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10751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 13, 2010, 05:28:54 PM
**Should we let China freely import opiates here, turnabout being fair play and all.....**

British and American merchants, anxious to address what they perceived as a trade imbalance, determined to import the one product that the Chinese did not themselves have but which an ever-increasing number of them wanted: opium. Before 1828, large quantities of the Spanish silver coin, the Carolus, flowed into China in payment for the exotic commodities that Europeans craved; in contrast, in the decade of the 1830s, despite an imperial decree outlawing the export of yellow gold and white silver, "only $7,303,841 worth of silver was imported, whereas the silver exported was estimated at $26,618, 815 in the foreign silver coin, $25,548,205 in sycee, and $3,616,996 in gold" (Kuo, p. 51). although the Chinese imperial governed had long prohibited the drug except for medicinal use, the "British Hong" (companies such as Dent, Jardine, and Matheson authorized to operate in Canton) bought cheaply produced opium in the Begal and Malwa (princely) districts under the auspices of the British East India Company, the number 150 lb. chests of the narcotic being imported rising from 9,708 in 1820 to 35,445 in 1835. With the British government's 1833 cancellation of the trade monopoly enjoyed by the East India Company, cheap opium flooded the market, and China's net outflow of silver amounted to some 34 million Mexican silver dollars over the course of the 1830s.

67th Foot taking [a] fort. [Clock on thumbnail for larger image/]

As the habit of smoking opium spread from the idle rich to ninety per cent of all Chinese males under the age of forty in the country's coastal regions, business activity was much reduced, the civil service ground to a halt, and the standard of living fell. The Emperor Dao guang's special anti-opium commissioner Lin Ze-xu (1785-1850), modestly estimated the number of his countrymen addicted to the drug to be 4 million, but a British physician practising in Canton set the figure at 12 million. Equally disturbing for the imperial government was the imbalance of trade with the West: whereas prior to 1810 Western nations had been spending 350 million Mexican silver dollars on porcelain, cotton, silks, brocades, and various grades of tea, by 1837 opium represented 57 per cent of Chinese imports, and for fiscal 1835-36 alone China exported 4.5 million silver dollars. The official sent in 1838 by the Emperor Dao guang (1821-1850) of the Qing Dynasty to confiscate and destroy all imports of opium, Lin Ze-xu, calculated that in fiscal 1839 Chinese opium smokers consumed 100 million taels' worth of the drug while the entire spending by the imperial government that year spent 40 million taels. He reportedly concluded, "If we continue to allow this trade to flourish, in a few dozen years we will find ourselves not only with no soldiers to resist the enemy, but also with no money to equip the army" quoted by Chesneaux et al., p. 55). By the late 1830s, foreign merchant vessels, notably those of Britain and the United States, were landing over 30,000 chests annually. Meantime, corrupt officials in the hoppo (customs office) and ruthless merchants in the port cities were accumulating wealth beyond "all the tea in China" by defying imperial interdictions that had existed in principle since 1796. The standard rate for an official's turning a blind eye to the importation of a single crate of opium was 80 taels. Between 1821 and 1837 the illegal importation of opium (theoretically a capital offence) increased five fold. A hotbed of vice, bribery, and disloyalty to the Emperor's authority, the opium port of Canton would be the flashpoint for the inevitable clash between the governments of China and Great Britain.
10752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 13, 2010, 04:23:33 PM

''Open Fields.'' --In Hester v. United States, 96 the Court held that the Fourth Amendment did not protect ''open fields'' and that, therefore, police searches in such areas as pastures, wooded areas, open water, and vacant lots need not comply with the requirements of warrants and probable cause. The Court's announcement in Katz v. United States 97 that the Amendment protects ''people not places'' cast some doubt on the vitality of the open fields principle, but all such doubts were cast away in Oliver v. United States. 98 Invoking Hester's reliance on the literal wording of the Fourth Amendment (open fields are not ''effects'') and distinguishing Katz, the Court ruled that the open fields exception applies to fields that are fenced and posted. ''[A]n individual may not legitimately demand privacy for activities conducted out of doors in fields, except in the area immediately surrounding the home.'' 99 Nor may an individual demand privacy for activities conducted within outbuildings and visible by trespassers peering into the buildings from just outside. 100 Even within the curtilage and notwithstanding that the owner has gone to the extreme of erecting a 10- foot high fence in order to screen the area from ground-level view, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy from naked-eye inspection from fixed-wing aircraft flying in navigable airspace. 101 Similarly, naked-eye inspection from helicopters flying even lower contravenes no reasonable expectation of privacy. 102 And aerial photography of commercial facilities secured from ground-level public view is permissible, the Court finding such spaces more analogous to open fields than to the curtilage of a dwelling. 103 

  ''Plain View.'' --Somewhat similar in rationale is the rule that objects falling in the ''plain view'' of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure without a warrant 104 or that if the officer needs a warrant or probable cause to search and seize his lawful observation will provide grounds therefor. 105 The plain view doctrine is limited, however, by the probable cause requirement: officers must have probable cause to believe that items in plain view are contraband before they may search or seize them. 106 

The Court has analogized from the plain view doctrine to hold that once officers have lawfully observed contraband, ''the owner's privacy interest in that item is lost,'' and officers may reseal a container, trace its path through a controlled delivery, and seize and reopen the container without a warrant. 107   
10753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 13, 2010, 04:11:14 PM
Can anyone explain why the Chinese are so bitter about the end of their prohibition of opium? You'd think that they would have thanked the Brits, given how wonderful having free access to large quantities of addictive drugs was for them.
10754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 13, 2010, 04:02:36 PM
Last point first:  My proposition is that amongst the unenumerated rates of the 9th are the right to privacy and the right of self-defense.

Private Open Fields:  Hypothetical:  I have private property which extends further than the human eye can see.  I am standing on the property where no one not on the property can see me.  Question presented:  Do I have privacy, or can the Feds, who presumably have a right to be in outer space, spy on me from outer space?  Or, can they spy on me from a drone?

Do you control the air space over your property? Could a private aircraft fly over and see you? Much like those celebrity weddings and the paparazzi flying overhead to try to get photos, or a news chopper trying for mystery missile footage, we have numerous aircraft photographing footage everywhere but restricted airspace. You've got both government and privately owned satellites with very detailed photographic equipment overhead constantly. The courts have upheld that using aircraft to spot marijuana grows on private property that couldn't be approached on foot was lawful, again open fields/plain view doctrines.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

**So, after decades of 4th amendment caselaw related to search and seizure, we're going to reach into the 9th amendment bag of tricks and create new privacy rights when the fourth has already clearly defined them? What would that look like? Do we reverse every conviction now? Explain how the missing blonde case would be different with your concept of privacy. The rapist didn't sign a release to be recorded by the hotel security cameras. Was his right of privacy violated?**

10755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 13, 2010, 09:54:14 AM

GM et al:

a) I would submit that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the public sphere if there is no one in sight, yet this technology would invade that privacy.

**Just because you can't see someone, doesn't mean someone can't see you. A reasonable expectation of privacy can be said to exist in a place where someone exhibits an actual expectation of privacy that society recognizes as reasonable.**

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy (I) (podcast transcript)

Tim:  Hi, this is Tim Miller and Jenna Solari. We’re back again talking about a 4th Amendment search.  We discussed previously that the Fourth Amendment is triggered by a government intrusion into a place where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Now Jenna, you told me who a government agent was, now let’s talk about reasonable expectation of privacy.  Again, a government agent going into a place were one has a reasonable expectation of privacy triggers the 4th Amendment, correct?

Jenna:  Yes, that’s right.

Tim:  OK now, what’s a reasonable expectation of privacy?

Jenna:  Well, a reasonable expectation of privacy, or “REP,” can be said to exist in a place where someone exhibits an actual expectation of privacy that society recognizes as reasonable.

Tim:  Sounds like a two part test.

Jenna:  It is actually.  There’s a subjective component, and that’s that actual expectation of privacy.  So that would mean that someone actually believes that an item or an area has been concealed from public view. So, for instance, I’m in my hotel room and I want to have a private conversation with someone so I try to keep my voice low enough that I believe no one else can hear what I am saying.  But then there is that second part of the two part test you mentioned, the objective test.  Society has to agree that what I am doing to conceal something is reasonable, that I have taken appropriate steps to conceal something from public view.  For instance, I am in that hotel room and I actually think that I am keeping my voice low enough so no one else can hear me, so I have that subjective part satisfied.  But objectively, let’s say my voice is actually loud enough that someone can hear me out in the hallway where they have every right to be.   So if a federal agent just happens to be standing out in the hallway and unbeknownst to me my voice is loud enough that he can hear what I am saying, then I don’t have that objective expectation of privacy.  Society is not willing to agree that what I am doing is a reasonable way to keep myself from being overheard.  So I wouldn’t have any REP in my conversation.

Tim:  OK, well how about giving me some examples of how a person might exhibit an expectation of privacy that society is willing to accept as being reasonable.

Jenna:  OK, well, I think the simplest example would be if you have an item you want conceal from public view, put it in an opaque container.  Put it inside a suitcase or a backpack, or if you want to keep it in your car, put it in the glove box or the trunk where people can’t see it when they just happen to be walking by.  If we’re talking about your body, we know that people typically have the highest expectation of privacy in their bodies and in their houses.  So, let’s say you have a tattoo on your left bicep you don’t want people to see.  The best way to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that is to put on a shirt that covers it up. Don’t walk around, you know, with a tank top on so the whole world can see your tattoo.  Things inside the body have an incredibly high expectation of privacy that’s recognized by the courts.  So, if you think of your skin as a giant container, everything within your body, like blood, saliva, urine -- you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in those things.  Putting something inside your house, for the most part, gives you a reasonable expectation of privacy in that item, that is unless again, you put it somewhere where the whole world can see it.  Let’s say you put it in your living room picture window where someone can see it from the street – then, again, society would not agree that you’ve taken reasonable steps to keep that secure from public view.  But if you put it away somewhere where people couldn’t see it, then you’d have REP in that item.  So things like that.

Tim:  Sounds to me like if you put it inside of a container or you cover it up, society’s probably going to give you an expectation of privacy.

