Shared posts

14 Sep 21:00

What We Saw at NYC's Fast Food Strike

by Jim Epstein

Thousands of fast food workers in dozens of cities went on strike last week, with the announced goal of raising the minimum wage for employees of burger chains such as McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's. 

In late 2013, Reason TV covered the sparsely-attended New York City edition of one of these fast food strikes:

"What We Saw at NYC's Fast Food Strike." About 2.30 minutes. Produced by Jim Epstein and hosted by Naomi Brockwell.

Original release date was December 6, 2013 and the original writeup is below.

Yesterday, Naomi Brockwell and I attended a demonstration demanding that fast-food restaurants boost their minimum wage to $15 per hour, or a little more than double the current federal minimum wage. The strike, which was led by a group called Fast Food Forward that’s affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was one of more than a 100 similar demonstrations held in cities across the country.

The New York demonstration had about 150 people, but the number of actual fast food employees participating in the strike was small. It was business as usual at every restaurant we dropped by yesterday morning and, at a McDonald’s restaurant on 23rd Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, employees behind the counter said they had heard nothing about a strike.

We caught up with the protesters in front of a Wendy’s in downtown Brooklyn, where the crowd consisted of union organizers, fast-food workers, and their sympathizers. An estimated one-third of the demonstrators were fast-food employees, meaning that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of New York City's 57,000 fast-food workforce participated in the strike.

The group was traveling from one fast-food restaurant to another, before winding up at Foley Square in Manhattan around 1pm.

Multiple strikers told us they had received compensation through a union strike fund to appear, but declined to say the amount they were paid.

Artificially doubling wages to $15 an hour would change many things in the fast food industry, including the easy path it provides for low-skilled employees to break into the labor market. Substantially higher wages would mean that existing employees would be less apt to look for other positions, and senior staffers would be more inclined to hog shift hours. Franchisees would likely move more aggressively to replace human service workers with automated cash registers, which is already happening in European McDonald's. Evidence of how artificially boosting wages destroys opportunities for entry level workers was best documented in a 2006 study by economists David Neumark and William Wascher, which was updated in 2013

In interviews, several striking workers described how it had been relatively easy for them to get a job in fast-food service. Shenita Simon, who works as a shift supervisor at KFC, told us that she doesn’t know where else she would have been able to find a position, because fast food is the only industry that "will allow you to have minimum education.” Isaac Wallace, a Burger King employee, described how he was able to get his job immediately after moving to New York from Jamaica by simply walking into a Burger King in Brooklyn and approaching the manager. 

Once the strike moved to Foley Square, organizers from Fast Food Forward began obstructing our efforts to talk with protesters.

For more on why doubling wages for fast food workers would hurt entry-level workers, read Nick Gillespie's “Big Labor’s Big Mac Attack” at The Daily Beast.

Produced by Jim Epstein and hosted by Naomi Brockwell.

About 2.30 minutes.

View this article.

12 Sep 16:30

Prices, Paul Krugman, and Consistency

by admin

click to enlarge

11 Sep 18:56

Immunoprotection of Bifidobacteria and Vaccine Injury: The Biological Plausibility of Microbial Predisposition, By Keith Bell (Green Med Info)

by Dr. B G
Earlier I had posted a science-driven presentation by Dr Tetyana Obukhanych, Ph.D. on Natural Immunity and Vaccination. She reviewed the literature (scanty) on the efficacy of herd immunity and the fallacies of protection, specifically how mothers are not conferring full and complete immunity against rare, but devastating whooping cough and measles to their newborns when breastfeeding. This is not ancestral and may have consequences. Additionally she reviewed the potentials of vaccine injury, including gut dysbiosis and multiple food allergies (peanut, gluten, dairy).

Green Med Info just published an article written by the knowledgable and brilliant student of the gut, Mr Keith Bell: Vaccine Injury: The Biological Plausibility of Microbial Predisposition


You may not have heard the news due to media censorship of the vaccine-autism debate, but apparently childhood vaccines can and do cause autism. Last month, a CDC Senior Scientist issued an apologetic press release admitting data omission from a 2004 study.  The ditched data suggested African American boys are at increased risk of autism when given the MMR vaccine.

CDC's Director of Immunization Safety, co-author of the fraudulent 2004 study, has also admittedvaccines can result in autism.  Moreover, autism is listed as side effect in the DTaP vaccinepackage insert.

Brian Hooker received the CDC confession directly from Senior Scientist, William Thompson. Hooker reanalyzed the data and found a 2.4x increased risk of autism in African American boys. The CDC states a lack of biological plausibility, but there's plenty.
Why would certain children be vulnerable to autism or any vaccine injury such as tic and seizure disorders? What makes them different from others who somehow escape injury?
First let's address gender inequality. Boys are up to five times more likely than girls to become autistic, perhaps because estrogen is crucial to immune response. Girls are primed at birth. But why African American boys? How tragic that over ten years ago the CDC decided this wasn't important enough to study further. How many African American boys have been damaged?

Other populations at risk of autism by vaccination include Koreans, Somali immigrants, perhaps much of Africa and Caucasians, too. Somali immigrants of Minneapolis and Sweden suffer high rates of autism when there is no word for "autism" in Somalia. In Sweden, they call it "Swedish disease."

Everyone on Earth is vulnerable to vaccine damage, but some populations appear especially at risk. These groups are different than others based on generations of dietary habits resulting in the underlying beauty of diversity: microbial predisposition. Their flora is naturally different!

Scientists have found gut microbiota play an important role in how well vaccines are absorbed. Imbalanced flora leads to vaccine failure. In sanitation-challenged, toxic nations such as Pakistan, for example, the polio vaccine can be ineffective due to compromised guts known asenvironmental enteropathy. How ironic that if we made sanitation and toxic pollution a priority, we could also reduce vaccination and its risk of injury. Instead, children suffer malabsorption syndrome misdiagnosed as malnutrition. They can't properly absorb nutrients or vaccines. Meanwhile, less than 2% of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation budget goes toward improving sanitation; the lion's share toward vaccination in concert with major pharmaceuticals andGAVI. The United Nations, UNICEF and the World Bank promote wastewater treatment without any priority on the real solution of dry toilet technology.

One of the differences is reduced or absent bifidobacteria.

According to a Bangladeshi microbiota study published last month, poor vaccine efficacy is associated with systemic inflammation due to gut dysbiosis. Bifidobacteria were found a key factor in improving vaccine responsiveness. There are many known strains of bifidobacteria, some considered better than others. Bifidobacteria levels in the USA vary widely among individuals. Studies report much lower levels of bifidobacteria in children with autism.

Vaccine scientists are focused on improving vaccine absorption, promoting probiotic adjuvants. Bifidobacteria appear to have a leading role as future adjuvant.  But this work may also reveal a mechanism of vaccine injury: lack of an important species. Bifidobacteria are known to attenuatesevere intestinal inflammation. One study found their numbers naturally multiply in magnesium deficiency to calm inflammation.
Many Africans are missing bifidobacteria. And so are Koreans where autism rates were founddouble those in the USA. The traditional diet of these populations doesn't include dairy, which feeds bifidobacteria. It should be noted not all Africans are reduced or absent in bifidobacteria. Onestudy found bifidobacteria far more dominant in Malawian than Finnish infants while another studyfinds eightfold autism increases in Finland. Another vulnerable group appears to be vegans and vegetarians, known significantly reduced in bifidobacteria.

Breastfeeding is another important clue about bifidobacteria and autism avoidance. Breast milk is known to contain 700 types of bacteria with bifidobacteria the star of the show. Gerber includes bifidobacteria in their infant formula for good reason as "they make up 80–90% of the total intestinal flora of breastfed infants." Several studies indicate breastfeeding deters autism. What's not commonly recognized is how microbes both produce and stimulate release of fatty acids in breast milk crucial to brain development. These lipids include endocannabinoids now making waves in the epilepsy community (seizure is a common feature in autism).

