Cyber-Dominance: We Are Bellingcat, pp. 76 – 77

Self apologizes for going so so slowly through this book, but it continues to enthrall.

General Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA, recalled a turning point for American intel back in the mid-1990s, when espionage officials faced a question: try to dominate cyberspace, or to dominate the information sphere generally, including diplomacy, public affairs, disinformation, and more? ‘We had a sharp debate, and we finally decided that we’re probably in the cyber-dominance business,’ he recalled. ‘Now the important punchline here is that the Russians went to door number two. The Russians went to not just cyber-dominance, but information-dominance.

We Are Bellingcat, pp. 76 – 77

Quote of the Day (Also FOTD), Last Monday in February 2022

“Ukraine is still winning, 96 hours later. Good morning, world.” — Anastasiia Lapatina, The Kyiv Independent

Sentence of the Day: Neverwhere

  • The next morning he boarded the train for ths six-hour Journey south that would bring him to the strange gothic spires and arches of St. Pancras Station.

I love St. Pancras Station. There is a piano player who gives free concerts on a baby grand, in the afternoon.

The Audacity, Oh the Audacity!

Donald Heath calls his wife and son back to Berlin (they’d taken refuge in Oslo after Germany invaded Poland) and then breaks it to his wife: their eleven-year-old son will be the courier for messages between Donald and Mildred Harnack. It takes Louise Heath several days to agree.

This is what happens: the Heaths and the Harnacks meet for a picnic in the Spreewald, “a heavily-wooded area sixty miles southeast of Berlin.” Don Jr. is “dressed for the part: black short pants, tan knee socks, tan shirt, and a black cap — the uniform of the Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitlerjugend — a division of Hitler Youth for boys between ten and fourteen.”

Don Jr. “runs up ahead . . . he is always the lookout.” When he spots “Germans in uniform,” he remembers his father’s instructions and bursts into song:

Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig festern Schritt!

(Imagine teaching your 11-year-old to sing Hitler Youth songs! That is why self chose the title that she did for this post)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cable, Donald Heath to US Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau

Morgenthau’s decision to send Donald Heath to Berlin turns out to be god-level.

24 April 1939:

The (US) Embassy has received reliable information that the German Embassy in London has been informed by (Neville) Chamberlain that Great Britain is prepared to release to the Reich most of the Czech gold reserves which was on deposit in London . . . This news is surprising to Reich officials who look on it with somewhat amused disdain. They interpret it as an indication that Chamberlain is still inclined to gestures of “appeasement” and a belief that financial enticements can be used to buy off the Reich.

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 294

Neville Chamberlain absolutely capitulated to Hitler. He was the Kevin McCarthy of 1939. And Donald Heath was no dummy.

War breaks out. Germany invades Poland. Most of the US Embassy packs up and heads home, but Donald stays. He sends his wife and son to Oslo for their safety.

Louise and Don are in Oslo through September and October. On Nov. 4, Louise receives a telegram from her husband: COME BACK TO BERLIN.

If Louise knew WHY Donald suddenly wanted them both back to Berlin, she probably wouldn’t have agreed!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

First Poetry Friday of 2022: A Hunt!

Sir Gawain is feted by a Lord who is very generous with his table. There is much revelry, much laughter, the whole night long. Then, at break of dawn, mass (!), followed by a hunt.

The stags of the herd with their high-branched heads
and the broad-horned bucks were allowed to pass by,
for the lord of the land had laid down a law
that man should not maim the male in close season.
But the hinds were halted with hollers and whoops
and the din drove the does to sprint for the dells.
Then the eye can see that the air is all arrows:
all across the forest they flashed and flickered,
biting through hides with their broad heads.

To be shot by arrows is a particularly gruesome way to die, which self grew to appreciate after watching The Revenant. A forest ambush — the arrowheads were so substantial that self felt ill whenever one entered a human target.

While the lord is at the hunt, the lady of the house attempts to seduce Gawain. But even though she has bolted the door to his chambers, and has him pinned to the bed, he grants her no more than a kiss. In the movie, the lady of the house is played by Alicia Vikander. Self remembers sitting in the theater and being very confused.

Next, a scene of the gutting of the deer, which thank the lord was not in the movie (An excerpt: “Next they lopped off the legs and peeled back the pelt/and hooked out the bowels through the broken belly”). It seems to go on forever, every part of the deer is described, including the offal.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Please excuse self for conjuring all this stuff, but she thinks the narrator of My Heart is so obviously Semezdin Mehmedinovic, even though the book cover announces: My Heart — a novel.

