Friday, April 27, 2012

I think, therefor I am that I am

Analytical thinking may undermine belief: Study
The psychology report, published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Rodin's sculpture, The Thinker.
The research duo, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, who have earned international reputations for their groundbreaking studies into religion in the past six years, maintain all humans use two valuable types of thinking - intuitive and analytical. How much you rely on one kind of thinking over another generally determines how religious you are.

People who are highly intuitive tend to be more religious. Intuitive thinking helps people recognize the difference between the body and the mind, imagine life after death and discern purposes in the universe.
In contrast, analytic thinking reduces intuitions of God, of an afterlife and of experiences of divine presence, say Gervais and Norenzayan, whose latest research surveyed 650 people, mostly from B.C.
Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds
Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.
The cognitive origins of belief — and disbelief — traditionally haven't been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "There's been a long-standing intellectual tradition of treating science as one thing and religion as separate, and never the twain shall meet," he said. But in recent years, he added, there has been a push "to understand religion and why our species has the capacity for religion."
Studies suggest that religious beliefs are rooted in this intuitive processing, Gervais said. So, he wondered, would thinking analytically undermine religious belief as it overrides intuitive thought?
To find out, his research team had college students perform three thinking tasks, each with an intuitive (incorrect) answer and an analytic (correct) answer. For example, students were asked this question: "A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?" The intuitive answer — 10 cents — would be wrong. A little math on the fly reveals that the correct answer would be 5 cents.
After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, "In my life I feel the presence of the Divine," and "I just don't understand religion." Students who answered the three questions correctly — and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills — were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.
To tease out whether analytic thinking was actually causing belief to decrease, the researchers performed a series of additional experiments. First, students were randomly assigned to look at images of Auguste Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker," or of the ancient Greek statue of a discus thrower, "Discobolus." Those who viewed "The Thinker" were prompted to think more analytically and expressed less belief in God — they scored an average of 41.42 on a 100-point scale, compared with an average of 61.55 for the group that viewed the discus thrower, according to the study.
So does this mean that religious faith can be undermined with just a little extra mental effort? Not really, said Nicholas Epley, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study. But it does show that belief isn't set in stone, but can respond to a person's context.
I am that I am.

I yam that I yam

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Maricopa prosecuter benched

Andrew Thomas and his erstwhile assistant Lisa Aubuchon, both lawyers, have been ordered disbarred. The Godsheriff's Counsel will lose their day jobs. Will Jumping Up and Down Joe be next?

Good bloody riddance, Guambat reckons.

The context for this immorality play is in these two posts from way back in 2009, here and here. The arm of the law is sometimes long, most always slow to embrace.

First, a bit of the nastiness that got them here.

Thomas, Arpaio raise the stakes by blogger Robert Robb.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are alleging that there is a massive corrupt conspiracy involving at least four Superior Court judges, the entire Board of Supervisors and senior county management.

The heart of the Thomas-Arpaio conspiracy claim, as advanced in the federal racketeering case they filed, is the allegation that the judges and the Board of Supervisors entered into a corrupt bargain: The judges would shield the supervisors and senior county management from investigations and charges of criminal wrongdoing and the supervisors would fund a new office building for the judges.

Thus far, Thomas and Arpaio have adduced very little evidence to support this claim of a corrupt bargain involving the judges. All they have advanced are three circumstantial factors: (1) the judges ruled against Thomas and Arpaio; (2) the judges engaged in conduct that Thomas and Arpaio believe showed bias against them; and (3) the judges and the Board of Supervisors shared a law firm (Polsinelli Shughart) that worked on both the new court building and disputes between Thomas-Arpaio and the supervisors.

None of these circumstances, standing alone, even remotely constitute criminal behavior.

A judge making an erroneous decision isn't a criminal act. And there's a remedy. It's called an appeal.

A judge exhibiting bias isn't a criminal act. And there's a remedy – a complaint filed with the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

A law firm having a conflict isn't a criminal act, and there are remedies: a bar complaint against the firm or a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct if a judge doesn't properly disclose a relationship with a law firm appearing before him.

But for the residents of Maricopa County, here's what it comes down to: either we have a massively corrupt judiciary and county government, or we have a prosecutor and sheriff assaulting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

Fast forward.

Thomas, Aubuchon to be stripped of legal licenses
Only Thomas would not indicate Tuesday whether he would appeal, but he called his disbarment "a political witch hunt." He is expected to hold a news conference today to discuss his case.

While the sanctions may be appealed to the state Supreme Court, it is at the court's discretion whether to consider the appeals. The court can uphold the disciplinary ruling without comment, remand the case to the disciplinary judge for further consideration or accept jurisdiction and write an opinion with or without holding further hearings.

Aubuchon's attorneys have so far handled her case for free, but Maricopa County administrators must now decide whether to continue to pay the legal bills for Thomas and Alexander.

"We've given this guy far more than we've received from him in terms of benefit of the doubt," said county Supervisor Andy Kunasek. "I cannot in good conscience spend any more taxpayer money when they found beyond a reasonable doubt that he's abused his office and abused his obligations as a lawyer."

The actions of Thomas and Arpaio against the Board of Supervisors, judges and others have cost county taxpayers at least $10.6 million, mostly in legal bills, according to a Republic analysis. A legal settlement reportedly imminent with Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who was targeted by some of their activities, could raise that figure by $1 million, The Republic has learned.

[Read more; click the article headline link. Look, ALWAYS do that in this blog. It shouldn't have to be repeated.]

Ex-Lawyers of the Day: Baby, You Did (Many) Bad, Bad Things
The former Maricopa County attorney and one of his deputies were disbarred for a strikingly long list of ethical violations (a second deputy’s law license was suspended as well).