Jenna:  Yes, that’s right.

Tim:  Now, you know, a lot of kids nowadays have transparent book containers, book bags, and I think I know the answer to this, but can a child reasonably expect privacy in a transparent book bag?

Jenna:  No, and that’s really the whole reason behind it.  They’re required to carry transparent book bags, I assume, so that everybody can see what they have in there.  So, they really wouldn’t have any reasonable expectation of privacy in those things that are inside that book bag, because again, they are out there for the whole world to see.

Tim:  OK, well, you know, a trash can is a container.  Can I reasonably expect privacy inside my trash can?

Jenna:  That depends on where your trash can is, actually.  If it’s inside your house, again, things that are inside your house usually get the highest protection from the courts so, yeah, you’d have REP in your trash, inside your trash can while it is still in your house.  Now it gets a little different as the trash moves further from your house.  If it’s still close to the house -- let’s say it’s just inside your garage or maybe just outside your front door -- that’s on that area that we call curtilage, and we will talk about that a little later, you probably still have REP in that trash in your trash can.  It’s really when you put it out wherever collection takes place -- when you put it out on the street corner or the street in front of your house, what you have essentially done is told the whole world “I don’t want any of this any more.”  You’ve abandoned that property and said “I want the trash man to take it away.”  So, at that point you would not have any REP in that trash, even if you thought you did.  Even if you actually thought that was private until the trash man took it, at that point society says, “no, you’ve thrown that away so you don’t have REP in that anymore.”

Tim:  So, first, it has to be an actual expectation of privacy, and secondly, society has to recognize it as being reasonable.

Jenna:  Yes, sir, that’s right.

Tim:  OK, who can reasonably expect this privacy?  For example, you know, I’ve got a house, it’s my house.  I live there; I assume I can expect privacy inside my house.

Jenna:  Absolutely.

Tim:  Anybody else?

Jenna:  Sure, if you had overnight guests in your house, let’s say friends of yours or family members came to visit and you let them stay overnight.  Then you’ve essentially given them the run of at least part of your house. They have brought their private belongings in there and sort of established themselves in a room; they’d have REP inside your house.  Social guests who stay for an extended period of time or who come by your house pretty frequently -- maybe they keep things in your house or inside your garage -- they may have REP in your house to some extent.  I can tell you that people who wouldn’t have REP in there would be your commercial visitors, somebody who comes by just to sell you something or someone you invite just inside your front door maybe for five minutes at a time wouldn’t have any REP in your house.

Tim:  So my mom and dad coming to visit for the weekend, they probably have an REP inside my house?

Jenna:  Yes.

Tim:  However, the paperboy coming to collect the bill would not.

Jenna:  Right, the paperboy wouldn’t.  Or, let’s say the pizza guy, who just steps inside for a second while you go get some cash to pay him for the pizza, he wouldn’t have any REP inside your house.  He’s just that commercial visitor who stopped by for a few minutes.

Tim:  How about people who rent hotel rooms?  I guess the person who rents the room would have an REP inside that hotel room, would he not?

Jenna:  Sure, because it’s really -- our 4th Amendment protection isn’t limited to just houses as physical structures.  Really we are talking about dwellings, where people live, as least for some period of time.  So, that would include a hotel room.  And of course if you rented the room, you would have REP in the room. Someone else could, as well.  Let’s say you and someone else go on a trip and so that person is sharing a room with you.  That person has REP in there even if they weren’t the ones actually paying for it.  They have a room key, which means they have the right to exclude people.  They’re keeping things inside the room, so they would have REP in the room as well.

Tim:  OK, I’ve got a car.  I own that car; it’s my car -- I assume I have reasonable expectation of privacy in it.

Jenna:  Yes, you would.

Tim:  How about the passengers?

Jenna:  Mere -- we call “mere passengers” is what I think you’re referring to -- usually have no REP in the car itself.  And when I say “mere passenger” I mean, I’ve never borrowed your car, I don’t drive your car around, but at the end of work today I say, “Hey, Mr. Miller, can I grab a ride up to the front gate with you?” “Sure no problem,” you give me a ride up to the front gate.  I’m just a mere passenger; I’m just along for a ride, so I don’t have any REP in your car or in the glove box or in the trunk.  But I would retain REP in, say, I carry a briefcase and a purse from home to work every day.  So when I bring those things into your car, I would still have an expectation of privacy in my belongings, I just would not have any REP in your car.  Now, of course, it might be a little bit different if you shared that car with someone else -- a friend, a spouse or something like that.  Now that person might have REP in the car if they are authorized to drive it around or they use it a good bit.  But a mere passenger wouldn’t.

Tim:  OK, why make a big deal out of all this, I mean, who has the REP?  For example, suppose, I don’t know, Dillinger and I rob a bank. Dillinger owns the car, he drives the getaway car and we throw the guns and the money inside the trunk of Dillinger’s car.  The cops then search the car and find that evidence.  Can I get that evidence suppressed if the search is unreasonable?

Jenna:  No, actually, and as I understand it it’s Dillinger’s car, right?

Tim:  Right, yes.  

Jenna:  And you are essentially what we call a mere passenger, right?  You’re basically just hitching a ride away from the bank robbery?

Tim:  Check, I am just a mere passenger.

Jenna:  Ok, so then, no, it would be the same situation as when you give me a ride up to the front gate -- I can’t have any REP in your glove box or in your trunk, so when the police search the car and they find the evidence in that trunk, Dillinger could complain about that search because that is his reasonable expectation of privacy.  He could complain about whether it was reasonable or not.  You couldn’t, though, because you don’t have any REP in that area, and we call that “no standing to object.”  The only person who could object to the search is the person whose REP was intruded upon.

Tim:  So, if I had no standing to object, I couldn’t object to the search even if it was unreasonable.

b) This technology can also spy on us when we are on private property.

**Two related doctrines apply, Plain View and Open Fields.**

Plain View (podcast transcript)

Miller: Jenna, let’s get this straight. There’s no REP in what an officer can see, hear or smell from a place he or she rightfully occupies; correct?

Solari: That’s right.

Miller: And that’s Mr. Hunsucker’s analogy “right to be, right to see.” So, if I’m a cop, standing on a public sidewalk, looking into the picture window of 123 Main Street and see a plant that I know is marijuana, I’ve not triggered the 4th Amendment. Isn’t that correct?

Solari: That’s right.

Miller: Why is the marijuana plant not considered to be in plain view?

Solari: Well, because you’ve only established two out of the three requirements for plain view. You have to observe the marijuana from a place you have a right to be. You satisfied this requirement in your example. You made the observation from a public sidewalk. Second, the incriminating nature of the evidence (the marijuana plant you can see through that picture window at 123 Main Street) has to be readily apparent. You satisfied that requirement too. Through your training and experience as a police officer you know what marijuana looks like.

Miller: So, what’s missing?

Solari: You have no lawful right of access. In your example, you haven’t explained that you have a warrant or any exception to the warrant requirement to actually enter or access 123 Main Street.

Miller: So, the plain view exception to the warrant requirement has three requirements. The officer must see the item from a place he or she rightfully occupies; it’s incriminating or evidentiary nature must be readily apparent to the officer; and, thirdly the officer must be able to lawfully access the evidence.

Solari: That’s right.

Miller: Is that right?

Solari: That’s right.

Miller: Now, in my example, I was lawfully present on the sidewalk when I observed the marijuana. How can I lawfully get inside 123 Main Street and make more observations?

Solari: Use what you’ve already seen and get an arrest warrant for the resident of 123 Main Street for possession of marijuana. Use what you’ve already seen through the picture window to go get a search warrant for that location. If you don’t have an arrest warrant or a search warrant, maybe there’s an exception to the warrant requirement that might let you inside. Maybe if you knock on the door you can get consent. If somebody runs inside whom you’re trying to apprehend maybe you can use hot pursuit. If the person inside 123 Main Street saw you looking through the picture window at his marijuana plant, grabbed it and made a dash for the garbage disposal, maybe you could use your probable cause coupled with destruction of evidence and use that exception to the warrant requirement.

Miller: The second requirement was that the evidentiary nature of the item must be readily apparent. That sounds almost like probable cause to me, correct?

Solari: Right

Miller: And based on training and experience, I think most officers can probably readily identify a marijuana plant.

Solari: Sure. I would think so. Readily apparent like you said means that the officer has probable cause to believe that whatever he or she is looking at is evidence of a crime - you can tell simply by looking at it. The officer has facts and circumstances made known to him, and those facts coupled with the officer’s observations, make the evidentiary nature of the object readily apparent. For example, let’s say officers are executing a search warrant inside 123 Main Street for a stolen television set. They know the resident’s a convicted felon and while their looking for the TV in places where they have a right to look, they see a handgun laying right there on the coffee table. Now obviously as a general matter, officers can secure firearms in a safe place during a search; however, in this case, there’s also probable cause to seize that firearm as evidence of a crime because the officers at the scene knows that a convicted felon in possession of a firearm is in violation of 18 USC §922 and of course that firearm does appear to be within the possession of a convicted felon.

Miller: Now finally, this third requirement is that the officer must have a lawful right of access.

Solari: Right and this is tricky. There’s a difference between lawfully present when the officer makes her observation and lawful access. Lawfully present refers to the officer’s position when she makes the observation. Lawful access refers to where she must be to actually put a hand on the item and retrieve it. So in your example, you were lawfully present on a sidewalk when you observed that marijuana through the picture window of 123 Main Street; however, you couldn’t actually lawfully put your hand out and touch that plant and seize it. You had no right of access.

Miller: Let’s assume I’ve got authority to be inside 123 Main Street where we saw that marijuana plant. Does that automatically allow me to go to the picture window and grab it?

Solari: Not necessarily. I’ve got to know what your authority is to actually access the room where you saw the marijuana growing. If you’ve got a search warrant to search 123 Main Street, then I’ll bet you’ve got authority to go search anywhere in that house where marijuana could be, so you’re probably going to get the plant then; however, if you knocked on the door and the owner let you in, but he refused to let you go any further than the foyer you still have no right of access to that plant you saw growing in the living room.

