Where do old blogs go to die?

Why did this blog stop so suddenly? Where did its writers go? Were they trapped behind a dense hedge of thorns for 100 years waiting to be rescued by a hot princess (with an ass like Pippa’s) who would rouse them from their writer’s block? Or maybe they were just having a little lie down….

Mossad: murder, mistakes and myth

One of the comments I have seen a number of times across a number of different news sites is that it the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month couldn’t have been carried out by Mossad because the assassins made too many mistakes.

This belief in Mossad’s infallibility, however, is largely myth, built up by spy novels, films and TV shows. Instead, like most intelligence agencies, Mossad are thuggish and persistent rather than particularly brilliant. Sure, there’s been a number of well-publicised successes in hunting down “legitimate” targets over a long period of time—firstly Nazi war criminals and later terrorists (and the odd national security threat like supergun inventor Gerald Bull)—but there were just as many mistakes along the way including wrong targets, botched jobs, and being caught using foreign passports.

In the Dubai assassination, there is also an underlying racist assumption at work in the argument that Mossad couldn’t have been involved, namely that there is no way a bunch of Israeli uber-spys could be rumbled by a rabble of uncivilised, tent-dwelling camel jockeys.

Let’s for a moment, however, assume that Mossad was responsible and ask ourselves what mistakes were actually made by these assassins.

Well, arguably there was only one and that was underestimating the local police, both in terms of ability and resources. When the Dubai police refused to believe that al-Mabhoub’s death was from natural causes and investigated further, then the secrecy of the entire operation started to unravel very quickly. This point is also taken up by Time:

It would appear that whoever was responsible underestimated Dubai’s security capability. The city-state used sophisticated computer programs to quickly sift through its massive pool of security-camera footage and pinpoint the movements and travel documents of the alleged killers. More embarrassingly, the Dubai authorities are claiming that the hit team stole the identities of Israeli dual-national citizens, and traveled into Dubai using false British, Irish and French passports.

If the Dubai police had accepted the death, then all of the operatives would have disappeared back into the woodwork and the people whose identities where used on the forged passports would have been none the wiser.

Copies of fake passports used in assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

So, to finish up, a couple of thoughts on what this Dubai incident revealed to us about Mossad spycraft.

Firstly, stealing the identities of unsuspecting Israelis with dual passports is a tactic I suspect Mossad has used successfully for years. Now it’s been busted, can they use it again?

Secondly, only forgeries of old-style passports were used in the operation, indicating that new generation passports containing biometric data might be posing a few problems for spy agencies.

Finally, if we can believe that the assassination team was comprised of 26 members, then Mossad have a bigger travel budget than the national soccer team.

Swine flu still not an apocalypse

Last August here at Notes, Dr Throttling, in a post entitled Apocalypse Not, referred to the N1H1 flu pandemic as “The Great Swine Flu Swindle”. Recent statistics show that he was pretty much on the money with that assessment:

More than 57 million Americans have become ill from the H1N1 influenza virus and nearly 11,700 have died, according to estimates released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a normal influenza season about 36,000 deaths are attributed to influenza and pneumonia with 90% of them being in people age 65 and older.

So, in fact, Swine Flu, tipped to be the next great plague, ended up being so mild that it is responsible for only one third of the fatalities that we might typically expect to see in a normal flu season.

And the biggest winners from all this?

1) Swiss Pharmaceutical company Roche that manufactures Tamiflu, just reported an 8% rise in annual sales , double the industry standard. That followed a 34% rise in profits in 2007 when governments around the world began stocking up on Tamiflu.

2) Your average worker who probably squeezed out a few more sick days by telling the boss they had Swine Flu even if they didn’t.

3) Pigs, with pork sales down in most places since the onset of the flu.

Fox interviews Tony Blair

Poor misunderstood Tony Blair, how terrible it must be when others cannot see things in the same twisted way that you do. To get a soft ride in an interview, especially after the grilling at the Iraq War Enquiry, Blair appeared on Fox News. Hardly surprising that he would be treated with kid gloves at Fox, given the neocon bias of the station and the fact that Tony is well and truly part of that camp. Blair ticks all their boxes: religious zealot, misguided, warmonger, intellectual lightweight.

In Part I, Blair is poor, poor pitiful me. In Part II, he has a go at Iran. And this man is an envoy to the Middle East!

Unfortunately, despite continually professing to do the right thing when he was Prime Minister, justice and the rule of law do not seem to rank highly in Blair’s hierachy of personal values. Remember how in 2006, Blair quashed a criminal investigation in the arms manufacturer BAE Systems before it could be brought to a conclusion:

In December 2006 the SFO – amid much consternation – dropped its corruption investigations into BAE’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia after direct intervention from Tony Blair, who was prime minister. He defended the decision on the grounds that the Saudis would stop co-operating on security issues.

Yes, good old national security used as an excuse yet again. But looked what happened a couple of weeks ago after the Americans and Europeans became involved in investigating BAE:

The British arms firm BAE Systems has accepted guilt and agreed to pay penalties in the US and the UK totalling several hundred million pounds to settle all the long-running corruption allegations against it.

In the US, the company will plead guilty to offences of false accounting to settle bribery allegations made over the enormous al-Yamamah arms deals with Saudi Arabia stretching back more than 20 years, as well as corruption allegations over arms deals in central Europe.

Interesting, isn’t it.  If there truly was a significant national security component to all this, I’m sure the Americans would have pulled their horns in rather than chase this prosecution. In retrospect, it seems  it was not so much about national security as it was about protecting vast amounts of income for the UK armaments industry.

So fuck justice, it was all about the money. Tony Blair, you were and are a disgrace.

Atheist making money out of Rapture believers

Is this guy the businessman of the year?

Bart Centre, an atheist from New Hampshire, came up with an idea for cashing in on the religious hysteria of the Rapture. The Rapture is “a Judgment Day when the righteous are spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth” and an estimated 20-40 million people in the US believe that it will happen in their lifetime.

But it is only righteous humans, not animals or atheists, who will ascend in the Rapture as only they have souls. Knowing this, Centre last June “started Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA, a service that promises to rescue and care for the animals left behind by raptured Christians.” The website describes its service as “The next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World.” Bloomberg reports that:

to date he has more than 100 clients, each paying $110 for a 10-year contract ($15 for each additional pet.) If the Rapture happens in that time, the pets left behind will have homes — with atheists. Centre and a partner have set up a national network of godless humans to take on this mission.     

Centre makes no attempt to hide his contempt of these Rapturers, stating that “Given the intellectual capacity of believers this could be a gold mine!”

George: Sorry, it's already taken care of.

Soft porn ad break: Megan Fox for Armani

Megan Fox is the new face and body for Emporio Armani Women’s Underwear. She takes over from Victoria Beckham who is probably too old, too scrawny, or both.

Tony Blair and the culture of fear: a video essay

Last week, we looked at the Iraq War Inquiry and the way in which Tony Blair was motivated more by fear than by rational thought.  This video essay takes up that same argument.

This is a worthwhile watch as it demonstrates the way in which individuals can use the tools of new media to create and distribute their own political rhetorics. Commendably professional construction with only a couple of minor lapses. Grade: 9/10.