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SF Bay Area housing prices in bubble fueled by startups, stock options

bubblicious

One million for a no-view 2 bdr apartment in SF highlights the real estate bubble currently enveloping San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Prices are driven by play money. Startups get huge funding even though they have no possibility of profits for the forseeable future. Those who work at tech companies often get stock options. In both cases they take what is essentially free money for them and bid up real estate prices. High housing prices drive out even those making good money. It makes the market unstable. It will end, because all bubbles end. This time is not different. It will end when something causes the hot money to stop flowing it. Sue and I are moving to Vegas from San Jose soon. Housing prices are the primary reason. We want to own a house again and can’t afford it here. From Wolf Richter, who lives in and loves SF.

In the current climate, hundreds of transactions, large and small, take place every month, including a slew of IPOs. That’s the great hot-money-transfer machine. And San Francisco sits at the receiving end. There are some drawbacks, however. Number one, it won’t last. It just prepares the way for the next bust. Number two (and in the interim), it forces out real businesses with real revenues and profits. And it drives out people who find themselves – though well-employed – financially unable to live here any longer.

Another reason we are moving is the sanctimonious odor emanating from all those “disruptors” is becoming unbearable. No, your iPhone app to track social media scores across multiple platforms is not and never will be a game-changer.

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NSA can’t find relevant data because it captures all data, including junk

eye-surveillance

The federal government approach of vacuuming up every speck of data because it might need it someday is useless, counterproductive, and does nothing to stop terrorism. NSA itself has admitted it has no way of quickly and accurately using the data it stores, saying maybe it will one day. It won’t and it can’t. This approach is a waste of time and money. Worse, this is the approach taken by all federal agencies. They are storing massive amounts of data on us in incompatible formats, not sharing with each other. It’s a Tower of Babel. Perhaps we should be thankful they are so inept.

The insurmountable problem NSA and the rest face is attempting to store data which arrives in hundreds of thousands of incompatible formats (which are subject to change at a moment’s notice) then being able to retrieve it reliably based on a few snippets of information. Fugetaboutit. It can’t be done quickly, if at all, and certainly not done accurately and without security breaches.

Here’s an example. NSA get a whisper an evildoer named Bob Morris is plotting something nefarious. How many Bob Morris’ are there in the US? Thousands. Are they sure the Bob Morris is question isn’t using an alias or spoofing an identity? I get about 50 emails a month that were clearly meant for another Bob Morris. The probability of false positives is high when trying to make sense of data stored in a zillion different formats. Storing massive amounts of data is relatively simple compared to make sense of it. And even that isn’t easy. If a Belgian phone company changes its data formats then NSA has to change how it stores that data yet still make all previous data from the phone company retrievable too. Multiply that by the probably hundreds of times data formats change on a daily basis worldwide and you have an unwieldy mess that probably collapsed under its own weight years ago into gibberish. Emphasis added

“No wonder the government can’t find needles in the haystack—it keeps storing irrelevant hay,” [Fred] Cate, [a law professor at Indiana University] told me “Even if the data were fresh and properly secured, how is collecting all of this aiding in the fight against terrorism? This is a really important issue because it exposes a basic and common fallacy in the government’s thinking: that more data equates with better security. But that wasn’t true on 9/11, and it still isn’t true today. This suggests that US transportation security officials are inefficient, incompetent, on using the data for other, undisclosed purposes. None of those are very encouraging options.”

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Rape at college, then rape by college

brick-wall

Hobart & William Smith Colleges does a Steubenville

Two weeks after the fall term started, an unknown number of male students, apparently including members of the undefeated football team at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Hobart), raped an 18-tear-old freshman girl who’d had too much to drink. Hobart’s response was to re-rape the child bureaucratically by ignoring evidence and finding the alleged rapists not guilty. It was a sham of an administrative adjudication that failed to meet even a shadow of fairness, competence, or even intellectual plausibility. Hobart stands by its dishonest decision. Case closed.

Actually, the case may not be closed. The freshman, who took a leave of absence after the repeated abuse by students and administrators, has said that she will return to campus this fall, against her parents’ wishes, and that she will be working with other abuse survivors. That is, she plans to do, as a student, what Hobart and its staff utterly and negligently failed to do for a victim who accused a winning football team of gang rape.

