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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even Lapdogs See what's Coming on: June 24, 2011, 09:10:41 AM
CBO’s Long-Term Budget Outlook

Posted by Tad DeHaven

The Congressional Budget Office released the latest edition of its annual forecast of where the federal government’s budget is headed. The numbers are new but the message is the same: the budget is on an unsustainable path. According to the CBO’s more politically-realistic “alternative scenario,” federal debt as a share of GDP will hit 109 percent in 2021 and would approach 190 percent in 2035.

For those mistaken souls who believe that merely eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse” in government programs can solve the problem, the CBO has news for you:

In the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) long-term projections of spending, growth in noninterest spending as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) is attributable entirely to increases in spending on several large mandatory programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and (to a lesser extent) insurance subsidies that will be provided through the health insurance exchanges established by the March 2010 health care legislation. The health care programs are the main drivers of that growth; they are responsible for 80 percent of the total projected rise in spending on those mandatory programs over the next 25 years.

Others believe that “tax cuts for the rich” are the source of the problem. But according to the CBO’s alternative scenario, if the Bush tax cuts are extended and the Alternative Minimum Tax continues to be patched, federal revenues as a share of GDP will still exceed the post-war average by the decade’s end. Under the CBO’s standard baseline, which assumes that those policies will not be continued, federal revenues as a share of GDP will go zooming by the historic average. That might be good for politicians, bureaucrats, and other “tax eaters,” but it wouldn’t be good for the country’s economic welfare.

The problem is clearly spending and the GOP has rightly made spending cuts a key condition to lifting the debt ceiling. The magic number being reported is $2 trillion in cuts. That sounds like a lot of money – and it is – but it’s likely that those cuts are to be achieved over 10 years. According to the CBO’s most recent estimates, the federal government will spend almost $46 trillion over the next 10 years. And as Chris Edwards has been repeatedly warning (see here, here, and here), there’s a possibility that the cuts will be of the “phony” variety.
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Press "Print" and Self-Incriminate on: June 24, 2011, 08:57:57 AM
It's just so tragic that counterfeiters face this horrific oppression.

And that all Americans can be spied on by their government without their knowledge and contrary to my understanding of constitutional protections.
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Show Us Your Papers on: June 24, 2011, 08:53:54 AM
Thus far, the courts have upheld administrative searches as part of screening passangers in mass transit, so this isn't just "rounding up citizens".

A finding which I think is fundamentally unAmerican and do not support, hence my posts. Or does disagreeing with any finding any court has ever made preclude us from posting?

I'm not sure what this has to do with VIPR teams. So, having officers without advanced tactical training serving search warrants is better?

My original point regarded the roving TSA checkpoints, with the piece in question citing one such cordoning effort occurring in Florida. You can't imagine an encounter with an armed citizens occurring in FL? You think TSA agents are qualified to navigate that sort of scenario? If so, you have a far higher regard for their training and leadership than I do.

204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Press "Print" and Self-Incriminate on: June 24, 2011, 08:43:01 AM
Why you can't print counterfeit money on a color laser printer
by Melissa Riofrio, PCWorld   Jun 24, 2011 9:00 am

Could you print counterfeit money, certificates, or other official documents on a color laser or LED printer? Some current printer models are indeed capable of creating reasonable facsimiles. The authorities, however, have already taken steps to thwart such activity.

Print any nontext image on your printer, and take a very close look at it under bright light: You might just be able to make out a subtle pattern of yellow dots covering the page. Those dots are a microscopic code that allows government agencies to trace the page back to the printer that created it—making the person who pressed the Print button pretty easy to find.

How is the code printed, and what data does it contain? That's secret, of course—printer vendors remain tight-lipped about the details. In 2005, the Electronic Frontier Foundation cracked the anticounterfeiting code on a Xerox color laser printer; the documents the EFF examined were date- and time-stamped, and could be traced to the location of the printer. Digging further in 2008, the EFF used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain hundreds of pages of documents on the use of printer-tracing technology from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. According to EFF staff technologist Seth Schoen, "the strategy of the government agencies that have worked on this technology—both U.S. and foreign governments--is mainly to keep as quiet as possible and hope that as little information as possible gets out."

As color laser printers become affordable enough for small or home offices, this tracing technology is coming closer to where we all live. "We were able to buy a low-end Dell color laser that was targeted to home users for just a few hundred dollars," Schoen notes, "and it included tracking dots. It seems like they're a part of the printers that more and more people use every day."

Consumers who discover the dots are understandably surprised. Brahm's Yellow Dots, a blog dating from 2008, chronicles the efforts of Brahm Neufeld, a student at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, to communicate with his printer's vendor, Lexmark, after a friend told him about the yellow dots. To Lexmark's credit, the company eventually acknowledged what was going on and even offered to refund Neufeld for his printer. Neufeld, now an electrical engineer, remains concerned about the technology and the extreme discretion that printer vendors are exercising around it. "My motivation was always to document my experience—as a consumer--trying to get printer companies to fess up to this somewhat-shady practice."

What does all of this mean for you and your beloved color laser or LED printer? Unfortunately, you can do nothing about it, even though it means that almost anything you print on a compliant laser printer could, theoretically, be traced back to you. Consider, too, that when PCWorld reported on the yellow-dot controversy in 2004, the technology was already about 20 years old. "There's almost certainly a new-generation tracking technology that does not use yellow dots," warns Schoen. As if we needed more reasons to be paranoid.
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 22, 2011, 10:56:09 AM
You know, once upon a time, you could fly with a nuclear device or radiological materials and not get hassled by the MAN! First they came for the nukes......

Uhm, nowhere in that piece did the feds cordon off an area, subject all within it to ID checks and then feel up citizens going about their business so your point is?
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 22, 2011, 10:53:34 AM
Oh my god! The feds are looking for illegal aliens and threats to national security! Cue the hysterical sobbing from Libertarians.

. . . by cordoning off and then rounding up all citizens in an area and then patting them down and doing ID checks despite the fact the only thing resembling probable cause is that said people were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a CCW holder who doesn't have a high regard for the skills most LEOs bring to encounters with legally armed citizens I suspect it's just a matter of time before SWAT wannabe "operators" shoot an otherwise innocent taxpayer who had the misfortune to look like a threat when the "team" crashed through the often times wrong door.
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Marsupial "Justice" on: June 22, 2011, 10:46:47 AM
Feds crack down on campus flirting and sex jokes

By: Michael Barone | Senior Political Analyst Follow Him @MichaelBarone | 06/21/11 8:05 PM

When I was growing up it was widely believed that colleges and universities were the part of our society with the widest scope for free expression and free speech. In the conformist America of the 1950s, the thinking ran, few people dared to say anything that went beyond a broad consensus. But on campus anyone could say anything he liked.
Today we live in an America with enormous cultural variety in which very few things are considered universally verboten. But on campus it's different. There saying something considerably milder than some of the double entrendres you heard in cable news coverage of the Anthony Weiner scandal can get you into big trouble.

These reflections are inspired by a seemingly innocuous 19-page letter on April 4 from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to colleges and universities. The letter was given prominence by Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has done yeoman work opposing restrictive speech codes issued by colleges and universities.

OCR's letter carries great weight since there are few things a university president fears more than an OCR investigation, which can lead to loss of federal funds -- which amount to billions of dollars in some cases.

The OCR letter includes a requirement that universities adopt a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof for deciding cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In other words, in every case of alleged sexual harassment or sexual assault, a disciplinary board must decide on the basis of more likely than not.

That's far short of the requirement in criminal law that charges must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And these disciplinary proceedings sometimes involve charges that could also be criminal, as in cases of alleged rape.

But more often they involve alleged offenses defined in vague terms and depending often on subjective factors. Lukianoff notes that campus definitions of sexual harassment include "humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable" (University of California at Berkeley), "unwelcome sexual flirtations and inappropriate put-downs of individual persons or classes of people" (Iowa State University) or "elevator eyes" (Murray State University in Kentucky).

All of which means that just about any student can be hauled before a disciplinary committee. Jokes about sex will almost always make someone uncomfortable, after all, and usually you can't be sure if flirting will be welcome except after the fact. And how do you define "elevator eyes"?

Given the prevailing attitudes among faculty and university administrators, it's not hard to guess who will be the target of most such proceedings. You only have to remember how rapidly and readily top administrators and dozens of faculty members were ready to castigate as guilty of rape the Duke lacrosse players who, as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper concluded, were absolutely innocent.

What the seemingly misnamed Office of Civil Rights is doing here is demanding the setting up of kangaroo courts and the dispensing of what I would call marsupial justice against students who are disfavored by campus denizens because of their gender or race or political attitude. "Alice in Wonderland's" Red Queen would approve.

As Lukianoff points out, OCR had other options. The Supreme Court in a 1999 case defined sexual harassment as conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities." In other words, more than a couple of tasteless jokes or a moment of elevator eyes.

Lukianoff and FIRE have an admirable record of defending students' and faculty members' free speech regardless of their point of view, but anyone familiar with their work knows that the most frequent targets of campus disciplinary groups are male, conservative, religious or some combination thereof.

I wonder whether there is some connection between this and the dwindling percentage of men who enroll in and graduate from college. Are we allowing -- and encouraging -- our university administrators to create an atmosphere so unwelcoming and hostile to males that we are missing out on the contributions they could make with a college or graduate degree?

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has shown an admirable openness to argument and intellectual debate. Perhaps someone will ask him whether he wants his department to be encouraging kangaroo courts and marsupial justice on campuses across the country.

Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at His column appears Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Double Dipping Double Dealing on: June 22, 2011, 10:05:45 AM
A lot of doomsaying scientists have outside sources of income directly related to their doomsaying pulpit, which is often times a job paid for by taxpayers. "Deniers" are often subjected to all sorts of specious attacks due to their tangential associations, now it appears the panic mongers are contending with investigations of their direct conflicts of interest and double dipping:

NASA’s Hansen asked to account for outside activities
Posted on June 21, 2011 by Anthony Watts
Gavin Schmidt’s time spent on editing during working hours apparently was the trigger for a broader investigation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Contacts: Christopher Horner,  Paul Chesser,

ATI Law Center Asks Court to Force NASA to Produce Ethics-Related, Outside Employment Records of Dr. James Hansen

The American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center today filed a lawsuit in federal district court in the District of Columbia to force the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to release ethics records for taxpayer-funded global warming activist Dr. James Hansen, specifically records that pertain to his outside employment, revenue generation, and advocacy activities.

ATI seeks to learn whether NASA approved Hansen’s outside employment, which public financial disclosures and other documents reveal to have brought him at least $1.2 million in the past four years. This money comes on top of and, more troubling from an ethics and legal perspective, is all “related to” and sometimes even expressly for his taxpayer-funded employment, all of which outside employment commenced when Hansen stepped up his “global warming” activism from his perch at NASA.

On January 19, ATI filed a Freedom of Information Act request (PDF) with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which sought records detailing NASA’s and Hansen’s compliance with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations and with NASA Rules of Behavior. Thus far the agency has denied ATI’s request for Hansen’s Form 17-60 “Application for permission for outside employment and other activity”, and internal discussions about same.

Arguing that release would constitute a “clearly unwarranted violation of Hansen’s privacy rights” NASA claims that ATI’s pages of explanation failed to establish that the one-page applications — if they exist, which ATI has reason to doubt — would“contribute to the public’s understanding of the activities of the Government, or how it would shed light on NASA’s performance of its statutory duties.”

This despite that whether NASA complies with ethics laws is patently of public interest, and that Hansen’s position requires him to file vastly more detailed Public Financial Disclosure filings, or Form SF 278, which are made available to the public on request. Both are for the simple reason that a senior employee’s outside revenue-generating activities are inherently in the public’s interest according to the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

Dr. Hansen engages in high-profile public advocacy with regard to global warming and energy policy, directly trading on his platform as a NASA astronomer to gain interest and attention. This outside employment and other activities relating to his work have included consulting, highly compensated speeches, six-figure “prizes”, a commercial book, advising Al Gore on his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and, lately, advising litigants on suing states and the federal government.

Since escalating the “provocative” (in Hansen’s word) nature of his advocacy in a 2006 “60 Minutes interview”, these outside activities have become extraordinarily lucrative — yielding on average more than a quarter of a million dollars per year in extra income between 2007 and 2010 from outside sources, all relating to the work he is paid by the taxpayer to perform for NASA.

ATI’s director of litigation Christopher Horner says, “Under federal statutes and NASA rules, employees may not privately benefit from public office; outside income must be disclosed, certain activities avoided, andpermission must be applied for before engaging in permissible outside employment or activities. ATI’s Request seeks official documents which — if they in fact exist — would inform the public about NASA’s and Hansen’s adherence to all such rules which compliance, given records already obtained and the public record, is in doubt.”

Dr. Hansen has admitted that lucrative offers of “prizes” and “awards” for his public service began flowing after that “60 Minutes” interview, in which he accused the Bush Administration of “censoring” his global warming views. Records show a sudden spike in highly compensated speeches on the subject of his work, as well.

NASA has already provided Form 17-60 documents for Dr. Hansen’s subordinate Gavin Schmidt to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Schmidt writes for and edits the climate alarmism blog, during normal business hours. That Hansen and NASA had not required Schmidt to file Form 17-60 seeking permission for these activities, until NASA was asked about this matter, triggered ATI’s inquiry into whether Hansen, too, was avoiding this requirement. Other records obtained by CEI and posted on ATI’s Web site indicate that Dr. Hansen has also used NASA staff for his own commercial activities.

The President and the Attorney General have made clear their commitment to transparency and a high standard of ethical behavior by government employees. NASA needs to clear the air by releasing the documents about Dr. Hansen and about whether he had permission to wear his government hat when engaging in a lucrative effort to sway government policy, said Dr. David Schnare, Director of the ATI Environmental Law Center.

See ATI Environmental Law Center’s Complaint and Prayer for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in federal court in its Freedom of Information Act case against NASA (PDF).
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cast a Big Enough Net you Catch just about Everything on: June 22, 2011, 10:00:04 AM
2nd post:

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

The peril of vague criminal statutes

Harvey Silverglate from the July 2011 issue

The Soviet Union enacted an infamous law in 1922 that criminalized “hooliganism.” The crime was in the eye of the beholder, the beholder of consequence being the Soviet secret police. Because it was impossible for dissidents to know in advance whether they were violating this prohibition, they were always subject to arrest and imprisonment, all ostensibly according to law.

In the United States, we have legal safeguards against Soviet-style social controls, not least of which is the judicial branch’s ability to nullify laws so vague that they violate the right to due process. Yet far too many federal laws leave citizens unsure about the line between legal and illegal conduct, punishing incorrect guesses with imprisonment. The average working American adult, going about his or her normal life, commits several arguable federal felonies a day without even realizing it. Entire lives can change based on the attention of a creative federal prosecutor interpreting vague criminal laws.

Mail Fraud for Art Supplies

Consider the federal prohibition of “mail fraud,” which mainly describes the means of a crime (“through the mails”) rather than the substantive acts that violate the law (“a scheme or artifice to defraud”). In 2004, Steven Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo, was indicted on mail fraud charges for what boiled down to a paperwork error. Federal agents, after learning that Kurtz was using bacteria in his artwork to critique genetic engineering, launched a full-scale bioterrorism investigation against him. Finding nothing pernicious about the harmless stomach flora, they resorted to a creative interpretation of the mail fraud statute. Because Kurtz had ordered the bacteria through a colleague at the University of Pittsburgh Human Genetics Laboratory, his “scheme” to “defraud” consisted of not properly indicating on the order form that the bacteria were meant for his own use.

Or consider the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 1986 law whose prohibitions—accessing a computer “without authorization,” for example—have been stretched to cover a wide swath of activity never envisioned when the bill was passed. In 2008, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles won a conviction in an online harassment case based on the theory that violating a website’s “terms of service” is a crime under this law. Thankfully, the judge rejected this interpretation and threw out the jury’s conviction.

The most dangerously far-reaching statutes tend to result from knee-jerk congressional reactions to the threat du jour. Stopping bullies, for example, is all the rage in legislatures as well as classrooms, especially given all the new ways Americans can transmit unpleasant messages. In April 2009, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) proposed the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, which would have made it a felony, punishable by up two to years in prison, to transmit by electronic means any message “with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.” Sánchez named the bill after a 13-year-old Missouri girl who took her own life in 2006 after being taunted by a middle-aged woman who had assumed the online identity of a teenage boy (which led to the aforementioned online harassment case). Testifying in favor of the bill at a September 2009 hearing, Judi Westberg Warren, president of Web Wise Kids, said “speech that involves harm to others is wrong.”

