Super-Dooper Snoopers – Tea Party Nation

Super-Dooper Snoopers – Tea Party Nation.

By Alan Caruba

While in the U.S. Army in the early 60s, I worked in the G-2 (intelligence) office of my battalion. I was surely no James Bond, but I did need a security clearance and quickly was granted one to be around documents marked “secret.” There are now thousands waiting for their security clearances and 4.8 million who already have one!

When Edward Snowden, an analyst for a national security contractor, decided to tell the world that the National Security Agency was actually gathering meta-data about all of our communications (and the rest of the world’s), I was among those who were not surprised. Whole books had been written about this practice before and since 9/11. James Bamford had published “The Puzzle Palace” about the NSA way back in 1983!

The Justice Department has charged Snowden with conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information, and theft of government property. The charges, each of which carries a potential 10-year prison term, were filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va. Well, at least that beats a firing squad.

Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media thinks a lot of notable news media personalities have been duped. “Those who claimed NSA traitor Edward Snowden was a patriot or hero have egg all over their faces, as the former NSA contract worker has fled from China to Russia…” I am inclined to agree.

It is a fact of life in this year of our Lord 2013 that information about you is so available that there are few if any of your purchases and preferences that are not known to every company with whom you do business. Your local supermarket knows the brand of cereal or shampoo you prefer. This is called “open source” information and it is not only gathered, but sold to anyone who wants it.

The information you voluntarily or unwittingly give to those with whom you do business as well as the information may post daily on your Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In accounts is all accessible and accessed.

The NSA has long had powers to scoop up scads of information about communications by, to, and from Americans. Its roots go back to the earliest days of the Cold War. Until recently revelations, we thought that the information we provide to the Internal Revenue Service was closely guarded and never to be used for political purposes, but in the Age of Obama, that illusion has been shattered.

In a recent Business Week article, Ashlee Vance reported “Less recognized is that, in this era of open-source software, the NSA gets direct access to the inventions of thousands of the smartest computer science minds on the planet for free.”

“It started,” said Vance,”with the founding of Google in 1998. The search engine giant needed to collect and analyze so much data that it couldn’t afford to buy systems from big-name tech companies. Instead, Google created its own open-source software program that ran across hundreds of thousands of computers. Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter have been even more aggressive about open-sourcing their underlying infrastructure.”

NSA and, indeed, the President, could have put a lot of the consternation to rest by coming out early and explaining what it does and the limitations under which it works. While it is most certainly a very secretive agency, there is much that is common knowledge about its mission.

In the post 9/11 era with a massive Homeland Security Agency charged with keeping us safe, it is a good, if not essential, idea to have a public discussion about the role of the Fourth Amendment protection of our privacy. Even though the Founders had no idea of modern communications they still believed that our privacy must be respected. Meanwhile, we live in a world of enormous electronic connectivity that is subject to surveillance.

Moreover, there are those who believe all the surveillance we are learning about is just the tip of the iceberg. There is widespread speculation that the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and other agencies has been working on a massive consolidation of power in the White House, preparing for the deliberate collapse of the U.S. dollar, and the chaos that would follow.

On June 19, the president of the Associated Press, Gary Pruitt, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. saying that the DOJ seizure of journalist’s phone records has had “a chilling effect” on newsgathering, not just for the AP but other newsgathering organizations. He described the collection of records affecting more than a hundred journalists was an “overbroad and sloppy fishing expedition” that failed to follow procedures on notification. If the intent was to impact legitimate news gathering, it was successful.

We still trust that law enforcement must secure a warrant to tap our phones, but the information about with whom we speak is routinely gathered, as it must, by telephone companies. It can be a useful tool to determine patterns, especially if they are between Americans and foreigners with bad intentions.

Inherent in all this data-gathering is the potential for its misuse—and worse—but that is true of much of what government does. The need for congressional oversight was never more paramount, but it comes at a time when the Congress is held in low esteem and sharply divided.

