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Blu-Ray Set To Take The World By Storm!

Blu-Ray Set To Take The World By Storm!

The Blu-ray Disc belongs to a new generation of optical discs capable of staging high density data. Blu-Ray technology is based on a blue-violet coloured laser. The blue laser operates at a wave length of 405 nm, while older technology such as DVDs and CDs are based on red and infrared lasers that works at 650 and 780 nm. Since the wave length is shorter with a blue laser, the new Blu-ray technology makes is possible to store much more information
The advantage with the Blu-ray technology is that the laser beam can be focused much more tightly at the surface of the disc. Tight focus means that a smaller spot will be produced on the surface on the disc, and when the spots become smaller there will naturally be room for more information on each disc. The minimum spot size of any laser depends on a naturally accruing phenomenon called diffraction. The narrow beam of light sent out from a laser will always diverge into a wider beam eventually, due to the natural diffraction of waves. Diffraction will also occur the waves meet an obstruction. By reducing the wavelength of a laser, we can affect the diffraction.
In Blu-ray technology, the diffractions is also affected by the fact that the lens used to focus the light has a higher numerical aperture than the lenses found in ordinary DVDs – 0.85 instead of 0.6. Blu-ray technology based appliances are also equipped with a dual-lens system of supreme quality, and the cover layer has been made thinner in order to prevent unwanted optical effects. All this makes it possible for a Blu-ray laser to focus on much smaller spots. The optical improvements are accompanied with a new method for encoding data which makes it possible to store even more data on the Blu-ray disc.
The standard for Blu-ray technology has been developed as a joint venture between several major manufacturers of PCs and consumer electronics, including Sony and Philips. The group is called the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). The first Blu-ray recorder was launched in Japan in 2003, by Sony. Today, Samsung, JVC, Matsushita (Panasonic) and LG Electronics are all examples of companies using Blu-ray technology in their products. Hewlett Packard has announced that they will release desktop PCs equipped with Blu-ray technology in late 2005.
The main competitor for the Blu-ray technology is the HD DVD format which is also capable of storing more information than a normal DVD. The Blu-ray technology does however allow for more information per layer than the HD DVD format – 25 GB compared to 15 GB. The Blu-ray technology will on the other hand most likely be more expensive to support, at least initially, which can make the HD DVD a tempting alternative. In a Blu-ray disc, the data is stored extremely close to the surface. This made the first Blu-ray discs extremely vulnerable to scratching and many users preferred the tougher HD DVD discs. Since 2004, all Blu-ray discs are coated with a clear polymer called “Durabis” which makes them much more durable. According to the developers of Durabis, the TDK Corporation, a coated Blu-ray disc will work even after being attacked with a screwdriver.

Jefferson Airplane book Take Me to a Circus Tent can be judged by its cover!

Jefferson Airplane book Take Me to a Circus Tent can be judged by its cover!

Review of Jefferson Airplane book- Take Me to a Circus Tent by author Craig Fenton.

Being a born skeptic it takes a lot to convince me that something is of merit. I don’t let a few words sway me. I was intrigued by reading a few 5 star reviews and gained further respect when superlative praise came for Mr. Fenton from founding group member Marty Balin.

Balin is quoted on the back cover as stating “Craig Fenton knows so much about the Jefferson Airplane and Family, I was asking him the questions.” I needed my own eyes to be the final judge.

The cover that Mr. Fenton proudly displays to Take Me to a Circus Tent is the original photo to the Jefferson Airplane’s second album Surrealistic Pillow. Mr. Fenton employed the services of one of San Francisco’s most well known photographers Herb Greene. He is responsible for the magnificent shot that was used for the album and after having CD’s shrink the priceless picture to an overgrown postage stamp it was a sight for sore eyes to see the classic group photo in 8.5 x 11 view.

To Mr. Fenton’s credit he not only presents the consumer with over 540 pages but does it without superfluous clutter. The book is actually several themes giving the buyer a reason that the positive responses are found everywhere beginning with Amazon.