That may be so, but using the criminal law to punish upsetting messages is also wrong, as well as inconsistent with constitutional freedom of speech. At the same hearing, testifying on behalf of the Cato Institute, I pointed out that the bill’s open-ended language extended far beyond adolescent (or middle-aged) bullies. Reporters, lawyers, even members of Congress are tasked daily, by virtue of their jobs, with what the bill defined as “cyberbullying.” A scathing online exposé, a stern letter emailed to an adversary, or a legislator’s principled stand articulated on Facebook might well cause someone, somewhere, to experience emotional distress. Prosecutors easily could argue that such a foreseeable effect was intended. And what about the time-honored American art of parody? If this law were passed, would Stephen Colbert be pulled off the air?

Fortunately, these and other common-sense objections seemed to hit home; the bill never made it out of committee, and it died with the 111th Congress. But the setback hasn’t stopped anti-bullying advocates, who last year introduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act in response to yet another high-profile tragedy, the 2010 death of a Rutgers freshman who killed himself after his roommate secretly recorded his sexual encounter with another man. Although the bill, which was reintroduced this year, would not create any new criminal provisions, it would dramatically expand the civil concept of peer-on-peer “harassment” at colleges and universities that accept federal funds. The archives of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit organization that I co-founded and currently chair, provide ample evidence that the elastic concept of harassment on campus is already the most abused tool in suppressing campus speech and expression.

While Congress has not passed anti-bullying legislation yet, it did react to the financial collapse of 2008 with a complex law that transforms many non-fraudulent financial practices into felonies. The 848-page behemoth known as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act introduced dozens of new federal offenses, many of which do not include the crucial requirement of criminal intent. For instance, the bill criminalizes any “trading, practice, or conduct” that disregards “the orderly execution of transactions during the closing period.” It also criminalizes the practice commonly known as “spoofing”—bidding or offering with the intent to cancel before execution. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission will have to define “orderly executions” and decide when a canceled bid or offer amounts to “spoofing.” In other words, dense, changeable rules issued by an unelected regulatory body will determine the difference between a legitimate trader and a felon.

Peaceniks for Terrorism

The federal ban on providing “material support” to a terrorist group, the statute that the federal government uses most frequently in prosecuting terrorism cases, provides another example of how difficult it can be to stay on the right side of the law. In 1998 the Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), a human rights organization based in Los Angeles, asked a federal judge whether the material support ban, which was first enacted in 1996, applied to its planned nonviolent advocacy on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey, which appears on the State Department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” The HLP wanted to train the group’s members on how to peacefully resolve disputes through international law, including methods to obtain relief from the United Nations.

Although the HLP’s plans were limited to offering advice and training aimed at avowedly peaceful ends, the answer to its legal question was by no means clear. Originally enacted as part of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support following the Oklahoma City bombing, the material support statute has been amended several times, most notably by the 2001 PATRIOT Act, which added prohibitions on providing “training,” “expert advice or assistance,” and “personnel.” HLP President Ralph Fertig did not want to risk a prison sentence in finding out what the various provisions meant.

Fertig got his answer about a dozen years after initially seeking authoritative guidance, when the Supreme Court ruled that the material support law did indeed cover instruction in peaceful advocacy. In a 6-to-3 decision handed down in June 2010, the Court ruled in Holder v. HLP that the statute was not unconstitutionally vague and did not violate the right to freedom of speech or freedom of association. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that helping terrorist organizations to resolve disputes through international bodies or obtain humanitarian relief from the United Nations inevitably would free up resources for other, more nefarious ends. Hence a “person of ordinary intelligence would understand” that such conduct constitutes “material support.”

In a vivid illustration that the material support ban is not nearly as clear as Roberts claims, Georgetown law professor David Cole, who represented the HLP before the Supreme Court, pointed out in a January 2011 New York Times op-ed that several hawks in the War on Terror may have unwittingly violated the statute. By speaking at a December 2010 conference in Paris organized by supporters of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former National Security Adviser Frances Townsend, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani arguably coordinated their speech with a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore, by the Supreme Court’s logic, provided it with “material support.”

These examples show that vague laws threaten Americans from all walks of life and all points on the political spectrum. Yet that depressing fact is actually encouraging, because it suggests the possibility of a broad coalition in support of much needed legal reforms, beginning with the basic principle that, absent a clearly stated prohibition, people must not be punished for conduct that is not intuitively criminal, evil, or antisocial. Otherwise we risk creating a modern American equivalent to the ban on hooliganism.

Harvey A. Silverglate (, a criminal defense and civil liberty lawyer in Boston, is the author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (Encounter Books), which was just published in paperback. Kyle Smeallie helped him research and write this piece.
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Show Us Your Papers on: June 22, 2011, 09:52:21 AM
TSA Now Storming Public Places 8,000 Times a Year

By Tara Servatius
Americans must decide if, in the name of homeland security, they are willing to allow TSA operatives to storm public places in their communities with no warning, pat them down, and search their bags.  And they better decide quickly.

Bus travelers were shocked when jackbooted TSA officers in black SWAT-style uniforms descended unannounced upon the Tampa Greyhound bus station in April with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and federal bureaucrats in tow.

A news report by ABC Action News in Tampa showed passengers being given the signature pat downs Americans are used to watching the Transportation Security Administration screeners perform at our airports. Canine teams sniffed their bags and the buses they rode. Immigration officials hunted for large sums of cash as part of an anti-smuggling initiative.

The TSA clearly intends for these out-of-nowhere swarms by its officers at community transit centers, bus stops and public events to become a routine and accepted part of American life.

The TSA has conducted 8,000 of these security sweeps across the country in the past year alone, TSA chief John Pistole told a Senate committee June 14.  They are part of its VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program, which targets public transit related places.

All of which is enough to make you wonder if we are watching the formation of the "civilian national security force" President Obama called for on the campaign trail "that is just as powerful, just as strong and just as well funded" as the military.

The VIPR swarm on Wednesday, the TSA's largest so far, was such a shocking display of the agency's power that it set the blogosphere abuzz.

In a massive flex of muscle most people didn't know the TSA had, the agency led dozens of federal and state law enforcement agencies in a VIPR exercise that covered three states and 5,000 square miles. According to the Marietta Times, the sweep used reconnaissance aircraft and "multiple airborne assets, including Blackhawk helicopters and fixed wing aircraft as well as waterborne and surface teams."

When did the TSA get this powerful? Last year, Pistole told USA Today he wanted to "take the TSA to the next level," building it into a "national-security, counterterrorism organization, fully integrated into U.S. government efforts."

What few people realize is how far Pistole has already come in his quest. This is apparently what that next level looks like. More than 300 law enforcement and military personnel swept through a 100-mile stretch of the Ohio Valley alone, examining the area's industrial infrastructure, the Charleston Gazette reported.

Federal air marshals, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI, the Office of Homeland Security and two dozen other federal, state and local agencies teamed up to scour the state's roads, bridges, water supply and transit centers under the TSA's leadership.

What is remarkable about these security swarms is that they don't just involve federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The TSA brings in squads of bureaucrats from state and federal agencies as well, everything from transportation departments to departments of natural resources.

The TSA had received no specific threats about the Tampa bus station before the April sweep, reporters were told.

They were there "to sort of invent the wheel in advance in case we have to if there ever is specific intelligence requiring us to be here," said Gary Milano with the Department of Homeland Security in an ABC News Action television report. "This way us and our partners are ready to move in at a moment's notice."

Federal immigration officials from Customs and Border Patrol swept the station with the TSA, looking for "immigration violations, threats to national security" and "bulk cash smuggling." (How the bulk cash smuggling investigation related to national security was never explained.)

"We'll be back," Milano told reporters. "We won't say when we'll be back. This way the bad guys are on notice we'll be back."

The TSA gave the same vague answers when asked about the three-state sweep this week. That sweep wasn't in response to any specific security threat, either.

The purpose was to "have a visible presence and let people know we're out here," Michael Cleveland, federal security director for TSA operations in West Virginia told the Gazette. "It can be a deterrent."

It might be -- if Americans are willing to live this way.

Tara Servatius is a radio talk show host. Follow her @TaraServatius and on Facebook.

Page Printed from: at June 22, 2011 - 09:51:53 AM CDT
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 22, 2011, 09:51:44 AM
So this is a benefit cost analysis free zone? As pointed out before, TSA's airport employee regimens are abysmal; why do we have to wait for a vulnerability to be exploited before it's addressed, and why do we fling tens of billions of dollars against threats unlikely to materialize as the next 9/11 style hijacking will generate an in-flight passenger response? Are you advocating against adaptability and for rigid structures that fail to address concrete threats?
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Grassley Gets his Dander Up on: June 22, 2011, 09:33:47 AM
BATFE has been releasing data with a very slanted, myopic cast through gun-grabber Diane Feinstein. Grassley responds:
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 21, 2011, 11:10:16 AM
Nanny state/Puritanism run amok at its finest.
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Commerce, not Conquest on: June 21, 2011, 11:09:02 AM
Not Stealing Palestine, but Purchasing Israel
The real history of Israel’s founding, and why it matters

Zionists stole Palestinian land: That’s the mantra both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas teach their children and propagate in their media. This claim has vast importance, as Palestinian Media Watch explains: “Presenting the creation of the [Israeli] state as an act of theft and its continued existence as a historical injustice serves as the basis for the PA’s non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist.” The accusation of theft also undermines Israel’s position internationally.

But is this accusation true?

No, it is not. Ironically, the building of Israel represents almost the most peaceable in-migration and state creation in history. Understanding why requires seeing Zionism in context. Simply put, conquest is the historical norm. Governments everywhere have been established through invasion and nearly all states came into being at someone else’s expense. No one is permanently in charge; everyone’s roots trace back to somewhere else.

Germanic tribes, Central Asian hordes, Russian tsars, and Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors remade the map. Modern Greeks have only a tenuous connection to the Greeks of antiquity. Who can count the number of times Belgium was overrun? The United States came into existence after the defeat of Native Americans. Kings marauded in Africa, Aryans invaded India. In Japan, Yamato-speakers eliminated all but tiny groups such as the Ainu.

The Middle East, due to its centrality and geography, has experienced more than its share of invasions, including the Greek, Roman, Arabian, Crusader, Seljuk, Timurid, Mongolian, and modern European. Within the region, dynastic froth caused the same territory — Egypt for example — to be conquered and re-conquered.

The land that now makes up Israel was no exception. In Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel, Eric H. Cline writes of Jerusalem: “No other city has been more bitterly fought over throughout its history.” He backs up that claim, counting “at least 118 separate conflicts in and for Jerusalem during the past four millennia.” He calculates Jerusalem to have been destroyed completely at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. The PA fantasizes that today’s Palestinians are descended from a tribe of ancient Canaan, the Jebusites; in fact, they are overwhelmingly the offspring of invaders and immigrants seeking economic opportunities.

Against this tableau of unceasing conquest, violence, and overthrow, Zionist efforts to build a presence in the Holy Land until 1948 stand out as astonishingly mild, mercantile rather than military. Two great empires, the Ottomans and the British, ruled Eretz Yisrael. In contrast, Zionists lacked military power. They could not possibly achieve statehood through conquest.

Instead, they purchased land. Acquiring property dunam by dunam, farm by farm, house by house, lay at the heart of the Zionist enterprise until 1948. The Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901 to buy land in Palestine “to assist in the foundation of a new community of free Jews engaged in active and peaceable industry,” was the key institution — and not the Haganah, the clandestine defense organization founded in 1920.

Zionists also focused on the rehabilitation of what was barren and considered unusable. They not only made the desert bloom, but drained swamps, cleared water channels, reclaimed wasteland, forested bare hills, cleared rocks, and removed salt from the soil. Jewish reclamation and sanitation work precipitously reduced the number of disease-related deaths.

Only when the British Mandate of Palestine gave up power in 1948, followed immediately by an all-out attempt by Arab states to crush and expel the Zionists, did the latter take up the sword in self-defense and go on to win land through military conquest. Even then, as the historian Efraim Karsh demonstrates in Palestine Betrayed, most Arabs fled their lands; exceedingly few were forced off.

This history contradicts the Palestinian account that “Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people” which led to a catastrophe “unprecedented in history” (according to a PA twelfth-grade textbook) or that Zionists “plundered the Palestinian land and national interests, and established their state upon the ruins of the Palestinian Arab people” (writes a columnist in the PA’s daily). International organizations, newspaper editorials, and faculty petitions reiterate this falsehood worldwide.

Israelis should hold their heads high and point out that the building of their country was based on the least violent and most civilized movement of any people in history. Gangs did not steal Palestine. Merchants purchased Israel.

— Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Overstating Benefits while Blind to Costs on: June 21, 2011, 11:01:44 AM
Blind Terror, Dumb State by Deepak Lal
from Cato Recent Op-eds

Earlier this month coming back to Delhi after a month long trip to Argentina, my wife, who is a US citizen and has had ten-year multi-entry visas for India ever since we married nearly 40 years ago, was not allowed to board the flight from Heathrow as she was returning less than two months since her departure from Delhi, in early April. Despite my loud protests that there was no such restriction on her visa, she had to return to London, and after some pulling strings got a stamp on her passport to re-enter India signed by the Indian High commissioner. This 'new' visa policy, is of course the government's response to the David Headley affair and, as with so many responses in the 'war on terror', it is fighting the last war. The draconian screening of airline passengers did not prevent a Nigerian student from concealing a bomb in his underpants across airline scanners in three airports as late as December 2009. So, now airline passengers have to virtually strip to board a plane. What are the costs and benefits of these growing restrictions on personal liberty and increase in state power?

When the 'war on terror' was launched in 2001, John Mueller (now at Ohio State University) and I wrote papers on this issue for a book edited by Richard Rosecrance and Arthur Stein (No More States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2006). The direct costs to the US economy were miniscule ($100 billion — less than 0.8 per cent of its GDP).The most serious costs were the increase in the uncertainty associated with doing business, and from preventive measures taken as an overreaction to the terrorist threat. Thus, apart from the direct costs of homeland security, there are the costs imposed on travellers in terms of the opportunity costs of the time lost in security searches at airports. These were estimated in 2002 to be $16 and $32 billion annually for the US. A more recent estimate by Mueller and Mark Stewart (at Newcastle University in Australia) of these indirect costs to US travellers between 2002 and 2011 was $417 billion. Wilst the direct costs of extra homeland security was $690 billion. This expenditure would only have been cost effective, they estimate, if it had prevented or deterred four attacks every day like the one foiled in Times Square in New York.

Neither are the personal risks that citizens face from terrorism serious. Since 1960 till 2001, based on the US State department data, Mueller estimated that the number of Americans killed by international terrorism (including 9/11) is about the same as the number killed over the same period by lightning, or by accidental deer, or by severe allergic reaction to peanuts. While, including both domestic and international terrorism, "far fewer people were killed by terrorists in the entire world over the [20th century] than died in any number of unnoticed civil wars during the century" (pg 48).

What about the fears of future terrorist attacks using stolen chemical, biological and nuclear weapons? Of these, for various reasons, the danger of a 'dirty bomb' using stolen fissile materials is the most pertinent. Biological and chemical weapons are not easy to use by private agents. The damage from a 'dirty bomb' would be localised to the real estate in the area which was made radioactive. The personal danger from the likely 25 per cent increase in radiation over background radiation in the area is miniscule. "A common recommendation from nuclear scientists and engineers" notes Mueller, "is that those exposed should calmly walk away" (pg 62).

The costs of actual and potential terrorism have thus been considerably overblown. Worse, the 'war on terror' by inducing the unjustified panic which the terrorists seek to create, foster their aim of creating terror. Worse, by extending State powers and emasculating civil liberties they promote the very illiberal societies and 'police' states the jehadis themselves seek. A 'terror industry' develops with the same rent-seeking purposes as so many other state-sponsored attempts to create 'risk free' societies. Terrorism will always be with us. But, as for instance, given the known risks from driving, which causes over 40,000 deaths every year in automobile accidents in the US, Americans have not stopped driving. But, with the hysteria and panic created by the much smaller number of deaths from terrorism, they (and increasingly many across the world in liberal democracies) are willing to devote scarce resources to chasing horrendous phantoms. They would do better to remember the words of an earlier President." The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

How should the terrorist threat be dealt with? For many years I lived in London during the IRA's terrorist operations. The IRA not only succeeded in nearly killing Margret Thatcher and most of her cabinet in the Brighton bombing, but successfully launched a missile into John Major's cabinet room during a meeting. But during these Irish troubles, the British continued to follow the advice in an official Second World poster (to be issued in case of a German invasion): KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. They dealt with the IRA terrorists by hunting them down through the usual intelligence methods and incarcerating or killing them. Meanwhile, the economic chaos and insecurity the IRA caused in its 'homeland' — Northern Ireland — plus the growing realisation of the failure of terrorism to achieve its aims, led to the political settlement contained in the Good Friday agreement.

