Saturday, January 22, 2011

Child welfare service used as a weapon in the government's persecution of the opposition

The government warned recently that it might seize custody of the 3-year-old son of an opposition presidential candidate who was jailed along with his wife, a journalist.
If anything illustrates Stephen Baskerville's contention that the custody racket around the "child welfare [sic] service" is among the practices in the machinery that invariably lead to arbitrary and intrusive government, it is Michael Schwirtz's New York Times article from Belarus, whose president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, "has often been called Europe’s last dictator."
…the plight of the child, Danil Sannikov, may represent a new tactic in the government’s persecution of the opposition, one that harks back to the Stalin era, when the children of so-called enemies of the people were sent to orphanages after their parents went to the gulag.

“Even in my worst nightmares I could not have conceived that this could happen,” said the child’s grandmother, Lyutsina Khalip.

… Lyutsina Khalip, the grandmother, said she had not heard from her daughter since the day after her arrest, when she received a letter instructing her to take care of Danil.

“She wanted me to tell Danil she really loved him,” Ms. Khalip said, fighting back tears.

She said her daughter had received threats about the boy even before the elections. One e-mail from an unknown sender read: “Don’t think about yourself, think about your son.”

Ms. Khalip said she first had an inkling that the authorities were turning their attention to Danil shortly after his parents were arrested. She said she was at the K.G.B. detention center trying to deliver a parcel of food and clothes to them when she received an urgent phone call that made her rush to her grandson’s kindergarten.

There, she was confronted by two women from the government’s child welfare service. She said the women were friendly, though they delivered an implicit warning:

“If you don’t have the financial means or the physical means, don’t worry,” she said they told her. “The child won’t remain alone.”

For Ms. Khalip, whose daughter has frequently run afoul of Belarus’s security services over the years, the message was clear.

“This is an effort to put pressure on Irina,” she said. “They are capable of squeezing her, and this of course is the most sensitive place.”

Handy list of Streaming TV URLs

They range from the bland to the psychotic (i.e. Russia Today)

BBC - mms://
CBC North - http://a514.v8752d.c8752.g.vm.akamai.../northbeat.wmv
Russia Today -
Sky News - mms://
INTRACITV (French) -
NHK English -
CBC Toronto -
CBC Montreal [English] -
CBC Vancouver -
Webmir TV [Russian] -
BBC Politics -
E-Music Television -
Livestation/Various [English] -
Cubavision -
ZDF [German] -
3sat [German] -

Additions from the readership are always welcome.

Friday, January 21, 2011

For those of you who never got it, the State IS the Monopoly

Spiegel Online:

A Polish research institute has developed a board game to teach young people about life under Communism. In the game, which is inspired by Monopoly, players must wait in endless lines at stores for scarce goods. For added realism, they have to put up with people cutting in line and products running out -- unless they have a "colleague in the government" card.

In the grand days before the Marxist-Leninist paradises ended, when every pot was full, and anyone marginally different was oppressed or contained in some way, playing or having the original Monopoly board-game (first offered in the US in 1934,) was unlawful because it was deemed a threat.
Just like in the original Monopoly, acquisition is the name of the game. In this case, however, that means struggling to get basic necessities such as food, clothing and furniture. "In the game, you send your family out to get items on a shopping list and they find that the five shops are sold out or that there hasn't been a delivery that day," the IPN's Karol Madaj told SPIEGEL ONLINE Thursday, explaining that the game "highlights the tough realities of life under Communism."
It’s a brilliant idea, and quite a good antedote to the numbing, crypto-collectives entitlement mentality now being passed on to our youts in sKoul - as if anyone at Spiegel Online was capable of doing a differential diagnosis of someone’s trained-in predilection to support a similar sort of mind-numbing socialism... so long as it’s stylish this time or something.

Merely asking about Guantanamo is akin to farting in church

Guantanamo is but one example of Obama’s fondness for the grand gesture and the glib dismissal of everything his predecessor did without a plan for dealing with the thorny issues behind them
writes the Telegraph's Toby Harnden.
The anniversary Obama would prefer to forget is of an event that took place on January 22, the same day he took the presidential oath a second time. It came in the form of a gravely worded executive order.

In it, Obama solemnly proclaimed: “The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order.”

