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Member since: Tue Jul 10, 2012, 05:40 AM
Number of posts: 628

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I write a blog of dark humor - Goblinbooks.com

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Don't Worry. The Strikes Won't Really Do Anything.

That's what the president is promising us - missile strikes that won't really do anything. They're going to punish the Bad Guy for doing the Bad Thing, of course. And so he won't do the Bad Thing anymore. That's the idea.

But they won't Tip The Balance. Don't worry about that.

The Bad Guy is Bad. He's Crazy and Evil, and Evil Must Be Punished. We need to Show That We're Strong. So that Other Actors Will Be Deterred. But we can't Tip The Balance, because then there will be a Regime Change and Chaos, and we'll have to put Boots On The Ground. And no one wants Boots On The Ground. No one is contemplating that, the Old Guy Who Lost That Other Election tells us. Of course he admitted we need to Keep Our Options Open, just in case there is a Nightmare Scenario. So we're going with a Targeted Strike.

And Sanctions And Diplomacy Won't Work, everyone adds, because of how Bad the Bad Guy is.

But if the Bad Guy is really that Bad, the Targeted Strikes are not really going to punish him, are they? All he cares about is Staying In Power. And that's all we care about too. We've promised everyone.

In fact, couldn't you make the case that if we really focused our efforts on using economic and diplomatic leverage, that we could be reasonably sure they'd work at least as well as the Targeted Strikes that won't Tip The Balance?

As long as we're in the business of not punishing Bashar al-Assad, couldn't we not punish him with something other than Tomahawk missiles? Couldn't we join the International Criminal Court and attempt to hold regime leaders accountable? Couldn't we try to build worldwide support for freezing his assets? Make it more difficult for his patrons in Moscow and Tehran to support him? Maybe donate more money to help the refugees and contain the violence?

Could we at least try to make more of an impact than we would with the attacks our administration assures us will fail to make any real impact at all, unless Something Terrible Happens?

Because useless or not, those strikes are going to affect someone in Syria. Not anyone we care about, to be sure. But people, real people who didn't ask for this, might die because of what we do.

I know, I know: We Can't Afford To Look Weak.

Looking stupid, on the other hand, is always an option.

CIA Vet Bob Baer Talks About Syria (And How We're Probably Doomed)

(NOTE: I posted this yesterday on my blog. Link below.)

Robert Baer spent decades working in the Middle East as a CIA case officer. He's a regular contributor on intelligence for Time.com and co-author of a book with his wife about their life in the Agency called The Company We Keep. Baer is also one of the foremost experts on the region. Today, just before President Obama announced he would seek congressional authorization for a strike on Syria, we spoke about the situation there. Here's what he thinks:

This is not a replay of Iraq. "I think it's a night and day difference between this and Iraq," he says. "Number one: Look at the actors. You have Cheney, who believes it's okay to lie for a higher cause. Then you have Obama, who doesn't believe in anything. And he just acts when he has to." Baer believes people in the administration don't want a war; They "know it's unsustainable."

He doesn't think anyone on the Obama team is on a "messianic mission to go in and get the bad guy." They're being driven to action by events.

The Syrian regime definitely launched a chemical attack, but there's a possibility it was out of Asaad's control in some way. The sheer amount of area hit in the August 21st attack puts it beyond the reach of a rebel group, Baer says. However there's a real question of who ordered it, and some details might indicate that Asaad is losing control of the military. Page 4 of the US intelligence report about the attack mentions an "intercepted communication" of a "senior official intimately familiar with the offensive" who was concerned that UN inspectors would obtain evidence of the attack. Foreign Policy magazine may have been reporting on the same communication and gave additional details that seemed to indicate a lack of coordination within the regime:

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.

"The question is, 'Is the military disintegrating?'" Baer asks. Basher al-Asaad is an ophthalmologist by training, not a military man like his father. According to Baer, the Syrians may have diminished confidence in him, and his generals might be "somewhat out of control." Baer's been speaking to his Syrian contacts about this, and he thinks it's a distinct possibility.

"Would you follow your ophthalmologist into war?"


Obama's Getting A Coalition Of The Willing

So major allies and the UN are balking at a Syrian attack, but we're going to assemble a coalition of willing nations for a strike on a Middle Eastern country over intelligence involving WMDs, but the intel experts are beginning to say we might not be able to prove the case. We might launch the attack and find out we were wrong later, when it's too late. After we've helped cause death and chaos that jihadist groups will exploit, and maybe set off a regional war involving the different ethnic and religious groups at odds in this country.