In dealing with the undeniable state-sponsored Pakistani terrorism in India, a similar policy is relevant. The only long-term solution is to change the Pakistan army's calculus that it can succeed in destroying India (or its economy) through its jihadi agents. As this tiger it has unleashed, increasingly turns( as it has) against its sponsors, and the growing distance between its citizens in a stagnant and those in the booming Indian economy becomes apparent to its people (as is happening), the 'rent seeking' soldiers might at last realise that it is in their interests to complete the deal, which Musharaff nearly completed with Dr Manmohan Singh. Meanwhile, intelligence remains vital in apprehending and forestalling ISI-sponsored terrorists. But this is not done through heavy handed suppression of civil liberties. When,with information from Western intelligence agencies, about the co-ordinates of suspicious boats moving to Bombay, along with mobile numbers of some terrorists, Indian intelligence failed to forestall the 26/11 attacks, it is absurd to believe that they can forestall future terrorist plots by preventing my 70-year-old American wife from coming back to India, a month after she had left our New Delhi home

Deepak Lal is the professor of international development studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 20, 2011, 02:51:15 PM
Uh, the concerns raised by the piece that started this latest circular dance, the one with the lede reading:

The New York Times‘s Charlie Savage reports that the FBI is preparing to release a new Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), further relaxing the rules governing the Bureau’s investigation of Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Emphasis added.
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Watered Down Methodology on: June 20, 2011, 02:48:57 PM
3rd post. Interesting. A blogger who usually finds himself on the catastrophic warming side of things is starting to realize how poorly reviewed IPCC reports are. Earlier he was commenting on the poor form involved in allowing a Greepeace employee to author a piece he then inserts into an IPCC report, for which he was also a reviewer of. Now Lynas is noting the same sort poor quality control where hydropower is involved:

New allegation of IPCC renewables report bias

20 June 2011 19 comments
Following the suggestion last week that a lead author from Greenpeace may have had undue influence over the outcome of the IPCC’s latest report on renewable energy, a new allegation has now been made regarding possible conflicts of interest amongst the lead authors of the report’s chapter on hydropower.

“The value of the IPCC report is weakened by the strongly biased treatment of hydropower,” says Peter Bosshard, policy director for International Rivers, which campaigns to raise attention of the damaging effects large dams can have on riverine ecosystems. “At least half of the lead authors of the hydropower chapter are not independent scientists, but have a vested interest in the promotion of hydropower. This creates a conflict of interest, which is reflected throughout the report.”

All Working Groups of the IPCC have strict procedures for multiple reviews of draft chapters, including with the final product being approved line-by-line by the world’s governments. That these procedures might have failed to detect – or correct – a pro-hydro bias in the draft report is worrying, given the importance for the planet’s future of getting the right mitigation options for tackling climate change. The chapter on hydropower (PDF) suggests a ‘technical potential’ of four times the current 926 GW of installed capacity – of up to 3,721 GW. This would mean significantly encroaching on the natural flows of river basins in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The IPCC report states:

“Of the total technical potential for hydropower, undeveloped capacity ranges from about 47% in Europe and North America to 92% in Africa, which indicates large opportunities for continued hydropower development worldwide, with the largest growth potential in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

There is expected to be significant pressure for new hydropower development because water stored behind dams can balance out the intermittency challenge inherent in large-scale use of strongly-fluctuating solar and wind power in modern electricity grids. However, water released from behind dams tends to be at a lower and more stable temperature than the water in undammed rivers, altering ecological signals and damaging wildlife. Flow regimes also vary widely, according to the needs of electrical consumers rather than the seasonal signals of snowmelt, drought and flood. It is partly because dams can have devastating effects on riverine ecology that freshwater biodiversity is amongst the most endangered on Earth.

As with the issue of Greenpeace’s involvement with Chapter 10 of the report, the allegations of bias in Chapter 5 do not suggest that the report is totally one-sided or should be entirely rejected. There is a section dealing with ecological issues which points out the possible negative implications of hydropower, for example. Instead, the problem lies with the tone of the report and its headline conclusion. Says Bosshard from International Rivers:

“The hydropower chapter of the new report at time reads like a marketing brochure of the hydropower industry. It ignores or misrepresents the findings of the independent World Commission on Dams, and glosses over the findings of many scientific reports which came to conclusions that are not convenient for the hydropower industry.”

This is a serious allegation, which potentially adds to the loss of prestige the IPCC has faced over the Greenpeace/renewables issue. Yet Bosshard is not attacking the IPCC per se, as he makes clear:

We have high respect for the scientific rigor and independence of the IPCC. We were surprised and dismayed to see that the preparation of the new report’s chapter on hydropower was left to a group of authors of whom a majority has a vested interest in the promotion of hydropower. The nine lead authors include representatives of two of the world’s largest hydropower developers, a hydropower consultancy, and three agencies promoting hydropower at the national level.

We recognize the need to have hydropower expertise on the panel and do not question the personal integrity of the authors. Yet it is not appropriate for IPCC to commission individuals with a business or institutional interest in the subject matter to prepare a report that is supposed to be unbiased and independent. The resulting conflict of interest weakens the quality of the report’s hydropower section.

Of the two overall co-ordinating lead authors of the hydropower chapter, one – Tormod Schei – works for a large dam-building company, Norway’s Statkraft, which runs 277 hydropower plants in more than 20 countries, and is currently building the Kargi dam project in Turkey. In the wider lead author team, Jean-Michel Devernay is a senior director within the energy company EDF, and is also vice-president of the board of the International Hydropower Association, whose brief is to “advance sustainable hydropower’s role in meeting the world’s water and energy needs”, according to its mission statement.

According to the ‘planetary boundaries’ work published by Rockstrom et al in Nature, 2009 – which forms the backbone for my upcoming book – freshwater use is one of the planet’s key ecological limits which humans need to respect to protect the integrity of the Earth system. The quantified boundary proposed leaves little room for accelerated big dam development, suggesting that carbon emissions need to be reduced in ways which do not negatively affect the other proposed boundaries. Once again, this emphasises that we need to see the Earth in a more integral way, and focus on ways in which we can solve one global ecological problem without negatively affecting others.

As International Rivers’ Peter Bosshard aptly puts it:

Combating climate change must be part of a holistic effort to protect the world’s ecosystems. We cannot afford to sacrifice the planet’s arteries to save her lungs.
218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why Dump the Plan when you can Issue Waivers? on: June 20, 2011, 12:12:16 PM
2nd post:
Reason Magazine

GAO Report: ObamaCare Waivers Issued to Prevent Premium Increases Caused By Health Law’s Mandates

Peter Suderman | June 15, 2011

For months, it’s been unclear how the Obama administration’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO)—the new bureaucracy set up to regulate health insurance under ObamaCare—was deciding whether to hand out waivers to businesses and unions seeking exemptions from some of the law’s requirements. Now, thanks to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), we have a somewhat better idea: The administration was handing out waivers in order to prevent large health insurance premium hikes that last year’s health care would have otherwise caused.

According to the GAO, which prepared its report with the help and guidance of CCIIO, the Obama administration’s new insurance regulators “granted waivers on the basis of an application’s projected significant increase in premiums or significant reduction in access to health care benefits.” It’s not a bright-line test, however; there’s still a discretionary element. As the report’s authors explain, “officials told us that they could not exclusively rely on specific numerical criteria to define a significant increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to benefits, because applicant characteristics and circumstances varied widely.” So the process is still not fully transparent.

But what’s most important about the report is how it reveals, yet again, that the folks running the ObamaCare show are aware of the effects the law will have on the price of insurance. Like the Obama administration’s decision to grant the state of Maine a waiver from ObamaCare’s medical loss ratio requirement, the GAO’s description of the waiver process is about as straightforward an admission as anyone is likely to get fulfilling ObamaCare’s new insurance requirements does indeed drive up premium prices and/or reduce health insurance benefits.

Now, the administration would likely contest that argument as unfair. After all, they did issue waivers to businesses and union groups where the premium hikes or benefit losses were expected to be largest. But if anything, the waiver process simply shows that the Obama administration knows that, despite all of the president’s claims about bringing down the cost of both care and insurance premiums, the legislation, as passed, will make health insurance more expensive for a very large number of individuals—hence the issuance of 1,347 waivers covering more than 3 million people.

The result is an inherently unfair system in which some businesses and unions have to obey the rules and some don't, and the regulators get to decide who falls into which category. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again: If it's so clear that the provisions in question aren't working for so many people, why not just grant everyone waivers by ditching those requirements entirely?
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maybe They Need a Five Year Plan (tm) on: June 20, 2011, 12:08:39 PM
A Hospital Drug Shortage Made In Washington

Posted by Walter Olson

As readers may know, I’ve been beating the drum for a while on the increasingly dangerous shortages that doctors are encountering in the availability of common, off-patent drugs used in hospital and clinical settings, including drugs that are important in chemotherapy, anesthesia, and infection control. Among the reasons for the shortages: the Food and Drug Administration has toughened its regulation of pharmaceutical makers in ways that lead to manufacturing line shutdowns and withdrawals from production.

John Goodman has a must-read blog post at Health Affairs Blog on the mounting crisis, amplified by a post by George Mason economist Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, getting into further specifics. In particular:

• 246 drugs are now considered to be in shortage, a record high, and the number has been rising for years. Rationing of scarce chemotherapy drugs is now making a difference in which patients have a chance at survival. In the absence of familiar compounds, doctors are falling back on inexact substitutes, sometimes more dangerous and less effective.

• After “tainted drugs” scares a few years ago, the FDA stepped up its Good Manufacturing Practice regulations, which control the production of pharmaceuticals. In particular, it now proclaims zero tolerance, barbed by tough fines, for many technical infractions whose actual impact on patient risk is at best doubtful, and it is unafraid of shutting down production lines again and again for retooling until its regulations are satisfied to the letter. It also changes its formulation and manufacturing requirements often, with scant forgiveness for makers who have trouble retooling to the new specifications quickly.

• Remarkably, the feds have inserted themselves into the role of central planners of drug output. Goodman:

For example, a drug manufacturer must get approval for how much of a drug it plans to produce, as well as the timeframe. If a shortage develops (because, say, the FDA shuts down a competitor’s plant), a drug manufacturer cannot increase its output of that drug without another round of approvals. Nor can it alter its timetable production (producing a shortage drug earlier than planned) without FDA approval.

That the results might include many unpleasant surprises will surprise only those unfamiliar with the record of a century of central planning failure.

• Pre-1938 drugs are suffering particular disruptions because of a separate FDA program, long demanded by consumer groups, to subject these “grandfathered” compounds to regulatory oversight just as tough as newer drugs. The dictates of the Drug Enforcement Administration also contribute to problems with some controlled substances.

• Several leading professional organizations, including the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, collaborated on a meeting last November to raise the visibility of the issue and seek possible solutions. You can read its summary report here. Objectively, it’s a damning indictment, but be warned that — rather typically in a field where many key players live in fear of offending the FDA — the report refrains from outspoken criticism of the agency and in fact proposes widening the agency’s funding and powers.

Wouldn’t this make a good subject for hearings at the newly Waxman-liberated House Commerce Committee?
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Direct Feed on: June 20, 2011, 12:06:01 PM
Rumor has it BATFE director Melson is about to get tossed under the bus:

Issa leaks ATF emails

By Jordy Yager    - 06/15/11 11:58 AM ET
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee released copies of redacted emails on Wednesday that detail the involvement of the head of the nation's firearms law enforcement agency in a controversial gun-tracking program as early as March 2010.

The emails strike a stark contrast to letters the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have sent to lawmakers in which they denied selling assault weapons to known and suspected straw purchasers for drug cartels and claimed that they made every effort to prevent weapons from ending up in Mexico.

In one of the emails, released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), with the subject heading “Director’s questions,” the supervisor of the “Fast and Furious” operation wrote to the assistant special agent in charge of Phoenix field operations with an Internet Protocol address for one of the video monitoring units in a gun store which was authorized to sell guns to the suspects.
The emails seem to indicate that ATF acting director Kenneth Melson had asked for this information.

“With this information, acting Director Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and – himself – watch a live feed of the straw buyers entering the gun stores to purchase dozens of AK-47 variants,” said a Republican committee statement.

Earlier this year, in response to a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to Melson asking him about his knowledge of the gun-tracking operation, the Justice Department wrote the senator, denying knowingly selling assault weapons to straw purchasers and stating that it made every effort to prevent weapons from ending up in Mexico.
In another email dated March 10, 2010, the assistant special agent in charge of Phoenix field operations wrote to the supervisor of the “Fast and Furious” operation and said, “Not sure if you know, but Mr. Melson and Mr. Hoover are being briefed weekly on this investigation and the recent success with [redacted] so they are both keenly interested in case updates.”

The release of the emails come as Issa was holding a hearing on the gun-tracking program with ATF agents.
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Federally Mandated Weakness Leaving the Body on: June 20, 2011, 12:03:37 PM
Back in my telephone hotline days there were several pharmacologists who worked the phones, too. Use to have interesting conversations with them about the subjective nature or many prescription drugs, with one man's analgesic being another's psychoactive experience. Because these men of science couldn't get inside a patient's head they had little they could measure to determine if a given substance was being used prescriptively on recreationally. Well good news, not the government is gonna try to work it out for us:

The Government's Top Minds Are Working Hard to Make Painkillers 'Tightly Regulated Yet Easily Available'
Jacob Sullum | June 15, 2011

Yesterday I noted a New York Times profile of Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, focusing on her simplistic, reductionist view of addiction. I should have mentioned that she and her amanuensis at the Times, Abigail Zuger, also had some woefully misguided things to say about the conflict between drug control and pain control:

Prescription drugs, she continued, have a double life: They are lifesaving yet every bit as dangerous as banned substances. "The challenges we face are much more complex," Dr. Volkow said, "because we need to address the needs of patients in pain, while protecting those at risk for substance use disorders."

In other words, these drugs must be somehow legal and illegal, encouraged yet discouraged, tightly regulated yet easily available.

How is that possible? It isn't. Because pain cannot be objectively verified, there is an unavoidable tradeoff between providing adequate treatment and preventing people from getting high. Even if you think the latter goal is a legitimate function of government, protecting one group of people from their own bad choices simply cannot justify forcing another group of people to live (or die) with horrible pain. Morally, this is a no-brainer: It is better to let 10 addicts trick doctors into prescribing them narcotics than to let one legitimate patient suffer needlessly.

That is not how the government, as channeled by Zuger, sees it:

Treating people with the prescription drug problems is particularly challenging, because, of course, for these particular drugs, physicians are the nation's pushers.

The number of prescriptions written for potentially addictive pain medications has soared in the last decade, reaching more than 200 million in 2010, Dr. Volkow said. Surveys asking teenagers where they get pills find that relatively few buy from strangers. Many have their own prescriptions, often from dental work. Even more are given pills by friends and relatives, presumably out of other legitimate prescriptions.

Doctors may be flooding the country with narcotics, but most have never learned much about pain control. Dr. Volkow said that some data suggests that medical schools devote considerably less time to the subject than veterinary schools do. The Obama administration addressed exactly this deficiency in April with a call for doctors to undergo special training before being allowed to prescribe some of the most addictive painkillers.

"Students and residents have gotten the message that pain is undertreated," said Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, an internist who directs the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. "So they just prescribe higher and higher doses."

The official narrative that emerges from the Times article goes like this: Doctors used to be unnecessarily reluctant to prescribe opioids, but now they are erring in the other direction. Therefore we need to crack down on prescriptions, because too many people are using these drugs for nonmedical reasons. But such a crackdown inevitably hurts people in pain, because it encourages doctors to distrust their patients.

In an April column, I argued that the Obama administration's anti-diversion recommendations would limit access to pain treatment. More on pain treatment here.
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberty Loophole on: June 20, 2011, 11:52:20 AM
Is it just me, or are echos of the "argument" this pieces starts off with satirically found around here?

A Suicide Pact

Can the U.S. afford the Bill of Rights?

A. Barton Hinkle | June 17, 2011

Earlier this week the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published one of the more astounding documents of our age. It was written by Joaquin "the Hatchet" Zapata—a notorious enforcer for the Zetas drug cartel, which controls much of the cocaine trade across the border of southern Texas.

Resembling nothing so much as an army field manual for mules and midlevel traffickers, the "Instrucciones" on shipping cocaine include a lengthy section on what to do if captured by U.S. authorities. Going into great detail about the legal rights of criminal defendants in America, it advises couriers to clam up, ask for an attorney, claim irregularities in the search (the exclusionary rule won't allow tainted evidence in court), and so on.

