Spy v. Spy

There is another must-see cable show, called “The Americans.” It’s about two Soviet spies, a man and a woman who pretend to be married (but with real kids), living a life under deep cover in the DC area.

It is set in the 1980s and is not entirely fictional. Yes, there was that 2010 case with the sexy Russian lady, but I’m talking about the many cases of decades ago, when this was a full-scale operation done not just for the spying but for the tinkering with double family lives.

It is well produced and acted. It’s amazing how, once again, a British actor nails the American accent perfectly, but the reverse almost never happens.

Today, it seems rather obvious that there were people with one foot in each of the two superpower camps, US and Soviet, who could have unmasked any and all “undercover agents,” and who could have identified any and all “double agents.”

But they did not. They let the bands play on. Why? That’s another story.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/26/why-the-americans-is-the-best-spy-show-on-tv.html

Illusion of Independence

Scotland and Catalonia are flirting with national independence. Scotland will have a referendum to break away from Great Britain, and Catalonia is probably on track for the same, to cut political ties with Spain.

But political independence is nothing without monetary independence, and Scotland will apparently continue to use the British Pound. Which it does not control.

Catalonia, too, would retain a foreign and hostile monetary regime over and above the puppet show of national politics. Catalonia would not only retain the Euro but remain in the European Union as just another province and presumably within NATO as well.

Nationalist movements in Scotland and Catalonia might produce two new independent nation –states, technically speaking. But if we peel away the stickers of their respective flags, we’ll find two pathetic rump states, provinces really, that must play by the rules of others.

Life Imitates Art

George Orwell’s 1949 book about the future 1984, was a bit off with the timeline. Somehow, the global controllers (an extremely heterogeneous group but firmly united in their hatred of humanity) got behind the eight ball but have made recent and desperate efforts to re-create Orwell’s dystopia.

In the West, as in 1984′s Oceania, we certainly have Oligarchic Collectivism, but the new twist is of cushy socialism for the Inner Party, and Darwinian struggle for the unwashed proles.

In the Ukraine, as in 1984, battles are being fought over “disputed areas” between Oceania (the West) and Eurasia (Russia), and they are not decisive battles. The momentum shifts back and forth. A few weeks ago, the West was advancing; now Russia (or an allied militia) is advancing; and surely the future holds more news of this back-and-forth tide, of this perpetual war.

The “League” would not be meeting its contractual obligations is the teams stopped competing militarily and politically. They are even meant to engage in an economic war of attrition, sanctioning the hell out of one another, to the extent that ordinary people must be made to the pain. No pain, no gain. Feel the burn.

All is not quiet on the Eastern Front. Nor is it meant to be. God forbid anyone should win this round, with its promise of deprivation and de-humanization. If the Ukrainian crisis is pregnant with the possibility of a nuclear confrontation, then so much the better.

In the Middle East, as in 1984, vast publics audiences are told that “we’ve always been at war with Islamic fundamentalism,” forgetting the 1980s in Afghanistan.  After 911, Islamic extremists were always the bad guys – except in Libya, when they were handy for overthrowing Gaddafi, and in Syria, where it was hoped these extremists would overthrow Assad…

But now that history is also erased. Isis comes along (same people, new brand) and we are told, for the fourth time, “we’ve always been at war with Islamic fundamentalism…”

It’s a test, to see if the species is really “stuck on stupid,” as rumored.

In the media, as in 1984, there is now the “Two Minutes Hate” ritual, conducted by television’s most coiffed talking heads, pointing to the newest ritualistic beheading video (real or fake) to channel popular anger towards Isis – that Egyptian goddess whose name must be said, out loud. That, too, is part of the ritual.

So was 1984, part of the ritual. George Orwell apparently responded to the request to inform us of what will be done to us.

It’s a weird part of the honor code, I know, to have to tell someone in advance of their coming injury, of what will be done to them, but they are at least holding up their end of the bargain, as a license to “operate a motor vehicle” (I mean “planet”) with unceasing cruelty and reckless degeneracy.

Manslaughter charges may be dropped in this world, but not in the next.

