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Daily Archives: December 16, 2013

Federal Judge Strikes Down NSA’s Bulk Metadata Program: “I Cannot Imagine a More ‘Indiscriminate’ and ‘Arbitrary Invasion’ Than This Systematic and High-Tech Collection and Retention of Personal Data On Virtually Every Single Citizen” Washington’s Blog

Federal Judge Strikes Down NSA’s Bulk Metadata Program: “I Cannot Imagine a More ‘Indiscriminate’ and ‘Arbitrary Invasion’ Than This Systematic and High-Tech Collection and Retention of Personal Data On Virtually Every Single Citizen” Washington’s Blog.

“The Government Does Not Cite A Single Instance In Which Analysis Of The NSA’s Bulk Metadata Collection Actually Stopped An Imminent Attack”

A federal court has just struck down the NSA’s bulk metadata spying program today.

The court notes:

The Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.

***

There is no indication that these revelations were immediately useful or that they prevented an impending attack.

***

I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism.

***

The Fourth Amendment typically requires “a neutral and detached authority be interposed between the police and the public,” and it is offended by “general warrants” and laws that allow searches to be conducted “indiscriminately and without regard to their connection with [a] crime under investigation.”

I cannot imagine a more “indiscriminate” and “arbitrary invasion” than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely, such a program infringes on “that degree of privacy” that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware “the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,” would be aghast.

The judge is right:

 

CNN and Huffington Post Are “External Stakeholders” In Nuclear Regulatory Commission Washington’s Blog

CNN and Huffington Post Are “External Stakeholders” In Nuclear Regulatory Commission Washington’s Blog.

Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

 

Presstitute Media Shills for Nuclear Power

It is well-documented that the claim that nuclear power is a low-carbon source of energy is merepropaganda.

The archaic nuclear reactor design used at Fukushima and in most reactors in the United States and throughout the world was chosen solely because it helps to make nuclear bombs.

Our health has been sacrificed – and the dangers of radiation covered up – for 68 years … for the sake of nuclear weapons.

The mainstream media – and gatekeeper “alternative” media – are pro-war. They may occasionally criticize one tiny aspect of the war-fighting machinery, but never the overall war effort.

As such, it should not be entirely surprising that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission lists CNN and Huffington Post as “external stakeholders” in the NRC.

As EneNews reports:

Independent Evaluation of NRC’s Use and Security of Social Media, Office of the Inspector General, Jan. 2013:

Social Media Evaluation Interview List [Appendix VI, pg. 82]

  • Internal Stakeholders (NRC staff) […]
  • External Stakeholders (Press) Energy Editor, AOL, Huffington Post — Nuclear Writer, Huffington Post — Producer, CNN News
  • External Stakeholders (Digital Influencers) Blogger, Atomic Power Review — Blogger, Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes — Blogger, Yes Vermont Yankee
  • External Stakeholders (Nuclear Industry) […] Senior Manager for Social — Media, Nuclear Energy Institute […]
  • External Stakeholders (US Government and US Senate Staff) US-CERT Representative, United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team — Policy Director, US Senate ….

Excerpts from the evaluation:

  • As part of the press, I have to be able to quickly communicate a lot of technical information into something our readers will grasp. But it helps if NRC had strong info graphics or a section that provided a breakdown of technical info so I can understand the translation from its source. — Huffington Post
  • NRC‘s materials are very basic and not very viral. Other agencies do a better job of including information graphics, photos, even clickable links. There‘s no extra. It‘s not influential. — Managing Editor, Huffington Post
  • One producer from Cable News Network (CNN) suggested that what was currently offered on Flickr does not compel him to return and urged NRC to provide more content that did not involve people in a conference room or of the chairperson speaking from a podium.

Read the report here (pdf)

See also: Paper: CNN’s nuclear propaganda film “is dishonest to its core” — It’s “actually an infomercial”

Remember, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a pro-industry group which is largely funded by the nuclear companies. (This is true of all nuclear agencies).