A new study reinforces what's known about the global C-section epidemic and neurodevelopmental problems including autism. A third of women give birth by C-section in the USA, exceeded by other nations such as China and Brazil. C-section is known to result indifferences in infant intestinal flora, but what are the actual differences and how might this relate to potential for vaccine injury? This group of scientists found significantly lower bifidobacteria counts in C-section babies than in vaginally delivered infants. The bifidobacteria, however, are thought to originate in the mother's intestines.


Are girls higher in bifidobacteria than boys? Might this be another way girls escape autism? Recent studies reveal another way to view gender differences. Men and women can eat the same diet, but have distinctly different gut microbiota.
In the Hazda people of Africa, bifidobacteria is absent and so is dairy, however, some forms of resistant starch and inulin may also feed bifidobacteria. The Hazda microbiome is more diverse, so they don't require bifidobacteria. Other microbes are doing the job for their healthy human hosts, but perhaps not if confronted with vaccination.
Then again, the Hazda immune system may be better able to withstand vaccination than African Americans. The immune system is reliant on flora balance where gut dysbiosis, such as high clostridia, and low bifidobacteria counts may predispose a newborn toward vaccine injury. Alternatively, high clostridia counts known in autism may be the result of vaccination. Vaccines may lead to such imbalances, similar to antibiotics known to cause C. difficile infections.

The fact is there are still no studies about how any of the childhood vaccines affect flora balance. Why not? Does anyone fear the results? Solving this mystery may require crowdfunding. There are many complexities to be unraveled. How are mercury and aluminum adjuvants affecting flora? How might vaccine-induced immune responses affect flora balance?

There are a sparse few studies approaching the subject such as this 2004 study from China showing significantly increased gram-negative bacteria caused by the cholera vaccine, not a good thing. This 2013 typhoid vaccine study states:
"However, to date, no comprehensive studies have been undertaken to examine the gastrointestinal microbiota in relation to vaccine administration and if there is a discernible alteration in the community following vaccine administration."
How would a shift in flora or absent bifidobacteria lead to autism? This falls under the category of gut-brain phenomenon and probably begins in the womb. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies impudently state colonization begins at birth, a fallacy without evidence akin to believing Earth is flat. The new paradigm points toward a fetal gastrointestinal tract teeming with life, developing long before the fetal brain, even driving brain development with polyunsaturated fatty acids of microbial origin. The maternal microbiome shifts toward a diabetic state in the third trimester while the fetal brain triples in weight.

Children are born colonized and then vaccinated within 12 hours of birth per cruel CDC schedule without any understanding of how this affects flora balance. The gut-brain connection is a two-way street where what happens in the gut may lead to an inflammatory reaction in the brain.Bifidobacteria may be a factor in helping to avoid this reaction. Indeed, probiotics of many types have been tested alongside vaccines to improve vaccine response because it's known microbiotainfluence immune response. Might probiotics also help to avoid extreme immune response resulting in autism? Too many parents of autistic children have witnessed the arched back and high-pitched scream of their infants post-vaccination, a condition signaling brain inflammation.

I suspect bifidobacteria will become biomarkers to help avoid vaccine injuries. Every child would have microbial DNA (PCR) stool testing to determine flora balance prior to vaccination. If bifidobacteria are low or absent, this may serve as warning not to vaccinate. This applies to all children because everyone is at risk. Children may be born compromised with imbalanced flora where vaccines add insult to injury.

We should begin the process of reducing CDC vaccine protocol, beginning the protocol much later in life to allow the immune system, reliant on flora, time to develop. This would reduce vaccine injuries while improving vaccine effectiveness. Or, we can choose not to vaccinate and concentrate on improving innate immunity. Many believe our natural immunity is waning due to vaccination, so we're seeing a comeback of childhood diseases such as measles and mumps.

Either way, we need to reduce heartbreaking injuries as well as consider the subtle, insidious possibility of widespread flora shift in the wrong direction. We're already seeing mysterious childhood type-1 diabetes and obesity epidemics along with eating disorders such as anorexia in very young children. Half our children suffer chronic disease, an unacceptable situation where everyone is vulnerable based on flora balance.
Florida Congressman, Bill Posey, is investigating CDC fraud amid an incestuous relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. Contact your Congressman to ask support for Posey's congressional hearings to learn more about extent of damage. The CDC "whistleblower" may receive immunityfrom prosecution so that underlying truth may finally be revealed, just as microbial genetic testing is taking us toward a new understanding of our place in the environment. 

Keith Bell is a 25 year veteran of the recycling industry with interest in sanitation and health. During the 1980s, he was a UNICEF radio spokesperson in Chicago for the annual release of State of the World's Children Report. He’s particularly interested in gut-brain connection including gut-origin of seizure, underdiagnosed in epilepsy. Sanitation is Sanity poster 

12 Sep 11:44

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 10 of the 1996 Liberty Fund collection of Frank Meyer’s essays, In Defense of Freedom (William C. Dennis, ed.); specifically, it’s from Meyer’s July 1955 Freeman article, “Collectivism Rebaptized” – an essay critical of the “New Conservatism” as embodied then in the thought of Russell Kirk (original emphasis):

It can be admitted that the long experience crystallized in traditional human wisdom is a necessary make-weight to the conclusions which reason would seem to dictate to a single group or even to the conscience of a whole generation  But to make tradition, “prejudice and prescription,” not along with reason but against reason, the sole foundation of one’s position is to enshrine the maxim, “Whatever is, is right,” as the first principle of thought about politics and society.  Such a position is immoral from any point of view….

11 Sep 15:53

‘Equal pay day’ this year fell on April 14; the next ‘equal occupational fatality day’ will occur on July 31, 2025

by Mark J. Perry

Every year the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) publicizes its “Equal Pay Day” to bring public attention to the gender pay gap. “Equal Pay Day” this year fell on April 14, and allegedly represents how far into 2014 the average woman had to continue working to earn the same income that the average man earned last year. Inspired by Equal Pay Day, I introduced “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” in 2010 to bring public attention to the huge gender disparity in work-related deaths every year in the United States. “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” tells us how many years into the future women would have to work before they would experience the same number of occupational fatalities that occurred in the previous year for men.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new data today on workplace fatalities for 2013, and a new “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” can now be calculated. As in previous years, the chart above shows the significant gender disparity in workplace fatalities in 2013: 4,101 men died on the job (93.1% of the total) compared to only 302 women (6.9% of the total). The “gender occupational fatality gap” in 2013 was considerable — nearly 14 men died on the job last year for every woman who died while working.

Based on the new BLS data, the next “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” will occur about 11 years from now ­­– on July 31, 2025. That date symbolizes how far into the future women will be able to continue working before they experience the same loss of life that men experienced in 2013 from work-related deaths. Because women tend to work in safer occupations than men on average, they have the advantage of being able to work for more than a decade longer than men before they experience the same number of male occupational fatalities in a single year.

Economic theory tells us that the “gender occupational fatality gap” explains part of the “gender pay gap” because a disproportionate number of men work in higher-risk, but higher-paid occupations like coal mining (almost 100 % male), fire fighters (96.5% male), police officers (86.6% male), correctional officers (72.8% male), logging (97.9% male), refuse collectors (95.2%), truck drivers (94.8%), roofers (99.3% male), highway maintenance (98.9%) and construction (97.4% male); BLS data here. On the other hand, women far outnumber men in relatively low-risk industries, often with lower pay to partially compensate for the safer, more comfortable indoor office environments in occupations like office and administrative support (73.3% female), education, training, and library occupations (73.8% female), and healthcare (74.4% female). The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages. In contrast, women more than men prefer lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety, and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death.

Bottom Line: Groups like the NCPE use “Equal Pay Day” to promote a goal of perfect gender pay equity, probably not realizing that they are simultaneously advocating an increase in the number of women working in higher-paying, but higher-risk occupations like fire-fighting, roofing, construction, farming, and coal mining. The reality is that a reduction in the gender pay gap would come at a huge cost: several thousand more women will be killed each year working in dangerous occupations.

Here’s a question for the NCPE that I ask every year: Closing the “gender pay gap” can only be achieved by closing the “occupational fatality gap.” Would achieving the goal of perfect pay equity really be worth the loss of life for thousands of additional women each year who would die in work-related accidents?

