This is General Stan McChrystal, the Man of the Moment, so sparse and Spartan, so scornful of eating, drinking and sleeping that he looks like an Egyptian mummy.
He's in charge of the totally useless and unwinnable Aghan War.
He gamed Obama royally on the Afghan War, by disloyally leaking his deliberately grim report on the situation to Bob Woodward, of WaPo.
McChrystal is an ex-terrorist (he ran Dick Cheney's private assassination and torture squad in Iraq), so he's ideal to run this operation, which will kill thousands, if not millions, of innocents, who have already just about survived 30 years of war.
When you have men of this ilk in the military, thinking of nothing more than personal glory, then your Empire aspirations are in deep shit.
Today is my birthday, and also the first anniversary of the beginning of the Hanukkah Massacre that started a year ago, with the deliberate targetting of a civil police graduation ceremony, where more than 40 aspiring civil policemen were killed, outright.
You have probably heard of many of the horrors perpetrated in that campaign by the Israelis, but maybe you haven't heard of the efforts they made to keep it all quiet:
"On Tuesday [30 Dec 08] , the Free Gaza Movement reported that its vessel, the Dignity, which it was using to transport medical supplies by sea to the besieged territory, was rammed and turned back by Israeli naval ships. The Dignity sustained heavy damage, the group reported, although no one was hurt. "When attacked, the Dignity was clearly in international waters, 90 miles off the coast of Gaza," a press release stated, describing Israel's actions as "wilful and criminal."
Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "The fact that the ship was carrying journalists, including a CNN crew that has already broadcasted live three times, proves that this was a provocation on the part of the media."
The administration's nervousness at the presence of journalists is conditioned by the scale of the devastation it has already wreaked, and the even worse atrocities it is preparing
In the Philippines, they call power cuts 'brownouts', which seems strange, because it's definitely a 'blackout'. The lights are on, or they are off.
Last week, we had four 'brownouts' in four days.
The first came early on Monday, and was due to a collapsing cable in Bucas Grande, the island between Siargao and the 'mainland' of Mindanao. There is a 26km stretch which has to be inspected every time something, not diagnosed beforehand, happens like this.
Anything can cut the line; broken or wet insulators, landslides or tree collapses
There is a small town (Socorro) at one end, and nothing much at the other. It's a long trek, and the guys from SIARELCO didn't get the power going until 3am the next morning.
They have a very difficult job to try and maintain an electrical distribution system that has no real money to invest in new equipment.
Then, next morning, there was another 'brownout' for most of the morning, but I was so enraged that I didn't call my contact at SIARELCO to find out what was happening. So I don't know what caused this.
Then, later that day, the National Power Corporation decided to cut the power between 5 and 8pm because of overall short capacity, without notice.
On Thursday, there was another blackout, due to a cable problem between my town and the feeder town, Dapa. This was fixed within an hour thanks to the hard-working guys from SIARELCO.
SIARELCO is a feeder cooperative, taking electrical supplies from the mainland, and sending them around the island, but they don't appear to be investing much in repairing or renewing the feeder network.
As they have cut off my electricity supply (with a pair of pliers) just a few days after I received my bill, but was absent at the time I think they should do better than this.
I suspect (but I have no evidence or proof) that the Standard Operating Practice is obtaining, and someone in SIARELCO is siphoning off funds.
These yams (Dioscorea alata) are known locally as ube. Their flesh is bright purple, and they are delicious.
Eaten like this, roasted (actually whacked into a microwave oven for 3-4 minutes) and slathered with butter, salt, and pepper, they easily beat a roast potato.
I haven't quite worked out yams; they are very similar to Camote or Colibri (Ipomaea batatas) sweet potatoes, and I sometimes suspect that Lindo, who sells them in town from his tiny shop, mixes them up. Some varieties may not be purple at all.
Ube has very thick skin, so I eat it like an avocado, scooping out the purple flesh. It's a very coarse flesh, and very chewy, but I like it that way.
It also makes a wonderful and colourful flavouring for ice cream and cakes. It's one of the most popular flavours here, and goes well with orange mango ice cream when it's slapped into a cone by the local vendor.
These sceptical Afghans are being addressed by US Special Forces, dressed like Martians, accompanied by Afghan interpreters, dressed like tourists. Together, they make a comedy turn for the villagers they meet.
Petraeus and McChrystal expect to win hearts and minds in this war?
There is NO WAY to WIN this war, even if the Americans knew who they are trying to fight
OK, so President Obama intends to send another 30,000 troops to get bogged down in Afghanistan; and some of his '43 NATO allies' will also augment their meagre contributions.