The nuclear industry in Japan – and elsewhere – spends more on pr than on safety measures.  Indeed, nuclear power is a form of crony capitalism, where taxpayers fund a market which would not even exist in a free market.

The presstitute media once again shills for the powers-that-be.

 

Is Bitcoin Bringing The “Dark Web” Into The Light? | Zero Hedge

Is Bitcoin Bringing The “Dark Web” Into The Light? | Zero Hedge.

Despite the best efforts of the search engines, the majority of the Internet is unsearchable with estimates of this “Unlit” Web as high as 90%. As ConvergEx’s Nick Colas notes, some of this content (no one knows how much) is dark for a reason – hosting every form of criminal behavior known to man – but the rest from the increasing interest in anonymous Internet use in light of widely publicized government surveillance.

Among the least well understood emerging themes in technology, Colas points out, is the “Dark Web”, adding that Oscar Wilde famously opined that “All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.”  The existing structure of the Internet handles the first two very well.  The Dark Web is, apparently, for the third. The first innovation to move from “Dark” to “Lit” Web is bitcoin, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Via ConvergEx’s Nick Colas,

If you are a fan of the movie The Princess Bride, you might recall the character of Dread Pirate Roberts.  His was as inherited position, with one man handing down the job to a worthy apprentice when he grew tired of the pirating game.  This approach allowed a series of people to benefit from the efforts of many predecessors rather than having to build up their own “Brand” on the high seas.

I am sorry to report that the name Dread Pirate Roberts is now not just a memory from a delightful book and movie, but the nom du guerre of a man accused of running a real life drug website and attempting to arrange several contract killings.  His real name is Ross Ulbricht, and these are the particulars of his case:

According to Federal prosecutors, the FBI arrested Ulbricht at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library on October 1st.  They confiscated his laptop computer, where they noted he was logged into a website call Silk Road as an administrator. This was a popular site for the sale and distribution of illegal drugs and other contraband.  The FBI had successfully tracked the operation of the site to Ulbricht, according to court documents related to the case.

In documents found on the seized computer, investigators found a journal, which they claim chronicles Ulbricht’s own development of the site back to its founding in 2010.  This included the odd fact that he had grown several kilos of hallucinogenic mushrooms so the site would have something to sell when it went live but before other sellers began to offer their own illegal drugs.

As if running an online portal for illicit drugs wasn’t bad enough, Ulbricht also allegedly tried to arrange six murders-for-hire.  The reported targets, all of who are still apparently alive, ranged from blackmailers to fraudulent sellers on the site.  These presumably eroded Silk Road’s reputation and user trust.

As of this writing, Ulbricht is being held without bail.  The Federal government confiscated 144,000 bitcoins as part of the investigation, worth $122 million as of today.  Several press accounts of the case theorize that this stash was only part of Ulbricht’s total holdings and that, if true, would give him access to hundreds of millions of dollars in notional wealth with which to flee the country.

The bitcoin piece of this story got some press, given all the recent interest in the online “Currency”; what got lost in the wash was the presence of the “Dark Web” – a parallel, if much larger Internet, to the one we all use every day.  A brief description here:

Google, Yahoo and Bing, among other search engines, only track part of the Internet – essentially the bits that website owners want the public to see.  Business owners strive to optimize their sites to appear on pages 1 or 2 of a given search, knowing that most users will not travel farther.  Time magazine recently ran a cover article on the “Deep Web”, essentially the Internet which search engines do not reach, and estimated that +90% of online content cannot be found by the typical search engines we all use every day.  Wired magazine puts the number at 99%.  Either way, most of the Internet is essentially “Dark”.

A large chunk of this “Missing” data must come from its formatting, unfriendly to Google/Yahoo/Bing search algorithms.  Just consider all the economic data available through the Federal Reserve’s datasets.  Typing “FRED inflation” into Google does get you to the St. Louis Fed’s excellent database of economic indicators, but from there you have to enter exactly what you want.  Google, among others, is busy trying to integrate this information; there is a link after the text to a paper describing this effort.  Another example of the Dark Web: your financial information at your bank or broker, held behind security firewalls but available to you with an ID and password.

