Sunday, December 30, 2007


I have uploaded some ebooks on international relations and terrorism studies. This page lists them and will be updated.

Recently added:

Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World, by Peter Bergen

Psychology.of.Terrorism-0195172493.pdf, by Bruce Bongar (Editor)

The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy, by Zbigniew Brzezinski

Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor, by Daniel Byman

The Rise and Decline of the State, by Martin van Creveld

Hezbollah-Changing-Face-of-Terrorism.pdf, by Judith Palmer Harik

Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing, by Michael Scheuer

The Term Islamofascism

AntoniusBlock at Strategy and National Security Policy blog has a great post on the term Islamofascism:

30 December 2007

On the Word "Islamofascism"

As I've pointed out here, I cringe when policymakers, pundits, and political candidates use the word "Islamofascism." It's inaccurate (fascism was a political and economic theory defined by hyper nationalism, militarism, corporatism, and a concentration of political power in a single person. The ideology of bin Laden, et. al has none of these characteristics.) More importantly, it sends the message to Muslims, who we hypothetically are trying to influence in a "war of ideas," that we are clueless. Rather than understand bin Laden's ideology (which is difficult for Westerners), we insist on stuffing it into a familiar box (a political ideology).

But I saw what I thought was a most excellent way of making this point on the discussion board. A poster asked how it would be taken in the United States if Muslims started analyzing the threat they faced from "Christofascism" or (and this is my addition, not the discussion board poster's), "Jewofascism"? I thought that really put it in perspective.

I know AntoniusBlock's real name, believe me - his insight is world class. And I am looking forward to the release of his new book.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"The choice is simple: Make painful but necessary changes to reduce our addiction to oil, or sink deeper into our moral sludge."

In an opinion piece in the Times Magazine the great Peter Maass discusses oil and corruption. I blogged about this matter last week.

December 23, 2007
The Fuel Fixers

James Giffen likes to share the wealth. His generosity to friends is said to have included $180,000 for jewelry, $30,000 for fur coats, a luxury speedboat, two snowmobiles and lots of cash. Overall, according to prosecutors in New York, Giffen gave more than $78 million to senior officials in Kazakhstan, for which he was indicted on federal bribery charges in 2003. What makes his case most remarkable, however, is not the startling amount of supposed corruption. Nor is it Giffen’s unindicted co-conspirator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan.

What truly sets Giffen apart is that he has claimed in his defense that he was an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. As a close adviser to President Nazarbayev, who in the 1990s agreed to a series of large oil contracts with American firms, Giffen says he was moonlighting for the American government as, basically, our man in Astana. Giffen’s lawyers have called him a patriot who helped ensure that Kazakhstan’s reserves of oil and natural gas would be controlled by American rather than Chinese or Russian companies. And they have noted an oddity — after their client was indicted on charges that could land him in jail for the rest of his life, his supposed partner in bribery, President Nazarbayev, was welcomed not only at the White House but also at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport.

The case raises a number of questions, including this one: in an era of scarce oil, can America afford to punish anyone who cuts corners to win deals for American firms? In 2003, when oil sold for less than $30 a barrel, it was possible to believe we could have our anticorruption statutes and our cheap gasoline. Four years later, with oil going for $95 a barrel, it’s not so clear. The British government, citing-national security concerns, has called off an investigation into bribery of influential Saudis. Delays in Giffen’s case suggest that some federal agencies may be more concerned with protecting secrets than with seeing the prosecution go forward. Much of the pretrial evidence has been sealed, but what is known is that Giffen’s lawyers have asked for sensitive documents that they contend will show official approval of their client’s activities.

As an instrument of resource control, bribery has been the recourse of corporate executives and government officials the world over. In the 1970s, after American firms admitted to spending hundreds of millions of dollars bribing foreign officials, Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to put an end to these antics. For many years, the F.C.P.A. was not aggressively enforced and many companies outsourced bribery to middlemen or joint-venture partners. But as the corporate social-responsibility movement grew its baby teeth, the Justice Department began to show more interest in corporate bribery overseas. About 60 F.C.P.A. cases are now being investigated or prosecuted. Belatedly, American oil firms are being asked to, well, refine themselves.

