“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Our Friend and Barista Teresita at The Elephant

A Time for Waterboarding

Three are arrested in Eastern Europe with powdered uranium. The first question to come to mind is where was it going? Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has called on European countries to pull their forces out of Afghanistan. Is this foreshadowning?

In a new audio-tape message attributed to the al-Qaeda head, bin Laden urged Europeans to pressure their governments to withdraw from Afghanistan. Bin Laden just happened to mention that he takes responsibility for the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York. He said the Taliban knew nothing of the plans to attack. It must be a pride of authorship thing.

Like a drug addict, bin Laden needs a new fix. He wants to up the ante. The Europeans have been warned. There is a demand for nuclear material and these three were on their way to supply it. They were ready for new BMW's and Europe, in exchange, would be thrown into a financial and terror abyss.

Get out the waterboards.

Uranium for 'dirty bomb' seized by Slovak police
By Karel Janicek and William K Jole
Published: 30 November 2007 Independent

Enriched uranium that could have been made into a "dirty bomb" by terrorists has been seized by Slovakian police after it was allegedly offered for sale for $1m.

Two Hungarians and a Ukrainian suspected of peddling the radioactive material were arrested in eastern Slovakia and Hungary on Wednesday. Michal Kopcik, a senior Slovakian police official, said the men had 481.4 grams of uranium in powdered form. It is believed to have come from a former Soviet republic, but the identity of the intended buyer was not disclosed.

"It was possible to use it in various ways for terrorist attacks," Mr Kopcik said. "The uranium was even more dangerous because it was in powder form."

Police intelligence suggested that the suspects – aged 40, 49 and 51 – planned to close the deal earlier this week, he added. One of the Hungarians had been living in Ukraine. Officers moved in when the sale did not take place as expected. Three other suspects, including a Slovak, were arrested in the Czech Republic in October for allegedly trying to sell fake radioactive material. It was unclear to what degree, if any, they played a role in this week's thwarted sale.

"According to initial findings, the material originated in the former Soviet republics," Mr Kopcik said.

The uranium was kept in lead containers. Tests showed it contained 98.6 per cent uranium-235. Uranium is considered weapons-grade if it contains at least 85 per cent uranium-235.

The arrests heightened long-standing concerns that eastern Europe is serving as a source of material for a "dirty bomb", which would use conventional explosives to scatter radioactive debris. Roughly 25 kilos of highly-enriched uranium or plutonium is needed to fashion a crude nuclear device. But experts say a tiny fraction of that is enough for a dirty bomb – a weapon whose main purpose would be to create fear and chaos, not human casualties.

Vitaly Fedchenko, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said people should not worry that the world was awash with easily-obtainable bomb components. "The danger is definitely there but there is no reason to panic," he added. "Most of the 'buyers' are law enforcement agents, and not all the materials out there are weapons grade."

Eastern Slovakia's border with Ukraine is the European Union's easternmost frontier. In recent years, the authorities have spent millions tightening security, fearing that terrorists or organised crime syndicates could smuggle weapons, explosives and other contraband into the EU. In 2003, Czech police arrested two Slovaks in the city of Brno after they allegedly sold undercover officers natural depleted uranium for $715,000 (£350,000).

Ukrainian authorities, Western governments and international watchdogs repeatedly have warned that radioactive material from the nation's 15 operational reactors and the Chernobyl plant could find its way into terrorist hands.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Can We Stop Genuflecting to Veterans?

I have been using my dog tag(s) for forty years as a key ring. I was issued one of the last sets with the tooth notch, which we were told was to be inserted between your two front incisors if and when. I was in the Air Force so the odds of using the notch were not that high, but the dog tags have come in handy as a tool.

Every now and then someone recognizes them for what they are and thanks me for my service. I should remind them that thanks was not necessary because I was in the Air Force.

Last night, at the CNN/YouTube Republican debate, a retired general presented his military credentials, then asked about gays and lesbians serving in the military.

The Republicans genuflected and answered his question. Later we learned that the good general failed to mention he was a a co-chair of Hillary Clinton's National Military Veterans group.

Retired Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr was named a co-chair of the group this month, according to a campaign press release.

He was also active in John F. Kerry's 2004 campaign for president.

Shall we thank him for his disservice in the disclosure department?

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I guess not.

Rodney King Shot MSNBC

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Southern California police said 1991 police beating victim Rodney King has been shot, but the wounds are not life-threatening.
Rialto police Sgt. Don Lewis told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that King was hit in the face and arm by shotgun pellets on a San Bernardino street corner Wednesday night. He bicycled to his home in Rialto to call police and was taken to a hospital.
Police said when they arrived at the home, King and others there appeared drunk and few were cooperative in providing information.

San Bernardino police Lt. Scott Paterson tells the San Bernardino County Sun that the shooting may have involved a domestic dispute.
King was beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991 and the officers' subsequent acquittal on criminal charges sparked deadly rioting in 1992.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Will Hugo Chavez Lose His Constituency?

Probably not. This is Hugo country. Other than the doctrinaire lefties, these are the neighborhoods that are his base of power. Rob from Pedro to pay Pablo and you will always get Pablo's vote, and he does. Chavez is an embarrassment to many, but there are more neighborhoods like this in Latin America than is healthy. Without those sprawling tin roofs there would be no Hugo Chavez.

What happens in Latin America matters.

Old Allies Abandon Chávez as Constitution Vote Nears

By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 29, 2007; Page A01

CUMANA, Venezuela -- Few associates had been as loyal to President Hugo Chávez as the governor of the coastal state of Sucre, Ramón Martínez. And few are now more determined to defeat Chávez as he campaigns for constitutional changes that, if approved by voters on Sunday, could extend his presidency for life.

Chávez, 53 and in his ninth tumultuous year in office, was until recently predicted to win a referendum that would permit him to run for 8office indefinitely, appoint governors to federal districts he would create, and control the purse strings of one of the world's major oil-producing countries.

But Martínezand a handful of others who once were prominent pillars in the Chávez machine, have defected, saying approval of 69 constitutional changes would effectively turn Venezuela into a dictatorship run at the whim of one man. They have been derided by Chávez as traitors, but their unimpeachable leftist credentials have given momentum to a movement that pollsters say may deliver Chávez his first electoral defeat...

Chavez vows no ties with Colombia BBC

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says he will have "no type of relationship" with the Colombian government while it is headed by President Alvaro Uribe.
"I could not, out of dignity," Mr Chavez told supporters in the town of Tachira in western Venezuela.

The Venezuelan government announced on Tuesday it was withdrawing its ambassador to Colombia.

The feud between neighbours and trading partners began when Mr Uribe stopped Mr Chavez mediating with Colombian rebels.

In response, Mr Chavez said he would freeze Venezuela's bilateral ties with its neighbour and close trading partner.

'Barefaced lies'

Speaking to supporters on Wednesday, Mr Chavez was forthright in his criticism of his Colombian counterpart.

"While President Uribe is president of Colombia I will have no type of relationship with him or with the government in Colombia," he said.

Mr Uribe was a president "capable of such barefaced lies, [who] disrespects another president that he has called a friend, one that he called on for help".