11 Sep 15:00

How Exercise Makes Us Feel

by Mark Sisson

exercisefeelingHow did you feel after your last workout? (Apply as many adjectives as fit the occasion.) Now think about how others perceive exercise. Let’s say you stop a random hundred people on the street and ask them how exercise makes/would make them feel. I’m going to guess you’d get an interesting cross-section of answers, likely slanted toward the negative (mostly from people who don’t regularly exercise, but – hey – that’s just MY guess, right?). Call me cynical, but when many people think about exercise, I think their minds go directly to pain, soreness, sweat, and the general unpleasantness of it all. That’s unfortunate to say the least. I’m not going to claim that my most intensive workouts don’t leave me tired or even slightly sore (genuine pain is something different). Nonetheless, I get way too much out of my Primal exercise to feel it’s something to be “endured” – or even avoided. This brings me to those other answers – the ones more likely from folks who exercise on a regular basis (whether their workouts involve gym time, outdoor play, an active hobby or something else). What else does exercise make us feel – in the moment, after the workout and later once the results start showing?

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

The Release

A friend of Carrie’s described it this way: “I walk out the door and leave all the day’s stress – the work pressures, the kids’ whining, the messy kitchen, the school paperwork. As I walk faster and quickly begin to run, it’s like shedding layers of weight and moving into flight.” I love that observation. When we’re in our bodies, we have a better chance of being in the present. We get a break from neurotic worry and obsessive planning that can drive too many of our waking hours. (If we find ourselves still mired in self-talk during workouts, we either need to find something more intense or figure out a way to truly play. It’s thankfully difficult to make a mental shopping list while playing a game of Ultimate.)

When we strip exercise of “obligation,” we can appreciate the opportunities it gives us to live differently for a time. When we start to see our workouts as the break we look forward to – or a seamless part of enjoying life and socialization – instead of a personal task to cram in, something essential opens. It’s a threshold I would see my clients cross (and one I rediscovered for myself when fitness again became personal rather than primarily professional). In my opinion, the best rewards – both physical and psychological – come past that threshold.

The Pride

It doesn’t matter in the moment whether you skipped five workouts before this one. Right now you’re moving, and (barring a serious penchant for self-flagellation) there’s a real gratification to this fact that cancels out the rest. You’re lapping everyone who’s at home sitting on the couch. This matters. And the sense of accomplishment only grows with time. Each additional mile run, every better race time, each increase in poundage lifted boosts the feeling. It’s not just a fitness increase. It’s a victory over our perceived limitations as well as a win for discipline and self-management.

The “High”

We work for it, to be sure, but it can feel like a peak experience when it does. At times, I’d say, it puts me at the very center of being, which is kind of a Zen take on what is really an activation of the body’s endorphin release and endocannabinoid system. (PDF) (Whose attention perked up at the mention of cannabinoid?) The fact is, when we’re exercising, we’re shifting all kinds of biochemical gears (everything from neurotransmitter levels, BDNF release and endocannabinoid engagement) because the body perceives our efforts as a physical stress and responds with natural pain-relieving strategies. In longer duration, high intensity activity, the response (whether a primary cause of the endorphin or the endocannabinoid system) can impact emotion as well as physical sensation. Those who have felt the full-on high won’t forget it.

The Clarity

When I’m stuck on something – a work issue, writer’s block, a personal question – moving is about the only thing that makes sense. My best ideas come when I’m biking or walking – or just after a good workout. While my focus during lifting or sprinting is definitely on the action itself, other less intense activities allow me to wander mentally. (It’s like being able to view a star out of the corner of your eye but missing it when you’re searching for it head on.) The result, as research illuminates, is a surprisingly unconscious productivity.

If we’re talking about the post-workout window, it doesn’t matter what I did for exercise. My mind is again firing on all cylinders. Of course, there’s real physical sense to this phenomenon. Exercise literally and figuratively gets “the blood flowing” to our brains. It stimulates the processes that support new neuronal growth and connections as well as brain plasticity and better recall. It’s the kind of thing that makes you re-envision how you should spend that afternoon break.

The Confidence

There’s a certain self-assurance that comes from improving and pushing yourself physically. You know you’re taking responsibility for your health, but it’s something else, too. I think it’s owning your own power as a physical being. I’ve seen thousands of people – clients and readers (hello, success stories!) who said getting fit led to a major emotional and even social transformation in their lives. Likewise, it goes the other way. Over the years I’ve worked with a number of people who have overcome personal crises and come to me for advice saying “I want the outside to be as strong as I feel on the inside now.” Either way, the connection is the same. Physical resilience goes hand-in-hand with self-possession.

The Calm

I call this the “good exhaustion.” It’s in large part the sedative aspect of the runner’s high chemical cascade. Once we’re not moving anymore and there’s no “pain” to alleviate, we’re left for a while with the tail end of feel-good chemicals and can just bask in the contentment. For myself, I think the calm also comes from the sensation that my muscles have been used and stretched. I’ve lived my animal purpose for the day. A neighbor who walks her dog several times a day said once, “A good dog is a tired dog.” I’d add happy dog – and hominid to that.

The Energy

Sure, we’re riding the surge right after a workout, but I’m also thinking of the growing constancy of energy when exercise becomes a regular habit. Perhaps it’s the better sleep we enjoy or maybe the memory of feeling so energized during the workout itself. Or maybe it’s something more. University of Georgia researchers found exercise substantially reduced the fatigue symptoms of sedentary subjects all while it increased their energy (20% according to their estimates). It turns out it doesn’t take much. The low-level cardio folks actually experienced more of a reduction in fatigue (65%) than those who did more intense work (49%).

The Sexiness

Admit it: you feel better about your body after you work out. (Why do we ever feel guilty about this – like it’s a secret we have to keep under wraps?) It’s part of the energy surge but something “more.” Feeling good naked continually develops over time, with research suggesting our body image can change within mere weeks. However, I think it can begin to shift the moment we let it. Few things – other than sex itself, have the power to put us back in our bodies in quite the same way as exercise. All of the aforementioned benefits come together – the sense of energy, power, release, the high – and converge to make us feel more alive, impassioned and maybe even virile. You might end gym time sweaty and fatigued, but after a shower you might find yourself walking differently and “working” that workout. No?

Well, I’d say the short-term discomfort pales in comparison to exercise’s bigger benefits. (Am I wrong?) How does exercise make YOU feel? Any of the above? Something not on the list? Thanks for reading, everybody, and have a good end to your week.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

Further Your Knowledge. Deepen Your Impact. Become an Expert! Learn More About the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification

11 Sep 14:30

Donald Trump offers president lifetime of free golf to resign...

Donald Trump offers president lifetime of free golf to resign...

(Third column, 1st story, link)

11 Sep 14:03

What the President Said about ISIS, and What I Heard

by Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

It seems particularly appropriate, on this 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, to ponder anew what counterterrorism steps are prudent and effective, and what measures are reckless and counterproductive.

With this in mind, I was moderately inclined to go along with President Obama’s plan to attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), provided that he defined a limited and achievable set of goals, and therefore established limits on the size and scope of the U.S. military mission.

But when the president says this:

“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.” 

I hear this:

“All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note…”

Though they didn’t race there, a team of U.S. special forces eventually made their way to Pakistan and pumped a couple of bullets into bin Laden, so he’s not making these videos any more. That seems worthy. If we can repeat these sorts of operations elsewhere, and shut up a few more loudmouths, we should.

But the larger point stands. We shouldn’t terrorize ourselves. We shouldn’t exaggerate the threat posed by terrorism. And we shouldn’t react in ways that feed the terrorists’ narrative, or serve the terrorists’ goals.

11 Sep 02:45

The Era Of Widespread Biometric Indentification And Microchip Implants Is Here

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

Are you ready to have your veins scanned every time you use your bank account?  Are you ready to use a "digital tattoo" or a microchip implant to unlock your telephone?  Once upon a time we read about such technologies in science fiction novels, but now they are here.  The era of widespread biometric identification and microchip implants is upon us, and it is going to change the way that we live.  Proponents of these new technologies say that they will make our private information and our bank accounts much more secure.  But there are others that warn that these kinds of "Big Brother technologies" will set the stage for even more government intrusion into our lives.  In the wrong hands, such technologies could prove to be an absolute nightmare.