Crucifying Citizenship

Of course, if an American citizen joins a foreign extra-state militia, designated as a terrorist group, he or she could be tried for specific crimes. And they should be – if they committed them, as proven in a court of law.

Under these circumstances, he or she would be subjected to due process, but without (constitutionally speaking) the forfeiture of American citizenship.

Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas, is attempting to advance a bill through Congress that would do this:

“Cruz’s measure would amend existing U.S. law to make becoming a member of, fighting for, or providing material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization the equivalent of renouncing U.S. citizenship” (Raw Story).

Because this seems like a no-contest proposition, other senators are piling on, even those with more liberarian inclinations.

But here is why the Cruz bill is wildly unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court, in Afroyim v. Rusk (1967), in a decision that still stands, invalidated the core arguments of earlier decisions (that had deprived an American of citizenship after fighting in the Cuban Revolution, for example).

The 1967 decision was plain:

“Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967), is a major United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that citizens of the United States may not be deprived of their citizenship involuntarily.”

The only exception to this can include individuals who had acquired citizenship via jus sanguinis, through birth outside the United States.

But the 1967 decision was later strenghtned:

“In a 1980 case, however—Vance v. Terrazas—the Supreme Court ruled that intent to relinquish citizenship needed to be proved by itself, and not simply inferred from an individual’s having voluntarily performed an action designated by Congress as being incompatible with an intent to keep one’s citizenship.”

Additionally, in 1990 a US State Department policy made it clear that it is virtually impossible to lose American citizenship without formally and expressly renouncing it.

So there you have it. The Cruz bill flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent, State department policy, and even the spirit of American democracy, which is based on “popular sovereignty,” meaning that citizens have a right to be citizens before the government’s right to even exist.

That last point is supremely important here and merits reflection. The US government emerges “from” the people and cannot revoke citizenship unilaterally, on its own terms.

That Cruz is so intent on advancing this bill suggests that he serves power and more specifically, the abuse thereof.

Under the guise of the laughable “Tea Party,” which morphed into the antithesis of the Boston Tea Party, this congressional faction serves elites, corporate interests, the banks, and foreign countries (Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc…) Pretending to be “America First” it is really “America Last.”

The icing on the cake is that the mainstream media keeps flirting with Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate. Even the Raw Story article quoted below has this: “… who is seen as a likely 2016 presidential contender.”

Well, remember how Arnold Schwarzenegger was ineligible to run for president, because he was born in a foreign country? Ted Cruz was born in Canada. What the fuck?

 

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/09/05/ted-cruz-vows-to-push-bill-stripping-u-s-citizenship-from-islamic-state-recruits/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afroyim_v._Rusk

All for 8 dollars

Or the local equivalent in RMB: bananas, dragon fruit, large mango, green grapes, dark grapes, apples and figs, of which there were more when I bought them.

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Problem-Solution

A True Believer was being interviewed on CCTV. He said that the US now has a great opportunity to rally other countries around a solution to the instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and in the areas affected by Isis.

But hang on, I thought. Was it not western intervention that created the context for this instability in the first place? And while some of the chaos appears to be unanticipated, as in Afghanistan, in other instances it is predictable (at least to a 5fth grader): supply Islamic insurgents in Libya and Syria with weapons and money, and then object when they re-brand themselves.

What is happening here is the same old “problem-solution” sequence that scales itself up sequentially. Smaller problems are created (by design) in order to offer a “solution.” When these solutions backfire, the problems are reconfigured so that they span a wider geographic region. Then a new “solution” is offered, again by the same suspects who instigated the problems in the first place.

This tactic depends on people having short memories. We are all supposed to forget how the problems started. Apparently, so did this guy on tv, a well-dressed, well-educated man, but ultimately a fool.

Gettin’ Iced

Wednesday’s Quiz Night at the Underground (English pub) is a good place to meet people from everywhere.

There was this dude at my table, 30-something, from California, who launched his own frozen yogurt label and now sells to customers in 20 cities across China. That’s some get-up-and-go.