Mr Chavez accused Mr Uribe - a close US ally - of being a "pawn of the empire".

Relations between the two men seemed close in August - despite their apparent ideological differences - when Mr Uribe enlisted Mr Chavez's help in trying to arrange an exchange of prisoners with rebel-held hostages.

But last week Mr Uribe ended Mr Chavez's involvement, saying it was because the Venezuelan leader had directly contacted Colombia's army chief despite being told not to do so.

Earlier, Mr Uribe appeared to try to calm the situation, saying presidents should put aside their "angers" and "vanities" to get on with their work.

The US Navy Should Not be Distracted

The US Navy has enough to worry about other than shore leave in Hong Kong. They could start with simple question, "Why are the Chinese not rushing into building aircraft carriers?"

The Chinese have already determined to develop an asymmetric response built around carrier vulnerabilities. They rightly understand that the weakest link in the US Naval chain is space based communications. Control space and you can control all that is under it. The US better wake up fast. Here is an essay that discusses the real Chinese threat. China’s Space Ambitions—And Ours

This article in the NY Times illustrates the silliness of misplaced concern with the Chinese:

China’s Denial of Port Calls by U.S. Ships Worries Navy

Published: November 28, 2007
WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — Two senior American admirals expressed concern on Tuesday over decisions this month by China to refuse access to the port of Hong Kong for three American warships, including two seeking fuel and sheltered waters ahead of a major storm.

The officers, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, and Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of American forces in the Pacific, said neither the Chinese government nor its military had offered explanations.

Two minesweepers, the Patriot and the Guardian, were sailing in international waters this month when a serious Pacific Ocean storm threatened. The two vessels, relatively small, asked for permission to enter Hong Kong’s harbor for fuel and safety. The request was denied.

The admirals said China’s refusal to lend assistance to the minesweepers was a worrisome repudiation of historical principles calling on all nations to assist ships in danger at sea.

“As someone who has been going to sea all my life, if there is one tenet that we observe, it’s when somebody is in need, you provide — and you sort it out later,” Admiral Roughead said during a morning round table with Pentagon correspondents.

The two minesweepers were refueled by an American tanker and suffered no damage from the storm, Admiral Roughead said.

In a second incident just days later, the Kitty Hawk, an American aircraft carrier based in Japan, was already en route to Hong Kong for a Thanksgiving holiday visit scheduled for last Wednesday through Saturday when the Chinese withdrew their previous permission for the port call. China later approved the visit, but it was too late for the Kitty Hawk to turn around and return.

Hundreds of family members of the crew aboard the Kitty Hawk and vessels in its strike group had already flown to Hong Kong for the visit when the Chinese canceled entry “at the last minute,” according to the Navy.

During a video news conference from his headquarters in Hawaii, Admiral Keating said he found the Chinese decisions “perplexing, troublesome.”

“It is not, in our view, conduct that is indicative of a country that understands its obligations of a responsible nation,” Admiral Keating said. “There is little strategic benefit to it.”

But Admiral Keating also stressed the importance of maintaining a military-to-military dialogue to avoid any calamity in relations, and he said he planned to visit China early next year.

The State Department was asking China about its refusal to let the three Navy ships into the Hong Kong harbor.

Cmdr. Pamela S. Kunze, chief spokeswoman for Admiral Roughead, said about 50 Navy ships visited Hong Kong each year. Before the recent refusals, the last American warship to be denied access to the harbor was the Curtis Wilbur, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2002. The Chinese did not provide a reason at the time, she said.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hunting Buffalo or Shooting a Ford Pickup?

I started hunting at 12. No stocked game, an old Stevens single shot 12 gauge and a love for the outdoors all came together for me. My uncles and father taught me the rules of hunting. I learned to respect nature, and understand the need for balance between hunter and game.

Sentimentality aside, there is a time to kill. It is not a season as much as a natural balance.

We were contemptuous of bad hunters, those that lost wounded game or made a bad kill. Trophy hunters that left meat in the field were not sportsman. Slaughter was not hunting.

I no longer hunt. I like those that do. To me, hunting a buffalo would be like shooting a Ford F-150. I would not do it, but if others choose to, that is there business, but this small story makes no sense to me. There is no balance here and states don't get much bigger and less populated than Montana.

Open Season on America’s Last Wild Bison
By LetBuffaloRoam, New West Unfiltered 11-15-07

Montana’s Buffalo Hunt Opens Without Any Buffalo in Montana

WEST YELLOWSTONE & GARDINER, MONTANA – Today marks the opening day for Montana’s bison hunt, authorized by the Montana Department of Livestock. Montana has issued 44 tags to kill members of America’s last wild bison population that migrate out of Yellowstone National Park into Montana. It is expected that the Nez Perce as well as Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes will conduct separate buffalo hunts under treaty right. The state’s hunt will continue through February 15, 2008.

There are currently no wild bison in Montana.

Glenn Hockett, President of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, a hunting organization that opposes the current bison hunt and is working to help restore wild bison in Montana had this to say, “Recent reports from Yellowstone National Park indicate there are no bison in the state of Montana for hunters to hunt. I think this points out the flawed nature of this shoot ‘em at the border Department of Livestock led “hunt” with no year round habitat.”

Wild American bison, while native to vast expanses of North America, are granted no year-round habitat in Montana. There is never a time that wild bison are allowed to be in the state without being subjected to harassment, capture, slaughter, quarantine, or shooting. Wild bison are ecologically extinct everywhere outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Montana’s bison hunt is not authorized by the state’s wildlife agency Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, but by the Montana Department of Livestock, an agency that promotes cattle interests.

“I don’t think most people understand that only the Department of Livestock can authorize the hunting of wild bison in Montana, and their goal is no bison left standing in Montana,” said Glenn Hockett.

“Allowing the Department of Livestock to have authority over the management of wild bison or any wildlife species is a clear conflict of interest,” said Buffalo Field Campaign spokeswoman Stephany Seay. “They have no interest whatsoever in wild bison or their habitat, and you may as well put the fox in charge of guarding the hen house.”

Fewer than 4,700 continuously wild American bison exist in the United States; all reside in Yellowstone National Park. A joint state-federal agreement signed in 2000, the Interagency Bison Management Plan prohibits wild bison from migrating to lands outside of the Park and maintains a zero population of wild bison in Montana in an effort to benefit cattle interests who claim they fear the spread of the livestock disease brucellosis from wild bison to cattle. There has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle.

Buffalo Field Campaign strongly opposes Montana’s bison hunt as well as the Interagency Bison Management Plan. BFC maintains that wild bison should be allowed to naturally and fully restore themselves throughout their native range, especially on public lands, and must be managed as a valued native wildlife species by wildlife professionals, not cattle interests.

“Our position on the hunt is clear,” said Buffalo Field Campaign’s cofounder and subsistence hunter Mike Mease, “No habitat, No hunt.”

2,018 wild American bison have been killed or otherwise removed from the remaining wild population in Yellowstone since 2000 under actions carried out by the Interagency Bison Management Plan, as well as state and treaty right hunts.

Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild Yellowstone buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their native habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. Buffalo Field Campaign has proposed real alternatives to the current mismanagement of Yellowstone bison that can be viewed at For more information, video clips and photos visit .