Naturally, right-wingers have jumped on the story. "The pendulum has swung too far in the narcoterrorists' favor," intoned GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Michele Bachmann demanded that Democrats join Republicans in rolling back any "technicalities" that work in the drug lords' favor.

As usual, Sarah Palin went further than most: "The Constitution of this great country of ours that I love so much is not some kind of suicide deal," she said (misquoting the late Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson), "and that is why I am urging our Congress today to repeal back the Fourth"—i.e., to draw a blue line through the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Palin is right. If drug dealers are exploiting our freedoms, then we no longer can afford them. Right?

Ha! Only kidding. None of that really happened. (Had you there for a second though, right?)

As you may have guessed by now, the foregoing is a rather ham-fisted parable. There are no Instrucciones, and Republicans have not been waving them about as proof that America should repeal the Bill of Rights.

Yet we are hearing just that sort of argument—in nature, if not in degree—from progressives right now.
Several days ago Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesman for Al Qaeda, urged would-be jihadists to buy guns at gun shows: "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms," he said. "You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?"

Within a couple of femtoseconds, progressive America began quoting Gadahn as proof that the U.S. needs to close the gun-show loophole. "There may never be a better spokesman" for doing so than Gadahn, opined The Washington Post—echoed by ThinkProgress, the New York Daily News, the Brady Campaign, and countless others.

This has to qualify as the Mount Everest of non sequiturs. The "loophole," as it is called, refers to the fact that private citizens who are not licensed gun dealers can sell their guns without conducting background checks—not only at gun shows, but anywhere. There are some sound arguments for closing the gun-show loophole, and there are some sound arguments for not closing it, and anyone who has followed the debate is familiar with most of them.

There are also some stupid arguments on both sides. Contending that the loophole should be closed because it might redound to the benefit of terrorists has to be one of the stupidest. Many of those making it simply cite Gadahn's words alone as sufficient proof—as though it were intuitively obvious that any policy potentially useful to Al Qaeda must be repealed at once.

If so, then Congress will be very busy. Because the so-called loophole is not the only policy potentially useful to Al Qaeda. So are a great many others. Among them: habeas corpus, which the Supreme Court reaffirmed in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld; the Fourth Amendment and its various progeny, such as the unique-to-America exclusionary rule; Miranda guarantees; the FISA court, which (some say) hamstrings counterintelligence efforts; and so on.

Indeed, during the Bush years you heard a lot of talk along just such lines: Many conservatives argued with perfectly straight faces that the blood of a hundred-thousand innocent people would be on the hands of anyone who let constitutional scruples get in the way of hunting terrorists down. Dissenting in Boumediene v. Bush, for example, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia lamented that upholding the habeas rights of alleged enemy combatants "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Well. After the High Court struck down a Chicago gun-control law last year, The New York Times—which praised recognizing the habeas rights of suspected terrorists—condemned recognizing the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. The arguments in the Chicago ruling, it lamented, "were infuriatingly abstract, but the results will be all too real and bloody."

Constraints upon government meant to protect the innocent sometimes end up protecting the guilty as well. That is one of the prices we pay for our liberties, and in that regard Justice Jackson was wrong. In some ways, the Constitution is a suicide pact: We accept the dangers of liberty in return for not living in a police state.

Or at least that is how it is supposed to work. People tend to want to carve out exceptions, though. So while liberals and conservatives don't agree on much, they do agree on this: American lives are far too precious to squander in defense of any item of the Bill of Rights cherished by the other side.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 20, 2011, 11:47:27 AM
And hence we should not be concerned when an investigator mucks around in someone's life when there was no identifiable prerequisite act or probable cause because it does not end up in front of a judge? Somehow I suspect the founders would disagree. I'd feel better if all investigations did end up in front of a judge as that would establish a feedback loop that might dissuade inappropriate or unnecessary investigations. As I read these new rules, a lot of trees could fall in a lot of forests absolutely unheard.
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pal Review on: June 20, 2011, 11:41:36 AM
2nd post.

Peer Review and "Pal Review" in Climate Science

by Patrick J. Michaels

Publishing in the scientific literature is supposed to be tough. Submit a manuscript to a reputable journal and it will go through "peer review," where your equals criticize your work, send their comments to a journal editor and then the editor will decide whether to accept your submission, reject it outright, or something in between.

In order to limit any bias caused by personal or philosophical animosity, the editor should remove your name from the paper and send it to other experts who have no apparent conflict of interest in reviewing your work. You and the reviewers should not know who each other are. This is called a "double blind" peer review.

Well, this is "the way it is supposed to be." But in the intellectually inbred, filthy-rich world of climate science, where billions of dollars of government research money support trillions of dollars of government policy, peer review has become anything but that.

Patrick Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of Climate Coup: Global Warming's Invasion of our Government and our Lives.

More by Patrick J. Michaels
There is simply no "double blindness." For reasons that remain mysterious, all the major climate journals leave the authors' names on the manuscripts sent out for review.

Economists, psychologists and historians of science all tell us (and I am inclined to believe them) that we act within our rational self-interest. Removing the double-blind restriction in such an environment is an invitation for science abuse.

What about if my professional advancement is dependent upon climate change monies (which applies to just about every academic or government climatologist)? I'm liable to really like a paper that says this is a horrible and important problem, and likely to rail against an author who says it's probably a bit overblown. May God have mercy on any manuscript that mentions the rather large elephant in the room, which is that we probably can't do much about it anyway.

Such "confirmation bias" has been noted and studied for years, but the response of science in general — and atmospheric science in particular — has only been to make things worse.

Peer review has become "pal review." Send a paper to one of the very many journals published by the American Geophysical Union — the world's largest publisher of academic climate science — and you can suggest five reviewers. The editor doesn't have to take your advice, but he's more likely to if you bought him dinner at the last AGU meeting, isn't he? That is, of course, unless journal editors are somehow different than government officials, congressmen, or you.

Or, if you get wind that someone is about to publish something threatening your gravy train, maybe you can cajole the editor to keep it out of print for a year while you prepare a counter-manuscript.

That's what the "Climategate" gang did with the International Journal of Climatology when University of Rochester's David Douglass submitted a paper. His work showed that a large warming at high altitudes in the tropics — one of the major ways in which the enhanced greenhouse effect is supposed to change the climate — isn't happening. For the gory details, click here. The story on this one is still unfolding as the journal has declined to publish a sequel to the counter-manuscript.

Or you could simply ignore manuscripts sent to you that find problems with temperature histories.

But there has to be a gold standard somewhere, right? Perhaps the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)?

Dream on. If you are a member of the National Academy, you can submit four manuscripts a year, called "contributed papers" as long as you do the "peer review" yourself! That's right: you send your manuscript to two of your friends, and then mail your paper along with their comments. Again, pal review.

The PNAS editor then rubber-stamps the results. In fact, the editor probably goes through quite a few rubber stamps a year, given that only 15 of the 800-odd contributed papers submitted in the last year were rejected. For comparative purposes, Nature would have accepted only about 50 out of that number.

A recent paper submitted to PNAS by National Academy member Richard Lindzen was afforded special treatment. The editor insisted that it be held to a different standard of review because of its "political implications." Lindzen's research found that carbon dioxide warming is likely to be much lower than what is being calculated by current climate models.

So what about the legion of alarmist papers from NASA firebrand James Hansen that PNAS publishes via pal review? Don't they have "political implications" too? In the mind of our National Academy, apparently some political implications are more equal than others.

There's a lot of confirmation bias working in Hansen's favor, because it's back to the back of the plane for ham-and-egger climate scientists if Lindzen is right. That's where the "political implications" get personal.

There's a lot more to this story. Lindzen eventually published his paper — which actually benefited from a real review — in an obscure journal. But the next time you think that peer review is unbiased, think of confirmation bias, pal review and Climategate, and try to figure a way out of the mess that climate science has gotten itself into.
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Can't Defend the Indefensible" on: June 20, 2011, 11:39:37 AM
White House’s Daley seeks balance in outreach meeting with manufacturers

By Peter Wallsten and and Jia Lynn Yang, Published: June 16

It was supposed to be the White House’s latest make-nice session with corporate America — a visit by Chief of Staff William M. Daley to a meeting with hundreds of manufacturing executives in town to press lawmakers for looser regulations.

But the outreach soon turned into a rare public dressing down of the president’s policies with his highest-ranking aide.

One by one, exasperated executives stood to air their grievances on environmental regulations and stalled free-trade deals. And Daley, the former banker tasked with building ties with industry, found himself looking for the right balance between empathy and defending his boss.

At one point, the room erupted in applause when Massachusetts manufacturing executive Doug Starrett, his voice shaking with emotion, accused the administration of blocking construction on one of his facilities to protect fish, saying government “throws sand into the gears of progress.”

Daley said he did not have many good answers, appearing to throw up his hands in frustration at what he called “bureaucratic stuff that’s hard to defend.”

“Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible,” he said.

The exchange suggests the limits of the elaborate courtship of corporations begun by President Obama and his top aides after Democrats’ big losses in the 2010 elections — an effort that has taken on new urgency in recent weeks.

Top aides have been reaching out to business leaders as Obama’s reelection campaign seeks to expand its network of potential new donors and fundraisers. And the White House has hoped that a closer alliance with businesses would help spur job growth.

Even as the White House pledges more receptivity to corporate concerns, business continues to spar with the administration on numerous fronts.

Wall Street is lobbying to undo many of the new regulations signed into law last year. Manufacturers say environmental policies are hindering growth. And, in a high-profile case that tests the administration’s allegiances, aerospace giant Boeing is warring with labor regulators over its decision to open a plant in South Carolina, which is hostile to unions.

In his speech and during a question-and-answer session Thursday, Daley laid out the administration’s efforts to help business, promoting Obama’s support for changing the corporate tax structure and for new free trade agreements.

He pointed to the administration’s effort, led by regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, to identify hundreds of rules that could be costing businesses money and time.

When a paper company executive said Environmental Protection Agency regulations might cost her $10 million to $15 million to upgrade a mill, Daley said the number of rules and regulations “that come out of agencies is overwhelming.”

Later, he added: “We’re trying to bring some rationality to it.”

Daley’s appearance before Thursday’s meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers was an unusual public appearance for Obama’s relatively new chief of staff. He invited the executives to offer candid views and extended the question-and-answer session, at one point joking, “I’ll probably regret saying that.”

He acknowledged the touchy political calculation the White House faces as Obama tries to promote his economic record on the campaign trail while being sensitive to the reality that many Americans are struggling. This month, the White House was thrown a political curveball with a surprisingly glum jobs report in which the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent, giving several of Obama’s potential GOP rivals an opening to attack his leadership.

“You can’t sound Pollyannaish,” Daley told the business leaders. “I believe this economy of ours is better than the perception right now.”

Daley offered blunt assessments on key issues of interest to executives in the room.

On the status of free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, he suggested politics was proving to be a challenge. He said there are “people who lose from these agreements” and urged businesses to lobby their workers to help overcome opposition on Capitol Hill.

“No politician loses an election because they voted against trade,” he said.

On lowering the corporate tax rate, a top goal of business groups, Daley said again, “there are winners and losers.” He warned that some small businesses might face a tax increase.

Mary Andringa, head of NAM, described the meeting as “constructive” and was “quite pleased” that Daley devoted more than an hour to the group’s concerns.

But some business executives in the room said they were unimpressed by the White House’s attempts to woo industry.

“We think there’s a thin facade by the administration to say the right things, but they don’t come close to doing things,” said Barney T. Bishop III, chief executive of the business group Associated Industries of Florida. He called the efforts to streamline regulations “immaterial.”

“We love the platitudes, but we want to see action,” Bishop said.

White House officials described Thursday’s encounter as part of a work in progress. Spokesman Eric Schultz described the meeting as a “frank and open conversation . . . about steps we can take to drive private-sector job growth.”

Daley said afterward that he’s sympathetic to the gripes he heard. “This is a practical world you’ve got to live in,” he said. “These people run businesses.”
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 20, 2011, 11:31:30 AM
The biggest problem in law enforcement, more often than not is the lack of quality leadership. The system tends to reward bureaucracy and risk aversion and lose sight of what the agency is supposed to be doing, like enforcing the law. If you have a remedy, I'd like to hear it.

Not my area of expertise so I do not have a remedy beyond not handing the foxes the keys to the chicken coops.
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Adapt or Panic? on: June 20, 2011, 11:29:50 AM
The Paradox of Urban (and Global) Warming

by Patrick J. Michaels

Ah, summer in our cities, where the climate is woebegone and the temperature is almost always above normal.

Cities tend to get warmer, whether or not there is global or regional warming. Bricks, buildings and pavement absorb more heat during the day than a "natural" vegetated state, and urban structures impede the flow of ventilating winds. The result is that, as cities grow, temperatures rise. In Washington, there is additional warming caused by the waste heat from all the money changing hands.

The official (and silly) definition of "normal" temperature is the average for the past 30 years. In a growing urban environment (which includes suburban sprawl) that number is likely to be lower than what it is now.

Patrick Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of Climate Coup: Global Warming's Invasion of our Government and our Lives.

As a result, cities are inadvertently testing a dear hypothesis of my greener friends: that global warming will result in increasing heat-related mortality.

Those who have read Freakonomics can see this hanging curveball. Global warming should reduce urban mortality as heat waves become more frequent.

I've done a bit of work in this area. Robert Davis, a former colleague at the University of Virginia, and I examined three decades of heat-related mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control for the 28 largest U.S. cities. We then teamed up with a UVa medical statistician, Wendy Novicoff, who made sure we adjusted for different demographics between cities; we did this because the elderly and infants are most susceptible to heat-related mortality, and we wanted to compare disproportionately old cities (like Phoenix) with disproportionally young ones (like Seattle). After all was said and done, we found that heat-related mortality is dropping like a stone in almost every major urban area in the nation.

Before you go to the "comments" and blast me with the European heat wave of 2003 or the Chicago disaster in 1995, read on.

The 2003 heat wave in Europe was devastating. In France alone, and very dependent on the way you count things, it appears there were about 35,000 excess deaths. That heat wave was a lulu, with European temperatures about three standard deviations above the average, something that has a 1-in-333 chance of occurring averaged over your state or province. Given that there are a lot of places of similar size on the planet, such an anomaly can usually be found somewhere. In 2003, that somewhere just happened to be at the epicenter of global warming angst.

Then there was the great French heat wave of 2006.

Whoops. Don't know about that one? Climatically, it was pretty comparable, but far fewer French fried.

A. Fouillet and his team of researchers wrote this up in a 2008 paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology. They started off with a simple (i.e. logical and testable) model relating temperature to mortality and found that something in addition to the heat killed a lot of people in 2003. While their model predicted about 17 deaths per 100,000, the observed rate was 21 per 100,000, or about nearly 7,000 bodies.

(There's plenty of speculation on the cause, with fingers pointed at France's August recess, when everyone — including health care workers — takes to the beach or the hills and leaves the old folks at the non-airconditioned home)

In 2006, their model showed nearly 4,500 fewer deaths than expected.

What the French did was (begrudgingly) emulate urban Americans. They adapted. The government bought air conditioning (formerly a crass Yankee invention) for retirement homes. They implemented a National Heat Wave Plan that keeps tabs on the elderly, who were left to swelter in 2003. They set up cooling shelters for those without A/C.

And, of course, adaptation is what's happening in our cities. Perhaps the most politically incorrect thing an urban administration can do is to be caught flatfooted by the weather. Chicago's Daley dynasty was (temporarily) swept away by a 1979 snowstorm when it selectively canceled rail service in southside black neighborhoods. And who can forget Washington's colorful mayor Marion Barry, cavorting at the 1987 Super Bowl during back-to-back storms. White stuff set him up.

Want proof of our adaptation to heat? Two extremely hot cities, Tampa and Phoenix, have virtually no heat-related mortality, despite sporting the oldest populations in our study. In only one city is mortality increasing. That would be young and vibrant Seattle, where summer heat is still very rare.

I am sure many consider it immoral to export heat-related mortality to the North, but that won't last for long. Seattle's latitude is about 48 degrees north. The vast majority of our hemisphere's cities are south of there, and by the time you get to 60 degrees, not very far away, you tend to run out of cities. At that point, global warming will have squeezed urban heat-related mortality off of the map.
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: June 17, 2011, 07:11:48 AM
Around the gun blogosphere folks are starting to ask just what the BATFE's end game was. It seems highly unlikely that letting any number of guns slip over the border would impact the arrest and prosecution of narco-terrorists--already got tons of drugs and bodies stacked like cord wood to prosecute--so various pundits are trying to backward engineer just what the goal was. The answer various people are arriving at is that the BATFE's upper management sought to provide their superiors with strong arguments for imposing draconian gun laws by demonstrating a problem flow of weapons, a flow they initiated. It's been funny watching the Dems involved in various hearings this week as they seem to be singing off that exact talking point.

