“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How Putin handed Netanyahu’s ass back to him: When sources in the Pentagon leaked the information that explosions in Damascus on May 5 were an Israeli airstrike, Putin appears to have been livid. He tracked down Netanyahu on the prime minister’s visit to Shanghai and harangued him on the phone. The two met last week in Moscow, where Putin is alleged to have read Netanyahu the riot act. Read on.

Revenge of the Bear: Russia Strikes Back in Syria

Posted on May 20, 2013
President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation has drawn a line in the sand over Syria, the government of which he is determined to protect from overthrow. Not since the end of the Cold War in 1991 has the Russian Bear asserted itself so forcefully beyond its borders in support of claims on great power status. In essence, Russia is attempting to play the role in Syria that France did in Algeria in the 1990s, of supporting the military government against rebels, many of them linked to political Islam. France and its allies prevailed, at the cost of some 150,000 dead. Can Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pull off the same sort of victory?
Even as Damascus pushes back against the rebels militarily, Putin has swung into action on the international and regional stages. The Russian government persuaded U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to support an international conference aimed at a negotiated settlement. Putin upbraided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his country’s air attacks on Damascus. Moscow is sending sophisticated anti-aircraft batteries, anti-submarine missiles and other munitions to beleaguered Assad, and has just announced that 12 Russian warships will patrol the Mediterranean. The Russian actions have raised alarms in Tel Aviv and Washington, even as they have been praised in Damascus and Tehran.
The Syrian regime has been on a military roll in the past few weeks. It has made a bloody push into the hinterlands of Damascus, fortifying the capital. With Hezbollah support, it has assaulted the rebel-held Qusair region near northern Lebanon, an important smuggling route for the rebels and the key to the central city of Homs. The Baath government needs to keep Homs in order for Russia to resupply the capital via the Syrian port of Latakia on the Mediterranean. The Syrian government’s victories would not have been possible without Russian and Iranian help.
Regionally, a Moscow-Tehran axis has formed around Syria that is resisting Qatari and Saudi backing for the rebels. The increasing dominance of rebel fighting forces in the north by radical groups such as the al-Nusra Front, which has openly affiliated itself with al-Qaida, has resulted in a falloff of support for the revolution even in Saudi Arabia. Most Syrians who oppose the government are not radicals or even fundamentalists, but the latter have had the best record of military victories. Russian characterizations of the rebels as radical terrorists are a form of war propaganda; however, they have been effective. The Saudi and Jordanian plan to create a less radical southern opposition front at Deraa has met with a setback, since the regime recaptured that city last week. Doha and Riyadh are reeling from the Russia-backed counteroffensive.
At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pulled off a coup two weeks ago by persuading Kerry to support the international conference on Syria, to which both the Baath government and the rebels would be invited, as a way station toward a negotiated settlement of the conflict (Russia’s holy grail). The agreement represented a climb-down for the Obama administration, which had earlier insisted that Assad leave office as a prerequisite to a resolution, language that the joint Russian-American communique issuing from the Kerry-Lavrov meeting in Moscow conspicuously avoided. Lavrov, a South Asia expert and guitar-playing poet, speaks as though what happened in Yemen, with a negotiated solution and a government of national unity, is a plausible scenario for Syria. But so much blood has been spilled in the latter that a military victory by one side or the other now seems far more likely.
When sources in the Pentagon leaked the information that explosions in Damascus on May 5 were an Israeli airstrike, Putin appears to have been livid. He tracked down Netanyahu on the prime minister’s visit to Shanghai and harangued him on the phone. The two met last week in Moscow, where Putin is alleged to have read Netanyahu the riot act. Subsequently, the Likud government leaked to The New York Times that its aim in the airstrike had been only to prevent Syrian munitions from being transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon, not to help in overthrowing the Baath government. The Israelis were clearly attempting to avoid further provoking Moscow’s ire, and wanted to send a signal to Damascus that they would remain neutral on Syria but not on further arming of Hezbollah.