But what he didn't say was that the unsupervised personnel contributions from contractors and other mercenaries, paid from US funds, has already risen hugely. It's cash dumped into a trough into which many snouts have already greedily snuffled.
- From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.
- And less oversight: “The increase in Afghanistan contracts has not seen a corresponding increase in contract management and oversight,” according to McCaskill’s briefing paper. “In May 2009, DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency] Director Charlie Williams told the Commission on Wartime Contracting that as many as 362 positions for Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) in Afghanistan were currently vacant.”
- According to one USAID official, the agency is “sending too much money, too fast with too few people looking over how it is spent.” As a result, the agency does not “know … where the money is going.”
- As for waste and abuse, the subcommittee says that the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified more than $950 million in questioned and unsupported costs submitted by Defense Department contracts for work in Afghanistan. That’s 16% of the total contract dollars reviewed.
So, millions upon millions of dollars are leaking out of the hole at the bottom of the trough.
Hey, you there, now unemployed in NYC, LA, Florida, or Michigan, or in Britain; contact the employers of the moment: Dyncorp KBR USAID
That's Happy Christmas in Surigaonon, the local language.
The silly buggers get Christmas and Easter mixed up, but then they are Catholics. (or very seriously under-converted heathens - the local swear words, such as they are, all refer to pre-Christian gods, except one - Sus Mari Yusip, (Jesus, Mary, Joseph) which is not really a swear word at all, but a mild expression of surprise).
In February, I will be going to Majorca in Spain to help my mother celebrate her 90th birthday. It will be a great opportunity to meet my two sisters, whom I haven't seen in years, together with my son, and his two children whom I haven't seen at all.
From 2001 until 2006, I visited Majorca for 6 months of every year, setting up my stall in various local markets to sell bead necklaces that my team of ladies made in my backroom here every 'winter'.
You can see the sort of stuff I was selling, to the right, in the Sunday market in Pollensa, a very old and charming town. I think its name might be translated from the original Latin as 'Chickenville'.
I bought the materials in Cebu, in a small street entirely taken up with small shops selling beads and other artefacts. I always enjoyed the experience. It was the only place where I've ever appreciated a karaoke bar, because genuine friends were singing (as was I) and I always spent too much.
Business went well until 2006, when the bottom suddenly dropped out of the market, and nobody, but nobody, especially men, wanted 'ethnic beads' any more.It was a sudden sweep, unannounced, that saw a 40% drop in 'ethnic' bead sales, coupled with increasing competition for junk jewellery from China.
Well, the fashion biz is fickle. In 2004, wide jeans belts were very popular. Everybody had them for sale, except me. So I designed and my ladies made a lot for the next year. I sold precisely 6 of the 300 I made.
This is disgusting. For a 'piddling little Levantine country' to have this veto over the world's strongest power is quite ridiculous.
The Jews are a small tribe amongst many in the Levant. Lebanon has 17 different recognized religious parties and factions, and while it has an artificial bias towards Christians, doesn't now discriminate against any of them. (Although it took an 18 year civil war to come to terms).
Muslim 59.7% (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
This puts the picture in perspective. It's a view through an imaginary window at three different scenes, as envisaged
from the Occupied Territories.
1 - Pastoral (perhaps Galilee?)
2 - Tel Aviv (beyond reach)
3 - The brutal Separation Wall
Thanks to Richard Silverstein for this image.
A few brave Israelis, and very few others
(and certainly not in the US or Britain), remembered the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, with an exhibition of posters.
Manny Pacquiao (PacMan), the boxer, is, deservedly, the Philippines' greatest hero. When he has a match, people crowd around TV sets, cheering him on.
He is the first boxer to win seven world titles in seven different weight divisions.In addition, he is the only boxer to win the lineal championship ("the man who beat the man") in four different weight classes. Aside from being a boxer, Pacquiao has participated in politics, acting, filmmaking, and music recording (in which he hasn't yet achieved superstar status).
He is, most certainly, a plucky little bugger.
Pacquiao has reportedly agreed to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on March 13, 2010, for a split of $50 million up front, at a United States venue yet to be decided.
Watch.it, and don't forget to cheer him on. Loudly.
I stepped on this thing as I plodded, barefoot, into the kitchen late one night. It looked as if it might do something terrible to me, but it didn't, and its horrible appearance was only a phony. No venom.
Another name for it is vinegarroon. It is a lovely word, but I can't for the life of me imagine why it's applied to this creature.
It has extraordinarily long second and fourth legs, that act as sensors to find its food in the dark. Its jaws can grab anything.
