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24251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Banks manipulate debt levels on: April 09, 2010, 08:16:11 AM
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304830104575172280848939898.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories

A friend comments:

The Wall Street Journal reports major banks have masked their risk levels in the past five quarters by temporarily lowering their debt just before reporting it to the public, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

A group of 18 banks,  which includes Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C), understated the debt levels used to fund securities trades by lowering them an average of 42% at the end of each of the past five quarterly periods, the data show. The banks, which publicly release debt data each quarter, then boosted the debt levels in the middle of successive quarters. Though some banks privately confirm that they temporarily reduce their borrowings at quarter's end, representatives at Goldman, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup declined to comment specifically on the New York Fed data. Some noted that their firm's financial filings include language saying borrowing levels can fluctuate during the quarter. According to the data, the banks' outstanding net repo borrowings at the end of each of the past five quarters were on average 42% below their peak in net borrowings in the same quarters. Though the repo market represents just a slice of banks' overall activities, it provides a window into the risks that financial institutions take to trade.

It does me; specifically, that Michael Lewis article (published in Vanity Fair). Remember how the brokerages would mark down the value of Burry's holdings at quarter's end to mask the mounting crisis in their own portfolios? Hey, if it worked then...
David
24252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: April 09, 2010, 08:13:12 AM
SHAME! angry
=======================

POTH Editorial
Too Broken to Fix Recommend
 
April 8, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has affirmed what sheriffs, police chiefs, civil-rights lawyers and immigrant advocates have said for years: Outsourcing immigration enforcement to an ill-trained and poorly supervised assortment of state and local law enforcement agencies creates a lot of problems.

The program, commonly known as 287(g), deputizes local authorities as federal immigration agents so they can help Immigration and Customs Enforcement capture illegal immigrants who threaten the community or national security. A new report by the inspector general instead paints a portrait of 287(g) agencies as a motley posse of deputies who don’t know Spanish, who don’t know or care about the dangers of racial profiling and who operate well beyond the control of the federal agency that they are supposed to be working for.

It found the program lacks basic safeguards like data collection and reporting requirements to ensure that deputies don’t violate civil rights. The report also found that fewer than 10 percent of its sample of captured offenders had committed serious “Level 1” crimes, and almost half had no connection at all to violence, drugs or property crimes.

The report reinforces what a leading police association and police chiefs, including William Bratton of Los Angeles, have argued strenuously — that 287(g) undermines public safety. Police officers can’t fight crimes when communities they serve fear and avoid them.

The program was barely used until anti-immigrant fervor became white-hot over the last decade. And while many police departments shun 287(g) as bad news, other jurisdictions signed on to satisfy the urge to get tough on illegal immigration. The inspector general listed 33 ways to improve the program, mainly by patching up oversight deficiencies and bolstering training. Immigration and Customs Enforcement mostly concurred, but rejected one critical recommendation: It doesn’t want to collect data on encounters between 287(g) agencies and the public, to gauge the effect on civil liberties.

We are skeptical that the 287(g) program can ever be fixed. And we are sure that the returns are too low and the costs — in abuses and undermining law enforcement — are too high to make it worth trying. The Homeland Security Department should pull the plug on 287(g).
24253  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: April 09, 2010, 08:08:28 AM
Grateful my son is coming home today from a 5 day school trip.
24254  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: April 09, 2010, 08:07:53 AM
Not much of that available where I live in Los Angeles cheesy
24255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Digital Due Process on: April 09, 2010, 07:54:35 AM
I can't believe myself.  I am actually posting a POTH editorial approvingly  shocked

Published: April 8, 2010
The Internet has given the government powerful 21st-century tools for invading people’s privacy and monitoring their activities, but the main federal law governing online privacy is a 20th-century relic. Adopted in 1986, it has had trouble keeping up with technological advances and is now badly out of date.

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Congress has not moved to fix this problem, but a surprising coalition of major technology companies and civil liberties advocates have produced a blueprint for updating the law and both houses of Congress are poised to hold hearings. Having lawmakers proclaim their concern and ask learned questions will not be enough. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act is long past due for an upgrade.

Privacy is central to American law. And in 1986, Congress applied that principle to electronic communications by setting limits on law enforcement access to Internet and wireless technologies. It was a laudable law at the time, but cellphones were still oddities, the Internet was mostly a way for academics and researchers to exchange data and the World Wide Web that is an everyday part of most Americans’ lives did not exist.

The law is no longer comprehensive enough to cover the many kinds of intrusions made possible by the advances of the past 24 years. In the absence of strong federal law, the courts have been adrift on many important Internet privacy issues. The law is not clear on when search warrants are required for the government to read stored e-mail, what legal standards apply to GPS technology that tracks people’s whereabouts in real time and other critical questions.

Digital Due Process — a coalition that includes Google, Microsoft, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union — recently proposed a good set of principles for addressing those issues. The coalition recommends that all private data not voluntarily made public, such as stored e-mail or private financial data, should be as protected as data in a person’s home. To get it, the government should need a search warrant.

For locational data — information about where a person has physically been, or currently is — the coalition also recommends that a search warrant be required. That would clear up a murky area of the law in which courts have reached different conclusions about information obtained through GPS devices, cellphone towers and other technologies.

The coalition argues that when federal law authorizes a subpoena for customer data, it should be limited to information about a particular individual or individuals. This would prevent fishing expeditions, such as a request for data on everyone who visited a particular Web site on a given day.

The coalition’s recommendations do not address other important Internet privacy issues that involve the ability of private companies to monitor and record their users’ behavior. They also sidestep questions about how accessible data should be to private litigants, such as one company suing another. The recommendations do not include requirements that companies report on the personal data they are collecting and storing — a kind of transparency that customers should be entitled to.

Despite that, the Digital Due Process has gotten this much-needed discussion off to a strong start and set the bar high for hearings by the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
24256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 08, 2010, 07:56:06 PM
It looks like we just got notified by our provider, Anthem Blue Cross, (yes those folks) that our rates are going up 100%. angry shocked angry

Our agent had told us we were guaranteed the rate we had for many more months.  He is out of town until Monday, at which point we will seek clarification.

If this turns out to be what it appears to be, it is a real hard hit for our family.
24257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: April 08, 2010, 07:51:37 PM
Interesting.

I heard today that the Reps are drafting a new "Contract with America". 
24258  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: April 08, 2010, 04:12:50 PM
Uh , , , care to flesh that out a bit?  cheesy
24259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: April 08, 2010, 04:05:30 PM
Some valid points made therein.
24260  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: April 08, 2010, 04:03:05 PM
Mexico and the Failed State Revisited
April 6, 2010




By George Friedman

STRATFOR argued March 13, 2008, that Mexico was nearing the status of a failed state. A failed state is one in which the central government has lost control over significant areas of the country and the state is unable to function. In revisiting this issue, it seems to us that the Mexican government has lost control of the northern tier of Mexico to drug-smuggling organizations, which have significantly greater power in that region than government forces. Moreover, the ability of the central government to assert its will against these organizations has weakened to the point that decisions made by the state against the cartels are not being implemented or are being implemented in a way that would guarantee failure.

Despite these facts, it is not clear to STRATFOR that Mexico is becoming a failed state. Instead, it appears the Mexican state has accommodated itself to the situation. Rather than failing, it has developed strategies designed both to ride out the storm and to maximize the benefits of that storm for Mexico.

First, while the Mexican government has lost control over matters having to do with drugs and with the borderlands of the United States, Mexico City’s control over other regions — and over areas other than drug enforcement — has not collapsed (though its lack of control over drugs could well extend to other areas eventually). Second, while drugs reshape Mexican institutions dramatically, they also, paradoxically, stabilize Mexico. We need to examine these crosscurrents to understand the status of Mexico.

Mexico’s Core Problem
Let’s begin by understanding the core problem. The United States consumes vast amounts of narcotics, which, while illegal there, make their way in abundance. Narcotics derive from low-cost agricultural products that become consumable with minimal processing. With its long, shared border with the United States, Mexico has become a major grower, processor and exporter of narcotics. Because the drugs are illegal and thus outside normal market processes, their price is determined by their illegality rather than by the cost of production. This means extraordinary profits can be made by moving narcotics from the Mexican side of the border to markets on the other side.

Whoever controls the supply chain from the fields to the processing facilities and, above all, across the border, will make enormous amounts of money. Various Mexican organizations — labeled cartels, although they do not truly function as such, since real cartels involve at least a degree of cooperation among producers, not open warfare — vie for this business. These are competing businesses, each with its own competing supply chain.

Typically, competition among businesses involves lowering prices and increasing quality. This would produce small, incremental shifts in profits on the whole while dramatically reducing prices. An increased market share would compensate for lower prices. Similarly, lawsuits are the normal solution to unfair competition. But neither is the case with regard to illegal goods.

The surest way to increase smuggling profits is not through market mechanisms but by taking over competitors’ supply chains. Given the profit margins involved, persons wanting to control drug supply chains would be irrational to buy, since the lower-cost solution would be to take control of these supply chains by force. Thus, each smuggling organization has an attached paramilitary organization designed to protect its own supply chain and to seize its competitors’ supply chains.

The result is ongoing warfare between competing organizations. Given the amount of money being made in delivering their product to American cities, these paramilitary organizations are well-armed, well-led and well-motivated. Membership in such paramilitary groups offers impoverished young men extraordinary opportunities for making money, far greater than would be available to them in legitimate activities.

The raging war in Mexico derives logically from the existence of markets for narcotics in the United States; the low cost of the materials and processes required to produce these products; and the extraordinarily favorable economics of moving narcotics across the border. This warfare is concentrated on the Mexican side of the border. But from the Mexican point of view, this warfare does not fundamentally threaten Mexico’s interests.

A Struggle Far From the Mexican Heartland
The heartland of Mexico is to the south, far from the country’s northern tier. The north is largely a sparsely populated highland desert region seen from Mexico City as an alien borderland intertwined with the United States as much as it is part of Mexico. Accordingly, the war raging there doesn’t represent a direct threat to the survival of the Mexican regime.





(click here to enlarge image)
Indeed, what the wars are being fought over in some ways benefits Mexico. The amount of money pouring into Mexico annually is stunning. It is estimated to be about $35 billion to $40 billion each year. The massive profit margins involved make these sums even more significant. Assume that the manufacturing sector produces revenues of $40 billion a year through exports. Assuming a generous 10 percent profit margin, actual profits would be $4 billion a year. In the case of narcotics, however, profit margins are conservatively estimated to stand at around 80 percent. The net from $40 billion would be $32 billion; to produce equivalent income in manufacturing, exports would have to total $320 billion.

In estimating the impact of drug money on Mexico, it must therefore be borne in mind that drugs cannot be compared to any conventional export. The drug trade’s tremendously high profit margins mean its total impact on Mexico vastly outstrips even the estimated total sales, even if the margins shifted substantially.

On the whole, Mexico is a tremendous beneficiary of the drug trade. Even if some of the profits are invested overseas, the pool of remaining money flowing into Mexico creates tremendous liquidity in the Mexican economy at a time of global recession. It is difficult to trace where the drug money is going, which follows from its illegality. Certainly, drug dealers would want their money in a jurisdiction where it could not be easily seized even if tracked. U.S. asset seizure laws for drug trafficking make the United States an unlikely haven. Though money clearly flows out of Mexico, the ability of the smugglers to influence the behavior of the Mexican government by investing some of it makes Mexico a likely destination for a substantial portion of such funds.

The money does not, however, flow back into the hands of the gunmen shooting it out on the border; even their bosses couldn’t manage funds of that magnitude. And while money can be — and often is — baled up and hidden, the value of money is in its use. As with illegal money everywhere, the goal is to wash it and invest it in legitimate enterprises where it can produce more money. That means it has to enter the economy through legitimate institutions — banks and other financial entities — and then be redeployed into the economy. This is no different from the American Mafia’s practice during and after Prohibition.

