Monday, December 19, 2011

All input...

...no output.

At least for now, my regrets.

Just got back in here after more than a few days functionally AFK. Hope you All are well, and looking forward to your choice of winter holiday. We're on track to get a nice New Year's time here, but...

... almost all my cards, gifts, and such to friends went out late. Or are still going out. At least family got covered in time this year.

Sheesh. Proper Planning and all that.

***

I've been toying with the idea of a year end wrap up of favorite topics here at CompHyp. I mean, other than Hugo and I'maDinnerJacket, the list of usual suspect out there is getting a little slim. I mean, when the fountain of 'blog content that was Kim Jong-Il has passed from this mortal coil, it may be time to tell one last telling of the tales of the old villains and go back into the analysis mines to see what new disasters await unearthing in the coming year.

Hmm....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day

Armistice Day.

Veteran's Day in the U.S.A.

The hope that some day peace will come.

The assurance that the only way that will ever happen is to be prepared for war.

The thanks for and remembrance of those that have paid the tax of blood and service.

As is my way, I spent the day with some old friends.

I hope they noticed.

***

Afterthought: While I've seen it in years before, I have to say it was particularly meaningful to me to see every single news reader and reporter working for BBC World (cable and satellite TV) wearing a poppy clasp this last week. Yes, the Beeb; even with all their oft-demonstrated bias. Would that others showed the same respect...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two for the good guys.

There is a of lot bad happening out there. Yeah, I'll write about that too. Just not today. Today, we get two in the win column for the good guys:

On 2.November, Viktor Bout was convicted. Took the best part of three years to land the fish, and there are appeals to be made, but the case held together. Unanimous jury to convict.

Today, word came out of the killing of "Alfonso Cano" (Guillermo Leon Saenz), the leader of the FARC since 2008. Colombian Armed Forces bombed his base and then sent in the airmobile teams and finished him and his escort in a firefight. Good riddance and haste to dismantling as much of the FARC as possible.

Job well done in both.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oh-fer

Three items, all not promising:

Japan and the U.S.A. still can't come up with a plan for relocating the Futenma airbase assets.

The en(Yen; JPY)-dollar(US$) exchange rate hit a new all-time low in spite of the fact that there is nothing happening in the Japanese economy worthy of such strength... and indeed it kills our still-significant export manufacturing sector.

There is still no real, broad based support for joining the TPP free trade talks (outside the tourism industry), even though the Asian Development Bank analysis shows a minimum of +1% to GDP if Japan were to be party to the agreement as currently planned.

Gee... with all those things a mess (cooperative defense; foreign direct investment; the export sector) you'd think the government would be knuckling down and trying to figure out how to make government more efficient and, if not smaller, at least not larger...

Clearly you don't understand. The ruling party only has time to talk about raising the sales tax. Silly you for thinking otherwise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"...credible threats against his personal safety"

News item: U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has returned to Washington D.C. because of "...credible threats against his personal safety in Syria".

Comment: Entirely predictable.

The threats, not the return.

Between the documented conduct of the Assad clique at the head of Syria and the fact that the functional incompetence of some of the people running their mouths at DeptState has made it impossible for the American Ambassador to claim an exclusively humanitarian interest in the betterment of the Syrian Opposition, it was only a matter of time before the regime in Damascus withdrew any pretense of diplomatic protection for Amb. Ford.

Yes, if this was a case of supporting anti-government demonstrations in some place like Luxembourg, one could expect the "nicety" of having the American Ambassador declared unacceptable and then sent packing. But most of the world isn't "nice" and Syria is pretty far up the "not nice" list.

At this point, I'll confess I'm happy he's out of the target zone (at least for now) because I've seen what a nightmare it is for RSO's and "other government agencies" personnel to keep an Ambassador alive if said Ambassador persists in doing things contrary to self-protection... *but*... there are some things that are risky to do that simply are in the national interest of the nation said Ambassador represents and thus need to be done. Moreover, an Embassy is not just the Ambassador (case in point); all the other personnel are also *or more so* at risk. Bringing Amb. Ford out may be be the best move available right now, but I'll argue that move is: forced; a half-measure; to the detriment of American support for the Opposition; (and was) likely avoidable.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doing it wrong

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy's "The Cable" has the details on how the Obama administration badly bungled the Iraq SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) negotiations. Here are two key points:
She (M.C. Sullivan) said that the administration's negotiating strategy was flawed for a number of reasons: it failed to take into account Iraqi politics, failed to reach out to a broad enough group of Iraqi political leaders, and sent contradictory messages on the troop extension throughout the process.

"From the beginning, the talks unfolded in a way where they largely driven by domestic political concerns, both in Washington and Baghdad. Both sides let politics drive the process, rather than security concerns," said Sullivan.
and

Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy's diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

"An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that's done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry," said one former senior Hill staffer. "If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass."
This is a case study in making damn sure that petty and unimportant things override strategic imperatives, one that likely Americans will one day rue. I'd say the same about Iraqis, but the lesson of history in that region is that very few fools around those parts live long enough to rue their mistakes. But the blame for this outcome, if one were to wish to place it, should not fall on the Iraqis. This, and the awful possibility of having to go back there one day not so far in the future, should be squarely placed on the heads of those in the Obama administration that wilfully chose this outcome.

Friday, October 21, 2011

While you might have been watching

While you might have been watching things about the latest twists and turns in Libya (and *yes*, while I like my coffee as-intended I do prefer my Libya de-Qaddafinated), there is another story out there that hasn't been getting the 24/7 media treatment the last couple of days like the End of Moammar has been getting:

Are you aware that Kenya has had quite enough of al-Shabaab and related Somali thuggery raiding the Dadaab refugee camp, kidnapping aid workers and snatching tourists off the Kenyan coastal islands, and generally fomenting mayhem in and against Kenya?

The Kenyan armed forces are now *in* the Trans-Juba region of southern Somalia, and itching for a fight. Back at home, Kenyan internal security services are to root-out the al-Shabaab operations in Nairobi.

This is the largest intervention in Somalia since the Ethiopian military pulled out of (most of) Somalia after their intervention... which crushed the Islamic Courts movement and did give the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia a little breathing room, but then took their eyes off the prize as the remnants of the Islamic Courts and their al-Qaeda affiliates reformed as al-Shabaab...

Here's hoping that the Kenyan forces chose a manageable portion of goals to achieve, and get busy on achieving them. It does look like their plans are of limited scope and do-able from a capacity point of view, but it remains to be seen when al-Shabaab chooses to stand and fight (perhaps at the town of Afmadow) how well the Kenyan forces will hold together.

A supposedly unrelated move in Mogadishu by the African Union (AU) force there to clear the last southern district of the city of al-Shabaab troops has gone off on schedule and on objective, but reports of heavy AU casualties are circulating. Even discounting any claims by al-Shabaab (which *will* be ludicrously overstated), it may well have been a rough go for the AU forces.

Since you likely won't see much about this on the network news, here is the go-to link for Africa news if you'd prefer more than what the BBC has offered. Specifically, here are the links to Kenya news and Somalia news. Caveat: You'd best know something about the newspapers cited to know any biases. I can only recommend that you do a little Wiki-searching or Source-Watching to see what repute any given paper is generally held in. No time to be teaching a class on East African mass media right now; my regrets.

Yes, well...

...I've been obliged. Usual reasons.

Here's an Open thread as a catch-all for any questions or issues about any of the myriad of stories that have thundered across the news the last month or so. I'll have a couple of them up over the next day or two, but you may well have something worth discussing that I'm to pass over in my efforts. So here you go.

Also:

I've been asked why (elsewhere), after the 9/11 memorial thread, there hasn't been the regular memorial posts regarding Gothic Serpent, USS Cole, and so on that I have previously made a habit of posting about. The answer is simple: It's just been too sad this year. Those sort of topics require a righteous sense of vengeance that, while it certainly still burns in me, is contrary to the need I have right now to come to terms with the sad parts. So... I'm rolling it all together and will post Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day) as I did for Memorial Day. 'Nuff said.

OK, play on with the Open thread, but remember the usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

...and thank you, All, for still coming here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marange

This is an item I've been holding on the desk since last month when I was doing a round of Kimberley Process -related work...

*This* is why the European Union should not be trying to continue to allow diamonds mined at Marange, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), onto the world market:
The main torture camp uncovered by the programme is known locally as "Diamond Base". Witnesses said it is a remote collection of military tents, with an outdoor razor wire enclosure where the prisoners are kept.

It is near an area known as Zengeni in Marange, said to be one of the world's most significant diamond fields. The camp is about one mile from the main Mbada mine that the EU wants to approve exports from.

The company that runs the mine is headed by a personal friend of President Mugabe. A second camp is located in nearby Muchena.
This won't end until the ZANU-PF Kleptocracy is driven from power...

