Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Axis of evil

From Iran’s perspective, we overthrew its government once before. After 9/11, Iran supported our allies in Afghanistan and the Northern Alliance. They offered, through the Swiss, to normalize relations and to discuss nuclear cooperation and the acceptance of Israel. The Bush administration’s response was to chastise the Swiss and designate Iran as part of an axis of evil. Then it invaded another member of that axis. Iran now has U.S. troops on either side of it. If China called the U.S. Canada and Mexico an axis of evil and invaded Mexico, I wonder what the U.S. response would be. The danger with demonizing other countries is that it results in a deceptively simplistic worldview. Perspective is compromised, mythology prevails and the battle of evermore ensues.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tropic of Iran

Reports from U.S. intelligence agencies over the last few years have resulted in contradictory narratives about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That’s because they present their finding in terms that leave them open to interpretation by the reader. They’re not necessarily being deceitful ..their claims are merely ‘uncertain’, which often gets assigned higher certainty in the process of reading  [ link ]. They’re taking advantage of language attorneys use to release them from responsibility for the way others may interpret their statements.
In 2003, an intelligence report said that: “Iran’s research program could lead to nuclear weapons development.” Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) immediately responded by saying “now we know that Iran is aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program.”
In 2007, a national intelligence report estimated “with medium to high confidence that, at a minimum ..Tehran is keeping its options open.” CIA director Mike Hayden correctly pointed out that this statement was so fucking indeterminate that just as many people interpreted it to mean “Iran is on it’s way to becoming a nuclear power” as people who interpreted it to mean “Iran had stopped its nuclear program.”
The most recent consensus of the U.S. Intelligence community is that “Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build nuclear weapons, but it has not sought to do so.” To which Israel responded by declaring it’s intention to “..launch a military strike in order to stop Iran before it’s too late.”
If Iran is waging a war of disinformation in order to immobilize its adversaries with competing narratives ..it couldn’t have picked a better ally.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conspiracy theory of oil

“Fuck Obama .. green energy policies and prohibitions on new oil drilling are killing me at the pump.  And fuck greedy oil companies and Republicans .. rigging prices and enriching themselves at my expense.” 
 I hear accusations like this a lot these days. They fill-in for what’s unknown ..in this case, trading practices. And the less the mind knows ..the more hypothetical and insubstantial these explanations become .. filling the void with narrative that’s like Styrofoam. As much as we’ve tried, no evidence of intelligence life has been found in the oil industry capable of pulling together all the players necessary to act in its favor. There’s just too many of them. The ‘spot market’ sets contract prices for crude before it ever leaves the Persian Gulf. In transit, contract prices are continually revised according to fluctuating estimates of supply and demand. In the meantime, investors and speculators place bets in response to the uncertainty caused by two, possibly three U.S. wars ..and ongoing civil unrest. Contrary to popular belief, oil from new drilling operations won’t be available until around 2030. And no matter what we do ..rising demand from India and China will outpace us to ensure gas prices keep going up over time. During the Mid-east oil crisis of the 1970’s, customers were actually blaming the gas station attendants for rising prices, which confirmed a theory in psychology .. the mind often supplies local reasons to explain the outcome of distant events.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Parsing Nixon

The transcript of Nixon’s testimony about Watergate became public Thursday, providing a detailed view of Nixon - combative, defensive and mindful of his place in history [link]. As an exercise in deception-detection, I suggested we parse a short passage of Nixon’s testimony. We limited it to the response Nixon gave to a specific question asked by federal prosecutors. We examined the implications Nixon made in order to give prosecutors the impression that he was acting as Chief Executive and giving high-level ‘directives’ to his staff ..and not ordering the Watergate break-in. When prosecutors asked about White House efforts to target Lawrence O'Brien (Chairman of the Democratic National Committee) and the events leading up to the break-in at his office in the Watergate complex, Nixon replied:
“I do not recall suggesting Mr. O’Brien files be checked ..I only suggested that in this campaign, we should be as effective in conducting our investigations as they (the Democrats) had been in conducting their investigations.”
[ I only suggested .. ] implies no direct orders were given. Although prosecutors may infer ‘tacit approval’, without knowing what was going on in the minds of the White House staff at the time; prosecutors couldn’t go there. That information was only available in discussions leading up to this point. But the previous 18 minutes were erased from the White House tape. *See Footnote* [conducting our investigation .. ] implies they were only discussing an equitable response to what Democrats were doing during the campaign. Since there was no evidence of criminal activity on the part of Democrats, prosecutors could only conclude Nixon wasn’t suggesting anything inappropriate. It’s clear Nixon was using pragmatic implications [link] ..a trick that lawyers routinely recommend to their clients. He could deny culpability but, at the same time, avoid perjury in the advent investigators found evidence that he actually did order the break-in. Instead of denying it outright, he says is he was making what amounts to a ‘suggestion’ that they conduct an ‘equitable investigation’. If it comes out later that he gave orders, he cannot be accused of perjury for the inferences federal prosecutors made in response to his statements. In other words, implications are not grounds for perjury. To the end, Nixon played the role of an attorney trying to create ‘reasonable doubt’ in the minds of his jurors (Historians).
* Footnote: Congress actually did infer that, by omission, the 18-minute gap probably contained incriminating information turning Nixon’s statement into a criminal act. This is what led to a vote of impeachment by over two-thirds of the House.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quaker Oats