The Drug War and Mexican National Interests
From Mexico’s point of view, interrupting the flow of drugs to the United States is not clearly in the national interest or in that of the economic elite. Observers often dwell on the warfare between smuggling organizations in the northern borderland but rarely on the flow of American money into Mexico. Certainly, that money could corrupt the Mexican state, but it also behaves as money does. It is accumulated and invested, where it generates wealth and jobs.

For the Mexican government to become willing to shut off this flow of money, the violence would have to become far more geographically widespread. And given the difficulty of ending the traffic anyway — and that many in the state security and military apparatus benefit from it — an obvious conclusion can be drawn: Namely, it is difficult to foresee scenarios in which the Mexican government could or would stop the drug trade. Instead, Mexico will accept both the pain and the benefits of the drug trade.

Mexico’s policy is consistent: It makes every effort to appear to be stopping the drug trade so that it will not be accused of supporting it. The government does not object to disrupting one or more of the smuggling groups, so long as the aggregate inflow of cash does not materially decline. It demonstrates to the United States efforts (albeit inadequate) to tackle the trade, while pointing out very real problems with its military and security apparatus and with its officials in Mexico City. It simultaneously points to the United States as the cause of the problem, given Washington’s failure to control demand or to reduce prices by legalization. And if massive amounts of money pour into Mexico as a result of this U.S. failure, Mexico is not going to refuse it.

The problem with the Mexican military or police is not lack of training or equipment. It is not a lack of leadership. These may be problems, but they are only problems if they interfere with implementing Mexican national policy. The problem is that these forces are personally unmotivated to take the risks needed to be effective because they benefit more from being ineffective. This isn’t incompetence but a rational national policy.

Moreover, Mexico has deep historic grievances toward the United States dating back to the Mexican-American War. These have been exacerbated by U.S. immigration policy that the Mexicans see both as insulting and as a threat to their policy of exporting surplus labor north. There is thus no desire to solve the Americans’ problem. Certainly, there are individuals in the Mexican government who wish to stop the smuggling and the inflow of billions of dollars. They will try. But they will not succeed, as too much is at stake. One must ignore public statements and earnest private assurances and instead observe the facts on the ground to understand what’s really going on.

The U.S. Strategic Problem
And this leaves the United States with a strategic problem. There is some talk in Mexico City and Washington of the Americans becoming involved in suppression of the smuggling within Mexico (even though the cartels, to use that strange name, make certain not to engage in significant violence north of the border and mask it when they do to reduce U.S. pressure on Mexico). This is certainly something the Mexicans would be attracted to. But it is unclear that the Americans would be any more successful than the Mexicans. What is clear is that any U.S. intervention would turn Mexican drug traffickers into patriots fighting yet another Yankee incursion. Recall that Pershing never caught Pancho Villa, but he did help turn Villa into a national hero in Mexico.

The United States has a number of choices. It could accept the status quo. It could figure out how to reduce drug demand in the United States while keeping drugs illegal. It could legalize drugs, thereby driving their price down and ending the motivation for smuggling. And it could move into Mexico in a bid to impose its will against a government, banking system and police and military force that benefit from the drug trade.

The United States does not know how to reduce demand for drugs. The United States is not prepared to legalize drugs. This means the choice lies between the status quo and a complex and uncertain (to say the least) intervention. We suspect the United States will attempt some limited variety of the latter, while in effect following the current strategy and living with the problem.

Ultimately, Mexico is a failed state only if you accept the idea that its goal is to crush the smugglers. If, on the other hand, one accepts the idea that all of Mexican society benefits from the inflow of billions of American dollars (even though it also pays a price), then the Mexican state has not failed — it is following a rational strategy to turn a national problem into a national benefit.

24261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: April 08, 2010, 03:51:38 PM
I think this gets it right:

Mexico and the Failed State Revisited
April 6, 2010




By George Friedman

STRATFOR argued March 13, 2008, that Mexico was nearing the status of a failed state. A failed state is one in which the central government has lost control over significant areas of the country and the state is unable to function. In revisiting this issue, it seems to us that the Mexican government has lost control of the northern tier of Mexico to drug-smuggling organizations, which have significantly greater power in that region than government forces. Moreover, the ability of the central government to assert its will against these organizations has weakened to the point that decisions made by the state against the cartels are not being implemented or are being implemented in a way that would guarantee failure.

Despite these facts, it is not clear to STRATFOR that Mexico is becoming a failed state. Instead, it appears the Mexican state has accommodated itself to the situation. Rather than failing, it has developed strategies designed both to ride out the storm and to maximize the benefits of that storm for Mexico.

First, while the Mexican government has lost control over matters having to do with drugs and with the borderlands of the United States, Mexico City’s control over other regions — and over areas other than drug enforcement — has not collapsed (though its lack of control over drugs could well extend to other areas eventually). Second, while drugs reshape Mexican institutions dramatically, they also, paradoxically, stabilize Mexico. We need to examine these crosscurrents to understand the status of Mexico.

Mexico’s Core Problem
Let’s begin by understanding the core problem. The United States consumes vast amounts of narcotics, which, while illegal there, make their way in abundance. Narcotics derive from low-cost agricultural products that become consumable with minimal processing. With its long, shared border with the United States, Mexico has become a major grower, processor and exporter of narcotics. Because the drugs are illegal and thus outside normal market processes, their price is determined by their illegality rather than by the cost of production. This means extraordinary profits can be made by moving narcotics from the Mexican side of the border to markets on the other side.

Whoever controls the supply chain from the fields to the processing facilities and, above all, across the border, will make enormous amounts of money. Various Mexican organizations — labeled cartels, although they do not truly function as such, since real cartels involve at least a degree of cooperation among producers, not open warfare — vie for this business. These are competing businesses, each with its own competing supply chain.

Typically, competition among businesses involves lowering prices and increasing quality. This would produce small, incremental shifts in profits on the whole while dramatically reducing prices. An increased market share would compensate for lower prices. Similarly, lawsuits are the normal solution to unfair competition. But neither is the case with regard to illegal goods.

The surest way to increase smuggling profits is not through market mechanisms but by taking over competitors’ supply chains. Given the profit margins involved, persons wanting to control drug supply chains would be irrational to buy, since the lower-cost solution would be to take control of these supply chains by force. Thus, each smuggling organization has an attached paramilitary organization designed to protect its own supply chain and to seize its competitors’ supply chains.

The result is ongoing warfare between competing organizations. Given the amount of money being made in delivering their product to American cities, these paramilitary organizations are well-armed, well-led and well-motivated. Membership in such paramilitary groups offers impoverished young men extraordinary opportunities for making money, far greater than would be available to them in legitimate activities.

The raging war in Mexico derives logically from the existence of markets for narcotics in the United States; the low cost of the materials and processes required to produce these products; and the extraordinarily favorable economics of moving narcotics across the border. This warfare is concentrated on the Mexican side of the border. But from the Mexican point of view, this warfare does not fundamentally threaten Mexico’s interests.

A Struggle Far From the Mexican Heartland
The heartland of Mexico is to the south, far from the country’s northern tier. The north is largely a sparsely populated highland desert region seen from Mexico City as an alien borderland intertwined with the United States as much as it is part of Mexico. Accordingly, the war raging there doesn’t represent a direct threat to the survival of the Mexican regime.





(click here to enlarge image)
Indeed, what the wars are being fought over in some ways benefits Mexico. The amount of money pouring into Mexico annually is stunning. It is estimated to be about $35 billion to $40 billion each year. The massive profit margins involved make these sums even more significant. Assume that the manufacturing sector produces revenues of $40 billion a year through exports. Assuming a generous 10 percent profit margin, actual profits would be $4 billion a year. In the case of narcotics, however, profit margins are conservatively estimated to stand at around 80 percent. The net from $40 billion would be $32 billion; to produce equivalent income in manufacturing, exports would have to total $320 billion.

In estimating the impact of drug money on Mexico, it must therefore be borne in mind that drugs cannot be compared to any conventional export. The drug trade’s tremendously high profit margins mean its total impact on Mexico vastly outstrips even the estimated total sales, even if the margins shifted substantially.

On the whole, Mexico is a tremendous beneficiary of the drug trade. Even if some of the profits are invested overseas, the pool of remaining money flowing into Mexico creates tremendous liquidity in the Mexican economy at a time of global recession. It is difficult to trace where the drug money is going, which follows from its illegality. Certainly, drug dealers would want their money in a jurisdiction where it could not be easily seized even if tracked. U.S. asset seizure laws for drug trafficking make the United States an unlikely haven. Though money clearly flows out of Mexico, the ability of the smugglers to influence the behavior of the Mexican government by investing some of it makes Mexico a likely destination for a substantial portion of such funds.

The money does not, however, flow back into the hands of the gunmen shooting it out on the border; even their bosses couldn’t manage funds of that magnitude. And while money can be — and often is — baled up and hidden, the value of money is in its use. As with illegal money everywhere, the goal is to wash it and invest it in legitimate enterprises where it can produce more money. That means it has to enter the economy through legitimate institutions — banks and other financial entities — and then be redeployed into the economy. This is no different from the American Mafia’s practice during and after Prohibition.

The Drug War and Mexican National Interests
From Mexico’s point of view, interrupting the flow of drugs to the United States is not clearly in the national interest or in that of the economic elite. Observers often dwell on the warfare between smuggling organizations in the northern borderland but rarely on the flow of American money into Mexico. Certainly, that money could corrupt the Mexican state, but it also behaves as money does. It is accumulated and invested, where it generates wealth and jobs.

For the Mexican government to become willing to shut off this flow of money, the violence would have to become far more geographically widespread. And given the difficulty of ending the traffic anyway — and that many in the state security and military apparatus benefit from it — an obvious conclusion can be drawn: Namely, it is difficult to foresee scenarios in which the Mexican government could or would stop the drug trade. Instead, Mexico will accept both the pain and the benefits of the drug trade.

Mexico’s policy is consistent: It makes every effort to appear to be stopping the drug trade so that it will not be accused of supporting it. The government does not object to disrupting one or more of the smuggling groups, so long as the aggregate inflow of cash does not materially decline. It demonstrates to the United States efforts (albeit inadequate) to tackle the trade, while pointing out very real problems with its military and security apparatus and with its officials in Mexico City. It simultaneously points to the United States as the cause of the problem, given Washington’s failure to control demand or to reduce prices by legalization. And if massive amounts of money pour into Mexico as a result of this U.S. failure, Mexico is not going to refuse it.

The problem with the Mexican military or police is not lack of training or equipment. It is not a lack of leadership. These may be problems, but they are only problems if they interfere with implementing Mexican national policy. The problem is that these forces are personally unmotivated to take the risks needed to be effective because they benefit more from being ineffective. This isn’t incompetence but a rational national policy.

Moreover, Mexico has deep historic grievances toward the United States dating back to the Mexican-American War. These have been exacerbated by U.S. immigration policy that the Mexicans see both as insulting and as a threat to their policy of exporting surplus labor north. There is thus no desire to solve the Americans’ problem. Certainly, there are individuals in the Mexican government who wish to stop the smuggling and the inflow of billions of dollars. They will try. But they will not succeed, as too much is at stake. One must ignore public statements and earnest private assurances and instead observe the facts on the ground to understand what’s really going on.

The U.S. Strategic Problem
And this leaves the United States with a strategic problem. There is some talk in Mexico City and Washington of the Americans becoming involved in suppression of the smuggling within Mexico (even though the cartels, to use that strange name, make certain not to engage in significant violence north of the border and mask it when they do to reduce U.S. pressure on Mexico). This is certainly something the Mexicans would be attracted to. But it is unclear that the Americans would be any more successful than the Mexicans. What is clear is that any U.S. intervention would turn Mexican drug traffickers into patriots fighting yet another Yankee incursion. Recall that Pershing never caught Pancho Villa, but he did help turn Villa into a national hero in Mexico.