It is, after all, a limited strike. I guess there's that. When it doesn't work, maybe we'll use economic sanctions, and a no-fly zone, right? Terrorist groups involved might try to target us domestically because of this policy, sure.

But how bad could it really get?

Does anyone know - DOES ANYONE REMEMBER AT ALL - how bad it could get?

"Crucifixion: Key To Counterinsurgency" By Pontius Pilate

(From a report to Tiberius Caesar and the Roman Senate from the Prefect of Judea)

Rome, as we know, is not an empire. Not in the traditional sense.

Our network of military bases and administrative provinces in the eastern region exists with the aim of bringing peace and economic development, as well as protecting civilians from invasion by the Parthians, and securing trade routes from Egypt. Rome is the indispensable nation, and our influence is needed to pacify a troubled area.

In this combat ecosystem we compete for dominance with a variety of state and non-state actors. Ethnic and religious militias, insurgent groups, local authorities, and foreign combatants are each trying to maximize their survivability and marginalize their rivals.

Simply put: This is a war like no other.

To stabilize Judea, Roman authorities will not be able to rely on the same force-against-force tactics we used to destroy Hannibal. Kinetic operations are necessary, but they are only part of our strategy -- which is after all, a counterinsurgency strategy. Its three pillars are security, political stability, and economic growth. And we must build these three pillars in parallel, not in succession. Which brings us to crucifixion.

Crucifixion sends a powerful message to allies and enemies alike that Rome dominates the security environment. At the same time it supports local political institutions like the Sanhedrin. This shows our resolve to eliminate the enemies to peace in coordination with the Judean people. It proves that we are nation-builders and liberators, not conquerors. But that we will use lethal force if necessary. Crucifixion, if implemented properly, is the perfect combination of hard power and soft power.

But how does one execute a successful crucifixion policy? There are clear rules: First, it must conform to local cultural traditions. In Judea, we've had to modify our court schedule to comply with the religious holidays and mores of the people. Second, the Roman military must prove it can police the courts and execution site effectively. The perception of security is everything here. We've decided to create a kind of parade route from the trial to the place of crucifixion as a way of demonstrating that we can clear and hold an important area at our discretion. It is sometimes cruel to the condemned, but it's a necessary price to pay.


Sam Harris Confronts Little Bunny Foo Foo

Yes, it's all an illusion, this idea that you can choose to pick up those field mice or not. You, the hapless rodents, and the good fairy are locked in a web of causality that stretches beyond your control or understanding. Your conscious mind is a tiny ship on a massive and treacherous neuronal sea, the impulses to inflict violence emerging from mysterious depths you can not imagine with a force beyond denying, even though on some level you know it will bring your doom...

But choice still matters. Your actions free or constrain the lives of countless creatures in the field in ways we can't even realize. Just as my words to you, the warnings you've already received... these bits of stimuli are right now affecting what you will do next. And strangely, they become part of what you are. As you alter your own life and the relationships you have with small, terrified fleeing mammals, or an angry and disappointed supernatural creature who for some baffling reason is enforcing a bizarre moral code here in the wilderness, you are discovering yourself through time. Who is Little Bunny Foo Foo? Whoever he is, he has two more chances.

It's false comfort to think that you decide what your circumstances and the dark parts of your own brain are telling you. You're no more than a puppet deciding that he wants to move with his strings. But your mind, your actions, and finally your fate are you nonetheless, and no one else.

You are a goon, Little Bunny. Live like one.

My Blog is full of this kind of nonsense: www.goblinbooks.com.

Dick Cheney: American Songwriter

How can u just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?
Maybe I'm just 2 demanding.
Maybe I'm just like my father, 2 bold.
Maybe you're just like my mother.
She's never satisfied.
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry.

Very few people realize these words were written about the Ford administration.

Their author, a 39 year-old Congressman from Wyoming, scribbled them down on a napkin in a DC-area bar as he reminisced about his time serving as White House Chief of Staff during the political turmoil of the Nixon pardon and the race against Jimmy Carter. A young musician from Minneapolis, MN would reach out to this statesman in the years that followed. Richard B. Cheney would find his talent nurtured in the company of people like Sheila E., Morris Day, and Carmen Electra. And his words would touch a generation. Most people know Cheney as the Secretary of Defense, and for his later work in subsequent presidential administrations. They don't appreciate him as a musical force, a hitmaker, an artist of depth and power.

"That guy just blows me out of the water," says London-area composer Elvis Costello. "He's written for everyone. I mean, everyone. He's done country. He has worked with classical acts. I'm pretty good. But Cheney's balls are just bigger than mine. There's nothing he wouldn't do."