Putin, not visibly mollified by Netanyahu’s clarification, responded by announcing forcefully that he had sent to Syria Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles and was planning to dispatch sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft batteries. Both U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Israeli military analysts protested the Russian shipments. Although Netanyahu went on insisting that Israel would bomb Syria at will when it suspected supplies were being sent to Hezbollah, Putin had clearly just raised the risks of such intervention.
Russia’s motives have sometimes been attributed to the profits it realizes from its arms trade with Syria, going back to the Soviet era, but that business is actually quite small. Others have suggested that Syria’s leasing to Russia of a naval base at Tartous, Russia’s only toehold on the Mediterranean, is a consideration. Rather, Russia’s support of Assad is part of its reassertion on the world stage as a great power with areas under its control. Putin wants to raise Russia from the world’s ninth- to fifth-largest capitalist economy. Smarting from the aggressive American expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe and the planting of U.S. bases in Central Asia, Moscow is determined to recover its former spheres of influence. In addition, some senior Russian military analysts see “color revolutions” as a ploy by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow unfriendly governments and then to plunder the resulting weak states of their resources, a tactic they fear menaces Russia itself. Drawing a line at Syria, in this view, is a way of underscoring that Putin’s own neo-authoritarian regime will not go quietly.
Russia is only a 24-hour drive from Aleppo, Syria’s northernmost metropolis. Having crushed a Muslim fundamentalist uprising in Chechnya and Dagestan at the turn of the century, and having stood up a friendly Chechen state government in the aftermath, Moscow is wary of the spread of radical Muslim movements in the nearby Levant. Moreover, some 10 to 14 percent of Syrians are Christians, many of them belonging to the Eastern Orthodox branch that predominates in Russia itself. The Russian Orthodox Church, a key constituency for Putin, has opposed the overthrow of the secular Baath government, seeing it as a protector of those coreligionists.

The thinking of the Russian foreign ministry is clear from its Saturday press release on the revival of the radical Sunni insurgency in Iraq in recent weeks. Complaining about what it termed terrorist attacks in Mosul and Baghdad, the ministry’s website said, according to a translation done for the U.S. government’s Open Source Center, that “We are particularly concerned about growing sectarian tensions in Iraq, which are turning into a direct armed confrontation between radical elements in the Shi’a and Sunni communities. This is largely due to the crisis situation in neighboring Syria and the spread of terrorist activities of militants operating there.” In other words, Russia sees the Syrian revolution as dominated by al-Qaida-linked groups such as the al-Nusra Front. Moscow views the civil war as a destabilizing event with the potential for radicalizing the Middle East, which it views as its soft underbelly.
The momentum of the Syrian rebels has palpably slowed in the last month, as Putin’s riposte has stiffened the resolve in Damascus and given its military the wherewithal to regain territory. The Russian president is weaving a protective web around his client, fending off the Wahhabi winds of Muslim fundamentalism blowing from the Arabian Peninsula. He has also pushed back against opportunistic Israeli intervention, worried that it might further destabilize Damascus. At the same time, he has impressed on Washington the need for a negotiated settlement, an idea that President Obama, long skittish about sending troops into further possible Middle East quagmires, has begun to tolerate. Putin’s supply of powerful new weapons systems to Assad’s military, and his dispatch of warships from the Russian Pacific fleet through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, make clear that the full force of Russian military might is, if need be, at the service of its Baath client. Putin’s gambit may or may not prove successful, but he is indisputably demonstrating that the age of the sole superpower and of American unilateralism is passing in favor of a multipolar world.


  1. The executive summary:

    boatloads of high-end Russian missiles currently are bound for Syria. These missiles – the S-300 air defence system that has the capacity to intercept jet fighters and cruise missiles – are part of a contract signed with Syria in 2010 that have never been fulfilled – until now. While Russia was persuaded not to ship the rockets one and two years ago, not even a hastily arranged visit to Russia this week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could persuade Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to cancel the shipment this time.

    Frustrated Israeli officials this week said that the S-300 deployment will shatter Israel’s qualitative military edge and constrain the freedom of the skies Israel has enjoyed over Syria and Lebanon.

    That may be but, with this move, Russia has enhanced its leverage as the leading voice on the Syrian regime’s side arguing for a political resolution of the 26-month-long civil war that has killed about 80,000 people.

    While the United States and Turkey agreed this week in Washington that Mr. al-Assad has to go, and that the Syrian opposition should be helped, Russia, a partner in an upcoming peace conference on Syria, has insisted that any transitional authority in Syria must include elements of the Assad administration.