Black and Arab Thugs Injure 77 French Cops

You can scour the headlines and read about the French youths on their motorbike. First it was not their motorbike. It was stolen. They were speeding and not wearing helmets. You can pick many nouns to describe the two. Youths seems to be the universal choice. The youths were ethnically diverse. They were troubled youths. When their rap sheets appear, the safe money bet is that the youths could more accurately be described as trouble. Now they are dead, 'tant pis."

This is how the New York Times sees it:
VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France (AP) -- Rampaging youths rioted overnight in Paris' suburbs, hurling Molotov cocktails and setting fire to dozens of cars. At least 77 officers were injured and officers were fired at, a senior police union official said Tuesday.

The violence was more intense than during three weeks of rioting in 2005, said the official, Patrice Ribeiro. Police were shot at and are facing ''genuine urban guerillas with conventional weapons and hunting weapons,'' Ribeiro said.

Some officers were hit by shotgun pellets, Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said. She said there were six serious injuries, ''people who notably were struck in the face and close to the eyes.''

The riots were triggered by the deaths of two teens killed in a crash with a police patrol car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, a town of public housing blocks home to a mix of Arab, black and white residents in Paris' northern suburbs.

Residents claimed that officers left the crash scene without helping the teens, whose motorbike collided with the car. Officials cast doubt on the claim, but the internal police oversight agency was investigating.

Youths first rioted Sunday and again overnight Monday to Tuesday, when the violence apparently got worse.

Police barricades were set on fire and youths threw stones and Molotov cocktails at officers, who retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets. In Villiers-le-Bel and surrounding areas, youths set fire to 36 vehicles, the area's prefecture said.

Youths were seen firing buckshot at police and reporters. A police union official said a round from a hunting rifle pierced the body armor of one officer who suffered a serious shoulder wound.

Among the buildings targeted by the youths was a library, which was set afire.

In Sunday's violence, eight people were arrested and 20 police officers were injured -- including the town's police chief, who was attacked in the face when he tried to negotiate with the rioters, police said. One firefighter also was injured.

Residents drew parallels to the 2005 riots, which were prompted by the deaths of two teens electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police in a suburb northeast of Paris.

A recent study by the state auditor's office indicated that money poured into poor French suburbs in recent decades had done little to solve problems vividly exposed by the 2005 riots, including discrimination, unemployment and alienation from mainstream society.


Associated Press writer Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.

Two-Bit, Tin Horn Dictator

Pat Robertson was right about Chavez. He just should have kept his opinion to himself
The Meltdown Of Hugo Chavez

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, November 26, 2007 4:20 PM PT

Latin America: Hugo Chavez's reaction to being fired as mediator between Colombia and his narcoterrorist pals shows the evil game Venezuela's dictator has played against his neighbor. It also signals trouble at home.

Related Topics: Latin America & Caribbean

In telling Chavez that his services would no longer be needed, Colombia President Alvaro Uribe was firm but polite. He thanked Chavez for his "help" in seeking a swap between 500 FARC guerrillas in jail in Colombia and some 45 "high value" hostages being held by the same terrorists who've been at war with Colombia since 1964.

But as a mediator, Chavez proved he could keep neither a promise nor a secret, mainly because it was a fiction to think he could be partial. But the blow to his ego obscured any knowledge of that. "Colombia has spit in our faces," he said.

In theory, a mediator should persuade two sides to each give up something to achieve a common end. The only one who gave up anything, however, was Uribe, who watched Chavez cavort with terrorists before TV cameras, giving them a legitimacy in Caracas they never had known.

Even worse, Chavez proved to be acting as an agent of the terrorists. Uribe's sudden cutoff of the mediation effort at a hastily organized press conference last Wednesday suggested disturbing new information.

On Sunday, Chavez confirmed it: "I think Colombia deserves another president, it deserves a better president," he said.

That followed a discussion in a U.S. prison between extradited FARC terrorist Ricardo Palmera, aka "Simon Trinidad," and another mediator and Chavez ally appointed by Uribe, Senator Piedad Cordoba. They discussed "a transitional government" with the terrorist as a bargaining chip for the hostage swap.

On Monday, Chavez repeated what he had in mind to make sure Uribe understood. "Reconciliation is impossible," he said. "We have to wait for a new government in Colombia we can talk with. I hope it arrives sooner rather than later."

No wonder Uribe lashed out, saying Chavez was less interested in mediating than in overthrowing Colombia's government. That may have sounded far-fetched, but it's what the guerrillas have been fighting for since 1964, and Chavez's admiration for them is no secret. Uribe, who has come down on the guerrillas harder than any other Colombian leader, is the president they want gone.

"You seek continental domination" Uribe said, and "a Marxist FARC government" to replace Colombia's elected one. He also pointed out that it was prime time for Chavez to be trying this, with the Venezuelan's public support at home flagging just one week before a constitutional referendum to grant him absolute power.

What better way to make Venezuelans forget their problems than to whip up populist sentiment against Colombia. It also is noteworthy that he's rousing military support against the neighboring state, something he may really find use for as rebellion grows at home.

Weekend polls showed that ever since the king of Spain publicly told him to "shut up" in Chile two weeks ago, support for Chavez's move to seize absolute power in Venezuela has fallen below 50%.

Student protests have engulfed Caracas and other towns in protest against his dictatorship. Chavez has denounced them as "rich spoiled brats." But in reality, they often are a pivotal political force, particularly since they include young people from Marxist and lower-class backgrounds.

Meanwhile, the shelves at food stores are empty and TV shows run by shuttered station RCTV have been canceled.

For Chavez, this could be a long, hard winter of discontent. Globally, he's become a laughingstock. He's fighting with Chile's socialist leader, Michelle Bachelet, over high oil prices while at home he is facing some of the strongest challenges yet to his iron rule.

To achieve absolute power, he likely will resort to coercion and political-machine tactics. Yet there's growing likelihood he won't be able to cheat his way out of defeat against a sizable margin.

What's left, then, but to jealously whip up sentiment against Uribe, a neighbor who has always paid him undeserved courtesy and whose free market policies have made Colombia a star in the hemisphere. Don't be surprised if he looks to destabilize or confront this nation as testimony to the ruin of his own.
Chavez is a clown. Unfortunately, he's a clown with a lot of money and a lot of support from the Left. Compare the treatment he gets from the MSM to that given Pervez Musharraf. Chavez has been given wide latitude in order to serve as a socialist counterbalance to the heretofore unchecked capitalist juggernaut. The problem is that Chavez is a thug. A brute. He's like a Tony Soprano. At times you like the guy but then, all of a sudden, out of the blue he snaps and in an instant someone is dead or brutally maimed. How many times does the world have to witness the outbursts before the allure of Chavez is completely dispelled.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The American World According to Buchanan. Where is He Wrong?

"America is in an existential crisis from which the nation may not survive."
  • The U.S. Army is breaking and is too small to meet America’s global commitments.
  • The dollar has sunk to historic lows and is being abandoned by foreign governments.
  • U.S. manufacturing is being hollowed out.
  • The greatest invasion in history, from the Third World, is swamping the ethno-cultural core of the country, leading to Balkanization and the loss of the Southwest to Mexico.
  • The culture is collapsing and the nation is being deconstructed along the lines of race and class.
  • A fiscal crisis looms as the unfunded mandates of Social Security and Medicare remain unaddressed.

