The War on Reputations

There’s a new Civil War in progress and nobody’s winning. This Civil War is all about destroying the reputations of political partys, politicians, news media, government institutions, and ordinary people who have found themselves in extraordinary situations.

This is a many-sided war with battles being fought over the reputations of participants. In politics, it’s about Republicans vs Democrats and who will bend the government to their will while it loots USA national treasure for its party.

Outside of national politics, it’s about the reputations of celebrities, businesses and their leaders, and the burgeoning growth of internet personalities. The destroyers attack the reputations of famous people, the reputations of historical events, and the reputations of religion, morality, and financial institutions. And they especially attack the reputations of hard work, civility, deferred gratification, and common decency.

The weaponization of social media is the suitcase bomb of the 90s. The tools of social media allow everyone to become a potential bomb maker and everyone else a potential bomb thrower. In the hands of irresponsible people, the innocent-and-imperfect are attacked with weapons in which there is no defense. There is no defense from the lies that are told or the misrepresentations of the truth. It is scorched earth warfare.

The War on Reputations is an ugly war. It is anarchy on the internet. A “hater” chooses a target and launches his/her hate bomb. Others pick up the same material and fashion it for their own purpose. When government or businesses attempt to stop the bombmakers, other haters attack those same governments and those same businesses and accuse them of denying free speech or being fascist, communist, anti-this, or a sympathizer for that.

The only way to win this war is either not to play the game (a la War Games) or become totalitarian and control the content. For humankind, it appears that controlling the content is the only viable option. Self-control is preferred but “from the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

Just as newspapers and magazines controlled the content of their publications, the ISPs may be required to control the content in their e-publications.

Accusations and mudslinging will need an outside force to control them. And that is exactly what many fear.

The legislation that controls the content of the US internet will be foreboding at best; but to live with a free market of smearing, sneering, and fleering seems impossible. To give every person access to social media bomblets and permit the desecration of the innocent-and-imperfect seems too permissive. Not everyone is an adult and not everyone is equal. We should recognize that.

The War on Reputations could use a few Rules of Social Media Warfare and violations of those rules should likely become Social Media War Crimes with attendant consequences. Perhaps a new Geneva Convention is needed to craft those rules.

Any takers?

Gaffney vs Buchanan: Iran and Obama

I find it fascinating that The Washington Weekly December 2nd edition had a commentary by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr about the Obamabomb and President Obama’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program. Mr. Gaffney is anxious to destroy any agreement with Iran.

Mr. Gaffney’s commentary is essentially a rebuttal to Patrick J. Buchanan’s November 18th comments (in the very same paper) that supports President Obama’s efforts to seal the deal. Mr. Buchanan once again points out how Israeli intransigence is undermining the need to strike a deal with Iran or else we all go to war with Iran.

It is easy to see that Mr. Gaffney is a supporter of the Israeli position and Mr. Buchanan is opposed to it. Mr. Gaffney describes President Obama’s policy as: “Embolden our enemies. Undermine our friends. Diminish our country.”

Of the two, I trust Pat Buchanan’s analysis more than Gaffney’s. Pat Buchanan always takes the position of what is good for America in the world. I cannot say the same for Mr. Gaffney who prefers to take the position of what is good for Israel is good for the world.

I know that the Iranian’s Friday night chanting of Death to America is the brainwashing of a nation. I agree that Iran is an enemy of the United States and has been for more than 30 years. Yet, if we fail to engage Iran on what is important to them and to us and to Israel then we are setting ourselves up for a new Pearl Harbor attack. Japan did not attack the US in the Pacific until the US took the position that it would cut off oil to Japan. This was an unacceptable action to the Japanese government. We face the same situation with Iran if we fail to negotiate a solution and instead take a warlike position.

I imagine that Israel prefers the role of irrational actor on the world stage. This may be the best strategy for them. But Mr. Buchanan’s view is more US-centric than Mr. Gaffney’s and I prefer Buchanan’s view. America first.

Stealth Biotechnology: A future?

Foreign Affairs has an article this month on Biology’s Brave New World. Given my paranoia and mistrust of governments around the world, it made me wonder which country was developing bio weapons that could be deployed on a population.

I am not talking about terminal bio weapons but something a little more subtle. Perhaps bio weapons that could infect crops, animals, and/or people and reduce their effectiveness to a level that made their contribution to the cycle of life insufficient. Certainly mule strains of any thing could eradicate organisms within a single generation by preventing procreation. But how about low grade infections that slows a person down and reduces his/her productivity?

Imagine a bird flu for Hong Kong or NYC or perhaps even nationally spread influenzas to debilitate an economy.