This harsh summary of events at Hobart in September 2013 and thereafter is based on a very long, detailed, and conscientious story by Walt Bogdanich on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday, July 13, 2014. Titled “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t,” the story provides a detailed portrait of Hobart’s quasi-judicial process that was startlingly incompetent and unjust.

Hobart’s damage control started the day of publication, with a letter to the community from Hobart president Mark Gearan. His relatively content-free letter includes a link to an unsigned, longer document that purports to include “information that was provided to the Times reporter which is largely missing from the article….” Although much of the langue is identical in the two documents, neither offers much relevant information. Both are long on policy boilerplate without supporting evidence and without much relevance to the case at hand.

Does Hobart’s “institutional integrity” depend on its lack of integrity?

In essence, Hobart has voiced a non-denial denial, a non-defense defense. Hobart says the reporter got the story wrong, but offers not one example of error. Hobart provides no corrections, no particulars, no explanation, no contrition, and no effort to atone for its personal and institutional failures.

In a letter to the Times on July 15, Hobart’s board chair Maureen Collins Zupan wrote that: “it remains my opinion as a feminist, mother, daughter, sister and leader that Hobart and William Smith handled this case properly, with compassion, respect and seriousness.” Before that, the board chair wrote that the “community is heartbroken by our student’s experience, and we deeply regret the pain she has suffered,” which is strange coming from the head of the institution that inflicted much of that student’s pain and suffering. Hobart’s official responses are full of such smoke and mirrors.

With the exquisite illogic of a desperate denial of reality, the board chair ends her letter by stating: “That is why Hobart and William Smith Colleges pledge to build a new model of governance for this issue. Our attention and focus have never been higher.” That sounds like an acknowledgement of failure, but without the decency of an admission.

Hobart under federal investigation for responses to Title IX cases

Hobart is one of 55 American colleges and universities currently under investigation for civil rights violations in their response to cases of sexual violence.  In a May 1 announcement from the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), that office explained:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. In the past, Department officials confirmed individual Title IX investigations at institutions, but today’s list is the first comprehensive look at which campuses are under review by OCR for possible violations of the law’s requirements around sexual violence.

Among the other institutions joining Hobart on the investigation list are Harvard, Dartmouth, Amherst, Princeton, Ohio State, Arizona State, University of Chicago, and University of California-Berkeley. The Dept. did not release details of any of the particular investigations. Whether the specific Hobart case reported by the Times is under federal investigation is uncertain. If the Office of Civil Rights is looking at it, it will use these criteria:

Under federal law, sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent — including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.

Preponderance of evidence clear: Hobart freshman was raped 

Anna, who allowed the Times to use her first name, did not consider herself a stereotypical Hobart freshman girl, which she described as preppy, small, blonde, and wearing $500 sunglasses. Being different, Anna said, was “a culture shock for me.” An unnamed professor confirmed this distinction to Anna’s mother, saying “I’m going to look out for her.”

On Saturday, September 7, 2013, sometime after 9 p.m., this “different” freshman went to a big deal social event at Kappa Sigma fraternity. By all accounts she was drinking heavily that night, heavily enough that she would be throwing up multiple times into mid-morning. In the intervening four or five hours, the consistent credible evidence is that she was raped multiple times.  Anna does not remember much that happened during that time.

Around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 8, another freshman, a male friend with whom Anna had texted during the evening, found her after a short search. The earlier texts had caused the friend, also a football player, to be concerned for Anna’s safety. “We need to find her,” he had texted around 1 a.m., “she is so drunk.” When he found her, another football player had Anna bent over a pool table, apparently having sex with her (both had their pants down) while several onlookers laughed and commented.

Anna’s friend broke up the gathering. The football player, standing behind Anna with his pants down, tried to blame her: “It wasn’t me, it was her.” Anna’s friend walked her back to her dorm, crying. Anna was pale, disoriented, vomiting. Her friends in the dorm called campus security.

At 2:10 a.m., Sgt. Anthony Pluretti arrived and soon realized, as he wrote in his report, that she “could not remember how many drinks she had consumed and that she had no idea that she was at the Barn” where her friend found her. Sgt. Pluretti called campus paramedics, who recommended that a trained sexual assault nurse examine Anna.

