Friday, August 30, 2013

The Greeks Shall Rise Again!

"Breaking Bad" On "Charlie Rose"

At 16:00.

Even better, this video:

The Most Clear-Eyed Strategic Thought Is Coming From "The Onion"

It's infuriating, this whole idea of attacking Syria without having some understanding of what will happen, and what will not happen. There is an emerging consensus that this is a really dumb idea, but by the time it expresses itself, the attack will already have been made.

Greg Djerejian:
I am now staunchly opposed having better detected an utter lack of true seriousness by the Obama Administration. The myriad leaks around what type of mission, the palpable trigger-happiness among some, the British debacle (they won't even have their poodle this time, the cat-calls will ring!) and the ‘shot across the bow’ nonsense showcases an Administration unready for an invigorated course correction of its flailing Syria policy. Frankly, I am astonished by the lack of seriousness and mediocrity on display.

...If you mean it for real, however, you quietly go about your business planning a deterrent response that Bashar won’t simply hunker down through, you wait for the UN inspectors to issue their report on reasonable timing (would be graceful, no, at very least given the risks they undertook during their mission?), you at least try to have robust UNSC dialogue (let the Russians be on record that they are opposed, as we know they’ll be, but put in the effort regardless!) you cease with the constant leaks and descriptions and explications of what the policy might be or won’t or whether it will be no fly or no drive or cruise or no cruise or this or that, you don’t force allies to rush ham-handed into Parliamentary debates half-assed even before the UN investigation report finalized, and speaking of Parliaments, you deign to seek some imprimatur of legitimacy from yours; in short, you quietly execute, lay groundwork and let your opponent wonder what the hell is coming after his ostensibly despicable actions, rather than this gussied-up R2P prom-night feel-good gesture.

...This past 72-96 hours have been a titanic embarrassment for anyone who cares about U.S. foreign policy. It appears a rush job to beat the St. Petersburg summitry on a quiet August weekend that everyone hopes will be quickly forgotten, except for the mighty 'lesson' learned. It’s worse than unprofessional and cowardly. It’s contemptible in the extreme. Make it stop.
Even the hawkish morons at The New Republic are against it:
That those, like myself, who believe that the United States should not have the right, and certainly does not have the obligation, to take upon itself the responsibility of “punishing” Assad for his crimes, will of course see an air campaign, however brief or long it proves to be, as a pointless act of moral hubris and geostrategic stupidity, should go without saying. But if anything, those who instead believe that the radical evil of a Bashar al Assad must wherever possible not be allowed to go unpunished or their crimes to go unavenged, are likely to be even more frustrated by the limited military campaign that the administration has made clear is the most it is willing to take. As Leon Wieseltier has written in these pages, if Assad is to be punished but left in place, this means that in reality he will be unpunished.
The folks at "The Onion" have it about right, looking at the situation from Bashar al-Assad's position:
So, where do I begin? Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but let’s start with the fact that my alliance with Russia and China means that nothing you decide to do will have the official support of the UN Security Council.
... c’mon, check me out: I’m ruthless, I’m desperate, and I’m going to do everything I can to stay in power. I’d use chemical weapons again in a heartbeat. You know that. And I know you know that. Hell, I want to help you guys out here, but you gotta be realistic. Trust me, I am incapable of being taught a lesson at this point. Got it? I am too far gone. Way too far gone.

Oh, and I know some of you think a no-fly zone will do the trick, but we both know you can’t stomach the estimated $1 billion a month that would cost, so wave bye-bye to that one, too.

...Oh, and speaking of me being toppled from power, let’s say, just for fun, that tomorrow I were to somehow be dethroned. Who’s in charge? Half of these rebel groups refuse to work with one another and it’s getting harder to tell which ones are actually just Islamic extremists looking to fill a potential power vacuum. We’ve got Christians, Sunnis, and Shias all poised to fight one another for control should I fall. You want to be the ones sorting through that mess when you’re trying to build a new government? I didn’t think so.

...I’ll leave you with this: I am insane. Not insane enough to generate worldwide unanimity that I cannot remain in charge of my own country. That would make this a lot easier. No, unfortunately, I’m just sane and stable enough to remain in power and devise cunning military and political strategies while at the same time adhering to a standard of morality that only the most perverse and sociopathic among us would be capable of adopting.