Yes, I know that this might seem farfetched but so did many other now common weapons. Margaret Atwood’s book Oryx and Crake is about corporations that waged war on each other with bioweapons and new species of animals.Natural humans were doomed by Crake with a pathogen that he turned loose on mankind. This is speculative fiction and depressing in its topic but the point that man will weaponize whatever he can is well made.

Seems to me if we know about it, it probably has already been done. My question is has it been tested on populations? This would not be new ground for the US government if you know what I mean.

 

The Coming Oil Glut?

Hmmmm, hard to say, isn’t it? With the US expected to become a net producer of oil (rather than a net consumer) and the coming boom in African oil in the next ten years coupled with the oil from the MidEast, there had better be ginormous demand for oil else there will be a glut.

I will say this: When Big Oil decides to out muscle all competitors, it certainly does it in a large fashion. Nuclear power is no competitor, hydro is passe, solar has not been born yet, which leaves us with coal and oil and hydrocarbons for decades to come. Who packs more portable, transmittable, and locally usable power in its package than gasoline, diesel, oil, or any of its cousins?

If Africa can work out how to migrate from a tribal-based government to something resembling Asia, Europe, or God forfend, the Middle East, then Africa will be awash with money. And who will Africa buy from? China and India. Non-white countries with no colonial past and no battle space history on the continent.

Africa faces what has come to be called The Resource Curse. Bazillions of Bucks controlled by handfuls of people. This may not be pretty when pirate nations seek to suck the wealth out of these countries. The bloodshed now will be paltry compared to the future unless the nouveaux riche  countries align with older gentlemen countries like the US, China, India, and perhaps Russia.

This will happen in my children’s lifetime. A re-organization of nations and allies and enemies within the next 20 years. Imagine that.

New Government Entitlements for 2013!

Congress and President Obama have joined forces for the first time to bring you new government entitlements. I hope you like them because you are paying for them.

The US Government is:

1. entitled to spend whatever they want, whenever they want.

2. entitled to make you pay taxes over and over again on the same money.

3. entitled to force you to buy insurance from insurance companies or tax you.

4. entitled to tell you what kinds of products you can buy, like light bulbs.

5. entitled to read all your emails and listen to all your conversations whether you have committed a crime or not.

6. entitled to bomb anyone, anywhere, as long as they call them an enemy and do it for 60 days.

7. entitled to torture and detain any American citizen.

8. entitled to waive habeas corpus at any time.

9. entitled to sell weapons to criminals and watch them commit crimes with them.

10. entitled to tell your school what they should serve as food and what should be taught in the school.

11. entitled to track your whereabouts and use facial recognition software to spot you anywhere.

12. entitled to prevent you from remaining silent.

13. entitled to search you or your belongings anytime, anywhere.

14. entitled to force you to reveal your security pass codes so they can read your electronic papers and effects.

15. entitled to make you take off your shoes and other garments before you board a plane.

16. entitled to deny you travel by private air courier by putting your name on a list.

 

 

9.11.13

Remember the innocent who fell 12 years ago today. Remember those who fell saving the lives of others.

Remember that it is how we treat others that keeps us safe.

Remember that predators walk among us.

Remember that Peace is not the same as pacifism.

Make Peace, not pacifism, your objective.

 

This is a chem attack assessment?

This the worst piece of tripe I have ever read that allegedly came from the best *cough* intelligence agency on the planet.

Let’s begin with the easy stuff:

Here is what the intelligence briefing brought to POTUS:

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.

Ok, so let’s look for the first part of the evidence that the Syrian government. That is the civilian government and not the military forces. It says government. So what evidence is there that the civilian government was responsible?

The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

I took out the stuff that is not relevant to proving the civilian government was responsible. So let’s look for “the regime’s preparations for the attack and its means of delivery.”

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.

That is all. Some unidentified people were in the area where the regime uses to mix the stuff. Do you think that fresh Sarin gas is preferred over the old Sarin gas? The answer may be Yes per Wiki:
“Sarin degrades after a period of several weeks to several months. The shelf life can be shortened by impurities in precursor materials. According to the CIA, some Iraqi sarin had a shelf life of only a few weeks, owing mostly to impure precursors.[13]”
And of course people who are in the area where the gas has been made in the past are now wearing gas masks to protect themselves. The rebels are alleged to have gas, too.  This is crappy evidence. It is weak and inconclusive. Who were the ‘people in the area’ and what are their roles?
So let’s look at the “means of delivery” and the “multiple streams of intelligence”:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Okay, satellite detections show that rockets were used and the lack of missile launches proves it wasn’t something else. Great satellite work there. What about the “multiple streams of intelligence”?

