Diary of a Madwoman

Uncle Volodya says, "...and so I said to Dima, "Don't buy a single vote more than you have to. I'll be damned if we're paying for a landslide!"

Laughter, according to Dr. Robert Provine, is part of the universal human vocabulary. We don’t do it consciously; it is an impulse, and we’re all born with the ability – even Dick Cheney, although you may have never seen him do it. A variety of sensations and visual cues make us laugh; we sometimes laugh when we’re nervous or afraid, and nearly all of us laugh when we see someone do something stupid that we could have forecast was going to happen. Like the woman at the intersection whose car is sticking out into it, but the light turns red before she can make her turn. She backs up, but you can see by the back-up lights she’s forgotten to take it out of reverse. You know when the light changes, she’s going to nail it, and crash into the car behind her. Or the guy in the mall who’s half-turned watching the curvaceous bottom of a passing girl going in the other direction, and walks face-first into a support pillar. The exuberantly uncoordinated drunk dancing by himself in a nightclub; the girl returning from the bathroom who has unknowingly tucked her skirt into the back of her pantyhose. Okay, that last one is a little harder to predict, but it’s still funny when it happens. Our fellow humans provide us deep reservoirs of amusement.

In that spirit, please join me now in laughing at the latest hyperbolic effort of possibly the most predictably stupid nutjob in America.

Unfortunately, recognition of this piece will be interpreted by its author as acknowledgement that it is some kind of powerful threat, instead of the farcical nonsense it is. That’s too bad, because it serves as an excellent example of unintentional comedy.

Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? Oh, dear….this looks like trouble for Mr. Putin. The Netherlands has voted to sanction all the individuals on the “Magnitsky List”, and they won’t be able to enter the Netherlands, and perhaps their assets in the Netherlands will be frozen. The thing is, as far as I can make out, Mr. Putin is not on the list. Some 20 prison officials who were found culpable by a Russian investigation into Magnitsky’s death were already fired, so presumably that trims the list down a little. But it seems actually to be pretty hard to find out who is on the list. This reference does helpfully point out it includes,

“Indi­vid­u­als who were engaged in any act that was instru­men­tal in caus­ing Sergei Magnitsky’s death;
– Indi­vid­u­als who con­spired to com­mit tax fraud against the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion through a scheme tar­get­ing Her­mitage;
– Spouses, sons, daugh­ters or par­ents of the same individuals.”

You know, at this point one would have to wonder why Sergei Magnitsky was so important to the United States and, apparently, the western world. I mean, Osama bin Laden – who killed 3000 westerners, mostly Americans, on their own soil – rated only, “I truly am not that concerned about him“. This was eloquently discussed with excellent attention to perspective by Eugene Ivanov. Yet Mr. Magnitsky’s death while in custody was so fundamentally horrifying that even the children and parents of anyone engaged in any act that was instrumental to his death must be punished.

You see, that puzzles me. Because violent death while in custody shouldn’t be shocking to U.S. senators – they’ve seen it before. But for Senator Cardin – co-sponsor of the “Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act”, the unwillingness of the U.S. Attorney-General to consider waterboarding at Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan “torture” was only “deeply disappointing”. The deliberate destruction by the CIA of tapes recording interrogations, some of which resulted in the death of the subject, merely “raised additional concerns”. For his part, Representative McGovern (the other co-sponsor) – while acknowledging that the war in Iraq was based on deliberate falsehoods, therefore the deaths of those who died in U.S. custody were for nothing – felt that “the abuse and torture by U.S forces of detainees…have made [the USA] an unpopular force in Iraq…” Gee, d’ya think?

What do you say, boys; are we going to see a “Justice for Dilar Dababa Act”? A “Justice for Abdul Wahid (who died under interrogation while shackled and gagged) Act”? Considering President Medvedev fired 20 people – among them the Deputy Minister of the Federal Penitentiary system – while President Bush blamed the deaths in custody in Iraq on “a few bad apples” and punished a handful of low-ranking soldiers – it occurs to me the USA is not in the best moral position where deaths of prisoners are concerned.

Something else that seems to rankle the Justice for Magnitsky (which apparently nothing less than the resignation of the entire Russian government will satisfy) crowd is that some members who are on the “Magnitsky List” were “promoted” since his death. Well, just by way of perspective, let’s look at what happened to Major-General Geoffrey Miller, United States Army, the Commanding Officer at Guantanamo Bay who was invited to come to Abu Ghraib to stiffen the spines of those sissies who were failing to get results because they were squeamish or something. Major-General Miller’s harsh tactics were directly blamed for the cascade of abuses at Abu Ghraib, by General Taguba. But he was allowed to retire honourably, after being twice cleared of wrongdoing by fellow military commanders, and presented with the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat honour for General Officers.

On the occasion, outbursts of choler and high dudgeon by Senators and/or U.S. Representatives were conspicuous by their absence.

The whole Sergei-Magnitsky-as-inspirational-figure thing gets easier to understand, though, the more reports you read on the “Magnitsky List”, because a couple of names pop up in every one of them – multimillionaire William “Bill” Browder, and Hermitage Capital, the firm of which he is CEO, which was implicated in a tax-fraud scheme and fled Russia just ahead of being kicked out. In fact, in documents ranging from minor legal declarations to scandal-rag whisperings t0 plants in business circulars, Browder and Hermitage Capital keep surfacing, along with another name – Renaissance Capital. Renaissance Capital is the biggest investment bank in Russia, run by New-Zealander CEO Stephen Jennings, and is still doing business and making big money in Russia. So I guess it’s only to be expected that Renaissance Capital is also accused of helping the Russian government swindle Hermitage out of a fortune.

Also naturally, according to La Russophobe, Putin is the puppetmaster pulling the strings of all the players – except Bill “Diogenes” Browder, of course – the quintessential searcher after honest men, flitting from country to country stirring up trouble against Russia and his remaining rivals.

Curiously, Browder didn’t always feel that way about Putin. In fact, he once had a bit of a crush on him. Let’s go back in time, to 2004 (insert shimmering time-travel keyboard effect here). Putin, we hear, is “a true reformer, the one ally of Western capitalists who have come to Russia to create a new market economy but have found themselves adrift in a sea of corrupt bullies”.  Say what? Vladimir Putin, protector of western capitalism? Wow; perhaps there’s more – let’s look. Oh, my God. Andrew Kuchins, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, calls Bill Browder “the chief cheerleader for Putin”!!! On the battle between Khodorkovsky and the state, Browder is actually quoted as saying, “I would trust Putin any day of the week”. Jeez, Bill, what happened?

It might have something to do with the fact that when the article was written, Hermitage Capital – which specialized in wrecking undervalued Russian companies in which it owned a significant interest, then stuffing its pockets with money when the state came in to clean them up – was the biggest foreign investment fund in Russia. Now it’s….you guessed it – Renaissance Capital, Browder’s arch-rival. Hmmmm….

Well, this is fascinating, but let’s move on. Oh, no – Germany had to withdraw Putin’s nomination for a prize hardly anyone had ever heard of. Actually, that’s not exactly what happened: the anti-Putin baying was so loud that the organizers canceled the prize and the ceremony altogether, and now nobody will get it. That’s very mature, I must say, and certainly provides Russians with a powerful inducement to be just like westerners as quickly as the transformation can be accomplished. Did you hear a lot of Russian shrieking when Tony Blair (self-serving, smug, lying leader of the U.K. who backed the American invasion of Iraq, and was probably the brains of the operation, considering George W. Bush was barely able to dress himself without adult supervision), Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer (the idiot who kicked off the Iraqi insurgency by disbanding the Iraqi Army) and George “Slam-Dunk” Tenet were all awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom? You did not. I think that’s all we need to say about that.

Continuing the “Oh, no!!” chorus, we learn that oligarchs Alexander Lebedev and Mikhail Prokhorov have leveled “devastating criticism” at Putin’s administration.

You mean proud KGB spy Alexander Lebedev? That Alexander Lebedev? The one who’s possibly one of Putin’s agents? The one who was recently accused of “bowing and scraping before Putin“? Yes, that criticism will carry a lot of weight, I imagine. Putin is probably packing his bags to flee the country right now. What about Mikhail Prokhorov? Aside from being another of Putin’s potential agents, he was also a major investor (to the tune of half a billion) in and part-owner of Renaissance Capital, the “corporate raiders” allegedly in league with the state to ruin Hermitage Capital – keeping his pirozhki-hole shut might be a wise course of action at this point. Especially if this is the extent of his political chops – Mubarek was a dictator who was propped up by the United States for thirty years – something his people evidently did not care for, since they tried six times to assassinate him. That’s an average of two assassination attempts per decade, for those fascinated with statistics. Egypt does, however, have something in common with the USA – they shared similar levels of unemployment last year (the USA was, in fact, slightly worse, although the “Arab Spring” fixed that problem, as Egypt’s unemployment rate went from 8.92 to 11.9%). The USA currently has 9.2% unemployed, while Russia’s rate is 6.1%. None of the countries or continents named by Gorbachev (under whose leadership per-capita GDP in Russia was less than half what it is now), Lebedev (Zimbabwe per-capita GDP $400.00, Russia per-capita GDP $15,900.00; yep, lots of similarities there) or Prokhorov has anything in common with Russia other than being situated on the same planet.

Last, but not least, we come to the tragic sinking of the passenger vessel Bulgaria, of which Vladimir Putin was apparently Captain. What?? He wasn’t? Well, then, what has the accident got to do with Putin? Hold on; perhaps he helped build it – nope, it was built in Czechoslovakia.  Well, then, perhaps it was a state vessel of the Russian Federation. No, no…it was owned and operated by a local touring company in Bolgar. Well, it sank in Russia! Oh, wait, no it didn’t – it sank in Tatarstan. Aha! Gotcha!! Putin is Prime Minister of Tatarstan!!

Well, actually, no. He’s Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, of which Tatarstan is a member state – but Tatarstan declared its sovereignty in 1990, and has its own president and everything. If you’re still wondering what the sinking of the Bulgaria has to do with Putin, you’re not alone.

Oh – maybe you meant that as a head of state, Putin should have anticipated the tragedy, and followed advice from experts who urged him to take action to prevent a completely preventable tragedy that resulted in loss of lives which otherwise would likely not have occurred. Maybe you meant that Putin was cocky, assuring his countrymen that the nation was completely prepared for such a disaster when no preparations whatever had been made. I sure hope so, because that almost exactly describes the performance of the U.S. president in the days just before Hurricane Katrina struck, killing 1,836 Americans.

That doesn’t make what happened on the Bulgaria acceptable by any stretch of the imagination – it was the result of stupid negligence, and I am glad to see the incident is being followed by recriminations, arrests, punishment and a reexamination of the regulations. It does, however, point out once more that few are legitimately in the chair of international critic.

As well as being social and contagious, our laughter is a message that we send to other people. Most often, it does not follow jokes. This case, however, is an exception to that rule.

This entry was posted in Economy, Government, Investment, La Russophobe, Politics, Russia, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

243 Responses to Diary of a Madwoman

  1. yalensis says:

    When that riverboat sank, I wondered at the time if russophobes would “go there” and try to draw grandiose conclusions from this one accident. Yes, they did. This one accident, which never happens anywhere else except Russia (with its drunken riverboat captains), shows the complete rotteness and unsustainability of the Putin regime. Russians might as well just give up and go crawling back to Vikings on hands and knees; “We are idiots, we have no idea what we are doing, please come back and rule over us!”

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha! That’s pretty much what I thought, too. To be fair, if that accident had happened in the USA, I doubt very much that any other boat operating in the area would have passed by without stopping, and I’d like to see the explanation of the Captains who did. I believe that only showed up in the article she quoted, by some yahoo for Voice of America, and was not substantiated, but it’s certainly possible. It would depend on where they were viewing the accident from; a person on a hilltop, for example, can see a lot further than someone 20 feet from the surface on the bridge of a boat, both looking for something on the surface (since Bulgaria sank in minutes, she might have been all or nearly submerged when the boats passed). I see Vadim Nitikin has blithely compared it to the terrorist attack on Norway on his blog.

      It’s funny how some sources can be overflowing with sympathy when a tragic accident occurs somewhere else or involves people they otherwise care about (you can only imagine the weeping and gnashing of teeth that would have prevailed had Garry Kasparov or Oleg Kozlovsky drowned in this accident!), but seize upon such an accident in Russia as evidence that Russians deserve God’s wrath. LR operates from the standpoint that it’s all tough love, and that what she’d really like to see is Russia become a prosperous, representative market democracy with liberal leaders. But the majority of her posts close with something like, “Russians [voted for Putin, don’t protest against this, won’t ask for help, so they] deserve this.”

      Anyway, your closing sentence apparently is precisely the conclusion you are supposed to draw.

      • peter says:

        … seize upon such an accident in Russia as evidence that Russians deserve God’s wrath.

        Sadly, they have a point. Sort of.

        Ремень: НЕТ. Икона: ДА (scroll down to the photos)

        • marknesop says:

          It’s good to see you in such a humorous mood, Peter! Yes, that is comical; you have to wonder about the way some people think. I especially liked the author’s diagnosis that people in Russia deliberately do not use seat belts because it gives them an extra death-defying thrill, an adrenaline rush. It kind of reminds me of Vladimir Pastukhov’s free psychoanalysis of Putin, performed with no qualifications for the job and from reading a Kommersant interview with him.

          Naturally, the behavior of drivers on the road has nothing to do with marine accidents, and the article provided is certainly not evidence of a broad mentality of risk-taking anyway. As I’ve pointed out in other venues, although Russia’s traffic fatality rate is somewhat high for a developed country, it is only slightly above the world average. It does have some of the worst traffic jams I’ve ever seen, and I was only in a relatively small city, but by and large the behavior on Russia’s roads had nothing like the instinctive-lunge-for-the-nonexistent-brake-pedal terror about it of, say, Shanghai. And unless there’s compelling evidence Russian drivers who die in road accidents deliberately set out to murder others, there’s little justification for the deserving of God’s wrath.

          Something else about the article that was the subject of the post puzzled me – the allegation that many of the children who died were recorded as having the same date of birth because an official supposedly “waived (sic) them aboard without documents”.

          When was the last time you boarded a passenger vessel and were asked your birth date? If you and 300 other people took the Port Angeles ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles and you all paid cash, and it sunk, how would they know who was on board? I’ve taken it a few times, and although a U.S. Customs guy does a walk along the line of cars and asks for identification (only passports, now), it’s only to verify you have ID so you can board the ferry – no details of your identification are recorded. They certainly don’t ask for your birth date. If you paid cash for your passage, there’d be no credit-card trace and they would have a hell of a time figuring out who you were. And that’s in countries that are fairly security-conscious. To the best of my knowledge local pleasure cruises in both Canada and the U.S. do not ask for any documents at all. As long as you have a ticket, for which you also do not have to provide identification, you’re good to go.

          • grafomanka says:

            I think something like risk-taking mentality or we-should-be-allright mentality definitely exists in Russia, also young men getting a kick out of not doing things the ‘safe’ way.
            Alternative explanation I came across – Russians believe in fate, and you can’t cheat fate so they see no point taking precautions. ;p

            • marknesop says:

              Maybe so, but that’s common to young men everywhere, and delusions of invulnerability are largely what drive the insurance costs for teenagers-to-mid-twenties. For my part, I can’t see that Russians are any different in the way they drive than in the way they conduct other practices in their lives, and you don’t see Russian parents encouraging their children to play in the street or downhill ski without a helmet because “if it’s your fate to die, nothing can save you”.

            • peter says:

              I think something like risk-taking mentality or we-should-be-allright mentality definitely exists in Russia…

              Right, we even have a special word for that: авось. To quote Pushkin’s timeless lines:

              Призадумался поп, // Стал себе почёсывать лоб. // Щелк щелку ведь розь. // Да понадеялся он на русский авось.

              • marknesop says:

                Right, but the “risk-taking mentality” doesn’t necessarily exist right across the population – there’s a group of risk-takers in every society, and they’re usually called teenagers or young people. In this particular application, it’s being used to support the argument that middle-aged people who work at the river tours business have a risk-taking mentality, and that’s why they let passengers go out on the river in clapped-out boats on their last legs, and passengers go anyway because they have a risk-taking mentality, and the government doesn’t do anything to regulate it because, gosh darn it, they have a risk-taking mentality too. And that’s simply not true, any more than it is anywhere else. Individuals make decisions based on, “what’s the worst that could happen?”, and usually they grossly underestimate it and sometimes it does happen. But when it happens in Lichtenstein or Japan or Italy or Scotland, everybody says, “Oh, what a terrible tragedy – what can we do to help?” When it happens in Russia or one of its satellites, some people say, “Oh, what a terrible tragedy to befall people who deserve tragedy, and it was engineered by risk-taking careless idiots”. Sympathy and Empathy versus Judgment.

                I wouldn’t argue that no such mentality exists in Russia, but that it is not present to a greater degree than most other countries and that it is chiefly prevalent in the same strata of society as it exists in other countries. It is likewise not a good rationale to rely upon to explain this accident. People who shave their operations to the bone in order to maximize their profit over expenses exist everywhere – they are indeed unscrupulous, and could in a way be said to be risk-takers, although the risk is mostly with other people’s lives while they risk only ruin or imprisonment. And generally, the only way they are exposed is when a tragic accident occurs, which is followed by a flurry of regulations that should have been in place anyway.

                The President of Poland died in a plane crash in a very old Tupolev (a Russian plane, so of course some sources immediately alleged it was Russia’s fault, as if Russian influences somehow prevented him from buying something newer) that some government officials had begged him to replace. Does that indicate a mentality of risk-taking among the highest echelons of the Polish government, and expose the concerned officials as anomalous islands in a sea of Polish risk-takers? I don’t think so.

                • grafomanka says:

                  Does that indicate a mentality of risk-taking among the highest echelons of the Polish government, and expose the concerned officials as anomalous islands in a sea of Polish risk-takers?
                  Well… yes. From the highest echelons to the little man – disregard for helth and safety, cutting corners, no common sense… Slavic mentality😀

      • grafomanka says:

        To be fair, if that accident had happened in the USA, I doubt very much that any other boat operating in the area would have passed by without stopping, and I’d like to see the explanation of the Captains who did.

        at least one of the Captains sems to have a credible explanation
        http://rianovosti.com/russia/20110726/165392604.html

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks for that. It is indeed a plausible explanation, and not without precedent. Navy radio operators are instructed not to respond (by radio) to a “Pan Pan Pan” radio call (emergency situation, but less than SOS, often for a vessel that is overdue) without prior permission from superiors, because you may not be the closest vessel and responding commits you to carry out the rescue or otherwise address the situation. If this is the case, the bridge watch of the ARABELLA should be able to provide testimony that will absolve him.

        • yalensis says:

          Good example of correct behavior for ancillary boats = the “Captain Sully Miracle on the Hudson” event in January 2009. In that exemplary incident, every boat on the Hudson River, from tugboat to rowboat, came in to help save passengers from the sinking wing of the plane. That is the way it should be done.

    • grafomanka says:

      The really sickening thing is how recently the press all over (even New York Times) wrote about the Norvegian killer Breivik’s love for Putin.

      • marknesop says:

        Our press was all about how his “manifesto” had mentioned several members of the Canadian intelligentsia and literary community. It didn’t say in what context.

        • yalensis says:

          My understanding is that the guy had a (creepily rational) plan to destroy the Norwegian Labour Party by killing off their future leaders at the socialist youth camp. I remember going to commie youth camp myself, back in the day, and we did have pistol and rifle-target-shooting classes. However, the adult camp counselors were the only people who had the keys to the gun lockers. Would have been a great ending if one of those Norwegian kids could have grabbed a rifle somehow and capped that lunatic.

          • Sam says:

            Interestingly, it’s not often mentioned in the press reports that Breivik said about Putin that he didn’t know whether Putin is “their” best friend or worst enemy. Besides, when talking about Breivik’s crazy views, everyone agrees he’s a abject killer, but then suddenly his opinion about Putin become valid and conclusive. Weird logic…

      • AK says:

        AND the endorsement was ambiguous…

        AND if we take Breivik’s endorsement as condemnation then pretty much the entire pantheon of Western liberal thinkers from Locke onwards should be rejected.

        LOL.

        • yalensis says:

          Similar thing happened with that crazy guy who shot American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and also shot and killed several other people, including a 9-year-old girl). Anyhow, police found “writings” of Karl Marx and Adolph Hitler in crazy guy’s dorm room. So ignorant pundits had a field day linking Marxism-Nazism-terrorism and implying that socialist-minded people endorse mass random shootings.
          Turns out crazy guy was taking undergraduate-level course in Political Science, and these books by Marx and Hitler were required reading assigned by his professor.

  2. Misha says:

    Comparatively speaking, public safety matters like auto related deaths, drownings and the discussed incident (at the above post) appears to be a greater problem in Russia than in North America and some other places in the West.

    The focal points range from the earnest desire of improving the situation in Russia to making cheap propaganda points in the spirit of the Russia sucks mindset.

    The NYT is more tabloid than some might think. In this day in age, Breivik’s stated admiration of Putin is a news worthy enough highlight. On the other hand, the follow-up on how Putin/official post-Soviet Russia embraces a coexistence with Islam is downplayed. (Putin having attended a major gathering of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, among other particulars.)

  3. Misha says:

    More on Breivik, including a pointed remark (in the comments section) on an Economist piece:

    http://grayfalcon.blogspot.com/2011/07/oh-no-you-dont.html

  4. sinotibetan says:

    To yalensis, Mark, Misha and all:-

    Long time since a comment from me! I Have been(and will continue to be) busy and cannot write long comments anymore(to the relief of many, I suppose!). As for Breivik….he supposedly had ‘high regards’ for the Pope also….so just because a terrorist has ‘admiration’ for someone doesn’t make someone ‘bad’!

    The propaganda against Russia by the West continues even though it looks like the USA is in a big mess now(at least economically). I think it is the beginning of the downfall of the USA.

    Also….another interesting thing(albeit off-tangent from the piece by Mark):-

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110725-germanys-choice-part-2

    I think…in spite of demographic and ‘multiculturalism’ issues and the Eurozone crisis in Europe, some form of power will emerge in Europe….perhaps eclipsing a falling USA. Will Germany become a world power once more by manipulating the EU(or its successor organization) to its own geopolitical aims? Comments?

    sinotibetan

    • yalensis says:

      Greetings, sinotibetan! I am very pleased to hear from you again. By the way, you might hop over to Anatoly’s blog too, we have been having an interesting discussion about his progress in the study of the Chinese language. Just yesterday I posted a comment about an internet link I found concerning the historical proto-language (circa 4000 BC) which linguists call “Sino-Tibetan”, so I thought of you. LOL!

      • marknesop says:

        Hey, Sino-Tibetan, it’s good to see you back!

        Perhaps being cited by a terrorist whackjob isn’t necessarily bad, and it could even be that those mentioned were mentioned in the context that he disagreed with them. Still, it reminds us to be careful of our words. I got the impression some people were a little creeped out to hear they had been memorialized – in whatever context – by this disturbed individual.

        Indeed, the USA is edging ever closer to default, although I personally think it would take a lot more than that to “ruin” such a major power. But although the controversy is mostly engineered by Republicans who are motivated to make the economy fail on Obama’s watch in hopes of seizing the presidency next year, the Republican who’s actually gaining most from it is Michele “Loose Cannon” Bachmann. A President Bachmann quite likely would destroy America. On the plus side, non-allied NGO’s can have a ball stirring up “grassroots protest movements” like the Tea Party. Not the actual Tea Party, of course, because Michele Bachmann is their candidate, and they would hardly revolt against her. But there are lots of nutty groups just as extreme.

        • hoct says:

          How could what the Republicans are pushing for make the economy fail?

          • marknesop says:

            It could inspire- and already is inspiring – a crisis of confidence that is affecting markets. It probably would not make any immediate difference to America, as they long ago adopted a policy of borrowing huge amounts to finance government spending. But there is an enormous psychological punch in the nation having to default on its debts “for the first time in its history”. Also, on no occasion in its past has the nation been so heavily obligated to a debtor (China) with whom it shares few if any ideological parallels and who is not a close ally.

            According to the Global Economy Tracker at Salon Magazine, the USA is sixth from the bottom (or the top, as that’s the way this ranking is expressed) in terms of government debt as a percentage of GDP at first-quarter’s end, at 95%, behind Japan, India, Greece, Italy and Thailand. I haven’t heard much lately regarding India or Thailand, but the others are all economies just waiting for a puff of disaster to tip them over the edge.

            There’s also a pretty good primer on it at the NYT, here.

          • yalensis says:

            @hoct: I am not an economist, but I believe I can answer your question: If the U.S. defaults on its loans, then American currency will be downgraded. Since America is not so much a manufacturing country any more, their currency (American dollar) is their biggest asset, much international trading (for example, oil) is pegged to dollar as the main arbiter of value. Hence, it behooves Americans to keep a strong stable dollar, and to keep a trusted brand (as a nation who always pays their bills). In the past, America has fought actual wars (for example, Iraq) to prevent other countries from switching their currency from dollar to, say, Euro (or gold standard, or something else). Hence, by allowing their currency to melt down, this is actually an act of national suicide. Sounds crazy, and I doubt it will happen in the end. If it does, it is because there is actually a segment of American politics which wants to see United States of America dissolve into separate states, because (1) they despise the federal government, and (2) they are idiots.
            (Analogous to that segment of Soviet political spectrum which wanted to dissolve USSR into separate republics.) Like I said, dubious if America will go the way of USSR. But not for lack of trying! Already American stock market has swerved down, and Chinese investors are very worried…. This is serious shit!