The greater present concern must be that we have a White House engaged in a plan to render the Constitution useless with a manufactured crisis to deliberately impose an authoritarian control over all of us.

We now living in an Orwellian era of super-dooper snoopers

© Alan Caruba, 2013

 

Is the Obama Dam of Lies About to Burst? – Tea Party Nation

Is the Obama Dam of Lies About to Burst? – Tea Party Nation.

By Alan Caruba

Usually there are signs a dam is about to burst. Tiny cracks show up, the structure makes strange noises, and then, whoosh! That’s what we are witnessing as the President, the former Secretary of State, and the Attorney General struggle to keep the bulwark of lies and half-truths they have built intact. It is showing signs of collapse.

Liberals say absurd things all the time—mostly because they either don’t know the facts or because they prefer to ignore or obfuscate them. The current example is the shout-it-from-the-rooftops claim that Republicans are “politicizing” the events in Benghazi that left a U.S. ambassador and three security personnel dead.

In the wake of the House hearings on May 8th, the most elemental politics is at work within the White House and that is the decision to abandon Hillary Clinton. The decision to appoint her Secretary of State was political and, since the President sets foreign policy, it kept her wing of the party in the tent while affording the White House the opportunity to keep her conveniently on the road and largely out of the spotlight.

Name a single treaty or significant foreign policy achievement of Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nienta.

Consider the meltdown of influence the United States has had in the Middle East where the single act of a Tunisian peddler who committed suicide as a response to the harassment of the police set off a revolution that drove its dictator from office and then spread rapidly to Libya where Gaddafi was killed and to Egypt where its dictator (and ally of the U.S.) was driven from office with the President’s blessing. And, for two years, the U.S. has stood on the sidelines and watched as the Syrian dictator has slaughtered 70,000 Syrians, driving some 2.5 million to flee to Turkey and Jordan.

It has taken eight months since the September 11, 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate and a House committee hearing to learn the truth as to why repeated requests for increased security assets were denied in a nation that is still essentially a war zone between the north and the south. We still do not know who told available forces to stand down. The President and his regime call this “politicizing.”

Beyond Benghazi, every decision the President makes or chooses not to make has political implications. The choice to go to bed the night of the attack and then fly to a fundraiser the following day was political. As Commander-in-Chief he had responsibility to issue the orders to protect his diplomats—our diplomats—but he is also the Great Delegator and, as the noose tightens around Hillary, she is very expendable.

It’s a political decision to exploit the murders in a Connecticut elementary school to attack the Second Amendment and gun ownership. The response of ordinary people was to go out and buy a gun. Indeed, fear of the White House’s intentions has made the President the greatest gun salesman in the nation.

Even in the Obama Justice Department there is the odor of deception that still reeks from the bungled gun-running program called “Fast and Furious” which allowed guns purchased In the U.S. to be transferred to various Mexican drug cartels. The result, in one case, was a dead U.S. Border Patrol officer, an ICE agent, and an unknown number of Mexican cartel victims. It took a presidential executive order to throw a blanket of silence over the role of the Justice Department in this lethal debacle. That’s political.

Now we learn that the Justice Department obtained Associated Press phone records in a probe to discover the source of a leaked story. AP officials called it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how a news organization gathers news. The ever-reliable, politically-correct, liberally oriented AP has become a crack in the dam.

The revelation that the Internal Revenue Service “targeted” the Tea Party, patriotic, and pro-Israel groups for special attention regarding their tax status now adds to a growing sense of a regime without any internal limits on its exercise of power.

The result is a period in which the barely concealed scorn of the President, his wife, and those around him in appointed and elected office has half the population outraged while the other half is content to live parasitically, not paying taxes, and receiving an amazing array of benefits which a bankrupt nation cannot afford.

When enough people—citizens, voters, taxpayers—think they are being lied to and betrayed by those in high office, the dam of lies will begin to show signs of bursting under the pressure of their pent up anger.

© Alan Caruba, 2013

 

Obama’s Youth Vote—Not This Time – Tea Party Nation

 

Obama’s Youth Vote—Not This Time – Tea Party Nation.

