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27401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / excerpt from "The Evolution of God" on: September 16, 2010, 08:39:02 AM
Second post:

Here is the exegis Wright mentions in my previous post-- I am left with wondering whether Muslims define Christians concept of Jesus as polytheism:

excerpt from
Chapter 17

* * *
Right-wing Web sites devoted to showing the “truth about Islam” array searing verses that seem to show the Koran offering a nearly unlimited license to kill. (A few years after 9/11, a list of “the Koran’s 111 Jihad verses” was posted on the conservative Web site But the closer you look at the context of these verses, the more limited the license seems.

The passage most often quoted is the fifth verse of the ninth sura, long known to Muslims as the “Sword verse.” It was cited by Osama bin Laden in a famous manifesto issued in 1996, and on first reading it does seem to say that bin Laden would be justified in hunting down any non-Muslim on the planet. The verse is often translated colloquially—particularly on these right-wing Web sites—as “kill the infidels wherever you find them.”

This common translation is wrong. The verse doesn’t actually mention “infidels” but rather refers to “those who join other gods with God”—which is to say, polytheists. So, bin Laden notwithstanding, the “Sword verse” isn’t the strongest imaginable basis for attacking Christians and Jews.

Still, even if the Sword verse wasn’t aimed at Christians and Jews, it is undeniably bloody: “And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush.” It seems that a polytheist’s only escape from this fate is to convert to Islam, “observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms.”

But the next verse, rarely quoted by either jihadists or right-wing Web sites, suggests that conversion isn’t actually necessary: “If any one of those who join gods with God ask an asylum of thee, grant him an asylum, that he may hear the Word of God, and then let him reach his place of safety.” After all, polytheists are “people devoid of knowledge.”

And the following verse suggests that whole tribes of polytheists can be spared if they’re not a military threat. If those “who add gods to God” made “a league [with the Muslims] at the sacred temple,” then “so long as they are true to you, be ye true to them; for God loveth those who fear Him.” For that matter, the verse immediately before the Sword verse also takes some of the edge off it, exempting from attack “those polytheists with whom ye are in league, and who shall have afterwards in no way failed you, nor aided anyone against you.”

In short, “kill the polytheists wherever you find them” doesn’t mean “kill the polytheists wherever you find them.” It means “kill the polytheists who aren’t on your side in this particular war.”

Presumably, particular wars were the typical context for the Koran’s martial verses—in which case Muhammad’s exhortations to kill infidels en masse were short-term motivational devices. Indeed, sometimes the violence is explicitly confined to the war’s duration: “When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them, and of the rest make fast the fetters. And afterwards let there either be free dismissals or ransomings, till the war hath laid down its burdens.”

Of course, if you quote the first half of that verse and not the second half—as both jihadists and some western commentators might be tempted to do—this sounds like a death sentence for unbelievers everywhere and forever. The Koran contains a number of such eminently misquotable lines. Repeatedly Muhammad makes a declaration that, in unalloyed form, sounds purely belligerent—and then proceeds to provide the alloy. Thus: “And think not that the infidels shall escape Us! . . . Make ready then against them what force ye can, and strong squadrons whereby ye may strike terror into the enemy of God and your enemy.” Then, about thirty words later: “And if they lean to peace, lean thou also to it; and put thy trust in God.”

If the Koran were a manual for all-out jihad, it would deem unbelief by itself sufficient cause for attack. It doesn’t. Here is a verse thought to be from the late Medinan period: “God doth not forbid you to deal with kindness and fairness toward those who have not made war upon you on account of your religion, or driven you forth from your homes: for God loveth those who act with fairness. Only doth God forbid you to make friends of those who, on account of your religion, have warred against you, and have driven you forth from your homes, and have aided those who drove you forth.”

Besides, even when enmity is in order, it needn’t be forever: “God will, perhaps, establish good will between yourselves and those of them whom ye take to be your enemies: God is Powerful: and God is Gracious.”
27402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Wright: The Meaning of the Koran on: September 16, 2010, 08:33:40 AM
Robert Wright is the author of two wonderful books I have read on evolutionary psychology, The Moral Animal and Non-Zero Sum, and also "The Evolution of God" which I have not read.  His thoughts here are of a different tenor than most of what we see on this forum concerning Islam, but are none the less worthy for consideration for it.


The Meaning of the Koran

Test your religious literacy:

Which sacred text says that Jesus is the “word” of God? a) the Gospel of John; b) the Book of Isaiah; c) the Koran.

The correct answer is the Koran. But if you guessed the Gospel of John you get partial credit because its opening passage — “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God” — is an implicit reference to Jesus. In fact, when Muhammad described Jesus as God’s word, he was no doubt aware that he was affirming Christian teaching.

Extra-credit question: Which sacred text has this to say about the Hebrews: God, in his “prescience,” chose “the children of Israel … above all peoples”? I won’t bother to list the choices, since you’ve probably caught onto my game by now; that line, too, is in the Koran.

I highlight these passages in part for the sake of any self-appointed guardians of Judeo-Christian civilization who might still harbor plans to burn the Koran. I want them to be aware of everything that would go up in smoke.

But I should concede that I haven’t told the whole story. Even while calling Jesus the word of God — and “the Messiah” — the Koran denies that he was the son of God or was himself divine. And, though the Koran does call the Jews God’s chosen people, and sings the praises of Moses, and says that Jews and Muslims worship the same God, it also has anti-Jewish, and for that matter anti-Christian, passages.

The regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.
.This darker side of the Koran, presumably, has already come to the attention of would-be Koran burners and, more broadly, to many of the anti-Muslim Americans whom cynical politicians like Newt Gingrich are trying to harness and multiply. The other side of the Koran — the part that stresses interfaith harmony — is better known in liberal circles.

As for people who are familiar with both sides of the Koran — people who know the whole story — well, there may not be many of them. It’s characteristic of contemporary political discourse that the whole story doesn’t come to the attention of many people.

Thus, there are liberals who say that “jihad” refers to a person’s internal struggle to do what is right. And that’s true. There are conservatives who say “jihad” refers to military struggle. That’s true, too. But few people get the whole picture, which, actually, can be summarized pretty concisely:

Reading the scripture.The Koran’s exhortations to jihad in the military sense are sometimes brutal in tone but are so hedged by qualifiers that Muhammad clearly doesn’t espouse perpetual war against unbelievers, and is open to peace with them. (Here, for example, is my exegesis of the “sword verse,” the most famous jihadist passage in the Koran.) The formal doctrine of military jihad — which isn’t found in the Koran, and evolved only after Muhammad’s death — does seem to have initially been about endless conquest, but was then subject to so much amendment and re-interpretation as to render it compatible with world peace. Meanwhile, in the hadith — the non-Koranic sayings of the Prophet — the tradition arose that Muhammad had called holy war the “lesser jihad” and said that the “greater jihad” was the struggle against animal impulses within each Muslim’s soul.

Why do people tend to hear only one side of the story? A common explanation is that the digital age makes it easy to wall yourself off from inconvenient data, to spend your time in ideological “cocoons,” to hang out at blogs where you are part of a choir that gets preached to.

Makes sense to me. But, however big a role the Internet plays, it’s just amplifying something human: a tendency to latch onto evidence consistent with your worldview and ignore or downplay contrary evidence.

This side of human nature is generally labeled a bad thing, and it’s true that it sponsors a lot of bigotry, strife and war. But it actually has its upside. It means that the regrettable parts of the Koran — the regrettable parts of any religious scripture — don’t have to matter.

After all, the adherents of a given religion, like everyone else, focus on things that confirm their attitudes and ignore things that don’t. And they carry that tunnel vision into their own scripture; if there is hatred in their hearts, they’ll fasten onto the hateful parts of scripture, but if there’s not, they won’t. That’s why American Muslims of good will can describe Islam simply as a religion of love. They see the good parts of scripture, and either don’t see the bad or have ways of minimizing it.

So too with people who see in the Bible a loving and infinitely good God. They can maintain that view only by ignoring or downplaying parts of their scripture.

For example, there are those passages where God hands out the death sentence to infidels. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to commit genocide — to destroy nearby peoples who worship the wrong Gods, and to make sure to kill all men, women and children. (“You must not let anything that breathes remain alive.”)

As for the New Testament, there’s that moment when Jesus calls a woman and her daughter “dogs” because they aren’t from Israel. In a way that’s the opposite of anti-Semitism — but not in a good way. And speaking of anti-Semitism, the New Testament, like the Koran, has some unflattering things to say about Jews.

Devoted Bible readers who aren’t hateful ignore or downplay all these passages rather than take them as guidance. They put to good use the tunnel vision that is part of human nature.

All the Abrahamic scriptures have all kinds of meanings — good and bad — and the question is which meanings will be activated and which will be inert. It all depends on what attitude believers bring to the text. So whenever we do things that influence the attitudes of believers, we shape the living meaning of their scriptures. In this sense, it’s actually within the power of non-Muslim Americans to help determine the meaning of the Koran. If we want its meaning to be as benign as possible, I recommend that we not talk about burning it. And if we want imams to fill mosques with messages of brotherly love, I recommend that we not tell them where they can and can’t build their mosques.

Of course, the street runs both ways. Muslims can influence the attitudes of Christians and Jews and hence the meanings of their texts. The less threatening that Muslims seem, the more welcoming Christians and Jews will be, and the more benign Christianity and Judaism will be. (A good first step would be to bring more Americans into contact with some of the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are in fact not threatening.)

You can even imagine a kind of virtuous circle: the less menacing each side seems, the less menacing the other side becomes — which in turn makes the first side less menacing still, and so on; the meaning of the Abrahamic scriptures would, in a real sense, get better and better and better.

