It's Flag Day in Macedonia!
Except, they have Flag Day every two weeks in Macedonia, on the first and fifteenth of every month. That makes it a little less special, if you ask me.
Monday, January 31, 2011
There are rumors that the streets of California are paved with (other people's) gold. It would seem to be the case. $69 million in California Welfare Funds have been spent worldwide...on vacations. The Las Vegas economy has seen a boost courtesy of California's Taxpayer hand-outs to their welfare recipients...
California's $19 billion deficit? NO PROBLEM...
All this can be yours when you sign up for welfare in The Golden State!
He wanted very much for his son, Gamal, to become the next strongman-for-life in Egypt, but nobody else in Egypt saw it that way. There was going to be a minor civil war when Hosni Mubarak died as the army, the rich merchants (bazar) and possibly others grappled for the brass ring. Omar Suleiman, head of the Egyptian Intelligence Service is now Vice President as a hedge against things getting too far out of hand in the elitist circles, but nobody knows who will have a chair when the music stops, do they?
The demonstrators are the wild card in the current 'crisis in Egypt' and there is no question but what the Muslim Brothers follow the Rahm Emanuel doctrine that there's no such thing as a "bad crisis". For the moment, there seem to be many factions of demonstrators and they all want something different. The Egyptian economy is very bad and unless the democratic reformers can offer something substantive, they're unlikely to prevail. The same runs true for the radical Muslims, who can only offer 70 virgins after they're dead.
The Egyptian outcome has less to do with what Iran or Americas want than what the Egyptian people perceive to be the course that puts more food in their bellies. The Army remains intact and is not deserting the way the Iranian army did under the Shah - at least not yet. The Army will support the power elite that rules in Egypt and as cooler heads prevail, they are likely to be the broker that cuts a deal in the short term (which would leave Mubarak in charge but politically weaker).
And from one of my contacts in Egypt:
And from one of my contacts in Egypt:
Note the picture of Col. Sanders defaced in Cairo - do these people have any limits?
Friday, January 28, 2011
SOURCE: (LINK HERE) is one of the reasons why the Egyptian government has worked to block Twitter in Egypt.
The Egyptian operational plan has been previously published and it might aid those who are interested in the politics and evolution of the situation to read it (LINK HERE). The Op. Plan which has been widely circulated on Twitter was also picked up by the Atlantic Monthly.
Though I'm not 'breaking news' by any means, the people interested in communicating via internet in Egypt are successfully doing so through the use of dial-up modems. So while the Egyptian government has taken out some of the routing capabilities of networked servers, that is being circumvented through the use of the telephone system, which is still operating. (READ MORE HERE - LINK)
For the most part, the outcomes of these sorts of uprisings in the Middle East create a worse situation than the one that previously existed. I'm not predicting doom and gloom by any means, merely looking at the past and projecting previous results to the present situation.
There is a disturbance in the force - and ripples are blasting out from India and Asia. So I'm reporting it here for my blog readers. (caveat, I am not a Buddhist and have no faith-related axe to grind)
Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje (25), is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four sects of Buddhism. He is considered the third most important Tibetan religious head after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.
In January, 2000, the Karmapa fled Tibet and sought refuge in India. Since then he has lived in the Gyuto Tantric monastery in Sidhbari near Dharamsala - the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Yesterday, Himachal Pradesh police today raided the 17th Karmapa’s home and claimed to have seized six suitcases containing unexplained cash in Indian and foreign currency. $200,000 is not that much money for a religious leader to have, unless it's India and then it's a scandal. The Karmapa, as with the Dalai Lama, receives donations from the faithful worldwide.
Dorje has been under scrutiny by Indian security agencies since he arrived in India, eleven years ago. He lives in Sidhbari, 10km from the Dalai Lama’s residence. Indian police confined the Karmapa’s movements to within 15km of his home since his arrival in India, and does not allow him to visit the Dalai Lama too frequently. Dare I ask why?