Mr. Fenton takes us through over 120 live Jefferson Airplane appearances and documents the songs played, first and last time the tune would be heard on a concert stage, any special guests that landed, if a particular version was different on a given night, and if there had been misinformation about the show. He also presents us with what is found in the Jefferson Airplane studio vault. Mr. Fenton unveils 60 or so unreleased songs, alternate versions, jams, demos, etc. He sets the record straight on which tunes were censored and gives us insight on the versions that didn’t make it to the public. The detail is not only mind blowing but meticulous and coming from a writer yes but a fanatical fan.

Take Me to a Circus Tent is just getting warmed up. There are three other portions that will have you enthralled. As you flip the pages there are over ninety photos in the book. These aren’t the run of the mill same old yawn now pictures. He has two shots as rare as anything you have seen from the band. There are many photos from both the Great Society with Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane that have not seen the light of day. Herb Greene’s camera is all over the book.

Mr. Fenton was a former radio disc-jockey. It is evident when time for the interview section. By the way there are over thirty transcripted interviews with members of the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and some San Francisco friends. Mr. Fenton’s relaxed approach and impeccable knowledge of the groups helps bring out many things not previously in print. You’ll find out a singer that tried out before Signe Anderson got the job and the gentleman that played guitar during her audition. We find out what Hot Tuna member became part of a Jefferson Airplane song and wasn’t credited, and even which Great Society song the Airplane turned down to record (They did say yes twice).
Mr. Fenton’s section of questions and answers on the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, SVT, KBC, and Wooden Ships feeds us enough information to digest for years.

Take Me to a Circus Tent is something special and wonderful under the big top.

The book is available through Amazon and a simple Google search will give you Mr. Fenton’s website and blog.

Bye,
Numan Consuman Human

5 Lessons I Learned About Building a Home Based Business While Watching a Master Violinist

5 Lessons I Learned About Building a Home Based Business While Watching a Master Violinist

Have you ever been in moment where you realized that your perception of something would never be the same? Well that’s exactly what happened to me when I attended BB Kings Restaurant to hang out and listen to a violinist for an upcoming CD release.

Much to my surprise I walked away with 5 lessons that I could use to take my home based business to the next level. Within moments of world renowned jazz violinist Karen Briggs (formerly with Yani) taking the stage the quote from Tony Buzan rang my head.

“Whatever your discipline, become a student of excellence in all things. Take every opportunity to observe people who manifest the qualities of mastery.”

Here are lessons I walked away with that you can use to
successfully create a business you can work from home.

1. Change an idea or business by 10% and you can be a leader in what you do. Ms. Briggs is not the only violinist but she is one the first to become known as a “Jazz Violinist.” She took traditional classical music and put a jazz twist on it and made it her own. She created a fortune by doing so. You can do the same thing. Find a work at home business you love, add your unique slant and become an expert.

2. Give your customers more than you can expect and you will create raving fans. We were told the concert would go 90 minutes. However, when Ms. Briggs surprised us with an additional 45 minute jam session it blew everyone away. When you under promise and over deliver you will create screaming fans that will tell others about your business. The ultimate form of flattery is a referral. (By the way, I highly recommend you see
her).

3. When you are operating in your unique gift it will appear effortless to others. Ms. Briggs was one with her instrument. As a former violinist myself, I know first hand that it is not an easy instrument to master if you don’t have the aptitude or attitude. However, when the talent or gift is innate your presentation appears organic and effortless to others.

Most people spend their life looking for the “magic bullet” to create wealth. And the truth is if you were to look at the gifts and talents you have, your million dollar idea is innately a part of you. If you are not sure what it is think about what are the things you do that appear easy for you and difficult for others. Your unique talent harnessed with discipline and commitment will be unstoppable. Unleash your talents and discover how to turn it into a profitable work at home opportunity.

4. When you are a master at your craft people will pay for it and you can name your price. Being an expert in business is much like a top paid artist. When you have specialized knowledge or a skill people are willing to pay a higher price to have access to it.

5. Surround yourself with talented and supportive people and you all can go to a higher level of success. Ms. Briggs had a band around her and with their support her talents were showcased even more. No one creates success by themselves. Make sure you have people around you who support you in your business. Consider a Mastermind Group.

