Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas From The Audacity of Logic

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Artwork By Kitty Sivertson
Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's Never Enough, Is It?

Obama has nationalized the banks, health care and student loans, but that's not enough. Now he wants to take over the Internet. What arrogance. The government can't even run a post office and they want to regulate the net??? What's wrong with this picture? These bozos obviously don't even understand the fundamental business concept of, "If it aint broke, don't fix it!"


FCC Approves Plan to Regulate Internet

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved a plan to regulate the Internet despite warnings that it could strangle industry investment and damage an economy that is still struggling to recover.

The 3-2 vote fell along partisan lines with Democrats capitalizing on their numerical advantage.

The rules would prohibit phone and cable companies from abusing their control over broadband connections to discriminate against rival content or services, such as Internet phone calls or online video, or play favorites with Web traffic.

Lawmakers in both parties have been arguing for months that Congress, not the Obama administration, should take the lead role in deciding whether and how much to police the web. But despite a brief backing-off earlier in the year, the FCC has pushed ahead with its new regulatory plan.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski secured the three votes needed for approval, despite firm opposition from the two Republicans on the five-member commission.

Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Bush appointee, said the FCC's plan "appears to some as an obsessive quest to regulate at all costs."

"Some are saying that instead of acting as a cop on the beat, the FCC looks more like a regulatory vigilante," he said.

Genachowski's two fellow Democrats voted for the rules, even though they have said they consider them too weak.

Commissioner Michael Copps said Tuesday that he "seriously" considered voting against the plan.

"But it became ever more clear to me that without some action today the wheels of network neutrality would grind to a screeching halt for at least the next two years," he said.

The outcome caps a nearly 16-month push by Genachowski to pass "network neutrality" rules and marks a key turning point in a policy dispute that began more than five years ago.

Genachowski said he's proud of the process and the results, saying that the plan has drawn a wide range of support from technology and Internet companies to investors to labor, civil rights and consumer groups.

"Our framework has been supported by a number of broadband providers, as well, who recognize the sensible balance of our actions and the value of bringing a level of certainty to this broad issue," he said.

But the move raises concern that the FCC could soon have its regulatory foot in the door of the wild wild West of the Internet -- with an eye toward eventually exerting tighter control over content at a time when sites like WikiLeaks openly snub the government.

Republicans warn that the new rules would impose unnecessary regulations on an industry that is one of the few bright spots in the current economy, with phone and cable companies spending billions to upgrade their networks for broadband.

Burdensome net neutrality rules, they warn, would discourage broadband providers from continuing those upgrades by making it difficult for them to earn a healthy return on their investments.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told President Obama on Tuesday to leave the Internet alone, arguing that his administration has already nationalized health care, banks and student loans.

"That's why I and GOP senators have urged the FCC chairman to back off," he said on the Senate floor.

Republicans, who will control the House and an additional five seats in the Senate in the next Congress, may try to overrule the regulation. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can strike down a regulation by passing a joint resolution.

A number of big Internet companies, including Netflix Inc., Skype and Amazon.com Inc., have previously expressed reservations about the plan as well.

But the FCC defended the new rules.

"The open Internet is a crucial American marketplace, and I believe that it is appropriate for the FCC to safeguard it by adopting an order that will establish clear rules to protect consumers' access," Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a longtime supporter of net neutrality and author of the first ever net neutrality bill, said the FCC plan is not perfect and does not contain all the protections and priorities that he has advocated.

"Still, it does represent a step forward in the process of preserving the Internet as a vibrant marketplace for commerce and communications while fostering innovation and job creation now and in the future," he said in a statement.

The chairman's proposal builds on an attempt at compromise crafted by outgoing House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., as well as a set of broad net neutrality principles first established by the FCC under the previous administration in 2005.

The rules would require broadband providers to let subscribers access all legal online content, applications and services over their wired networks -- including online calling services, Internet video and other Web applications that compete with their core businesses.

But the plan would give broadband providers flexibility to manage data on their systems to deal with problems such as network congestion and unwanted traffic like spam as long as they publicly disclose their network management practices.

Senior FCC officials stressed that unreasonable network discrimination would be prohibited.