            • hoct says:

              You two both seem to assume that what the Republicans want is for the US to default on its debt. But AFAIK that is not what the debate is about. Republicans do not want a default, and are not unwilling to raise the debt ceiling (which is not the same as defaulting). What they want is for Obama to agree to some so called cuts in spending after which they will agree to raise the debt ceiling.

              First of all, spending cuts are what the US urgently needs. There is no argument to be made against the US budget being incredibly bloated. Nowadays the US only covers about 55% of its budget from internal revenue, the other 45% is covered by loans. (2.17 trillion in revenue, 3.82 in expenditure, for FY2011 according to Wikipedia.) Something like that may be vaguely sane if the borrowed money is being invested into highways, electric plants and the like. Stuff that will in the long run grow your economy and therefore hopefully make you able to repay the loan in the future. But this is not what is happening in America. The money borrowed is being spent on Empire, corporate pork and Chinese consumption goods.

              Secondly, what Republicans call budget cuts are no such thing at all. They are merely reductions in the increase of spending. Both the Democrats and the Republicans would have the budget grow year in year out — they merely disagree on what the rate of this increase should be. Even worse, the sums they are arguing about are negligible in the grand scheme of things. This is not some serious and elaborate ploy but mere political theatre where when a Democrat is president Republicans suddenly remember to fly the banner of ‘fiscal conservatism’ by insisting on some cosmetic changes. (The real fight is not over the sum of spending but over whose patrons and constituents should the money be channelled to.)

              With this kind of approach a US default is inevitable. It is only a matter of time when the US will default on its debt, or more likely, inflate its currency and pay it off with de-valued Dollars. Not because evil Republicans do not want to raise the debt ceiling, but because the US borrows vast sums of money, spends them for unproductive purposes, then borrows even more, raising any “debt ceilings” when they get in the way (it is not a “ceiling” if you raise it any time it inconveniences you). It is this kind of behaviour that makes it clear the US has no intention of ever repaying its loans, that downgrades its currency, and is the cause of a confidence crisis in the Dollar.

              • cartman says:

                No, not raising the debt ceiling will keep payments from going out, which is defaulting. US’s credit rating will fall below investment grade, so that the government would find it more difficult to afford its other obligations. I am not even taking into account the sag on the economy that higher interest rates will cause.

                US is a special case, and it has always held itself up as one. The Dollar was not in trouble before this because it is still in demand.

                • hoct says:

                  I meant a default on repayment of loans. That is what ‘default’ would denote in any other case. The IMF certainly does not care if debtor states do not keep their promises to its retirees, military suppliers and the like — as long as creditor states are getting their payments it is not a bankruptcy.

                • cartman says:

                  The price goes up regardless, making it more difficult to repay creditors. The US could print a lot of money, but inflation and high interest rates will wreck the economy long before cheap exports will pick up. My opinion – the US will not recover without a strong domestic market. Most nations will resent an onslaught of US-made goods suddenly made cheap by a worthless dollar. The WTO is already perceived as an entity that protects unfair trade practices by nations with strong economies and only penalizes nations with underdeveloped economies. I do not think that will survive in any meaningful form.

              • marknesop says:

                It’s just my opinion, but I think you’re giving the Republicans credit for knowing a lot more about the economy than they actually do. And in fact there is a great deal of argument against austerity, and most of it comes from economists. Those economists argued that the stimulus (mostly borrowed funds) was exactly the right thing to do, and that it had almost immediate positive results (I believe all the major auto companies, for example, who received relatively unpopular bailouts have repaid their loans in full and are turning profits – or were, until the default loomed).

                It really is as simple as the Republicans not wanting Obama to have the slightest thing that looks like a success. You’re absolutely right that they have no plan at all, and that what they bill as cuts will not actually reduce the debt at all. It will, however, have an immediate and deleterious effect on social programs, education, environment and the arts. Those are Obama’s people, and the effort is geared toward making Obama disappoint them, to reduce the chances of his reelection. The Republicans will not discuss any cuts to defense spending, and insist on having their tax cuts for the wealthy. All the cuts are going to come where they will hurt people who are not Republican voters anyway.

                An argument that is gaining popularity is that the USA is the only major nation with a debt ceiling, and that it should just be eliminated. But you’re right that they will eventually get in too deep, because you can’t build borrowing into your “income”. I wish I could find that great graphic I saw in Salon the other day – it showed to even the casual viewer that the USA has been living far beyond its means for quite awhile. But, as I say, being mortgaged to China – the rising superpower that will likely overtake them much sooner than many think – is something new, and America has never before owed its soul to someone who doesn’t particularly like it. China kept offering more easy money, and the USA kept taking it – somebody should have said, “Hey; this tastes like bait”.

                For the Republicans, everything is subordinated to the blind need to regain power – in any configuration they have to accept and with whatever financial mess of their own making they might inherit. They forget – or pretend to – that this has been coming for some time and that their policies merely made the day of reckoning arrive quicker. Unfortunately, the voters will likely forget, too. Republicans have been able to roll everybody before, and it looks like they’re gearing up to do it again.

              • yalensis says:

                @hoct: You made many good points. American economy is basket case!

                • marknesop says:

                  Ha, ha; that’s funny – because that’s what Sean Hannity called Canada back when some Americans were disappointed that Canada wouldn’t shake its pom-poms and go “Boola boola! Go USA!!!” when Bush announced he would invade Iraq. “Canada is a left-wing, socialist basket case. What kind of friends are they?”

  5. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis and Mark,

    Thank you for your kind words!
    Yalensis – I commented some stuff in Anatoly’s blog.

    I think Putin should be candidate for the Presidency. Liberals are all out to discourage him from doing so – and therefore he must become the candidate!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903635604576472171184473938.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    sinotibetan

  6. sinotibetan says:

    I agree with hoct that the USA will ultimately default on its debts.
    America’s debts are just too huge and there is no true political will to reduce them(if indeed it can be reduced!). It is an Empire that’s starting to rot and decay – like the Roman Empire of old. The question is: is the rest of the world ready and prepared for this inevitable decline of the US?

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      How long has the USA been around, as an entity, again? No empire has lasted in its original form for longer than 300 years.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Mark,
        Xia Dynasty : 2697BC-2206 BC
        Shang Dynasty : 1783-1123 BC
        Zhou Dynasty : 1122-222 BC
        Han Dynasty 206BC – AD 219
        Song Dynasty 960-1276 AD
        There were Empires that lasted a long time – interestingly in the civilization of my people, most were during the ancient times. I agree though that for the USA. it’s probably just the beginning of decline. It will still be a power to reckon with – but no longer a lone superpower, in my opinion.

        The Republicans, Democrats , Obama AND a majority of the American people are all partially responsible for what the USA is turning to. I don’t think I can ‘absolve’ the Democrats inasmuch as the Republicans. Both Dems and Reps are like two sides of the same coin.

        sinotibetan

      • yalensis says:

        Er… Roman Empire had pretty good run for its money…

  7. Misha says:

    Have a love/hate relationship of sorts with paleocon/libertarian types.

    Not always so keen on some of their economic views, while finding them relatively more enlightening than neolib and neocon leaning types on a number of foreign policy issues.

    • hoct says:

      That is strange. I had you pegged as a paleocon, Mr. Averko. I don’t know why now. I think it may have been your presence over at the Chronicles Magazine website.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Hmmm,

        I too, thought that Misha had some leanings towards ‘paleocon’. I have some stuff which I agree with paleocons – especially in terms of foreign relations. Generally paleocons don’t really like to busybody with the internal affairs of other states – which is the right thing to do. Agree with Misha that they don’t have much ideas that will help the economy. Still, they are certainly better than ‘neocons’ and ‘neolibs’. Anyway, US debt will only continue to grow, default or not. So far, the world has no contingency plan for a possible global economic fallout when the inevitable happens in the not too distant future.

        sinotibetan

  8. Misha says:

    Niall Ferguson made the argument of how some turn of the last century Brits thought the US didn’t have the right stuff to become primo.

    He said this in support of the idea that China is for real.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Munk

  9. hoct says:

    I know this will interest many on here, so am taking advantage of the liberal commenting policy… Check out Brendan O’Neill’s review of Five Days of War over at spiked-online.com: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10932/

    My favorite constatation in the piece: “The movie rather confirms that the strange white people in the furthest eastern bits of the European continent have replaced Africans as cinema’s favourite psychotic weirdos.”

  10. yalensis says:

    On Libya war:
    Yesterday was kind of a “good news/bad news” days for the rebels.
    Good news for them: As part of their pre-Ramadan “march on Tripoli”, rebels seized two hamlets in the Western mountains, near the Tunisian border. (They’re actually kind of marching West, Tripoli is in the other direction, but whatever….)
    More “good” news: Rebel secessionist government in Benghazi was officially recognized by Great Britain as the “only” legitimate government of all of Libya. I mean, really, really this time. Brits actually threw real Libyans out of London embassy and invited news guys in. This sounds silly (like recognizing Taiwan as the REAL China), however there is a rational purpose behind this nonsense: Up until now, Europe has been paying the salaries and other expenses of the Benghazi quislings out of their own funds and borrowed $$$, and that’s a lotta dough, and money is getting tight for the Europeans. By legally recognizing Benghazi coup as government, Europeans can now start to pay them out of money they stole from the REAL Libyan government (=Gaddafy regime), in the form of frozen bank assets.
    On the “bad news for rebels” front: There was mysterious assassination of rebel high commander in Benghazi. Abdel Fattah Younis was originally Gaddafy’s Interior Minister, before he defected to the rebels and took over military operations on their behalf. Younis was in charge of rebels (failed) attempt to re-take Brega a couple of weeks ago. He was then summoned back to Benghazi with a ruse, and then arrested by rebels. (Who maybe suspected him of being a double-agent?)
    Then he mysteriously died in rebel custody by being blown up, along with several aides.
    This is bad propaganda for rebels, makes it look like they have already split into warring camps. Rebel apologists are turning cartwheels trying to explain this incident to international press.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, it was an interesting day; thanks for the explanation of Britain’s recognition, from a monetary standpoint – that never occurred to me. In a wierd kind of way it makes sense, but I imagine most of the world gets entirely the wrong message – that Britain is a firm ally of the rebel government and wants to see it succeed. I mean, they do, from the perspective that it will make Gaddafi gone, but what then? The rebel government shouldn’t assume any feelings of benevolence.

      I suppose it was getting difficult for the Cameron government to explain why they were pouring money and effort into Libya after bringing down a severe austerity budget for the folls at home.

      There’s something that could use an explanation – why do foreign governments leave their assets in western countries when there’s every reason to believe they will be frozen, which is just a government term for stolen? There’s the Libyan example, the USA did the same thing with Saddam’s money, and used it to finance crazy spending for contractors in Iraq, and there’s the mention in this post of the Netherlands threatening Russia with freezing the assets of some Russian individuals. But there’s not actually any money physically present – it’s all electronic transfers; the government simply puts a block on the owner doing another transfer to take the funds out, and then gives itself administrator priveleges to re-obligate the depositor. Why, when foreign leaders sense things beginning to go bad for them, don’t they transfer all their monetary assets out first thing? In the case of the Netherlands’ Magnitsky posturing, why doesn’t the Russian government transfer all national assets out of the Netherlands? I don’t know without researching it how much money that would involve, but surely it’d hurt more than a few angry words in RT? Can anyone expand knowledgeably on this?

      Yeah, I read that about the rebel military commander mysteriously dying, and I saw a brief effort to seize control of the narrative when some source (I daresay I could find it again if I looked) reported that he had not been killed by any rebels at all, he was actually killed by Gaddafi loyalists. Might as well get some good out of his death, right? But that one comes out positive for Gaddafi no matter how you massage it – Younis (alt. spelling “Younes”) was a useful symbol for the rebels as a Gaddafi deserter, plus they don’t seem to have any other trained military leaders who could organize anything more complicated than lunch for two.

      • marknesop says:

        In this story, a rebel “Special Forces” (I just love the way these people give themselves airs and titles; their “army” is a bunch of jihadis in pickup trucks, but they evidently have a Special Forces brigade) soldier accuses other rebels of murdering Younis. Note the anguished, “We want Moammar back!! We want the green flag back!!” from Younis’s son – I’m surprised they printed that, as it doesn’t fit the “it’s all good” rebel narrative.

        Reeeeebels…..you got some ‘splainin’ to do….

        • yalensis says:

          “Reeeeebels…..you got some ‘splainin’ to do….” Boy, you can say that again!

          Younis’ son, Ashraf, broke down, crying and screaming as they lowered the body into the ground.
          “We want Moammar[Gaddafy] to come back! We want the green flag back!” he shouted at the crowd, betraying his frustration with the months of chaos in the country and a desire for a return to normalcy.
          At the funeral, Younis’ nephew Mohammad al-Obaidi called Younis a martyr and a champion of the Libyan uprising, while the crowd broke into chants of “The martyr is God’s beloved” and “Allah is Great.”

          Younis was representative of an important tribe, the Obaidis. This tribe is apparently very dominant in the eastern part of Libya. (Maybe coincidentally, the woman who accused Gaddafy soldiers of gang-rape back in March is named Iman al-Obeidi. Maybe she is also a member of this tribe. There was news of her today, as she received political asylum in USA.)
          Anyhow, I don’t know if this is a stereotype or not, but people say Libya lives by code of blood vengeance. Therefore, Younis’ relatives, and by extension the entire Obaidi tribe, are required by oath to avenge his death. Surely this will be the end of the Benghazi regime! (Unless they try to lie their way out of it and put the blame on Gaddafy. In which case, like you say, Gaddafy still comes off looking like a guy you don’t want to mess with…)
          And I saw another very interesting article today about the Benghazi rebels attempting to crush women’s rights by bringing back shariah law, which they call “abaya” and apparently would turn proud Libyan women into not-so-proud Saudi Arabian women. Turns out that Colonel Gaddafy has been a shining beacon for women’s lib – who knew?
          This article also contains an interesting story about how NATO assassinated 11 Libyan imams in Brega. These “progressive” Muslim imams promoted modernism and women’s rights and supported Gaddafy regime; which is probably why NATO helpfully dropped a bomb on them.

  11. Tom says:

    Mark, I love your blog and I read your posts faithfully – I find them a refreshing change from the Russia-bashing news out there. That said, I believe you’re a bit too lenient on the Russian government for the Bulgaria tragedy, and for some reason you seem to pass the buck along to the regional authorities. Tatarstan is a republic with a fair degree of autonomy, like the other republics, but it is still a federal subject. Even without delving into a discussion about the delineation of powers between Kazan and Moscow, Tatarstan is still considered part of Russia. And while articles throwing the blame squarely on Putin himself for the sinking are certainly exaggerating, the fact remains that the conditions that allowed this to occur – the flagrant safety violations, the creaking transport infrastructure – are rather endemic, unfortunately, and he deserves some of the blame for allowing this to go on.

    • marknesop says:

      Okay, fair enough – much of the sarcastic absolution is offered as a counter to the ridiculous accusations, and it’s not inaccurate to suggest passenger safety is one of many areas that would benefit from improvement in Russia. However, it’s certainly not fair to imply Russia is the worst and such accidents are commonplace. Much as happens in other countries, the government takes little notice until it is forced to by such an event – watch general security measures and gun ownership in Norway get toughened up, as an example.

      It wasn’t my intent to suggest it was all the fault of the regional authorities (although theirs is the first-line responsibility, and if they had – again, for example – asked for extra money to address the conditions that enabled the accident and been refused, they’d have a good case for blaming the federal government), but to react to silly conclusions that Putin is personally responsible. However, governments everywhere are adept at ducking responsibility for disaster, and many think an accident has a silver lining if it offers an opportunity to simultaneously toughen up regulations and get some positive face-time in the press. That doesn’t excuse the Russian government, but it makes it unremarkable.

      I’m sure if Putin spent the entire federal surplus on improving transportation, somehow that would be wrong, too. But you’re correct that improvement is needed. It has to start from the ground up – until there’s significant improvement in public roads, there’s no point in spending money for new buses.

      • yalensis says:

        In terms of safety regulations, it is certainly true that Russia has a long way to go, and in many respects is still somewhat “third-worldish”. Nobody seems to care about safety until something bad happens.

        • hoct says:

          Safety is an aspect of standard of living. There is a huge correlation between wealth and low accident rates. The best way to go about it is to prosper then take some of that prosperity in the form of increased safety.

          Think what would happen if a very poor country like India overnight adopted Luxemburg’s safety standards? Much of the transport would come to a standstill. Would this be a good thing? No, it would not be. How do we know this? Because of demonstrated preference.

          I’m sure Indians would love to be able to have extremely safe trains that would be actually affordable to most everyone, but they simply aren’t. The choice Indians have is to ride low-safety trains or to stay put. Faced with this choice millions and millions choose to ride them.

          It would be criminal to take this option away from them by introducing Luxemburg’s safety standards, taking away their ability to travel, by make riding trains unaffordable for most of them. It would take away the ability of millions of people to feed their families (eg by making it impossible for small farmers to get to the city markets to sell their produce) and to try to better their lot in life.

          We can lament the fact that Indian trains are low-safety. But we must recognize this is not being caused by poor safety regulation, it is more fundamentally a consequence of the Indians not being able to afford a better standard of transportation due to their abysmal standard of living.

          The same is perhaps true for some of the air travel in Russia. Sure the government could ground half of the air fleet from flying, but what would that accomplish? The price of tickets would rise to the point one half of the people who choose to ride planes now, would no longer be able to.

          The most important thing is for people to be informed so that they are not mislead into thinking the form of transport they are taking is safer than it really is. So that they can make informed choices based on what level of risk are they willing to take and what monetary value they want to assign to more safety.

          The company that operated Bulgaria should not be prosecuted for having their ship sink in an accident, or for flaunting arbitrary government regulations. It should be prosecuted for fraud, for leading its passengers to believe their leisure ride was safer and more risk-free than it really was.

          • yalensis says:

            @hoct: what you say about third-world transport is true. It is far too expensive to retrofit old systems with safety. And would be wrong to shut them down, because people do need to get around and are willing to take some risk in doing so. Not sure that applies to leisure boats, though. If people are drunk and want to sail on boat, they will freely sign away their liability, but that does not necessarily make it right to have creaky, unsafe boat. At some point government needs to step in and regulate.
            I do know a (tiny) bit about safety, because I was member of safety committee at one company I worked for. (I represented engineers and programmers on my floor.) Anyhow, one thing I learned from attending these meetings is that it is cheaper to program safety and risk-management into brand new projects than to retrofit old projects, like you say. But on a go-forward basis, it really pays to program in safety as an integral part of project development for all new projects. Is not expensive to do so, and actually saves a lot of $$$ in the long run.

      • Tom says:

        Just because the government might seek to absolve itself of some of the blame for the disaster doesn’t mean it’s any less accountable, as you mention, but I would go further and say that a willingness to cut corners and engage in corrupt practices, even when it puts lives at stake, is a society-wide affliction. The government is guilty, but so are individuals at the lower levels. Accidents will always happen, even in the places that utilize best safety practices and so on, but the fact that easily preventable man-made disasters happen more often than not in some countries rather than others is no accident.

        • marknesop says:

          I don’t know that the government did seek to absolve itself of blame, and from what I saw the government took prompt action in the directions you’d expect – firings, investigations and implication that charges would follow. My reaction was to La Russophobe’s arbitrary awarding of blame. But your point is well-taken; Russia has lots of money, and can afford to announce future projects with built-in safety as Yalensis and hoct suggest. Perhaps the Sapsan trains can serve as example – to my knowledge they have a better safety record than AMTRAK.

  12. yalensis says:

    On Libya war: Another “good news/bad news” day for the rebels:
    The “good” news first: Berber insurgents continue to drive federal (=Gaddafy) forces out of villages in the Western (Nalut) Mountain range. This is shaping up to be something analogous to, say, Ossetians and Abkhazians vs. Gruzians in the Caucasus. Seems the Berbers just don’t want to be ruled by Arabs, and they have some legitimate beefs against the Gaddafy government. This insurgency is completely separate from the other one going on in the east (=Benghazi), which is an Arab, mostly Al Qaeda kind of thing. However, whether or not in the long run Berbers can eventually carve out some kind of autonomous region for themselves in the West – I have no idea. Maybe….
    Now for the “bad” news: The Benghazi quisling “government” is collapsing before our very eyes, and ironically this collapse began THE VERY DAY AFTER this so-called government was recognized by both Great Britain and USA as the only legitimate authority representing ALL Libyans everywhere.
    This collapse was all foretold by the prophets, and you never had to be Nostradamus to see it coming from a mile away!
    Following the murder of General Younes, Benghazi authorities yesterday demanded the disbanding of all “unsanctioned” militias. Now, these “unsanctioned” militias are the very guys you see in all those you-tube videos, and those rebel-glorifying photos on BBC and CNN. These are the young macho hotshots shooting into the air, screaming “Allah Akbar” and posturing for the cameras. These are the same crazy guys who solder machine guns onto pickup trucks and rush off into battle, to face off against Grad rockets, wearing T-shirts, flipflops and no body armor. In other words, these guys are crazy brave, but also … crazy! They provide the raw cannon fodder for the quisling government. Just like Brzezinski discovered back in the 1980’s when fighting Soviet army in Afghanistan, these young jihadist types make the bravest fighters because they are not afraid to die! It is only because of them (and also with a little help from NATO bombing) that the quisling government has been able to survive against Gaddafy’s (small but professional) army for even 5 days, let alone 5 months.
    As Al Jazeera reported just a couple of hours ago:

    The information minister of Libya’s rebel movement says its forces have overrun the base of a rival faction after five hours of fighting. Mahmoud Shamam says the clashes broke out around 3 am on Sunday and left four rebels dead and six wounded.
    The main rebel force was now in control of the al-Nidaa Brigade’s base on the western outskirts of Benghazi, the de facto capital of Libya’s rebel-held east. The fighting followed Thursday’s killing of chief rebel commander Abdel-Fattah Younis in yet unexplained circumstances.

    In other words, we now have “rebel on rebel” violence in the heart of the rebel capital.
    “yet unexplained circumstances…” – that’s old news. Even rebels have now admitted that rogue elements within their own ranks “done it”. Gaddafy was totally not lying when he declared that Al Qaeda itself was behind Younes’ assassination; according to Gaddafy, this was Al Qaeda’s way of pushing themselves forward and marking their turf within the rebel ranks.

    • marknesop says:

      For me, it’s too late for Al Jazeera to start reporting the news the way it actually happens. From the outset it was firmly in the rebel camp, and I expected – realistically, I thought – that it would be the only way for Gaddafi to get his side of the story out. Everybody seems to realize now that wars are won and lost in the news, and that control and domination of the news cycle is essential for success. If the enemy can’t get any positive press at all, everyone hates him and his support dries up, and you romp to an easy win. But as far as I’m concerned Al Jazeera can join the Arab League on the pile of ass-kissers that have thoroughly disgraced themselves.

      Hopefully everyone now realizes that NATO has intervened in a civil war that was none of its business, and exceeded its mandate of “protecting civilians” on its first day of operations. Since then, every time they receive a report that some civilians were brutalized somewhere, they fly over Tripoli and drop a bunch of bombs on it. I’m sure it’s not quite as slapdash as that, but I doubt there’s any real effort to verify reports before reacting, and NATO is clearly biased toward a rebel victory, to say the least. There are plenty of credible reports of rebel viciousness and savagery toward villagers in villages and towns the rebels overrun, but I have yet to see a punitive NATO bombing attack on Benghazi to make the point that NATO is there to protect civilians.

      That’s one in the eye for the UK; the rebels’ flaunting of their venality and tribalism couldn’t have come at a better time (or worse, I suppose, depending on your viewpoint). That’s right, boys – take a good look. These are the guys you’re stubbornly trying to put in power, and hopefully it dispels any illusions that doing so is going to result in a stable, peaceful Libya. A wise leader would scrap the whole effort right now, because you’re just embarrassing yourselves. If you manage to succeed, I promise you the day will come – and probably sooner rather than later – when you bitterly regret it. A systematic domino approach of radicalizing the entire region is not likely to pay dividends, at least not peaceful ones.

      • yalensis says:

        Well, if I am not mistaken, today is the beginning of Ramadan, so the observant jihadists are not allowed to eat (or drink water) during the entire day. Who made up such a crazy rule? (Oh, that was The Prophet? never mind…) How are people supposed to fight a war when they are hungry and thirsty? I remember reading somewhere that Jewish rabbis would allow exceptions to their own crazy rules (like not operating machinery on the sabbath, etc.) when expediency dictated, especially during war. So maybe Gaddafy’s troops are not as strict and would be permitted to each a lite lunch of K-rations and maybe drink a cup of tea in the afternoon, even during Ramadan?
        More to the point, today I believe is the day when France withdraws her last aircraft carrier from the theater of conflict, and most of the other NATO countries are also kind of skulking away from this war, probably cursing themselves and wishing they had never listened to Sarkozy/Cameron in the first place…
        P.S.
        Re. Al Jazeera: It goes without saying they have no credibility. This is the state media of QATAR, after all, and Qatar is deeply involved in this war, openly arming rebels, etc.

  13. marknesop says:

    Totally off the subject, but happy Navy Day, Russia!!

