Archive for December, 2010

El Punchado

December 25, 2010

Lunghu is intrigued by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s choice of Christmas Eve attire.   President Chavez is customarily seen at public events wearing either military-style fatigues or a red shirt of some kind.   So what does it mean when he does a meet-and-greet wearing a blue-and-gold outfit, sporting a ballcap prominently emblazoned with the letter “M”?   Yes, we all know that the three colors of the Venezuelan flag are (in ascending order) red, blue and gold.   But is there another message here?

"She's wearing red, so I don't have to."

Lunghu thinks there is, because the garb that Chavez is wearing is warmup(!) gear for the LVBP team Navegantes de Magallanes.   Like many Venezuelans, Chavez is a huge beisbol fan, and the Venezuelan pro league season is approaching its all-important January championship playoff rounds.   Lunghu has no idea how well NdM has been doing this season, but (like any canny politician) it’s unlikely that Chavez is backing a second-division team.   The fact that NdM is based in Valencia hasn’t been lost on Lunghu either.

“Valencia is the third largest city of Venezuela and the capital city of Carabobo State.   Valencia is an economic hub where many of Venezuela’s top industries and manufacturing companies are located.”

Besides being the birthplace and hometown of NY Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, it is also (not surprisingly) a twin city of Valencia, Spain.

Is Hugo sending a message?   Lunghu thinks so.

Or maybe it’s just that one of the players on NdM’s outfield roster is named Yohermyn Chavez.

Interesting choice of heraldic emblems on the Valencia city shield ...

Come All Yi Faithful

December 23, 2010

Whew!   Crisis narrowly averted  –or at least postponed.   Although many Korea-watchers have been quick to credit Chinese influence for DPRK’s retreat from its recent brinksmanship, Lunghu thinks they’re missing the boat by overlooking a far more significant dimension to developments in the onetime Hermit Kingdom.   Yep, Admiral Yi is back on the job as spiritual guardian of Seoul, casting a watchful eye over the city from his lofty perch opposite the Flower Gate.

After an absence of 40 days (and 40 nights?) for long-overdue maintenance, the imposing statue of national hero Yi Soon-shin has been reinstalled atop its monumental plinth at Gwanghwamun Plaza.   Only a specialist in saju (the Korean version of feng-shui) can say whether Admiral Yi’s absence might have actually contributed to the formation of cracks in Gwanghwamun’s signboard, but there can be little doubt that the overall cosmic balance of the plaza (and the city/nation itself?) was perturbed by the altered flow of chi.   Now that he’s back, there’s an opportunity to restore the harmony that Confucians so prize.

Credit: Yonhap News Agency

[To put this into perspective that an American might understand, imagine The Mall without the Washington Monument facing the Capitol Building:  Yi Soon-shin means to Korea much of what George Washington means to the United States –not quite the founding father, but every bit the guarantor of national freedom.]

Does this mean that another Korean War can be averted?   As Chou En-lai famously remarked to Henry Kissinger (in quite another context), “It’s too early to tell.

Credit: Yonhap News Agency

Ali Ali Infree!

December 18, 2010

“Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi officially took charge on Saturday as the Islamic republic’s new foreign minister.  …   Salehi, who continues to head Iran’s atomic energy body, took charge officially at a function which was also the farewell ceremony for his predecessor Manouchehr Mottaki.”

Since Lunghu hasn’t yet seen a tremendous amount of insightful analysis explaining what Salehi’s appointment  means for the future of international relations with the Persian Republic, allow him to offer a succinct encapsulation of the why and wherefore:

It’s the best way –and possibly the only way– of keeping the guy alive.   After all, if your adversaries won’t stop at the kidnap and murder of your country’s scientists, perhaps they will balk at assassinating your foreign minister:  that generally isn’t done in Western society, because it essentially puts every diplomat’s life –everywhere–  at risk.   In the Iranian calculus, A-A Salehi is undoubtedly Number One on the Israeli-US-Saudi hit parade, and this appointment is an attempt to place him above and beyond the dirty war we and our “allies” are conducting in the shadows.

But there’s more to Salehi’s appointment than just self-preservation.  As Sun Tzu will tell you, every seemingly defensive move can also contain offensive potential.  On the one hand, there’s the symbolic significance embodied by the man himself:  Salehi’s given name, Ali Akbar,  is a resounding affirmation of Shiite faith and of the nation’s righteous, divinely-guided cause.   That is a big reason why he has the support of Iran’s decision-making clerics.   As Iran’s foreign minister, Salehi won’t merely be speaking for Ahmadinejad, but on behalf of the nation and Shiites everywhere.

Furthermore, this is also a warning to Russian Israeli FM Avigdor Liberman, the man who famously said (in his inaugural speech as foreign minister, no less):  “… even if we had wanted to, we would have been unable to prevent peace.” Salehi’s appointment pretty clearly signals that if he is assassinated, Liberman himself is a dead man.   It remains to be seen whether the personal consequences will restrain in any way restrain Avi’s ardor for conflagration.   It will also be interesting to see how long it takes for Hillary Clinton to get the message.