Friday, September 23, 2011

You realize, of course, ...

...this means war.

No, not the Bugs Bunny cartoon joke.

Bets are, this is the run up to the real thing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

September 11th, 2001

Never Forget; Never Forgive.

This may sound to the more sensitive-minded of you like a recipe for an unending war. Horse Hockey. It is a recipe for seeing our part of this war to a lasting and victorious resolution. You see...
There used to be a thing called "State Shintou" in Japan.

There isn't any such thing now, and no one mistakes the religious practice of Shintou with the former "State Shintou". One is a philosophy and practice of living with and in the world. The other was a nationalist political structure that cloaked itself in the supposed legitimacy of a religion... and then was turned into an intolerant ultra-nationalist system of propaganda and social control in the service of aggressive Militarist schemers. (cf. Ienaga Saburou (S. Ienaga)'s "The Pacific War, 1931-1945" for an education in just how hateful it was.)
Good riddance.

It took killing a few million people, or so, to get it done away with.

It cost several hundred thousand Allied lives (many more counting the Nationalist Chinese) and easily that number of civilians caught in the war zones or slaughtered by Imperial troops in places like Manila.

I think it was worth it.

When the topic comes up, so do my neighbors and colleagues... although many of them lost grandparents or parents in the war. I'd go so far to say that even the largest number of those I've met that hold the Imperial System as the proper form of government for Japan have utter contempt for the insane-by-any-modern-measure Army schemers that ruined Taisho Democracy and precipitated the Pacific War.

Yes, I do live in Japan. Have done so for more than a decade. I'm a Permanent Resident. Politically, I'm about as close to being a Meiji-era Conservative Monarchist and Patriot of the nation as one can be without holding Japanese nationality. This is my adopted home and likely where my bones will rest one day.

I can do so because once, ~70 years ago, the forces of Liberty were willing to do what needed to be done to fight back, to turn the tide, to corner each and every element of the enemy, and then to grind them into utter and absolute capitulation... or kill them... and then root out and destroy the very socio-political system that brought forth that enemy. Every.Last.Piece.

Today, as it has been ever since the 2001 AUMF, calls for nothing less. Consider...
Once, back in the early 21st Century, there used to be a thing called "Islamism".

There isn't any such thing now, and no one mistakes the religious practice of Islam with the former "Islamism". One is a philosophy and practice of faith. The other was a nationalist political structure that cloaked itself in the supposed legitimacy of a religion... and then was turned into an intolerant ultra-nationalist system of propaganda and social control in the service of aggressive Militarist schemers...
Never Forget; Never Forgive.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All you need to know about...

...the quality of the new administration here in Japan.

It took the Noda naikaku (jp: Cabinet; Administration) a grand total of eight days in office to pull this stunt.

Not like they had much left on the bench to form this Cabinet: the Hatoyama and Kan governments didn't have a lot of depth; those also used up several people's "turn" in less than useful assignments, and; the one strong talent available (Maehara Seiji; S. Maehara) almost took a pass on even trying for the leadership because he recognizes that between talent available and the challenges out there that are repeatedly dragging down administrations, this really isn't the time to be volunteering for what looks a whole lot like 'taking one for the team'.

Expect more slip-ups from the current crew and don't take any bets on them lasting even the "expected" one year in office without some serious odds on the wager.

It could be worse, though.

Ozawa Ichirou (I. Ozawa) could have gotten the Premiership.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hold in the East, Win in the West

A Freedom for Libya thread.

The celebrations have started, albeit a bit prematurely, in Libya's capital city of Tripoli.

With that underway, it seems time to sum up how it (at least in the main) happened:

The fight in the East, shielding the TNC rebel government in Benghazi, was mostly a distraction once the line could be held. So long as Sirte remained (and *still remains*) a regime stronghold, there could be no drive on the center of power from Cyrenaica.

The fight in and around Misrata (Misurata) on the coast in the West was more pivotal, and much dirtier and protracted, but again mostly a fixing action... something that drew the regime to fight. Doing that near the coast meant they could be punished by NATO air and naval assets, but not likely ever to be a springboard to an attack on Tripoli. That would be trying to rush the front door.

But...

...a determined effort by (mostly) Berber rebels in the Nafusa Mountains won against the regime on their home ground and *that* opened the side door to Tripoli. The campaign moved to the coastal plain on 13.August and yesterday, the 21st, the show moved to the big city.

Congratulations to the Berbers, to the TNC, and a quiet tip of the hat to French and German embedded efforts to hold up NATO's end of the bargain.

Now let's see if they can bag the rest of the Qaddafi family and put an end to the war stage of this revolution.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Advisory

There is still some there, there.

Just not here, or more correctly not here right now.

But there will be. Until then, consider this an Open Thread.

The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.


I'd offer more, but considering that the time someone said (paraphrased from memory) "Stick around, Ian. I'll be right back." it didn't work out all that well... this will have to do.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On professionalism, and...

Still busy here, still living up to a number of commitments, still not getting paid for most of that...

Other than that, How was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? eh hem... most of the problems of recent have followed this form:

*If* you are paying me to advise you on your conduct of (a presentation; your business; your NGO; your politics), I certainly consider it part of my job to be as informed as possible on the matters that you are asking me to inform you on. However, I'm one willing to try your idea or mine, no matter how unprepared, in a crisis. Time criticality trumps optimization (or to quote the surprisingly layered statement of one old instructor of mine: "If you hurry, you make mistakes."). I'm failure-motivated as well... Things done on the fly that fail are answered by hours, days, weeks if necessary of preparation so that the next time a similar situation comes, the rehearsal is already finished; the sources of materials and expertise necessary are in the files; the response goes from full-stop to full-speed-ahead on day one. Lessons stay learned.

*If, instead* I am paying you to advise me on a course of action or to provide access to facilities and materials that your certification allows you to use (that I legally can't), I'll expect the same from you. Be as good at your job as you can be; be responsive in a crisis outside your normal routine; analyse your mistakes and learn well from them. Usually, that's 'nuff said. Except... When I discover that the advice given was sub-par, and especially when I discover in the process *that I know more than you do about YOUR job* and the only thing that puts our relationship in the order extant is that some worthless sack of shit credential hangs on your wall, then there is going to be a scene. On the best of days, I'll simply pay you off on the spot and get someone who knows more than Jack about the matter at hand; when that isn't an option or if I think somehow you might be at least slightly redeemable, then there are going to be some strong words said (cf. Humane Mule Training) and then I'll take the time to explain to you how to do your job.

But don't expect me to be nice about it.

Just to pick an unrelated example, some otherwise critical mistakes *are* recoverable, albeit extraordinarily. Usually, when such occurs, the savable are not saved, the living die or are unnecessarily maimed in the name of treatment, the innocent condemned to death... and the responsible "professional" goes on working with neither self-reflection nor penalty... and that is wrong.

I've worked with the best in their fields and my respect for people of that calibre is boundless. To pick one in the civilian world that some CompHyp readers know: 'Dr. Pat'. They are also remarkably few and far between. I've far more commonly had to spend my time and effort winnowing through the chaff that fills so many professions that deal with dangerous, critical, and / or essential matters... sometimes taking years to find one specialist expert or to climb high enough in the hierarchy to get access to one of those competent by vast capability in a craft, only to ascertain that a able junior should have known the answer. The truth is, basic competence is rarely basic any more. Out of ten doctors trained to have passed the medical license examination, I'm lucky to find one that learned ordinary reductive methods to identify when a differential diagnosis has to be further excluded... or may be worthy of consideration. Don't even ask about a capability for multidisciplinary analysis; hen's teeth are more common.

This isn't about how one designs a restaurant menu or makes sure all the paperwork in their bank branch is completed in time to be sent to the reconciliation shift. These are lives we are talking about. If I have to teach one more supposed "professional" that making irreversible uninformed choices in a situation where time is *not* critical is wrong on both an ethical and practical basis, then I'm going to...

...suppress the entirely justifiable urge to throttle them and teach them.

Damn it.

And when I mess up so badly, and heaven knows I have and do, I hope someone will treat me exactly the same way.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

At some point, it's just another noise

Happens to soldiers; police officers; parents with infants; ...heck, it might explain why the Motor Licence Bureau (DMV) staff acts how they act... when the same sound or shock keeps hitting, at some point one ceases to notice or even care *unless* it is a significantly different matter.

Same-Same here. Mag 7.0+ hit off the coast up north and no one even got out of bed to look at the TV news for almost an hour. It is Sunday morning here, after all.

No reports of death or injury yet, so let's go with Reuter's version that focuses on the matters at TEPCO's Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Station.

Now to start checking around and see if any of the shelters, temporary housing, rail lines, or roads essential to continuing relief efforts took a hit.

Me? Fine. Thank you for asking.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day, U.S.A.

And in celebration, here are two pictures:

How Tories saw the Yank...