  14. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,

    Yes…it’s the month of Ramadan indeed!
    More than 60% of the population of my country is fasting.

    sinotibetan

    • yalensis says:

      Hi again, @sinotibetan: So, are you not glad you are not Muslim, you do not have to fast! (On the other hand, it does sound kind of fun to be able to dive in and feast at the end of the day… Food tastes extra good when you’re really hungry..)
      Anyhow, my curiosity about Libya war/Ramadan was answered yesterday:
      On the very first day of Ramadan, the military leader of rebels in Benghazi gathered his troops at dawn, and they made a big public spectacle of the fact that they were eating BREAKFAST. This was their way of saying to Gaddafi’s army: We are NOT going to fast during this particular Ramadan. I am guessing Gaddafy’s troops will also enjoy a hearty breakfast before going off into battle.
      From what I understand of Muslim law (=very little), the rebel Imam would have given the soldiers a special dispensation: They don’t have to observe Ramadan fast while they are still fighting a war.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Hi yalensis,

        Hey….I cannot fast! I love (good) food far too much to ever want to fast at any time!
        Hahaha

        I’m not surprised at that special dispensation. Perhaps the rebel Imam even promised his soldiers immediate admission to paradise with 72 ‘perpetual virgins’ to satiate their currently suppressed ‘earthly’ desires should they end up martyrs on a full breakfast stomach? I wonder….

        sinotibetan

        • yalensis says:

          No, the deal is this: If the warrior eats breakfast but is martyred during jihad, he still gets to go straight to paradise. However, he will NOT get the 72 virgins,because he chose food over virtue. Instead he gets a couple of slightly-used but still lovely wives who also happen to be good cooks. It is a choice that each warrior must make for himself. I know which one I would pick! 🙂

          • Sam says:

            Was that really necessary? sad comments, sinotibetan… Worst thing is that both of you are smart, if it was only stupid people making such comments it would be a comforting thought.

            • yalensis says:

              Sam: I apologize if I offended you. On prior occasion I also offended SinoTibetan by making fun of Christianity, but he forgave me.
              When I make fun of Islam I realize I take my life into my own hands because they are not as forgiving as Christians.
              Sorry again, I am personally an atheist, and I have a bad habit of mocking religions… Usually it’s good for a laugh or two, but more often than not I make a new enemy….😦

              • sinotibetan says:

                yalensis,

                ” On prior occasion I also offended SinoTibetan by making fun of Christianity”
                Maybe I was a little offended but to be honest, your naughty statements were quite witty! Wow….that sounded blasphemous!😉
                Anyway, I do believe that we should honestly say what we really feel/think(which is not often that easy!). I just want to say, feel free to say anything, even if it’s negative about Christianity! It’s OK.🙂

                sinotibetan

                • marknesop says:

                  I would qualify that with “feel free to say anything you can support with something reasonable people would accept as possibly factual”. The ninnyhammers who screeched that Obama was born in Kenya (some of whom still do) were only expressing an opinion that had no basis in fact at all, and no source suggesting such nonsense has been able to stand the most casual scrutiny. Although of course you have no reason to expect that sort of empty-headed blather from anyone we’ve met so far (except perhaps the legendary and hopefully gone-forever AJ), I still wouldn’t encourage it.

              • Sam says:

                No offence taken:) I didn’t think your comments were meant to offend. I just felt that you (and sino) meant some of what you said, and I think it comes of misunderstanding (like saying Muslims are not as forgiving as Christians :P) not mean intentions,so I try to present another prospective:)

          • Sam says:

            Yalensis,
            >From what I understand of Muslim law (=very little), the rebel Imam would have given the >soldiers a special dispensation: They don’t have to observe Ramadan fast while they are >still fighting a war.

            Just in case you genuinely want to know, both parties are not supposed to fight each other,Ramadan or not. In muslim law, muslims should not go into war against each other, and war with non-muslim is possible only if attacked first. But well, I don’t think Libyans right now care about any of this😀

            • sinotibetan says:

              Sam,
              1.)”Just in case you genuinely want to know, both parties are not supposed to fight each other,Ramadan or not. ”
              Indeed! Yet Shiites and Sunnis had killed(and continue to do so till today) each other in countless wars over the ages.

              2.)”Was that really necessary? sad comments, ”
              Verily for the Righteous there will be a fulfilment of (the heart’s) desires; Gardens enclosed, and grapevines; And voluptuous women of equal age; And a cup full (to the brim). Quran 78:31-34
              http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/10053
              Will men in Paradise have intercourse with al-hoor aliyn?
              ar – en – fr
              I’m wondering will the men from amongst the human race that enters paradise, will they have sexual intercourse with the “HOURIS” women in the paradise .

              Praise be to Allaah.
              Allaah has prepared for His believing slaves in Paradise that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and has never even crossed the minds of men, such that even the person who has the least blessings in Paradise will think that he is the most blessed among them. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The lowest of people in status in Paradise will be a man whose face Allaah turns away from the Fire towards Paradise, and shows him a tree giving shade. He will say, ‘O Lord, bring me closer to that tree so that I may be in its shade… Then he will enter his house [in Paradise] and his two wives from among al-hoor al-‘iyn will come in and will say to him, ‘Praise be to Allaah who brought you to life for us and brought us to life for you.’ Then he will say, ‘No one has been given what I have been given.’” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 275)

              Among the blessings that Allaah has prepared for His slaves are al-hoor al-‘iyn. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
              “So (it will be). And We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes”
              [al-Dhukhaan 44:54]
              “They will recline (with ease) on thrones arranged in ranks. And We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes
              [al-Toor 52:20]
              Al-hoor al-‘iyn are extremely beautiful, such that the marrow of their shins will be visible from beneath their garments. Every man who enters Paradise will have two wives from among al-hoor al-‘iyn. Allaah says, describing them (interpretation of the meaning):
              “Therein (Gardens) will be Khayraatun‑Hisaan [fair (wives) good and beautiful];
              Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinn and men) deny?
              Hoor (beautiful, fair females) guarded in pavilions;
              Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinn and men) deny?
              With whom no man or jinni has had Tamth [opening their hymens with sexual intercourse] before them.
              Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you both (jinn and men) deny?
              Reclining on green cushions and rich beautiful mattresses.”
              [al-Rahmaan 55:70-76]

              “And (there will be) Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes (as wives for Al-Muttaqoon – the pious).
              Like unto preserved pearls”
              [al-Waaqi’ah 56:22-23]

              It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The first group will enter Paradise looking like the moon on the night when it is full, and those who follow them will be like the brightest shining star in the sky. Their hearts will be as one, and there will be no hatred or jealousy among them. Each man will have two wives from among al-hoor al-‘iyn, the marrow of whose calves can be seen from beneath the bone and flesh.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 3014)

              It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: ‘Going out and coming back for the sake of Allaah is better than this world and all that is in it. And a spot the size of the bow of one of you in Paradise – or a spot the size of his whip – is better than this world and all that is in it. If a woman from among the people of Paradise were to look at the people of this earth, she would light up all that is in between them and fill it with fragrance. The veil on her head is better than this world and all that is in it.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 2587)

              A man will have intercourse in Paradise with his wives from among al-hoor al-‘iyn and his wives from among the people of this world, if they enter Paradise with him. A man will be given the strength of a hundred men to eat, drink, feel desire and have sexual intercourse. It was narrated from Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The believer in Paradise will be given such and such strength for sexual intercourse.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allaah, will he really be able to do that?” He said, “He will be given the strength of one hundred (men).” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2459. He said, (it is) saheeh ghareeb).

              It was narrated from Zayd ibn Arqam that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A man among the people of Paradise will be given the strength of a hundred men for eating, drinking, desire and sexual intercourse. A man among the Jews said, ‘The one who eats or drinks needs to excrete!’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him: ‘The excretion of any one of them will be in the form of sweat which comes out through his skin, then his stomach will reduce in size again.’” (Narrated by Ahmad, no. 18509; al-Daarimi, no. 2704)

              The mufassireen said concerning the phrase “busy in joyful things” (Yaa-Seen 36:55 – interpretation of the meaning):

              ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood and Ibn ‘Abbaas (mayAllaah be pleased with them both), and Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib, ‘Ikrimah, al-Hasan, Qutaadah, al-A’mash, Sulaymaan al-Taymi and al-Oozaa’i said concerning the aayaah (interpretation of the meaning),

              “Verily, the dwellers of Paradise, that Day, will be busy in joyful things” [Yaa-Seen 36:55]

              they said, (it means) they will be busy deflowering virgins. Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said, according to a report narrated from him, that “busy in joyful things” means listening to stringed instruments. Abu Haatim said: he misheard the phrase iftidaad al-abkaar (deflowering virgins) and thought it was samaa’ al-awtaar (listening to stringed instruments). In fact the correct phrase is iftidaad al-abkaar (deflowering virgins). (Ibn Katheer, 3/564)

              With regard to children, the scholars differed as to whether children would be born as a result of this intercourse or not. Some said that there would be children if the man wants them, but the pregnancy and birth would take just one hour. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If the believer wants a child in Paradise, the pregnancy and delivery will take only an hour, then the child will be the age that the man wants.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2487; al-Daarimi, no. 2712; Ahmad, no. 11339; Ibn Maajah, no. 4329). And Allaah knows best.

              We ask Allaah to admit us to Paradise and to keep us far away from the Fire. May He bless us with the highest Firdaws, for He is the One Who is Able to do that. Praise be to Allaah the Lord of the Worlds.

              Islam Q&A
              Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

              sinotibetan

              • sinotibetan says:

                Sam,
                3.) “and war with non-muslim is possible only if attacked first. ”
                http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/009.qmt.html#009.111
                Quran 9:73
                Quran 9:123
                Quran 9:29
                Quran 9:1-5
                http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/muslim/001.smt.html#001.0030
                Sahih Muslim 1: 30-33
                http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/muslim/019.smt.html#019.4366
                Sahih Muslim 19:4366
                http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/muslim/041.smt.html#041.6981
                Sahih Muslim 41: 6983
                Sahih Muslim 41: 6985
                As usual, my critics will accuse me of ‘misquoting’. Whatever!

                sinotibetan

                • Sam says:

                  Sinotibetan,

                  I honestly tried reading everything,but I scrolled down and the length of it all was discouraging. However,I’ll comment on what I started reading:

                  >Indeed! Yet Shiites and Sunnis had killed(and continue to do so till today) each other in >countless wars over the ages.

                  Yes they did, and yes they’ll probably continue to do it, and as I said myself in my comment Libyans are doing it too. But that they do it doesn’t mean it’s allowed. All states of the world have laws forbidding various crimes: stealing,corruption,murder,driving under influence… Yet people commit these crimes. Should we conclude these crimes are permissible?

                  >“So (it will be). And We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes”
                  >[al-Dhukhaan 44:54]

                  I picked one of your quotations randomly, I seriously can’t go read and comment over all of them:D
                  So,I don’t know whether you read Arabic or whether this is just something you copied/paste already “translated”😀 First, if you read this quote (and probably the other quotes as well),what do you make of women? I mean, “We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females)” doesn’t seem very logical ( in case you are wondering, women go to heaven too in Islam:D).So the verb used in Arabic means “pair”,not “marry”. And the “hoor eyed” are the women who go to heaven. Hence,total meaning: We shall pair them (men and women) to enjoy the gardens of heaven. I can’t see what you find evil in this quote.

                  >As usual, my critics will accuse me of ‘misquoting’. Whatever!

                  I personally don’t accuse you of anything. Your comments on all other subjects are very thoughtful,deep and smart. But when you get to Islam (a subject you don’t seem very knowledgeable in) you just forget all your thoughtfulness to post nasty comments. For example, why mock fasting? If someone fasts,how does this affects you at all? I understand you “love food too much”,but rest assured, Muslims do too. They aren’t some particular human species who happen to mysteriously hate food. I cannot run the marathon and wouldn’t understand why would anyone inflict such a strain on themselves, but some people enjoy it,train for it and seem very happy doing it. As for your comment on the Libyan people,the situation there is tragic, they are dying because of the Nato intervention,bombings and internal fighting. Thinking they are doing this because they are some stupid guys promised “72 ‘perpetual virgins’ to satiate their currently suppressed ‘earthly’ desires” is just cruel.
                  I hope you will read this with an open mind. Please don’t take stereotypes at face value,or generalize a possibly correct opinion of people you may have known to a whole religion🙂

              • yalensis says:

                @Sinotibetan: Thank you for translating these interesting passages from the Quran!
                But I have a few questions.I am particularly interested in the description of the lovely “houris”. That one passage described them as “voluptuous” (I believe I have a clear understanding what that means), and of “equal age”. Does that mean they are all the same age (as each other), or that they are the same age as the men they are greeting into paradise?
                Later on it talks about the “houris” having “wide lovely eyes”. From that I infer the houris have the wider, Asiatic-type eyes and not rounder European-type eyes? That’s okay with me, I like both types.
                “the marrow of their shins will be visible from beneath their garments” — UGH! That doesn’t sound attractive to me! Who wants to see somebody’s marrow? I personally prefer a nice solid, muscular calf with no bone showing. Like Russian women have … (that last bit was a joke…)
                “Every man who enters Paradise will have two wives from among al-hoor al-‘iyn.” See? I was right when I wrote that even the jihadist who ate breakfast during Ramadan will still get two wives if he was martyred in battle. I just made up the part about the wives being good cooks.
                “The believer in Paradise will be given such and such strength for sexual intercourse.” He was asked, “O Messenger of Allaah, will he really be able to do that?” He said, “He will be given the strength of one hundred (men).”
                Celestial viagra?
                A man among the Jews said, ‘The one who eats or drinks needs to excrete!’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him: ‘The excretion of any one of them will be in the form of sweat which comes out through his skin, then his stomach will reduce in size again.’” Ha ha! Like we say at work, you can always trust a Jew to come up with a practical objection to any proposed project!

                • Sam says:

                  “Houris” is an adjective for eyes. Sinotibetan translated it as “fair females”, but in fact it means women with eyes where the white of the eye is very white (which I guess is what he understood to be fair) and the dark of the eye is very dark. I don’t really know why this is a sign of beauty, but well…..As for equal age, it doesn’t mean that they are all the same age (as each other), neither that they are the same age as the men. It means they don’t age, like in they remain at equal age😀

                • marknesop says:

                  I’ve read it was the custom of women of the day to darken the eyes with kohl, so their shape would have been less evident and the darkness of the pupil and whiteness of the whites emphasized. Clear whites are often a sign of excellent health and youth, both of which are desirable, while whites often tend to yellow with age. It’s not necessarily associated with beauty, but youth has its own profound desirability, especially for men. Perhaps it has something to do with how clumsy and selfish we are about sex while we’re young ourselves, so that just about the time you get it together to the point you can bring your best game every time, the young women are out of your reach.

                • sinotibetan says:

                  Sam,
                  I am writing this as a ‘reply’ to yalensis because somehow there is no ‘reply’ button to your comments. Correct me if I am wrong, but from your replies to yours truly, can I infer that you are a Muslim?
                  A few points:-
                  1.) I think, I have to give credit to yalensis who has a better heart than me for apologizing first and I now apologize too for saying those ‘offensive’ initial comments. Admittedly it was done in a mocking attitude because I honestly tell you(and do not be offended!) that I view the religion of Islam , generally-speaking, in a very negative light. In fact, even if I were to disagree with atheism(yalensis and others have occasionally had rather ‘heated'[but thankfully ended rather amicably!] ‘debates’ with me) or other ‘-isms’ or dogmatics, I still feel these other ‘beliefs’ have quite a lot of ‘redeeming points’ for me to accept. While I don’t deny that there ARE positive aspects in Islamic teaching(which seem to have in common with even secular ideologies and the other ‘main religions), it is also my sincere belief that other negative beliefs far outweigh these positive aspects.I explain this so that you can see where I’m coming from. It’s true that my mocking was mean-spirited and uncalled for and thus I accept, was offensive, in which I apologize once more for my mean-spiritedness. However, it is also true that sometimes ‘truth’ is offensive as well. Of course, I myself think that my views on Islam are ‘true’ and that may be offensive to you- for that I shall not apologize unless I can be proven ‘wrong’ in ALL my views on Islam beyond a shadow of doubt. Political-correctness(which I actually quite despise) is never part of my ‘character’, so please bear with me!
                  2.)Regarding the enmity between Shiites and Sunnis, I was not inferring that the enmity and violence is ‘justified’. My first comment to your comment was ‘indeed’ – meaning I agree with you, Muslims are not supposed to be killing each other in Islamic teaching. That the Shiites and Sunnis do so was just a statement of fact/reality – a very human reality indeed, wouldn’t you agree?
                  3.)”But when you get to Islam (a subject you don’t seem very knowledgeable in) you just forget all your thoughtfulness to post nasty comments.”
                  Apart from the earlier comment, my other comments in the past(and probably the current ones and future ones) were ‘nasty’ only because I view Islam very negatively. Sure, being a non-Muslim with no scholarly pursuits for “Islamic studies”, I could not be as knowledgeable as Muslim scholars or pious theologically-inclined Muslims but I do think I have some/sufficient knowledge in the criticisms of SOME(not all, of course) tenets in Islam. Where I had criticisms, I have attempted to bring up some verses and for the ‘tafsir’ and commentaries of those verses, I’ve tried to post only those by ‘mainstream’ Muslim scholars and more conservative clerics/scholars whenever I can in order for others to see what most Muslim scholars think those verses mean and those interpretations might be critiqued. If it is in your opinion that I have very little knowledge on Islam, I respect your opinion.
                  4.)I do not mock fasting. I was mocking AT MYSELF(in my almost ‘gluttony’) – admittedly my love for food makes it incredibly difficult for me to fast. I DO appreciate the piety of some who can do so while at the same time, sarcastically denigrating my own lack of discipline and altruism.
                  5.)”Thinking they are doing this because they are some stupid guys promised “72 ‘perpetual virgins’ to satiate their currently suppressed ‘earthly’ desires” is just cruel.”
                  That supposed ‘cruelty’ of my thinking is NOT my original thinking! It(or similar types of ideas) is an idea perpetrated by not a few jihadist-inclined religious teachers, claiming it from the Quran’s rendering of the paradise and also from quite a number of hadiths. One can argue with this interpretation but please do not ascribe the originality of this ‘cruel’ thinking to me, even when I was ‘ridiculing’ , but to the ‘originality’ of ultraconservative clerics who, disclaiming ‘originality’ themselves, claim that it was from Prophet Mohammed himself and thus from God! A practicing and believing Muslim who thinks this is erroneous/’cruel’ thinking should either condemn these clerics as heretics/apostates for defaming Islam’s founder or else they should re-examine their views that perhaps that’s what REALLY Islam teaches? I leave that to you to judge.
                  6.)”So,I don’t know whether you read Arabic or whether this is just something you copied/paste already “translated” ”
                  Unfortunately, I can’t read Arabic(although I used to know some Arabic abjads when I was little) and that’s always the ‘reason’ given by Muslim apologists against criticisms by non-Arabic speaking Islam-critics. I agree with them, that in many ways, they are right in saying that non-Arabic speakers are ‘handicapped’ in ‘tafsir’ – but they cannot COMPLETELY discount criticisms from this group of Islam-critics. We can, as I’ve tried to do, use commentaries or translations by Arab-speaking, ‘authoritative’ clerics and scholars. Thus, one cannot discount our criticisms totally if we use such ‘sources’. The other protest of Muslim apologists regarding non-Arab critics is : The Arabic language is ‘untranslatable’ or that it is ‘full of complex meanings making it nigh untranslatable to a foreign language[like English]’. This is an illogic. For if it is ‘untranslatable’ to a foreign language, then can one say that Islam is only understood and meant for Arabs only or at most for non-Arabs who learned Arabic? But Islam is a missionary credo and that means spreading beliefs to non-Arabs. If non-Muslim non-Arabs who don’t speak Arab(who are in the majority) who never have an inkling to even want to convert to Islam can never understand Quran(as it is ‘untranslatable’) , then how can they be proselytized(by peaceful means – i.e. by them understanding what the Quran is all about and thus decide to accept or reject)? If it’s truly untranslatable, there would be no ‘tafsirs’ in non-Arabic like in my country where the ‘tafsir Al-Quran’ contains the ‘original’ Arabic verses, the indigeneous language translation thereof and then some commentaries in the common tongue. So, this ‘argument’ of ‘untranslatability’ is invalid.
                  Even if we ALLOW the issue of ‘untranslatable’ to be TRUE, it CANNOT be true that Arabic verses/language are ‘COMPLETELY untranslatable’ for(correct me if I am wrong, yalensis) , no living language can be COMPLETELY untranslatable which is quite self-evident. IF, Arabic is AT LEAST partially translatable(which I believe it is, as it’s a language after all), one can ‘attempt the best possible interpretation’ and give a general MEANING of the verses, in context and thus come up with the general flow/trend of the teachings of Islam.
                  7.)As to your interpretation of that verse -“So (it will be). And We shall marry them to Hoor (fair females) with wide lovely eyes[al-Dhukhaan 44:54]” – I don’t agree.
                  The Houris are most likely NOT ‘Muslim women’ who go to paradise.
                  Some other interpretations:-
                  http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/044.qmt.html
                  044.054
                  YUSUFALI: So; and We shall join them to fair women with beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes.
                  PICKTHAL: Even so (it will be). And We shall wed them unto fair ones with wide, lovely eyes.
                  SHAKIR: Thus (shall it be), and We will wed them with Houris pure, beautiful ones

                  Whether ‘join’ or ‘wed’ – the them refers to the Muslim ‘righteous'(Quran 44:51) who, by inference, must be MEN because they are ‘joined’ to the Houris who are women(and homosexuality is sin in Islam).

                  044.051
                  YUSUFALI: As to the Righteous (they will be) in a position of Security,
                  PICKTHAL: Lo! those who kept their duty will be in a place secured.
                  SHAKIR: Surely those who guard (against evil) are in a secure place,

                  This is the ‘them’ in 44:54.

                  Your interpretation of them being Muslim women going to heaven/paradise is most unlikely based on another passage parallel to that of 44:54, again regarding these women in paradise:-
                  “We have created (their Companions) of special creation. And made them virgin – pure (and undefiled), – Beloved (by nature), equal in age,- For the Companions of the Right Hand. ”
                  (Quran 56:35-38)

                  If your interpretation is correct, then it means those Houris must ONLY be Muslim female virgins or else Allah has the power to transform non-virgin Muslim women to virgins! So are these the wives of those Muslim men together in paradise? Doubtful because 78:31-33 describes them as ‘voluptuous’ and these virgins seem like creatures for carnal sexual desires, rather. And THAT is the unseemliness of this whole Houri business.(http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/078.qmt.html)

                  BTW the interpretation regarding Houris I posted was by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, a more conservative scholar which perhaps appeal to JIHADISTS. So, I am not so far off from what many JIHADISTS think. To be fair, here are some sites about this scholar:-
                  http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?11302-Sheikh-Muhammed-Salih-Al-Munajjid
                  http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/islamqapages/2
                  http://www.islamhouse.com/ip/6899

                  8.)”Please don’t take stereotypes at face value,or generalize a possibly correct opinion of people you may have known to a whole religion”
                  I actually DON’T or at the very least try my best NOT to be prejudicial towards Muslims. I agree, there are MANY Muslims, and I personally am friends to many of them(I am a non-Muslim living in a Muslim predominant nation)- who are good and nice people. But I DO believe that they are not like those crafty and violent jihadists IN SPITE of Islam rather than BECAUSE of Islam. I find in Islam so many morally unacceptable teachings – regardless of what our own private beliefs might be. I am sure you disagree but then prove this statement wrong then! If you’ve noticed, unlike many Muslim critics who like to employ a statistical count on terrorist attacks by (Muslim) jihadists, I don’t use this approach at all. I use the approach of ‘WHAT ACTUALLY DOES ISLAM TEACH AS IN THE QURAN/HADITHS’ method to the apprehension and consternation of some like Mark and Giussepe.

                  9.)”I hope you will read this with an open mind. ”
                  I think most non-Muslims ARE more open-minded than a lot more Muslims. It’s a two-way thing. If you can rationally view our criticisms and answer them civilly , then it would be reciprocated.

                  sinotibetan

                • sinotibetan says:

                  Sam and yalensis,

                  My five page reply to Sam is ‘awaiting moderation’. Perhaps it becomes a object of ‘moderation’ not only because of my ‘views’ but because what is written in the verses I wrote? Hmmm. Just in case, it fails that test – if any of you are interested, provide emails and you may see what I wrote.

                  Sam – I must say my views on Islam will be very offensive to you. If I do not apologize for this ‘offensive’-ness, it’s because that’s what I think Islam teaches. I do believe that I am unlikely to be wrong in this and welcome any criticisms of my views. No offence was intended – just speaking my mind and heart out.

                  Sam and yalensis,
                  Those are NOT my interpretations but interpretations by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid who is a Muslim cleric who is more conservative and the kind of person jihadists love to love, perhaps. Even in (the highly improbable) likelihood of my views on Islam being COMPLETELY off, at least it is an insight as to what jihadists think.

                  sinotibetan

                • marknesop says:

                  I have no control over what shunts posts to “awaiting moderation”, and I’m often not even here when it happens. I can promise you it has nothing at all to do with your views.

                • sinotibetan says:

                  yalensis and Sam,

                  Perhaps the website/thread I gave :-
                  http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?11302-Sheikh-Muhammed-Salih-Al-Munajjid

                  would be interesting to read. Conservatives vs the less conservative on the issue of jihad – and offensive jihad which Sam believes is not taught in Islam(hence, a less conservative position).

                  Gives some perspective to the Middle East and the relations of Muslims with non-Muslim peoples. Interesting!

                  sinotibetan

  15. sinotibetan says:

    Dear all,

    Off-tangent subject. Even as America and alliance try to ‘fix’ so-called ‘problems’ in other people’s countries (Libya, Middle East, Northeast Asia, Eastern Europe bla bla), the American empire failed to sweep her own house. Perhaps something for ‘democratist’ to think about. The recent debt ceiling debacle in the USA is starting people to ponder IF the American system is the role model everyone must emulate. I think democracy is never a’solve-all’.

    http://dailyreckoning.com/the-great-correction-5-years-on-part-ii/

    08/01/11 Paris, France – You will recall. As we ended last week, we were speaking to a crowd at the investment symposium in Vancouver, Canada. We had introduced the provocative idea that maybe the course of history was not something we could understand or control. Maybe destiny, fate, or grand historical forces were at work. We can barely understand them, let alone control them, we argued. As for fighting against them, fugitaboutit. Our speech continues…

    Addison chose the “Fight or Flight” theme for this year’s Agora Financial Investment Symposium. Addison is a fighter. He’s devoted a considerable amount of his time…and a considerable amount of my money…to trying to save the nation. His latest documentary, RISK!, which I didn’t get a chance to see, shows how innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship can put some life back in the economy.