All these crises are hitting America at once -- a perfect storm of crises.
Specifically, Buchanan contends:

• Pax Americana, the era of U.S. global dominance, is over. A struggle for global hegemony has begun among the United States, China, a resurgent Russia and radical Islam

• Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a product of hubris and of ideology, a secular religion of “democratism,” to which Bush was converted in the days following 9/11

• Torn asunder by a culture war, America has now begun to break down along class, ethnic and racial lines.

• The greatest threat to U.S. sovereignty and independence is the scheme of a global elite to erase America’s borders and merge the USA, Mexico and Canada into a North American Union.

• Free trade is shipping jobs, factories and technology to China and plunging America into permanent dependency and unpayable debt. One of every six U.S. manufacturing jobs vanished under Bush

• “Sovereign Wealth Funds,” controlled by foreign regimes and stuffed with trillions of dollars from U.S. trade deficits, are buying up strategic corporate assets vital to America’s security

• As U.S. wages are stagnant, corporate CEOs are raking in rising pay and benefits 400 to 500 times that of their workers

• The Third World invasion through Mexico is a graver threat to our survival as one nation than anything happening in Afghanistan or Iraq

* European-Americans, 89% of the nation when JFK took the oath, are now 66% and sinking. Before 2050, America is a Third World nation

• By 2060, America will add 167 million people and 105 million immigrants will be here, triple the 37 million today.

• Hispanics will be over 100 million in 2050 and concentrated in a Southwest most Mexicans believe belongs to them

Buchanan’s Recommendations:

• A new foreign-defense policy that closes most of the 1000 bases overseas, reviews all alliances, and brings home U.S. troops

• A purge of neoconservative ideology and the “Cakewalk” crowd” from national power.

• To avert a second Cold War, the United States should “get out of Russia’s space and get out of Russia’s face,” and shut down all U.S. bases on the soil of the former Soviet Union

• To reach a cold peace in the culture war, Buchanan urges a return to federalism and the overthrow of our judicial dictatorship by Congressionally mandated restrictions on the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

• To end the trade deficits and save the dollar, Buchanan urges a Hamiltonian solution: a 20% Border Equity Tax on imports, with the $500 billion raised to be used to end taxation on American producers

• To prevent America becoming “a tangle of squabbling nationalities” Buchanan urges: No amnesty for the 12-20 million illegal aliens; a border fence from San Diego to Brownsville; Congressional declarations that children born to illegal aliens are not citizens and English is the language of the United States; and a “timeout” on all immigration.

Taiwan and Kosovo- I Love the Smell of Hypocrisy in the Morning.

"In Euros we trust."

Lots of news this morning. I can't wait to dive into Buchanan, but three little tidbits jumped out at me and they are all related in my pre-coffee brain.

Our new best friend, Niclolas Sarkozy, is in China and sold beaucoup Airbuses and a few nuclear power plants to the tune of €20 billion. (He did not take the Dalai Lama with him.) Not surprisingly, he also opposed any Taiwanese independence. Meanwhile back in Europe, the US, France and most of the EU are behind independence for the land dump called Kosovo.

Truth be told, I do not care about either Taiwan or Kosovo. They are not my problem nor are they US or EU problems until our collective rulers and masters make them a problem, and they do and will. I do have a question.

If enclaves of minorities in one part of the world desire independence and freedom are they entitled to them because of a universal human right? Is the right and entitlement as valid in Kosovo, Taiwan and say New Mexico? It can't be related to trade can it?

France opposes Taiwan referendum: Sarkozy
Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:40am ES

BEIJING (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his Chinese counterpart on Monday that France opposes Taiwan's contentious plan to hold a referendum on U.N. membership next year, a comment apparently intended to placate China.

A diplomatically isolated but increasingly assertive Taiwan plans to go ahead with the referendum on whether to seek to rejoin the world body despite repeated warnings from the United States and China.

"It is important to promote dialogue, cooperation and stability in the region," Sarkozy said in a speech in the presence of Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing.

"France therefore firmly opposes the proposal to hold a referendum on joining the United Nations under the name of Taiwan. It is not a useful initiative. It is therefore regrettable and I hope it will not be pursued".

Sarkozy earlier made similar remarks to Hu at the opening of bilateral talks.

He also said that he had taken note of Hu's offer in a speech last month to the Communist Party Congress to enter into negotiations with Taiwan to reach a peace agreement.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since their split in 1949 when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and drove Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Nationalists to the island...
the rest here
______and then on the other hand________

Kosovo: A Chapter Closes

By Tim Judah in London BIRN
26 11 2007

Serbia’s reliance on Russia to keep Kosovo appears to have backfired by prompting EU countries to line up behind the independence option in order to show their unity.

Since the Kosovo problem began back in 1912, 1981, 1989 or 1998, (take your pick…) no one would – or should – be foolish enough to predict that we are now entering the Kosovo endgame. However it is clear that one chapter in this tortuous story is closing and, over the next few months, a new one opening.

Beginning Monday in the Austrian spa of Baden, Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders are meeting for one last time under the aegis of the Troika of mediators from the US, Russia and the EU.

No one expects any significant results. The Kosovo Albanians have stuck firm to their demand for independence and Serbia has insisted that it will concede no more than autonomy.

Even Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU’s representative on the Troika, has admitted that the chances of a breakthrough are virtually nil. "Naturally, an agreement on the status would be ideal,” he says, “but, unfortunately, this is something we cannot expect."

So what next? According to diplomatic sources an international conference could be held on Kosovo some time early in the New Year. However, nothing is yet fixed, nor even what the conference should do, if indeed it happens.

A few ideas are now doing the diplomatic rounds. One is that pressure should be put on the Kosovo Albanians to delay declaring independence until well into the New Year. This should be relatively easy to achieve, but the reason for this is not yet clear to the public in Kosovo who would need an explanation.

Hashim Thaci, whose party came out top in Kosovo’s November 17 poll, has said that Kosovo would declare independence immediately after December 10, the date the Troika must hand in their report on their mission to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General. In private however he has been telling diplomats that he is willing to hold on until spring.

While news of this delay has begun filtering out in the press, the reason for it has been less clear, and with good reason. What the diplomats hope to achieve by securing a delay on Kosovo’s independence is the re-election of Boris Tadic as president of Serbia.

The logic of this is simple. There are, thus far at any rate, only two serious candidates for the presidency, Tadic and Tomislav Nikolic, the acting leader of the Serbian Radical Party, whose founder, Vojislav Seselj is on trial before the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Western diplomats fear that if Nikolic wins the presidency in February, then there would be a serious risk of “losing Serbia”, but that if Tadic secures a second term, there is a far higher chance of Serbia, after a period of anger at losing Kosovo, staying the path when it comes to Euro-Atlantic integration.

If Tadic can indeed win, then he should be in a strong position to finally assert some serious influence in government, (which he has not done in the last year,) bearing in mind the low poll ratings of Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister who, after having been seen to lose Montenegro will now be seen to have lost Kosovo.