It sounds like working in the Maricopa County Court system was more like Robespierre’s Reign of Terror than it does Phoenix. Hopefully this shakeup will improve the overall morale of the courts there, and lead to a better local justice system for everyone involved.

[Read more; click the article headline link. OK, you understand the drill from now on.]

OPINION AND ORDER IMPOSING SANCTIONS (Excerpted and re-contextualized. Again, read the whole bloody piece at the link. It's a 247 page indictment.)
Pursuant to Article VI of the Arizona Constitution and by Administrative Order No. 2010-41 entered on March 23, 2010, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch of the Arizona Supreme Court appointed the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation under the direction of Regulation Counsel, John Gleason, as Independent Bar Counsel.

The Hearing Panel was comprised of a volunteer public member, the Rev. Dr. John C. N. Hall, a volunteer attorney member, Mark S. Sifferman and by virtue of his position, the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, William J. O’Neil.

Formal hearings were held before the Hearing Panel over 26 days commencing September 12, 2011 and concluding November 2, 2011. The alleged violations included, but were not limited to, Conflict of Interest and Prosecutorial Misconduct.

Until one decides that virtue matters—until it becomes a personal mission—no training will produce the commitment needed to pursue or maintain integrity. While in a discipline case conduct is measured against rules and standards, it is more than those regulations.

At some point in his career, a leak formed in the dike of Andrew Thomas’s ethical restraint. In short time, it rapidly grew. Whether known or not, intended or not; it was existent and became obvious. When it formed it may have been impossible to ascertain. That it formed and accelerated at an alarming rate is beyond any reasonable doubt. Complacency to such an increasing loss of ethical restraint is perhaps the greatest enemy to integrity. He seemingly became complacent to the legion of structural fractures throughout his character that followed. Within a few short years the hole had become a radical moral dislocation.

We note that any referral to the bar against him was viewed by Mr. Thomas as a form of “intimidation” and a “threat”. Yet Mr. Thomas ordered Ms. Alexander to research any negative comments regarding him and he formed an “ethics” committee of his deputy county attorneys to consider whether to file a complaint with the Commission of Judicial Conduct regarding the behavior of judges in cases or others”. Thomas Testimony, Hr’g Tr. 25:1–4.

Hypocritically, he did not view these actions as intimidating or threatening. It is another insight into his ethical ruin.

Mr. Thomas began with an evisceration of the protective shield of experienced supervision, accountability reviews and proper protocols long existent in the Maricopa County Attorneys’ Office. Those with the most experience were removed from oversight.

Mr. MacDonnell and others straightforwardly informed Mr. Thomas that Lisa Aubuchon was in a fundamental way not ethically capable. They cautioned Mr. Thomas that she was too willing to prosecute regardless of the evidence. She did not seek justice but rather to win. For her, winning justified any means.

The need for such fundamental integrity was clear to his experienced attorneys, but sadly its absence was attractive or wanted by Mr. Thomas. He found her willingness to charge ahead without investigating or fundamental analysis, to be “brave.” The result was Respondents became alive in imagined interests of others that never existed. Evidence of the truth was never needed for such vain imaginings and more importantly, never sought nor wanted. For Respondents it did not matter how they produced their results as long as their desired outcome could be achieved.

They prosecuted innocent people, without evidence, and did not blink.

Unshackled, a treacherous power to “get” people, regardless of the fact that they were innocent,was set loose. The result is unmistakable from the hundreds of exhibits and the mountains of transcripts within this case. Rather than do the serious work of real investigation and evidence based analysis, they discarded such required effort with a vengeance and replaced it with any gossip or innuendo that would serve their goal.

They knew there was no evidence to find. News releases preceded news conferences and the news reports that followed became their verification. There was an intentional abandonment of even a semblance of true investigative techniques. They pretended to see “corruption” in everyone who disagreed with them and declared that vision as a noble cause.

Consistently, when any word of criticism was leveled at his actions, or State Bar inquiries submitted to Respondents, a committee of high level prosecutors was marched out and instructed to consider filing complaints. Millions of public dollars were spent not only to defend but root out such “corrupting forces.”

Mr. Thomas chanted his mantra that unnamed “retired judges” had complained to the State Bar regarding their actions and the Chief Deputy Sheriff, un-summoned we are told, appeared to investigate, demanding answers. Mr. Thomas’s testimony was clear; reporting him to the Bar “was potentially criminal.” Thomas Testimony, Hr’g Tr. 197:13–25, Oct. 26, 2011.

But the evidence in these proceedings was also clear: his premise was a public ploy. That unknown, unnamed “retired judges” had reported him was completely unsubstantiated, the details unremembered by Sally Wells and completely and consistently denied from the beginning by the purported source, Mr. Kanefield.

The threat of criticism against him still propels a powerful response to invoke his ever dominant weapon of “potential criminal prosecution” to punish those who dare exercise their constitutional right to differ with him.

Former Maricopa County Attorney defiant at disbarment ruling
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas says he is the victim of the very corruption he fought as the county attorney.

Thomas, speaking publically [sic; Guambat has also been caught up by Ms Spellchecker for like error] for the first time since a state bar tribunal stripped him of his law license says, “The rule of law is no more in Maricopa County.”

Thomas angrily denounced the decision saying, “As a result of what happened yesterday, our system of justice has been destroyed. I did my job and we were stymied every step of the way.”

He attributes the ethics investigation to a state bar and judiciary angry because his investigations uncovered evidence implicating senior judges and other friends of the court in corrupt behavior.

Thomas vowed to continue fighting. He says, “Other men far greater than I have gone to jail in defense of principles they believe in and so they would not kowtow to a corrupt order.

