Postmortem Report -A new book by Tom Sunic

February 16, 2010

Postmortem Report: Cultural Examinations from Postmodernity

by Tomislav Sunic

(with a foreword by Kevin MacDonald)

Tomislav Sunic is one of the leading scholars and exponents of the European New Right. A prolific writer and accomplished linguist in Croatian, English, French, and German, his thought synthesizes the ideas of Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Vilfredo Pareto, and Alain de Benoist, among others, exhibiting an elitist, neo-pagan, traditionalist sensibility. A number of themes have emerged in his cultural criticism: religion, cultural pessimism, race and the Third Reich, liberalism and democracy, and multiculturalism and communism. This book collects Dr. Sunic s best essays of the past decade, treating topics that relate to these themes. From the vantage point of a European observer who has experienced the pathology of liberalism and communism on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Dr. Sunic offers incisive insights into Western and post-communist societies and culture. Always erudite and at times humorous, this highly readable postmortem report on the death of the West offers a refreshing, alternative perspective to what is usually found in the cavaderous Freudo-Marxian scholasticism that rots in the dank catacombs of postmodern academia.

Greece loses EU voting power in blow to sovereignty

February 16, 2010

The European Union has shown its righteous wrath by stripping Greece of its vote at a crucial meeting next month, the worst humiliation ever suffered by an EU member state.

A woman walks through the Athens stock exchange lobby

The council of EU finance ministers said Athens must comply with austerity demands by March 16 or lose control over its own tax and spend policies altogether. It if fails to do so, the EU will itself impose cuts under the draconian Article 126.9 of the Lisbon Treaty in what would amount to economic suzerainty.

While the symbolic move to suspend Greece of its voting rights at one meeting makes no practical difference, it marks a constitutional watershed and represents a crushing loss of sovereignty.

“We certainly won’t let them off the hook,” said Austria’s finance minister, Josef Proll, echoing views shared by colleagues in Northern Europe. Some German officials have called for Greece to be denied a vote in all EU matter until it emerges from “receivership”.

The EU has still refused to reveal details of how it might help Greece raise €30bn (£26bn) from global debt markets by the end of June. Investors are unsure whether this is part of Kabuki play of “constructive ambiguity” to pressure Greece and keep markets guessing, or reflects the deep reluctance by Germany to be drawn deeper in an EU fiscal union. Greek bonds sold off as ten-year yields jumped to 6.42pc, but the euro rallied to $1.3765 against the dollar as broader issues resurfaced in currency markets.

Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Eurogroup, hinted that ministers have already agreed on a support mechanism, should it be necessary. It will most likely involve by bilateral aid by eurozone states. He said proposals for an IMF bailout – backed by Britain – were “absurd” and would shatter the credibility of monetary union.

Many Germans disagree, including Otmar Issing, once the backbone of the European Central Bank. He said an EU rescue for Greece would be fatal, arguing that unflinching rigour is the only way to hold monetary union together without political union.

Tuesday’s EU verdict amounted to a thumbs down on Greece’s earlier austerity efforts, viewed as too reliant on one-off measures and too light on spending cuts. Greece must reduce its deficit from 12.7pc of GDP to 3pc in three years. Greek customs officials expressed their anger by kicking off a three-day strike, the first of many stoppages set to culminate in a general strike next week.

However, premier George Papandreou has won support from key political parties and a majority of the people. Greece may yet surprise critics by mustering its Spartan Spirit.

Source: Telegraph.

Obama readying executive orders

February 16, 2010

With much of his legislative agenda stalled in Congress, President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities.

Mr. Obama has not given up hope of progress on Capitol Hill, aides said, and has scheduled a session with Republican leaders on health care later this month. But in the aftermath of a special election in Massachusetts that cost Democrats unilateral control of the Senate, the White House is getting ready to act on its own in the face of partisan gridlock heading into the midterm campaign.

“We are reviewing a list of presidential executive orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.

Any president has vast authority to influence policy even without legislation, through executive orders, agency rule-making and administrative fiat. And Mr. Obama’s success this week in pressuring the Senate to confirm 27 nominations by threatening to use his recess appointment power demonstrated that executive authority can also be leveraged to force action by Congress.

Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so. His administration has signaled that it plans to use its discretion to soften enforcement of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, even as Congress considers repealing the law. And the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with possible regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change, while a bill to cap such emissions languishes in the Senate.

In an effort to demonstrate forward momentum, the White House is also drawing more attention to the sorts of actions taken regularly by cabinet departments without much fanfare. The White House heavily promoted an export initiative announced by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke last week and nearly $1 billion in health care technology grants announced on Friday by Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, and Hilda L. Solis, the labor secretary.

White House officials said the increased focus on executive authority reflected a natural evolution from the first year to the second year of any presidency.

“The challenges we had to address in 2009 ensured that the center of action would be in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “In 2010, executive actions will also play a key role in advancing the agenda.”

The use of executive authority during times of legislative inertia is hardly new; former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush turned to such powers at various moments in their presidencies, and Mr. Emanuel was in the thick of carrying out the strategy during his days as a top official in the Clinton White House.

But Mr. Obama has to be careful how he proceeds because he has been critical of both Mr. Clinton’s penchant for expending presidential capital on small-bore initiatives, like school uniforms, and Mr. Bush’s expansive assertions of executive authority, like the secret program of wiretapping without warrants.

Already, Mr. Obama has had to reconcile his campaign-trail criticism of Mr. Bush for excessive use of so-called signing statements to bypass parts of legislation with his own use of such tactics. After a bipartisan furor in Congress last year, Mr. Obama stopped issuing such signing statements, but aides said last month that he still reserves the right to ignore sections of bills he considers unconstitutional if objections have been lodged previously by the executive branch.

Another drawback of the executive power strategy is that actions taken unilaterally by the executive branch may not be as enduring as decisions made through acts of Congress signed into law by a president. For instance, while the E.P.A. has been determined to have the authority to regulate carbon emissions, the administration would rather have a market-based system of pollution permits, called cap and trade, that requires legislation.

Still, presidents have logged significant accomplishments through the stroke of a pen. In 1996, on his own authority, Mr. Clinton turned a 2,600-square-mile section of southern Utah into the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in what was called at the time his boldest environmental move. Mr. Bush followed suit in 2006 by designating a 140,000-square-mile stretch of islands and ocean near Hawaii as the largest protected marine reserve in the world, in what some see as his most lasting environmental achievement.