One way this may be done is to argue, despite recent friendly words from Russia for Tadic, that it was above all Kostunica’s belief that Moscow could save Kosovo for Serbia which has backfired spectacularly. Indeed Kostunica’s party is formally allied to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Even until a few weeks ago it appeared that the EU was going to be badly split over the Kosovo issue. Now it appears that only Cyprus remains a “bitter ender” in opposing Kosovo’s recognition by EU states.

In a new paper by the European Council on Foreign Relations, Cyprus and Greece were given the unenviable title of the Russian “Trojan Horses” within the EU. But now, even Greece is signalling quietly that while it will not recognise Kosovo immediately, it will, given a decent interval of time.

Indeed, when Serbia comes to analyse “who lost Kosovo”, a debate which may come sooner rather than later, it may be seen to have proved a huge strategic error to try and rely on Russia. What appears to have happened is that the large number of countries which were either ambiguous about Kosovo’s independence or even opposed it, were highly alarmed by the way that Russia appeared willing to use the issue as a battering ram with which to divide the EU as part of its campaign to keep it weak.

Quite simply, a lumbering Russian bear, roaring: “I am back…” egged on by Serbia, terrified the flock of undecided EU sheep, including most prominently Germany, into rushing into the pen labelled “EU Unity”.

Last March Martti Ahtisaari the former Finnish president presented his plan for supervised independence for Kosovo to the UN. There Russia ensured that it failed to get Security Council backing.

Now, as it becomes clear that Russian policy is heading for failure over Kosovo, Ahtisaari is saying, with only the slightest hint of irony in his voice, that “the Russian attitude has reinforced the unity of the EU. I don’t think that was the original intent.”

One only needs to look at the map to consider why this was so. Kosovo, like the rest of the Western Balkans, is now an enclave deep inside EU and NATO territory. Russia’s attempt to set the agenda here in the face of what most EU leaders wanted has proved most unwelcome and counter-productive.

If an international conference is indeed called in the New Year, one scenario is that it could lay down the conditions for the recognition of the new state. Prime amongst them is likely to be the implementation of those parts of the Ahtisaari plan that can be realised without Serbian cooperation. They are also likely to include a demand for an invitation for the EU to send a Police and Justice mission and a so-called International Civilian Office, which would wield considerable power, to replace the current ailing UN mission.

In this way, the chapter that began with the Kosovo riots of March 2004 and then featured the diplomacy of Ahtisaari and the Troika, will close and a new one, full of fresh problems, will begin. It will almost certainly feature a new frozen conflict in Europe, which will include Belgrade’s blockade of the young state and the reality of a breakaway Serb-controlled region in the north of Kosovo itself.

Tim Judah, a leading Balkan commentator, is the author of The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia; and Kosovo: War and Revenge. Balkan Insight is BIRN's online publication.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ideological Warfare

"Not for nothing did the founders of the American republic insist that its functioning was unimaginable without the Christian religion. The purely negative aspects of the American constitution, namely the balance of powers that protects minority interests, means nothing without transcendent trust in something higher than the elements that constitute the body politic." Israel, The Hope of the Muslim World Spengler, Asia Times, Nov 20, 2007

He was referring in part to this quote by John Adams:
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --October 11, 1798
I had a few paragraphs prepared but I'll let you draw your own conclusions .

Free Trade is for Goods and Services. Not for the Farm.

I am not buying the idea that the market is the be all and end all to our lives, property and future. Free trade is a good idea when confined to goods and services and it is between equals. We accept the fact that trade in weapons systems that are going to come back at you is rarely a good idea. Free trade in drugs is not accepted and free trade in human beings, protected lumber, animals and antiquities are also banned or restricted. The term "free trade" is relative.

Trade between equals is important and both sides of a trading relationship should respect property rights and share rules of conduct. This is necessary in an age where intangible intellectual property is so important. Trade always has a political component. The highest form of free trade should be a privilege between defined equals or compatible parties. Free trade of goods and services need not be extended to ownership of property or equities. Free trade expanded to include equities and property should be between equals. Russia and China do not rise to that standard. The Euros have it right.

EU right to defend against sovereign funds-Juncker
Reuters Monday November 19 2007

BERLIN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker was quoted on Monday as saying the European Union has the right to retaliate against sovereign wealth funds from countries under certain conditions.
"Countries that protect their own markets cannot expect to be allowed to make unimpeded investments in Europe," Juncker told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper.
Juncker, who is also the Eurogroup president, said he did not view such moves as protectionism and argued that Europe had a right to take measures he described as "retaliatory action".
According to a draft law in Germany, foreign investors seeking to take large stakes in German firms can choose to inform the government of their plans ahead of time or risk a lengthy probe into their purchases.
The draft addresses Berlin's concerns about takeovers of firms by sovereign wealth funds and other outside investors. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has been talking for months about introducing new legislation to shield German companies from cash-rich, state-owned funds, particularly from China, Russia and the Middle East.
Government-owned investment vehicles control around $2 trillion and are expected to grow rapidly to $12 trillion by 2015.
In one deal which sparked worries in Germany, China's state investment agency agreed in May to buy a non-voting stake of nearly 10 percent in U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group , which holds shares in Deutsche Telekom .

(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Saturday Night Juke Box

whit on the way to Saturday night at the EB.

The Elephant Bar's
Saturday night Juke Box

Progressing into the Future

As Doug said two posts back, "More morons in charge."

After 11 years as Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard's party has been defeated in Parliamentary elections and Mr. Howard will probably even lose his seat in Parliament. This should come as no surprise. It's been obvious that both Australia and New Zealand have tilted left for quite some time and the BBC has reported that it was Howard's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and his support of the war in Iraq that fueled a desire for change. The Wall Street Journal reported:
Australia's opposition Labor party, headed by former diplomat Kevin Rudd, who has promised to boost relations with China, pull some troops from Iraq, and re-make Australia as a leader in the global effort to stop global warming. The defeat appears so complete that the 68-year-old Mr. Howard, Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister, appeared likely to lose his own parliamentary seat, which he has held for 33 years.
The WSJ also referred to the current en vogue development of "progressive" societies of distancing themselves from the United States. In spite of a robust Australian economy with the lowest unemployment in 33 years, voters there have decided that it's time for a new, younger leader as Australia moves toward China and a "greener" future. Mr. Rudd campaigned on tax cuts but it remains to be seen what demands the greens will extort from the new government.

Reuters shed more light on what motivated Australian's voting for change:

The seeds of the election defeat were sewn with his fourth victory in 2004, when Howard won a majority in the upper house Senate, making him the most powerful prime minister in 25 years and allowing him to pass his agenda without amendments.

Emboldened by his new mandate, Howard set about his long-held goal of reforming Australian employment laws, making it easier for employers to sack workers and promoting individual work contracts instead of union-based award conditions.

The changes were unpopular with workers, and prompted widespread protests across the country and a concerted campaign from unions, who said the reforms undermined job security and would drive down wages.

The changes have been a lightning rod for disgruntled voters Australia's biggest cities, with job security falling while house prices and home mortgage interest rates rise.

