Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bubba's world.

Death to anyone who uses more than one exclamation point in their email! The fact that its an email and not a phone call should be enough to dissuade you from believing that themessage warrants three exclamation points. "The cookies have arrived :) !!!" certainly doesn't qualify for 3 exclamation points no matter how much you like shortbread or chocolate chip cookies. And smileyfaces just make it so much worse.

Also, why don't we save "Good morning" for good mornings. And I would also like to request an honest answer to the question "How are you?" Shitty, depressed, bored, hung over, unhappy, lonely, pissed off, sleepy, sick, and contemplating mass murder all qualify. How about just OK? Why is OK reserved for situations where you have just been sick or fell down a hill? "Great", and "Wonderful" as standard responses should be left to the mentally insane. The following expressions should be left for sarcasm only: "Yeay!","Hooray!","Yahoo!","Fabulous","Awesome". As should "I am so psyched", "Aren't you excited?" and "I am fired up/stoked".


I sit on the bus without my glasses on the way from work. I watch the lights go past the window and with the right music I start to believe that my anger, angst and pain can open a hole in this world (somewhere near the front of the bus) and I can squeeze through. And there will be nothing. Endless time. My anger will dissipate and I will live in that moment. I will feel good. My mind will be quiet. My thoughts left to drift to a different level where everything will be clear and nothing to dress up that whore of reality in her makeup of lies and human weakness. And then the track ends. The bus ride is over. I get off the bus, the anger stays and the whore laughs at me.

Friday, December 23, 2005

There is a very interesting situation coming in Israel. The Palestinians are supposed to have elections for the PA assembly in January. The PA assembly, like all other bodies of the Palestinian Authority are the product of the Oslo agreements signed between Israel and the Pals in 1993. In effect, under Oslo, Israel granted effective temporary autonomy to the Palestinians under the leadership of the PLO. Oslo also includes the mutual recognition of the two sides in perpetuity, with the PLO accepted as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians and the Israeli gov't of Israel.

Now, for the past 12 years or so Hamas has considered the PA as tainted by the fact that it was founded by the Oslo accords. Since Hamas never recognized the state of Israel it could not accept Oslo which included mutual recognition. For this reason Hamas has boycotted all elections to PA bodies since 1993 (it did participate in local elections, but this doesn't compromise its position).

Hamas is now going to run candidates in the Jan 25 elections. So what does this mean? Does the fact that they are running implicitly recognize Israel? Probably not.

About 3 years ago I was arguing with one of my professors that Hamas will only participate in elections when they think they can win. I believe that this is still the case. Hamas believes it can win the election. Judging from the fact that they won elections in most of the local elections in the West Bank and had a very strong showing in Gaza local elections they could be right.

What if Hamas loses? Then the big winner will be Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah "young guard" and head of the al-aksa brigades, fatah's 'militant arm'. If anybody could be held responsible for the 2nd intifada it would be him. And in fact he has been held accountable for several murders of Israeli citizens and is currently serving some number of consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison.

Abbas will still be the president (chairman or whatever), but the fact that his cronies will win so little support will completely paralyze his ability to do anything. The new Fatah 'young guard', if victorious, will certainly want their leader release from prison before negotiations take place. This will not happen. And if Hamas wins negotiations are impossible. Whatever happens the PA as conceived of in 1993 will have disappeared, with no new arrangement in sight.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I started work today. again. The backend has been turbocharged in the past 4 years. Everything does more and does it better. The company has been growing ridiculously fast and was forced into adding new capacity and new functionality along the way. My problem is that my initial assignment is basically in-house technical support. Non-technical people will be asking me questions about how and why the system does things. If I was working as a developer I would need to know how one particular aspect of the system runs and could ignore much of everything else. Since I am tech support I need to be familiar with all parts of the system so that I can look for problems. And there are lots and lots of parts of the system, though the flow of problems seems to be very manageable. I am a technical person so I can figure out [over time] how things are connected and I can look at the underlying programs and databases to help me understand why they do things the way they do. I have absolutely no idea how the non-technical client support people ever figure out anything about the system. Their manual has about 700 pages and its unclear to me how they are able to master even the basic operations of the system. The client support department is experiencing very high turn-over and hiring as if its a cold calling operation. It must however take at least 6 weeks to get a new hire to a point where they can independently do anything. At the same time their client list keeps growing faster and faster.

Blegh.. This is going to be a long week and I have friday off.

The new Iraqi government looks like its going to look exactly like the old Iraqi government. The Sunnis will take some more seats, the Kurds a bit less. I fail to see how the Sunnis will be brought into the government, or how the pre-election promise of constitutional amendments will be carried through. So, 4 more years of a Shiite fundamentalist government.