...and shortly thereafter...

...How the Yankees saw (off) the Brits, at least from Boston.

Happy Independence Day, U.S. of A.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So I said to someone I'd post on the weekend...

...apparently I didn't think to mention *which* weekend.

It's been a while. Thanks for looking in here in during my absence, All.

For now, here's an Open Thread for you and I'll see what I can do about getting regular Topic Threads up again soonest. As always with commenting here, the usual rules apply: Play Nice.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Talking Turkey

I've been more than a little busy, but that hasn't meant overlooking things entirely... for example, this just came across:

Totten and Berlinski on modern Turkey.

What the recent changes mean to the region and the world; why the AKP is doing what it is doing; A very good look at how this could all end very badly.

By the way, supporting Michael Totten's reporting and doing the same for Claire Berlinski's Ricochet work are two of the best things one can do if one really believes in "the new media". I don't rattle a tip jar here, but I'm more than happy to point out that these worthy efforts do. Both have superb books in print right now as well.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Now, it is official

I've been waiting to post a thread on this, because I just wasn't 100% certain extradition was going to happen. Now, it is official:
Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic has been flown to the Netherlands, where he is to be tried at a UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Glad they found him.

Glad they had the fortitude to arrest him.

Very, very glad that justice may now be done.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day, again.

For Americans, this is the day the living salute the dead.

Some of us get to do this twice a year, but today is for the Yanks.

I'm spending the day with some old friends.

***

An interesting item by John Miller from a few years back, entirely appropriate to the day... presented here with only this as further comment.

***

Memorial Day, 2011.

Ich hatt' einen Kameraden...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Abyei burns

It looks like al-Bashir's rump-Sudan isn't waiting for any further possibilities of losing more territory by popular secession:
The Sudanese town of Abyei has been set on fire, with gunmen looting property, the UN says.

The town and surrounding area are claimed by both Khartoum and by South Sudan, set to become independent in July. The town was captured at the weekend by northern troops.
Captured, after what is looking more and more like a Gleiwitz Incident-style excuse for Northern reoccupation.

Then, they turned loose the thugs.
Some 20,000 people, almost the whole population of the town, had fled, aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told the BBC.
If the North-aligned tribal raiders (mostly Arab Misseriya) have their way about it, there won't be much if anything for the expelled (mostly Dinka Ngok) residents to come back to.

The U.N. mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has issued their customary sternly-worded rebuke.

All the context you need.

So American President B. Obama gave a rather 'important' policy speech last week at the U.S. State Department about all things Middle East...

Conspicuous in its absence was any notable applause, even during pauses in the speech intended for such.

Most of it was a restatement of other pronouncements and some dollar figures on how much support the reformist+military governments in Egypt and Tunisia are in line to get. These things are expensive, after all. (More expensive if we don't, the West drops the ball and lets a one-man/one-vote/one-time Islamist regime form.)

A little bit of it was free anti-totalitarianism. Picking on Qaddafi and Assad is pretty easy stuff these days, after all.

But then, someone let their preferences override good sense and statesmanship...

...and the next day got schooled for saying said nonsense.

This is all the context you need to know to understand how Mr. Obama could say what he said, and why Mr. Netanyahu needed to say what he said in reply.

The pity of it all is that the damage is done.

The only question is when the next war starts.

***

Personal Note: This author, at roughly the time both photos were taken, went to a university with lots of the type on the right, got spit on by some of them, and elsewhere worked with the type pictured on the left. Based on that experience, I to this day choose to associate with the latter. If that is an editorial bias, so be it. My basement; my rules.

***

edit: photo link corrected.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Now, send in the *real* tiger!

(Guest Post from an unnamed representative of Forces of Evil Local 7...)

Excellent work, minions...

You've managed to spread confusion through the ranks of the security forces.

When they finally did see through our insidiously clever camouflage scheme, they dismissed it as harmless and cute. They think they will find the owner... in Hampshire... MWAHAHAHA... er, well.

Now to commence the second part of our plan:

Soon,

Soon,

SOON we will have the leaders of the Western World all in one place...

BWAHAHAHAHA.

If this works, think of the possibilities!

Replacing the American Museum of Natural History Lions...

release them against Turtle Bay...

HEHHEHHEH.

***

Editor's note: As we here at CompHyp possess only house cats, no tigers or lions, this post can be safely presumed to be satire. Thank you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Zelaya

The Honduran case-without-peer of the description "All hat and no cattle" is about to make his return... or will he?

Mel Zelaya is an opportunist, a craven adopter of Chavista thinking, and by a number of measures nuttier than a fruitcake, but he's either an idiot-savant of Central American political survival or an exceptionally well-coached tool of someone else (you can probably guess my choice of those two); He's not going to go back to Honduras unless he can gain by doing so.

Here's a little guidance for political operatives on the side of right in this drama:

If Zelaya does go back to Honduras, what *he* does is of no importance. What those who wish to use his return to go back to dismantling the Constitution do is of paramount importance. Quietly, effectively, and if need be slowly politically isolate those actors... particularly from their support base in Chavez-ALBA-land. It matters not one whit what Zelaya says if no one cares to listen. Which leads to...

Whether he comes back or just sits in self-exile and plays troublemaker, the best way to make him a non-factor is to address the *other* matters that make life hard in Honduras. Number One would be Public Safety, but that comes with all sorts of authoritarian risks; Better to go for some successes on the economic front, or in reforming the bureaucracy (especially at the local level) to give the people something to see that the government has done right. I for one don't care if it is as trite an effort as Japan's "Cool Biz" campaign (which was astoundingly popular if rather simple) or something big; just get something done right your electorate can recognize was a good thing.

If one is really willing to gamble, take a whack at Public Health issues... the first Central American country that comes up with a viable (and reasonably affordable) clinic system to bring baseline health care up to some acceptable standard without getting caught up in the Cuban Doctor scam will have something of real value to be proud of.

So here's your shot, President Lobo. Find a way to make Honduras proud of what it has done, not just of what it once did. Do that, and the history books will only mention Mel Zelaya in passing reference.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Then again...

I confess that of all the possible explanations as to the appalling conduct of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I hadn't considered this one.

Then again...

...even if it is an absurd claim, it might just get him killed off er... arrested.

Friday, May 13, 2011

60 days...

Why is it that I doubt that...

. the Obama administration will comply with the "60 Days" part of the War Powers Resolution?

.. they care one whit as to gaining any meaningful outcome in Libya other than one accomplished by others?

... Congress will press the matter when the resolution is ignored?

.... even given cause, a case suitable to advance to the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionallity (or lack thereof) of the WPR of 1973 will ever see the light of day?

saaaaaa.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"if he is not aware of his wife's illegal activities..."

This is something I've mentioned before, here, but there is finally a ruling from the court:
Sheryl Cwele, the wife of South Africa's intelligence minister, has been sentenced to 12 years in jail for drug trafficking.
Of course, there will be an appeal. Don't bet on it changing anything, though; this was a pretty darn tight case.

So, what comes now? The real matter of this is how obviously compromised Siyabonga Cwele is, to the point of not being able to do his job nor of anyone *wanting* him to keep doing it. The opposition has said it best:
Opposition parties have called for Mr Cwele to step down, arguing that if he is not aware of his wife's illegal activities, he should no longer be in charge of the country's intelligence-gathering.

"Either the minister knew about his wife's operation to distribute hard drugs and benefited from it, or he did not know about it, casting aspersions on his competency for the role of minister of state security," opposition Congress of the People spokesman Phillip Dexter said in a statement posted on the Polity.org.za politics portal.
The Zuma administration simply has to recognize this is the case and show him the door. Gently into some retirement-of-opportunity, or simply dumping him; either will do.

Just get him the heck out of any job dealing with Law Enforcement or National Security.

Now.

And get a goooood look at his address book before he goes.

Chubu Electric to shut down Hamaoka reactors (Updated)

Well, it's a good call on the part of the authorities...

As reported by The AP, (carrying in part Kyoudou wire service's report) the office of the souri-daijin ('Prime Minister') has called for the closure of all three reactors at the Hamaoka complex in Shizuoka Prefecture (between Toukyou and Nagoya, but closer to Nagoya).

Mainichi Daily News has more, also citing Kyoudou, that states:
(Prime Minister N.) Kan said the nuclear power station lacks medium- to long-term measures for protection against disasters, such as embankments.
That's one part of the issue, for certain. The place is, by reputation, an accident waiting to happen. The 30 year predictive for a major earthquake close by that location approaches unity, for one thing.

Other factors (for closure) include the age of the plant and how deeply unpopular that particular power station is with the local population; they've been trying to get it closed for years...

and other factors (against closing it *now*) include the unpleasant truth that with TouDen (TEPCO) running their reserve power stations full-on and still looking at a massive power shortfall come summer in east Japan, having their closest neighbor drop capacity does not bode well for keeping things running without major black-outs this year... or next year... or the year after that...