Open Field Doctrine Law & Legal Definition

The open field doctrine is a term used in criminal law to stand for the concept that anything plainly visible to the eye, even if it’s on private property, is subject to a search since it’s not hidden. Under this doctrine, consent to inspect the location is not required in order for a law enforcement officer to observe and report on things in plain view and include observations made. An open field is not an area protected under the Fourth Amendment, and there is no expectation of a right of privacy for an open field.

Is there no articulable principal of privacy here?  Is there no 9th Amendment right?

**The 9th (The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.) would seem to me as not applicable, given that the above caselaw/doctrine comes from the previously enumerated 4th amendment.**
10756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 13, 2010, 12:18:27 AM
The federal employees either directly employed as law enforcement officers, or support personnel are a very small percentage of that.
10757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Bad Plan Poorly Disguised on: November 12, 2010, 10:32:28 PM

A Bad Plan Poorly Disguised
November 12, 2010 - 5:28am — europac admin
John Browne
Friday, November 12, 2010

With our economy sagging and our international clout waning, one of the few assets upon which the United States can rely is the confidence that the rest of the world has traditionally showered upon us. That confidence is the reason why the US dollar was elevated to global reserve status more than 65 years ago.

With so much riding on perception, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s recent statements denying the existence of a dollar debasement campaign could not be seen as anything less than foolhardy.

Responding to a critique made in a Financial Times opinion piece by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Geithner asserted, " We will never seek to weaken our currency as a tool to gain competitive advantage or to grow the economy.” Instead, he attributed recent dollar weakness to the reversal of  “safe haven” capital flows that had been legion during the financial crisis but which have abated as the global economy has recovered.

One must scour the earth with great care to find an individual who would agree with Mr. Geithner on this point. It’s clear from myriad other actions that the Administration sees a weaker dollar as a panacea for our economic problems. The blatant misinformation relayed by the Treasury Secretary can only serve to further increase already high tensions at the G-20 summit now underway in Seoul, South Korea. 

Over at the Federal Reserve, Chairman Bernanke doesn’t talk about currency debasement. Instead, he extols the virtues of “pushing up inflation to levels consistent with our mandate.” He hopes that no one will understand that he is using different adjectives to describe the same action. With the possible exception of the New York Times editorial board, he is fooling no one.

Given that the Administration and the Fed are prepared to sacrifice precious credibility for the goal of currency debasement, many may assume that there is some benefit for America that would be derived from a weaker dollar. Unfortunately, there isn’t.

Advocates of a weaker dollar point to two claimed advantages offered by a falling currency.

First, and most obviously, proponents claim that cheap dollars would reduce the prices of US exports, making them increasingly competitive. That is partially correct. While lowering prices may help to spur sales in the short-term, it does not necessarily improve the long-term prospects of the seller.

Exporters (and all other businesses for that matter) that focus on selling on price competitiveness alone ignore other vital elements of the marketing mix, such as innovation, design, quality, delivery, and after-sales service. For example, Germany and Japan have developed world leading export volumes without relying on price as their primary advantage.

History shows that, over the medium- to long-term, a devalued currency leads to increased trade deficits. Furthermore, a currency debasement policy for the US dollar, still the world’s reserve currency, is bound to spark a climate of international competitive devaluation – a currency war – as each nation fights to protect its balance of trade. If not corrected, such currency battles lead all too easily to trade wars, and they, in turn, often result in armed conflict.

The second, and more compelling, argument for Washington to pursue currency debasement is that a devalued dollar would wipe out large amounts of dollar debt. This amounts to a huge subsidy to debtors at the expense of savers, and no one owes more than the US government. 

When measured against the standard basket of currencies, the US dollar has fallen by some 30 percent over the past decade. However, most of those currencies are also depreciating in real terms. So what is real? Most likely, precious metals’ prices, discounted somewhat to allow for investor speculation, represent an absolute measure. Silver has risen by some 56 percent in the past 10 months. Gold has gained some 30 percent this year, and some 400 percent over the past decade!

So if we assume a conservative 40 percent devaluation of the US dollar over the past ten years, our current $13.4 trillion federal debt is equivalent to an only $8 trillion liability in 2001 dollars – the rest is just inflation. The $189 trillion of unfunded obligations to Social Security, Medicare, government pensions, etc. would appear as $113 trillion a decade ago!

It is clear that a debased currency suits the US government, but what of Americans? The 40 percent devaluation equates to a 40 percent tax on every holder of US dollars, rich and poor alike. It has hindered, rather than encouraged, consumer spending. It forces Americans to make do with less, purchase shoddier products, and deal with inferior service. Sometimes it’s hard to perceive slowly ebbing living standards, but take a look around and think whether you feel richer than a decade ago.

If dollar devaluation becomes too pronounced, Washington threatens to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs: namely, the dollar’s reserve status. If that were to happen, a global financial crisis of staggering intensity would surely erupt, the resolution of which would not favor the United States.

Whether or not it is openly acknowledged, the US government is pursuing a policy of great risk that offers no reward at the end of the tunnel. It’s the worst of all possible worlds. Wise investors will reduce still further their exposure to US dollars and debt, while increasing their allocations to precious metals, key commodities, hard currencies, and emerging markets. Wise governments are already doing so.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Please feel free to repost with proper attribution and all links included.
10758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 12, 2010, 09:11:41 PM
The more data you gather, the more analysts you need to turn the data into intel to be disseminated. Were a drone to fly over you, and no one views it, would that matter? Again, it goes back to "reasonable expectation of privacy". In the public sphere, you don't have it.
10759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: November 12, 2010, 05:15:53 PM

On another front, what, if anything stops the Feds from using this on us?

Money, personnel.
10760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Top dems: Obama doesn't know what he's doing on: November 12, 2010, 05:01:31 PM

Anyone surprised to hear this?
10761  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / How heavy is his backpack? on: November 12, 2010, 03:53:27 PM

Heavy Backpacks Strain Kids' Spines
Study Shows Book-Filled Backpacks May Lead to Back Pain in Children


Heavier backpack loads were also associated with increased curvature of the lower spine. Half of the children had a significant spinal curve even with the 18-pound backpack. Most of the children had to adjust their posture to adapt to the heaviest, 26-pound backpack load.

The amount of back pain reported by the children also increased as backpack load increased. At the heaviest load, the average pain score was nearly 5 out of 10 for the children.

Researchers say the results show heavy backpacks cause compression of the spinal discs and increased spinal curvature that are related to the back pain reported by children.

In the study, children wore the backpacks with the straps over both shoulders, but researchers say the spinal curvature could be even worse if the backpack were carried over one shoulder as many children do.
10762  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Chiropractic for children? on: November 12, 2010, 01:12:46 PM
Did she say why he is suffering the misalignment? Have you consulted with his pediatrician about this?
10763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Change the "V" to a "D" on: November 12, 2010, 12:54:01 PM

During its time with us, our 2011 Chevy Volt tester consumed energy at the rate of 39.0 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles when in electric-only mode and averaged 31.1 mpg in gas engine assistance mode. We paid an average of $0.31 per kilowatt-hour of electricity and $3.31 per gallon of 91 octane swill, so the magic of arithmetic tells us that each one of the Volt's miles driven on electricity cost us more money than if it'd simply consumed gasoline instead. That's due in part to our high electricity rate - had our rate dropped to $0.24 per kilowatt-hour, we'd have reached parity on a cost-per-mile basis between electrons and dinosaurs.
10764  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Case of the Vanishing Blonde on: November 12, 2010, 12:32:32 PM
That is some outstanding investigative work. Very nice!
10765  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Chiropractic for children? on: November 12, 2010, 12:25:00 PM
What did your chiro say?
10766  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: November 12, 2010, 12:02:57 PM

A Child’s Death in No-Man’s Land
Few parents fret over the prospect of their child getting shot in the backyard. What kind of a place must it be where they do?
November 11, 2010 - by Jack Dunphy

For a five-year old boy, there are few events in life that can bring such sublime flights of anticipation as Halloween. Yes, Christmas is up there, with the season’s lights and decorations and promise of long-wished-for presents. And birthdays, too, have their attractions. Along with the gifts comes the advantage of being an entire year older, and what five-year-old boy doesn’t dream of finally attaining the maturity and exalted status of a six-year-old.

Aaron Shannon Jr. won’t see his sixth birthday. On the afternoon of Halloween, as he counted down the minutes to nightfall and the adventure of trick-or-treating, he was shot and killed in his backyard. He was wearing his Spider-Man costume when he died.

Most parents fret over the hazards of Halloween: the strangers, the traffic, the effects of big sugar on little bellies. Few parents fret over the prospect of their child getting shot in the backyard. What kind of a place must it be where they do?

Such a place is the neighborhood around 84th Street and Central Avenue, in South Central Los Angeles, where Aaron lived and died.

A visitor to Los Angeles might arrive at LAX and drive east on Manchester Avenue for twenty minutes or so and then turn north on Central Avenue, where, miles in the distance straight ahead, he would see the gleaming steel and glass towers of downtown.  On clear afternoons, as it was on Halloween, the setting sun reflects off those buildings to create a brilliant tableau, but the visitor would note that the scenery on either side of Central is far less spectacular: drab storefronts, modest apartment buildings, and a few neighborhood churches. The visitor wouldn’t detect any significant differences between the east side of the street and the west side.

But there is a huge difference, one that is well known to all who live and work in the area. Aaron lived on the west side of Central, in a neighborhood claimed by a particular street gang. Another street gang claims the territory to the east of Central, and when members of each gang cross that great divide into the other’s turf, they almost always do so in search of trouble.

Police claim that on the afternoon of Oct. 31, two members of the gang from the east side of Central Avenue crossed that invisible boundary hoping to settle the score for an earlier shooting. They walked down the alley behind Aaron’s house looking for targets and, on seeing people in a backyard, one of them raised a pistol and opened fire. Aaron’s grandfather and uncle were struck in an arm and a leg, respectively, and survived. Aaron, little Spider-Man, was shot in the head and never had a chance. Police say no one in the family belonged to a gang.