    With these missiles now on route to Damascus, Russia has signalled that no outside party will be allowed to intervene in the civil war in Syria, or fire on Damascus at will, and that any international resolution to the conflict must include the Assad regime Moscow is protecting.

  2. Replies
    1. it was this blog that was saying the s-300's were no big deal

      Russia and Iran are doing all they can to support Assad.

      No genie in a bottle needed to know that. Russia via Iran has been supplying Syria and HEZBOLLAH as well.

      The s-300's going to SYria and not Iran are really the issue.

      Deuce's your hatred of bibi out shines everything you say and do on the subject.

      Quoting Juan Cole? Funny.

      I notice your positions on Putin, the Iranians and Assad? Nowhere near as bitter.


  3. Through his overreach in bombing Syria, Netanyahu, singlehandedly paid for at least the next two years of his vigorish from the US taxpayer by out flanking the US, keeping us from getting more deeply involved in thisSyrian tar pit.

    It was truly a stroke of genius and statesmanship from the master chess player who is always thinking at least a pawn and a half move ahead.

    No one else could have done more to have changed the potential outcome so thoroughly in such a short period of time. Putin read the moves and seized the momentum.

    1. Since we can assume you dont KNOW what Israel really took out how can you really have an opinion?

    2. Things were so opaque to you were they?

  4. I will sneak the conclusion in once more for you who do not like reading above the line:

    You can do it.

    …The momentum of the Syrian rebels has palpably slowed in the last month, as Putin’s riposte has stiffened the resolve in Damascus and given its military the wherewithal to regain territory.

    The Russian president is weaving a protective web around his client, fending off the Wahhabi winds of Muslim fundamentalism blowing from the Arabian Peninsula.

    He has also pushed back against opportunistic Israeli intervention, worried that it might further destabilize Damascus.

    At the same time, he has impressed on Washington the need for a negotiated settlement, an idea that President Obama, long skittish about sending troops into further possible Middle East quagmires, has begun to tolerate. Putin’s supply of powerful new weapons systems to Assad’s military, and his dispatch of warships from the Russian Pacific fleet through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, make clear that the full force of Russian military might is, if need be, at the service of its Baath client.

    Putin’s gambit may or may not prove successful, but he is indisputably demonstrating that the age of the sole superpower and of American unilateralism is passing in favor of a multipolar world.

    1. learn middle east history.

      Russia didnt show up yesterday. Nor have the Russians just now started to try to use proxies to screw with Israel and America

  5. >>The Russian Orthodox Church, a key constituency for Putin, has opposed the overthrow of the secular Baath government, seeing it as a protector of those coreligionists.<<

    Putin, a true Knight of Christ!

    One might almost say, if one hadn't seen him faking the act, a 'fisherman'.

    1. "From KGB Killer Thug To Communion Brother: The Amazing Grace of Vlad Putin"

      Russian Orthodox Press, Limited Edition, 2013
      (no tax, international free shipping through Amazon)

    2. Putin has moving to legitimize the Orthodox Christians for a while

      Easter enjoying revival, Putin says

      May 02, 2003

      By Tribune news services.

      MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an Easter message Sunday saying nationwide celebrations of the holy day are "clear evidence of the revival of centuries-old Christian traditions in our country."

      Putin, who was visiting Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capital, attended Saturday night Easter services in the small St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

    3. Tuesday, February 12, 2008

      Putin's Role In Reviving Orthodox Church Is Examined

      Today's Moscow Times carries a long article on Russian President Vladimir Putin's role in the revival of the Russian Orthodox Church. The article is part of a series on Putin's legacy as his presidential term draws to a close. Here is an excerpt:

      Under Putin, government officials have become more pious --at least outwardly --and have deepened their contacts with the church hierarchy, according to both supporters and critics of the church..... The apparent rise of clerical influence has alarmed secular critics, who charge that it threatens the separation of church and state mandated in Russia's 1993 Constitution. "Soon the church will be represented in all the places where there used to be cells of the Soviet Communist Party," said Vitaly Ginzburg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and outspoken critic of the church. "It wants to be everywhere." Yet at the same time, Putin has restrained some of the church's more controversial initiatives, such as an effort to add an Orthodoxy class to the nationwide school curriculum....