They also noted that this category would most likely include services that favor traffic from the broadband providers themselves or traffic from business partners that can pay for priority. That language was added to help ease the concerns of Genachowski's two fellow Democrats.

The proposal would, however, leave the door open for broadband providers to experiment with routing traffic from specialized services such as smart grids and home security systems over dedicated networks as long as these services are separate from the public Internet.

Public interest groups fear that exception could lead to a two-tiered Internet -- with a fast lane for companies that can pay for priority and a slow lane for everyone else.

They are also worried that the proposal lacks strong protections for wireless networks as more Americans go online using mobile devices.

The plan would prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any websites or competing applications such as Internet calling services on mobile devices. It would require them to disclose their network management practices too.

But wireless companies would get more flexibility to manage data traffic as wireless systems have more bandwidth constraints than wired networks.

"Individuals who depend on wireless connections to the Internet can take no comfort in this half-measure," said Joel Kelsey, political adviser for the public interest group Free Press.

Still, Genachowski's proposal is likely to win the support of the big phone and cable companies because it leaves in place the FCC's current regulatory framework for broadband, which treats broadband as a lightly regulated "information service."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trusted Traveler Program Sparks Fears That Mexican Drug Cartels Could Bypass U.S. Airport Security

A Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network kiosk awaits arriving international passengers who are registered for the service at the newly-renovated customs clearance area at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)





Mexican citizens will soon be eligible to apply for a "trusted traveler" status that will allow them to bypass some elements of airport security when they fly into the United States — a U.S. government-approved program that critics say could be exploited by violent drug cartels.

Under the program, Mexicans who have undergone background checks and are deemed low security risks will be able to fly into major U.S. cities and breeze through customs without being questioned by U.S. Customs agents.

Meanwhile, back here in the U.S., American citizens are electronically strip searched, or felt up and molested, if they want to fly home for the holidays... go figure.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Bill of Rights

Today we celebrate the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, December 15, and it is imperative that we take a moment to reflect upon and embrace the forethought of our Founding Fathers and apply their wisdom to the context that we live in today. This collection of ten amendments to the United States Constitution are what guarantee the sanctity of our individual rights and freedoms and what in the end sets America apart from any nation before or since.


The Founding Fathers understood that when left to its own devices, government will eagerly trample the individual God given rights of the people and that it was their duty as enlightened leaders to protect at all cost the humanity of law and the freedom of the individual. They declared for people everywhere that a government by the people must not infringe on the basic human rights of man to speak, worship, and assemble with whom they choose, and that ultimate power and authority rests in the hands of the governed not those that would govern.

Be ever vigilant. Freedom is never free.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bureaucracy at its finest.

This was supposedly a real letter sent to the U.S. Passport Office. Even if it wasn't actually a bona fide letter sent to them, it still makes a point.

Dear Mrs. Ms. Or Sir:

I'm in the process of renewing my passport and still cannot believe this.

How is it that Radio Shack has my address and telephone number and knows
that I bought a cable TV from them in 1987 (23 years ago), and yet, the
Federal Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date.

For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand? Ever heard of computers?

My birth date you have in my social security file. It's on EVERY income tax
form I've filed for the past 30 years. It's on my Medicare health insurance
card and my driver's license, It's on the last eight damn passports I've
had, It's on every stupid customs declaration form I've had to fill out
before being allowed off the plane for the last 30 years. And it's on all
those census forms that we have to do at election times.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is
Maryanne, my father's name is Robert and I'm reasonably confident that
neither name is likely to change between now and when I die.

Between you an' me, I've had enough of this bureaucratic bullshit!

You send the application to my house, then you ask me for my #*&#%*&
address.

What is going on? You must have a gang of bureaucratic Neanderthal morons
working there!

Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? And "No," I don't want
to dig up Yasser Arafat, for shit sakes. I just want to go and park my ass
on a sandy beach. And would someone please tell me, why would you give a
damn whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days?

If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a chicken or a goat, believe
you me, I'd sure as hell not want to tell anyone!

Well, I have to go now because I have to go to the other end of the city and
get another #*@&#^@*@& copy of my birth certificate to the tune of $100.

Would it be so difficult to have all the services in the same area so
I could get a new passport the same day? Nooooo, that would require planning
and organization. And it would be too logical for the @&^*^%@% government.