If you are in the Natural Gas-fired power station business, and you aren't already in-process to get into the Japan market, get cracking. This is a once-in-decades opportunity to get fast-tracked approval to build or re-build power stations... and we are going to need a bunch, and quickly.

***

Update:

Now the compromise has come out:
Japan urged a power company Friday to suspend all three reactors at a coastal nuclear plant while a seawall and other structures are built to ensure a major earthquake or tsunami does not cause a second radiation crisis.
Bold by me, for emphasis.

Oh brother. Half measures when only full measures are called for. Somebody got the ear of the bureaucrats (again).

I stand by my previous assertion: The only good short term answer is to go an alternate generation route. We'll need more nuclear stations, but the decade+ lead time and the need to build them using the latest design type(s) to ensure cold-failure means building something else for now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Harper gets his majority

The results are pretty much all in... and it sure looks good. The Tories needed 155 to form a majority and they are all-but-certification to get 167 seats.

There is a new Opposition as well; The NDP is the largest out-party with an expected 102 seats. The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois are literally non-factors after this (and may stay that way for a while). Here are the highlights, from the Globe and Mail:
The extent of the transformation is startling. The Liberals now hold just four seats west of Guelph, Ont. The Conservatives, formerly shunned by Toronto voters, won nearly half of the seats in that city, twice as many as the Liberals.

The Bloc Québécois, which defined Quebec federal politics for two decades, no longer qualifies for official party status. And Green Party Leader Elizabeth May won the party’s first seat, and the right to a place in the next election’s debates.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat and resigned. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff lost his riding. Both defeated leaders were squeezed, like many of their candidates, between growth in Conservative support and Jack Layton’s surging New Democrats.
Wooooo.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One less bad guy (Updated2)

This is the breaking news story of the day, so here's the *FLASH* on it:
Sources said bin Laden was killed by a U.S. bomb a week ago. The U.S. had been waiting for the results of a DNA test to confirm his identity.
UPDATES 1 and 2: Ok, the story is coming out. Not a bomb; shot dead. Not a Pakistani operation; American operators went in. Not last week; Op was authorized last week, went down today. Not in some contested area; in a district only 40 miles outside Islamabad, Pakistan. (some reports cite as far as 70 miles away). There's a lot of confirming evidence out there addressing things that were noticed in the area of the operation. I'll wager that behind the scenes, there's going to be diplomatic hell to pay on this.

h/t Bryan Preston at PJ Tattler for the second update.

Here's The Long War Journal rather matter-of-fact report.

...and allowing for a brief moment of celebration, here's a little music:

Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.

Now, back to work.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A superb choice of uniform

My congratulations to the Colonel of the Regiment, Irish Guards, upon his marriage. Best wishes to his lovely bride.

Oh, don't sound confused... you've almost certainly heard about this event...

back home

Back home in Japan after a most successful and enjoyable trip.

My thanks to all, colleagues, friends and family, that made it so.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Places you may not be watching (April Edition)

There is a lot of Libya Fatigue happening in the media... and about the "Arab Spring" in general... and West Africa's continued spasms are just passe'... it makes it all too easy to want to just read the newspaper to see the Wednesday Supermarket insert and throw away the rest. Please don't.

There are stories out there that matter rather much, but only in one corner of the world, that aren't getting much attention. Here's one I think you might want to see:
Thai-Cambodia clashes spread east to Preah Vihear

Fighting has erupted between soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand along their disputed mountainous border for a fifth consecutive day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On travel

Out of the office for about a week and a half.

Doesn't mean there won't be new threads; just don't expect interactive commenting.

sooper kewl - but...

It's one of my favorite harps on people in "Western" governments, how things clandestine ...supposedly only to be known by people in government responsible for things clandestine... have a bad habit of showing up in distinctly not-clandestine places like the newspapers.

Oh, sometimes it is just that the activity wasn't really that secret... or just a little bit so... see the latest Wikileaks troublemaking for one example, or note that folks in the U.S. DeptState are often too willing to say things to blow their own horns... but the worst ones are usually from insiders with political or media agendas acting as "off-the-record" sources. Here's an excerpt from Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette in a recent well-presented article on the Libya Intervention:
That news prompted more squawking about "al Qaeda members among the rebels" - but in the meantime other reporters asked the real question that that response made obvious, but that so many missed: Wait, we have intel guys on the ground? Again, the best answer would have been a simple explanation of some of the many reasons why turning enemies into allies is a good idea, instead we got (shhhh... off the record, of course - and not in these words) "oh stop worrying - this has been a CIA op from the get-go. The boss authorized it before the first bomb fell." (Um, shhhh... that sounds totally sooper kewl - but saying it was a really a super bad idea.)
Bold by me, author comments in parentheses in the original.

There are a host of reasons why much of the inner workings of diplomacy and espionage intelligence activities are generally not topics of conversation, even in peacetime... even between 'friends'... in a time of conflict you can multiply those reasons by a couple orders of magnitude. But, of all that, one thing stands out:

When those things about what "we" are doing get out in public, it paints a target on the people "we" are working with... and sometimes on our operatives as well.

Word gets around about that, pretty quick.

Not many folks remain willing to help our side when doing so borders on the suicidal.

So... please...

those of you in the Trade: Keep secrets secret. That means not only not running your mouth to people outside the operation, but also not violating compartmentalization by leaving bits of operational details in low-security locations.

those of you in the Media: Show at least a little sense about what you publish. Save it up; it'll make a heck of a book you can be famous for writing *after the operation is long over*.

There's a reason for the old admonishment about "not until after 5 and 10"... to not even consider discussing an operation until one has been separated from the Trade for at least 5 years and that the operation have been over for at least 10 years. The bad guys out there have long memories, you see.

Lives, our friend's lives, our people in the field's lives, depend on it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

kizuna

An op-ed piece by Kan Naoto souridaijin (N. Kan, 'Prime Minister' of Japan), published in the Washington Post on April 15th. Here is the concluding paragraph:
I believe that the best way for Japan to reciprocate the strong kizuna and cordial friendship extended to us is to continue our contribution to the development of the international community. To that end, I will work to the best of my ability to realize a forward-looking reconstruction that gives people bright hopes for the future. I would wholeheartedly appreciate your continued support and cooperation. Arigatou.
In Japanese, kizuna means "the bonds of friendship"; Arigatou means "thank you".

Friday, April 15, 2011

Open Thread

My regrets, friends, but those pesky obligations have been around in force this week.

Here's an Open Thread for you, and I'll see if the weekend will spare me time to do some other topic threads.

The usual rules apply: Play Nice.

As always, thanks to All for coming here. See you again, soon.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I knew it seemed too good...

There are a lot of jokes about "too good to check" out there.

Well maybe, when the Arab League was part of the call for a no-fly zone in Libya, somebody should have checked.

. The Arab League is historically an anti-Western alliance. Specifically anti-Israel, but more than willing to have voiced troubling opinions pretty much any time Western governments are drawn into any Middle Eastern trouble. They certainly were no help at all in Lebanon in the 1980's, for one example.

.. The Qaddafi regime in Libya has never abandoned its Arab Nationalist credentials. Sure, he played the "we are African" card all the time in the AU, especially when Moammar viewed it as an extension of his petty empire, and he had his fallings out with other Arab leaders, but the Arab League never really turned against him... until, apparently, this time.

... There are elements always present in the Arab League that spend their time looking for any opportunity to get a foot in the door on matters in the unresolved portions of the Palestine Mandate. Any opportunity.

So, no one should be surprised in the slightest that *this* is their latest scheme:
The Arab League on Sunday announced during a special meeting in Cairo that it plans to press the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza amid an escalation in violence in the area, AFP reported.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said he plans to present the proposal to the UN Security Council, the report said.
I knew it seemed too good when they seemed to be making a reasonable request to intervene in Libya; Reasonable requests and the Arab League have simply never coexisted in the past.

There is always an angle.

Always.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Michael...

... Mr. Posner...

... U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor...

... Mr. Assistant Secretary...

You might want to have a look at the list of things being done that we'd better not advertise, because I'm pretty damn sure that this is on that list. Especially not by talking about particulars. At least you showed the sense to not name providers; small accomplishment that.

You simply have to know, this isn't the safe little world of Berkeley or Geneva, nor the glory days when you were running LCIHR (note: an NGO, called "Human Rights First" now). Unless this is some scam on your part to drum up a bunch more asylum business for your 'pro-bono' law trade, or an misguided effort to justify your existence at DeptState, I see no explanation as to why this should be out in the AFP... or detailed in any DeptState reports.

Sheesh.

I was so hoping that the attention your previous little inconvenient statement to the P.R. Chinese got would have given you some scruple as to what to say, to whom, and about what.