…That evening, the general gushed that “the performance of our president was nothing less than terrific, great courage”, trumpeting that “the fact that we are going to take it down, that we are going to turn this gulag that we have created into a pure naval installation which is how it started, the prison at Guantanamo will cease to exist and will stop being a recruiting method for al Qaeda”.

Mr Obama’s act of “closing” Guantanamo Bay was hailed around the world as a courageous break with the evil Bush administration. “We are full of hope that the world is on the path to reason and peace,” said President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Except, of course, the prison has not closed. … Asking when the order might be acted upon, however, almost invariably provokes a scowl of disapproval. Merely asking about Guantanamo is akin to farting in church.

…NIMBYism extends not only to both sides of the political aisle but also to much of the rest of the world, which has condemned America for imprisoning poor innocent inmates in Guantanamo Bay while refusing to accept them in their own countries on the ground that they are dangerous terrorists.

While there is little doubt that there have been human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay or that the symbolism of such as offshore facility is unfortunate, Obama in office is being forced to admit that hope does not always trump reality.

American intelligence officials have concluded that five of the 69 detainees transferred to other countries from Guantanamo Bay by the Obama administration have rejoined terrorist groups while a quarter of 598 detainees freed since 2002 have rejoined the jihad against America.

…Guantanamo is but one example of Obama’s fondness for the grand gesture and the glib dismissal of everything his predecessor did without a plan for dealing with the thorny issues behind them.

For a self-proclaimed former “law professor” (in fact, he was an outside lecturer), it’s ironic that the willingness to cite to complexity of issues only goes so far.

And Obama’s greatest political vulnerability is that Americans are tiring of self-congratulatory symbolism being a substitute for grappling with the messy realities of the world.

The Humanistic, Harm Limiting, “Swedish Way”

Gosh... he might lose his license ?!?

The victim first sought treatment for depression and burn out

[ ... ]

He suggested the woman engage in "touch therapy" as a way to help her get in touch with repressed memories of past sexual abuse, going so far as to propose having sex with her to help her reminiscence.

[ ... ]

When she then said she had a boyfriend, the doctor became angry with her, prompting her to question the value of the therapy sessions.
This, from the land that thought that social slackness would get rid of problems like this. It turns out that what you end up with is a bunch of wierd old pervs who look vaguely like a drug-addled evil twin of Captain Kangaroo... Why people admire their social policies is beyond me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not Only Was Reid Not Condemning Dictatorships; He Seemed to be Musing Wistfully About Them

The story about Harry Reid calling China's president a "dictator" — and that, "on the same day Hu Jintao arrived on a diplomatic visit to the U.S. to discuss their at-times rocky relationship" — has been described, including by conservatives, as a faux pas and/or an insult, deliberate or otherwise, to a foreign superpower. (The BBC: "Mr Reid [went] so far as to call Mr Hu 'a dictator' in an interview with KSNV television".)

But read the remarks again, and you will see that the reality might be even more troubling. First of all, since the "Nevada senator quickly backtracked from his statement" (and since Democrats love meeting with foreign leaders, whatever their level of oppression of dissidents at home), one wonders to what extent Reid really wanted to take a moral stand and "snub" the Chinese strongman — beyond it being necessary for the voters of Nevada and for public relations in America.

More importantly, the remarks might in fact be an insult (if unintended) to America, to its form of government, and to its Constitution. For not only does the Senate Majority Leader seem not to be condemning dictators and/or dictatorships per se, one wonders if he is not in fact musing wistfully about them.
…the president of China … is a dictator," Reid has told local TV talk show "Face to Face with Jon Ralston." "He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have."

The inflammatory remarks were made after Ralston asked if Reid thought the lame-duck tax cut deal was a good one. The Nevada senator quickly backtracked from his statement.

"Maybe I shouldn't have said dictator, but they have a different type of government than we have and that's an understatement," Reid said.
Notice that the Nevada senator never specifically condemned Hu Jintao for being a dictator or dictatorship itself as a form of government. The Nevadan who used heavy-handed methods — including sweet deals, bribery, and intimidation (for members of his own side of the aisle), along with ignoring Senate rules and bullying the opposition — to ram bills, often unread, through the Senate (and now that the filibuster is irritating to him and his party, he is famously trying to get rid of it) immediately followed the depiction of Hu Jintao with the remark that a dictator "can do a lot of things through the form of government they have."