By Alan Caruba

In 1956, Adlai Stevenson was campaigning for the presidency a second time and stopped by the campus of the University of Miami. I was asked to join the line of students who got to shake his hand. Suffice to say I was utterly clueless as to who he was and what the election was all about. I was 19 at the time, Eisenhower was President and on his way to a second term. I was a sophomore in every sense of the word.

In those halcyon, post-war years the economy was booming and students could look forward to finding jobs and beginning their careers. Some of us were subject to the Draft in which we gave two years to service in the armed forces after college, but it was understood that this was a debt we owed our nation.

It is very different for today’s college students and graduates.

In an August 1 Wall Street Journal column, Daniel Henninger noted that a WSJ-NBC poll indicated that “enthusiasm for the election among voters aged 18-34 is sloping downward, from above 60% when Mr. Obama was new to below 50% now that he is known.”

“Whatever change the youth vote had hoped for then, the most compelling delta in their world since is the rate of non-employment for those aged 18 to 24, which has risen nearly 16%. A study compiled recently by the Associated Press, based on academic surveys, said the combined rate of youth unemployment and underemployment was an astounding 50%.”

Does anyone seriously think those young people who do rouse themselves to vote are going to stick with Obama?

Generation Opportunity is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to engage younger Americans, generally 18-29 years of age, “who find themselves dissatisfied with the status quo and willing to create a better tomorrow.” And who does not, at this point, want a better tomorrow?

An April 16-22 poll that Generation Opportunity commissioned revealed the following information:

77% of young people ages 18-29 either have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors:

o 44% delay buying a home;
o 28% delay saving for retirement;
o 27% delay paying off student loans or other debt;
o 27% delay going back to school/getting more education or training;
o 26% delay changing jobs/cities;
o 23% delay starting a family;
o 18% delay getting married.

Just 31% of 18-29 year-olds approve of President Obama’s handling of youth unemployment. More than two-thirds of this age cohort is very unhappy with Obama.

Generation Opportunity’s president is Paul T. Conway, a former chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Labor and former chief of staff of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “Today’s unemployment number is another indicator,” said Conway, “of the far greater, more fundamentally devastating, and still under-reported story impacting young Americans.”

“For nearly three and a half years, young Americans have experienced historically high unemployment levels—levels that are among the highest since the end of World War II—that tell the story of millions of delayed dreams and careers of the next greatest generation.”

On August 3rd, Generation Opportunity reported that millennial unemployment was at 12.7 percent in July. For African-American youth (18-29) the rate was 22.3 percent. For Hispanics it was 14.0 percent, and for women it was 12.6 percent.

In 2008, many—like other Americans—this generation was excited to vote for the first Afro-American to become President and by his message of hope and change.

They were energized as well by the use of the Internet to secure their campaign contributions and organized to help his campaign. They are the most “connected” generation in the history of the nation thanks to advances in communications technology.

The Internet has become the great engine of capitalism, but Obama is the antithesis of capitalism. He has done everything in his power to crash the economy and the younger generation knows it because they have been disastrously impacted by his policies.

Daniel Henninger wrote “The youth vote this time comes down to one thing: is this candidate going to plug me into the new American world, or not? The Obama presidency has knocked four years of earning power off a lot of people’s lives. Maybe someone should create a website for user reviews of the presidency.”

The youth vote—if they vote—includes a lot of young people living at home with their parents, unable to find a job, saddled with college loan debt, and no doubt deeply unhappy with Barack Hussein Obama. They have many reasons to vote for Mitt Romney, a successful venture capitalist.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

 

On Earth Day, I Expanded My Carbon Footprint – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary

On Earth Day, I Expanded My Carbon Footprint – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary.

To celebrate “earth day” this year, I decided that I would do what the Obama administration just hasn’t been able to figure out: I would stimulate the economy by the conscious expansion of my carbon footprint.

So I ran the air conditioning for a while in my house.