If you don’t live in Los Angeles — and perhaps even if you do — chances are you hadn’t heard what happened to Aaron Shannon Jr. But no matter where you live, if you follow the news at all you’ve surely heard of Oscar Grant, the man shot and killed in Oakland, California, by a BART police officer in the early morning of January 1, 2009. Grant’s death sparked rioting in Oakland, as did the outcome of the prosecution of the officer who shot him. Johannes Mehserle was charged with murder but a jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter and he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Both the verdict and the sentence were well within the law and entirely foreseeable, yet they nonetheless brought outraged cries from those quarters where such cries have come to be expected. And accompanying the outraged cries were the looting and vandalism which, alas, have also come to be expected.

On Nov. 5, the day Mehserle was sentenced, demonstrators gathered outside the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles (the trial had been moved from Alameda County on a defense motion for a change of venue). Many held signs adorned with a simple message: “I am Oscar Grant.”

If you were to listen to those who protested on behalf of Oscar Grant, you might have the impression that the greatest threat to any black man in Oakland — or Los Angeles or any city you choose — is posed by racist cops itching for an excuse to gun him down. But about seven people are murdered each month in Oakland, nearly all of them young black men shot by other young black men. And yet as those bodies pile up no one marches, no one shouts, no one seems outraged in the least by the carnage.

On Nov. 6, a candlelight vigil was held at the LAPD’s 77th Street police station in memory of Aaron. Less than a hundred people attended, judging from the brief video report shown on the local news. There was no screaming, no hysterics, not even calls for vengeance against the two men accused of killing Aaron. And there most certainly was no mob rushing off to the nearest Foot Locker store to help themselves to the latest models from Nike. And if the two men accused of murdering Aaron somehow manage to beat the case or bargain for a reduced sentence, that too will be greeted not with outrage but rather with sad resignation.

I don’t begrudge Oscar Grant and his family the sympathy they’ve received. His death was indeed tragic and, whatever his faults, he left behind people who loved him. But of all those people demonstrating outside the L.A. courthouse in his name, I doubt a single one of them could have told you who Aaron Shannon Jr. was.

And that’s something to scream about.

“Jack Dunphy” is the pseudonym of an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.
10767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Perhaps more bowing is needed? on: November 12, 2010, 11:29:39 AM

Obama fails to get G-20 to scold China for what Obama is doing with QE2

posted at 10:12 am on November 12, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

For years, the US has protested China’s policy of keeping the value of its currency artificially low to boost exports and gain a competitive edge over domestic production throughout the West.  Until recently, the US had a coalition of allies at the G-20 to stand firm against the manipulation of the yuan.  However, much to Barack Obama’s shock, they’re not as interested in scolding China for manipulating its currency while the Obama administration has done the same with its second round of “quantitative easing”:

    Leaders of 20 major economies on Friday refused to endorse a U.S. push to get China to let its currency rise, keeping alive a dispute that has raised the specter of a global trade war amid criticism that cheap Chinese exports are costing American jobs. …

    The biggest disappointment for the United States was the pledge by the leaders to refrain from “competitive devaluation” of currencies. Such a statement is of little consequence since countries usually only devalue their currencies — making it less worth against the dollar — in extreme situations like a severe financial crisis.

The AP report takes six paragraphs to explain why the G-20 essentially laughed in Obama’s face:

    The crux of the dispute is Washington’s allegations that Beijing is artificially keeping its currency, the yuan, weak to gain a trade advantage. But the U.S. position has been undermined by its own recent policy of printing money to boost a sluggish economy, which is weakening the dollar.

    The G-20′s failure to adopt the U.S. stand has also underlined Washington’s reduced influence on the international stage, especially on economic matters. Obama also failed to conclude a free trade agreement this week with South Korea.

Yes, it does make it difficult to get allies in an effort to stop China from manipulating its currency to gain advantage on exports when we’re explicitly doing the same thing ourselves.  The G-20 didn’t do much before now anyway to fight back against China, but at least they gave the effort lip service.  With the Obama administration attempting to undermine the Eurozone on exports, even that modicum of support has evaporated.

The G-20 just delivered a big message to Obama, which is that American leadership on economics is sailing away on the QE2.  Did he get the message?  Not exactly.  Obama tried to spin this into some sort of victory, saying that “sometimes we’re going to hit singles” rather than home runs.  This was neither; it was a whiff.

As the AP makes clear, it was a bad omen, and perhaps the echoes of a larger disaster:

    The dispute over whether China and the United States are manipulating their currencies is threatening to resurrect destructive protectionist policies like those that worsened the Great Depression in the 1930s. The biggest fear is that trade barriers will send the global economy back into recession. A law the United States passed in 1930 that raised tariffs on imports is widely thought to have deepened the Great Depression by stifling trade.

Instead of a Smoot-Hawley on tariffs, we may get a currency war that ends up having the same effect.  The US just threw gasoline instead of water on those embers.  We’ll have to rest our hopes on the equanimity and good sense of the Europeans and pray they don’t follow suit.
10768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The 20 Cities With The Most Underwater Homes on: November 12, 2010, 11:00:42 AM

The scariest number for anyone invested in the real estate market is this: 23.2%.

That's the record-high share of mortgages that are now underwater, as estimated by Zillow.

Negative equity is the prime factor driving a record number of mortgage holders into delinquency. Delinquencies will lead to foreclosures, which will drive down home prices, creating more negative equity -- a very dangerous cycle.

In some parts of America, a gob smacking percentage of homes are underwater. In Las Vegas, for instance, four out of five mortgages are now underwater.
10769  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Chiropractic for children? on: November 12, 2010, 10:55:08 AM
Did he suffer some trauma? What's the origin of the misalignment?
10770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 12, 2010, 10:47:15 AM

Obama's groveling and bowing are just a visible indicator of his incompetence as president. If you've bothered to watch you've seen that he did indeed bow.
10771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Authorities on Lookout for 2 Men Seen Videotaping D.C. Subway Station on: November 12, 2010, 10:40:26 AM
Authorities on Lookout for 2 Men Seen Videotaping D.C. Subway Station

Published November 12, 2010

| Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Metro has circulated an internal memo asking employees to be on the lookout for two men seen videotaping the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station.

An internal memo says the individuals were "attempting to videotape inconspicuously, by holding the camera at their side, between their chest and waist." Metro was alerted by a rider who took a picture of the men last week while they were sitting on the train.

The alert comes just after the recent arrest of a Northern Virginia man in a sting where he videotaped two Metro facilities for what we thought was going to be an attack on the system.
10772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sources: Al Qaeda eyes more Mumbai-style attacks on: November 12, 2010, 09:54:46 AM

Hamburg, Germany (CNN) -- Al Qaeda is still planning Mumbai-style attacks in Europe, with the United States also possibly being targeted, counter-terrorism officials in Europe and the United States tell CNN.
10773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 12, 2010, 09:48:24 AM
I question growth agenda #4 as well.
10774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 12, 2010, 08:35:48 AM
Who could have foreseen that his presidency would be such a disaster?
10775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CHINA, “Thanks for the Jobs Uncle Sam, But We’ll Pass On the Inflation” on: November 11, 2010, 09:40:48 PM

Emerging Market Mania:

CHINA, “Thanks for the Jobs Uncle Sam, But We’ll Pass On the Inflation”

The US re-opened formal trade with China in 1971.

This, in turn, kicked off two major trends:

1.     The US’s economic shift from manufacturing to services (mainly financial)

2.     The dramatic rise in Chinese quality of life

In plain terms, the US began shifting manufacturing jobs offshore. Charting the full impact of this trend on US employment is difficult. However, Robert Scott, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, estimates that between 2001 and 2008 2.4 million American jobs were lost as a result of increased trade with China alone. Bear in mind, this doesn’t account for the jobs lost in the 30 years from 1971 to 2001.

As for our shift to a financial services economy, consider that from 1970 until 2003, financials’ market capitalizations as a percentage of the S&P 500 rose from less than 5% to 22%. Over the same period, financials’ earnings as a percentage of the S&P 500’s total earnings rose from less than 10% to 31%.

Put another way, by 2003 nearly one in every three dollars of corporate profits came from the financial sector.

Meanwhile, China was experiencing an unprecedented level of growth thanks to our renewed trade: Chinese per-capita income doubled from 1978 to 1987 and again from 1987 to 1996.

In those 20 years, more than 300 million Chinese ascended out of poverty with accompanying dramatic changes in lifestyle, professions, and diet: between 1985 and 2008, average Chinese meat consumption more than doubled from 44 pounds to 110 per annum.

So here were are in 2010 and the US and China are now butting heads in a major way. The US (debtor, consumer, declining empire) wants to devalue the Dollar and export inflation to China. China (creditor, producer, rising empire) doesn’t care for this arrangement as its hurts profit margins at Chinese companies, increases food inflation (food is a higher percentage of income for the average China compared to the average American), which in turn means civil unrest.

How this situation plays out will determine the monetary and financial trends for 2011. Already we’ve begun seeing financial warning shots between the two super powers. Have a look at the timeline:

-April-October 17: Geithner vilifies China, calls it a currency manipulator

-October 17: China issues surprise interest rate hike

-October 20: Geithner says world currencies are in “alignment.”

-November 3: Bernanke announced QE 2

-November 8-9: China says QE 2 “imperils” emerging economies and calls US Dollar as reserve currency “absurd”

-November 8: Geithner backtracks from former call for balanced trade

-November 10: Fed announces QE 2 details

-November 10: China hikes bank reserve requirements

This dynamic is the, and I mean THE, key issue for ALL financial markets moving forward. The US Fed wants Dollar devaluation. China doesn’t. How this conflict is resolved will determine the fate of stocks, commodities, bonds, even the US dollar.
10776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Digital Weapons Help Dissidents Punch Holes in China's Great Firewall on: November 11, 2010, 09:38:21 PM

The curt knock on the door of his hotel room woke Alan Huang with a start. He looked at the clock: 5:30 am. Huang had been in Shenzhen, China, for only a few days; who could be looking for him at this hour? He groggily undid the lock—and found a half-dozen police officers in the corridor. The cops were there, they said, because the 37-year-old software engineer was a follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. It was December 1999, and the Beijing government had outlawed the sect just months earlier.