That is hardly a condemnation of any kind; it is a rather objective statement, a mere descriptive that, if anything, seems to be leaning towards the positive-sounding. Indeed, what are we told that this descriptive was in response to? A question regarding the vexing (for the liberals) deal the Democrats had to embark on regarding the tax cut.

We are told that the "Nevada senator quickly backtracked from his statement", with Jon Summers, the Senate majority leader's spokesman, telling the Daily News that "Reid was referring to the differences between the American and Chinese governments", adding that "Obviously, he believes strongly in the American political system and our form of government". But does Reid indeed so believe?

Again, Reid's statement — "Maybe I shouldn't have said dictator, but they have a different type of government than we have and that's an understatement" — is hardly a principled indictment of the strongman's system; it sounds more like a devious statement coming from someone who cannot bring himself to condemn what is (nothing more, from his viewpoint, than) a "different type of government" and who uses weasel words to pretend that he is indeed denouncing that type of government.

Like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and many many other liberals — the New York Times' Paul Krugman comes to mind — Harry Reid can think of nothing better, if and when liberals are in power and are combating one "crisis" after another (heroically, of course), than for Washington to enjoy have the same powers that Beijing wields — including the curtailment of lethargic democracy with its messy rules, its legal impediments, and its annoying opposition members; the need for reeducation centers for the clueless clods who are preventing the élites from implementing their dashing avant-garde ideas; and the (subsequent) need to dictate their (benevolent) policies to the nation.

Related: The Logical Conclusion of the Leftists' Talking Points

From a Bunch of Idiots Who Have Done Nothing to Secure their own, or Anyone else’s “Peace”

Van Rompuy: Europe is 'Fatherland of peace'
Seriously? Even with all the arms peddling to people you’re supposed to have sanctions with?

WHOSE peace? Europeans can’t even take credit for their OWN peace, even during the collapse of Marxist-Leninist-Authoritarianism.
"The union's force of attraction accelerated the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War. That is a victory," he continued. "Europe is the best guarantee for peace. It was and is a work of peace. That's why I am so strongly in favour of a European perspective for the western Balkans, the last remnant of the Cold War and the last place where a war was waged."
The decade-long gap between the fall of the Berlin wall, and the establishment of the Euro, the first evidence of the EU project to the general public of any significance, of course, goes unexplained.

The EU in 1989 was not even a glimmer in Dr. Strangelove’s eye. In fact, it was rather the other way around: the collapse of Communism ENABLED the peace which allowed for never-ending “we’ll be ready someday” EU construction to really start.

And as for that peace in the Balkans? The EU, and in general the European side of NATO had no interest in initiating any peacemaking or peacekeeping of any seriousness in their own back yard.
"Europe has to be the fatherland of peace. We owe this to our history ... The bloody battlefields from our history have been replaced by Brussels negotiating rooms," he added.
Which is hilarious, because it never has been, and still isn’t. In fact it’s the Fatherland of the movements and ideas (i.e. the fatherland, not to mention Marxist-Leninist-Authoritarianism, Apathy-Socialism, Eugenics, and the like) in which Peace was the last thing on their minds.

Jerk-off... Does he have any idea how many outsiders died for the sake of the “peace” that Europeans claim to have some kind of monopoly on? Grow up.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From the Land of Sophistication, Thoughtful Debate, and Savoire Faire

You know, there is this stuff called Snus... and humility.

In the incident on Delta Airlines flight 83, crew members suspected that someone had been smoking cigarettes in one of the lavatories and confronted Lebrun, telling him not to smoke.
Of course he can’t be a lout. He’s French after all. Nonetheless he does win this month’s Bearded Clam award for most superior European Übermensch.
"Lebrun appeared intoxicated and smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. Lebrun then approached a female flight crew attendant in an aggressive manner and pushed her away with both hands. When the airline attendant instructed Lebrun not to touch her, Lebrun pushed her away again with both hands."
You’re so butch! Does bitchslapping make you hard?
Lebrun nonetheless "continued to verbally abuse individuals around him, yelling in substance 'I'm French, fuck you!'"
Otherwise the injustice of being under the thumb of les Ameriloques continued.
A federal air marshal on the plane intervened and "instructed Lebrun to return to his seat," and two other air marshals confronted him later but Lebrun "continued to scream and yell expletives and then aggressively positioned himself toward one of the federal air marshals in a fighting stance.
I’m sure that Putin-worshipping led to trying so air-Judo in your Spiderman Underoos, but I doubt that it will do you any good.