That doesn't seem to be the case.

Thanks a whole lot, you thoughtless @#$.

I don't know what you've done with the gutsy and competent guy who did such good work back in the bad days in Uganda, but where ever you've stuffed him away, now would be a great time to change places.

***

and yes, this is something *I* wouldn't have posted about if you hadn't let it hit open media.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Japan Earthquake: 7.4 Mag. (Updated)

Still getting all the information on this, but I'm posting just so friends and family are aware we are fine here in Tochigi... a good long shake but nothing damaged.

Up north, where the 03/11 9.0 Mag Earthquake hit, this one was also pretty rough: Japanese Seismic Intensity ratings hit 6+ on the 7 point scale. Tsunami warning for that coast as well, forecasters saying 3~6 feet of wave height possible.

***

Update: Friday

3 dead. No tsunami of note. ~4 million homes without power overnight throughout the Touhoku (the Northeast region). Lots more stress on the system.

Not fun.

A timely assist.

Thank you, France, for the timely assist:
Late on Wednesday, French helicopters moved in to evacuate the Japanese ambassador, Okamura Yoshifumi, after his home near the presidential residence was invaded by unidentified gunmen.

The envoy and his aides were whisked to safety in a French military camp at Port-Bouet, south of Abidjan, the French embassy said.

The French said they had acted after a request from Japan and the UN.
Once, long ago and in a very different place, our roles were reversed.

***

The BBC also has this video taken during the rescue.

***

More about the circumstances of the evacuation and a similar request for evacuation by Israel.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Petard.

...as in "hoist upon one's own petard". ('Blown up by your own bomb', for you of a more modern linguistic bent.)

That just about sums up result of the the Liberals successful call of no-confidence in the Harper administration of Canada. Seems the Tories are hauling out the big guns in some ridings already, and the numbers for the Libs don't look so good:
The poll has now placed Mr. Harper at levels of support above 40 per cent for three straight days. That level is traditionally seen as the yardstick for forming a majority government.
As readers here might recall, the Conservatives missed an outright majority by 11 seats the last time things went to the polls.

It is looking much more promising this time. Heh.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Endgame in Cote d'Ivoire

It is down to a final stand by Gbagbo's loyalists and his Republican Guard, in Abidjan, against a force of northern rebels and Ouattara partisans that has swept the rest of the country out of the hands of the regime.

Predictably, once it came to this, the old hatreds and N-S divisions left over from the Ivoire Civil War have also spilled out. Looting and mistreatment of refugees are now being widely reported. *Here* is the BBC version, and *here* is AlertNet (from Reuters) with more about the fighting.

Meanwhile, the U.N. calls for calm and yet their peacekeepers are kept back at their base guarding foreign evacuees. France calls for a resolution, yet LICORNE force is also held back from acting. The de facto President, Gbagbo, encourages his men to fight and says he is still in the country (yet other reports place his family and key supporters already out of the country), while the internationally recognized President, Ouattara, awaits his invitation to move into the palace... once his allies are done turning Abidjan into looted rubble.

...because after months of ECOWAS ineptitude and international failure to back up their words, when push comes to shove... that's still how things are done there.

T.I.A.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Priceless

How does the credit card company advertisement go...?

Sub-Saharan Mercenaries: a few hundred dollars a day, tops.

Russian-built multiple rocket launchers: a couple hundred thousand a pop.

A Nicaraguan career-misanthrope and fixture of the international blame-America set as your new U.N. envoy: priceless.

priceless = comedy gold in this case.

Way to go on the "buy some respect" move there, Moammar.

Freedom for Libya: Back and Forth

The fight remains well and truly on, and the loyalist fighting force gets the best of it anytime they aren't in the Intervention Coalition's bombsights.

That means, for the east and midcoastal region, the battles are following fairly closely one of the axiomatic courses of North African warfare: it looks about like a soccer (football) match between two loosely coached teams, with guns... lots of rushes half-a-field-length followed by desperate retreats to protect one's own "goal net", that being in this case one's base of supply. Like said sport, the only way to reliably secure victory is to tighten up he coaching discipline and make well-ordered moves of position and control to advance into the hostile zone. For now, it is pretty clear that only one side has the potential of doing that... and sadly, it's not the squad I'm cheering for.

In the regions closer to Tripoli, and out west, it has been almost too easy for the Loyalists... with one exception: Misrata. The rebels are still besieged mightily and at great distress, but they are at least contesting control of the central part of the city. For how much longer, I simply have no way to judge.

The political machinations continue, with some key defections from the regime and some public meetings designed to make it look like the Intervention is a united effort. There has even been talk of setting aside the arms embargo in part to allow weapons and direct support to the rebel forces. There is also a "yes we are / no we aren't" game being played by some Western politicians as to whether covert assets are in the field... cute of them to be playing politics with the lives of 'disposable people', isn't it?

This won't all be resolved until either (a) regime loyalists decide to stop being loyalists... and put daggers in the backs of the whole Qaddafi family, or; (b) one or more of the nations in the Intervention Forces decide to toss diplomatic niceties in the trash and goes all-in to win this thing for the Rebellion, or; (c)... actually, there is no (c). Letting Qaddafi and kin survive, either in power or in comfortable exile, is simply an invitation for unending trouble.

So hang on to your hats, folks. This is going to be a rough ride.

***

BBC World's daily live coverage can be found *here*, but be aware it is not operated 24 hours a day, nor is it continuous. They archive it at the end of each day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yes and No

Yes, this is good. Sure would be better if some progress toward getting Gbagbo out was happening on the ground, though.

No, this isn't good. Neither is the ongoing "teachers strike" which is about a whole lot more than education.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just to be clear about R2P

I've written here before about Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the United Nations policy formalized in 2006 that justifies "humanitarian intervention" if the government of a people is in fact a physical danger to those same people.

If you recall, you might note I've written in favor of the policy. I've been rather associated with the academic side of the debate that was the basis upon which the policy was built, although mostly as a spectator, and that gives one a bit of insight into how it is intended.

That said...

...it seems to be popular to talk about R2P these days in political forums. The Libya Intervention being what it is, it calls a lot of attention to R2P. The upshot of those commentaries seems to be either a contempt for the hypocrisy of how R2P has been applied to date or a manifest fear of R2P being some One-Worlder plot that will eventually be unleashed upon the nations of the Western World.

It has been applied poorly, yes. Consider the agencies (often elements of the U.N.) usually responsible for that application and that should come as no surprise.

But you can throw out the conspiracy theory. There is a far simpler and thus far less politic explanation for R2P. It is an updated form of 19th Century Enlightened Imperialism. It has all the hallmarks of the justification used to stop the Slave Trade, to overthrow despotic rulers, and then to bring some element of Human Rights (like trying to stop Foot Binding in China or forcible Sati (Sutte) in India) or of Education (Imperial German colonial schools in East Africa were unequalled for quality even by modern day standards) or Justice (the implantation of legal systems, Common or Civil, throughout much of Africa, South and East Asia where justice had often been tribal or by diktat of the autocrat).

It has the potential to right wrongs. It has the potential to save lives.

It also has the same potential for abuse that Imperialism had.

Like Aristocracy, Imperialism *may* be a beneficial system. Also like being an Aristocrat, Imperialism is a lot more desirable if one gets to be one of the Great Powers.

R2P is no more, and no less, inherently justifiable that any other form of outside control. It is simply the counter-argument against unlimited sovereign rights being the nature of all recognized States, no matter who (or what party) runs them.

But know it for what it is: the presumption that (we) enlightened people have a justifiable reason for lording over (you) un-enlightened people to prevent (what we consider) barbarous conduct... but one that (we) will exercise at our discretion and convenience, indeed to our benefit or at least to as little material loss as (we) see fit.

That's a presumption that requires ethically perfect conduct by the (we) mentioned.

Something to think about, that.

Next of the PIIGS to go

...will likely be Portugal.

Expect the austerity package to fail in Parliament. Expect the administration of Prime Minister Jose Socrates to resign when that happens.

It may be great political theater, but it's not much use toward combating the financial crisis.

Freedom for ... a lot of places.

You are probably watching / reading about the Libya Intervention, and you've likely got the sense that all these Tunisia-Egypt-(a lot of places) Uprisings might just be connected... you'd be right, with the exception of Bahrain which appears to be as much external destabilization as a genuine rising.

Here are two more places to watch, one old news and one very very new on the scene:

Yemen: The uprising there has been fueled as much by the new mood as by the old issues of the North-South divide. The tide is running solidly against the regime now, with even ranking military officers (and co-tribalists of President Saleh) going over to the insurrection. Saleh himself seems to be just trying to get favorable terms under which to leave... another good student of the great Arab Nationalists, he. No need to stick around for the lamppost party after the change in management comes...