"People like Gandhi, Dr King. People who stood for something, and I will tell you that there are some things that are worth fighting for and
someone has to clean up this town. I’m going to stand firm.”
Thomas defends record as chief county prosecutor
He complained that the county had repeatedly fired his lawyers, "stacking the deck" against him. And, as evidence of ongoing corruption, he criticized current County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne for not prosecuting politicians who accepted free tickets to sporting events.

He struggled to be heard over the noise of the protesters. The activist gadfly Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona repeatedly interrupted Thomas' remarks to ask why Sheriff Joe Arpaio was not in attendance. Thomas looked uncomfortable when his own supporters shouted Parraz down, calling out epithets against illegal immigrants and even calling the counter-protesters "communists."

"Someone has to fight for justice," he said. "I've stated my case. I did my job. The loser is the people of Arizona."

Moments later, Aubuchon, also ordered disbarred, took the podium to say she would likely appeal because, among other reasons, Chief Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil had played a part in the events that led to her disbarment. He presided over a hearing in which a judge targeted by her and Thomas was granted a restraining order against criminal charges.

"Unfortunately, Judge O'Neil didn't have the courtesy to learn how to pronounce my name," Aubuchon said. And in fact, all through the proceedings, which spanned from September to Tuesday, he repeatedly called her something that sounded like "Ms. Am-bi-shan."

Another Thomas supporter, Paul Yoder, said the liberal media and "corrupt" state Supreme Court are too focused on discrediting Thomas. "There are elements in our justice system in Arizona much more interested in discrediting Sheriff Joe and our side than in giving true justice to Arizona," Yoder said. "You can't get true justice in Arizona, and that's why" Thomas was ordered disbarred.

State Bar links Arpaio to actions that led to Thomas downfall
The panel concluded there was enough evidence from other sources to make the determination that Arpaio, his former chief deputy David Hendershott, Thomas and his former deputy Lisa Aubuchon, worked in unison to frame retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.

“That’s their opinion,” Arpaio told the Arizona Capitol Times.

But former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton said the finding was striking because the panel said the conspiracy could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial.

The panel found Thomas and Aubuchon violated seven ethical rules in connection with the prosecution of Donahoe. Two of those rule violations were for “violation of a criminal law,” which in this case involved perjury and a federal law that makes it illegal to conspire against a person’s constitutional rights.

Thomas charged Donahoe with bribery, hindering prosecution and obstructing a criminal investigation on Dec. 9, 2009. The charges stemmed from the judge disqualifying the County Attorney’s Office from investigating the financing of a planned downtown courthouse and other legal decisions that were unfavorable to the county attorney and sheriff.

Donahoe had previously scheduled a hearing on the day he was charged to hear arguments on the dispute between the county and Thomas over his authority to appoint special prosecutors to investigate County Supervisor Don Stapley.

Investigators from the County Attorney and Sheriff’s Office testified that there had been no investigation of Donahoe that could legitimately lead to charges, and that Aubuchon and Hendershott were insistent that the charges be filed immediately.

The text from an old State Bar of Arizona complaint Hendershott filed against Donahoe was copied onto the criminal complaint and served as the basis for the charges, but none of the investigators would attest to the truthfulness in court. Aubuchon eventually found a detective, Gabe Almanza, who reluctantly signed the criminal complaint.

“Mr. Thomas and Ms. Aubuchon are criminally accountable for the conduct of Detective Almanza because they knowingly caused him to sign and file a false sworn document and/or they ratified his conduct after he had signed the complaint,” the panel wrote.

The panel concluded there was absolutely no evidence to charge Donahoe and the only reason it was done was to prevent him from holding the hearing involving Stapley.

The concluding pages of the Opinion and Order of disbarment linked above wraps up this story.
The purpose of attorney discipline is to maintain the integrity of the profession in the eyes of the public, protect the public from unethical or incompetent lawyers, and deter other lawyers from engaging in illegal or unprofessional conduct.

We find they knew they had no evidence and prosecuted people anyway. There was no “noble cause.” There was only self–interest. The harm done to the public, individuals, and the profession was stunning on every front.

Ironically, counsel for Lisa Aubuchon, who has aided both plaintiffs and defendants throughout his long career, well–identified the concern.
The facts should be developed by a fair and impartial investigation, which compiles all of the facts, including exculpatory facts, and presents them to the probable cause panel. The developed facts should be just that - “facts” and not simply conclusions of the investigative body.
The Concurring Opinion of Public Panelist Rev., Dr. John C.N. Hall, concluded,
In reading through the thousands of pages of stipulated exhibits in the hearing of this matter, one exhibit seems exceptionally poignant.

On December 28, 2010, a letter was written by Paul K. Charlton to Sheila Polk requesting her to dismiss the Stapley I matter that Andrew Thomas had transferred to her. In the letter, Charlton speaks of how Andrew Thomas' behavior reminded him of a speech by former U S Attorney General Robert H. Jackson, who later became a Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court and the lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Jackson's words speak clearly to the prosecutorial misconduct and ethical violations of the respondents in this hearing. The expanded quote that Charlton shares from Jackson follows:
“If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.

With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.

It is in this realm—in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.

[… T]he best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.”


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Red line, Blue water: China has a PLAN

Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools
Five long years I thought you were my man
But I found out I'm just a link in your chain
You got me where you want me
I ain't nothing but your fool
You treated me mean oh you treated me cruel
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools

One of these mornings the chain is gonna break
But up until then, yeah, I'm gonna take all I can take
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools
-- Sung by Aretha Franklin

There is a lot to chew on in this post, but not all the meat you need to eat. Guambat reckons you also should read the full linked stories to get all that meat. Bon appetit!

Don't forget clean your plate. The first several items set the stage for the current stories at the end.