You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our
heads cut off. Then, we have to find some asshole to confirm that it's
really me in the damn picture - you know, the one where we're not allowed
to smile........Hey, you know why we can't smile?

We're totally pissed off!

Signed,

An Irate Citizen.

P.S. Remember what I wrote about getting someone to confirm that the
picture is me? Well, my family has been in the United States of America
since 1776. I have served in the military for something over 35 years and
have had security clearances up the ying yang. However, I have to get
someone important to verify who I am - you know, someone like my
doctor........ WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN INDIA !

And you assholes want to run our health care system?????

Monday, December 13, 2010

What If Your Loved One Was a Hero and No One Cared?

By Peter Johnson Jr.

In the hopeful advent of Christmas and in the optimistic wake of Hanukkah there is a sad, baleful September song playing in the halls of the U. S. Capitol and it echoes from New York’s Harbor to San Francisco Bay.

It creates a miasma as thick and acrid and wrenching as the toxic fumes, dust and smoke experienced by more than 60,000 first responders and clean up workers at the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.

Some say 1,000 of them have died of disease caused by their exposure and their courage and their trust of our government. The survivors hope that the next X-ray or CAT scan doesn’t bring word of an incurable cancer or lung disease.

Last week Congress told them that they could drop dead.

The United States Senate refused to bring the James Zadroga 911 Health and Compensation Act to the floor for a vote. Some opponents of the bill said that Congress needed to know how it’s 7. 4 billion dollar price tag would be paid for over the next ten years.

I guess they failed to understand that these folks already gave at the office-- a hellish pit of death and desperation where strangers and siblings dug side by side for the remains of firefighters and cops and EMT’s and office workers. That they paid the bill in full with their courage. And are still paying today with their lives.

Shame .Embarrassment. Outrage. Anger. All are proper reactions to the conduct of our Senators who will now find one excuse after another to explain away the fact that they have turned their back on American heroes. Heroes whose only sin was to expect nothing for their service and were then promised the world by politicians who couldn’t take enough pictures with them.

And now they will get nothing more as we fund one give away program after another to rich and poor alike in this country. By a Congress who decides to begin deficit reduction on the wide shoulders and strong backs of people who define the term, great American. Some Senators said these 911 programs are full of waste fraud and abuse. I would suggest that the U.S. Senate proves it has the corner on that market.

We are fighting a lot of wars in this country. The fight against terror. The fight for a strong economy and new jobs. The fight against complacency.

In this fight, America fought America. And we all lost. And so the halls of Congress will reverberate forever with a haunting September 11 song as our heroes pray that the next cough they utter is not the beginning of their days dwindling down to a precious few.

People on TV are sometimes practiced at outrage. The injustice of this makes words hard to come by. All I can ask is what if your father or son, or wife or sister was a hero and no one cared? What if it was you and you were counting on America the same way America once counted on you? In this terror stained world what will happen if it is you?

Peter Johnson Jr. is a lawyer and legal analyst.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Clueless Press Can't Decide If Espionage Is Journalism

By Dan Gainor

Imagine the year is 1942 and the German government runs a news bureau in Washington, D.C. collecting government secrets. Even FDR would have laughed at claims they were actual journalists, locked them up and thrown away the key.

He would have been right. There’s a huge difference between an individual or an organization reporting abuses in government or business one at a time and the same people stealing enough classified material to run a spy agency.

But sleazy Julian Assange and his spy agency WikiLeaks are trying to pretend they are journalists. He even calls himself “editor-in-chief,” sort of like Mata Hari calling herself H.L. Mencken or the Rosenbergs claiming to be Woodward and Bernstein. Assange even argued in a recent column that “WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism.” As a sign just how far that profession has fallen, many in the media are agreeing with the spin.

The Society of Professional Journalists (to which I belong) can’t even decide. SPJ President

Hagit Limor released a press release and blogged making it clear “we can’t even agree on the most basic question: Is WikiLeaks journalism?”

The why is easy. It seems many journalists are more worried about protecting their industry than national security. Limor claims “the question of whether WikiLeaks is journalism matters not a whit to the general public.” She followed that line with the journalistic equivalent of the Internet adage that “information wants to be free.” To Limor, “the world audience just wants information.”