If you are starting or currently building a home based business
take one or all of these lessons, implement them in your business and watch it grow. I am always amazed how lessons about
being successful are always around us if our mind is open and
our ears in tune. These lessons if implemented will sound like
music to your ears.

A Look At The History Of The Guitar

A Look At The History Of The Guitar

Guitarists know a lot about their instruments—techniques, chords, songs etc. But what many guitarists don’t know is the history of the guitar. It’s understandable, because many people don’t feel this helps at all in actually playing the guitar. Still, it is helpful to know everything about the instrument—including the history.

The history of guitar is a debatable topic, as there are no concrete facts about the guitar and when exactly it first appeared. What is known, though, is that guitars or similar instruments have been around for over 5,000 years. Entire books could be written about the history of guitar, so in this article, we’ll just go over a timeline of how it is thought the guitar evolved.

• 1400 B.C: The Hittites play a four-string, guitar-like instrument. This four string instrument had soft, curved sides, which were somewhat similar to the current guitar. Also around this time, the Greeks produced a similar instrument which was modified by the Romans and became known as the cithara.

• By 1200 A.D.: There were two types of guitars. One type was known as the Moorish guitar (guitarra morisca). This guitar had a wide fingerboard, rounded back, and several sound holes. The type of guitar was the Latin guitar (guitarra Latina). The Latin guitar looked more like our current guitar with a narrower neck and just one sound hole.

• The late 1400’s: A new guitar, called the vihuela, evolved from the two types of guitar mentioned. The vihuela was a large instrument with double the strings of the Latin and Moorish guitars, a longer neck and ten or eleven frets. The Portuguese and Spanish courts preferred the vihuela over any other instrument for roughly 200 years.

• Until the late 1600’s: The vihuela, and another instrument called the lute, were more popular than the guitar. This changed when the popularity of the lute declined because it had too many strings and was too hard to play and tune. The vihuela was replaced by four and five course guitars of that time. Four course guitars had seven strings—a single high string and three pairs of other strings—while five course guitars had nine strings—a single high string and four pairs of other strings. Some feel that the addition of the fifth course during the 16th century, which gave the guitar greater flexibility, was the reason why the guitar became popular.

• By the beginning of the 1800’s: Some guitars used fan struts under the soundboard and featured six strings (like the modern guitar). Also changed during this time was the neck (which was raised), the fingerboard (which used ebony or rosewood), and the tuning pegs (which were replaced with machine tuners). Guitars like these are most similar to early classical guitars.

• By the late 1800s: A man named Antonio Torres Jurado changed the guitar dramatically by refining the strutting of the guitar. This allowed for as many as seven struts to be spread out like a fan under the soundboard. Additionally, the size of the body and the width of the neck were greatly increased. As a result of Jurado’s improvements, the guitar had greater bass response and volume. Jurado’s work made it possible for the guitar to meet the demands of both the solo performer and the concert stage.

• The Present: Our modern guitar is practically the same as the one made by Jurado.

As was previously said, this is but a brief introduction to the fascinating history of guitars. If you wish to find out more on certain types of guitars, such as the history of Acoustic, Electric or Bass guitars, you can check out our articles titled “The Acoustic Guitar”, “The Electric Guitar”, and “The Bass Guitar”.

Enjoy Your Christmas Vacation In Orlando, Florida

Enjoy Your Christmas Vacation In Orlando, Florida

Sunny Central Florida may not go with your traditional image of a white Christmas, but the theme parks of Orlando put on holiday shows that are filled with festive fun. If you are in the Orlando area this Christmas (or any Christmas) here are the kinds of events that you can experience:

SeaWorld Orlando has announced that they will feature a ride based on Robert Zemeckis’ “The Polar Express.”

Warner Bros. Pictures and Iwerks Entertainment are reprogramming the theme park’s Wild Arctic simulator ride, and transforming it into a simulated train ride to “Santa Town” for the holiday season. When the ride ends, people will step out onto a recreation of the North Pole. SeaWorld’s exhibit of polar bears, beluga whales, walruses and other Arctic animals will also be made up to fit the winter wonderland theme. The new Polar Express ride will debut on Friday and will be in place through January 1st 2008.