Barclays has just announced that it is going to become the first major bank in the western world to use vein scanning technology to control access to bank accounts.  There will even be a biometric reader that customers plug into their computers at home...

Barclays is launching a vein scanner for customers as it steps up use of biometric recognition technology to combat banking fraud.


The bank has teamed up with Japanese technology firm Hitachi to develop a biometric reader that scans a customer's finger to access accounts, instead of using a password or PIN.


The biometric reader, which plugs into a customer’s computer at home, uses infrared lights to scan blood flow in a person’s finger. The user must then scan the same finger a second time to confirm a transaction. Each “vein profile” will be stored on a SIM card inside the device.


Vein recognition technology is used by some banks in Japan and elsewhere at ATM machines, but Barclays said it is the first bank globally to use it for significant account transactions.

But Barclays is not the only one that is making a big move into biometric identification.

Online retailing behemoth Alibaba is going to start using fingerprint scanning in an attempt to make their transactions more secure...

Alibaba, the giant Chinese online retailer, is integrating fingerprint scanning into its Alipay Wallet app. Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer of the iPhone and iPad, threw nearly $5 million at Norway’s NEXT Biometrics, which develops fingerprint scanning technology, back in May. And earlier this month it took a 10% stake for $2 million in AirSig, a Taiwanese company that uses smartphones’ built-in gyroscopes to track air handwriting. The company says AirSig provides three-factor authentication: your signature, your phone, and the way you sign with a flourish in mid-air.

It is only a matter of time before more banks, online retailers and major websites start using this kind of technology.  We live at a time when theft on the Internet threatens to spiral out of control, and big corporations are going to be continually looking for answers.

Cell phone security is another area of great concern these days.  If someone can get a hold of your phone and unlock it, that person can potentially do all sorts of damage.

So Motorola has developed a "digital tattoo" that will be used to ensure that only the owner of a phone is able to unlock it.  The following is how  Motorola described these new digital tattoos...

Made of super thin, flexible materials, based on VivaLnk’s eSkinTM technology, each digital tattoo is designed to unlock your phone with just a touch of your Moto X to the tattoo, no passwords required. The nickel-sized tattoo is adhesive, lasts for five days, and is made to stay on through showering, swimming, and vigorous activities like jogging. And it’s beautiful—with a shimmering, intricate design.


It’s another step in making it easier to unlock your phone on the go and keep your personal information safe. An average user takes 2.3 seconds to unlock their phone and does this about 39 times a day—a process that some people find so inconvenient that they do not lock their phones at all. Using NFC technology, digital tattoos make it faster to safely unlock your phone anywhere without having to enter a password.

And below I have posted the video that Motorola shared on YouTube about these tattoos...

Pretty bizarre stuff, eh?

But others are taking cell phone security to even greater extremes.

For example, some people were actually implanting themselves with microchips in anticipation of the release of the iPhone 6 on September 9th...

With a wave of his left hand, Ben Slater can open his front door, turn on the lights and will soon be able to start his car. Without even a touch he can link to databases containing limitless information, including personal details such as names, addresses and health records.


The digital advertising director has joined a small number of Australians who have inserted microchips into their skin to be at the cutting edge of the next stage of the evolution of technology.


Slater was prompted to be implanted in anticipation of the iPhone 6 release on September 9.


The conjecture among pundits and fans worldwide over what chief executive Tim Cook will reveal is building.


At present the iPhone cannot read microchip implants. However, Mr Slater believes the new version will have that capability. His confidence is now lodged between his thumb and forefinger.

Of course this kind of thing is not new.  People have been getting implanted with microchips for years.  If you doubt this, just do an Internet search for "biohackers" and see what you find.

But it is starting to become more mainstream, and there are already some thinkers that are quite eager to use such technology for very authoritarian purposes.

For example, one prominent philosopher recently suggested that we should use implantable microchips to prevent anyone that is "deemed unworthy" from becoming a parent...

Although he admits it “sounds blatantly authoritarian” and “violates just about every core value we possess in a free society,” a noted transhumanist author has said a world government body should forcibly sterilize anyone “deemed unworthy” of parenthood by using implanted microchips.


Constitutional attorney and civil liberties expert John W. Whitehead, founder of The Rutherford Institute, warned LifeSiteNews earlier this year that political officials would long to use this seminal technology.


In an article for today, philosopher Zoltan Istvan wrote that the notion first crossed his mind when he heard a blonde nurse say, “with 10,000 kids dying everyday around the world from starvation, you'd think we'd put birth control in the water.”


After careful thought, in an effort to “give hundreds of millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents,” Istvan wrote today.

You might be tempted to think that this is crazy talk.

But the truth is that this kind of technology is already being developed.

In a previous article, I quoted a news article which discussed how billionaire Bill Gates is funding the development of a birth control microchip that "acts as a contraceptive for 16 years"

Helped along by one of the world’s most notable billionaires, a U.S. firm is developing a tiny implant that acts as a contraceptive for 16 years — and can be turned on or off using a remote control.


The birth control microchip, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would hold nearly two decades worth of a hormone commonly used in contraceptives and dispense 30 micrograms a day, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review.


The new birth control, which is set to begin preclinical testing next year with hopes of putting it on shelves in 2018, can be implanted in the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen.

Yes, I know that a lot of the things that I have talked about in this article sound really weird.

But the reality of the matter is that technology is changing at an exponential rate, and our world is going to get crazier and crazier as time goes by.

Are you ready for what comes next?

10 Sep 21:38

IRS Testifies to Congress: "Wherever We Can, We Follow The Law"

by Michael F. Cannon
10 Sep 21:20

Final Chapter of Cash Seizure Series a Repulsive Accounting of Police Misbehavior

by Scott Shackford

"I sense a 50 percent increase in overtime claims coming."On Monday I noted The Washington Post had put together a series of stories offering a deep look at the abuse by law enforcement agencies across the country of civil asset forfeiture laws and how they’ve been able to line their pockets with citizens’ money without ever actually proving said citizens had committed any crime.

The final chapter is, as teased, a collection of terrible stories of American citizens who happen to be transporting cash being stopped by law enforcement officers for relatively minor reasons and conclude with these people having said cash taken away from them. Here’s just one of several stories highlighted:

Matt Lee of Clare, Mich., got snared in an interdiction net in 2011 on Interstate 80 in Humboldt County, Nev. Lee was a 31-year-old college graduate who had struggled to find work and had moved back in with his parents to save money. When a friend promised him an entry-level job as a sales rep at a photo studio in California, Lee’s father, a postal employee, loaned him $2,500 in cash and Lee drove west in a decade-old Pontiac Bonneville.

On his third day, Lee was passing through the Nevada desert, wearing aviator sunglasses. A sheriff’s deputy raced up alongside the Bonneville, stared at Lee and then pulled him over.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy L.A. Dove, a member of the K-9 drug interdiction unit, has received instruction from the 4:20 Group, a contractor for the DEA and one of the leading interdiction trainers in the country.

Dove asked whether Lee was carrying any currency and summoned a K-9 officer. Dove told Lee, who is white, to get out of the car and stand at the edge of the desert, while a dog sniffed for drugs. The deputy told Lee that he didn’t believe his story that he was moving to California, because he was carrying so little baggage, Lee told The Post. Lee has no criminal record.

When a search turned up Lee’s remaining $2,400 in cash, Dove and his colleague exchanged high-fives, Lee said. Dove said he was taking the money under state law because he was convinced that Lee was involved in a drug run. Lee was left with only the $151 in his pocket.

Lee got an attorney and eventually they agreed to give him his money back. But his attorney ended up taking half in fees.

For other cases, when challenged, officials offer to give the citizen half the money they’ve taken back if their victim will shut up and go away. Another victim, despite winning his battle and getting all his money back (and forcing the government to pay his legal fees) still ended up screwed over. The seized cash was to be used for costs of operating his small Virginia restaurant. Without the money, he ended up having to shut it down during the course of fighting for his property back.

