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None of Obama, Clinton or McCain have any idea of this.
Last month, in my article on Ma Ying-jeou's presidential victory in Taiwan, I quoted a BBC report by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawksley claiming that China has decided that economic development with Taiwan is so important that "unification" of Taiwan with China has become irrelevant.
I was very critical of this view, and so I was extremely flattered last week to receive an e-mail message from Mr. Hawksley himself pointing out an IHT.com article in which he expands his thoughts in much greater detail:
High-level conferences did not bring peace. Nor has one side battered the other into submission. Time, pragmatism and compromise produced a win-win formula that could serve as an example elsewhere - the Middle East, the Balkans, Tibet. It's already being replicated between the U.S. and China.
China and Taiwan have each become so irreplaceable to the global supply chain that the benefits of the status quo, coupled with increased living standards, far outweigh those of causing trouble.
The information-technology sector alone gives an idea of how easily a China-Taiwan conflict could paralyze world consumer markets. Between them, China and Taiwan control much of the computer Internet market.
On a wider scale, economic links between China and Taiwan continue to grow. More than 50,000 Taiwanese companies operate in China. Taiwanese overall investment there is at least $150 billion, with more from Taiwanese-owned offshore companies. China-Taiwan annual trade is more than $100 billion, and products of this alliance involve supply chains from dozens of other countries.
Add China's reliance on exports to the United States and its billions of dollars of U.S. debt, and the scenario of all this suddenly unraveling becomes unthinkable, conjuring up a Cold War comparison of a "mutually assured destruction" through economic instead of nuclear strikes. The difference is that bankers and economists, not generals, call the shots.
In recent years this economic reality has increasingly loomed over Chinese and American policymaking, paving the way for a permanent peace. "Beijing made a decision in the summer of 2002 that the economic development of China was more important than the unification of the motherland," explained Chong-pin Lin, president of the Foundation for International and Cross-Strait Studies. "And that was inter-related to another principle of placing cooperation with Washington higher than conflict with Washington." ...
For its part, the United States since 2003 has taken the side of China whenever Taiwan makes rumbling noises on the issue of independence. This inconsistency between America's claim to a global democratic mission and its warning to Taiwanese voters not to upset the Chinese apple cart is another example of the changing paradigm. "America is praising the people of Iraq for going to the polls yet at the same time condemning us for having a vote to express our desire to be part of the international community," notes Bi-khim Hsiao, international affairs spokesman for Taiwan's defeated Democratic Progressive Party. ...
The United States could eliminate this inconsistency by using the very model that it fostered - "China-Taiwan supply-chain diplomacy" - to motivate other conflict zones towards peace.
One crucial marker is the link between economic performance and political maturity. According to the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, it was only possible to begin dismantling Taiwan's dictatorship in the mid-1980s when the per capita GDP had reached $5,000. David S. Hong, the president of the institute, suggests that China will not be ready for such a transformation until per capita GDP reaches $15,000, perhaps more than a generation from now. At present the GDP is about $2,000, against Taiwan's $17,000.
Both the Chinese government and Tibetan activists could learn from the Taiwan example. At present, decades of Chinese investment and economic growth in Tibet have had scant effect on Tibetans who cling to their culture and religion even if that means less material improvement. China, too, remains determined to preserve its control over Tibet no matter what the economic cost may be. It's a lose-lose situation. ...
Humphrey Hawksley is a BBC correspondent. His latest book "Security Breach," is due out in August. Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal."
At its heart, this is the "war is bad for business" argument, which can be used to prove that no major war can ever occur -- until it does.
Practically every major war in history was conducted by belligerents that were doing business with each other.
For example, England and France have had robust commercial ties, ever since the French Normans and William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066. And yet, those commercial ties meant nothing in one major war after another.
The problem is that these major wars ("generational Crisis wars," as I refer to them) almost never make sense in retrospect. How could Japan have POSSIBLY decided to bomb Pearl Harbor, when the US was many times larger than Japan, and clearly would win the subsequent war? In the American civil war, how could the South POSSIBLY have decided to initiate war, when the North was three times larger than the South? It was easy to prove that neither of these wars could ever possibly occur -- until they did.
