of Yemeni Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, a billionaire construction magnate with close ties to the Saudi royal family,” and Alia Ghanem, a Syrian. This not only ties bin Laden to the Saudi royal family, but to the upper crust elements of Syrian society. He is a Bedouin Arab, through and through, and a Sunni, to boot.
The rest is recent memory for the rest of us. The main points I want everyone to take away from this is:
- This is a war against the West by fundamentalist elements of Wahhabism
- That fundamentalism has its beginnings in the Sunni Islam fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia
- Believing the higher, if not highest levels of Saudi government and society were not involved in 9/11 then the West is to be in denial
- The West has no one to blame but itself for this festering blight on Islam
- But now we are here and must deal with it
Pretending that political correctness is some how appropriate or even by any measure useful in this war is foolish and blind. The West’s enemies aren’t interested in political correctness. How foolish it is as well to continue to entreat with your enemy as the US does with Saudi Arabia.
10/03/2016 § Leave a comment
Wahhabism, Afghanistan, Opium, and Texas, and How These Things Have Shaped the 21st Century
I think its the same God as I worship, just in another way.
Joanne Herring, in an interview.1
This month: a history lesson. Before your eyes glaze over with boredom I would just urge you to get through this as much as possible because this is the most important history lesson anyone in the west could possibly learn, and has implications for the future as well as ignored warning from the past. And check my facts, I don’t expect anyone to blindly accept what I have to say without verification. But its all there, in the history and on the wall. All you have to do is read the signs.
Well after the British Empire poisoned and rotted China from within using opium in its madness to acquire Chinese Tea at cheap prices, it turned its hungry Victorian gaze to Africa and the Middle East. Both Germany and the Batavian Republic (the Netherlands in the early 19th century) had started their greedy crawl through these areas, the clash of both Britain and the Netherlands led to the Boer War, but the English went further, to the Saudi penninsula, and encountered the Bedouin people, and their religion, Wahhabism. Before the 20th century they were inconsequential to the British, just another indigenous people that plagued and were ruled by the Empire in its constant march toward more and more resources, power, money. But the Bedouin’s religion was and continues to be a powerful weapon, more powerful than an arsenal of nuclear bombs, as we’ll see.
As the 20th century opened up several things happened that have shaped and guided the world, I probably don’t have to go into too much detail. WWI has probably been the greatest engine of change the world has ever seen, more so than WWII in some respects. It redrew the map of Europe in profound and immediate ways, it completely decimated political alliances, rendered ancient ruling European families irrelevant, and rendered the way wars and diplomacy were used and manipulated in forever after. It was the reception party of the 20th century, the bloodiest century for human kind yet. Geopolitical rivalries came to the surface and broke open like puss-filled wounds; the Battle of Sedan is a glaring example. It could be argued that this closing battle of the Franco-Prussian war sowed the seeds of WWI and WWII; leaving Franco-Germanic relations in a jumble. The way the French acted during the Treaty of Versailles conference seemed very much like payback for Sedan, which was still fresh in the mind of both belligerents, and therein may have lain some of Hitler’s motivation, a viper in Germany’s womb.
Elsewhere during the insanity of the first world war the British with maddening self-righteousness defended itself from the indignation of the Ottoman Empire, that decaying bastion of medieval autocracy. And there to aid the British in their struggle with this empire were the Bedouins. With the help of the British army officer/poet T. E. Lawrence the Bedouin tribes of the Arab Peninsula united just long enough to cast the Ottomans out during the Arab Revolt.
One other poisoned pill the war produced of course is the Arab–Israeli conflict in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In this letter from Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild the British Empire declared its support for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. I don’t begrudge the Jewish State but there’s little other way to color this declaration other than one of the most disastrous plans ever implemented in the 20th century.
Once again the west would call upon the Bedouins for help in the form of secure access to petroleum which was flowing like water from the gulf states. It was during WWI and its conversion from agrarianism to complete mechanization that the West decided that petroleum was indispensable to that conversion and the economies it created. Therefore aboard the USS Quincy an ailing president Roosevelt worked out a deal with Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud. This meeting would have great, and grave, consequences for the West and perhaps the entire world, for in it FDR created a deal that would nourish and give legitimacy to the most hostile and anti-western idea the earth has ever known.