"Howard has had some successes in managing a prosperous economy," political analyst Nick Economou told Reuters. "But then they made a major error by instilling insecurity in people at a time of prosperity."

It seems that in some ways, Howard brought too much change or the wrong kind of change to Australia. More and more, it seems that people want economic prosperity but are unwilling to accept the risks of life. The Reuters article also pointed out:

Howard's tough stand against asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, who are detained in remote immigration detention camps or sent to centers in Nauru or Papua New Guinea, has attracted widespread criticism from human rights groups.

There it is - the human rights groups. Heaven help you when the "greens" and the human rights groups get you in their sights. So, another one bites the dust. One by one, George Bush's old associates and allies are going down as we move forward in a brave new world.

I have no idea what kind of leader Mr. Rudd will be for Australia, but I do suspect that one of the greatest challenges all leaders will face in the coming years is resisting the "populist" impulses to accede to or champion the ill-considered causes of the left. If we're not careful, much wealth will be squandered on one half-baked scheme after another which in the end, will prove to be nothing more than Soros style attacks on the traditional institutions of the west. Good Luck, Australia.

Pursuing Liberty and Happiness in Life.

“Marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child and increases only when the last child leaves home.”

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is probably one of the single most intriguing phrases in any constitution, anywhere, at anytime. It defines a meaning to life and a right of citizenship and mankind. It is a radical departure from living one's life for the benefit of a deity or a collective societal responsibility. I would love to have seen and experienced the shock and awe of the first readers of those words. What Jefferson meant when he penned them in The United States Declaration of Independence, and the debate about how they got accepted is not totally clear and it is not important. The point is that they were written and we all own them. They are the legacy of mankind.

The words increase in meaning the further one travels along the path through life. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, how sweet it is.

Happy to be unhappy

By Chrystia Freeland
Published: November 23 2007 15:03 Financial Times
Recent studies suggesting a growing “happiness gap” between men and women have captured the headlines. That’s no surprise: the battle of the sexes is at least as old as Adam and Eve.

But, if you read the fine print, you may agree with me that these familiar gender duels are the less interesting aspect of Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers’ September paper on “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness”. What caught my eye was the authors’ assertion that their findings “raise provocative questions...about the legitimacy of using subjective well-being to assess broad social changes”.

I liked the contrarian sound of that, particularly because these days “subjective well-being”, which you and I might prefer to term “happiness”, is no longer the exclusive province of poets, philosophers and the makers of pre-school children’s videos. It is starting to be claimed by public policymakers, especially those of a progressive bent.

The New York Times, for example, this month published an editorial comment arguing that “30 years from now, reducing unhappiness could become another target of policy, like cutting poverty”.

Now, I am as much in favour of happiness as the next person. But I’ve also lived in a society built, at least in part, on utopian dreams of making everyone happy through enlightened government action – it was called the Soviet Union and I think we can all agree it didn’t really work. So I called Prof Stevenson with high hopes of discovering a well-reasoned debunking of what its practitioners are calling the new “science” of happiness.

Honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t quite find one. What Prof Stevenson thinks her paper has revealed is how hard it is to compare the happiness of similar populations over time. Thus, she thinks we need to be cautious about assuming that women reported their own happiness in the same way 35 years ago as they do today. Maybe women haven’t become less happy, we just talk about our feelings in different ways.

Beyond that, I can’t claim Prof Stevenson as a thorough-going happiness sceptic. She reminded me of the research tying our self-reported levels of happiness to clinically measurable signs of well-being. And she believes “we could do a better job of helping people get more happiness out of their lives”.

One favourite example of the happiness camp is the trade-off between having a big house and a longer commute. We think a bigger house will make us happy, so we move to the suburbs. But in making that choice, most of us don’t take enough account of how swiftly our pleasure in our beautiful new home will be ground down by the twice daily misery of a longer commute. Helping us as individuals make these kinds of specific life choices seems like an eminently sensible use of happiness research.

But as a guiding principle for living our lives or shaping our societies, I think we could do worse than remember that the framers of the Constitution put the pursuit of happiness after life and liberty in their list of inalienable rights. And it is not just that life and liberty are more important than happiness, but that some very important life pursuits probably make us unhappy.

Take having children. As Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert points out in Stumbling on Happiness, “Every human culture tells its members that having children will make them happy.” The problem, Gilbert writes, is that studies show the opposite: “Marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child and increases only when the last child leaves home.”

My children are too young to read the FT, so I can safely admit I don’t find Gilbert’s assertion too surprising. But I don’t find it to be very disturbing, either. Most things I am pleased to have done – being a mother, writing this column – involve a lot of minute-by-minute unhappiness. And some of the people I admire the most have chosen lives that involve a lot worse than that.

Consider Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, who came to New York this week to collect an International Press Freedom award. He said his prize gave him no pleasure: one reason he got it was that three of his friends who reported for Novaya Gazeta have been killed. Muratov doesn’t think he’ll ever really be happy again.

Thanksgiving is my favourite American holiday and my favourite expression of it this week was the ritual at my two-year-old’s nursery school of asking the children what they are thankful for. I’m thankful for my own personal happiness, of course – diminished though I now know it to be by my offspring – but I’m also thankful for people such as Muratov who are forgoing theirs.

Chrystia Freeland is the FT’s US managing editor

Friday, November 23, 2007

county club

Start Spreading the News!

Start Spreading the news.

These little town blues, are melting away...

The pessimism in the media and on the street lately has been almost unbearable. The medias' unrelenting onslaught of bad news seems to be taking a toll on everyone, regardless of political persuasion. People seem to be running scared so here's my feeble attempt to calm some fears. Call me a starry-eyed optimist but here's how I see America's current economic situation and outlook for the future:

Energy costs. High energy costs are a real problem with a real financial impact on America's household budgets for heating and air conditioning, travel and food. There is little that the government can do in the short term about energy costs. Individuals can adjust thermostats and driving and dining habits but unlike years past, oil prices are not expected to drop significantly due to demand in India and China. The silver lining is that higher oil prices accelerate research and development of alternative energy. The outlook is short term pain but long term will be a huge gain as the U.S. moves away from its dependency on oil. The big winner will be the Nuclear Industry which increasingly is being seen by both the left and right as a safe, efficient, and cost effective source of electricity. The increased use of nuclear energy will get the the carbon hysterics off our backs but the respite will be short lived as they find new crises to beat us with.

Housing. A real estate boom followed by a contraction and a perceived crisis in financial markets are creating uncertainty, however bank loans have been rising at the same rate as before the crisis. Banks do not face a liquidity problem but the exact extent of bank losses is not yet known and rules and regulations require that losses must be written down possibly more than will be actually required. The actual number of non-performing subprime loans may be statistically insignificant.

I heard a Wall Street Hedge Fund Manager claim that the losses would be around $1 trillion. He expects this to drag the world economy to go into a "moderate depression" which would idle even the factories of China. Most experts are not this pessimistic.

There is an excess of housing stocks which must be reduced by the system and until that happens, the traditionally "boom and bust" housing industry will suffer. Some experts say that real estate prices could see a 20% downward adjustment. This is seen as a reduction in wealth but in most cases, these are paper losses. If the adjustment is against the inflated evaluations of the bubble years, the good news is that housing will approach more affordable levels. Although it's just a hunch, I think the current housing crisis is more of a crisis of confidence rather than an actual economic disaster. It's a buyers' market.

