Faster, Please!

Faster, Please!

Hackers and Assassins

August 23rd, 2015 - 1:03 pm

There is so much hacking going on that it seems to have become almost boring.  But it behooves us to take hacking very seriously.  I think if the public knew more about the way hacked information is actually being used, we’d pay closer attention and defend ourselves more effectively.

Who cares about all the hacking? Take a hypothetical example: American soldiers in the Middle East have been receiving emails that sound something like this: “Good morning. We thought you would like to know that we are carefully watching your daughter Rosie, the one who lives in Wichita at 1234 State Street. This is to inform you that if your tank moves 100 meters north, she will not live to see the sun rise tomorrow.”

That’s the sort of thing that can happen when personal data get into dangerous hands. American troops aren’t afraid to die in combat, but their children did not volunteer. This sort of blackmail is credible and effective.  Threats against the kids are more powerful than those against the troops themselves. And this is only one way in which the hackers and their clients can exploit all those millions of files.

Such emails come from the  “information dominance and psychological warfare” handbook to add incremental corrosive stress to the war fighter, in addition to the stress that he or she is already under.  Direct stress to the war fighter is “thrown off” nearly automatically because of good training and because we operate under the theory of the team, the band of the brotherhood, etc.  We are trained to believe that we as a team, so long as we are a team together, will be okay.

However, the greater stress that impacts the war fighter is that which cannot be spun off — and that is a threat against our family at home, alone, and while we are in combat and deployed.

Thus, this particular PSYCHOP — a hypothetical one, to be sure, but similar things happen often — is very cleverly created because it cannot be easily shed — it is done to add additional stress; and moreover, to distract and defocus and finally to demoralize the war fighter so that they will make mistakes or lose focus upon their training or not take risks.

The hacked data provide our enemies with a terrific mailing list, as well as targets for espionage (that’s how they get information about “Rosie”).

Which raises two crucial questions: Who’s hacking?  Who are their clients?

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Radical Islam’s Systematic Use of Rape

August 18th, 2015 - 7:25 pm

There was a brief flurry of outrage at the report that the “Caliph” of the Islamic state had repeatedly raped American aid worker Kayla Mueller before she finally died in an attack against IS targets. The New York Times devoted a lot of space to what it called the “theology of rape” that is an integral part of the doctrine and practice of the “Caliphate.”  The Times story suggested that the systematic use of rape was of relatively recent vintage for IS, but the violent treatment of women by radical Islamists is nothing new. It ranges from rape and honor killings to beating, to formal, legal definition of women as inferior beings.  In Iran, for example, the legal code treats a woman as “worth” half a man, and this is reflected in penalties for crimes against them.  If a man kills a pregnant woman with a male fetus, for example, he is likely to be ordered to pay a full charge for the fetus but half as much for the mother.

Some years ago, I worked on a story abou a Palestinian member of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization. He had a daughter who was dating a black man in St. Louis, and her father didn’t like it. He accordingly established a rigid curfew for the girl, and one night she arrived late. A nasty fight ensued, and he stabbed her to death. The only witness was his wife, who refused to testify against him. But the FBI was on his case, had bugged the house, and thus had an audio recording of the bloody event.

Had it not been for the FBI’s investigation of the terrorist group, this honor killing would have never been exposed. This suggests, with considerable evidence, that the phenomenon is quite substantial.

Needless to say, rape, honor killings and the oppression of women are not limited to radical Islamist men. But the systematic use of rape certainly seems more common to them than to any other contemporary group. This should not surprise us; the environment in which radical Islam is transmitted to the young men seems almost deliberately designed to produce sexual repression. The madrasas in which Koranic ideology is taught are sexually segregated and physically unpleasant. The students typically sit cross-legged on the ground for hours on end, memorizing the sacred text. There are no females in their lives, and the hormones of the faithful are every bit as powerful as those of the infidels. Ergo, they emerge with wild sexual fantasies that are fueled by promises of a sexual paradise in which the faithful will be rewarded by the total submission of 72 beautiful virgins.

No wonder IS uses rape as a recruiting tool!

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From Schumer to Suleimani

August 9th, 2015 - 2:19 pm

I am not very good at predicting political events, and I did not expect Senator Chuck Schumer to announce his opposition to the Iran deal before the August recess. After all, he’s in line to become the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, very important for a professional pol. That happy thought is now very much in jeopardy as he is targeted by the White House and the left wing – that is to say the majority – of the Democrat Party.

He certainly knew that he would be viciously attacked; the left, and not only in the United States, has pretty much given up trying to win rational arguments. The old pseudo-Marxist remedies having failed long since, their “politics” consist primarily of attempts at the personal destruction of their opponents and enemies. Schumer will now bear the full brunt of his party’s rage.  It has already cost him money, no small matter.