Lately, it seems, things have been moving in the opposite direction; the circle has been getting vicious. And it’s in the nature of vicious circles that they’re hard to stop, much less reverse. On the other hand, if, through the concerted effort of people of good will, you do reverse a vicious circle, the very momentum that sustained it can build in the other direction — and at that point the force will be with you.

Postscript: The quotations of the Koran come from Sura 4:171 (where Jesus is called God’s word), and Sura 44:32 (where the “children of Israel” are lauded). I’ve used the Rodwell translation, but the only place the choice of translator matters is the part that says God presciently placed the children of Israel above all others. Other translations say “purposefully,” or “knowingly.”  By the way, if you’re curious as to the reason for the Koran’s seeming ambivalence toward Christians and Jews:

By my reading, the Koran is to a large extent the record of Muhammad’s attempt to bring all the area’s Christians, Jews and Arab polytheists into his Abrahamic flock, and it reflects, in turns, both his bitter disappointment at failing to do so and the many theological and ritual overtures he had made along the way. (For a time Muslims celebrated Yom Kippur, and they initially prayed toward Jerusalem, not Mecca.) That the suras aren’t ordered chronologically obscures this underlying logic.
27403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH editorial on: September 16, 2010, 08:22:54 AM
Pravda on the Hudson's take on things:

Democratic operatives are ablaze with excitement over the victory of two particularly dubious Tea Party candidates in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, envisioning smoother paths to victory in the races for governor in New York and United States senator in Delaware. But for voters of all stripes, Tuesday’s primaries should illuminate the growling face of a new fringe in American politics — and provide the incentive for level-headed voters to become enthusiastic about the midterm election.

Republican leaders have to decide if they want the tiny fraction of furious voters who have showed up at the primary polls to steer them into the swamp for years ahead. They have a chance to repudiate the worst of the Tea Party crowd and show that they can govern without appealing to the basest political instincts. So far, they have preferred to greedily capitalize on the nuclear energy in the land without considering its destructive effects.

Democrats, especially beleaguered incumbents and the White House, need to counter the toxic message of the Tea Party so voters have an alternative.

For both parties and certainly the broad swath of independent voters, defeating this new crop of Tea Party nominees has become imperative to avoid the sense of national embarrassment from each divisive and offensive utterance, each wacky policy proposal.

Take the new Republican nominee for United States senator from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell. She founded a group called the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, with a curious focus on sexual purity, and claimed there was scientific evidence that God created the world in six 24-hour periods. She lied for years about being a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, having earned a degree only in recent weeks, 17 years after she left campus. She has no steady source of income and has a substantial trail of unpaid bills, battles with the Internal Revenue Service and questionable use of campaign donations for personal expenses.

Ms. O’Donnell defeated Mike Castle, a veteran congressman and example of the moderate and conciliatory approach that Northeast Republicans once brought to Washington. Her campaign ridiculed him for being 71 years old with a history of heart problems. Ms. O’Donnell called Mr. Castle “unmanly.”

Or consider Carl Paladino, the Republicans’ new nominee for governor of New York, who has transfigured the state’s justifiable disgust with Albany into a malevolent snarl at the world. It is one thing to promise to shake up state government; it is very much another to thuggishly proclaim that he intends to clean up Albany “with a baseball bat” and turn the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, upside down to get his blood flowing and then send him “to Attica.” This is the man who has vowed to send welfare recipients to state prisons to pick up their checks and be given lessons in hygiene. He has defended an ally’s comparison of Mr. Silver to Hitler or the Antichrist and is known for forwarding e-mail messages to friends with racist or pornographic images.

In both cases, the Republican establishment did everything possible to avoid having the party be represented by these two, lest the link to the Tea Party become evident. Karl Rove, long the party’s tactical mastermind, dismissed Ms. O’Donnell as “nutty.”

But, in fact, the party’s hopes for retaking Congress are deeply bound up with the fate of Tea Party candidates across the country, and the party’s leaders have done little to distance themselves from the extremism that now constitutes mainstream conservative policy.

When the House Republican leader, John Boehner, voiced a possible compromise on tax cuts, he was immediately shouted down by other party officials and pilloried as weak by right-wing blogs. Mr. Rove noted that Ms. O’Donnell is unlikely to win in November, possibly preventing the Republicans from taking over the Senate. He is now a pariah himself in those same circles.

On Wednesday, Mr. Boehner invited Tea Party activists to help “drive the debate” in Washington and shape the legislative agenda. That invitation act should be a dose of adrenaline to dispirited Democrats, independents and mainstream Republican voters who had not fully grasped the stakes in November’s election.
27404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: September 16, 2010, 08:17:01 AM
Brian Wesbury is an outstanding economist (supply side school) with a superb track record, which is why i post the following although I find it to be remarkably glib:

Unfunded Liabilities And Cheap Stocks
Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein

Despite cries of "uncertainty" that reverberate through the financial markets, U.S. equities remain grossly undervalued. Risk premiums are exceedingly high. Too high!

In total, S&P 500 companies reported after-tax annualized earnings of $716 billion in the second quarter and had a market capitalization of $9.3 trillion. In other words, for every $100 in market value, the companies in the S&P 500 were generating $7.70 in after-tax profits--an "earnings yield" of 7.7%.

Comparing that earnings yield to the 10-year Treasury yield (currently 2.8%) reveals a gap of nearly five percentage points, the largest such gap since the late 1970s. And with profits expected to continue their upward climb, this gap is highly likely to increase even more in the next few quarters.

Relative to bonds, stocks are undervalued by a considerable margin. So what's holding investors back? Why are bond flows continuing to outpace equity flows?

One reason is fear of government spending. Current deficits and future deficits related to Social Security and Medicare are one reason. Every dollar the government spends must eventually be paid for by taxpayers. If these higher future taxes confiscate enough corporate profits, then the market will reflect that fact today with lower prices. So is the market discounting these costs accurately? Let's crunch the numbers.

The Trustees report for Social Security and Medicare estimates the present value of all unfunded entitlement benefits are roughly $50 trillion. On the same present value basis, this is equal to 3.8% of future GDP. In other words, rather than taxing 19% of GDP (as the Congressional Budget Office predicts for 2012-'13), total tax revenue would need to climb to 22.8% of GDP--an increase in tax revenues of 20% from everyone and everything that the federal government already taxes. In other words, a 10% tax rate will need to rise to 12%.

Of course everyone realizes that a 20% tax hike would never generate 20% more revenue. A dynamic model would forecast slower economic growth and more unemployment if the government hiked taxes by this much. This is why some are advocating benefit cuts. But, for our purpose here (analyzing the impact of paying for unfunded liabilities) we assume tax hikes are the only method used.

A 20% increase in corporate taxes as well as taxes on capital gains and dividends, would reduce total returns to shareholders by roughly 11%. This would reduce the earnings yield (currently 7.7%) to about 6.9%--more than 4 percentage points above current 10-year Treasury yields.

Don't take this the wrong way. We are certainly not advocating a massive tax hike to fix Social Security and Medicare. Raising tax rates will hurt the economy. Moving to private accounts would be our preferred solution. But the current level of fear about the costs of fixing these entitlement problems is out of proportion to reality. Things are far from perfect, but the stock market is grossly undervalued.

Brian S. Wesbury is chief economist and Robert Stein senior economist at First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill. They write a weekly column for Forbes. Wesbury is the author of It's Not As Bad As You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive.
27405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 16, 2010, 07:21:06 AM
"you are certainly right that there is a significant distinction to be made between the limited power to regulate interstate commerce and regulating all commerce"

Which was what I intended to say  smiley
27406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Unrest in Kashmir on: September 16, 2010, 07:17:46 AM
Civilian Unrest, Not Militancy, in Indian-Controlled Kashmir

Indian authorities deployed thousands of additional federal police personnel across the Kashmir Valley on Tuesday to enforce a curfew, and all flights to Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, were canceled due to security fears. The move comes a day after 18 protesters were killed in police shootings — the worst violence in three months of protests in the region. Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony called the situation “very serious” and said that an all-party meeting would be held in New Delhi on Wednesday. After the meeting, Antony said, the government will decide whether to partially lift a 20-year-old emergency law that many in Kashmir despise: the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which protects army and paramilitary troops from prosecution and gives them sweeping powers to open fire, detain suspects and confiscate property.

Unrest involving the Muslim majority community in the Kashmir Valley region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is not new. Demonstrations by the Muslim community opposing Indian rule in the region have been routine in recent years but were contained by Indian authorities. The latest wave of protests, however, is being described as the worst unrest since the beginning of the uprising in 1989. Certainly, the current round of protests is the longest period of street agitation in the region, and its staying power has forced the Indian government to acknowledge that the situation is no longer business as usual.

“The current unrest in Kashmir is clearly not the handiwork of Islamist militants; it is quite the contrary.”
The region of Kashmir normally is seen as the main point of contention in the historic conflict between South Asia’s two nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan. Within this context, the key issue is seen as Pakistani-backed Islamist militant groups fighting India in Kashmir and in areas far south of the western Himalayan region. Even though the insurgency that broke out in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s and early 1990s was an indigenous phenomenon, it very quickly became an issue of Pakistani-sponsored Islamist militancy.

The Pakistani-backed militancy reached a climax in the mini-war between India and Pakistan during the summer of 1999 in the Kargil region along the line of control dividing Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. The Pakistani move to try to capture territory on the Indian side of the border failed, and then the post-Sept. 11 global atmosphere made it increasingly difficult for Pakistan to use its Islamist militant proxies against India, particularly in Kashmir. By 2007, Pakistan was in the throes of a domestic insurgency waged by Islamist militants. Then, in November 2008, elements affiliated with the one of the largest Pakistan-based Kashmiri Islamist militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba, staged attacks in the Indian financial hub, Mumbai.

