Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I'm really upset that Watson the supercomputer won $1 million on Jeopardy

Part of my contradictory nature is that when it comes to unwinding at the end of the day with my ass superglued to the sofa, I can't be satisfied with completely mindless entertainment. So a game show like Jeopardy fits the bill nicely. This week, I was excited to see former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter compete against Watson, a supercomputer from IBM. But it was upsetting to see Watson win the $1 million first prize. Not so much because this is the beginning of computers overtaking humans on the road to complete social servitude, as Ken Jennings astutely observed. Rather, I'm upset at who is actually getting the one million dollars.

IBM Watson Wins Jeopardy, Humans Rally Back

IBM super computer Watson came away victorious during Jeopardy Wednesday, but not before the game show's former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter rallied a formidable defense. In the end, however, the humans were no match for Watson, which won with a commanding lead of $77,147 after three days of Jeopardy play. Jennings took second place at $24,000 and Rutter was third with $21,600. "I for one welcome our new computer overlords," Jennings jokingly wrote in his answer during Final Jeopardy on Wednesday's broadcast. The three-night Jeopardy challenge was taped in January at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Laboratory in Yorktown Heights, New York.
As victor, Watson takes home a $1 million prize, which IBM plans to donate to World Vision and World Community Grid. Jennings and Rutter will also donate 50 percent of their winnings to separate charities.


A shiver went down my spine when I heard that World Vision would be one of the "charity" organizations receiving the prize. I had to grit my teeth listening to the IBM rep tug on the heartstrings about all the wonderful humanitarian work they do all over the globe, most recently in Haiti. Haiti, where even a dictator from a genocidal family like "Baby Doc" Duvalier can get a chance to come home. Now maybe it's just a coincidence that after World Vision brought their "help" there, Baby Doc came back. But when you take their Deep Political history into account, anything is possible. Look who used to be the President of World Vision:

World Vision International

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World Vision International "is a Christian relief and development organisation working for the well being of all people, especially children. Through emergency relief, education, health care, economic development and promotion of justice, World Vision helps communities help themselves.
"Established in 1950 to care for orphans in Asia, World Vision has grown to embrace the larger issues of community development and advocacy for the poor in its mission to help children and their families build sustainable futures.
"Working on six continents, World Vision is one of the largest Christian relief and development organisations in the world." [1]
"In 2005,World Vision:
  • Served more than 100 million people
  • Worked in 96 nations
  • Directly benefited 2.7 million children through child sponsorship
  • Raised $1.97 billion (US) in cash and goods for its work
  • Employed 23,000 staff members" [2]

  • Kevin Jenkins, president and chief executive officer
  • Dean Hirsch, former president and chief executive officer (1996-2009)
Member of InterAction.
  • Victor W. C. Hsu is the National Director of the DPRK Program at World Vision International.
From 1993 to 1998, Andrew Natsios was vice president of World Vision U.S. [3] "Richard E. Stearns became President of World Vision U.S. in June 1998." [4]
Dean R. Hirsch was president of World Vision International in 2002 and he still is in 2007.[5]

Related SourceWatch Resources

That's John W. Hinckley, Sr., as in the father of the man who attempted an assassination of President Reagan on March 30, 1981. Just a tangential coincidence? Well, here's another one: he was also President of the Vanderbilt Energy Corporation, one of the larger contributors to the George H. W. Bush Presidential campaign in 1980:

Forgotten Coverage of the
Reagan Assassination Attempt
Neil Bush, John Hinckley, and the Reagan Assasination Attempt
Bush Son Had Dinner Plans With Hinckley Brother Before Shooting
The Associated Press Domestic News
March 31, 1981, Tuesday, PM cycle
John Hinckley, brother of Neil Bush's scheduled dinner date
John Hinckley
The family of the man charged with trying to assassinate President Reagan is acquainted with the family of Vice President George Bush and had made large contributions to his political campaign, the Houston Post reported today.

Scott Hinckley, brother of John W. Hinckley Jr., who allegedly shot Reagan, was to have dined tonight in Denver at the home of Neil Bush, one of the vice president's sons.

