Archive for January, 2016

Bavarian Creampie

January 27, 2016

“Don’t you hear that sound? That terrible screaming that men call silence?”

Werner Herzog has seen the future and he’s scared shitless.  Moreover, he’d be truly terrified if he knew you’re reading this blog.  Herzog was at the Sundance Film Festival to promote his latest film, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” a 10-part documentary essay that explores the creation of the Internet and its cultural repercussions as told through a series of interviews with experts and eccentrics ranging from Elon Musk to the RF-phobes living in Green Bank, West Virginia.

“The Internet is a development that science fiction writers had not foreseen,” he said. “Flying cars and colonies in space — but nobody had the Internet on their radar.”  When asked by reporters about the importance of Twitter and other social media in today’s society, the legendary director replied, “What impresses you about 100,000 tweets, 100,000 times stupidities in 140 characters?  What is so phenomenal about it?  I have never seen a single tweet that I found interesting at all.”

“Do you know what scares me the most?  Stupidity.  A simple scan of comments on the Internet will uncover this massive, naked onslaught of stupidity [pervading society].”

son of a gallant hussar

son of a gallant hussar


Now we can finally update James Carville‘s classic capsule description of U.S. presidential campaigning with a 21st century version of the same basic idea: “It’s the Internet, stupid!



Don’t Embarrass The Bureau

January 26, 2016

J. Edgar Hoover had two principal mottos pronounced as guides for his FBI special agents: “No left turns” and “Don’t embarrass the Bureau.”  In Comrade Eleven‘s newly-renovated People’s Republic, left turns are once again mandatory, but Hoover’s second motto is still fully applicable.  And when the public embarrassment occurs under an intense media spotlight on the world stage, suddenly French economy minister Emmanuel Macron is the most powerful person in China.

Last week at Davos (Switzerland) M. le Ministre Macron impishly remarked,

“I said a few months ago that I don’t believe for a second the figures [for China’s economic growth] that are being given.  I think those [figures] that are still being officially announced are probably well above the [actual] reality but we just have to live with it,” Macron said.

the latest pretty face of imperialist running-dog capitalism?

the latest pretty face of imperialist running-dog capitalism?

After a weekend of earnest reflection and self-criticism among senior cadres in Beijing … Lo and behold:

China’s anti-graft agency –the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection– announced on Tuesday that Wang Baoan, the head of the country’s National Bureau of Statistics, is being investigated for severe disciplinary violations, a phrase which usually refers to corruption.  Wang, 52, was appointed chief of the statistics bureau in April last year.  He previously served as vice minister of finance.

The lesson to be learned?  Don’t embarrass the National Bureau of Statistics.


Leopard Spotted

January 25, 2016

A few months ago (September 2015) published a brief article by Jonathan Haslam that summarized some basic counterintelligence analysis employed by the KGB back in the day (the 1970’s):

[CIA] officers in the field stationed across the globe under diplomatic and deep cover were readily identified by the KGB.  As a consequence, covert operations had to be aborted as local agents were pinpointed and CIA personnel compromised or, indeed, had their lives thrown into jeopardy. … How could these disasters have happened with such regularity if the agency had not been penetrated by Soviet moles?

[Instead, KGB officer Yuri Trotov‘s method was] a clever combination of insight into human behavior, common sense and strict logic.  Bureaucracies … are fundamentally creatures of habit and, as any analyst knows, the key to breaking the adversary’s [operational security] is to find patterns and repetitions.  From the late 1950s at the Soviet mission in Thailand and later Japan, Trotov first applied his methods to identifying U.S. intelligence officers in the field.  He began systematically combing the KGB archives for consistent patterns observable in the postings of CIA counterparts. What Trotov came up with were 26 unchanging indicators as a model for identifying U.S. intelligence officers overseas.  Why? Because the CIA personnel office in Langley shuffled and dealt overseas postings with as little effort as required.

Some indicators were based on long-standing U.S. government practices established as a result of the ambivalence with which the State Department treated its colleagues in intelligence [who operated under diplomatic cover]. These “structural defects” in the relationship between the United States’ key operational departments responsible for foreign policy [allowed] Trotov to produce telephone book-size volumes listing U.S. intelligence officers for KGB chief Yuri Andropov.