The cost and contact information for Seaworld are as follows: Cost: $67.95; $57.95 children; Sea World Drive, Orlando; Telephone: 800-327-2424

Walt Disney World in Orlando offers Christmas and winter holiday themed events at each of its major attraction centers. Disney’s Magic Kingdom Very Merry Christmas Party begins will be held through December 21 from 7 pm to midnight. Also, when regular park hours are over, the lights come alive. The tree lighting ceremony and the almost crystallized castle are well worth the price of admission; and, for those who dream of a white Christmas, enjoy the snowfall on Main Street.

Here are the costs and contact information for Disney World: Cost: $51.07; $43.62 ages 3-9; Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista; 407-934-7639

Not to be outdone by Disney or Seaworld, Universal Studios in Orlando offering its own version of Macy’s Holiday Parade, including the “actual, authentic” Santa from New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Universal also offers entertainment ranging from Barney’s Christmas Show to the Blues Brothers Christmas Show.

In addition, Universal is also unveiling a new stage show at Islands of Adventure, called “Grinchmas,” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ Christmas story. “Back by popular demand,” Grinchmas will feature seven songs on a new stage.

The celebration continues with decorations and special events at Universal CityWalk as well as all three world-class, on-site hotels – Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

Here are the latest costs and information for Universal: one day/one park ticket: $71; $60 children; Universal Blvd. Orlando; 407-224-4243 or visit their holiday website: www.universalorlando.com/holidays.

The nearby city of Silver Springs offers a Festival of Lights, from dusk to 8:30 p.m. from December 14-30. This is an event that you should not miss. It features more than one million twinkling lights and is complete with carolers, stage shows , a boat parade and holiday concerts as well. Here is the contact information and costs for this event:
$33.99; $30.99 seniors; $24.99 ages 3-10; 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd.; Silver Springs; 352-236-2121

Busch Gardens in Tampa also offers annual Christmas events. This year it feature a breathtaking spectacle of music, dance and holiday cheer as well as other holiday experiences scattered throughout the park daily. The costs and contact information for Busch Gardens are as follows: $64.95; $54.95 children; 3000 E. Busch Blvd., Tampa; 888-800-5447

There it is! Orlando and vicinity is a great place for you and your family to enjoy your winter vacation.

Why Should You Forgive?

Why Should You Forgive?

When I teach private Yoga sessions, sometimes, I become aware that a client has issues that cause anxiety, depression, and a negative outlook on life. This often causes difficulty for the student when trying to practice a stage-by-stage relaxation, and especially during meditation sessions.
When I mention letting go of a situation and forgiving others, very often I hear, “What’s in it for me?” or “Why should I?” To be quite frank, you should sincerely forgive for your own health. The purpose is to let go of a heavy burden, that you have placed upon yourself. This is a form of self-imprisonment, where you become bitter and this problem has established control over your life.
Releasing a grudge is like a prisoner having a sentence overturned, but it is much easier for you, since you are your own prison keeper. This is, in fact, an internal conflict and you can take control at anytime you wish.
Yoga, meditation, and relaxation sessions, are therapeutic practices, similar to a life preserver for the mind and body. On the other hand, holding a grudge causes negative energy and a multitude of physical and mental ailments. So, why not just let go of this self-imposed burden? Forgiveness is a way of refusing to carry extra problems around.
Some people like to carry around a “badge of courage” wherever they go. The badge of courage becomes their self-image and the whole world around them can see it “written all over their faces.” We all know somebody who walks around, day after day, with a scowl on his or her face. This person may have forgotten who hurt them in the first place. Each conflicting situation compounds, upon the last, to create a life of misery and poor health.
Now, I am not asking you to forgive or apologize, if you don’t mean it, but do you see any common ground, between yourself and the other party? Do you think there might be room to negotiate or, at least, talk? Do you see the other viewpoint? Would you be willing to listen?
Starting any negotiations allows both parties to hear each other out peacefully. This should be a common agreement before you meet. This requires that you listen to grievances, “on the other side of the fence,” completely. You will have to listen with empathy. This is a skill very few people have mastered.
Then you present your side of the issue, without malice. Very often, a perceived “big problem” is diffused when both parties realize a small misunderstanding created the two opposing viewpoints. It takes courage to sincerely give an apology and it takes courage to sincerely accept one. How you handle conflict and forgiveness is a true measure of your character.