The newspaper said in a copyright story, Scott Hinckley, brother of John W. Hinckley Jr., who allegedly shot Reagan, was to have dined tonight in Denver at the home of Neil Bush, one of the vice president's sons.

The newspaper said it was unable to reach Scott Hinckley, vice president of his father's Denver-based firm, Vanderbilt Energy Corp., for comment. Neil Bush lives in Denver, where he works for Standard Oil Co. of Indiana.
In 1978, Neil served as campaign manager for his brother, George W. Bush, the vice president's oldest son, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. Neil lived in Lubbock throughout much of 1978, where John Hinckley lived from 1974 through 1980.
On Monday, Neil Bush said he did not know if he had ever met 25-year-old John Hinckley.

From what I know and I've heard, they (the Hinckleys) are a very nice family and have given a lot of money to the Bush campaign."

"I have no idea," he said. "I don't recognize any pictures of him. I just wish I could see a better picture of him.

Sharon Bush, Neil's wife, said Scott Hinckley was coming to their house as a date of a girl friend of hers. "I don't even know the brother. From what I know and I've heard, they (the Hinckleys) are a very nice family and have given a lot of money to the Bush campaign. I understand he was just the renegade brother in the family. They must feel awful," she said.
The dinner was canceled, she added.
George W. Bush said he was unsure whether he had met John W. Hinckley.

The connections that World Vision has with the milieu of intelligence covert operations and assassination are more than tangential. Political researcher John Judge documented many of these connections:

The international operations of World Vision and the related evangelical groups continue unabashed. World Vision official John W. Hinckley, Sr. was on his way to a Guatemalan water project run by the organization on the day his son shot at president Reagan.[280] A mysterious "double" of Hinckley, Jr., a man named Richardson, followed Hinckley's path from Colorado to Connecticut, and even wrote love letters to Jody Foster. Richardson was a follower of Carl McIntyre's International Council of Christian Churches, and attended their Bible School in Florida. He was arrested shortly after the assassination attempt in New York's Port Authority with a weapon, and claimed he intended to kill Reagan.[281]
Another World Vision employee, Mark David Chapman, worked at their Haitian refugee camp in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas. He was later to gain infamy as the assassin of John Lennon in New York City.[282] World Vision works with refugees worldwide. At the Honduran border, they are present in camps used by American CIA to recruit mercenaries against Nicaragua. They were at Sabra and Shatilla, Camps in Lebanon where fascist Phalange massacred the Palestinians.[283] Their representatives in the Cuban refugee camps on the east coast included members of the Bay of Pigs operation, CIA-financed mercenaries from Omega 7 and Alpha 66.[284] Are they being used as a worldwide cover for the recruitment and training of these killers? They are, as mentioned earlier, working to repopulate Jonestown with Laotians who served as mercenaries for our CIA.[285]

This is just a small snip from an extensively researched article titled "The Black Hole of Guyana: The Untold Story of the Jonestown Massacre" that Judge wrote in 1985. In addition to the connections between World Vision and the Bay of Pigs, John Lennon's assassination, the 1982 Palestinian massacre and 80's contra recruiting, the focus of the research regards how Jim Jones, cult leader of The People's Temple, had extensive connections with the CIA. There was also a link with World Vision early in his "ministry" mentioned in the article:
With his new wealth, Jones was able to travel to California and establish the first People's Temple in Ukiah, California, in 1965. Guarded by dogs, electric fences and guard towers, he set up Happy Havens Rest Home.[98] Despite a lack of trained personnel, or proper licensing, Jones drew in many people at the camp. He had elderly, prisoners, people from psychiatric institutions, and 150 foster children, often transferred to care at Happy Havens by court orders.[99] He was contacted there by Christian missionaries from World Vision, an international evangelical order that had done espionage work for the CIA in Southeast Asia.[100] He met "influential" members of the community and was befriended by Walter Heady, the head of the local chapter of the John Birch Society.[101] He used the members of his "church" to organize local voting drives for Richard Nixon's election, and worked closely with the republican party.[102] He was even appointed chairman of the county grand jury.[103]