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

Ok, multiple streams of intelligence is confirmed. Not sure why the assessment did not mention Doctors Without Borders specifically but let that slide. Note the use of the mollifier “but not unique to” above.
Now the US is claiming intercepted communication :
We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days.
I don’t even know what that means: “…a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21.” He confirmed? He was asked and he said ‘yes’? Why is he not named in this assessment? Was he military or civilian?
As we know from yesterday’s post, there are multiple chemicals that can cause neurotoxin reactions and one of them is pesticides. But the declassified sections do not state what was found when the chemical residue was analyzed. Surely sometime in the past week, someone collected samples and had them analyzed, yes?
Well that is all the assessment says. I am the type of person who says you have to prove your case. I don’t think that has been done. What I want to know is:
1. Is there a pesticide plant or other chemical storage in the area that may have been hit by rocket fire? And a corollary question about how far apart were those 12 areas mentioned?
2. Who “confirmed” the use of chem weapons?
3. Presuming they were used, how did the military obtain them for use and authorize their use by trained and educated military officers who know the international treaties well enough not to do this?
4. What are the test results of the chemical residue?
5. And finally, why would UN inspectors be allowed in if the civilian government authorized the use of chem weapons in the middle of the night to kill innocents? That implies that there is no rational actor in this scenario.
This is a crappy assessment based upon Twitter reports and conjecture that because it was NOT the rebels, therefore it had to be the government. There is no evidence that Sarin gas was used although people did die from chemical poisoning during and after the attack.
I remain skeptical over all if  this. Sorry, it does not pass the smell test with me.
Bring on the UN reports. I don’t trust the little boy who cried wolf last time to be telling the truth this time. I want more evidence that it was a military attack using chem weapons authorized by a civilian government.

Who is using chem weapons in Syria?

But U.S. and allied officials also said it was unclear how much sarin may have been used and who actually used it. Syria is known to possess large stores of chemical weapons, including sarin, but questions remained over whether its use was officially sanctioned by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

We apparently do not know.

Gregory Koblenz, a nuclear and biological warfare specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the chemical warfare allegations are based on two basic forms of evidence from Syria, neither of which alone provides enough information about what really happened.

“One is video footage of alleged chemical attacks in Syrian hospitals,” he told VOA.  “Some of the symptoms we see are consistent with exposure to a nerve agent like sarin, but the problem is that there are other chemicals that can cause similar reactions, and just the videos alone don’t provide enough information and context to really assess what happened to these people.”

There has also been mention of soil and human tissue samples that have been taken out of Syria and analyzed by labs in the United States and Britain.  But Koblenz says these samples are also unreliable.

More to know:

Dr. Zaher Sahloul of Chicago, president of the Syrian-American Medical Association, has just returned from his sixth mission in Syria, where he spoke with medical personnel in seven hospitals in and around Aleppo.

“In the six or seven attacks that we spoke to physicians about, they all reported similar symptoms. And these attacks happened in Homs in December of last year—that was the first reported one—and then we [had] two in Aleppo.  The largest one was on March 19th in the area of Khan al-Asal, and there were about 40 people who died and more than 300 who were admitted to the hospitals for symptoms.  Some of them ended up on the ventilator in the ICU (intensive care unit),” he said.

Sahloul said all these patients were reported to have symptoms “consistent with cholinergic syndrome,” which is usually caused by drug overdose, eating certain poisonous mushrooms or exposure to nerve gas or certain pesticides.

“So the patients had respiratory and neurologic symptoms—respiratory, including shortness of breath, bronchospasm, a lot of secretion and respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation, large concentration oxygen—and also neurologic symptoms, confusion, convulsions, and some of them went into comas—and also eye symptoms,” he said.

Sahloul said the only other chemical agent that could cause similar symptoms would be certain insecticides, which he rules out in this case.

One would think that if the Syrian government was using Sarin gas that perhaps the deaths would be in the thousands, yes?

Which means that maybe, just maybe, the rebels have some small supply that gets away from them sometimes and causes local damage. Who knows?

We are waiting to hear more from the US government. And it better be good. None of this “Israeli intelligence intercepted communications” crap. Sounds like the same “British intelligence has confirmed” crap we heard ten years ago.

And good Lord why would the Syrian government allow UN inspectors in to seek the truth if the freakin’ evidence is “undeniable”?

I remain skeptical. Even Doctors Without Borders who reported the 335 deaths said that they had no idea who used it.

And knowing that some insecticides can cause the same symptoms makes me wonder if the war shelling was responsible for causing an insecticide storage area to blow up and create the damage.

This does not sound like a dictator desperately trying to hold onto his regime who has used sarin gas to destroy his enemies. This event has no logic on the face of it but I am willing to pay attention to any evidence that the US government brings forward.