I eat oatmeal fairly regularly ..the kind you get from the bins at the store. They’re called rolled oats and they taste ‘heartier’ than the ones you get in a box from Quaker Oats. However, I was beginning to wonder if I was missing the health benefits of oatmeal because I wasn't eating the Quaker Oats brand. I checked the box and the contents were the same ..Quaker doesn’t add anything special. I wasn’t sure where my doubts were coming from ..until I listened closely to the Quaker Oats commercial on TV. Here’s what they say: “Doctors have proven that oatmeal reduces cholesterol ..and there’s no oatmeal like Quaker Oats ..remember, the one you grew up with as a child.” ~ Now, they don’t come right out and say that Quaker Oats is the only brand proven to reduce cholesterol ..but they sure enough imply it ..and that’s what I was responding to.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tropic of Iran

The U.S. military depicts Iran is as “..a fanatical regime that, once armed with nuclear weapons, would not hesitate to use them.”
I think this is a misleading and downright deceptive rationale for going to war on our part. It’s an example of a fallacy that says if something could happen, it inevitably will happen. ‘Having nuclear arms’ may be a necessary condition for their use .. but it is by no means sufficient. It fails to consider whether Iran could develop a delivery system that we couldn’t detect ..and it ignores history that shows that the prospect of assured self-annihilation is actually a deterrent. I believe this makes it less likely that Iran would dash off to use them and lowers the odds of success if they did, fanatical as they may be. Or naive as I may be. But consider this, what would be riskier: a nuclear-armed Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran that’s been attacked by Israel ..? Seems to me an attack would be more likely to diminish deterrence, remove restraint and boost the chances of retaliation once they have nuclear weapons. Like trying to put out a fire with gasoline, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that perpetuates a cycle of violence, escalation and retribution. In my opinion, demonizing Iran as a “fanatical regime certain to use nuclear weapons” is a deceptive claim that ignores conditions in the world that would greatly reduce the chances of that happening.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Justice department

“An operation called Fast and Furious allowed weapons to be sold to gun smugglers in the U.S. so they could be traced to drug cartels in Mexico. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which ran the operation, lost track of the weapons ..one of which was used in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry near Tucson in December 2010.”   LA Times 
In his deposition to congress, Kenneth Melson, former head of ATF, says he was “..never advised” by his staff that they were involved in a program of selling illegal arms along the U.S./Mexican border. “My chief of staff never came in and told me either, and he’s on the same damn floor as I am.” Which leads me to suspect a cover-up. The phrase “I was never told” does not automatically register as “I didn’t know” in my suspicious brain. What I do detect is his use of pragmatic implication to deceive me into thinking that he didn’t know. Furthermore, not once in his deposition did he ever come out and actually say: “I did not know what my department was doing” ..which would have sounded incredibly stupid. So, instead .. he uses phrases like “I was never advised ..” or “no one ever told me ..” not only to avoid sounding stupid but to help him dodge any future accusations of perjury and obstruction of justice [link]. Members of the Justice Department coached him well. Now they too are saying that they were never told about the Fast and Furious program ..and cite his testimony as evidence. Which leads me to believe that they too were fully aware of what was going on. Lack of oversight ..I don’t think so. What I do think is that Fast and Furious was directed by the U.S. State Department and carried out, with full cooperation, by the ATF. When it resulted in the unfortunate shooting of a border patrol agent ..the operation became public; and the cover-up began. In order to conceal involvement by the U.S. government, Justice officials immediately began advising ATF against full disclosure ..telling them “it is a long-standing policy of the Department of Justice that we don’t talk about ongoing cases.” Which leads me to believe that the Department of Justice is also in the business of obstruction of justice.