The United States has a number of choices. It could accept the status quo. It could figure out how to reduce drug demand in the United States while keeping drugs illegal. It could legalize drugs, thereby driving their price down and ending the motivation for smuggling. And it could move into Mexico in a bid to impose its will against a government, banking system and police and military force that benefit from the drug trade.

The United States does not know how to reduce demand for drugs. The United States is not prepared to legalize drugs. This means the choice lies between the status quo and a complex and uncertain (to say the least) intervention. We suspect the United States will attempt some limited variety of the latter, while in effect following the current strategy and living with the problem.

Ultimately, Mexico is a failed state only if you accept the idea that its goal is to crush the smugglers. If, on the other hand, one accepts the idea that all of Mexican society benefits from the inflow of billions of American dollars (even though it also pays a price), then the Mexican state has not failed — it is following a rational strategy to turn a national problem into a national benefit.

24262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Smoking in the boys room ain't allowed in school on: April 07, 2010, 10:55:32 PM


http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/04/07/air-marshals-reportedly-stop-attempted-shoe-bomb-attack/
24263  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Tolmin, Slovenia 6/26-27 on: April 07, 2010, 08:37:15 PM

WARRIOR TRIBES CAMP 2010

After a huge success over the past few years, Ryukyu kempo Slovenia (RKSI) and Slovenian Kempo Arnis Federation (KAF), are organizing the 3rd Warrior tribes camp, held in the beautiful Tolmin, Slovenia, Europe. The camp will be from June 25-27th 2010.

Warrior Tribes Camp is devoted to all martial artists, seeking truth in combat and realistic applications of their training.

All ‘’modern combatives’’, modern street effective tactics, originate deeply from traditional sources, holding the key to correct and advanced combat applications. Warrior tribes camp will capitalize on traditional martial arts, their original goal and purpose, seeking answers to 21st century conflict scenarios, enabling practitioners from any eclectic or traditional martial art to upgrade their traditional training, self defense and combat skills to an even higher level.


Seminar will be conducted under Borut Kincl, head shihan of the Kempo Arnis Federation .

- http://www.rksi.net/video/demonstracija_anglija_07.wmv
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNBqj3hllVg


Guest instructors will include:

Marc  "Crafty Dog" Denny is "the Guiding Force" of the Dog Brothers and Head Instructor of Dog Brothers Martial Arts (DBMA). Guro Crafty is a long time student of some of the finest teachers in the world including Guro Dan Inosanto, Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje (Pekiti Tersia Kali), Punong Guro Edgar Sulite (Lameco Eskrima), Rigan Machado and others. Famous for his unparalleled stick fighting skills, he is also the founder of "Kali Tudo" (c) a blend of Filipino Kali and Brazilian "Vale Tudo" (the pre-UFC Brazilian version of MMA)

DBMA is a Filipino based "system of many styles".  It also draws from Krabi Krabong (the military weaponry forerunner to Muay Thai), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Silat, Bando and others. With some 140 real stick fights to his credit, Marc Denny and the Dog Brothers hold an undisputed resume in the martial arts world, considered to be ‘’too extreme’’ even for the UFC. During the 3 days seminar, Guro Crafty will bring a rare combination of his high quality training, teaching and fight experience. Something not to be missed!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5KkPcMUN_Q&feature=related


Avi Nardia, is head instructor of Avi Nardia KAPAP combatives. He is a former intelligence team member of unit YAMAM, Israel's premier counterterror takeover unit. As a member of the intelligence team and as the instructor CQB-Defensive Tactics (known in Hebrew as KAPAP-Krav Panim El Panim), which means face-to-face combat, Avi was exposed to many different tactics, training and dangerous situations. Head instructor of Avi Nardia Kapap combatives he possesses enormous knowledge in traditional martial arts as well as modern combatives.

- http://www.rksi.net/video/Kapap%20seminar%20Avi.wmv

Yuval Nachamkin,is one of the co-founders of Israel Combat systems and one of the leading Israel authorities on Philippino martial arts. He will be teaching advanced methods of knife fighting.

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxN8voSzwqU


Amit Porat is the founder of Israel Military Krav maga, which is the leading professional Krav Maga training organization serving military, police, counter-terrorism, and other security organizations including civilian commercial security organizations and private security organizations. Teaching IDF, VIP security, border patrol as well as security units outside Israel, he possesses great skills and charisma on how to teach authentic Israel martial arts. Amit will be teaching along side with Ravid Schimko.

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY9kukiwWFo


Held at the beautiful Adrenalin park in Tolmin, Slovenia, many outdoor activities will be available, including rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping,…
BBC announced the park as one of top 6 places in the world to visit.

Pictures and TV report form last years camp:

- http://24ur.com/novice/slovenija/specialci-na-urjenju-v-tolminu.html?ar=
- http://www.rksi.net/default.cfm?Jezik=Sl&Kat=02&Page=1&Rows=10&ID=27



Schedule:
- Friday afternoon: starts at 3 pm, (dinner)
- Saturday: whole day seminar, lunch break, Tribal challenge (stick fighting competition)
(breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Sunday: morning training, afternoon time for rafting, canyoning, trips … (breakfast, lunch)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Equipment needed:
sports pants - t –shirt or kimono, pants, sports shoes, boxing or grappling gloves, rattan sticks, training knife, groin and teeth protection



Sleeping:
Renovated hotel with two or three people per room. Food (3 meals per day) is included.

http://www.hotel-krn.com/

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prices:
- seminar, room and board, food: 220€
(applications until 25.5.2010)
- room and board only, not attending seminar (spouses): 100€

- other arrangements, contact: ervin@rksi.net

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Please send your applications to:
ERVIN: ervin@rksi.net (general secretar of KAF)

General questions:
BORUT: borut@rksi.net

Places are limited.
After May 31st, no further applications will be accepted.



FOREIGN VISITORS: PLEASE CONTACT US, WE WILL HELP YOU ORGANISE TRANSPORT TO HOTEL AND VENUE FROM LJUBLJANA (LJU) AIRPORT.
If you are interested to prolong your stay in Slovenia, please ask ervin@rksi.net. We will give you all the info on hotels, car rentals,….



REPRESENT YOUR TRIBE AND JOIN US IN SLOVENIA FOR ONE OF THE PREMIUM MARTIAL ARTS EVENTS IN EUROPE THIS SUMMER.


BORUT KINCL, president KAF
24264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now, here's a surprise on: April 07, 2010, 04:44:29 PM
I don’t understand.  If Obamacare is going to save us all this money, why do we need another tax?  I’m confused.  Someone please explain it to me without using Obamaspeak.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/07/obama-economic-adviser-says-consider-value-added-tax/

Updated April 07, 2010

Obama Economic Adviser Says U.S. Should Consider 'Value Added Tax'
NYPost.com

Acknowledging it would be a highly unpopular move, White House economic adviser Paul Volcker said yesterday the United States should consider imposing a "value added tax" similar to those charged in Europe to help get the deficit under control.  A VAT is a national sales tax that, like state and city sales taxes, would be collected by retailers.

Volcker, at the New-York Historical Society, told a panel on the global financial crisis that Congress might also have to consider new taxes on carbon and energy.

The VAT suggestion was immediately met with outrage by Republicans.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that the Obama White House would advocate a European-style tax to help finance their European-style government health-care plan," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Click here for more on this story from the New York Post.
24265  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Heroic action on: April 07, 2010, 04:36:13 PM


This is an unbelievable story. The video  is incredible. This  story is about  PVT Channing  Moss, who  was impaled by a live RPG during a Taliban  ambush  while on patrol.  Army protocol says that  medevac  choppers are never to carry anyone with a  live round in   him.  Even though they feared it could explode,  the  flight crew ignored the protocol and flew him to the  nearest aid  station. Again, protocol said that in  such a  case the patient is to be put in  sandbagged area  away from the  surgical unit, given a shot of  morphine and left  to wait  (and die) until others are treated. Again,  the medical  team ignored the protocol. Here's a   seven-minute video put together by the Military Times,  which  includes actual footage of the surgery,  where Dr. John  Oh, a  Korean immigrant who became a naturalized citizen  and went  to West Point,  removed the live round with the help  of  volunteers and a member of the EOD (explosive  ordinance disposal)  team.
 
 
Click  link  below:
 
 
http://www.militarytimes.com/multimedia/video/rpg_surgery/
24266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: April 07, 2010, 12:55:45 AM
Agreed.
24267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Foreclosures are rising on: April 06, 2010, 09:55:11 PM
Foreclosures Are Rising
By: Diana Olick
The new foreclosure wave is here.

Yes, banks are ramping up loan modifications and ramping up short sales and ramping up deeds in lieu of foreclosure, but the plain fact is that as the systems are oiled, the loans are moving through faster, and the pig in the python is showing its face.

We won't get the numbers until next week, but sources tell me they will likely be a new monthly record. Tens of thousands of loans have been hitting the "notice of trustee sale" bin, and that means they are coming to foreclosure.  The actual foreclosure numbers have been down recently because of all the modification efforts, but as we see more loans not qualifying for modifications and more loans defaulting on modifications, the foreclosure numbers rise.

And this is just the beginning.

All the uniform policies and practices that the government has put in place, whether on modifications or short sales, will quicken the process. Foreclosures, which can now take 2 years plus to complete, will happen in less than a year, start to finish.

Clearly the Administration knew of the impending rise in foreclosures, as it revamped its modification, refinance and short sale programs last month, increasing incentives all around and pushing for principal write down. The big question of course is how will the new wave affect home prices, especially in the hardest hit markets.


I pushed Fannie Mae's chief economist Doug Duncan on this in an interview today on the mortgage giant's new National Housing Survey. He cited the over 5 million mortgages out there that are seriously delinquent, and said that while the 30-day delinquencies seem to have peaked, "certainly some of the foreclosure backlogs are working their way through the system at this point." He also said home prices will dip again before hitting bottom later this year.

Yesterday we saw a big bump in the Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index, but my sources tell me that was largely driven by contracts on short sales, which have a far lower rate of closing than regular sale contracts. Estimates are that only about 35 percent of short sale contracts go to closing versus 80 percent of conventional sale contracts.


The home buyer tax credit deadline is 24 days away, and that is pushing some of the numbers up, but not as much as some had hoped.

Credit Suisse's Dan Oppenheim noted an uptick in buyer traffic in March thanks to the credit, but his survey of real estate agents found, "buyers remain hesitant due to employment concerns. Most of the demand occurred at the low-end of the market."
http://www.cnbc.com/id/36195838
24268  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Head Count for the Tribal Gathering on: April 06, 2010, 09:47:08 PM
19:  Whoops! I see Cyborg's name inadvertently got dropped.  Due to a neck injury, he will not be fighting.
24269  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Head Count for the Tribal Gathering on: April 06, 2010, 08:20:23 PM
Another Hip Pocket?   cool cool cool

1: Crafty Dog: Ringmaster

2: Lonely Dog

3: Guide Dog

4: Doc Kaju as EMT


5: C-Growling Dog

6: Tyler Morin

7: Tinu "c - 3D Dog"

 8. Tricky Dog

 9. Chris Goard

10. Patrick Gagnon

11. C. Ole Fredrickson

12: Pappy Dog

13: Tennessee Dog

14: Boo Dog

15: Junkyard Dog

16: Poi Dog

17: Sled Dog

18: Sheep Dog
24270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: April 06, 2010, 05:24:00 PM
Brooks is usually a typical liberal/progressive twit, yet there are elements in this piece worth considering:

By DAVID BROOKS
Published: April 5, 2010
According to recent polls, 60 percent of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction. The same percentage believe that the U.S. is in long-term decline. The political system is dysfunctional. A fiscal crisis looks unavoidable. There are plenty of reasons to be gloomy.  But if you want to read about them, stop right here. This column is a great luscious orgy of optimism. Because the fact is, despite all the problems, America’s future is exceedingly bright.