Then there is the part of the Internet that doesn’t want to be found, and where the “Dark Web” means something else.  Silk Road is one example, and even though that site is now shuttered there are other places on the Dark Web where users can purchase illegal drugs.  From there, it gets a lot worse.  There are sites advertising contract killings, illegal pornography, money laundering, and stolen financial information.  Some press reports link global terrorism to the Dark Web.

Now, you won’t find the Dark Web on your Explorer, Safari or Firefox browser.  To find these sites you’ll need something called Tor, short for “The Onion Router”, or other software which essentially makes you anonymous online.  These browsers route your heavily encrypted traffic through a rabbit warren of servers around the world, making it nearly impossible to connect your computer to any individual site you might visit.  Tor was actually developed by the U.S. Navy for secure communication, but the software is available for free here: https://www.torproject.org

Secure and anonymous access to the Internet is becoming a growth business, and Tor is one of the hottest tickets to that show.  The Google search phrase “Tor search” has tripled in the last year, and the query “Tor” is up 100% over the same period.  Like most fashion-forward tech trends, searches for Tor cluster on the coasts, in Oregon, Washington state, California and New York.  Since search engine capability doesn’t reach the Dark Web – by design, of course – TorSearch is now available for users, with a reported 130,000 sites listed and something like a tripling of use in the last few weeks, according to media accounts.

There is an obvious tension between a growth opportunity for business and the need for society to regulate and control the illegal use of any technology. A few points here:

Aside from search engine companies, there is not much academic research dedicated to the Dark Web.  We spent the better part of day trolling the usual scholarly sites, with little success.

Law enforcement seems poorly equipped to handle the challenge.  There was one high profile takedown of a server hosting a range of illegal activities in Ireland over the summer (link below), but its success seems to have been caused by a flaw in the Firefox browser software used by Tor.  The flaw has since been fixed.  It wasn’t a technical gltich that brought down Silk Road – one of the supposed hitmen contracted for the murder-for-hire plot was an undercover agent.

We did find one consumer product offering related to Tor – something called pogoplug – which directs your web traffic into the anonymous network.  It cost $49 and has wifi for your cell phone.  The downside: Tor is slower than conventional access since your information transits through more connections than the customary point-to-point process.

All that said, we do have one innovation – bitcoin – that successfully made the transition from Dark to “Lit” web.  Silk Road was clearly an early enabler of the online “Currency” but it now has the tacit recognition of everyone from the Federal Reserve to business television. Like the Dark Web, its early appeal was anonymity, but its low cost utility for money transfer should allow it to survive increasing regulatory scrutiny.  It won’t be a flawless transition, considering its birth in the primordial ooze of the Dark Web, but it seems well on its way.

Can there be other innovations, developed in the shadows of the Dark Web, which hit the mainstream? It seems inevitable.  Revelations of government spying around the world provide the notional demand for anonymous Internet use.  Oscar Wilde famously opined that “All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.”  The existing structure of the Internet handles the first two very well.  The Dark Web is, apparently, for the third.

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S Sudan president says coup attempt ‘foiled’ – Africa – Al Jazeera English

S Sudan president says coup attempt ‘foiled’ – Africa – Al Jazeera English.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has said a coup led by his former deputy has been foiled and vowed to bring to justice those responsible.

Soldiers loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, attempted to overthrow the government of South Sudan, as sporadic fighting between factions of the military gripped the capital in the latest violence to hit the world’s youngest nation.

I promise you today that justice will prevail.

President Salva Kiir

 

Flanked by government officials, President Salva Kiir, who had put on fatigues with an army general’s epaulets, said in a televised address to the nation that the military had foiled a coup orchestrated by “a group of soldiers allied with the former vice president.”

The soldiers had attacked the South Sudanese military headquarters near Juba University late on Sunday, sparking sporadic clashes that continued on Monday, he said.

“The attackers went and (the) armed forces are pursuing them,” Kiir said on Monday.

“I promise you today that justice will prevail.”