I also turned all the lights on in the house. Well, actually, I just didn’t turn off the lights my kids turned on. Through this process of reverse attrition, at one point, all the lights in the house eventually were on.

I call this Ransom’s Law: The amount of lights you have burning in the house is in direct proportion to the ratio between the kids and the adults living in the house.

Mathematically it looks something like this: 

an =12p Z p-pf(x)e-inxdx =12pZ p-pf0(x)e-inxdx= limn?∞12pZ p-pfdn(x)e-inxdx = imn?∞12pZ ∞-∞gdn(t)Z p-pe-inx|x – t|1-αdxd=12pZ p-pUµα (x)e-inxdx. 

When the last light, the refrigerator light, stayed on because someone forgot to shut the fridge door, I shouted out: “Hurrah for our carbon footprint!”

Later in the day I revived the quaint custom of the Sunday afternoon drive with my wife. I hit every red light, accelerated quickly to use more gas, used busy streets for more stop- and-go traffic and ran the air conditioner in the car at full blast

We made frequent stops at friends’ houses to urge them to get out and expand their own carbon footprint.

Because here’s the essential dichotomy that the country faces: We won’t get out of the economic slump while we have leaders who think that everything has to be rationed except for other people’s money.

This is especially true about energy. Energy quite literally is the fuel on which our economy runs. More fuel, better performance.

Let’s have a plan that stops rationing energy and instead uses much, much more energy.  

Obama and friends don’t seem to understand that plentiful energy creates more money, more economic activity; that the more we drill for domestic sources of oil and gas, and the more we use cheap, plentiful coal, the more prosperous the country is going to become.

And if the folks in Washington aren’t going to cut spending, the least they could do is let the rest of us use the economy so that deficit isn’t as big.

If you are a teacher and you want smaller class sizes, tell the Obama administration to quit mucking around with regulations that keep the economy under the liberal thumb. Class size will go down when local economies pick up and more local revenues are created that fund schools. The school budget crisis is largely driven by poor economic conditions, not low tax rates.   

If you are a government employee who is worried about the gap in your pension funding, then write a letter to the president and tell him to turf his environmental allies on the Keystone pipeline. Your pension expands when the economy expands. Were it not for the oil and gas industries, your pension would face an even graver shortfall than it does today.  

A recent report from Sonecon, an economic advisory firm that analyzes the impact of government policies, studied the investment results from the two largest public pension programs in 17 states. The study covered approximately 60 percent of all the public pension assets in those states. The assets were invested on behalf of teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees.

According to the report, “The average rate of return on investments by these funds in oil and natural gas stocks was seven times greater than the average return on their investments in all other assets. This ratio ranged from a low of 2.7 to 1 to a high of 40 to 1.”

If you are an activist worried about inexpensive housing for the poor, high energy prices don’t help make housing more affordable. High energy prices hit the poor the hardest.

According to Bloomberg/BusinessWeek “Energy costs this year will represent 24 percent of after- tax income for families earning $10,000 to $30,000, up from 14 percent in 2001. Families with after-tax income from $30,000 to $50,000 will spend 7 percent of their earnings on electricity, according to the study.” A quarter of the income of low-paid workers goes to energy costs. That means for the first two hours of every workday, a low income worker is just paying a light bill.  

If that were a tax, liberals would be out with the hue and the cry about how unfair energy prices are. But it’s OK when it comes to energy, because the green lobby writes checks to politicians while poor people don’t.

One thing is for sure: If Obama is forced to choose between the poor and his well-heeled donors, he picks the donors every time.  

The best government program for the poor, isn’t one that puts people in conflict, it’s one that ensures that energy is cheap, domestic and reliable.

“This is probably the biggest stimulus we have going,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research told the WSJ.

According to the Journal “$145 billion will be spent drilling and completing wells this year, up from $13 billion in 2000.” And it’s not costing taxpayers anything.           

Five years ago, many labored under the false assumption that the world was quickly running out of carbon-based fuels. But today we know that that’s not true.