But there is a problem, and apparently it’s not the first time. There is a kind of bureaucratic struggle between the US USDA/FDA (food agencies) and their counterparts in China. The issue pertains to who will set the quality standards for certain products. At preent a Chinese agency wants the USDA to certify that ertain products meet Chinese standards, or so he said. Underneath that issue, he said, there are other ones involving back-and-forth, tit-for-tat protectionism.

The upshot is this: the guy has 40 metric tons of frozen yogurt immobilized in the port of Shanghai, with no way to deliver the product to his customers. He then added that one container was actually “on the water,” that is, on the way over here.

The expiration date is some 18 months away, but he is considering finding buyers in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Maybe even the Philippines. Unless the issue gets resolved soon, which he does not expect. “I’m screwed,” he said.

I asked what flavor, and he said they were natural, unflavored, but one container did have “11 flavors.” And he proceeded to list them, including strawberry, mango, coconut…

So his frozen yogurt business. It’s really frozen.

On Related Matters

If anyone watches three seasons of “The Tudors” within a week, well, I imagine that they too might be contemplating topics such as these.

One can’t help but notice, in this rather historically accurate version of King Henry VIII’s life, the endless procession of priests and bishops worming themselves into the Court, to scheme.

Drunk with power, they look everywhere to root out heresy. Henry’s Church of England occupied a kind of middle ground between Catholicism and Protestantism, and so clergy members took turns accusing one another, and members of the Court, of being the Papist agents of a foreign power or, equally damning, Lutheran and Calvinist heretics. Many a head was separated from its body on the chopping block.

The Tudors series really made a ritual of this dramatization, so much so that they played with variation. The best was when anti-Cromwell agents got the executioner drunk before Thomas Cromwell’s execution, and the blurry eyed axe man really made a mess of it.

And then there is Henry VIII himself, and true, while definitely the best dressed man this side of the Magna Carta, and an all around badass, actually believed something that appears numerous times in the Bible: The Divine Right of Kings.

From 1Peter (2:13-14):

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors…”

Then there is Romans (13:1-2):

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

Fortunately, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and Europe’s experience with fascism all put an end to this historical abomination of the rulers having some kind of divine right. Imagine Hitler as divinely ordained… Fortunately, now the prevailing view in the West is that there is no inherent connection between rulers and gods.

The thing is, the Divine Right of Kings is a totalizing doctrine, ultimately leaving no room (just as Henry VIII left no room) for natural rights or natural law. When a jury member objected to Lord Surrey’s kangaroo trial, he was told “the law is what the king says it is.”

The Divine Right of Kings appears numerous times in the Bible. That fact should require that book’s most strident fans (especially American Christians, many of whom believe that each letter of each word is correct) to explain why most other things written there are not bullshit, too.

Now for something

completely different…

What does it mean that so many Americans are searching for online information on “Hell”? Apparently this is one of the most common web searches in the US, especially in the places that are “hardest” to live in. Zerohedge.com recently had a long article about the most common searches, and Hell ranked right up there (or right down there, depending).

As per Wikipedia: “In many mythological, folklore and religious traditions, hell is a place of eternal torment in an afterlife, often after resurrection. It is viewed by most Abrahamic traditions as a place of punishment.”

It seems that many Christians are divided as to whether Hell is a real place or some kind of symbol. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Hell exists, if not below the Earth’s crust then as an extra-dimensional realm in which the damned are tormented, just as in Dante’s Inferno, and perhaps where they are so packed in, and so burning with heat, so scorched and hairless, that there is no rest, and where these souls cannot see into our world – except to see people who might see them, who might jailbreak them. Right out of the movies, right?

I recently spent time talking about Hell with a post-modern Christian philosopher, over Chinese beer, crackers and spicy peanuts, overlooking a pond stuffed with fat orange carp. He is a true scholar (and a gentleman actually) who made the interesting argument that Hell exists, but that people are not condemned to an eternity in the flames, just long enough to represent fit punishment for their sins. After that period, their souls would be “annihilated.”

Otherwise, he claimed, God would be acting in an “illogical” fashion, as an eternity in hell is no match for any amount of sins committed in this world, let alone for the minor theological infractions and victimless sexual proclivities that are supposed to send people to Hell.