The government was now “in full control of the military situation”, he said, ordering a curfew in Juba from 6:00pm to 6:00am (1500 to 0300 GMT), which will remain in force until further notice.

Details unclear

Details of the attempted coup remained sketchy, but South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the Associated Press news agency that troops in the main army base raided a weapons store in Juba but were repulsed.

Some politicians had since been arrested, he said, but could not confirm if former vice president Riek Machar – who he said led the attempted coup – was among them. Benjamin said the coup was plotted by “disgruntled” soldiers and politicians led by Machar.

An Associated Press journalist saw heavily-armed soldiers patrolling the streets of Juba on Monday while gunfire was coming from the city’s main army barracks. The streets were largely empty of civilians.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported the sound of mortar and heavy machine-gun fire, saying hundreds of civilians had sought shelter at a UN compound.

The UN deputy special representative for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, tweeted that up to 13,000 civlians were taking refuge from the fighting in UNMISS bases.

Tension had been mounting in South Sudan since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July.

Machar, who has expressed a willingness to contest the presidency in 2015, told Al Jazeera in July that if the country is to be united it cannot tolerate “one man’s rule or it cannot tolerate dictatorship.”

Power struggles

His sacking, part of a wider dismissal of the entire Cabinet by Kiir, had followed reports of a power struggle within the ruling party.

At the time, the United States and the European Union urged calm amid fears the dismissals could spark political upheaval in the country.

While Kiir is leader of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party, many of the dismissed ministers, including Machar, were key figures in the rebel movement that fought a decades-long war against Sudan that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011.

Machar, a deputy chairman of the ruling party, is one of the country’s most influential politicians.

The local Sudan Tribune newspaper reported on its website that military clashes erupted late Sunday between members of the presidential guard in fighting that seemed to pit soldiers from Kiir’s Dinka tribe against those from the Nuer tribe of Machar.

South Sudan has experienced bouts of ethnic violence, especially in rural Jonglei state, since the country peacefully broke away from Sudan after a brutal civil war.

 

Guest Post: What’s Real? What’s Fake? | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: What’s Real? What’s Fake? | Zero Hedge.

Is the unemployment rate real or fake? It is obviously fake, but we want to believe the fake is real for a variety of reasons.

We like to think we know the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. When we’re fooled by a fake Rolex watch purchased for $20 on some humid Asian street corner, we shrug it off: it’s no big deal because the fake isn’t harming anyone.

And when it’s difficult to discern the fake from the legitimate, as in fine art paintings and financial policy, we rely on experts to differentiate between the two.

But what if the “experts” are as clueless as the rest of us? What if they’ve been corrupted by easy money to authenticate the fake as legitimate? Consider ObamaCare, an extraordinarily complex policy that “experts” assure us is a phenomenal advancement that is “working well.”

But what if ObamaCare is a fake? What if it is really not insurance at all, but a giant skimming machine designed to enrich and solidify the power of the state-cartel that operates the sickcare system?

“Experts” (PhDs and Federal Reserve economists) assure us our financial system is the core engine of “growth” in our economy. But what if this assertion is simply a useful illusion, and the reality is that the U.S. financial system is a giant skimming operation that harvests immense profits off the real economy to the benefit of the few, the financial cartels and their lapdogs in the Central State?

“Experts” in the Federal government assure us the unemployment rate is 7%. But if we include the 91.5 million people of working age who could be working (and would be working in a work-fare economy), then the real unemployment rate is double the official rate: 14% or even higher.

Is the unemployment rate real or fake? It is obviously fake, but we want to believe the fake is real for a variety of reasons.

The 1974 Orson Welles documentary (recommended by correspondent K.K.) F For Fake helps elucidate this peculiar dynamic of human nature.

The master art forger who plays a central role in F For Fake noted (self-servingly, but amusingly so) that his addition of a few fake Modigliani paintings into the world’s collections did no damage to Modigliani (long since deceased) or the collectors, who benefited from the opportunity buy a Modigliani masterpiece.