This meeting is described in some detail in Adam Curtis‘ documentary Bitter Lake. According to Curtis the main tenet of this meeting between FDR and King Saud was an agreement that the West would continue to receive oil at cheap prices in exchange for arms, training, and the promise that the west would not touch the prevailing religion of the area; Wahhabism. Many have misquoted the film painting the meeting as King Saud asking FDR for permission to spread Wahhabism throughout the world in exchange for oil. What Curtis’ point here actually is that Saud asked that the West not interfere with Wahhabism. Never the less this doesn’t appear to be what the meeting was about at all; rather the meeting appears to have been more about Palestine and the Jewish Homeland question2. But apples and oranges, Curtis’ main point is still sound; that Wahhabism is a force to be reckoned with, and the reckoning is coming.
Because I doubt Saud asked FDR for permission to spread Wahhabism throughout the world however doesn’t mean the Saudis didn’t try to do this very thing. Whatever the reasons the result is a massive shift of capital from the West to Saudi Arabia.
Afghanistan has been the keystone and gateway of the Silk Road to Europe for millennia. The constant wars for control of this key piece of real estate and its rather rough terrain have made its Pashtun (among other) people some of the toughest warriors in the world. Combined with the uncompromising tenets of Sunni Islam brought by the Arabs in the 640’s and eastern traditions of multi-generational goal building made the people of this Silk Road way post hard as nails.
In early 1950’s Afghanistan was a poor and undeveloped country but was sitting on a nice sum of cash by clothing a war devastated Europe. With this cash Afghanistan’s last king tried to bring his landlocked, backwards little country into the 20th century. American companies like Morrison Knudsen descended on Afghanistan with money, expertise, and dams. Dams to make the Kabul valley into a sort-of bread basket for the middle east. The idea was to turn Afghanistan into a bastion of democracy in the middle east. This may have been what America wanted, but its certain that America didn’t ask the Afghan people what they wanted. The Kabul Valley did indeed however become very fertile.
10/23/2013 § 2 Comments
The principals behind banks are something everyone can understand. They hold your money for you, and pay for the privilege, current interest rates not withstanding. The banks that service checking accounts for most people are retail banks, and they are strictly regulated and heavily insured, an important by-product of the disaster of the Great Depression. But how many really understand the Credit Default Swap scandal of the last 7 or so years?
Other less regulated banks are investment banks, these banks are a bit freer to take bigger risks with the potential for more profit. When retail banks start doing things like take those same risks things like the Great Depression happen, which is why the Glass–Steagall act was born. This legislation strictly separates the activities of investment banking from retail banking; when an investment bank sinks it hurts investors that had the money to blow anyway. When a retail bank goes down, it takes people like you and me with it.
Interestingly, starting from the ’60’s on legislators started chipping away at Glass-Steagall, culminating in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act of 1999, also known as the “Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999”, intended to address the cloudy “realities of modern finance”, and the most sweeping blow to the protection of Glass-Steagall to that time. Banks starting dabbing their collective kerchiefs into the risks and rewards of investment banking with plain account holders money. All three congressmen who introduced the bill were republicans by the way.
Because of the rendering of the Glass-Steagall act into a gutless cube of butter something interesting in the real estate market started happening; because banks were able to dabble in investment banking they were able to create “investment packages” that they could sell off to other institutions, and some of those packages started including real estate loans. There is no downside to this for the banks at all as the loans go completely out of their hands. Buyers of these “investment” vehicles don’t have a real issue with them; if the bundle contains a few bad loans, so what? Besides, these “bundles”, or Mortgage-Backed Securities could be re-sold, usually for a huge profit, and re-sold, and so on. As the immediate downside for the banks was none and the profits were many, there was little problem (as far as they saw it) to shoveling mortgages out the door by the truckloads masked in these so-called “Securities.” But to make mortgage-backed securities, you need real estate loans. Queue the Subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-08. “Give the people loans”, said representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, so the banks complied by giving anyone a real estate loan, and covering their asses by selling off the loans in these securities.
Its difficult to believe the officers, CEOs, CFOs, and other higher-ranking officials of the institutions didn’t know exactly what was going on. But the pure profits were too difficult to ignore, obviously. By the way, not one of these men and women have been indicted or made to feel any effects for causing the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression. Not one that I’m aware of by the way.
But the biggest insult came when Obama decided the thing to do was send truckloads of money to the very banks that initiated the crisis. Billions in bailout tax money, your money, was handed over to the banks that were most exposed to the credit default swap scandal, as its come to be known, with the understanding that these banks would start making loans again. But they didn’t, they sat on the money. Its your scandal, you paid for it, you enjoy it.
03/10/2013 § Leave a comment
Not long after the first presidential debate in October 2012, the (now) re-elected President Obama remarked to the press that he was somewhat taken by surprise by the adversarial tone pretender-to-the-throne Mitt Romney had taken with him. It seems that the President had been surrounded by Yes Men (and Women) for so long when some one finally was in a position to tell him “no” he was taken aback. I get that, easy to understand, and the President was of course intelligent enough to recognize this personal failing and snap back. By the next debate he was in top form.