Read the full story here. That at least nobody got beaten or shot is about the best you can say about the tales.

10 Sep 16:49

What Destiny Tells Us About the Future of Video Games

by Peter Suderman

Destiny, the new first-person shooter from Bungie, the company that until recently was behind the enduringly popular Halo series, just had the biggest first day of any new video game ever, with more than $500 million in retailer orders during its first 24 hours. A few other video games, like last year’s Grand Theft Auto V (which sold a whopping $800 million worth of games on opening day), have posted better single-day numbers, but they have all been sequels to existing franchises. This is the best start for a new series in video game history.

It’s also a game that suggests where the future of gaming is headed: customizable single-player experiences in the context of a massive social universe, with narratives that sprawl across years and continents of virtual space.

Destiny is essentially a mashup of the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) and the traditional first-person shooter (FPS). Just as in most RPGs, players customize the look and capabilities of their characters, but then embark on more traditional FPS-style missions. We’ve seen RPG/FPS hybrids before, of course, with games like Borderlands, but Destiny adds a larger social aspect to the game: Even when you’re playing single-player missions, you’re playing online, on servers populated by other players. They can play with you, co-op style, but often they’ll just be nearby, pursuing their own interests. Maybe you’ll join up for a moment to crush a massive boss, or maybe you’ll just do a little dance and move on (yes, Destiny characters have dance moves).

There’s an overarching story and mythology involving planetary conquest in a post-Utopian inner solar system, but unlike in a traditional single-player adventure, there's no clear end point. Instead, Bungie says the plan is to tell a universe-wide story, with literally game-changing events and new installments, over the course of a decade. Destiny is an attempt to create an expansive virtual universe, and allow each player to experience it in their own way—as whoever they want to be, and whoever they want to be with.

The result of this unique hybrid game design is a dual emphasis on personalization, in which players make choices that determine how they want to play and who they want to be within the game, as well as on player-driven social experience, in which players exist in large part in the context of their relationships to others in the world around them, determining for themselves what sort of social unit they want to be part of.

After finishing up with The Independents last night, I played for a few hours, and my early impression was pretty good. It’s a great looking game, with solid shooting mechanics and a surprisingly deep character upgrade system, a lot of which I haven’t even cracked yet. If you liked playing Halo, you’ll like the gameplay here.

But what struck me most was the social aspect. It’s not nearly as crowded as most of the traditional massively multiplayer games I’ve looked at, and since I was playing solo, there wasn’t the same kind of tight, team-based interaction of typical team-based shooters and co-ops. Instead, there was the unusual sensation of being in the middle of some familiar single-player shooter mission—and then, unexpectedly, running into another player. Usually the encounters were brief; sometimes they lasted for several minutes. But each was a brief reminder that games—even the sort of video games that have long been thought of as strictly for anti-social loners—are social experiences, and that there was, in fact, someone else out there, doing his or her own thing, just as I was doing mine. Judging by yesterday’s revenue figures, there seem to be a lot of them. 

Here's Reason's Nick Gillespie on why Grand Theft Auto V is the new Great Expectations. 

10 Sep 17:21

5 Million Gmail User Accounts, Passwords Hacked...

5 Million Gmail User Accounts, Passwords Hacked...

(First column, 9th story, link)

10 Sep 16:08

Markets in everything: High-tech, sensor-based trash collection saves up to 50% compared to the traditional system

by Mark J. Perry

Here’s a good example of both creative destruction and the invisible hand – Enevo ONe, a Finnish startup, is disrupting the waste management industry with a new, innovative sensor-based trash management system. Here’s how it works (from the company’s website):

Enevo ONe is a comprehensive logistics solution that saves time, money and the environment. It uses wireless sensors to measure and forecast the fill-level of waste containers and generates smart collection plans using the most efficient schedules and routes. The solution provides up to 50% in direct cost savings.

Until now collecting waste has been done using static routes and schedules where containers are collected every day or every week regardless if they are full or not. Enevo ONe changes all this by using smart wireless sensors to gather fill-level data from waste containers. The service then automatically generates schedules and optimized routes which take into account an extensive set of parameters (future fill-level projections, truck availability, traffic information, road restrictions etc.). New schedules and routes are planned not only looking at the current situation, but considering the future outlook as well.

Here’s a Forbes article with some background on how the company got started — the same way most successful companies get started — when Finnish entrepreneur Fredrik Kekalainen had a “eureka moment.”  And most of those “eureka moments” are perfect examples of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” concept, because entrepreneurs only become successful and rich in the marketplace by figuring out ways to make other people better off through better products or services, cheaper products or services, or new products and services that improve the lives of others. If things work out, entrepreneurs like Fredrik Kekalainen get rich, but their personal wealth is usually only a fraction of the social benefits that they generate collectively for the rest of society. By pursuing their own self-interest (and their desire to become wealthy) entrepreneurs like Fredrik are led by an “invisible hand” to make the rest of us better off. And that’s the miracle of the marketplace that Steven Landsburg described Armchair Economist - the amazing phenomenon that individually selfish behavior leads to collectively efficient outcomes.

HT: Jon Murphy

10 Sep 12:03

UBER accused of discriminating against blind passengers, slamming service dog in trunk...


The taxi cartel is attacking from another angle.

UBER accused of discriminating against blind passengers, slamming service dog in trunk...

(Third column, 23rd story, link)

09 Sep 13:22

School Bureaucracy and the Death of Common Sense

by Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick

If you needed more proof that bureaucracy induces the sacrifice of common sense to rigid rules, there’s this forehead-slapping story from the Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak:

Avery Gagliano is a commanding young pianist who attacks Chopin with the focused diligence of a master craftsman and the grace of a ballet dancer.

The prodigy, who just turned 13, was one of 12 musicians selected from across the globe to play at a prestigious event in Munich last year and has won competitions and headlined with orchestras nationwide.

One would expect that she’d be the pride of her school. Unfortunately, little Miss Avery attended a government-run school in Washington D.C.

But to the D.C. public school system, the eighth-grader from Mount Pleasant is also a truant. Yes, you read that right. Avery’s amazing talent and straight-A grades at Alice Deal Middle School earned her no slack from school officials, despite her parents begging and pleading for an exception.

“As I shared during our phone conversation this morning, DCPS is unable to excuse Avery’s absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.,” Jemea Goso, attendance specialist with the school system’s Office of Youth Engagement, wrote in an e-mail to Avery’s parents, Drew Gagliano and Ying Lam, last year before she left to perform in Munich.

Although administrators at Deal were supportive of Avery’s budding career and her new role as an ambassador for an international music foundation, the question of whether her absences violated the District’s truancy rules and law had to be kicked up to the main office. And despite requests, no one from the school system wanted to go on the record explaining its refusal to consider her performance-related absences as excused instead of unexcused.

The decision might be understandable if her piano-playing came at the expense of her literacy and numeracy, but Avery earned straight-A’s and her parents went above and beyond to ensure that her that she continued to make academic progress.

Avery’s parents say they did everything they could to persuade the school system. They created a portfolio of her musical achievements and academic record and drafted an independent study plan for the days she’d miss while touring the world as one of the star pianists selected by a prestigious Lang Lang Music Foundation, run by Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who handpicked Avery to be an international music ambassador.

But the school officials wouldn’t budge, even though the truancy law gives them the option to decide what an unexcused absence is. The law states that an excused absence can be “an emergency or other circumstances approved by an educational institution.”

Too bad, so sad. After 10 unexcused absences, it doesn’t matter whether a child was playing hooky to hang at the mall or charming audiences in Hong Kong with her mastery of Mozart. D.C. bureaucrats will label the kid a truant, will mar her transcript with that assessment and will assign a truancy officer to the case.

It was at that point that Avery’s parents decided she would no longer perform in the school’s theater of the absurd. Unable to afford private school, they decided to home-school their daughter.

“We decided to home-school her because of all the issues, because it was like a punch in the gut to have to face the fight again this year,” said Gagliano, who works at Hertz Car Rental. “We didn’t want to do this. We want to be part of the public school system. Avery has been in public school since kindergarten. She’s a great success story for the schools.”