  6. boobie, do you not recall that your regional expert, quot, told us the Christians in Syria were Nazis.

    Why in the whirled would post-Communist KGB apparatchiks support NAZIs?

    Perhaps the truth is that your regional 'expert' is not so expert, after all?

    1. Or does quot conflate Eastern Orthodox Christians with NAZIs, just as a matter of course?

    2. You are in a particularly rancid mood today.

      Often Christians have acted like Nazis. Some Nazis were Christians.

      I don't claim to know much about the behavior of Christians in Syria over the centuries. Haven't read much about it, just like you, who haven't read much about it. My guess is WiO has read more on the topic that both of us combined. I do believe the Christians in Syria are allied with Assad out of self protection. If the rebs win the Christians are going to get it.

      You've had such a long day. Why not go to bed now?

    3. Just getting started.

      Going to deal with the Welfare King of Euphemism, for a little while more.

    4. You really are a sovereign, aye.

    5. Why are the Communists supporting the NAZI, boobie?

      Are the Christians of Syria really NAZI supporters?

      So much so that Israel could not offer at least some of them shelter from the storm?

      Do you believe really that?

    6. .

      Face it, at this blog, it doesn't matter if you are Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Jody Williams, the Dalai Lama, or Bambi, eventually you will be called a Nazi by someone, someone with a small vocabulary and limited imagination.


    7. How can it be, Q, that "... someone with a small vocabulary and limited imagination." could ever be considered an "expert"?

      Confused, comical, vulgar, I'd agree to, but an "expert", nah.

    8. .

      You assume I was speaking only of WiO?


    9. No, I think you refer those that are proclaimed to be experts.

      Or, it could reference those who paraphrase those that are proclaimed to be experts.

      In either case it revolves around the expert.

  7. In that case, I'll go to bed myself, and skip it.

    1. At least you know you are the ...

      Welfare King of Euphemism

      Sleep tight, I'll be here in the morning.

  8. Syriac Orthodox Bishop Swerios Malki Murad of Jerusalem helped lead the prayer service.


    As the congregation prayed for peace especially in Syria, two members of the congregation held up a large banner at the entrance of the sanctuary with a picture of the two Orthodox bishops seized by unknown assailants April 22. Their driver was killed during the attack.

    Two other priests were also kidnapped in February.

  9. Voice of America

    Scientists and economists say the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China has cost that country's poultry industry $6.5 billion, as consumers shun chicken and health officials make gains in controlling the deadly virus.

  10. Another disaster, another fight over spending.

    The two-year-old conservative desire to fully pay for disaster relief by cutting spending elsewhere is hitting bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill, with senior Republicans saying it’s more important to get aid to victims of the deadly tornado that wreaked havoc in Oklahoma on Monday.
    Continue Reading

    After GOP-on-GOP warfare dominated the congressional response to Hurricane Sandy, several top House and Senate Republicans were emphatic Tuesday that they won’t insist on corresponding budget cuts if Congress needs to move quickly on Oklahoma.

  11. The manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects offered the nation a window into the stunning military-style capabilities of our local law enforcement agencies. For the past 30 years, police departments throughout the United States have benefitted from the government’s largesse in the form of military weaponry and training, incentives offered in the ongoing “War on Drugs.” For the average citizen watching events such as the intense pursuit of the Tsarnaev brothers on television, it would be difficult to discern between fully outfitted police SWAT teams and the military.

    The lines blurred even further Monday as a new dynamic was introduced to the militarization of domestic law enforcement. By making a few subtle changes to a regulation in the U.S. Code titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” the military has quietly granted itself the ability to police the streets without obtaining prior local or state consent, upending a precedent that has been in place for more than two centuries.

    Click here to read the new rule

    The most objectionable aspect of the regulatory change is the inclusion of vague language that permits military intervention in the event of “civil disturbances.” According to the rule:

    Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.

    Bruce Afran, a civil liberties attorney and constitutional law professor at Rutgers University, calls the rule, “a wanton power grab by the military,” and says, “It’s quite shocking actually because it violates the long-standing presumption that the military is under civilian control.”