Full steam ahead for China's territorial ambitions by Peter Hartcher July 13, 2010
In an assertive redefinition of its place in the world, China has put the South China Sea into its "core national interest" category of non-negotiable territorial claims - in the same league as Taiwan and Tibet. China has drawn a red line down the map of Asia and defies anyone to cross it.

One-third of all commercial shipping in the world passes through the waters now claimed exclusively by China.

Why is China doing this?

Because it needs to, according to one of its top naval officials. Rear-Admiral Zhang Huachen, deputy commander of the East Sea Fleet, told The Straits Times: "With the expansion of the country's economic interests, the navy wants to better protect the country's transportation routes and the safety of our major sea lanes."

China is doing it because it can, according to a retired general, Xu Guangyu. "China's long absence from its exclusive economic waters over the past decades was an abnormal historical accident and now it is just advancing to normal operations," he told the South China Morning Post. "We kept silent about territory disputes with our neighbours in the past because our navy was incapable of defending our economic zones, but now the navy is able to carry out its task."

It is one of several moves this year by Beijing to expand its naval dominion. First, it has declared a newly expansive naval doctrine. Until now, its zone of operations was limited to the so-called First Island Chain, stretching from Japan to the Philippines. But Beijing now proclaims "far-sea defence" reaching to the Second Island Chain, a zone stretching all the way to Guam, Indonesia and Australia.

The head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Robert Willard, said in April: "Of particular concern is that elements of China's military modernisation appear designed to challenge our freedom of action in the region."
China’s Island Chain Defense
One idea that has been on every naval strategist’s mind in recent years is the rise of China and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The PLAN in recent years has been increasing its naval capacity, building more destroyers, cruisers, and submarines. More importantly, however, is its new tactic known as Area Anti-Access Denial (AAAD). This is the basic strategy of denying operational ability to an enemy in a specific location. China has been bolstering this capability using Anti–Surface to ship Missiles (ASM), Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM), anti-satellite weapons, and advanced submarine warfare. China’s position makes it capable of denying access to any area it deems crucial to its national interest during a time of crisis.

To combat the larger operational capability of the USN, the PLAN has constructed a series of AAAD strategies focused on island chains as defensive perimeters. The first island chain runs through the Japanese Archipelago, Ryukyus Islands, Taiwan, and the Philippine archipelago. The second island chain is less distinctive, running southward from northern Japan through Guam, Micronesia, and terminating near New Guinea. Chinese strategists view these “chains” as defensive perimeters to occupy or, at the very minimum, deny an enemy access to the area they encompass.

South China Sea / "First Island Chain of Defence" - Geostrategic positions
There are two main island groups in the South China Sea: the Paracel Islands are in the northern part, about 200 miles from the coast of Vietnam and they are claimed by Vietnam as well as by China. The Spratly islands are spread through the southern part of the South China Sea and include about 100 small islets, sand bars, reefs, and rocks, comprising a total area of no more than 1.8 square miles in a vast ocean. While China claims all the Spratly islands, they are also claimed by Vietnam, which currently occupies 27 of the 100; the Philippines, which occupies 8, Malaysia which occupies 3; Taiwan which occupies 1, while China currently occupies 7 . To date, there has been no definitive international arbitration of these competing claims.

In February 1995, the Philippines revealed that one of the Spratly Islands, named Mischief Reef, which was 150 miles from its island of Pelawan, and nearly 1000 miles from mainland of China, had been occupied by China. In May 1995 the Clinton Administration privately told the Philippines not to invoke the mutual defense treaty. Instead the US urged diplomacy.... That formal pronouncement by the Department of State was ignored by China. In turn, the United States mostly ignored China’s further aggressive actions.

The effect of continuing acquiescence in these Chinese claims and actions could be to cede China de facto control over the islands in the South China Sea. China could then use the sovereign rights under international law over waters extending to twelve miles from land boundaries and the economic exclusion zone of 200 miles from the land border recognized under the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea in order to essentially establish large domains of sovereign control from the many Spratly islands and Paracel islands that might in effect give it operational or economic control over much of the South China Sea.

Such a coercive use of control over the South China Sea would be consistent with the new Chinese geopolitical doctrine of the “first island chain of defense”. This was advanced as a strategic concept in the 1990’s by General Liu Huaqing, a close associate of Deng Xiaoping, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission and member of the Politburo elite until his retirement in 1997. The first island chain of defense doctrine holds that to be secure China needs to control the entire region off its shores in a line from Japan to Taiwan and the Philippines.

People's Liberation Navy - Offshore Defense
In 1985, the CMC approved a PLAN component of the "Active Defense" strategic guidelines known as "Offshore Defense". The PLAN also refers to this concept as the "Offshore Defense Strategy."

Operationally, "Offshore Defense" adheres to the following basic tenets of "Active Defense":

"Overall, our military strategy is defensive. We attack only after being attacked. But our operations are offensive."
"Space or time will not limit our counteroffensive."
"We will not put boundaries on the limits of our offensives."
"We will wait for the time and conditions that favor our forces when we do initiate offensive operations."
"We will focus on the opposing force's weaknesses."
"We will use our own forces to eliminate the enemy's forces"
"Offensive operations against the enemy and defensive operations for our own force protection will be conducted simultaneously"

When the "Offshore Defense" concept was first being formulated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and for some time after its formal adoption in 1985, the PLAN engaged in a good deal of debate and produced a good number of studies on the issue of how far offshore "Offshore Defense" should be.

As a result, with the promulgation of "Offshore Defense" in 1985, the PLAN's strategic orientation was redirected-out to sea.

