December 30th, 2007

Chris Keeley

This is a timely and cogent commentary by Professor Juan Cole, Professor of Middle Eastern and Sout

This is a timely and cogent commentary by Professor Juan Cole, Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, with his incisive insights into the dynamics of Pakistan following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
HIS CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH:    In order to get through this crisis, Bush must insist that the Pakistani Supreme Court, summarily dismissed and placed under house arrest by Musharraf, be reinstated. The PPP must be allowed to elect a successor to Ms. Bhutto without the interference of the military. Early elections must be held, and the country must return to civilian rule. Pakistan's population is, contrary to the impression of many pundits in the United States, mostly moderate and uninterested in the Taliban form of Islam. But if the United States and "democracy" become associated in their minds with military dictatorship, arbitrary dismissal of judges, and political instability, they may turn to other kinds of politics, far less favorable to the United States. Musharraf may hope that the Pakistani military will stand with him even if the vast majority of people turn against him. It is a forlorn hope, and a dangerous one, as the shah of Iran discovered in 1978-79.    END QUOTE
Regards,  John
Chris Keeley

They looked for weakness in the lines, flaws in numbers that allowed them to skip around the globe,

They looked for weakness in the lines, flaws in numbers that allowed them to skip around the globe, from Moscow to Saudi Arabia to California. Some phreaks whistled; some duplicated tones with electronic keyboards and tape recorders; some built dialing boxes; at least one used a giveaway whistle from a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal. Two — Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs — went on to invent Apple computers.

December 30, 2007
Joybubbles | b. 1949
Dial-Tone Phreak

Someday there will be no need of the dial tone, and for a few of us it will be as if the voice of God has gone dead. That reassuring voice that will speak to anyone who knows how to listen: like God, it exists everywhere and yet only in your cupped ear, even if you’re a small blind boy with a reputed 172 I.Q. whose parents are fighting late at night.

This was in the early 1950s. He was still Josef Engressia then, born in Richmond, Va., and phones were solid objects. All those lovely, palpable parts: the dial, the curved metal tooth that stopped a fingertip, the 10 finger holes, the curled cord from mouthpiece to phone body that could be straightened out but boinged right back. The thin cable that ran from the back of the phone to the wall, and from the wall into the world, a secret passageway as sure as any rabbit hole or mirror. A phone could be endlessly caressed and — if there were noises to drown out — listened to. Phones didn’t care that he couldn’t see.

Collapse )
Chris Keeley

Comment on the McCaffery "After Action Report"

This message was received from Ed Kane.

  A week ago today I sent you an email entitled "After Action Report", which encompassed the text of a report written by Gen. Barry McCaffery after a recent visit to Iraq.

  This report was commented on by a retired, senior colleague of mine, for whose opinions I have much regard.  I pass his comments on below.

Collegial warm regards,


Re the McCaffery post-visit report (vintage McCaffery!), my take is a bit different. I do not argue with most of his facts. Nor am I one of those reluctant to admit that the surge has had short-term military success---I never doubted that an occupying force can put sufficient and far superior force into play over a short term to convince all but the most foolish of the wisdom of lying low until they leave. That said, McCaffery looks at the situation with  blinders imposed by a career of parochial military-centered thinking.
A few small points:
1. The violence is down dramatically because (a) we have put in superior force albeit a force we can not sustain and the other sides know it; (b) Sadr has ordered his thugs to lie low and save their powder for later; (c) the Sunnis have, for now, switched targets for their own purposes; (d) the Iranians, and Syrians it appears, have also decided to pull back and outwait the Americans for various reasons (including the fact that, already the dominant outside influence in Iraq, the Iranians lose nothing by waiting until the US bleeds itself to death or leaves); and (e) much of the blood-letting in Baghdad and other areas was bound to decrease as the respective Shia and Sunni ethnic-cleansings found fewer potential victims left. Question: How much longer can the US, faced with enormous and growing domestic needs at home and a military force in the beginning stages of self-destruction, keep pouring $3 billion a week into a mistake?!
2. McCaffery argues the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are the key factor in successful internal security, then goes on to explain why it will be years before it is properly trained, led, and equipped.(even with the improbable assumption that there will some day be an ISF with Shia, Sunni and Kurdish officers and troops working together for the good of a greater Iraq). Question: How much longer can the US afford to pour $3 billion [a week] into a mistake?!

Collapse )
Chris Keeley

I didn’t want to shed all of my risky clothes and accessories — especially that karmically dangerous

I didn’t want to shed all of my risky clothes and accessories — especially that karmically dangerous, fragrant black purse someone gave me that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe. And did I need to worry about who had owned my ’65 Mustang, and what they did in it?

December 30, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Am I a Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon?


Faith, the faith healer, is twirling a crystal over my green couch.

The pendulum is hovering above a chart, pointing to sources of negative energy in my house that need to be cleared.

The pendulum quivers and swings and slows and finally settles above the word “Curses.”

“That sounds scary,” I say.

Faith — yes, that’s her real name — explains that there are two common forms of curses. If you send out something negative, you also hold on to it. It’s like a cosmic fax machine. “So,” she says, “it has a definite negative impact on the soul.”
Collapse )
Chris Keeley

He Could Care Less About Obama's Story

WashPost Outlook Article on American Image in the Middle East--12/30/07

He Could Care Less About Obama's Story

By Reza Aslan
Sunday, December 30, 2007; B03

Every time I hear about how Sen. Barack Obama is going to "re-brand" America's image in the Middle East, I can't help but think about Jimmy Carter's toast.

When the idealistic Democrat came to Iran in 1977 to ring in the new year with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the country's much-despised despot, throngs of young, hopeful Iranians lined the streets to welcome the new American president. After eight years of the Nixon and Ford administrations' blind support for the shah's brutal regime, Iranians thrilled to Carter's promise to re-brand America's image abroad by focusing on human rights. That call even let many moderate, middle-class Iranians dare to hope that they might ward off the popular revolution everyone knew was coming. But at that historic New Year's dinner, Carter surprised everyone. In a shocking display of ignorance about the precarious political situation in Iran, he toasted the shah for transforming the country into "an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world." With those words, Carter unwittingly lit the match of revolution.

It's just this sort of blunder -- naive, well-meaning, amateurish, convinced that everyone understands the goodness of U.S. intentions -- that worries me again these days. That's because a curious and dangerous consensus seems to be forming among the chattering classes, on both the left and the right, that what the United States needs in these troubling times is not knowledge and experience but a "fresh face" with an "intuitive sense of the world," and that the mere act of electing Obama will put us on the path to winning the so-called war on terror.

The argument usually goes something like this: Imagine that a young Muslim boy in, say, Egypt, is watching television when suddenly he sees this black man -- the grandson of a Kenyan Muslim, no less! -- who spent a small part of his childhood in Indonesia, taking the oath of office as president of the United States. Suddenly, the boy realizes that the United States is not the demonic, anti-Islamic place he's always been told it was. Meanwhile, all around the Muslim world, other young would-be jihadists have a similar epiphany. "Maybe Osama bin Laden is wrong," they think. "Maybe America is not so bad after all."

Collapse )