His solution also addressed the problem of “omni-benevolence,” for clearly, any deity leaving human souls in a furnace for an eternity would not, in fact, be benevolent but rather malicious: a true psychopath.

Furthermore, how odd it would be, would it not, that humans have evolved standards of justice (let the punishment fit the crime; no cruel punishment) that are higher and more enlightened than those of the deity doing the “judging.” This philosopher’s solution gets around those interesting arguments.

Another observation, regarding Hell, is that most Abrahamic traditions posit “free will” among humans, and that people are making autonomous “choices” for the good and the bad. Choices that will send them on an elevator ride up or down, depending.

And here comes the contradiction… Even in the Abrahamic religions, there is perpetual intervention and interference in the affairs of this world (divine and satanic, not only physical intervention but also mental and dream-state intrusions, telepathic stalking, etc.., all the angels and demons stuff). I’m not making this up; it’s all right in the mainstream religious tradition.

Arguably, every intervention diminishes free will, diminishing also the rationale for judging humanity. And is not human behavior so contextualized, so socially constructed, as to also diminish individual free will? Then on what basis are we to be judged? As isolated units? When we are not?

Moreover, and this is more important of an argument: there are even strains of early Christianity – and this is certainly found within Buddhism – where there is just one human soul, one consciousness, or one mind at the higher, more charged dimensions; but the illusion of individuality would then materialize in this world (as the argument runs, take it or leave it), in our low-rent district, run by the slumlords who carted in “Hell” (hacking into cosmic natural law) about 12,000 years ago, as part of their travelling circus.

The distinction above (made by the philosopher) points to a difference between “ultimism,” which posits a non-personal cosmic force, or even a unified consciousness; and “theism” or “deism” which posits a personal god, with the deity in the Abrahamic religions representing the highest force (even though perhaps mid-level commanders of just this quadrant, from which the bulk of humanity has not been emancipated).

So, this philosopher and I, around and around we went, occasionally flipping crackers into the pond. He was more informed and eloquent than I was, while I was more surprising (to him) than people he normally debated, so at least there was that.

Geography 101

There has been month after month of reporting (mostly sensationalized and exaggerated), about economic refugees coming across the US border with Mexico… In reality, the overwhelming majority of these people, including children, are detained soon after crossing the border, and that is even the intent, for minors.

Unfortunately, this all conditions Americans into thinking that the border is more porous than it really is, perhaps conditioning them as well to accept an “ISIS” explanation for a potential attack on the US. Never mind, for the time being, that ISIS was seeded by American taxpayers, as part of the “let’s now be BFF with Al Qaeda to overthrow Syria” campaign. All this borderland news; now it’s starting to make sense. The raison d’être, that is.

But the only people making sporadic forays into the US (before being detained) are Mexican and Central American migrants, or would-be migrants, with a few from South America and the Caribbean.

It is not possible for a Middle Easterner (especially those with suspected terrorist backgrounds) to arrive in Mexico (up from Central America even), without being detected. Why?

Flying into an airport in Central America or Mexico (from other points in South America or from Europe), is just like flying into an airport in the US, such as Atlanta’s. All the international monitoring and surveillance systems are in place, integrated with American and European ones, and often with US personnel on hand.

Bin Laden’s fifth cousin is not going to land at Tocumen Airport in Panama, unnoticed, and then work his way North.

This fact is true in Mexico and its airports, where there are many US authorities present. (But they no longer have a seat at the chair of the more sensitive meetings, having conducted operations in Mexico that were not only unauthorized but also botched).

Let’s talk about the direct flights from the Middle East, or Africa, into Central America or Mexico:

THERE AREN’T ANY!!!

Travelers originating in the Middle East or Africa must first fly through London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, or Madrid. And that is mostly for Mexico. Most Central American countries have zero flights to or from Europe. Maybe Costa Rica does, and certainly Panama (from Amsterdam for example).

The next question is this: If there is an “ISIS” attack on US soil, will the Mexican authorities go along with the ruse, with an Operation Gladio false-flag operation? Or will it simply keep its mouth shut, as it has in the past?