So the "war is bad for business" argument may challenge the motivation of SOME wars, but it clearly is completely irrelevant for many of the major wars of history.
I refer to this distinction frequently on this web site, but the current debate over China and Taiwan makes it appropriate to look at it a little differently.
These are two completely different war paradigms, reflecting two completely different ways that wars can begin. Few people grasp this distinction, even though it's crucial to understanding where the world is going today.
We've actually had two recent wars that illustrate this clear distinction:
Many of these arguments turned out to be wrong later, but that's not my point. My point is that this war was pursued in a methodical, rational manner, following months of debate. Even today, pursuit of war is still being debated -- in Congress, in the media, in the United Nations. This was illustrated by the "surge" scenario, which was pursued in conjunction with methodical, rational worldwide debate.
There was no lengthy international debate prior to the beginning of this war. To the contrary, this war was unthinkable before it happened. Prior to summer 2006, almost nobody even contemplated the possibility that Hizbollah would be showering Israel with missiles, and Israel would be bombing and destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. To say that such a war was "bad for business" is a vast understatement.
Once again, contrast this with the Iraq war just described, where it was debated endlessly before it happened, and various endgame scenarios were laid out by different parties supporting or opposing the war. There were no endgame scenarios laid out for the Israel-Lebanon war, because almost no one thought that such a war was even conceivable.
And yet, Israel panicked, miscalculated, and attacked Hizbollah and Lebanon within four hours after the kidnapping of two soldiers -- with no plan, no clear objectives. Once the war began, Israel blundered from one objective to another, one plan to another. The entire war was pursued through improvisation.
First, Israel would just pursue the war through air power. Then they'd need just a few ground forces. Then they'd need a few more ground forces. Finally there was a large Israeli army in Lebanon. If you'd like to refresh your memory about what happened, read "How Israel panicked in pursuing the summer Lebanon war with Hizbollah" and "Israeli governnment in crisis after report on war with Hizbollah."
What about international debate? There was indeed a great deal of international debate in the United Nations Security Council and in the world media -- but it only began well after the war started. And then what all the debate was about was how to create an international force that would sit "between" the Israeli and Hizbollah forces, so that the war could stop. Once again this contrasts with the Iraq war -- there was never any discussion of an international force to go between the American and Iraqi armed forces.
The fact is that when those two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, nothing else mattered. NOTHING. Israel's prime minister Ehud Olmert didn't ask, "How will this military action affect sales of Israeli bagels to Lebanese grocery stores?" All such reasons instantly dissolved into irrelevance. "War is bad for business" was not even a momentary consideration. Even though the Lebanon war was impossible before it happened, it happened anyway. And now, two years later, the two Israeli soldiers are still being held hostage by Hizbollah.
That's the flaw in the "war is bad for business" argument about China and Taiwan.
You have to understand this distinction if you want to understand where the world is going today. People don't think in terms of the "crisis war paradigm," because they've rarely seen anything like it since World War II ended, and when it occurs, it's considered an aberration.
The 1994 Rwanda genocide is an excellent example of a Crisis war, and the international community is still totally baffled as to what happened and why. They have NO IDEA what caused that genocide to occur.
And now we have the Darfur genocide. When it received worldwide attention in 2004, I predicted that the UN would not stop the genocide, because it was a Crisis war, and crisis wars have to run their course. That's exactly what happened, and now, four years later, the Darfur war appears to be no closer to a conclusion than it did in 2004.
That's why I say that politicians, journalists, analysts and historians have no idea about these two different war paradigms, even when they're perfectly obvious. The wars in Rwanda, Darfur, and Lebanon were launched as Crisis wars, and it never occurs to anyone that exactly the same thing could happen with China and Taiwan.
Furthermore, the generational aspect of this is all-important. These Crisis wars can only be launched during generational Crisis eras -- those periods of time beginning 55-60 years after the end of the last Crisis war, when all the survivors are disappearing (retiring or dying), all at once. As long as the survivors of the previous Crisis war are alive and in charge, they make it their life's goal to prevent anything to so horrible from happening again. When the survivors die off, the younger post-war generations have NO IDEA what's coming.