One such example of blogosphere ruminations:

BATFE Report
In the airport, but I did want to comment on the Congressional report on the BATFE Gunwalker scandal. This from the Washington Examiner:

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House committee, the report focuses on the efforts of four BATF agents who brought direct knowledge of the program:

“ATF agents have shared chilling accounts of being ordered to stand down as criminals in Arizona walked away with guns headed for Mexican drug cartels,” Issa said. “With the clinical precision of a lab experiment, the Justice Department kept records of weapons they let walk and the crime scenes where they next appeared. To agents’ shock, preventing loss of life was not the primary concern.”

Among the report's highlights, according to an Issa spokesman, are these:

* The supervisor of Operation Fast and Furious was “jovial, if not, not giddy but just delighted about” walked guns showing up at crime scenes in Mexico according to an ATF agent. (p. 37)

* Another ATF agent told the committee about a prediction he made a year ago that “someone was going to die” and that the gunwalking operation would be the subject of a Congressional investigation. (p. 24)

* The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords created a “state of panic” within the group conducting the operation as they initially feared a “walked” gun might have been used. (p. 38)

* One Operation Fast and Furious Agent: “I cannot see anyone who has one iota of concern for human life being okay with this …” (p. 27)

* An ATF agent predicted to committee investigators that more deaths will occur as a result of Operation Fast and Furious. (p.39)

* Multiple agents told the committee that continued assertions by Department of Justice Officials that guns were not knowingly “walked” and that DOJ tried to stop their transport to Mexico are clearly untruthful. (p. 45-50).

Here's the link to the whole report over at the No Lawyers Only Guns & Money blog.

Here's my quick take...reiterating what I said on the podcast this AM:

1) The ONLY way Fast & Furious makes sense is as a direct attack on the Second Amendment. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all. The idea of "rolling up" a firearms trafficking ring is nonsense. If that had been the intent, it would have been a joint operation with the Mexican government. It wasn' fact, ATF went to some length to keep the Mexicans in the dark.

2) The idea of getting a gunrunning indictment against any of the cartel heads is equal nonsense. A gunrunning indictment? Against men that are, in effect, men with standing death warrants on their heads, mass murderers with their own private armies? Wow, they'd be shaking in their boots!

3) Fast & Furious worked exactly as the ATF and the people holding its strings -- the Department of Justice and probably Homeland -- planned for it to work. That is, it put demonstrably made-in-America, sold-in-America guns at Mexican crime scenes, waiting for the largely inept, totally corrupt Mexican law enforcement to find them, submit them to the US for tracing and shout loudly that they had found the literal "smoking gun," that American gun shops/shows were flooding Mexico with arms. That's why supervisors were "jovial, if not giddy" when the first Gunwalker guns began turning up at Mexican crime was working!

4) I think ATF believed it had enough regulatory juice to keep the gun stores involved from talking, or if not keeping them from talking demonizing them, and maybe driving them out of business, if they did.

It's hardly a secret that I don't think much of the failed narco-state of Mexico, a country of peasants that has allowed a series of blowhard morons turn their country in something resembling one of the rings of hell. But one thing that strikes me as horrific, and breaks my heart, is how easily, how casually, a group of men in suits, in air conditioned offices in Arizona,, in Texas, and, ultimately, in Washington D.C., sanctioned the inevitable deaths of brown people in another country.

Collateral Brian Terry.

229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / War Powers Plays on: June 17, 2011, 07:04:30 AM
The Growing Conflict Over the Legality of the Libya Intervention
from The Volokh Conspiracy by Ilya Somin
(Ilya Somin)

A bipartisan group of ten members of the House of Representatives recently filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the US military action in Libya. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner has sent a letter to the president stating that the Obama Administration will be in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act unless they get congressional authorization by June 19.

It is unlikely that Kucinich’s lawsuit will prevail in the courts. Judges will probably throw it out because it raises a “political question” or on other procedural grounds, such as standing. Nonetheless, I think Kucinich and his allies are right on the merits. The Libya intervention has long since passed the point where it is large enough to be considered a war. And only Congress has the power to declare war under the Constitution. Therefore, the war is unconstitutional unless and until the president gets congressional authorization. This is true regardless of whether or not the judiciary issues a ruling on the subject. Congress and the President have an independent duty to obey the Constitution even when the courts do not force them to do so. Then-Senator Barack Obama got it right back in 2007, when he wrote that “[t]he President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” I discussed the relevant constitutional issues in more detail here, here, and here. This is one of the rare issues where Dennis Kucinich and I agree.

Boehner’s War Powers Act argument raises a different set of issues. The Act requires the president to get congressional authorization for any deployment of military forces in “hostilities” abroad within 90 days of the start of the conflict. It’s pretty obvious that the Libya intervention involves the kind of “hostilities” covered by the Act, and that the administration will therefore be in violation of the Act if it doesn’t get congressional authorization soon. The Administration argues that the War Powers Act does not apply because “U.S. operations [in Libya] do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces.” This argument is barely worthy of response. US warplanes have been bombing Libyan forces for weeks, and the Libyan troops have returned fire (even if ineffectively). This state of affairs sure looks like “sustained fighting” and “active exchanges of fire” to me.

However, there is a longstanding dispute over the constitutionality over the War Powers Act itself. Numerous presidents, legal scholars, and even members of Congress have long argued that it usurps the constitutional prerogatives of the executive. The latter include Speaker Boehner himself, who previously questioned the Act’s constitutionality and even voted for its repeal. In my view, the Act is constitutional because it exercises Congress’ Article I power to “make rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” This authority includes the power to regulate the time and place of the armed forces’ deployment. But there are serious arguments on the other side of this dispute as well. Be that as it may, the Libya intervention is illegal regardless of the legal status of the War Powers Act. Even in the absence of that law, the president still could not start a war without congressional authorization.

Legal questions aside, the growing willingness of Congress to challenge Obama over Libya illustrates the political dangers of waging war without congressional approval. If anything goes wrong, the president ends up taking all the political blame. That’s why most presidents have in fact sought congressional authorization for major military actions, whether or not they believed it to be legally necessary. President Obama can reduce his political exposure if he now gets congressional support or if he quickly brings the conflict to a successful conclusion. If he does neither, his political problems are likely to get worse. Boehner’s new-found willingness to challenge Obama on this issue could be a sign of things to come.

UPDATE: The full text of the Administration’s report to Congress defending the Libya intervention is available here. While the report makes a reasonable policy argument for the administration’s actions, the legal argument (pg. 25) is extremely weak. In addition to the point analyzed above, the report emphasizes that the majority of air strikes are now being flown by European planes, rather than American ones. However, it acknowledges that US forces are still launching airstrikes for “the suppression of enemy air defense and occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs against a specific set of targets.” That sure sounds like armed “hostilities” and “sustained fighting” to me.

UPDATE #2: The full text of Boehner’s letter to the president is available here [HT: commenter David W.].
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 17, 2011, 06:54:07 AM
I didn't miss the sentence. The FBI bureaucracy uses the FBI guidelines to impede the investigations of the "brick agents" that do the actual work. The guidelines do not change any legal restrictions the FBI operates under, just internal policy and procedure.

I see, and so your response to poor job performance is less accountability. Seems we attended different schools of employee management. Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding; is your argument that the FBI's management is so lacking that brick and mortar agents should be left essentially unsupervised? Either way it would seem there's a big problem, one that had better be addressed rather than ignored.
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Slippery Skeptical Slopes on: June 17, 2011, 06:42:21 AM
Interesting. Luke warmist Judith Curry has been slapped around by the warmist high priests for having an open mind, examining all evidence, dealing in data rather than demonization, and so hence has been accused of tangential relationships with big oil amongst all the standard panic monger tactics. As such when another warmist took to criticizing the IPCC/Greenpeace backscratch, Curry wrote the following, which includes warning on what he can expect:

An opening mind
Posted on June 15, 2011 by curryja| 306 Comments
by Judith Curry

I suspect that many readers of this blog have already seen Steve McIntyre’s post “IPCC and the Greenpeace Karaoke” that identified Greenpeace as the source of a key recommendation on renewable energy in the recently released IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation.

Such IPCC transgressions are becoming sufficiently regular that they barely seem like news anymore.  The reaction of Mark Lynas to McIntyre’s analysis, however, is indeed news IMO.

Mark Lynas

From his Wikipedia bio:

Mark Lynas (is a British author, journalist and environmental activist who focuses on climate change. He is a contributor to New Statesman,  Ecologist, Granta and Geographical magazines, and The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK; he also worked on the film The Age of Stupid. He holds a degree in history and politics from the University of Edinburgh.

In 2004, Lynas’ High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis was published by Macmillan Publishers.  He has also contributed to a book entitled Fragile Earth: Views of a Changing World,  which presents before-and-after images of some of the natural changes which have happened to the world in recent years, including the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, alongside a bleak look at the effects of mankind’s actions on the planet.

In January 2007 Lynas published Gem Carbon Counter,[3] containing instruction to calculate people’s personal carbon emissions and recommendations about how to reduce their impact on the atmosphere.

In 2007 he published Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, a book detailing the progressive effect of global warming in several planetary ecosystems, from 1 degree to 6 degrees and further of average temperature rise of the planet. Special coverage is given to the positive feedback mechanisms that could dramatically accelerate the climate change, possibly putting the climate on a runaway path. As a possible end scenario the release of methane hydrate from the bottom of the oceans could replicate the end-Permian extinction event.

In 2008 National Geographic released a documentary film based on Lynas’s book, entitled Six Degrees Could Change the World.

So far, Lynas reflects stellar “warm” credentials.  Circa 2010, things started to change.

In 2010, Lynas published an article in the New Statesman entitled “Why we Greens Keep Getting it Wrong”[4] and the same year was the main contributor to a UKChannel 4 Television programme called “What the Green Movement Got Wrong.”[5] In these he took a line similar to other right wing critics of environmentalism such as Patrick Moore, Bjorn Lomborg and Richard D. North, explaining that he now felt that several of his previous strongly held beliefs were wrong. For example, he suggested that opposition by environmentalists, such as himself, to the development of nuclear energy had speeded up climate change, that proscription of DDT had led to millions of deaths and that GM crops were necessary to ‘feed the world’.

This latter position was attacked as patronising and naive by some developing world commentators, including one featured in a Channel Four debate after the programme aired. A number of experts also criticised Lynas’s factual errors in contributing to the film. British environmentalist George Monbiot wrote in theGuardian that ‘Brand and Lynas present themselves as heretics. But their convenient fictions chime with the thinking of the new establishment: corporations, thinktanks, neoliberal politicians. The true heretics are those who remind us that neither social nor environmental progress are possible unless power is confronted.’

Reaction to McIntyre’s essay

Lynas has a blog, whose current post is entitled “New IPCC error: renewables report conclusion was dictated by Greenpeace.”  Some excerpts:

That release of the full report happened yesterday. And a close reading of it shows that the IPCC has made an error much more serious than the so-called Himalayagate and associated non-scandals last year – it has allowed its headline conclusion to be dictated by a campaigning NGO. Moreover, the error was spotted initially by none other than Steve McIntyre, who has been a thorn in the side of the IPCC and climate science generally for a long time. Yet this time McIntyre has got it right.

So what to conclude? My view is that the IPCC renewables report has told us nothing – except that Greenpeace thinks we can solve the climate change problem entirely with renewable energy, which of course we already knew. But whilst I still hold the hard-science Working Group 1 of the IPCC in very high regard, I have lost a lot of confidence in Working Group 3. That it allowed its headline conclusion to be dictated by a campaigning NGO is an extraordinary failure, and one which cannot simply be forgotten.

The IPCC must urgently review its policies for hiring lead authors – and I would have thought that not only should biased ‘grey literature’ be rejected, but campaigners from NGOs should not be allowed to join the lead author group and thereby review their own work. There is even a commercial conflict of interest here given that the renewables industry stands to be the main beneficiary of any change in government policies based on the IPCC report’s conclusions. Had it been an oil industry intervention which led the IPCC to a particular conclusion, Greenpeace et al would have course have been screaming blue murder.

One last thing: McIntyre points out that the Greenpace propaganda report which has regrettably destroyed the credibility of the IPCC’s effort on renewables contains a preface – written by none other than R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC itself. I have great respect for Dr Pachauri, as for the IPCC as an institution. I only wish he – and it – would be more careful.

The comments are even more interesting.  Some of the Climate Etc. Denizens and other skeptics showed up to comment on Lynas’ blog, presumably steered there by BishopHill.  Bob Ward also showed up to criticize Lynas.  In the comments, Lynas recommends nofrakkingconsensus.  Barry Woods recommends that he read Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion and Climate Etc.(!)   Lynas responds:

I haven’t read the Hockey Stick Illusion, but I will if you send me a free copy! Same with Judith Curry – I have seen her being vilified, but I haven’t gone deeply into it.

I posted a link to my latest attribution post, Lynas replied:

Thanks Judith – it’s a long post, but I’ll have a go!

Another of Lynas’ comments:

Hmm, yes, I sort of agree with you. In principle, anyone can call anyone else they disagree with a ‘denier’ and shut down the argument, like you say. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the term, though I have used it admittedly. I did side with Mike Mann on the Hockey Stick thing, without personally having the expertise to really go in and check the argument about statistical methodology. But I have to admit that McIntyre is right about this, and that I and others should have spotted the problem earlier. There should be no campaigners or anyone else with a vested interest on the ‘lead author’ team for any IPCC publication – ever.

Keith Kloor, Andy Revkin and Bishop Hill have posted reactions to Lynas’ post.

JC’s message to Mark Lynas

I’ve been engaging with skeptics since 2006 (before starting Climate Etc., I engaged mainly at ClimateAudit).  People were suspicious and wondered what I was up to, but the vilification didn’t start until I recommended that people read The Hockey Stick Illusion.  The book itself, plus more significantly my vilification simply for recommending that people read the book, has pushed me over the ledge and into a mode of aggressively challenging the IPCC consensus.  That you are willing at this point to read the book speaks volumes to me.  It is my sad conclusion that opening your mind on this subject sends you down the slippery slope of challenging many aspects of the IPCC consensus.

Shortly after I started Climate Etc., I received this email message from a colleague:

A few years ago, I started interacting with a skeptic who somehow passed through my “ignore skeptics” filter.  He has an engineering degree and is quite knowledgable.  My rationale that “all skeptics are troglodytes” has been tattered, and my view of the climate debate has  irreversibly changed.

Opening your mind on this subject is a slippery slope into listening to what skeptics have to say.  Sure there are alot of crazies out there, but there is some very serious skepticism at ClimateAudit and other technical skeptic and lukewarmer blogs.  I look forward to a growing climate heretics club, where people that generally support the IPCC consensus (either currently or in the past) dare to question aspects of it.

I predict that your actually reading the Hockey Stick Illusion and mentioning it on your blog will get you removed from RealClimate’s blogroll.
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / False Positives Ignored on: June 15, 2011, 02:41:33 PM
The Brady Bunch regularly crows over the number of firearm sales disallowed due to background checks, but forgets to mention just about all those denials are made in error:

The Problem with Brady Background Checks: Virtually all of those denied purchasing a gun are false positives

There are several things to understand about how the Brady Law background check process works. At gun stores or other registered dealers, would-be buyers have to fill out a form asking whether there are any criminal convictions or types of mental illness that would prevent them from legally purchasing the weapon. Falsely answering these questions amounts to perjury. If people answer the question by saying that they have a background that prohibits them from buying, a gun dealers stop right there and do not even process those forms. And if people are believed to have knowingly provided false information on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) form and prosecutors think that they can prove that knowingly false information was provided, the would-be buyer faces prosecution.

Yet, the NICS system accidentally flags many law-abiding people, stopping those who simply have the same name as a prohibited individual from buying a gun.

Some may remember the five times the late Senator Ted Kennedy was placed on a “no fly list.” If someone is flagged by the NICS system, it is because it appears that they didn’t put down something in their background that disqualified them from buying a gun. Yet, an initial denial does not mean that the individual is actually disqualified from owning a gun. Take the numbers for 2009, the latest year with data available. There were 71,010 initial denials. Of those, only 4,681, or 6.6 percent, were referred to the BATF for further investigation. As a report on these denials by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates, “The remaining denials (66,329 – 93%) did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned after review by Brady Operations or after the FBI received additional information.” To put it differently, the initial review didn’t find that these individuals had a record that prevented them from buying a gun.