...I’m in this for the long haul. And you will do...whatever it is you’re going to do, which is totally up to you. Your call.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mediocre Monsoon

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque shows that the monsoon season is just about average (which is better than last year's mediocre season).

That strikes me as surprising, but then again, there was that humongous storm on July 26th.

In response, Drought Monitor shows some improvement in the drought - not close enough to ending it, but not so dire either.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Apologies For Not Much Posting Lately

Chasing phantoms along the "Breaking Bad" locations trail. Been updating and elaborating on those posts....

Arizona Envy II

Newer forecasts show that AZ will continue to get liquid love, and NM won't.

Fortunately, Mother Nature disagreed, and sent rain into NM's southern Rio Grande Valley. Nice rain around Deming, for example.

Just wish it would get farther north.

Dinosaur Prank

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

George Packer Reveals Everything Wrong With The Idea Of A Syrian Intervention

Say it, George:
So it looks like we’re going to bomb Assad.


Really? Why good?

Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.

And you don’t want to pound the shit out of him?

I want to pound the shit out of him.

But you think we shouldn’t do anything.

I didn’t say that. But I want you to explain what we’re going to achieve by bombing.

We’re going to let Assad know that chemical weapons are over the line. There’s a reason they’ve been illegal since Verdun or whenever.

Except when Saddam used them against the Kurds—we knew, and we didn’t say a word.

Is that a reason to let Assad use them against his people?

At this point, I don’t think Assad is too worried about the Geneva Conventions.

He should have to think hard before using them again.

He’s a bloody dictator fighting for survival. He’s going to do whatever he has to do.

Not if we really hurt him. Not if we pound his communications centers, his air-force bases, key government installations. He’ll be more likely to survive if he doesn’t use chemical weapons.

Killing civilians while we’re at it.

These would be very specific targets.

The wrong people always get killed.

Maybe. Probably. But if you were a Syrian being bombed by Assad every day, trying to keep your head down and your family alive, wouldn’t you want the world to respond, even if a few more people die? I think so.

Easy for you to say.

Hey, can we not personalize this?

Weren’t you just saying that I don’t care about dying children? (Pause.) So you want us to get involved in their civil war.

I’m not saying that.

But that’s what we’ll be doing. Intervening on the rebel side, tipping the balance in their favor.

Not necessarily. We’ll be drawing a line that says dictators don’t get to use W.M.D.s without consequences.

You can’t bomb targets on one side of a civil war without helping the other side.

It would be very temporary. We’d send Assad a clear message, and then we’d step back and let them go on fighting. We’re not getting involved any deeper than that, because I know what you’re going to say—

The rebels are a bunch of infighting, disorganized, jihadist thugs, and we can’t trust any of them.

I’m not saying we should.

And what do we do if Assad retaliates against Israel or Turkey? Or if he uses nerve gas somewhere else?

We hit him again.

And it escalates.

Not if we restrict it to cruise missiles and air strikes.

Now you’re scaring me. Have you forgotten Iraq?

Not for a single minute.

My point is that you can’t restrict it. You can’t use force for limited goals. You need to know what you’ll do after his next move, and the move after that.

It only escalates if we allow ourselves to get dragged in deeper. Kosovo didn’t escalate.

This isn’t Kosovo. The Syrian rebels aren’t the K.L.A. Assad isn’t Milosevic. Putin isn’t Yeltsin. This is far worse. Kosovo became a U.N. protectorate. That’s not going to happen in Syria.

You think Putin is going to risk a military confrontation with the U.S. and Europe?

I think Russia isn’t going to let Assad go down. Neither is Iran or Hezbollah. So they’ll escalate. This could be the thing that triggers an Israel-Iran war, and how do we stay out of that? My God, it feels like August, 1914.

That was a hundred years ago. Stop with the historical analogies.

You’re the one who brought up Verdun. And Kosovo.

I brought up Kosovo because you brought up Iraq. That’s the problem with these arguments. Iraq! Vietnam! Valley Forge! Agincourt! People resort to analogies so they don’t have to think about the matter at hand.

And because they don’t know anything about the matter at hand.

I know what I saw in those videos.

Thank God Obama doesn’t make foreign policy that way. He knows what he doesn’t know about Syria. He’s always thinking a few steps ahead. He’s not going to get steamrolled by John McCain and Anderson Cooper.