Here are a few of Trotov’s indicators:

  • published biographies of CIA officers contained obvious gaps
  • entry-level pay scale was much higher for a CIA officer than for a State Department Foreign Service Officer (FSO)
  • genuine FSOs had to attend the Institute of Foreign Service for three months before entering the diplomatic service, CIA officers did not
  • after three to four years abroad an FSO could return home, whereas a CIA employee could not
  • when CIA officers returned to the US, they did not normally appear in State Department listings, but when they did, they were classified as research and planning, research and intelligence, consular or chancery for security affairs
  • CIA officers could be relocated within the country to which they were posted, FSOs were not
  • CIA officers usually had more than one working foreign language
  • Their cover was usually as a “political” or “consular” official
  • internal embassy reorganizations usually did not change the rank, office assignments or telephone numbers of CIA personnel
  • CIA agents’ offices were located in restricted zones within the embassy building
  • CIA officers replacing one another [at a foreign station] tended to fill the same post within the embassy hierarchy, drive the same make of vehicle, rent the same apartment, etc.


What & So What

Okay, so the U.S. intelligence community eventually figured out how the Soviets/ Russians and their allies can spot a spook. Surely “we” have made the necessary adjustments, right?  Not exactly.

A while back I saw a article on the website of an overseas newspaper in a certain allied nation.  The article announced the arrival of a new U.S. consul in town, illustrated with the official State Department photo portrait of the diplomat in question (U.S. flag in the background, of course).  A brief biography followed, outlining the FSO’s background, education and career.  If I were Yuri Trotov (I’m not), I’d immediately be paying closer attention to this guy, because several of my indicators were there in plain sight:

  • Graduate of a state university in a state with a significant military presence
  • Therefore … possible childhood experiences living in Europe or Asia as a military dependent (see subsequent career)
  • Travel in {Europe1}, {Europe2} and Canada during university
  • Two-year gap between university graduation and entry into State Department: possible military service … or intell training
  • Speaks {European}, Arabic, {Asian}
  • State Dept. career (moderately scrambled/ altered to protect the officer’s identity from less-imaginative “analysts”):

political officer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
assistant cultural attaché in {capital, Asian nation}
public diplomacy officer in Baghdad, Iraq
consular official in Islamabad, Pakistan
consul in {city, Europe1}

In assessing these indicators, I would draw the conclusion that this particular “FSO” is likely to be a counterterrorism specialist focused on Islamist militant groups, and that the consular posting to {Europe1} is either (1) an R & R assignment after years of service in dangerous third-world nations, or (2) a counterterrorism liaison slot in a country worried about terrorist attacks from returning ISIS jihadis masquerading as refugees.  Perhaps both.

Either way, I wish ya the best of luck.  But in any case, stay out of Russia.




Forests of the Night

January 13, 2016

After a week’s reflection on serious matters in Westphalia, it’s now perhaps time to return to a frivolous theme with global implications.  That’s right, it’s time for further feng-shui forecasts concerning hidden geomantic influences that await us during the Year of the Monkey!  When last we visited this topic, I noted that the Monkey is offending the Year in 2016, and listed several commercial enterprises associated with simian imagery which may consequently experience difficulty in the coming year.  Now –while there’s still time to take corrective measures– it is surely appropriate to note the potential dangers that await the Tiger, which is in clash with the Monkey because of its position directly opposite in the Chinese zodiac.

Among the myriad athletic teams (in the United States) which have chosen the Tiger as their emblem, one has already felt the sting of the Monkey’s anger.  I refer to the Clemson University Tigers, who failed in their attempt to win 15 consecutive games and the America college football championship when they were defeated by the University of Alabama ‘Crimson Tide‘ on January 11th.  Many other ‘Tiger’ teams may well suffer a similar fate in the coming year, and the negative influence of the Monkey Year will undoubtedly extend to related feline species such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, panthers, cougars, pumas, and catamounts.  The pain and suffering won’t be confined to the athletic playing field, either: corporations and NGO’s that use a ‘big cat’ name, logo or emblem may also struggle during 2016.  Here are a few big-name players who may wish they hadn’t earned their stripes … or may yet yearn to change their spots:

Singapore merger may be difficult

Singapore merger may be difficult


Rigs, refineries, pipelines --what could go wrong?

Rigs, refineries, pipelines –what could go wrong?


Not so Grrreat

Not so Grrreat


practically anything's possible

practically anything’s possible


FIFA & IAAF sponsorship deals?

FIFA & IAAF sponsorship deals?




Apple OS X: Leopard-> Snow Leopard-> Lion

Apple OS X: Leopard-> Snow Leopard-> Lion


Quaker Oats Co: Aunt Jemima brings the syrup

Quaker Oats Co: Aunt Jemima brings the syrup



The Naked Truth

January 9, 2016

Women must be able to live according to their personal values of freedom, with self-determination and self-awareness.  They should not have to adapt themselves to a world in which people trample on these values.  Women should not allow themselves to be intimidated, and should continue to behave as they normally would.  Eventually, women will no longer be treated as sex objects –when a naked woman is treated with as much respect as a clothed one.