The use of executive power came to a head this week when Mr. Obama confronted Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, about nominations held up in the Senate. In a meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Obama turned to Mr. McConnell and vowed to use his power to appoint officials during Senate recesses if his nominations were not cleared.

By Thursday, the Senate had voted to confirm 27 of 63 nominations that had been held up, and the White House declared victory. Two administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Friday that the White House had drafted a list of about a dozen nominees for the president to appoint during the recess that just began, but most were among those cleared.

Mr. McConnell’s office denied that the president’s threat had anything to do with the confirmations, pointing out that the Senate regularly passes a batch of nominees before going on recess.

“All presidents get frustrated with the pace of nominations, and all Congresses say they’re doing their best, so it’s not a surprise,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell. “But the fact is nominees are being confirmed, particularly those nominated since December.”

The recess appointment power stems from the days when lawmakers were in session only part of the year, but in modern times presidents have used it to circumvent opposition in the Senate. Mr. Clinton made 139 recess appointments, 95 of them to full-time positions, while Mr. Bush made 171, with 99 to full-time jobs. Mr. Obama has yet to make any.

Those given such appointments can serve until the end of the next Congressional session. As a senator, Mr. Obama was less enamored with recess appointments. When Mr. Bush used the power to install John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Obama called Mr. Bolton “damaged goods.”

But the White House argued that Mr. Obama’s choices have been held up more than Mr. Bush’s and left open the prospect of giving recess appointments to some of those still held up, including Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whose nomination for a seat on the National Labor Relations Board has been blocked.

“If the stalling tactics continue,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, “he’s not ruling out using recess appointments for anybody that he’s nominated.”

Source: NY Times.

Jamie Kelso, Feb. 15, 2010

February 15, 2010

Jamie talks about ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Sounds boring, doesn’t it! But no such thing, the whole Internet and Web structure of addresses and links that is at the white-hot core of our patriot resistance utterly depends on the survival of what ICANN does: protecting unique web addresses for each of our websites and every post or image any of us has ever put up on the Web. Without an ICANN upholding open access to the web, our revolutionary ability to communicate to every computer on Earth is gone. In other words without a freedom-oriented ICANN, we CAN’T. We’ve got a fight on our hands to preserve the open Web that Tim Berners-Lee invented on the open Internet that DARPA created.

26 MB / 32 kbps mono / 1 hour 56 min.

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Israel accused of waging covert war across the Middle East

February 15, 2010

Israel is waging a covert assassination campaign across the Middle East in an effort to stop its key enemies co-ordinating their activities.

Pictures of a burnt bus on the outskirts of Damascus led to suspicion that it was hit by an explosion

Israeli agents have been targeting meetings between members of Hamas and the leadership of the militant Hezbollah group, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

They are also suspected of recent killings in Dubai, Damascus and Beirut. While Israel’s Mossad spy agency has been suspected of staging assassinations across the world since the 1970s, it does not officially acknowledge or admit its activities.

The current spate of killings began in December when a “tourist bus” carrying Iranian officials and Hamas members exploded outside Damascus. The official report by Syria claimed that a tyre had exploded but photographs surfaced showing the charred remains of the vehicle — prompting speculation that a much larger explosion had taken place.

Several weeks later a meeting between members of Hamas, which controls Gaza, and their counterparts from Hezbollah in its southern Beirut stronghold in Lebanon was also attacked, resulting in several deaths.

Hamas had sought to cover up the incidents because it was embarrassed, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Times.

“There has been growing co-operation between Gaza and Iran. Israel can read the writing on the wall and they know that with the help of Iran, the Hamas Government in Gaza will become stronger and will fight better.

“But Israel is overstepping their boundaries. Other countries don’t want to become a killing field for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Imad Mughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008

Most recently, the top Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in Dubai on January 19, 2010. He is believed to have been poisoned by a woman who visited his room at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai.

Israeli officials said that Mabhouh had been a key figure in procuring Iranian-made longer-range rockets for Hamas that could be fired at targets in central Israel.

The exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has vowed revenge for Mabhouh’s death. He has also suggested that the current fighting between Hamas and Israel will become more regional. In an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Mr Mashaal said that future wars with Israel would not be fought solely in the Gaza Strip.

Under the current Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, Israel is believed to have renewed efforts to kill high-level opponents. Only months after the former paratrooper assumed leadership of the intelligence service in October 2002, senior Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon began to be targeted. He was credited with ordering the killing of two relatively senior Hezbollah members who were killed in southern Beirut in July 2003 and August 2004.

More recently, Israel has been accused of planting a car bomb in Damascus that killed the top Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyah in February 2008. The Israeli Cabinet minister Daniel Herschkowitz last week praised the Mossad chief as one of the agency’s most successful leaders.

When asked about Mossad’s involvement in the Dubai slaying, Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister, smiled and said: “All the security services make, thank God, great efforts to safeguard the security of the state of Israel.”

While some countries are questioning whether Israel isn’t taking credit to increase the reputation of its defence establishment, other moderate Arab States are now describing the assassinations as a “covert war” between Israel and Hamas.

Diplomats said they were aware that covert Israeli operations had increased. “We watch their comings and goings; we are aware that there is more activity both on our ground and other countries in the region,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “They are trying to embroil us all in their conflict.”

Tensions between Israel and Hamas have remained high, despite the relative quiet that has ensued since the end of Israel’s offensive in Gaza last winter. Israeli troops were placed on alert yesterday after intelligence suggested that Hamas planned to abduct soldiers. Israel said this week that it had foiled a kidnapping in December by arresting the Hamas operative Slaman Abu Atik on the Israeli-Gaza border. He planned to enter Israel via Egypt, said the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

Source: Times Online.

Obama signs law raising public debt limit from $12.4 trillion to $14.3 trillion

February 15, 2010

Behind closed doors and with no cameras present, President Obama signed into law Friday afternoon the bill raising the public debt limit from $12.394 trillion to $14.294 trillion.

The current national debt is $12.3 trillion. Check out the National Debt Clock, which tells you your share of that — roughly $40,000 per citizen, $113,000 per taxpayer.

The bill also establishes a statutory Pay-As-You-Go procedure requiring that new non-emergency legislation affecting tax revenue or mandatory spending not increase the Federal deficit – in other words, that any new spending or tax cuts be paid for with new taxes or spending cuts.