Why would an organization ostensibly created to be Christian missionary organization be involved in so many horrific events? Judge laid out the reason in an interview in 2000:

The father in that family, John W. Hinkley Sr., was also the president of the board for World Vision. World Vision is a far-right evangelical missionary operation that does missionary and "good work" operations in countries where there is a political purpose for it to be there. From it's inception, it was rabidly anti-Communist and it focused on refugee populations of people running from countries that had been taken over by Communism. This was from the fifties on.
World Vision had a hand in the movement of the Cubans into the United States and other refugees of revolutionary regimes. When you're a refugee you're cut loose, basically, and pretty much fair game to be manipulated by whoever is willing to give you a hand because you don't have a home or any place to stay and somebody has got to accept you.
World Vision was able to recruit out of these mercenary populations, people who could be politically turned to their intelligence purposes. World Vision served as a penetration force -- not as visible as the military actually going in or the CIA going in -- going in as missionaries and working among the people.
This link between missionary and intelligence for capitalistic infiltration operations goes way back. It was part of the internationalism with the Rockefellers. It's talked about in a book called Thy Will Be Done[4] about Rockefeller, Venezuela, and Latin American Oil, the Summer Linguistic Institute, World Vision and others. But they operated in this way for a long time.
They were paid by the CIA for a long time during the Vietnam war and went into SE Asia -- Cambodia and Laos. Throughout Vietnam they were given U.S. military equipment to use. They still maintain a budget under USAID, which was just (Agency for International Development), which was just a pass-over in order to give the CIA more cover. They ran operations through USAID. The current cover replacing that is the NED (National Endowment for Democracy), which is supposed to be how we're exporting democracy around the world.
But of course, we're exporting exactly the kind of corrupt democracy we have here, which is rigged and manipulated elections and press manipulation in order to keep in power or put in power the people that we want to be in those countries for the purpose of having our investments protected and milking what we can out of the resources and the labor available in any of those countries.

Is this where we can expect the $1 million Jeopardy prize to be invested? Elementary, my dear Watson.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" - Bill McKibben

Last week, I commended The Nation for their ongoing online video series "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" with the post Hooray for The Nation! Today, they posted the sixth video in the series:

Bill McKibben: Why Climate Change Is the Most Urgent Challenge We Face

Bill McKibben, author and founder of the international environmental campaign, says that a global campaign to curb climate change, the ecological devastation that will result could make our planet uninhabitable. His appeal to citizens and policy-makers, the sixth video in the series" Peak Oil and a Changing Climate" from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, is a call to action as much as it is a sobering account of the damage we're already doing to our environment.
It’s a “crisis breaking over our heads at this moment,” he says as he points to wildfires in Russia and flooding in Pakistan as examples of the severe weather that will continue, and intensify, if we continue to ignore climate change. Failing to rein in the carbon in our atmosphere will mean more than just inhospitable weather. It also threatens global food production: “If we allow the temperature to increase anything like what people are projecting, we’ll see grain yields fall by a third or more, simply because it will be too hot for things to grow,” he says. “If it rains every day in a row for 30 days, you’re out of luck, you are not growing anything. That’s the kind of world we are building.”
The most important policy change crucial to curbing this crisis, he says, is to force fossil fuel companies to pay the price for the damages they inflict on the environment. If the environmental movement harnesses mass action and civil disobedience tactics to their advantage, there's still a chance, McKibben says, that the earth's citizens can convince policy makers to crack down on big polluters.
Go here to view last week's video, Noam Chomsky explaining how climate change became a "liberal hoax." Go here to learn more about "Peak Oil and a Changing Climate," and to see the other videos in the series.
Sara Jerving

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hooray for The Nation!

Earlier this week, a leaked cable from Wikileaks caused a little stir in the blogosphere. It even got some mainstream media (MSM) coverage, though it was greater in England than the US. Here is the report from The Guardian:

WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices

US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that reserves of world's biggest oil exporter have been overstated by nearly 40%

Aerial View of Oil Refinery
Saudi oil refinery. WikiLeaks cables suggest the amount of oil that can be retrieved has been overestimated. Photograph: George Steinmetz/Corbis

The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.
The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.
However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.
According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil".