According to The Telegraph, "On July 25, 2009, the Karmapa was given only 30 minutes to meet the Dalai Lama. Earlier, three consecutive requests from him to see the spiritual leader were turned down,” a source close to the Dalai Lama said. Since July 2008, the police have refused to let the Karmapa visit other monasteries in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir that are located close to the China border.
"Dorje has also been banned from travelling abroad. He had toured the US in 2008, when he visited New York and San Francisco in an attempt to raise his international profile. He is keen to visit America again but the government has not budged."
Denounced as a Spy? Really?
Sources cited by The Telegraph (Calcutta, India) said the government had increasingly curbed the movements of the “Boy Karmapa” over the past few years under suspicion that Beijing had stage-managed his “escape” so he could keep an eye on the Dalai Lama’s activities.
Is it about graft and corruption in the Indian Government?
A month ago, when the Karmapa began building a multi-crore religious structure on a 75-acre site in Kotla, 42km from Dharamshala, the income tax department and security agencies questioned the source of funding. The foreign ministry later ordered the construction stopped. Followers of the Karma Kagyu sect, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, are believed to be the richest among Tibetans. The Karmapa’s followers often controversially project him as the successor to the Dalai Lama, who heads the Gelug sect.
Or is it about Buddhist Politics?
The Karmapa’s official seat is the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, but Dorje cannot go there because of the emergence of a rival Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje. Yes, for those blog readers who don't follow Buddhist politics, there have been two candidates for the "position" of 17th Karmapa and both have been enthroned. The Karmapa lineage is the most ancient tulku lineage in Tibetan Buddhism and the Karmapa heads the Kagyu sect.
And call me a cynic, but it sounds as if the Indian police and intelligence agencies have a horse in the race of which official Karmapa will have precedence. Only a cynic would connect that influence to money (and therefore, power).
A friend of mine is a tulku, a very eminent Buddhist. I had no idea how political the Buddhist faith was until I started talking about it with him, years ago. There is a perception that they all get along - but that doesn't seem to be the case. This particular tulku who I know said this of the wealthy Buddhist centers: Big Temple=Big Demon.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.
These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.
Parsons: Disliking "bad colours," he gives it a "B-", 65/100.
Michael5000: It's a little surprising to find red, gold, and green this far north, and assuredly Lithuania has never been a significant player in the pan-African movement. But that doesn't make the colors of its flag "bad." Just distinctive.
It's hard from this distance not to think of the Baltic States as a trio, and one thing I like about their flags is that they are all tricolors yet all immediately distinguishable both from each other and from the tricolor of neighboring macrostate Russia.
Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B", 70/100.
Michael5000: Hey, speaking of distinctiveness... Here's the schematic for the flag of Luxembourg:
...and here's one for the flag of neighboring Netherlands:
Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B", 70/100.
Michael5000: Hey, speaking of distinctiveness... Here's the schematic for the flag of Luxembourg:
...and here's one for the flag of neighboring Netherlands:
Keeping in mind that both of these countries border on France, you can't help but wondering if the Luxembourgers might have come up with something that would make them stand apart a little more in the way of national symbols. In their defense, the design does have roots stretching back eight centuries. On the other hand, the flag wasn't made official until 1972, and at that late date maybe something more contemporary could have been done.
Grade (for the current flag): B-
Parsons: "Looks unfortunately like a target," he says, but it's "original," which is worth a "C+", 60/100.
Michael5000: The Macedonian flag doesn't really look unfortunately like a target, which generally have an array of concentric circles rather than covering rays. No, the Macedonian flag looks unfortunately like the "Rising Sun" flag of fascist Imperial Japan. But that is not to be worried over, as modern Macedonia is rather remote from the tribulations of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.
I actually like the Macedonian flag more than I thought I would when it was first unfurled. The red/yellow combination is unusual and highly distinctive. The radiating-rays design is a good one, and Macedonia's take on it goes a long ways towards rehabilitating the concept. So, a cautious thumbs-up for The State That We No Longer Have to Call the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Parsons: This time, "original" is worth a "B", 73/100.