Yet maddeningly, the government-run school doesn’t see it that way—a fact that Dvorak contrasts with a local Catholic school that not only allowed a student to take time off to win Olympic gold medals in swimming, but also proudly displays her achievements on their website.

What explains the difference in treatment?  Ludwig von Mises observed in Bureaucracy that government agencies exert powerful pressure on even the most well-meaning bureaucrats to follow predetermined rules, even to the point of absurity (like, say, a school district banning chapstick as “over-the-counter medicine”). Von Mises wrote:

Public administration, the handling of the government apparatus of coercion and compulsion, must necessarily be formalistic and bureaucratic. […] It is useless to blame them for their slowness and slackness. It is vain to lament over the fact that the assiduity, carefulness, and painstaking work of the average bureau clerk are, as a rule, below those of the average worker in private business. (There are, after all, many civil servants whose enthusiastic fervor amounts to unselfish sacrifice.) In the absence of an unquestionable yardstick of success and failure it is almost impossible for the vast majority of men to find that incentive to utmost exertion that the money calculus of profit-seeking business easily provides. It is of no use to criticize the bureaucrat’s pedantic observance of rigid rules and regulations.

When parents have the ability to remove their children from a school that isn’t meeting their needs and send them somewhere else, the schools must be responsive to their needs. By contrast, assigned district schools in lower-income areas have a captive audience, so there is no incentive to meet parental and student needs beyond the bureaucrat’s goodwill. But as Avery’s parents sadly learned, when that goodwill conflicts with some rule or regulation, it’s the latter that tend to win out.

08 Sep 15:46

Matt Ridley on the historical roots of government

by Mark J. Perry

From Matt Ridley’s latest post “Government begins as a monopoly on violence.”

Nobody seems to agree whether Islamic State is best described as a gang of criminals, a terrorist organization or a religious movement. It clearly has a bit of all three. But don’t forget that it aspires, for better or worse, to be a government. A brutal, bigoted and murderous government, its appeal is at least partly that it seems capable of imposing its version of “order” on the territory it controls, however briefly. It reminds us that the origin and defining characteristic of all government is that it is an organization with a monopoly on violence.

One of the great peculiarities of the United States is that it never quite managed to impose a state monopoly on powerful weaponry. The right to bear arms was a reaction to the presence of redcoats as an occupying army before 1783. The government got to own the tanks and aircraft carriers, but never pointed them at its own people, who were allowed to own guns much more freely than in other countries.

This is what makes the kit that the police displayed in Ferguson, Missouri, this month so alarming. With their camouflage uniforms, armored vehicles and heavy-caliber machine guns, “law enforcement” cops looked less like a constabulary and more like an occupying army. In recent years, largely by exploiting the “war” on terror and the “war” on drugs, the American police have indeed been radically militarized.

09 Sep 14:54

Could The Alibaba Model Undo The Wal-Mart Model?

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

These are questions that arise as a consequence of the digitization of the global/local supply chain in the peer-to-peer model.

Longtime correspondent Bill M. reckoned I missed the longer-term story in my piece on the Alibaba IPO: namely, that the Alibaba Model of makers selling directly to buyers could undo the Wal-Mart Model of super-stores dependent on massive inventory. My essay The China Boom Story: Alibaba and the 40 Thieves addressed the China Boom rather than the Alibaba model, so let's compare and contrast the Alibaba model and the Wal-Mart model.

We all know the Wal-Mart Model: squeeze suppliers until they're gasping for air ("sure, you're losing money on every unit you sell us, but you'll make it up on volume") and then transport all this stuff across the Pacific to a vast warehousing and shipping operation that must keep hundreds of sprawling (and costly) superstores stocked with hundreds of different items.
This model gained supremacy because it lowered costs to consumers by outsourcing the production of most of the inventory. Generally built outside of towns, the superstores thrived in an era of low gasoline costs and cheap credit, i.e. the past few decades.
Competition was held at bay by the sheer size of the superstores' purchasing might: nobody ordering small lots could buy stuff at the same price as someone ordering a million units.
The Alibaba Model is a peer-to-peer system that enables makers/suppliers and buyers to link up supply and demand in real time. Let's say I want 100 bicycle wheels of various sizes for my bicycle repair shop, to replace all the wheels stolen from unsecured bikes with quick-release hubs.
In the peer-to-peer market (the Alibaba Model), my bid for the 100 bicycle wheels is visible to a universe of makers/suppliers. Maybe some supplier has an overstock, or a manufacturer has piled up some extras or has a slack day to fill on the production line. There are any number of reasons why a maker/supplier might be able to get close to Wal-Mart's price for a small batch order.
Depending on my own distribution network, the 100 wheels might not even be inventoried in a warehouse: the day they arrive, I might ship them to others who already ordered wheels from me--from individuals to institutions to other repair shops.
The digital overhead of the transaction is near-zero, and managing the logistical supply chain is low-cost as well. There is very little overhead compared to the vast hierarchy of corporate controls and management of the superstore model.
This enables both the maker and the buyer to offer better prices with higher margins than either could get in the Superstore Model. In essence, the profit and overhead skimmed by the Superstore Corporation can be split between buyer and seller.
The Alibaba Model is not limited to China. After reading Shenzhen trip report - visiting the world's manufacturing ecosystem, Correspondent Mark G. observed: The injection mold making they discuss as a strength in Shenzhen is precisely what Phil Kerner teaches at hisThe Tool And Die Guy website. Resurrecting that supporting skill community ecology is why I regard such teaching materials from Kerner and Tubal Cain on Youtube as so vital: Index of Tubal Cain "Machine Shop Tips" videos on YouTube.
Toss in the ongoing revolution in affordable desktop 3-D fabrication machines, and it's not too hard to discern the price advantages of the Superstore Model eroding fast, especially if consumers wise up that "low prices" are not low if the quality is so poor the product must soon be replaced.
How much would I pay to avoid the weeks-long shipping delay from Asia? Does that premium enable local shops to compete with Asian workshops, despite the lower wages paid in China, Vietnam, and other emerging economies?
How much would I pay to have the item I want delivered to me rather than have to drive miles to the Superstore? if I add up the maintenance costs, fuel and other expenses of operating my car, and the time wasted in traffic, standing in line, etc., how much cheaper is the Superstore price?
How much would I pay to direct my money went to a local worker/shop owner I know and trust rather than to some supplier in a distant city?

These are questions that arise as a consequence of the digitization of the global/local supply chain in the peer-to-peer model. Just as we have reached Peak Central Planning and Peak Central Banking, we may have reached Peak Centralization not just in government and finance but in the corporate-cartel model of "low quality at high margins."

09 Sep 03:44

Government Agencies Can Come After Your Paycheck If You Don't Pay Your FOIA Fees

by Tim Cushing
The struggle to force the government to behave in a transparent fashion often runs through the FOIA process. When the government responds, it often takes out meaningful information by abusing FOIA exemptions. When the government doesn't respond, the "free" request becomes a rather expensive trip through the nation's courts.

Even when the government responds, it may decide not to waive fees, leaving the requester to come up with anything from several hundred to several thousand dollars in order to see documents created with taxpayer funds by federal employees. Entities like MuckRock deal with this obstacle through crowdfunding. But not every requester has access to this sort of support. If the documents are delivered without full payment (some just require a first installment of a certain percentage), the government can come after you for the uncollected fees.

But the government's collection efforts go beyond series of increasingly angry letters. According to information compiled by indispensable blog Unredacted, the government has the option to start docking your paycheck.

In a letter to the FOIA Advisory Committee, Michael Ravnitzky points to an article at Washington-focused blog The Hill that indicates that some government agencies are willing to use this method to collect unpaid FOIA fees. [pdf link]
I would like to bring the following issue to the Committee’s attention: application of Administrative Wage Garnishment to fees assessed for Freedom of Information Act requests.

Federal agencies have begun exploring and instituting a new weapon to use against FOIA requesters: wage garnishment. Here is a link to an article that mentions two agencies: one that is implementing wage garnishment and one that has decided not to do so after receiving some unfavorable feedback.