Over the next 40 years, demographers estimate that the U.S. population will surge by an additional 100 million people, to 400 million over all. The population will be enterprising and relatively young. In 2050, only a quarter will be over 60, compared with 31 percent in China and 41 percent in Japan.

In his book, “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” über-geographer Joel Kotkin sketches out how this growth will change the national landscape. Extrapolating from current trends, he describes an archipelago of vibrant suburban town centers, villages and urban cores.

The initial wave of suburbanization was sprawling and featureless. Tom Wolfe once observed that you only knew you were in a new town when you began to see a new set of 7-Elevens. But humans need meaningful places, so developers have been filling in with neo-downtowns — suburban gathering spots where people can dine, work, go to the movies and enjoy public space.

Over the next 40 years, Kotkin argues, urban downtowns will continue their modest (and perpetually overhyped) revival, but the real action will be out in the compact, self-sufficient suburban villages. Many of these places will be in the sunbelt — the drive to move there remains strong — but Kotkin also points to surging low-cost hubs on the Plains, like Fargo, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux Falls, and Boise.

The demographic growth is driven partly by fertility. The American fertility rate is 50 percent higher than Russia, Germany or Japan, and much higher than China. Americans born between 1968 and 1979 are more family-oriented than the boomers before them, and are having larger families.

In addition, the U.S. remains a magnet for immigrants. Global attitudes about immigration are diverging, and the U.S. is among the best at assimilating them (while China is exceptionally poor). As a result, half the world’s skilled immigrants come to the U.S. As Kotkin notes, between 1990 and 2005, immigrants started a quarter of the new venture-backed public companies.

The United States already measures at the top or close to the top of nearly every global measure of economic competitiveness. A comprehensive 2008 Rand Corporation study found that the U.S. leads the world in scientific and technological development. The U.S. now accounts for a third of the world’s research-and-development spending. Partly as a result, the average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than the average Chinese worker, a gap that will close but not go away in our lifetimes.

This produces a lot of dynamism. As Stephen J. Rose points out in his book “Rebound: Why America Will Emerge Stronger From the Financial Crisis,” the number of Americans earning between $35,000 and $70,000 declined by 12 percent between 1980 and 2008. But that’s largely because the number earning over $105,000 increased by 14 percent. Over the past 10 years, 60 percent of American adults made more than $100,000 in at least one or two of those years, and 40 percent had incomes that high for at least three.

As the world gets richer, demand will rise for the sorts of products Americans are great at providing — emotional experiences. Educated Americans grow up in a culture of moral materialism; they have their sensibilities honed by complicated shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” and “Mad Men,” and they go on to create companies like Apple, with identities coated in moral and psychological meaning, which affluent consumers crave.

As the rising generation leads an economic revival, it will also participate in a communal one. We are living in a global age of social entrepreneurship.

In 1964, there were 15,000 foundations in the U.S. By 2001, there were 61,000. In 2007, total private giving passed $300 billion. Participation in organizations like City Year, Teach for America, and College Summit surges every year. Suburbanization helps. For every 10 percent reduction in population density, the odds that people will join a local club rise by 15 percent. The culture of service is now entrenched and widespread.

In sum, the U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival, built on its historic strengths. The U.S. has always been good at disruptive change. It’s always excelled at decentralized community-building. It’s always had that moral materialism that creates meaning-rich products. Surely a country with this much going for it is not going to wait around passively and let a rotten political culture drag it down.
24271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / FCC loses on Net Neutrality on: April 06, 2010, 11:21:13 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tue, April 06, 2010 -- 11:23 AM ET
-----

Court Rules Against F.C.C. in 'Net Neutrality' Case

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal
Communications Commission lacks the authority to require
broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet
traffic flowing over their networks.

Tuesday's ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia is a big victory for the Comcast
Corporation, the nation's largest cable company. It had
challenged the F.C.C.'s authority to impose so called "net
neutrality" obligations.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
24272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 06, 2010, 10:17:02 AM
I agree that advocating abolishing Medicare would be political suicide.  So do we simply say that, or is there a principled reason which reaches the same conclusion?

Am I also correct in thinking it already or about to be bankrupt?  If so, what, if any, principles apply?
24273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: April 06, 2010, 08:45:54 AM
By JONATHAN WEISMAN And PETER SPIEGEL
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration will release a new national nuclear-weapons strategy Tuesday that makes only modest changes to U.S. nuclear forces, leaving intact the longstanding U.S. threat to use nuclear weapons first, even against non-nuclear nations.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 
The Obama administration will release a new national nuclear-weapons strategy Tuesday that makes only modest changes to U.S. nuclear forces.
.But the new policy will narrow potential U.S. nuclear targets, and for the first time makes explicit the goal of making deterrence of a nuclear strike the "sole objective" of U.S. nuclear weapons, a senior Obama administration official said Monday.

Also for the first time, nations complying with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations that attack the U.S. or its allies with chemical or biological weapons will no longer be threatened with nuclear retaliation, the official said. But the president will make clear they would "face the prospect of a devastating conventional attack," the official said.

The document, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, is the first rethinking of the U.S. nuclear strategy since President George W. Bush released his revised policies three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It does offer clearer assurances that non-nuclear nations complying with nuclear proliferation accords will not be targeted, and it moves toward additional safeguards against accidental nuclear launches. But more dramatic changes, contemplated just weeks ago, were shelved after President Barack Obama secured a nuclear arms-control treaty with Russia that will shape the U.S. arsenal for the next decade.

Journal Community
Vote: Should the U.S. declare it will not use nuclear weapons first?
.The release of the review will kick off a lengthy series of defense-policy events that Mr. Obama hopes will further his aims of countering the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, and of isolating Iran.

On Thursday, he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will sign a treaty cutting deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by 30%.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia reserves the right to withdraw from its new arms-control treaty with the U.S. if it decides the planned U.S. missile-defense shield threatens its security, the Associated Press reported. Mr. Lavrov said Russia will issue a statement outlining the terms for such a withdrawal after Messrs. Obama and Medvedev sign the treaty, AP reported.

"Russia will have the right to opt out of the treaty if qualitative and quantitative parameters of the U.S. strategic missile defense begin to significantly effect the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces," Mr. Lavrov told the AP.

Next week, more than 40 heads of state convene in Washington for a summit on counter-proliferation, which will lead to efforts at the United Nations to tighten economic sanctions against Iran to choke off its nuclear ambitions. Next month, Mr. Obama will try to use the first U.N. review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in five years to toughen the treaty and isolate two of its scofflaws, Iran and North Korea.

"Release of nuclear posture review will set the stage," said a U.S. official involved in proliferation issues.

To many arms-control advocates, the review is likely to be a disappointment. "It's a status quo document, I think, in virtually every respect," said Bruce Blair, president of World Security Institute and co-coordinator of Global Zero, a disarmament group.

With Senate approval needed for the pact with Russia to cut nuclear arsenals, administration officials did not want to commit to dramatic changes in nuclear policy that opponents could use to build opposition to the treaty, Mr. Blair said. Republican Senate aides said they expected a document they could embrace.

But the administration official said the "adjustments" in the U.S. position narrow any contingencies for a nuclear strike. The document will say "there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which the option of using nuclear weapons can play a role in deterring large-scale conventional, chemical or biological attack," he said. But it will add that Washington "will continue to move" toward "making nuclear deterrence the sole objective" of the arsenal. The adjective "sole" has become a key measurement in diplomatic circles where U.S. nuclear forces have long been seen as an impediment to stopping nuclear proliferation.

The document will more clearly say the U.S. will not attack non-nuclear nations that have signed and are complying with the U.N. nonproliferation treaty, according to officials familiar with it. That effectively narrows the potential U.S. nuclear targets to the eight declared nuclear powers, as well as Iran and possibly Syria, said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, an arms-control group. U.S. officials consider those two nations to be not fully compliant with the nonproliferation treaty.

The nuclear strategy will not take U.S. nuclear weapons off submarines, bombers and missiles that could fire them at a moment's notice. But the administration will recommend changes to the nuclear command structure that would make accidental launches more unlikely, officials said. They will also call for fortifying U.S. nuclear launch systems, so military officials would not believe they have to launch a nuclear strike out of fear that an incoming attack would destroy the U.S. response capacity.

For the first time, the strategy makes counter-proliferation the highest priority of nuclear policy makers.

The new strategy will emphasize reducing reliance on the role of nuclear weapons in deterrence, and will commit to accelerating the deployment of non-nuclear deterrent capabilities, such as missile defenses and the forward deployment of U.S. forces to trouble spots.

But the administration backed away from language that its allies in the arms-control community believed they would secure. Officials considered detailing their goals for the next round of arms talks with Russia, including controls on battlefield tactical nuclear weapons, dismantling mothballed warheads and reducing total deployments to 1,000 warheads a side, down from the 1,550 limit in the new treaty. But the new doctrine will not contain such specifics, nor will it adopt language threatening nuclear attack only against nuclear threats.

"The United States should be able to clearly state that the only purpose we hold nuclear weapons for is to deter the use of nuclear weapons," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. "There is no conventional threat out there that we cannot counter with our overwhelming conventional forces."

—Jay Solomon contributed to this article.
Write to Jonathan Weisman at jonathan.weisman@wsj.com and Peter Spiegel at peter.spiegel@wsj.com

24274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on our Founding Fathers: on: April 06, 2010, 08:28:39 AM
"Whatever may be the judgement pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the  edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction ... that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them." --James Madison
24275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 05, 2010, 09:19:14 PM
Fair enough.

I guess what I am looking for here is the ability to concisely state what we believe and why.  If we can't do that, then we are not poised to do anything.
24276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO narrows our policy regarding nuke use on: April 05, 2010, 09:08:37 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Mon, April 05, 2010 -- 8:15 PM ET
-----

Obama Limits When U.S. Can Use Nuclear Weapons

WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Monday that he was
revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow
the conditions under which the United States would use
nuclear weapons, even in self defense.

The strategy eliminates much of the ambiguity that has
deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the
opening days of the Cold War. For the first time, the United
States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons
against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the
United States with biological or chemical weapons, or
launched a crippling cyberattack.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
24277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hit on US Consulate in Peshawar on: April 05, 2010, 11:15:25 AM
RED ALERT UPDATE: U.S. Consulate Attack
Stratfor Today » April 5, 2010 | 1120 GMT



A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke billows following a large bomb blast in Peshawar on April 5 Summary
The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was the target of a well-coordinated attack carried out by Pakistani militants shortly after 1 p.m. local time April 5. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is reporting that at least three employees at the compound were killed in the attack. Reports are still sketchy and many details are unconfirmed, but this is a rare direct attack against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Pakistan. The attack comes as the Pakistani military opened up offensives against militants in North Waziristan and Orakzai agencies in the tribal belt of northwest Pakistan beginning April 1.

Analysis
The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar appears to have been the target of a well-coordinated attack carried out by Pakistani militants during early afternoon local time April 5. Militants dressed in military uniforms (a common tactic used to confuse response teams) reportedly attacked a security checkpoint on a road leading to the consulate, with eyewitnesses reporting that they saw at least two vehicles carrying gunmen enter into the heavily guarded area. Shortly after, three large explosions — likely vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) — were detonated near the consulate at 1:19, 1:30, and 1:33 p.m. local time. Militants on foot fired at least two rocket-propelled grenades at the consulate and engaged security personnel in gunfire. According to Aaj TV, one suicide bomber was able to get into the consulate compound and detonate his vest inside the wall. Video footage from Pakistan’s Geo TV network show large mushroom clouds rising over one of the blasts. Gunfire was also heard in the area as local security forces engaged armed militants attempting a siege against the consulate building. The area is now reportedly clear, but Pakistani helicopter gunships can still be seen patrolling the area.