Michael5000: I quite like the subtle but simple geometry of the Malagasy flag, which combines three 2:1 rectangles into a simple 3:2 banner.
For some reason, the red, white, and green color scheme has always especially failed to say "Madagascar" to me -- maybe I'm subconsciously looking for some African gold or black in there -- but apparently they are colors with deep historical associations, so what the heck. In any case, it stands out among the African flags, and would stand out against the flags of its neighbors. Except, of course, Madagascar doesn't have neighbors.
Parsons: Unhappy with "bad colours," he nevertheless gives it a "B", 70/100.
Michael5000: Malawi has undergone the world's second-most recent flag change (since superseded by Burma, but I expect that one will prove to be fairly temporary), and you no doubt followed the coverage here on the L&TM5K. Niece#3 did, and her subsequent current events paper for Global Studies not only got an "A", but also extra credit for covering a country that no one else had got to yet. But I digress. Parsons reviewed a substantially redder flag:
Here they are together, old and new.
And, apparently the new one is actually showing up in real life:
At first (politics aside) I disliked the new design, regarding it as something of a "dumbing down" of the old flag's unusual red-on-black scheme. Also, it must be said that the new sunburst, though single-color, does have a hell of a lot of fussy little pieces. That aside, I'm coming to recognize that Malawi Flag 2.0 remains distinctive and is really a little easier on the eyes.
Grade (for the current flag): B+
A new report from the Congressional Research Service explains more or less what everyone (outside of the White House) knows. Economic vitality and national security are inexorably linked. Harken back to the days of the Second World War where American industrial might tipped the tide in both the Atlantic and Pacific Wars. As much as the Russians discount allied help in their Great Patriotic War against the Nazi Germany today -- back then the the convoys and technical aid they received made a significant difference. While I don't discount the blood and sacrifice of individuals and nations, the "arsenal of democracy" could be counted on.
Today the disastrous "progressive agenda" in America has brought us to this sorry state that we find ourselves in.
Today, CRS states, "There is scarcely an economic policy issue before the Congress that does not affect U.S. national security. Likewise, there is scarcely a national security policy issue that does not affect the economy."
"The United States has long been accustomed to pursuing a rich man's approach to national security," the CRS report said. "The country could field an overwhelming fighting force and combine it with economic power and leadership in global affairs to bring to bear far greater resources than any other country against any threat to the nation's security.... [In the past,] policies for economic growth and issues such as unemployment have been viewed as domestic problems largely separate from considerations of national security."
"The world, however, has changed. Globalization, the rise of China, the prospect of an unsustainable debt burden, unprecedented federal budget deficits, the success of mixed economies with both state-owned and private businesses, huge imbalances in international trade and capital flows, and high unemployment have brought economics more into play in considerations of national security."
Consequently, "In national security, the economy is both the enabler and the constraint."
See "Economics and National Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy," Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2011:
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The Life of a Private Spy
Duane R. (Dewey) Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.
Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul's ruling class.
Mr. Clarridge, 78, who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned, is described by those who have worked with him as driven by the conviction that Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies.
His dispatches - an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports - have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.
For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge's operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.
It also shows how the outsourcing of military and intelligence operations has spawned legally murky clandestine operations that can be at cross-purposes with America's foreign policy goals. Despite Mr. Clarridge's keen interest in undermining Afghanistan's ruling family, President Obama's administration appears resigned to working with President Karzai and his half brother, who is widely suspected of having ties to drug traffickers.
Charles E. Allen, a former top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security who worked with Mr. Clarridge at the C.I.A., termed him an "extraordinary" case officer who had operated on "the edge of his skis" in missions abroad years ago.
But he warned against Mr. Clarridge's recent activities, saying that private spies operating in war zones "can get both nations in trouble and themselves in trouble." He added, "We don't need privateers."
The private spying operation, which The New York Times disclosed last year, was tapped by a military desperate for information about its enemies and frustrated with the quality of intelligence from the C.I.A., an agency that colleagues say Mr. Clarridge now views largely with contempt. The effort was among a number of secret activities undertaken by the American government in a shadow war around the globe to combat militants and root out terrorists.