The Mumbai attacks brought India and Pakistan very close to war, which was avoided via mediation by the United States. More importantly, though, it became clear to Islamabad that not only could it no longer back militants staging attacks in India, it also had to make sure that militants acting independent of the Pakistani state were curbed. Otherwise, it was risking war with India.

Within months of the Mumbai crisis, the Pakistanis were forced into a position where they had to mount a major counterinsurgency offensive in their own northwestern areas that had come under the control of Taliban rebels. As a result, Islamabad is no longer employing militancy as its main tool against India. In fact, Indian officials are saying that Pakistan has changed its strategy and, rather than backing militant groups, is stoking civilian unrest — which brings us back to the problem in Kashmir.

The current unrest in Kashmir is clearly not the handiwork of Islamist militants; it is quite the contrary. There are mass protests and rioting that is much harder to control than militancy. Militant activity can easily be painted as a foreign-backed (read Pakistani-backed) threat, which India achieved rather successfully by containing the militancy in Kashmir. But public agitation, which is indigenous in nature, is not easily dismissed as a Pakistani-backed movement. Furthermore, a violent military response to militant attacks is easier to justify than a violent response to civilian unrest.

Of course, Pakistan is exploiting the issue to its advantage, but that is very different from actually engineering the unrest from the ground up. This explains New Delhi’s concern and the dilemma it faces. India will have to address a new, more sophisticated threat to its authority in Kashmir with a new, more sophisticated response. Pakistan will have an advantage in Kashmir in the meantime. India also faces international pressure over Kashmir, because the crackdowns make India look bad, yet New Delhi has been trying not to internationalize the conflict since it wants to deal with Kashmir on its own terms.
27407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: September 15, 2010, 09:44:39 PM
Well, to be precise, it is an open question for him-- but you have the gist of it I think.
27408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 15, 2010, 09:43:09 PM
Forgive the nitpick PC, but it is "interstate commerce", not "commerce".

I would also add a reminder of the 9th Amendment as well as the 10th.
27409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US to lend $1B to Mexico for drilling blocked by Obamatorium? on: September 15, 2010, 07:29:08 PM
U.S. Backs $1B Loan to Mexico for Oil Drilling Despite Obama Moratorium

Published September 11, 2010

Despite President Obama's moratorium on U.S. deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Export-Import Bank intends to guarantee $1 billion in loans to PEMEX, the Mexican state oil company, to bolster the company's oil drilling in the region.

The bank, which is the official American export credit agency, loaned more than $1 billion to PEMEX in 2009 -- when the company was the bank's largest borrower -- in support of its drilling activities. That year, the bank also guaranteed two loans totaling $300 million made by a commercial lender.

The latest request comes during a drilling moratorium that was first imposed by Obama in May to find out what was the cause behind the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from BP's undersea well.

After a federal court struck down the ban amid complaints that it threatened thousands of jobs in the offshore oil industry, the Obama administration issued a new moratorium in July on most deep-water drilling activities that is in effect until Nov. 30.

The Export-Import Bank said the moratorium doesn't affect its pending deal with PEMEX.

"None of these projects involve deepwater drilling," bank spokeswoman Maura Policelli told in an e-mail.

The $1 billion deal is awaiting approval by the bank's board, which is expected to reach a final decision by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Because the bank is an independent agency, the deal is not subject to congressional approval.

"Before deciding whether to approve applications for financing, Ex-Im Bank performs rigorous environmental, safety and financial due diligence activities, including on-site inspections" Policelli said.

"After financing is approved, the bank monitors the company's financial, environmental and safety activities and performs on-site inspections as often as twice a year," she said.

The 2010 request will support multiple PEMEX projects, including offshore drilling and a $200 million facility to finance sales to U.S. small businesses, Policelli said.

By law, the bank's financing is "directly tied to the export of goods and services produced or provided by American workers," Policelli said.

Since 1998, the bank has guaranteed $7.7 billion in loans that U.S. and international banks have made to PEMEX. The bank agreed to make the direct loan of $1.05 billion to PEMEX last year in the wake of the financial crisis when commercial lenders tightened their lending.

"This loan supported the purchase of U.S. goods and services," Policelli said.

Over that 12-year period, Policelli said, the bank's financing of PEMEX has "helped create or sustain the jobs of over 47,000 American workers at over 1,300 U.S. companies, including 915 small businesses and 400 large companies."
27410  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 15, 2010, 07:27:50 PM
43 fighters.
27411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Gathering Dhimmitude on: September 15, 2010, 07:19:34 PM
Koran burner Derek Fenton booted from his job at NJ Transit
By Alison Gendar, Kevin Deutsch and Pete Donohue

Originally Published:Tuesday, September 14th 2010, 7:55 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 14th 2010, 9:05 PM

Derek Fenton's 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers.  Fenton, 39, of Bloomingdale, N.J., burned the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11 outside Park51, the controversial mosque slated to be built near Ground Zero.  He was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones, the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day but later changed his mind.

NJ Transit said Fenton was fired but wouldn't give specifics.

"Mr. Fenton's public actions violated New Jersey Transit's code of ethics," an agency statement said.  "NJ Transit concluded that Mr. Fenton violated his trust as a state employee and therefore [he] was dismissed."

Fenton was ushered from the protests by police on Saturday and questioned, but he was released without charges.

"He said, 'This is America,' and he wanted to stand up for it, in a Tea Party kind of way," a police source said.  Another police source said Fenton described himself as a "loyal American" exercising his "right to protest."

But the source said Fenton looked like he was having second thoughts as he was released.

"He looked nervous, like he was starting to think it wasn't such a good idea," the police source said.

Described by neighbors as a likable family guy with two children, Fenton was an assistant train-consist coordinator, sources said - a job that entails ensuring there are enough train cars positioned to be put into service. He previously worked as an NJ Transit conductor.

Several neighbors in Fenton's town stood up for his right to express himself with flames.

"Good for him for burning the Koran," neighbor Jacqui Marquez, 40, said.

"Everybody's entitled to their opinion ... by firing him, they're sending a message that there's no freedom of speech. They're completely wrong for doing this."

"He's a family man," neighbor Randy McConnell, 43, said. "He loves his kids and he loves trains. I don't agree with what he did, but he shouldn't lose his job over it. That's his right."

If Fenton was fired for burning the Koran while off-duty, his First Amendment rights probably were violated, Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said.

"The Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional right to burn the flag. As reprehensible as it may be, burning the Koran would be protected as well."
Government Justice Breyer Questions Free-Speech Right to Burn Korans`

* Posted on September 14, 2010 at 12:36pm by Scott Baker

“Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos interviewed Justice Breyer this morning:

Last week we saw a Florida Pastor – with 30 members in his church – threaten to burn Korans which lead to riots and killings in Afghanistan. We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on “GMA” that he’s not prepared to conclude that — in the internet age — the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

Stephanopoulos points out that Obama and Boehner gave at least grudging affirmation that Pastor Jones had the legal right to burn a Koran. Breyer isn’t convinced:

“It will be answered over time in a series of cases which force people to think carefully. That’s the virtue of cases,” Breyer told me. “And not just cases. Cases produce briefs, briefs produce thought. Arguments are made. The judges sit back and think. And most importantly, when they decide, they have to write an opinion, and that opinion has to be based on reason. It isn’t a fake.”
27412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Al andalus (i.e. Spain) on: September 15, 2010, 05:42:20 PM
And of course the proposed name for the proposed Ground Zero Mosque (Cordoba House) is just a coincidence , , ,  rolleyes
27413  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 14, 2010, 05:40:03 PM
Grateful to have two teeth that have been missing for many years replaced today!
27414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 14, 2010, 05:32:51 PM

Thank you for that thoughtful analysis.
27415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Succession-3 on: September 14, 2010, 12:56:34 PM
The Central Military Commission

The Central Military Commission (CMC) is the state’s most powerful military body, comprising the top ten military chiefs, and chaired by the country’s civilian leader. This means the CMC has unfettered access to the top Chinese leader, and can influence him through a more direct channel than through its small representation on the Politburo Standing Committee. Thus the CMC is not only the core decision-making body of the Chinese military, it is also the chief conduit through which the military can influence the civilian leadership.

(click here to enlarge image)
Promotions for China’s top military leaders are based on the officer’s age, his current official position — for instance, whether he sits on the CMC or in the CPC Central Committee — and his personal connections. Officers born after 1944 will be too old for promotion since they will be 68 in 2012, past the de facto cutoff age after which an officer is no longer eligible for promotion to the CMC. Those officers meeting the age requirement and holding positions on the CMC, the CPC Central Committee, or a command position in one of China’s military services or its seven regional military commands (or the parallel posts for political commissars) may be eligible for promotion.

China’s paramount leader serves simultaneously as the president of the state, the general-secretary of the Party, and the chairman of the military commission, as Hu does. The top leader does not always hold all three positions, however: Jiang held onto his chair on the CMC for two years after his term as president ended in 2002. Since Hu did not become CMC chairman until 2004, it is not unlikely that he will maintain his chair until 2014, two years after he gives up his presidency and leadership of the party. But this is a reasonable assumption, not a settled fact, and some doubt Hu’s strength in resolving such questions in his favor.