Still that isn’t the end of the story. Of these 4,681 referrals, over 51 percent, or 2,390 cases, involve “delayed denials,” cases where a check hasn’t even been completed. Of the rest, 2,291 covered cases where initial reviews indicated that the person should have been denied buying a gun. But the government admits that upon further review another 572 of these referrals were found “not [to be] a prohibited person,” leaving about 4,154 cases. That implies an initial false positive rate of roughly 94.2%. And it still doesn’t mean that the government hasn’t made a mistake on the remaining cases. In some cases for example, a person’s criminal record was supposed to be expunged, and it had not been?

Up until this point, no discretion about the merits of the case has entered the picture. If a review of the records indicates that someone is a prohibited individual, they are included. But of these 4,154 cases, only 140 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns being referred to prosecutors, just 60 of which involved providing false information when buying a firearm. Of those 140 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to bring a case only 77 times.

Prosecution may be declined either because further investigation revealed that the person wasn’t prohibited from owning a gun, because false information hadn’t knowingly been provided, or prosecutors didn’t believe that the cases “merited” prosecution. But if someone is indeed prohibited from owning a gun and they left that information off their NICS form, it is relatively easy for authorities to prove they knowingly concealed that information. The most frequently claimed reasons that people failed the background checks are: “restraining orders, domestic violence misdemeanors, non-immigrant aliens, violent felonies, warrants, and indictments.” How hard is it for prosecutors to prove that someone hadn’t accidentally forgotten that they had a conviction for a violent felony or they had a restraining order?

While prosecutors tend to go forward with their strongest cases, those prosecuted are often not found guilty. By the end of 2010, prosecutors had only 32 convictions or pleas agreements, and only 13 of those involved falsified information when buying a gun or illegal possession of a gun, that translates into just 0.018% of the 71,010 initial denials.

So we have two estimates of the false positive rate: 94.2% or 99.98%. The first estimate is obviously too low, it assumes that all the cases identified up to that point are accurate. The second estimate is obviously too high, it only counts as prohibited individuals those who have been proven so beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  These numbers are just one of the reason that no study by criminologists or economists has found that the Federal Brady Law has reduced national crime rates.

Of course, being falsely labeled as being ineligible to own a gun isn’t the only cost imposed on law-abiding Americans. Even those who aren’t prevented from buying a gun face delays in getting approved. Eight percent of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks are “not resolved immediately.” Two-thirds of those checks take up to 3 business days, and the rest take even longer, though these further delays can’t stop one from obtaining a gun at that point.
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 15, 2011, 02:36:58 PM
Well the only thing absent there is the absence of allegations, so your point is?

Guess you missed this sentence, too:

The defense argues that nothing Moussaoui said after his arrest would have made any difference to the FBI because its bureaucratic intransigence rendered it incapable of reacting swiftly to Moussaoui’s arrest under any circumstances.

Just how would the ability to investigate anyone at any time without a prerequisite act combat the rank buffoonery quoted above?
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gotta Kill 'em to Save 'em on: June 15, 2011, 02:33:17 PM
4th post:

Goklany, I.M. 2011. Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 16: 9-13.
Partly to reduce the perceived impacts of global warming, which are expected to strike developing nations the hardest, the United States and the European Union are subsidizing and mandating production and use of biofuels in order to displace fossil fuels (Jordan et al., 2007; Searchinger et al.,2008; Robertson et al., 2008; Tyner, 2008). However, these policies have been questioned on the grounds whether (a) biofuels actually reduce net energy consumption from non-renewable sources (Patzek and Pimentel, 2005a, 2005b; Wang, 2005; Wesseler, 2007;) and net greenhouse gas emissions (Searchinger et al., 2008; Scharlemann and Laurance, 2008; Fargione et al., 2008; Hertel et al., 2020) and (b) their environmental consequences for land, water, and wildlife resources are positive (Robertson et al., 2008; Scharlemann and Laurance, 2008; Service, 2009; Fargione et al., 2009). In addition, several analyses indicate that increased production of biofuels has contributed to higher food prices, which, in turn, has increased hunger and poverty in developing countries (Pimentel and Patzek, 2006; FAO, 2008, 2009; Godfray et al., 2010; De Hoyos and Medvedev, 2009; World Bank, 2009). Since hunger and poverty are major contributors to death and disease around the world (WHO, 2002, 2009), Goklany (2011) argues that the artificially induced increase in biofuel demand would add to the global burden of death and disease. He then sets out to estimate order-of-magnitude increases in death and disease due to increased biofuel production.
The methodology used by Goklany (2011) is as follows:
1.   Obtain estimates of the increase in the current headcount for absolute poverty in the developing world due to increased biofuel production.
2.   Develop the relationships (or "coefficients of proportionality") between the poverty headcount on the one hand, and the global burden of death and disease attributable to "diseases of poverty" on the other hand. The headcount and the burdens of death and disease should be for the same time period.
3.   Apply the coefficients developed in step 2 to the increase in poverty from step 1 to estimate the increases in death and disease from the increase in biofuel production.
Step 1. Based on a search of the existing literature, Goklany identified only two studies-De Hoyos and Medvedev (2009) and Cororaton et al. (2010)-that provided estimates of increases in poverty induced by greater biofuel production in both rural and urban populations for a large segment of the developing world's population, while also accounting for adjustments by consumers, producers, economies and governments to reduce hunger and poverty. Both analyses covered 90% of the developing world's population. Both indicate that higher biofuel production increases global poverty, even after first order adjustments have been made.
Both studies used the same suite of World Bank models to estimate the effects of additional biofuel production on the poverty headcount. Both estimated the increases in poverty headcounts as the difference in poverty levels between pairs of scenarios, with one scenario assuming a higher level of biofuel production and the other being a baseline scenario with a lower biofuel production level.
Cororaton et al.'s baseline scenario assumed growth in global biofuel production from 2004 through 2020. Thus, they underestimate the contribution of total biofuel production to the poverty headcount. De Hoyos and Medvedev's baseline scenario assumed that biofuel production at the actual 2004 level. They calculated the increase in poverty over the baseline scenario for a scenario in which biofuel production increased after 2004 along its historical path through 2007, and then increased further through 2010 in response to then-existing biofuel mandates and production trends. Therefore, this latter study should give a more accurate estimate of the increase in poverty due to biofuel subsidies and mandates, although it too would be an underestimate since it assumes 2004 production levels as part of the baseline. Despite the latter shortcoming, Goklany used the De Hoyos and Medvedev estimate, after adjusting it upward to account for the incomplete coverage of the world's population. Based on this, Goklany estimated that the poverty headcount increased by 36 million people in 2010 due to an increase in biofuel production over the 2004 level.
Step 2. In order to estimate the coefficients of proportionality between the poverty headcount, and death and disease in developing countries due to poverty-dominated diseases, Goklany used estimates of (a) cumulative burden of deaths and disease from poverty-dominated health risks from the World Health Organization (2009) analysis of global health risks for 2004, and (b) the World Bank's poverty headcount for that year (Chen and Ravallion, 2007) adjusted to be consistent with the more recent World Bank (2009) data and estimation methodology (Chen and Ravallion, 2008).
In order to identify diseases of poverty, Goklany calculated for each risk factor, the ratio of its burden of disease per capita for low-income countries compared to that of lower-middle-income countries. In order to develop a conservative (lower bound) estimate for the effect of biofuel production on death and disease, it was assumed that if the ratio exceeded 5, then the risk factor was poverty dominated. Six risk factors met this criterion: global warming; underweight (largely synonymous with chronic hunger); zinc deficiency; Vitamin A deficiency; unsafe sex; and unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. These six factors accounted for 7.7 million deaths and 268 million lost DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) worldwide for 2004. Of these, more than 99.3% of the deaths and lost DALYs were in developing countries.
Using a less restrictive criterion for the ratio of 2 would have added four more risk factors to the above list, namely: unmet contraceptive needs, indoor smoke from solid fuels, sub-optimal breast feeding and iron deficiency. Many consider these to be poverty-related (Brundtland, 2003). Including these in the list would increase their cumulative toll of poverty-dominated risks in 2004 to 11.3 million deaths and 384 million lost DALYs. However, to err on the side of conservatism, the more restrictive definition of "poverty-dominated" was used.
Regarding the poverty headcount in 2004, Goklany re-estimated the World Bank's headcount estimates for 2004 so that it was consistent with the data and methods used by De Hoyos and Medvedev (2009), which are also consistent with World Bank (2009), to estimate the increase in headcount due to additional biofuel production. Based on this, the 2004 headcount was estimated at 1,454 million. Thus, assuming proportionality between mortality and lost DALYs from poverty and the headcount, there are 5,270 deaths and 183,000 lost DALYs per million people living in absolute poverty in developing countries.
Step 3. Combining the estimates derived in Steps 1 and 2, Goklany (2011) estimated that the increase in the poverty headcount due to higher biofuel production between 2010 and 2004 implies 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010 alone.
Other Conclusions. 1.   Biofuel policies are retarding humanity's age-old battle against poverty. 2.   Since according to the World Health Organization's latest estimates, 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs in 2004 could be attributed to global warming (WHO 2009), biofuel policies may currently be deadlier than global warming, especially since the inertia of the climate system means little or no reduction in these numbers from any slowing of global warming due to any increase in biofuel production from 2004 to 2010.
Additional References
Brundtland, G.H. (2003). Statement by the Director-General, 111th session of the Executive Board. Geneva: WHO, 2003. Available at: Accessed Dec 11, 2010.
Chen, S, and Ravallion, M. (2007). Poverty and hunger special feature: absolute poverty measures for the developing world, 1981-2004. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 16757-16762.
Chen, S, and Ravallion, M. (2008). China is poorer than we thought, but no less successful in the fight against poverty. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4621. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Cororaton, C.B., Timilsina, G., and Mevel, S. 2010. Impacts of Large Scale Expansion of Biofuels on Global Poverty and Income Distribution. IATRC Public Trade Policy Research and Analysis Symposium, Global Warming in World Agriculture: Mitigation, Adaptation, Trade and Food Security, Universit�t Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, June 27 -29, 2010.
De Hoyos, R.E., and Medvedev, D. (2009). Poverty effects of higher food prices: a global perspective. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 4887. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Fargione, J., Hill, J., Tilman, D., Polasky, S., and Hawthorne, P. (2008). Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt. Science 319: 1235-1238.
Fargione, J.E, Cooper, T.R., Flaspohler, D.J., et al. (2009). Bioenergy and wildlife: threats and opportunities for grassland conservation. BioScience 59: 767-777.
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). (2008). State of Food Insecurity 2008. Rome: FAO.
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). (2009). State of Food Insecurity 2009. Rome: FAO.
Godfray, H.C.J., Beddington, J.R., Crute, I.R., et al. (2010). Food Security: The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327: 812-818.
Goklany, I.M. (1999). Meeting global food needs: environmental trade-offs between Increasing land conversion and land productivity. Technology 6: 107-130.
Goklany, I.M. (2009) Is climate change the "defining challenge of our age"? Energy & Environment 20: 279-302.
Hertel, T.W., Golub, A.A., Jones, A.D., et al. (2010). Effects of US maize ethanol on global land use and greenhouse gas emissions: estimating market-mediated responses. BioScience 60: 223-231.
Jordan, N., Boody, G., Broussard, W., et al. (2007). Environment: sustainable development of the agricultural bio-economy. Science 316: 1570-1571.
Patzek, T.W., and Pimentel, D. (2005). Thermodynamics of energy production from biomass. Crit Rev Plant Sciences 24: 329-364.
Pimentel, D., and Patzek, T. (2006). Green plants, fossil fuels, and now biofuels. BioScience 56: 875.
Pimentel, D., and Patzek, T.W. (2005). Ethanol production using corn, switchgrass, and wood; biodiesel production using soybean and sunflower. Natural Resources Res 14: 65-76.
Robertson, G.P., Dale, V.H., Doering, O.C., et al. (2008). Agriculture: sustainable biofuels redux. Science 322: 49-50.
Scharlemann, J.P.W., and Laurance, W.F. (2008). How green are biofuels? Science 319: 43-44.
Searchinger, T., Heimlich, R., Houghton, R.A., et al. (2008). Use of US croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land use change. Science 319: 1238 -1240.
Service, R.F. (2009). Another biofuels drawback: the demand for irrigation. Science 326: 516 -517.
Tyner, W.E., (2008). The US ethanol and biofuels boom: Its origins, current status, and future prospects. BioScience 58: 646-653.
Wang, M. (2005). A comparison between the new Pimentel/Patzek study and other studies. Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory; 2005: Available at: Accessed Dec 11, 2010.
Wesseler, J. (2007). Opportunities (costs) matter: a comment on Pimentel and Patzek ethanol production using corn, switchgrass, and wood; biodiesel production using soybean and sunflower. Energy Policy 35: 1414 -1416.
World Bank. (2009). Global Economic Prospects 2009. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2002). The World Health Report 2002- Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life. Geneva: WHO.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2009). Global Health Risks: Mortality and Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risks. Geneva: WHO.
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Most Patriotic Thing He Can Do on: June 15, 2011, 02:27:31 PM
Well said:

236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Criminalizing Everyone Online on: June 15, 2011, 02:14:00 PM
Case on Criminalizing Violations of Computer Use Policies
Orin Kerr • June 14, 2011 2:21 am

A petition for rehearing was recently filed in United States v. Nosal, the Ninth Circuit decision holding that an employee who violates his employer’s computer use policy is guilty of “exceeding authorized access” to the employer’s computer. I have posted a copy here. I hope the Ninth Circuit grants rehearing, as I think the Nosal case is both wrong on the law and deeply troubling for civil liberties in the Internet age.

Overstatement? I don’t think so. It seems to me that if the federal government can arrest you and throw you in jail for violating a computer use policy — any computer use policy — then the government can arrest pretty much anyone who uses a computer. Most people who use computers routinely violate computer use policies: While we understand that such policies may have force from the standpoint of breach of contract, no one thinks that breaching a computer use policy is the same as hacking into the computer. The Nosal case would change that. Under its reasoning, breaching a written policy is treated the same way as hacking. And as computers become more and more ubiquitous, the power to arrest anyone who routinely uses a computer is the power to arrest anyone.

It’s true that the Nosal appeal happens to involve a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(4), which requires more than just unauthorized access to a computer. But as the petition for rehearing notes, the unauthorized access “trigger” is common to several crimes in Section 1030(a), and other sections of 1030(a) don’t require much if anything beyond unauthorized access. The most obvious concern is 1030(a)(2), which makes it a crime to have any unauthorized access to anything on the planet with a microchip so long as some information is either seen or collected. For now it’s usually just a misdemeanor crime, so each breach of a policy would only mean you spend up to a year of your life in federal prison, but note that (1) Congress may make that crime a felony soon and (2) even the misdemeanors can be sentenced conseccutively (remember that DOJ wanted Lori Drew to be sentenced to a three year prison term for her three misdemeanor convictions of violating three MySpace terms of service).

You might think that as long as you avoid the Ninth Circuit, you’re probably okay. But that won’t help much: Lots of Internet communications go through the Ninth Circuit, meaning that the Ninth Circuit has venue over much of the rest of the country to prosecute computer use policy breaches elsewhere. Again, remember the Lori Drew case. Everything in the case happened in Missouri, and the Missouri state and federal authorities declined to prosecute because they thought no crime was committed, but the case was charged in Los Angeles because that’s where MySpace’s servers (and some extremely aggressive prosecutors) were located. It probably won’t help to move to Canada, either: Section 1030 covers all computers in the world that can be reached under the Constitution, even computers outside the United States, so the computer use policy breach doesn’t even need to be in the US for the feds to prosecute.

Given the stakes, I hope the Ninth Circuit will grant rehearing, revisit the panel decision, and come out the other way. Stay tuned.
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oopsy on: June 15, 2011, 02:10:38 PM
Electric cars may not be so green after all, says British study
Ben Webster From: The Times June 10, 2011 3:23PM 15 comments

A Jaguar electric car goes on show at a preview event for the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found.

An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes.

The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars.

The Committee on Climate Change, the UK government watchdog, has called for the number of electric cars on Britain's roads to increase from a few hundred now to 1.7 million by 2020.

Britain's Department for Transport is spending $66 million over the next year giving up to 8,600 buyers of electric cars a grant of $7700 towards the purchase price. Ministers are considering extending the scheme.

The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which is jointly funded by the British government and the car industry. It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed.

Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed.

Greg Archer, director of Low CVP, said the industry should state the full lifecycle emissions of cars rather than just tailpipe emissions, to avoid misleading consumers. He said that drivers wanting to minimise emissions could be better off buying a small, efficient petrol or diesel car. “People have to match the technology to their particular needs,” he said.