Indeed, in a career as rich and varied as Cheney's he's found plenty of opportunity to showcase his nerve and audacity. Some of his songs have become controversial, even infamous. And he's attracted the attention of those in power.

"Tipper tried to shut him down for years," says Al Gore in an exclusive interview at his Antarctic biodome. "She just knew he was the guy behind some of the filthiest stuff out there. Shit, 2 Live Crew never wrote a single one of their songs. That was all stuff Dick was writing under an assumed name back during the first Bush administration."

"They say 'Sugar Walls' was really about Lynne," Gore adds, "but that's just a rumor. And quite frankly, I'd rather not think about it."

"Don't get me wrong," music fan and political staffer Paul Wolfowitz says. "He did soulful, romantic songs as well. I actually think he had too much talent to be going dirty like that. It was a gimmick from his earlier career. The real Dick Cheney waits out the grunge movement and reappears in the mid-1990's. He works at Halliburton and collaborates with Radiohead on Pablo Honey. That was what he really wanted to do. That and screwing Saddam out of the Kuwaiti oil we promised him."

Much of his catalog, is of course, a closely-guarded secret. Many artists who have worked with him are coy about his involvement.

"I'm not going to shit you and say Cheney had nothing to do with it," says Thom Yorke, about the creative process that went into Honey. "But it's easy to just say he was everywhere during that time, you know? He's like a fuckin' bogeyman. Everyone sees him in everywhere. But no one can do that much."

"I disagree. I completely disagree," Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork says flatly when told of Thom Yorke's assessment. "If you look at the songs we know Dick Cheney produced during that time they consistently garnered commercial and critical success. We've given him at least seven ratings of 9.5 or more. Cheney's the real thing. Yorke's probably pissed off people are realizing he did some of the band's best work."

"You know what 'Stop Whispering' was called before Cheney got to it?" he adds. "It was called 'Feelin' Dandy.'"

"Dude is an artistic chameleon," adds Rick Rubin, a longtime Cheney supporter, who also produces music. "That's why people doubt how wide his influence is. You don't think the same guy who writes Benatar's 'We Belong' and dedicates it to Ronald Reagan can turn around, gather a group of Jennifer Love Hewitt's session musicians and transform them into The National."

"He does something behind the scenes, it changes the whole world, and you don't realize it was him until years later. Pure Cheney."

He's just as famous -- or perhaps notorious -- for the small private concerts he's given over the years, showcasing his own work.

"His riders were crazy," remembers one club owner. "Thumbprint scanners, guards from Xe everywhere, and no one could be in the building without a background check. Only Mariah Carey was that paranoid about human rights groups."

But this, like many other aspects of the reclusive artists life, is unconfirmed. Cheney himself declined an interview request with a terse statement through his lawyer. We'll let the man have the last words:

"My work speaks for itself."

NOTE: Read "I'll Either Shoot Myself In The Face Or Take Some Computer Classes"

We're Not Destroying Your Privacy. We're Just Holding It For You.

There's been a lot of crazy talk out there. Maybe it's got you concerned. We understand that: These new revelations about the NSA violating the law sure seem troubling. Even the head of that secret court that's supposed to keep them in check is worried they're out of control.

Deep down, you know we're spying on you. The only thing you don't know is how bad it is.

Well, stop worrying, okay? Your government values your privacy more than ever before. We are not going to destroy it. We're just going to hold it for you.

And believe us, right now we really need that stuff.

In 21st century America, privacy has become one of our most precious natural resources. That's why every time you lose some of it, be certain countless federal employees are working to collect it and squirrel it away so it can be used.


Emergency Broadcast

This is a test. This is only a test. In the event of an actual emergency people in authority would be lying to you right now. They would be giving you incomplete, inconsistent, probably useless, and possibly dangerous instructions. They would be telling you to wait for aid that isn't coming. They'd claim to know the proper escape routes, the path of the hurricane, flood, or fire; or the next move of the terrorist organization which has so far eluded them. They'd claim to be prepared. Above all they would be telling you to trust your survival to the very people responsible for this life-threatening situation.

If this had been an actual emergency you would see infrastructure collapsing and teams of first responders with inadequate equipment and ineffective training die in an effort to save you. They would be supplemented by mediocre bureaucrats, incompetent political appointees, and contractors who delivered the lowest bid. Extreme chaos and a string of needless tragedies would be guaranteed. Disasters would feed on each other -- the attack causing the blackout causing the accidents which cause the looting which leads to more accidents, deaths and injuries. Any large, complicated system which has not been the subject of at least one scathing documentary or congressional hearing would disintegrate as soon as you relied upon it. You could count on discovering new and exciting -- very exciting -- flaws in our nation's streets, electrical grid, building codes, and emergency procedures. If this had been an actual emergency you would probably not survive.