In my world, anyone willing to pay a steep price for his actions isn’t cunning, but brave.

So I think that Schumer’s action is one of those profiles in courage that John F. Kennedy wrote about in his famous book. I am not at all convinced by the various conspiracy theories that are floating around, the cleverest of which is the suspicion that Schumer knows that the deal will survive, even if it goes back to Congress after an Obama veto, and so he is free to cater to the sentiments of his (Jewish) base.  Such theories are too clever for me. Among other problems, I doubt that the bulk of his supporters are opposed to the deal, and there is certainly no mass uprising against it from the American Jewish community (although, in another surprise, the liberal American Jewish Committee has also come out against it).  So the would-be premise is false.

As a matter of fact, it is much more difficult – at least for me – to account for those who are supporting the Grand Bargain with Iran. By now, anybody who cares to know is aware that the deal is a bad one, and indeed it is probably worse than we know because the administration is withholding information about it from Congress and the public. Moreover, just as Kissinger and Schultz predicted, the deal, far from lessening the risk of nuclear war, is provoking other countries to pursue nuclear options. I am quite surprised, for example, at the considerable number of intelligent and well-informed people who privately say that Saudi Arabia has already obtained nuclear weapons.

But even aside from nuclear proliferation and Iran’s continued rejection of serious investigation of their known and suspected nuclear facilities, the whole issue boils down to a simple, straightforward question: do we really want to pay Iran to kill Americans?

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How to Defeat the Grand Bargain with Iran

July 27th, 2015 - 6:24 am

I think most of those trying to stop the approval of the Iran Deal are going about it wrong.  I don’t believe you can stop this thing by going through the text and pointing out its myriad flaws, nor do I think it’s good enough to expose the many lies Obama, Kerry, Rhodes et. al. told us along the way, nor even to uncover secret deals.  Kerry and Zarif spent 27 hours alone during the negotiations, and we’re not going to get a transcript of those conversations, nor will either of them tell us what they may have agreed.  And even if they did, I don’t think it would produce enough public political rage to stiffen the wobbly spines of our elected leaders.

The critics are quite right for the most part: it’s an awful agreement, the administration has behaved abominably, and the deal should be rejected.  I’m just talking about the best way to do it, the best tactics to use.  Obama understands how to do it:  reduce the issue to a simple choice.  He does that when he says that Congress must either approve the Grand Bargain or plunge the Middle East–or is it the world?–into war.

We should answer it:  Iran has been at war with us for 36 years, and this deal–the latest of its kind–gives Iran lots of money to kill even more Americans.  Indeed, we’ve been doing it for quite a while.

In a single phrase:  the war is already ON, and we’re paying the Iranians to kill us.  You want to pay them even more?  Apparently that’s what Obama wants.

That’s the essence of the matter, but we’re all wrapped up in on-site inspections, complicated annexes and a steady flow of information that’s been withheld from us.  That won’t work.  Just stick to the one-liner.  Americans don’t like our guys getting murdered by Iranians and their proxies, and we don’t like being shaken down by our own killers.

Remember when comrade Lenin remarked that the capitalists would eventually buy the rope and supply it to their hangman?  Well here we are.

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What if Iran Rejects the Deal?

July 20th, 2015 - 1:12 pm

As I predicted some weeks back, the Iranians did not sign on to the Grand Bargain negotiated in Vienna.  They don’t want to make a deal with the Great American Satan, even though they do want the American concessions, above all the huge sums of money we’ve promised them.

Now comes Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, talking as if the agreement itself is in question.

In an (sic) speech at a Tehran mosque punctuated by chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, Khamenei said he wanted politicians to examine the agreement to ensure national interests were preserved, as Iran would not allow the disruption of its revolutionary principles or defensive abilities.

An arch conservative with the last word on high matters of state, Khamenei repeatedly used the phrase “whether this text is approved or not”, implying the accord has yet to win definitive backing from Iran’s factionalized political establishment.

Concurrently, the head of the Revolutionary Guards announced that the Grand Bargain was unacceptable, and would be rejected.

A UN Security Council resolution endorsing Iran’s nuclear deal that passed on Monday is unacceptable, the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Mohammed Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

“Some parts of the draft have clearly crossed the Islamic republic’s red lines, especially in Iran’s military capabilities. We will never accept it,” he was quoted as saying shortly before the resolution was passed in New York.

When Jafari talks about Iran’s “red lines” it is at least in part a reference to a law, passed in the Majlis and approved by the Guardian Council, that forbids the government from agreeing to inspections at military sites (and other restrictions).  Foreign Minister Zarif is to brief the Majlis tomorrow, the 21st, at which time we may see just how serious they are.