[a brief womanifesto liberally translated from the original Schweizerdeutsch]


Alas, Poor Orrick!

January 7, 2016

Heesh!  The Year of the Monkey hasn’t even begun and already a macaque can’t get no satisfaction.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick [ruled] in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday that Naruto, the Indonesian macaque monkey who took now-famous selfie photographs in 2011, cannot be declared the copyright owner of the photos.  Orrick’s [narrowly-framed legal opinion asserted that] “while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act.”

Now, of course, if the plaintiff had happened to be an Indonesian corporation named Naruto Image and Likeness Pty Ltd., we’d be talking about a whole new ballgame … Is it not so?

photo credit: Naruto Image and Likeness Pty Ltd.

photo credit: Naruto Image and Likeness Pty Ltd.

Rhymes With Funky

January 6, 2016

My previous post outlined a few feng-shui highlights that may characterize the Year of the Monkey.  Among them was the observation that “the Monkey is offending the year”: each animal of the Chinese zodiac in its turn is affected by the timeless cosmic forces that shape the earthly destinies of all creatures under heaven.  Feng-shui soothsayers like to emphasize that this phenomenon of potential negative energy applies (in varying degrees) to people born in a Monkey year, Monkey month, Monkey day or Monkey hour –and also to corporate entities founded at such times.  In my unsophisticated opinion, the influence extends even further, also encompassing any corporations or groups that use the name or image of a monkey in their corporate title or logo.  Close relatives of the monkey such as chimpanzees, apes, baboons, macaques or bonobos also fall within this general category.

Therefore, here are some of the organizations that should consider feng-shui countermeasures in the coming year:

Survey says ... don't offend Tai Sui!

Survey says … don’t offend Tai Sui!


Return to sender?

Return to sender?


Will investors take a bath?

Will investors take a bath?


Perish the thought at publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Perish the thought at publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Hanna Barbera can do better

Hanna Barbera can do better


Is this Donald Trump's PR co.?

Is this Donald Trump’s PR co.?


Obscurity is no defense against cosmic justice...

Obscurity is no defense against cosmic justice…


Next time, Tigers in clash with the Monkey…


Divine Vengeance

January 3, 2016

I recently awoke from a deep slumber and realized that it’s now the year 2016.  More than that, it appears to be the dawn of a new era  –because I felt no compulsion to conduct a recapitulation of media coverage analyzing Kim Jung-un‘s 2016 New Year message.  The message itself was lackluster, running-dog capitalist lackey reporting was scantier than ever, and wistful sorrow at the passing of Kim Yang-gon clung like a shroud to the entire topic.  Major wire services such as Reuters, Associated Press and Yonhap provided perfunctory reviews of KJU’s New Year’s speech, and Bloomberg deigned to publish 4 brief paragraphs on the story.  Nobody invoked feng-shui to make the observation that with Kim’s yang gone, excess yin in the DPRK may create difficult prospects for the nation during the upcoming Year of the Yang Fire Monkey.

Kim Yang Gon_KJU

Here, at a minimum, is what you need to know to be prepared for the onrushing year, which formally arrives on February 8th:

  • Yang Fire (Heavenly Stem) sits above the Yang Metal Monkey (Earthly Branch) this year.  Fire melts Metal, so it is not an auspicious year.  However, with Fire on top and Metal below, there is reason to hope for optimism, flexibility and progress.
  • Yang Fire symbolizes the power of the Sun, so various aspects of the solar presence may be increasingly prominent this year: photo-voltaic power generation; warming climate; agricultural production; solar flares; astronomic anomalies, and perhaps more.
  • The Metal element of this year’s Earthly Branch will benefit Fire industries, which include energy, entertainment, stock markets, and finance. The Fire element of this year’s Heavenly Stem will benefit Water element industries such as transportation, logistics, shipping, and communications.
  • The heavenly throne of Tai Sui has shifted to the west-southwest.  Be extra careful in places like San Diego, Bordeaux, Bristol, Goteborg, Lisbon, Saarbrucken, Tournai, Mecca, Lhasa, Goa, Palawan, and (above all) Moldova.
  • The Tiger is in direct clash against the Monkey this year.  People born in a Tiger year are in clash against the year during 2016. They are also susceptible to the Three Fire penalty of Tiger, Monkey, Snake.  Corporations using the emblem of the Tiger (or other large cats) will experience difficulty in 2016.  So will the Detroit Tigers.  Perhaps this doesn’t augur well for the Super Bowl LC chances of the Carolina Panthers