"Weak dollar." Some experts say that the "competitive dollar" shouldn't be seen as a "weak dollar." They say a "competitive dollar" will serve the useful purpose of correcting our trade imbalance by making our exports more competitive and imports more expensive. Reduced consumer spending could increase the savings rate or offset the increased energy costs. Of course, reduced consumer spending could lead to a recession - a risk some experts say is 30% - 40% for next year. Other experts say that while they expect a weak economy through '08 they see a GDP growth rate of 2.0+%. A weak dollar may cause a temporary rise in prices but the risk of inflation is seen as very low. Ignore the doomsayers.

Long Term Outlook:

Remember, this is America. As bad as it may seem here, there are few places in the world which are as safe and stable as the US. Money seeks not only the highest return but also security and in that regard, America is Fort Knox to the world. Continuing chaos in the world will benefit the US economy as capital seeks safe harbor.

A competitive dollar means a revitalized, state-of-the-art U.S. manufacturing industry. This new American manufacturing will enjoy operating costs which enable it to compete in the International Market.

China, Russia, Japan and Europe are aging. Their low birth rates mean that long term, they will become less vibrant and productive. China may have more time than the others but whether they have enough time to realize the "Chinese Century" is questionable. India, the quiet overlooked sleeper is moving into the modern world but has a tremendous burden with its huge, abjectly poor and illiterate population.

Capitalism is alive and thriving. Communism has been exposed as an idealistic fraud and socialism is in the autumn of its years. Finally, even Democrats are acknowledging the dangers of unfunded liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare. Only the most rigid ideologues argue for the discredited Keynesian economics of higher taxes or the dying systems of socialist health care. Repeatedly, we have seen that reducing taxes leads to increased Federal revenues and reduced deficits. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Democrats to make their traditional arguments for a big government, nanny state.

"Go long" on the USA. It won't be a bed of roses and there will be pain but as long as we can maintain our "can do" American spirit and keep the transnationals out of our pockets and our heads, we'll be "king of the hill - top of the heap."
Start spreading the news,
we're leaving today.

Disclaimer: This advice and three dollars may buy you a cup of coffee and two donuts at Krispy Kreme.

Slap, Counter-slap. China Perplexes.

China has an array of industrial spies roaming the planet. It freely takes and pirates US and western technology with no regard for intellectual rights. China has used purloined technology to cyber attack Germany, blast a satellite out of orbit and has demonstrated it can neutralize the satellite nervous system of the US defense body. A few years ago, China could barely make a stable rocket launch. No longer, the Chinese tuned up their program with purchased and stolen American technology. What is murky about their message? China is an aspiring global power.

Power is a zero sum game. Super power is no different and is fairly easy to understand. Super power rests on a director's stool with three legs.

The first leg is ideology, an intellectual or philosophical model. China is a communist super state rapidly expanding with directed state run regimentalism, capitalism and mercantilism. The ideology is credible because it appears to the rulers and the ruled, that it is working. They believe, because the ideology is producing tremendous wealth which conveniently for the Chinese makes up the second leg, economic power.

There is no period in history where so much wealth and economic power has been created in such a short period of time. From that wealth and industrial power comes the ability to ensure the third leg of a super power and that is military might. The Chinese are rapidly militarizing despite the wishful thinking of many that it is not. China, in a few short years, will be able to neutralize American ability to control events in Asia without Chinese approval. Taiwan will become whatever China wants it to be. The United States will have to adapt to the change.

What is murky about that message?

China's snub of U.S. vessel sends murky message

The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk's Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong is scuttled, leaving sailors at sea and their visiting families on land. But Beijing's point is unclear.

By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 23, 2007

BEIJING -- China's decision to block the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk from a long-planned Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong, before relenting 24 hours later "on humanitarian grounds," had all the markings of a diplomatic slap in the face, analysts say. It just wasn't terribly clear whose face it was aimed at.

Word spread Wednesday afternoon that China's Foreign Ministry had suddenly and inexplicably blocked a five-day visit by the giant vessel and its strike group, despite prior approval and weeks of planning.

A day later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists that Beijing would relent, saying its change of heart was "a decision out of humanitarian consideration only." Repeated efforts by foreign reporters to get him to explain the reversal failed.

"It's a little odd," said Eric Hagt, editor of China Security journal, a defense publication based in Washington. "It all seems rather unforeseen and unknowable."

China's Defense Ministry offered no public statement. Nor, said U.S. military officials, did it provide any back-channel explanation.

The Chinese turnaround came too late, said Lt. Cmdr. John Filostrat, a spokesman with the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. The Kitty Hawk waited as long as it could, but logistics and bad weather forced it to leave.

The decision was not intended as some sort of U.S. counter-snub, he added. "It's now en route to its base in Yokosuka, Japan."

Pundits near and far sought to explain what appeared to be behind the Chinese government's blunt yet hazy message.

Theories included anger over President Bush's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Chinese-held Tibet; displeasure over an announced $940-million U.S. upgrade to Taiwan's Patriot II antimissile shield; a desire to send a message before an imminent Hong Kong election; and pique over a U.S. report that criticized Chinese espionage activities.

One reason China may have reversed itself was the prospect of a public relations calamity in the making, although in the end the damage was done. About 8,000 American sailors face several glum days at sea, after hundreds of their family members traveled to Hong Kong from Japan and the United States to meet them.

"Wives, newborn babies, are all sitting at Fenwick Pier," said Paul Buxton, manager of Hong Kong's Quarterdeck Club restaurant, which has a contract to feed and entertain the hungry hordes.

This is not the only time recently that China has made a military move without apparently considering its public relations implications. In January, the Foreign Ministry was caught flat-footed when the People's Liberation Army destroyed an aging satellite, spewing debris in space and sparking questions about the PLA's intentions, why there was no warning and even whether China's senior leadership had been fully informed in advance.

The snafu calls into question whether a proposed military hotline between the U.S. and China would be worth the effort, said Larry M. Wortzel, a former U.S. military attache in Beijing.

Amid the head-scratching, some praised this week's moves, even if they too were uncertain about the intent.

"My guess is the U.S. did something that wasn't so friendly toward us," said Ni Lexiong, a military expert with the Shanghai Institute of Political Science and Law. "It's good to let them know in a rather abrupt way, otherwise they might not notice."

Whatever the reason for this week's flip-flop, a few things stand out, analysts said. Beijing is clearly not happy with U.S.-Chinese military relations, for whatever reason.

"It's become routine to have the Kitty Hawk visit Hong Kong," said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Taiwanese-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies. "So this sends a strong message to the U.S."

The incident also suggests both that China doesn't always speak with one voice and that it is increasingly willing to play the nationalism card, some said.

"Sometimes the Chinese government gives us an example of how it is not a monolithic organization," said David Wolf, head of a strategic public relations firm in Beijing. "And nationalism is an excellent way to unify everyone behind one guy."

For Buxton, whose restaurant now faces the prospect of disposing of 1,000 pounds of turkey, 1,200 pounds of coleslaw, 100,000 hamburger buns and 3,000 pizzas, the experience has been something of a financial disaster.