While it’s estimated that Canada may have as much as 2 trillion barrels of oil in reserves, “the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the [US] has 4.3 trillion barrels of in-place oil shale resources centered in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming,” said Helen Hankins, Colorado director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management” according to the Associated Press.

4.3 trillion barrels is 16 times the reserves of Saudi Arabia, or enough oil to supply the US for 600 years.

Building out the infrastructure to drill and transport that oil just from the Rocky Mountains in the US could supply literally ten million jobs for American workers, while supplying literally millions of barrels of oil per day, repairing our energy security for the next century. The end result would be the creation of about $15 trillion in wealth over the next ten years, with almost $4 trillion in revenues net to the federal government all without raising taxes.

So go ahead. Help me expand this country’s carbon footprint. It’s the best green investment that we can ever make.  

The Year Solar Goes Bankrupt – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.

Image via Wikipedia

The Year Solar Goes Bankrupt – John Ransom – Townhall Finance Conservative Columnists and Financial Commentary.

Get ready for a new round of green bankruptcies, as Europe trims back subsidies for solar companies and taxpayers lose their appetite for subsidizing green power.

“The mini-bubble resulting from the rush to cash in on solar subsidies in European and U.S. markets is ending, as feed-in tariffs drop in Europe while loan guarantee and tax credit programs tighten up in the U.S.,” says a new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch according to CNBC.com.

Germany is dialing back subsidies for solar this month by 29 percent with subsequent decreases each month, according to Bloomberg.com.

Rasmussen has recently released a survey of voters that show a diminishing number of voters support subsidizing the production of the Chevy Volt.

Only 29 percent of likely voters agree with Obama’s latest proposal to include a $10,000 subsidy in the federal budget to support the purchase of every electric vehicle.

The survey found that 58 percent oppose the plan, while 13 percent remain undecided.



And make no mistake, without subsidies solar, electric vehicles, wind power and other alternatives remain a chimera.      

 “Steven Cortes, CNBC contributor and founder of Veracruz Research, also sees solar stocks declining further and wonders about the impact of the recent natural gas boom on the sector.

“’As much as I love sun, I hate the solar space. This is not a real business, it’s a political construct,’” Cortes said on Fast Money Wednesday. “’And they can’t compete with natural gas at these levels.’”

According to the Associated Press the U.S. now has 2.433 trillion cubic feet in storage.

“That figure is 48.3 percent more than the five-year average, the Energy Department said,” reports the AP. “Natural gas fell 3 cents to finish at $2.27 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York. The price has fallen about 27 percent this year and is at the lowest level in a decade.”

Last week Abound Solar announced it would lay off half its workforce despite receiving a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy last year. The rating agency Fitch’s hit Abound over failures to meet stated goals, old technology, calling the company “highly speculative” according to ABCNews.

Reports ABC:

It remains way too early to determine whether Abound is poised to follow the trajectory of the best-known solar manufacturer to receive a sizeable government loan — Solyndra, the California firm that filed for bankruptcy in September after having burned through the bulk of its $535 million federal loan.

Perhaps.

However, there is an old saying in the market that the tape doesn’t lie.

And the tape on solar companies is horrendous.

In the second quarter of 2008 First Solar (Symbol: FSLR) briefly touched $300 per share. Today it trades at $27.49. That equals losses of about $24 billion in market capitalization in just four years.

In April of last year Trina Solar LTD (Symbol: TSL) was trading just under $30 and is now trading at about $7.31. Earnings estimates have gone in the last few months from Trina losing about 17 cents per share for 2012 to losing about 63 cents per share.

The Guggenheim Solar ETF (Symbol: TAN) has also moved down from around $300 per share in mid 2008, until it trades now at $27.02.

And the fundamentals aren’t getting better for solar soon, because solar can’t compete with coal-fired or nuclear generated electric.