Sgt. Pluretti drove Anna to see the nearest such nurse, at a hospital about half an hour from campus. Anna’s male friend accompanied her to the hospital. Over the next several hours, she was examined and she began to tell her friend what she was beginning to remember.

Nurse trained in sexual assault: unambiguous findings of rape

Around 7:30 a.m., the nurse reported what she found to Sgt Pluretti: within the past 24 hours, Anna had suffered blunt force trauma suggesting “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.”

The nurse said that she had found “internal abrasions and heavy inflammation” that led her to believe that Anna was forcefully sexually assaulted.

This belief was further supported by tests showing “sperm or semen in her vagina, in her rectum and on her underwear,” as the Times reported.

The hospital’s tests showed no date-rape drugs. But the blood-alcohol test at the hospital indicated that, at the time of the assault, Anna’s blood alcohol level would have been about twice the limit for being considered legally drunk. Even then, almost twelve hours after the assault, when Sgt. Pluretti drove Anna back to her dorm, he had to pull over four times for her to vomit.

Anna slept for a few hours in her dorm, then gave another statement, this time to the Office of Campus Safety.  That office also took statements from other students, including the three football players who were then accused. Around 2:30 Sunday afternoon a school psychologist called Anna’s mother to tell her what had happened.

Hobart failed procedurally, rationally, and most of all humanely

Hobart hasn’t said officially why it rushed to judgment on Anna’s case. A typical campus sexual assault case takes about 60 days to investigate, according to the Dept. of Education. Hobart wrapped up the case against three football players in just 10 days.

The campus police apparently went about their job professionally, interviewing numerous witnesses and participants. The campus police interviewed the three accused football players multiple times and got multiple, contradictory versions of the events.

Given the overwhelming evidence of sexual assault together with the semi-admissions of the football players, a quick resolution does not necessarily seem an untoward outcome. But Hobart’s speedy resolution was to exonerate the football players, ruling in effect that the evidence of a sexual assault was irrelevant to the promise of a winning football season. Basically Hobart’s official position became: a terrible crime was committed, but no one seems to have committed it.

Until recently, Hobart’s process for dealing with sexual assault cases was managed, in part, by the college’s chief fundraiser. That makes sense from the perspective of institutional damage control. And it shows stunning institutional indifference to the possibility of re-victimizing victims.

In Anna’s case, the panel acting as prosecution and defense as well as judge and jury in the case comprised three people of uncertain training and competence in sexual assault cases: a vice president of human resources chaired the panel (Sandra E. Bissell) and the other members were an assistant psychology professor (Brien Ashdown) and the campus bookstore director (Lucile Smart).

Panel bases its decision on only some of the evidence

Despite the expectation of a fair and reasonable adjudicative process under federal law, there is no compelling evidence that these three people performed even competently. The evidence presented by both the Times and Hobart supports the conclusion that the panel performed a travesty of analysis and a mockery of justice. The Times based its evaluation on a transcript of the proceedings. Hobart wants to know how the Times got a transcript, on which it declines to comment for reasons of privacy. Those reasons did not prevent the college from circulating Anna’s full identity in a public letter some months ago.

On September 17, less than ten days after the events the three-person panel met to hear the case behind closed doors. The Times report, based on the hearing transcript and interviews with some participants, portrays a panel that was in over its depth and was unaware of its failings, as it asked:

questions that jumped around in time, interrupted her answers and misrepresented witness statements. One question incorrectly quoted one of her friends asserting that at the dance Anna had told her that she wanted to go upstairs and have sex; in fact, the friend had said, Anna told her that the football player wanted to have sex.

The panel’s questioning was disorganized, with panelists interrupting each other and changing to new subjects before the subject at hand was fully addressed. One panelist asked if a witness had actually seen a player’s penis in Anna’s vagina. A panelist asked if a witness might not have mistaken dancing for sexual intercourse when a player had Ana bent over a pool table and both had their pants down.  A panelist advised Anna:

And for all of us, as hard as it is, if you could be specific, if you are going to talk about a hand holding you, was his left or his right? And if there’s a penis involved, is it flaccid, is it erect?

No curiosity about lying, witness tampering

Even though the record showed that the football players had lied by offering different accounts of the events, the panel did not question them about their discrepancies or lies to investigators.