Interestingly, Hu has not yet appointed Vice President Xi Jinping to be his successor on the CMC, sparking rumors over the past year about whether Hu is reluctant to give Xi the vice chairmanship or whether Xi’s position could be at risk. But Hu will almost certainly dub Xi his successor as chairman of the CMC soon, probably in October. Given the possibility that Hu could retain his CMC chairmanship till 2014, Xi’s influence over the military could remain subordinate to Hu’s until then, raising uncertainties about how Hu and Xi will interact with each other and with the military during this time. Otherwise, Xi will be expected to take over the top military post along with the top Party and state posts in 2012.

Old and New Trends

Of the leading military figures, there are several observable trends. Regional favoritism in recruitment and promotion remains a powerful force, and regions that have had the greatest representation on the CMC in the past will retain their prominent place: Shandong, Hebei, Henan, Shaanxi and Liaoning provinces, respectively, appear likely to remain the top regions represented by the new leadership, according to research by Cheng Li, a prominent Chinese scholar. These provinces are core to the CPC’s support base. There is considerably less representation in the upper officer corps from Shanghai, Guangdong, Sichuan, or the western regions, all of which are known for regionalism and are more likely to stand at variance with Beijing. (This is not to say that other provinces, Sichuan for instance, do not produce a large number of soldiers.)

One group of leaders, the princelings, are likely to take a much greater role in the CMC in 2012 than in the current CMC, in great part because these are the children or relatives of Communist Party revolutionary heroes and elites and were born during the 1940s-50s. Examples include the current naval commander and CMC member Wu Shengli, political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps Zhang Haiyang, and two deputy chiefs of the general staff, Ma Xiaotian and Zhang Qinsheng. In politics, the princelings are not necessarily a coherent faction with agreed-upon policy leanings. Though princeling loyalties are reinforced by familial ties and inherited from fathers, grandfathers and other relatives, they share similar elite backgrounds, their careers have benefited from these privileges, and they are viewed and treated as a single group by everyone else. In the military, the princelings are more likely to form a unified group capable of a coherent viewpoint, since the military is more rigidly hierarchical and personal ties are based on staunch loyalty. The strong princeling presence could constitute an interest group within the military leadership capable of pressing more forcefully for its interests than it would otherwise be able to do.

A marked difference in the upcoming CMC is the rising role of the PLAN, PLAAF and Second Artillery Corps, as against the traditionally dominant army. This development was made possible by the enlargement of the CMC in 2004, elevating the commanders of each of these non-army services to the CMC, and it is expected to hold in 2012. The army will remain the most influential service across the entire fifth generation military leadership, with the navy, air force, and missile corps following close behind. But crucially, in the 2012 CMC the army’s representation could decline relative to the other branches of service, since of the three members of the current CMC eligible to stay only one comes from the army (General Armaments Department Director Chang Wangquan) and many of the next-highest candidates also hail from other services. After all, missile capabilities and sea and air power are increasingly important as China focuses on the ability to secure its international supply chains and prevent greater foreign powers (namely the United States) from approaching too closely areas of strategic concern. The greater standing of the PLAN, PLAAF, and Second Artillery Corps is already showing signs of solidifying, since officers from these services used not to be guaranteed representation on the CMC but now appear to have a permanent place.

MARK WILSON/Getty Images
Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Xu Caihou and a military delegation in WashingtonThere is also a slight possibility that the two individuals chosen to be the CMC vice chairmen could both come from a background in military operations. Typically the two vice chairmen — the most powerful military leaders — are divided between one officer centered on military operations and another centered on political affairs. This ensures a civilian check on military leadership, with the political commissar supervising the military in normal times, and the military commander having ultimate authority during times of war. However, given the candidates available for the position, the precedent could be broken and the positions filled with officers who both come from a military operational background. Such a configuration in the CMC could result in higher emphasis on the capability and effectiveness of military rather than political solutions to problems and a CMC prone to bridle under CPC orders. But having two military affairs specialists in the vice chairmen seats is a slim possibility, and personnel are available from political offices to fill one of the vice chairmanships, thus preserving the traditional balance and CPC guidance over military affairs.

Civilian Leadership Maintained

The rising current of military power in the Chinese system could manifest in any number of ways. Sources tell STRATFOR that military officers who retire sooner than civilian leaders may start to take up civilian positions in the ministries or elsewhere in the state bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the overall arc of recent Chinese history has reinforced the model of civilian leadership over the military. The Communist Party retains control of the CMC, the central and provincial bureaucracies, the state-owned corporations and banks, mass organizations, and most of the media. Moreover, there does not appear to be a single military strongman who could lead a significant challenge to civilian leadership. So while the military’s sway is undoubtedly rising, and the upcoming civilian leadership could get caught in stalemate over policy, the military is not in a position to seize power. Rather, it is maneuvering to gain more influence within the system, adding another element of intrigue to the already tense bargaining structure that defines elite politics in China. But despite possible military-civilian frictions, the PLA will seek to preserve the regime, and to manage or suppress internal or external forces that could jeopardize that goal.

Read more: Looking to 2012: China's Next Generation of Leaders | STRATFOR
27416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Succession-2 on: September 14, 2010, 12:55:15 PM
Collective Rule

The factions are not so antagonistic that an intense power struggle is likely to rip them apart. Instead, they can be expected to exercise power by forging compromises. Leaders are chosen by their superiors through a process of careful negotiation to prevent an imbalance of one faction over another that could lead to purges or counterpurges. That balance looks as if it will roughly be maintained in the configuration of leaders in 2012. In terms of policymaking, powerful leaders will continue to debate deep policy disagreements behind closed doors. Through a process of intense negotiation, they will try to arrive at a party line and maintain it uniformly in public. Stark disagreements and fierce debates will echo through the statements of minor officials and academics, and in public discussions, newspaper editorials, and other venues, however. In extreme situations, these policy battles could lead to the ousting of officials who end up on the wrong side. But the highest party leaders will not contradict each other openly on matters of great significance unless a dire breakdown has occurred, as happened with fallen Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu.

That the fifth generation leadership appears in agreement on the state’s broadest economic and political goals, even if they differ on the means of achieving those goals, will be conducive to maintaining the factional balance. First, there is general agreement on the need to continue with China’s internationally oriented economic and structural reforms. These leaders spent the prime of their lives in the midst of China’s rapid economic transformation from a poor and isolated pariah state into an international industrial and commercial giant, and were the first to experience the benefits of this transformation. They also know that the CPC’s legitimacy has come to rest, in great part, on its ability to deliver greater economic opportunity and prosperity to the country — and that the greatest risk to the regime would likely come in the form of a shrinking or dislocated economy that causes massive unemployment. Therefore, for the most part they remain dedicated to continuing with market-oriented reform. They will do so gradually and carefully, however, and will not seek to intensify reformist efforts to the point of dramatically increasing the risk of social disruption. Needless to say, while the elitists can be energetic in their pursuit of economic liberalization, the populists tend to be more suspicious and more willing to re-centralize controls to avoid undesirable political side effects, even at the expense of long-term risks to the economy.

More fundamentally, all fifth generation leaders are committed to maintaining CPC rule. The chaos of the Cultural Revolution impressed upon the fifth generation a sense of the extreme dangers of China’s having allowed an autocratic ruler to dominate the decision-making process and intra-party struggle to run rampant. Subsequent events have reinforced the fear of internal divisions: the protest and military crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the threat of alternative movements exemplified by the Falun Gong protest in 1999, the general rise in social unrest throughout the economic boom of the 1990s and 2000s. More recent challenges have reinforced this, such as natural disasters like the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, ethnic violence and riots in Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009, and the pressures of economic volatility since the global economic crisis of 2008. These events have underscored the need to maintain unity and stability in the Party ranks and in Chinese society, by force when necessary. So while the fifth generation is likely to agree on the need to continue with economic reform and perhaps even limited political reform, it will do so only insofar as it can without destabilizing socio-political order. It will delay, soften, undermine, or reverse reform to ensure stability. Once again, the difference between the factions lies in judging how best to preserve and bolster the regime.


Beyond the apparent balance of forces in the central party and government organs, there remains the tug-of-war between the central government in Beijing and the 33 provincial governments (not to mention Taiwan) — a reflection of the timeless struggle in China between center and periphery. If China is to be struck by deep destabilization under the watch of the fifth generation leaders (which is by no means impossible, especially given the economic troubles facing them), the odds are this would occur along regional lines. Stark differences have emerged, as China’s coastal manufacturing provinces have surged ahead while provinces in the interior, west and northeast have lagged. The CPC’s solution to this problem generally has been to redistribute wealth from the booming coast to the interior in hopes that subsidizing the less developed regions eventually will nurture economic development. In some instances, such as in Shaanxi or Sichuan provinces, urbanization and development have indeed accelerated in recent years. But overall, the interior remains weak and dependent on subsidies from Beijing.

The problem for China’s leadership is that the coastal provinces’ export-led model of growth that has worked well over the past three decades has begun to peak, and China’s annual double-digit growth rates are expected to slow due to weakening external demand, rising labor and material costs and other factors. The result will be louder demands from poor provinces and tighter fists in rich provinces — exposing and deepening competition, and in some cases leading to animosity between the regions.

More so than any previous generation, the fifth generation has extensive cross-regional career experience. This is because climbing to the top of Party and government has increasingly required that many of these leaders first serve in central organizations in Beijing and then do a stint (or more) as governor or Party secretary of one of the provinces (the more far-flung, the better), before returning to a higher central Party or government position in Beijing. Hu Jintao followed such a path, as have many of the aforementioned candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee. Moreover, it has become increasingly common to put officials in charge of a region other than the one from which they originally hailed to reduce regionalism and regional biases. This practice has precedent in China’s imperial history, when it was used to prevent the rise of mini-fiefdoms and the devolution of power. More of the likely members of the 2012 Politburo Standing Committee than ever before have experience as provincial chiefs. This means that when these leaders take over top national positions, they theoretically will have a better grasp of the realities facing the provinces they rule, and will be less likely to be beholden to a single regional constituency or support base. This could somewhat mitigate the central government’s difficulty in dealing with profound divergences of interest between the central and provincial governments.