“Fewer solar panels will be installed this year,” reports Bloomberg “as the first drop in more than a decade worsens a glut of the unsold devices that’s already slashed margins at the top five manufacturers, an analyst survey showed… Without government incentives, even record low prices for solar panels may not be cheap enough to encourage solar farm developers and homeowners to install them in the volumes needed to work through the glut, said Rozwadowski, the most pessimistic analyst in the survey. He expects installations to drop to 20.7 gigawatts.”

It’s important to note that the poor performance of the solar industry came at a time when government financial support has been at an all-time high world-wide. It only goes to show that politics and public policy are poor substitutes for free market economics.  

Expect the solar industry to continue to crash and burn as government money continues to dry up along with public support.   

FACT CHECK: Obama pushes plans that flopped before – Politics & Elections News

 

English: Obama Taliban

Image via Wikipedia

FACT CHECK: Obama pushes plans that flopped before – Politics & Elections News.

It was a wish list, not a to-do list.

President Barack Obama laid out an array of plans in his State of the Union speech as if his hands weren’t so tied by political realities. There can be little more than wishful thinking behind his call to end oil industry subsidies _ something he could not get through a Democratic Congress, much less today’s divided Congress, much less in this election year.

And there was more recycling, in an even more forbidding climate than when the ideas were new: He pushed for an immigration overhaul that he couldn’t get past Democrats, permanent college tuition tax credits that he asked for a year ago, and familiar discouragements for companies that move overseas.

A look at Obama’s rhetoric Tuesday night and how it fits with the facts and political circumstances:

___

OBAMA: “We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”

THE FACTS: This is at least Obama’s third run at stripping subsidies from the oil industry. Back when fellow Democrats formed the House and Senate majorities, he sought $36.5 billion in tax increases on oil and gas companies over the next decade, but Congress largely ignored the request. He called again to end such tax breaks in last year’s State of the Union speech. And he’s now doing it again, despite facing a wall of opposition from Republicans who want to spur domestic oil and gas production and oppose tax increases generally.

___

OBAMA: “Our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

THE FACTS: That’s only half true. About half of the more than 30 million uninsured Americans expected to gain coverage through the health care law will be enrolled in a government program. Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people, will be expanded starting in 2014 to cover childless adults living near the poverty line.

The other half will be enrolled in private health plans through new state-based insurance markets. But many of them will be receiving federal subsidies to make their premiums more affordable. And that’s a government program, too.

Starting in 2014 most Americans will be required to carry health coverage, either through an employer, by buying their own plan, or through a government program.

___

OBAMA, asking Congress to pay for construction projects: “Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

THE FACTS: The idea of taking war “savings” to pay for other programs is budgetary sleight of hand. For one thing, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely financed through borrowing, so stopping the wars doesn’t create a pool of ready cash, just less debt. And the savings appear to be based at least in part on inflated war spending estimates for future years.

___

OBAMA: “Through the power of our diplomacy a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one.”

THE FACTS: The world is still divided over how to deal with Iran‘s disputed nuclear program, and even over whether the nuclear program is a problem at all.

It is true that the U.S., Europe and other nations have agreed to apply the strictest economic sanctions yet on Iran later this year. But the global sanctions net has holes, because some of Iran’s large oil trading partners won’t go along. China, a major purchaser of Iran’s crude, isn’t part of the new sanctions and, together with Russia, stopped the United Nations from applying similarly tough penalties.

___

OBAMA: “Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”

THE FACTS: Economists do see manufacturing growth as a necessary component of any U.S. recovery. U.S. manufacturing output climbed 0.9 percent in December, the biggest gain since December 2010. Yet Obama’s apparent vision of a nation once again propelled by manufacturing _ a vision shared by many Republicans _ may already have slipped into the past.

Over generations, the economy has become ever more driven by services; not since 1975 has the U.S. had a surplus in merchandise trade, which covers trade in goods, including manufactured and farm goods. About 90 percent of American workers are employed in the service sector, a profound shift in the nature of the workforce over many decades.

The overall trade deficit through the first 11 months of 2011 ran at an annual rate of nearly $600 billion, up almost 12 percent from the year before.