Ralph Peters invented the 'New Middle East' map a few years ago, but I've only just found it.
It's imaginative, but, almost by definition, is a neocon colonialists' answer to 'Middle East Problems'.
Split 'em up.
He managed to piss off everybody:
- Saudi Arabia: split off between an expanded Yemen, Iraqi Shia State, and Jordan, plus an Islamic Sacred State roughly corresponding to the old Hejaz. (Mind you, I don't mind too much if those nasty Najdis get confined to Riyadh and a large expanse of sand).
- Turkey, Syria and Iran separated by a new Kurdish entity. (Which I would favour)
- Pakistan reduced by a new state of Baluchistan, and an expanded Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a failed state by anyone's criteria. So why make it bigger? It is remarkably facile to show Afghanistan taking over northern Pakistan and Kashmir on this map
Well, I suppose it is to get the Pashtun/Pathans into one state, not Pakistan, which is mostly Punjabi.
But the Pashtun will be fighting the Tajiks, Hazara and Uzbeks in the north for evermore. Just as they are doing now, as the 'Taliban', while the 'NATO forces' blunder about like wallies, or quietly declare Victory and withdraw.
And Baluchistan? No-one knows much about it, except that it one of dryest, hottest and most mountainous places anywhere on earth. It's already the source of the CIA-funded attacks by the Jundullah, a Sunni adversary of Iran's Shi'a majority in Iran's south-east. Baluchistan is reported to be the target of the next US drone attacks on Pakistan.
Quite how they will separate out the 'Quetta Shura' of Taliban leaders from the rest of the over half a million inhabitants of the city, is a different matter. I don't suppose they care very much..
The Gaza Concentration Camp is suffering from hugely over-exploited aquifers and lack of waste-water treatment (that means, to you and me, that the crap and chemicals go straight back into the aquifer or into the sea).
There are two planned UN water treatment facilities awaiting approvals of imports of building materials from the Israeli Ministry of Defence.
One intervention, long ago, from Sen. John Kerry, allowed pasta to be imported into Gaza. Another US politician, with guts, needs to make a single phone call to Israel to get the building materials moving, and this horrendous situation sorted out.
And the American President needs to spend some of his rhetorical skill on lifting the blockade of Gaza.
A dispute over David’s Tomb or the Room of the Last Supper, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem is at the heart of the crisis. Kikar Hashabat, an ultra-orthodox news portal attributes “the great victory” to the two current Chief Rabbis, “who one year ago published an announcement that it was prohibited to transfer Jewish property to Christians.”
The Mount Zion Foundation, which maintains the site, has more information on the “property” at stake. Whose website offers a “rare opportunity” to acquire “an extraordinary array of spiritual artifacts from King David’s Royal Tomb Complex.” These range from “a metal clad door” to “to the window frames of transforming light.” Prices are not mentioned, but Rabbi G. Goldstein’s e-mail is availible for “the discerning collector.” The website also offers online shoppers a choice of purchases from the adjacent Chamber of the Holocaust. A range of “naming dedications” is available for every budget starting with an “Honorary Member” for $180, through the “Biblical garden” for $1,000,000, all the way to $8,000,000 for the entire chamber’s “People’s Memorial.”
The holy sites crisis - Yossi Bar, Maariv, December 11 2009
Israeli and Vatican delegations, which yesterday discussed the financial and legal status of Israel’s Christian holy sites, reached a dead end. According to Vatican sources, relations between the two countries are on the verge of crisis, and these same sources are also threatening to sever diplomatic ties with Israel.
This is a quite hilarious argument. The Tomb of David is in the ground-floor living room, and the Room of the Last Supper on the first floor above. It's a standard stop on 'The Tour of Jerusalem', and I've been there. Quite how they both got preserved, for about 2900 yrs and 2000 yrs respectively, inside a relatively modern house, is never explained.
I don't have any loyalty to Zionist Jews or to the Roman Catholic Church, and if they want to squabble about two very, very dubious sites, I couldn't give a sh*t.
But if these two Jewish Rabbis have managed to upset the Roman Catholics enough for them to consider severing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel, then they've achieved something new, and not too good for Israel.
Well, Obama's got his Peace Prize, although he's done absolutely nothing to deserve it.
But he has got a nice smile.
"Having been nominated for the peace prize after only ten days in office; having spent the previous three weeks as a president-elect who silently monitored the slaughter in Gaza; and having just assumed the role of commander-in-chief in two wars, for Barack Obama to then craft a credible way to accept an accolade as this year’s most celebrated man of peace, was always going to demand some rhetorical creativity.