The panel did not question the football coach (Mike Cragg) who had held a private meeting with the accused players two days after the events. The coach met with the three accused players, the two team captains, and Anna’s friend, the freshman who had witnessed the scene at the pool table. A competent panel might well want to know whether a meeting ripe with potential for witness tampering wasn’t a meeting that led to witness tampering.

That question looks even more relevant when Anna’s friend, one of the most relevant witnesses available, chose not to testify.

The panel chair, vice president for human resources Bissel, exercised her prerogative as chair to withhold evidence from other panel members. One part of the evidence she withheld was the sexual assault nurse’s report that Ann had been subjected to blunt force trauma and left with traces of sperm and semen.

A few hours after the hearing was over, the panel cleared the football players of all charges.  The next day panel chair Bissell sent a written confirmation of the decision to Anna and advised her of her right to appeal. Regarding the appeal, panel chair Bissell directed Anna to the sexual misconduct policy section about “False Allegations.”

Whether this case is over remains to be seen

So far, Hobart has shown little capacity for shame, except perhaps for trying to shame the victim. Anna has shown more courage and integrity than most of those involved, directly or indirectly.

Hobart trustee chair Zupan wrote to the Times that, “until federal law changes, we are required to carry out internal investigations and adjudicate cases based on the preponderance of evidence standard, as we did in this case.” She did not explain how adjudicating this case on the preponderance of the evidence was even possible when important evidence was ignored.

In another letter to the Times New York lawyer Terry Eder Kaufman writes: “As the mother of a daughter attending a liberal arts college and as an attorney, I was shocked to read your account of the abominable failure of Hobart and William Smith to humanely and fairly investigate campus rape accusations.”

In her letter, board chair Zupan wrote accurately, somewhat cruelly, and perhaps with unintended irony: “Nothing I am writing diminishes the student’s suffering.”

And nothing anyone at Hobart wrote or did seems to have addressed the full import of the medical evidence, including the DNA it contains.   

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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Flight MH 17 didn’t follow normal route, went over warzone instead

Flight-MH-17-path

The ten most recent flights of MH 17 went well south on Donetsk. The flight that was shot down went north of Donetsk. How very curious.

So perhaps before coming to “certain” conclusion about the involvement of this rebel or that, the key questions one should ask before casting blame, is why did the pilot divert from his usual flight plan, why did he fly above restricted airspace, and just what, if any instructions, did Kiev air control give the pilot in the minutes before the tragic explosion?

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Bill Maher gets Turd of the Day Award on Palestinian tweet

maher1

Reaction has been scathing to Bill Maher’s nasty, vindictive pseudo-attempt at humor, if it even was meant to be that. In my opinion, Hamas are corrupt thugs who care little about Palestinians and Israel has gone off the rails screaming for vengeance. None of this excuses Maher’s chortling at slapping women around and mocking disaster and death.

The deeper problems in this are the tremendous amounts of coming blowback and unintended consequences caused by deranged actions from both sides, the dead bodies piling up in mounds, and hatred which will fester for years to come.

Many Arab nations don’t really want Palestinians to have a homeland because Arab fury at Israel keeps their populace preoccupied and less likely to criticize events happening within their homelands. Israelis passing the popcorn and watching attacks on Gaza is beyond sick.

maher2

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“A convoy of 100 driverless trucks is headed towards the White House”

Fear me

Fear me

The FBI says driverless vehicles could be used as “lethal weapons” even as the “Do No Evil” is crowd pushing hard for driverless trucks, since they will eliminate pesky human drivers and assure our Glorious Future. Driverless truck fleets of course will report home constantly, have crucial software driving the trucks, and thus are flashing a big “Welcome Evildoers” sign. Jack into the truck fleet grid, seize control of the trucks, and nasty consequences will surely be forthcoming. Welcome to our dystopian cyberpunk near future.

The report notes that “bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today.”

One nightmare scenario could be suspects shooting at pursuers from getaway cars that are driving themselves.

Criminals might override safety features to ignore traffic lights and speed limits, or that terrorists might program explosive-packed cars to become self-driving bombs.

The FBI is not being paranoid. The possibility of driverless vehicles being jacked remotely is a very real threat.