Source: ABC.

Phil ‘Hide the Decline’ Jones admits data not well organised

February 15, 2010

Phil Jones, the professor behind the “Climategate” affair, has admitted some of his decades-old weather data was not well enough organised.

Professor Jones says he regrets not sharing raw data

He said this contributed to his refusal to share raw data with critics – a decision he says he regretted.

But Professor Jones said he had not cheated over the data, or unfairly influenced the scientific process.

He said he stood by the view that recent climate warming was most likely predominantly man-made.

But he agreed that two periods in recent times had experienced similar warming. And he agreed that the debate had not been settled over whether the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the current period.

These statements are likely to be welcomed by people sceptical of man-made climate change who have felt insulted to be labelled by government ministers as flat-earthers and deniers.

‘Bunker mentality’

Professor Jones agreed that scientists on both sides of the debate could suffer sometimes from a “bunker mentality”.

He said “sceptics” who doubted his climate record should compile their own dataset from material publicly available in the US.

“The major datasets mostly agree,” he said. “If some of our critics spent less time criticising us and prepared a dataset of their own, that would be much more constructive.”

His colleagues said that keeping a paper trail was not one of Professor Jones’ strong points. Professor Jones told BBC News: “There is some truth in that.

“We do have a trail of where the (weather) stations have come from but it’s probably not as good as it should be,” he admitted.

“That’s similar with the American datasets. There were technical reasons for this, with changing data from different countries. There’s a continual updating of the dataset. Keeping track of everything is difficult. Some countries will do lots of checking on their data then issue improved data so it can be very difficult. We have improved but we have to improve more.”

Professor Jones clarified later that when he had told me that his paper trail was insufficient he meant data trail. He insisted that he had not lost any original data, but that the sources of some of the data may have been insufficiently clear.

His account is the most revealing so far about his decision to block repeated requests from people demanding to see raw data behind records showing an unprecedented warming in the late 20th Century.

Professor Jones said climate scientists needed to do more to communicate the reasons behind their conclusion that humans were driving recent climate change.

They also needed to be more transparent with data – although he said this process had already begun.

He strongly defended references in his emails to using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in temperatures.

These phrases had been deliberately taken out of context and “spun” by sceptics keen to derail the Copenhagen climate conference, he said.

And he denied any attempt to influence climate data: “I have no agenda,” he said.

“I’m a scientist trying to measure temperature. If I registered that the climate has been cooling I’d say so. But it hasn’t until recently – and then barely at all. The trend is a warming trend.”

He said many people had been made sceptical about climate change by the snow in the northern hemisphere – but they didn’t realise that the satellite record from the University of Alabama in Huntsville showed it had been the warmest January since records began in 1979.

Source: BBC.

NYT Bureau Chief in Conflict of Interest of Israel?

February 14, 2010

 Ethan Bronner is the Jerusalem bureau chief for what is considered to be the one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world, the New York Times.

Mr. Bronner’s son decided to enlist in the Israeli Defence Forces. The publication of this fact has triggered this debate.

Still no mention of the lobbyists, the senators, the police chiefs, etc being taken to Israel to see ‘their side of things.’  No mention of dual citizens involved in matters of war and peace in southwest Asia.  Funny they’d mention this small point of fact and not the 800lb yarmulke-clad gorillas in the room.

New York Times Fails to Disclose Possible Conflict of Interest – The World Newser

Mishko and Dietrich, 2/12/2010

February 14, 2010

This Week in Disorganized America:

NASCAR Celebrates Diversity

February 14, 2010

NASCAR.COM – NASCAR celebrates diversity accomplishments

Jamie Kelso, Feb. 12, 2010

February 12, 2010

Jamie salutes Mr. Jared Taylor, the American patriot who has organized nine biennial American Renaissance Conferences. At Jared’s website, the ninth such conference is now being publicized for the weekend of Feb. 19-21, 2010. Nick Griffin, Member of the European Parliament, is a featured speaker. Is race the defining determinant of history, as Mr. Taylor believes? Our grandparents, who organized and conducted The Mexican Repatriation of 1929, directed by President Herbert Hoover, agreed with Taylor’s thinking on this. The Mexican Repatriation of 1929 comes in for discussion today, during this salute to Jared Taylor’s work.

26 MB / 32 kbps mono / 1 hour 53 min.

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Feds push for tracking cell phones

February 12, 2010

Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the “Scarecrow Bandits” that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves.

FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges.

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records” that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department’s request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans’ privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

“This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century,” says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. “If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.”

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998′s “Enemy of the State,” Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has “been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the ’40s–they’ve infected everything.” After a decade of appearances in “24″ and “Live Free or Die Hard,” location-tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from “Pineapple Express” (2008).

Once a Hollywood plot, now ‘commonplace’
Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

Obtaining location details is now “commonplace,” says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. “It’s in every pen register order these days.”

Gidari says that the Third Circuit case could have a significant impact on police investigations within the court’s jurisdiction, namely Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it could be persuasive beyond those states. But, he cautions, “if the privacy groups win, the case won’t be over. It will certainly be appealed.”

CNET was the first to report on prospective tracking in a 2005 news article. In a subsequent Arizona case, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration tracked a tractor trailer with a drug shipment through a GPS-equipped Nextel phone owned by the suspect. Texas DEA agents have used cell site information in real time to locate a Chrysler 300M driving from Rio Grande City to a ranch about 50 miles away. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile logs showing the location of mobile phones at the time calls became evidence in a Los Angeles murder trial.

And a mobile phone’s fleeting connection with a remote cell tower operated by Edge Wireless is what led searchers to the family of the late James Kim, a CNET employee who died in the Oregon wilderness in 2006 after leaving a snowbound car to seek help.

“This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century. If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.”
–Kevin Bankston, attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation

The way tracking works is simple: mobile phones are miniature radio transmitters and receivers. A cellular tower knows the general direction of a mobile phone (many cell sites have three antennas pointing in different directions), and if the phone is talking to multiple towers, triangulation yields a rough location fix. With this method, accuracy depends in part on the density of cell sites.

The Federal Communications Commission’s “Enhanced 911” (E911) requirements allowed rough estimates to be transformed into precise coordinates. Wireless carriers using CDMA networks, such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, tend to use embedded GPS technology to fulfill E911 requirements. AT&T and T-Mobile comply with E911 regulations using network-based technology that computes a phone’s location using signal analysis and triangulation between towers.