Adm. Liu Huaqing was chief of the PLAN (1982-88) and later vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (1989-97). Liu and others defined [Memoirs of Liu Huaqing] (Beijing: People's Liberation Army, 2004)] the First Island Chain, or current limit of most PLAN operations, as comprising Japan and its northern and southern archipelagos (the latter disputed by China), South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The Second Island Chain, which Liu envisioned as being fully within the scope of future PLAN activities, ranges from the Japanese archipelago south to the Bonin and Marshall islands, including Guam.

Initially, China would seek to be able to control over the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The three seas are all located within the "first island chain" of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines and the Ryukyu Islands. Some Chinese analysts writing publicly include Diego Garcia, the key US military base in the Indian Ocean, as an element in the geostrategic belt enveloping China's coasts. Writing in Guofang Bao [Jiang Hong and Wei Yuejiang, "100,000 US Troops in the Asia-Pacific Look for 'New Homes,'" Guofang Bao, June 10, 2003, 1, FBIS-CPP20030611000068], Jiang Hong and Wei Yuejiang depicted the first island chain as sweeping all the way through the Indonesian archipelago to Diego Garcia in a single, unbroken arc. That is, in this conception the "first island chain" are the sea lines of communication between China and the oil fields of South West Asia.

The waterways within the "second island chain" including the Japan Sea, the Philippines Sea and Indonesia Sea, covering Kuriles, Kokkaido, and Marianas and Palau Islands in the south. To prevent deployment of naval forces into western Pacific waters, PLA planners are focused on targeting surface ships at long ranges. US DOD analyses of current and projected force structure improvements suggested as of 2007 that in the near term, China was seeking the capacity to hold surface ships at risk through a layered defense that reaches out to the "second island chain" (i.e., the islands extending south and east from Japan, to and beyond Guam in the western Pacific Ocean). One area of apparent investment emphasis involves a combination of medium-range ballistic missiles, C4ISR for geo-location of targets, and onboard guidance systems for terminal homing to strike surface ships on the high seas or their onshore support infrastructure. Other analysts believe that if China truly intends to expand its regional control to the "second island chain," they will have to build or acquire aircraft carriers to achieve this capability.

In the conception of Jiang Hong and Wei Yuejiang, the second island chain runs through Guam - another forward redoubt for US forces - and ends at Australia. Other analysts see Guam as in a "third island chain." Some unofficial Chinese publications refer to a "Third Island Chain" centered on America's Hawaiian bases, viewed as a "strategic rear area" for the US military.

China's 'Third Island' Strategy
Analysts have long wondered if the Chinese navy (PLAN) had a third island chain strategy, beyond the publicly declared strategies for the first island chain (centered on Taiwan) and second island chain (extending from Japan to Indonesia). Many American commentators believed that such a strategy would refer to the ability to project power capable of reaching America's bases in Hawaii.

However, China's recent maritime activities -- such as its extended counterpiracy patrols in the Horn of Africa and its involvement in a number of port development projects in Indian Ocean littorals (dubbed the "string of pearls") -- have raised the suspicion in Indian defense circles that the third island chain lies in the Indian Ocean, and specifically refers to the waters surrounding the Indian Andaman and Nicobar islands.

[Shipping Lanes Map source: China: Its geostrategy and energy needs, Testimony presented to: The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission By Dr. Constantine C. Menges Senior Fellow Hudson Institute October 30, 2003]

As China's dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources has grown, so has its concern over protecting its sea lines of communication for those energy imports.

The chief and most immediate area of concern for the PLAN is the six-degree channel that lies between India's Great Nicobar Island and Indonesia's Sumatra Island, where China's shipping is especially vulnerable to Indian and other forces. Indeed, one of the key aims of India's own impressive naval build-up as well as the accretion of assets to its Andaman- and Nicobar-based tri-services command is to "surveillance seed" the Lumbok and Sunda straits as a non-lethal demonstration of Indian capabilities -- in much the same way the U.S. Navy is building up Guam. In this context, China's recent provocations and overall aggressive stance along the disputed Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas could be seen as an attempt to make India spend more on its army and air force, thereby leaving less for India's emerging blue-water navy.

US in 'denial' over China's Pacific strategy
the Pentagon seems too enamored with the doctrine of "access denial", the belief that China is intent on blocking US access to the region

"Starting from almost no live surveillance capability 10 years ago, today the PLA has likely equaled the US's ability to observe targets from space for some real-time operations," two of the institute's China researchers, Eric Hagt and Matthew Durnin, wrote in the analysis, as seen and reported by Reuters.

"The most immediate and strategically disquieting application is a targeting and tracking capability in support of the anti-ship ballistic missile, which could hit US carrier groups ... With space as the backbone, China will be able to expand the range of its ability to apply force while preserving its policy of not establishing foreign military bases," Reuters reported.

The impetus for the advances in monitoring systems likely derived from major embarrassments for the PLA, such as the US deployments of two carriers, the USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk, to Taiwan in 1996. That affront to Chinese sovereignty is seen as a turning point in post-Cold War US-China relations and in the formation of the East Asian regional order.

The access denial theory envisions the PLA acting quickly in similar scenario to neutralize US infrastructure in the region in the event of a conflict, to prevent deployment of vastly superior US follow-on forces. By striking hard, Beijing could convince the US and its allies that the cost of entry in blood and treasure would be prohibitive, despite the gaping disparities in firepower and strength between the US and Chinese militaries.

While the Western media may be exaggerating China's technological advances, a second look at how Chinese military strategy is evolving offers further counterpoints to the access denial theory. Rather than preparing for a counterstrike, it is more likely that the PLA is sticking to its "active defense" strategy and building on "space deterrence".

The PLA can achieve this by building up a formidable reconnaissance and strike capability while adopting a new tack of using political victories and psychological warfare to chip away at the US's standing in Asia. Active Defense is said to feature "defensive operations, self-defense and striking and getting the better of the enemy only after the enemy has started an attack".