Syria: The threat to the Assad regime started slowly this time, and was met with the usual crackdowns and arrests, but... it is still growing. More telling, neither of the traditional opponent groups to the regime are in the picture. The splits are tribal, sectarian, and pragmatic now. (Driving Syria's Druze community into opposition was a particularly clumsy move by the regime.) If that means a significant portion of the State Security apparatus is now at risk of falling in with the rising, then there is a chance that al-Hurra (Arabic: the condition of being free; specifically the opposite of enslaved) may come to Syria.

If only...

May this wind continue to blow, and that even far Iran feels it.

***

Web Sources Reminder:

Besides the major and local media, which may be beyond your ability to judge for veracity (or to read!), here are a couple analysts and a source for in-region media reports that I recommend without reservation:

Your best source for analysis and understanding of matters Yemeni: Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation.

A very good and informed source for the same on Iran and Middle Eastern matters, although of a well-intended bias (that I agree with): Michael Ledeen at Faster, Please! on Pajamas Media.

Original Source Material can also be found in great abundance and translated reliably at MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. (link is to their 'blog. Homepage has original source video and more.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japan Earthquake: a few side notes

Just a few side notes for you on the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami story.

Where we were:

Violating the ancient rule about making the reporter the story...
((grin))

Here's a nice write-up about CompHyp friend and FOXNews correspondent Adam Housley and his trip to Japan to cover the story.

Where we are:

You can easily find stories of the recovery efforts underway, the terrible problems with mortuary overload, hospitals running out of materials, and the continued suffering of the survivors and evacuees.

You'll also easily find reports of the efforts to restore stability at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station... and yes, things are getting better.

If you look in the right places, you'll also find more reports on relief efforts and assistance being provided by US Forces Japan, but you might be a little surprised to find that the permanently-ported-in-Japan aircraft carrier USS George Washington hasn't played a role. There's a back story there and it's not exactly flattering...

But others are arriving to help. Just like last year in Haiti, the Israelis are in. Here's hoping they get some nice write-ups in the local media; too often they serve thanklessly in these sort of responses.

So keep up the good work, folks, and we'll get through this.

Friday, March 18, 2011

weekend update (Updated)

This is your weekend update:

Day 8 ends / Day 9 starts

As of just a little while ago, NHK has it that workers in Kesennuma got a live rescue out of the rubble. To give you an idea as to heartbreaking the rescue effort is (was)... that is only about the third live rescue from actually in the wreckage. There have been lots of people pulled off rubble and rooftops, and lots more gathered from hillsides where they fled... but traditional go-in-and-dig-them-out rescues... very very few. It was so disheartening the last couple of days that the official focus shifted to recovery and the search-dog-and-prybar teams that flew in to help have been being sent home.

The foreign media has truly fled. Between risks, panic, and other stories to cover, we've got a (relatively speaking) handful of reporters in Oosaka (Osaka) monitoring things. Only the hard core that were already in the Touhoku (Northeast region) before the panic are getting the actual reports out now. No slight to them; that's how their bosses decided to cover this story.

We've avoided rolling blackouts today, here in the north Kantou (East region; the big flat spot that surrounds Toukyou (Tokyo)).

The snow stopped up north late yesterday. Sunny and clear most of the day so far today (Saturday, local time).


As far as American efforts to help:

. The US Forces Japan (USFJ) and other assets sent to help have done a superb job. Only possible points of improvement would have been getting a release to help earlier (not their job; DeptState didn't get it done for a day or two) and a little less playing to fears regarding the nuclear power station... there is no need to evacuate dependents down at the bases, really.

.. Ambassador Roos has not embarrassed himself.


You can expect the mass media to be somewhat caught up in other things now:

. It's been more than a week. Getting the coverage we've gotten so far has been a boon, but the media's attention span is necessarily short.

.. There are other things really worthy of attention. The Civil War in Libya has gotten short shrift for a week and the regime used that diversion to kick the daylights out of the Rebellion. Now the UNSC has *finally* acted... expect to see lots about that in the news from here.

... There are other things that are really not worthy of attention, but will get it anyway. cf. American Presidential visit to a nice beach in Brazil.


So we go on, here.

We'll keep digging, and going out to help, and gathering relief aid, and sitting in the dark a few hours most days so others can have some power.

When things have reached a point of some stability, then I'll get my vacation.

Damn it.

***

Update:

re: the live 'rescue' in Kesennuma.

Some news is, in fact, too good to be true.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In the dark...

Well, not literally. We had our three-hour share of the rolling blackout come through earlier today. But as to when and if I go back out on a work call... well, that I'm in the dark about.

I'm home tonight (local time), having had a day to myself for the first time since Saturday. The panic in the foreign media has resulted in some teams being pulled back to cities, away from any nuclear plant dangers, and other foreign teams simply being pulled out and sent home.

So I'm off stand-by, but not really at liberty to do much: (1) there's not much to do, any way, and; (2) if some sense of safety overtakes my clients, then there will be the immediate need to get teams up north where the *real* story... the massive rescue and recovery operation from the direct damage... is still going on.

The latest estimate has 14,000 people dead or missing, 450,000 people in temporary shelter... and it's snowing heavily up there.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Major Earthquake in Japan (Many Updates)

Magnitude 8.4 ~ 8.9 (reports vary).

Major casualty event in Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures.

Here, about 100 km away from the area directly effected, it was a heck of a ride.

Kudos to the fine gentleman and his craftsmen that built this house; not a whit of damage even at Japanese Intensity 5 shaking.

Rail and airports are shut down or on very limited availability throughout east and northeast Japan.

Substantial, and occasional Major aftershocks continue.

The coast took an enormous Tsunami. Wave height reported to be 7+ meters in Sendai port and as high as 10 meters in a few places.

For English language reports, I recommend FOXNews (carrying the AP, which gets Kyoudou as their source) and the impeccable BBC, which is running live feeds from NHK World and has a very good reporter based in Toukyou.

FOXNews report as of now.

BBC report, with links to their live feed.

Also, here is the Japan Met Service Earthquake Information page for this event. From that page, go to 'next information' to see each of the aftershocks.

For your convenience, here is a list of the effects of the JMA seismic intensity scale. You can see there what I meant about how it went here... upper 5... and get a sense of how bad it was in the hard-hit regions ...they caught a full 7.

The aftermath of this is going to be pretty ugly. Presume a large number of people are now without shelter in a part of the country famous for late winter snow. Worse for the folks on the coast up there, who may have nothing left... if they survived. But amazingly, no reports of deaths have come in, yet.

Hope that holds. Bets are it won't.

***

Update: 0049hrs 'blogtime

Three dead reported by AFP.

BBC has one dead in Toukyou (Tokyo).

***

Update 2: 0113hrs 'blogtime

AFP now has it at 19 dead.

***

Update 3: 0155hrs 'blogtime

NHK has it at 20 dead... with "many many more" missing.

The fire being constantly shown on the news re-cycle is a refinery in Chiba Prefecture... which is far south of here. It is about as far away from the quake as Toukyou is... ~250 km from epicenter. But earthquake damage is a funny thing. cf. 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroying much of San Francisco's Marina District and dropping a span of the Bay Bridge, neither particularly close to the epicenter.

Japan Met has made an official revision to the magnitude: 8.8 , which would be an all-time high.

The focus is now shifting: Presuming no parallel earthquakes or massive aftershocks, the danger of more damage here is fading... but look out across the Pacific. Tsunami velocities are hard to judge but a reasonable expectation would be a major tsunami threat to Hawaii in the 7~9 hours post-quake time frame, and the same to the west coast of the U.S. Lower 48 starting around the 9 hour mark in the Northwest and proceeding from there. Philippines, the South Pacific and points south, Russia's Kuriles, Sakhalin, Kamchatka and points north and east of there (like Alaska), *all* these places can presume to be under tsunami threat in even less time than that. Having a 20+ foot high wall of water coming one's way should be enough to fix the attention on getting people the heck out of risk zones. Philippines is taking action as best they can already. Here's hoping the other governments are taking action as well.

***

Update 4: 0237hrs 'blogtime

The AP has 32 confirmed dead so far.

While searching for reports on any injuries to personnel, or equipment loss, at Misawa Air Base... I find that Stars and Stripes has an entirely respectable overview of earthquake effects on US Forces Japan. Short Form: all personnel accounted for; impact on operational capacity negligible.

***

Update 5: 0606hrs 'blogtime (2306hrs JST)

Now the scary reports start to come in...

Official reports (various) sum up to about 90 dead so far.

unconfirmed or partial reports...

...have a ship at sea with ~100 aboard unaccounted for.

...have 200~300 bodies on the coastline near Sendai.

...state a train that ran on a coastal rail line remains unaccounted for.

...one of the nuclar power stations in Fukushima didn't go into shutdown normally; it had to be brought down hard when a cooling system failed.

