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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

In the news...

Ten-SHUN! Windows 9 has died before birth. Microsoft is going straight to Windows 10. By all reports, it's a souped up version of Windows 7 -- and these foolish fools at The Verge dare to complain.
Windows 10 feels like a platform that hasn't seen serious or meaningful change in eight years. Apps have gotten much more powerful and there's a handy way to search everything, but when you pick up a Windows PC it may not be immediately clear which decade it comes from. It's the best Windows 7 ever, but it's still Windows 7.

If that's all Microsoft has up its sleeve, that's a problem.
NO! That's not a bug -- it's a feature. The nightmare of Windows 8 taught us all a lesson: Do not rethink evolution. Evolution is good. Evolution does what it does for excellent reasons, and only a fool would try to resist the flow. Make the OS better, but don't make it fundamentally different.

Damned good question, Ms. Rowley. The celebrated former FBI agent asks: "Why Do Americans Hate Beheadings But Love Drone Killings?"
One lady framed the issue like this: "I request that we discuss and examine why the videotaped beheading of a human being is understood to be more egregious than the explosion (almost totally invisible to the public) of a human being by a missile or bomb fired from a drone."
You can't argue that the victims of drone attacks receive due process. You can't call them combatants in a war. You can't even pronounce them guilty of terrorism, since so many innocents have been killed.

Rowley makes cogent arguments as to why even so-called "peace" groups embrace the drone but jeer the knife. But she misses one key factor: Bigotry. Racial and religious bigotries render some lives less valuable than others.

War on Assad? A few days ago, I voiced a tentative hope that the war on ISIS would function as an actual war on ISIS, not as a cover for regime change in Syria. However, Bob Parry's unnerving new piece tells us that the neocons have not given up the old dream...
Now that President Barack Obama has begun airstrikes inside Syria against the terrorist Islamic State – with the tacit but not explicit approval of Syria’s government — Official Washington’s ever-influential neoconservatives hope they can pressure Obama into a major “mission creep,” to also attack and destroy the Syrian air force.

Like the proverbial camel with its nose into the tent, the neocons are trying to push beyond the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State and other Sunni extremist groups operating in Syria into a broader “regime change” operation against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been a longtime target of the neocons.
But this mission creep would represent a major escalation of the U.S. involvement and represent a clear case of international aggression. President Obama is on thin enough ice with his rationalization for bombing terrorist targets inside Syria without the government’s explicit permission (although Damascus has raised no formal objections).

If Obama were to order U.S. bombing attacks against Syria’s military, he would have to concoct a new excuse, presumably citing the “responsibility to protect” doctrine which has no standing in international law unless approved by the United Nations Security Council.

The “R2P” claim also would be a poor fit for shielding a rebel army that is engaged in warfare against the established government of a country. In effect, the United States would be intervening in a civil war on the side of rebels whom the U.S. government had recruited, trained, armed and funded. Plus, the likely result of such a direct intervention – as with Libya – would be a victory not by these “moderates” but by extremist militias.
There's a lot to chew on in Parry's piece; I may return to it later today.

The Khorasan fake-out. An earlier Cannonfire post took note of a typically nutty National Review article, which began on a note of sanity. NR said that this new terror bogeyman, Khorasan, is non-existent -- or rather, it exists only as a phoney-baloney renaming of the well-known Nusra front. If they had left the matter there, the folks at NR would have deserved our applause. But then they went traipsing off into Crazyland, as is their crazy wont, arguing that this adminstration's fake nomenclature somehow indicates that Obama wants to arrest the terrorists instead of bombing them. This, despite the fact that bombs clearly are flying.

Glenn Greenwald now has a much more reasonable piece up which calls Khorasan a "fake terror threat." It seems that one of the very first people to unveil Khorasan as an alleged domestic threat was Bob Orr of CBS...
The U.S. government, Orr explained, is trying to keep this all a secret; they won’t even mention the group’s name in public out of security concerns! But Orr was there to reveal the truth, as his “sources confirm the Al Qaeda cell goes by the name Khorasan.” And they’re “developing fresh plots to attack U.S. aviation.”

Later that day, Obama administration officials began publicly touting the group, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned starkly: “In terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”
What is most instructive here is Orr's approach: He pretended that he was revealing a deep dark secret that THEY didn't want you to know about. Stuff and nonsense. Clearly, this was an authorized leak -- if "leak" is even the right word for it. Orr is not the kind of journalist who deals in real leaks, because he is not a real journalist.

We all know the score by now. When faced with an actual unauthorized leaker, Obama reaches for his white Persian cat and segues directly into his impersonation of Blofeld feeding an unpleasing underling to the piranhas. No cat? No piranhas? No leak. It's that simple.

Orr has proven that a "subversive" anti-government pose is one of the ways our government tries to slip lies into the meme-stream. Please make a note of that tactic for future reference.