But regional differences are grounded in fundamental, geographical and ethnic realities, and have become increasingly aggravated by the disproportionate benefits of China’s economic success. Temporary changes of position across the country have not prevented China’s leaders from forming lasting bonds with certain provinces to the neglect of others; and many politicians still have experience exclusively with the regional level of government, and none with the central. The patron-client system, by which Chinese officials give their loyalty to superiors in exchange for political perks or monetary rewards, remains ineradicable. Massive personal networks extend across party and government bureaus, from the center to the regions. Few central leaders remain impervious to the pull of these regional networks, and none can remain in power long if his or her regional power base or bases have been cut. The tension between the center and provinces will remain one of the greatest sources of stress on the central leadership as it negotiates national policy.

As with any novice political leadership, the fifth generation leaders will take office with little experience of what it means to be fully in charge of a nation. Provincial leadership experience has provided good preparation, but the individual members have yet to show signs of particularly strong national leadership capabilities. The public sees only a few of the upcoming members of the Politburo Standing Committee as successfully having taken charge during events of major importance (for instance, Xi Jinping’s response to Tropical Storm Bilis, Wang Qishan’s handling of the SARS epidemic and the Beijing Olympics); only one has military experience (Xi, and it is slight); and only a few of the others have shown independence or forcefulness in their leadership style (namely Wang Qishan and Bo Xilai). Because current Politburo Standing Committee members or previous leaders (like former President Jiang Zemin) will choose the future committee members after painstaking negotiations, this might preserve the balance of power between the cliques. It might also result in a “compromise” leadership — effectively one that would strive for a middle-of-the-road approach, even at the cost of achieving mediocre results. A collective leadership of these members, precariously balanced, runs the risk of falling into divisions when resolute and sustained effort is necessary, as is likely given the economic, social and foreign policy challenges that it will likely face during its tenure.

This by no means is to say the fifth generation is destined to be weak. Chinese leaders have a time-tested strategy of remaining reserved for as long as possible and not revealing their full strength until necessary. And China’s centralist political system generally entails quick implementation once the top leadership has made up its mind on a policy. Still, judging by available criteria, the fifth generation leaders are likely to be reactive, like the current administration. Where they are proactive, it will be on decisions pertaining to domestic security and social stability.

Military Leadership

The Rise of the People’s Liberation Army

Chinese soldiers at the World Expo 2010 in ShanghaiAfter Deng’s economic reforms, the Chinese military began to use its influence to get into industry and business. Over time, this evolved into a major role for the military on the local and provincial level. Military commands supplemented their government budget allocations with the proceeds from their business empires. Ultimately, the central government and Party leadership became concerned that the situation could degenerate into regional warlordism of the sort that has prevailed at various times in Chinese history — with military-political-business alliances developing more loyalty to their interests and foreign partners than to Beijing. Thus when Jiang launched full-scale reforms of the military in the 1990s, he called for restructuring and modernization (including cutting China’s bloated ground forces and boosting the other branches of service) and simultaneously ordered the military to stop dabbling in business. Though the commanders only begrudgingly complied at first, the military-controlled businesses eventually were liquidated and their assets sold (either at a bargain price to family members and cronies or at an inflated price to local governments). To replace this loss of revenue and redesign the military, the central government began increasing budgetary allocations focusing on acquiring new equipment, higher technology, and training and organization to promote professionalism. The modernization drive eventually gave the military a new sense of purpose and power and brought a greater role to the PLA Navy (PLAN), the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), and the Second Artillery Corps (the strategic missile corps).

The military’s influence appears highly likely to continue rising in the coming years for the following reasons:

Maintaining internal stability in China has resulted in several high-profile cases in which the armed forces played a critical role. Natural disasters such as massive flooding (1998, 2010) and earthquakes (especially in Sichuan in 2008) have required the military to provide relief and assistance, giving rise to more attention on military planning and thereby improving the military’s propaganda efforts and public image and prestige. Because China is prone to natural disasters and its environmental difficulties have worsened as its massive population and economy have put greater pressure on the landscape, the military is expected to continue playing a greater role in disaster relief, including by offering to help abroad. At the same time, the rising frequency of social unrest, including riots and ethnic violence in regions like Xinjiang and Tibet, has led to military involvement in such matters. As the trend of rising social unrest looks to continue in the coming years, so the military will be called upon to restore order, especially through the elite People’s Armed Police, which falls under the joint control of the Central Military Commission and State Council.
As China’s economy has become the second largest in the world, its international dependencies have increased. China depends on stable and secure supply lines to maintain imports of energy, raw materials, and components and exports of components and finished goods. Most of these commodities and merchandise are traded over sea, often through choke-points such as the straits of Hormuz and Malacca, making them vulnerable to interference from piracy, terrorism, conflicts between foreign states, or interdiction by navies hostile to China (i.e., the United States, India or Japan). Therefore it needs the PLAN to expand its capabilities and reach so as to secure these vital supplies — otherwise the economy would be exposed to potential shocks that could translate into social and political disturbances. This policy has also led the PLA to take a more active role in U.N. peacekeeping efforts and other international operations, expand integrated training and ties with foreign militaries, and build a hospital ship to begin military-led diplomacy.
Competition with foreign states is intensifying as China has become more powerful economically and internationally conspicuous. In addition to building capabilities to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, China has become more aggressive in defending its sovereignty and territorial claims in its neighboring seas — especially in the South China Sea, which Beijing elevated in 2010 to a “core” national interest (along with sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet) and also in the East China Sea. This assertiveness has led to rising tension with neighbors that have competing claims on potentially resource-rich territory in the seas, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Japan. Moreover, Beijing’s newfound assertiveness has collided with U.S. moves to bulk up its alliances and partnerships in the region, which Beijing sees as a strategy aimed at constraining China’s rise.
China’s military modernization remains a primary national policy focus. Military modernization includes acquiring and developing advanced weaponry, improving information technology and communications, heightening capabilities on sea and in the air, and developing capabilities in new theaters such as cyberwarfare and outer space. It also entails improving Chinese forces’ mobility, rapid reaction, special operations forces and ability to conduct combined operations between different military services.
The PLA has become more vocal, making statements and issuing editorials in forums like the PLA Daily and, for the most part, receiving positive public responses. In many cases, military officers have voiced a nationalistic point of view shared by large portions of the public (though one prominent military officer, Liu Yazhou, a princeling and commissar at National Defense University, has used his standing to call for China to pursue Western-style democratic political reforms). Military officials can strike a more nationalist pose where politicians would have trouble due to consideration for foreign relations and the concern that nationalism is becoming an insuppressible force of its own.
Of course, a more influential military does not mean one that believes it is all-powerful. China will still try to avoid direct confrontation with the United States and its allies and maintain relations internationally given its national economic strategy and the fact that its military has not yet attained the same degree of sophistication and capability as its chief competitors. But the military’s growing influence is likely to encourage a more assertive China, especially in the face of heightened internal and external threats.

27417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Succession on: September 14, 2010, 12:54:03 PM
second post of the day:

In 2012, the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) leaders will retire and a new generation — the so-called fifth generation — will take the helm. The transition will affect the CPC’s most powerful decision-making organs, determining the makeup of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Central Committee, and most important, the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee that is the core of political power in China.

While there is considerable uncertainty over the handoff, given China’s lack of clear, institutionalized procedures for succession and the immense challenges facing the regime, there is little reason to anticipate a succession crisis. But the sweeping personnel change comes at a critical juncture in China’s modern history, with the economic model that has enabled decades of rapid growth having become unsustainable, social unrest rising, and international resistance to China’s policies increasing. At the same time, the characteristics of the fifth generation leaders suggest a cautious and balanced civilian leadership paired with an increasingly influential and nationalist military. This will lead to frictions over policy even as both groups remain firmly committed to perpetuating the regime.

The Chinese leadership that emerges from 2012 will likely be unwilling or unable to decisively carry out deep structural reforms, obsessively focused on maintaining internal stability, and more aggressive in pursuing the core strategic interests it sees as essential to this stability.

Just as China’s civilian leadership will change, China’s military will see a sweeping change in leadership in 2012. The military’s influence over China’s politics and policies has grown over the past decade, as the country has striven to professionalize and modernize its forces and expand its capabilities in response to deepening international involvement and challenges to its internal stability. The fifth generation military leaders are the first to have come out of the military modernization process, and to have had their careers shaped by the priorities of a China that has become a global economic power. They will take office at a time when the military’s budget, stature and influence over politics is growing, and when it has come to see its role as extending beyond that of a guarantor of national security to becoming a guide for the country as it moves forward and up the ranks of international power.

Civilian Leadership

Power transitions in the People’s Republic of China have always been fraught with uncertainty because the state does not have clear and fixed institutional procedures for the transfer of power between leaders and generations. The state’s founding leader, Mao Zedong, did not establish a formal process before he died, giving rise to a power struggle. Mao’s eventual successor, Deng Xiaoping, was also a strong leader whose personal power could override rules and institutions. But Deng’s retirement also failed to set a firm succession precedent. He saw two of his chosen successors lose out amid factional struggles, and Deng maintained extensive influence well after formally retiring and passing power to Jiang Zemin and naming Jiang’s successor, current President Hu Jintao.