T-Mobile, for instance, uses a GSM technology called Uplink Time Difference of Arrival, or U-TDOA, which calculates a position based on precisely how long it takes signals to reach towers. A company called TruePosition, which provides U-TDOA services to T-Mobile, boasts of “accuracy to under 50 meters” that’s available “for start-of-call, midcall, or when idle.”

A 2008 court order to T-Mobile in a criminal investigation of a marriage fraud scheme, which was originally sealed and later made public, says: “T-Mobile shall disclose at such intervals and times as directed by (the Department of Homeland Security), latitude and longitude data that establishes the approximate positions of the Subject Wireless Telephone, by unobtrusively initiating a signal on its network that will enable it to determine the locations of the Subject Wireless Telephone.”

‘No reasonable expectation of privacy’
In the case that’s before the Third Circuit on Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, said it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects “use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan in Pennsylvania denied the Justice Department’s attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant; prosecutors had invoked a different legal procedure. Lenihan’s ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause–a more privacy-protective standard.

Lenihan’s opinion (PDF)–which, in an unusual show of solidarity, was signed by four other magistrate judges–noted that location information can reveal sensitive information such as health treatments, financial difficulties, marital counseling, and extra-marital affairs.

In its appeal to the Third Circuit, the Justice Department claims that Lenihan’s opinion “contains, and relies upon, numerous errors” and should be overruled. In addition to a search warrant not being necessary, prosecutors said, because location “records provide only a very general indication of a user’s whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest.”

The Obama administration is not alone in making this argument. U.S. District Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee in New York, wrote in a 2009 opinion that a defendant in a drug trafficking case, Jose Navas, “did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cell phone” location. That’s because Navas only used the cell phone “on public thoroughfares en route from California to New York” and “if Navas intended to keep the cell phone’s location private, he simply could have turned it off.”

(Most cases have involved the ground rules for tracking cell phone users prospectively, and judges have disagreed over what legal rules apply. Only a minority has sided with the Justice Department, however.)

Cellular providers tend not to retain moment-by-moment logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower, in part because there’s no business reason to store the data, and in part because the storage costs would be prohibitive. They do, however, keep records of what tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered–and those records are generally stored for six months to a year, depending on the company.

Verizon Wireless keeps “phone records including cell site location for 12 months,” Drew Arena, Verizon’s vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance, said at a federal task force meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. Arena said the company keeps “phone bills without cell site location for seven years,” and stores SMS text messages for only a very brief time.

Gidari, the Seattle attorney, said that wireless carriers have recently extended how long they store this information. “Prior to a year or two ago when location-based services became more common, if it were 30 days it would be surprising,” he said.

The ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald argue that the wording of the federal privacy law in question allows judges to require the level of proof required for a search warrant “before authorizing the disclosure of particularly novel or invasive types of information.” In addition, they say, Americans do not “knowingly expose their location information and thereby surrender Fourth Amendment protection whenever they turn on or use their cell phones.”

“The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government’s minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment,” says EFF’s Bankston. “The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.”

Update 10:37 a.m. PT: A source inside the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the northern district of Texas, which prosecuted the Scarecrow Bandits mentioned in the above article, tells me that this was the first and the only time that the FBI has used the location-data-mining technique to nab bank robbers. It’s also worth noting that the leader of this gang, Corey Duffey, was sentenced last month to 354 years (not months, but years) in prison. Another member is facing 140 years in prison.

By Declan McCullagh

Source: cnet news.

China orders retreat from risky dollar assets

February 12, 2010

China has ordered managers of its vast currency reserves to withdraw from risky dollar assets and retreat to core debt guaranteed by the US government, a clear sign that Beijing is battening down the hatches for fresh trouble on global markets.

A bank teller counts dollars at a bank in Shanghai: China appears to be braced for more trouble in financial markets

A Communist Party directive leaked to the Chinese-language edition of the Asia Times said dollar reserves should be limited to US Treasuries or agency mortgage debt such as Freddie Mac that enjoys Washington’s implicit backing.

BNP Paribas said the move has major implications for global risk assets. “The message from Beijing is that we don’t like this environment,” said Hans Redeker, the bank’s currency chief.

“When the world’s biggest investor turns risk-averse, that is something you take notice of. We think this could become the new theme for the markets in the medium-term,” he said.

The directive covers both the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) and China’s state-controlled commercial banks. Together they have an estimated $3 trillion (£1.9 trillion) of foreign holdings.

The exact break-down of China’s holdings are a state secret but it is understood that SAFE bought large amounts of corporate debt as well as municipal and state bonds during the boom years of 2006 and 2007. Any move to liquidate holding of California debt at this crucial juncture could have serious implications.

The exact motives for China’s shift of strategy are unclear. Analysts say the authorities may fear that the end of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve could cause risk spreads to widen sharply, triggering heavy losses. The shift in policy appears unrelated to the US spat with China over Taiwan.

SAFE has some very sophisticated economists. The chief investment officer of its reserve management department is Changhong Zhu, until recently head of derivatives for the hedge fund operations of the giant US financial group PIMCO, and viewed as one of the ‘rock stars’ of the global hedge fund industry.

The move by Beijing comes at a time when China’s current account surplus is falling. This reduces reserve growth, reducing the supply of global liquidity.

Mr Redeker said this will have the paradoxical result of boosting the dollar. Flight from risk can lead to an automatic rise as hedge funds, banks, and investors across the world cut back leverage on dollar balance sheets.

David Bloom, head of currencies at HSBC, said the explosive dollar rally over the last six weeks has been the reversal of the dollar carry trade. “It has been short, sharp, and vicious. People borrowed in US dollars to invest in places like Brazil, Turkey, and New Zealand and now it is unwinding.”

“We don’t think the dollar rally is going to last much beyond the first quarter because we’re in a new world of rotating sovereign crises where politics matters again. It’s Greece right now but it could be the UK next, and then US which has yet to take any steps at all to tackle it fiscal deficit,” he said.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Source: Telegraph.

Israeli think tank worried about “global delegitimization campaign” faced by Israel

February 12, 2010

Israel is facing a global campaign of delegitimization, according to a report by the Reut Institute, made available to the cabinet on Thursday. The Tel Aviv-based security and socioeconomic think tank called on ministers to treat the matter as a strategic threat.

