Friday, January 19, 2007

Global what?

Maybe old news, but apparently some scientists confirming my own old suspicion: that human effect on planet's climate is minuscule compared to the forces that make it tick. This particular study puts must of the blame on cosmic rays and solar activity. For some reason it seems like those two dwarf human contribution whichever way you look at it. And surprise, the prediction is for global cooling. And soon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ivan's Legacy

Today Russia is very rich and arrogant. So arrogant in fact that assassination on another country's sovereign territory is no longer a taboo. It feels like after Litvinenko anyone is a fair game. How did it come to this? Here is a short story of Russian "secret police", organization that changed tens of official names, but is most widely known as the KGB.

Today KGB is in best shape it has ever been, but things started humbly when the "Iron" Felix Dzerzhinsky created organization charged with keeping the Bolsheviks in power. The organization drew from the human resources and mind set of Tzar's secret police which goes back to Ivan the Terrible and his loyal Maluta. The revolutionary circumstances changed quickly, and the organization had to adapt. Hardened criminals were drafted to help fight the powerful organized crime, as no one knew better the ins and outs of that world. Some were eventually exterminated, but some grew within the organization, further criminalizing mentality passed down through generations of secret police breeding. As they rose in ranks they brought in like-minded people taking the organization on a downward spiral.

Lenin and even Stalin knew very well what power lies within the walls of the Lubianka complex. That is why they took every precaution to keep KGB from real power. To aid in this goal a competing organization, the GRU, was created. KGB and GRU were supposed to keep each other in check and prevent the scenario of either one coming to power. After Stalin came Hruschov, and after he got deposed Brezhnev. Brezhnev was a consensus figure and very weak leader. It was during his reign that KGB started to get out of it's borders and like a cancer, infiltrate everything in sight. By the time of his death KGB was powerful enough to put their own man in power, Yuri Andropov. He turned out to be unfit, and was soon replaced by Chernenko, not a KGB person. He died after only seven moths, poisoned. The next one was a KGB man again, Gorbachov. He however also turned out to be a mistake as well, as is easy to guess, since under his rule the entire USSR broke apart.

In the early 90's KGB started an operation to "cover tracks", as they were afraid of a backslash being the least favorite part of USSR which started to get the dog's treatment. Over several years KGB went through series of reorganizations, splits, renaming, and carefully staged PR campaigns intended to clean wash the old image. The plan worked, and KGB's main part emerged as what we now know as FSB. At the same time in early 90's secret division called URPO was formed within KGB, numbering about 150 members. It's task was to infiltrate organized crime and, when asked to, assassinate specified individuals. Of course, it wasn't the court that decided who needs to be taken out, and the division started to resemble Hire An Assassin organization. Eventually it was publicly exposed in 98' by five high ranking FSB officers, one of which was Alexandr Litvinenko.

The URPO was only the beginning. By that time, although technically Yeltzin was in power, KGB was preparing to replace this accidental man with one of their own. It is notable that all the possible replacements for himself Yeltzin went through, changing them one by one as prime ministers, were KGB people. Putin was the last, and final choice. As Putin himself joked once, "operation of infiltrating our man to the post of the President is accomplished successfully". Indeed it was.

As extensively exposed in this article (Russian), during the 90's a directive was born within KGB of which the URPO was but one practical realization. The directive talked about establishing illegal (this is how it is in the text) spy networks that are to infiltrate commercial organizations, banks, judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. This was justified as measure against organized crime that already infiltrated all those institutions. As a special measure the directive allowed for physical termination of leaders or members of those criminal organizations. Since it was assumed that any legal organization could be infiltrated by a criminal one, this meant that any person could be considered a subject of physical termination. 007s indeed.

In order to carry out this activity, and properly shelter the KGB from possible exposure, directive instructed how to created separate "teams" comprised from "ex"-KGB members, "ex"-criminals, and ex-special forces officers. Over the last decade there were numerous cases were groups of this type with clear and direct ties to KGB were exposed in connection to assassinations by police investigators. To the most part either the people involved mysteriously died or the cases were closed or both. Almost or all acts of terrorism in the past decade (details are beyond the scope of this post) that occurred (or nearly occurred) in Russia also tie back directly to KGB. Reasons for such less targeted killings are usually political which speaks volumes about how far up the chain of command the decisions might have came down from.

Over the past fifteen years Russia is transitioning to a new era. The mentality of people behind Putin, and Putin himself was forged in best traditions of KGB, which in turn inherited many traits of organized crime. In fact, it is the most dangerous and powerful criminal organization I ever heard of. They have their own state, bigger in size then some continents. They are bent on extending their power to the west, through infiltrations, assassinations, coercion, economic expansion, and fueling of military conflicts. Sit tight. The Russians are coming.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Does Islam really exists?

This is something I just realized, watching on CNN how Suni and Shia Muslims masacre each other. It comes down to two separate hospital systems in the same capital city, one Shia and one Suni, one supported by government and one not. To get to the wrong hospital might be signing your death warrant. Yes.

Remember, all monoteistic religions are unanimouse in that there is exactly one God, and naming him differently doesn't makes him different. So we have Shia and Suni that both believe in god named Allah, but if we leave the name alone, there is probably more in common between Buddists and Hindus then between Shia and Suni.

Of course, lets not forget that Shia and Suni are not the only ones. There are many other different "Muslims" in the world. For example Pushtun Muslims still keep millenia old Jewish traditions. Sufi "Muslims" came before Islam, and are very different from both Shia or Suni in their beliefs (although Suni consider them as their own). Then there are the Ahmadiyya "Muslims", who are still very different from other "Muslims", and remind more the Bahai sect then anything else, who are not considered Muslim at all, although were initially formed as an extension of Islam.

Of course, this list is far from complete, but you get the picture. Who can be considered true Muslim? I can say from personal expirience that Muslims themselves cannot agree on this. So is there such a religion?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Doing Good and Evil: still ahead by the numbers?

I want to point your attention to a very disturbing fact. Enter Ebocha, our today's example, a Nigerian city. It's soil is reach with oil and gas, and oil extraction facilities. The oil is extracted by Italian company Eni. Demand is always high, but supply is tightly controlled, to keep the prices high. Decision is executive, not a technology related. But there is no way to really control how much oil or gas is extracted. Storing it for future is highly difficult and expensive endeavour. What to do? They burn it. Result? Natural resources waisted, oil and gas prices kept artificially high, and people of Ebocha get health problems.

So far so good, nothing particularly new. The everyday garden variety of evil, countered by the good will of charitable organizations that invest in the health of people of Ebocha. For example, Gates Foundation (founded by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates) invested 218$ million dollars in research and immunization, of related health problems. Including in this region. The official website lists more then 7.7 billion dollars in grants for health related causes since inception. However, the website fails to list investment activity of the foundation. According to Los Angeles Times, the foundation "has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France". The very companies responsible for health issues the foundation is fighting.

This strange alliance is not unique to Gates Foundation, and is in fact common among other charitable foundations. I guess making just enough good to make up for the evil sounds OK for some people. If nothing else, it is a sound business strategy, isn't it?