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Thomas Jefferson said, “Good wine is a necessity of life for me”. No wonder he was one of our founding fathers!
More and more people are drinking wine these days and why not? It’s readily acknowledged by the medical community that drinking red wine in moderation has a myriad of health benefits including lowering your risk of contracting heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer and cataracts. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a good enough reason to enjoy a glass or two every night. In addition, it’s a nice way to relax after a rough day and getting together with friends over a glass of wine is a great venue for socializing and having fun.
One way to do this is by hosting a wine tasting party. Besides being a lot of fun, this is an excellent approach for learning about wine and maybe finding a few new wines you really enjoy. Below are some guidelines that will help you to organize a wine tasting that’s sure to be a hit.
Inviting your guests- The first thing you need to consider when organizing a wine-tasting party is how many people to invite. Generally speaking, 8 to 12 is considered the optimum number of guests. This size group is large enough to promote spontaneous interaction and small enough to be easily manageable.
Whether you telephone, email, or sent written invitations is a personal choice. I happen to prefer sending email invitations. American Greetings has a great card site that includes “eInvites”. It’s a wonderful service where you can send invitations and your guests can simply click a button to RSVP. You can even schedule follow-up reminders. The American greeting site has a $20.00 yearly membership fee, but for all the ecards and services, I think it’s worth it.
Choosing the wine- In my opinion, choosing the wine to taste at your party is the best part of the planning stage. But then, I happen to get mesmerized every time I walk into a large wine store. There’s so much to choose from.
There are many different ways you can handle wine selection. One option is to consider a themed party. For example: “California Chardonnays”, “German Rieslings”, “Wines Under $10.00”, or “Italian Reds”. The possibilities here are endless, so don’t be afraid to be creative. Another option might be to choose wines from a particular winery or even to select different vintages (years) of the exact same wine. Selecting different vintages of the same wine is called a vertical tasting and this may be more costly to do since older vintages tend to carry a higher price tag.
When buying the wine for your party, keep in mind that for tasting purposes, each pour should be about two ounces. This means that for eight people or less, one 750 ml bottle should be enough.
The question of food- No party would be complete without food. However, depending on your goal for the event, you may want to wait until after tasting the wine to serve food because food affects the taste of wine and visa-versa. If your goal is to have an informal gathering of friends and experience new wines with good food, by all means serve food paired with the various wines. In fact, an easy and fun way to have a wine tasting party is to ask your guests to bring the various courses (appetizers, soup, salad, dessert) along with a paired wine while you provide the main course and wine.
If your primary goal is tasting and judging new wine, it is more appropriate to wait until after the tasting to serve the food. Instead, during the tasting, provide only unflavored crackers (saltines) or bread to cleanse the palette between wines.
Tasting and rating the wine- Remember to limit your pours to two ounces (visually, two ounces is about two inches in a normal size wine glass). Place pitchers of water out for your guests to rinse their glasses or cleanse the palette between tastings. Also, have buckets available for those who choose to spit out the wine instead of swallowing it. Spitting is not necessarily an indication of not liking the wine. Many wine tasters spit so they will not be affected by alcohol consumption. Especially if the tasting is to be followed by socializing and drinking wine.
One suggestion for tasting and rating the wine is to simply hand out paper and pens to each of the guests as they arrive so they are able to make notes on each wine tasted. To make this process more structured and organized, you can download and print wine tasting forms from the internet. Clicking on the link “wine tasting form” link in the resource box at the end of this article will take you to Wine-Reviewer where you may download and print several different forms.
You may reduce the chance of ratings being influenced by personal preference or prejudice by having a “blind tasting”. To do this, completely wrap each of the bottles with aluminum foil and label it with a number. The wine will then be identified and judged by the number on the bottle.
To make the evening a bit more interesting and educational, research the wine, winery and wine-making region. Your guests will probably find the information interesting and will appreciate your effort.
Using these guidelines, having a wine-tasting party is as easy as 1-2-3-4. Have fun, but please remember to drink responsibly and do not let others drink and drive. If possible, have someone be a designated driver to insure that everyone gets home safely.