It's worth emphasizing this point more. People who lived during World War II, even as children, saw this kind of irrational, panicky warfare over and over. WW II was not just one war -- it was many wars being fought simultaneously, and each one of these component wars was shocking in its own way. People who lived through that recognize those kinds of panicky emotions, and they spend their lives preventing that kind of war from happening again.
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The survivor generations are so successful in preventing that kind of panicky war that the younger generations are completely unprepared for it. The US has had several non-crisis wars -- the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the 1991 Gulf War -- all fought in the "non-crisis war paradigm." Today's Boomers and Gen-Xers have never experienced anything remotely like a Crisis war.
And when they occur in other nations, they're considered aberrations. According to this reasoning, the Rwanda and Darfur wars are caused by tribal juices, and the Iran/Iraq war are caused by Arab war proclivities. This is nonsense. Crisis wars happen in all nations, though on different timelines.
That's exactly how these crisis wars begin, and how war with China will begin. Perhaps it will begin with an incident in Taiwan. Or perhaps it will begin with an incident with Japan over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands. Or, perhaps it will begin within China itself. One web site reader recently wrote to me that it's most likely to begin within central Asia. The scenario can't be predicted, but the final result is certain.
In discussing the Iraq and Lebanon wars above, I glossed over a couple of important points that I'd like to mention now:
For those students of generational theory who wish to understand what happens in a Crisis war, I cannot emphasize too strongly how valuable it is to study the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war.
When I wrote about the winners and losers of the Lebanon war, I contrasted the war styles of the two parties. Both sides followed their generational scripts almost to the letter.
Israel fought in a typical crisis era panicky "hot" war style, furiously bombing infrastructure, calling up new reserves every day, confronting Hizbollah terrorists on their own soil, and feeling very anxious about the U.N. peace deal after the war. In fact, the "58 year hypothesis" also applies to the Israeli situation -- it occurred 58 years after the 1948 partitioning of Palestine and creation of the state of Israel.
If Hizbollah had fought in a "hot" style, they would have crossed the border into Israel and killed Israelis in their own homes.
Instead, Hizbollah fought the war in a "cool," methodical non-crisis war style. They launched missiles from their home soil, retreating to their homes or to bunkers as needed. They methodically goaded Israeli into supplanting their air-only war with a ground war, requiring thousands of Israeli soldiers to fight on Lebanese soil. The goaded the Israelis into destroying Lebanese infrastructure, and killing Lebanese civilians, including women and children.
The contrast could not have been sharper, and clearly illuminates some of the major differences between crisis and non-crisis wars.
In the case of China and the United States today, the "war is bad for business" argument would have applied ten years ago, when there were plenty of survivors around from the two Crisis wars -- World War II for America, and Mao's Communist Revolution for China.
The level of anxiety and paranoia between China and the West is growing daily, as I wrote last week, in conjunction with Tibet and the Olympics torch protests. The West is becoming increasingly suspicious about China, and China is becoming increasingly furious with the West. As I wrote, there's plenty of anti-Chinese bigotry in the West, and the Chinese have good reason to be angry about it, but the problem is that the Chinese are increasingly crossing the line into paranoia, claiming that Western governments and media are purposely campaigning against China. This is exactly the kind of atmosphere that can lead to panic and a military intervention that spirals out of control into a full-fledged Crisis war.
In addition, the 58-year hypothesis fully applies to this situation, since Mao's Communist Revolution ended 59 years ago, in 1949, in the massive bloodbath that led millions of Chinese to flee to the island of Formosa (Taiwan).
Applying the 58 year hypothesis to China today is speculation, and so let's speculate. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee is made up of people in exactly the age group we're talking about -- roughly 63 years old and older, who remember that final bloodbath from their childhood. When these men and women talk to one another, they have a visceral connection with one another, not wanting that bloodbath to be repeated; when they talk to younger people, the younger people can barely figure out what they're talking about. That's the muscle behind the 58-year hypothesis.
