Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday 07-31-10

What is it with these people but they believe they are above the law. If they don't like the law then change it, just like we have too. It is sad when they do this kind of stuff.

Memo outlines backdoor 'amnesty' plan

With Congress gridlocked on an immigration bill, the Obama administration is considering using a back door to stop deporting many illegal immigrants - what a draft government memo said could be "a non-legislative version of amnesty."

The memo, addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas and written by four agency staffers, lists tools it says the administration has to "reduce the threat of removal" for many illegal immigrants who have run afoul of immigration authorities.

"In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, USCIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations, exercising discretion with regard to parole-in-place, deferred action and the issuance of Notices to Appear," the staffers wrote in the memo, which was obtained by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

The memo suggests that in-depth discussions have occurred on how to keep many illegal immigrants in the country, which would be at least a temporary alternative to the proposals Democrats in Congress have made to legalize illegal immigrants.

Chris Bentley, a USCIS spokesman, said drafting the memo doesn't mean the agency has embraced the policy and "nobody should mistake deliberation and exchange of ideas for final decisions."

"As a matter of good government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will discuss just about every issue that comes within the purview of the immigration system," he said in an e-mail statement. "We continue to maintain that comprehensive bipartisan legislation, coupled with smart, effective enforcement, is the only solution to our nation's immigration challenges."

He said the Homeland Security Department "will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation's entire illegal immigrant population."

The memo does talk about targeting specific groups of illegal immigrants.

Mr. Grassley said it confirms his fears that the administration is trying an end-run around Congress.

"This memo gives credence to our concerns that the administration will go to great lengths to circumvent Congress and unilaterally execute a backdoor amnesty plan," Mr. Grassley said.

The memo acknowledges some of the tools could be costly and might even require asking Congress for more money.

At one point, the authors acknowledge that widespread use of "deferred action" - or using prosecutorial discretion not to deport someone - would be "a non-legislative version of 'amnesty.' "

The authors noted several options for deferred action, including targeting it to students who would be covered by the DREAM Act, a bill that's been introduced in Congress.

In testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 11, Mr. Mayorkas first said he was unaware of discussions to use these kinds of tools on a categorical basis, then later clarified that officials had talked about expanding the use of those powers.

"I don't know of any plans. I think we have discussed, as we always do, the tools available to us and whether the deployment of any of those tools could achieve a more fair and efficient use or application of the immigration law," he said.

He acknowledged, though, that he was not aware that those powers had ever been used before on a categorical basis.

Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who queried Mr. Mayorkas on the subject, warned him against pursuing that strategy.

"I think it would be a mistake for the administration to use administrative action, like deferred action on a categorical basis, to deal with a large number of people who are here without proper legal documents to regularize their status without Congress' participation. I will just say that to you for what it's worth," Mr. Cornyn, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary immigration, border security and citizenship subcommittee, told Mr. Mayorkas.

"The American public’s confidence in the federal government’s ability and commitment to enforce our immigration laws is at an all-time low," Mr. Cornyn said in a statement. "This apparent step to circumvent Congress – and avoid a transparent debate on how to fix our broken immigration system – threatens to further erode public confidence in its government and makes it less likely we will ever reach consensus and pass credible border security and immigration reform.”

After reports earlier this year that the agency was working on these sorts of plans, Senate Republicans, led by Mr. Grassley, have sent letters to President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking for details.

In one letter, the senators warned the president against making an end-run around congressional authority to write immigration rules, and asked for Mr. Obama to promise that he would not use the rules to grant mass pardons.

Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA, an organization that advocates for stricter immigration limits, said the memo is "an outrageous usurpation of congressional authority. It is unconstitutional, and a slap in the face to the American people."

She said that the memo could explain why the push for an immigration bill has faltered in Congress.

"This makes sense of the fact that [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and Obama are sitting back calmly content with not moving immigration reform this year - because they know Obama is trying to take care of it for them, without Democrats having to be tied down to a vote before the election," she said.

On the other side of the political spectrum, immigrant rights groups have demanded that Mr. Obama halt deportations until he secures a broad legalization bill from Congress - legislation that supporters call "comprehensive immigration reform" because it would tackle enforcement, some aspects of legal immigration and the status of illegal immigrants at the same time.

Two senators earlier this year wrote asking the administration to use its powers to stop deporting students who might be eligible for the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrant college students brought to the U.S. at a young age to gain legal status. The legislation has not been passed by Congress.

Mr. Obama has rejected halting deportations, but his administration has been more careful about whom it pursues.

According to new figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the administration has stepped up its efforts to deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, but removal of "non-criminal" illegal immigrants has slowed so far in fiscal 2010.

This is an excerpt from a long article about the government and google colberating on a search system that will

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Sounds a lot like Minorty Report to me.

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

“Secret information isn’t always the brass ring in our profession,” then CIA-director General Michael Hayden told a conference in 2008. “In fact, there’s a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open.”

U.S. spy agencies, through In-Q-Tel, have invested in a number of firms to help them better find that information. Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.

Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.

“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”

Recorded Future certainly has the potential to spot events and trends early. Take the case of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. On March 21, Israeli President Shimon Peres leveled the allegation that the terror group had Scud-like weapons. Scouring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s past statements, Recorded Future found corroborating
evidence from a month prior that appeared to back up Peres’ accusations.
Read More

And this one
White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

Friday, July 30, 2010

07-30-10 Friday

SEC Says New Financial Regulation Law Exempts it From Public Disclosure

Under a little-noticed provision of the recently passed financial-reform legislation, the Securities and Exchange Commission no longer has to comply with virtually all requests for information releases from the public, including those filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The law, signed last week by President Obama, exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities." Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say. Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.

That argument comes despite the President saying that one of the cornerstones of the sweeping new legislation was more transparent financial markets. Indeed, in touting the new law, Obama specifically said it would “increase transparency in financial dealings."

The SEC cited the new law Tuesday in a FOIA action brought by FOX Business Network. Steven Mintz, founding partner of law firm Mintz & Gold LLC in New York, lamented what he described as “the backroom deal that was cut between Congress and the SEC to keep the SEC’s failures secret. The only losers here are the American public.”

"The new provision applies to information obtained through examinations or derived from that information," said SEC spokesman John Nester. "We are expanding our examination program's surveillance and risk assessment efforts in order to provide more sophisticated and effective Wall Street oversight. The success of these efforts depends on our ability to obtain documents and other information from brokers, investment advisers and other registrants. The new legislation makes certain that we can obtain documents from registrants for risk assessment and surveillance under similar conditions that already exist by law for our examinations. Because registrants insist on confidential treatment of their documents, this new provision also removes an opportunity for brokers, investment advisers and other registrants to refuse to cooperate with our examination document requests."

Criticism of the provision has been swift. “It allows the SEC to block the public’s access to virtually all SEC records,” said Gary Aguirre, a former SEC staff attorney-turned-whistleblower who had accused the agency of thwarting an investigation into hedge fund Pequot Asset Management in 2005. “It permits the SEC to promulgate its own rules and regulations regarding the disclosure of records without getting the approval of the Office of Management and Budget, which typically applies to all federal agencies.”

Aguirre used FOIA requests in his own lawsuit against the SEC, which the SEC settled this year by paying him $755,000. Aguirre, who was fired in September 2005, argued that supervisors at the SEC stymied an investigation of Pequot – a charge that prompted an investigation by the Senate Judiciary and Finance committees.

The SEC closed the case in 2006, but would re-open it three years later. This year, Pequot and its founder, Arthur Samberg, were forced to pay $28 million to settle insider-trading charges related to shares of Microsoft (MSFT: 25.95 ,0.00 ,0.00%). The settlement with Aguirre came shortly later.