  12. This is interesting. Every human being can look at a human face and recognize the emotional attributes that comprise human moods and behavior. Dogs can also recognize many of theses same moods:

    The University of Arkansas conducted a research, the results of which showed that many white people see anger in Barack Obama's facial features. The number of black people seeing the same in the face of the U.S. president is less, US News said.

    The results of these works will be published in the July issue of Political Psychology. The experts interviewed more than 100 people: whites, blacks, Asians and Native Americans. They were asked to watch a video with Obama's speech at a dinner party at the White House, held in 2010. White Americans, even during moments of smiles and jokes, said that they saw anger in Obama’s facial expression.

    Perhaps, likely, because he is angry?

  13. I recently discovered that my 10-times-great-grandfather bought a good chunk of Brooklyn from the Lenape Indians. He was one of the first Dutch landowners on this continent, a man who had run a laundry bleaching business in Holland but had traveled under the auspices of the Dutch West India Company to become a farmer in the New World. The deed in question, written in Dutch in 1636, is the first record of any land being sold on Long Island.

    Pretty neat, right? But as I realized almost immediately, this isn’t much of a distinction. According to a genealogy site maintained by a distant cousin, I share this Dutchman with more than a quarter million other descendants. (We can all be kings and queens of Brooklyn—it is called Kings County, after all.)

    Chances are, if you have a famous ancestor far enough back that finding out about them is a surprise, you share them with a small city of other people. And the farther back you go, the truer that is. In 2004, statistician Joseph Chang, computer scientist Douglas Rohde, and writer Steve Olson used a computer model of human genetics to show that anyone who was alive 2,000-3,000 years ago is either the ancestor of everyone who’s now alive, or no one at all. Think about that: If a person alive in 1,000 BCE has any descendants alive today, they have all of us—even people from different continents and isolated populations. This line of thought led to the revelation that everyone of European heritage alive today is a descendant of Charlemagne, who ruled over much of Europe as the first Holy Roman Emperor. As science writer Carl Zimmer wrote last week, it’s “Charlemagne for everyone!” (Zimmer’s excellent post covers a recent paper that looked at actual genomic data from European populations and came to a similar conclusion: All living Europeans, from Turkey to England, Spain to Finland, are related many times over.)


    1. Now, there’s another important implication of these studies: Most of the people you are descended from are no more genetically related to you than strangers are.

      It doesn’t get any less weird when you look at it from the other angle: While you more than likely have four distinct grandparents and eight distinct great-grandparents, past a certain number of generations back, your number of ancestors stops growing exponentially, because they start being the same people. By the time a couple who married in 1450 in Holland, has had a few hundred descendants over the span of several generations, those people are distantly related enough that some of them start marrying (and, yes, reproducing with) each other. That couple thus becomes the however-many-great-grandparents of the children of those unions along multiple branches of their family tree. (If your number of ancestors actually doubled every generation, by the time you counted back the 40 or so generations to Charlemagne, you’d have around a trillion ancestors. Scholars estimate the world population was only about 300 million at that point.) Stretch this back a few thousand years and you can see how you wind up being related to every other member of your species.

      Now, there’s another important implication of genomic ancestry studies: Most of the people you are descended from are no more genetically related to you than strangers are. Or to put it another way, your genealogical family tree, which includes all the history of your family going back thousands of years, is much larger than your genetic family tree—the people whom genome sequencing would pinpoint as related to you. 99.9 percent of your genome is the same as that of every other human being (apart from the x and y chromosomes), and that .1 percent of variation in each person gets thinned out pretty quickly across the generations, as each child gets half of each of her parents’ genomes, passes on half to each of her children, and so on. Geneticist Luke Jostins did a nice mathematical analysis and estimated that you have only about a 12 percent chance of being genetically related to an ancestor 10 generations ago; by the time you get to a 14-generation ancestor, the probability is nearly zero.

      So computer models and analysis of real genomes show that everyone’s distant ancestors are the same people. Thanks to the dilution of specific people’s genetic contributions, we stop being

      Princes and Paupers

    2. Little wonder, then, that Hitler had genetic markers for both Arab and Jew coursing through his veins.
      Those Semitics, they are all genetically interrelated and all while being so archaically tribal, too.

      Science, breaking down the doors of racial and ethnic bigotry, ain't life grand!