    It’s a very optimistic way to look at things. And maybe that is the destiny of the United States of America. Or maybe it isn’t. But let me give you an example of the kind of thing that might lead to a much different outcome.

    First, we have to understand. The US has an empire…it is an empire. We don’t think of it that way, because we still call the US leader a president. He is elected…as are congressmen and senators. So, it doesn’t seem much like an empire. But in critical aspects, the US has followed Rome on the path of empire. The US is the world’s leading power…with much more of a monopoly on military force than any empire in history, including Rome itself. Rome had the barbarians to the North and the Parthian to the East. Neither could it ever subdue. America has almost no competition.

    But what does it matter what happened to Rome? That’s ancient history. Most Americans don’t bother to think about it at all. And they certainly don’t think that it has a destiny that cannot be checked or escaped. Americans don’t believe in Fate. Or destiny. They think they can do whatever they want. They think their future is up to them, completely. They just have to get their leaders together to vote on it!

    And yet, every empire ends up broke…and defeated. And the fate of every country that has tried to run a pure paper money system…with currency not backed by gold…has been disaster. The fate of every country has allowed debt to get out of control has been disaster. It didn’t matter what anyone thought or did. Once you head down that road, it seems that you have to go all the way. I guess, there are a lot of byways and side-roads you can take. But you always seem to end up in the same place.

    But maybe Obama is smarter than, say, Ceasar Augustus or Marcus Aurelius, or Diocletian. And maybe Bernanke and Geithner are smarter guys than, say, John Law or Karl Helfferich or Domingo Cavalho.

    Maybe Obama, Bernanke, Summers, Geithner and all are such geniuses as to be able to do what no leaders or experts have ever been able to do before. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    The US currency used to be fixed to gold. No one had to manage it. We didn’t need geniuses. But since it has been actively managed – by people Bernanke and Geithner, and their predecessors – it has lost 97% of its value. What are the odds that these managers will do better in the future? What are the odds that they will succeed where all the central bankers and central financial planners who came before them failed?

    So, if you expect to hold the US dollar for a long time, you’re betting on something that has never happened before. And you’re betting on the genius of the men and women who, so far, appear retarded.

    One thing you learn from reading the history of Rome is that the imperial bargain is a tough one. You get glory. But you pay dearly for it. The middle class is destroyed…and the country goes broke. That’s the destiny of empires.

    You know, most of you have probably watched the value of your houses go down. They’re down about a third on average. Well imagine how you would have felt as a citizen of Rome after the empire hit its peak under Trajan in about 100 AD. You would have watched the value of your real estate go down…and not come back for 1800 years. There were still goats grazing on 7 hills of Rome – once the world’s most expensive real estate –when English tourists visited in the 19th century.

    But those of you are a confident that the US will always be a winner won’t believe me. You believe that that right-thinking, well-intentioned public servants will always find solutions…that they will always do the right thing, at the last minute, perhaps. You think Europeans may get themselves out of an impossible situation. Ha, not us!

    But what I notice is that while Europe is broke…the US is even broker. And while Europe can probably recover from its debt problems, the US probably can’t.

    “Europe is unraveling as we speak,” said John Mauldin on Tuesday. “The euro will probably not exist within two years.”

    I told John I thought he was wrong. So he challenged me. In 2 years if the euro is higher than the dollar, he’ll pay me $100.

    I told him I’d rather have euros.

    John may be right. He thinks the US has a big advantage. Because it has a political union as well as a currency union. It can force all Americans to pay for debts run up by just a few of them. It can apply one interest rate…and make it work for the entire country. It can put the full faith and credit of every village, borough and backwater at risk…in order to bail out its banks and pay for its central planning experiments. It can increase its debt and debase its own currency almost indefinitely – simply by an act of Congress, raising the debt ceiling.

    That’s what people think. No destiny involved.

    Europe, meanwhile, is hamstrung and hog-tied. It has no centralized political management, so it cannot force Germans to pay for Greeks’ spending, for example. Interest rates suitable to German savers are demonstrably unsuitable to Italian spenders. And member states of the European Union are given to all manner of silly spending. Italy is sinking under the weight of too many limo drivers. No kidding. Chauffeurs for public officials form a substantial part of the Italian government budget. And don’t forget the bunga-bunga parties, too. The Greeks, meanwhile, can’t collect taxes. France gives away far too many social benefits; it faced massive strikes when it raised the retirement age to 62. And Ireland should never have bailed out its insolvent banks; it didn’t have the money.

    To an American crowd these reports from Europe look like evidence of the superiority of the US model. The US may default, they say, but it would be just a voluntary, technical default.

    “Compared to Europe,” John continued, “America looks like it is well run.”

    To us, the US and its whole capital structure – its stocks and its bonds — looks like a trap. And the tension on that trap is illustrated by current yields on government debt obligations. Greek 2-year debt was still yielding over 30% when last we looked. US 2-year debt yields are so low, there is nothing but a zero on the left side of the decimal.

    Greece and the US have about the same amount of government debt to GDP. So does Italy, depending on how you calculate it. Italy actually has a much lower deficit – not even half the US. So why the higher interest yields in Europe? Addison’s movie suggests that America can still harness its traditional strengths…innovation, flexibility and entrepreneurship…to re-invent itself. But the America that led the world in growth and output, did so largely by trailing it in central planning as well as pettifogging, paper-pushing regulations. Now it leads the world in central financial planning, debt and regulation. Will it lead the world in growth and innovation too? I doubt it.

    More to come…

    http://news.yahoo.com/debt-deal-set-pass-were-costs-045917154.html

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/mike_we_re_on_road_to_ruin_kjpqvg89gY6COdOYaQNYuJ?CMP=OTC-rss&FEEDNAME=

    sinotibetan

    • cartman says:

      I have heard that the Tea Partier’s hostage-taking cost the United States $1.6 billion a day.

    • marknesop says:

      Very interesting, Sinotibetan; we will indeed see what comes to pass, but again I wish I could find that graphic representation that was featured in Salon Magazine a week or so ago. I was confident I could find it again so I didn’t bookmark it, which turned out to be one of those things we call “life lessons”. Anyway, it showed the USA reached a point where it was borrowing more than it could pay back given current resources quite a few years ago. The biggest problem relating to the debt that confronts Americans today is an unwillingness to accept a lesser standard of living in order to get debt under control – such a notion conflicts directly with The American Dream. And one can hardly blame ordinary Americans if they say, “the hell with that. I didn’t vote for it, I said it was foolish and could only end badly, and the chuckleheads who said the gravy train would just run on and on were an idiot minority”.

      Meanwhile, I’ll be vacationing with my family in Parksville for a few days while my in-laws look after the house. I’ll try to stop by from time to time to see how things are going, but it won’t be the main priority. See you soon.

      • yalensis says:

        Enjoy vacation, Mark!

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear Mark,
        Well, perhaps that Salon Magazine article might re-appear in an unlikely place, who knows? If it does….do post it!😉

        “The biggest problem relating to the debt that confronts Americans today is an unwillingness to accept a lesser standard of living in order to get debt under control – such a notion conflicts directly with The American Dream. ”
        I can understand. It would be painful. Two big problems with this reluctance:
        1.) That American Dream will definitely vanish to be replaced by a very low standard of living in the US if Americans continue to deny this reality. The longer the denial period, the worse the outcome would be.
        2.)The whole world economy is ‘pivoted’ on American economic dominance. If America’s economy come crashing down(I know this sounds pretty simplistic) – the economies of most nations will collapse as well. Those in third world countries will suffer even worse than Americans themselves. Chaos and wars might ensue.

        The American democratic system ‘ensures’ that American politicians would be reluctant to make painful economic policy choices as these would be unpopular with the masses and threaten their chances in elections. Sometimes in times of crisis, democracy might not be a good system as even politicians with the best intentions and the correct policy ideas can never get elected because the masses are reluctant to accept the bitter medicine of these policies.

        sinotibetan

  16. sinotibetan says:

    cartman,

    The USA needs a massive systematic overhaul to get out of the current mess. Although the tea-partiers are blameworthy, all the other politicians on both sides are not ‘blameless’. None have the political will to commit themselves to reforms(even as they think other nations should have ‘reforms’ and worse still ‘revolutions’). The USA is too entrenched into the socio-economic black-hole that’s largely self-made , I think it will go the natural course of all empires in a not too distant future.

    sinotibetan

    • yalensis says:

      I do not wish to see America collapse. However, I openly admit I would love to see NATO collapse. That is why I am following Libya war so avidly: I am hoping against hope that this unjust war will be the nail in NATO’s coffin!

  17. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis,

    “I do not wish to see America collapse. However, I openly admit I would love to see NATO collapse.”
    I agree. America should concentrate on science and technology NOT on political ideals or pushing its brand of democracy or ‘culture'(which I always think America lacks) upon others. And stop its warmongering ways. America as a great power but NOT a lone superpower, NOT the only great bully and NOT the only one that call it shots.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      NATO’s original mandate had nothing to do with warmongering; instead, it was a rapid deployment force that could be sped to trouble spots and provided a show of brotherhood and solidarity. It has drifted away from that to what you see now – a club to be held suspended over nations that do not comply with wishes, sometimes only those of one relatively small NATO member. That’s never what it was intended to be used for, and I would argue for NATO’s reevaluation of its mission statement rather than its dissolution.

  18. sinotibetan says:

    Off the topic of Islam…something interesting:-

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=329981

    sinotibetan

  19. yalensis says:

    @sam and @sinotibetan: Interesting discussion… I hope we are all still friends? (Virtual internet friends, that is…?)
    @mark: Thank you for putting up with my bullshit!
    🙂

    • sinotibetan says:

      Dear yalensis,

      Of course we(including Sam) are all still ‘virtual internet friends’!😉

      I think I too have said so much of bullshit that probably I am one of the ‘top’ in the class of ‘bullshitology’ too!
      hahaha

      Most of all, definitely Anatoly and Mark have so much patience dealing with all my comments which are , sometimes , too blunt? Nothing but many thanks to both of them!

      cheers!

      sinotibetan

  20. Sam says:

    Yalensis and Sino,
    Of course we are still virtual friends:) I really enjoy reading your comments. The fact that I argue a point with you doesn’t mean I’m offended or that you need to apologize.I am just posting comments like everyone else is. You’re free to disagree, no special treatment for me😀

    Sinotibetan,
    >Sam – I must say my views on Islam will be very offensive to you.
    No,not at all. You view whatever you want the way you want. I just tried to share with you the fact that even if there are a lot of backward, violent, narrow-minded and totally ignorant muslims, there are also a lot of normal,open-minded,progressive and totally peaceful muslims. You think the former are the rule and the latter are the exception. I hope some day you’ll change your view,but I’ll totally survive if you don’t:)

    >Sam and yalensis,
    >Those are NOT my interpretations but interpretations by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid who is >a Muslim cleric who is more conservative and the kind of person jihadists love to love,.

    Well,maybe you should read interpretations of other people:D What do you expect if you read the interpretation of a conservative jihadist-loved sheikh? And then after that you say: Islam calls for violence. Maybe you should read interpretations of the sheikhs that don’t have jihadists in their fan-club, you may have a more balanced view afterwards.
    A lot of my friends in US read opinion pieces by Latynina, Kasparov and the likes and then say afterwards: Russians are horrible, Putin is a bloody evil man and Russia is doomed. If you rely on Kasparov to construct your opinion on Russia then you already have a biased opinion of Russia to start with, and if you rely on conservative sheiks to have an opinion on Islam then you pretty much have already chosen what to think and are just looking for something to confirm it to yourself, not the true picture.

    • yalensis says:

      @Sam: Thanks for remarks, everything is okay. I know that religion can be touchy subject. I like to have my laughs, but I back off if I think I have truly hurt someone’s feelings. Also this blog is supposed to be about politics (which can also be touchy subject!)
      @mark: I read your earlier comment about comments “awaiting moderation”:

      I have no control over what shunts posts to “awaiting moderation”, and I’m often not even here when it happens. I can promise you it has nothing at all to do with your views.

      I have always wondered about that, do these blog providers (like wordpress) literally have some hard-working employee (The Moderator) sitting there in his cubicle night and day and scanning comments and deciding which one is too racist, etc.? Or is is done through one of those ridiculous computer programs which scans for certain keywords? Everyone knows those things are hilariously inaccurate.

      On the pro-Libya rebels blogs (sponsored by AlJazeera via some blog app called “Disqus”) that I started following a couple of weeks back (not commenting, just lurking), they have a feature called “Like this”, and all the pro-rebs constantly click on each other’s comments to show their loving support. They have another feature called “Flag this”, which temporarily removes the comment for “moderation”. (It’s more like terminal censorship, because somehow the comment never seems to return from limbo…) It goes without saying that the pro-rebs “flag” any comment that is even mildly pro-Gaddafy, or that draws into question any component of their overall world-view.
      Anyhow, I am glad that your blog does not have the “Like this/Flag this” feature!

      • marknesop says:

        WordPress uses Akismet, an anti-spam filtering program. You can probably turn it off or modify it to suit yourself – in fact I know you can tinker with it to block certain addresses or perhaps even posts from a specific geographical region, because Akismet is what LR uses, too – but I’ve always just left it at default settings. It’s surprisingly good, which is why I’ve never turned it off: it breaks intercepted comments down into spam or “ham”, which I’ve never heard of, and so far has diverted 8,012 of the former and 6,046 of the latter to “moderation”. All that means is it shunts those comments to a different mailbox that is not visible to readers, only the blog owner or owners. Sometimes I don’t notice it for a couple of days, although I’m getting better about checking it. According to the program, it has diverted 65 “false positives”, earnest posts that were misinterpreted as spam, into the filter, but I wouldn’t say it was anything like that high. I’d guess generously that I’ve retrieved 15 comments from the spam filter since I started the blog, all of them (as best I recollect) from Sinotibetan or Misha.

        It doesn’t seem to work with keywords, although they might be a component, because I get lots in which the message portion reads, “this is a great site, I love your content and the subjects are of great interest; I’ve bookmarked it and will visit regularly” or variations on the theme, but the owner address is flogging cut-price iPads or Viagra or something like that. Maybe it keys on file extensions, but it’s also picked up those in which the owner’s website or email is used. The system gives itself a 0% for “missed spam”, which of course it would, because if it misses any it doesn’t know. But I’ve personally removed perhaps 3 comments in over a year for being generated solely for the purpose of merchandising. That gives Akismet a 99.54% success rate, and in fact it would be something close to that.

        It occasionally cuts out comments that are very long or those which contain a lot of links, and Sinotibetan’s frequently meet both criteria. I liberate them as soon as I discover them.

        • yalensis says:

          @mark: Thank you for fascinating explanation how spam/ham filter works.
          I am glad I have so far been able to evade it … mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!
          [evil laugh]

        • sinotibetan says:

          Dear Mark,

          Thanks for your explanation. I know I am long-winded!😦 My fault!
          Thanks for putting up with me all this time!

          cheers
          sinotibetan

    • sinotibetan says:

      Dear Sam,

      Thanks for your comments! I respect your opinions, even where we disagree. I know that perhaps I may be a little(or a lot?) ‘abrasive’ and I have to say, thank you for bearing with me!🙂

      1.)”You think the former are the rule and the latter are the exception.”
      Actually I don’t know. As I’ve said, I do know many Muslims who are peace-loving, good people in my country. As the same time, we have those jihadists who think that all non-Muslims are involved in carnality(which is of course untrue) or have some ‘designs’ to rule the whole world or deserve divine retribution etc. I am thankful for the peaceful Muslims but of course I am horrified with the twisted thinking of jihadists. That I’ve seen atrocities committed in a nearby country(Indonesia) in the name of Islam against Chinese minorities in the past and that there are ‘conservative’ elements in my country that give us non-Muslims a ‘you wait and see when we gain the upper hand’ look partly made me wonder why such people have such violent thoughts if they are supposed to be pious. I think whatever our beliefs may be, we all live in this planet and want peace rather than unnecessary conflicts and wars. Sometimes too much of religion(yalensis might be surprised I said this?) and too much of ideology with Utopian aims by mortal men cause so much unnecessary misery and strife. Perhaps humans should understand our own imperfections in an imperfect world and though striving to be good should not combine religion and politics or ideology and politics to kinda ‘bend’ other people(who have different beliefs) to the beliefs of some manipulative ‘ideology leaders’ or ‘power crazy religionists'(be they Pastors or Imams !). I am rattling away but I hope you know what I’m trying to say! Religion should be a personal choice, not forced down the throat of another or using politics(‘carrot and stick’) to coerce ‘non-believers’ which often occurs when there is a theocracy or ‘marriage of religion and politics’ like the case in my country. Very sad!

      2.) Your comment that using interpretation of ONLY ‘ultra-conservatives’ could lead to bias is a fair point. I do have interpretations by non-ultra-conservative sheiks as well. Several translations. Nevertheless, I do not come to my conclusion on Islam based ‘only’ on ultra-conservative interpretations or that of ‘modernist’ interpretations. Each has their biases – ultraconservative to the orthodox crowd and ‘modernist’ to perhaps appeal to non-Muslims and more ‘progressive’ Muslims who cannot reconcile their faith with our modern world. I myself favour a more ‘literal’ and ‘in context’ translations with also help/clarification from the hadiths as well. I believe that gives a ‘nearer to what was meant’ and that’s why I think the conservative translatations are nearer to ‘original’ Islamic teaching than that of ‘modernists’. At the same the writings and thoughts of past Islamic scholars, the history of Muhammad s.a.w. and Islam etc. help in understanding the teachings of Islam.

      3.)”if you rely on conservative sheiks to have an opinion on Islam then you pretty much have already chosen what to think and are just looking for something to confirm it to yourself, not the true picture.”
      I was borned in a family where all of us were(and most still remain ) ‘free-thinkers’. Although we were ‘irreligious’, we believed that generally ‘all religion teaches man to be good’. I had that perception of Islam also and rest assured I did not purposely look for ‘conservative translations’ to ‘prove’ negative views on Islam. I became an atheist later. However, I later became interested about religious beliefs and studied most of the major religions on my own. As for Islam, that was studied because it is a major religion. That’s how I came to have my views on Islam. Even when there were fanatical Muslims in my country whose actions potray Islam negatively, I still did not have a negative view of Islam because misbehaviours of adherents of a faith do not prove that that faith condones such behaviours. I believe that I had given Islam a fair look and I tried to be as unbiased as I could. My current views on Islam came about prior to my conversion to Christianity.

      Hope my explanation helps you to understand where I come from. Thank you for bearing with me!

      sinotibetan

      • Sam says:

        I do get where you come from:) And the part where you say you are given the ‘you wait and see when we gain the upper hand’ look made me laugh (sympathetically) a lot😀 I used to get it not just in looks but in clear words:D So I truly do get where you come from.

        • marknesop says:

          Forgive my interrupting, but I thought of another possible reason for the fascination with women’s eyes in Kuranic passages – in many traditional Muslim faiths, women appear in public veiled, and the eyes are one of few visible features. One would have to make an extrapolation from that what the rest of the woman looked like, thus investing the eyes with a fascination they might not possess in cultures where much more is on display.

          • yalensis says:

            That sounds very plausible explanation. And from what I have heard, the women who are forced to veil themselves and only show eyes do try to make the most of it by applying mascara and eye-liner and eyebrow pencil to make their eyes look larger. They would probably even wear eye-jewelry and rings, if such a thing were possible.

            • sinotibetan says:

              Dear Mark and yalensis,

              It is possible.

              However, I think many of the early Muslims(at least those who were contemporaries of Muhammad) were from originally pagan backgrounds. Muhammad’s former tribe, the Quraysh – were also originally pagan and rejected him for quite long. Formerly before the Islamization of the Arabs, they, like most Semitic peoples of antiquity have some of the most ‘liberated’ sexuality. I wonder that fascination with the eyes was partly due to influence of their previous idea of sensuality and this is retained in the Quran? I am not sure if it is – just a thought. Perhaps I’ve got to read up my book on history of the Arabs again! ha!

              Talking about women who are ‘forced to veil’ – we have many Iranian students in my country. As my country is a ‘moderate’ Muslim country and they away from the ‘watchful eyes’ of their Ayatollahs far away in Tehran, many Iranian youths here engage in almost all the ‘sinful activities’ imaginable(or perhaps unimaginable even!). They, being Shiites are not under the ‘jurisdiction’ of our Sunni ‘moral police’ so we see them drinking hard liquor, the girls never wear hijabs and miniskirts and low-cuts abound and night-clubs are their frequent haunts. I know because some of my neighbours are Iranians and they never sleep but party all day long! Some of them probably don’t fast in Ramadhan! The outcome of living in a country where ‘freedom of choice’ is suppressed, perhaps?

              Which brings me to two points:-
              1.I think if Iran’s current regime is somehow ‘overthrown’ some time in future, the new government would likely be a ‘moderate’ or ‘modernist’ one because the younger generation obviously have rebelled against the conservative mores of the ayatollahs.

              2. That perhaps, I wonder…world powers should not interfere or take sides but allow the Arab nations to choose their own leaders. Seeing the tide is favouring Jihadists and Islamists, perhaps we just accept them to take over the Arab nations. For a time, like the Iranians – they will ‘behave’ and live under the yoke of ultraconservative clerics who spew their usual hate against any infidel nations. However, as like Iran, it is a yoke that would probably not endure. We no longer live in a secluded world. We live in a world so interconnected and so intertwined, such yoke will prove too heavy for the young and restless to bear. Then, they might revolt against such ultraconservative mores and then get themselves leaders who are more moderate and considerate.

              What do you think?

              sinotibetan

              • marknesop says:

                I briefly knew an Iranian girl in England in the mid-80’s (the new girlfriend of my English wife’s ex-boyfriend, if that’s not too convoluted), and she dressed as provocatively as any of her English contemporaries – she was quite attractive and drew a lot of male attention at parties and suchlike. I got the impression she was from a wealthy family, and that her personal appearance was entirely her own choice. Other than that, I don’t know any Iranians who identify as Iranians. I see women still from time to time who wear dark, modest clothing and variations from the hijab to the full burqa, although the latter is rare. But I’m not talking about Muslim women now – I’m talking about the dress and deportment of Muslim women at the time the Quranic verses that mention the eyes as a focus of fascination were written.

                I agree very few faiths can claim strict adherence to their principles, and Christianity – although less restrictive than some – is no exception. There’s been a rash of hellfire-and-brimstone evangelists thundering from the pulpit on the sickness of homosexuality, for example, while secretly (until exposed) carrying on just such a relationship: they certainly couldn’t claim they didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, could they? Other examples of hypocrisy abound.

                • sinotibetan says:

                  Mark,

                  “There’s been a rash of hellfire-and-brimstone evangelists thundering from the pulpit on the sickness of homosexuality, for example, while secretly (until exposed) carrying on just such a relationship: they certainly couldn’t claim they didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, could they? Other examples of hypocrisy abound.”
                  True enough. It is quite plausible that many who are OBSESSED with talking about how sick homosexuality is almost all the time in their sermons; spewing ONLY negative things all the time – probably secretly engage in such sins as well. You are right, there are many, many examples of pastors who yell at the sinfulness of others but they themselves secretly indulge in the very same sins. I can think of one during my teenage days…one pastor Jim Bakker from the ‘PTL club’ who was involved in fraud and a sex scandal. And many, many, many more(perhaps many just waiting to be exposed). I was just typing the ‘Christian evangelist scandals’ in wikipedia and a long list of ‘famous evangelists’ came up. No doubt about the hypocrisy of these leaders.
                  Nevertheless, hypocrisy is not just a problem of the religious(although there is a tendency for this group). It’s a problem of both the religious and irreligious actually, something human indeed. BTW, just because these pastors railing against homosexuality commit homosexuality themselves does not make homosexuality not a sin – that is defined according to what the Bible says and not according to whether professing Christian -laity or leaders – fail/succeed in keeping/adherence.
                  Also, I think some of these pastors – especially of ‘megachurches’ probably do not really believe what they are preaching. Perhaps these people crave for ‘power’ over others; using their charismatic character to manipulate others. One can substitute these errant pastors with other ‘groups’ – itinerant mystic gurus, ultraconservative imams and sheikhs and loud-mouthed, glib-tongued politicians and you get the drift.

                  sinotibetan
                  .

        • yalensis says:

          @sam and @Sinotibetan: I do believe that my friend Sinotibetan’s methodology of studying religions is sound (=reading original works and commentaries). How else to do it? As an atheist, I do hang out with other atheists, and we are sometimes accused of “mocking religion”, and that accusation is probably true; but a lot of our so-called “mockery” merely consists of reading back at the believers passages from their own books. I did this to my own mother. When she insisted that I “obey the 10 commandments”, I shot back at her with my smart mouth: “But mom, I WANT to build an idol and worship it. That’s called ‘freedom of expression’. Whom would I be harming?”
          Another time I debated a Jewish friend, reading those horrendous passages from Old Testament about how disobedient children should be put to death, adulterers stoned, etc., and what does she do? She just shakes her head smugly and says, “No, it doesn’t say that.”
          “But… but.. but…” I am sputtering, and actually holding the book up to her face, indicating her that very passage with my finger. And she continues to shake her head and deny that her holy book could possibly say such a bad thing.
          I persist, because I am a know-it-all who insists on winning the debate, and in the end she falls back on the ultimate loophole: “Well, that’s not the original Hebrew Torah, it’s a translation.”
          Please note that Mormon religion (I have a few Mormon friends too) has a similar loophole regarding the Old and New Testaments: In Mormon credo, it states very clearly that “We believe that the Bible is true, insofar as it is translated correctly.” This gives Mormon policy-makers a major out if they disagree with something said in Bible. As opposed to, say, Baptists, who believe that every single word, both Old and New Testament, are to be taken as literally true and penned by God Himself. (And yet they still eat shellfish and bacon, sometimes even combined in one dish!)