“From November 2008 through January 2009, I relied heavily on records obtained from the SEC through FOIA in communications to the FBI, Senate investigators, and the SEC in arguing the SEC had botched its initial investigation of Pequot’s trading in Microsoft securities and thus the SEC should reopen it, which it did,” Aguirre said. “The new legislation closes access to such records, even when the investigation is closed.

“It is hard to imagine how the bill could be more counterproductive,” Aguirre added.

FOX Business Network sued the SEC in March 2009 over its failure to produce documents related to its failed investigations into alleged investment frauds being perpetrated by Madoff and R. Allen Stanford. Following the Madoff and Stanford arrests it, was revealed that the SEC conducted investigations into both men prior to their arrests but failed to uncover their alleged frauds.

FOX Business made its initial request to the SEC in February 2009 seeking any information related to the agency’s response to complaints, tips and inquiries or any potential violations of the securities law or wrongdoing by Stanford.

FOX Business has also filed lawsuits against the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve over their failure to respond to FOIA requests regarding use of the bailout funds and the Fed’s extended loan facilities. In February, the Federal Court in New York sided with FOX Business and ordered the Treasury to comply with its requests.

Last year, the network won a legal victory to force the release of documents related to New York University’s lawsuit against Madoff feeder Ezra Merkin.

FOX Business’ FOIA requests have so far led the SEC to release several important and damaging documents:

•FOX Business used the FOIA to obtain a 2005 survey that the SEC in Fort Worth was sending to Stanford investors. The survey showed that the SEC had suspicions about Stanford several years prior to the collapse of his $7 billion empire.

•FOX Business used the FOIA to obtain copies of emails between Federal Reserve lawyers, AIG and staff at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in which it was revealed the Fed staffers knew that bailing out AIG would result in bonuses being paid.

Recently, TARP Congressional Oversight Panel chair Elizabeth Warren told FOX Business that the network’s Freedom of Information Act efforts played a “very important part” of the panel’s investigation into AIG.

Warren told the network the government “crossed a line” with the AIG bailout.

“FOX News and the congressional oversight panel has pushed, pushed, pushed, for transparency, give us the documents, let us look at everything. Your Freedom of Information Act suit, which ultimately produced 250,000 pages of documentation, was a very important part of our report. We were able to rely on the documents that you pried out for a significant part of our being able to put this report together,” Warren said.

The SEC first made its intention to block further FOIA requests known on Tuesday. FOX Business was preparing for another round of “skirmishes” with the SEC, according to Mintz, when the agency called and said it intended to use Section 929I of the 2000-page legislation to refuse FBN’s ongoing requests for information.

Mintz said the network will challenge the SEC’s interpretation of the law.

“I believe this is subject to challenge,” he said. “The contours will have to be figured out by a court.”

(see this document at the end of the article)

SEC Financial Regulatory Law H.R. 4173

FBI defends guidelines for domestic surveillance

WASHINGTON (AP) - Under fire from civil liberties groups, the FBI is defending domestic surveillance guidelines that critics fear could unfairly target innocent Muslims in terrorism and other criminal investigations.

"It's quite an invasive data collection system," said Farhana Khera, executive director of the nonprofit group Muslim Advocates. "It's based on generalized suspicion and fear on the part of law enforcement, not on individualized evidence of criminal activity."

Khera spoke in an interview on the eve of a Capitol Hill appearance by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was scheduled to testify Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a statement, the bureau said its procedures are designed to ensure that FBI probes don't zero in on anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or the exercise of any other constitutional right.

The FBI said its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide equips agents with lawful and appropriate tools so the agency can transform itself into an intelligence-driven organization that investigates genuine criminal and national security threats.

Last September, the FBI disclosed an edited version of the guide as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The manual was approved in December 2008, during the final days of the George W. Bush administration, and establishes policy that guides all the FBI's domestic operations, including counterterrorism, counterintelligence, crime and cyber crime.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in against the guide. The group asked FBI field offices in 29 states and Washington, D.C., to turn over records related to the bureau's collection of data on race and ethnicity.

According to the ACLU, the FBI's operations guide gives agents the authority to create maps of ethnic-oriented businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with concentrated ethnic populations.

While some racial and ethnic data collection by some agencies might be helpful in lessening discrimination, the FBI's attempt to collect and map demographic data using race-based criteria invites unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement, according to the ACLU.

Khera said the FBI has lowered the bar for sending undercover agents or informants into mosques and has enabled the gathering of data about Muslims' charitable giving practices, financial transactions and jobs.

The FBI is still refusing to make public portions of the guide that deal with sending agents or informants into houses of worship and political gatherings.

The bureau has previously stated it would only go into a mosque if it had some reason to believe there was criminal activity, said Khera. If that is the standard, the FBI should have no problem actually disclosing that section of the document, she said.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday 07-29-10

Doomsday shelters making a comeback

Jason Hodge, father of four children from Barstow, Calif., says he's "not paranoid" but he is concerned, and that's why he bought space in what might be labeled a doomsday shelter.
Hodge bought into the first of a proposed nationwide group of 20 fortified, underground shelters — the Vivos shelter network — that are intended to protect those inside for up to a year from catastrophes such as a nuclear attack, killer asteroids or tsunamis, according to the project's developers.

"It's an investment in life," says Hodge, a Teamsters union representative. "I want to make sure I have a place I can take me and my family if that worst-case scenario were to happen."

There are signs that underground shelters, almost-forgotten relics of the Cold War era, are making a comeback.

The Vivos network, which offers partial ownerships similar to a timeshare in underground shelter communities, is one of several ventures touting escape from a surface-level calamity.

Radius Engineering in Terrell, Texas, has built underground shelters for more than three decades, and business has never been better, says Walton McCarthy, company president.

The company sells fiberglass shelters that can accommodate 10 to 2,000 adults to live underground for one to five years with power, food, water and filtered air, McCarthy says.

The shelters range from $400,000 to a $41 million facility Radius built and installed underground that is suitable for 750 people, McCarthy says. He declined to disclose the client or location of the shelter.

"We've doubled sales every year for five years," he says.Other shelter manufacturers include Hardened Structures of Colorado and Utah Shelter Systems, which also report increased sales.

The shelters have their critics. Ken Rose, a history professor at California State University-Chico and author of One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture, says underground shelters were a bad idea a half-century ago and they're a bad idea now.

"A terrorist with a nuke in a suitcase pales in comparison to what the Cold War had to offer in the 1950s and '60s, which was the potential annihilation of the human race," he says.

Steve Davis, president of Maryland-based All Hands Global Emergency Management Consulting, also is skeptical.

All Hands has helped more than 100 public and private sector clients with emergency management and homeland security services, according to its website.

The types of cataclysms envisioned by some shelter manufacturers "are highly unlikely compared to what we know is going to happen," Davis says.

"We know there is going to be a major earthquake someday on the West Coast. We know a hurricane is going to hit Florida, the Gulf Coast, the East Coast," he says. "We support reasonable preparedness. We don't think it's necessary to burrow into the desert."

The Vivos network is the idea of Del Mar, Calif., developer Robert Vicino.

Vicino, who launched the Vivos project last December, says he seeks buyers willing to pay $50,000 for adults and $25,000 for children.

The company is starting with a 13,000-square-foot refurbished underground shelter formerly operated by the U.S. government at an undisclosed location near Barstow, Calif., that will have room for 134 people, he says.

Vicino puts the average cost for a shelter at $10 million.

Vivos plans for facilities as large as 100,000 square feet, says real estate broker Dan Hotes of Seattle, who over the past four years has collaborated with Vicino on a project involving partial ownership of high-priced luxury homes and is now involved with Vivos.

Catastrophe shelters today may appeal to those who seek to bring order to a world full of risk and uncertainty, says Alexander Riley, an associate professor of sociology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.