The Times
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 15, 2011, 02:01:39 PM
In the absence of allegations, better yet. What could go wrong with that?
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Panic Mongers Eat Their Own Tail on: June 15, 2011, 01:59:29 PM
3rd post:

IPCC WG3 and the Greenpeace Karaoke

On May 9, 2011, the IPCC announced:

Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

In accompanying interviews, IPCC officials said that the obstacles were not scientific or technological, but merely a matter of political will.

Little of the increase was due to ‘traditional’ renewables (hydro and ‘traditional’ biomass, mostly dung), but to solar, wind and non-traditional biomass.

I, for one, was keenly interested in how IPCC got to its potential 80%. Unfortunately, in keeping with execrable IPCC practices, the supporting documents for the Renewables Study were not made available at the time of the original announcement. (Only the Summary for Policy-makers was made available at the time.) This showed one worrying aspect of the announcement. The report was based on 164 ‘scenarios’ and the ‘up to 80%” scenario in the lead sentence of their press release was not representative of their scenarios, but the absolute top end. This sort of press release is not permitted in mining promotions and it remains a mystery to me why it is tolerated in academic press releases or press releases by international institutions.

The underlying report was scheduled for release on June 14 and was released today on schedule. Naturally, I was interested in the provenance of the 80% scenario and in determining precisely what due diligence had been carried out by IPCC to determine the realism of this scenario prior to endorsing it in their press release. I hoped against hope that it would be something more than an IPCC cover version of a Greenpeace study but was disappointed.

The scenarios are in chapter 10 of the Report. authors of the chapter are as follows (mainly German):

CLAs -Manfred Fischedick (Germany) and Roberto Schaeffer (Brazil). Lead Authors: Akintayo Adedoyin (Botswana), Makoto Akai (Japan), Thomas Bruckner (Germany), Leon Clarke (USA), Volker Krey (Austria/Germany), Ilkka Savolainen (Finland), Sven Teske (Germany), Diana Ürge‐Vorsatz (Hungary), Raymond Wright (Jamaica).

The 164 scenarios are referenced to a just-published and paywalled article by two of the Lead Authors (Krey and Clarke, 2011, Climate Policy). Update – Since this article has been relied upon in an IPCC report, it is liberated here.

Chapter 10 isolated four scenarios for more detailed reporting, one of which can be identified with the scenario featured in the IPCC press release. The identification is on the basis of Table 10.3 which shows 77% renewables in 2050 for the ER-2010 scenatio attributed to Teske et al., 2010. (Teske being another Chapter 10 Lead Author. This scenario is described as follows:

Low demand (e.g., due to a significant increase in energy efficiency) is combined with high RE deployment, no employment of CCS and a global nuclear phase-out by 2045 in the third mitigation scenario, Advanced Energy [R]evolution 2010 (Teske et al., 2010) (henceforth ER-2010).

Teske et al 2010 – online here – is cited as follows:

Teske, S., T[homas] Pregger, S[onja] Simon, T[obias] Naegler, W[ina] Graus, and C[hristine] Lins (2010). Energy [R]evolution 2010—a sustainable world energy outlook. Energy Efficiency, doi:10.1007/s12053-010-9098-y.

Someone interested in how the world

However, googling the title led me first to a different article with the almost the same
title ‘energy [ r]evolution:A SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL ENERGY OUTLOOK’ online here. This version is a joint publication of Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, self-described as the ‘umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry’. the title page shows:

project manager & lead author – Sven Teske
EREC Oliver Schäfer, Arthouros Zervos,
Greenpeace International – Sven Teske, Jan Béranek, Stephanie Tunmore
research & co-authors
DLR, Institute of Technical Thermodynamics, Department of Systems Analysis and
Technology Assessment, Stuttgart, Germany: Dr. Wolfram Krewitt, Dr. Sonja Simon, Dr. Thomas Pregger.
DLR, Institute of Vehicle Concepts, Stuttgart, Germany: Dr. Stephan Schmid
Ecofys BV, Utrecht, The Netherlands: Wina Graus, Eliane Blomen.

The preface to the Greenpeace report is by one R.K. Pachauri, who stated:

This edition of Energy [R]evolution Scenarios provides a detailed analysis of the
energy efficiency potential and choices in the transport sector. The material presented in this publication provides a useful basis for considering specific policies and developments that would be of value not only to the world but for different countries as they attempt to meet the global challenge confronting them. The work carried out in
the following pages is comprehensive and rigorous, and even those who may not agree with the analysis presented would, perhaps, benefit from a deep study of the underlying assumptions that are linked with specific energy scenarios for the future.
Dr. R. K. Pachauri

Returning now to the original lead to the IPCC Press Release on renewables:

Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

The basis for this claim is a Greenpeace scenario. The Lead Author of the IPCC assessment of the Greenpeace scenario was the same Greenpeace employee who had prepared the Greenpeace scenarios, the introduction to which was written by IPCC chair Pachauri.

The public and policy-makers are starving for independent and authoritative analysis of precisely how much weight can be placed on renewables in the energy future. It expects more from IPCC WG3 than a karaoke version of Greenpeace scenario.

It is totally unacceptable that IPCC should have had a Greenpeace employee as a Lead Author of the critical Chapter 10, that the Greenpeace employee, as an IPCC Lead Author, should (like Michael Mann and Keith Briffa in comparable situations) have been responsible for assessing his own work and that, with such inadequate and non-independent ‘due diligence’, IPCC should have featured the Greenpeace scenario in its press release on renewables.

Everyone in IPCC WG3 should be terminated and, if the institution is to continue, it should be re-structured from scratch.
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Inconvenient Solar Inactivity on: June 15, 2011, 01:53:56 PM
2nd post. Those in the catastrophic warmosphere are trying to wrap their heads around the fact that the current solar minimum may lead to dramatic cooling. JPL explains the possibilities below. Note how the predictions are qualified, a prudent habit warmists ought to emulate:

NASA JPL on New Insights on How Solar Minimums Affect Earth
Posted on June 14, 2011 by Anthony Watts

The Sun today, quiet, small spots - click for more

This is the first of what I’m sure will be a series of solar stories related to the stunning (at least to people who have not been following WUWT since 2008) announcement that it appears sunspots are on the wane, and we may be headed to an extended Maunder type minimum.
See: BREAKING – major AAS solar announcement: Sun’s Fading Spots Signal Big Drop in Solar Activity

From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab website:

Since 1611, humans have recorded the comings and goings of black spots on the sun. The number of these sunspots waxes and wanes over approximately an 11-year cycle — more sunspots generally mean more activity and eruptions on the sun and vice versa. The number of sunspots can change from cycle to cycle, and 2008 saw the longest and weakest solar minimum since scientists have been monitoring the sun with space-based instruments.

Observations have shown, however, that magnetic effects on Earth due to the sun, effects that cause the aurora to appear, did not go down in synch with the cycle of low magnetism on the sun. Now, a paper in Annales Geophysicae that appeared on May 16, 2011 reports that these effects on Earth did in fact reach a minimum — indeed they attained their lowest levels of the century — but some eight months later. The scientists believe that factors in the speed of the solar wind, and the strength and direction of the magnetic fields embedded within it, helped produce this anomalous low.

“Historically, the solar minimum is defined by sunspot number,” says space weather scientist Bruce Tsurutani at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who is first author on the paper. “Based on that, 2008 was identified as the period of solar minimum. But the geomagnetic effects on Earth reached their minimum quite some time later, in 2009. So we decided to look at what caused the geomagnetic minimum.”

Small magnetometers like these measure magnetic strength on Earth and in the atmosphere to determine how much of the sun's magnetic energy has been transferred to Earth's magnetosphere. In 2009, that energy reached record lows. Images credit: Glassmeier, et al.

Geomagnetic effects basically amount to any magnetic changes on Earth due to the sun, and they’re measured by magnetometer readings on the surface of the Earth. Such effects are usually harmless, with the only obvious sign of their presence being the appearance of auroras near the poles. However, in extreme cases, they can cause power grid failures on Earth or induce dangerous currents in long pipelines, so it is valuable to know how the geomagnetic effects vary with the sun.

Three things help determine how much energy from the sun is transferred to Earth’s magnetosphere from the solar wind: the speed of the solar wind, the strength of the magnetic field outside Earth’s bounds (known as the interplanetary magnetic field) and which direction it is pointing, since a large southward component is necessary to connect successfully to Earth’s magnetosphere and transfer energy. The team — which also included Walter Gonzalez and Ezequiel Echer of the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research in São José dos Campos, Brazil — examined each component in turn.

First, the researchers noted that in 2008 and 2009, the interplanetary magnetic field was the lowest it had been in the history of the space age. This was an obvious contribution to the geomagnetic minimum. But since the geomagnetic effects didn’t drop in 2008, it could not be the only factor.

To examine the speed of the solar wind, they turned to NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), which is in interplanetary space outside the Earth’s magnetosphere, approximately 1 million miles toward the sun. The ACE data showed that the speed of the solar wind stayed high during the sunspot minimum. Only later did it begin a steady decline, correlating to the timing of the decline in geomagnetic effects.

The next step was to understand what caused this decrease. The team found a culprit in something called coronal holes. Coronal holes are darker, colder areas within the sun’s outer atmosphere. Fast solar wind shoots out the center of coronal holes at speeds up to 500 miles per second, but wind flowing out of the sides slows down as it expands into space.
“Usually, at solar minimum, the coronal holes are at the sun’s poles,” says Giuliana de Toma, a solar scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research whose research on this topic helped provide insight for this paper. “Therefore, Earth receives wind from only the edges of these holes, and it’s not very fast. But in 2007 and 2008, the coronal holes were not confined to the poles as normal.”

The magnetic fields from the center of coronal holes in the sun's atmosphere have large fluctuations known as Alfvén waves, while those from the sides have smaller fluctuations. The side fields do not transfer energy as well from the sun to Earth's magnetosphere. Image credit: NASA/Park

Those coronal holes lingered at low latitudes to the end of 2008. Consequently, the center of the holes stayed firmly pointed towards Earth, sending fast solar wind in Earth’s direction. Only as they finally appeared closer to the poles in 2009 did the speed of the solar wind at Earth begin to slow down. And, of course, the geomagnetic effects and sightings of the aurora along with it.

Coronal holes seem to be responsible for minimizing the southward direction of the interplanetary magnetic field as well. The solar wind’s magnetic fields oscillate on the journey from the sun to Earth. These fluctuations are known as Alfvén waves. The wind coming out of the centers of the coronal holes has large fluctuations, meaning that the southward magnetic component – like that in all the directions — is fairly large. The wind that comes from the edges, however, has smaller fluctuations, and comparably smaller southward components. So, once again, coronal holes at lower latitudes would have a better chance of connecting with Earth’s magnetosphere and causing geomagnetic effects, while mid-latitude holes would be less effective.

Working together, these three factors — low interplanetary magnetic field strength, combined with slower solar wind speed and smaller magnetic fluctuations due to coronal hole placement — create the perfect environment for a geomagnetic minimum.

Knowing what situations cause and suppress intense geomagnetic activity on Earth is a step toward better predicting when such events might happen. To do so well, Tsurutani points out, requires focusing on the tight connection between such effects and the complex physics of the sun. “It’s important to understand all of these features better,” he says. “To understand what causes low interplanetary magnetic fields and what causes coronal holes in general. This is all part of the solar cycle. And all part of what causes effects on Earth.”

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / We Don't Need No Stinking Warrants on: June 15, 2011, 01:47:37 PM
FBI’s New Guidelines Further Loosen Constraints on Monitoring

Posted by Julian Sanchez

The New York Times‘s Charlie Savage reports that the FBI is preparing to release a new Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), further relaxing the rules governing the Bureau’s investigation of Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

This comes just three years after the last major revision of FBI manual, which empowered agents to employ a broad range of investigative techniques in exploratory “assessments” of citizens or domestic groups, even in the absence of allegations or evidence of wrongdoing, which are needed to open an “investigation.” The FBI assured Congress that it would conduct intensive training, and test agents to ensure that they understood the limits of the new authority—but the Inspector General found irregularities suggestive of widespread cheating on those tests.

Agents can already do quite a bit even without opening an “assessment”: They can consult the government’s own massive (and ever-growing) databases, or search the public Internet for “open source” intelligence. If, however, they want to start digging through state and local law enforcement records, or plumb the vast quantities of information held by commercial data aggregators like LexisNexis or Acxiom, they currently do have to open an assessment. Again, that doesn’t mean they’ve got to have evidence—or even an allegation—that their target is doing anything illegal, but it does mean they’ve got to create a paper trail and identify a legitimate purpose for their inquiries. That’s not much of a limitation, to be sure, but it does provide a strong deterrent to casual misuse of those databases for personal reasons. That paper trail means an agent who might be tempted to use government resources for personal ends—to check up on an ex or a new neighbor—has good reason to think twice.

Removing that check means there will be a lot more digging around in databases without any formal record of why. Even though most of those searches will be legitimate, that makes the abuses more likely to get lost in the crowd. Indeed, a series of reports by the Inspector General’s Office finding “widespread and serious misuse” of National Security Letters, noted that lax recordkeeping made it extremely difficult to accurately gauge the seriousness of the abuses or their true extent—and, of course, to hold the responsible parties accountable. Moreover, the most recent of those reports strongly suggests that agents engaged in illegal use of so-called “exigent letters” resisted the introduction of new records systems precisely because they knew (or at least suspected) their methods weren’t quite kosher.

The new rules will also permit agents to rifle through a person’s garbage when conducting an “assessment” of someone they’d like to recruit as an informant or mole. The reason, according to the Times, is that “they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others.” Not keen into being dragooned into FBI service? Hope you don’t have anything embarrassing in your dumpster! Physical surveillance squads can only be assigned to a target once, for a limited time, in the course of an assessment under the current rules—that limit, too, falls by the wayside in the revised DIOG.

The Bureau characterizes the latest round of changes as “tweaks” to the most recent revisions. That probably understates the significance of some of the changes, but one reason it’s worrying to see another bundle of revisions so soon after the last overhaul is precisely that it’s awfully easy to slip a big aggregate change under the radar by breaking it up into a series of “tweaks.”

We’ve seen such a move already with respect to National Security Letters, which enable access to a wide array of sensitive financial, phone, and Internet records without a court order—as long as the information is deemed relevant to an “authorized investigation.” When Congress massively expanded the scope of these tools under the USA Patriot Act, legislators understood that to mean full investigations, which must be based on “specific facts” suggesting that a crime is being committed or that a threat to national security exists. Just two years later, the Attorney General’s guidelines were quietly changed to permit the use of NSLs during “preliminary” investigations, which need not meet that standard. Soon, more than half of the NSLs issued each year were used for such preliminary inquiries (though they aren’t available for mere “assessments”… yet).

The FBI, of course, prefers to emphasize all the restrictions that remain in place. We’ll probably have to wait a year or two to see which of those get “tweaked” away next.’s-new-guidelines-further-loosen-constraints-on-monitoring/
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Those Who can't Do Form an Advisory Board on: June 15, 2011, 01:45:49 PM
Editorial: Obama's Job-Killing Jobs Council
Posted 06/13/2011 06:41 PM ET

Economy: President Obama says he's 100% focused these days on creating jobs. So why is he taking advice from a bunch of CEOs whose companies have been shedding jobs for years?

In February, Obama chartered the Jobs and Competitiveness Council with a mission of leaving "no stone unturned" in the search of ways to boost the country's anemic job growth. But you could tell from the start that this council would have trouble even finding those stones, let alone turning them over.

After all, Obama stuffed the group full of Fortune 500 CEOs — General Electric, American Express, DuPont, Time Warner, Eastman Kodak and Xerox, among them. While these may be good companies, they've hardly been roaring engines of job growth. In most cases, in fact, the opposite is true. Some examples:

• GE's domestic workforce shrank by 25,000 — almost 16% — between 2001 and 2010, according to the company's annual reports. (The number of overseas GE jobs climbed over those years.)

• AmEx employed 28% fewer workers in 2010 than it did a decade ago.

• Kodak's workforce cratered to just 18,800 last year from 75,000 in 2001.

• Xerox's employee base shrank by nearly a third between 2001 and 2009, before it acquired Affiliated Computer Services and its 74,000 workers in 2010.

• Even Intel has trimmed the number of workers it employs over the past decade.

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Beyond this, the board is made up of the heads of two big unions, an energy company, a railroad, an airline, a couple investment firms, and the like.

Just one business represented on the board — Facebook — is a genuine growth company. And the council is all but devoid of the kind of small- and midsize firms responsible for two-thirds of the nation's new jobs.