Even though China does not have any fixed rules on power transfers, a series of precedents and informal rules have been observed. Recent years have seen a move toward the solidification of these rules. Deng set a pattern in motion that smoothed the 2002 presidential transition from Jiang to Hu despite behind-the-scenes factional tensions. As mentioned, Deng had also appointed Hu to be Jiang’s successor. This lent Hu some of Deng’s great authority, thus establishing an air of inevitability and deterring potential power grabs. This leap-frog pattern was reinforced when Jiang put Vice President Xi Jinping in line to succeed Hu in 2012. The coming transfer will test whether the trend toward stable power transitions can hold.

Characteristics of the Fifth Generation

While all countries experience leadership changes that can be described as generational in one sense or another, modern Chinese history has been so eventful as to have created generations that, as a group, share distinct characteristics and are markedly different from their forebearers in their historical, educational and career experiences. Deng created the concept of the “generational” framework by dubbing himself the core second-generation leader after Mao, and events and patterns in leadership promotion and retirement reinforced the framework. The most defining factor of a Chinese leadership generation is its historical background. The first generation defined itself by the formation of the Communist Party and the Long March of exile in the 1930s, the second generation in the war against the Japanese (World War II), and the third during civil war and the founding of the state in 1949. The fourth generation came of age during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, Mao’s first attempt to transform the entire Chinese economy.

The fifth generation is the first group of leaders that cannot — or can only barely — remember a time before the foundation of the People’s Republic. These leaders’ formative experiences were shaped during the Cultural Revolution (1967-77), a period of deep social and political upheaval in which the Mao government empowered hard-liners to purge their political opponents in the bureaucracy and Communist Party. Schools and universities were closed in 1966 and youths were sent down to rural areas to do manual labor, including many fifth-generation leaders such as likely future President Xi Jinping. Some young people were able to return to college after 1970, where they could only study Marxism-Leninism and CPC ideology, while others sought formal education when schools were reopened after the Cultural Revolution. Very few trained abroad, so they did not become attuned to foreign attitudes and perceptions in their formative days (whereas the previous generation had sent some young leaders to study in the Soviet Union). Characteristically, given the fuller educational opportunities that arose in the late 1970s, the upcoming leaders have backgrounds in a wide range of studies. Many were trained as lawyers, economists and social scientists, as opposed to the engineers and natural scientists who have dominated the previous generations of leadership.

Politburo Standing Committee member Xi Jinping at the National People’s Congress meeting in MarchIn 2012, only Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang will remain on the Politburo Standing Committee, the core decision-making body in China. Seven new members will join, assuming the number of total members remains at nine, which has been the case since 2002. All seven will hail from the broader Politburo and were born after October 1944, in accordance with an unwritten rule established under Deng requiring Chinese leaders to retire at age 70 (it was lowered to 68 in 1997). The retiring leaders will make every effort to strike a deal preventing the balance of power within the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee from tipping against them and their faction.

At present, China’s leaders divide roughly into two factions broadly defined as the populists and the elitists.

The populists are associated with Hu Jintao and the China Communist Youth League (CCYL) and are more accurately referred to as the “league faction” (in Chinese, the “tuanpai”). In the 1980s Hu led the league, which comprises his political base. The CCYL is a massive organization that prepares future members of the CPC. It is structured with a central leadership and provincial and local branches based in the country’s schools, workplaces, and social organizations. In keeping with the CCYL’s rigid hierarchy and doctrinal training, the policies of Hu’s “CCYL clique” focus on centralizing and consolidating power, maintaining social stability, and seeking to redistribute wealth to alleviate income disparities, regional differences, and social ills. The clique has grown increasingly powerful under Hu’s patronage. He has promoted people from CCYL backgrounds, some of whom he worked with during his term as a high-level leader in the group in the early 1980s, and has increased the number of CCYL-affiliated leaders in China’s provincial governments. Several top candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012 are part of this group, including Li Keqiang and Li Yuanchao, followed by Liu Yandong, Zhang Baoshun, Yuan Chunqing, Liu Qibao and Wang Yang.

The elitists are leaders associated with former President Jiang Zemin and his Shanghai clique. Their policies aim to maintain China’s rapid economic growth, with the coastal provinces unabashedly leading the way. They also promote economic restructuring to improve China’s international competitiveness and reduce inefficiencies, even at the risk of painful changes for some regions or sectors of society. The infamous “princelings” — or the sons, grandsons and relatives of the CPC’s founding fathers and previous leaders who have risen up the ranks of China’s system through these familial connections — are often associated with the elitists. The princelings are criticized for benefiting from nepotism, and some have suffered from low support in internal party elections. Still, they have name recognition from their proud Communist family histories, the finest educations and career experiences and access to personal networks set up by their fathers. The Shanghai clique and princelings are joined by economic reformists of various stripes who come from different backgrounds, mostly in the state apparatus such as the central or provincial bureaucracy and ministries, who often are technocrats and specialists. Prominent members of this faction eligible for the 2012 Politburo Standing Committee include Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, Bo Xilai, Yu Zhengsheng and Zhang Gaoli.

The struggle between the populist and elitist factions is a subset of the deeper struggle in Chinese history between centralist and regionalist impulses. Because of China’s vast and diverse geography, China historically has required a strong central government, usually located on the North China Plain, to maintain political unity. But this cyclical unity tends to break down over time as different regions pursue their own interests and form relationships with the outside world that become more vital to them than unity with the rest of China. The tension between centralist and regionalist tendencies has given rise to the ancient struggle between the north (Beijing) and the south (Shanghai), the difficulties that successive Chinese regimes have had in subordinating the far south (i.e. Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta), and modern Beijing’s anxiety over the perceived threat of separatism from Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet. In this context, the struggle between the two dominant political factions appears as the 21st century political manifestation of the irresolvable struggle between the political center in Beijing and the other regions, whose economic vibrancy leads them to pursue their own ends. While Hu Jintao and his allies emphasize central control and redistributing regional wealth to create a more unified China, the followers of Jiang tend to emphasize the need to let China’s most competitive regions grow and prosper, often in cooperation with international partners, without being restrained by the center or weighed down by the less dynamic regions.

Factional Balance

The politicians almost certain to join the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012 appear to represent a balance between factional tendencies. The top two, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, are the youngest members of the current Politburo Standing Committee and are all but certain to become president and premier, respectively. Xi is a princeling — son of Xi Zhongxun, an early Communist revolutionary and deputy prime minister — and his leadership in Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai exemplifies the ability of coastal manufacturing provinces to enhance an official’s career. But Xi is also popular with the public, widely admired for his hardships as a rural worker during the Cultural Revolution. He is the best example of bridging both major factions — promoting economic reforms but seen as having the people’s best interests at heart. Li was trained as an economist under a prestigious teacher at Beijing University, received a law degree, and is a former top secretary of the CCYL and stalwart of Hu’s faction. Economics is his specialty, not in itself but as a means to social harmony. For example, he is famous for promoting further revitalization of northeastern China’s industrial rust belt of factories that have fallen into disrepair. Li also has held leadership positions in provinces like Henan, an agricultural province, and Liaoning, a heavy-industrial province, affording him a view of starkly different aspects of the national economy.

After Xi and Li, the most likely contenders for seats on the Politburo Standing Committee are Li Yuanchao, director of the CPC’s powerful organization department (CCYL clique), Wang Yang (CCYL), member of the CPC’s Politburo, Liu Yunshan (CCYL), director of the CPC’s propaganda department, and Vice Premier Wang Qishan (princeling/Jiang’s Shanghai clique). The next most likely candidates include Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang (Jiang’s Shanghai clique), Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai (princeling), Tianjin Party Secretary Zhang Gaoli (Jiang’s Shanghai clique) and CPC General Office Director Ling Jihua (secretary to Hu Jintao, CCYL clique). It is impossible to predict exactly who will be appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee. The lineup is the result of intense negotiation between the current committee members, with the retiring members (everyone except Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang) wielding the most influence. Currently, of the nine Politburo Standing Committee members, as many as six are Jiang Zemin proteges, and they will push for their followers to prevent Hu from taking control of the committee.

(click here to enlarge image)
It accordingly seems possible that the 2012 Politburo Standing Committee balance will lean slightly in favor of Jiang’s Shanghai clique and the princelings, given that Xi Jinping will hold the top seat, but that by numbers the factions will be evenly balanced. Like his predecessors, Xi will have to spend his early years as president attempting to consolidate power so he can put his followers in positions of influence and begin to shape the succeeding generation of leaders for the benefit of himself and his circle. An even balance, if it is reached, may not persist through the entire 10 years of the Xi and Li administration: the CCYL clique looks extremely well-situated for the 2017 reshuffle, at which point many of Jiang’s proteges will be too old to sit on the Politburo Standing Committee while a number of rising stars in the CCYL currently serving as provincial chiefs will be well-placed for promotion.

There is a remote possibility that the number of seats on the Politburo Standing Committee could be cut from nine to seven, the number of posts before 2002. This would likely result in a stricter enforcement of age limits in determining which leaders to promote, perhaps setting the cutoff age at 66 or 67 (instead of 68). Stricter age criteria could eliminate three contenders from Jiang’s Shanghai clique (Zhang Gaoli, Zhang Dejiang, and Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng) and one from Hu’s clique (Politburo member Liu Yandong). This would leave Bo Xilai (a highly popular princeling with unorthodox policies, but like Xi Jinping known to straddle the factional divide) and CPC General Office Director Ling Jihua (secretary to Hu Jintao, CCYL clique) as the most likely final additions to the Politburo Standing Committee. The overall balance in this scenario of slightly younger age requirements would then lean in favor of Hu’s clique.