***

Update 6: 1623 hrs 'blogtime (0923 hrs Sat, JST)

Rescue and recovery operations are underway.

The toll rises; reports have the confirmed deaths over 350 and the missing at over 700.

Rail and cell phone service is spotty at best in the east of the country, and still non-functional up in the disaster zone. The peripheral problem of getting commuters home from Toukyou is rapidly becoming significant... anyone trying to get back home by train to the towns north and northeast of Toukyou metropolitan area is basically still camped out in the stations. Highway and surface roads are overcrowded so doing an overland extraction is still not reasonable, but if the rails don't get reopened soon, organizing bus convoying may have to be the answer.

There is a lot of noise about the BWR reactors at the atomic power stations in Fukushima in some trouble maintaining cooling systems. They are still trying to use the secondary systems, but the emergency cooling systems for all the reactors in question are on standby and ready to be used if core temperatures get anywhere near dangerous levels.

Electricity and water/sanitation interruptions (and shortly food distribution) are all significant threats to the population in the disaster area. Road and Rail bridges are all suspect at this time as well.

The state of emergency has allowed the government to activate Defense Force resources and large numbers of helicopters, cargo aircraft and other assets are now deploying. Allied forces from USFJ (Americans) are also being made available including a second carrier on the way from the U.S.A. that will add even more secure flat space and aviation capability to help.

***

Update 7: very early Saturday (Saturday evening JST)

That comment above about food distribution is coming to pass far more quickly than... it should, frankly. But modern distribution systems for retail food and high-use materials like gasoline have very little stockpile buffer, at least here. So, your Saturday trip to the shopping mall went something like this... even down here in Tochigi which is well outside the zone of serious damage... by noon, there was no bread, dry soup or noodles on the shelves. Other sections were a mixed bag of plenty and of suspicious absence. So you buy what you can/want and head over to fuel up the family car... hope you weren't too low or heaven-forbid actually use the car for work... *if* the gas stand had any fuel to sell, they were limiting sales to cash-price 2000 en per customer. That buys about 13 liters (3 gallons and a bit)at today's also significantly higher price.

Now this is actually all explainable if you consider the level of disruption, the astounding level of shock in ordinary people over the earthquake, and the utterly cynical hoarding instinct that people here have relied upon since ancient times to signal their conscious mind in times of shortage to go buy everything they can lay their hands on that they think they might need. cf. the origin of Shinjuku as a commercial center in the post-WWII years as the premier black market during the Occupation.

But enough with the rationalizing and back to the rationing. Here's the situation: the media is spreading advice from authorities that fuel and even food distribution will likely be very limited all across eastern Japan *for a week or more*. This, in the basically untouched inland area of the Kantou region. Just imagine what it must be like for folks up in the area of effect.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This...

...explains why the Maehara resignation is just another in a series of diplomatic disasters for Japan...

...and this is an example of how crippled Japan's diplomacy has become, even with its closest ally...

...and this, which is far, far more important, has been pushed out of the news cycle by the two previous items.

The trivial triumphs over the existentially threatening, again.

When political life is dominated by petty individuals with no interest or ability to understand matters outside their narrow parochial interests, this is what happens.

A study in democracy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday come on Monday Push

Four hours sleep and a 'Maebashi Monday' does not a good blogger make...

Worse yet for my mood, the one really competent foreign policy guy in the otherwise amateur DPJ government here, Maehara, just resigned because his accounting staff didn't seem to remember that life-in-Japan multi-generation Korean nationals are still *foreigners* and thus can't donate money to politicians or parties here. Way to go, Staff. Stupid mistakes like this cause panic in the political ranks; suddenly no one wants to even look like they are doing something contrary to the Political Funds Control Law; makes it even harder for *this* foreigner to get clients in government (for example; and that isn't a donation. it is paid work).

***

Anyway... here's your Open Thread for this week.

The usual rules apply: Play Nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Rising in Arabia and North Africa: source material

Just a quick note to point out a location for English-language source material that is a bit off the beaten track of news outlets... and it's a good one:

The National Review online has added Egypt Watch as a tracker for reports concerning The Rising. It got its start covering the Egyptian uprising, but they try to get as much about the entire region covered as possible now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Freedom for Libya: Not going quietly

To no one's real surprise, Muammar al-Qaddafi (M. Gaddafi) is not 'going quietly into the night'.

The fight is on, for real now, after the half-hearted attempt by regime loyalists to retake al-Zawiya. The latest counter stroke has fallen on Marsa el-Brega, with the outcome unclear but certainly more favorable to the regime than previous efforts.

Meanwhile, it looks that any intervention (if any is to come) will have to be mostly a European effort... the Americans are repositioning forces of some utility to be available if NATO calls, but the absence of a Carrier Strike Group from the Med is still a problem. One is close by, but would have to transit Suez to be back in any real proximity. It is also obvious that the political will to action is simply lacking in the Obama administration.

It's been said before, not by me though, but bears repeating in paraphrase:

"The 3 a.m. call has come. It went to the answering machine."

The ghost of Mrs. McConville...

... still cries out for a reckoning.

John Derbyshire at The Corner, while writing on the Irish election, brought mention of Gerry Adams winning the constituency of Louth.

Mr. Derbyshire also very helpfully links to Ruth Dudley Edwards's commentary of 25.Feb and she's got a very, very good point: He's more open than ever to being charged for his crimes internationally than ever before.

Adams has, by resigning his Northern Ireland seat in the Westminster Parliament (which he profited from but never actually took up) last year and then winning election in the Republic as a TD... made himself the Republic's problem. She's not one to mince words about what should be done, either:
Brendan Hughes, Mr Adams chief lieutenant in the IRA, has stated that Adams was in charge of these ‘dirty’ operations. It is extremely serious that a potential member of Dail Eireann should be under suspicion of war crimes. It brings disgrace to the Irish Parliament and the Irish people.

We ask that one of the first duties of the new Government and the new Attorney General should be to investigate these claims, to see if there is a prima facie case for reporting Mr Adams to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. This has happened with political figures from the former Yugoslavia, such as Radovan Karadich, the Bosnian Serb leader. Hopefully he will soon be joined in The Hague by Colonel Gaddafi, a man who brought much suffering to Northern Ireland as well as his own people.
I wholeheartedly agree. May it come to pass.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"groundless"

from the BBC about CdI:
The UN team was attacked in the capital, Yamoussoukro.

They were looking into reports that Belarus had provided attack helicopters for supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to give up the presidency.

Belarus has denied the allegations as "groundless".
Let's just say I'd go with the unconfirmed reports over a Lukashenko regime denial. Looks like the UNSC sees it that way, too. Note the Libyan side issue mentioned in this article as well. There is a history of such behaviour.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Push, with a FFI bonus

Topic Post No. 1001 in the history of CompHyp.

Some of them have even been serviceable.
((grin))

With that out of the way, here's your Open Thread for this week.

The usual rules apply: Play Nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

***

Freedom for Iran: Bag Job on the Oppos

State Security (in one of its many guises) has carried off Mousavi and Karoubi and their families. Beatings, arrests, and then disappearances seem to be the order of the day.

Michael Ledeen the details.

It all looks pretty bad.

Freedom for Libya: Beware Pretenders

Just about the entire 'International Community' is now calling for M. Qaddafi to go; to resign, to be arrested, or to simply expire (different voices, different messages). Not a whole lot of listening going on in the regime about that, though.

Meanwhile, the insurrectionists in the east of Libya (Cyrenaica) are attempting to form a provisional government. Luck to them on that:
It was not immediately clear how much support the proposed provisional leadership commands.
So... if Libya does ever manage to dispose of the Qaddafi regime... this would be the go-to for forming a replacement government, right?

Not so fast, there.

You see, there is a little bit of history regarding what happened at the end of the Libyan monarchy (the one brought down by Qaddafi's coup way back in 1969): King Idris was vulnerable not only because he didn't go along with the Pan-Arabist and Arab Nationalist mood of the times; He also never fathered a surviving male heir.

To manage this inconvenience, King Idris had in 1956 appointed his nephew Hasan ar Rida as-Senussi as Crown Prince. Near the end, King Idris had actually agreed to abdicate (mostly due to his ill-health) with the new monarch to be installed on 2.September, 1969. Qaddafi's coup struck on 1.September of that year. Hasan is gone now, having endured arrest, destruction of his property, and a stroke... the last of which being the only reason he ever got out of Libya (to the UK) in 1988. He died in 1992, but just prior to his demise he formally appointed his son Muhammad as-Senussi as heir to his claim. He's still amongst the living (no small achievement given the Qaddafi regime's habit of killing off rivals), residing in exile, and has recently been willing to modestly speak on behalf of the insurrection against Qaddafi. His declared opinion on a possible return of the monarchy is that he and his family 'are in the service of the Libyan people' but that the return is not a priority. He is calling for a restoration of the Libyan Constitution, although how and to what extent is not clear as he also calls for open elections.