Enjoy Both The Beach And City In Spain

Enjoy Both The Beach And City In Spain

Many different vacations or holidays are available to satisfy every kind of traveler, whether single, a couple or with a family. The vacations can be enjoyable for everyone if you take into account the preferences of the traveler. There are many destinations around the world where you can find accommodations on the beach or a city skyscraper for a beautiful view. You can, surely, find such accommodations anywhere but Spain is one place that offers both. Spending your holidays in Spain allows you to meet the preferences of all travelers and experience both the beach and the city without leaving the region.

The cities of Spain offer much art, culture, history, entertainment, good food and fun. However, what is so fabulous about this destination is that you can be in the exciting city and shortly thereafter relaxing at the beach, golfing or swimming. The Costa Blanca region is an extremely popular region, particularly for its beautiful coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. The Alicante Airport is the main airport for the Costa Blanca region and not far from the quaint Costa Blanca cities. The climate is beautiful all year round, though the summers in the city can become quite hot but, fortunately, the beach is always nearby for some cooling and relaxation. Otherwise, the temperatures are generally perfect for swimming yet comfortable for sightseeing.

Spanish culture, museums and art can be found in any of Spain’s cities and, especially, in the larger metropolitan cities such as Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a world center for finance and commerce, but it is a city for both those taking care of business as well as those visiting on vacation or holiday. Barcelona is the second largest city of Spain and is the capital of the Catalonia community, one of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities. Barcelona is on the northeast tip of Spain along the coastline with the Pyrenees mountain range approximately 100 miles north. It hosted the 1888 World’s Fair as well as the 1992 Summer Olympics.

In addition to the many museums and other attractions, Spain is also known for its regular festivals and fiestas, as holidays occur throughout the entire year. In Spain, you can relax, party and learn about the culture equally as hard. One of Spain’s many holiday celebrations, though, is a great opportunity to party and experience the local culture at the same time. For example, you can visit the Merida Theatre anytime of the year but its annual festival is in the summer. During this festival, the Greco-Latin authors present their work on the stage in this Roman-style theatre.

Forget Divorce Court – Most Florida Divorces Never Make It To Court

Forget Divorce Court – Most Florida Divorces Never Make It To Court

Conjure up an image of divorce. The average person visualizes people sitting in a courtroom, giving testimony, with a judge at a bench presiding over everything. The reality of most divorces is dramatically different. Forget high profile, exciting confrontations in courtrooms built 50 years ago. The vast majority of divorces in Florida are relatively boring exchanges of paperwork and telephone calls.
In Florida, and in many states in the U.S., mediation is becoming a mandatory step. And mediation appears to work. Howard Iken, managing partner at The Divorce Center (www.18884mydivorce.com), a divorce law practice in the Tampa Bay region, observes over 90% of divorce cases settle by the time they get to mediation. Of the 10% that do not settle by mediation, approximately 9% settle some time before final trial. The bottom line is that approximately 1 out of 100 divorce cases go through the colorful confrontation that many people visualize. 99 out of 100 cases never make it to court.
Between the time a spouse files for divorce and the period most cases settle, the legal action consists of very boring paperwork, financial disclosure, punctuated by the occasional phone call. The process rarely varies and the paperwork in each case is similar if not the exact same. One spouse sends a petition, the other sends an answer. Each spouse exchanges financial affidavits, tax returns, paycheck stubs, and other types of documentation. The attorneys act as paperwork mills, churning and spinning out pounds of identical documents into the postal system. Other than copies of documents filed with the court, judges rarely get involved at this stage. All of the documents, legal pleadings, notices, and forms, are oriented toward getting to mediation, the final event in many divorces. If the parties settle at mediation, and the statistics show most do, one spouse will never see the inside of a courtroom. The other spouse usually attends a short, 10 minute hearing that is only a formality. A judge reviews the documents and signs off on the divorce.
“Hurry up and then wait,” divorce attorney Howard Iken tells his clients. Most cases consist of tons of paperwork creation followed by a long wait. The long wait is normally to allow the opposing party time to create and send a similar pile of paperwork. The process seems to work. The benefit: thousands of dollars in attorney fees are saved. Money that could pay for rebuilt lives is not diverted to the bank accounts of each attorney. Cases are brought to an early end. And each party to the divorce ends up having little or no contact with the court.