On the bright side it does appear that the Iraqi security forces are becoming better, so they might be able to take over more responsibilites from the Americans. Additionally, the violence might be significantly lower in the coming weeks than it was before the elections. If the Sunnis were to be brought into the government violence would continue to be much lower. In the likely case that the Sunnis get left out in the cold again the violence will go right back up to pre-election levels.

The biggest real problems are distribution of future oil revenues and control over the army and police forces. The Shiites want much of the oil revenues to stay in the South so they are pushing for regional autonomy. This leaves the Sunnis with several collapsing and partially destroye cities and minimal prospects for growth. The more divisive element is the day-to-day operations of the Iraqi security forces. They are getting better trained, but they have very few Sunnis in positions of power and they seem to have been infiltrated by the Shiite militias. As such they seem to enjoy torturing Sunnis and murdering former Baath party members. Unless the Sunnis are given a way to control what the security forces in their areas are doing it becomes only natural that there will be strong Sunni resistance to the new Iraqi state.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I have become convinced that the Israelis, with American complicity, will attack the Iranian nuclear program within 2 years. Without American complicity it is impossible because it seems highly unlikely that Turkey would allow Israel to use its airspace to target Iran. Once American complicity is assured though, the strike becomes much easier. First of all Iraq's airspace can be used securely since its partrolled by the USAF. Refuelling or emergency landings can take place in Iraq.

Question is what happens next. How bananas do the Iranians go?

First the obvious stuff. Hezbollah will shell all of northern Israel. This will followed by an Israeli offensive into Lebanon to clear out the Hezbollah artillery and missiles. Iran will probably also launch some long-range missiles at Israeli targets. I doubt there will be a serious reply to this. Iran will provide additional support to groups that target Israelis, both in Israel and abroad. It will probably also launch some major terrorist attacks on Israeli embassies and Jewish centers, as it did in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994.

Next, the Iranians will probably blame the Americans for this attack. This is where it gets interesting. A direct attack on US troops in Iraq would be suicidal since the Iranians are outclassed. However, American troops in Iraq are Iranian hostages. The Iranians will supply explosives, training and safe haven to Iraqi Shiites to launch attacks against US forces in Iraq.

Iran is also rolling in dough, so the destruction of a couple of labs and reactors would probably not be enough to dissuade them from pursuing nuclear capability. This means that until Iran decides to abandon its nuke program it will either need to be bombed every once in a while or that it would have to be invaded and the government replaced. Neither bombing alone or an invasion is very good. An invasion would require significantly more firepower than the invasion of Iraq. The Israelis can't do it (don't have the troops, can't afford it, and would be the least welcome invaders of all time), leaving the Americans and the Brits. Iran is roughly the size of Alaska - 4 times the size of Iraq. Its population is more than double that of Iraq. Iran hasn't been in a war since 1988 and its armed forces are significant, though partially outdated. Opposition to the regime is minimal and there are no major ethnic groups that can be counted upon to support the invasion. The government is religious fundamentalist and who knows what it would do when pushed into a corner. To defeat the regime you would probably need triple the invasion force for Iraq. It would take much longer [than major combat operations lasted in Iraq] and there would be a long-term insurgency problem. To occupy the country would require more forces than were required for the invasion. The forces simply do not exist. The second option - of intermittent bombng - is also bad. Each time you bomb you have to start looking for the next target and each will be better hidden and better defended. Again the Israelis probably don't have the resources for maintaining the bombing and responding to the threats generated from Lebanon and from the WB&G. The Brits and the Americans would have to do this as well...

The most reasonable option would be some sort of combined bombing-clandestine campaign. The US would have to start organizing and training Iranian ethnic groups (Kurds, Azeris) to fight against the government. The CIA would then bring together all opposition to the Iranian theocracy into one organization (something like it did with the INC in Iraq). Money would also be contributed to sectarian and anti-governmental organizations. Training can be done in Iraq and in Afghanistan. At the same time a sustained bombing campaign against the Iranian nuclear program would commence. The initial objective would be to force the Iranian government into unpopular measures such as cracking down heavily on protests and opposition. Over time more serious opposition and possibly the government will be replaced by more friendly elements. In any case, the replacement of the government should not be the objective, but pressuring Iran into stopping its nuke program. Spending $5-10 billion a year on bombing and clandestine activities for the next 5-10 years would be cheaper than fighting a full scale war and occupation. If this strategy is chosen then the main thing would be not to get carried away. If regime-change became the objective rather than an end to the Iranian nuclear program, then it will harden the resolve of the clerics and their supporters and eliminate the chance for a compromise.