In fact, that’s why Huang had left his home in Sunnyvale, California, to come to Shenzhen. A Chinese computer programmer who had long ago emigrated to the US, Huang was back in China to protest the government’s jailing of thousands of his fellow practitioners. He hadn’t expected to join them.

Huang ended up packed into a cold cell with 20 other men, sleeping on the floor in shifts and forced to clean pigpens every day. Huang’s wife, back in California with their 3-year-old daughter, was terrified. After a very long two weeks and the help of a few American politicians, Huang and two other US-based Falun Gong practitioners who had accompanied him were released. “I got lucky because I was a US resident,” he says. “Others were not so lucky.”

It was Huang’s first experience with prison, but not with Communist Party repression. When he was an electrical engineering student at Shanghai’s Fudan University in the 1980s, Huang marched in the pro-democracy protests that roiled China. But the heady days in the streets came to a bloody end when the government sent tanks into Tiananmen Square. Huang wasn’t arrested, but some of his acquaintances disappeared. And he was shocked by the way the government’s ensuing propaganda barrage convinced many Chinese that the protesting students were themselves to blame for the bloodshed. Disillusioned, Huang left China, got his graduate degree at the University of Toronto, and moved to Silicon Valley in 1992. He spent most of the 1990s quietly living the immigrant-American dream, starting a family and building a career. Along the way, he also became one of the Bay Area’s hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners, leading study sessions and group exercises. So when Beijing launched its crackdown on the sect, it felt to Huang like 1989 all over again: The government was brutalizing a peaceful movement while painting its adherents as dangerous criminals. This time, he was determined to fight back. His aborted trip to China and frightening weeks in jail only left him more resolute. “My experience told me that the persecution was more severe than what we can imagine,” Huang says in accented English. “I felt I needed to do something.”
10777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 11, 2010, 09:13:29 PM

10778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / o-BOW-ma on: November 11, 2010, 07:39:21 PM

10779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 11, 2010, 07:27:03 PM

President Obama bows to Chinese President Hu Jintao.
10780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 11, 2010, 07:24:05 PM

Translator for Obama: "Tia na zhe shuang xie zhen ku".

Hu Jintao responds "Cao ni ma."
10781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time blames hyperinflation on tea party on: November 11, 2010, 02:31:13 PM

If hyperinflation arrives, Time Magazine wants its readers to know who the real culprits are.  It won’t be the federal government that hiked annual spending by 38% in three years and began running trillion-dollar deficits.  It won’t be the Congress that kept raising debt limits to allow for that spending spree.  And it won’t be the Federal Reserve that, in desperation over the government’s spending and debt spree, began printing money to artificially keep interest rates low.  No, the real culprit will be the political movement that opposes all of the above, according to The Curious Capitalist:
10782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Avoiding the Abyss: The National Economic Rescue Initiative on: November 11, 2010, 02:13:29 PM

First, the good news: The Congressional midterms, gubernatorial races, and various state and local electoral contests resulted in the large-scale, unmistakable repudiation of the political tax-and-spend culture that so many of us were hoping for.

Now for the bad news: The distance between where we are and a genuine long-term national fiscal and economic recovery is daunting. This is no time for disengagement.

Many Americans have begun to recognize just how deep the short-term and long-term financial holes we face really are. Others, sadly including many politicians who won key races last week and their party overlords, still don’t seem to get it.

The near-term situation is scary enough, and needs to be stabilized soon, or, as I said a month ago, there won’t be a long-term. But even if we satisfactorily resolve the short-term, the long-term problems we face are intimidating at levels most people have only begun to absorb.

Focusing on the short-term for a bit: Fiscal 2010, which ended on September 30, was the second time the U.S. government ran an annual deficit of well over $1 trillion. Fiscal 2009 was the first. As I noted two weeks ago, this year’s real spending deficit was worse than the first. Some departments went hog-wild. Spending at the Department of Education was up 30%. Spending increases at the Energy Department and the EPA (36%) were ridiculous. I could go on and on.

Federal collections on the whole came in barely higher than a year earlier, and were still about 20% lower than fiscal 2008 before subtracting IRS stimulus payments. Tax collections in most categories were down. The only reason receipts increased was that collections from the Federal Reserve increased by $42 billion.

Federal Reserve collections … what’s that all about? It’s about Ben Bernanke performing the 21st century’s equivalent of printing money. The Fed calls it “Quantitative Easing” (QE).

Properly employed, QE can be a stabilizing mechanism to keep an economy from nose-diving and assist it as it recovers. The Fed creates money out of nothing and invests it in government bonds, mortgage-backed securities, and corporate bonds for a while. It is supposed to wind down those investments when condition warrant.

The trouble is that conditions don’t warrant pulling back, because a) there hasn’t been a meaningful recovery, and b) fiscal policy is a scandalous mess. What little economic improvement has occurred has not been enough to put people back to work. Unemployment has been stuck at over 9% for the longest period since the Great Depression.

Because of the deficits created by fiscal policy and the weak recovery that has accompanied it, the Fed can’t pull back on QE without significantly disrupting the economy. We can argue all day and night about whether the pullback should happen, but the fact is that at least for now Bernanke & Co. are determined not to let it happen, even as the administration continues to push for more historically ineffective stimulus and continued trillion-dollar deficits. The Fed has embarked on “QE2,” a second round of quantitative easing that will increase the Fed’s investment portfolio by another $600 billion.

The deeper the QE hole, the harder it will be to dig out, and the worse the consequences will be if — hopefully we catch it in time before it becomes “when” — the American people and foreign governments (not necessarily in that order) come to realize that the house of cards is unsustainable. That’s why government spending must be slashed and the government’s budget must be brought into balance — and soon.

But even if that occurs, there are serious long-term problems. They come in four major areas:

•          Social Security

•          Medicare, Medicaid and Health Care

•          Military

•          All other spending

Social Security’s actuarial deficit was over $7.6 trillion a year ago. The actuarial deficit in Medicare alone is five times as large. As the Baby Boomers continue to retire and age in record numbers, both numbers are moving higher — and quickly.

Sadly, projected spending in the first two categories above threatens to totally wipe out the government’s ability to spend any money in the other two, even though they happen to be the areas where the specifically defined constitutional duties of the federal government (defense, courts, etc.) are carried out.

Today, the PJ Institute, the research and education arm of Pajamas Media, is introducing the National Economic Rescue Initiative (NERI) to the American people. While its timing in the euphoria of the Tea Party wave that has swept the nation is perfect, its overall warning is stark, sobering, and demands action:

    Because of decades of overspending by both Democrats and Republicans, our nation will reach a time (possibly around 2020 or sooner) when we can no longer borrow to finance our annual trillion dollar deficit.

If lenders are no longer willing to buy our debt, we will be unable to continue to fund the government’s operations through borrowing. If spending is not drastically cut, Americans will need to pay taxes at much, much higher levels.

What needs to be done to prevent this will involve much more than a little tweaking. It will require a wholesale rethink of what the government is capable of doing and should be doing — and conversely, what individuals, families, and communities are capable of doing better, and should be doing themselves.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that if we continue on our current course, federal debt owed to the public will increase from $9 trillion today to about $550 trillion a mere 70 years from now — and that’s after inflation, while assuming (many believe naively) that the government will be able to continue to borrow at low, risk-free rates.

We’re not kidding. But if 70 years sounds too far off to be believable, how about these intermediate threshold crossings: $20 trillion in 2022, twelve years from now; $40 trillion in 2032, just ten years later; or $100 trillion in 2046? Keep in mind that our current Gross Domestic Product in current dollars is about $14.7 trillion.

Nobody can possibly believe that our current financial path is sustainable.

This is where those reading this column and the American people come into play. Please, go to the NERI web site and educate yourself. Utilize its tools, and then visit its interactive Solutions Design Center.

If it hasn’t become obvious to readers during the past several years, let’s make it obvious now: The time for the American people to assume that the country’s problems can be solved with minimal citizen involvement has ended. Additionally — and this will be addressed in future NERI subscription-based offerings designed to be extremely beneficial yet very affordable — the idea that people can just “wing it” in their own personal money management, retirement savings, and overall financial planning, or play catchup after years of neglect, is similarly over.

This nation does not have the luxury of blowing this off. Failing to deal with the problem while there is still time will condemn future generations to a standard of living which will be a mere shadow of ours, and which will ultimately threaten our form of government, i.e., whether we will continue to genuinely have government of the people, by the people, for the people.

So go there. Take action. Make suggestions. Encourage others to do the same.

The country you help save will be your own.

10783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama honors veterans of a great country on: November 11, 2010, 01:21:55 PM
Not that Obama doesn't appreciate the sacrifices of veterans. He absolutely does. Just ask the Indonesians.

He was in Jakarta for their Heroes Day this week to honor their veterans "who have sacrificed on behalf of this great country."

"This great country," of course, being Indonesia.

"When my stepfather was a boy, he watched his own father and older brother leave home to fight and die in the struggle for Indonesian independence," Obama told the audience.

And the White House wonders why so many people think there is something foreign about this guy.

Read more:
10784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 11, 2010, 12:41:32 PM
You'll never catch him bowing before a copy of the constitution or a picture of the founding fathers.
10785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 11, 2010, 12:39:18 PM
10786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 11, 2010, 12:12:39 PM
Israel's first dedication has to be to it's survival. The "palestinians" have no interest in peace, otherwise they wouldn't endlessly teach their children the joys of jihad and martyrdom. Nothing short of Israel's destruction will satisfy them.
10787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: November 11, 2010, 12:03:50 PM
Amnesty is a message to everyone in the world that aspired to become an American and showed respect for this country and it's laws, that they were stupid for believing that the rule of law is important and filling out the forms and waiting for years to come here. Let's be clear, as our president would say, do what you want, no matter what the law says. If enforcing the law seems too difficult, we won't do it. Forget waiting in line at the US embassy. Save your money for the coyotes.

The rule of law is now as dated as powdered wigs and quill pens.
10788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: November 11, 2010, 07:34:57 AM

Blogger Believes Webcam Image Solves 'Missile' Mystery
10789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: November 10, 2010, 08:41:26 PM
RICO has been a very effective tool in breaking up organized crime cartels, and most of it's applicable statutes do not involve illegal drugs.