The attack employed suicide bombers (both using suicide vests and vehicles) and gunmen (armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades) on foot to overwhelm security forces in order to get closer to the consulate building. This attempt is similar to the attack on the Army General Headquarters by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Oct. 10, 2009, but it is the largest in recent memory given that it involved at least three VBIEDs. The TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack.





(click here to enlarge image)
According to local press, two of the large explosions (likely VBIEDs) hit the outer perimeter wall, while the third was able to hit the exterior perimeter of the consulate. Three U.S. Consulate employees are reported dead and a helicopter could be seen airlifting casualties out of the consular compound. Given the number of explosions, the death toll is likely to increase. Most casualties, however, will likely be outside the compound, as many U.S. diplomatic missions (including the consulate in Peshawar) have high-level security features (including concentric rings of security) built in to prevent attacks such as these from reaching the building itself. It is likely that the perimeter wall sustained heavy damage and that any perimeter security checkpoints were also destroyed. Attacking the primary consular building would be extremely difficult, however. Many attempts have been made to penetrate the security at well-defended U.S. diplomatic facilities in recent years such as in Sanaa, Yemen; Istanbul, Turkey; and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but none have been able to penetrate the perimeter security and successfully attack the main diplomatic building.

Regardless of how much damage this attack was able to inflict upon the U.S. Consulate, the fact that militants attacked the compound in the first place marks an unusual, direct attack against U.S. targets in Pakistan. Western hotels known to have housed U.S. citizens such as the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad or the Pearl Continental in Peshawar have been attacked in recent years and personnel at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi were targeted in 2006, but none of the attacks were as complex as today’s appears to have been. Also, three U.S. military officials were killed in a VBIED attack in Lower Dir district of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province on Feb. 3; it is not clear that the militants involved in that attack specifically targeted the U.S. officials, however.

The April 5 attack comes as the Pakistani military opened up another offensive against militants in Orakzai agency (which is just southwest of Peshawar agency) in an ongoing effort to eliminate militant sanctuary in the Pakistani tribal belt. The United States has been working closely with Pakistan to isolate the foreign militant presence (groups such as al Qaeda) from the local militant groups to gain a better negotiating position against Pakistani militants. While today’s attack bore the signature of the TTP and occurred in an area where the group is active, that the target set was so different could be an indicator that local al Qaeda forces were also involved. Al Qaeda frequently has been responsible for attacks like these against U.S. diplomatic missions — including the three most recent attacks named above.

STRATFOR is monitoring the situation for more details.
24278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 05, 2010, 11:07:19 AM
Thank you.

Please allow me to add a third question for everyone:

3)
   a) Should Medicare and Medicaid exist?  If yes, what is the conceptual basis?  If not, what should be done? 
   b) If they should exist/can't be terminated, are they solvent?  If not, what should be done?
24279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: April 05, 2010, 10:39:30 AM
The Foundation
"It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would be more proper to say that the necessity of any Government is a misfortune. This necessity however exists; and the problem to be solved is, not what form of Government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect." --James Madison

Liberty
"Over the past 14 months, our political debate has been transformed into an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives. The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government. It's an argument that has been going on for a century but was largely dormant over the quarter-century of low-inflation economic growth that followed the Ronald Reagan tax cuts. It's been raised again by the expand-government policies of the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders. Those policies, thoroughly in line with the Progressive tradition, have been advanced by liberal elites in government, media, think tanks and academia. The opposition, roughly in line with the Founders tradition, has been led by the non-elites who spontaneously flocked to tea parties and town halls. ... The conservative rebellions of the late 1970s and middle 1990s were focused on taxes. The tea partiers are focusing on the expansion of government -- and its threat to the independence of citizens. ... By passing the stimulus package and the health care bills, the Democrats produced expansion of government. But voters seem to prefer expansion of liberty." --political analyst Michael Barone

Re: The Left
"The political issue rumbling toward both the Supreme Court and the electorate is whether Washington's size and power has finally grown beyond the comfort zone of the American people. That is what lies beneath the chatter about federalism and the 10th Amendment. Liberals will argue that government today is doing good. But government now is also unprecedentedly large and unprecedentedly expensive. Even if every challenge to ObamaCare loses in court, these anxieties will last and keep coming back to the same question: Does the Democratic left think the national government's powers are infinite? No one in the Obama White House, asked that in public on Sunday morning, would simply say yes, no matter that the evidence of this government's actions the past year indicate they do. In his 'Today Show' interview [last] week, Mr. Obama with his characteristic empathy acknowledged there are 'folks who have legitimate concerns ... that the federal government may be taking on too much.' My reading of the American public is that they have moved past 'concerns.'" --Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger

Government
"So, what is the impact on the deficit when the Senate health care bill, the reconciliation bill to fix the Senate health care bill and the bill to fix the phantom reductions in doctors' fees are all considered together? ... 'CBO estimates that enacting all three pieces of legislation would add $59 billion to budget deficits over the 2010-2019 period.' Rather than cut the deficit by $1 trillion over two decades as Obama claims, the full health care package increases the deficit by $59 billion over one decade. ... [T]he bill authorizes new discretionary spending that Congress will need to approve in future years to make sure the bureaucracies are in place to carry out the new plan. CBO estimates this will lead to 'at least $50 billion' in new spending over 10 years that was not included in the health care bill itself. ... Nor should Obama's socialized medicine plan be viewed in isolation from the rest of his budget. CBO says his fiscal 2011 budget proposal will increase the national debt by $9.8 trillion over the next 10 years. He is running a record $1.5 trillion deficit this year, and the smallest deficit he will ever run is $724 billion in 2014 -- the year his unconstitutional individual insurance mandate kicks in. After that, the deficit starts an unbroken climb, surpassing $1 trillion again in 2018 and heading ever higher. Just as Obama's claim that his socialized medicine plan will reduce the deficit by $1 trillion will be his defining lie, his legacy will be this: He bankrupted America." --CNSNews.com editor in chief Terence Jeffrey

The Gipper
"The fact is, we'll never build a lasting economic recovery by going deeper into debt at a faster rate than we ever have before. It took this nation 166 years until the middle of World War II to finally accumulate a debt of $95 billion. It took this [Carter] administration just the last 12 months to add $95 billion to the debt. And this administration has run up almost one-fourth of the total national debt in just these short 19 months. Inflation is the cause of recession and unemployment. And we're not going to have real prosperity or recovery until we stop fighting the symptoms and start fighting the disease." --Ronald Reagan

Faith & Family
"What's so disheartening about America's present political environment is that those in Washington are truly convinced that more and bigger government is America's primary solution for recovery, future growth and security. President Barack Obama even declared early in his presidency that 'only government' is our savior. Our Founders had a far better solution than only government. ... As proud as they were of their newfound republic, our Founders' trust and hope was not in government, but in God. For what? For most of the things that people today often look to government to provide: life, liberty, happiness, provision, salvation, decency, civility, morality, honesty, restraint, equity of power and future hope, to name a few. Tragically, in modern times, government has usurped God's role in our republic and Americans' lives. ... To our Founders, God was the source of our human rights, which put limits on government power. Even more, God was (and should be) the ultimate agent for national sustenance and renewal. That is why we are dreaming if we think we can correct the ills in ourselves, our government or our society without his aid." --columnist Chuck Norris
24280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 05, 2010, 08:46:02 AM
Interesting.

Two questions for everyone here:

1)  What should be the rules concerning someone with a pre-existing condition?  What is the conceptual basis for your opinion?

2) What should be the rules for insurance companies when someone develops a serious condition?  Should the insurance company be allowed to drop them?  Raise their rates until they drop out?  Or?  What is the conceptual basis for you opinion?

I think answering these two questions important.  IMHO it is fear of these two issues that drives much of the support for the HC Law.

I look forward to everyone's answers.
24281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: 1834 on: April 05, 2010, 08:39:12 AM
"You give me a credit to which I have no claim in calling me 'the writer of the Constitution of the United States.' This was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands." --James Madison, letter to William Cogswell, 1834
24282  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty seminar in Bern Switzerland, 8/15, 2010 on: April 04, 2010, 03:54:44 PM
Forwarded from Lonely Dog:

dear group leader and / or good friends

i send you this e-mail to inform you about the training schedule just before the august gathering in bern.

best accomodation as a said will be the campsite "eichholz" www.campingeichholz.ch , not just  that it's very close to the gathering / seminar location but also gives the best possibility to meet the other guys and to do some training the days before.

there will be no training camp as last year, but will teach on wednesday and thursday (11./12.august) in the morning hours (10.00 - 12.00).

beside of this official training i'm sure that you will find plenty of guys who are willing to train a bit.

if you have interest to take some private lessons with guro "crafty dog" or myself the following days would be the best to do so:
wednesday 11.august / thursday 12.august / monday 16.august.
if you have interest to do some privates please let me know so i can organize it.

if you have any questions, please let me know

i'm very exhited to see many of you again

wuff
benjamin
24283  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: April 04, 2010, 03:54:03 PM
Forwarded from Lonely Dog:

dear group leader and / or good friends

i send you this e-mail to inform you about the training schedule just before the august gathering in bern.

Best accomodation as a said will be the campsite "eichholz" www.campingeichholz.ch , not just  that it's very close to the gathering / seminar location but also gives the best possibility to meet the other guys and to do some training the days before.

There will be no training camp as last year, but will teach on wednesday and thursday (11./12.august) in the morning hours (10.00 - 12.00).

Beside this official training I'm sure that you will find plenty of guys who are willing to train a bit.

If you have interest to take some private lessons with Guro "Crafty Dog" or myself the following days would be the best to do so:
wednesday 11.august / thursday 12.august / monday 16.august.
if you have interest to do some privates please let me know so i can organize it.

if you have any questions, please let me know.  I'm very excited to see everyone.



wuff
benjamin
24284  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: April 04, 2010, 03:51:54 PM
Host and friend Rob Crowley was in town this weekend to train with me.  This seminar is shaping up to be something quite special.
24285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 04, 2010, 03:43:04 PM
Well, if there is a quid pro quo then it seems not improper to me not to make it apparent to all the world to the embarassment of the Chinese.
24286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Awakening a Sleeping Nation? on: April 03, 2010, 08:34:43 AM
http://www.aspentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100228/ASPENWEEKLY/100229854/&template=printart
 
Barack Obama has awakened a sleeping nation
Gary Hubbell
Aspen Times Weekly,
 
Barack Obama is the best thing that has happened to America in the last 100 years. Truly, he is the savior of America's future. He is the best thing ever.

Despite the fact that he has some of the lowest approval ratings among recent presidents, history will see Barack Obama as the source of America's resurrection. Barack Obama has plunged the country into levels of debt that we could not have previously imagined; his efforts to nationalize health care have been met with fierce resistance nationwide; TARP bailouts and stimulus spending have shown little positive effect on the national economy; unemployment is unacceptably high and looks to remain that way for most of a decade; legacy entitlement programs have ballooned to unsustainable levels, and there is a seething anger in the populace.

That's why Barack Obama is such a good thing for America.

Obama is the symbol of a creeping liberalism that has infected our society like a cancer for the last 100 years. Just as Hitler is the face of fascism, Obama will go down in history as the face of unchecked liberalism. The cancer metastasized to the point where it could no longer be ignored.

Average Americans who have quietly gone about their lives, earning a paycheck, contributing to their favorite charities, going to high school football games on Friday night, spending their weekends at the beach or on hunting trips — they've gotten off the fence. They've woken up. There is a level of political activism in this country that we haven't seen since the American Revolution, and Barack Obama has been the catalyst that has sparked a restructuring of the American political and social consciousness.