___

OBAMA: “The Taliban‘s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”

THE FACTS: Obama is more sanguine about progress in Afghanistan than his own intelligence apparatus. The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan warns that the Taliban will grow stronger, using fledgling talks with the U.S. to gain credibility and stall until U.S. troops leave, while continuing to fight for more territory. The classified assessment, described to The Associated Press by officials who have seen it, says the Afghan government hasn’t been able to establish credibility with its people, and predicts the Taliban and warlords will largely control the countryside.

___

OBAMA: “On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories.”

THE FACTS: He left out some key details. The bailout of General Motors and Chrysler began under Republican President George W. Bush. Obama picked up the ball, earmarked more money, and finished the job. But Ford never asked for a federal bailout and never got one.

___

OBAMA: “We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.”

THE FACTS: With this statement, Obama was renewing a call he made last year to require 80 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2035, including nuclear, natural gas and so-called clean coal. He did not put that percentage in his speech but White House background papers show that it remains his goal.

But this Congress has yet to introduce a bill to make that goal a reality, and while legislation may be introduced this year, it is unlikely to become law with a Republican-controlled House that loathes mandates.

___

OBAMA: “Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.”

THE FACTS: It’s true that a minority of millionaires pay a lower tax rate than some lower-income people. On average, though, wealthy people pay taxes at a much higher rate than middle-income taxpayers.

Obama’s claim comes from a Congressional Research Service report that compared federal taxes paid by people making less than $100,000 with those paid by people making more than $1 million. About 10 percent of families with incomes under $100,000 paid more than 26.5 percent in federal income, payroll and corporate taxes. And about a quarter of millionaire taxpayers paid a rate lower than that.

___

OBAMA: “We can’t bring back every job that’s left our shores…. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.”

FACT CHECK: Many of the jobs U.S. companies have created overseas won’t return because they were never in the United States in the first place.

As Obama said in his speech, U.S. workers have become more productive and labor costs have fallen.

But there are powerful forces pushing the other way: Many of the overseas jobs in U.S. companies weren’t transferred from the U.S. They were created in fast-growing markets in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere to serve customers in those markets. Companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index now earn more than half of their revenue from overseas.

That has fueled more job creation abroad. U.S. multinationals cut more than 800,000 jobs in the United States from 2000 to 2009, according the Commerce Department. They added 2.9 million overseas in the same period.

___

OBAMA: “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about … That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years.”

THE FACTS: Obama left out Arab and Muslim nations, where popular opinion of the U.S. appears to have gone downhill or remained unchanged after the spring 2011 reformist uprisings in the Middle East. A Pew Research Center survey in May found that in predominantly Muslim countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Pakistan, views of the U.S. were worse than a year earlier. In Pakistan, a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid that went unmentioned in Obama’s speech, just 11 percent of respondents said they held a positive view of the United States.

___

Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Anne Gearan, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Martin Crutsinger, Jim Drinkard, Dina Cappiello, Erica Werner, Andrew Taylor, Christopher S. Rugaber and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

Our View: Secure border not only issue of immigrants but of safety | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

A small fence separates densely populated Tiju...

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Our View: Secure border not only issue of immigrants but of safety | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Border security is an extremely complicated issue — politically and logistically — but is also an increasingly dangerous and expensive issue.

The 2011-12 Texas budget includes a near doubling of the amount we spend on border security, from $108.5 million in the just-ended two-year budget to $219.5 million in the current plan.

Why? We’ve been told repeatedly states should stay out of the border security business as it’s the task of the federal government.

When Arizona became frustrated with the number of illegal aliens flowing across the border from Mexico, with illegal drugs passing into and beyond it and with the mounting violence that was part of the rampant lawlessness exhibited by foreigners and their citizen partners in crime, the federal government offered speeches and platitudes. When Arizona attempted to help the federal government by at least identifying and detaining those in the state illegally, the state was sued by a federal government that arguably needs all the help it can get.