Jordanian protesters burning an Israeli flag at an anti-Israel protest in Amman last year.

The report cites anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, protests when Israeli athletes compete abroad, moves in Europe to boycott Israeli products, and threats of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders visiting London.

Reut says the campaign is the work of a worldwide network of private individuals and organizations. They have no hierarchy or overall commander, but work together based on a joint ideology – portraying Israel as a pariah state and denying its right to exist.

Reut lists the network’s major hubs – London, Brussels, Madrid, Toronto, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley. The network’s activists – “delegitimizers” the report dubs them – are relatively marginal: young people, anarchists, migrants and radical political activists. Although they are not many, they raise their profile using public campaigns and media coverage, the report says.

The “delegitimizers” cooperate with organizations engaging in legitimate criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, blurring the line between legitimate censure and delegitimization. They also promote pro-Palestinian activities in Europe as “trendy,” the report says.

The network’s activists are not mostly Palestinian, Arab or Muslim. Many of them are European and North American left-wing activists. The Western left has changed its approach to Israel and now sees it as an occupation state, the report says. To those left-wing groups, if in the 1960s Israel was seen as a model for an egalitarian, socialist society, today it epitomizes Western evil.

The delegitimization network sees the fight against the former regime in South Africa as a success model. It believes that like the apartheid regime, the Zionist-Israeli model can be toppled and a one-state model can be established.

The Reut team says the network’s groups share symbols and heroes such as the Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura, American peace activist Rachel Corrie and joint events like the Durban Conference.

Israel’s diplomats overseas, meanwhile, must counter the attempts to delegitimize the country. “The combination of a large Muslim community, a radical left, influential, English-language media and an international university center make London fertile ground for Israel’s delegitimization,” says Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador in London.

Prosor gives many interviews to the British media and lectures at university campuses throughout the country. Although he says he has encountered anti-Israel demonstrations on almost every campus, Prosor has told his people to increase their campus activity.

“What is now happening in London universities will happen, at most, in five years at all the large universities in the United States,” he says.

The Reut report says Israel is not prepared at all to deal with the threat of delegitimization. The cabinet has not defined the issue as a threat and sees the diplomatic arena as marginal compared to the military one.

“The Foreign Ministry is built for the challenges of the ’60s, not the 2000s,” the report says. “There are no budgets, not enough diplomats and no appropriate diplomatic doctrine.”

Reut recommends setting up a counter-network, in which Israel’s embassies in centers of delegitimization activity would serve as “front positions.”

The report says the intelligence service should monitor the organizations’ activities and study their methods. The cabinet should also confront groups trying to delegitimize Israel but embrace those engaged in legitimate criticism.

The report adds that Israel should not boycott these groups, as Israel’s embassy in Washington does with the left-wing lobby J Street. Boycotting critics merely pushes them toward joining the delegitimizers, Reut says.

Source: Haaretz.

The Orthodox Nationalist: On Agrarianism

February 11, 2010

Yuriev Day 2.jpg

Matt Johnson discusses:

  • The superiority of agrarian life
  • The world of the small farm
  • Agrarian reconstruction

13 MB / 32 kbps mono / 0 hour 54 min.

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Jamie Kelso, Feb. 11, 2010

February 11, 2010

Jamie discusses the National Policy Institute (NPI). NPI asks: “Isn’t it about time someone spoke for us? It is about time we had a voice in public policy – that’s why the National Policy Institute was formed. NPI promotes the American majority’s unique historical, cultural, and biological inheritance – and advances policies that, without prejudicing the legitimate rights of others, fearlessly defend our rights… our heritage.”

26 MB / 32 kbps mono / 1 hour 56 min.

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Who wants to bomb Iran?

February 11, 2010

Meet the men calling on Barack Obama to launch airstrikes against the Islamic Republic.

They’re back! The “Bomb Iran” crowd is making a big return to the political center stage after months of puzzlement over what to do about developments in the Islamic Republic. Hawks such as Daniel Pipes and John Bolton are arguing that Iran is dead-set on its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal — and point to developments such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement this weekend that Iran would enrich its uranium stocks to 20 percent to argue that diplomatic avenues have reached a dead end. The would-be bombers fear that the mullahs will leverage their nuclear capability to expand Persian influence through the Arab world and beyond — and argue that the United States must do anything in its power, including the use of force, to stop them.

This movement had its heyday in neoconservative circles in 2006 and 2007, following Iran’s official announcement that it had started to enrich uranium and the subsequent U.S.-led push in the U.N Security Council for additional sanctions. And who could forget 2008 presidential candidate John McCain’s memorable “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” gaffe, sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”? In the wake of Iran’s contested election last June, pro-bomb pundits have argued that the popular unrest — including the imminent anti-regime protests scheduled for Feb. 11, the anniversary of the Islamic Republic — far from meaning the United States should hold back, presents a perfect opportunity to target the increasingly unpopular leadership of the Iranian regime. Needless to say, it doesn’t appear that Obama will be taking their advice any time soon; administration officials have strongly suggested they prefer to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy and sanctions.

The Iran hawks are supported by the Obama administration’s old nemesis Dick Cheney, who noted in an interview with Fox News last August that he was “probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my colleagues” in the Bush administration. Without further ado, here is FP‘s guide to this belligerent minority.

  • Daniel Pipes

    Perch:  Director of the Middle East Forum, Hoover Institution visiting fellow

    Money quote: “[Obama] needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations. Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity.” –Feb. 2, 2010, National Review

    Justification: Pipes’s argument was not exactly framed in such a way as to gain adherents within the White House. However, his cold-blooded political justification is enough to make Dick Morris or Karl Rove blush: He cites five polls suggesting a military strike against Iran possesses the support of a solid majority of Americans and posits that others would undoubtedly “rally around the flag,” supporting Obama were he to unleash the bombers. Sarah Palin picked up this argument in an interview with Fox News on Feb. 7, claiming that a decision by Obama to declare war on Iran could boost his chances for re-election in 2012 — though she incorrectly cited Patrick Buchanan as the source of the idea.

    And lest Obama fear that this electoral masterstroke would devolve into an Iraq-style quagmire, Pipes assures us that the United States could limit itself to airstrikes and employ only a few boots on the ground, “making an attack more politically palatable.”