Is it too late? The F.C.P.A. was passed when these firms were colossi in the energy world. Today, Congress and Exxon Mobil cannot set global norms on their own. They have to deal with a range of masters, competitors and rogues including Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hu Jintao, Gazprom, Lukoil, Sinopec and Eni. Desperate buyers — and this category now includes the United States — must compete against one another as they try to fulfill the wishes and needs of the autocratic sellers of petroleum.

I saw this firsthand when President Chávez signed an accord in Caracas with a Chinese company that would launch a satellite for Venezuela. Chávez delivered a lengthy and rambling speech, during which he flapped his arms in the air like a loon and raved about the beauty of Chinese women, the greatness of Chairman Mao and the evils of free enterprise, warning that “capitalists are generating death.” The Chinese on the stage, who seemed unlikely to share all of their host’s notions, slightly nodded their heads in the quiet approval that was required.

By lending support to the particularly dubious regime in Sudan, China clearly puts its energy needs above moral concerns. But the American government cannot avoid the contradictions of needing oil but wanting to get it, or at least be seen to get it, in moral ways. This predicament has been evident for a long time in our dealings with dictatorships in, for instance, Saudi Arabia and Angola. The Giffen case is a timely iteration as we fret on the threshold of $100-a-barrel petroleum. The choice is simple: Make painful but necessary changes to reduce our addiction to oil, or sink deeper into our moral sludge.

Peter Maass, a contributing writer, is working on a book about oil.

Conversations with History - Trita Parsi

Sy Hersh on the Iran NIE

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Snoopy's Christmas

Snoopy and his Sopwith Camel was one of my favorite books growing up. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays from Bourbon and Lawndarts.

My dog ate it!

I love Jonathan Papelbon for two reasons. First is because he's the best closer in baseball and second is because he is just like some of my dumbass drinking buddies. But like all dumbassery, it comes with a price, witness this headline:

Papelbon says dog destroyed ball from final out of Series

Papelbon, his pink shirt, and his bulldog Boss

Homo erectus extinctus

Homo erectus extinctus, by Lois Rogers. The Sunday Times, December 16, 2007.

Is nature determined to make men extinct? Senior scientists believe that women may evolve as humanity’s sole representatives — and social and political trends are lending weight to their theories. Lois Rogers reports

Roger Dodger (2002)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Still amped over winning the World Series!

...But the Division championship was the most fun!

"Papelbon's taken the beer case off his head, so that's progress." - Dennis Eckersley

"Papelbon needs to put some pants on." - Dennis Eckersley

Chili Guy

The Chili Guy is quickly becoming a Boston legend. For those not in the know, The Chili Guy lives around Fenway Park....literally around Fenway Park, because I think he sleeps on the streets. He's a ticket scalper and frequent contributor on WBCN's Toucher and Rich show. Anyway, he's probably one of the funniest people I have ever heard. Toucher and Rich are counting down the Top 5 Chili guy moments of the year. Enjoy!

#5 mp3 Download

Chili Guy's Myspace Page

#4 mp3 Download

#3 mp3 Download

Updates to come

Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets.

Steve LeVine on his excellent blog The Oil and the Glory has a post titled “Prosecuting Foreign Bribery Under the Bush Administration”. Relating events in the ongoing James Giffin “Kazakhgate” case to our current administrations penchant for secrecy.

When they unveiled the indictment in April 2003, U.S. prosecutors portrayed their case against James Giffen as open and shut -- the largest foreign bribery case in U.S. history. And by the looks of the detail, they had reason for confidence. There they were -- six individual examples of U.S. oil company payments totalling some $80 million being coursed through European bank accounts linked to the president of Kazakhstan or his associates.

As regular readers of this blog recall, Giffen once controlled the biggest oil deals in the world as oil adviser to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He's the principal character in The Oil and the Glory.

Yet in a New York court hearing today, the case seemed a lot more complex. Judge William Pauley, who two years ago issued fiery warnings to both sides to accelerate the pace, was reduced to a mild rebuke of the prosecution, and scheduling the next hearing for April 18th. And jury selection? Not a hint.

What's the holdup? The defense, brilliantly led by former U.S. prosecutor William Schwartz, wants documents from a handful of U.S. intelligence agencies to prove Giffen's contention that the whole time he was negotiating those oil deals for a fee, he was doubling as an effective agent for the American government.