Mr. Clarridge issued a statement that likened his operation, called the Eclipse Group, to the Office of Strategic Services, the C.I.A.'s World War II precursor. "O.S.S. was a success of the past," he wrote. "Eclipse may possibly be an effective model for the future, providing information to officers and officials of the United States government who have the sole responsibility of acting on it or not."
Mr. Clarridge - known to virtually everyone by his childhood nickname, Dewey - was born into a staunchly Republican family in New Hampshire, attended Brown University and joined the spy agency during its freewheeling early years. He eventually became head of the agency's Latin America division in 1981 and helped found the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center five years later.
In postings in India, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, Mr. Clarridge, using pseudonyms that included Dewey Marone and Dax Preston LeBaron, made a career of testing boundaries in the dark space of American foreign policy. In his 1997 memoir, he wrote about trying to engineer pro-American governments in Italy in the late 1970s (the former American ambassador to Rome, Richard N. Gardner, called him "shallow and devious"), and helping run the Reagan administration's covert wars against Marxist guerrillas in Central America during the 1980s.
He was indicted in 1991 on charges of lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-contra scandal; he had testified that he was unaware of arms shipments to Iran. But he was pardoned the next year by the first President George Bush.
Now, more than two decades after Mr. Clarridge was forced to resign from the intelligence agency, he tries to run his group of spies as a C.I.A. in miniature. Working from his house in a San Diego suburb, he uses e-mail to stay in contact with his "agents" - their code names include Willi and Waco - in Afghanistan and Pakistan, writing up intelligence summaries based on their reports, according to associates. [Mazzetti/NYTimes/23January2011]
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The CIA survey portrays Chinese bloggers as alert, engaged and influential in shaping government policy.
"The controversy over the mentally retarded workers set off a passionate discussion in the blogosphere on such topics as the treatment of disabled people in society and the role officials play in allowing workers to be exploited in private enterprises...The public reaction resulting from the story's popularity in the blogosphere as well as in traditional media almost certainly had an effect on the quick government response," the CIA report said.
Among several other current news stories, "Many Chinese Netizens continue to follow and comment on the legal case of Wikileaks.org founder Julian Assange," the report said. [Aftergood/SecrecyNews/19January2011]
Monday, January 24, 2011
President Hu Jintao returned home to Beijing this weekend after a trip intended to repair relations with the United States. But the next time the White House marches out the honor guard and polishes the crystal for a Chinese leader, it is unlikely to be for Mr. Hu. (LINK to NY Times) Mr. Hu has already begun preparing for his departure from power, passing the baton to his presumed successor, a former provincial leader named Xi Jinping.
But an extended look at Mr. Xi’s past, taken from wide-ranging interviews and official Chinese publications, shows that his rise has been built on a combination of political acumen, family connections and ideological dexterity. Like the country he will run, he has nimbly maintained the primacy of the Communist Party, while making economic growth the party’s main business.
There is little in his record to suggest that he intends to steer China in a sharply different direction. But some political observers also say that he may have broader support within the party than Mr. Hu, which could give him more leeway to experiment with new ideas.
For much of his career, Mr. Xi, 57, presided over booming areas on the east coast that have been at the forefront of China’s experimentation with market authoritarianism, which has included attracting foreign investment, putting party cells in private companies and expanding government support for model entrepreneurs. This has given Mr. Xi the kind of political and economic experience that Mr. Hu lacked when he ascended to the top leadership position.
He is less of a dour mandarin than Mr. Hu is. The tall, stocky Mr. Xi is a so-called princeling — a descendant of a member of the revolutionary party elite — and his second marriage is to a celebrity folk singer and army major general, Peng Liyuan.
Unlike the robotic Mr. Hu, Mr. Xi has dropped memorable barbs against the West into a couple of recent speeches: he once warned critics of China’s rise to “stop pointing fingers at us.” But he has enrolled his daughter in Harvard, under a pseudonym.