What is the internet but a huge public platform that anyone can have access to? South Korean pop star “Psy” shows us that any no-talent, America-hating hack can suddenly have a flash of pop brilliance and become a sensation. I wonder what Psy thinks of America now?
Tina Fey is a talented comedic writer and actress, no doubt about it. Unfortunately she appears to suffer from the same myopic sickness that the MPAA and the 5 major record labels seem to suffer from; that is, the-cost-of-media-production-is-too-lowitess!!
The cost of mass media prodution in all sectors (film, audio, paper, all transmission, all forms) has dropped like a rock. As well the real price of fame has plummeted. Since the turn of the 20th century the cost of mass media production has fallen making fame well within the means of even the most modest of fame seekers. Before 1900, for centuries, entertainers were not the upper strata of society. In fact, actors, minstrels, dancers, anyone employed in the arts were considered the lowest of the low, pretty much on par with theives & beggars. It really wasn’t until the 18th century when opera was considered (and still is of course) among the highest of performing arts, and playbills advertised the skills of the top divas of the day. As the price of printing (media production) fell the fame of the actor rose, pretty much in direct proportion to the cost. Finally by 1900, with the advent of celluloid and the rise of the fan (or gossip) magazine, we see the emergence of American Royalty, the Movie Star. But media production continued to drop like a rock. Finally, in the 21st century, anyone can create nearly any kind of media unit and get it distributed to everyone for the price of a 6-pack.
It seems Tina Fey doesn’t like that. I noticed her comments on Twitter last month and promptly ignored them, but her arrogance kept nagging at me. Finally, I saw her speak on some peice of news fluff last week and my mind wandered back to that Twitter comment, and I decided I just had to poke the clown with a stick, even as tiny a one as I can manage. Don’t cost nothin’…
What Tina Fey does is certainly worth money to people who are in the business of media production. Some people call it “art”, and some of it certainly is, but unlike a cure for cancer, which either works or it doesn’t, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, making performing art much more subjective. If I have terminal cancer, I will die without a cure. If I lack the funny bone that makes Tina Fey the most amusing and interesting media personality in the world, I will live on to not laugh another day. NOT ONLY THAT but it severly diminishes her worth to me and people like me who don’t find her very amusing.
She is talented, no doubt. But she, along with Gwyneth Paltrow, has that attitude Obama recognized in himself as a flaw, that elitist “something”, only Fey has no idea that its not a good thing. Rather than celebrating those who acheive something good in the mass media industry and the abilbity to access it that low cost has given them, she’d rather throw the baby out with the bath water and see people jump over some kind of bar to get that access. It was a flip comment, to be sure, but its just plainly obvious where Fey’s beliefs are. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, even me. I suppose its to the credit of the American Media that when the market takes a tumble becuase another bank was found to have laundered 1.5 billion dollars of drug and terrorist money with the help of the Treasury Depertment they don’t immediately turn to Tina Fey to comment.
Tina, your a valued contributor of the arts and a terrific pop icon. But when it comes to the technological aspects of new media, in the words of Eddie Murphy, go have a coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.
I love that Paltrow doesn’t even seem to be phazed or hurt by the concept that saying bad things about your customers should be frowned upon. I guess even elitist assholes are right twice a day.
05/14/2012 § Leave a comment
This is a picture of the reactor equipment Kodak had in a basement that’s been making all the news. Its really little more than an appliance for generating imaging rays. Its not a big deal. Given the hype I can understand Kodak’s reluctance to advertise the fact. But seriously, this is like yelling shark in a crowded pool and finding out the shark is really a guppy.
04/26/2012 § Leave a comment
If you read my earlier post on topics like these then you’ll know where I’m coming from. This is an AP peice from yesterday on a TSA checkpoint in Wichita wherein a little girl had passed through a checkpoint and was waiting for her grandmother. After going through she ran up to her grandmother who was still waiting to be processed and hugged her. We’re talking about a 4 year old child. The TSA, of course, flipped out.
To quote a recent film; “There’s something very wrong with this country, isn’t there?”
Found this story on slashdot. Known for its “eclectic” geek user base, by and large, these aren’t stupid people. Read some of the comments.
And by the way, this is who is in charge of keeping us safe for democracy.
04/23/2012 § Leave a comment
This link to a piece by George Carlin sums up the state of the union for the last 20 years. Its a dark and stormy outlook for this country, but its increasingly apparent, even to idiots like me. I didn’t want to see it, but its increasingly harder to ignore. I’m content to do the 9 to 5 thing, not upset the apple cart, tow the line, work for the man. But should I?
