Archive for June, 2011

Look Out To-ky-o.

June 29, 2011

Oh.  No.  Look Out Tokyo.

These days, when Lunghu swiftly scans a headline containing the phrase “Gaza flotilla” his subconscious first-pass cognitive processes present the word “Godzilla” to conscious awareness.

What a great idea:  the Scaly One’s skills and powers have for far too long been confined to Asia.   If only he could emerge from the Mediterranean Sea, just when we really need him …

The low-res look that Godzilla was made for ...

Watch Your Bak

June 26, 2011

Korean President Lee Myung-bak really needs a summer vacation.  When you’re the titular head of a neo-Confucian polity, you’ve got quite a few ceremonial and ritual obligations.  Even in the 21st century.   In just the past four days alone, President Lee has …

  • congratulated Ban Ki-moon on his re-election as UN General Secretary.
  • exhorted legislators on the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and trade committee to expedite parliamentary passage of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
  • met with junior scholars to hear about their concerns.
  • presided over a meeting of deliverymen “to check the livelihoods of the people.”   … And then shared their labor.

Here are 4000 words-worth of pictures:

The President knows with whom he should sit ...

How do you say "This side up" in Korean?

There they are again –those man-of-the-people gloves!  Careful observation will establish that the box of DVD burners President Lee is toting off the delivery truck has been manufactured by LG [fka Lucky Goldstar] Corp.  Besides being Korea’s #2 industrial conglomerate, LG has the added advantage of having been founded (in 1947) in Busan, formerly the capital of South Gyeongsang Province.  It should surprise absolutely no one to learn that Busan and South Gyeongsang are core constituencies of President Lee’s Grand National Party.  This photo opportunity is yet another shout-out to the GNP faithful, as well as free advertising for a generous corporate sponsor of President Lee.

 

Wheel men

June 23, 2011

Just over a week to go until the start of the 2011 Tour de France.   Next Thursday, competing teams will be introduced to the press at Le Puy du Fou.   The official start of the 98th edition of the TdF will take place on 2 Juillet at the Passage du Gois in the Vendée.

Linking the continent to the island of Noirmoutier and measuring 4.5 km in length, the Passage du Gois is a submersible road covered twice daily at high tide, but which remains fully accessible at low tide.

One cyclist you won’t see slogging through the mire is Comrade Bear.  Although he’s in Paris today for the air show and talks (or at least photo ops) with Fillon and Sarkozy, he won’t be sticking around for the TdF.  The prime minister had his fill of cycling back home near Moscow two weekends ago –in the company of Dimi Medvedev.  The photo below shows #1 and #2 reflecting on their experience and sharing a quiet moment.

There seem to be indications that Comrade Bear wasn’t all that thrilled about having to pose for this recent photo shoot:  note the way the fingers of Putin’s right hand just happen to be casually arranged.  Lunghu’s gonna have to double-check his international sign language dictionary to be sure of an accurate translation, but you probably get the general idea.

Operation Magic Lantern

June 21, 2011

Were he alive in more than spirit, Sun-tzu could beam with satisfaction:  when your adversary himself executes your strategic plans, success seems all but assured.  But at any moment, fate can take unexpected tangential turns.

Iran’s parliament on Tuesday launched impeachment proceedings against Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi for appointing Mohammad Sahrif Malekzadeh, an aide to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as deputy foreign minister in charge of administrative and financial affairs.
MP Ahmad Tavakoli was quoted by the Iranian media on Monday as saying that the minister of intelligence had “told Salehi in writing that he is opposed to the appointment of Malekzadeh to the post of deputy foreign minister.”
[However,] Mohammad Reza Mirtajeddini, vice-president of parliamentary affairs, was quoted on parliament’s website as saying that “there is the possibility of resolving the issue.”


Pity the poor Persians, being played like a circus orchestra of ghazhaks.  Someone is definitely inside their OODA loop.

Correlation ≠ Causation

June 21, 2011

Ask an Inca –is it a good idea to annoy the mountain spirits?  Lunghu thinks you Norteños can guess the answer (despite your customary obtuseness):  no, it is not.  Because unwelcome things will happen if you rashly do so …

Well, it seems as though Pinochetistas can be a little slow to get the message, but eventually –eventually– the light may dawn behind their shrouded eyes.  Perhaps some kind soul will explain it to them.

A Chilean appeals court in the southern port city of Puerto Montt ordered suspension of the 2.9 billion dollar HidroAysén project, which plans to build a complex of hydroelectric dams in the Patagonian wilderness.
The court decreed a stay [in the government’s permitting process], “which means the project is frozen until the essence of the matter is resolved,” the judiciary said in a statement.

Here’s a brief, selective, but instructive 2011 timeline:
May 9 : National Energy Commission votes 10-0-1 to permit HidroAysén.
June 4 : Puyehue eruptions begin [air traffic in the Southern Hemisphere is disrupted as far away as Australia].
June 14 : Puyehue eruptions continue; explosions generate pyroclastic flows with associated ash-and-gas plumes.
June 20 : Chilean appeals court orders re-evaluation of HidroAysén project.

Por ahora … Chileños should remember what happened when they elected this government in the first place.

It’s Good 2 B the King

June 16, 2011

Lunghu has been wondering … wondering why the Washington Post waited until [well] after King Abdullah II had returned to Amman from last month’s trip to DC before conducting an in-depth interview with the Jordanian monarch.   Actually, it was really more of a rhetorical wonderment, since Lunghu knows why.

HM Abdullah ... a decade ago.

Back on his home turf, and possibly chagrined that his message in Washington was drowned out by the fervid lobbying of that other guy, the King minced few words (if any).