On a visit to Mexico in 2009, when he was defending China’s record in the global financial crisis before an audience of overseas Chinese, he suggested that he was impatient with foreigners wary of China’s new power in the world.
“Some foreigners with full bellies and nothing better to do engage in finger-pointing at us,” he said. “First, China does not export revolution; second, it does not export famine and poverty; and third, it does not mess around with you. So what else is there to say?”
China is China and the flexible political Mr. Xi is a shrewd operator with a solid understanding of all things Chinese. Some feel that he'll be more tractable in dealing with the West than Hu has been. I feel that he will do what is in China's best interests. Period. You can't fault him for doing that - but it may not play into Europe's and North American interests the way pundits seem to keep playing their forecasts.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Proud progressives and postmodern thinkers must be slapping themselves in sincere congratulations that the minds of our next generation have been prepared for the new politics of the political left, which are essentially the same old collectivist politics of the left. This struck home solidly for me when I attended a junior high school function years ago for one of my children and a disheveled guy wearing an old, stained t-shirt with a picture of Ernesto (Che) Guevara on the front was identified as the "sociology teacher". This same faculty member had a student successfully evicted from one of his classes for wearing an American flag on a shirt with the slogan, "These Colors Don't Run!"
Postmodern philosophical ideas have permeated all aspects and levels of western culture. Most find a a defining moment in modern aspects of "political correctness" which tend to police and order those progressive notions. None work so hard to enforce the transmission and inculcation of political correctness into a new generation as do elementary school teachers.
When my daughter, Amanda, became an elementary school teacher, I thought that she personally would make a difference -- but I had no idea how tightly they were controlled by administrative faculty, who held positions of educational, artistic and political power. The political party line of 'conservative bad, liberal good' was one of those things teachers were expected to blast young minds with.
How can such ideas thrive? It is relatively easy when you "deconstruct" the Western philosophical tradition and introduce moral relativity; contradictory discourses, deceptive rhetoric; and a pervasive contempt for both reason and truth. The latter attitude, in particular, allows one to develop an amazing and mind-boggling talent for being able to ignore objective reality under any circumstance, expecially when said reality punctures your ideological bubble.
College students have become the children of postmodernism; steeped in the nihilism of our day; marinated in its metaphysics and epistemology. They go to college to learn to think and instead learn how not to. They believe in nothing and stand for nothing. They are taught to mindlessly mouth the same old tired and worn self-serving platitudes of a defunct and dangerous world view. They will become the minions of the left. Since they do not know how to sift fact from opinion, they can be easily manipulated by postmodern rhetoric. Their poster child is Barack Hussein Obama.
While the neo-Enlightenment thinkers have come to terms with the modern world, from the postmodern perspective the universe has been metaphysically and epistemologically shattered. We cannot turn to God or to nature; and we cannot trust reason or mankind.
But there was always socialism. As bad as the philosphical universe became in metaphysics, epistemology , and the study of human nature, there was still the vision of an ethical and political order that would transcend everything and create the beautiful collectivist society.
Yes, there is always the "perfection" of socialism in the back of the minds of the leftists today; as they slowly but surely push this country toward that wakingdream nightmare. And they have a new generation of mindless minions who will vote for a smooth talking, talented non-entity and make him an American Idol. An idol to be worshipped.
"The aim of public education is, and has always been, to make members of the public more standardized and thus better suited for incorporation into The Plan. It is unsurprising that socialists have taken up the cause with verve. President Obama, speaking to an audience of schoolchildren, described in some detail how he expects the schools to produce students who will serve the needs of the state; unsurprisingly, he cast the situation in terms of his own agenda, emphasizing health care, racial discrimination, and job creation." (Socialism is Back, Kevin Williamson)
Sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia published a new and unprecedented study - now a book: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. They followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.
"Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event." (according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum)
The students, for example, couldn't determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin. (does that sound familiar?) Not much was asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.
Is any wonder that these students graduate with the feeling that the mainstream media is a fair and truthful arbiter of "news"--- or that they voted for an empty vessel like Barack Hussein Obama?
Saturday, January 22, 2011
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