Still, this surely ranks as a first: to use the peace prize ceremony as an opportunity to justify war.
Speaking in Oslo last night, Obama said: “the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.”
Only within a nation that has largely managed to insulate itself from the effects of war could such a statement be made.
Sixty-four years earlier, in the shadow of two world wars, Americans had a much greater interest in condemning war than in presenting arguments for its justification.
“… our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Robert H Jackson, on August 12, 1945, when laying out the foundation for the Nuremberg Trials.
Obama pissed off Norway by refusing the usual invitations to a post-Nobel concert and lunch with the king, which duties more worthy prize winners have gladly undertaken. It's almost as if he snuck in, took the prize, and ran.
This photo, showing the most powerful man in the world, sitting smugly like a school prizewinner, says it all.
Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896, after inventing, and profiting hugely, from dynamite, endowed a series of international prizes, mostly handled by Swedes. But in the case of the Peace Prize, a Norwegian committee administers it.
They awarded Obamacon the 2009 prize after he had been seriously in the running for only a few days. The deadline for nominations was February 1. At that point, Obama had been president for 11 days. If this wasn't hasty Obamaphilia, then nothing was.
The award, finally announced in October 2009, cited Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.":
Now, it happens that Obama is going to Oslo to collect his prize in somewhat less time than 11 days after sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
This is the second surge he has made into Afghanistan.
This situation is so bizarre that I really cannot comment properly. Those dumb Norwegians fell for the 'Obamacon' like so many others.
I will comment again after I've heard his acceptance speech. I have no doubt it will include soaring rhetoric, but nothing else of substantive value.
"Site-specific painter whose understated yet radical works are rooted in fine-art tradition wins judges' vote"
The yellow bits are gold leaf. That is the sole connection to 'fine art tradition'. The composition is only a quadruple mirror image of some abstract shape.
There must be a good technological trick to getting the gold leaf to stick to certain areas.
Yes, there is; it's called 'pounce' and static electricity, discovered, and used, by Giotto, etc, in the fourteenth century
What you do is make a sketch, then pin prick holes in the parts you want to separate. Then you rub chalk dust over the sketch, which goes through the holes, and forms areas you can't paint on. That's basically it, but of course, there are complications.
As Wright's paintings are frescos, applied directly to walls, there is no way he can sell the painting to someone who wants to take it home.
But can you imagine the number of wealthy sheikhs or Russian Mafiosi who would like something like this on their bathroom wall? He's got it made.
Well it didn't take long for the new US president (or POTUS, which, if you say it out loud, sounds more appropriate) to morph from being everyone's darling to George Bush III.
His speech on Tuesday night at West Point, outlining 'Obama Surge 2' in Afghanistan (he's already sent 21000 extra squaddies) might have been taken, word for word, straight from GWB.
Who will be the last man to die for Obama's senseless war in Afghanistan?
Almost everyone knows that the war is unwinnable in any conventional sense, and that it's going to get worse, not better.
This photo shows just how much Obama has been cowed by his generals.If I had cropped the picture to show only the army officer, it would have been very easy to depict him as a Nazi.
Obama's visiting Arlington Cemetery on Veterans' Day, 11 November 2009.
Just under 3 weeks later, he announced a 'surge' in Afghanistan; 30,000 extra troops from the USA, and several thousand from other fragments of NATO.
No, don't ask me what the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is doing fighting local insurgents some few thousand miles from Europe and America
Something very strange happened here. I saw a related photo somewhere else very recently, and wanted to use it for this post. I searched for it on Yahoo but found that on almost all the sites mentioned, the photos had been taken down.
Maybe it shouldn't be shown in advance of Obama's trip to collect the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.
While the world is falling apart a long way away from me, I prefer to spend my time on more interesting things.
This is a series of shells I collected around here on Siargao Island. They're interesting because they are almost all half the usual adult size of this species, and very brightly coloured.
Nos 1-5 are plain pink with a narrow, fuzzy band of white around the middle. No 6 though, changes colours dramatically about halfway around the last whorl, and the rest of the series follows suit.
A certain Mr L A Reeve named this as Conus fucatus in 1849, but now it's generally credited as a juvenile of Conus magus which is normally about 50 cm (2") long.
Now, an interesting thing about shell collecting is that you don't often find juveniles. Shells appear to grow, wham! into their adult size in a single season. To get a series of youngsters like this is quite unusual.
I'm an old fart who now lives on Siargao Island, in the Philippines, a 'paradise island'. I realised, in a sudden epiphany on my first visit to Palestine in 1973, what a duplicitous and evil state Israel really was, and I haven't much changed my views since.