Containing the United States

Containing the United States

European intellectuals yearned for the mutually exclusive: an America contained and a regime-changed Iraq. The Chinese are more pragmatic – though, bound by what is left of their Marxism, they still ascribe American behavior to the irreconcilable contradictions inherent in capitalism.

The United States is impelled by its economy and values to world dominion, claimed in March 2003 an analysis titled “American Empire Steps Up Fourth Expansion” in the communist party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily. Expansionism is an “eternal theme” in American history and a “main line” running through its foreign policy.

The contemporary USA is actually a land-based empire, comprising the territorial fruits of previous armed conflicts with its neighbors and foes, often one and the same. The global spread of American influence through its culture, political alliances, science and multinationals is merely an extrapolation of a trend two centuries in the making.

How did a small country succeed to thus transform itself?

The paper attributes America’s success to its political stability, neglecting to mention its pluralism and multi-party system, the sources of said endurance. But then, in an interesting departure from the official party line, it praises US “scientific and technological innovations and new achievements in economic development”. Somewhat tautologically, it also credits America’s status as an empire to its “external expansions”.

The rest of the article is, alas, no better reasoned, nor better informed. American pilgrims were forced westward because “they found there was neither tile over their heads nor a speck of land under their feet (in the East Coast)”. But it is the emphases that are of interest, not the shoddy workmanship.

The article clearly identifies America’s (capitalistic) economy and its (liberal, pluralistic, religious and democratic) values as its competitive mainstays and founts of strength. “US unique commercial expansion spirit (combined with the) the puritan’s ‘concept of mission’ (are its fortes)”, gushes the anonymous author.

The paper distinguishes four phases of distension: “First, continental expansion stage; second, overseas expansion stage; third, the stage of global contention for hegemony; and fourth, the stage of world domination.” The second, third and fourth are mainly economic, cultural and military.

In an echo of defunct Soviet and Euro-left conspiracy theories, the paper insists that expansion was “triggered by commercial capital”. This capital – better known in the West as the military-industrial complex – also determines US foreign policy. Thus, the American Empire is closer to the commercially driven British Empire than to the militarily propelled Roman one.

Actually, the author thinks aloud, isn’t America’s reign merely the successor of Britain’s? Wasn’t it John Locke, a British philosopher, who said that expansion – a “natural right” – responds to domestic needs? Wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who claimed that the United States must “constantly acquire new land to open up living space” (the forerunner of the infamous German “Lebensraum”)?

The author quotes James Jerome Hill, the American railway magnet, as exclaiming, during the US-Spanish War, that “If you review the commercial history, you will discover anyone who controls oriental trade will get hold of global wealth”. Thus, US expansion was concerned mainly with “protecting American commercial monopoly or advantageous position”. America entered the first world war only when “its free trade position was challenged”, opines the red-top.

American moral values are designed to “serve commercial capital”. This blending of the spiritual with the pecuniary is very disorienting. “Even the Americans themselves find it hard to distinguish which matter is expanding national interests under the banner of ‘enforcing justice on behalf of Heaven’ and which is propagating their ideology and concept of value on the plea of national interests.”

The paper mentions the conviction, held by most Americans, that their system and values are the “best things in human society”. Moreover, Americans are missionaries with a “manifest destiny” and “the duty and obligation to help other countries and nations” and to serve as the “the beacon lighting up the way for the development of other countries and nations”. If all else fails, it feels justified to “force its best things on other countries by the method of Crusades”.

This is a patently non-Orthodox, non-Marxist interpretation of history and of the role of the United States – the prime specimen of capitalism – in it. Economy, admits the author, plays only one part in America’s ascendance. Tribute must be given to its values as well. This view of the United States – at the height of an international crisis pitting China against it – is nothing if not revolutionary.