Well, I guess that makes it all OK. Some traitor can give away U.S. secrets to the world or to a spy agency, but that’s fine because the world wants information. I imagine the world wants Limor’s bank account information too. Or those of the staff of The New York Times or other news outlets running with this story. Should that information be public? How about every personal e-mail journalists write? We saw what a little sunlight brought to the concept that reporters are neutral when the Journolist story broke.

Unfortunately, SPJ reflects the confusion and self-centered concerns of the profession. Some old school journalists have come out against WikiLeaks. Former Washington Post Managing Editor Steve Coll, now president of New America Foundation, said of WikiLeaks, “so far it lacks an ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media.” For that seemingly mild criticism, he was in turn criticized by David Samuels in the Atlantic. Samuels claims “Julian Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning have done a huge public service.”

Samuels is not alone. The Spectator UK headlined one piece “Yes, Julian Assange Is A Journalist.” Another example of Assange’s news support comes from a petition headlined “Journalists from more than 60 countries join in support for WikiLeaks.” They claim Assange has made “an outstanding contribution to transparency and accountability on the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.” Of course, most of those supporters aren’t from the United States and couldn’t care less about our national interest.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism earlier had Assange teach classes over the summer and calls Assange “the main architect of the remarkably successful public interest project Wikileaks.” The group posted comments from the International Federation of Journalists accusing the United States of “attacking free speech.” That statement gets to the heart of the issue that criticisms of Assange and Manning “show a mood of intolerance and persecution that is dangerous not just for the two men but for all journalists engaged in investigating public affairs.” (Italics added.)

In other words, they have to protect their jobs, forget about American lives.

This isn’t the first time there’s been confusion over whether journalists act as spies. It was a huge concern during the Civil War when generals feared reporters would leak troop movements. Those concerns continued for decades and got even worse as the media took an active role undermining the Vietnam War.

But WikiLeaks is nothing like that. It is an organization based on theft of classified documents that then reveals communications that could cost lives, crush American diplomatic efforts or cause wars.

Then when Assange gets in trouble, he threatens to release more data, his so-called “insurance file” of even more dangerous, but encrypted, information. That completes the circle by adding blackmail to his list of daily activities.

Now the Associated Press is reporting WikiLeaks “has put out a secret cable that lists sites worldwide that the U.S. considers crucial to its national security.” American officials “said the leak amounts to giving a hit list to terrorists.” And speaking of terrorists, Assange supporters have attacked websites of “perceived enemies of founder Julian Assange,” including MasterCard.com. Hardly Pulitzer Prize material.

That’s because WikiLeaks isn’t a news organization. It’s a crime syndicate that aids the enemies of the United States. It must be shut down and its operatives and helpers jailed at bare minimum.

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You Are Living In Historic Times

A famous author was para-phrased as saying if you fail to learn the lessons of history, you will be doomed to repeat them. No truer words were ever spoken. We are probably living currently in times that will be looked at historically as the same as when ancient Rome fell - meaning the United States, as we know it, will probably emulate the Romans and enter into a period of decline, and possible extinction. Impossible you say? Think again. Many forget that Rome, referred to as The Roman Empire, started out as a republic, much as we did. How did they go from being a fair and freedom loving republic, to an empire that fed people to the lions for sport?


There were many reasons the Roman Republic, and then the empire it became, failed. But, three reason stand out more than all the rest:

* Declining moral values and political civility at home.

* An over confident and over extended military in foreign lands.

* Fiscal irresponsibility by the central government, a government that by-passed their legislative body and centralized power, given to a few individuals.

Sound familiar?

This nation we currently live in is at a precipice. If it continues on it's present course, it will ultimately fail. The current administration, and it's party members, will be wholly to blame for pushing us over the edge, an edge that is fast approaching. If this happens, we won't see the full effects for some time, maybe 30-50 years. But make no mistake, when we reach that rapidly approaching tipping point, nothing can stop it after that. The only good thing about this is, for me at my age, I won't be around to witness the decline and fall of the United States.