I know this is dramatically counter-intuitive, since the Grand Bargain is so lopsidedly pro-Iranian.  Why on earth would they even think of rejecting it?  And yet, two of the most powerful tyrants in Tehran are warning they may do it.  Why?

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Blood and Bronze

July 13th, 2015 - 6:46 pm

I recently gave a lecture in the civil service in Reggio Calabria, just across the water from Messina, Sicily.  Reggio is popularly known for two things:  its big, murderous mafia (the ‘Ndrangheta), and its museum, which contains the magnificent “Riace bronzes” and other ancient masterpieces.  They were found by a scuba diver in the salty waters off the coast of Calabria in the early 1970s.

I saw the bronzes about two weeks ago and they are constantly in active memory.  They are very big, much bigger than the Greeks who created them (5th century BC), and so far as the experts have been able to tell, they are not “real” men, they’re ideal types.  As the narrator of this lovely video says, they are truly amazing.  For one thing, the technology has vanished and no modern sculptor could do such statues.  For another, they rank among the true masterpieces in the history of art.  The narrator of the video calls them the greatest statues in the world. 

That’s why I’m still not breathing normally.

The Calabrians have restored the fragile bronzes three different times, and Italian technicians have created special earthquake-proof bases on which they stand, as well as a special room designed to withstand a bigtime seismic event.  Before you are permitted to enter that room, you are zapped and sprayed in a decontamination space.  So there you are, down at the bottom of Italy, where very few visitors ever go, standing at a borderline between the old Greek Empire (“Magna Grecia”) and hypermodern technology.  I wish I could write good fantasy, a la Ray Bradbury, because those big warriors are worthy of it.

And there’s more:  the room also contains two bronze busts, one of which is said to be of Pythagoras.  The curator told me that this is the first known bronze bust of a real person.  Everything preceding Pythagoras is “just art.”

Fittingly, the bronzes have generated many mysteries.  While the date of their creation is fairly well agreed, and it’s clear that they were on a ship that sank in or near the Straits of Messina, there is considerable dispute over just when the shipwreck took place, and there are several theories alleging that what we see today are not the statues as forged by the ancient Athenians, but perhaps works of art that were improved or repaired by later Romans.

There’s a dramatic contrast between the high culture of the museum and the vicious culture of the ‘Ndrangheta.  On the one hand, world-class art;  on the other, world-class crime of extraordinary vulgarity.  It is as if Reggio Calabria had been created as a stage for the best and worst human impulses, a city where our best and worst angels have reached their highest and lowest incarnations.

Which is why it is so fascinating, and at once so frightfully inspiring and frightening.  I’m certainly going back.


July 11th, 2015 - 7:01 am

One day in the mid-sixties I was on a Pan Am 747 from London to Chicago, sitting next to my then-employer, Omar Sharif.  I was a member of the “Omar Sharif Bridge Circus,” an unlikely assemblage of professional card players from France, Italy, Egypt…and, given my presence, the United States.  We played high-stakes exhibition matches against local teams in front of hundreds of spectators.  Mostly my role was pure show-biz;  I explained what the players were thinking, told anecdotes…you know, entertainment.  Every now and then they even let me play a few hands.  Life was spectacularly good,  not least because Omar was such a good fellow, a real buddy well met, easy to be with, easy to laugh with, a very fine card player, a gambling addict, and man did he know his red wine.  And race horses.  The big downside was that no woman was going to pay me the slightest attention.

After a few hours of catching up on sleep, Omar fished a paperback out of his carryon and turned pages quite rapidly.  It was the autobiography of Che Guevara.  He had never discussed politics with me and I was surprised, but it turned out he had agreed to play Che in a movie (1969).  What did he think?  “What an idiot!”  And that’s the way he played the failed revolutionary in the film.

Omar lived between several worlds, from the Middle East to Hollywood, via bridge matches and gambling casinos (he ultimately ran up huge gambling debts and had to show up at several of them, mostly in France and Monaco, to attract other potentially big losers as a way of paying off his bills), to horse racing tracks.  He hated Middle East politics, which got in the way of his close friendships with Jews, and he wasn’t afraid to challenge the antisemites.

In 1968, he was the captain of the bridge team of the United Arab Emirates at the world championships in Deauville, France.  I was working at the tournament, and late one morning (you didn’t see him on his feet much before noon) he cornered me.  “We’re scheduled to play Israel in two days,” he said, “and I’ve just received a cable from Cairo telling me we musn’t play.”  He frowned.  “So how about you and I play a two-handed match?  I can’t ask the other Egyptians to disobey, but the government won’t do anything to me.”