It was the duty of every American, as one time, to throw the bums out of office, to vote, and replace with revolutionary fervor the ruling party with some one new, some one I felt confident was looking out for my best interests, and the interests of my fellow citizens. Read what Thomas Jefferson had to say about this some time, its very enlightening. But currently, voting doesn’t seem to be quite the effective tool it once was. We keep electing the same guys, really.
Obama came in with a mandate for change, yet the policies GW and Clinton put in place with regard to bills eroding civil liberties have been extended and even toughened. The Department of Homeland Security, and that name is a joke, everyone knows its the American version of the Gestapo, or the GRU, has been given dramatic new powers to ignore your constitution in the name of “security”. I never heard a truer statement until a friend recently remarked that every sovereign’s reaction to threats, real or perceived, throughout history, has been to prey upon its own people, no exception. I can’t really refute that comment.
I’ve always been a big believer in our system of capital and its ability to raise people up. More millionaires are created in America than anywhere else in the world, period. That’s great. But its becoming more and more apparent to me that the game is rigged.
America puts more people in jail than any other civilized country, in the WORLD! Largely due to drug offenders. mere possession puts thousands of people in jail. Once in jail, assuming the offense is a felony, that felon has as record. Once some one has a record, they are virtually unemployable. Once unemployable, well, there’s food stamps. That’s one less person able to contribute to our incredibly complex tax system. And there’s incentive for jurisdictions to jail people, county sheriffs collect state tax money for every person behind bars. There’s a whole system in place to house and feed these people. Inmates, assuming they have money or has someone who can put money in their county “books” can buy junk food, for which that jurisdiction collects even more cash. Once out, or even while they are in jail, there is an entire system of social programs, with people waiting to “help” them, and everyone one of those people count on these inmates and ex-offenders for their jobs. Its a huge cash machine, and once the machine is in motion whoa to those who stand in its way. This system, for all the good everyone on the outside believes it is doing to keep them safe, really just feeds on people. Violent offenders, those who are obviously not fit to live in the confines of decent and “normal”, modern, non-violent life, the Charlie Mansons of the world, well, the problem here is obvious, and difficult to solve. But the bulk of people in jail are hardly of that cloth. We’ve all apparently accepted that anyone that’s every been to jail is useless to us and only worthy of being on the dole. Can we afford to stay with this philosophy?
Another way the game is rigged is a strange law that I became aware of as a contractor. Tax law is incredibly complex, if you don’t employ the help of an accountant who knows about it your at a great disadvantage. To qualify for certain deductions you, as an independent business and a corporation, must have multiple income streams and the corporation must be comprised of two or more living people. I’m certainly simplifying the thing, but many of you know what I’m talking about. At first blush its obvious that this was imposed as some kind of way to control tax fraud, and people willing to commit it are plenty. I know, a friend of mine is an IRS agent. She tells me about her cases all the time. But its another hurdle to us who would like to be self employed, and again, I can’t stress how very complex the system is. What exactly are the problems with a tithe; everyone contributes a percentage of their income? There’s tons of opposition to that, of course, the loudest voices would be from the accountants, I’m sure.
The last troubling bit of evidence for the rigging I want to mention is the obvious creepage of systems to help those in power maintain control. Video cameras are everywhere. I know the arguments, it cuts down on violent crime. I don’t have an argument against that. But is that the world we really want to live in? I read posts by people all over the world, we all do, at least those of us who work or do things online, and I have opportunity to speak to IT professionals from Britain quite a bit. Britain’s CCTV system has been in the news a lot, it appears to be a concerted effort of the British Government to install closed-circuit cameras everywhere and the effect has been a supposedly dramatic reduction in crime. But there are detractors. Spoilsports, or legitimate concern? The British that I speak with online about this are a mixed bag, of course. A surprising number of them don’t seem to have a problem with it. But some do. Many did regard the earlier link to the story about a CCTV being installed in every home as simply too intrusive. It is. In my opinion however its a natural progression. Once CCTVs are an accepted part of the landscape the natural next step is to install them in every home. Once that’s accomplished, well, I don’t know what the next step is but its probably not too far to observing the kinds of foods people eat and charging them accordingly as the strain on the British state health care system will simply not tolerate another heart attack. Please put that cake down, Mrs. Parsons, and report to the nearest health clinic for some state mandated health and nutrition re-education.
Sounds preposterous, right?
Here’s a link to a story that just showed up on Susan Sarandon.
Had to update this entry with this story.
Good peice by Tavis Smiley on the part of the American Dream that I didn’t cover.