We want to believe the fake unemployment rate of 7% rather than the real rate of 14+% because the officially sanctioned forgery feeds our belief that our bloated, corrupt Empire of Debt is sustainable, fair and working well. To accept that we’ve been bamboozled, ripped off, taken advantage of and ultimately cheated out of an authentic economy and life by swindlers is too painful.

How is the Federal Reserve’s creation of money out of thin air not officially sanctioned forgery, a forgery we accept because we are like the collectors who are willing to buy forgeries as masterpieces, as long as they’re good forgeries, rather than forego the joy of owning a masterpiece?

Just as the belief in the provenance of a masterpiece creates its value in the marketplace, so it is with money: if it is created by a central bank and ultimately backed by the State’s right to tax its citizenry, we consider it legitimate, even though it is clearly an intrinsically worthless forgery of real value (i.e. gold, silver, land, cans of beans, machine tools, etc.).

And just as the value of a masterpiece is shattered by the loss of faith in its value, so it is with money: should the belief that creates the value fade, so to will the practical utility of the money.

Any doubts about the value of the euro, yuan, yen or dollar are dismissed by the mainstream as the confused ravings of a lunatic fringe, because maintaining the faith in the provenance of paper money is essential to the power created by financial engineering. But it’s worth keeping in mind that this belief in the value of money created out of thin air by the conjurer’s wand is just that, a belief.

Krugman Blowing Bubbles – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada

Krugman Blowing Bubbles – Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada.

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 by  posted in CapitalismEconomicsHistory.

krugman

The perennial question of modern economics is simple: how are market downturns best combated? It’s a good question, if you are trying to deduce truth in matters. It also makes for good fodder to appease career-granting benefactors, i.e. the government. It was not always this way however. Economists, if true to their craft, do not make for barrels of optimism. They are supposed to be a splash of cold water on wishful thinkers.

The unholy alliance between the state and the economic profession would never last if dismal science practitioners were gadflies who swatted down every harebrained scheme that festered in the dreams of central planners. This was one of the problems encountered by classical economists. Being market-friendly, it was tough appealing to monarchs or government leaders who wanted a quick fix to economic doldrums. No head of the public wants to tell his citizens, “Sorry, I cannot help you today. You must help yourself.”

Eventually John Maynard Keynes would come along and give the economic vocation the crony justification it needed to become respectable in the eyes of the state. His The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was a how-to guide for pols looking to spend other people’s money. At last they had an excuse: to boost unemployment by paying laid-off workers to dig holes aimlessly.

Our friend Paul Krugman is Keynes’s most vocal disciple, and never tires of reinvoking his intellectual master’s teachings of mo’ money, mo’ debt, and no mo’ problems. In a recentinterview with the forever exhausted-looking Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider, Kruggy is perplexed by the Federal Reserve’s inability to inflate out of the ongoing economic slowdown. He snakes out a position between naysayer Larry Summers, who thinks the economy can only grow with artificial bubbles, and someone who is more optimistic about the future. On necessary bubbles, Krugman tells us:

“If we look at the evidence…and it kind of looks like…we need bubbles to grow. We’ve had one bubble after another. Long-term rise in debt, with no inflation…the economy is looking like it’s just barely managing to keep its above water with all those bubbles so…that’s the observation.”

Krugman blames the news status quo on slowing technological innovation and lower population growth. As for the United States, the Nobel Laureate is convinced the trade deficit is largely at fault. Lastly, he concedes that no one really knows why the economy must be goosed by a shot of exuberance.

That’s all true, if you forget the fact that some folks do actually understand why Krugman and his like-minded colleagues are scratching their heads over bubbles.

That the past few decades have witnessed financial bubble after financial bubble is not proof positive of a great need for them. Krugman’s assumption is that had the Fed not interfered in the marketplace to boost particular assets, the whole economy would have imploded. It’s a false assumption, but totally in line with Keynesian theory.