On a Democratic Underground thread on the subject started by Newsjock, I added this comment:

Posted by robertpaulsen in Latest Breaking News
Wed Feb 09th 2011, 09:58 PM
As I detailed in STORY #4 in my UNDER THE RUG report, global production of conventional oil peaked in 2006, according to the International Energy Agency. Now after reading the Guardian's report on the Wikileak cables, if al-Husseini is referring to total reserves in Saudi Arabia, meaning not just conventional oil but natural gas liquids and unconventional oil, I think that the decline is going to be a whole lot steeper than anyone has anticipated if Saudi Arabia has indeed overstated its total reserves by 40 percent. Remember that 25 percent of the total oil reserves in the world are in Saudi Arabia. Once their production is in irreversible decline, $3.50 a gallon will be the good old days. I don't think the issue any longer is when Peak Oil will occur, the issue is how long will the plateau last before the inevitable decline?

Of course, if there's a revolution in Saudi Arabia, which might be in its initial stages, then the point is moot if the people of Saudi Arabia decide that pricing their oil in dollars is not in their best interests. Can you imagine President Obama responding to such an event by voiding the Carter Doctrine? Do you think Dick Cheney was only speaking for neo-cons when he said, "The American way of life is not negotiable"? Are you reading the same writing on the wall that I am?

Recently I discovered that Dick Cheney was not the first White House Republican to say, "The American way of life is not negotiable". At the Earth Summit in 1992, George H.W. Bush forcefully declared, "The American way of life is not negotiable." But both men were talking about the same thing: US oil consumption. What is tragic is that they don't realize how right they really are. You don't negotiate with the Real Primal Forces of Nature. If the American way of life is predicated on an economic infrastructure rooted in infinite growth dependent on non-renewable resources, there's no room to negotiate! You either adapt to the reality that this way of life is no longer sustainable, or you lose that way of life, if not life itself.

Which brings me back to what I think is the most important point in my comment: I don't think the issue any longer is when Peak Oil will occur, the issue is how long will the plateau last before the inevitable decline? If we are going to adapt to the reality that our way of life is no longer sustainable, we must stop debating when and start acting now. That means being aware of the complete ramifications of Peak Oil/Global Climate Change and taking the time to prepare yourself and your loved ones to the best of your ability to adapt to the social/political/economic reactions to this reality as it comes. Think Globally Act Locally should no longer be a sentimental hippie slogan, it should be a mantra for personal sustainability.

While MSM has had a pretty pathetic track record in preparing people for this eventuality, I have to give huge praise to The Nation for their recent attempt to do so. Throughout the months of January, February and March, The Nation is publishing a series of videos on their website to educate people about the twin crises of Peak Oil and Global Climate Change:

Peak Oil and a Changing Climate

The scientific community has long agreed that our dependence on fossil fuels inflicts massive damage on the environment and our health, while warming the globe in the process. But beyond the damage these fuels cause to us now, what will happen when the world's supply of oil runs out?

Peak Oil is the point at which petroleum production reaches its greatest rate just before going into perpetual decline. In “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate,” a new video series from The Nation and On The Earth productions, radio host Thom Hartmann explains that the world will reach peak oil within the next year if it hasn’t already. As a nation, the United States reached peak oil in 1974, after which it became a net oil importer.
Bill McKibben, Noam Chomsky, Nicole Foss, Richard Heinberg and the other scientists, researchers and writers interviewed throughout “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” describe the diminishing returns our world can expect as it deals with the consequences of peak oil even as it continues to pretend it doesn’t exist. These experts predict substantially increased transportation costs, decreased industrial production, unemployment, hunger and social chaos as the supplies of the fuels on which we rely dwindle and eventually disappear.
Chomsky urges us to anticipate the official response to peak oil based on how corporations, news organizations and other institutions have responded to global warming: obfuscation, spin and denial. James Howard Kunstler says that we cannot survive peak oil unless we “come up with a consensus about reality that is consistent with the way things really are.” This documentary series hopes to help build that consensus. Click here to watch the introductory video, and check back here for new videos each Wednesday.