          • sinotibetan says:

            Yalensis,

            Your comments are so interesting(and amusing!)😉

            Hey…I was a former atheist and true, I admit – I liked(and I think I still retained part of this ‘ridiculing’ spirit in me)mocking the religious! Indeed, I used to read so much about the scriptures and teachings of major religions and just as you said, we use their own texts to ‘refute’ them! I have quite a lot of interest in “Christian apologetics’ nowadays since I’ve ‘switched allegiance'(hahaha) and of course knowing ‘the method of arguments and debates’ is helpful. I have to admit, I love debating with people who oppose my beliefs because it helps me hone my debating skills and learn how people ‘twist’/’bend’ to ‘support’ their assertions. I sometimes get too carried away though.😉

            “I persist, because I am a know-it-all who insists on winning the debate…”
            Hahahaha….wow, we are so alike!!! I’m learning how to accept ‘defeat’ nowadays and I’m trying very hard to swallow my own pride(when I’m not on the ‘winning’ side) and learn how to be truly humble. Not always successful…but trying my very best! hahaha😉

            “But… but.. but…” I am sputtering, and actually holding the book up to her face, indicating her that very passage with my finger.
            ha ha ha ha! I can imagine you doing that! It’s so, so funny!! hahahaha

            “As opposed to, say, Baptists, who believe that every single word, both Old and New Testament, are to be taken as literally true and penned by God Himself. (And yet they still eat shellfish and bacon, sometimes even combined in one dish!)”
            Hahaha…. I am Baptist. And yes I eat shellfish and bacon which happen to be my favourites too!😉 hahahaha

            Good to laugh at our ownselves, at times.😉

            Cheers!

            sinotibetan

        • sinotibetan says:

          Dear Sam,

          I appreciate all your comments! I’m sorry if I had been at times abrasive(look at my reply to yalensis and you’ll understand why…hahaha), it was not with ill-intent actually, Anyway, on a positive note, your responses to me and yalensis is proof of your original statement ‘there are also a lot of normal,open-minded,progressive and totally peaceful muslims’.

          Take care! Cheers!

          sinotibetan

  21. yalensis says:

    Speaking of Libya: My jaw dropped open and my teeth clattered to the ground when I saw this piece on the Fox News website. Fox is pro-Gaddafy now??
    This is a human-interest story about a 40-year old black Libyan doctor who was almost lynched by rebels in BenGhazi and had to flee with his family to a refugee center in Tripoli:

    As the family’s meal heats on an electric cooker in the small room where they also sleep, the 40-year-old doctor defends the Libyan leader’s violent crackdown on the uprising in the country’s East.
    “What happened there was not a revolution. Imagine if some people in London go to a police station and stole guns and then came to your street and started shooting. What would your government do? That’s what happened in Benghazi.”
    “Muammar Qaddafi represents to the Libyan people what George Washington is to the U.S. Bloodshed will open if Colonel Qaddafi leaves Libya. You couldn’t imagine what would happen here.”
    For now, the housing development, that was to be called New Tripoli, will be home for the refugees. Five babies have already been born here, apparently all boys and all called Saif al-Arab after Qaddafi’s son who was reportedly killed in a NATO bombing raid early on in the war.
    “There is nothing to do here,” says the displaced doctor.
    “Everything for us has stopped. We just stay here and listen to NATO’s music.” [i.e., the nightly bombing raids]

    • marknesop says:

      Fox isn’t so much pro-Gaddafi as it is anti-Obama. Remember, the commitment of American forces to Libya was Obama’s decision, not Bush’s. Fox is a Republican speaking-trumpet that sees no disconnect whatever in stridently arguing against something because Obama did it where they would cheer it loudly if Bush did it – have done, in fact.

      • marknesop says:

        Well, I be go to hell. Massive protests in Israel, with nearly a quarter-million on the streets in Tel Aviv and another 30,000 in Jerusalem. “It’s hard to live in this country”, says student Ehud Rotem. Organizer Baroch Oren calls the movement “a revolution”. BBC reporter Wyre Davies says the “extraordinary movement of middle-class protesters” isn’t going away.

        What are you waiting for, Sarkozy, you jug-eared prick? I demand you recognize Baroch Oren as the legitimate Prime Minister of Israel. Hillary Clinton, get with the press releases saying Chief Yahoo Netanyahu must step down for the good of Israel. United Nations Security Counsel, return at once from vacations and convene an extraordinary meeting for the purpose of imposing a no-fly zone over Israel, and authorize NATO to take “any and all measures” to protect civilians from the Israeli Defense Forces. Hey!!! Are you listening??

      • yalensis says:

        Ah yes! That explains it! The more liberal publications have the exact same “human-interest” propaganda piece about some poor suffering refuge family, but in their case the family in question was brutalized by the Gaddafy regime. The horrible irony is that ALL these tragedies actually happened, nobody is lying, but which side gets the sympathy depends on which side of the conflict their editors support.
        By the way, the Fox News blogs might be fairly okay, but some of their commenters are really nasty. A commenter named “madtucky” left this racist gem:
        We’ll probably see their worthless moozie arses in the U.S. eventually. Drawing SSI. [“moozie” = Muslim in MurdochReader lingo]
        On the other side of the coin, a commenter called “monsoonrain” posted Die America die, troops on the ground in LIBYA YOU LYING EVIL TERRORISTS and two other people clicked on “Like this” !

        • sinotibetan says:

          yalensis,

          I don’t know what to call people who use the word ‘moozie’ because Muslim is a person embracing Islam and not any particular race. Can’t call it ‘racism’. Maybe one can use the term Giussepe used for me – “Islamophobe”?

          sinotibetan

  22. yalensis says:

    Besides the Eastern rebels headquartered in BenGhazi, the Gaddafy regime is also fighting a Western front of insurgents, led by Berber tribes. The two groups are temporarily allied, but have separate agendas. This sweet little propaganda piece in the Guardian writes about the various Berber tribes and their struggles to maintain their culture and language. In villages “liberated” from central government, adorable little Berber children are now painting cute pictures and learning their alphabet.
    As someone with linguistic background, I was interested in the bits about their language (=Amazigh) and alphabet. I didn’t have time to really study it, but it appears to be a syllabic type script, although many of the letters look to be Greek in origin. I think I will sit down and study it later, because I am genuinely interested…
    The “comments” section to this piece is a hilarious study in the psyche of modern England, in which verbal cynicism has been raised to a high art. Commenter “borleg” says:

    The Berber people are a well known tribe.
    Back in Britain we know them as the CIA/MI5/6.
    The drawings and paintings were done by the directors sons and daughters years ago, for a primary school Art contest, but weren’t considered good enough for exhibition. Waste not want not!
    Meanwhile the chief of the Libyan sector of the Berbers has learnt to shoot an M16 and plays stud poker ‘like a bitch’.
    Oh and Ghadaffi? Yeah, he’s a bad guy, bang bang, down with the butcher!

    Blue79 says:

    My oh my what a wonderful NATO fairytale i have tears in my eyes….
    Now back to reality-can the autor of this propaganda piece tell us for example what are “the lions of Misrata” and their airforce doing to the civilian population of Zlitan at this very moment?
    Or the looting Berber gangs to the civilian populations of numerous villages and towns in the Nafusa mountains?Or…

    I know, I know… I am just picking out the cynical comments because I find them amusing… You can read the non-cynical ones yourselves…

  23. sinotibetan says:

    yalensis and Mark,

    Actually I don’t ‘take sides’ with regards to rebel or pro-Gaddafi people. As I’ve said before, sadly AGAIN Western powers are interfering with another country in a negative way. If PEACE was the intent of Sarkozy and company, they should have tried to get all sides into discussions rather than ‘take sides’! My take is this: I don’t view Gaddafi favourably too – he had had his fair share of involvement in atrocities. His regime was said to be involved in sponsoring terrorist groups such as Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines and the IRA(Irish Republican Army) among others. On the other hand, rebel forces also commit atrocities and violence. Basically two violent forces and the Libyan people stuck in between – civil war, basically. Worse of all, the rebel forces include, as yalensis posted, disparate groups such as the Berber rebels – who, in my opinion, have quite legitimate reasons for resenting Gaddafi(his pan-Arabist policy of trying to ‘eliminate’ Berber identity) and I think the ‘stronger’ group is the jihadist. I’m not sure what’s really in Sarkozy’s mind but supporting jihadists??? He’s a fool to think that any ‘French aid’ is going to endear this group of fanatics to France or suddenly these people will become avowed Francophiles! These kind of people, should they gain into power, might again start the cycle of terror attacks against ‘the vile West’. Western politicians NEVER learn(or more likely lust for power and self-interest prevails)!
    Sadly in Libya, there’s going to be untold suffering and I predict the jihadists will usurp power there in the near future(hope I am wrong!).

    The Berbers interest me! An ancient people – once also prominent in other areas of the Middle East, if I remember correctly. Many ancient Semitic and Hamitic peoples became extinct because of Arabic conquest and ‘Arabization’. Imagine so many Semitic peoples in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon etc. who lost their identities! And many of the Egyptians, Algerians and Libyan ‘Arabs’ themselves were ‘Arabized’ Hamitic peoples(Berber tribes, I believe).

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      If Gaddafi was indeed involved with support for insurrectionist movements in areas where it would serve his interests to use such movements to cause problems for his enemies, he is no better or worse than major western powers, for whom it is a de rigueur tool in the destabilization toolbox. Examples abound. Very often the powers so engaged have not thought about what might happen if their new friends might actually be victorious, because the destabilization is an end in itself. I suppose the hope in Libya is that warring tribal interests can be set against each other forever, keeping the country in a ferment of unrest which would justify the establishment there of AFRICOM and substantiate frequent western interventions. Sort of a do-it-yourself self-justifying project. It also would serve to keep gas prices up; while that promotes Russia’s interests, it also is practically a license to print their own money for the western oil giants.

    • yalensis says:

      “Best case” outcome to Libya conflict would be what Gaddafy himself proposed back in March: a national dialogue of all the tribes and armies, followed by internationally-monitored elections to a national parliament. Assuming Gaddafy was sincere and not just playing for time (not sure if I believe that), in any case NATO rejected this compromise because they were heady with early successes and believed they could win the whole damn pie (=Libya) if they just kept hammering him for a few more weeks.
      Now the conflict is stalemated on the ground, everybody has a lot of blood on their hands, and NATO is still bombing away and says it has enough funding to continue bombing through September. At this point, with no compromise likely, one side or the other must win an all-out victory. I don’t like Gaddafy either, but I choose his side over the rebels, due to my secret desire to see NATO humiliated. Also because Gaddafy is more “secular” and less “Islamist” than the other side, for whatever that is worth.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Dear Mark and yalensis,

        Very, very interesting comments!

        Mark, I agree with you that Gaddafi’s regime is ‘no better and no worse’ than many major Western powers. I think one major difference is Western powers use the delicious-sounding slogans of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, liberty’ etc. while the hand presses the ‘bomb them’ buttons – which certainly sound more ‘moral’ and ‘enticing’ to we restless, freedom-loving human beings vs the PR skills of Gaddafi with an outright support for terrorist groups – to crude for we ‘enlightened moderns’. “Freedom”, “democracy’, “toppling despots” seem to ‘justify’ the bombings, you know what I mean?

        With Western Europe and the USA in financial turmoil, there might be a risk that governments there will start meddling in the internal affairs of other countries even more – as a ruse to bring the attention of their nervous and angry people towards real or imagined ‘enemies’ rather than to the incompetence and corruption of their own leaders.

        yalensis:-
        “Also because Gaddafy is more “secular” and less “Islamist” than the other side, for whatever that is worth.”
        I have not(and most likely would not have) chosen any ‘side’ but I’d agree that I would have a slight tilt in favour of Gaddafi’s regime but to be honest his regime would still ultimately be challenged by Islamists sooner or later. Still , more likely these Jihadists would not have been as ‘powerful’ without NATO back-up and probably would end up as occasional terrorist acts rather than full scale civil war like now.

        sinotibetan

        • marknesop says:

          I had thought that domestic problems were likely to bring a slackening of will in Libya for NATO – as indeed has already been displayed in some cases – but it’s possible you will be proven right and the major powers will attempt a “rally ’round the flag” burst of patriotism in an attempt to turn the electorate’s attention elsewhere.

          I don’t think so, though, for two reasons – one, the Libya intervention is already unpopular despite dedicated image massaging; as the somewhat crude saying goes, you can’t buff a turd. For another, if the USA bows out the whole effort will collapse, and Obama doesn’t need the Libyan intervention to keep the public’s attention off of the awful economy. He need only explain in public, with charts and graphs and pauses for, “here’s your chance – tell me that isn’t correct”, that the current fiscal paralysis was almost entirely created by the Republicans with their daffy policy of cutting taxes while running two expensive wars “off the books”. A child who could do mathematics could tell you that euphoric blast of spending could only last until the money was all redistributed, and now it is, and the momentum was such that a new president was not enough to arrest it. Even if Obama had shut down American participation in Iraq the day he took office, so much money had already gone south and so much more would be necessary to extricate personnel and equipment that the slide would have been irreversible.

          The amount spent on the stimulus, which Republicans love to finger as the cause of the whole problem, was money well-spent according to the near-universal opinion of economists. However, since economists are mostly tools, we can disregard that as valueless. The facts demonstrate that it created millions of jobs (although Republican figures also insist it created “not one job”, and even continued to blast the stimulus as “irresponsible” in the House and Senate while attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their home districts for new projects paid for with stimulus money and taking credit for them. Perhaps you could argue America doesn’t need jobs to come out of recession, but I don’t see how), and it’d be relatively easy to differentiate money invested in recovery from money thrown away on wars including one against the wrong country, and tax cuts for billionaires.

          Anyway, Obama doesn’t really need Libya as a distraction. Instead of uselessly trying for bipartisanship, he could expose the Republicans as the root cause both of the current crisis and the most active element in undermining recovery efforts. Maybe he’ll choose Libya instead, but he’d be a fool to do that because the Republicans – true to form – are already painting that as a failed campaign by an inept leader, so he can expect no political support for a “rally ’round the flag” bait-and-switch from Republicans.

          • sinotibetan says:

            Mark,

            Thanks for your comments. I was not trying to say that the ‘meddling of internal affairs’ pertaining to Libya but other ‘enemy'(i.e. ‘rival’) countries as well. But I agree with both your points regarding Libya.

            As for the Republicans being the ‘root’ cause of the crisis – I believe the previous Republican administration under Bush as a catalyst that exacerbated America’s economic woes by getting involved in useless wars like Afghanistan and Iraq but I don’t think I can see the Republicans as the ‘root’ of it. Both the Democrats and Republicans are /were responsible in varying ways and degrees towards the weakening of American economy.

            I think, perhaps, the ‘root’ of America’s woes might be these(there is no one ‘root’, perhaps):-

            1.)The loss of a geopolitical competitor – i.e. the Soviet Union – turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing. Without this ‘alternative system’, America became the sole superpower, its power became unchecked and with too much of power, I believe success got to the heads of the American political elites. There is no one to oppose the rise of the businessman-politician of a purely capitalistic system which infiltrated themselves into all nations and are architects of the world economy. Unbriddled capitalism in which the super-mega-rich tycoons ‘rule’, is one root. Super-rich businessmen only care about their own profits – the rest of humanity can lie waste in dung and they wouldn’t care if they themselves can live like emperors. Man-made Utopia is an impossibility and unsustainable over the long term(due to ‘human nature’). A man-made Utopia based on capitalism(i.e. ‘greed’) is even more unsustainable.

            2.) The above which led Americans(and their politicians) to ‘spend’ beyond their means lead to situations that could normally be partially offset by sound policies. Unfortunately, here is where the much touted ‘democratic process’ fails. Sometimes, at ‘pre-crisis'(and crisis) situations, resolute and decisive actions can stave them. Unfortunately both Democrats and Republicans were(and are still) busy using populism to gain power in the White House and Congress – Democrats pandering to the left in issues such as black rights, homosexual rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, pro-abortion etc.(although I question the ‘sincerity’ of these politicians) whereas Republicans appeal to the right with issues such as ‘bringing back Christian revival in America’, pro-life, personal gun ownership, lessening taxation by Federal Government etc.(again, I doubt the sincerity of these politicians as well). Instead of focusing on economic issues which were beginning to worsen year by year, they use populism to boost their chances to gain power in a divided America. They failed to lead the country by pandering to these side issues and NOT focusing on crucial issues like the economy, improving education standards(waning in the USA) among others. Democrats fail Americans on the right by trying to force leftist thinking on these group of people, which will not succeed. Republicans are doing the same by forcing those on the left to accept ideas that are right-wing. In other words, they failed to help both groups achieve somewhat of an (perhaps uneasy) compromise but instead continue with populism all for the sake of a term on two in the White House. For example, certain ideas by the left such as improving medical aid to Americans is praiseworthy. Certain ideas by the right – such as more controlled immigration policies is correct. Democrats fail to show to Christian groups that though although homosexuality is a sin in Christianity, not all Americans are Christians and therefore those who want to maintain that lifestyle have freedoms to do so. Republicans fail to show leftist groups that a ‘compromise’ can be reached in which homosexuals are free to engage in that lifestyle if they so wish but stopping short of making gay marriage ‘legal’. These are some examples. In that way, both polarized groups actually compromised a little but not too much and yet somehow remain ‘united’. You know what I mean? Instead, Democrats and Republicans play the game of ‘insisting on no compromises’ in issues that divide Americans and pander to the fanatics to both the left and the right. Uncreative politics.

            sinotibetan

            • sinotibetan says:

              A corollary :-
              Perhaps , in general, Republicans ‘safeguard’ the ‘rights’ of the right-wing and Democrats ‘safeguard’ the ‘rights’ of the left-wing BUT they should bear in mind that no two sides can have all that they want(since most times their views are in opposition/clash) at all times. Some degree of humility from both sides that they can be wrong would be helpful. But human nature is such that pride takes precedence over admitting failures.

              sinotibetan

  24. sinotibetan says:

    Something for you guys to ‘enjoy’:-

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903454504576492541189581766.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    The Wall Street Journal contributor puts the blame on creditor nations as well.

    “It’s just plain dumb when lenders blame borrowers for taking out loans they may not have the ability to repay. It is a lender’s responsibility to ensure that loans are prudent. Borrowers, after all, really are like leeches, sucking up as much juice as they can get, particularly when they’re getting hungry again.”

    The USA, world lone superpower and largest world economy. It’s no wonder that most lenders/creditor nations think that the loans would be ‘prudent’ when the whole world economy is the architecture of the US!

    “The U.S. doesn’t exactly force other nations to hold its dollars as reserve currency or buy its Treasurys.”
    As other commentators in other financial blogs have commented – the USD is the ‘only’ reserve currency for most nations because there is no viable alternative even as the world economy in in a mess. The Euro? Nope….with people even wondering if the EU can even last. The yen, the yuan? Out as well. I don’t think Russia is anyway near offering Roubles as an international reserve currency.
    Actually, I think I believe/prefer the pre-1971 ‘gold standard’ than the current ‘standardless’ method.

    Comments, anyone?

    sinotibetan

  25. cartman says:

    I must confess: I have only visited LR once in my lifetime, so she must be trying to get my attention posting to sites I sometimes do visit.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/08/5-days-of-war-a-bitter-conflict-with-no-heroes/243220/

    • marknesop says:

      A match made in heaven – better get your tuxedo in for dry-cleaning, she could pop the question any day. That Ana Salia sounds like one of the LR team, too, doesn’t she? Maybe she can be Maid of Honor.

    • grafomanka says:

      What do you make of Medvedev claiming he ordered Russian military intervention in Georgia without consulting Putin? Foreign journos seem to think its utter bullshit.
      I think it’s totally plausible…

      ps. I wish I had an app or something that shaves LR off my computer…

      • marknesop says:

        Patrick Armstrong at ROPV brought that up in an exchange subsequent to his excellent post, “My Presidential Election Bet“. He referenced a recent interview with President Medvedev (see comments), and unless Medvedev is a barefaced liar – which there is currently no reason to believe – that’s exactly what he said. I encourage you to read the entire interview, as it provides some fascinating insights, but the pertinent passage comes a little earlier than halfway down, responding to a question by Alexei Venediktov;

        ALEXEI VENEDIKTOV: Mr President, you said you gave the order to return fire. But the operation continued after that. Heavy weapons rolled in and the conflict turned into an all-out war. Could you tell us about how you made the decision to continue the operation? And another question that all our colleagues would like answered: who called whom first? Did you call Prime Minister Putin in Beijing first or did he call you? How did you and the prime minister co-ordinate the move?

        DMITRY MEDVEDEV: To be honest with you, no-one called anyone. The first time I contacted him about the conflict was about 24 hours after it had broken out.

        I haven’t seen the foreign press burning up the wires with liar-liar-pants-on-fire stories, but I have no reason to doubt your word and I’m sure it – as well as the priceless shots at Saakashvili – resulted in hoarse screams of rage in some quarters. For my part, it appears completely plausible, and the verifiability of other events he describes argue for it being the truth. This actually shows Medvedev in a more mature and deliberate, statesmanlike light than I’ve ever seen him before.

        • sinotibetan says:

          grafomanka and Mark,

          I think Western media just cannot accept the plausibility that their ‘favourite boy’ can behave so Putin-like in ordering military intervention in Georgia WITHOUT consulting alpha-male Putin. It just doesn’t fit their their disparate theories of how the tandem works.

          1st theory – Medvedev is pro-West and isn’t in good terms with Putin. He cannot be thinking like Putin!

          2nd theory – Medvedev is the sidekick of Putin. He MUST have consulted Putin.

          They just cannot fathom that Medvedev could make such a decision – which I even though kindof agree with theory 1, still think it’s not impossible.

          sinotibetan

          • marknesop says:

            It’s just possible that Medvedev is an extremely smart leader, although not as experienced as Putin, who is eager to implement western-style reforms but frustrated by some of the dinosaur administrations he has to deal with and suspicion that he is a western patsy.

            Medvedev is certainly not the west’s “favourite boy”, but vastly preferred over Putin. If they have a favourite boy, it’s probably Boris “Privatize” Nemtsov.

        • grafomanka says:

          Thanks for this Mark.
          Putin remarked once that “during my time [as president] the war with Georgia did not happen” – I took this to mean that he has largely left dealings with Georgia to Medvedev and others, and they obviously didn’t deal with it as skilfully as he would have, it sounded like he was scorning Medvedev.
          That’s why Medvedev version of events seemed plausible to me, so I was really surprised that the reaction to his words (that I’ve seen on twitter :p) was largely incredulous. Heh, sometimes I wonder, foreign journos sit in Moscow, read Russian press, and despite this their analysis of what’s going on in politics is remarkably simplistic.

          • marknesop says:

            People everywhere hear only what they want to hear. If you get documentary evidence of something people don’t want to hear, pretty soon it crops up in some blog or other that parts of the document were typed with a 114 daisy wheel that wasn’t invented until 1975 or some shit like that, and the next thing you know conventional wisdom is that the document is a fake. The sad thing is that manipulators would not be able to get by without the media, and the media has become lazy and incurious and sensationalist, passing on whatever it hears like a gossipy washerwoman – but lending it the invaluable stamp of legitimacy at the same time. It also has formulas for reports that indicate whether they want you to believe it, such as the difference between “Georgian sources report Russian troops are massing at the Roki tunnel, with heavy armor and logistic support. This was investigated and found to be untrue”, and “Georgian sources report Russian troops are massing at the Roki tunnel, with heavy armor and logistic support. Russia denies it”. But once upon a time, the media actually investigated before it made claims. As far as I know, the British press (AKA Fleet Street; “make it first, make it fast, make it up”) was first to earn the label “tabloid journalism” in which, rather than present you with the results of an investigation, they merely presented the circumstances of the incident and let you play detective yourself. But now everyone does it, a la Fox; “we report – you decide”. The trouble is, most people are ignorant of the dynamics of international affairs, and lack the experience and judgment to know if a given theory is likely to be true or not. So they decide based on their bias.

            I’m not sure Putin would have done a better job, if Medvedev’s contention that he largely ran it himself is accurate. As Yalensis alluded, Putin promised to drive straight through to Tbilisi and nail Saakashvili’s scrotum to the cellar door. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who makes such threats jokingly. Perhaps that explains why Saakashvili has appeared in YouTube video scrambling for cover every time he heard a passing aircraft, with his retinue covering him with their briefcases to protect him (I’m sure I laughed out loud at that – you could stab him with a screwdriver through a briefcase, but they’re covering him up like a briefcase would stop armor-piercing shells). But anything that looked like a coherent drive to the capital by the Russian army would very likely have inspired a western response, which some interests were dying to launch, and then the fat would truly have been in the fire.

            • grafomanka says:

              Thanks for the response, Mark.

              I’m not sure Putin would have done a better job,

              I meant (and I think Putin meant) before the war, obviously in August when shit hit the fan it was too late to do anything other than retaliate.