  • John Bolton

    Perch: Senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

    Money quote: “Those who oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons are left in the near term with only the option of targeted military force against its weapons facilities. Significantly, the uprising in Iran also makes it more likely that an effective public diplomacy campaign could be waged in the country to explain to Iranians that such an attack is directed against the regime, not against the Iranian people…. Military action against Iran’s nuclear program and the ultimate goal of regime change can be worked together consistently.” –July 2, 2009, Washington Post

    Justification:  Although the unrest following Iran’s contested presidential election this past June convinced many pundits that a U.S. military strike would be counterproductive, Bolton took the opposite tack: With Iran’s hardliners “unmistakably back in control” following the first round of protests, he argued, the timing was ripe to convince the Iranian people that targeted airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities were the fault of their dictatorial government, and not a foreign power.

    Notably, Bolton doesn’t believe the Obama administration will do what he thinks needs to be done in Iran (nor, truth be told, was he sanguine that the Bush administration would listen to his advice in 2008). Instead, he’s putting all his faith in Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, referring to the logic of an Israeli strike as “nearly inexorable.”

  • Norman Podhoretz

    Perch: Editor at large, Commentary magazine

    Money quote: “In short, the plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of force — any more than there was an alternative to force if Hitler was to be stopped in 1938.” –June 2007, Commentary

    Justification: Podhoretz, the author of World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism and one of the intellectual godfathers of the neoconservative movement, regards the showdown with Iran as the latest front in a “protracted global struggle” that has taken the United States from Baghdad to Kabul. In each case, he argues, the United States is defending itself from “Islamofascism” — the intellectual cousin of communism and Nazism that threatens to overwhelm the United States and its allies militarily, and also erode Western values from within.

    Podhoretz sees Ahmadinejad as occupying the revolutionary vanguard of this movement: The first step in the Iranian president’s quest to transform the global balance of power will be to fulfill his promise to “wipe Israel off the map.” From there, Podhoretz fears, a nuclear-armed Iran will attempt to establish its hegemony over the Persian Gulf — and then extend its scope of influence into Europe. Finally, the coup de grâce: Iran will commit itself to neutering U.S. influence worldwide, and perhaps even attempt to fulfill its goal of “a world without America.”

    As in the struggle against Hitler, the only option presented to the United States when faced with an enemy of such sprawling ambition, Podhoretz believes, is the use of military force. A U.S. air campaign, he hopes, could set back the Iranian nuclear program indefinitely and also provide the political preconditions for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic — a message that he also delivered in private meetings with President Bush. The only question, in his eyes, was whether Bush would summon the political fortitude to order the strike before he left office. As he wrote: “As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.”

  • Joshua Muravchik

    Perch: Foreign Policy Institute fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies

    Money quote: “We must bomb Iran. It has been four years since that country’s secret nuclear program was brought to light, and the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere…. Our options therefore are narrowed to two: We can prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or we can use force to prevent it.” –Nov. 19, 2006, Los Angeles Times

    Justification: Frustrated by the United States’ inability to convince Russia or China to commit to a truly biting sanctions regime — and despairing that Iran’s hard-liners could ever be forced from power — Muravchik believed the West’s only remaining option was to destroy Iran’s nuclear program before it could produce a bomb. Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon would allow the Islamic Republic to establish regional hegemony over the Middle East, pose an existential to Israel’s, and erode what is left of the international nonproliferation regime, Muravchik feared. There was also the danger that Iran could “slip nuclear material to terrorists” — and not only its clients, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, but also al Qaeda.

    Muravchik also took to the pages of Foreign Policy to make the case that full-throated advocacy of a U.S. military strike against Iran was what neoconservatives needed to overcome the stigma that had accumulated around the movement in recent years.

  • Thomas McInerney

    Perch: Retired lieutenant general of the U.S. Air Force

    Money quote: “A military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities is feasible…. President Bush is right when he says Iran cannot be permitted to have nuclear weapons. The prospect of leaders like Ahmadinejad, who advocates wiping Israel ‘off the map,’ with their hands on nuclear weapons is a risk we cannot take. Diplomacy must be pursued vigorously, but the experience with Iraq suggests there’s little reason for optimism. Thus, a viable military option is imperative.” –April 24, 2006, Weekly Standard

    Justification: McInerney has put more thought into the actual details of a U.S. military strike on Iraq than most other analysts. In an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, McInerney laid out a two-pronged strategy, kicked off by “a powerful air campaign that will hit within 36 to 48 hours over 1,500 aim points” in Iran, including its nuclear development facilities, air defenses, and its Shehab-3 missile sites.

    This would soften up the Islamic Republic for the second part of the campaign — covert military operations designed to encourage Iran’s population to rise up in rebellion. McInerney is enamored of the prospects for division presented by Iran’s many ethnic minorities. Iran “is ripe for political discontent, and ripe for people to let the people have their country back,” he argued. McInerney’s plan raised consternation in liberal circles, who pointed out that he had suggested a similar plan in 2002 to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. McInerney, however, appeared undoubted by the U.S. experience in Iraq, countering that Operation Iraqi Freedom “was a brilliant campaign done in 21 days.”

  • Max Boot

    Perch: Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

    Money quote: “If Israel’s intelligence agencies can provide reasonable assurance that the Israeli Air Force can derail the Iranian program for, say, six years, then the case for action becomes inescapable. But if they can only delay Iran for six months, is it really worthwhile to risk all the consequences that would come from an air strike? Perhaps so; perhaps the loss of Israeli prestige and deterrence advantage from Iran going nuclear would be so great that even a symbolic strike is worthwhile.” –July 2, 2009, Commentary

    Justification: Following the post-election protests that rocked Iran last June, Max Boot echoed Bolton’s remarks regarding the increasing attractiveness of an Israeli airstrike on the country’s nuclear facilities. But it wasn’t the first time that he called for a more aggressive policy toward Iran — back in 2006, Boot laid out a plan to “do to Iran what the Iranians are doing to us in Iraq” by fomenting ethnic divisions within the country, and funneling weapons and money to anti-regime militias within the country. The only other option, in Boot’s eyes, would be a U.S. airstrike — a development that will become inevitable once the current policy of “half-hearted multilateral negotiations backed by toothless U.N. resolutions fails. (Or, rather, once its failure can no longer be denied.)”