Your death would cause very few people to lose their jobs or to be otherwise inconvenienced. Those who did would then acquire book deals and appear on talk shows, where they would shamelessly pretend to be blameless, or even more shamelessly pretend to feel crushed with guilt and responsibility. Journalists, politicians, and government contractors would receive promotions, bonuses, and lucrative projects because of your death. They would then help modify the system which failed to prevent or outright caused the terrible calamity which ended your life. This new system would then guarantee the next disaster, a larger disaster, which would expand opportunities for them and their kind even more. No one ever gets a book deal or a promotion or an invitation to a talk show for preventing the preventable, but there are innumerable chances for advancement for someone who made a great speech or shot a gripping bit of video afterwards.

If this had been an actual emergency you yourself might have felt some kind of guilty excitement as it started. That would be the product of seeing too many movies and TV shows where people survived terribly dramatic ordeals.

And of course this phenomenon might be both cause and effect of a system that obviously feeds on disaster itself.

But even you, soon to be dead in the center of all of this, wouldn’t ever learn.

A Message From The President About Tomorrow's Terrorist Attack

My fellow Americans:

As you probably know, intelligence indicates the high probability of a mass-casualty terrorist attack on the US homeland tomorrow morning. Your government is working tirelessly to mitigate loss of life. While we can't share the location of the event with you, rest assured we have gathered a great deal of useful information.

In addition, we are almost certain about the identity of the militants behind this attack. Unfortunately, they are members of a Classified Terrorist Organization we are currently fighting, whose identity must be withheld, because it is an enemy combatant in an ongoing US intervention, whose nature, purpose, and force composition have been declared state secrets.

I wish I could tell you more. I really do.

Here's what I can reveal:

At approximately 10:05 AM tomorrow morning, following the initial strike by these criminals, I will declare a state of emergency throughout the affected metro-area, followed by a security assessment of the surrounding region. We will support all fire and safety personnel in their heroic task. By early afternoon, I will have issued a statement and taken appropriate steps to retaliate and insure domestic security. Both houses of Congress have already passed a classified resolution authorizing these measures, and the Supreme Branch of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court has affirmed it on a provisional basis.

You may be asked to stay indoors and avoid communicating by phone or internet for several days. A week at most. It's for your safety.

Naturally, our thoughts are with tomorrow's victims, and with the brave members of our military and security forces, who do a difficult and dangerous job -- more difficult and dangerous than many of you realize.

You do know this, however:

In secret locations all over the world, they are defending our liberty.

Of Course Fox News Is Bad For Christianity

Obviously Fox News is terrible for this country. Obviously it's a disgrace even to the elaborate grift that is television journalism. Yes, it encourages every xenophobic, bigoted, and anti-intellectual impulse among the less bethumbed of our citizenry. It showcases the talents of Ann Coulter, whose charm is like that of a praying mantis stuck to a windshield. It features Sean Hannity, who always looks as if he's just about to cause a fraternity hazing death. It's completely uncontroversial to say it is one of the nastier cultural transgressions of a man who has much to answer for - an execrable and sociopathic plutocrat with the skin of a lizard and a voice like the suffering of children.

And the network is, let us never ever forget, largely responsible for Glenn Beck.

But it's also important to point out - whether you wish that religion well or ill - Fox News is a great enemy of Christianity. You've no doubt already heard about the above clip - the ugly Muslim-baiting Lauren Green attempts while interviewing Reza Aslan about his biography of Jesus Christ. Green embarrasses herself, as all who work for that company inevitably must, in her efforts to disparage Islam. But she manages to profoundly slander Christianity as well. She suggests very stridently that people who are not of the faith have no business critiquing Jesus. That academics who happen to be non-Christian don't have the right to focus their attention on his life. Nothing could be worse for this church than for people like her to gain influence. Nothing.

The day that Muslims, Jews, atheists, and agnostics stop talking about Jesus is the day that Christianity itself shrivels. Whether you believe he is God or not, it is a mark of his power that historians and philosophers of all backgrounds are still arguing over him and the astonishing things he said. Many of them criticize him and doubt the religious traditions surrounding him? That means he remains relevant.

By contrast, Lauren Green and her employer want to turn Jesus into L. Ron Hubbard. The sort of cheap cult leader whose memory can rally the faithful for political or commercial gain. But someone who just doesn't matter to the wider world. They do much to pander to the particularly ovine of the Nazarene's church.

But they are no friends of it.

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