Paris on Selling Warships to Russia: "You can not blame France for delivering boats to someone described as a friend" by America's President

In Lisbon, I heard Barack Obama tell Dmitry Medvedev: "You're not just a partner but a friend." You can not blame France for delivering boats to a friend.

— France's foreign minister, Alain Juppé

In an interview with Nathalie Guibert, ostensibly about the trouble in Tunisia, France's new foreign minister, Alain Juppé, justified France's sale of Mistral warships to Russia by quoting… America's Apologist-in-Chief (!), thus confirming John Vinocur's analysis regarding the consequences of
the perception [of] the Obama administration, in the context of its “reset” policy with Russia, [not making] much of a fuss about France’s now finalized sale of Mistral-class helicopter-carrying assault vessels to the Russian Navy.
It also seems to confirm the International Herald Tribune pundit's prediction that with schemes of this kind being "hunky-dory with Washington", the sales of EU weapons to China might not be far behind…

The interview excerpt in French, preceded by a couple of other excerpts (which contain a gem or two):
Didn't France commit a political blunder in the face of the Tunisian people's uprising by supporting President Ben Ali until the last moment?

France remains faithful to the two fundamental principles of its foreign policy: non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, support for democracy and for freedom. ... We have updated our defense agreements with our African partners: we are no longer in Africa to intervene in the internal affairs of various states.

... How to make Russia cooperate with a system that it considers a threat to its interests?

It will be complicated, but we must make a choice: do we want to create a climate of trust in cooperation with Russia? Or do we continue moving towards that point by walking backwards? Of course, on some subjects, we have differences with the Russians. But there again, the advantage of creating a strategic partnership with Russia is much higher than the possible disadvantages. It is a position we share with Germany, and even with the British, within certain conditions.

In Lisbon, I heard Barack Obama tell Dmitry Medvedev: "You're not just a partner but a friend." You can not blame France for delivering boats to a friend. And in Russia we have a stake in playing the card of those who want a true partnership with Europe.
The original French:
La France n'a-t-elle pas commis une faute politique face au soulèvement du peuple tunisien, en soutenant jusqu'au dernier moment le président Ben Ali ?

La France reste fidèle aux deux principes fondamentaux de sa politique étrangère : la non-ingérence dans les affaires intérieures d'un Etat souverain, le soutien à la démocratie et à la liberté. … Nous avons actualisé nos accords de défense avec nos partenaires africains : nous ne sommes plus en Afrique pour intervenir dans les affaires intérieures des Etats.

Comment faire coopérer la Russie à un système qu'elle juge menaçant pour ses intérêts ?

Ce sera compliqué, mais il faut faire un choix: est-ce que nous voulons créer avec la Russie un climat de confiance? Ou est-ce que nous continuons à y aller à reculons? Bien sûr, nous avons, sur certains sujets, des divergences avec la Russie. Mais, là encore, l'avantage de créer un partenariat stratégique avec la Russie est très supérieur aux inconvénients possibles. C'est une position commune avec l'Allemagne, et même avec les Britanniques, sous certaines réserves.

J'ai entendu Barack Obama dire à Dmitri Medvedev, à Lisbonne : "Vous n'êtes pas seulement un partenaire mais un ami." On ne peut pas reprocher à la France de livrer des bateaux à un ami. Et en Russie, nous avons intérêt à jouer la carte de ceux qui veulent un vrai partenariat avec l'Europe.

Roland Dumas, the Lawyer and Foreign Minister with No Scruples

"Il lui manque une case : celle de la morale..."

Raphaëlle Bacqué has a portrait in Le Monde of Roland Dumas, a socialist who served as foreign minister and président du Conseil constitutionnel and whose latest shenanigan, at age 88, has been to join another controversial French lawyer in his 80s (Jacques Vergès) in defending an African dictator (Laurent Gbagbo) in the latter's rejection of his defeat at the ballot box during Ivory Coast's December elections.
Evidemment, sa dernière visite à Laurent Gbagbo en Côte d'Ivoire n'a rien arrangé. Une partie de la gauche soutenait, avant sa défaite officielle, le président ivoirien. Dès les premières échauffourées à Abidjan, le Parti socialiste a tenté de mettre en sourdine la sympathie de quelques-unes de ses figures les plus en vue en faveur de celui qui ne veut plus quitter le pouvoir. Et c'est justement le moment qu'a choisi l'ancien ministre des affaires étrangères de François Mitterrand pour débarquer à Abidjan pour trois jours, fin décembre 2010, en compagnie de l'avocat Jacques Vergès, afin de soutenir Laurent Gbagbo contre la communauté internationale.