From the stagflation in the late 1970s to the stock market crash of 1987, forward to the failure of Long Term Capital Management in 1998, the popping of the dot-com bubble years later, and finally culminating in the housing crisis of 2007-2008, Krugman and Summers appear to have a point. All of these cases of faux prosperity were caused by the Fed’s meddling with the money supply, pushing interest rates down below their natural level. The headache after each instance was cured with the hair of the dog – meaning more inflation, more stimulus, and more central bank liquidity. The roller coaster ride of money printing has left the economy distorted and unable to find true balance again.

For the life of him, Krugman can’t seem to find any evidence of market stability without the animal spirits being thrown a liquidity bone. And yet, his go-to example of angelic prosperity – the 1950s – has all the markings of a relatively calm period of prosperity absent of central bank interference. As former Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman points out, the heads of the Federal Reserve following World War II were less-than-enthusiastic about ginning up growth via the printing press. This was when William McChesney Martin was at the helm and President Eisenhower was reluctant to keep up the hog wild spending of his predecessor. In an interview with the American Mises Institute, Stockman comments:

Although central banking does cause moral hazards and lends itself to abuses, there have been periods in which monetary and fiscal discipline have been employed. Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin, for example, really did take the punch bowl away when the party got started because he took monetary discipline seriously. Fiscal discipline under Eisenhower and the gold standard behind Bretton Woods helped put off the day of reckoning for quite a long time.

After wartime price controls were relaxed in the late 1940s, capitalists and private investors were freed of government burden and began investing in the country yet again. Washington’s budget was cut significantly, including hundreds of billions removed from the Pentagon’s death machine expenditures. Stockman brings attention to the data: “Between 1954 and 1963, real GDP growth averaged 3.4 percent while annual CPI inflation remained subdued at 1.4 percent.”

So yes, this was the non-bubble prosperity Krugman is looking for. As Justin Raimondowrites, “[E]ight years of relative fiscal sanity under the Eisenhower presidency ushered in the greatest economic expansion in modern times.” What’s funny is that Krugman is one of the biggest cheerleaders of post-war prosperity and continually advocates going back to the Ike-era. But he wrongly attributes the golden times to pro-union labor policies and high rates of taxation.

Regardless, the takeaway from the decade of General Motors, Elvis, decent manners, and the Red threat is bubbles are not necessary for economic growth. By trying to stimulate demand, the Fed only mucks up economic calculation and capital accumulation.

Krugman’s solutions for the bubble-addicted economy are no better than his own understanding of economic theory. Widespread unemployment can be cured, in his opinion, by weaker purchasing power, a stronger welfare state, and continual government spending. In other words, by top-down central planning that attempts to tweak society “just so.” All these efforts are nothing but a shell game that take money from some and give it to another. Basically, Krugman is King Solomon with a sword, cutting everyone into parts he sees most fit.

Saying we need continuous financial bubbles to keep full employment is such a flawed conception of economics, it belongs on an island of misfit philosophies. Krugman’s incessant promotion of statism is doing more harm to the economy than good. As an opinion-molder, he is perpetuating the economic malaise of the last few years. More bubbles won’t help the recovery, just harm it more. In the middle of a grease fire, Krugman calls for more pig fat. And the rest of us are the ones left burnt.

James E. Miller is editor-in-chief of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada. Send him mail

 

Chart Of The Day: This Is What “Generational Theft” Looks Like | Zero Hedge

Chart Of The Day: This Is What “Generational Theft” Looks Like | Zero Hedge.

Much has been said about the key aspect of the Ponzi scheme behind America’s welfare state (if not enough where it matters as the three living Fed Chairmen currently joke around during the Fed’s shindig on the central bank’s 100th anniversary), namely that all those who have paid in money to entitlements, are entitled to benefit from entitlement distributions in the future. On paper this is absolutely correct, and in an efficient market, without capital allocation distortions this would work (ignoring that a Ponzi scheme, is, by definition, a Ponzi scheme and is reliant on ever greater inflows of money and participants or, as some may call them, suckers). More importantly, this is also fair. Sadly, as recent experiments within the Obama administration and elsewhere, most notably France, when the entire developed world has hit “peak debt” levels, the fairness doctrine no longer works, especially if and when it is enforced upon a destitute population.