So why don't the Chinese people embrace the drug legalization that the British were kind enough to provide them with?
10790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: November 10, 2010, 07:39:42 PM

According to the Conference Board, a highly respected economic research association, China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy by 2012, or within two years.

OK, so in dollar terms, that’s obviously not going to be the case. It will be a lot longer than two years before China overtakes the US on that measure. But in terms of purchasing power parity, according to the Conference Board’s latest world economic outlook, China is already nearly there, and by 2020 will have reached a size of output which is nearly half as big again as the US.
10791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mystery missiles on: November 10, 2010, 06:46:15 PM
If my "China did it" theory is correct, the PLA should be crowing about it. Nothing from them. No whistleblowers from the FAA either.
10792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Budget analyst: California deficit reaches a staggering $25.4 billion on: November 10, 2010, 05:21:24 PM

Budget analyst: California deficit reaches a staggering $25.4 billion
November 10, 2010 | 12:22 pm

California faces a far-larger budget shortfall than state officials were projecting only weeks ago. The deficit over the next year and half has soared to $25.4 billion, the state’s chief budget analyst said on Wednesday.

The startling figure means the state faces an even tougher budget challenge than it did leading up to the passage of the current spending plan, which was historically late, as lawmakers wrangled over how to close the gap for 100 days into the new fiscal year. The projected deficit is the equivalent of about 29% of this year’s general fund budget. It projects California continuing to struggle to raise enough revenues to fund basic services as the state experiences a "painfully slow economic recovery."

One main reason the deficit remains so large is that the spending plan signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and approved by legislators 33 days ago relied on billions in accounting gimmicks, rosy assumptions and unlikely handouts from Washington, according to the report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

The new $25.4-billion shortfall will confront governor-elect Jerry Brown from the moment he is sworn into office in January.

Brown is vacationing this week and was unavailable for comment. The day after his election, the Democratic former and future governor acknowledged the budget gap was “very daunting,” even before the latest report.

“This will take all the know-how that I said I had and all the luck of the Irish as I go forward,” Brown said at the time.

You can read the LAO analysis here.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento
10793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 10, 2010, 04:07:48 PM

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron resisted a request from Chinese officials yesterday to remove the poppy symbol that Britons wear every November in memory of their war dead during his visit to Beijing, according to two British officials familiar with the matter.

Poppies have been Britain’s symbol of remembrance since World War I, when the flowers grew on battlefields. The Royal British Legion sells paper poppies in November to raise funds for veterans in the run-up to Armistice Day on Nov. 11.

The flower has a different resonance in China, which fought and lost two Opium Wars with Britain in the 19th century. Those resulted in the U.K. forcing the Chinese to open their borders to trade, including in the narcotic derived from the Asian variety of the poppy. Britain also gained the territory of Hong Kong, which was not handed back to China until 1997.
10794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / On McKenna on: November 10, 2010, 03:45:53 PM
Given that pre-human bipeds, like modern humans today, were often the prey for a variety of african predators, being detached from reality in that environment wouldn't have been optimal for a slow, weak primate species with no natural weapons. "Fear and Loathing in Olduvai Gorge" would probably have been a really short book.
10795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / De Facto Shariah Law in America on: November 10, 2010, 02:46:02 PM
November 09, 2010
De Facto Shariah Law in America
By Janet Levy
Is the United States today a de facto shariah state? A close look at recent events points to some alarming conclusions about the tenets of shariah law taking hold in our once-proud constitutional republic and the unwitting, unequal application of existing U.S. laws. The result is that when it comes to religious expression, Muslims now enjoy more freedom of religion and speech under our Bill of Rights than non-Muslims. Equal protection under the laws of our country holds for Muslims far better than for non-Muslims. Several recent examples illustrate this point.

Christianity Suppressed

In October, students at a Chattanooga, Tennessee high school were told that their longtime tradition of praying at practice and before games would no longer be allowed. The school superintendent had called an end to prayer at all school functions following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

In July, students visiting the Supreme Court from an Arizona Christian school were stopped by police as they bowed their heads and quietly prayed for the justices. The students were standing outside the court building to the side at the bottom of the building steps. They weren't blocking traffic, but an officer abruptly approached them and ordered them to stop praying immediately.

Four Christians were arrested in June for disorderly conduct at the Dearborn Arab International Festival after handing out copies of the Gospel of John. The four had stationed themselves five blocks from the festival and did not actively approach anyone, but instead waited for others to approach them. Still, police officers confiscated their video cameras and led the four Christians away in handcuffs to shouts of "Allah hu Akbar" from Muslim bystanders. 

In June of 2006, an instrumental rendition of "Ave Maria" was banned at the Henry Jackson High School graduation in Everett, Washington. Despite Justice Samuel Alito's protests, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider whether the case was an example of censorship of student speech.

In direct contrast to the above incidents, which limit Christian prayer and expression, numerous examples exist of special accommodations for Muslim activities and religious practices. These indicate an adherence to a separate and distinct policy for Muslims that mirrors the supremacist requirements of shariah law.

Islam Accepted

In the State of California, 7th-grade students at Excelsior Middle School in Discovery Bay, California adopted Muslim names, prayed on prayer rugs, and celebrated Ramadan under a state-mandated curriculum that requires instruction about various religions. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court again declined to hear legal challenges by concerned Excelsior parents, who complained that the instruction was actually religious indoctrination and that Christianity and Judaism were not given equal time and exposure. The curriculum has been upheld as appropriate multicultural material.

After Carver Elementary School in San Diego absorbed Muslim students from a defunct charter school in September 2006, a special recess was provided for the students to pray, classes were segregated by gender, and pork was removed from the school menu. A teacher's aide at the school led children in prayer and was provided with a lesson plan allotting an hour of class time for Islamic prayer. In essence, Muslim students alone were privileged with public school time to practice their religion at an additional cost of $450,000 in public funds and a loss of instruction time. (Note: Looked this up also and revised it a bit as well.)

In May, students at a Wellesley, Massachusetts middle school visited a local radical mosque and participated in a prayer session. Parents, who gave signed permission for students to visit the mosque, were not informed in advance that students would also be bowing to Allah and listening to lectures on Islam. Surprisingly, teachers did nothing to intervene as students participated and a mosque spokesperson denigrated Western civilization while glorifying and misrepresenting Islam, even falsely referring to the greater rights of women under Islam. Astonishingly, this occurred in a state that has prohibited the sale of Christmas items, including red and green tissue paper, at a school store and forced firefighters to remove a "Merry Christmas" sign from their station.

Over the last few years, the University of Michigan, a taxpayer-funded school, has provided separate prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, requiring bathroom modifications costing over $100,000, for Muslim observances.

At Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where religious displays, including those for Christmas, have been strictly prohibited, foot-washing facilities are being installed using taxpayer dollars after one student slipped and injured herself washing her feet in a sink. Director of Legal Affairs and President Phil Davis justified the disparate treatment of Muslims, explaining, "The foot-washing facilities are not about religion; they are about public safety."

Muslims periodically block the streets of New York City, prostrating themselves in the middle of roadways and sidewalks undisturbed by police and other authorities. The resulting traffic jams are ignored, the double- and illegally parked vehicles are free of citations, and law enforcement officers are nowhere to be seen. Surely, practitioners of other religions or groups planning similar gatherings would be required to obtain permits for such an activity. Reportedly, the police have been ordered not to interfere with the Muslim prayer spectacle.

These special accommodations for Muslims effectively elevate the Islamic faith above that of Christians and Jews, reinforcing the message of the Koran -- "Allah proclaims Islam over all other religions" (48:28), "Islam will dominate other religions" (9:33), and "Islam does not coexist with other faiths" (5:51). Muslims are required by the teachings of their faith to conquer and subjugate non-Muslims and Ensure worldwide submission to Islam -- "The believers must make war on infidels around them and let the infidels find firmness in them" (9:123).

Under Islamic shariah law, Christians may not even speak to Muslims about Christianity nor provide them with any literature about Christianity. With the recent arrests of Christians in Dearborn juxtaposed with prostrate Muslim worshipers in Manhattan (where a mosque is planned at Ground Zero at the same location where a church will not be rebuilt), it appears that the principles of Islamic supremacy and prohibitions against Christian proselytizing have begun to gain traction in America.

Meanwhile, Christianity in America is withering as Bible study is eradicated in public schools, crosses are removed from the public square, and "winter holidays" replace Christmas celebrations. Remarkably, as Christianity is being dethroned and denied public expression, Islam is being unabashedly and openly promoted in what has been a Christian country for over two hundred years. It is truly remarkable that as American students chant prayers in Arabic in California's classrooms, Christmas music and graphics that refer to both Christmas and Chanukah are prohibited in New Jersey.

Censure of Non-Muslims

Further, the First Amendment, free-speech rights of non-Muslims are being curtailed amidst the demands of Muslims who operate under few constraints. While non-Muslims are self-censoring out of fear and being shut down by authorities, Muslims enjoy almost unfettered rights to speak out.

For example, leading up to the 9th anniversary of the Muslim attack on 9/11, Pastor Terry Jones of Florida announced that he would burn the Koran in protest of the proposed Ground Zero mosque. Not only was Jones's life threatened by Muslims, but an Obama administration official asked him to cancel his plans. New York Governor David A. Paterson commented in response to Jones' threat: "More and more, particularly this year, I feel that the memory of those who were lost is being disrespected."  However, Paterson did not criticize the Muslim threat on Jones' life, nor the plan itself to build a mosque over the remains of the victims of Islamic terrorism killed on 9/11.

While Pastor Jones was punished by the loss of his mortgage and insurance and was presented with a bill for $180,000 for security by the City of Gainesville, Muslims avoided any public opprobrium even though twenty innocent people around the world died during Muslim protests against Jones. Like the response to the Danish Mohammed cartoons years earlier, the Koran-burning activity was suppressed and censured as disrespectful to Muslims. It was even compared to the burning of churches and synagogues. Yet Muslims who threatened violent reprisals against Jones were not warned that attempts to curtail First Amendment rights and even mayhem, assaults, or murder would not be tolerated and would be punished to the full extent of the law.   