              • marknesop says:

                Again, I don’t know if Putin would have done a better job; it appeared impossible to reason with Saakashvili (he seems to be mentally unbalanced, or so cocky that nothing short of getting his ass kicked would have convinced him that he could lose), and several sources suggest he and the Georgian government at the time were confident the USA would pitch in and help them out if they just got the ball rolling. I don’t think any Russian leader would have been able to stop Saakashvili from doing what he’d made up his mind to do, and Putin might have made it worse by driving for Tbilisi once war was inevitable. Of course Russia had to retaliate, but going into Georgia proper was where Russia transgressed international law and if it had begun to look like Russia planned to take the whole thing, the west would have what it needed to step in.

                • grafomanka says:

                  Mark, of course driving to Georgia proper was a bad idea.
                  Tho I don’t agree that Saakashvili, however difficult person he might be, is so ‘mentally sick’ that there was nothing to be done.

                • marknesop says:

                  You may well be right; that was just a personal opinion. But members of his government have been quoted as saying they tried to talk him (Saakashvili) out of it, and he simply would not listen. He came to power on a promise to bring South Ossetia and Abkhazia back under direct Georgian control, and they were plainly unwilling to just accept it. He seems to me a typical politician, ready to gamble his armies on a roll of the dice while bearing no personal risk himself. I suspect the decision might have been different if he had to lead the effort personally.

                • Why would it have transgressed international law? Georgians fired the first shots at Russian soldiers, unprovoked, killing 7 of them (?). That was an act of war and made everything else fair game.

                  I’m almost certain that if the US had been in an analogous position it wouldn’t have given a second thought to seeing it through to Tbilisi.

                  As for Western intervention… with which assets? As I recall, the most that the US had in the Black Sea region was some supply ships. The big M.E. bases are too far away.

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, you’re quite right that if a western or European country did it, there would be no talk of international law. However, there seems to be no punishment for such violations these days except stern looks and disappointed narrowing of the lips, because the EU report was quite clear right off the mark that Saakashvili’s attack was also against international law. Perhaps they cancel each other out. I don’t think it was a huge violation on Russia’s part, but going into undisputed Georgian territory was the only leg the west has to stand on when they squeal that Russia “invaded Georgia”.

                  Nowadays it’s fashionable to make fun of the Russian military – how creaky and decrepit it is, poor guys don’t even get enough bullets to train with, har, har, next thing you know they’ll be pointing sticks and shouting, “bang, bang”. But the Georgian army, superbly equipped and trained by the best, ran like rabbits. They dropped their M-16/M4’s and went back to the Kalasnikov AK-47’s they snickered at the Russians for using. Now you hear a lot of armchair quarterbacking, like what would have happened to Russia if they had to face the real Georgian hard-asses who were in Iraq, bla bla. Read this hilarious nonsense, which starts out saying the Georgians were simply overwhelmed – my God, there’s only about 35,000 in the whole Georgian Armed Forces – and the Russians had 100,000 “in the area”. The author suggests just a paragraph or two later that Russia used only a single infantry division for the “invasion”, which would be somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand. I gave up around the place where the author was pontificating about how Russia had “achieved strategic surprise…by deceiving Georgia onto attacking first”. Damnably clever, you must agree. Anyway, making fun of the Russian army is for clowns who don’t have to face it.

                  Indeed, Georgia did expect the USA to step up as soon as Saakashvili took his shot. Signing the truce in Tbilisi with Condoleezza Rice at his side, a “shaky and near tears” Saakashvili asked, “Who invited the trouble here? Who invited this arrogance here? Who invited these innocent deaths here?”. And, answering his own question, he said, ““Not only those people who perpetrate them are responsible, but also those people who failed to stop it.” Records suggest the USA did consider military action, an option being bombing the Roki tunnel to close it. That could have been achieved fairly quickly with long-range bombers using inflight refueling. But Saakashvili evidently expected them to just pop out of the ground, guns a’ blazin’ – which goes to show what a military genius he is. Not.

                • hoct says:

                  To my mind the Russian drive on Gori showed that the West would not have directly interfered whatever the Russians did. I think part of the reason to go into Gori was to do precisely this; demonstrate how impotent the West really was in the Caucasus should the push come to shove.

                • marknesop says:

                  Well, the record suggests they considered it, although it would likely have been limited to attempts to close the Roki tunnel if it happened at all. But Saakashvili plainly expected far more. I don’t know that going into Gori was a deliberate slap in the face to the west, especially if it all happened so fast, as Medvedev suggested in his interview – they probably just became intoxicated chasing the fleeing Georgian army, and taking towns is how ground forces measure their progress. If so, it was a gratuitously foolish move, because it would merely encourage the west to reinforce its presence in the Caucasus against such a further incursion. I’m sure Saakashvili would welcome a stiff western military presence on Georgian soil, but nobody in their right mind wants that.

            • yalensis says:

              Well, since we are re-fighting the August 2008 war…
              In the Medvedev interview, M plainly inferred that Condoleeza Rice’s trip to Tbilisi and secrets discussions with Saak was key in turning him away from the path of peace and onto the folly of war. If M’s hunch is true, which it probably is, then that is one more piece of proof that Rice’s glaring incompetence as a diplomat helped ignite this war.
              Speaking of M interview, I only saw the English translation, I can’t find the original Russian version, does anyone have a link?

              • marknesop says:

                Yes, Condi did suck as a diplomat, whose skill at playing all sides without seeming to favour any is central to their success – remember her description of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon as “the birth pangs of a new Middle East”? Diplomats, too, have to be adept at hiding their emotions, and the Condi who stood by Saakashvili as he was blubbering about who was responsible for the mess he created was described as “stone faced”. That’s not quite what I meant by hiding your emotions, and it must have been quite clear to all observers how happy she was at the trouncing Russia handed Georgia. Apparently, she’s also every bit the military strategist Saakashvili is, which is to say not at all.

                The original interview might be on the Kremlin website homepage, or perhaps on Medvedev’s own home page. If not, any of the media outlets represented should have carried it; I believe only one was Georgian but I forget who the other two were.

                • yalensis says:

                  On Roki Tunnel: If Americans had bombed Roki Tunnel, they really could have turned the tide in favor of Gruzians, IMHO. Russian victory in this war was NOT pre-ordained, and destroying the Roki Tunnel was the logical thing to do, from the POV (point of view) of American/Gruzian military. I remember when I was following the war on the internet, I was terribly worried about this, I felt that Russians did not rush quickly enough to defend the Tunnel, they left that job to poorly armed Ossetian militias who had to hold their ground against much better equipped Gruzian units. I also remember reading that some American hawks were urging bombing of the Tunnel. I don’t remember who specifically, but I am guessing McCain.
                  So why did George W. Bush NOT bomb the Roki Tunnel? I do not know. Maybe he had one molecule of restraint in him, or maybe he sat down with his advisors and carefully mulled over all the possible ramifications …. Nah! Must have been some other reason that we don’t know about.
                  And, BTW, Ossetian militias do not get nearly the amount of credit they deserve for holding off Gruzians long enough for Russian cavalry to come galloping to the rescue.

            • yalensis says:

              @mark: To your comment about how the media slants to get the reader to see things a certain way, another favorite formula that media uses to discredit reports they don’t want you to believe:
              “Libyan state media reports that 70 civilians were killed in a NATO bombing. Regime minders led western reporters to the site, where they were shown some corpses on gurneys, but reporters did not actually see any corpses pulled out of the rubble.”
              Versus:
              “The rebel government in BenGhazi reported that Gaddafy regime had shelled a village, resulting in civilian casualties. Western reporters rushed to the site and witnessed many wounded being taken to hospitals in ambulances.”
              i.e., bad guys have state-funded media and official minders; whereas good guys have free press and let reporters go wherever they want.
              I made up both quotes, but they are pretty typical of Libya coverage… Another favorite device, which I have mentioned before, is heavy use of the conditional tense, e.g., “If rebels were to re-take Brega, then they would be on a straight path to consolidating their control over all Libya…” “Rebels say that if they were to capture this crucial hamlet of 5000 residents, then they would control a key access road into Tripoli…”

        • yalensis says:

          I finally got around to reading the entire Medvedev interview, and I must admit, reluctantly, that I did find M’s responses to be effective, even impressive, and showing an intelligent mind.

      • yalensis says:

        I suppose it is theoretically possible Medvedev made all the military decisions himself without consulting Putin. However, less then 5 days later, Putin was back from Beijing hopping mad and was most certainly involved in the ceasefire negotiations with Sarkozy. Sarkozy has bragged many times how he personally dissuaded Putin from rolling tanks all the way into Tbilisi and hanging Saak by his gonads… Sarkozy n’a pas meme fait mention de Medvedev a ces reunions officielles… hmmm.. maybe Sarkozy is the one who is bare-faced liar? (Excuse my French. No, literally! Excuse my French, it’s really bad.)

        • sinotibetan says:

          yalensis, Mark and others,

          Several points(or rather, speculations):-

          1.) In 2008, the ‘tandem’ was ‘fresh’. Relations between Putin and Medvedev were ‘apparently good’. I think that Putin and Medvedev had probably discussed beforehand various scenarios with regards to Georgia – including the possibility of war. I believe that Putin might have no problem, at that time, to leave the decision about Georgia to Medvedev. Hence, Medvedev did not have to ‘consult’ Putin as they both have already agreed upon various scenarios and it’s possible that it was TRULY Medvedev’s own decision.

          2.) Medvedev had/is trying to ‘break away’ from Putin. One must not forget his statements regarding Libya – in which Putin was ‘rebuked’. Medvedev has also ‘surrounded’ himself with such horrid people like Yurgens who speaks like a ‘pure Russian liberal’. To my view, Medvedev is a ‘Russian liberal’ just like Kasparov, Nemtsov and all those people. Remember, these fellows are not ‘stupid’ – so why would Medvedev be ‘not smart’? The only thing is Medvedev is smarter than the likes of Kasparov or Nemtsov by remaining ‘with the powers that be’ – trying to achieve from within rather than be amongst the opposition. A more dangerous thing for Russia than Nemtsov et. al.

          3.) As for Medvedev saying things like calling Saakashvili a ‘barnacle’ etc. – I think he knows that people compare him with the tough, steely Putin. He sounds ‘Putin-like’ because he needs to appear strong and resolute so as to be a possible ‘President-material’ in the coming Presidential elections. Medvedev did try to sound tough many times but falling short because he is just not that type of person in reality.

          To be honest, I think the best ‘tandem’ would be, for the time being, a former FSB/siloviki as President and a civiliki as PM – but probably not Medvedev; maybe Kudrin, or Shuvalov? Putin should groom leaders amongst these two groups and not repeat the ‘error’ of supporting Medvedev or similar person up for the Presidency. I’d say a former FSB/spy has more geopolitical ‘wisdom’ in knowing how the Western powers work and want compared to civiliki who are more business-oriented and worse still, for some(like Medvedev perhaps?), closet Western-worshipers.

          sinotibetan

  26. Foppe says:

    Guest Post at Glenn Greenwald’s blog that seems germane to this blog: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/08/08/russia_embassy

  27. yalensis says:

    On Libya: yesterday various news outlets including this one reported on documents originally leaked to British newspaper “The Times”.
    These documents constitute a “postwar reconstuction plan” for Libya, drawn up a “council” consisting of Libyan rebel leaders and Western advisors determined to “learn the lessons” of the Iraq War. [My comment: the real lesson should be: “DON’T DO IT”. But the lesson these clowns have extracted is: “DO IT AGAIN, BUT DO IT BETTER!” ]
    Anyhow, this plan makes it clear that the victors will NOT disband the Libyan army or police (= important lesson learned from Iraq). They will, however, create a brand new 15,000-strong death squad I mean special security force paid for the United Arab Emirates:

    Key to the council’s strategy will be the creation of a 10-15,000-strong military force, which is to quell any remaining resistance from Gaddafi loyalists. The troops will be paid for by the United Arab Emirates, the plan suggests. They should be recruited amongst Libyans living in the north-west of the country, Tripolitania, so that their presence is not erroneously taken as a foreign occupation by the locals, says the document.

    Meanwhile, the world’s most polished war criminal, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox is taking his summer holiday in Spain, but don’t worry, he took his laptop with him so he can continue to plot these far-fetched fantasies at poolside.

    • sinotibetan says:

      Yalensis,

      The jihadists will bite the hands that feed them. Since these hands freely feed, let them be freely bitten. The West never learned their lesson – Saddam Hussein was propped up during their quest to ‘fight’ the Soviet Union; Osama bin Laden was once an ‘ally’ of the USA and now this.

      sinotibetan

      • marknesop says:

        Indeed, the Arab Spring has spread far beyond its original intended boundaries; when you show the world that the interests of the few may be selectively satisfied over the expressed wish of the majority, it has a peculiar effect on democracies. I’ve already mentioned the massive street protests in Israel, but you can add three straight days of rioting in London, which has now spread also to Birmingham and Bristol. In a local paper I read today, a self-described anarchist named Bryn Philips was quoted as saying – while observing his mates looting stores of their stock – “It’s an uprising of the working class. We’re redistributing the wealth”.

        I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that uprisings of the working class previously sent western countries into raptures about freedom and democracy and out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new. Certainly as long as they were taking place in the Middle East or Africa, it’d be hard for the west to point to an uprising it didn’t like. Well, it’s found one it doesn’t like. British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his vacation in Italy to fly home and attend a crisis meeting, not even taking the time to stop off in France to ask Sarkozy who he planned to recognize as the new government of the UK (Mr. Philips, perhaps). It almost looks as if he doesn’t plan to quietly step down and let the new leaders take control. Perhaps he just needs Hillary Clinton to to tell him what he must do for the good of the country.

        • yalensis says:

          Yeah, I remember back when American ground troops took Baghdad; and shortly thereafter a bunch of Iraqi criminals (whom Saddam had prudently locked up in prison, but Americans liberated them) looted the precious Iraqi National Museum, stealing and destroying priceless artifacts from antiquity. When questioned about this, Donald Rumsfield said something like “Democracy can be messy.” So, yeah, I guess we could say the same thing about the soccer hooligans who are setting cars on fire and looting stores in London. We could call them the vanguard of “street democracy” protesting against an unjust autocratic government. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

          • marknesop says:

            If I remember correctly, the actual Rumsfeldianism was “Freedom is untidy”. He had such a way with words. According to this morning’s news, many of the hallmarks of the Arab Spring are present – discontent over unemployment, opposition to the government’s budget and use of social-networking media to stay ahead of police and urge more people to join the mobs.

            There are a couple of differences, though – the democratization NGO’s are not present stirring things up, and those who use social networking media such as Facebook (which was not specifically mentioned, although I’d be very surprised to learn it had played no part) and Twitter to abet or engage in hooliganism are advised their actions are criminal, whereas activists in other countries are offered the opportunity to be schooled in just those techniques by western organizations using foreign consultants.

            • yalensis says:

              Wow! These London rioters are obviously very adept at using their blackberries and Twitter to organize themselves and elude the police. They did not even need to attend that Yale University seminar with Navalny on “How to Use Social Media to Foment Revolution”. Bless their little hooligan hearts, they figured it out all on their own!

  28. sinotibetan says:

    Dear yalensis and Mark,

    Thought these two links would be interesting:-

    http://www.dailyreckoning.com.au/its-not-armageddon/2011/08/09/

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/MH11Dj01.html

    I think the second article from Stratfor is quite interesting.
    This part is interesting, somewhat related to our comments:-

    “It is vital to understand that this is not an ideological challenge. Left-wingers opposing globalization and right-wingers opposing immigration are engaged in the same process — challenging the legitimacy of the elites. Nor is it simply a class issue. The challenge emanates from many areas. The challengers are not yet the majority, but they are not so far away from it as to be discounted. The real problem is that, while the challenge to the elites goes on, the profound differences in the challengers make an alternative political elite difficult to imagine.”

    “This, then, is the third crisis that can emerge: that the elites become delegitimized and all that there is to replace them is a deeply divided and hostile force, united in hostility to the elites but without any coherent ideology of its own. In the United States this would lead to paralysis. In Europe it would lead to a devolution to the nation-state. In China it would lead to regional fragmentation and conflict.”

    Interesting analysis – because even to me, a person who does not delve into politics and merely comment as a hobby, it’s true that the political elites, especially Western ones, have lost their legitimacy. In my case, it’s true whatever their leanings might be – left, right or center. I also have a great distaste for the ‘financial types’ – those ‘fatcats’. I believe that our world politicians are in collusion with these corrupt business people and have ‘cleverly’ used sentiments and political leanings to manipulate us all while they gobble up their ill-gotten gains.

    Where I don’t agree with Stratfor are:-
    1. Stratfor does not think it will lead to a systemic collapse. I believe there will be a systemic collapse of the global financial system in which all nations will suffer – none will be spared. The USA(and thus dragging the whole world together) has gotten into a big black hole and will continue to widen that giant hole of debt to finally destroy the whole system altogether. It will not happen now, but I think it is inevitable. The US is not the sole nation to be blamed. All the world politicians are guilty(perhaps some less, but guilty nonetheless).
    2. Stratfor thinks, stopping short of a systemic collapse, that the USA will only ‘paralyze’ , the EU devolved into nation states and China disintegrated. I say these three entities might break up and in desperate times, rival ‘gangs’ of communities or nations might break into civil war even. The Americans will be divided into ‘liberal’, left-leaning , multicultural communities vs racialistic groups(some of which might be right-wing, others left-wing). Mutually hostile communities with opposite worldviews that finally will openly ‘war’ with each other. The EU will see the rise of the far-right who will gain ‘legitimacy’ as the previous elites might be viewed as corrupt and too multicultural. The longing for a unified Europe might still linger but instead of ‘covert integration’ by the ‘pen'(i.e. using treaties and diplomacies), more militarism and nationalism like that of pre-WW2 times. China’s communist government might collapse to the ‘pro-democracy’ revolution. And history repeats itself. The ‘democratic’ government will not be able to solve the deep troubles of China. Fascism will then rise , and like the Sui and the Qin of the past, it will be militaristic, ultranationalistic and oppressive to ‘solve the crisis’ by force. The commodities market will collapse in such a global systemic collapse. In that sense, Russia too will be badly affected. The current regime will then fall when oil drops to a pitiable level. Ultranationalists and fascism shall rise because, democracy fails in such type of crisis because only authoritharianism can FORCE resolute, decisive acts. No concensus – people are just forced at the gunpoint to do what they are told. In the Muslim world(a factor missing in stratfor’s piece), all the less secular governments – especially in Arab and Sunni lands, will fall. Instead they will be replaced, via the ‘democratic process’ ; by Jihadists to form a Unified Islamic Caliphate and Civilization with ultraconservative Islam as political ideology and outlook. The RADICALIZED REGIMES of the world – especially major nations – will then war with each other for the scramble of power, resources etc. The ‘relative peace’ of post WW2 will come to an untimely end. Millions will perish in such conflicts because we humans now have the nuclear know-how to self-destruct.

    Hope point # 2 doesn’t occur. Am I too pessimistic?

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      I doubt there will be any room in the minds of the Planners of World Order for conflict; they’re too busy trying to restore prosperity so everybody can fall back into their patterns of making money. The institutions that got a bailout must be laughing now – bailouts contributed to the failure of the economy, but not before those who got them generated enough profit to pay their loans back and re-achieve profitability: otherwise, they might have been ruined.

      Britain looks like a prophet now for stubbornly resisting the adoption of the Euro – I wonder if it was just luck, or a tickle of unease that made them hold firm. Of course, their economy is in shit shape now, too, but not because they have the Euro tied around their ankle like a lead ball.

  29. sinotibetan says:

    Sorry…correct an error:-
    “In the Muslim world(a factor missing in stratfor’s piece), all the secular governments – especially in Arab and Sunni lands, will fall.”

    And to add:-
    “The longing for a unified Europe might still linger but instead of ‘covert integration’ by the ‘pen’(i.e. using treaties and diplomacies), more militarism and nationalism like that of pre-WW2 times. Perhaps an alliance of Northern European states will develop in which ‘weaker’ southern and eastern European states will be ‘ruled’ as vassals to these stronger states as a complete political union. ”

    “In other words, peoples are becoming radicalized. The reason for this is simple – pure human nature. Despite all the civilization, sophistication of thought, ‘polite talk’ etc. – deep in the soul of almost all humans – we have not strayed far from the spirit of the cavemen of old. When times are desperate, the true colours of human nature will be seen.
    The RADICALIZED REGIMES of the world – especially major nations – will then war with each other for the scramble of power, resources etc. ”

    sinotibetan

  30. Foppe says:

    This article is only tangentially related, but over at Naked Capitalism over the past week or so there have (now) been 3 posts about shady crooks setting up shop in New Zealand through proxies.
    Since then (2) has suggested NC look into another address also located in Auckland, and this has resulted in the posting of article (3). This is sadly a bit hard to read because of stylistic reasons, but about 1/3 of the way down, I found this:

    “The business magazine Barron’s reported that late last month documents emerged out of London that linked a shell company called Bristoll Export, registered in New Zealand by GT Group, to a scandal that some commentators claim has the potential to be Russia’s Watergate.
    It centres on Russia’s largest tax fraud, which occurred on Christmas Eve, 2007, when Moscow tax officials approved a same-day refund of $US230 million to a gang masquerading as representatives of Hermitage Capital, once the largest portfolio investor in Russia.”

    Now, the article has fairly little more to say about the shape etc. of this relationship, but I’m hoping it’ll cheer you up to know that financial deregulation in NZ has also contributed to the problems Hermitage is facing.

    0. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/07/clueless-new-zealand-ministry-of-economic-development-provides-regulatory-cover-to-bogus-financial-companies.html
    1. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/08/new-zealand-opportunity-earn-working-from-home-creating-bogus-companies-for-crooks.html
    2. http://treasureislands.org/what-the-hell-is-going-on-at-369-queen-street-auckland/
    3. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/08/new-zealand-company-registry-whack-a-mole.html

    • marknesop says:

      That’s a bright spot in an otherwise relatively dull day, and now I positively ooze cheerfulness!! Thanks – I guess my attempts to disguise my dislike of Browder have been unsuccessful. I’ll have to read it over more carefully, though – I got a sinking feeling when I saw, “masquerading as representatives of Hermitage Capital”. Unless the authors were being cute, that’d seem to let Hermitage off the hook.

      • Foppe says:

        (See especially the linked http://www.smh.com.au/national/inside-the-shell-drugs-arms-and-tax-scams-20110514-1enkz.html for details pertaining to Hermitage, but it seems to me the overall story of capitalist-enabled deceit and fraud is the most amusing part of it.)

      • Foppe says:

        Anyway, the point to note is that the quote you cite comes from the SMH article, whereas the writeup on NakedCapitalism (the unindented bits ;)) are from the guy looking into bits and pieces of this scam and many others beside it (Richard Smith), that are all related insofar as they were perpetrated by companies “located” at that one address.
        I don’t know how familiar Smith is with the details of the issues surrounding Hermitage Capital, but I suspect he knows fairly little about it. Anyway, I also pointed him in the direction of this article.

        • marknesop says:

          I saw that you did – thanks. Frankly, this is starting to get interesting. I did a little digging myself: here are a couple of articles on Edmond Safra, super-secretive Sephardic Jewish banker and once reputedly the richest man in the world. In one, Safra’s Republic National Bank of New York is implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal. He or people who work for him appear to be adept at controlling the message, and except for that link most major media outlets seem to have believed the bank was exonerated. That’s similar to what happened when American Express bought Safra’s previous bank, the Trade Development Bank. They started investigating and rooting around, and Safra launched a counter-suit. American Express must not have thought they had much of a case, because they backed down and publicly apologized. Here’s that link.

          Going back a little further, we find the aforementioned Republic National Bank delivering greenbacks to the Russian mob by the planeload, five days a week, at least $100 million per flight. Republic National Bank of New York – and the U.S. Treasury, which allegedly nets $99.96 from every $100.00 that leaves the USA and never returns – say “prove it”. A couple of pages in (this is from Robert I. Friedman’s, “The Money Plane”, which I’m now very interested in reading, the article starts on page 24 of the New York Magazine, 22 Jan. 1996) there is a fascinating graphic called “The Laundry Cycle” that describes the process of money laundering from stealing oil in Siberia and reselling it on the spot market at Rotterdam to it’s getting “washed” through Republic and coming out as new uncirculated hundreds from the Federal Reserve, back to Moscow where it is used to expand the mob’s criminal empire. I don’t mind telling you, it makes breathtaking reading, and if it’s not bullshit….wow.

          And William Browder’s benefactor, who started Hermitage Capital Management off with $25 Million in seed money in the same year “The Money Plane” hit the streets, was of course…Edmond Safra.

  31. cartman says:

    Here is another one who took money and ran for London:
    http://rt.com/news/businessman-pugachev-uk-financial/

    Russia needs to deal with these guys like China does.

    • cartman says:

      I did not find any recent news, but his girlfriend – Alexandra Tolstoy – sounds like a complete idiot:

      http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article6982442.ece

      • marknesop says:

        And really just OK-looking, too, according to her pictures. Normally I wouldn’t make an issue of her looks, but articles such as the one you cite insist on describing her as a “striking blonde”. Maybe they meant “striking” in its job-action context, as in a blonde on strike.

        • yalensis says:

          Maybe they use the word “striking” for “tall” because they are looking for something complimentary to say about her, and she is not such a great beauty? Based on the description of her in @cartman’s link as “like a painting by Botticelli”, I was expecting a plump beauty, but in the picture I found of her online she looks quite thin and haggard.
          In any case, beautiful or not, she is a flaming parasite! Normally I would not begrudge a person their wealth and good fortune, but when she started defending Yeltsin’s counter-revolution, I became quite cross with her. She is a disgrace to the Tolstoy name, and her great ancestor would be ashamed of her. And, by the way, her name really should be “Tolstaya”, not “Tolstoy”. But if she wants to anglicize, I guess that’s okay.