"They're saying, 'I can control everything,' " Riley says. " 'With the right amount of rational planning, I can even survive an asteroid hitting the Earth that causes a dust cloud like the kind we believe wiped the dinosaurs out.' "

The Vivos website features a clock counting down to Dec. 21, 2012, the date when the ancient Mayan "Long Count" calendar marks the end of a 5,126-year era, at which time some people expect an unknown apocalypse.

Vicino, whose website lists 11 global catastrophes ranging from nuclear war to solar flares to comets, bristles at the notion he's profiting from people's fears.

"You don't think of the person who sells you a fire extinguisher as taking advantage of your fear," he says. "The fact that you may never use that fire extinguisher doesn't make it a waste or bad.

"We're not creating the fear; the fear is already out there. We're creating a solution."

Hope that you never have to go through this but you ouight to know what your rights are.

House Passes Bill to Keep Creditors From Taking Guns
If you file for bankruptcy, you run the risk of losing your money and your car to creditors.

But under a measure that just overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives, one thing they would not be able to take is your gun.

The House this afternoon passed a bill that would change the law to allow someone going through bankruptcy proceedings to retain their rifles, shotguns, and pistols so long as they are worth less than $3,000 combined. (CBS Radio Capitol Hill correspondent Bob Fuss reports that, under the law, if you keep just one firearm, there is no such limit on its value.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, introduced a similar measure in the Senate yesterday. The bill passed the House 307 to 113.

The House measure was introduced by freshman Democratic Rep. John Boccieri of Ohio, who argues that "We must protect the rights guaranteed to us by our founding fathers, no matter what financial circumstances a citizen might face," according to The Plain Dealer.

The National Rifle Association, possibly the most powerful lobbying group in Washington, endorsed the measure, saying in part, "We think it is reasonable for folks who are in financial distress to have an effective means of defending themselves."

Many states already have carve-outs for firearms in bankruptcy proceedings.

New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy argued on the House floor that the measure is a mistake, the Plain Dealer reports, arguing that having guns in households that are going through bankruptcy could increase the risks of suicide and violence.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday 07-27-10

Wal-Mart plan to use smart tags raises privacy concerns

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) is putting electronic identification tags on men's clothing like jeans starting Aug. 1 as the world's largest retailer tries to gain more control of its inventory. But the move is raising eyebrows among privacy experts.
The individual garments, which also includes underwear and socks, will have removable smart tags that can be read from a distance by Wal-Mart workers with scanners. In seconds, the worker will be able to know what sizes are missing and will also be able tell what it has on hand in the stock room. Such instant knowledge will allow store clerks to have the right sizes on hand when shoppers need them.

The tags work by reflecting a weak radio signal to identify the product. They have long spurred privacy fears as well as visions of stores being able to scan an entire shopping cart of items at one time.

Wal-Mart's goal is to eventually expand the tags to other types of merchandise but company officials say it's too early to give estimates on how long that will take.

"There are so many significant benefits in knowing how to better manage inventory and better serve customers," said Lorenzo Lopez, a Wal-Mart spokesman. "This will enhance the shopping experience and help us grow our business."

Before the rollout, Wal-Mart and other stores were using the tags, called radio frequency identification tags, only to track pallets or cases of merchandise in their warehouses. But now the tags are jumping onto individual items, a move that some privacy experts describe as frightening.

Wal-Mart, which generated annual revenue of a little more than $400 billion in its latest fiscal year and operates almost 4,000 stores, has huge influence with suppliers. That makes other merchants tend to follow its lead.

"This is a first piece of a very large and very frightening tracking system," said Katherine Albrecht, director of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.

Albrecht worries that Wal-Mart and others would be able to track movements of customers who in some border states like Michigan and Washington are carrying new driver's licenses that contain RFID tags to make it easier for them to cross borders.

Albrecht fears that retailers could scan data from such licenses and their purchases and combine that data with other personal information. She also says that even though the smart tags can be removed from clothing, they can't be turned off and can be tracked even after you throw them in the garbage, for example.

Wal-Mart officials said they are aware of privacy concerns but insist they are taking a "thoughtful and methodical approach."

Dan Fogelman, a Wal-Mart spokesman said that the smart label doesn't collect customer information.

"Wal-Mart is using it strictly to manage inventory. The customer is in complete control," he said. Fogelman added that Wal-Mart's readers identify only inventory it has in the store.

To placate privacy concerns, Wal-Mart, which is financing some of the suppliers' costs, is asking vendors to embed the smart tags in removable labels and not embed them in clothing.

Wal-Mart plans to educate customers with the new program through in-store videos and through signs posted in the stores that educate customers about the program.

N Dakota, Alaska lead US job creation, study says

* Forty states have fewer jobs now than five years ago

* Bottom-ranking Nevada topped the jobs list in 2005

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, July 26 (Reuters) - North Dakota and Alaska have added the most jobs, while Nevada, California and Florida have lost the most, in the last five years, according to research released on Monday.

The study of U.S. employment trends found 40 states had fewer jobs in May 2010 than they did five years earlier, according to, a business news site that published the research of private-sector employment conducted by American City Business Journals.

In first place, North Dakota added 21,300 jobs, and Alaska followed by adding 10,100 jobs from 2005 to 2010, it said. North Dakota saw an increase of 3,200 jobs in the last year alone, it said. [ID:nN26230035]

North Dakota and other states that added jobs did not undergo the economic volatility of recent years as much as other states, said G. Scott Thomas, a demographer.

"There was no real estate boom or bubble and, as a result, they kept plodding along," Thomas said. "Now those numbers look fantastic."

Nevada ranked at the bottom of the list, having lost 113,000 jobs in the last five years, followed by California and Florida, it said.

That marked a dramatic change in fortunes for Nevada and Florida, which finished first and second in jobs in a similar 2005 study, it said.

The change illustrates how little can be divined from such data, Thomas said.

"Five years ago, we said Nevada was No. 1, and now it's dead last," he said. "It does make you leery of economic forecasts."

Together, Nevada, California and Florida have lost 1.69 million jobs since 2005, the study said.

Overall, the United States lost 4.51 million private-sector jobs from mid-2005 to mid-2010, it said. The study used U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Other states at the bottom of the list were Michigan, Rhode Island, Georgia, Ohio and Arizona. The declines were a combination of real-estate problems, slowed construction and tourism and a drop in manufacturing, it said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday 07-26-10

Sheriff's deputies' disdain for Constitution captured by their own recorded comments


When San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Murphy responded to a “shots fired” call in April 2008, he decided en route that he was going to make an arrest.
He did far more than that. Murphy and other deputies made an unwarranted entry into a home, and then into a locked gun safe. Murphy's uncensored, darkly disturbing observations and behavior following his Code-3 arrival at the rural home of longtime SLO County resident Matt Hart were picked up by Murphy's and other deputies’ own recorders. Those recordings provide a rare, frighteningly revealing, behind-the-scenes perspective of how one local law enforcement agency views the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and other laws its personnel are sworn to uphold.

Sheriff’s spinner Rob Bryn declined to confirm the identities of any of the deputies appearing or heard in the recordings, or to discuss any aspect of the Hart home invasion. So we've done that for you. (Bryn, ever the public servant, eventually stopped responding to e-mails from a reporter.)

Deputies’ deportment in the field as exhibited by their own words, as well as their plainly audible efforts to fabricate justifications for their actions, are lamentable. Local county prosecutors’ subsequent abuse of power, wielded in a cavalier, clumsy, and transparent effort to avoid a lawsuit, also is troubling.

But in the larger scheme of things, it is the systematic dismantling of the Fourth Amendment by over-zealous cops and an enabling judiciary that should be a cause of concern for every American citizen. Incredibly, Hart's case may be less of an anomaly than it appears.

The question is: Should law enforcement officers like Deputy Darren Murphy be allowed to make day-to-day, life-changing decisions regarding the fate of law-abiding citizens?