In another instance of free speech rights violations, when New Jersey Transit Authority (NJTA) worker Derek Fenton burned a Koran near Ground Zero on 9-11, he was promptly removed by authorities as much for the perceived insult to Islam as for his own safety. The very next day, he was fired from his job of eleven years.

In October, NPR reporter,Juan Williams was fired for expressing on Fox News a fear shared by the majority of Americans in a post-9/11 world -- his discomfort about being on a plane with people who dress as conservative Muslims. Thanks to pressure from CAIR, a Hamas-supporting, extremist-linked organization, Williams was punished for this thoughtcrime and, without first talking to Williams, an NPR spokesperson broke the news on Twitter. Ironically, CAIR spokespersons are regular guests on NPR programs.

Cartoonist Molly Norris was forced to disappear after declaring April 20 "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." Norris ignited a religious firestorm with radical Islamic cleric Imam Anwar al-Awlaki publicly ordering her execution. Under FBI recommendations and at her own expense, Norris went underground, changing her name and identity. She is no longer publishing cartoons at the publication where she has been a regular contributor.

Freedom of Speech for Muslims

Whereas Norris was forced to enter a witness-protection program in response to a fatwa against her, Islamic leaders enjoy unlimited freedom to spread their messages of hate within the United States. Some even receive protection at taxpayer expense, as did Feisal Abdul Rauf, an Egyptian-American Sufi imam who plans to build a mosque at Ground Zero. Rauf is closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim Brotherhood organizations, endeavors to supplant U.S. law with shariah, and refuses to condemn jihadist groups and terrorism. In addition, he refused to sign a pledge revoking the mandatory death sentence for Muslim apostasy, has encouraged U.S. government officials to negotiate with the terrorist group Hamas, and blames the United States for 9/11. Imam Rauf, who created the Shariah Index Project, which rates countries around the world on shariah compliance, has said that he believes in shariah supremacy.

Tariq Ramadan, a highly controversial leader in the fundamentalist Muslim world and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Banna, visited the United States in April. As a keynote speaker at the Hamas-supporting Council on American Islam Relations and as a speaker before another Muslim Brotherhood organization, the Muslim American Society, Ramadan refused to condemn the shariah law provision that calls for stoning women for alleged improprieties or to denounce suicide bombing. Ramadan is suspected by U.S. intelligence of having ties to al-Qaeda. He espouses amicable messages of peace and respect when speaking with Western audiences, while endorsing Wahhabism and spreading hatred of the West to Arabic-speaking audiences.

Even Muslims targeted by our own government for their crimes receive protection. Anwar al-Awlaki, dubbed the "bin Laden of the internet" and suspected of having prior knowledge of 9/11 by having met privately with two of the 9/11 hijackers, has been defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. After President Obama approved placing Awlaki on a government assassination list, the ACLU initiated a lawsuit against the U.S. government challenging the order to kill him. This despite Awlaki being on the FBI's Most Wanted List and his having met and corresponded with Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood assassin. He trained the Christmas underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and was the inspiration for Faisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square car bomber. In a recent video delivered to CNN, Awlaki stated that Muslims are obligated to wage jihad against the United States.

Nine years after 9/11, in contrast to protections enjoyed by Muslims, individuals perceived by Muslims to have damaged Islam in some way have been threatened, fired, and publicly censured. This development indicates how far we have come down the road to dhimmitude, a subservient status in relation to Muslims. Clearly, if Norris had organized a Draw Jesus or Draw Moses Day, her life would be very much intact. If Juan Williams had talked about his fear of fundamentalist Christians, he would still be an NPR host in good standing. Had Jones burned the Old Testament, twenty people murdered by Muslims jihadists would still be alive, his reputation would be untarnished, and his financial situation would be undamaged. Had Derek Fenton burned a copy of the Old or New Testament, it is unlikely that the NJTA would have taken any action against him.

Islamization of America

We are witnessing a transformation of American society in which Islam enjoys a privileged place among the country's religions. The sensitivities of the country's 3 to 5 million Muslims are considered above those of non-Muslims. Non-Muslims even assist sensitive Muslims in the weeding out of potentially offensive statements or actions that could be remotely critical of Islam or Muslims. Since 9/11, Americans have been well-trained not to talk about Islam and terrorism or to use the word "jihad." Publicly criticizing, voicing concern about, or even expressing fear about Muslim behavior or activities is forbidden. While other religions may be freely criticized, lampooned in cartoons, and denigrated by artwork, Islam is sacred, supreme, and beyond reproach. 

Every effort is made in the United States to accommodate Muslims and engage them in interfaith dialogue and community affairs. Muslims may pray openly in public -- on city streets and in airport terminals. Many U.S. government departments hold Iftar dinners to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The Ground Zero mosque will be built over the ashes of 9/11 victims, but the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed by Muslims will not. Non-Muslims enjoy no such privileges or special treatment in Muslim countries. They may not visit Mecca nor build churches or synagogues. U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia are prohibited from wearing visible religious symbols.

The foregoing examples, not exhaustive by any means, point to the fact that we are living under a de facto shariah law system in the United States today that has compromised the freedoms we have enjoyed under our Constitution -- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Now, we no longer enjoy equal protection under the law. Our uniquely American virtues of tolerance and freedom have worked against us to produce intolerance and oppression. This has led to the stealthy introduction of shariah law and a climate in which criticisms of Mohammed and Islam are no longer possible without serious repercussions.

Instead, claims of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias are rampant. Yet consider the following: the Muslim atrocity of 9/11, the attempt by the Nigerian Muslim Abdulmutallab to detonate plastic explosive in his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight in 2009, the massacre of thirteen soldiers at Fort Hood by jihadist psychiatrist Nidal Hassan in 2009, the failed bombing of Times Square by Faisal Shahzad last May, the violent jihad plot in North Carolina planned by Daniel Patrick Boyd, the recent storming of a Baghdad church and murder of 58 Christians, the UPS plot to bomb synagogues in the Chicago area uncovered this past weekend, and countless other incidents over the past several years.

It is not irrational and biased to fear practitioners of a religion who are trying to kill non-Muslims based on teachings from their religion's doctrine. Apologists for Islam whitewash these events, but Islamic teachings (Reliance of the Traveller, o4.9, p. 590) specifically state that a Muslim's life is worth three times that of a Christian or Jew and fifteen times more than that of a Zoroastrian. (The Consulate General of India, Jeddah lists indemnities for Hindus and Buddhists at 1/15 that of Muslims). When non-Muslims so much as express any discomfort with Muslims and Islamic ideology, they risk public censure, financial ruin, loss of livelihood, and even death.  he United States is truly under shariah law when it is forbidden and a punishable offense to call out Islamic doctrine for what it is.

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10796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The DEA's take on legalization on: November 10, 2010, 02:40:34 PM

Fact 6: Legalization of Drugs will Lead to Increased Use and Increased Levels of Addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.


      Legalization proponents claim, absurdly, that making illegal drugs legal would not cause more of these substances to be consumed, nor would addiction increase. They claim that many people can use drugs in moderation and that many would choose not to use drugs, just as many abstain from alcohol and tobacco now. Yet how much misery can already be attributed to alcoholism and smoking? Is the answer to just add more misery and addiction?

      It’s clear from history that periods of lax controls are accompanied by more drug abuse and that periods of tight controls are accompanied by less drug abuse.
      In 1880, many drugs, including opium and cocaine, were legal — and, like some drugs today, seen as benign medicine not requiring a doctor’s care and oversight. Addiction skyrocketed.

      During the 19th Century, morphine was legally refined from opium and hailed as a miracle drug. Many soldiers on both sides of the Civil War who were given morphine for their wounds became addicted to it, and this increased level of addiction continued throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. In 1880, many drugs, including opium and cocaine, were legal — and, like some drugs today, seen as benign medicine not requiring a doctor’s care and oversight. Addiction skyrocketed. There were over 400,000 opium addicts in the U.S. That is twice as many per capita as there are today.

      By 1900, about one American in 200 was either a cocaine or opium addict. Among the reforms of this era was the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which required manufacturers of patent medicines to reveal the contents of the drugs they sold. In this way, Americans learned which of their medicines contained heavy doses of cocaine and opiates — drugs they had now learned to avoid.

      Specific federal drug legislation and oversight began with the 1914 Harrison Act, the first broad anti-drug law in the United States. Enforcement of this law contributed to a significant decline in narcotic addiction in the United States. Addiction in the United States eventually fell to its lowest level during World War II, when the number of addicts is estimated to have been somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000. Many addicts, faced with disappearing supplies, were forced to give up their drug habits.

      What was virtually a drug-free society in the war years remained much the same way in the years that followed. In the mid-1950s, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics estimated the total number of addicts nationwide at somewhere between 50,000 to 60,000. The former chief medical examiner of New York City, Dr. Milton Halpern, said in 1970 that the number of New Yorkers who died from drug addiction in 1950 was 17. By comparison, in 1999, the New York City medical examiner reported 729 deaths involving drug abuse.

The Alaska Experiment and Other Failed Legalization Ventures


      The consequences of legalization became evident when the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that the state could not interfere with an adult’s possession of marijuana for personal consumption in the home. The court’s ruling became a green light for marijuana use. Although the ruling was limited to persons 19 and over, teens were among those increasingly using marijuana. According to a 1988 University of Alaska study, the state’s 12 to 17-year-olds used marijuana at more than twice the national average for their age group. Alaska’s residents voted in 1990 to recriminalize possession of marijuana, demonstrating their belief that increased use was too high a price to pay.

      European experiments with drug legalization have failedBy 1979, after 11 states decriminalized marijuana and the Carter administration had considered federal decriminalization, marijuana use shot up among teenagers. That year, almost 51 percent of 12th graders reported they used marijuana in the last 12 months. By 1992, with tougher laws and increased attention to the risks of drug abuse, that figure had been reduced to 22 percent, a 57 percent decline.

      Other countries have also had this experience. The Netherlands has had its own troubles with increased use of cannabis products. From 1984 to 1996, the Dutch liberalized the use of cannabis. Surveys reveal that lifetime prevalence of cannabis in Holland increased consistently and sharply. For the age group 18-20, the increase is from 15 percent in 1984 to 44 percent in 1996.