          • cartman says:

            Ms. Horse-face would be better name for her. Her marriage to the “dashing Cossack” of modest means broke up when she had the baby of an oligarchical thug. The Eskimo woman said that Russia would return to Communism one day. Now I see it is because of the poor, maligned oligarchs and idiots that defend them.

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, her nostalgic description of the Yeltsin years as perhaps the last good thing that happened to Russia sort of gave her away as a natural rich person – someone who takes to the mantle of wealth as if born to it and who cannot imagine things any other way. And there’s no denying Yeltsin did make a few people very, very rich. However, if you weren’t one of them, too bad for you – it’s not as if there was meant to be enough to go around.

            • cartman says:

              Lev Tolstoy wore peasant clothes, and definitely would not have sent his children to Eton. It just shows you how inherited wealth and privilege are not deserved by later generations and have such a deleterious effect on society.

              And can you believe oligarchs are actually paying prices for property in UK that are triple the pre-real estate meltdown prices? Sometimes wealth and privilege are not deserved by first generations either.

              • grafomanka says:

                Research shows that people who inherited wealth (as opposed to – earned it) are much less likely to spend chunks of their money on charities, good causes etc. Sad truth.

  32. yalensis says:

    On Libya: some excitement over the weekend, battles still continuing.
    As the war drags on, the rebel leadership seems, on the whole, to be coordinating more effectively with their NATO overlords. NATO has set the strategic goal of taking Tripoli, and, like good project managers everywhere, has established milestones on the way to this goal. A project plan or Gantt chart would show the two prominent current milestones being sought are the towns of Brega (in the East) and Zawiya (in the West). To this end, NATO sets the goals, bombs the heck out of the area in question (to remove Gaddafy tanks, etc.), and then sends the rebel cannon-fodder into the breach, to get themselves ground up in the meatgrinder.
    On Saturday the main front was the town of Zawiya. According to the rebels, “hundreds” of rebel fighters stormed into Zawiya (after a prior softening up by NATO bombing runs), were greeted by “hundreds” of pro-reb citizens within the town, and all went rushing off to victory.
    According to the Libyan government, something like 200 rebels “infiltrated” into the town (after a prior softening up by NATO bombing runs – both sides agree on this fact), to be met with somewhere around 50 traitors who had been living inside the town and forming a secret rebel cell. (No doubt communicating with their comrades and with NATO via Twitter or Facebook).

    There was one glitch: During the initial attack, rebels captured a tank from the Gaddafi forces, which they proceeded to parade around the town.
    NATO then mistakenly bombed the tank, not realizing it was in rebel hands, and inadvertently destroyed this valuable piece of hardware plus the four rebels inside it.
    Oh well. Shit happens in the fog of war.

    • marknesop says:

      See, the thing is, bombing towns to “soften them” up for rebel incursion is way, way outside NATO’s mandate to “protect civilians”. Even if they did grant themselves the latitude-heavy “any and all actions necessary to protect civilians”, there’s no way you can twist that to make it fit bombing towns that can’t possibly be full of Libyan government troops and nothing else in order to enable rebel advances.

      Personally, I think NATO is only hanging on in the hope that some fighter/bomber jock will “accidentally” kill Gaddafi in a bombing raid – every time they don’t get him narrows the odds that they won’t next time, and he’s done well to last this long – whereupon they’d say, “Jeez; sorry about that, he was never a target. Well, this is not a time for finger-pointing, it’s a time for healing. Let’s all sit together around the table and put together a government. I nominate the rebel leader for president. All in favour?” or words to that effect. It’s hard to see how the Libyan effort could hold together without Gaddafi; his son hasn’t taken much of a public role thus far.

      On the bright side (for Libya), NATO appears to be getting increasingly distracted by Syria.

      • yalensis says:

        Scouring wire press this morning shows that rebels have achieved an actual (as opposed to propaganda) victory in the strategic town of Zawiya, after their weekend onslaught. The attack consisted of around 2000 rebels who had planned this event for weeks and coordinated with NATO bombers to make as effective as possible.
        As we speak, rebels do not completely control the whole town, however they do control the highway (with checkpoints) between this town and Tripoli, and have announced their intention to now blockade Tripoli and starve into submission.
        Gaddafy spokesman said government troops were caught off balance by the “surprise attack” on Zawiya.
        Now, here is the curious part: The attack on Zawiya came as no surprise to me, I knew it was going to happen one or two days before it happened. No, it is NOT because I have psychic powers like Nostradamus, or have a time machine in my attic. Reason I knew is because pro-rebel trolls were boasting about upcoming attack on Alzajeera blog .
        There are two main discussion threads, both anchored to this blog . The first thread is on the post “Gaddafi’s suicide plan for Tripoli” and is hosted by a guy named Gerhard Heinz who claims to be a NATO officer coordinating various attacks. This thread is for extreme pro-NATO, pro-rebel hardliners, and the moderator only allows comments that support their point of view.
        A couple of weeks back, a group of more-moderate pro-rebel dissidents broke away from this thread because they felt Gerhard was suppressing their views, so they formed their own thread on the post “The Disappearing Spring”. Regular commenters on this thread seem to include a motley group of pro-NATO neo-cons; youthful idealists (“Rebels will bring peace and democracy to the Libyan people”); Western European women (“Frysia”, “Lotta”) who have converted to Islam; and also a couple of dissident voices (“filvi”, “TAL”) who defend Gaddafy regime and engage the others in debate.
        Anyhow, I have been reading these blogs for a few weeks now, and I swear to god (or maybe allah?) they have been predicting every rebel attack a day or so before it happens, including this latest one over the weekend. Some of the commenters clearly seem to be in contact with the actual rebels, whereas others are just cheering them on from their armchairs in Germany or Finland. (It is really confusing, though, because many of the commenters also falsely claim victories, or claim victory prematurely, i.e., “Rebels are in full control of Brega”, when rebels are still fighting their way in…)
        Separating the wheat from the chaff, it seems it is possible to have some advance knowledge of the battlefield just by following these particular blogs. So, my question is: Does Gaddafy not have anyone on his staff who knows how to surf the internet? Really, is his intelligence apparatus THAT debased that they don’t even know how to type a link into a web browser?
        Actually, I think I just answered my own question: the AlJazeera blog is specifically English-language, they don’t even permit anyone to comment in any other language, and many of the commenters clearly struggle with the English language but plow on regardless. So, maybe Gaddafy does not have anyone on his staff who can read English?

        • marknesop says:

          I doubt Gadhaffi wa actually “surprised” by the attack on Zawiya, since anyone who can read a map (not to belittle your talents or disavow the possibility of you being psychic) can see that Zawiya stands between the rebels and their long-public goal of taking Tripoli. Perhaps the government pretended to be surprised because they simply couldn’t hold it any more, and it sounds a lot better to pretend you could have kicked their ass if you hadn’t been asleep. I’m sure Gadhaffi has plenty of people who can speak and read English – his son does, for one.

          This rebel “victory” is a pity, because likely government forces will not be able to dislodge them – they have to cross a good deal of open territory to do so, and NATO likely hopes they will so they can bomb the shit out of them. On the plus side, as the army types are fond of saying, make it too tough for the enemy to get in and you won’t get out. Something like 2000 rebels must be the bulk of their deployable forces, all in one place. That’s an attractive target. Let’s see; Zawiya is the 5th-largest city in Libya, with a population of something like 300,000. If it’s even 50% hostile to the rebel movement, the locals still outnumber the rebels 75 to 1. Maybe pro-government residents will take them out – NATO couldn’t help there for fear of bombing their own rebel brothers.

          The other reason it’s a pity is because it will encourage NATO to stay a little longer, that victory is almost in sight. Never mind that if the rebels actually reach Tripoli it’ll be hand-to-hand close, with NATO again unable to help unless they actually put troops on the ground. I don’t believe the rebels could ever take Tripoli without help, and if they hope to starve the city into submission, well, what kind of a humanitarian press image will that make? At some point NATO is going to have to acknowledge the suffering it is bringing to ordinary Libyans in its fool’s errand to change the government.

          • sinotibetan says:

            Mark, yalensis,

            I don’t follow this Libyan civil war because whatever it is, I think Gaddafy’s days are numbered. Like Afghanistan and Iraq that has gone before him, the Western powers(this time with a lot enthusiasm from the French) will ‘help’ further destabilization of the Middle East. After supporting jihadists and achieving nothing concrete, the French and Americans will still be ‘wondering’ why they get the on and off attacks from jihadist terrorists. They will again turn against their ‘former allies’ who turn ‘anti-Western'(like as if they were pro-West in the first place!) just like they did with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. History repeats itself. The West never learns.

            p.s. Is Syria ‘next’ on NATO’s list of ‘aiding rebels to effect regime change’?
            http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2359792.ece?homepage=true
            http://www.voanews.com/policy/editorials/middle-east/What-Syria-Stands-To-Lose–127758113.html

            Also, the USA actually clandestinely ‘supports'(perhaps even financially) some of the opposition politicians in my country. I don’t like the present regime in my country and would like to see the more secular opposition groups gain more power but I don’t agree that they get any form of support from the USA.

            sinotibetan

            • yalensis says:

              @mark and @sinotibetan: Agree with comments. I did hope Gaddafy would show True Grit and hold on as long as possible, to maybe give NATO a bloody nose and dissuade from further adventures of this sort. Unfortunately, even if it ended up taking them 8 months or a year to overthrow him, they will still consider it time and money well spent. Especially since they didn’t have to sacrifice any of their own soldiers: the hand to hand fighting is being done by the Libyan rebels. Being mostly jihadists they are crazy-brave and don’t mind being “martyred” for their cause.
              So, if Gaddafy falls, it looks like a bleak day for the non-NATO supporting world. NATO will take this as a great victory, with a formula that works every time: Bomb opponent regime from the safety of the skies, while traitors on the ground do the actual combat. It worked in Yugoslavia too. I believe NATO has a current hitlist, in this order: (1) Libya, (2) Iran, (3) Venezuela, (4) Russia.
              My real concern, of course, is Russia. That is the real reason I became interested in Libya. (Although I did learn a lot about Libyans and became quite sympathetic to them.) Anyhow, Russian leadership doesn’t seem too concerned about NATO’s long-range plans: I suspect they are living in a fool’s paradise. Also, when push came to shove and NATO started to bomb Moscow, I doubt if Russian quislings would fight as determinedly as the Libyan jihadists. Can you imagine Navalny or Nemtsov bravely throwing themselves in front of a Kremlin tank for their NATO masters?
              Speaking of Venezuela: There was some news today that Hugo Chavez is in Tunisia, participating in super-secret negotiations to end the Libyan conflict. My psychic premonition tells me that a deal is in the works, and that Gaddafy will throw in the towel and go into exile to Venezuela. I hope I am wrong. I would rather see the old man win outright and kick his enemies’ asses all the way back to Qatar. If that is not possible, then I would rather see this “glorious basterd” go down in a blaze of glory (like Hitler) than an inglorious exile, or hiding in a spider hole like Saddam! But that is not my choice to make…

              • marknesop says:

                Perhaps they will be distracted by Iraq, which appears to be heating up again. What a coincidence – just as an agreement was being negotiated between the USA and the Iraqi government to leave “some troops” behind. The analyst quoted suggests the attacks are intended to motivate the government to beg Americans to stay, because if they are gone al Qaeda will have no reason for being, and they want Americans to stay so the fighting can go on and on.

                It seems a little simplistic to me. Al Qaeda is less political than other militant groups like the Taliban or Hezbollah, but it has political objectives all the same – which I would think would be easier to achieve without the U.S. Army getting in the way. The Taliban is not going to just drop the practice of enforcing fundamentalist religious law in Afghanistan if all the troops leave, saying, “What a pity, lads; there goes our reason for being. Ahhhh….I’m melting….I’m melllltttiiinnnggg!!” Similarly, while killing infidels seems to be quite high on al Qaeda’s To-Do list, I’m sure they could find plenty to keep themselves occupied if all the infidels left.

                However, there are powerful interests in the USA who want the military to “stay the course until the job is done” as well as an ever-hungry defense lobbying industry who will be perfectly happy to turn the uptick in violence to their own purpose.

                • sinotibetan says:

                  Mark,

                  My country was colonized by THREE Western powers! Washington is a continuation of that process of bullying and controlling others – this time in the name of ‘free trade'(as in the past with regards to Western European powers) and the sacrosanct concept – ‘democrazy’.

                  sinotibetan

                • yalensis says:

                  Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia??? — who the heck are these guys, and why are they blowing everybody up?
                  And why are Americans fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq but helping Al Qaeda in Libya?
                  Is very confusing….
                  Anyhow, @mark, as to your point that Iraq blowing up again will keep NATO occupied, my understanding is that Iraq was specifically American project, not much NATO involvement, and most other NATO countries were even opposed to this adventure. Libya is the other side of the coin. That is to say, of course there is American involvement, but is mostly French-British-Qatari project, but Americans standing a little bit to the side and hedging their bets.
                  Speaking of Qatar (which also happens to be the home of Al Jazeera, the state media of this glorious nation), the Libyan rebels who took Zawiya over the weekend were led by Qatari military officers/advisors. As soon as rebels seized even one residential neighborhood in this town, the very first thing they did was round up everybody with black skin. Rebel guys really hate black Africans. They have been detaining, torturing and lynching black people since the start of this war, even those with Libyan citizenship. And yet the sub-Saharan African countries do not even speak up to defend their nationals and guest-workers.

                • marknesop says:

                  Do you have any substantiation of Qatari military involvement? That would be a definite provocation. And if Washington withdraws its support, the whole thing will fall apart – the U.S. media contribution is very much a factor, and if suddenly the BBC was left to carry the ball alone, the effort would wither. The U.S. military presence isn’t particularly dominant, but Washington’s support for regime change is critical.

                  Prominent Africans have spoken up against the invasion, but again, anything the press doesn’t want you to notice, it doesn’t report. Zimbabwe’s leader has been increasingly vocal in his disapproval, but with the country’s human-rights record he has little international clout. Also, he’s not an Arab. this is still perceived as an Arab war, not an African war, and another domino in the Arab Spring. We’ve already spoken about how few armchair quarterbacks are aware that Libya is in Africa.

                  If nothing else, this conflict will alter the world’s impression of Al Jazeera. When Iraq was just getting started, Al Jazeera was the Voice Of The Devil to most Americans – it must be confusing to hear them supporting western goals with every bit the fervor they displayed against American efforts in Iraq.

              • sinotibetan says:

                Dear yalensis,

                ” Anyhow, Russian leadership doesn’t seem too concerned about NATO’s long-range plans: I suspect they are living in a fool’s paradise. ”
                The civiliki are oblivious – eg. Medvedev, Kudrin and co. Their minds only think of business and ‘reform’ and ‘privatization’ – though these things are not ‘wrong’, they fail to fathom Washington’s constant machinations and manipulations.
                The siloviki are better. Being former secret agents, they know the crookedness of Washington. That’s why I say that until Russia is strong enough to be considered a ‘failed cause’ for Washington, Russia needs the siloviki – eg. Putin etc. Though the siloviki are no saints, they are better than talk-business-only civiliki and hopeless quislings like Nemtsov et al.

                “Can you imagine Navalny or Nemtsov bravely throwing themselves in front of a Kremlin tank for their NATO masters?”
                Hahaha…nope. These will use tweeter , facebook etc. to instigate idealistic young Russians to rebel and when NATO encircles Moscow and thousands upon thousands barricade themselves in front of the Kremlin and when they are 99.99999% they are on winning side, then just like Boris Yeltsin, they will suddenly physically appear to become ‘instant heroes’. Then, after the dust has settled, they will squabble amongst themselves for the post of President. Washington will ‘support’ one who has ‘popular support’ and most importantly – one who promises the Western alliance a free hand to rape Russia completely dry of her natural resources. And one who will promise their Western masters that he will do all he can to make Russia subservient and a lapdog of the West like the other Slavic states to the west. All nuclear weapons will be dismantled and probably Russia will be divided into pseudoautonomous statelets to be ‘absorbed’ into Western structures like the EU. I view that as Washington’s and Brussel’s true aims over the long term.

                “and NATO started to bomb Moscow”
                That’s why Russia must keep and maintain a very large nuclear arsenal. That’s why siloviki still will have to remain relevant politically. As long as these two remains, Washington will think a million times before striking. That’s why Kim Jong Il claims he has nuclear weapons….even if his is a crude one. That’s the only way to prevent Washington to ‘Iraqise’ or ‘Libyanise’ a nation it dislikes.

                sinotibetan

                • sinotibetan says:

                  yalensis, Mark:-

                  “That’s why siloviki still will have to remain relevant politically”
                  BTW, that’s why I think Washington and her allies prefer Medvedev to Putin, prefer civiliki to siloviki. Putin(and siloviki allies) as president or in power is an OBSTACLE to their nefarious geopolitical plans for Russia. Medvedev, with his ‘liberal heart’ and ‘reformist’ thinking is like Gorbachev in a way – easy game and target to be manipulated to fulfill Washington’s aims. That’s why the Western media’s preoccupation with who will reclaim the Presidency and their ‘hope’ that Medvedev will sever any ties with his former ‘mentor’. I think Putin is smart enough to realize that and I think even if Medvedev becomes President, he will be watched by his opponents, the siloviki – because he has been proven too incompetent to handle the clever tricks of Washington.

                  sinotibetan

                • yalensis says:

                  @Sinotibetan: Agree with your remarks. This is why I hoped that Libya would be the chicken bone that stuck in NATO’s throat. If Libya falls, then NATO goes “Woo hoo, we beat the wogs!” and Iran is probably next. Now, Iran claims to have nukes, and I think they were very close to developing a bomb, but they did suffer a setback last year when Israelis managed to hack them with a powerful computer worm. Hence, Iranians may or may not enjoy the luxury of a nuclear deterrent.
                  On plus side, Iran has a HUMUNGOUS conventional military machine. On negative side, they have a whole lot of internal dissidents who would love to see their government fall. Although most of these dissidents are secular, I believe, not jihadists, so maybe not as physically bold as Libyan rebels.

                • marknesop says:

                  I can’t see anything like that happening; none of the conditions that argue for forced regime change are present except for a strong dislike (stoked by irresponsible and often inaccurate reporting in the media) of the present government on the part of U.S. policymakers and Russia’s preeminence as an energy producer. I’m not suggesting there are no elements in the west that would like to dominate and subordinate Russia, just that it isn’t a realistic possibility right now. Granted, there’s Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which remains a valuable deterrent and should be maintained as such. But there’s also the staggeringly long logistic chain the west, which is not particularly powerful in the region (although it would like to be) would have to maintain for anything other than an all-out missile attack or a quick hit-and-run. Guarding and supporting such a logistic chain would be a monumental task. Also, what about China? China loves foolish Americans’ money, but is not particularly enamored of its ideology, is in direct competition with it for global power and influence and is right next door. Would China sit by passively and allow a gigantic colour revolution to be staged on its doorstep, shifting control of the world’s biggest energy production to its only rival? I don’t think so. Additionally, the dissident presence in Russia is proportionately tiny, although the west likes to make it sound much more significant than it is. We’ve seen in Libya that the west is perfectly OK with supporting the ambitions of the minority over the majority and calling it freedom, but I can’t see NATO putting in place the no-fly zone it would take to give dissident movements a running start in the face of both the Russian Air Force and the Air Forces of the neighbour who would probably not be cool with it. I’m filing it under “never happen”. If it were that simple, NATO wouldn’t have wasted so much money and effort, not to mention reshaping the impressions of an entire generation of its own, trying to undermine it from within and encircle it with non-aligned satellites from without.

  33. cartman says:

    Another record set for most expensive “pile of rocks” sold in UK:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/propertynews/8699258/Park-Place-Britains-most-expensive-home-sold-for-record-140m.html

    It was purchased by Vladimir Lisin.

    • grafomanka says:

      I always wondered why all those oligarchs choose properties in Britain. The weather is really, really bad here, and those people can live anywhere they wish, why not choose France, or Italy?
      But I think I understand now. They are drown by British upper class culture, which is still really strong. Being like a country gentleman, being neighbors to “real” aristocracy. going hunting, doing stuff you see in the movies, … basically, feeling like feudal lords :p they are paying for this “authentic experience”

      • cartman says:

        They could build replicas for far less money because it will be impossible to find other buyers at those prices. In the US developers just copy famous British place names, hoping buyers will find that “sophisticated.” These people could inadvertently cause a property bubble in England, which could trickle down and cause the instability we have been seeing in London recently, which would again hit the property market badly. They should just buy the Magic Kingdom instead.

        Do they think they would actually fit in with British society, which doesn’t like Russians at all? Ms. Tolstoy(a) is definitely a status seeker, who would probably not change her name for all the opportunities she thinks it opens up for her (incl. the chance to send her stupid babies to Eton, which she must to keep up appearances).

      • yalensis says:

        Doesn’t it have something more to do with British tax laws?

  34. sinotibetan says:

    Dear Mark and yalensis,

    Thanks for your comments.
    Actually I agree with Mark that the chances of USA stoking a ‘regime change’ in Russia as unlikely in the near future. Mark made many salient points. However, I do believe that such is the HOPE of many in the corridors of power in the USA. They’re waiting for ANY point of weakness in Russia.

    I am going to comment some stuff….not that I morally agree with these statements – but I am stating them as ‘an exercise of realpolitik’ – which is essentially ruthless and amoral. Power as the ultimate aim kind of comments.

    1.) Regarding Iran – her enormous oil reserves is a factor that attracts American interest in regime-toppling. Iran faces not only secular(i.e. ‘ideological’) opposition but also ethnic dissidents – Sunni Arab minorities(some could be jihadists), Kurdish separatists, Azeri ethnics among others. The many years of social ultraconservatism there has led many Iranians to be weary of such. It’s waiting to explode. And I bet you the USA is clandestinely instigating these groups. The only way for the current regime to temporarily stall such a process is to become a nuclear weapon wielding state. But it is not going to last. Yalensis is correct to say that secularists being less bold is holding back massive protests but it’s brewing. Iran might ‘turn secular’ with ‘American help’ while that same ‘help’ from Uncle Sam turns the Arab states into Islamist states. A very destabilized Middle East thanks to “Western meddling”. The huge conventional army and even the possession of nuclear weapons would not be able to prevent regime change if there is massive dissident protest. If such occur, only a show of force by the regime – by total crushing of dissidents – might instill fear and prevent that day of reckoning. As the Iranian armed forces are probably ‘more powerful’ than Gaddafi’s, the Americans will just resort to more media negative propaganda about the Iranian regime – don’t think they will dare ‘invade’ Iran like Libya. If the regime acts ‘too soft’ (hence, it probably signals to the American political elites that the regime is ‘weak’/’disunited’)-like not totally annihilating the dissidents, then that’s a different story – then you might see a ‘Western coalition’ invading Iran – maybe with two pretexts : protecting the ‘human rights’ of dissidents and democracy PLUS ‘Iran has weapons of mass destruction and aiding terrorists’. Real aims: control Iranian oil fields, show off the military might of the American armed forces(and hopefully sell obsolete American weapons to warlords in Africa and elsewhere, perhaps – by a ‘practical demonstration’ on the ‘field’).

    Regarding Russia(and China):-
    2.)The weakness of these two states is mainly this: the failure to ‘uncouple’ from Western economies. While I agree that in our globalized world, all national economies are intertwined and ‘interdependent’, it’s important that nations should also maintain some degree of ‘self-reliance'(‘decoupled’) so that if the global economy is down, although affected negatively, these negative effects are partly mitigated. Russia relies too much on oil and gas. China still relies on manufacturing. I know Anatoly might disagree. Russia needs more time for economic diversification. China needs more time to promote the majority of her population and the rest of Asia to middle class and thus not solely rely on Western buying power. Western economies are in bad shape. Within the next few years, the USA might collapse and bring the whole world economy down with it. American debt is too huge to be salvageable. She must ultimately face the day of ultimate downgrade. But not a quick collapse – that will create chaos. Interestingly, it’s NOT to China’s and Russia’s interest to ever see that(i.e. a quick collapse) happen – it will destabilize these two nations. So, the strategy is to actually continue ‘propping’ the USA while planning for a decoupling. Instead of a collapse, the USA would be heading for a slow decay. Unfortunately, neither Russia or China has a strategy to deal with a possible American economic collapse. America is powerful enough that should it collapse economically, both Russia and China will be in chaos first(oil price at a paltry value and no one needs so much stuff from China) : hence dissent and possible ‘regime change’.
    3.)America supports dissidents in both Russia and China – constantly backing and instigating them. But that’s not the only means. As I’ve mentioned, for Russia at least…..Washington also tries manipulating the civiliki types. Thus, I don’t think a NATO invasion is likely for Russia but certainly Washington hopes to stoke disunity and fracturing of the Russian ruling regime and then if the condition is right(eg very low oil prices leading to economic hardships), ‘mobilize’ the dissidents among the masses to have massive demos. The ‘attack’ is more of a psychological war rather than a military intervention. As events in the past and currently have shown, both Russia and China are vulnerable to these attacks because many(especially the young) in these nations are easily duped by media propaganda from the West.

    sinotibetan

  35. sinotibetan says:

    I forgot to say:-
    “Thus, I don’t think a NATO invasion is likely for Russia but certainly Washington hopes to stoke disunity and fracturing of the Russian ruling regime and then if the condition is right(eg very low oil prices leading to economic hardships), ‘mobilize’ the dissidents among the masses to have massive demos.”
    If such happen, the only way (I am speaking in ‘realpolitik’ terms…not that I agree with the proposed strategy) to maintain regime and prevent national fragmentation into warring local warlords is – crushing the dissidents cruelly(like Tiananmen Square protests in 1989). ‘Realpolitik’-wise, that’s the right thing to do. However, if the ruling regime is disunited(imagine Yeltsin and Gorbachev in the last days of the Soviet Union), the dissidents will win and both Russia and China will descend to chaos and break up into statelets.

    sinotibetan

    • I respect yalensis’ viewpoints, but I’m really confused by his constant depiction of Libya et al. as Russia’s potential future too.