Chinese military bases are about more than just naval supplies and protecting trade routes
China will be setting up its first military base abroad in Seychelles to "seek supplies and recuperate" facilities for its navy.

The Indian Ocean island nation has defended its decision by suggesting that it has invited China to set up a military base to tackle piracy off its coast and Beijing has played it down by underlining that it is standard global practice for naval fleets to re-supply at the closest port of a nearby state during long-distance missions.

But there should be no ambiguity for the rest of the world: Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean has gotten bigger and will continue to get bigger in the coming years. Shen Dingli, an influential professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, asserted two years ago that "it is wrong for us [China] to believe that we have no right to set up bases abroad." He argues that it is not terrorism or piracy that's the real threat to China; it's the ability of other states to block China's trade routes that poses the greatest threat.

To prevent this from happening, China, according to Dingli, needs not only a blue-water navy but also "overseas military bases to cut the supply costs."

Whilst most of the stories above have been published during the last 2 years, the following are current.

China military warns of confrontation over seas
China's official Liberation Army Daily warned that recent jostling with the Philippines over disputed seas where both countries have sent ships could boil over into outright conflict, and laid much of the blame at Washington's door.

"Anyone with clear eyes saw long ago that behind these drills is reflected a mentality that will lead the South China Sea issue down a fork in the road towards military confrontation and resolution through armed force," said the commentary in the Chinese paper, which is the chief mouthpiece of the People's Liberation Army.

"Through this kind of meddling and intervention, the United States will only stir up the entire South China Sea situation towards increasing chaos, and this will inevitably have a massive impact on regional peace and stability."

"The United States' intention of trying to draw more countries into stirring up the situation in the South China Sea is being brandished to the full," said the newspaper.

Major General Luo Yuan, a retired PLA researcher well-known for his hawkish views, amplified the warnings from Beijing issued through state media.

"China has already shown enough restraint and patience over this incident," Luo said of the friction with Manila, according to an interview published on Chinese state television's website (

If the Philippines "takes irrational actions, then the current confrontation could intensify, and the Chinese navy will certainly not stand idly by," he added.

In past patches of tension over disputed seas, hawkish Chinese military voices have also risen, only to be later reined in by the government. The same could be true this time.

US Worried As China And Russia Prepare To Hold Historic Joint Naval Exercises
China and Russia are making military history this weekend with the first bilateral naval exercises the two governments have ever conducted together.

Last August, after almost 10 years of fanfare in China and a decade of anxious observation by the U.S. and Japan, the Chinese government finally conceded that the newly painted, newly renovated warship that sat in Dalian harbor would indeed become China's ticket into the very small club of nations that have aircraft carriers.

China's aircraft carrier remains largely unmanned, and no planes have ever lifted off from or landed onto its flight deck, but observers are wondering whether that will happen during the coming sea trials. That would raise China's capabilities for sea warfare to a new level.

As for the Russian Navy's Varyag, it was built during the Cold War to target major U.S. assets in the Pacific, and it would have used its fast supersonic missiles to sink large American ships in case of a breakout of hostilities during that period.

Including a ship purpose-built to hunt U.S. carriers may lead some to think the Sino-Russian exercises are really directed at America -- and its closest ally in the region, Japan.

Over the past decade, the People's Liberation Army Navy has demonstrated that it can build large, technically complex ships, armed with advanced sensors and powerful weapons.

The U.S. Navy is particularly concerned about the combination of quiet submarines, potent anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, anti-satellite weapons, and modern airpower that China can now deploy against its forces in the Western Pacific. The Pentagon has noted in the past that if hostilities emerged between the two countries, China could leverage these "asymmetric capabilities" to deny the U.S. access to maritime zones in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the Chinese navy is also demonstrating that it can construct larger ships, train for more complicated missions (including humanitarian assistance), and operate farther away from home shores than ever before. China's recent deployment in an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden includes the largest warship the country has ever constructed, a 20,000-ton amphibious-warfare ship. Last year, when China evacuated 30,000 of its citizens from Libya, it sent destroyers into the Mediterranean Sea to escort them.

As for the exercises beginning Sunday, China said they will "deepen the strategic and cooperative relationship [with Russia]." The aim of the exercises is to "improve abilities to respond together to new challenges and new threats," and "protect the Asia-Pacific region and world peace and stability." The official statement names no countries, but there is little ambiguity as to which one China means in the reference to "new challenges and new threats."

The U.S. Defense Department has crafted a new doctrine for its forces, the "Air-Sea Battle Concept," to better deploy technologically advanced naval and air forces in a comprehensive way against a well-prepared, well-defended, industrialized state opponent.

The doctrine marks a major strategic redirection away from fighting small, stateless armed groups, which was the predominant concern of the Pentagon during the past decade -- and that is a fact not lost on the Chinese.

A Chinese defense-ministry representative, Col. Geng Yansheng, called the Air-Sea Battle Concept "a manifestation of Cold War mentality." And Rear Adm. Yang Yi (ret.) called it a means to "undermine peace, stability, and prosperity" in the Asia-Pacific region. "To understanding people, it is clearly targeted at China's military modernization," said the former Chinese naval officer.

If you're still hungry or just want some desert, Guambat suggests you might want to peruse "The Maritime Strategy of China in the Asia-Pacific Region: Origins, Development and Impact" By PAUL AN-HAO HUANG, submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, August 2009, School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, link here to download pdf.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

They're not rock stars

WaPo commentator Chris Cillizza finds it very disturbing that Supreme Court justices are unknown to the public generally. He posts what he calls the most amazing Supreme Court chart maybe ever. See it here.

Guambat, on the other hand, takes great solace in the almost anonymity of the Court. It is not who they are that is important. They are not rock stars, nor are they elected, if even electable, personalities.