27418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Infighting on: September 14, 2010, 12:49:26 PM
The Iranian government has reversed its decision several times on whether to release Sarah Shourd, the U.S. woman being held in Iran on suspicion of espionage. The latest move is a demand for $500,000 bail to release Shourd — a decision that likely has more to do with the intensifying internal struggle within Iran’s political establishment than with U.S.-Iranian relations. In recent months, it has become unclear that Tehran is unified enough to negotiate meaningfully with Washington on key contentious subjects like the balance of power in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal, Iran’s nuclear program and Afghanistan.

The attorney for 32-year-old Sarah Shourd, one of three U.S. citizens who has been in Iranian custody for more than a year on suspicion of espionage, on Sept. 13 said her family is asking Tehran to drop a demand for $500,000 bail. The demand came after Iranian judicial authorities canceled plans to release her Sept. 11. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conservative opponents have publicly opposed his government’s move to release Shourd — a gesture on Ahmadinejad’s part to facilitate talks with the United States ahead of his trip to New York later in September.

The Shourd issue is just the latest manifestation of the internal struggle within the Islamic republic’s political establishment. In recent weeks, the Iranian media have been replete with statements from pragmatists opposed to Ahmadinejad and even from his fellow ultraconservatives (who supported him until last year) criticizing several of his foreign policy decisions. These include the decision to appoint special envoys to various regions, his calls for negotiations with the United States and his willingness to compromise on swapping enriched uranium. Clearly, the infighting has reached the point where the president’s opponents are aggressively targeting his efforts to execute foreign policy.

STRATFOR has chronicled the growing intra-conservative rift in Tehran since before the presidential election in June 2009. Although the Ahmadinejad government and its allies within the clerical and security establishment effectively defeated the reformist challenge from the street, the Green Movement, the rifts among the conservatives have only worsened. The old dichotomy between the Ahmadinejad-led ultraconservatives and the pragmatic conservatives led by the regime’s second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is inadequate to describe the growing complexity of the struggle.

A key reason for the growing rifts is that Ahmadinejad — despite his reputation as a hard-liner — has increasingly assumed the pragmatist mantle, especially with his calls to the Obama administration to negotiate a settlement with his government. This has turned many of his fellow hard-liners against him, giving the more moderate conservatives like Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani an opening to exploit and thus weaken the president. The situation is serious enough that it has offset the day-to-day balancing act among the various factions that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been engaged in for decades.

The situation is exemplified in the open disagreement between the executive and legislative branches. A special committee within the Guardian Council was formed in late August to mediate between the two sides. The Rafsanjani-led Expediency Council was created in 1989 to settle disputes among various state organs. That an ad hoc special committee was created under the supervision of the Guardian Council (which vets individuals for public office and has oversight over legislation) to mediate this dispute shows the extent of the problems the Iranians are having in mitigating internal disagreements.

Just as the disagreements in Tehran are no longer between two rival camps, they also are not limited to one institution disputing another, as elements from both sides are within each institution. Guardians Council chief Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric who played a key role in Ahmadinejad’s ability to secure a second term, criticized the president for trying to prevent security forces from enforcing the female dress code in public. Likewise, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of the Joint Staff Command of the Armed Forces — to whom Ahmadinejad is close — referred to a call by Ahmadinejad’s most trusted aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, to promote Iranian nationalism over Islamic solidarity as “deviant.” In response, Mashaie threatened to sue the general sitting at the apex of Iran’s military establishment. Perhaps most damaging for Ahmadinejad is that his own ideological mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, also criticized the president’s top aide, warning about a “new sedition” on the part of “value-abiding” forces — a reference to the president and his supporters. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, has strongly supported his chief of staff (who is also his closest friend and relative), saying he has complete trust in him.

In the midst of all this, the supreme leader is trying to arbitrate between the warring factions but fears that Ahmadinejad could be trying to undermine him. Thus, Khamenei cannot support Ahmadinejad as he did during the post-election crisis of 2009, yet he cannot act against the president because doing so would undermine the stability of Iran’s political system at a critical time for several foreign policy issues — Iraq, the nuclear dispute and Afghanistan, among others.

At this stage, then, the outcome of this increasing factionalization is unclear. What is clear is that the Shourd case is only one small disagreement in the midst of a much larger rift. The battling Iranian factions could reach a compromise on this particular matter, but the accelerating domestic disputes in Tehran make it very difficult for the United States to negotiate with Iran on the host of strategic issues the two are struggling over.

Ahmadinejad feels that if he is able to clinch a deal of sorts with the United States from a position of relative strength, it could help him deal effectively with the domestic challenge to his power. Conversely, his allies are determined to prevent that from happening, as is clear from the statements against negotiating with Washington. At the very least, this public struggle is helping the ultraconservatives, the military and those who are the most opposed to talks with the United States
27419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 14, 2010, 11:49:36 AM
I'd quibble with some of your interpretation on some points but haven't the time right now, but will agree with the general notion that "Every solution creates a problem."

Israel is already fcuked.  As I commented at the time, it made a historical error when it did not finish the job it started the last time it went into Lebanon.  Now, if they strike Iran, Iran/Hezbollah has so many new improved rockets (well over 50,000 I's thinking) in Lebanon, dug in under hospitals, schools and the like, that virtually the entirety of Israel, including its own reactor, are in reach. 
27420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 14, 2010, 11:37:44 AM

I have seen this point made in various studies over the years.  It is a very good one and one that I had forgotten.
27421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: September 14, 2010, 11:30:54 AM
27422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nanotechnology on: September 14, 2010, 11:29:38 AM
Seems very significant.

What an amazing world we live in!
27423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 14, 2010, 03:09:30 AM
I too would like his take on this.
27424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 14, 2010, 03:08:27 AM
EXACTLY SO shocked shocked shocked

By the way, did I hear correctly today that China is sending a rocket/satellite/manned landing to the moon in 2010?

27425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-afpakia (and China?) on: September 14, 2010, 03:07:02 AM
I continue to entertain the possibility that solutions will entail recognizing the reality of Pashtunistan, forming alliance with India, and breakiing down the contradiction currently known as Pakistan while bringing central Asian gas down to the sea.
27426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: CUBA on: September 14, 2010, 03:04:41 AM
I was there for about ten days and because of my comfort level in Spanish and my general way of going about things, most days I was able to escape the Potemkin tours (for those of you educated by progressives, google the term Potemkin Village) and wound up running with a bunch of musicians.  One of them, Roberto, a dancer in the national folklore company, escaped during the Mariel exodus and looked me up in NYC.  He asked me if there were any decent salsa clubs in NY.  I said why yes, we had a few and took him to one.  The band playing was Ticpica 73 with Alfredo de la Fey on electric violin and Nicky Marreror on timbales.  We walked in and they knew my friend from when they toured Cuba on a cultural exchange a few years prior!  Roberto chose the hottest chick dancing on the floor and began to dance with her.  It was like a movie; he was so good the whole floor cleared for the two of them.  Then the band invited us backstage to hang out and thus began an interesting chapter in my life.
27427  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: September 14, 2010, 02:57:12 AM

It was a pleasure meeting you.  I really like your sword and shield game and enjoyed your interations with Tricky Dog.  The way you use the shield is quite formidable.

That is a very interesting story and the honesty with which you engage yourself with your AAR (after action report) is exemplary.   FWIW, my sense of good panhandling etiquette is to not approach too close, especially on someone who is seated and not aware of your approach.    Perhaps this fellow will hav better manners next time wink

I am very, very glad that the material we trained in the seminar-- nto only the physical but the MUC (managaing unknown contacts) made its appearance and served you well.

Thank you for sharing.

The Adventure continues!
27428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China Bubble readying to burst? on: September 13, 2010, 11:10:39 PM

Pop go the weasels , , ,
27429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-afpakia (and China?) on: September 13, 2010, 11:08:36 PM
As best as I can tell, our current strategy in Afg is completely untenable and we do not seem to be thinking outside the box to change it; therefore it seems to me that things may well evolve along the lines/variables that Stratfor describes.  IMHO this piece deserves considerable contemplation.
27430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 13, 2010, 11:06:10 PM
FWIW, the US's strategy in the mid-east has always been divide e.g. Kissinger-Nixon using the Shah's Iran against Iraq, then using Iraq against Khomeni's Iran.  Now that we have been outplayed and out testosteroned by Iran and its nuke program, we strengthen the Arabs (Saudi's et al) vs. the Aryans (the Iranians).  Note the serious rumors btw that the Saudis were willing to greenlight an Israeli strike on Iran via their airspace.

I agree though Israel and we patriotic citizens had best keep an eye on the Manchurian Candidate in Chief though , , ,
27431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: CUBA on: September 13, 2010, 11:01:29 PM
When next we meet ask me about my trip to Cuba , , , in January 1980 IIRC. (For the record folks, the trip was entirely legal and above board-- it was during a brief opening under Carter and was organized by my law school.  It turned out to be about 2 months before the Port Mariel exodus.
27432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy; the Internet is spying on: September 13, 2010, 10:58:33 PM
Haven't had a chance yet to read today's posts yet but a preliminary skim indicates they seem worthy of a good focused read.  Indeed, the material therein could well belong on the Constitutional Law thread.  In that regard I would note the 9th Amendment's "all rights not otherwise enumerated etc" and submit the proposition that privacy was/is such an obvious concept that our Founding Fathers saw no need to mention it any more than the right of self-defense.  The analysis I saw proferred that privacy is limited to the 4th (which was the position held by Judge Bork until he was , , , borked) is one with which I disagree for the reasons I just gave.

If someone would like to move/continue this on the Constitutional Law thread we can continue it there.  It IS a very important subject.