Think of the crap we've slowly learned to tolerate over the past 50 years as liberalism sought to re-structure the America that was the symbol of freedom and liberty to all the people of the world. Immigration laws were ignored on the basis of compassion. Welfare policies encouraged irresponsibility, the fracturing of families, and a cycle of generations of dependency. Debt was regarded as a tonic to lubricate the economy. Our children left school having been taught that they are exceptional and special, while great numbers of them cannot perform basic functions of mathematics and literacy. Legislators decided that people could not be trusted to defend their own homes, and stripped citizens of their rights to own firearms. Productive members of society have been penalized with a heavy burden of taxes in order to support legions of do-nothings who loll around, reveling in their addictions, obesity, indolence, ignorance and “disabilities.” Criminals have been arrested and re-arrested, coddled and set free to pillage the citizenry yet again. Lawyers routinely extort fortunes from doctors, contractors and business people with dubious torts.

We slowly learned to tolerate these outrages, shaking our heads in disbelief, and we went on with our lives.

But Barack Obama has ripped the lid off a seething cauldron of dissatisfaction and unrest.

In the time of Barack Obama, Black Panther members stand outside polling places in black commando uniforms, slapping truncheons into their palms. ACORN — a taxpayer-supported organization — is given a role in taking the census, even after its members were caught on tape offering advice to set up child prostitution rings. A former Communist is given a paid government position in the White House as an advisor to the president. Auto companies are taken over by the government, and the auto workers' union — whose contracts are completely insupportable in any economic sense — is rewarded with a stake in the company. Government bails out Wall Street investment bankers and insurance companies, who pay their executives outrageous bonuses as thanks for the public support. Terrorists are read their Miranda rights and given free lawyers. And, despite overwhelming public disapproval, Barack Obama has pushed forward with a health care plan that would re-structure one-sixth of the American economy.

I don't know about you, but the other day I was at the courthouse doing some business, and I stepped into the court clerk's office and changed my voter affiliation from “Independent” to “Republican.” I am under no illusion that the Republican party is perfect, but at least they're starting to awaken to the fact that we cannot sustain massive levels of debt; we cannot afford to hand out billions of dollars in corporate subsidies; we have to somehow trim our massive entitlement programs; we can no longer be the world's policeman and dole out billions in aid to countries whose citizens seek to harm us.

Literally millions of Americans have had enough. They're organizing, they're studying the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, they're reading history and case law, they're showing up at rallies and meetings, and a slew of conservative candidates are throwing their hats into the ring. Is there a revolution brewing? Yes, in the sense that there is a keen awareness that our priorities and sensibilities must be radically re-structured. Will it be a violent revolution? No. It will be done through the interpretation of the original document that has guided us for 220 years — the Constitution. Just as the pendulum swung to embrace political correctness and liberalism, there will be a backlash, a complete repudiation of a hundred years of nonsense. A hundred years from now, history will perceive the year 2010 as the time when America got back on the right track. And for that, we can thank Barack Hussein Obama.


Gary Hubbell is a hunter, rancher, and former hunting and fly-fishing guide. Gary works as a Colorado ranch real estate broker. He can be reached through his website, aspenranchrealestate.com.



http://www.aspentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100228/ASPENWEEKLY/100229854/&template=printart
24287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: April 03, 2010, 08:06:20 AM
Forwarded to me by Our Man Formerly in Iraq"
============
This looks suspiciously like the sectarian violence of 2006-2007:
 

Gunmen kill 25 in attack on Iraqi village
 
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed houses and killed 25 people, including five women, in a Sunni village south of Baghdad, officials said Saturday. The attack took place late Friday night in a village in Arab Jabour, a predominantly Sunni region about 15 miles southeast of the capital. Most of the victims in Friday's attacks were local members of the Sons of Iraq, the group which helped U.S. and Iraqi forces fight against al Qaeda and suppress the insurgency.
 
The 25 victims were found handcuffed and died from small arms fire, police said.
 

Iraqi security forces have arrested 25 suspects in the incident.
=======================

My comments:  Perhaps if His Glibness had not run against The Surge and for Immediate Bug-Out things might be different now. 
24288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 02, 2010, 09:52:25 AM
Generally the piece makes good points, but I most certainly quibble with these two:

a) "one about as coherent as the neoconservatives’ lumping together all anti-US Muslims under the banner of “Islamofascism"

b) "With all the Bush-era anti-Muslim hysteria"
24289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: April 02, 2010, 08:41:56 AM
The article, though I also note that the quote in question ("not sure that") does not state an absolute prediction-- though it seems you are predicting that His Glibness will lose in 2012 (Yaweh be praised!).  OTOH if His Glibness gets to continue on his merry way with us until 2016, then Israel's odds deteriorate even further.

To be perfectly clear, I think Israel will probably survive, but the odds of its destruction are far from insiginificant.
24290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Federalist 57 on: April 02, 2010, 07:05:32 AM
"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust." --James Madison, Federalist No. 57
24291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lithuania on: April 02, 2010, 06:55:39 AM
The following piece from POTH (so caveat lector) brings up the case of Lithuania, which apparently is following the radical idea of cutting spending.  As such Lithuania bears watching.

=====================
VILNIUS, Lithuania — If leaders of the world’s many indebted countries want to see what austerity looks like, they might want to visit this Baltic nation of 3.3 million.

“You have to do the most difficult cuts as quickly as possible,” Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said of the austerity plan.
Faced with rising deficits that threatened to bankrupt the country, Lithuania cut public spending by 30 percent — including slashing public sector wages 20 to 30 percent and reducing pensions by as much as 11 percent. Even the prime minister, Andrius Kubilius, took a pay cut of 45 percent. And the government didn’t stop there. It raised taxes on a wide variety of goods, like pharmaceutical products and alcohol. Corporate taxes rose to 20 percent, from 15 percent. The value-added tax rose to 21 percent, from 18 percent.

The net effect on this country’s finances was a savings equal to 9 percent of gross domestic product, the second-largest fiscal adjustment in a developed economy, after Latvia’s, since the credit crisis began.

But austerity has exacted its own price, in social and personal pain. Pensioners, their benefits cut, swamped soup kitchens. Unemployment jumped to a high of 14 percent, from single digits — and an already wobbly economy shrank 15 percent last year.

Remarkably, for the most part, the austerity was imposed with the grudging support of Lithuania’s trade unions and opposition parties, and has yet to elicit the kind of protest expressed by the regular, widespread street demonstrations and strikes seen in Greece, Spain and Britain. 

To be sure, Mr. Kubilius has many critics here and abroad. Government austerity in the midst of a recession runs counter to the Keynesian approach of increasing public expenditures to fight a downturn. That was the path most countries chose. But Mr. Kubilius and his team say that with a budget deficit of 9 percent of G.D.P., a currency fixed to the euro and international bond markets unwilling to lend to Lithuania, the government had no choice but to show the world it could impose its own internal devaluation by cutting public spending, restoring competitiveness and reclaiming the good will of the bond markets.

Another motivation was to conform to the rules of membership for the euro currency union, which Lithuania hopes to join by 2014.

Indeed, outside of Ireland, no country in Europe has come close to replicating Lithuania’s severe spending cuts without the aid of the International Monetary Fund. Ireland passed the most austere budget in the country’s history, and public sector pay cuts were a centerpiece of the government’s reform effort. The Finance Ministry has forecast growth of 1.5 percent this year, and this week Moody’s increased its outlook on the Lithuanian economy to stable, from negative.

“From a credit rating perspective, Lithuania has put itself on positive trajectory,” said Kenneth Orchard, a senior credit officer in Moody’s sovereign risk group.

As European nations consider what the social and political costs will be when they take steps to cut public sector spending, Lithuania offers a real-time case study of the societal trade-offs.  Speed and communication are the most crucial to success, Mr. Kubilius said in an interview in his office last week.

“You have to have a dialogue with your social partners, and you have to do the most difficult cuts as quickly as possible,” he said. “I told them this is history. You need to decide now how you want to be described in our history books.”

Like Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania rode a boom driven by banking and real estate earlier this decade. Construction came to dominate the economy, and low interest rates spurred a housing boom. Many Lithuanians took out low-interest-rate mortgages denominated in foreign currencies. With the onset of the crisis, house prices plunged, building ground to a halt and quite suddenly thousands lost their jobs and began to default on their debts.

While the quaint cobblestone streets of Vilnius may project an air of prosperity, one does not need to travel far to witness the pain many Lithuanians are feeling. Monika Midveryte, a university student, and her mother are now supporting the family after her father lost his construction job. Now, she said, he sits at home in front of the television drinking his troubles away. “He has no hope.”

The psychological toll has been immense. Suicides have increased in a country where the suicide rate of 35 per 100,000 is already one of the world’s highest, local experts say. According to figures collected by the Youth Psychological Aid Center, telephone calls to its hot line from people who said they were on the verge of committing suicide nearly doubled last year to 1,400, from 750.



============



(Page 2 of 2)



As the president of Solidarumas, one of Lithuania’s largest trade unions, Aldona Jasinskiene has an acute understanding of how bad things are — not just as the head of her union, but as a mother. For more than a year, her salary has paid the 2,300 litas, about $900, in monthly mortgage payments for her 40-year-old son, who lost his construction job. Ms. Jasinskiene says his mental health is suffering, he is fighting with his wife and his family of four dines on potatoes three times a day. Now, with her own pension having been slashed, she is left with just 300 litas a month to support herself and her 15-year-old granddaughter.

Ms. Jasinskiene said she signed the agreement with the government because unions, which are extremely weak in Lithuania, were not capable of calling the type of general strike well known in other parts of Europe, and because she wanted to do what she could to prevent even deeper cuts. While Mr. Kubilius points to positive signs like renewed growth, busy cafes in Vilnius and upgrades by the credit agencies, from her vantage point, Ms. Jasinskiene sees no upturn.

“He is telling you a fairy tale,” she said. “Unemployment is going up and up.”

Algirdas Malakauskis, a priest at St. Francis and St. Bernardine Friary, has also experienced the recession’s toll firsthand. He has had to preside over an increasing number of funerals for people who have taken their own lives. Parishioners now come to him seeking work, and his elderly parents, whose pensions have been cut, are angry.

Like a surprising number of people here, however, he has not turned on the government. “You can see they are doing everything that they can to keep the situation stable,” he said.

Still, the tough measures have drawn criticism outside Lithuania.

“The internal devaluation strategy may have succeeded in delivering short-term stabilization, but at what cost?” asked Charles Woolfson, a professor of labor studies at the University of Glasgow who has expertise in the Baltics. Professor Woolfson points out that deepening social alienation in Lithuania has resulted in the sharpest rise in emigration since the country joined the European Union in 2004.

“Then it was the migration of the hopeful,” he said. “Now it is the migration of the despairing.”

There is no greater totem to the excesses of the lending frenzy that gave Lithuania one of the highest growth rates in Europe in 2007 than the sparkling Swedbank office building. Completed just last year, it is 16 stories high and monopolizes the modest Vilnius skyline. Swedbank is the dominant bank in Lithuania, and its aggressive lending to first-time home buyers — including Ms. Jasinskiene’s son — continues to be a millstone for many here.

“People are angry,” said Odeta Bloziene, who runs a unit within the bank that gives advice to Lithuanians who are having trouble repaying their loans. “But we never run away from our customers.”

In the reception area of the bank’s headquarters, bankers laughed and drank beer from a well-stocked bar as rock music played in the background. It is a far remove from the soup kitchen at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Vilnius, where 500 people a day line up for a free meal of soup and Lithuanian pancakes.

Mecislovas Zukauskas, 88, a retired electrician, has lived through the devastations of World War II, the Soviet occupation and, most recently, the death of his wife. He is taking his pension cut in stride.