They just released the video for Noam Chomsky yesterday, which is excellent. Future interviews to be released include Thom Hartmann, Greg Palast and my favorite, Mike Ruppert. I encourage everyone to watch, learn and prepare!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For - You Just Might Get It

Watching the events unfolding in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, I'm reminded of a moment in Denial Stops Here, the DVD compilation of Michael Ruppert's speaking engagements from 2004-2005. The movie is a fantastic document of his political and economic predictions for the future, many of which came true with startling accuracy. At one point as he is describing the layout of the coming economic collapse (he believed it would occur in 2005, he was off by three years), he predicts that General Motors will have to file for bankruptcy. The crowd bursts out with applause. Ruppert then cautions them, "Hold on! Before you cheer, think about what that means". After then explaining what the worldwide economic ramifications of such an event would mean (General Motors eventually did file for bankruptcy on June 8, 2009), Ruppert concludes saying, "So be careful what you wish for. You just might get it".

We are witnessing a revolution in the Middle East, probably the largest such revolt in a region since the Eastern bloc revolution of 1989. With each passing day, the phenomenon seems to grow. The president of Tunisia flees the country to live in exile in Saudi Arabia. Yemen's president has said he will not run for re-election in the wake of protests there. But of course the largest and bloodiest revolt is happening in Egypt, where the course of history is changing radically on a daily basis.

But this may only be the beginning. This recent article from The Guardian highlights some new developments:

Spirit of Egypt protest spreads to Yemen, Algeria and Syria

Demonstrators gather on streets of Sana'a as Algeria aims to defuse tensions by lifting 19-year state of emergency

Protesters in Yemen
Opposition demonstrators wave Yemeni flags as they take part in a ‘day of rage’ in Sana’a. Photograph: Hani Mohammed/AP

Reverberations from the mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt continued to be felt around the Arab world as demonstrators gathered on the streets of Yemen for a "day of rage" and Algeria became the latest country to try to defuse tensions by lifting its 19-year state of emergency.
More protests are expected across the region following Friday prayers, including in Syria, where activists have used Facebook to organise demonstrations in front of parliament in the capital, Damascus, and at Syrian embassies across the world.

But hey, this is all good isn't it? These are all non-democratic, mostly military dictatorships that are the focus of the protests by their respective citizens, so what's wrong with them rising up against their oppressors? You would think the neo-cons of all people would be rejoicing the rise of freedom and democracy in the Middle East! Especially when their pResident George W. Bush had this to say in the aftermath of another "regime change":

"Yet there's a great challenge today in the Middle East. In the words of a recent report by Arab scholars, the global wave of democracy has -- and I quote -- "barely reached the Arab states." They continue: "This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development." The freedom deficit they describe has terrible consequences, of the people of the Middle East and for the world. In many Middle Eastern countries, poverty is deep and it is spreading, women lack rights and are denied schooling. Whole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead. These are not the failures of a culture or a religion. These are the failures of political and economic doctrines."
"The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. (Applause.) Champions of democracy in the region understand that democracy is not perfect, it is not the path to utopia, but it's the only path to national success and dignity.

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us. Democratic nations may be constitutional monarchies, federal republics, or parliamentary systems. And working democracies always need time to develop -- as did our own. We've taken a 200-year journey toward inclusion and justice -- and this makes us patient and understanding as other nations are at different stages of this journey."