  14. WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is asking Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo Bay prison that President Barack Obama wants to close.

    New details on the administration’s budget request emerged on Tuesday and underscored the contradiction of the president waging a political fight to shutter the facility while the military calculates the financial requirements to keep the installation operating.

    The budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for $79 million for detention operations, the same as the current year, and $20.5 million for the office of military commissions, an increase over the current amount of $12.6 million. The request also includes $40 million for a fiber optic cable and $99 million for operation and maintenance.

    The Pentagon also wants $200 million for military construction to upgrade temporary facilities. That work could take eight to 10 years as the military has to transport workers to the island, rely on limited housing and fly in building material.

    Read more:


    1. I think that this request, Deuce, is part of Obama's attempt to close Gitmo.

      Raise the stakes, and force the GOP to ante up, or close it down.

      $450 million, that's a little less than the Federals are paying Hawaiians for lunar surveillance, but still, a hefty sum.

  15. One of Spain’s largest defense splurges may also be one of its most embarrassing. After spending nearly one-third of a $3 billion budget to build four of the world’s most advanced submarines, the project’s engineers have run into a problem: the submarines are so heavy that they would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

    Miscalculations by engineers at Navantia, the construction company contracted to built the S-80 submarine fleet, have produced submarines that are each as much as 100 tonnes (110 US tonnes) too heavy. The excess weight sounds paltry compared to the 2,000-plus tonnes (2,205 US tonnes) that each submarine weighs, but it’s more than enough to send the submarines straight to the ocean’s floor.

    Given the mistake, Spain is going to have to choose between two costly fixes: slimming the submarines down, or

    What. You want it to float, too?

    1. Sub fleet nicknamed 'The Spanish Armada'.

      Reminds me of an old Viking ship we saw in a nautical museum in Stockholm. Badly designed, it had sunk by the shore when launched. Too heavy in the stern, IIRC.

      Recovered some centuries later, it was in the museum, in a perpetual shower to preserve the wood, a memory of early ship building errors.

  16. Anyone have an extra bucket of tar? I’ll bring the feather pillows.

  17. No one can outdo our palace for generals.

  18. .


    Q woke with the echoes of a strange song still trapped within his consciousness, trapped there with a pounding that threatened to split his head. Because of the pounding, Q was reluctant to open his eyes; however, after a while, he became aware of someone yelling. The yelling grew louder and only served to make his headache worse. His legs felt funny and cold and it was this that finally forced him to reluctantly open his eyes. When he did, he became aware of feelings of wooziness and nausea and noticed that he was sitting in a car half filled with water. He closed his eyes again hoping the vertigo would pass.

    The yelling continued and after a minute he once again opened his eyes. What he saw at first made him laugh. The car he was sitting in was in the middle of the Reflecting Pool. He was uncertain how he had gotten there although he vaguely remembered admiring the D.C. skyline and then a chorus of excited “Crazy paleface”, “Oh shit!” and “I told you he shou……”

    Q searched through his pockets and came up with the baggie of Dream Weaver he had purchased from the room service waiter the previous evening, the same waiter that had brought him the second bottle of absinthe. The baggie was empty and he knew the absinthe was gone. Frustrated, he once again closed his eyes and settled his head on the steering wheel. But the yelling continued. When he opened his eyes again, he noticed the motorcycle cop at the side of the pool motioning him to come over. The cop was evidently reluctant to get his fancy boots wet.

    Q tried to ignore him and go back to sleep but it wouldn’t work. He looked back at the cop and then it occurred to him, where the hell was B and H and that crazy redskin? He proceeded to climb out the car window. The yelling stopped only to start up again when Q turned and started walking to the other side of the pool. Q glanced back and saw the cop getting on his motorcycle. By the time he was nearing the edge of the pool, he saw the cop had pulled up and was waiting for him. Q turned around and started heading for the opposite side. This time when he glanced back, he saw the cop give him a dismissive wave and then the finger.



    1. .

      Once out of the pool, Q waved down a cab and instructed the driver to take him to the Imperialist Hotel. Once in the cab, Q pulled out his cell phone and called B. After a moment B answered. “Where the hell are you assholes”, Q queried. “You left me in the friggin Reflecting Pool.”