But just to make things more difficult, the situation in the monarchy-in-exile isn't exactly cut-and-dried: There is an alternate claimant to the throne.

That would be the 1st cousin twice removed of the late King, the also-named Idris al-Senussi. He's the third son by the second wife of the late Prince Abdallah, the advisor to King Idris who was given the task of undoing Qaddafi's coup and restoring the monarchy. That banner has now passed to this Idris and he has made a career of selling himself to anyone who will listen as being the head of the government-in-exile and chief of counter-revolutionary activities. He's also a greedy opportunist without peer.

My gentle advice, were anyone to be listening, would be that the United Kingdom (or the United States of America, and any other member of the 'International Community' that is looking for leverage over the situation) be very very careful who they choose to associate with in the Libyan exile community. Muhammad, styled HRH, might be a good ally and a good voice of tradition to the people of Libya. Idris, self-styled HRH, is almost certainly more trouble than he is worth unless a place for him in a supporting role can be found... and very carefully managed. Otherwise, I'd say to pay him no heed.

Besides, the real decision is happening on the ground in Libya right now. All this other talk is simply positioning for the future... which for Libya is hopefully a bright future.

***

Caveat: many links above are from Wikipedia and used for convenience only. Please source all citations there directly.

Friday, February 25, 2011

placeholder post

Yep, it is busy here. Not in a good way.

'It would be more fun if we could drink beer.' comes to mind.

hasta mañana

LDG

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freedom for Libya: Air Force defections

The Qaddafi regime has stooped to ordering in airstrikes on the protesters and army renegades who are supporting them in Benghazi, but not all the pilots are willing to bomb their fellow countrymen.

The talk today at the U.N. (and other venues) is of a no-fly zone over Libya, but the why and how of that are still openly being debated. To keep out mercenaries and supplies to the regime? To shoot down any Libyan aircraft being used against the area in revolt? To prevent Qaddafi and fellow goons from making away with their loot?

If the call is confirmed by a UNSC resolution, it pretty much requires an American intervention. Naval air is available and in-region... but is there the political will in Washington?

Freedom for Iran: Protests continue

Somehow, some way, the protesters are able to keep at it in spite of having almost no meaningful outside support.

That "in spite" part should be changed. If the Obama administration lacks the fortitude to do so, then they should at least stay out of the way and let the Europeans do what can be done. Sure would be nice if Japan weighed in, but that's not likely to happen unless the violence grows worse... if even then... hazukashii desu, yo (shameful!).

Not only influencing North Africa...

The successes in Tunisia and Egypt are not only influencing popular movements in North Africa and the Arabian states; the proof that people power can bring down an autocrat is being used as an example to motivate others in need as well... but there is a price.

Don't look for kleptocrats like Mugabe in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) to let such things go unchallenged. He's the same ilk as Qaddafi in Libya, a thug, in power only by controlling the state security forces and by cutting in key supporters on a share of the loot. That's why he had everyone at the seminar arrested, and that's why things won't change until the campaign to get rid of him moves out of seminars and into the streets.

Housley on Hiz'b at the border

Recommended reading (and viewing, of the video segment):

CompHyp friend and FOXNews reporter Adam Housley has this report on Hiz'ballah (Hezbollah) smuggling activities in Mexico targeting access to the U.S.A.

It's a good report, and one that covers a topic with several facets (Narco, anti-Americanism, GWOT). Yes, they really are using bases in Venezuela and contacts in Nicaragua and Mexico to try and get to you...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Late Push

Here's your Open thread for Sunday.

Use this wisely, folks. The usual rules apply: play nice.

As always, thank you All for coming here.

***

More information is becoming available...

... about the protests in Bahrain. After the rough stuff, now some signs of something to talk about.

... and about how the Libya revolt is going; it is becoming a tribal fight, it seems to be moving into Tripoli and cracks are starting to show in the facade.

More here as I know more.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some Thoughts on Three Insurrections

I've but a moment to write here but, as I've been piecing together the fragments of news about the continuing insurrections spreading across North Africa and the Middle East, I've been struck by how little except anti-government motivation the ongoing uprisings share.

Yemen: This is really just the latest continuation of the South Yemen (Aden) revolt-in-all-but-name against the Saleh regime that has been going on for years. The motivations there are those of a post-colonial South born of both socialist and liberal desires against a classic Arab Nationalist regime... which can of course be quite socialist (cf. Egypt in the past) but has no tolerance for Socialists of the former-Soviet-inspired type, at least not in their own population. There is also an ongoing Islamist insurgency across the North and South that has in equal measure cut deals with the movement-anti-government types and with the Saleh regime. So there really isn't the "ordinary people against the autocratic regime" situation there was in Egypt, or Tunisia before that. The current circumstances are just an opportunity.

Libya: I have scoffed before as to the possiblity that a genuine popular uprising could stand a chance against the al-Qaddafi (al-Gaddafi) regime. That may actually have been premature of me, although the Libyan State Security forces have happily killed eighty-some-odd protesters so far in Benghazi and other parts of the east so far. But there is some real determination in the demonstrations to the point that they are on the verge of making eastern Libya a region in full revolt. There is so little news reporting possible, though, that it is rather unclear as to *who* is doing the demonstrations; Islamists? a Shopkeepers revolt? the entire population irrespective of politics? No good way to know, at least for now. The other issue is that the protests have not spread to the capital city, Tripoli. While it is almost always better for a mass popular uprising to start in the outlying areas, it can't make the essential jump from being a local insurrection to being one that brings down the regime unless the movement has enough strength to at least threaten the seat of power. If that comes, then you may politely discard any respect for my previous dismissal of possible success and cheer for what would be one heck of a revolution. We'll sort out exactly who the revolutionaries are after they win, ne?

Bahrain: This one is the hard one. There really is a revolt in progress, and the regime really is making the protesters pay in blood for every day in the streets, but... there is a lot more to what is happening than merely the loyalists gunning down the demonstrators (about 5 dead, all in, as of yesterday; lots of wounded, though). The matter is vastly more difficult for the following reasons: because Bahrain was actually the regional leader in the advancement of civil rights under a monarchy from 1999 up to 2008; because the territory of Bahrain is still claimed by Iran as part of their sovereignty (cf. Saddam Hussein's claim vs. Kuwait as a model); and because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia considers the monarchy on Bahrain and indeed the land itself to be one of its vested interests (the island is connected to Arabia by a causeway, for one reason; as a buffer against Iranian pretensions of 'owning the Gulf' as another). I'd like to say that the demonstrations are at least well-intentioned, that they are genuine, popular and of a liberalizing intent. I can't. I know all too well how much it serves Iranian interests to pour fuel on the discontent held by the (roughly) 70% of the Bahraini population that share Shi'a Islam and near-brotherly ethnic ties with the coastal regions of Iran. If the Pasdaran (IRGC) isn't shoveling in all it has to stir things up on Bahrain, then they've really lost a step. This is a golden opportunity for them to make the monarchy and the Saudis look very, very bad... and they might end up controlling the place at least in part if things go completely out of control.

***

There are, of course, several other movements and insurrections happening across the region. I'm not discounting any of them; I've just little to add today about those other areas. You shouldn't overlook them, though. Jordan, Algeria, there are more, and reports do occasionally penetrate the all-too-inattentive mass media from time to time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Not all demonstrations happen in the streets...

...some happen in the halls of Parliament.

This hasn't been the best of weeks for this author; perhaps you, the reader, also have been having a tough go of things? Well, compared to what Kan Naoto souri-daijin (Prime Minister N. Kan of Japan) is up against, we'd best not be out begging for sympathy. He's going to need all there is available:
Kan, Japan's fifth premier since 2006, told reporters in the evening he is not considering going back to the "old way of doing politics."

But despite Kan's renewed resolve, more DPJ lawmakers began speaking out that his resignation may be inevitable, a day after 16 lawmakers of his Democratic Party of Japan, who are affiliated with party veteran Ichiro Ozawa, launched a revolt.
I'd say that's a dangerous revolt, too. That "party veteran" comment is kind of inappropriate about Johnny-come-lately to the DPJ Ozawa Ichirou, notorious political opportunist and kingmaker, who is under reprimand by the party (related to indictments for political funds misappropriation). He's been around forever, politically, but has switched parties and factions more times than is easily counted.
The rift in the DPJ has widened after the leadership proposed this week that Ozawa's party membership be suspended due to a political funds scandal, for which he has been indicted. Ozawa has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly said he will prove his innocence in court.

It is unclear whether Ozawa masterminded the revolt.
Oh, please.

Don't insult him, or our intelligence.

If he didn't mastermind the revolt, he damn well should have.

...because it might well work.