Anyway, here's this:

The internet is spying on you

Every time you go online, sophisticated data miners are tracking your every move. What do they know about you?

How to fight back against data miners

How frequently am I followed online?
Constantly. Your computer leaves a unique digital trail every time you visit a website, post a comment on a blog, or add a photo to your Facebook wall. A growing number of companies follow that trail to assemble a profile of you and your affinities. These profiles can contain shocking levels of detail—including your age, income, shopping habits, health problems, sexual proclivities, and ZIP code—right down to the number of rooms in your house and the number of people in your family. Although trackers don’t identify their subjects by name, the data they compile is so extensive that “you can find out who an individual is without it,” says Maneesha Mithal of the Federal Trade Commission.

How does the technology work?
The moment you land on a website, it installs a unique electronic code on your hard drive. Owners of websites originally placed “cookies,” the simplest such codes, on computers for users’ convenience, in order to remember things like the contents of online shopping carts. But a cookie placed by one site can also serve as a tracking device that allows marketers to identify an individual computer and follow its path on every Web visit. It’s like a clerk who sells you a pair of jeans at one store, then trails you around the mall, recording every store you visit and every item of clothing you try on. “Beacons” are super-cookies that record even computer keystrokes and mouse movements, providing another layer of detail. “Flash cookies” are installed when a computer user activates Flash technology, such as a YouTube video, embedded on a site. They can also reinstall cookies that have been removed. Such “persistent cookies,” says Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, make it “virtually impossible for users to go online without being tracked and profiled.”

Who’s doing the spying?
Marketers, advertisers, and those whose businesses depend on them. Most websites install their own cookies and beacons, both to make site navigation easier and to gather user information. (Wikipedia is a rare exception.) But third parties—advertisers and the networks that place online ads, such as Google and iAds—frequently pay site hosts to install their own tracking technology. Beacons are even sometimes planted without the knowledge of the host site. Comcast, for example, installed Flash cookies on computers visiting its website after it accepted Clearspring Technologies’ free software for displaying slide shows. Visitors who clicked on a slide show at wound up loading Clearspring’s Flash cookies onto their hard drives, which Comcast said it had never authorized.

How is personal data used?
It’s collected and sold by companies like Clearspring. Such information can be sold in large chunks—for example, an advertiser might pay $1 for 1,000 profiles of movie lovers—or in customized segments. An apparel retailer might buy access to 18-year-old female fans of the Twilight movie series who reside in the Sunbelt. “We can segment it all the way down to one person,” says Eric Porres of Lotame, which sells these profiles. Advertisers use the profiles to deliver individualized ads that follow users to every site they visit. Julia Preston, a 32-year-old software designer from Austin, recently saw how this works firsthand when she started seeing lots of Web ads for fertility treatments. She had recently researched uterine disorders online. “It’s unnerving,” she says.

Is all this snooping legal?
So far, yes. While an e-commerce site can’t sell to third parties the credit card numbers it acquires in the course of its business, the legality of various tracking technologies—and the sale of the personal profiles that result—has never been tested in court. Privacy advocates say that’s not because there aren’t abundant abuses, but because the law hasn’t kept pace with advancing technology. “The relevant laws,” says Lauren Weinstein of People for Internet Responsibility, an advocacy group, “are generally so weak—if they exist at all—that it’s difficult to file complaints.”

Can you avoid revealing yourself online?
Aside from abandoning the Internet altogether, there’s virtually no way to evade prying eyes. Take the case of Ashley Hayes-Beaty, who learned just how exposed she was when The Wall Street Journal shared what it had learned about her from a data miner. Hayes-Beaty’s computer use identified her as a 26-year-old female Nashville resident who counts The Princess Bride and 50 First Dates among her favorite movies, regularly watches Sex and the City, keeps current on entertainment news, and enjoys taking pop-culture quizzes. That litany, which advertisers can buy for about one-tenth of a cent, constitutes what Hayes-Beaty calls an “eerily precise” consumer profile. “I like to think I have some mystery left to me,” says Hayes-Beaty, “but apparently not.”


There are ways to minimize your exposure to data miners. One of the most effective is to disrupt profile-building by clearing your computer browser’s cache and deleting all cookies at least once a week. In addition, turning on the “private browsing” feature included in most popular Web browsers will block tracking technologies from installing themselves on your machine. For fees ranging from $9.95 to $10,000, companies like ReputationDefender can remove your personal information from up to 90 percent of commercial websites. But it’s basically impossible to eradicate personal information, such as property records and police files, from government databases. “There’s really no solution now, except abstinence” from the Internet, says Lt. Col. Greg Conti, a computer science professor at West Point. “And if you choose not to use online tools, you’re really not a member of the 21st century.”
27433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-afpakia (and China?) on: September 13, 2010, 09:12:13 PM

That is true, including strengthening nuclear relations even though India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Agreement.


I suspect the Paks see their nukes as a counter to India's military superiority/numbers; my greater concern is into whose hands the Pak's nukes, technology, and/or materials may wind up.
27434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus on: September 13, 2010, 09:08:51 PM

Good subject and nice follow up-- I had not seen what Microsoft has done.

That said, I'm thinking of our various threads on different aspects of Russia, this one might be a better place to continue it:

27435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 13, 2010, 08:40:31 PM
 shocked shocked shocked
27436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-afpakia (and China?) on: September 13, 2010, 05:54:08 PM
I just reread the Stratfor piece I posted in this thread on the 10th and there is a lot there worthy of consideration.  One thought of many:  Strong alliance with India seems to make sense in many ways.
27437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: September 13, 2010, 05:30:21 PM
Just a sentence or three to help people decide whether it is of sufficient interest to them to go to that site is all we are hoping for  smiley
27438  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: September 13, 2010, 05:26:58 PM
I want videos of your next cage fight Ryan so I can compare the difference from you previous fight  grin
27439  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog (Canine) Training on: September 13, 2010, 05:25:00 PM
Concerning the similarities and differences between dogs and wolves, a Zapata story:

We were at about 7,000 feet on the tallest mountain in Baja California-- which tops out over 10,000.  A VERY remote area. Some folks were trying to sell me about 30 acres of land which included a spring.  I wanted to see where the spring originated and so Zapata and I started climbing up the mountain side.  It was full of large boulders, heavy mesquite brush, and such.  Eventually it got too much for Zapata and so I told him to go back to the fifth wheel camper that served as the "cabin" on the property-- don't ask me how I told him, but he understood me anyway.  It was about a mile away.  He turned and headed back as I continued climbing.  When he got to the "cabin" he gave a big wolf howl to let me know that he had arrived at the cabin.

Only time in his life he ever did that.

Only time he ever needed to.

God, I loved that dog.

27440  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Door Work, Bouncing, Bodyguarding on: September 13, 2010, 05:07:53 PM
Sgt Mac:

I remember reading about that study at the time.

A variation of your tag line:

"Speak softly, and carry a big stick"  grin
27441  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 13, 2010, 04:59:46 PM
Grateful to be home!
27442  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: September 13, 2010, 04:59:05 PM
Quoting myself, "Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson." 

Lets see how long you remember this one  cheesy
27443  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 13, 2010, 04:57:36 PM
C-HD, may I ask you to be in charge of keep count?  Either here or on the DBMAA forum, would you please keep a running count so I can best decide which restaurant we should use?
27444  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: September 12, 2010, 10:29:15 PM
One of the most enjoyable seminars ever for me.  Outstanding group with great vibes.  Tricky Dog and crew made it down.  Focus on Kali Tudo and DLO, with some stick work on occupying strikes using the "Salt & Pepper" variations as the vehicle for the concept.
27445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: September 12, 2010, 10:24:01 PM
Thank you.
27446  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog (Canine) Training on: September 12, 2010, 10:22:10 PM
At 10 months (about 90 pounds) I was till taking my second Akita to the dog park.  One day an Irish Wolfhound (about 170, think large hairy Great Dane) that had bullied him when he was 6 months old (about 70 pounds) came in.  Naturally my boy remembered him and his body language told me he was going to settle accounts.  I gave him the stop command but he ignored me.  The fight was over very quickly.  He knocked the Irish Wolfhound across the entire park for about ten seconds with the IW just totally folding mentally.  Finally I caught up to him and grabbed him as the IW ran off.  I picked up up by the scruff of the neck and the loose skin at the base of the tail and carried him across the length of the park and out the gate.  We were clear between each other thereafter.

OTOH my first Akita, Zapata, the one in our logo, was a VERY dominant Akita.  Instead of trying me he dominated a couple of formidable men; one who had gotten on his excrement list by raising his voice to me and then on another occasion violating the dog's personal space (Z. pinned him to the wall by the testicles) and the other a bodybuilder on steroids.  I'm guessing Zapata took the smell of the testosterone to be a challenge so he rose up and put his paws on the guy's shoulders (he was about 5 foot 6 inch and very thick) rumbled in his face and humped him twice--not in a neurotic poodle way, but in a prison way so as to establish dominance.
27447  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 12, 2010, 10:10:18 PM
Grateful for a wonderful seminar this weekend in Seattle and time with my friends Rob, Tracy, and the two children Mitchell and Duncan.
27448  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: September 12, 2010, 10:08:49 PM

Lets no get too hung up on the numbers.  There's always some last minute cases of vaginitis , , ,  cheesy
27449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: September 12, 2010, 10:03:09 PM
Sincere question:

So what about accessing them from a cyber cafe or a public library?
27450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: September 12, 2010, 09:46:38 PM

Invariably you have excellent judgement in what you share, but may I ask for a bit more description to accompany the URLs?  Thank you.
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