At a certain point, caution is another word for indecisiveness. Obama looks weak! Or worse—indifferent. Anyway, he should have thought ahead when he called chemical weapons a “red line.” He set that trap a year ago, and now we’re in it.

Why does it have to be a trap?

Because our credibility is on the line.

Thank you, Dr. Kissinger.

See, that’s another thing people do in these arguments.


“You sound like so-and-so.” It shouldn’t matter who else is on your side. I mean, you’re in bed with Rand Paul. Anyway, credibility matters even if Kissinger said so. You have to do what you say you’re going to do, especially with bullies.

I don’t think Obama committed himself to any one course of action. But if he does bomb them, we’re involved in that war, and I sure hope his advisers have thought through all the potential consequences better than you have.

Inaction has consequences, too. Assad gases more people, the death toll hits two hundred thousand, the weapons get into Hezbollah’s hands, Iran moves ahead with its nuclear program, the Syrian rebels disintegrate and turn to international terrorism, the whole region goes up in sectarian flames.

And how does firing cruise missiles at Damascus prevent any of this?

It doesn’t. But, look, all of this is already happening with us sitting it out. If we put a gun to Assad’s head, we might be able to have more influence over the outcome. At least we can prevent him from winning.

A violent stalemate. How wonderful for the Syrians. Some people think that’s the best solution for us.

I’m not saying that.

What are you saying?

I don’t know. I had it worked out in my head until we started talking. (Pause.) But we need to do something this time.

Not just to do something.

All right. Not just to do something. But could you do me a favor?

What’s that?

While you’re doing nothing, could you please be unhappy about it?

I am.

Arizona Envy

Looks like day after day of rain in Arizona. And not much for New Mexico.

Germans Trying To Say "Squirrel"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fruitvale Station

I was curious about "Fruitvale Station", seeing how it was directed by Ryan Coogler, a fellow from Sacramento, and about a near-local event, the killing of Oscar Grant by a BART cop on New Year's Day, 2009. Plus, I love trains, in general, and BART in particular. I noticed there was a late show, at 10:30 p.m., so went to see that.

What a powerful movie!:
This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year's Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn't been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye.
I was surprised at the comparative size of the audience: about forty mostly-black folks to see an independent film that has already been out for nearly a month-and-a-half. The audience was quiet - hushed, in a rather-radical departure from the usual sort of Saturday night crowd.

When the action got frantic, with the shooting, and fear and anger vied for attention, you could tell the crowd was getting very emotional. A woman behind me was trying to make sense of the shooting, and she said out loud: "Just cuz. Just cuz."

It's disturbing when someone loses their life "just cuz".

Forrest Whittaker and Octavia Spencer are to be commended for taking a risk producing this movie. The filmmakers apparently had very little time available to film the BART station scenes, so the choreographic-like preparation for the sequence of events must have been intense. The movie won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

In portraying Grant, the movie got a little too-sentimental for my taste at times. I think part of the difficulty was fleshing out Grant's character from fragmentary events that occurred in the last 24 hours of his life. Maybe not enough information there.

A review on
The performances are spare and unforgiving; Michael B. Jordan has flourished from a fantastic child actor in TV’s “The Wire,” to a talented adult in his own right with stints on TV shows “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood,” and in last year’s surprise sci-fi hit “Chronicle.” A nuanced and complicated role like this places Jordan in a different range than he was before, and shows off his acting chops as a leading man. Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer hasn’t let up either. Her portrayal of Oscar’s long-suffering and unconditionally loving mother is warm, funny and moving. Melonie Diaz, as Oscar’s longtime girlfriend, is a perfect counterpoint to Oscar’s attempts to be the fun dad and earn their daughter’s trust and love again.

...The shooting we saw play out in real time at the beginning of the film looms over every moment, even as we forget or deny it. It’s truly remarkable how much prejudice can slip into our assessment of facts, how much bias can control our thoughts and distract us from discovering the truth of a matter.

...Heartbreaking, compelling and entirely devastating, “Fruitvale Station” puts a face to a senseless event, a crime that cut short a life that was filled with promise, and it does so remarkably well. The film is filled with the stuff of life — humor, joy and plenty of it at times, the closeness of family, but also the financial pressures of the working poor in America and the despair that comes when a young person is killed. “Fruitvale” is outstanding, a telling portrait and testament to the life of one man and the complicated relationships to race and class that still exist within America today.