Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Foreign Policy" issue (end of 2012) has important essays on bio risks, financial stability, cyberwar, and leaks

It may seem a stretch to call an issue of a magazine a book, but every issue of “Foreign Policy” comes across as a book of important essays.  The November/December 2013 issue is particularly interesting.
The essay that got the most attention from me was Laurie Garret’s “Biology’s Brave New World: The Promise and Perils of the Synbio Revolution”.  Garret, remember, authored “The Coming Plague” back in 1995, in which she described some of the world’s most deadly pathogens, including a detailed account of how a man recovered from Ebola virus, to become quite bald everywhere. Here, Garrett compares life itself to “4-D printing”, and then goes on to examine the ethics of experiments that test the contagiousness of diseases, with particular emphasis on the controversy over experiments (and publication thereof) regarding increasing the transmissibility of H5N1 and then H7N9 “bird flu” viruses.
If these viruses were readily transmitted among mammals through the air, rather than from bird to mammal, they could become pandemic very quickly. On p. 42, Garrett speculates on the idea of this being tried with HIV.  The problem with this speculation is that idea led to the rhetoric from the “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” in the 1980s, in an attempt to propose a particularly vehement ant-gay law (just before the HTLV-3 aka HIV virus was announced).  Such speculation could have a drastic impact on individual rights.

There follows a companion essay by Ronald K. Noble, “Keeping Science in the Right Hands: Policing the New Biological Frontier”.

On p. 88, Alan Greenspan delivers “Never Saw It Coming: Why the Financial Crisis Took Economists by Surprise” where he talks about the Jessel Paradox and “morbidly obese fat tails”.  But it seems pretty obvious that by late 2007 the housing market was unraveling and that so many middle class consumers to expect so much house for nothing would lead to disaster.

On. P. 97, Charles W. Calomiris and Stephen H. Haber discuss  “Why Banking Systems Fail: The Politics Behind Financial Institutions”.  There is an explanation of why unit banking developed on the American frontier.  When I moved to Dallas in 1979, I found out that Texas was a unit-banking state. The authors compare American banking to the much more stable system in Canada.

On p. 77, Thomas Rid, in “Cyberwar and Peace” argues “Hacking Can Reduce Real-World Violence”. The author points out that cyberattacks have killed no one, and would seem to support the idea that a cyberattack can bring down a properly secured power grid is very fanciful (see “Grirdlock” (Sept. 5).  A physical attack with an EMP weapon would be a different matter.

On p. 22, Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore argue in “The End of Hypocrisy: American Foreign Policy and the Age of Leaks” that the main result of the leaks by Edward Snowden and Bradley (Chelsea) Manning are that the U.S. will have to learn “The Importance of Being Earnest”, and it can no longer deny engaging in the very behavior that it accuses authoritarian countries of.  On the other hand, what about compromising civilian and ground sources overseas and putting them at risk of retaliation?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jesse Ventura: "They Killed Our President", JFK conspiracy theories to put even Oliver Stone to shame

Author: Jesse Ventura, with Dick Russell and David Wayne
Title: “They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK
Publication: Skyhorse, ISBN 978-1-62636-139-3, hardcover, 63 chapters, 4 sections
Amazon link is here
This book is frontloaded with so many plausible conspiracy theories regarding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 (and the subsequent hit on Oswald by Jack Ruby) that it runs the risk of contradicting itself.  I’ll come back to the heart of the matter in a moment.
Let’s say, though, that the details concerning the physical evidence, the witnesses, the suspects (Oswald and then Ruby), the internal memos indicating cover-up, and the political motives of conspirators are rather overwhelming.
Most of all, of course, is the evidence of more bullets and more shots fired from the front as well as back, which the Zapruder Film is supposed to confirm.  Oliver Stone (director of the 1991 film “JFK”) confirmed the ideas on a recent interview with Piers Morgan.
Ventura discusses the idea that Oswald had a doppleganger, and that there are contradictory details about his appearance in eyewitness report.  I recall hearing about a “30 year old white male” on the radio while about to leave work (at the old National Bureau of Standards on Van Ness St. in Washington) after learning about the event.  He also argues that Oswald could not have gotten to the movie theater in Oak Cliff by the time Officer Tippett was shot.
The most provocative idea was that JFK was targeted by the right wing “military industrial complex” that wanted to invade Cuba again and that even wanted a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.  Ventura argues that JFK had to fight off his own generals to bring a peaceful end to the Cuban Missile Crisis (and earlier, to stalemate in Berlin) to avoid nuclear Armageddon.  The belligerent anti-Communism would lead to the Vietnam war and my own experience with the draft (and the deviseness over deferments).   The CIA was heavily involved, in setting up double agents (including Oswald) and in colluding with the Mafia, which feared a crackdown from Kennedy.  LBJ, according to this theory, was in on it.  On p. 344, Ventura argues that the conspirators set up “shock incidents” that would appear to be communist-inspired to justify war.  This very likely continued throughout the 1960s (one could even say that about Tonkin in 1964).  For example, I recall during Basic in 1968 hearing about the mysterious murder of two Marines in Georgetown in Washington DC. I mention this incident in my 1969 unpublished novel "The Proles".  I also recall starting my first summer job at the Navy Department in 1965, just about the time Vietnam was first escalating, and I remember the gung-ho atmosphere.

The book has many quotes, which are displayed with ragged boundaries on both sides, which is annoying to the eye.  
I have met Jesse Ventura at least once, at the HRC dinner in Minneapolis in 2001, a few weeks after 9/11.

Update: November 9

John Kerry told Tom Brokaw on CNN that he no longer believes the Warren Commission "Oswald alone" theory, and says that it was probably a Cuban and Soviet plot, but not necessarily involving the military or CIA.  Kerry says he hasn't spent enough time on it to be sure.  But the whole case should be re-opened.

Second picture: My previous condo in Dallas, photo taken in Feb. 1985.  Yes, it can snow in Dallas.