Depuis, ses ennemis évoquent "le naufrage d'un vieillard". A 88 ans, Roland Dumas affirme pour sa part : "Le tumulte me rajeunit." Il faut les voir, Jacques Vergès et lui, s'enchanter devant les micros qui se tendent. Depuis quinze jours, ils se retrouvent presque tous les jours dans les somptueux bureaux de Vergès, entre ses monumentales statues bambara et sa collection de jeux d'échecs. On rit, on parle de femmes, on étrille la bonne société. Deux octogénaires en goguette, enchantés de provoquer.

Anciens résistants, les deux hommes se sont rencontrés en 1960 devant les tribunaux militaires, lors du procès des porteurs de valises se battant pour l'indépendante de l'Algérie. …

Lorsque, au lendemain de l'élection présidentielle ivoirienne, Laurent Gbagbo a appelé Dumas pour l'aider à contester sa défaite, cette fois, c'est Vergès qui l'a accompagné. Gbagbo leur avait fait envoyer des billets d'avion et réservé pour eux l'hôtel Pullman sur les bords de la lagune Ebrié, à Abidjan. Les deux octogénaires y ont débarqué le 30 décembre 2010, en pleine tourmente, comme galvanisés.

Les deux avocats n'étaient pas censés se retrouver sur cette cause. Vergès continue à s'affirmer anticolonialiste, quitte à défendre bon nombre de bourreaux des droits de l'homme. Dumas est le modèle même des tenants de la Françafrique. Il fut un ami charmant et attentif pour les dictateurs francophones du continent. Omar Bongo l'appelait son "frère".
It turns out that this defender of strongmen and dictators — but why should this surprise anybody? — is a truther…
…Les 16 et 18 décembre 2010, sur France 3, il a exposé tranquillement ses doutes sur les attentats du 11 septembre 2001, rejoignant les adeptes de la théorie du complot. Des propos qu'il réitère : "Il y a énormément de faits anormaux dans la version officielle. J'ai lu et étudié de nombreuses recherches faites sur la question. Beaucoup d'éléments ne tiennent pas : il suffit de se pencher, par exemple, sur le cas du trou de l'avion dans le Pentagone, beaucoup trop petit, ou sur d'autres aspects moins connus."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It Probably Goes Back to Their Potty Training

Is it just me, or does this reek of subconsciously hating your parents?

Dutch Deputy Foreign Minister Ben Knapen is demanding an explanation from the European Commission about a calendar for European schoolchildren which leaves out all of the Christian feast days. The feast days for other religions are included in the calendar
RNW’s article calls it a “gaffe”. Hardly.
While Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter are missing from the calendar's pages, days commemorating “Sikh Baisakhi-Day, the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, the Muslim holiday Aid-el-Kebir,” remain in place,”
Ah, EUtopia, free of the bond of faith... at least any faith they might have had. They do, however find themselves under the bonds of outside faiths and the political correctness that is used to force them down their throats for no clear reason. The public statement remedy, as always, is to feign ignorance:
On Wednesday, EU spokesman Frederic Vincent said the 'blunder' over omitting Christmas and other Christian holidays was due to insufficient 'editorial policing' by the commission.
Actually, it sounds like a matter of SO MUCH past policing, that self-censorship through operant conditioning is actually in charge. Of course, this it the outfit that wants the rest of the world to declare it a superpower – for no clear reason.
The European Commission has reportedly taken responsibility for committing a “grave error” in omitting the Christian holidays, to the tune of 5 million euros (or $6.65 million).

Sarkozy and Merkel "may be like Laurel and Hardy — different but complementary"

…they do not like each other at all
writes Steven Erlanger in The New York Times' Paris bureau chief's retelling of the "fractured tale of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy."
BORN ONLY SIX months apart, the two could not be more different in terms of personality and worldview. …

It was from Chancellor Kohl that [Merkel] learned the importance of pandering to French vanities about being the true beating heart of the European ideal. And then when Kohl got into trouble, his Eastern maiden became Germany’s first female chancellor.