The Israelis agreed, and we did it.  That was Omar.

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The No Deal Deal

July 6th, 2015 - 3:58 pm

I don’t want to be the sole bearer of bad news for Ben Rhodes and his fellow gurus, but here it is:  the Iranians at Vienna won’t sign anything, per their instructions from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Full credit for this diplomatic accomplishment goes to President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, Guru Rhodes and the rest of the administration strategists.  Their constant offer of more–more money, more gold, more limits on annoying inspections, more cooperation in the air and on the ground with Iranian forces, etcetera etcetera–solidified Khamenei’s conviction that there is no reason for him to approve a hated deal with the devil.  It’s much better to keep talking until all the sanctions are gone, and Iran’s “right” to pursue its nuclear projects is fully recognized.

Keep reminding yourself that Khamenei has two fixed principles:  no “new relationship” with the Great Satan, and relentless pursuit of the atomic bomb.

Obama/Kerry/Rhodes won’t take “no” for a definitive answer, so we’re probably going to see a new form of creative appeasement.  Short version:  It will be a “no deal deal.”  Iran promises to try really really hard to be nice and we pay for it.  Everyone agrees to commit to a “real” agreement by the end of the year.  Iran gets money–the continuation of the monthly payoff, and under-the-table arrangements like the gold shipment the South Africans delivered to Khamenei–and we get smiles.

There is no deal, per se–nobody signs anything–but we get the worst of it any how.  If John Kerry thinks that’s enough for a Nobel Peace Prize, he’s got an even lower opinion of the judgment of the Oslo crowd than I do.  And he may be right.  Chamberlain was widely praised as a great peacemaker for a while, and Carter was greatly admired when he proclaimed we had given up our “inordinate fear of Communism.”  And we’ll keep talking, won’t we?  And Obama just reiterated–at the Pentagon no less–that guns don’t defeat ideologies, only good ideas do.

If I were a Pentagon official and I heard the president say that, I’d have resigned on the spot.

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Can it get even worse?  Hell yes, just watch.  In the next week or so, I expect Iran, Iraq and Syria to formalize a cooperative federation.  The signing will be in Tehran, and Hezbollah will bless the arrangement.
Why this and why now?  The “why this?” is easy; it’s the way things really are, the regional piece of the global alliance waging war against us.  The “why now?” is explained by the latest Obama/Kerry collapse, that delays enforcement of inspections in Iran and promises speedier lifting of sanctions.
What does it mean?
Just ask the Saudis and the Jordanians.  It advances Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards to another border, so that Nasrullah and Suleimani cam fulfill Khamenei’s fatwa, ordering the destruction of the Saudi royal family, and advancing Tehran’s strategic objective of bringing down the Hashemite monarchy in Amman.
Yes it’s a real war.  Never mind the negotiating points, we must win the larger war.  Or we will lose it.  If this president wanted to lose, it’s hard to imagine he would behave differently.

Why the Dems Can’t Get It

June 13th, 2015 - 6:07 pm

I am a big fan of John Hinderaker over at Powerline, and you can see why if you read one of his latest, this one about the Democrats’ lack of any sort of coherent national security policy. Here is the essence of it:

Democrats are incapable of devising a coherent strategy for dealing with (our problems), and seemingly don’t even try to do so. The charitable explanation is that they are incompetent. But perhaps it is because they aren’t sure what their desired ends are. Do they want the U.S. to win? Do they want us to be powerful, prosperous, influential and successful? That is not a hard question for most Americans, but it is for leading Democrats like Obama and Clinton. If you don’t know the answer to that question, then coming up with a strategy is tough. That, I suspect, is what we have seen for the last six or seven years.

It’s the basic question about the Obama administration (Hinderaker however is focused on Hillary Clinton and her failed Libyan actions): is the long list of foreign policy failures due to stupidity and incompetence, or to some sort of purposeful malevolence?

I think this question is invariably framed too narrowly. I think that we are dealing with the result of the collapse of an entire world view, and that collapse has left the Democrats without any guiding principles.  Their old templates, from class struggle to capitalist imperialism, no longer apply to the real world.  The most potent forces in play are those the left has never understood.  Religion above all.

They used to favor the poor countries, ergo they advocated foreign aid galore and all power to the UN.  Neither is working out.  They will never forgive us for winning the Cold War, thereby ending their utopian dream that the Soviet Union would truly become the successful incarnation of “real socialism.”  And instead of class interest, most people pursue narrower goals, motivated by passions, like religion, which leftists believe archaic.  You know, redneck stuff like guns and bourbon.  Except that now, religion is the most dynamic force in the world, for good and for ill.  This frustrates and angers them, since, unable to make sense of the world, they can’t craft policies that make sense.

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