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American Cruelty. Children at the Border

Credit: cbp.gov

Credit: cbp.gov

Another U.S. Foreign Policy Debacle. Seeing through the tear-jerking to the guilty U.S. Government

The pictures of thousands of children huddled in shelters are upsetting, and the tales some tell are horrifying, and that is all a real but sentimental distraction from the entrenched American power that created these conditions. American power uses these children and their families and their countries for its own ends. American power is not likely to make any meaningful changes to solve what is essentially a permanent crisis. Whatever official alleviation there is will be just enough to get those heart-rending images off the front pages so, that the profitable stream of human exploitation can be managed more “effectively.” American power insists that these are “illegal immigrants,” rather than face the reality that they are refugees from the exercise of American power.

So it’s no wonder President Obama doesn’t want to have his picture taken amid the terrible results of American policy to which he has been as much a guilty party as every other president at least since Polk.

By his actions over the years, the President appears committed to the U.S. imperial role in the world, especially in “our backyard.” There is little serious debate among the governing classes, who seem to feel their mandate is expressed by racist rioting against brown children. But there seems to be another, better America as well, perhaps a majority, out of power and out of the media, but stepping up to care for these refugees, humanely, where they are.

On July 7, more than 100 civil rights and civil liberties, human rights, faith, immigration, labor, criminal justice, legal, and children’s rights organizations signed an open letter to the Secretary of the Homeland Security Dept., Jeh Johnson, the man President Obama says keeps him intimately informed on the refugee situation. These organizations adamantly object to the inhumanity of administration plans to open new detention centers for families:

Family detention profoundly impacts the emotional and physical well-being of children and breaks down family relationships…. locking babies in prison cells and deporting women and young children to dangerous situations are not the solution. 

This open letter has not been widely reported in mainstream media and there has apparently been no response from the administration to date.

Another coalition of civil rights and civil liberties organizations in Seattle filed a class action suit against the U.S. government on July 9. The coalition argues that “putting children into immigration court without counsel violates both constitutional due-process rights and immigration law.” The coalition represents eight children, age 10 to 17, who face deportation hearing without representation.

The President was in Texas July 9, meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry, among other things, and sharing a tarmac handshake photo op. Gov. Perry has been asking for help with child refugees for a few years now, although the help he’s been asking for is mostly military and para-military (which may be the way he feels all teenagers should be handled, who knows?).  For most of that time, the Obama administration has been relatively unresponsive, but Gov. Perry has chosen not to make a big deal of it till now, so there’s little evidence to show that those people in power care much about children till there’s enough of them to make embarrassing headlines.

As long as the President was going to Texas anyway, lots of people wondered, why didn’t he visit the border area where thousands of children constituted a growing humanitarian crisis that was getting global attention?

The President’s answer during a press conference in DalFort Fueling in Dallas seemed oddly bloodless, not only uncaring, but evasive of accountability:

This isn’t theatre. This is a problem.

I’m not interested in photo ops.

I’m interested in solving the problem. 

Because these were American journalists covering an American President, there were no meaningful follow-up questions. No one asked: How do you define “the problem”? What is your idea of a good solution? Why were you OK with a photo op last night [July 8] shooting pool and drinking beer with the Colorado governor?

On MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports program the next day, Mitchell talked about this odd set of presidential priorities with Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, who has warned that the border crisis could become Obama’s “Katrina moment,” a reference to President Bush’s apparent callous indifference to the suffering in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane. To be fair, Obama has not done a detached flyover, looking down on the Rio Grande Valley, as Pres. Bush did over flooded New Orleans (in a famous White House photo op).

Andrea Mitchell and other reporters have speculated lately about why, in their view, the White House has seemed surprised by long-festering problems like this flow of refugees, or others like the Veterans Administration’s failures and the collapse of Iraq.  Rep. Cuellar commented:

If he’s saying he’s too busy to go down to the border but you have time to drink a beer, play pool, the appearance means that he’s not paying attention to this humanitarian crisis. 

To be fair, this humanitarian crisis is not new. Nobody has been paying meaningful attention to it for decades. It’s getting attention now only because the flood of refugees has topped the figurative levees and threatens to inundate higher-priced real estate. Almost everyone talking about it is fundamentally cynical, focusing only on symptoms, nothing approaching a cure for the underlying pathology

The most obvious example of a cynical band-aid is the President’s modest proposal of $3.7 billion in emergency spending, roughly half for caring for and processing refugees, and half for more military and para-military border protection. The inherent logic in the increasing militarization of the border is increased killing of refugees: how far will Americans be willing to go with that?