In other words, the people in the CCP Central Committee may decide that time is not on their side. They may reach the conclusion that if they don't recover Taiwan quickly, then there'll be a negative outcome. What negative outcome? Here are some possibilities:
Once the Beijing Olympics games end in August, China is going to be a very different place. All the fantasies, hopes and dreams that accompanied the Olympics plans will be over, replaced by a reality that things are worse than ever -- economically and politically. The Central Committee, already in fear of their own people, will become even more paranoid.
It's speculative, but quite possible, that the people within the Central Committee will panic over one, two, three or all four of the above potential outcomes, and decide to launch some kind of overnight assault on Taiwan, "while there's still time." This would lead to threats and counter-threats that would quickly spiral into full scale war.
And as I said, that's only one possible war trigger. A panicky, paranoic CCP may launch military action with Japan, in central Asia, or within China itself.
And with the Shanghai stock market in the midst of a full-scale stock market crash, fury directed at America and the West is going to skyrocket.
And there is nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, about these scenarios that would make the "war is bad for business" argument relevant.
As I wrote over a year ago in "Barack Obama to Boomers: Drop dead!" Obama has made his dislike for Boomers very clear. Obama supporters last week were severely criticizing debate journalists for asking Obama embarassing questions, but as a Boomer I'd frankly like to hear his answer to the question of why he hates Boomers so much.
And so some remarks about foreign policy made a few weeks ago struck a chord with me. Here's what he said at a fundraiser in San Francisco on what he's looking for in a running mate:
It's ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags 'I've met leaders from eighty countries' -- I know what those trips are like! I've been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There's a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then--you go."
You do that in eighty countries--you don't know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa--knowing the leaders is not important--what I know is the people. ...
"I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college--I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ...
"Nobody is entirely prepared for being Commander-in-Chief. The question is when the 3 AM phone call comes do you have somebody who has the judgment, the temperament to ask the right questions, to weigh the costs and benefits of military action, who insists on good intelligence, who is not going to be swayed by the short-term politics. By most criteria, I've passed those tests and my two opponents have not."
What really bothers me about this is its total rejection of anything that he didn't think of, especially by Boomers. In extreme situations, Generation-Xers adopt a a nihilistic, destructive attitude, with the philosophy of ignoring or destroying everything that came before, in order to rebuild the world from a blank slate. Obama is not at that point, despite his extremely contemptuous remarks about Boomers, but his remarks about foreign policy are similar.
Most young people (and many older people) are attracted to Obama for that very reason -- his semi-nihilistic rejection of everything that came before as representing "change." Youth and inexperience do not guarantee the kind of change that's always welcome. President John Kennedy was the first of his generation, and was recognized as a youthful new leader heralding change. Kennedy's first major foreign policy forays -- the Bay of Pigs disaster and the Cuban Missile Crisis -- might have led to nuclear war with Russia if the 1960s had been a generational Crisis era, which it wasn't. A comparable mistake by a President Obama might well trigger a war, for which the United States might be blamed.
I've reserved these remarks about Obama for this article on the two different war paradigms, and how they apply to China and Taiwan, because this gives me the opportunity to add that none of the three major candidates is really prepared for what's coming.
Humphrey Hawksley's well-articulated article using the "war is bad for business" argument to prove that a war with China over Taiwan is virtually impossible represents a mindset that's held by practically every Boomer and Gen-Xer today, including almost everyone in Washington. Only John McCain might possibly have a better sense, having experienced WW II as a child. But overwhelmingly, Washington and the nation will be totally unprepared for a panicky military action by the Chinese, just as they were similarly unprepared for the Pearl Harbor attack.
A New York Times article about two Democratic supporters claims that the desire for change is so great that the party capturing the White House in 2008 has "a historic opportunity to become the majority party for at least four more decades."
That may or may not be true, but what I found interesting about the article is that the Democrats "have relied heavily in this volume on the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who in books like “Generations” (1991) and “Millennials Rising” (2000) have articulated a theory of generational change and who are acknowledged in these pages as key inspirations. Much of the methodology and terminology used here comes directly from the writings of Mr. Strauss and Mr. Howe, as do many of the qualities ascribed to specific generations like the Baby Boomers and the Millennials."