That is when she had to face Sarkozy. “She’s a scientist, almost like a German cliché, planning everything, going step by step, unemotional, not a show horse,” Stefan Kornelius, a senior editor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, told me. “But Sarkozy’s the kind of macho man that she doesn’t like at all. And she and the chancellery are irritated by his jumping from issue to issue, his lack of attention, his inability to do German systematic work. She’s a technocrat with a hidden husband, and he’s flamboyant, with a beautiful woman” — the singer and former model Carla Bruni — “at his side.”

…Unlike Sarkozy, famous for absorbing a complicated brief as he walks to a meeting, Merkel is an assiduous worker and normally the best-prepared person in the room. Sarkozy rules France like a king; Merkel is a coalition politician who wants to bring others along. The Germans like to tell a joke about Sarkozy piloting a plane and informing the passengers he has good news and bad news: “The good news is that we’re ahead of schedule. The bad news is that we’re lost.”
FRANCE AND GERMANY, with their shared bloody past, are unlikely allies, and they have radically different notions of how Europe should work. France wants a state-dominated, centralized, bureaucratic Europe in its own image. France also maintains a Mediterranean attitude toward budget deficits, having last balanced a budget 35 years ago. Germany, a federal state with powerful regions, coalition governments and an influential constitutional court, wants a Europe of laws, discipline and fiscal probity, with a strong currency and real penalties for the spendthrift.

…If Germany speaks for Europe’s largely industrial Protestant north, France has always combined north and agricultural south. “Sarkozy is being the spokesman for the south, but he also understands that Germany has the clout,” Le Gloannec says. “So you have to say yes to some of what they want, but at the same time Germany can’t talk to all Europeans or take a public leadership role. In a way, the Germans really don’t know how to talk to others. She and he may be like Laurel and Hardy — different but complementary.”

Europe’s 128th Foregone Chance to be Taken Seriously Comes and Goes

The vapidity of the EU and its’ member states comes into focus very clearly when mortal risks of any sort are at hand:

The threat of a fresh and potentially contagious Middle East conflict has sharply increased after the collapse of the Lebanese government. But EU structures can do little to influence the situation.
Wring your hands! That’ll surely save you!
Another Israeli source counselled the EU not to appease Hezbollah in the name of stability: "If the EU wants to be taken seriously when it talks about support for democracy and fundamental values, siding with Hezbollah for the sake of realpolitik is not an option."
Something the EU only seems nominally interested in. I suppose the “being taken seriously” part matters more to them than the human outcome, but I doubt either is enough of a motivator to them, in any event.
EU countries Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain also have personnel in Unifil, the 13,000-man-and-woman-strong UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Something that they have been doing, (really just pandering to them,) in the interest of “human rights”, despite the fact that:
The UN force has little credibility in Israel in terms of providing hard security, however. Unifil has in the recent past failed to stop Hezbollah fighters from launching small-scale strikes on Israeli patrols south of the Lebanese border.
Idiots. As you well know, their munificence comes in many forms, though. It’s largely self-referential and assumes that they have a greater role in the world than they really have. Sometimes, it boils down to trying even to convince themselves that they take on some sort of role in their own affairs too.

I.E.: an article entitled...
Give Ben Ali the Lukashenko treatment
forgets that...
EU bows to Europe’s last dictator
Elsewhere “solidarity”, “concern”, possibly some day to be raised to “deep concern”...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Smart Diplomacy: "a new low point in U.S.-EU relations” may result from Obama's "all is hunky-dory with Washington" 'tude towards arms sales to China

Smart diplomacy: a former U.S. ambassador to NATO is apprehensive of "a new low point in U.S.-E.U. relations.”
How’s this for an unsettling (but still imaginary) news item: “The European Union has announced a plan that will allow member countries to offer sales or technical cooperation to China in the defense sector, involving combat planes, transport aircraft and satellites. This will strengthen Beijing’s potential for force projection from the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the coasts of Africa.”
That is the question raised by John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune. When Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac entertained the idea of resuming weapons sales to China in the mid-2000s, the Bush administration seems to have quickly put an end to the plan. What can we expect from today's occupant of the Oval Office, aka America's (ineffective) Apologizer-in-Chief who ignores all enemies (except for the internal kind, i.e., those dastardly Republican reactionaries and their distasteful Tea Party allies) and who does "not help quash the expectation that [EU schemes of this kind are] hunky-dory with Washington"?
Right now, that [imaginary news item] isn’t happening and might not. Still, the E.U.’s attitude on its 20-year-old embargo on supplying China with military wherewithal looks wobbly.