Granted, securing the 1,959-mile border is a big job. One need only study a map to see its not a wide-open flat area in which trespassers are easy to spot or stop. In some areas, a fence makes sense. The 1,254-mile Texas-Mexico border, however, lies along the deepest channel of the Rio Grande as it flowed in 1848 — not exactly an ideal foundation for a border fence.

And, yes, the nation is spending roughly $9 billion a year in its attempt to secure the border, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The AP said funding for border security had tripled from 2001 to 2011 while 1.6 million illegal immigrants were detained in 2001 compared to 463,000 in 2010. From those statistics, one could reasonably conclude increased enforcement and the recession dampening opportunities on this side of the border had worked to stem the tide of illegal immigration.

However, the flow of drugs has not decreased. In 2010, the AP reported, a record amount of drugs were seized — but Mexican cartels responded by increasing shipments. In the meantime, the cartel-sponsored violence that has claimed more than 35,000 dead in Mexico periodically spills across the border.

What once was merely an issue of illegal immigrants in the country morphed into a multi-faceted monster of national security, personal safety, public health and economic stability.

When Gov. Rick Perry sent a bill to Washington requesting the state be reimbursed $349 million for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants who had committed crimes in Texas, it was dismissed as political grandstanding in his bid for the GOP presidential nomination. In reality, however, it was a reasonable request for the owner of the problem — the entity which claims singular authority for border security — to pick up the tab. Washington declined to ante up.

Now, Texas remains on the hook not only for jailing illegal immigrants who break the law but augmenting the federal effort to the tune of $110 million a year to keep us safe.

It’s time for Washington to get serious about national defense. Calls to secure the border can no longer be demagogued as mere racist rants. The drug violence has elevated the issue to a dangerous and expensive threat.

The Fruits of John Boehner’s surrender – Tea Party Nation

The Fruits of John Boehner’s surrender – Tea Party Nation.

Posted by Judson Phillips on August 13, 2011 at 6:49am in Tea Party Nation Forum

A couple of weeks ago a standoff caused the shut down of the Federal Aviation administration.  The standoff was over the issue of subsidies to small rural airports.  The GOP picked this as a pork issue and the Party of Corruption simply wanted to keep this going to buy more votes.

 Of course, Boehner surrendered after two weeks, accomplishing nothing except angering about 100,000 voters. 

 How about these flights to nowhere?

 From AP:

 On some days, the pilots with Great Lakes Airlines fire up a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 at the Ely, Nev., airport and depart for Las Vegas without a single passenger on board. And the federal government pays them to do it.

Federal statistics reviewed by The Associated Press show that in 2010, just 227 passengers flew out of Ely while the airline got $1.8 million in subsidies. The travelers paid $70 to $90 for a one-way ticket. The cost to taxpayers for each ticket: $4,107.

Ely is one of 153 rural communities where airlines get subsidies through the $200 million Essential Air Service program, and one of 13 that critics say should be eliminated from it. Some call the spending a boondoggle, but others see it as a critical financial lifeline to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

Steve Smith, executive director of the Jackson, Tenn., airport authority, also has seen empty or near empty flights take off, since the airlines get paid per flight, not per passenger. The subsidy amounted to $244 for each of the 2,514 people who flew out of Smith’s airport last year, though few if any passengers knew that.

“They fly the empty plane so they can still get the money,” Smith said.

 http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_AVIATION_SHUTDOWN_RURAL_S…

 Flying the plane empty so they can get the money?

  Why is the government keeping this up?  Jackson Tennessee is in Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District.  Their Congressman, Steve Fincher, ran as one of the Tea Party candidates.  Why does he keep this money coming? 

 Ely Nevada is the home turf of Harry Reid, Chief Thief in the Senate.  We know why he keeps the subsidy flowing.

 This is the kind of wasteful spending the GOP needs to be eliminating.  Unfortunately, while John Boehner leads the House of Representatives that will never happen.  Boehner only likes a fight so he can haul up his freshly laundered white flag of surrender.

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