"This whole thing is unbelievable," he said. "And everyone says it's not their fault. What can I do, send a chit to the PLA?"

Yin Lijin of The Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.

More Bombings Are No Surprise

We knew this was coming. Twin Bombings in Baghdad kill 26. The main vehicle for change in the Muslim world is chaos and instability. Good news must be countered with bad and what better way to do it than with senseless carnage such as these most recent bombings in Baghdad and Mosul.
"Today, the view of many young men coming with pets, colorful fish in aquariums and dogs was very encouraging and cheerful," he said. "There were also teenagers selling sandwiches and tea in wheeled carts giving the impression that life is back to normal again, but about 9 o'clock, we heard the sound of an explosion."

"Young men with pets, colorful fish in aquariums and dogs..." Senselessly murdered by the young men on missions for Allah. Come on Ummah, when are you going to put an end to the madness?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

China Sends Her Regrets. Dalai Who?

What is that around W's neck?

Face is a very big deal to the Chinese. Two of the most important concepts in Chinese culture are guanxi and mianzi. The first, guanxi, sharing favors between individuals, connections, relationships, and the ability to exert influence. The second, mianzi, means face: saving face, losing face, and giving face. They figure W may have poked them in the eye with a recent visitor in a crimson dress who also thinks he is divine. W gave them some bad mainzi. The Chinese had to settle face.

The Chinese consider Tibet an internal matter. There are six million people in Tibet and the country or region has ebbed and flowed between being an invader and a subject to outsiders, including the British, for two millennium.

News about Tibet? Lately, China has been trashing the Tibetan forests at an unsustainable rate, but that is nothing personal, the Chinese do that everywhere.

We have enough problems without getting involved with the billion plus Chinese and their old scores with the Tibetans. The Chinese have settled their score with W, the US Navy, and settled face. Pass the Nivea please.

U.S. aircraft carrier denied access to Hong Kong
Wed Nov 21, 2007

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has refused permission for a U.S. aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels to visit Hong Kong for a long-planned Thanksgiving holiday visit, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

The Kitty Hawk group and its crew of 8,000 U.S. airmen and sailors had been expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday, but will now spend the holiday on the South China Sea.

Hundred of relatives of crew members of the USS Kitty Hawk had flown to Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Hong Kong has been a regular port of call for U.S. sailors on "R & R" (rest and recuperation) since the Vietnam War.

The Chinese move comes as a surprise just weeks after a visit to China by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which he said he hoped would lead to a long-term dialogue.

"At present, it appears the USS Kitty Hawk strike group will not be making a port call in Hong Kong as previously planned as a result of a last minute denial by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs," State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said.

The United States was pressing China for an explanation and to reconsider its decision, she added.

There are several possible sources of discontent that may have prompted the decision -- including U.S. plans to sell Taiwan a $940 million upgrade to its missile system and a meeting last month between President George W Bush and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who Beijing considers a traitor.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing declined to make an immediate comment.

Last year, a Chinese submarine surfaced uncomfortably close to the Kitty Hawk near the Japanese island of Okinawa, an incident that highlighted the potential for friction between the two powers.

"The U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong is in touch with the Kitty Hawk families," said Anthony Hutchinson, a Public affairs director at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong.

"I've seen some spouses and family come in, they're now sightseeing ... they'll adjust," said another U.S. consular official who asked not to be named.

The move by Beijing coincides with "airspace controls" on Wednesday which Xinhua news agency said affected the air travel plans of 7,000 people in south and east China.

The controls were introduced for "unspecified reasons".

The Kitty Hawk, laid down in 1956, has the second longest active service of any ship in the U.S. navy after the USS Constitution, a 208-year-old ceremonial sailing ship kept in Boston Harbor.

It is the only conventionally fuelled carrier in the U.S. fleet and is due to be decommissioned next year.

(Reporting by Joanne Allen, James Pomfret and Lindsay Beck; editing by Nick Macfie

Good News to be Thankful For.

Here's a bit of good news that we have heard a little about lately. How long it will last we don't know but at least we can enjoy it today.
Road Map To Peace

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 4:20 PM PT

War On Terror: A sketchy diagram of al-Qaida's defenses left behind by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may prove to be the key to victory in Iraq. Sometimes in the fog of war, the fog lifts.

It may not rank in the annals of warfare with the breaking of the Imperial Japanese Code, which led to our naval victory at Midway in World War II, or the cracking of the Nazi Ultra Codes, which Dwight Eisenhower said was decisive in the Allied victory. But a map left behind in a safe house by the deceased leader of al-Qaida in Iraq may have helped doom the jihadist cause.

Winston Churchill spoke of the "hinge of fate" — events on which the outcome of a war is later seen to have depended. For Churchill, it was El Alamein and the turning back of Erwin Rommel's vaunted Afrika Korps. "Before Alamein," he said, "we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat."

The surge of Gen. David Petraeus that is winning Sen. Harry Reid's "lost" war is our El Alamein. The general's soldiers broke Al-Qaida's code when, last December in an al-Qaida safe house, they recovered a map drawn by Zarqawi. It gave U.S. war planners insight into how al-Qaida was able to move weapons, explosives, fighters and money into Baghdad.

The map showed four rings surrounding Baghdad where al-Qaida and its terrorist operatives were holed up in sort of an underground railroad for jihadists. With the aid of the map and the added surge troops, U.S. forces became lords of the rings, flushing al-Qaida out of its urban strongholds and picking them off as easy targets in the desert.

Al-Qaida was forced to flee Baghdad and tried to regroup in the northern city of Baqouba. A year ago al-Qaida in Iraq declared Baqouba as the capital of the Islamic State in Iraq. It also claimed to control Anbar and Diyala. Now Baqouba is al-Qaida's Dunkirk.

We're not attributing victory in Iraq to blind luck. Victory was achieved by brave U.S. troops who stormed places like Fallujah and made the lost province of Anbar safe for a news conference by a U.S. president.

It was that commitment and perseverance in the face of cut-and-run demands of the Democrats that won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and turned the tide against al-Qaida in Iraq.

Bush, like Churchill, pledged we would never surrender. Seeing that, and seeing U.S. troops in their towns and neighborhoods every day, Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders united against al-Qaida under the umbrella provided by U.S and increasingly skilled and numerous Iraq forces.

Even the New York Times, which had also proclaimed the war to be lost, reported Tuesday that people in Baghdad now move freely without fear, even at night. It reports that "20,000 Iraqis have returned to their Baghdad homes, a seeming trickle that may soon become a flood as the city springs back to life."

As the Associated Press reports: "Twilight brings traffic jams to the main shopping district of this once-affluent corner of Baghdad, and hundreds of people stroll past well-stocked vegetable stands, bakeries and butcher shops. To many in America, it seems little short of a miracle."

Not to President Bush and Gen. Petraeus. To them, it's the natural outcome of Ronald Reagan's famous strategy for winning the Cold War: "We win, they lose."
Things could turn on a dime. One well placed explosion could once again grab the MSM's attention. But for today and hopefully tomorrow and the next day, this is something to be thankful for.