Watch. Listen. And then you be the judge.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday 07-24-10

White House Backs Bill to Collect Employee Pay Information from Businesses
The Obama administration is backing legislation that includes regulations requiring U.S. businesses to provide to the government data about employee pay as it relates to the sex, race and national origin of employees.

In an orchestrated effort that included a statement by President Barack Obama and an event at the White House featuring Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the president and his cabinet endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The House approved the act in 2009, but the Senate did not approve it. In the 111th Congress, both the House and the Senate have offered legislation that covers a wide range of workplace requirements and regulations, including training girls and women to become better at negotiating pay and benefits, and the establishment of a data base of U.S. workers’ pay in both the public and private sector.

At the White House on Tuesday, Biden was the keynote speaker at a Middle Class Task Force event where he told invited guests that the Obama administration is “on the right side of history” by passing legislation to ensure women are paid the same as their male counterparts.

“Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works,” Biden said.

“Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities – and it must. Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility – these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle class economic security,” he said.

Biden said Congress should pass the bill, which includes language requiring employers to provide information about employee pay. In Section 8 of the bill, entitled Collection of Pay Information by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it calls for an amendment to Section 709 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

"(f)(1) Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Commission shall--

"(A) complete a survey of the data that is currently available to the Federal Government relating to employee pay information for use in the enforcement of Federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination and, in consultation with other relevant Federal agencies, identify additional data collections that will enhance the enforcement of such laws; and

"(B) based on the results of the survey and consultations under subparagraph (A), issue regulations to provide for the collection of pay information data from employers as described by the sex, race, and national origin of employees."

Attorney General Eric Holder was at the White House event with Biden and pledged to crack down on American businesses that discriminate against employees based on sex, race or country of origin. ( Starr)In a White House-issued press release, the “enhancement of enforcement” is described as “a pledge by the Department of Justice and other enforcement agencies will coordinate and collaborate through investigations, litigation, policy guidance, data analysis, and public education efforts to make meaningful progress in closing the wage gap,” the press release stated.

“Already, the Justice Department, in conjunction with the EEOC and four of its district offices, has launched a robust and intensive pilot program to coordinate the investigation and litigation of charges against state and local government employers,” it added.

But critics charge that the Paycheck Fairness Act will be harmful to small businesses and the economy. The National Association of Manufacturers issued a statement about the bill in April.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act, which purports to prevent instances of illegal gender-based discrimination, could outlaw many legitimate practices employers use to set employee pay rates, even where there is no evidence of intentional discrimination and employers act with reasonable belief that their pay policies are lawful,” the statement said.

“Manufacturers strongly oppose unlawful discrimination in any form, but the Paycheck Fairness Act would impose unparalleled government control over how employees are paid, among even the nation’s smallest businesses,” it added.

“It would drastically alter the Equal Pay Act to allow unprecedented penalties of unlimited punitive and compensatory damages in cases of alleged discrimination,” the statement said.

James Sherk, Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at conservative The Heritage Foundation, said that the law would be a boon to trial lawyers seeking damages from employers for their clients and would allow the courts to “micro-manage” American businesses.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Obama said it was discrimination in the workplace that is harming the economy and American families.

“In America today, women make up half of the workforce, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman's wages as a significant portion of their families' income,” the statement said.

“Yet, even in 2010, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The gap is even more significant for working women of color, and it affects women across all education levels,” the statement said.

“As Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force will discuss today, this is not just a question of fairness for hard-working women. Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income. And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole. In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden.”

Ways you may not have considered to keep cool
WASHINGTON - In this awful heat your air conditioner can only do so much. It can cost a bundle to run the air conditioning full blast all day, and you risk of stressing the system.

If you're among those inching up the thermostat, there are easy ways to help keep your cool while inside. These tips also will help you survive without air conditioning.

Put the wind chill factor to use. Fans can make you feel up to 8 degrees cooler. It can feel even cooler, if you put frozen jugs of water in front of the fans.

Make sure ceiling fans are pushing air down.

Keep a bowl of damp wash clothes in the refrigerator to use on the back of your neck.

In a spray bottle, combine a solution of half water and half rubbing alcohol to spritz on yourself.

Make a slushy, comfortable ice pack in a plastic zip bag with 1 part rubbing alcohol and 3 parts water.

Sleep with frozen, blue ice packs.

Take showers more often. Let your hair dry naturally.

Take off your shoes. Put your feet in cool water.

Eat something cool. Drink lots of water.

Don't turn on the oven or use the clothes dryer during the hottest part of the day.

Close the curtains.

Check out the Bedfan. It's designed to circulate air under your sheets. It costs about $100.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday 07-23-10

Start out with a little fun today,

States with Stricter Gun Control Laws Are Less Safe

During a recent John Stossel show on gun control, Brady Campaign Vice President Dennis Henigan presented his case for “reasonable” gun control laws.

Henigan cited last year’s murder of four police officers in Lakewood, Washington, as proof that mass murders occur in non-gun free zones. One incident in the face of a majority of active shootings occurring in gun-free zones isn’t evidence of a trend, especially since that particular tragedy was the result of a justice system failure to keep a violent felon in prison. The justice system presumes future innocence even when cases like this indicate otherwise.

On the other hand, Henigan’s idea of justice for law-abiding gun owners is the presumption of guilt until they prove innocence by getting investigated by police prior to buying guns (licensing) and then keeping tabs on the suspected gun owner/criminal by maintaining a list of guns owned (registration).

Henigan considers all this “reasonable.”

He also called Washington, D.C., a “city” in order to invalidate crime comparisons between D.C. and the 50 states. However, in 2007, D.C. Mayor Fenty stated during his inauguration:

Together, we pledge, steadfastly, that our goal is to become the 51st State. None of us can, or should, rest easy until we all have the opportunity to participate fully in our great democracy.

Via their duly elected representative, D.C. residents declared their desire to be recognized as a state. In keeping with democratic (small d) values, it’s reasonable to compare D.C. to other states.

In 2008, D.C. had 3.2 and 5.9 times the violent crime and murder rates, respectively, of the rest of America.

Also, D.C. has a larger population than Wyoming, which has the highest gun ownership rate, plus below-average murder and violent crime rates. Anti-rights groups commonly trim the national dataset in order to create numbers supporting their rhetoric.

Henigan also declared that it’s “absolutely false” that the Brady Campaign is trying to take away Americans’ right to own guns. But the following data indicate it’s his assertion that’s “absolutely false.”

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is “operated by state health departments in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” a department in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). BRFSS state-level gun ownership surveys for 2001 and 2002 are available online. (Includes D.C.)

Beginning in 2001, the Brady Campaign published annual “report cards” grading states on their gun control laws. Brady’s “A” states had the most gun control, while “F” states had the least.

After collating Brady grades with the BRFSS data, interesting correlations appear:

•Brady’s favorite (A) states average the lowest gun ownership rates.
•Brady’s “worst” (F) states average the highest gun ownership.
•As grades drop from A to F, gun ownership consistently rises.
Brady Grades Versus Gun Ownership Rates
Grade Average Percent Gun Ownership
2001 2002
A 14.0 13.8
B 20.4 23.3
C 39.2 40.4
D 41.7 42.7
F 51.0 53.4

Brady’s “A” states were the only group with decreasing gun ownership rates from 2001 to 2002, indicating that gun control laws may make it harder and/or more expensive for law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms: if people either don’t bother or move to gun-friendly states seeking more liberal gun rights, ownership rates decline over time.

Despite Henigan’s denial, his “reasonable gun restrictions” correlate with reduced gun ownership.

After collating gun ownership rates with FBI violent crime rates, other interesting correlations appear:

•As gun ownership levels increase, Brady grades decrease.
•States with higher gun ownership levels have less violent crime and murder.
Gun Ownership vs. Brady, Violent Crime, Murder
Percent Gun
Ownership 2001 2002

FBI Rates Ave.