Source: Foreign Policy.

How Brussels is trying to prevent Euro collapse

February 11, 2010

The problems facing Greece are just the beginning. The countries belonging to Europe’s common currency zone are drifting further and further apart, and national bankruptcies are a distinct possibility. Brussels is faced with a number of choices, none of them good.

The European Union has ordered that Athens embark on a strict path of austerity to get its budget problems under control. The measures will mean sacrifices from Greek citizens, particularly civil servants. Here, firefighters at a protest outside of Greek Parliament at the end of January.

Men like Wilhelm Nölling, former member of the German Central Bank Council, and Wilhelm Hankel, an economics professor critical of the euro, have been out of the spotlight for years. In the 1990s, they fought against the introduction of the common currency, even calling on Germany’s high court to prevent the creation of the euro zone. But none of it worked.

Now both men are in demand again, and the old euro critics’ beliefs are more relevant than ever. Were the skeptics right back then, when they said Europe wasn’t ready for the euro zone? Were the differences too great and the politicians too weak to ensure a strict and stable course?

“The euro should really be called the Icarus,” Hankel suggested back then. He predicted the currency would meet the same end as the hero of Greek legend, who paid for his dream of flight with his life.

Is the euro’s high flight over now too? The news these days is alarming. It’s causing a commotion on financial markets and intense discussion in capitals across Europe, as well as in Frankfurt, seat of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Brussels took a hard line with Athens last week. Greece must cut costs drastically under close European Union supervision, a sacrifice of a share of its sovereignty. Risk premiums for Greek government bonds have risen drastically, and the country has to pay higher and higher charges.

The Possibility of State Bankruptcies

Central Bank President Jean Claude Trichet speaking with Greek Finance Minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou in early December. Greece has become a virtual protectorate of the EU.

Accruing debt is becoming increasingly expensive for other countries in the euro zone as well, among them Portugal and Spain. The southern members of the euro zone are especially being eyed with mistrust. Speculators are betting that bonds will continue to fall and that, eventually, the countries won’t be able to borrow any more money at all. State bankruptcies are seen as a possibility.

“We’ve reached a point where it’s possible to deal individual countries a lethal blow by downgrading their credit and boycotting their government bonds,” Nölling warns.

Many are now wondering how the stronger euro-zone countries should react — whether it’s possible to help the weaker ones without jeopardizing themselves and the common currency. Furthermore, there is a risk that euro-zone members will continue to grow apart economically, a trend that could cause the monetary union to eventually collapse.

Doing nothing is not an option. In light of the national debt in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, the euro zone is in danger of transforming from a “common destiny to a common liability,” Nölling says.

And so it won’t be any ordinary meeting when finance ministers from the 16-euro zone countries meet for a regularly scheduled get-together in Brussels next Monday. The European Commission plans to assign each country homework to be completed in the coming years.

Cohesion and Stability

If Greece and several other European Union countries don’t get their finances under control, the euro could be in trouble.

The Commission doesn’t hold Greece solely responsible for the current euro woes. Experts close to Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia say nearly every participating country is compromising the cohesion and stability of the common currency.

“The combination of decreasing competitiveness and excessive accumulation of national debt is alarming,” the experts wrote in a recent report, adding that if the member countries don’t get their problems under control, it will “jeopardize the cohesion of the monetary union.”

Differing economic development within the euro zone and a lack of political coordination are to blame, they say. In the more than 10 years since the euro was introduced, the Commission states, it has become clear that simply controlling the development of member states’ budgets is not enough. What that means, more concretely, is that the stability provisions stipulated in the Maastricht Treaty to regulate the common currency aren’t working, and member states need to better coordinate their financial and economic policy measures.

That is precisely what euro skeptics have said from the beginning — that a common currency can’t work in the long run without a common economic and financial policy. The member countries’ governments ignored these objections, unready to give up a further aspect of their national sovereignty.

Now politicians are facing a difficult decision: Should they continue as they have, thus potentially undermining the euro’s ability to function? Or should they yield a portion of their national sovereignty to Brussels?

Without common policies, the individual countries drift further and further apart. Before the euro was introduced, exchange rate adjustments served to dispel tensions. Now the common currency zone lacks the option of adapting by revaluing currencies.

Watching with Alarm

EU officials are watching with alarm as the various euro-zone countries’ competitiveness diverges sharply. The differences are especially large between countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, which are characterized by current account surpluses, and countries with high budget deficits. Along with Greece, this second category includes especially Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

These countries’ competitiveness has dropped steadily since the euro was introduced. They lived on credit for years, seduced by the unusually low interest rates within the euro zone, and imported far more than they exported.

When demand collapsed in the wake of the global financial crisis, governments jumped in to fill the gap, with serious consequences — debt skyrocketed. Spain’s budget deficit was at 11 percent last year, while Greece’s was nearly 13 percent. Such high debt is simply not sustainable in the long term.

In the past, the solution for these countries would have been to devalue their currency, which in turn would make imports more expensive and exports cheaper. Such a move would stimulate their national economies and strengthen their competitiveness.

Now, however, these countries must submit to a drastic therapy regime at the hands of the European Commission. They need to balance their budgets, while simultaneously creating more competition on the labor and goods markets.

The directives from Brussels translate into difficult sacrifices for the citizens of the affected countries. Employees will have to scale back wage demands for years, and civil servants will see their salaries cut. Ireland has already embarked on this path; Greece and Spain will follow.

Part 2: Is Germany to Blame?

The Commission has recommended that Spain, booming until recently, radically restructure its economy. Spain must significantly shrink its bloated construction sector and focus on economic sectors with higher productivity.

France and Italy have been given homework assignments of their own. Both countries are being asked to apply austerity packages and increase labor-market flexibility. France must also get its significant welfare and unemployment expenses under control.

Resentment is growing in the countries most directly affected. But that frustration is not directed, as might be expected, toward the Commission. Instead, it is increasingly surplus countries coming under fire — with Germany at the forefront.

Representatives from Spain and Portugal especially — but also from France — hold Germany accountable for their current woes. They aren’t alone in that opinion either. “The Greek crisis has German roots,” says Heiner Flassbeck, chief economist at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in Geneva. It was German wage dumping that got the country’s European neighbors in trouble, he says.