      B responded, “We had to leave. Hamdoon got a call from one of his ME contacts with info on an arms shipment being funneled through Iraq and into Syria. This could be the mother lode. It could be worth a fortune. We are on our way to Bagdad. Meet us there. You know the place. “ A slight hesitation,and then B said, “Oh by the way, UJ’s leg is broken in two places and H is pissed as hell. Get here as quick as you can.”

      The line went dead just as the cab was pulling up to the Imperialist. Q got out of the car, paid the driver, and headed up to his room. When he got there, he called room service and ordered another bottle of absinthe. After a long bath and a few hours sleep, he headed for the airport. Twelve hours later he was making his way through customs.

      On clearing customs, he headed for the Nana Hotel in the Nana red light district. His first call was to his friend Kono to line up some coke. His second was to room service to send him up a bottle of Remy Martin, always a favorite with the bar girls once you’ve paid the bar fee.

      Before meeting B and the boys at the ‘place’ as B had put it, Q decided to stop in at the Sathorn, a hole-in-the- wall dive that resembled an Asian version of the German cabarets of the 1930’s. After leaving the Nana, Q walked a few blocks before coming across what he was looking for, a street-side vendor selling ya dong, a homespun whiskey that doubles as an aphrodisiac. After taking a few swigs from a mason jar, Q flagged down a tuk-tuk and asked to be taken to the Sathorn.



    2. .

      Smokey, dark, and smelling of old beer, the Sathorn provided everything necessary to satisfy every kind of taste no matter how autre or perverse; bar girls, drugs, booze, pathouey girlyboys, whatever you want the Sathorn has it. Q proceeded to a small table in the corner and before a waiter could come to take his order, two young, scantily clad bar girls appeared and sat down at the table, one on each side of him, smiling and leaning close and smelling of jasmine. He had inhaled another line of coke before entering the club and the ya dong was coursing through him, and though he knew he was probably viewing the girls through beer goggles, at that moment they looked like angels. He was just leaning forward to talk to the girl on his right when she looked up. Approaching them was the most beautiful women Q had ever seen. She had black, raven colored hair surrounding a pale face with mixed racial features. Her lithe body moved towards the table with cat-like grace. She wore a tight fitting, midnight blue gown that fell just above her knees and accentuated every cure of her body. She had beautiful green eyes and large voluptuous, inviting lips.

      When she reached the table, with a slight twist of her head she ordered the bar girls away and sat down beside Q. As she put her hand on Q’s thigh, he could smell the wafting musky essence of the ambrette in the perfume she wore. That along with the drugs and the alcohol set his head swimming. She said, “Are you alone tonight?” But Q could only nod his head yes. She then called the waiter and ordered two Glenfiddich on the rocks. She asked his name and Q said “Sean”. Q then laid out a line on the table and she leaned over and quickly inhaled it. He was about to lay down one for himself when she put out a hand to stop him. She then pulled a small envelope from her purse and pulled a small red pill from it. She offered it to him and said, “Try this.” Q took the pill along with a swig of one of the drinks that the waiter had just delivered.

      Almost immediately, a comforting warmth spread through his body. The women leaned forward and kissed him and his pulse started racing. He leaned toward her and placed his hand on her knee and slowly moved it up her thigh until his hand hit something blunt and hard. He drew his hand back quickly and moved away from her. He tried to rise but his legs wouldn’t support him. Should have asked what was in that pill, he thought. He drained the whisky in his glass. He looked up and she/he was looking at him. Then she smiled.

      When Q woke up the next morning he was surprisingly sober. His head hurt but it was not as bad as he had expected. However, in searching the room he found that all his money and credit cards were gone although his passport was still there.

      After his second cup of coffee at the Nana’s breakfast bar , he sat there thinking and the question came to him, did B say Bangkok or did he say Bagdad?

      One Night in Bangkok


  19. We had all been swimming in the Reflecting Pool with some hookers, with Hamdoon and UJ finally taking the hookers back to The Imperialist for some 'sleep'. I stayed with Q, as his minder.

    As the sun was coming up, he was still in the pool, buck naked, a swim mask on his face, a breathing snorkel in his mouth, swim fins on his feet. There in the shallow pool, he looked, bent over, bare butt in the air, the sunshine touching this display, face down to the water, looking for coins, like a demented Arab at early morning prayer. He was putting his coins in a woman's purse over his shoulder.