FBI Rates
Violence Murder Violence Murder
Under 30% B+ 610.0 7.6 B+ 599.7 8.2
30-40% D+ 424.5 4.9 D+ 422.4 5.0
40-50% D+ 410.7 4.9 D+ 406.5 4.8
Over 50% D- 319.6 4.2 D- 314.8 3.9

Brady’s “reasonable” gun control correlates with reduced gun ownership and higher rates of overall violence and murder.

Collating gun ownership rates with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) homicide data underscores the above conclusions:

•States with the lowest firearms ownership average the highest firearm and non-firearm homicide rates.
•As firearms ownership rates increase, homicide rates generally decrease.
•States with the highest gun ownership have the lowest firearms homicide rates.
Gun Ownership vs. CDC Homicide Rates
Pct. Gun
Ownership 2001 2002
Total Firearm Non-FA Total Firearm Non-FA
Under 30% 9.32 4.90 4.42 8.09 5.61 2.47
30-40% 5.52 3.31 2.20 5.47 3.46 2.01
40-50% 5.63 3.58 2.04 5.24 3.49 1.75
Over 50% 5.12 3.22 1.90 5.22 3.18 2.04

(Note: the CDC collects information from death certificates, while the FBI collects data from law enforcement agencies.)

The Brady Campaign “opposes state laws or a national law” legalizing shall-issue concealed carry laws — or “right-to-carry” laws (RTC) — where law enforcement must issue a license unless there’s evidence that the applicant is a criminal or a danger to himself or others.

According to Brady rhetoric, RTC states should be more dangerous. But actual FBI and CDC data prove otherwise.

•RTC states: more guns at home and in public; less violent crime and murder.
Right-to-Carry vs. Brady, Pct Gun Ownership, FBI Violent Crime, Murder
2001 2002

PGO FBI Rates Ave.

Violence Murder Violence Murder
RTC D 43.0% 404.4 5.0 D 44.7% 398.7 4.8
Non-RTC B- 26.8% 509.4 6.1 B- 27.8% 503.5 6.6

•RTC states have lower firearms and non-firearms homicide rates.
Right-to-Carry vs. Brady, Pct Gun Ownership, CDC Homicide
2001 2002

PGO CDC Homicide Ave.

PGO CDC Homicide
Firearm Non-FA Firearm Non-FA
RTC D 43.0% 3.60 2.15 D 44.7% 3.59 1.91
Non-RTC B- 26.8% 4.00 3.40 B- 27.8% 4.48 2.25

Brady’s McDonald brief claimed that “an increase in gun prevalence causes an intensification of criminal violence — a shift toward greater lethality, and hence, greater harm to the community.”

Brady argued for “reasonable” Second Amendment restrictions that should be addressed “in the political arena, without courts second-guessing reasoned legislative judgments.”

Curiously, this same argument was one of the motives for the Fourteenth Amendment: to protect against legislative attempts to curtail citizens’ basic rights. Since American gun control includes a history of legislative attempts to oppress American citizens of African descent, Brady’s “reasonable” argument merits further attention.

When Brady’s grades were collated with CDC firearm and non-firearm homicide rates for Americans of African descent:

•Brady’s favorite states experienced the highest rates of homicide.
•The general trend indicates that as Brady grades decline, so do homicide rates.
•Brady’s “worst” states experienced the lowest rates of firearms and non-firearms homicide.
Brady Grades Versus CDC African American Homicide Rates
Grade 2001 2002
Total Firearm Non-FA Total Firearm Non-FA
A 22.62 17.26 5.37 23.35 17.78 5.56
B 20.39 12.73 7.66 21.88 16.54 5.34
C 19.66 14.23 5.42 18.45 13.93 4.52
D 16.83 12.60 4.23 17.24 11.99 5.25
F 11.96 9.94 2.02 11.43 8.75 2.67

These data show that law-abiding Americans are safest where they have the easiest access to firearms, rendering Henigan’s premise invalid.

More Handguns in U.S., Streets Safer than Ever
Opinion by NRA
(2 Days Ago) in Society / Guns
In 1979, the group now known as the Brady Campaign said "over 50 million handguns flood the houses and streets of our nation. . . . If we continue at this pace, we will have equipped ourselves with more than 100 million handguns by the turn of the century. One hundred million handguns. Will we be safer then?"
In 2008, after the Supreme Court struck down Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban in District of Columbia v. Heller, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said, "introducing more handguns into the district will mean more handgun violence."
And in 2010, after the Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to arms nationwide, Chicago Alderwoman Freddrenna Lyle said, "If people bothered to read, as opposed to getting their news from the 'Tea Party Times,' they would understand and see that there is more harm done by the proliferation of handguns than there is benefit."
That's the kind of fear-mongering, naive and sarcastic rhetoric we've heard from the Second Amendment's opponents over the years. Now here are some facts:
Since 1980, the number of handguns has increased 50 percent, and the nation's murder rate has decreased 52 percent. After Chicago imposed handgun registration in 1968, murders in the city increased. After D.C. banned handguns in 1976, its murder rate rose 201 percent through 1991, while the U.S. rate increased 12 percent. After Chicago banned handguns in 1982, its murder rate increased 49 percent through 1994, while the U.S. rate decreased one percent. And in the year following the repeal of D.C.'s handgun ban, its murder rate decreased 24 percent. In sum, the number of handguns is at an all-time, and the nation's murder rate is at a 45-year low.
you can see the stats here at this link

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday 07-22-10

Airline travel the carrier for the next pandemic and is it safe?

Reports of sick travelers climb
Federal health officers logged more than 3,000 cases of potentially infectious diseases among travelers in the past year, including airline passengers with tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles, mumps and typhoid fever, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data obtained by USA TODAY.
The reported cases, a fraction of illnesses carried by travelers, show the importance of up-to-date vaccinations and getting medical advice before going abroad, says Nina Marano, chief of the CDC's quarantine branch.

"I think a very high percentage of these cases are preventable," Marano says, noting that shots, pills and careful food and water choices can prevent diseases such as malaria, typhoid, cholera and measles, along with other vaccine-preventable diseases.

There is no law that generally prohibits sick people from traveling, though health officials can take action to prevent travel or isolate individuals with dangerous diseases. Many sick travelers aren't officially diagnosed before their trips.

Reports to the CDC of sick travelers were up significantly in the past year, largely because of increased reporting of flulike symptoms in the wake of the H1N1 pandemic, data show.

Since 2007, the CDC's regional quarantine stations — centers at 20 airports and other ports of entry that monitor air, sea and land travelers' illnesses — have received about 7,000 reports of potentially infectious diseases, records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show. Reports come from airlines, cruise ships, immigration officials and CDC staff, as well as local health departments that learn of sick travelers after trips are over.

The initial diagnoses include thousands of cases of flulike illness and gastrointestinal disease, as well as:

•Tuberculosis— 662 reports, most involving air travel. A 23-year-old woman with multidrug-resistant TB and a persistent cough flew Dec. 22 from Poland to Chicago. Travelers who sat near her were contacted and the CDC has found no evidence she spread the disease, Marano says.

•Chicken pox and shingles — 518 reports, most involving cruise ship passengers.

•Measles— 78 reports. On April 19, a 24-year-old woman arrived in Los Angeles aboard a flight from the Philippines.

•Mumps — 56 reports, including a 22-year-old man who arrived June 2 in Des Moines on a flight from Chicago.

•Whooping cough — 41 reports, mostly on airlines. An 11-year-old girl flew Oct. 25 from San Diego to Dallas-Fort Worth.

•Typhoid fever — 19 reports. A 37-year-old man flew Dec. 20 from Haiti to Miami. The life-threatening illness is often spread by bacteria-contaminated food and water.

•Lassa fever — One report. A 47-year-old man flew Jan. 14 from Brussels to Atlanta, then to Philadelphia, where he was treated for the viral hemorrhagic fever. Passengers who sat near him were contacted and none was infected, Marano said.