These words are from November 6, 2003. Eight years later, Egyptians are doing exactly what the fearless neo-con leader asked for. Yet instead of neo-con ecstasy, the mood from the talking heads around Fox News is one of sheer horror. One of the biggest fraidy-cats is former State Department stooge John Bolton, who came up with this thoughtless strategy:

Bolton: If Mubarak falls in Egypt, Israel should bomb Iran

By Eric W. DolanTuesday, February 1st, 2011 -- 11:24 am

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said the ouster of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would speed the timetable for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"Do you think that the Israelis are going to have to strike — they are going to have to take action?" Fox News Republican opinion host Sean Hannity asked the former ambassador on his radio program Monday.
"As you pointed out, ElBaradei ran cover for the Iranians for all those years that he was with the IAEA. And, I just don’t think the Israelis have much longer to wait… they're going to have to act in fairly short order."
"I think that's right," Bolton responded. "I don't think there’s much time to act. And I think the fall of a Egyptian government committed to the peace agreement will almost certainly speed that timetable up."
Bolton chided the protests in Egypt last week, saying that "the real alternative is not Jefferson democracy versus the Mubarak regime, but that it’s the Muslim Brotherhood versus the Mubarak regime, and that has enormous implications for the US, for Israel, and our other friends in the region."

Why all the fear tactics in regards to the Muslim Brotherhood? True, these are not good guys by any stretch of the imagination. They have documented historical ties with the Nazis and questionable ties with al-Qaeda. But in proportion to the population of Egypt in the event of a democratic government actually occurring, they really are what Chris Matthews described them as: the Tea Party of the Middle East. In a democratic society, both have a right to exist, but as columnist Bob Norman said, "and then be put on the fringes where they belong". Perhaps the real reason for all the commotion in the reich-wing echo chamber is that this is what they want: an Armageddon slugfest between these counterpoint crackpots. It certainly wouldn't be the first time there was an association for their mutual benefit:

Michael Hughes
Posted: September 3, 2010 08:15 AM

When Right-Wing Christians and Neocons Loved Islamic Jihadists


In the mid-1950s, the C.I.A. and the British MI6 had developed a close relationship with an Islamic extremist group called the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and forged a partnership with Saudi Arabia to defeat the secular and nationalist policies of Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser. The C.I.A. enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to return from banishment and infect Afghan society with a radical version of Islam that began to supplant the traditional and more moderate indigenous form. According to Gould and Fitzgerald:

The radical Islam of the Muslim Brothers returning to Afghanistan from exile in the late 1960s and early 1970s shared none of the "celebratory, personalized and ecstatic" traits of Afghan Islam -- nor did it offer itself as a political or economic reform movement. Instead, what reentered Afghanistan following its exile was a violent, antimodernist hybrid (described by French expert Olivier Roy as more akin to the extremist Catholic sect Opus Dei than anything native in Afghanistan) which at first challenged the weakened boundaries of the old patriarchy, then in triumph broke free from traditional limits on violence and clan rivalries.

While Afghanistan's progressive King, Zahir Shah, tried to institute modern reform, how mind-boggling is it that the U.S. backed antimodernist fundamentalist Muslims whose goal was to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and establish an Islamic Caliphate?

Fast forward to the late 1970s when a Pentecostal inhabited the White House while neoconservatives, led by hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, preyed on Carter's ingrained end times theology. Brzezinski pushed forward the agenda of what became known as "Team B" -- a cabal of neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Nitze, Seymour Weiss, Richard Pipes, Richard Perle, Daniel O. Graham and Leo Cherne, who exaggerated Soviet nuclear and military capabilities to force U.S. leaders to take a hard line against communism.


So does this alliance put President Obama between a rock and a hard place? Not quite. As my good friend Octafish pointed out, he's got Frank Wisner from inside the bowels of Washington's power elite. Whether Muburak stays until summer or leaves office today, Wisner is the man with the connections to smooth things over. Whether it's power to the people or sustaining the status quo, we can rest assured American interests will be protected.

I'm sorry, do I sound cynical? Well, in light of this recent find by vanlose kid at Rigorous Intution, I most certainly am. As you read this, think about it in the context of the Carter Doctrine, which I am quite certain President Obama would uphold if push came to shove:

Saudi Hiccup?

As riots raged in Cairo on Friday and dominated the news wires around the globe, Saudi Arabia, it appears, may be getting ready to join the list of Arab nations protesting their governments.

In the port of Jeddah relatively heavy rainfall combined with a non-existent drainage system to wreak havoc on the city and its 4 million inhabitants. The city is literally flooded and the torrential, and very rare, rains have caused around $ 1 Billion USD worth of damages.