She is convinced that Mehmedinovic has decided to move back to Sarajevo, and that the whole raison d’etre for the book is his way of saying good-bye to his son, who is of course at home in his adopted country.

That said, self being a writer, too, means she has quite an imagination. She’s already convinced herself that she understands Semezdin Mehmedinovic (or the Semezdin Mehmedinovic who is the narrator of My Heart), that she knows the reason for the melancholy that infuses every page. She truly adores that the melancholy exists side-by-side with mundane encounters and an entertaining array of American oddities.

The entire road trip, the narrator watches his son. Their halting conversations, the distance between them — it’s America, and his son becoming American. Fascinating to watch the father process all this.

There are a lot of photographs from the past in which I’m holding you in my arms. And a father carrying a son in his arms is altogether a common sight. Far less frequent — and its complete opposite in emotional impact — is the image of a son carrying his father. Such as Aeneas carrying his old, weary father as they flee from burning Troy . . . I would not wish to live to a great age.

My Heart, pp. 101 – 102

There it is. A kind of foreshadowing. A decision has been made.

Funny, she didn’t have high expectations for this book, since she felt she would have little in common with a man from Bosnia. But the road trip. She adores the road trip.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fathers and Sons 2

The narrator decides to take a road trip with his son, has many fascinating things to say about the desert landscape and people they encounter along the way (the most recent encounter: a group of “German bikers” in, of all places, Furnace Creek, Arizona) Nevertheless, this trip is no bed of roses. The son, Harun, is a stickler for procedure. He is a photographer, and setting up his shots is a complicated process.

Harun is frowning, because I’m slowing him down in his journey. I say: “Is there anything in the world more complicated than the father-son relationship?”

We both have frequent attacks of melancholy.

My Heart, p. 87

The father is a pessimist. Not only that, he’s Bosnian. Sarajevo was pummeled by the Serbs, not too long ago. (“… when I think of my first experiences of unbearable desolation, I see an image of the autumnal dissipation of the world, an October forest smelling of decay.” It can be no walk in the park to go on a road trip with a father having such autumnal thoughts)

Life Goes On

Far from being bleak, as this book nears the finish line, eight weeks after the Soviet Army occupied Berlin, stories of individual women who managed to avoid the Russian soldiers emerge (All throughout this book, self would just like to say, the narrator’s comparisons of the Russians with Berliners showed how much more open Berliners’ sexuality was. For instance, no Russian soldiers propositioning German men — this was worthy of notice!):

Stinchen, the eighteen-year-old student, has finally come down from the crawl space. The scars from the flying rubble have healed. She played the part of the well-bred daughter from a good home perfectly, carrying a pot of real tea from the kitchen and listening politely to our conversation. Apparently our young girl who looks like a young man also managed to come through safely. I mentioned that I’d seen her in the stairwell last night. She was arguing with another girl, someone in a white sweater, tan and quite pretty but vulgar and unbridled in her swearing. Over tea I found out that it was a jealous spat: the tanned girl had taken up with a Russian officer . . . more or less voluntarily — drinking with him and accepting food. This evidently irked her young friend, who is an altruistic kind of lover, constantly giving the other girl presents and doing this and that for her over the past several years. We discussed all of this calmly and offhandedly over a proper tea. No judgment, no verdict. We no longer whisper. We don’t hesitate to use certain words, to voice certain things, certain ideas. They come out of our mouths casually as if we were channeling them from Sirius.

A Woman in Berlin, p. 181

The Break

Self keeps dreading that moment when something really bad happens to Anonymous. This evening, she decided to skip ahead a few pages (to prepare herself) and saw that, in a few pages, instead of daily diary entries, we have: “Looking back on ____________.” And it continues like that, the rest of the way till the end.

Oh . . . it’s happening soon, then. The Russian army is about to enter Berlin. The women in the narrator’s building seem somewhat resigned. They even say things like, “Well, at least we aren’t virgins.” (!!!) One asks another woman to read her cards, and the card-reader says, “In the short run you will experience disappointment in connection with your husband.”

In the meantime, the narrator hauls buckets of water, lines up for hours each day just to get a scrap of food, lugs 50 lbs. of coal in a knapsack, tries to snatch two hours of sleep in her own bed, keeps writing in her journal . . .

She’s damn heroic.

Here it is, the very last entry of Before:

Friday, April 27, 1945:

It began with silence . . . Around twelve o’clock Fraulein Behn reported that the enemy had reached the gardens and that the German line of defense was right outside the door . . . I finished dressing and combed my hair. Within minutes the whole basement was on its feet.

A Woman in Berlin, p. 44

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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