“The government does what it wants to do,” he said. “We can do nothing.”
24292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 02, 2010, 06:37:50 AM
Coincidentally enough, here's this from Pravda On The Hudson (POTH a.k.a. the NYT) so read between the lines:

WASHINGTON — Tensions between China and the United States have ebbed significantly in recent days, with the countries now working together to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions and with the Obama administration backing off a politically charged clash over China’s currency.

The warming trend was evident in the Chinese government’s announcement on Thursday that President Hu Jintao will attend a nuclear security summit meeting in Washington later this month. American officials had feared that Mr. Hu would skip the talks to express China’s anger over recent diplomatic clashes, including a White House decision to sell arms to Taiwan and President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

But this week, the drumbeat of bad news — and an underlying narrative of a rising China flexing its muscles against a debt-laden United States — has suddenly given way to talk of collaboration.

On Thursday night, President Obama spoke with Mr. Hu for about an hour by telephone, a chat that lasted so long that Air Force One had to be held for 10 minutes on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base after landing so that Mr. Obama could finish up the conversation. Chinese television reported that Mr. Hu expressed a desire for healthier ties, while stressing Beijing's sensitivity about Taiwan and Tibet.

For now, the United States is setting aside potentially the most divisive issue in the relationship, deferring a decision on whether to accuse China of manipulating its currency, the renminbi, until well after Mr. Hu’s visit, according to a senior administration official. That decision, the official said, reflects a judgment that threatening China is not the best way to persuade it to allow the renminbi to appreciate against the dollar.

Many economists expect China to act on its own to loosen the tight link of the renminbi to the dollar — a policy that keeps the currency’s value depressed and makes China’s exports more competitive in global markets.

Still, the administration’s decision not to force the currency issue now could carry political risks at home. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced legislation calling for trade sanctions against China if it does not change its currency policy. And unions and manufacturers cite the undervalued Chinese currency as a major culprit for lost jobs.

The White House would not comment on the currency issue, but an official said that if China did not take action on its own, the administration could raise the issue again at the Group of 20 summit meeting in June. The White House welcomed Mr. Hu’s visit as proof that its policy of engaging with China on strategic issues of common interest had paid off.

“We have an important relationship with China, one in which there are many issues of mutual concern that we work on together,” said a White House spokesman, Bill Burton. “But there also will be times where we disagree. I think this proves the point that despite those disagreements, we can work together on issues like nuclear proliferation.”

The relationship between the countries was also affected last week when Google, citing Chinese censorship, began redirecting users in China to its uncensored Hong Kong search engine.

On Wednesday, China appeared to throw its support behind new United Nations sanctions aimed at putting pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. The Security Council has been stymied by China’s insistence on diplomacy over sanctions.

American officials said they expected China to wrangle over the wording of a United Nations resolution, with a goal of watering down the measures against Tehran. Indeed, on Thursday, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Beijing for talks with China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi. The ministry appeared to steer clear from any commitment for sanctions.

Still, earlier this week, Mr. Obama expressed optimism that the major powers could unite this spring behind a resolution that would apply new pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

The administration has engaged in intensive talks with Chinese officials to demonstrate to Beijing the destabilizing effect of a nuclear-armed Iran. A crucial advance, officials said, came in early March when an American delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg and the National Security Council’s senior director for Asia, Jeffrey A. Bader, visited Beijing.

Mr. Hu’s visit will take place only two days before the Obama administration faces a deadline to decide whether to label China a “currency manipulator,” meaning that it intervenes in currency markets to gives its exporters an artificial advantage. Pressure in the United States has been building to take that step, which could initiate a Congressional process that would lead to slapping tariffs on Chinese imports.

But given the potential for embarrassing Mr. Hu — and for sending bilateral relations into another tailspin — the administration decided not to report on April 15, one of the deadlines set by Congress and the Treasury Department to issue a report on possible currency manipulation.

Nicholas R. Lardy, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said the Treasury Department could delay the deadline for weeks. “As a practical matter, they’ve got a lot of wiggle room,” he said. Mr. Lardy added that he thought it was unlikely that China would have agreed to a visit by Mr. Hu unless there was at least an informal assurance by the Treasury that China would not immediately be named a currency manipulator.

Lawmakers signaled that they would not be easily mollified if the administration gave Beijing a pass on its currency.

“The most important issue in the Chinese-American relationship is currency,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who introduced a bill threatening China with trade sanctions. “It relates to American jobs, American wealth and the future of this country. This issue should not be traded for another.”

Relations between the countries began to fray in November, soon after Mr. Obama went to China on a state visit that was more circumscribed than American officials would have liked.

In the months that followed, tensions increased. American officials accused China of thwarting a climate change deal in Copenhagen and Chinese leaders threatened to punish the United States for a $6 billion weapons deal for Taiwan. In February, China’s Foreign Ministry called in the American ambassador for a scolding about Mr. Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom China calls a separatist.

But then came a thaw. In recent days, public statements in Beijing and Washington hinted at fading tensions. Mr. Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, declared that United States did not support independence for Taiwan and Tibet. And Mr. Obama, at an event on Monday for China’s new ambassador to Washington, offered generous praise for China.
24293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: April 02, 2010, 06:18:20 AM
Hi Rachel:

"Would  and Marc like to make a bet on Israel  still existing  January 20,2013?   I can think of some great charities  that could use the help when you are forced to eat your words."

Well, GM can ably speak for himself, so I limit my question to me:

What words would I be eating?
24294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 02, 2010, 06:12:00 AM
Sec'y of the Treasury Geithner has recently been talking a bit about how the Chinese should revalue the renimbi (sp?).  Coincidentally we now begin to hear that the Chinese may get on board for some lesser level of sanctions against Iran.

(Not that sanctions are really a meaningful strategy.  I agree with Stratfor that they are more a way to pretend to be doing something.  Basically I think we have already decided on some sort of containment strategy.  I suspect the ensuing nuclear arms race throughout the region and much of the world will cause us to deeply regret this.)
24295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 02, 2010, 06:06:13 AM
A different tone of voice would serve this article better; I post it more for its list of examples:

http://www.americanthinker.com/printpage/?url=http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/04/the_lefts_ludicrous_accusation.html

Concerning "right wing" and "left wing":  In my opinion, these two terms, which have become quite deeply rooted, are used quite often in ways that ultimately are confusing and/or logically incoherent.

QUESTION:  Lets see if we mean the same thing by the word "rightist":  Is a rightist someone who believes in a more or less intrusive, controlling government?

24296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 01, 2010, 10:31:25 AM
This man does not have enough power!  Lets give him some more:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNZczIgVXjg&feature=player_embedded
24297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Currency Debate on: April 01, 2010, 07:43:07 AM
China's Currency Debate
THE WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN CHINA and the United States on the subject of China’s currency, the yuan or renminbi, saw a momentary reprieve on Tuesday, when two out of three newly appointed members of the People’s Bank of China monetary policy committee entered the debate. Just one day after being appointed, Li Daokui said China should adjust its exchange rate on its “own initiative” before September, so that the currency does not get caught up in the politics of U.S. midterm elections. Xia Bin said China should resume its policy of permitting the yuan to gradually appreciate, as was done from 2005 to 2008. Separately, U.S. President Barack Obama met with China’s new ambassador to the United States and called for a “positive relationship” with China, only hinting at the underlying economic strains by saying the two should work together on sustainable and “balanced” global economic growth.

On the surface, Li’s statement was absurd. The question of China’s fixed exchange rate — its peg to the U.S. dollar, giving it an advantageous position in U.S. markets — has been thoroughly entangled in U.S. domestic politics since Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner used the word “manipulation” during his confirmation hearings in early 2009, and has become more so in recent months. Although the U.S. economy has emerged from recession, unemployment remains lodged at nearly 10 percent, a fact that gnaws on the Democratic Party as it approaches already contentious elections in November. Not only are the Democrats historically linked to U.S. manufacturers and more inclined to use protectionist policies to defend them, but also they traditionally have fewer qualms about pushing back on America’s East Asian trade partners.

Congress has already leapt into action, proposing a bill that would force the U.S. Treasury Department to take a strict interpretation when it assesses whether to accuse China of formally “manipulating” its currency in a report due April 15. The bill would clear the way for punitive measures as well. Bottom line, few issues could be more politicized. Having passed a major domestic hurdle with health care, Obama has set his sights on a foreign policy victory. But sanctions on Iran have already been watered down, and the surge is only beginning in Afghanistan. In other words, playing hardball on China’s currency is one foreign policy issue where Obama can boost his party in elections. And joblessness — not Iran’s nuclear program — is the American public’s number one concern.

“Few today are willing to accept the idea that a country with a $4.9 trillion economy — a country that recently surpassed Germany as the world’s leading exporter and will soon surpass Japan as the second biggest economy overall — deserves to skirt international rules.”
The proper way to interpret Li’s remarks, then, is to focus on his emphasis on China not succumbing to U.S. pressure, but changing its currency policy on its “own initiative.” With the U.S. government bearing down, Li’s statement appears crafted to begin the process of saving face. Domestically, the Chinese government cannot be seen as caving in to American demands. But for months China has internally debated the merits and flaws of removing the currency peg. What Li is doing is reaffirming that currency appreciation would assist in China’s badly needed economic restructuring by boosting domestic purchasing power, weeding out inefficient industries and making others more competitive, and fighting inflation expectations. He is arguing that appreciation is not some foreign imposition, but rather a Chinese policy implemented for the good of the Chinese people.

China is thus signaling to the United States that there is no need to get overexcited or overaggressive. The currency will move. The only questions concern magnitude and timing. For the Chinese, it is critical to limit and prolong the currency’s appreciation, since they argue each percentage point increase in the yuan’s value will shave the already razor-thin profit margins of China’s all-important exporters. The last time Beijing allowed the yuan to strengthen, in 2005, it ascended about 20 percent over the course of three years. The situation now is more delicate as it does not come amid one of the biggest credit and consumption booms in history, but amid a period of recovery from global recession in which China’s major export markets have begun to increase savings and cut back on spending. In short, Beijing knows that if it allows the yuan to rise it will do so during a time of weaker external demand than before — not to mention the problem of creeping wage inflation on China’s coasts, which will also eat away at exporters’ profits.

What is surprising is the extent to which the debates over the exchange rate adopt China’s rationale. In governments and institutions, among academics and experts of every stripe, in the United States, Europe and Japan, an increasingly abstruse debate has circulated around the precise expectations, limits, measures and effects of each degree of yuan appreciation. Some say the currency is undervalued by 20 percent, others say 40 percent. Getting China to revalue the yuan by X amount would save Y jobs and reduce the trade deficit by Z.

But the flurry of discussion masks the central problem. China’s policies assume that the world will graciously allow it to break the norms of international trade by strictly controlling the value of its currency, as many developing countries do. They ask the developed world to patiently suffer the evisceration of its own manufacturing sector until such time as Beijing believes it can wean its industries off a weak currency, and push them out of the nest to try their wings. For decades this assumption was economically beneficial for almost everyone. But circumstances have changed. Few are willing to accept the idea that a country with a $4.9 trillion economy — a country that recently surpassed Germany as the world’s leading exporter and will soon surpass Japan as the second biggest economy overall — deserves to skirt international rules. Not to mention the elephant in the room: China’s apparent exemption from full currency convertibility.