It's possible for fellow passengers to catch these diseases, but the greatest risk is to the individual who has them, says William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease expert. A growing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, he says. Recent measles outbreaks have been linked to unvaccinated children who had traveled to Europe, where the disease is more prevalent.

"The global village is getting smaller and smaller," Schaffner says. "We must protect ourselves here in order to avoid the reintroduction and spread of these diseases, which many young parents today have forgotten."

Beyond routine shots, many international travelers fail to protect themselves from more exotic diseases. Only 36% of travelers flying to Latin America, Asia and other destinations sought health advice before their trips, and only 46% headed to areas with malaria carried pills to prevent the disease, Bradley Connor found in a 2004 study.

"People going to high-risk areas were grossly undervaccinated, and most weren't even aware to seek travel health advice," says Connor, head of the New York Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine.

U.S. residents visiting friends or family abroad are among those at greatest risk, yet they often wrongly believe they're immune to local diseases because they grew up there, says David Freedman of the International Society of Travel Medicine. "They don't stay at the Sheraton. They stay in the local village. They're not eating at restaurants frequented by tourist travelers," Freedman says.

Although the odds are in travelers' favor they won't catch a serious disease, some will if they don't get vaccinated and take other precautions, Freedman says. "I always tell my patients it's an insurance policy," he says

Along with this one from a while ago

Obama administration scraps quarantine regulations

What a socialist, punk

Oliver Stone: US should nationalize oil resources
LONDON – The Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows that the United States should follow the example of South American socialists in nationalizing its energy industry, filmmaker Oliver Stone said Tuesday.

The Academy Award-winning director of "Born on the Fourth of July" and "JFK" said that America's country's natural wealth was too important to be left in private hands, telling journalists in central London that oil and other natural resources "belong to the people."

"This BP oil spill is typical" of what happens when private industry is allowed to draw revenue on what should be a public good, Stone said.

"We shouldn't make this kind of profit on oil or on health or on war or on prisons. All these industries should be public industries."

Stone, 63, is in the British capital to promote his documentary, "South of the Border," which tells the story of firebrand Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his left-wing Latin American allies.

The 75-minute film is meant to draw attention to the social improvements ushered in by Chavez, who has nationalized vast swaths of Venezuela's economy, including important parts of the oil sector and big chunks of the banking, electric and steel industries. Bolivian leader Evo Morales, also interviewed by Stone for the documentary, has similarly expanded the state's control over the country's energy infrastructure.

Critics of the film accuse Stone of painting a fawning portrait of the Venezuelan leader, saying the documentary ignores Venezuela's opposition — which human rights groups say is being squeezed by Chavez's increasingly authoritarian leadership and a crackdown on private media.

Stone accused critics of "nitpicking."

The director occasionally wandered off-topic during the press conference, discussing Latin American history, sharing his thoughts about President Barack Obama (who he dismissed as "Bush not-so-lite") and musing about the possibility of making a film about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

"I don't know, that's a hot potato for me," Stone said when asked whether a movie about Ahmedinejad was in the works. "Obviously he's got bad press in the West."

"South of the Border" had its U.K. premier Monday at the Curzon Cinema in central London.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday 07-21-10

One of the smartest men alive about money. You ought to at least read this one.

RBS tells clients to prepare for 'monster' money-printing by the Federal Reserve

As recovery starts to stall in the US and Europe with echoes of mid-1931, bond experts are once again dusting off a speech by Ben Bernanke given eight years ago as a freshman governor at the Federal Reserve.

Entitled "Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here", it is a warfare manual for defeating economic slumps by use of extreme monetary stimulus once interest rates have dropped to zero, and implicitly once governments have spent themselves to near bankruptcy.

The speech is best known for its irreverent one-liner: "The US government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost."

Investors basking in Wall Street's V-shaped rally had assumed that this bizarre episode was over. So did the Fed, which has been shutting liquidity spigots one by one. But the latest batch of data is disturbing.

The ECRI leading indicator produced by the Economic Cycle Research Institute plummeted yet again last week to -6.9, pointing to contraction in the US by the end of the year. It is dropping faster that at any time in the post-War era.

The latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau shows that world trade slid 1.7pc in May, with the biggest fall in Asia. The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates on bulk goods has dropped 40pc in a month. This is a volatile index that can be distorted by the supply of new ships, but those who watch it as an early warning signal for China and commodities are nervous.

Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, is advising clients to read the Bernanke text very closely because the Fed is soon going to have to the pull the lever on "monster" quantitative easing (QE)".

"We cannot stress enough how strongly we believe that a cliff-edge may be around the corner, for the global banking system (particularly in Europe) and for the global economy. Think the unthinkable," he said in a note to investors.

Roberts said the Fed will shift tack, resorting to the 1940s strategy of capping bond yields around 2pc by force majeure said this is the option "which I personally prefer".

A recent paper by the San Francisco Fed argues that interest rates should now be minus 5pc under the bank's "rule of thumb" measure of capacity use and unemployment. The rate is currently minus 2pc when QE is factored in. You could conclude, very crudely, that the Fed must therefore buy another $2 trillion of bonds, and even more if Europe's EMU debacle goes from bad to worse. I suspect that this hints at the Bernanke view, but it is anathema to hardliners at the Kansas, Richmond, Philadephia, and Dallas Feds.

Societe Generale's uber-bear Albert Edwards said the Fed and other central banks will be forced to print more money whatever they now say, given the "stinking fiscal mess" across the developed world. "The response to the coming deflationary maelstrom will be additional money printing that will make the recent QE seem insignificant," he said.

Despite the apparent rift with Europe, the US is arguably tightening fiscal policy just as hard. Congress has cut off benefits for those unemployed beyond six months, leaving 1.3m without support. California has to slash $19bn in spending this year, as much as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Hungary, and Romania combined. The states together must cut $112bn to comply with state laws.

The Congressional Budget Office said federal stimulus from the Obama package peaked in the first quarter. The effect will turn sharply negative by next year as tax rises automatically kick in, a net swing of 4pc of GDP. This is happening as the US housing market tips into a double-dip. New homes sales crashed 33pc to a record low of 300,000 in May after subsidies expired.

It is sobering that zero rates, QE a l'outrance, and an $800bn fiscal blitz should should have delivered so little. Just as it is sobering that Club Med bond purchases by the European Central Bank and the creation of the EU's €750bn rescue "shield" have failed to stabilize Europe's debt markets. Greek default contracts reached an all-time high of 1,125 on Friday even though the €110bn EU-IMF rescue is up and running. Are investors questioning EU solvency itself, or making a judgment on German willingness to back pledges with real money?

Clearly we are nearing the end of the "Phoney War", that phase of the global crisis when it seemed as if governments could conjure away the Great Debt. The trauma has merely been displaced from banks, auto makers, and homeowners onto the taxpayer, lifting public debt in the OECD bloc from 70pc of GDP to 100pc by next year. As the Bank for International Settlements warns, sovereign debt crises are nearing "boiling point" in half the world economy.

Fiscal largesse had its place last year. It arrested the downward spiral at a crucial moment, but that moment has passed. There is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. The Krugman doctrine of perma-deficits is ruinous - and has in fact ruined Japan. The only plausible escape route for the West is a decade of fiscal austerity offset by helicopter drops of printed money, for as long as it takes.

Some say that the Fed's QE policies have failed. I profoundly disagree. The US property market - and therefore the banks - would have imploded if the Fed had not pulled down mortgage rates so aggressively, but you can never prove a counter-factual.

The case for fresh QE is not to inflate away the debt or default on Chinese creditors by stealth devaluation. It is to prevent deflation.

Bernanke warned in that speech eight years ago that "sustained deflation can be highly destructive to a modern economy" because it leads to slow death from a rising real burden of debt.