It is their opinions that count. The slow, dry, reasoned if disagreeable exposition of a subject is important. It is necessary to distance discourse from the stump, from the howling mobs. That can only be done when it is their words we look to, not the person.

In a media age where looks and form and twits count more than substance and character and analysis, Guambat is mightily comforted by that chart.

Washington tends to be way to close to the sticks and branches to see the tree, let alone the forest, Mr. Cillizza. Fix that.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

China not playing Scarborough fair; leaves PI Huangyan in lagoon

You say potato, I say spud.

China hits out at Philippine ... on Spratly claims
China on Wednesday slammed the Philippines for laying claim to parts of the disputed Spratly Islands, calling the move a violation of Chinese sovereignty.

"The government of the People's Republic of China has indisputable sovereignty over these islands and their adjacent waters," said a statement issued by the foreign ministry.

The statement took exception to Philippine claims on Huangyan Island -- also known as Scarborough Shoal -- and other parts of the Spratlys, which are known in China as the Nansha islands.

"Claims to territory sovereignty over Huangyan Island and the Nansha Islands by any other country are all illegal and invalid," the statement said

Now, mind you, that story was reported Feb 18, 2009. So, what's new pussycat? Nada. 'Cept some sprightly moves by the respective Navies.

Philippines urged to stop illegal activities in China's territory
The Chinese embassy reiterated China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island, and urged the Philippine side to stop immediately their illegal activities and leave the area.

The Chinese Embassy reiterated that Huangyan Island is an integral part of the Chinese territory and the waters around it is the traditional fishing area for the Chinese fishermen, for which China has abundant historical and jurisprudence backings.

Ever since the ancient times, numerous documents on the Chinese history have written down definitely that Huangyan Island belongs to the Chinese territory. "The fact that China has sovereign rights and exercises jurisdiction over the Huangyan Island is widely respected by the international community," it said.

That's quite an interesting statement given that China has been hammering ASEAN conferees and other Running Dog Western Media Scum (taking a line from the GOP) that the "international community" has no right to even express a view on "the South China Sea question", which isn't really a question for China as much as for everyone else, including the RDWMS.

ASEAN paralysed over China sea dispute, say analysts
Lack of consensus between members of the 10-nation block over how to proceed in the negotiations with China over a proposed Code of Conduct in the sea was the biggest sore point at a two-day summit in Cambodia this week.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said there was a "big disagreement" on Tuesday over the issue, while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen angrily played down media reports of a rift.

In the end, the leaders issued a statement Wednesday showing a veneer of unity and promising to "intensify efforts" toward the full implementation of an agreement, signed 10 years earlier, to "promote peace".

Hold mainstream of China-ASEAN relations
Some Western media and a few countries' actions of distorting the theme of the ASEAN Summit, deliberately exaggerating the South China Sea issue, creating confrontation between China and the ASEAN and even claiming “withstanding the pressure from China to solve the South China Sea issue” are actually severe disturbance for promoting the integration process of the ASEAN. Some large external countries' action of sensationalizing the South China Sea issue by making use of the ASEAN Summit shows once again their intention of seizing dominance in regional affairs.

Making the South China Sea a sea of peace conforms to the general development trend and is a common interest of China and the ASEAN. Since the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” was signed 10 years ago, no large-scale military conflict has occurred in the South China Sea and no news about a country losing its freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has been heard. Some large external countries intend to seize the dominance of the region and deliberately damaging the China-ASEAN relations. This is the reason why they hype the South China Sea issue at the ASEAN Summit.

The ASEAN Summit is not a proper occasion for discussing the South China Sea issue and it will take long to solve the issue. Currently, what should be done first is to build up the trust among the related countries. Strengthening the negotiation and communication in a constructive way and creating mutual-benefit and win-win situations in some cooperative areas will be helpful for creating a positive atmosphere for solving the South China Sea issue.

Guambat "spoke" to china's bi-lateral divide and conquer strategy before.

What's the latest rift the South China Sea saw? Some lurking in a lagoon.

Manila summons China's envoy over South China Sea standoff
On Sunday, a Philippines Navy surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in the shoal and Manila's largest warship, a U.S. Hamilton-class cutter, was sent to check on the Chinese presence.

Two Chinese surveillance ships arrived soon after the crew from the warship inspected the fishing boats on Tuesday. The surveillance vessels were then placed between the warship and the fishing boats to prevent the arrest of any fishermen.

In an earlier move to ease tensions, a Philippine military commander said a coast guard ship was on its way to the area to assist the warship, saying the navy should not be involved in the enforcement of maritime laws.

"We have authority to confiscate them and bring the ships here. We've done that in the past," Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara told reporters.

A statement issued by the Chinese embassy said 12 fishing boats had taken shelter from harsh weather in a lagoon. It said the Philippine "gunboat" blocked the lagoon entrance, preventing the Chinese surveillance vessels from "fulfilling the duties of safeguarding Chinese maritime rights and interests".

China orders Philippine warship to leave disputed waters
China on Wednesday accused a Philippine warship of illegally entering Chinese waters and ordered it to immediately leave the area, escalating a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Philippine government had said two Chinese surveillance vessels were blocking efforts by its biggest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to arrest Chinese fishermen on eight boats caught fishing illegally in its waters.

The government said the standoff was occurring at Scarborough Shoal, an estimated 200 kilometers west of Subic Bay in Zambales, on the western coast of Luzon.

The Philippines calls the sandbar with rocks the Panatag Shoal. Scarborough Shoal is its international name, after a tea ship that was wrecked on the rocks in the 18th century.

China calls the shoal Huangyan Island, and the Chinese embassy statement insisted the area belonged solely to China.