      First, getting a rebellion started is really hard. Libya and Syria are both tribal societies, where the power of the dominant tribe is resented. Russia is not (except in the North Caucasus). Libya in 2010 began to liberalize its politics, giving dissentors an opening. In Syria, the current riots are happening across a background of very high food prices in a poor country. To the extent the West is interfering here for its own interests it is doing so opportunistically, not intentionally.

      But secondly and far more importantly, Russia has nuclear weapons. This makes any NATO bombing of Moscow or some-such in support of rebels utterly unrealistic.

      • sinotibetan says:

        AK,

        Agree. NATO bombing of Moscow is very unlikely.

        That said, Washington never ceases to tweak opposition to the current regime in Russia because Putin and others like him are an obstacle to America’s further ‘imperialism’. The almost constant negative depiction of Russia or Putin or anyone in the ‘ruling elites’ there in most Western media is propaganda to be fed to Western audiences and hopefully any Western-oriented young Russians in Russia itself. As I’ve said, it’s not military intervention(for Russia) that’s in Washington’s mind. It’s subtle, sneaky, psychological attack and hope for ‘homegrown’ regime destabilization.

        sinotibetan

      • yalensis says:

        @anatoly: You can chalk it up to my paranoid personality. Hey, I am Russian after all, are we not supposed to be paranoid? (Tatar yoke, and all that jazz?)
        Point taken, though, I will start to repeat obsessively to myself a hundred times a day: “Russia has nukes… Russia has nukes…” (assuming they are not all covered with rust and spiderwebs at this point…)
        Speaking of paranoia, one of my past bosses (who was a real asshole) used to call me a “Cassandra” because I was always warning about every possible thing that could go wrong in any given project plan. (I myself call it “due diligence.”) Anyhow, I didn’t know what he meant until I read a translation of Homer’s Iliad. All the Trojans keep laughing at Cassandra’s far-fetched predictions of defeat: “Oh, you are too paranoid, my dear Cassandra. The Greeks will NEVER breach our sturdy walls. We have such a huge army, we have fine chariots, we have sharp spears, we have brave warriors… What could possibly go wrong?”

        • yalensis says:

          P.S. I just realized: Discussion of “due diligence” goes back in circular method to the earlier discussion about rivberboat sinkings; allude to peter’s Pushkin quote:
          “Да понадеялся он на русский авось….”
          And, P.P.S. @anatoly: Didn’t you promise us a post to discuss your views on best way to reform Russian army?

          • Yes, I did. And I will.😉

            But S/O posting is on a backburner atm. I’m mostly concentrating on the book, but I’ve already gone behind schedule.😦

            • yalensis says:

              @anatoly: Don’t worry about falling behind schedule in writing your book. Schedule is just a platonic suggestion. If milestone is not met, you simply move milestone and adjust dependent dates in your project plan.
              Here is some free advice based on how I wrote my thesis, if you already know this or have a better method, then please just ignore:
              Start with fully formatted document in template form, all 100 pages (or whatever), complete with page numbers, headers, etc. Add major headings and some minor headings, based on your initial outline. All paragraph content is meaningless chatter, like “blah blah blah”. As you work, the “blah blah blah” is slowly but steadily replaced by actual content from your research. (Turn INSERT key off and just type over “blah blah blah”.) Magically, book seems to write itself!
              P.S. In final draft, don’t forget to search out and delete any remaining “blah blah blah”, otherwise can be embarrassment, like happened to me.

              • Thanks for that advice, yalensis!

                I did what you suggested with the template. I have ten main chapters, and a couple to six or seven sub-headings within each of those chapters.

                The problem with moving milestones is that it could become an indefinite process. To try to make sure it isn’t I’m plotting my word count progress on a graph in Excel. It is currently making me embarrassed and providing an incentive to keep up (if not that successfully). My goal is 2000 words per day, but in practice I do perhaps 1500 words one day and then spend two or three days not writing down anything at all.

                Instead of the blah blah blah, I’ve inserted small plans into each of the sub-headings, so I can roughly discern the final structure of the work. Fun anecdote with the left in blah blah’s, though!😉

  36. yalensis says:

    @mark: On Qatari military advisors in Libya, I read about it in many different sources, including Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/qatari-military-advisers-on-the-ground-helping-libyan-rebels-get-into-shape/2011/05/11/AFZsPV1G_story.html

    Let me see if I can find more recent stuff, I remember reading that Qatari advisors were organizing the Berber rebels from the Nafusa Mountains area. Those are the guys who recently took Zawiya, they have achieved more military successes than any other group involved, including Al Qaeda.

  37. yalensis says:


    “Libya is a democratic and independent state,” the document states. “The people are the source of authority, Tripoli is the capital, Islam is the religion and Islamic sharia is the principal source of legislation.”
    [preamble to Libyan rebels’ alt-government draft constitution]

    Hey, you lucky Libyan ladies, prepare yourselves for shariah law ! Tada!

    “Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Tripoli and Tehran, said the document was a good start.”

    • marknesop says:

      I don’t think the “people” of Libya (which is to say, the majority) have a lot to say about it. The decision has been made for them, and the decision-makers have their own reasons. Popularity does not number among them.

  38. sinotibetan says:

    Mark,

    If Libya becomes an Islamist country(i.e. the rebels win), it is NOT an unpopular thing for a significant number of Libyans. For those who are Muslim moderates with a conservative tilt(the majority, I think), I do not think they will be crying in an Islamist Libya- especially if Sharia Law leads to national stability. The secular Muslims(‘Murtads’) and non-Muslims will be the ones who will not be comfortable in such a state. So, even if it has been ‘decided’ by Jihadists that they become a mujahiddin nation, it’s not so discordant with most Libyans, I believe. Or else why should there be so many on the side of the rebels?

    Some interesting read from stratfor:-

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110221-revolution-and-muslim-world

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110223-jihadist-opportunities-libya

    sinotibetan

    • yalensis says:

      Here’s the thing: I don’t really believe the rebels have that much popular support.
      Well, of course, obviously, they have SOME support. Maybe 40% or something around there, more in the East of course (Cyrenaica), less in the West. Granted, it’s hard to really know without scientific opinion polls, and Libya is not known for that. It is known that the rebels have employed violence and brutality in every town they conquered except for the ones that were their tribal homes. If they were that popular, they would not have needed to be violent.
      Unfortunately, is looking like the rebels will win the war militarily, probably even in the next few days. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to popularity. Is possible for a very determined minority to conquer a nation, especially with NATO on their side (not to mention Qatari officers and American special ops fighting alongside). Gaddafy’s army gave it their best shot, but they were simply outgunned. If you cannot control your own sky, then you are toast. Simple as that.
      Without NATO I am positive Gaddafy would have won. NATO is the deux ex machina that swept down from the sky, with their bombs and drones, and determined the outcome. This answers a hypothetical question I had long wondered about: What if Milosevich had held out longer and refused to surrender to NATO? Could Serbia have avoided defeat? Now I am pretty sure: outcome probably would have been the same.
      American conservatives are feeling uncomfortable: they are torn between despising Gaddafy and despising Obama, and which one of these two men they hate more. Some will see rebel victory as proof that Obama is a “secret Muslim” who promotes shariah law around the world. They are idiots, of course. Their hero, Ronald Reagan was no secret Muslim, yet he also supported Al Qaeda and shariah law when it came to Afghanistan.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Yalensis,

        Interesting thoughts!
        1.)”Without NATO I am positive Gaddafy would have won. NATO is the deux ex machina that swept down from the sky, with their bombs and drones, and determined the outcome.”
        Completely agree with that.
        2.) Regarding Milosevic, he was toast from the beginning. With Russia too weak to be of any support and the machinations of NATO and EU – he never stood a chance.
        3.)”American conservatives are feeling uncomfortable”
        Hmmm….my position is actually ‘conservative'(thankfully I am not American!) but I agree with you about their thoughts of Obama. As I’ve said before, there’s NO REAL DIFFERENCE between so-called ‘conservative’ Republicans and so-called ‘liberal’ Democrats. They are both sides of the same coin of American Empire Building. Their ‘division’ between ‘conservatism’ and ‘liberalism’ is FOR domestic(American public) consumption. Eg. during Milosevic’s downfall, it was not a ‘conservative’ Republican presidency that brought him down BUT a Democrat presidency under Bill Clinton. Russia’s 1990s national implosion came with ‘Western help’ – and quite a lot also came during a ‘Democrat Presidency’. If the Democrats seem more ‘Russia-friendly’ and ‘less hawkish’ – it’s just a matter of degree and ‘public relations’. In fact, sometimes I think the Democrats(to Russia) are more dangerous because they appear ‘more Russia-friendly’ but use subtle means to achieve their ambitions on Russia. Such ‘friendliness’ keep the Russian leaders slack and off-guard. Whereas a ‘hostile’ and ‘hawkish’ Republican would lead to Russian leaders to be more ‘on-guard’. My opinion is the Russian leadership should be ALWAYS on-guard and not slack whether it’s a Republican or Democrat Presidency.

        sinotibetan

      • hoct says:

        Milošević never surrendered to NATO. Kumanovo Treaty + UN1244 were far from an outright capitulation. There were plenty of demands NATO was forced to drop.

        The game changer was October 2000 and a rise of a pliant government in Belgrade that did not try to protect the original settlement in the face of repeated unilateral power grabs by the West. Serbia lost the peace not the war.

        • yalensis says:

          @hoct: Good points! Tangentially, can you tell me how you do the correct spelling of Milošević with those markers over the consonants (egads, I forget what those things are called in English!) I can’t seem to find those fonts on my computer. (I copied and pasted from your comment, but I would like to know how you did it…) Thanks!

    • marknesop says:

      What’s your source that suggests the rebels enjoy enormous popular support? That runs counter to everything I read. If the protests revolve around a return to sharia law, then I guess once NATO has achieved its objective, those who don’t want to live under sharia law will have to move somewhere else – but that also was not my understanding; I thought the protesters wanted a bigger cut of Libya’s oil profits, more say in how they’re spent and a better standard of living. None of which they’re likely to realize in an Islamic republic. That means it’ll only be a matter of time before they blame the west for their woes – which, for a change, would be accurate – and NATO has to return for Round Two.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Mark,
        Are you addressing me?
        1.)”What’s your source that suggests the rebels enjoy enormous popular support? ”
        http://english.alarabiya.net/views/2011/08/13/162089.html
        ” Public intellectuals in the Arab World are visibly divided over how to view the events in Syria and Libya despite the fact that the public opinion is decidedly against the dictatorial republics in places like Yemen, Syria and Libya. ”
        The rebels are not a homogeneous bunch. But they are all anti-Gaddafi, thus they should enjoy some influence and some measure of public support. I said MANY support rebels….I am not sure how many and doubt they are a majority BUT significant number enough to wage a war against the Gaddafi regime. Of course, with NATO’s ‘help’.

        2.)”If the protests revolve around a return to sharia law”
        I did NOT say the protest was ABOUT Sharia law. Agree that the protest is an ‘economic’ protest – but part of it has been hijacked by Islamists, jihadists and tribal leaders. If Islamists and Jihadists manage to gain power, they might want to impose Sharia Law. I said such a law is NOT necessarily disliked by most Libyans except ‘liberals’. Libyans who support the rebels do so because they are against the Gaddafi regime. That some (or many?)knowingly support jihadists/Islamists mean they are fine with Islamists thoughts. They just want to get rid of Gaddafi. If that comes with Sharia law, they’ve accepted it. That’s what I meant.

        sinotibetan

        • marknesop says:

          Thanks for your reply, sinotibetan – sorry, I was away all day and did not see it until now. When the conflict in Libya first excited the western press, the rebels were estimated to number not more than 3000. That’s in a country of 5 million. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, assume all 3000 were combatants, and that they have a three-to-one ratio of supporters who are not combatants, but who believe in their cause and offer them some logistic support. That’s still only 12,000 people, and we know for a fact that not even all the population of the “rebel capital”, Benghazi, are supporters. Benghazi’s population under normal circumstances was over 100,000. Tripoli is overwhelmingly pro-Ghaddafi, judging by the large rallies for him, some estimated at well over a million by journalists who would love to see him killed. Realistically, for every supporter the rebels have gained since by people who have come around to their way of thinking or who are just realists and see that NATO is determined to oust Ghaddafi no matter what it costs, they lose one due to their exhibited brutality in villages that have fallen under their control.

          Unless the rebels are at least 10 times more numerous than I think they are, they would have to abandon every objective they have taken thus far in order to assault Tripoli – there simply are not enough of them to leave a garrison behind while the remainder push on. So unless new rebels are flocking to the banner in every town they take – doubtful – it will take every one of them capable of bearing arms to mount an attack on Tripoli – and even then the fighting will be hand-to-hand, street-to-street, and there’s a good chance they will be all killed. NATO cannot be of any help whatever once they enter the city, for fear of killing rebels by mistake, and there aren’t enough of them to take the city if it is pro-Ghaddafi as it appears to be. It’s very likely that western sources are deliberately exaggerating both the rebels’ numbers and their support, in hope that Ghaddafi will consider continued resistance hopeless and throw in the towel.

          Ghaddafi needs to hold on – every day he toughs it out brings more disillusionment and weariness with the dragging on of war, and if it brings him no new supporters it at least weakens the support for those against him. Libya has the potential to be just like Afghanistan and Chechnya – encouraged by the west to tear themselves apart, but reverting to tribal bickering as soon as the military presence is removed. Perhaps that is precisely the desired effect; who doesn’t love an oil-rich republic rent by sectarian strife? Nobody western.

          • yalensis says:

            @mark: Yes, interesting analysis, and I agree with your numbers, based on everything I have read over the past few months.
            One curious thing: the rebels numbers really do not add up. Something is very wrong: either the initial estimate of rebel forces (the “ragtags” as they were called) were grossly underestimated; or their forces have been seriously supplemented by outside help. Six months ago these ragtags were such a joke that even their friends admitted they were no threat to anyone except the birds (because, see, they are constantly shooting up into the air, bringing death and destruction to avians …)
            Okay, even if you assume that rebels are massively popular, and 9 out of every 10 Libyans adores them, it STILL doesn’t compute that they could go up against a professional army, and win. That would be like me grabbing a stick and attacking a fully armed cop in my neighborhood. Even if I were popular and the cop was hated, he would still make mincemeat out of me very quickly.
            So, none of this makes sense, unless you assume that ragtag forces have been supplemented with foreign assistance, not just officers and advisors, but also more regular soldiers, what pundits call “boots on the ground”. Two points:
            (1) In following all the battles over the last few months (mostly via Al Jazeera, but also Reuters), in every dinky little town, I have been trying to keep up to grisly task of “body-counting”. For example, for the battle of Qawalish, rebels says they suffered “15 martyrs”. So I write the number 15 down in a ledger. Then, battle of Brega, 50 more “martyrs”. And so on. Adding up all the rebel martyrs over the months, the number has by now far exceeded original estimate of soldiers in the “ragtag” army. Hence, my suspicion that most of the original ragtags are now enjoying their 72 virgins in heaven [sorry, Sam!], while the surviving rebel soldiers must be mostly foreign mercenaries. I could be wrong – maybe these are new recruits…
            (2) If you look at any story about Libya conflict, you always see these photos of jubilant ragtags wearing t-shirts and bandannas, posturing for camera and making victory sign or shooting Kalashnikovs up into air. Now, here is the thing: when I look at these photos, I swear I am seeing the same faces over and over again. For example, there is this one young guy, tall and thin, light-brown skin, I swear I have seen his face in stories about Brega, Misurata, and way over on the Western side of the country. Is this guy such a super-warrior that he fights in every battle, wearing nothing but t-shirt, trousers and flipflops? Or are some of these pictures staged using actors? I do recall reading that in Russia-Gruzia war of 2008, there was one Gruzian actor who played the role of “civilian dead body” in a fake photo taken in Gori (that one with the old lady throwing her arms up and wailing in grief), and then this same guy shows up in several different photos later posing as Gruzian soldier in battle.

            • marknesop says:

              Image management is a huge part of modern warfare, since many of the major battles are refought in the media and the prize is public approbation. If Time Magazine says you won, as far as the English-speaking world is concerned, that’s the way it happened. Similar to elections, really – if the popular candidate wins, it’s a triumph for democracy and for free people everywhere. If the unpopular candidate wins, really he cheated so much that the popular candidate actually won, it’s just not reflected in the vote, because the vote was rigged and consequently was not a real vote at all.

              Another country has often suggested the same – that its enemy (Hezbollah) shows heartbreaking photos of windrows of dead, only to reveal some of the same people wearing the same clothes, up walking around in random photos taken days later. There was an incident involving American antiwar reporters during the Iraq war, in which their pictures were photoshopped to make their teeth yellow and their faces unshaven; to subtly alter their appearance, to make them look “shifty” and therefore less credible. And whole departments during that war were dedicated to image-management and spin. It has at its root a perfectly sensible and even honourable focus; lies told to get the war over as quickly as possible save lives on both sides. If you can convince the enemy leader he is losing and make him give up, you save the lives of his soldiers as well. I believe there’s every possibility you are right, and media outlets may well think one Arab or Berber looks pretty much like another; the uncritical public will never notice the difference. Hopefully Gadhaffi is paying attention, because I continue to believe the rebels are much smaller as a force and much weaker in popularity than the reports suggest.

              • sinotibetan says:

                Dear Mark and yalensis,

                Thanks for your replies! Since I admittedly know less about Libya than you both, I have not much comments to add.
                Only, it looks like yalensis’s wishes might remain unfulfilled. Looks like Gaddhafi is going the way of Saddam Hussein, Mubarak et. al.:-

                http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/21/libya-endgame-fighting-tripoli

                http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8714458/At-the-gates-of-Tripoli-Libyas-rebel-army-senses-victory.html

                With NATO support, his days are coming to an end real soon.

                sinotibetan

                • marknesop says:

                  Could be, but I’d take anything Luke “Mr. Democracy” Harding says with a grain of salt, and I notice he’s relying completely on the rebels for his storyline. Of course they’re going to shout that they’re winning a glorious victory and play up the idea of Tripoli wising up at last and supporting the rebellion. Added to that, the British press has been the most vociferously pro-rebel media after Al Jazeera itself. There’s something about Islamic fundamentalists that Britain just can’t get enough of – oh, unless they’re the enemy, of course, which tends to evaporate their bushy cuteness quite rapidly.

                  Well, have at it, NATO – another triumphant page in the book of regime change. Maybe you can call the newly-birthed Libyan rebel nation New Brussels or something like that, and yea, the towers of Exxon will stretch even unto the heavens. Check back in a couple of years and see how the average New Brusselian is doing, how in control he feels of his own life and how much of a say he has in the running of New Brussels. Go there, though, and ask around – if you rely on the western press, it’ll be wall-to-wall success stories, and grateful New Brusselians shouting, “NATO Good!!! Me love NATO!!” just like you could find a few Iraqis willing to shout for “Boosh” in the early days of the Iraq invasion. Just remember, NATO, it couldn’t have happened without you. So if it turns out to be a shit sandwich – and it will – you own every bite.

                  On to Syria!!!!!!

      • yalensis says:

        Everything that I have seen also indicates that the rebels do not enjoy very much popular support in Libya as a whole. But, as in any civil war, both sides do have their supporters. (And without scientific public opinion polls, who can really know?)
        Seems like there are 3 major groups/geographical areas: (1) the East (Cyrenaica), centered in Benghazi, home to the NATO-supported transitional government. This area appears to be very conservative Sunni Muslim (similar to Egypt), many supporters of conservative Islam and shariah law. (2) The center – Tripoli and surrounding Arab towns. These people are all culturally Muslim, but appear to be secular in their politics. The farther West you go, the more liberated are the women. (Similar to Tunisia.) In these areas women can dress as they please, if they wear a scarf it is by choice or local custom. Gaddafy has been pretty good for women’s lib, and the ladies here will NOT be happy about having to submit to shariah law, if and when it comes. Arab tribes in this section have enjoyed prosperity and middle-class lifestyle under Gaddafy regime. Just before all this mess started, Gaddafy had promised them even more $$$ – he was going to nationalize some Exxon assets and hand out additional shares to Libyan citizens. Some cynics believe this plan to nationalize more oil may have been what moved NATO to attack him at this time. (3) The Nafusa mountains – Berber tribes, who hate Gaddafy’s guts. These tribes oppose Arab domination and have been fighting Gaddafy (seen as defender of Arab interests) along ethnic grounds. These Berbers are not numerous, but with some help from Qatari troops and American special forces (who learned this subversive technique helping Northern Alliance in Afghanistan), the Berbers have achieved more military success on the ground than any other group, including those clowns in Benghazi.
        Note: Some pundits remarked that war was stalemated for 6 months when rebel army was under bin Younis military leadership, then rebel faction assassinated Younis, then next thing you know boom! they are at the gates of Tripoli. From this, conspiratologists deduce that Younis was double-agent pretending to be rebel but secretly working for Gaddafy and sabotaging insurgency from within. Hence, dispatching him to the afterlife helped rebel cause. I personally do not believe this conspiracy theory. Reason: even with Younis gone, eastern rebels still cannot take Brega. I believe Berber military successes in Western Mountains were coincidental to Younis’ death and had more to do with Qatari and American special ops stepping up the land war. NATO is desperate to end this thing before funding runs out, I believe in September.

        • sinotibetan says:

          Dear yalensis,

          Thanks for your very well analyzed comments! I have to admit that you have superior knowledge about Libya than I do. Hence, I have no comments but just humble agreement with your comments!🙂
          Regards,

          sinotibetan

          ps I know an acquaintance from Libya. She’s pretty stressed about the situation there. One day, I hope to find the time to ask her what she thinks.

          • yalensis says:

            @sinotibetan: Thank you for your kind comments, but I am not an expert at all! My knowledge of Libyan war is based solely on internet sources, mostly in English-language. I do not know any Libyans personally, nor do I read Arabic, so I do not have access to any original source material. I would consider myself somewhat better-informed on this topic than the average layman. The only reason I even became interested is because I desperately wanted to see NATO take a defeat. Is looking like I will not get my wish this time around… but there is always a … TOMORROW ! [Break out into song…]

  39. sinotibetan says:

    Mark and yalensis,

    I like some of Friedman’s quotes…which I generally agree:-

    “And if victory comes, and democracy is declared, do not assume that what follows will in any way please the West — democracy and pro-Western political culture do not mean the same thing.”

    “I think those seeds will be democratic, but not necessarily liberal. In other words, the democracies that eventually arise will produce regimes that will take their bearings from their own culture, which means Islam.”

    “The West celebrates democracy. It should be careful what it hopes for: It might get it.”

    (from: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110221-revolution-and-muslim-world)

    The last warning will go unheeded in the mindlessness of Sarkozy and friends.

    sinotibetan

    • marknesop says:

      Friedman obviously believes, or is saying because it’s the mantra of the moment, that this is part of a spontaneous movement (“…every once in a while…moments in history…spreading like a wildfire, bla, bla, bla”). It’s not. The entire “Arab Spring” (with the possible exception of Tunisia) is engineered like seeding clouds to produce rain.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Mark,
        Did not say I agree with EVERYTHING Friedman says. But he had some interesting observations.
        “The entire “Arab Spring” (with the possible exception of Tunisia) is engineered like seeding clouds to produce rain.”
        I am not too sure of this- if you meant STARTING the protests in those disparate nations. Currently, the wars in Libya, the Western siding with rebels in Libya and Syria – well, yes – they are ‘engineered’. I think the West supports ‘rebels’ because public opinion(at least a significant number) has turned against Mubarak, Assad, Gaddafi etc. – it’s a ‘preemptive’ action with the hope that the US will retain their influence in the Middle East if these ‘rebels’ topple these ruling regimes. I don’t think the West ‘engineered’ in ‘starting’ the uprisings though. But once they did, the West quickly supported them and claimed these as ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ issues. From the on, yes…..many things are ‘engineered’.

        sinotibetan

      • Foppe says:

        Seems more likely that the unrest is largely a product of a few years of neoliberalization wreaking havoc in those countries, and food speculation sparking off the unrest for real, while being largely unplanned (which is not to say they didn’t have plans shelved already). From what little I’ve read, the rebels are already being bought/disciplined by the usual suspects (this article mentions only egypt/tunisia, but I’m sure libyan deal is also coming) (the rebels have even established their own central bank already!) and others trying to ensure that the rebels don’t do anything “foolish” by going for actual democracy, so I doubt much will come of it. (See gg for background.)

  40. cartman says:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/08/why-right-wing-critics-are-wrong-about-russia/243789/

    Another article about the “5 Days of War” film. It will probably get LR and Georgian nationalists pretty stirred up.

  41. strelnikov2 says:

    La Russophobe needs therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.

    As far as I can tell, every English-language movie about the Russian-Georgian war seems to back the Georgians, (a) because it’s a David vs. Goliath story; (b) it fits into the well-established cliche of Russia as “untrustworthy” if not outright evil. Which is a shame, because a really interesting, non-partisan film about that war needs to be made, something like the US-Japanese film “Tora, Tora, Tora!”, where everything is laid out in semi-documentary fashion, including all the mis-steps or both sides. We don’t need another “Kolberg.”

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