Greenwald asserts, en passant, that the alleged leader of Khorasan, Mohsin al-Fadhli, is dead. Actually, the story he cites indicates that the death remains unconfirmed. Frankly, I can't find anything on al-Fadhli which was published more recently than three days ago. For example, this piece in the Daily Mail indicates that "officials" believe that al-Fadhli "may be faking his own death."

How do we know that officials aren't faking al-Fadhli's life? As noted in this earlier post, the only Al Qaeda militants scurrying about the Khorasan region of Iran were, in fact, funded by our intelligence services -- a fact which indicates that al-Fadhli may have been "our" guy all along.

(Hey, it's me. I said something similar about Awlaki.)

Let's get back to Greenwald:
Even more remarkable, it turns out the very existence of an actual “Khorasan Group” was to some degree an invention of the American government.
Indeed, a Nexis search for the group found almost no mentions of its name prior to the September 13 AP article based on anonymous officials. There was one oblique reference to it in a July 31 CNN op-ed by Peter Bergen. The other mention was an article in the LA Times from two weeks earlier about Pakistan which mentioned the group’s name as something quite different than how it’s being used now: as “the intelligence wing of the powerful Pakistani Taliban faction led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur.” Tim Shorrock noted that the name appears in a 2011 hacked Stratfor email published by WikiLeaks, referencing a Dawn article that depicts them as a Pakistan-based group which was fighting against and “expelled by” (not “led by”) Bahadur.

There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful or identifiable manner. Aki Peritz, a CIA counterterrorism official until 2009, told Time: “I’d certainly never heard of this group while working at the agency,” while Obama’s former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said: ”We used the term [Khorasan] inside the government, we don’t know where it came from….All I know is that they don’t call themselves that.” As The Intercept was finalizing this article, former terrorism federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote in National Review that the group was a scam: “You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan … had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.”
We all remember the film Wag the Dog. Ever since that movie came out, various writers have argued that various occurrences were "wag the dog" scenarios. Most of those accusations had no real proof to back them. The Khorasan charade offers us our clearest evidence that the government does indeed enjoy the occasional bit of dog-waggery.

And speaking of dog-wagging: Have you noticed that nobody is repeating the canard that Assad was responsible for the sarin attacks? The administration now refuses to mention an incident which almost started a major war.

This is too embarrassing for words. Threshold Entertainment is going to make a film version of...Tetris.

Wouldn't it be easier to make a film called "Chess: The Movie"? At least with chess, you have badasses on horseback. Angelina Jolie as the White Queen...Halle Berry as the Black Queen...with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the King's pawn. (Ah! The role he was born to play. Doesn't he just look like the King's pawn, nervously advancing two paces ahead?) You know, if I still lived in Los Angeles, I might try to pitch this concept.

It is now official: Name recognition is all; original ideas are considered bad for business. Star Wars is credited with creating Hollywood's blockbuster mentality. Paradoxically, that mentality now insures that a film like Star Wars (an expensive production not based on a pre-existing property) would never receive the green light.
And just in case we thought we could run somewhere, the CIA, I mean Facebook, will be putting drones up as big as jumbo jets to ensure 'everyone' gets internet access in otherwise uncovered areas. That's according to the Daily Mail. Little chance they'll forget about the highlands of Scotland!

Google won't be far away. They boast about employing "less than 50% but certainly more than 5% of the world' leading experts" on machine learning. One investor in Google-owned DeepMind spoke of a "Manhattan Project of AI".

On Facebook: I'll be interested to hear the 2012 US suicide figure when it comes out. I reckon there may have been a very big increase connected with Facebook use.

Chess, The Movie (trailer).

And for balance, about go, The Surrounding Game Movie.
Wait for all the complaints about Windows 10 hiding the Start Screen. People don't like change.

It's said that public execution being abolished stopped the abolition of the death penalty for a hundred years. The media in America won't show you the hideously mangled corpses of the children killed by drones because it might arouse dissatisfaction.

Al-Fadhli, the supposedly dead supposed leader of the Nusra/"Khorasan". And not long ago the entire leadership of the Islamic Front in Syria was blown up when they met in a room next to a bomb factory in a bunker, which was then either blown up by incompetents or by an ISIS suicide bomber. The FSA are nothing but an illusion. The Syrian Kurds have been slaughtered too. ISIS are stomping that Syrian war, and still destroying brigade-scale units in Iraq.

Films not based on preexisting properties can still be made, like Edge of Tomorrow. Good film, didn't make a massive profit.

I admit that I was sceptical about Battleship, the movie of Battleships, which was actually an alien invasion movie which featured a battleship in the later part.

Chess wouldn't make a good film, though. I was going to recommend this article, humourously recommending a filmic Go:

But b already suggested Go: The Movie. Still, that Michael Kelly article is better. Much more Hollywood.

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