At the time, the broad money supply war growing at 6pc and the Dallas Fed's `trimmed mean' index of core inflation was 2.2pc.

We are much nearer the tipping today. The M3 money supply has contracted by 5.5pc over the last year, and the pace is accelerating: the 'trimmed mean' index is now 0.6pc on a six-month basis, the lowest ever. America is one twist shy of a debt-deflation trap.

There is no doubt that the Fed has the tools to stop this. "Sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation," said Bernanke. The question is whether he can muster support for such action in the face of massive popular disgust, a Republican Fronde in Congress, and resistance from the liquidationsists at the Kansas, Philadelphia, and Richmond Feds. If he cannot, we are in grave trouble.

How about some stupid burucrat talk.

Is that what they're calling them now?
In the Forest Service's news release about the recent string of marijuana busts, I discovered a term of art I'd never encountered before:

During the raid, a U.S. Forest Service K-9 team located Gauldry Almonte-Hernandez, a displaced foreign traveler from Michoacán Mexico, who had tried to flee the area and hide while officers were performing entry into the marijuana garden.
"Displaced foreign traveler"? Makes it sound like he meant to go to Disneyland, got lost, and ended up at a pot plantation in the woods south of Hayfork.
(read the rest at the following link)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesady 7-20-10

Today with the economy the way it is, there is a lot of talk about barter and alternate currencies. Which are a great idea if you can make them happen. I used to do a website page on money but it has not been updated for years, but it had a lot of info on currenceys and barter.

I guess they are actively trying to continue on and do this up in Michigan. (see article below)

Competing currency being accepted across Mid-Michigan

New types of money are popping up across Mid-Michigan and supporters say, it's not counterfeit, but rather a competing currency.

Right now, you can buy a meal or visit a chiropractor without using actual U.S. legal tender.

They sound like real money and look like real money. But you can't take them to the bank because they're not made at a government mint. They're made at private mints.

"I sell three or four every single day and then I get one or two back a week," said Dave Gillie, owner of Gillies Coney Island Restaurant in Genesee Township.

Gillie also accepts silver, gold, copper and other precious metals to pay for food.

He says, if he wanted to, he could accept marbles.

"Do people have to accept dollars or money? No, they don'," Gillie said. "They can accept anything they want or they can refuse to accept anything."

He's absolutely right.

The U.S. Treasury Department says the Coinage Act of 1965 says "private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash, unless there is a state law which says otherwise."

That allows gas stations to say they don't accept 50- or $100 bills after a certain time of day in hopes of not getting robbed.

A chiropractic office in Lapeer County's Deerfield Township allows creativity when it comes to payment.

"This establishment accepts any form of silver, gold, chicken, apple pie, if someone works it out with me," said Jeff Kotchounian of Deerfield Chiropractic. "I've taken many things."

Jeff Kotchounian says he's used this Ron Paul half troy ounce of silver to get $25 worth of gas from a local station.

While the government and banks don't accept them, many others do.

So why is there interest in these competing currencies?

Is it just novelty or is there something deeper?

Coming tomorrow on NBC25 news at 6 p.m., you'll see why supporters of competing currencies say their money is worth more and is inflation proof.

Here is a couple of utube videos about this. Also trying to be fair Ron Paul and other are in the lead on this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday 07-19-10

Lost in Taxation
The IRS's vast new ObamaCare powers.

If it seems as if the tax code was conceived by graphic artist M.C. Escher, wait until you meet the new and not improved Internal Revenue Service created by ObamaCare. What, you're not already on a first-name basis with your local IRS agent?

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who operates inside the IRS, highlighted the agency's new mission in her annual report to Congress last week. Look out below. She notes that the IRS is already "greatly taxed"—pun intended?—"by the additional role it is playing in delivering social benefits and programs to the American public," like tax credits for first-time homebuyers or purchasing electric cars. Yet with ObamaCare, the agency is now responsible for "the most extensive social benefit program the IRS has been asked to implement in recent history." And without "sufficient funding" it won't be able to discharge these new duties.

That wouldn't be tragic, given that those new duties include audits to determine who has the insurance "as required by law" and collecting penalties from Americans who don't. Companies that don't sponsor health plans will also be punished. This crackdown will "involve nearly every division and function of the IRS," Ms. Olson reports.

Well, well. Republicans argued during the health debate that the IRS would have to hire hundreds of new agents and staff to enforce ObamaCare. They were brushed off by Democrats and the press corps as if they believed the President was born on the moon. The IRS says it hasn't figured out how much extra money and manpower it will need but admits that both numbers are greater than zero.

Ms. Olson also exposed a damaging provision that she estimates will hit some 30 million sole proprietorships and subchapter S corporations, two million farms and one million charities and other tax-exempt organizations. Prior to ObamaCare, businesses only had to tell the IRS the value of services they purchase. But starting in 2013 they will also have to report the value of goods they buy from a single vendor that total more than $600 annually—including office supplies and the like.

Democrats snuck in this obligation to narrow the mythical "tax gap" of unreported business income, but Ms. Olson says that the tracking costs for small businesses will be "disproportionate as compared with any resulting improvement in tax compliance." Job creation, here we come . . . at least for the accountants who will attempt to comply with a vast new 1099 reporting burden.

Meanwhile, the IRS will be inundated with useless information, because without a huge upgrade its information systems won't be able to manage and track the nanodetails.

In a Monday letter, even Democratic Senators Mark Begich (Alaska), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire) and Evan Bayh (Indiana) denounce this new "burden" on small businesses and insist that the IRS use its discretion to find "better ways to structure this reporting requirement." In other words, they want regulators to fix one problem among many that all four Senators created by voting for ObamaCare.

We never thought anyone would be nostalgic for the tax system of a few months ago, but post-ObamaCare, here we are.

Why the silence from The Post on Black Panther Party story?
Thursday's Post reported about a growing controversy over the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. The story succinctly summarized the issues but left many readers with a question: What took you so long?

For months, readers have contacted the ombudsman wondering why The Post hasn't been covering the case. The calls increased recently after competitors such as the New York Times and the Associated Press wrote stories. Fox News and right-wing bloggers have been pumping the story. Liberal bloggers have countered, accusing them of trying to manufacture a scandal.

But The Post has been virtually silent.

The story has its origins on Election Day in 2008, when two members of the New Black Panther Party stood in front of a Philadelphia polling place. YouTube video of the men, now viewed nearly 1.5 million times, shows both wearing paramilitary clothing. One carried a nightstick.

Early last year, just before the Bush administration left office, the Justice Department filed a voter-intimidation lawsuit against the men, the New Black Panther Party and its chairman. But several months later, with the government poised to win by default because the defendants didn't contest the suit, the Obama Justice Department decided the case was over-charged and narrowed it to the man with the nightstick. It secured only a narrow injunction forbidding him from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of Philadelphia polling places through 2012.

Congressional Republicans pounced. For months they stalled the confirmation of Thomas E. Perez, President Obama's pick to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, while seeking answers to why the case had been downgraded over the objections of some of the department's career lawyers. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility launched an investigation, which is pending. The independent, eight-member Commission on Civil Rights also began what has become a yearlong probe with multiple public hearings; its report is due soon. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), a prominent lawmaker in The Post's circulation area, has been a loud and leading critic of how the case was handled. His office has "aggressively" sought to interest The Post in coverage, a spokesman said.

The controversy was elevated last month when J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer who had helped develop the case, wrote in the Washington Times that his superiors' decision to reduce its scope was "motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." Some in the department believe "the law should not be used against black wrongdoers because of the long history of slavery and segregation," he wrote. Adams recently repeated these charges in public testimony before the commission.

The Post didn't cover it. Indeed, until Thursday's story, The Post had written no news stories about the controversy this year. In 2009, there were passing references to it in only three stories.