Wake up America! There is still time to stop the demise of our country. But, that time is slipping away very quickly. Demand that the government stop spending money it doesn't have, demand that we return to a more moral-centric nation, and vote those out of power who steal our money and use it to put themselves in positions of power over us, who then circumvent our laws and legislative branch to further their own ideals of a progressive, socialist society where we become dependant on that very form of government, rather than be dependant only on ourselves.

Who Knew? Cutting Government Spending IS Actually Possible

By John Lott

Federal government spending is on a course with disaster. $2.7 trillion has been added to the national debt in just 2009 and 2010. Under current budget plans, the federal government's debt will likely exceed our income in just over a decade from now. President Obama's Debt Commission (The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) released its solution today.

The commission, composed of twice as many Democrats as Republicans, proposes limiting federal government revenue and spending to 21 percent of GDP. Assuming that promises are actually kept, that would mean an increase in what revenue the federal government has traditionally taken in and a return to what government spending has been prior to the huge surge we have seen over the last two years. -- Over most of the last 60 years, federal government revenue has been about 19 percent of GDP. Spending over that period has been around 21 percent or less.

To make up this revenue, some people with high incomes are going to be hit with large tax increases. One change would dramatically raise the current maximum taxable income for Social Security. In today's dollars, that effectively means a 12.4 percentage point increase in income taxes for those making between $106,800 and $168,000. Higher income individuals will also bear a disproportionate share of the benefit cuts.

Nevertheless, the commission did accomplish something important: it showed that cutting government spending is indeed possible. While their approaches on Social Security and Medicare can only be classified a timid and many other policies may be criticized, a reasonable observer can easily infer from their suggestions that the budget can be balanced without any tax increases.

Take the commission's proposed gradual increase in the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare from the current 67 years to 68 years by 2050. Even such a small change would save $21 billion per year immediately and $127 billion per year by 2030. By contrast, a three-year increase to 70 years of age by 2050 would save $351 billion per year in 2030.

Using a more accurate measure of price changes for indexing Social Security benefits -- the so-called Congressional Budget Office option -- would make a big difference immediately. In contrast to the current measure, it does not overestimate inflation and therefore Social Security benefits would not rise as fast. Such a change would likely save another estimated $60 billion a year immediately.

When Social Security started paying out benefits in 1940, babies born in the United States had a life expectancy of 63 years, compared to today's 78 years. Though some of this increase is the result of declining infant and child mortality, it is very clear that the one year increase in the Social Security retirement age proposed by the commission will not come close to keeping pace with the increased longevity past 65. This isn't saying that people can't retire earlier if they want to. Just that if they do want to retire early, they should save up the extra money to pay for it. A safety net would still be there for those who are unable to save the extra money.

The debt commission is a good starting point. Reducing discretionary spending back to its 2008 levels after accounting for inflation seems to be conceded as reasonable. But we should be able to do much more in order to avoid the wealth destroying tax increases. According to the Cato Institute at www.downsizinggovernment.org, over a trillion dollars in annual government spending can be cut without much adverse consequences.

For instance, the Department of Education should be eliminated altogether as education is not the federal government's business to begin with. Education aid, public housing subsidies, and state and local government aid involves taking money from the states and then giving it back with a lot of federal strings on it.

Competition between states would help ensure the money is spent more efficiently and creatively. Let states make those decisions and cut out the middleman.

Indeed, even more savings are possible. Cato never explains why it only wants to cuts the Department of Health and Human Services grants to state and local governments by 50 percent.

It is hardly obvious why the government should be picking the winners and losers in small and large businesses and what types of energy usage is the most efficient. People who have their own money at stake have better incentives in determining what investments make sense. Cato proposes gutting the Small Business Administration and the Department of Commerce business subsidies. These programs throw away taxpayer money, making us all poorer, but create political corruption as the government buys votes.

Cutting the federal budget will not only be about saving money, but it will also cut down on the many stifling rules and regulations that states and businesses now have to suffer under. Federal control prevents states from innovating and discovering new policies that work. But change won't be easy. There are obviously many interest groups that have a vested interest in getting this money. It is therefore essential that the sweeping cuts be made at the same time so that no particular group feels that they in particular are singled out.

John R. Lott, Jr. is an economist and author of "More Guns, Less Crime"(University of Chicago Press, 2010), the third edition of which was published in May.
 



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