“2011 will be, I think, a very bad year for peace,” Abdullah told The Washington Post in an interview at his palace in the Jordanian capital.
“If it’s not a two-state solution, then it’s a one-state solution,” he said. “And then, is it going to be apartheid, or is it going to be democracy?”  [Abdullah added ] “A lot of Arabs are saying, ‘Okay, if you’re talking about democracy for us, what about democracy (in) Israel?'”

The King explicitly pointed out (as Lunghu did last month) that as Arab popular revolts continue, Israel will be surrounded by greater numbers of hostile governments than ever before.  And the news doesn’t get any better:

Abdullah expressed concern about the United States losing its credibility as an honest broker after repeated failures to clinch a deal and a long record of fierce support for Israel regardless of the Jewish state’s policies toward the Palestinians and Arab states.

The King is much too gracious:  the USA has long since lost ALL credibility as an honest broker of Mideast peace.   It’s gonna take a helluva lot more than Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell to win back hearts and minds in the Middle East.  That’s a job too big even for George Clinton.

“When you get billions in aid and your weapons resupplied and your ammunition stock resupplied, you don’t learn the lesson that war is bad and nobody wins,” he added, referring to US military and economic aid for Israel.

King Abdullah:  tellin’ it like it tea-eye-zee.  [For those readers unfamiliar with American informal argot, that’s a colloquial expression which emphasizes the inescapable actuality of an uncomfortable truth.]   Lunghu is deeply saddened that so few Americans will get to hear his words, let alone heed them.

The 39 Steps

June 16, 2011

Anywhere human society exists, rumor and innuendo have the power to alter behavior.  Strictly speaking, rumor is [marginally?] credible –but unconfirmed– information that interests its human “carrier” and is presumed by that carrier to be of interest to an intended recipient.  [Alice finds the rumor interesting and has an urgent compulsion to pass it along to Bob.]  Once any rumor gains acceptance as credible, the  information it contains is seamlessly incorporated into the worldview of the individual recipient, whose attitudes, beliefs and potential actions are thereby subtly [or dramatically] altered.

In some instances, rumor spreads “naturally” through the social network, its passage eased or accelerated by specific characteristics of the information that have heightened value in the particular culture within which it travels.   In many cultures, sexual content is a communications lubricant that has been repeatedly demonstrated to increase transmission velocity.  But sex is just one of rumor’s several selling points:  in broader terms, what has heightened importance within human society is information about forbidden activity or behavior.  This is because any disruption of cultural norms can act as a potential threat to the existing structure of a particular society:  violation of cultural norms disturbs the comfortable psychological security of an individual outlook that has “a place for everything and everything in its place.”   Once cultural equilibrium has been jarred loose –even on a small, local scale– it’s never entirely certain where the newly-restored psychological balance will be found when the dust eventually settles.

What & So What:

Sometimes the spread of rumor isn’t all that “natural”; it gets helped along by active human intervention. “Viral marketing,” if you will.  In the realm of international relations, the power of rumor –of seemingly credible but unverified/unverifiable information– is a key feature of a longtime staple in the intell industry product line:  info ops/psyops campaigns.  Let’s look at two recent examples from South Central … Asia, that is.

Afghanistan

Cars with license plates containing the number “39” [have] almost overnight has become an unlikely synonym for pimp and a mark of shame in this deeply conservative country. … Kabul gossip blames a pimp in neighboring Iran.  His flashy car had a 39 in its number plate, the story goes, so he was nicknamed “39” and the tag spread.
The shunning of 39 comes just weeks after drivers raced to remove rainbow decorations that were spotted on imported cars and became fashionable until conservative Afghans learnt they were also gay pride symbols.

Typical Afghan reaction:  blame the Iranians.  For some folks, the scapegoat is closer to home:

The head of the union of car dealers in Kabul, Najibullah Amiri, blames corrupt police officers for fanning the trend. … Amiri said officials at the police traffic department charge buyers between $200 and $500 to change a “39” license plate for a new car to something less offensive.
“It is a scheme by the police traffic department to earn money from car buyers,” Amiri said.

The number 39 would be triply unlucky for any Afghan freemasons … what’s the license plate number on Karzai’s presidential limo?

Iran

During April and May of this year, much prominence was given in the AngloAmerican media to reports that internal divisions were wracking the foundations and cohesion of Iran’s government.  The ostensible roots of this discord were said to be found within occult realms:

In their bid to contain [Ahmadinejad], [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and the conservative clergy have gone after his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, accusing him of sorcery and corruption.
Several of Mashaei’s associates have been arrested. Among those detained are the presidential complex prayer leader, the elderly wife of a pre-revolutionary foreign minister and a man who is said in Iranian press accounts to have engaged in sorcery.

Witchcraft, consorting with demons, and invocation of djinns (not necesssarily in that order) were just some of the accusations said to be leveled against Mashaei in the Iranian media by Shiite clergy.

Now, just where exactly would rumors of this sort be likely to originate?   Probably not in Qum or Tehran.  Lunghu will allow the reader to reach her own conclusions.

It’s Always Something

June 5, 2011

Ooooohhhhh!!  Thaaaaaat montaña!!

Why Chile this time?

Mission Accomplished.

June 2, 2011

Lunghu Declares Victory!  Dewey Beats Truman!

Judging by the fact that NATO is still bombing Tripoli on Thursday, June 2nd, it appears that Muammar Gadhafi has fulfilled the rather minimal conditions that permit Lunghu to claim victory in his 90-day over/under Libyan longevity bet:  Gadhafi is still alive, and in control of some portion of Libyan national territory.  Good enough for government work!


Now that the wager has been won, Lunghu is officially rooting for Gadhafi to gracefully(?) cede power to the long-suffering Libyan people.  Any bets when that might happen?  Apparently NATO thinks it might take another 90 days…