The United States has noted interest in the E.U. in lifting or modifying the ban, and while it does not consider it a fatality, is watchful and concerned, according to a U.S. official.

…The nub of the matter is a policy paper put forward last month by Catherine Ashton, the E.U. foreign policy chief, that asserts, “The current arms embargo is a major impediment for developing stronger E.U.-China cooperation on foreign policy and security measures. The E.U. should discuss its practical implication and design a way forward.”

…Ms. Ashton [aka the anti-war leftist who helped lead Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament] added an additional rationale for lifting the ban that makes Soft Power Europe, after a couple of decades preaching against a hard power approach to the world’s problems, look like a convert to the diplomatic primacy of weapons peddling to nondemocracies. Noting that Europe was no longer the United States’ main strategic preoccupation, she said, “The U.S. has argued the need for an increased engagement in Asia, and there is a risk it will see the E.U. as a less relevant partner given our relative strategic weakness there.”

Oh, yeah. That’s a concern keeping America up at night. I talked to a European defense expert who zipped around Ms. Ashton’s formulation.

Instead, the expert, who asked for anonymity, described the driving forces for lifting the embargo as a “moribund European defense sector,” a market in China for European avionics, missiles, combat planes, transport aircraft and satellites, and expanded Chinese espionage operations that attempt to procure European defense technology one way or another.

Add to this list, he said, the perception that the Obama administration, in the context of its “reset” policy with Russia, did not make much of a fuss about France’s now finalized sale of Mistral-class helicopter-carrying assault vessels to the Russian Navy. (According to WikiLeaks, American outrage expressed to the French about the deal stopped at calling it “a mixed message” for the allies and Russia.)

These days, with President Hu Jintao due in Washington for a state visit on Jan. 19, the reset/arms sales connection cannot be far from some European minds. Le Figaro, the newspaper most carefully reflecting France’s desires — Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly called on the E.U. to abandon its embargo via a required unanimous vote of its members — has reported this could happen quickly. An explanation: it describes the United States as “losing its grip” on the previously nay-saying British and Dutch.

There are some big ironies here for the Obama administration. … President Barack Obama … wrote the speaker of the House on Oct. 26 that it was “in the national interest” to lift restrictions on the export to China of six Hercules C-130 cargo planes “to be used in oil spill response operations at sea.” (The aircraft in a standard version is the world’s pre-eminent troop transport.)

It would have been asking a lot of the Europeans to ignore this as a signal to them, or an American blandishment to the Chinese — which, indeed, came before Ms. Ashton’s pro-arms sales remarks. Match cynicism for cynicism here, and you come out with something like a U.S.-E.U. standoff.

…Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and now managing director at Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, [said]: “If all this were to play out — that is, lifting the embargo, subsequent sanctions, etc. — it would be a new low point in U.S.-E.U. relations.”

Related: Obama is learning the price a president pays when lofty rhetoric meets hard reality

What the Media Does Not Reveal From the WikiLeaks Trove: That Fear of Saddam's WMD Was Entirely Justified

While the media have been quick to run with WikiLeaks’ U.S. State Department cable releases to undermine Washington’s efforts to effect stability in unstable parts of the world
complains James Zumwalt,
it is slow, if not silent, in giving credit where credit is due. Although other credible sources confirmed it before WikiLeaks did, in receiving similar disinterested responses from the media, it should be clear now that President Bush’s concerns about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program were well-founded.

…Despite [Joe] Wilson's claim [that he had debunked George Bush's yellowcake claim], a 2004 bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report found his visit actually supported evidence Saddam was undertaking a WMD effort, based on the 1999 incident.
…as Wired [Magazine's Noah Shachtman] reports, the WikiLeaks documents clearly show "for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction. . . . Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam's toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents."

A September 2004 New York Times op-ed by the former head of Saddam’s nuclear research program supported this, as well. [Mahdi Obeidi] wrote:

"[T]he West never understood the delusional nature of Saddam Hussein’s mind . . . he lived in a fantasy world . . . . giving lunatic orders . . . he kept the country’s Atomic Energy Commission alive . . . Saddam fooled . . . the world . . . . [O]ur nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein’s fingers."