In any event, it is clearly in the United States’ interest to help keep Ali Akbar Salehi alive:  you don’t want to assassinate an MIT grad and piss off the entire alumni network.   Who do you think builds all your weapons systems?

Why is this man smiling?

Eleventy-Seven

December 17, 2010

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives.
All the wives had seven sacks,
and in each sack were seven cats.
Every cat had seven kits,
(and every kit had seven lives.)*
Kits, cats, sacks, wives —
how many were going to St. Ives?

That cacophonous mewing sound you hear is all those cats and kits exiting their sacks onto the highway…

Which St. Ives?

 

*  This line is Lunghu’s editorial addition.  Two feline lives will beheld in escrow until each kit reaches adulthood, in case they decide to re-invent themselves once or twice.

Regardez mes yeux …

December 14, 2010

Quote of the day:

“You know, it took me some time to find this man, because this hypnotist is one of the best in France …”

Keepin’ ‘Em Pearly

December 11, 2010

Look, it’s not quite the tap-dancing scene from ‘Young Frankenstein,’ but the revanchist decadent bourgeois Western press [OK, OK at some point reinforcement of a concept edges over into redundancy, Lunghu will admit] still appears to be over-reacting to the spectacle of Comrade Bear performing at the grand piano.

Unfortunately, several news outlets mistakenly attributed Putin’s song choice (‘Blueberry Hill‘) to Louis Armstrong, rather than to its true creators, the Tin Pan Alley trio of Vincent Rose, Al Lewis and Larry Stock.   By far the most famous version of this song (most likely the one heard by a youthful Comrade Bearcub) was Antoine Dominique ‘Fats’ Domino’s 1956 classic recording.   Let’s review:  Satchmo = trumpeter,  Fats = pianist.   Yes, they’re both from Nawlins.

In any event, Lunghu believes that if Comrade Bear were to choose from the Armstrong oeuvre, Satchmo’s rendition of Brecht’s ‘Mack the Knife’ would be a far more apt selection.

In related news, and speaking of choices:

Having carefully considered all the choices submitted by fellow citizens via the Internet, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin decided to call his Bulgarian shepherd Buffy, as advised by a young Muscovite. … Five-year-old Dima Sokolov proposed the name that Putin liked best.    Buffy had been presented to Putin as a gift by Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borissov during a recent trade development junket.

The prime minister said that he received quite a lot of suggestions, but Dima’s one was the best among them.   Putin added that he also loved the name Balkan, which stems half from the traditional Russian dog name Polkan and half from the Balkans.

Lunghu considers this to be fair warning:  Vampires and Albanians, beware!

In the foyer at Novo-Ogarevo

Red Star Rising … and Rising …

December 7, 2010

December 05 2010 – 1324 UTC:   Russia Launches Rocket Carrying Glonass Satellites

Russia launched a Proton-M rocket carrying three of its Glonass navigation satellites into space on Sunday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

December 05 2010 – 1712 UTC: Glonass Satellites Fail to Reach Designated Orbit

The Glonass satellites launched on Sunday failed to reach designated orbit, possibly because of a rocket failure.  “The rocket’s engine gave a much bigger impetus than planned, and the orbiting unit separated at an altitude much higher than the designated one,” an aerospace industry source told Itar-Tass.

Hmmm.  Has the Energia Aerospce Corporation checked its engine thrust control software for the presence of unauthorized code?   Satellite launches go awry for all sorts of reasons, so you never know.   Particularly when the telemetry reports “all systems go.”

December 07 2010 – 1808 UTC:   Russia Probes  Glonass Spending After Crash

The satellites were to have been boosted into a permanent 19,130-kilometer orbit — but instead splashed down into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.  Investigators said that they would announce what had caused the failure by December 20. …  Initial reports put the blame on either a computer programming error or on too much fuel being put on board the [booster rocket].

In related news, Lunghu still advises against attempting to land multi-engine jet aircraft at Smolensk North airport.

Wilted Flower Knights

December 5, 2010

Things aren’t looking so good on the Korean peninsula right now, and Lunghu’s not merely referring to rising military tensions.   No, there are more serious cracks in the Korean facade than just a few stray howitzer shells on Yeonpyeong-do.

[Seokgatap,] one of the two ancient Buddhist pagodas that have stood for about 1,200 years at Bulguk Temple … shows fissures developing on an upper base … measuring 1.32 meters long and 5 millimeters wide, on one of its upper pillar stones.

There was recently a minor earthquake of magnitude 2.3 to 2.8 in the region, but its impact [on the damage to Seokgatap] is still uncertain.

Seokgatap is National Treasure No. 21 of Korea.   Bulguk Temple is located in Gyeongju, the millennium-old capital of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) –one of Korea’s three ancient kingdoms– which later (briefly) unified much of the Korean Peninsula.   Just in case the historical/cultural harmonics aren’t quite resonating for you, Lunghu would like to point out that Korea’s southeast is the political stronghold of the (currently) governing Grand National Party.   21st century Korean cultural production that emphasizes the glories of the Silla Kingdom is often sponsored by corporate supporters of the GNP.   Not surprisingly, “major restoration was conducted between 1969 and 1973 by the order of President Park Chung Hee (a devout Buddhist), bringing Bulguksa to its current form.”   (General Park’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, is currently leader of a major faction within the GNP.)