That's prompted many readers to accuse The Post of a double standard. Royal S. Dellinger of Olney said that if the controversy had involved Bush administration Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, "Lord, there'd have been editorials and stories, and it would go on for months."

To be sure, ideology and party politics are at play. Liberal bloggers have accused Adams of being a right-wing activist (he insisted to me Friday that his sole motivation is applying civil rights laws in a race-neutral way). Conservatives appointed during the Bush administration control a majority of the civil rights commission's board. And Fox News has used interviews with Adams to push the story. Sarah Palin has weighed in via Twitter, urging followers to watch Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's coverage because "her revelations leave Left steaming."

The Post should never base coverage decisions on ideology, nor should it feel obligated to order stories simply because of blogosphere chatter from the right or the left.

But in this case, coverage is justified because it's a controversy that screams for clarity that The Post should provide. If Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his department are not colorblind in enforcing civil rights laws, they should be nailed. If the Commission on Civil Rights' investigation is purely partisan, that should be revealed. If Adams is pursuing a right-wing agenda, he should be exposed.

National Editor Kevin Merida, who termed the controversy "significant," said he wished The Post had written about it sooner. The delay was a result of limited staffing and a heavy volume of other news on the Justice Department beat, he said.

Better late than never. There's plenty left to explore.

Why? So they have deniablity?

Post documents growth of intelligence since 9/11
WASHINGTON (AP) - Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, top-secret intelligence gathering by the government has grown so unwieldy and expensive that no one really knows what it cost and how many people are involved, The Washington Post reported Monday.

A two-year investigation by the newspaper uncovered what it termed a "Top Secret America" that's mostly hidden from public view and largely lacking in oversight.

In its first installment of a series of reports, the Post said there are now more than 1,200 government organizations and more than 1,900 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the U.S.

Some 854,000 people _ or nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington _ have top-secret security clearance, the paper said.

... (rest of the story here)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday 07-18-10

State Department warns employees about new website highlighting Top Secret facilities
The State Department is bracing for a potentially explosive new feature on the Washington Post website that would publish the names and locations of agencies and firms conducting Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. government, according to the copy of an email obtained by The Cable.

The Diplomatic Security Bureau at State sent out a notice Thursday to all department employees warning them to protect classified information and reject inquiries from the press when the new web feature goes live.

"The Washington Post plans to publish a website listing all agencies and contractors believed to conduct Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. Government," the notice reads. "The website provides a graphic representation pinpointing the location of firms conducting Top Secret work, describing the type of work they perform, and identifying many facilities where such work is done."

According to the notice, the Post used only open-source information to compile its site. However, if some of that open-source information turns out to have been classified, its publication by the Post doesn't change that classification, the State Department emphasized.

"All Department personnel should remain aware of their responsibility to protect classified and other sensitive information, such as the Department's relationships with contract firms, other U.S. Government agencies, and foreign governments," the notice says.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail and said it went out to all State Department employees in the Washington, DC area, 14,574 people.
...(the rest of the story is at)

Inside Mexico's Drug War, Americans Allege Abuse
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico—Two Americans were driving back to El Paso, Texas, last December after an afternoon across the border in Ciudad Juárez. A few blocks from the border, they were surrounded by Mexican army trucks and pulled from their Dodge Ram.

Violence escalates in the drug wars in Mexico as a car bomb set off by a cell phone kills at least three people. Deborah Lutterbeck reports. Video Courtesy of Reuters.
.Mexico's military says it found two suitcases full of marijuana in the cab of the pickup truck. Two soldiers later testified that they drove the two Americans to a military compound on the outskirts of town, questioned them briefly, then turned them over to civilian authorities. The Americans were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Those two men—Shohn Huckabee, 23 years old, and Carlos Quijas, 36—are being held in a Ciudad Juárez jail. They tell a different story about what happened that night. They say Mexican soldiers planted the marijuana in their truck. When they arrived at the military base, they say, they were blindfolded, tied up, hit with rifle butts, shocked with electricity and threatened with death.
,,, (rest of the story is at)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday 07-17-10

A Puzzling Collapse of Earth's Upper Atmosphere

July 15, 2010: NASA-funded researchers are monitoring a big event in our planet's atmosphere. High above Earth's surface where the atmosphere meets space, a rarefied layer of gas called "the thermosphere" recently collapsed and now is rebounding again.

Layers of Earth's upper atmosphere. Credit: John Emmert/NRL. [larger image] "This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years," says John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19th issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). "It's a Space Age record."

The collapse happened during the deep solar minimum of 2008-2009—a fact which comes as little surprise to researchers. The thermosphere always cools and contracts when solar activity is low. In this case, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.

"Something is going on that we do not understand," says Emmert.

The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km. It is a realm of meteors, auroras and satellites, which skim through the thermosphere as they circle Earth. It is also where solar radiation makes first contact with our planet. The thermosphere intercepts extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photons from the sun before they can reach the ground. When solar activity is high, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to puff up like a marshmallow held over a camp fire. (This heating can raise temperatures as high as 1400 K—hence the name thermosphere.) When solar activity is low, the opposite happens.

Lately, solar activity has been very low. In 2008 and 2009, the sun plunged into a century-class solar minimum. Sunspots were scarce, solar flares almost non-existent, and solar EUV radiation was at a low ebb. Researchers immediately turned their attention to the thermosphere to see what would happen.

These plots show how the density of the thermosphere (at a fiducial height of 400 km) has waxed and waned during the past four solar cycles. Frames (a) and (c) are density; frame (b) is the sun's radio intensity at a wavelength of 10.7 cm, a key indicator of solar activity. Note the yellow circled region. In 2008 and 2009, the density of the thermosphere was 28% lower than expectations set by previous solar minima. Credit: Emmert et al. (2010), Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L12102.
How do you know what's happening all the way up in the thermosphere?

Emmert uses a clever technique: Because satellites feel aerodynamic drag when they move through the thermosphere, it is possible to monitor conditions there by watching satellites decay. He analyzed the decay rates of more than 5000 satellites ranging in altitude between 200 and 600 km and ranging in time between 1967 and 2010. This provided a unique space-time sampling of thermospheric density, temperature, and pressure covering almost the entire Space Age. In this way he discovered that the thermospheric collapse of 2008-2009 was not only bigger than any previous collapse, but also bigger than the sun alone could explain.

One possible explanation is carbon dioxide (CO2).

An NCAR video shows how carbon dioxide warms the lower atmosphere, but cools the upper atmosphere. [more] When carbon dioxide gets into the thermosphere, it acts as a coolant, shedding heat via infrared radiation. It is widely-known that CO2 levels have been increasing in Earth's atmosphere. Extra CO2 in the thermosphere could have magnified the cooling action of solar minimum.

"But the numbers don't quite add up," says Emmert. "Even when we take CO2 into account using our best understanding of how it operates as a coolant, we cannot fully explain the thermosphere's collapse."

According to Emmert and colleagues, low solar EUV accounts for about 30% of the collapse. Extra CO2 accounts for at least another 10%. That leaves as much as 60% unaccounted for.

In their GRL paper, the authors acknowledge that the situation is complicated. There's more to it than just solar EUV and terrestrial CO2. For instance, trends in global climate could alter the composition of the thermosphere, changing its thermal properties and the way it responds to external stimuli. The overall sensitivity of the thermosphere to solar radiation could actually be increasing.

"The density anomalies," they wrote, "may signify that an as-yet-unidentified climatological tipping point involving energy balance and chemistry feedbacks has been reached."

Or not.

Important clues may be found in the way the thermosphere rebounds. Solar minimum is now coming to an end, EUV radiation is on the rise, and the thermosphere is puffing up again. Exactly how the recovery proceeds could unravel the contributions of solar vs. terrestrial sources.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," says Emmert.

For more information see Emmert, J. T., J. L. Lean, and J. M. Picone (2010), Record-low thermospheric density during the 2008 solar minimum, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L12102.