Sunday, October 10, 2010

Terrorist Warnings And Your Awareness, Pashtun Trucking Mafias, Politicians Who Dress As Nazis

Susan Collins
Philip Howard
Lee Siegel

"I don't know who first described politics as the "art of compromise," but that maxim, to which I have always subscribed, seems woefully unfashionable today." - Susan Collins
"But just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, sooner or later, you've got to compromise. You've got to start making the compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward." - Colin Powell
"Compromise and tolerance are magic words. It took me 40 years to become philosophical." - Hedy Lamarr

Two of the opinion pieces linked above I chose because they relate to ideas that I've made posts on before, Howard explains how we are drowning in legislation and that is killing the American spirit, while Siegel makes an attempt to link the tea party to the Beats, of all things improbable: "... the spirit of Beat dissent is alive (though some might say not well) in the character of Tea Party protest. Like the Beats, the Tea Partiers are driven by that maddeningly contradictory principle, subject to countless interpretations, at the heart of all American protest movements: individual freedom." Whether you agree with him or not, I enjoyed the excursion.

The global intelligence website, Stratfor, has an article on how to respond to terrorist threats and warnings. It is a useful reference, especially if you are planning on traveling in Europe this year, or believe that your town is next on the jihad hit list: "... far more people (including tourists) will be affected by crime than terrorism in Europe this year, and more people will be killed in European car accidents than terrorist attacks.

If people live their lives in a constant state of fear, those who seek to terrorize them have won. Terror attacks are a tactic used by a variety of militant groups for a variety of ends. As the name implies, terrorism is intended to produce a psychological impact that far outweighs the actual physical damage caused by the attack itself." They counsel that it is a good practice to learn situational awareness, or pay attention to your surroundings, looking for things that look out of place and the behavior of those around you. It is basically the same kind of training used to detect if you are under surveillance, and further links to these subjects are in the article. One pleasant way to build this kind of awareness is the practice of meditation or learn a gentle art like tai chi. Then, you can extend awareness into your every day living...

Sifu Bing Gong

Christine Fair has an interesting article in Foreign Policy, on how the Pakistani trucking mafias keep vehicles safe when traveling from Pakistan to Afghanistan, and what to expect when the Pakistani government reopens the border crossing next week: "Trucking mafias and organized criminal and insurgent networks are all making money off of this system. The system of payoffs is elaborate yet elegant. Pashtuns dominate the trucking mafia in Pakistan and represent enormous financial interests in the fundamental integrity of the supply line system. The drivers and their companies must pay off Pakistani police and any other relevant government officials to secure "safe" passage and to resolve any "paperwork complexities. Insurgents and criminal organizations also get their courtesy payment in exchange for safe passage to Afghanistan. Ordinary smugglers and blackmarketeers get their pieces of the pie too. Cargo containers are pilfered in small amounts. They are in turn auctioned off and the buyers sell their contents in the "bara bazaars" (black markets) throughout Pakistan. Some of the contents of the trucks have made their way into the hands of Pakistani insurgents. Overall, pilferage is low. This seems deliberately calibrated to ensure that such loss is an irritant to be tolerated rather than a problem to be fixed.

Trucks have been torched in the past and sometimes in large number. But it is not as it appears in all instances. While I was with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in 2007, I travelled to Jalalabad to meet UNAMA staff there. They explained that time-tested insurance scams are an easy way for Pakistani drivers and their employers to make cash. Trucks coming to Afghanistan offload their fuel in Pakistan at an appropriate price. Then, with only a minimal amount of fuel, the truck is "attacked" and "set on fire." The company files an insurance claim for both the lost truck and the value of the lost cargo. It is almost impossible to say how often this takes place. Sometimes it can backfire: with dozens of trucks lined up bumper to bumper, when one truck catches fire there is a deadly domino effect.

When trucks enter Afghanistan, various local "security firms" are entrusted with the responsibility that these goods meet their destination. As is well known and as detailed in a recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee, these firms also make handsome contributions to the Afghan Taliban and other nefarious state and non-state actors." Sorry for the long quote... with the border currently closed, all contracts are off, and they will have to be renegotiated sometime in the coming weeks. Too bad we can't use these Pashtuns for negotiating in Palestine and Israel; not only would things get done quickly and transparently, but the Pashtuns would protect their contracts. We could use them as police in the West Bank instead of the IDF...

My nephew used to enjoy re-enacting Civil War battles with other like-minded individuals. They would make their own costumes as authentic to the time period as they could, slept in crappy tents, and tried to be as historically accurate in depicting the battles except that they were condensed into a few hours. When I was younger I enjoyed going to various Renaissance Fairs, though I tried to keep away from costumes that required wearing tights. But I don't quite get the thrill and camaraderie behind dressing up as a Nazi. You would have to do something other than die on the battlefield, and that is what worries me. And the fact that there are more than a couple of guys of German descent that like to do this.

Ohioan Rich Iott is running for office as a Republican and has been identified as one of the Nazi re-enactors, described as innocent history buffs. One more to add to the kook pile, and this year we have a bumper crop, with witches, guys who like to dress in diapers and have hookers pee on them, guys who would secede from the Union, women who see demon sheep, and a guy who went to Princeton but tries to portray himself wearing cowboy boots covered in shit... it makes one long for the good old days of politicians who finagled money to build a bridge to nowhere and the wide stance of Larry Craig...

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