The omens aren’t auspicious.  Buddhism was the state religion of Silla, an officially sponsored faith whose state–protection aspects were emphasized.  “Silla kings adopted Buddhist names and portrayed themselves as Buddha–kings.  A great number of temples were built, often financed and sponsored by high ranking nobility, the most notable being Hwangyongsa, Bulguksa and Seokguram. ”  When cracks appear in one of the principal pillars of state power, nothing good can be expected to follow.

 

Methinks I scent the morning air

December 5, 2010

H:  Madam, how like you this play?
Q:  The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
H:  O, but she’ll keep her word.

Lunghu, being of sound but devious mind, finds himself somewhat bmused by the media uproar –and US government reaction– over Wikileaks’ release of State Department cable traffic.   Not that he’s actually looked at any of the cables, mind you, because that would apparently be a security violation of some kind.

According to OMB, it would seem that even if Lunghu actually had a “Secret” security clearance and were a U.S. citizen, it would be a security violation to even view the contents of classified cables on a non-secure, non-government computer.   Even if said classified cables were published in their entirety by a foreign media organization in blatant violation of NOFORN restrictions.  My Gracious!

So, regardless of whether all these diplomatic cables (some merely classified “Confidential”) confirm or definitively refute some of Lunghu’s wild-eyed conspiracy theories, he can’t read ’em without risking a one-way ticket to Guantanamo.   Sheesh.   What a disappointment.

Well, lack of (dis)information has never prevented Lunghu from commenting in the past, so he certainly ain’t gonna overlook a truly golden opportunity for alternate hypothesizing.   What if … the Obama/Panetta administration had the inspiration to turn their large stock of sour lemons into lemonade, and sell it to a thirsty public?   [For those of you uncomfortable with metaphor, this means  turning a problem into an opportunity by using Wikileaks as a vehicle for spreading both disinformation and a strategic message.]   What on earth does Lunghu mean?

Consider:  you’re POTUS and you’re trying to execute a foreign policy that advances the interests of the nation and enhances the security and stability of the status quo.   It ain’t working out so well.   Your so-called allies are two-faced or timorous; your low-key adversaries are throwing kidney punches at you in dark alleys around the world; your outright opponents are successfully sneaky and growing in power to defy you, while you have to be polite, smile to their faces, and suck it up.   Wouldn’t it be great to tell them how you really feel?   Because that might actually scare the shit out of some of them, embarrass others, and stroke the egos of those nations whom you stintingly praise.   Sounds like a plan.   But how to do it?   Ah hah!  Wikileaks!

Are you beginning to get the picture?   And this project is also a two-fer, because ex-post facto you can also salt the cable traffic with pseudo-documents that advance your current policy objectives by making it appear that particular views on certain topics were circulating a few years previously.   …  Julian Assange accepts the tainted trove in good faith, making him the perfect strawman.   When the inevitable public release occurs, your minions unleash the full fury of pained protest, high-road outrage, legal recourse, and semi-covert cyber measures.   Gotta put on a good show to really sell the authenticity of the material, after all.

So Lunghu is not at all dismayed that the US ambassador to Thailand sent a cable to State on August 13 2009 indicating that the extradition process in Viktor Bout’s case was going badly.   Rather fortuitous timing, it would seem.   And you never, ever, tell the ambassador –because he’s got to have deniability.

You Don’t Know Dick

December 4, 2010

Lunghu does not believe there is any basis for the persistent rumors that former VP Dick Cheney has gone into hiding to avoid being nabbed on a Nigerian arrest warrant and an Interpol red notice.   Sure, Femi Babafemi of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said, “it’s true [Cheney will be charged] … definitely.

Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said charges will be filed against current and former chief executive officers of Halliburton, including Cheney, who was CEO from 1995 to 2000, and its former unit KBR Inc., based in Houston, Texas; Technip SA, Europe’s second-largest oilfield-services provider; Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil company; and Saipem Construction Co., a unit of Eni.

But that doesn’t mean that Dick is gonna cut and run … or does it?

Certainly, the next-to-last place anyone would look for Dick Cheney is the Evil Empire itself –which is exactly why it would make the perfect rabbit hole to scurry down [down which to scurry? No.] until the dust settles.   Oh, wait.  That might have been a poor choice of words:

The Rostovskaya Investigative Committee reported that a hunter in the region faces two years in prison for accidentally killing his friend … instead of a hare he had been trying to shoot.   The two men, whose names were withheld, were driving when they spotted the hare.  The hunter asked his friend to stop the vehicle, but then tried to get out before the car stopped, stumbled and discharged his shotgun inside the automobile, killing the driver on the spot.

Lunghu smells a coverup:  why won’t Russian authorities disclose the names of those involved?   And has anyone actually seen Harry Whittington recently?

Rostovskaya in summer