The Philippines says it has sovereign rights over areas of the sea within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and that its position is supported by international law.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Patently stupid

Guambat reckons there is no intelligence in most IT. It should be called Infantile Trivia for the most part, and is simply a way of planting a virtual flag on a virtual bit of space in a far galaxy to waive away others from nothing much. He could probably patent an effective way to lift one's cheek to fart based on the nebulousness of most patents these days.

Corroborating that thought is the following writer.

Why the coming patent crisis is inevitable by Ben Parr
[Speaking of the Facebook/Yahoo patent-slinging contest he says] I'm shocked by some of the patents over which these two companies are suing each other. One of Yahoo's patents focuses on the "optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage", while Facebook has two patents that cover a "system for controlled distribution of user profiles over a network." Yahoo owns the patent for a "method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network", but "generating a feed of stories personalized for members of a social network" belongs to Facebook.

You really can receive a software patent for almost anything these days, it seems.

Facebook and Yahoo aren't the only ones collecting patents and threatening to use them like stockpiled nuclear weapons, though. Here are just some of the patent disputes that have made headlines in the last two weeks: Apple and Samsung, Microsoft and Motorola, RIM and NXP, Oracle and Google, and Tivo and Motorola.

Patents have played an important role in protecting an inventor's intellectual property and fostering innovation throughout history. However, their usefulness in software is far more limited, and in recent years has simply become damaging to innovation, thanks to patent trolls using IP they've acquired to sue smaller tech companies and make a quick buck.

Patent law simply wasn't designed for the always changing, rapidly developing world of software. Inventing a way for "generating a feed of stories" isn't the same as inventing a new type of fuel injection system or a new ultralight alloy for space travel. But software companies file patents like crazy because companies like Yahoo get desperate and start suing, and your only defense is to have your own stockpile of patents that will help you negotiate a settlement faster.

It's the tech industry's version of mutually assured destruction. And all the while, the patent situation inches closer toward a crisis that will make the SOPA controversy look like a walk in the park. At some point in the future, a company is going to skip the settlement and use the courts to shut down a popular and universal feature on the Web's top domains, simply because it has a patent that says it came up with the notion first. It will be a shock that reverberates all the way to the U.S. government and the World Trade Organization.

I suspect a patent crisis is both necessary and inevitable. The reason is simple: there isn't enough political will or pressure to institute massive patent reform without a crisis to rally around.

That's why the cycle of patents, lawsuits, and settlements isn't ending anytime soon. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go file a patent for a method of identifying patent trolls, just to see if I can.
While Mr. Parr is going out to file his patent, Guambat is going out to the night's sky to claim a star.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

This is depressing

The great images left in history books about the last Great Depression mostly were about unemployment lines and their kindred soup kitchen lines. While their existence proclaims bad times, the length of these lines seem to measure the generation's depression.

So what are we to think about these stories?

Youth unemployment passes 50pc in Spain and Greece
Youth unemployment now exceeds 50pc in both Spain and Greece as the number of people out of work in the eurozone as a whole hit a 15-year high of 17.2m.

These rates compared with an average eurozone youth unemployment rate of 21.6pc. One of the lowest rates of youth unemployment is in Germany, where it remained at 8.2pc in February.
See, too, Euro-Region Unemployment Surges to 14-Year High, Nears Record

In the last Great Recession, idle hands proved to be the pollies' workshop.


A close case of asteroids -- fly me half way to the moon

If Guambat had known this a head of time, it would have put a tight fist around a certain sphincter:

April Fools' Day Asteroid Zips Close by Earth
The space rock may have visited Earth on April Fools' Day, but its flyby was no prank. The asteroid crept within 143,000 miles (230,000 kilometers) of Earth during its closest approach, which is just over half the distance between Earth and the moon's orbit.

Early Monday, the bus-size asteroid 2012 FP35 came within 96,000 miles (154,000 km) of Earth. It was followed a few hours later by asteroid 2012 FS35, which is the size of a car and passed Earth at a range of 36,000 miles (58,000 km).

Guambat doesn't much fancy getting creamed by an asteroid, and this following article doesn't give him much relief, either.

We Can Survive Killer Asteroids — But It Won’t Be Easy
Solar System debris rains down on Earth in vast quantities — more than a hundred tons of it a day. Most of it vaporizes in our atmosphere, leaving stunning trails of light we call shooting stars. More hazardous are the billions, likely trillions, of leftover rocks — comets and asteroids — that wander interplanetary space in search of targets.

[And how does the idea that interplanetary rocks are searching for you sit with Guambat? This next statement made Guambat stand up and exclaim, Guamn!]

More than a thousand known asteroids are classed as “potentially hazardous,” based on size and trajectory. Currently, it looks doable to develop an early-warning and defense system that could protect the human species from impactors larger than a kilometer wide.

Smaller ones, which reflect much less light and are therefore much harder to detect at great distances, carry enough energy to incinerate entire nations, but they don’t put the human species at risk of extinction.

Once in about a hundred million years, though, Earth is visited by an impactor capable of annihilating all life-forms bigger than a carry-on suitcase.

[If Mrs Guambat has been told once, she's been told a hundred million times she must learn to fit inside her carry-on Guambag, but that bit of advice also seems silly after this next bit of news.]

The chances that your tombstone will read “Killed by Asteroid” are about the same as they’d be for “Killed in Airplane Crash.”

If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, we would be the laughing stock of aliens in the galaxy, for having a large brain and a space program, yet we met the same fate as that pea-brained, space program-less dinosaurs that came before us.

Guambat doesn't take such mocking by aliens in the galaxy lying down, no sir. Not when there are so many aliens mocking him right here on Terror Firma.

He's off to have a nice hot sitz bath, where he'll ponder...

A universe without purpose