Since we don’t live in a paper world, one should be able to quantify the disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots” when it comes to entitlements. This is precisely what Larry Kotlikoff did in August 2013 in “How the millennial generation will pay the price of Washington’s paralysis.” The results, charted, show what JPM’s Michael Cembalest has dubbed, accurately, “generational theft”, or the difference between how much excess some Americans will have received in government benefits (the older ones), compared to how great the funding deficit is for others – mostly young Americans, those who are about to graduated from college with record amounts of student loans (on average) and those yet unborn.

Cembalest’s summary:

After you graduate, the US will be in the thick of the “generational theft” issue; here’s a heads-up on what this is all about. Generational accounting is an estimate of who benefits from and who pays for government programs. As shown in the first chart, the average person in the generation that turned 65 this year received $327 thousand dollars more in lifetime government benefits than they paid in Federal taxes. On the other hand, children born in the future (e.g., yours) will have a lifetime deficit on this basis of -$421 thousand dollars. If it sounds unfair, it is.

It seems that these days few things are fair. Which is perhaps why the rulers are desperate to do everything in their power to “enforce” their idea of fairness on everyone.

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Judge Rules NSA’s “Indiscriminate & Arbitrary” Invasion Of Privacy Likely Unconstitutional | Zero Hedge

Judge Rules NSA’s “Indiscriminate & Arbitrary” Invasion Of Privacy Likely Unconstitutional | Zero Hedge.

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely to be unconstitutional. As Politico reports, Judge Richard Leon blasted, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval.” This is the first significant legal setback for the NSA’s surveillance program since Edward Snowden exposed it.

Via Politico,

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to run afoul of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the so-called metadata had helped to head off terrorist attacks.

 

 

Plaintiffs have a very significant expectation of privacy in an aggregated collection of their telephone metadata covering the last five years, and the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program significantly intrudes on that expectation,” wrote Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush. “I have significant doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism.”

 

 

Leon’s ruling is the first significant legal setback for the NSA’s surveillance program since it was disclosed in June in news stories based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The metadata program has been approved repeatedly by numerous judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and at least one judge sitting in a criminal case.

The Blog of Legal Times adds:

A federal magistrate judge in Washington today released a 157-page report detailing evidence and testimony in a dispute over the handling of evidence from mass arrests of protesters in downtown Washington in 2002.

 

U.S. District Magistrate Judge John Facciola did not, however, offer his conclusions on the central issue of whether city or police officials mishandled, concealed or destroyed evidence.

 

Facciola, who was appointed by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to probe the evidence-related allegations as a special master, wrote that he wasn’t clear on the scope of his authority at this point.

 

“As I am reluctant to speculate as to Judge Sullivan’s intentions, particularly when the sanctions sought are so severe,” Facciola wrote.

 

The underlying litigation involves mass arrests by the Metropolitan Police Department during protests around Pershing Park in 2002. In recent years, the arrest litigation has been put on hold as lawyers for the plaintiffs and the city fought over allegations that officials mishandled evidence and withheld information from the court.

 

Facciola’s report didn’t include a time frame for when Sullivan might decide how the case should proceed. “I will instead issue the following findings of fact but defer issuing conclusions of law until Judge Sullivan indicates the nature of the authority he wishes me to exercise,” Facciola wrote, “assuming he intends me to have additional responsibilities once he reviews my findings.”

Full judge’s report:

 

 

Bets Against Canadian Dollar Spike: Report

Bets Against Canadian Dollar Spike: Report.

canadian dollar

Just weeks after investment bank Goldman Sachs advised clients to bet against the loonie, global currency traders appear to be doing just that.

Bets against the loonie surged by more than a third in one week, the Globe and Mail reports. According to numbers from the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission, there were $5.4 billion in short positions against the Canadian dollar last week, up by $1.5 billion in a week.

That’s the highest number of bets against the loonie since last spring, when short positions against the currency hit an all-time high.