American history is re-cast as an inevitable progression of concentric circles. At first, the United States acted as a classic colonial power, vying for real estate first with Spain in Latin America and later with the Soviet Union all over the world. The Marshall Plan was a ploy to make Europe dependent on US largesse. The Old Continent, sneers the paper, is nothing more than “US little partner”.

Now, with the demise of the USSR, bemoans the columnist, the United States exhibits “rising hegemonic airs” and does “whatever it pleased”, concurrently twisting economic, cultural and military arms. Inevitably and especially after September 11, calls for an American “new empire” are on the rise. Iraq “was chosen as the first target for this new round of expansion”.

But the expansionist drive has become self-defeating: “Only when the United States refrains from taking the road of pursuing global empire, can it avoid terrorists’ bombs or other forms of attacks befalling on its own territory”, concludes the opinion piece.

What is China up to? Were this – and similar – articles a signal encrypted in the best Cold War tradition?

Another commentary published a few days later may contain the public key. It is titled “The Paradox of American Power”. The author quotes at length from “The Paradox of American Power – Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone” written by Joseph Nye, the Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense:

“Hard power works through coercion, using military sticks and economic carrots to get others to do our will. Soft power works through attraction … Our attractiveness rests on our culture, our political values and our policies by taking into account the interests of others.”

As it summarizes Nye’s teachings, the tone of the piece is avuncular and conciliatory, not enraged or patronizing:

“In today’s world, the United States is no doubt in an advantageous position with its hard power. But … power politics always invite resentment and the paradox of American power is that the stronger the nation grows, the weaker its influence becomes. As the saying goes, a danger to oneself results from an excess of power and an accumulation of misfortunes stems from lavish of praises and favors. He, whose power grows to such a swelling state that he strikes anybody he wants to and turns a deaf ear to others’ advice, will unavoidably put himself in a straitened circumstance someday. When one indulges oneself in wars of aggression under the pretext of ‘self security’ will possibly get, in return, more factors of insecurity … Military forces cannot fundamentally solve problems and war benefits no one including the war starter.”

Nor are these views the preserve of the arthritic upper echelons of the precariously balanced Chinese Communist party.

In the same month, in an interview he granted to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, Shen Jiru, chief of the Division of International Strategy of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reiterated his conviction that “the United States aims to create a unipolar world through the Iraq issue”.

Mirroring the People’s Daily, he did not think that the looming Iraq war can be entirely explained as a “dispute on oil or economic interests”. It was, he thought, about “the future model of international order: a multipolar and democratic one, or the US strategic goal of a unipolar world”. China has been encouraged by dissent in the West. It shows that the “multipolar international community” is an “inevitable” momentum of history.

Why this sudden flurry of historiosophic ruminations?

According to Stratfor, the strategic forecasting consultancy, “for Beijing, the only way to stymie the fourth phase is through promoting multilateralism; barring that, China must be prepared to confront the United States in the future, and U.S. history can give some guidance … Thus, Beijing continues to focus on the concept of multilateralism and the legitimacy of the United Nations as the best ways to slow or even disrupt U.S. expansionism. At the same time, Beijing is preparing to face a future confrontation with the United States if necessary.”

When its economy matures, China wants to become another United States. It has started emulating America two decades ago – and never ceased. Recent steps include painful privatization, restructuring of the banking system, clamping down on corruption and bad governance, paring down the central bureaucracy, revamping the military and security apparatus and creating mechanisms for smooth political transitions.

China sent a man to the moon. It invests heavily in basic science and research and development. It is moving gradually up the manufacturing food chain to higher value added industries. It is the quintessential leapfrogger, much of its cadre moving straight from the rustic to the plastic – computers, cellular phones, wireless and the like.

Ironically, it could never have made it even this far without its ostensible foe. Thousands of bright Chinese students train in the United states. American technologies, management, knowledge, capital and marketing permeate Beijing’s economic fabric. Bilateral trade is flourishing. China enjoys the biggest share of the world’s – in large part American – foreign direct investment flows. Should the United states disintegrate tomorrow – China would assuredly follow.

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