In this case, two agencies have already sought permission to use wage garnishment in FOIA cases for unpaid fees. A number of other agencies have established rules implementing the Administrative Wage Garnishment - AWG - provisions of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 - DCIA, but do not mention FOIA specifically. Other agencies are in the process of such rules, or are planning to add such rules.
As he cautions, the use of this collection method will only further encourage onerous and abusive fees.
Agencies often impose disproportionate fees that have the effect of deterring certain types of requests. For example, requesters frequently receive large fee letters without benefit of a preliminary call or note from the agency to discuss the possibility of a narrowed or more specified request, or to help clarify fee status.

Agency staff often charge review fees to noncommercial requesters, despite the fact that such fees are inapplicable. Agency staff frequently seek to charge search fees to newsmedia requesters, again despite the fact that such fees are inapplicable.

Noncommercial requesters are subject to search and review fees when responses are not provided within the statutory deadlines, even though the law precludes such fees, agencies asserting that all or nearly all the records requests they receive are subject to unusual and exceptional circumstances. Agencies even have imposed large page by page duplication fees, even when supplying electronic copies of records that already exist in electronic form.
As Ravnitzky notes, this form of collection is particularly intrusive and can have adverse effects on requesters. For the citizen on the receiving end, this can adversely affect current and future employment, as well as possibly prevent them from obtaining housing or vehicles. For those already employed, it informs employers of little more than the fact that their employee owes the government money -- which implies all sorts of unseen dishonesty.

Ravnitzky calls it the "nuclear option," one which certain agencies might deploy as further discouragement for future FOIA requests. Every government agency has many other options to resolve this issue (blocking of further requests and withholding of remaining responsive documents, to name a few) that this fee extraction method shouldn't even be on the table.

The most disgusting aspect of this is that certain agencies (and I imagine there will be more who warm to the idea) feel entitled to take funds (well, additional funds) right out of citizens' paychecks to pay for documents created, stored and distributed by taxpayer-funded agencies and taxpayer-funded employees. This isn't like a federally-funded school loan where the government has spotted a member of the public the money to finish their education. This is the government extracting fees for information it won't release until asked and charging ridiculous amounts for it. The fact that this method is available to government agencies is its own chilling effect, running directly contrary to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

09 Sep 13:45

Americans Say: Curb Election Spending, But Absolutely No Curbs on Speech

by Emily Ekins

On Monday, Senate Democrats voted to advance a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to regulate money raised and spent by candidates. It would also effectively overturn the Citizens United ruling and allow Congress the ability to restrict individuals, groups, corporations, and unions from using their resources in ways that Congress believes will influence elections:

"Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections."

Background is useful here: The Citizens United case determined whether it was constitutional for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law to prohibit—with threats of fine and imprisonment—a small non-profit group from airing a critical documentary about Hillary Clinton within 30 days before a Democratic presidential primary. Ultimately, the court ruled such bans on independent expenditures by corporations, labor unions, nonprofits, and associations violated the First Amendment.

In oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Obama administration lawyer arguing the case conceded that in order to regulate money and electioneering, this necessarily gave Congress the power to also ban Internet videos, political pamphlets and books if businesses, unions, or non-profit interest groups paid for them.

The logic behind this argument is clearly troubling since the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution explicitly protects against this very thing: "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

One might reasonably ask why the act of regulating independent spending during elections could infringe on free speech. Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R) provides some explanation as for why:

"Speech is more than just standing on a soap box yelling on a street corner. For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money. Distributing the Federalist Papers or Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" required money. If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech." [emphasis added]

To combat concerns that the proposed measure could infringe upon speech, its sponsors added Section 3 stating that the amendment should not be allowed to "abridge the freedom of the press."

Notice that speech is not mentioned. This suggests that only those who Congress confers the status of "press" receive protection. It's worth remembering that recently Congress has defined the press as only those meeting very specific criteria. For instance, Sen. Chuck Schumer's media-shield law explicitly did not cover bloggers or anyone not considered a "covered journalist." He even admitted a "covered journalist" might not even include journalist Glenn Greenwald who reported Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's domestic surveillance programs.

Cruz has provided a list of potential activities the proposed constitutional amendment could potentially allow Congress to ban:

  • Congress could prohibit the National Rifle Association from distributing voter guides letting citizens know politicians' records on the Second Amendment.
  • Congress could prohibit the Sierra Club from running political ads criticizing politicians for their environmental policies.
  • Congress could penalize pro-life (or pro-choice) groups for spending money to urge their views of abortion.
  • Congress could prohibit labor unions from organizing workers (an in-kind expenditure) to go door to door urging voters to turn out.
  • Congress could criminalize pastors making efforts to get their parishioners to vote.
  • Congress could punish bloggers expending any resources to criticize the president.
  • Congress could ban books, movies (watch out, Michael Moore) and radio programs—anything not deemed "the press"—that might influence upcoming elections.

While today no one is arguing to ban the aforementioned activities, it still remains unclear how the amendment would ensure the law couldn't be used to prohibit them.

Section 2 of the proposed amendment does say that Congress "may" distinguish between regular people and corporations, but it certainly doesn't guarantee to individuals, nonprofits, and other groups that their First Amendment rights won't be infringed.

Therefore, the burden of proof stands squarely on the shoulders of Congressional Democrats to explain why giving Congress this expanded authority could not lead to banning political books and pamphlets as the Obama administration's own lawyer once said campaign finance laws could.

In a Politico op-ed, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Ted Deutch argue Cruz is wrong and promise their proposed constitutional amendment "will not infringe on citizens' First Amendment rights." But they don't provide any evidence or explanation for why it won't. Instead, they argue that efforts to curb the power of rich people spending in elections will offset costs to the average individual created by their proposed amendment. Their op-ed gives the impression to readers that perhaps the only check on Congressional authority would be a promise of goodwill, and voters are asked to trust their political leaders to know what's best.

So ultimately the debate rests on this fundamental question: Can Congress actually regulate money in politics without necessarily infringing on speech, or does speech often require money be spent in order to actually disseminate the communication to a mass audience? The public's support for such an amendment ultimately hinges on the answer to this question.

The latest Reason-Rupe poll sheds some light on this question, finding that 57 percent of Americans would support a constitutional amendment that "allows Congress and state governments to regulate campaign contributions to and spending by candidates for office," while 36 percent would oppose. This is actually a bipartisan affair—59 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents, and 54 percent of Republicans would all support such an amendment—including 57 percent of tea party supporters.

However, fully 75 percent of all Americans would oppose such an amendment if it "also allowed Congress and states to regulate activities by individuals and groups, such as blogging or publishing a book that support or oppose a political candidate." Only 15 percent would continue to favor such legislation.

In sum, the public supports efforts to reduce the effect of money in elections, but will not tolerate costs to speech if those are required.

Schumer and Deutsch ask the public to conduct a "balancing test" when considering the costs and benefits of the First Amendment. But they fail to explain how their amendment's benefits will offset the costs to free speech.

It is clearly troubling to think that "nefarious" roving billionaires are buying elections and crowding out the voices of average Americans. But if it were so easy, then why didn't Republican billionaires succeed in 2012 after committing hundreds of millions to defeat Democrats? Why despite billionaire Tom Steyer's commitment of $100 million to elect members to combat climate change, has there not been significant legislation to that end? Why despite Meg Whitman's $1.4 billion net worth and spending $140 million of her own money in 2010 did she handily lose California's gubernatorial election?

The answer seems to be that money cannot buy people's hearts and minds; the American people are not sheep. Voters may favor efforts to reduce the effect of money in elections, but when it comes down to it, Americans value their speech over iterative attempts to control the flow of money.

07 Sep 05:00



08 Sep 18:16

The Ten Richest Americans in History

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Adjusted for inflation, who are the richest Americans in history measured in money?  CNNMoney has the scoop.  (HT Rob Wilson)

I’ve looked so far at only the first ten.  Of them, only one – Stephen Van Rensselaer (#6 on the list) – inherited a large fortune.  All of the others began life either modestly or, like #1, J.D. Rockefeller, began life downright, hard-scrabble poor.