    I saw some Capital Police beginning to make their first morning rounds, and hauled Q out of the pool, and made him put his pants on. Then I herded him towards the car. There went Q, waddling in his swim fins, breathing through a snorkel tube, counting his coins with his swim mask still on.

    The Police stopped us, though Q didn't notice, and I told them I was his psychologist, taking him for exercise, and Q had a severe case of SSS. What is that, they asked? One cop, with a western accent, said "ain't that shoot, shovel, and shutthefuckup?" Search and Seizure Syndrome, I replied, very rare and hard to treat, early mornings were best. As I have always had the look of an honest man, they accepted this, and let us continue on our way...

    1. If you want to be an author, boobie, better hire William Ayers to write the book for you.

    2. .

      After numerous attempts to reach B, the phone was finally answered but not by B. Q immediately recognized the sullen, accented voice of H. On recognizing it was Q, the voice took on an hardened edge, "Where the hell are you, you pissant? I'm sitting here with a drunk indian shuffling around on crutches and a raving lunitic who doesn't even know where he is. And the deal we spoke of is quickly going to hell"

      Rather sheepishly Q said, "Well, B told me to meet you guys in...hell, nevermind that, where's B?"

      "He's locked in the bathroom. I don't know what he got into last night but it's brought on a reaction. His malaria is back as well as a recurrance of the Hyper ADHD that has plagued him on and off for his whole life. Right now I can hear him talking to himself in the mirror and telling the reflection he is a psychiatrist, some kind of argument over the Reflecting Pool back in D.C. At the moment, he is batty as a loon. Hopefully, it will wear off soon or I'll be forced to attempt this job on my own."

      Sensing he already knew the answer, Q asked, "Where are you guys?"

      "We're at the Shock and Awe Hotel and Pay Laundry just outside the Green Zone in Bagdad."

      Q set the phone on the table and put his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes, Shit, I've got to lay off the friggin absinthe he thought, but this time he meant it, again. He picked up the phone.

      "Look H, I ran into a little trouble and was delayed. I can be there in eight hours. I would suggest tying B up, gagging him, and throwing him into a tub full of ice. It's a desparate move but it has worked before. I'm on my way."

      An icy voice responded, "You better be."

      Q was about to ring off but then queried, "Say H, what have you guys got to drink there or should I pick up something along the way?"

      The phone went dead.


  20. Apple’s tax status has become politically toxic. The high-tech company’s tax payments, which were the target of a U.S. Senate committee report, are in the spotlight because, while it’s done nothing illegal, U.S. Senate investigators have found that Apple used technicalities in Irish and American tax law to pay little or no corporate taxes on at least $74 billion over the past four years.

    As The Wall Street Journal reports today, much of Europe is in a frenzy of budget austerity brought on by its debt crisis. That has meant cuts in public services and hikes in taxes paid by individuals. And that has sharpened the focus on corporate taxes.

    The Irish government on Tuesday denied it shelters some of the world’s largest corporations, such as Apple, from paying taxes, saying its long-standing low corporation tax regime is transparent and doesn’t make it a tax haven.

    The U.S. Senate investigation report, published on Monday by the Senate’s Permanent Committee on Investigations, said that in Ireland, Apple “has negotiated a special corporate tax rate of less than 2%.”

    Ireland’s Prime Minster Enda Kenny told lawmakers Tuesday that: “Ireland does not do, let me repeat, does not do special tax [relief] for companies, ” but that companies do exploit loopholes that arise from the interaction of different national tax systems.

    To be clear, the issue isn’t confined to Apple. Last week Google was in front of the U.K. Parliament’s Public Affairs Committee to discuss its tax arrangements in the U.K.

    Labelled “devious”, “calculating”, “unethical” and “deliberately manipulating” by U.K. lawmaker Margaret Hodge, the company’s relationship with Ireland also came under the spotlight.

    Google said although it employs around 300 sales staff in the U.K., orders are completed in Ireland. That means it pays Irish corporate tax of 12.5%, rather than the U.K. rate of 23%. Ms. Hodge and her fellow lawmakers say there is evidence that Google is in fact completing sales in the U.K. and should pay the applicable tax.