      The Netherlands is not alone. Switzerland, with some of the most liberal drug policies in Europe, experimented with what became known as Needle Park. Needle Park became the Mecca for drug addicts throughout Europe, an area where addicts could come to openly purchase drugs and inject heroin without police intervention or control. The rapid decline in the neighborhood surrounding Needle Park, with increased crime and violence, led authorities to finally close Needle Park in 1992.

      The British have also had their own failed experiments with liberalizing drug laws. England’s experience shows that use and addiction increase with “harm reduction” policy. Great Britain allowed doctors to prescribe heroin to addicts, resulting in an explosion of heroin use, and by the mid-1980s, known addiction rates were increasing by about 30 percent a year.

      The relationship between legalization and increased use becomes evident by considering two current “legal drugs,” tobacco and alcohol. The number of users of these “legal drugs” is far greater than the number of users of illegal drugs. The numbers were explored by the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Roughly 109 million Americans used alcohol at least once a month. About 66 million Americans used tobacco at the same rate. But less than 16 million Americans used illegal drugs at least once a month.

      It’s clear that there is a relationship between legalization and increasing drug use, and that legalization would result in an unacceptably high number of drug-addicted Americans.

      When legalizers suggest that easy access to drugs won’t contribute to greater levels of addiction, they aren’t being candid. The question isn’t whether legalization will increase addiction levels—it will— it’s whether we care or not. The compassionate response is to do everything possible to prevent the destruction of addiction, not make it easier.
10797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: November 10, 2010, 02:17:12 PM
Well, Terrence McKenna was quite the fan of hallucinogens, and I think it would require a lot to make his theory seem viable.
10798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beer Lubricated the Rise of Civilization, Study Suggests on: November 10, 2010, 01:17:11 PM

Archaeological evidence suggests that until the Neolithic, cereals such as barley and rice constituted only a minor element of diets, most likely because they require so much labor to get anything edible from them — one typically has to gather, winnow, husk and grind them, all very time-consuming tasks.

Hayden told LiveScience he has seen that hard work for himself. "In traditional Mayan villages where I've worked, maize is used for tortillas and for chicha, the beer made there. Women spend five hours a day just grinding up the kernels."

However, sites in Syria suggest that people nevertheless went to unusual lengths at times just to procure cereal grains — up to 40 to 60 miles (60 to 100 km). One might speculate, Hayden said, that the labor associated with grains could have made them attractive in feasts in which guests would be offered foods that were difficult or expensive to prepare, and beer could have been a key reason to procure the grains used to make them.

"It's not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it's this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies," Hayden said.

Feasts would have been more than simple get-togethers — such ceremonies have held vital social significance for millennia, from the Last Supper to the first Thanksgiving.

"Feasts are essential in traditional societies for creating debts, for creating factions, for creating bonds between people, for creating political power, for creating support networks, and all of this is essential for developing more complex kinds of societies," Hayden explained. "Feasts are reciprocal — if I invite you to my feast, you have the obligation to invite me to yours. If I give you something like a pig or a pot of beer, you're obligated to do the same for me or even more."

"In traditional feasts throughout the world, there are three ingredients that are almost universally present," he said. "One is meat. The second is some kind of cereal grain, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, in the form of breads or porridge or the like. The third is alcohol, and because you need surplus grain to put into it, as well as time and effort, it's produced almost only in traditional societies for special occasions to impress guests, make them happy, and alter their attitudes favorably toward hosts."

The brewing of alcohol seems to have been a very early development linked with initial domestication, seen during Neolithic times in China, the Sudan, the first pottery in Greece and possibly with the first use of maize. Hayden said circumstantial evidence for brewing has been seen in the Natufian, in that all the technology needed to make it is there — cultivated yeast, grindstones, vessels for brewing and fire-cracked rocks as signs of the heating needed to prepare the mash.
10799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jane's expert says it WAS a missile on: November 10, 2010, 11:58:54 AM

The video of what looks for all the world like the contrail of a missile was shot Monday evening by KCBS cameraman Gil Leyvas from a news helicopter over Los Angeles.

"I saw a big plume coming up, rising from looked like beyond the horizon and it continued to grow," Leyvas said.

He zoomed his camera in and stayed on it for about 10 minutes. To him it looked like an incoming missile.

"It was unique. It was moving," he said. "It was growing in the sky."

The Pentagon spends billions of dollars a year making sure it is never surprised by a missile launch - so finding out what the camera saw became a top priority. Both the Navy and the Air Force insisted they had not launched any missiles and the North American Air Defense Command - which is supposed to track incoming missiles - declared it had not been fired by any other military. But nobody could say what it was.

But Doug Richardson, the editor of Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, examined the video for the Times of London and said he was left with little doubt.

"It’s a solid propellant missile," he told the Times. "You can tell from the efflux [smoke]."

Richardson said it could have been a ballistic missile launched from a submarine or an interceptor, the defensive anti-missile weapon used by Navy surface ships.


Doug Richardson
Editor, Jane’s Missiles and Rockets

Doug Richardson is the editor of “Jane’s Missiles & Rockets”. After a career as an electronics engineer working in areas such as the development testing of radar and EW antennas for combat aircraft, integration of rocket engine electrical controls, the design of computer peripheral hardware, and the planning and post-flight analysis of guided missile trials, he became a journalist in 1976.

Since then he has served at various times as the defence editor of “Flight International”, editor of the German magazine “Military Technology”, managing editor of “Jane’s Defence Systems Modernisation” and technical editor of the Swiss magazine “Armada International”.

His work has appeared in many UK, US and international defence magazines. It covers a wide range of military technologies including military aircraft, guided missiles, radar, electronic warfare, information warfare, communications, satellite navigation systems, stealth technology, tanks, artillery, warships, submarines, small arms and ammunition, and more exotic areas such as space warfare and intelligence gathering.

Although missiles and missile-related technology are his primary interest, he also specialises in military electronics and optronics, and writes regularly on these topics for “Armada International” and other magazines.

Since 1981 he has written more than 20 books on aerospace and defence topics. Most have been published in British and US editions, but several have also appeared in French, German, Japanese and Portuguese versions.

Doug is based in the United Kingdom, and lives in the village of Roydon - 20 miles (32km) north-east of London - with his wife Linda Allen, a French Briard sheepdog, and five computers.
10800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Use and Misuse of Foreign Law in U.S. Courts on: November 10, 2010, 11:21:08 AM

The Use and Misuse of Foreign Law in U.S. Courts

Posted by Ilya Shapiro

On Tuesday I discussed the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws that allow juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) for non-homicide crimes.  What concerns me here isn’t so much the morality or policy wisdom in applying such sentences — though Chief Justice Roberts makes some good policy points in his concurrence — or even the interpretation of what constitutes a “cruel and unusual punishment” — which I think Justice Kennedy mishandles in a confusing discussion of national consensuses.

No, the most troubling part of that case was the unfortunate reference to foreign authorities to support the Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment.  Justice Kennedy notes that juvenile LWOP has been “rejected the world over.”  “The judgment of the world’s nations that a particular sentencing practice is inconsistent with basic principles of decency,” he writes, “demonstrates that the court’s rationale has respected reasoning to support it.”

Justice Thomas, in his dissent, disputes Justice Kennedy’s math, noting that 11 countries allow the punishment. More importantly, “foreign laws and sentencing practices” are “irrelevant to the meaning of our Constitution.”  He adds that most democracies around the world remain free to adopt the punishment should they wish to. “Starting today,” Thomas concludes, “ours can count itself among the few in which judicial decree prevents voters from making that choice.”

And that’s the crux of the matter: citing foreign law, using it to support a given reading of domestic law undermines democratic self-governance.  The interpretation of the U.S. Constitution should depend on that document’s text, structure, and history, what it means in the context of the American polity.  Even if a judge cares about ”evolving standards of decency” or invokes the “living Constitution,” it should be the updated standards in America that matter, or the opinions and values of modern Americans.

That is, federal judges derive their powers from the Constitution, which is a wholly American document.  To the extent they use foreign extrinsic evidence to interpret this document, they are engaging in something — comparative law? social science? — that is not judging.  It’s not a matter of being closed-minded or provincial — I actually enjoy reading comparative political research, and think our legislators and constitutional draftsmen engage in malpractice if they don’t use it — but, as Justice Thomas describes in Graham, the judicial role is different than the legislative or academic one.

Now, in practice U.S. courts actually rarely cite foreign law, and most of the time when they do it’s not controversial. For example, it’s relevant to see how all the contracting parties interpret a treaty, because you want a treaty (a contract among nations) to be understood the same way everywhere. Similarly, foreign court pronouncements are relevant to interpreting customary international law – the law of nations as the Framers understood it — to the limited extent it applies to a given case (crime on the high seas and the like). Next we have the coordination of litigation, with international companies suing each other based on contracts that specify that “X” provision is subject to British law whereas “Y” deals with Hong Kong law, and that the arbitration forum is supposed to be Switzerland: here the citation of foreign law is absolutely appropriate. Another appropriate use is in conflict of laws analysis: figuring out which law applies and sometimes even applying foreign law as binding in a dispute.

But using foreign law to interpret domestic law, and especially the Constitution, is problematic — but the Supreme Court does it more than lower courts, particularly in high profile cases: those involving the culture wars, moral issues like the death penalty and abortion, and other charged cases like affirmative action and sex discrimination.  Libertarians should not welcome this trend because it signals judging based on something other than the principled reading of our own laws — in short, judicial usurpation of the policy-making function.

Hans Bader of CEI provides a longer write-up of Graham, and here again is Cato’s brief. For a pithy critique of the improper use of foreign law by U.S. courts, see Richard Posner’s now-famous article in Legal Affairs.  And for an in-depth and entertaining exploration of these issues, read or watch a debate Justices Scalia and Breyer had in 2005.

Coincidentally, the same day the Court issued both Graham and Comstock (which I discuss here), it also decided an important case, Abbott v. Abbott, that uses foreign law to interpret an international treaty on child abduction.  (While I haven’t yet gone through the Abbott decision, both the majority and dissent are correct to use foreign law to help them reach their conclusions.)
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