The United States, for one, does not appear willing to grant these favors any longer, and sees this fundamental point — China’s deviation from set standards — as true regardless of midterm elections. Washington sees China’s position as ludicrous, and while it may not immediately demand full convertibility, it is showing every sign of attacking the yuan peg. Beijing sees the currency peg as anything but ludicrous, since strengthening the currency inherently threatens social instability. Which would explain why the Chinese are reaffirming their own reasons for gradually strengthening the yuan, negotiating to allay Washington’s agitation and rushing to prepare for the economic fallout at home.
24298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 01, 2010, 07:40:38 AM
The Hutarees: Exposure and Vulnerability
April 1, 2010
By Fred Burton and Ben West

On March 29, an indictment accusing nine individuals of planning attacks against police officers was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Those named in the indictment had been arrested by a joint anti-terrorism task force consisting of the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state and local police. Raids took place from March 27 to 29, with most of the arrests occurring in Washtenaw County in southeastern Michigan, near the border with Ohio. Other arrests took place in Ohio and Indiana. Photos and video of the raids showed special operations police staging outside targeted properties with armored personnel carriers, assault rifles and helicopter support — unusually overwhelming measures, likely taken because of suspicion that the group was plotting to kill police officers.

The individuals referred to themselves as “Hutarees,” a name meaning “Christian Soldiers” according to the group’s Web site, although it is unclear what language the word might come from. The federal indictment indicated that the apparent leader of the group, David Brian Stone, was known to make up names for tactical operations and maneuvers, so it is likely he coined the name of the group as well. The meaning given the term reflects the group’s extremist Christian beliefs and its claims that it was preparing to defend itself and others in the name of Christianity. According to the Hutaree Web site:

Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment … We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t. We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming.

All the task force raids transpired and ended peacefully, with one of the members, Joshua Matthew Stone, David’s son, holding out the longest. All nine individuals were charged Monday with seditious conspiracy; attempts to use weapons of mass destruction; teaching and demonstrating the use of explosive materials; and carrying a firearm for criminal violence. According to the indictment, the nine individuals trained in small-unit paramilitary tactics and acquired and trained with firearms, live ammunition, explosives, uniforms, communication equipment and medical supplies. It consisted of two units, one led by David Stone and the other led by his son Joshua, and the two units met and trained together roughly once a month. Another son, David Brian Stone Jr., served as the militia’s explosives instructor and demonstrator.

The most incriminating act the group committed was plotting to kill police officers by luring them into a trap. The group was planning to cause a police traffic stop or fake a 911 call and attack the responding officers, then follow up with more attacks during the official funerals that would follow. The indictment also accuses the elder David Brian Stone of instructing the group to kill anyone who happened upon and did not acquiesce to the group during an exercise set to take place in April 2010. This overt and imminent threat likely precipitated the raid that led to the arrests in late March. The group allegedly intended to trigger a larger uprising against the U.S. government in response to Hutaree activities, a charge that carries connotations of terrorism.


A Lack of Operational Security

Federal charges against the Hutarees relate to events as far back as August 2008, approximately when the group began plotting against the federal government, according to the indictment. It is unclear exactly how federal investigators collected information on the group, although it is not too difficult to imagine, given the group’s relatively high profile. For one thing, it maintained a Web site with photos of members, scheduled meeting times and forums where members and visitors could post comments and communicate with each other. This made it very easy for anyone to find the group and initiate contact with it, which in turn made it an easy target for enforcement.

The group displayed on its Web site and in a YouTube video footage of members training in small-unit tactics, images that never depicted more than six or seven people at a time. A group photo on their Web site shows 17 people, presumably the entire Hutaree membership, a relatively small group for a militia. The videos show them patrolling through woodlands and conducting small-arms firing exercises from behind vehicles. One video shows a mock-up of an improvised explosive device being detonated by a man crossing a tripwire and “killing” him, a demonstration that substantiates the accusation in the indictment that the group was attempting to acquire explosive materials and construct improvised explosive devices. In that same video, members of the group are seen setting fire to the UN flag and raising a flag bearing their own Hutaree insignia: an “H” overlaying a cross with two crossed spears at the bottom. However, the weapons displayed by the group varied: Some members brandished semi-automatic assault rifles while others held bolt-action hunting rifles. The lack of weapon standardization indicates that the group was still operating at a low level of organization.

The group was also thought to have had connections with other militias in the region. The federal indictment specifically mentions a meeting with several other groups that Hutarees planned to attend Feb. 6 in Kentucky. The meeting was meant to “facilitate better communications, cooperation, and coordination between the various militias.” Such contact with other militias is probably what emboldened the Hutarees to expect a coordinated uprising from these groups when the Hutarees started their offensive against the U.S. government. Although representatives of the group were ultimately unable to attend the February meeting, their intention to go indicates that they communicated with other groups in the region, and this would have increased the number of people who knew about them and could report on their activities. (In fact, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit field office, Andrew Arena, confirmed that an outside militia member had gone to the FBI after interacting with the Hutaree group.) It also means that the group likely engaged in e-mail and/or telephone contact with outsiders, which would allow law enforcement authorities to keep tabs on the group’s thoughts and plans.

Finally, one of the arrested individuals, Kristopher Sickles, had been a guest numerous times on nationally syndicated radio shows, once in August 2009 under the pseudonym “Pale Horse.” Publicly, Sickles associated himself with the Ohio militia, a fact that, when combined with details from the indictment, indicates that the group was not necessarily exclusive and that members of the Hutarees also trained with other groups in the region. The fact that the Hutarees trained together only once a month gave members ample opportunity to be involved in other militia activities. The fact that Hutaree members associated with other groups is not surprising; it would have helped them expand the movement and improve communications. But it would also have undermined the authority of any one group and prevented a clear hierarchy from forming, since the foot soldiers would not have answered to any one commander. This sort of dynamic dilutes any one group’s potency and leaves it more vulnerable to detection.

In his radio talk-show interviews, Sickles claimed he and his compatriots were “practicing their constitutional rights” by collecting firearms and ammunition and encouraging others to do so as well, emphasizing the need to “be prepared.” When asked what he was preparing for, Sickles named the economic crisis and the threat of U.S. involvement in more foreign wars while alluding to certain unanticipated and unnamed threats. He did not advocate the radical Christian ideology that was put forward by other members of the Hutarees and certainly did not publicly advocate attacking law enforcement officers.


The Risk of Going Public

Maintaining such a public profile greatly reduces the ability of any group to carry out surprise attacks on police officers and opens the group to infiltration. Sure enough, the federal indictment alludes to at least one case in which David Brian Stone sent diagrams and information on explosive devices over the Internet to “a person he believed capable of manufacturing the devices,” wording that indicates that either the FBI was using a source or an undercover agent had convinced Stone that he was an explosives expert who could help them. Such a source would be able to keep tabs on the group and draw them out. This tactic is extremely common in domestic counterterrorism cases involving Islamist militants and shows how the terrorist attack cycle is vulnerable, no matter who the actors are. Other cases, such as the Newburgh, N.Y., plot, involved law enforcement penetration into the suspected group and promises to deliver explosive material.

Successful domestic terror attacks require a high degree of isolation on the part of the operatives. The more people brought in to assist with the operation and become familiar with the group’s intentions, the higher the group’s risk of discovery. Unlike successful domestic terrorists before them, like Timothy McVeigh and Theodore Kaczynski, the Hutarees failed spectacularly at maintaining isolation, and this allowed authorities to penetrate their circle and maintain surveillance, thus mitigating any threat they posed.

The targets that the Hutarees had identified were police officers, who themselves are vulnerable targets (as seen in the fatal shootings in Seattle in November 2009), and considering the tactics the Hutarees devised to lure officers in and the arsenal they possessed, they certainly posed a risk. However, the degree of publicity that the Hutarees generated indicates that they were not practicing good tradecraft when it came to operational security — making the group an easy target for federal law enforcement agencies. This is an Achilles’ heel for many militant and criminal conspiratorial plots, especially plots originating inside the United States, where federal, state and local agencies are able to monitor a group’s e-mail, voice communications and activities.
24299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 34 on: April 01, 2010, 07:34:17 AM
"Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. Nothing, therefore, can be more fallacious than to infer the extent of any power, proper to be lodged in the national government, from an estimate of its immediate necessities." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34
24300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NSA Wiretaps held illegal on: April 01, 2010, 07:20:56 AM
Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretaps Were IllegalBy CHARLIE SAVAGE and JAMES RISEN
Published: March 31, 2010
NYT
 
LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.

In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been “subjected to unlawful surveillance,” the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages.

The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration’s claims that its surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ international e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.

The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision and had made no decision about whether to appeal.

The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, rejected the Justice Department’s claim — first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama — that the charity’s lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets.

The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to “unfettered executive-branch discretion” that had “obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.”

That position, he said, would enable government officials to flout the warrant law, even though Congress had enacted it “specifically to rein in and create a judicial check for executive-branch abuses of surveillance authority.”

Because the government merely sought to block the suit under the state-secrets privilege, it never mounted a direct legal defense of the N.S.A. program in the Haramain case.

Judge Walker did not directly address the legal arguments made by the Bush administration in defense of the N.S.A. program after The New York Times disclosed its existence in December 2005: that the president’s wartime powers enabled him to override the FISA statute. But lawyers for Al Haramain were quick to argue that the ruling undermined the legal underpinnings of the war against terrorism.

One of them, Jon Eisenberg, said Judge Walker’s ruling was an “implicit repudiation of the Bush-Cheney theory of executive power.”

“Judge Walker is saying that FISA and federal statutes like it are not optional,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “The president, just like any other citizen of the United States, is bound by the law. Obeying Congressional legislation shouldn’t be optional with the president of the U.S.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, noted that the Obama administration had overhauled the department’s procedures for invoking the state-secrets privilege, requiring senior officials to personally approve any assertion before lawyers could make it in court. She said that approach would ensure that the privilege was invoked only when “absolutely necessary to protect national security.”

The ruling is the second time a federal judge has declared the program of wiretapping without warrants to be illegal. But a 2006 decision by a federal judge in Detroit, Anna Diggs Taylor, was reversed on the grounds that those plaintiffs could not prove that they had been wiretapped and so lacked legal standing to sue.

Several other lawsuits filed over the program have faltered because of similar concerns over standing or because of immunity granted by Congress to telecommunications companies that participated in the N.S.A. program.

By contrast, the Haramain case was closely watched because the government inadvertently disclosed a classified document that made clear that the charity had been subjected to surveillance without warrants.

Although the plaintiffs in the Haramain case were not allowed to use the document to prove that they had standing, Mr. Eisenberg and six other lawyers working on the case were able to use public information — including a 2007 speech by an F.B.I. official who acknowledged that Al Haramain had been placed under surveillance — to prove it had been wiretapped.

Judge Walker’s opinion cataloged other such evidence and declared that the plaintiffs had shown they were wiretapped in a manner that required a warrant. He said the government had failed to produce a warrant, so he granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

But Judge Walker limited liability in the case to the government as an institution, rejecting the lawsuit’s effort to hold Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, personally liable.

Mr. Eisenberg said that he would seek compensatory damages of $20,200 for each of the three plaintiffs in the case — or $100 for each of the 202 days he said they had shown they were subjected to the surveillance. He said he would ask the judge to decide how much to award in punitive damages, a figure that could be up to 10 times as high. And he said he and his colleagues would seek to be reimbursed for their legal fees over the past five years.

The 2005 disclosure of the existence of the program set off a national debate over the limits of executive power and the balance between national security and civil liberties. The arguments continued over the next three years, as Congress sought to forge a new legal framework for domestic surveillance.

In the midst of the presidential campaign in 2008, Congress overhauled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to bring federal statutes into closer alignment with what the Bush administration had been secretly doing. The legislation essentially legalized certain aspects of the program. As a senator then, Barack Obama voted in favor of the new law, despite objections from many of his supporters. President Obama’s administration now relies heavily on such surveillance in its fight against Al Qaeda.

The overhauled law, however, still requires the government to obtain a warrant if it is focusing on an American citizen or an organization inside the United States. The surveillance of Al Haramain would still be unlawful today if no court had approved it, current and former Justice Department officials said.

But since Mr. Obama took office, the N.S.A. has sometimes violated the limits imposed on spying on Americans by the new FISA law. The administration has acknowledged the lapses but said they had been corrected.
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