These facts are powerful evidence against Thomas Piketty’s thesis.  (It’s interesting to note that Van Rensselaer apparently didn’t collect all of the literal rents that were owed on his property.  He did, however, found the great polytechnic school that is near the top of my son’s list of colleges to attend.)

Had I more time now, I’d repeat here one of my favorite themes – one that I’ll only hint at by asking any middle-class American now reading my words if he or she would trade places with the J.D. Rockefeller of, say, 1890 (or, for that matter, of whatever year the man was alive).  I wouldn’t trade places with him – and it’s not even close to being a close call.  So this fact means that I’m materially richer than was J.D. Rockefeller.  My guess is that most of you who are reading these words now are the same as me in this regard – which means that we are all wealthier than is the American who in history owned the largest inflation-adjusted stock of money and financial assets.

08 Sep 13:52

Quotations of the day from Alan Greenspan

by Mark J. Perry

1. “Capitalism is based on self-interest and self-esteem; it holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them pay off in the marketplace, thus demanding that men survive by means of virtue, not vices. It is this superlatively moral system that the welfare statists propose to improve upon by means of preventative law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic goad of fear.”

The Assault on Integrity“, 1963 (HT: Dennis Gartman in today’s The Gartman Letter)

2. “The world of antitrust is reminiscent of Alice’s Wonderland: everything seemingly is, yet apparently isn’t, simultaneously. It is a world in which competition is lauded as the basic axiom and guiding principle, yet “too much” competition is condemned as “cutthroat.” It is a world in which actions designed to limit competition are branded as criminal when taken by businessmen, yet praised as “enlightened” when initiated by the government. It is a world in which the law is so vague that businessmen have no way of knowing whether specific actions will be declared illegal until they hear the judge’s verdict—after the fact.”

“Antitrust,” essay at the National Association of Business Economists (September 25, 1961); published in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

08 Sep 12:42

Feds to Spend $500K for New Art at Border Patrol office...

Feds to Spend $500K for New Art at Border Patrol office...

(First column, 5th story, link)
Related stories:
05 Sep 17:00

Is John Kerry mentally ill? ‘Scriptures Commands America To Protect Muslims From Global Warming ‘

by Anthony Watts
At first, I thought this had to be a joke in the style of “The Onion”. Sadly, no. I have video of this dolt saying this on C-Span. I don’t know who’s more dangerous to humanity, Kerry or ISIS. The video: Here is some history leading up to this epic inanity. In February, Kerry said…
05 Sep 18:28

Argentina Goes Full-Venezuela - Plans To Regulate Prices, Profits, & Production

by Tyler Durden

Just weeks after defaulting (yet again) on its debt (whether technically or not), and shortly after raising the minimum wage by 31% (to $523 a month) amid runaway inflation, it appears Argentina has gone full-Venezuela. As WSJ reports, the great minds that 'run' Argentina have decided to pass legislation (dubbed "the supply law") letting the government regulate private-sector prices, profit margins and production levels. The opposition is up in arms, "this is absolutely ridiculous. It's part of a very primitive ideology that says government officials should decide what people should make, how much they should make and how much they should charge," adding that "we already know exactly what it is like to suffer from these kind of interventionist economic policies," in Venezuela.


As The Wall Street Journal reports,

A month after Argentina defaulted on its debt, big companies here say they fear that something else could do much more damage to the economy - legislation letting the government regulate private-sector prices, profit margins and production levels.


On Thursday, Argentina's senate passed a bill to do just that. The bill is expected to pass the lower house within weeks.


As written, the bill would allow the government to "establish, at any stage of the economic process, profit margins, reference prices, maximum and minimum prices, or all or any of these measures."


Critics say the bill, informally dubbed the supply law, would bring Argentine regulations in line with those of Venezuela, where inflation hovers around 60% and goods like sugar and toilet paper can be scarce.




"This is absolutely ridiculous. It's part of a very primitive ideology that says government officials should decide what people should make, how much they should make and how much they should charge," said Congressman Federico Pinedo of the opposition Pro party.




"We already know exactly what it is like to suffer from these kind of interventionist economic policies," said Luis Etchevehere, president of the Argentine Rural Society, the country's top farm group. "This will lead to divestment and possibly even supply shortages of some products like is now happening in Venezuela."


"If this kind of thing failed in Venezuela, why would you want to try it again here?" asked San Juan Province Senator Roberto Basualdo, himself a businessman. "Nobody will invest in this context."

But Argentine officials say it's different this time...

Nicolás Maduro Jr., the 20-something son of Venezuela's president, met with Argentine legislators here last week, reportedly to discuss the bill and Venezuela's experience with its own version of a supply law.


Argentine officials say the criticism and comparisons to Venezuela are misguided.


"We can require companies to produce things only if they're essential and necessary for people, and could create scarcity problems without them," Mr. Costa said in an interview. "They have to be goods that meet basic and essential needs of the population or there has to be a situation that very clearly distorts the market."

*  *  *

Economists, some of whom expect the economy to shrink by anywhere from 1% to 3% this year, say the timing of the bill is worsening an already bad business climate.

"You won't find any logic in this if you're looking at the economy and the need to attract investment," said Nicolas Solari, a political analyst at Poliarquia. "The supply law is a weapon that lets the government keeps businessmen in line during a period of economic and political adversity."

And businessmen (unsurprisingly) are not happy...

"This bill constitutes a grave intrusion into the decisions made by private sector companies and is clearly unconstitutional," the Argentine Business Association said a recent statement.

04 Sep 22:05

Missed This When It Came Out, But Very Cool

by admin
04 Sep 21:01

The Educrats

by John Stossel

The current debate over Common Core makes this proposed "reform" sound like something new and unique. But it's not. As Andrew Ferguson points out in this Weekly Standard cover story (which I borrow from liberally in this blog post and on my show tonight), Common Core happened just eight years after President George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy offered us another "revolutionary" approach to learning: No Child Left Behind.

No Child Left Behind came eight years after President Clinton thought up Goals 2000, a nation-wide school reform. But Goals 2000 was a reworking of another plan called America 2000 pushed by the first President Bush. He wanted to be called "the education president".

Only seven years before President Bush's national education strategy, President Reagan released something similar.

I wonder why that was needed. Didn't President Carter restore excellence with the creation of the federal Department of Education?

No. 40 years of "new" ideas. It is like an itch that reformers just can't scratch. And why should they?

A new education reform brings them money. And since the reforms never work, the last reform creates the need for more reform and more money. America now spends three times what we spent when President Carter "fixed" the problem by creating the Department of Education.

Triple the money, but no improvement. Well, improvement for professional education researchers! Money pours in from government and foundations. An army of these "educrats" found work as lobbyists, psychologists, and education theorists at graduate schools of education, foundations, and government education departments.

But our government schools still stink.

More about the history of the reform failure and how a little market competition would be a much better solution this Sunday my show "Back to School" at 10 PM ET on Fox News.

04 Sep 14:03

School bans 'unsupervised cartwheels' on playground...

School bans 'unsupervised cartwheels' on playground...

(First column, 14th story, link)

03 Sep 19:11

Lone Armed Woman Corners Home Invader: 'I'll Blow Your 'Bleeping' Head Off'

On September 2 an armed Omaha, Nebraska woman cornered an intruder in her house and told him not to move or she'd "blow his 'bleeping' head off."

The intruder complied.

According to, 52-year-old Barbara Haley was home alone when she heard a noise around 3 am. She grabbed her gun, walked through her house, and found nothing. She went back to bed and heard a "huge crash," after which she grabbed her gun again and went looking.

Her dog led her to a bedroom closet where she found the intruder. She pointed her gun at him and said, "Don't move or I'll blow your 'bleeping' head off."

The suspect began "begging her to ease off" and she told him to "shut up." She then "cocked the gun so he could hear it," called 911, and held the suspect at gunpoint until police arrived. 

Haley's husband was out of town when the home invasion took place. Before leaving town, he showed her how to take the handgun out of the holster in case she needed it. He told her: "If you have to use it, you want to use it right."

Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at