There are numerous reasons analysts expect the loonie to keep falling, chief among them weakness in resource prices. Canada’s dollar generally tracks commodity prices.

In its report, Goldman Sachs noted that Canada has had a trade deficit — which normally means a declining currency — for the past five years. But the country avoided a sinking loonie because of the strength of its financial system, which attracted a lot of foreign investor money.

That foreign investment has now hit the brakes, Goldman Sachs said, and that’s reflected in a declining Canadian dollar.

A weaker dollar could be bad news for cross-border shoppers and people traveling abroad during the holiday season. Some travel companies are already considering slapping a “currency surcharge” on the price of package vacations. Many of these companies’ costs are in U.S. dollars.

But what’s bad news for travelers could be good news for retailers, who can expect to see more shopping at home if prices in the U.S. are higher for Canadians.

The loonie has been on a downward trajectory for much of the year, hitting its high point for 2013 in January, at above $1.01 U.S., before declining to around the 94-cent U.S. mark in recent weeks.

Some economists have suggested Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz may be intentionally trying to sink the loonie, in order to help Canada’s flagging exports. Poloz officially denies this.

 

The “other” anniversary that’s far more important

The “other” anniversary that’s far more important.

Though still a week shy of its centennial anniversary, the US Federal Reserve will hold a celebration this afternoon in Washington DC.

(They’re even live-streaming it… http://www.ustream.tv/federalreserve)

Just imagine the scene– a bunch of current and former central bankers slapping each other on the back, congratulating one another for a job well done over the last 100 years.

Of course, you and I know this is total nonsense… as is the concept of our modern monetary system in which we award total control of the money supply to a tiny central banking elite.

Human beings are fallible. We are not gods. Yet we practically deify central bankers and entrust them with the power to manipulate markets, control prices around the world, and effectively dominate the economy.

This system has proven to be foolish and destructive.

While the Fed engages in its self-aggrandizement this afternoon, there is another far more important anniversary today– the Boston Tea Party.

It was this day in 1773 that dozens of men dumped 342 chests of tea from 3 ships into the water. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that it started with bankers.

In 1771, London banker Alexander Fordyce of the banking house Neal, James, Fordyce and Down thought himself infallible too.

Fordyce had made a fortune as a speculator, and he enjoyed his opulent wealth. He held magnificent estates in Surrey, Roehampton, and Scotland, and once blew 14,000 pounds (several million dollars today) running for parliament.

There was only one problem: Fordyce began making his bets using other people’s money. And when his bet on the East India Company didn’t work out, Fordyce’s bank used customer deposits to cover their losses.

By June 1772, the bank could no longer keep up the charade. And within days their collapse caused a cascade of other bank failures as far as Edinburgh and Holland.

With a crisis unfolding, the government forced the central bank to intervene in a way that was eerily similar to the 2008 financial crisis.

Just like 2008, too-big-to-fail companies got bailed out… including the East India Company itself. The East India Company was a bit like General Motors a few years ago– it was obvious they were in financial straits.

And as part of the bailout, the British parliament soon passed the Tea Act– an attempt to flood the colonies with the East India Company’s stockpiles of excess tea.

The Tea Act had another purpose, though– to assert parliament’s right to tax the colonies. And this is what ultimately led to the Tea Party on December 16, 1773.

John Adams wrote in his diary that the destruction of the tea was ‘daring’ and ‘intrepid’, and that to ignore the Tea Act would be like submitting “to Egyptian taskmasters, to [burdens], Indignities, to Ignominy, Reproach and Contempt, to Desolation and Oppression, to Poverty and Servitude.”

Britain’s harsh reaction to the Tea Party further escalated tensions with the colonists, and it wasn’t long afterward that the first shots were fired.

Given the prominent role of bankers and bailouts in the American Revolution, it’s ironic that the Federal Reserve has chosen to hold its centennial celebration today.

And as they all slap each other on the back today extolling the Fed’s ‘successes’, one can only hope that the arrogance and pomposity of the current system will lead to a new revolution– this time a revolution of the monetary system and a return to the principles of sound money.

 

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