So far there are 11 dead and over 100 injured as a result. Incredibly, over 11,000 cars were stranded in floodwaters as water levels were reported to be 4 meters (13.2 feet) deep in some areas. Rescue helicopters have ferried almost 500 people to safety!

Oddly enough, and unfortunately for the government, the same scenario happened in 2009!

Back then it was dubbed Saudi's "Katrina Moment". Over 122 people were killed (some estimate it was more like 500) and hundreds injured as the government fell on its face during the response effort.

That led to widespread discontent and a fury of criticism of the local government mainly via, you guessed it...Facebook. The main theme was "Where are the billions in oil revenue going?".

Back in 2009 and according to the CS Monitor:

Mr. Khair, the lawyer, says he intends to file a class action suit against Jeddah's municipality. He does not think any official will be forced to resign, he adds. "In Saudi Arabia, we didn't hear about someone leaving his office."
The attorney says that the Facebook page was a useful alternative because street protests are illegal in the kingdom. The Internet "is the only way. We don't have another way," he says.

The episode has demonstrated "how technology allows people to shout out loud. I have never seen this before in Saudi," says Asaad, the lecturer. Even if people commenting on Facebook "use pseudonyms, it's a start," she adds. "But nowadays, people are using their real names."

Which brings us to today.

A mass blackberry messenger message has gone out in Jeddah calling for a demonstration on Saturday, the 29th. It says:

On Saturday there will be a demonstration in front of the municipality for Jeddah … gather as many people as you can,” the message ran. “We need brave men and women. We don’t want any more lies … We have to do something.”

Another message also sent via Blackberry urged all government and private sector employees to hold a general strike next week in protest at the authorities’ neglect of the city’s infrastructure.

This is very serious news if it happens. The ruling Saud family's main areas of support are centered around the capitol city, Riyadh. There are long standing historical tensions with the people of the western provice, Hijaz, of which Jeddah is the largest city. Jeddah is also the second largest city in Saudi Arabia overall and is the port of arrival to the more than 2 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage to Mecca every year.

Also, in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia are most of the shunned Shia Muslims of the country. They are regarded as infidels by some hardline Wahhabists and face a glass ceiling when working in public bureaucracies. There have been tensions there also and several protests.

Here is an excellent paper about the ethnic and religious background of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the religious and social tensions in Saudi, perhaps the economic tensions are the greatest of all. According to a recent report by Booz & Co., unemployment in Saudi Arabia is estimated to be 13-14% in 2008. Additionally, 48% of Saudis between the age of 20-24 are unemployed as well as 31% of Saudis between 25-29.

70% of the population is under the age of 34 and the Median age is 24.9.

In other words, the powder is dry...

Here is a video of the clashes between police and Saudi Shia's (keep in mind the source is Iran's Press TV)

Here is a video of the catastrophic floods in Jeddah this week: ... iccup.html

Sometime in the future, there will come a real day of reckoning for the USA. It may happen in the wake of revolution spreading across the Middle East this year or it may not happen until the 20's. But sometime in this generation we will face the day when we face the reality that maintaining an empire of friendly regimes protecting a permanently decreasing supply of non-renewable resources is economically unsustainable. As a result of this, governments in the future will have to focus on relocalization, regardless of whether they are 1st world or 3rd world countries, if they want to serve the interests of their citizens and alleviate the risk of a revolt.

Oh sure, we could get lucky where Saudi Arabia is concerned. Maybe the House of Saud can continue their stranglehold on power like the House of Kim in North Korea, just starve 'em into submission. Or perhaps a democratic uprising will result in a representative government that wants to remain allies with the US. But what if they don't want to? Over 60% of all proven oil supplies in the world are in the Middle East. 25 percent is in Saudi Arabia alone. 100% is currently priced in dollars. What if they decided to price it in another currency? Where is it carved in stone that the indigenous people of countries halfway across the globe must have our best interests at heart, even at the expense of their own? Are we prepared to use the same armed forces currently stretched to the breaking point in Afghanistan and Iraq to enforce our interests at the expense of a population trying to express the freedom for self-determination?

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.