This being probably the most secretive administration in U.S. history, dislodging such documentation takes time. Perhaps a friend of mine is right -- we may not see a trial until this administration is out of office.

Once again I will evoke this scene from Syriana, oft cited on this blog:

Some trust fund prosecutor, got off-message at Yale, thinks he's gonna run this up the flagpole, make a name for himself, maybe get elected some two-bit, congressman from nowhere, with the result that Russia or China can suddenly start having, at our expense, all the advantages we enjoy here. No, I tell you. No, sir. Corruption charges! Corruption? Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations. That's Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize. We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win.

P.S. - Steve's The Oil and Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea, is excellent.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Global Legal Monitor

Good source:

The Global Legal Monitor, an electronic publication of the Law Library of Congress, is intended for those who have an interest in legal developments from around the world.

This online publication will be updated frequently, drawing upon information selected from the Global Legal Network, official national legal publications, and reliable press sources. Occasionally, a special section may be added to include lectures, conferences, symposia, and exhibits on timely legal topics sponsored by the Law Library of Congress.

Robert Baer on Alex Jones Show

Robert Baer was interviewed on the Alex Jones show. Jones is a little out there, but Baer is my boy.

“By not answering these questions we're leaving open these nutty conspiracy theories.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, December 3, 2007

Iran NIE

The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is out:

December 12, 2007: National Intelligence Estimate Key Judgments: Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (PDF)

Key Judgments

A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.

• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

• We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

• Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

B. We continue to assess with low confidence that Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material, but still judge with moderate-to-high confidence it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon. We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad—or will acquire in the future—a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon. Barring such acquisitions, if Iran wants to have nuclear weapons it would need to produce sufficient amounts of fissile material indigenously—which we judge with high confidence it has not yet done.

C. We assess centrifuge enrichment is how Iran probably could first produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it decides to do so. Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006, despite the continued halt in the nuclear weapons program. Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz, but we judge with moderate confidence it still faces significant technical problems operating them.

• We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely.

• We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame. (INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.) All agencies recognize the possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.

D. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example, Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program.

• Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

• We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons. In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons—and such a decision is inherently reversible.

F. We assess with moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities—rather than its declared nuclear sites—for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon. A growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity, but we judge that these efforts probably were halted in response to the fall 2003 halt, and that these efforts probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007.

G. We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.

H. We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ben has a blog post up about the Iranian Nuclear issue. He writes:

Until Iran allows unfettered access by the IAEA inspectors to determine the true purpose and capability of their programs, they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

This presupposes that Iran is denying the IAEA access. The fact of the matter is that they are not. This is the summary from November 15th IAEA Board of Governors report by ElBaradei, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747 in the Islamic Republic of Iran, emphasis is mine:

F. Summary

39. The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material, and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. Iran concluded a Facility Attachment for FEP. However, it should be noted that, since early 2006, the Agency has not received the type of information that Iran had previously been providing, pursuant to the Additional Protocol and as a transparency measure. As a result, the Agency’s knowledge about Iran’s current nuclear programme is diminishing.

40. Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. Iran has also continued the construction of the IR-40 and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant.

41. There are two remaining major issues relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme: Iran’s past and current centrifuge enrichment programme and the alleged studies. The Agency has been able to conclude that answers provided on the declared past P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programmes are consistent with its findings. The Agency will, however, continue to seek corroboration and is continuing to verify the completeness of Iran’s declarations. The Agency intends in the next few weeks to focus on the contamination issue as well as the alleged studies and other activities that could have military applications.

42. Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on issues raised in the context of the work plan. However, its cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive. As previously stated, Iran’s active cooperation and full transparency are indispensable for full and prompt implementation of the work plan.

43. In addition, Iran needs to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present programme. Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally importantly, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. Although the Agency has no concrete information, other than that addressed through the work plan, about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran without full implementation of the Additional Protocol. This is especially important in the light of Iran’s undeclared activities for almost two decades and the need to restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme. Therefore, the Director General again urges Iran to implement the Additional Protocol at the earliest possible date. The Director General also urges Iran to implement all the confidence building measures required by the Security Council, including the suspension of all enrichment related activities.

44. The Director General will continue to report as appropriate.