At Its Neighbors’ Expense

EU officials don’t phrase it quite so strongly, but they still accuse Germany more than any other country of gaining advantages for itself at its neighbors’ expense, using its policy of low wages to make German products increasingly attractive relative to those from other countries.

As a precautionary measure, officials at Berlin’s Finance Ministry have gathered arguments that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble can put forward in the country’s defense. Germany’s position is that the countries now in crisis are themselves at fault for their situation. They lived beyond their means for years, the German government says, financing their economic boom on credit. Now the financial crisis has revealed their weaknesses.

Germany didn’t have it easy with the euro in the beginning either, continues the argument, because the country wasn’t competitive compared to other member countries — but it regained its strength with a great deal of trouble and effort, through reforms.

German officials point to the fact that the country made its labor market more flexible through the Hartz package of welfare reforms and say that state finances are more stable than before, despite the crisis. They add that taking this same path would lead the currently troubled countries out of the crisis. And, they continue, the federal government is not responsible for lagging wage growth because, in Germany, salaries and wages are negotiated between employers and unions rather than being imposed by the government.

The German government also claims no responsibility for the country’s export surplus. German firms are competitive not because of government policy, it says, but because of entrepreneurial decisions and the preferences of customers around the world.

Create More Competition

When this debate flared up recently within the euro-zone countries, Schäuble received support from the top for his position. The southern members of the euro zone shouldn’t be ungrateful, warned ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet. After all, he reasons, Germany funded the deficits with its surpluses. Nonetheless, the Commission called on Germany to make further changes as well. The country should boost domestic demand, increase investment in infrastructure and create more competition in the service sector.

The Commission believes the currency union can exist in the long term only if member countries’ governments implement reforms and coordinate their economic policies. Schäuble’s experts agree. They are proposing — partly with an eye toward mollifying France — a common German-French initiative.

Both countries’ governments should work toward better coordination, the German financial experts say. Merely monitoring deficits has turned out to be inadequate. In the future, they suggest, euro-zone governments should also focus on combating differing inflation rates and step in early when capital bubbles develop.

France, no doubt, would gladly accept such a proposal. Paris, after all, has long called for Europe-wide financial governance. Until now it was Germany that opposed the idea.

The euro-zone governments have started to rethink their positions, but will action necessarily follow? The past never lacked in good intentions either, but political calculation always won out in the end. How else would Greece have managed to become a member of the common currency zone? Why else would Brussels stand by for so long without taking action? It was far from secret that Greece had been cooking its books for years.

Financial Trickery

Back in the fall of 2004, Eurostat, the EU body in charge of statistics, calculated that Greece’s officially announced debts of between 1.4 percent and 2.0 percent of gross domestic product between 2000 and 2003 were incorrect. In reality, the amount was nearly three times as high, falling between 3.7 percent and 4.6 percent. The statisticians surmised that Athens had whitewashed its finances in previous years, too. Greece, in fact, would never have met the conditions for membership in the common currency without such trickery.

But the country was not immediately banned from the euro zone, nor were other sanctions imposed. Instead, member countries discussed how the statistics could be improved and made more accurate. Not much emerged from all the talk.

Outgoing European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen remembers all too well that, for a long time, the problem with Greece was simply not something that was talked about. He finds it hard to believe that this “disproportionate regard” for Greece had nothing to do with that fact that conservative allies of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso governed in Athens for five years.

Not until last fall’s elections brought Greece’s socialist opposition to power did new data arrive from Athens — and new questions and accusations from Brussels.

The Greek parliament and government are now virtually stripped of power. They’re not allowed to decide on any new expenditures without EU approval. Finance Minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou is required to report every four weeks on progress made in budget restructuring.

An EU Protectorate

Brussels, not Athens, now controls whether and how the austerity program takes effect. If “detailed and ongoing inspection” shows that the actual results fall short of those predicted, Almunia says, then Brussels’ watchdogs will demand additional measures. There were even calls at the European Parliament last week to send a special EU representative with extensive authority to Greece. The small country has become little more than an EU protectorate.

The EU Commission and the euro-zone leaders hope these compulsory measures will steady markets. They also hope Greek unions and associations, from farmers to taxi drivers, won’t mobilize against the reduction in the country’s standard of living that will accompany these new measures.

German Finance Minister Schäuble and German Federal Bank President Axel Weber rule out giving aid to the struggling country. Indeed, EU treaties strictly forbid any such aid. The message is that Greece must help itself.

As a precautionary measure, though, both German officials, along with their colleagues in other EU countries, are keeping open the possibility of lending a hand anyway. The EU can’t afford for a member state to go bankrupt, either politically or economically.

Out of the Question

The experts always debate the same possibilities. The first would be a common euro-zone bond, which would be placed at Greece’s disposal. The advantages for Greece are obvious — the country would receive funds more cheaply than it currently does because the euro zone as a whole wouldn’t have to pay as high a risk premium as Greece alone does. The disadvantage is that countries with good credit, like Germany, would have to pay higher interest rates. Consequently, the German government insists that such a loan is out of the question.

An alternative would be bilateral financial aid. Solvent countries, such as Germany, would take out loans on the financial market at good rates and pass these on to Greece. But euro-zone governments are also reluctant to take this path.

The last option is the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which could use its resources to help Greece out of its credit crunch. It would likely impose much stricter conditions on its aid money than the EU would. But the IMF’s involvement would also mean a loss of face for the entire euro zone and a triumph for the Washington-based institution, which was always skeptical of the euro.

If Greece doesn’t stabilize in the coming weeks, the euro-zone’s leaders will be left facing a choice between a rock and a hard place, with the third option being even worse.

By Armin Mahler, Christian Reiermann, Wolfgang Reuter and Hans-Jürgen Schlamp

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

Source: Spiegel.

Jamie Kelso, Feb. 10, 2010

February 10, 2010

Jamie surveys the current State secession movement in the United States. The secession movement is building on the foundation of our 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, which reserve all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government to the States and people respectively. Constitutional scholar Edwin Vieira offers an opposing view, which Kelso dismisses with humor about tobaganing down the deep snow covering the Supreme Court steps now, as the District of Criminals is snow-bound. We end with a quote from President Herbert Hoover in the September 1939 Readers Digest pleading to avert another World War. We’ll finish that article in tomorrow’s show.

26 MB / 32 kbps mono / 1 hour 56 min.

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