This paragraph is very interesting to me, because Neil Howe and the late William A. Strauss are the founding fathers of generational theory, and it's their theory on which Generational Dynamics was originally based.
And what's MOST interesting about the preceding paragraph is that it mentions two of Strauss and Howe's books, but completely skips over the one that came between them, the 1997 book The Fourth Turning. It's that book, in fact, that forms the heart of their exposition of generational theory, and provides the foundations for the Generational Dynamics forecasting methodology that I developed since 2003. In fact, it was that book that made Strauss and Howe famous, because it predicted that something like the 9/11 attacks would occur around the year 2005.
Well, why did these Democratic strategists mention two of Strauss and Howe's books, the ones that focus on personality characteristics of modern generations, but fail to mention the one that's really of greatest importance to America? My answer is that they prefer to remain oblivious to the Crisis era dangers, just like everyone else in Washington.
While I'm on this subject, it has been occasionally mentioned in the Fourth Turning forum that Newt Gingrich was friends with Strauss and Howe. Gingrich has frequently expressed the public opinion that we're currently in the middle of World War III. Did he form that opinion from the authors' theory as described in The Fourth Turning? Has he seen this web site? Or did he form that opinion in another way?
Perhaps all these mysteries will be resolved one day. Right now, America has no direction, and is hoping for "change." Generational theory tells us that "change" will come, but not from Obama or from any elected president. Change will come with the "regeneracy," a generational theory concept so named because some event -- perhaps a terrorist attack on American soil or perhaps severe military defeat of some kind -- will be so horrible that political bickering will end, and civic unity will be "regenerated" for the first time since the end of World War II.
That event may occur before the election, in which case it will be the dominant issue in the election, or it may come after the election, in which case the new president will have to deal with it.
I'd like to quote one more news story, a "Reporter's Notebook" story by National Public Radio reporter Anthony Kuhn:
NPR.org, April 22, 2008 · We foreign correspondents in China knew this was going to be a historic year, especially with the Olympics. I did not expect the run-up to the games to be free of controversy.
But I did not foresee that the unrest in Tibet and Olympics-related protests would turn into a national crisis of sorts for China. That crisis has now triggered a sharp nationalistic response and made this a defining moment that will affect how young Chinese perceive the West and vice versa.
Rather than an affirming patriotism, this backlash often manifests itself as an intolerant nationalism, as illustrated by two recent news items. In the case of Duke University freshman Grace Wang, pro-China protesters and Internet users labeled her a traitor — and hounded her parents in China into hiding — merely for refusing to stand with them, for communicating with the pro-Tibet students, and urging dialogue between the two camps.
Paralympic fencer Jin Jing [see my article discussing Jin Jing - JX], meanwhile, was hailed a national hero for defending the Olympic flame against protesters in Paris, only to be cursed as a turncoat when she refused to support a boycott of the French retail store Carrefour. Many Chinese have been dismayed by the irrationality of the Carrefour boycott, in light of the fact that it is a Sino-French joint venture which employs mostly Chinese people and sells mostly Chinese products.
It is, however, an easy target. And that can be said of the foreign media as well. Several of my colleagues have had their pictures and contacts posted on the Internet. Many of us have received death threats and hate mail. One or two have fled the country for security reasons. Others are just despondent at being the target of ill will from the population of our host country."
Kuhn is describing his personal shock and surprise at the "backlash" and "intolerant nationalism" that has been engendered in the Chinese by the recent events related to Tibet and the Olympics. Kuhn expects these feelings of "intolerant nationalism" to dissipate once the Olympics games are over, because that's what's happened his entire life. But it's different now, because this is a generational Crisis era, and wasn't before. You can be certain that the "intolerant nationalism" will only continue to increase, until it leads to some panicky violent confrontation, and you can be certain that intolerance towards the Chinese will grow in the West, as well.
That's why it really doesn't matter which of the three -- Obama,
Clinton or McCain -- gets elected President. Whoever he or she is, the
new President will face the greatest danger in America's history, and
will have a unified country behind him to face that danger. At that
time, the sweet, wonderful kids in the new "greatest generation" will
march off to war when asked, with no complaints and no fear, to save
America and the West, as has happened before.
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