Of note too is a January 2004 revelation by Syrian journalist defector Nizar Nayuf. He reported there were three locations in Syria where Iraqi WMDs had been transported prior to the 2003 invasion and were being stored. He also revealed some of these sites were being built with North Korean cooperation.

…Five years after Joe Wilson’s op-ed claimed no yellowcake was sold to Iraq — the ease with which Saddam could have snapped his fingers and reinstituted his nuclear program became apparent. In July 2008, in an operation kept secret at the time, 37 military air cargo flights shipped more than 500 metric tons of yellowcake — found in Iraq — out of the country for further transport and remediation to Canada.

The “Counterculture” and Those who Use it Politically have Blood on Their Hands

It's plain to see.

Jared Lee Loughner was mad, but to say that his motives weren't formed and directed by the ideology that he fed himself is evasive. To say that you can't draw a bead between the fuel that stoked the fire and the action is missing the fact that explosions need a catalyst and an accellarant. He weened his anger at society and authority with the conspiracy theories and unreal preoccupations of what can only charitably be called the fringe culture of reality-denial: Alex Jones, 9-11-as-an-inside-job, “Zionist Occupation Government”, kookie ideas about monetism, and the like.

In short, these are the notions that the George-Bush hating left, and Europeans in general, have either fed themselves to feel superior, or otherwise possessed with a greater wisdom than what they feel is an inferior and ignorant population, or let run because it was politically useful, despite attempts now to rewite the script for their political favor.

By letting themselves and other believe without challenge in these idiocies, meant solely to stoke as much bloodthirst as possible for removing the opponents of the left in office, and for “smashing the state”, or “revolutionary change to the system”, THEY are plainly at fault for the catalyst that caused Loughner to shoot innocents en masse.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Approximately 50 Guantanamo detainees have been released since Obama became president, a mere 1/10 the number that had been freed by Bush

What began with a bang ended with a whimper
writes The Washington Times.
Closing the so-called "American Gulag" at Guantanamo was one of Mr. Obama's signature issues during the 2008 campaign and was part of his general moral indictment of the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Obama underscored the symbolic importance of the issue when - as one of his first acts in office - he signed an executive order pledging to close the facility within a year.

Two years later, most of the detainees are still where they were in 2009. Approximately 50 have been released since Mr. Obama became president, a mere one-tenth the number that had been freed by President Bush. During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama's partisans conjured images of detainees as innocent people caught up in the dragnet, humble goatherds or old men languishing behind fences wanting only to return to their homes. In reality, those still being held are hardened terrorists whose release would place the country in danger.

…Guantanamo Bay was chosen because it is a legal gray area, first used by President Clinton's administration to hold Cuban and Haitian refugees in legal limbo. Moving detainees into the U.S. federal courts ran into a variety of roadblocks, mostly uncertainties about whether bad actors could be convicted. Transforming terrorist detainees into regular criminals would result in scores of costly trials in which prosecutors would face barrages of questions regarding how the defendants were apprehended, how evidence was collected (in many cases through classified means that the government would not want revealed in court), and the way they were interrogated (or "tortured," according to Mr. Obama).

…President Obama may one day realize that the Bush administration's approach was not as cavalier as he had charged. The Bush team crafted a strategy intended to gain maximum intelligence advantage from detainees without facing the complexities that would accompany hundreds of trials and - in the best case - would result in the terrorists being sent to jail, which functionally had been accomplished already. Mr. Obama's failure to meet his pledged year-long deadline was a triumph of common sense over political symbolism and has made the president the object of the same vitriol he hurled at his predecessor. He should have left well enough alone at Gitmo.

Watching the Detectives

The Netherlands’ De Volkskrant has published an interview with Maarten Engwirda, formerly of the EU financial watchdog organization. After 15 years auditing European spending, he has ratted out the European Court of Auditors out.

During his time at the court, Engwirda claims he observed several incidents of fraud which included the manipulation of reports and the “removal of traces of financial misconduct.” Describing the Court of Auditors as an institution characterised by a “culture of silence” which gives member states free rein to indulge in fraudulent spending, Engwirda does however remark that the situation has much improved since 2005
Is anyone under the divine circle of golden stars NOT on the take?

Weighty issues of the day

German companies are allowed to require female employees to wear bras, according to a Cologne court ruling published Wednesday. The length of their finger nails is also subject to regulation, the ruling stated.