It's little wonder, then, that the list of immediate must-do, job-creating ideas the council came up with — and outlined in a Monday op-ed signed by GE's Jeff Immelt and AmEx's Ken Chenault — is so uninspiring.

More money to retrain workers? More tax dollars retrofitting commercial buildings to boost energy efficiency? More government loans passed out by the Small Business Administration? That's the best the council could come up with after almost four months' work?

At least the board did give a nod to job-choking red tape, calling on the administration to streamline permitting processes. But what about the three job-creating free-trade agreements Obama has locked up in his desk drawer? How about an immediate cut in corporate and capital gains taxes? Or for that matter any of the many other job creation ideas we detailed in this space last week?
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How Best to Crash and Burn? on: June 15, 2011, 01:41:45 PM
Entitlement Overstretch
This great country has reached such a point of fiscal insanity that we may need a monumental crisis to save it.

In the late 1980s, Prof. Paul Kennedy of Yale achieved academic celebrity with his bestseller, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. In it, he wrote that the United States was likely to collapse because of a phenomenon he called “imperial overstretch.” As Kennedy saw it, the approximately 6 percent of GDP the United States spent on maintaining its military and meeting other global commitments was too great a burden. It was only a matter of time until our ambitious agenda would push us into decline and eventual collapse. This thesis, as it applied to the United States, was simple, beautiful, and spectacularly wrong.

Kennedy’s overstretch theory was not, however, without merit. Hindsight makes clear that much of what Kennedy wrote provides a valid description of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Furthermore, while Kennedy misjudged America’s ability to sustain its military commitments, if he had looked deeper into our national balance sheet, he would have seen the true danger: entitlement overstretch. What the historian failed to see — because there was no historical precedent for him to analyze — was the dangers brought on by the rise of the entitlement state. The 6 percent of GDP spent on national security that so concerned Kennedy is dwarfed by projected entitlement expenditures that are far beyond America’s ability to pay.

There is a basic law of economics: What can’t happen won’t happen. As it is impossible for a $14 trillion economy to pay $60 trillion or more of unfunded liabilities, it won’t happen. Even after raising taxes to crippling levels and sucking every other revenue source dry, the United States will still face tens of trillions of dollars of expected payments it cannot meet. That being the case, only one question remains: What form will the nation’s default take?

The first option is a default in expectations. Unfunded liabilities are not yet debt, as the money has not been spent. The government is therefore free to change its implicit contract with the citizenry. In other words, it can renege on its promises with regard to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This requires a huge amount of political courage and a willingness to pay a severe price at the ballot box. As neither side of the political divide has shown any inclination toward taking the draconian measures that restoring fiscal sanity requires, there is little reason for optimism along this path.

The second option is the historical favorite of countries that find themselves in a fiscal crisis: debasing the currency. Because the dollar is the key global reserve currency and is viewed by many — irrationally, of late — as a secure store of value, the United States is able to issue all its debts denominated in dollars. Therefore, by pressing a few computer keys, the Federal Reserve can create $60 trillion in an instant. Of course, the Fed would be much cleverer about it and spread its money creation over a number of years or even decades. No matter how the debasement is done, though, the results are easy to foresee. Inflation on a scale that could see us envying Weimar Germany’s fiscal propriety would wreck the U.S. economy as the nation’s wealth and savings were destroyed. Unfortunately, this option always seems the most appealing to policymakers, as it is easy and apparently painless. Well, it is painless — right up until the cataclysm, the onset of which no doubt will be as sudden as the crisis of 2008. We must all hope that our elected officials are wise enough not to go down this road. Of course, betting on the wisdom of politicians is more often than not a fool’s wager.

The final option is to keep going as we are, making cosmetic changes of the type we have seen recently. This head-in-the-sand option will work just fine, until the calamity can no longer be postponed. In this scenario, the government runs up taxes until the economy falters while continuing to issue debt until it can no longer afford even the interest payments. This, for worse or worse, is the road we are heading down. Make no mistake about it: The final outcome will be crushing. Entitlement overstretch will cause the collapse of the national economy and end America’s global dominance.

But only for a time.

Modern nations do not just disappear. After a default, the United States will still have a productive population, a sound economic base, and, most important, a clean balance sheet. If we are lucky, our chastened politicians, given all these advantages and a clean slate, will then undertake only those commitments the economy can afford. If so, there is reason for optimism that, after the harrowing experience of default, the United States will roar back stronger than before. Conversely, if politicians prove incapable of mending their ways, then the country will join the list of serial defaulters and begin an inevitable and ugly decline.

It is a sad state of affairs when one has to pin the long-term hopes of this great nation on a crisis so monumental that one has to count on the “day after” to return reason to the nation’s fiscal policy. But at a time when proposals to cut a mere 1 percent from the budget can bring vested interests to the barricades, there appears little hope that policy sanity can be restored in any conditions short of a fiscal implosion.

Rumor has it that Professor Kennedy is now updating his seminal work for a new edition. One must hope that, this time around, he puts his finger on the true crisis undermining America.

— Jim Lacey is professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps War College. He is the author of the recently released The First Clash and Keep from All Thoughtful Men. The opinions in this article are entirely his own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense or any of its members.
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Attribution Issues on: June 15, 2011, 01:28:17 PM
Lengthy piece that looks at the underlying assumptions of the latest IPCC report. Serious holes are poked in its various assumptions.
245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reconstruction Deconstruction on: June 03, 2011, 11:29:32 AM
For those tracking these sorts of tempests and tea pots, the University of VA is currently fighting a FOIA request for hockey stick peddler Michael Mann's emails, while George Mason University just released skeptic Ed Wegman's emails without any fuss. An amusing deconstruction follows:

Mann’s Hockey Stick, Climategate, and FOI – in a nutshell
Posted on June 2, 2011 by Anthony Watts

On the Climate Audit thread, The Vergano FOI Request the irascible Nick Stokes provokes another commenter “mpaul”, to lay out all the history in a simple summary that even Nick might understand. I thought it was worth repeating here for readers who have not followed the twists and turns in detail, and also in the hope that Dr. Michael Mann might read it and get a clue. Obstruction doesn’t pay.

From this Climate Audit comment:


Posted May 30, 2011 at 1:16 PM | Permalink

Nick writes:

But I don’t think snooping through people’s private emails is a dignified activity.

Nick, I’ll turn the sarcasm off for a moment. I agree with you on this point. I have been an advocate for Cuccinelli CID process. Say what you will about Cuccinelli’s motives, but the American justice system provides protections for the accused and standards of procedure that do not exist in the court of public opinion.

We have arrived at this point in history along the following path:

(1) Steve wanted to replicate MBH98 and asked for data. Mann initially complied, but then began to obstruct.

(2) Steve successfully obtained the needed data and demonstrated serious flaws in Mann’s approach.

(3) Mann defended his work by saying that other Hockey Stick reconstructions validated his method and his conclusions.

(4) Attention turned to replicating the other reconstructions. By now, the Team had become extremely defensive and a sort of bunker mentality took over. Years of obstruction followed.

(5) Those seeking the data and methods used in the HS reconstructions became more and more aggressive, eventually turning to FOIA as a tool to pry loose the information.

(6) Then “a miracle happened’. A file containing materials and emails requested under FOIA turned up on the internet. Most everyone would agree that the contents of the emails warranted an investigation. The only investigation that specifically looked into Mann’s conduct was undertaken by Penn State. Penn State cleared Mann noting that Mann stated:

(a) he had never falsified any data, nor had he had ever manipulated data to serve a given predetermined outcome;
(b) he never used inappropriate influence in reviewing papers by other scientists who disagreed with the conclusions of his science;
(c) he never deleted emails at the behest of any other scientist, specifically including Dr. Phil Jones, and that he never withheld data with the intention of obstructing science; and
(d) he never engaged in activities or behaviors that were inconsistent with accepted academic practices.

(7) Critics have charged that the Penn State investigation was inadequate. Michael Mann has subsequently stated that he did, in fact, participate in an orchestrated effort to delete emails covered under FOIA, raising questions about the veracity of statements he made to the Penn State investigators. Penn State seems untroubled by this.

A real, independent investigation, subject to rules of evidence and judicial procedures, is needed. Such an investigation is the only way to put and end to Climategate and is the only way to restore the tattered reputation of climate science. I think both Virginia and Pennsylvania should conduct an investigation. However, if UVa continues to obstruct the CID, then FOIA is the only option and Mann will be afforded no protection of his privacy.

Mann and UVa are playing a losing game. Its sheer folly to attempt to frustrate a State AG in a law enforcement investigation. Cuccinelli has nuclear weapons at his disposal and UVa has water pistols. If Cuccinelli loses the CID battle, he will simply file a lawsuit and obtain the materials through discovery. Or, if UVa really pisses him off, he will convene a Grand Jury. For Mann personally, this would be catastrophic. Mann and UVa should cooperate with the CID process.

It’s sad that we have arrived at this place. But at every juncture in this journey, Mann has chosen the wrong path.
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 03, 2011, 11:22:13 AM
Yup. Unconstitutionally, but my bet is it is vacuuming it all up nonetheless and likely using the rationale that they only look at the archived files if they have good reason to so American citizens should not be concerned if there every phone call, every identifiable location, every internet activity, every purchase, and so on is being collected, collated, and cross referenced by organs of the federal government.

George Orwell, Big Brother is holding your calls.
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What the Auto Bailout Bodes on: June 03, 2011, 11:17:25 AM
Whitewashing the Auto Bailouts

Posted by Daniel Ikenson

With his appearance at a Toledo factory today, President Obama seems to want to make the auto bailout a campaign issue. Let’s welcome that. Americans should understand what transpired.
Fancying himself “Savior of the Auto Industry,” the president deserves credit only for choosing to insulate two companies (and the UAW) from the consequences of their decisions. But with that credit he must accept responsibility for sluggish U.S. business investment, limited job creation, and the anemic economic recovery, which is due in no small measure to the regime uncertainty that descends from his intervention in the auto industry.

The administration suggests that the entire cost of the auto bailout is captured by the outlays that haven’t or won’t be returned. Despite much smaller claims from the administration, that figure will be about $5.5 billion in Chrysler’s case (the administration is overlooking $4 billion written off when New Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy), and somewhere from $7-$15 billion in GM’s case (depending on average share price for 500 million shares). Should that loss have to be reported to the FEC on a dollar-per-auto-worker-vote basis?
But the costs are much greater than these outlays.

The most compelling objections to the bailout were not rooted in the belief that the government couldn’t use its assumed power to help Chrysler and GM. On the contrary, the most compelling objections were over concerns that the government would do just that. It is the consequences of that intervention—the undermining of the rule of law, the confiscations, the politically driven decisions, and the distortion of market signals—that animated the most serious objections. Ford never publicly objected to the interventions to rescue its rivals. Do you think Ford may feel entitled to a future bailout if needed, having foregone the recent one? Does Ford think it has a pretty good insurance policy if it takes excessive risks that go awry?  This is a cost that’s tough to measure, but an important cost nonetheless.

Any verdict on the outcome of the auto industry intervention must take into account, among other things, the billions of dollars in property confiscated from the auto companies’ debt-holders; the higher risk premium built into U.S. corporate debt as a result; the costs of denying the other more successful auto producers the spoils of competition (including additional market share and access to the resources misallocated at Chrysler and GM); the costs of rewarding irresponsible actors, like the UAW, by insulating them from the outcomes of what should have been an apolitical bankruptcy proceeding; the effects of GM’s nationalization on production, investment, and public policy decisions; the diminution of U.S. moral authority to counsel foreign governments against market interventions that can adversely affect U.S. businesses competing abroad, and; the corrosive impact on America’s institutions of the illegal diversion of TARP funds to achieve politically desirable outcomes.

Let’s make the auto bailout a campaign issue and see if we can’t reconcile all of its costs.
248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 03, 2011, 11:16:25 AM
Again, I'm trying to get your criteria you'd use to judge any law enforcement policy's effectiveness.

If you deem the WOD a failure, please explain how the other "wars" are or are not a failure. Didn't Nixon also declare a war on cancer? We still have cancer, right?

Hmm, I think I understand. You are conceding the point that the WOD has failed by any rational standard, but it's a double secret concession, and now want to move on to a thesis that you won't state aloud 'cause it's silly, namely that a failed policy can't be abandoned despite it's failure unless it's failure is fully defined, not counting the trillion dollars, half million incarcerated, millions arrested, enriched enemies, damage done to our founding values, families ripped apart, law enforcement bribed and subverted and on and on and on.

You are sounding like others I won't bother naming; the contortions you have embraced to avoid speaking to the thesis under discussion speaks for itself.

BTW, there has been progress made in the war on cancer. Has there been progress made in the WOD, or does using the term "war" requires us to keep fighting wars we've lost by any rational standard?
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What the Auto Bailouts Bode on: June 03, 2011, 11:05:52 AM
Whitewashing the Auto Bailouts

Posted by Daniel Ikenson

With his appearance at a Toledo factory today, President Obama seems to want to make the auto bailout a campaign issue. Let’s welcome that. Americans should understand what transpired.
Fancying himself “Savior of the Auto Industry,” the president deserves credit only for choosing to insulate two companies (and the UAW) from the consequences of their decisions. But with that credit he must accept responsibility for sluggish U.S. business investment, limited job creation, and the anemic economic recovery, which is due in no small measure to the regime uncertainty that descends from his intervention in the auto industry.

The administration suggests that the entire cost of the auto bailout is captured by the outlays that haven’t or won’t be returned. Despite much smaller claims from the administration, that figure will be about $5.5 billion in Chrysler’s case (the administration is overlooking $4 billion written off when New Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy), and somewhere from $7-$15 billion in GM’s case (depending on average share price for 500 million shares). Should that loss have to be reported to the FEC on a dollar-per-auto-worker-vote basis?
But the costs are much greater than these outlays.

The most compelling objections to the bailout were not rooted in the belief that the government couldn’t use its assumed power to help Chrysler and GM. On the contrary, the most compelling objections were over concerns that the government would do just that. It is the consequences of that intervention—the undermining of the rule of law, the confiscations, the politically driven decisions, and the distortion of market signals—that animated the most serious objections. Ford never publicly objected to the interventions to rescue its rivals. Do you think Ford may feel entitled to a future bailout if needed, having foregone the recent one? Does Ford think it has a pretty good insurance policy if it takes excessive risks that go awry?  This is a cost that’s tough to measure, but an important cost nonetheless.

Any verdict on the outcome of the auto industry intervention must take into account, among other things, the billions of dollars in property confiscated from the auto companies’ debt-holders; the higher risk premium built into U.S. corporate debt as a result; the costs of denying the other more successful auto producers the spoils of competition (including additional market share and access to the resources misallocated at Chrysler and GM); the costs of rewarding irresponsible actors, like the UAW, by insulating them from the outcomes of what should have been an apolitical bankruptcy proceeding; the effects of GM’s nationalization on production, investment, and public policy decisions; the diminution of U.S. moral authority to counsel foreign governments against market interventions that can adversely affect U.S. businesses competing abroad, and; the corrosive impact on America’s institutions of the illegal diversion of TARP funds to achieve politically desirable outcomes.

Let’s make the auto bailout a campaign issue and see if we can’t reconcile all of its costs.
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: June 03, 2011, 08:48:40 AM
And so all those yottabytes or storage are for. . . ? And the two pieces I've posted that are starting to unravel this mystery should be dismissed for what reason?

Just so you can get an idea of the scale of the storage that I guess is being used to catalog chicken salad sandwich recipes or something:

How Big is a Yottabyte? [Infographic]

By Alex Williams / May 17, 2011 9:30 AM / 0 Comments
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This post is part of our ReadWriteWeb Solution Series, which explores specific technologies and industries that use virtualization for critical operations. We hope this expert analysis and discussion will inspire you in use new ways to use virtualization technology within your organization. This post is sponsored by VMware & IBM. For more, see: IBM Tivoli Manager: Overcoming the Challenges of Backing Up and Restoring Virtual Machines

This year it's become clear that data is scaling to such an degree that you have to change how you manage your desktop and your entire information architecture in order to not just manage your daily work but to succeed.

It's the core issue of our day, one that's that's a top priority when planning to adopt a virtualized infrastructure that allows for people to access apps from tablets and smartphones.

The first step is to get a perspective on the size of the data. This infographic shows what a yottabyte represents in comparison to other terms for units of measurement. It may seem far out to think in such terms but considering projected storage requirements, the concept doesn't seem so far fetched.

As I'm sure you know, when evaluating an opponent you have to assess his capabilities rather than his intentions. The capabilities of US intelligence collection agencies is truly jaw dropping; you think we should dismiss those capabilities as we attempt to provide oversight for them?
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