In any case, more spending of this sort will not solve the problem, though it might relieve the crisis. The chance of the spending bill getting through Congress (it passed the Senate 93-3) is presently near nil. One measure of the President’s cynicism is his unwillingness to photo op the refugee camps, which might actually pressure Congress to act – and that might not be useful to Democrats who need an inactive Congress to run against in the fall.

To be fair (again), the prospect of Republican control of Congress is itself a potential crisis that could emerge from long-festering failures. But that’s another story, even though it wouldn’t likely improve the refugee crisis story.

There is nothing but cynicism on all sides of the refugee story

Another measure of the cynicism of the emergency spending proposal is what it proposes to do to “solve” the problem: make nicer refugee camps and get more officials to speed up deportation of these people back to the hellish places they came from. That’s what the White House has already said is likely to happen.  Well, that’s a solution of sorts for the U.S. But it’s not a permanent solution, and hardly one decent people can be proud of. In every meaningful sense of the word, these children (and most of the adults) are real refugees from the ravages of American power.

On June 20, the White House announced what was reported as “a slew of aid programs to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. They include $US9.6 million in aid for the countries to ‘receive and reintegrate’ their citizens who have been denied entry into the U.S., as well as multi-million dollar crime and violence protection programs in each of the three Central American nations.”

Calling $9.6 million “a slew” of aid to three impoverished countries is something of a joke when you compare it to spending $3.7 billion in the richest country in the world. Who even thinks the aid will reach the neediest people, much less reintegrate them? That comparison shows a roughly 40-to-1 disparity of spending on the rich to spending on the poor. That’s already a structural problem in Central America and it’s a growing one in the United States. No wonder most of the spending in all four countries is for military and para-military means of protecting plutocracy.

Cynicism permeates media explanations of events as well, with mainstream media like the Washington Post and the New York Times blaming the present humanitarian crisis on a 2008 law signed by President Bush. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 was designed to counter global sex trafficking in part by providing legal rights for children picked up by immigration authorities (with the exception of children from Mexico and Canada). As Charles Lane in the Post put it:

This law’s special mistake was to guarantee an immigration hearing to unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States on the theory they might be victims of sex trafficking and to let them live with U.S.-based family, if any, until a judge was available….

[The bill’s authors] failed to anticipate that trafficking mafias in Mexico would market temporary entry pending the delayed hearings as a new form of “permiso” (“permit”) and can charge families $10,000 per child to pursue it.

More refugees a result of crime, poverty, gangs, and following the law

One of the things driving the right crazy about all these underage refugees is that the problem has grown, in part, because the Obama administration has been following the law. And the law protects children, of all things. And it was signed proudly by President Bush, can you believe it?

Texas Gov. Perry has recovered from a booing by his own Republican Party in 2011, when he said of those opposed to educating refugee children: “I don’t think you have a heart.” He hasn’t come close to expressing such decency lately, but has managed to encapsulate current American political dysfunction exquisitely on Fox News, by saying:

The federal government is just absolutely failing. We either have an incredibly inept administration, or they’re in on this somehow or another. I mean I hate to be conspiratorial, but I mean how do you move that many people from Central America across Mexico and then into the United States without there being a fairly coordinated effort?

Gov. Perry is absolutely right about a “fairly coordinated effort,” which overlaps with other coordinated efforts smuggling drugs, guns, and sex slaves. Asked on ABC’s This Week about the President following the 2008 law against sex trafficking, Gov. Perry ducked the question entirely, saying, when pressed:

What has to be addressed is the security of the border. You know that. I know that. The president of the United States knows that. I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is — is secure.

Interviewer Martha Raddatz let this blatant political lie pass unchallenged. She didn’t ask Gov. Perry to explain why Pres. Obama is referred to as the deporter-in-chief, since his administration has deported record numbers of people. This administration has also detained record numbers of people crossing the border. This administration has record numbers of officers patrolling the border, and even shooting people across the border.

Gov. Perry says he has requested 1,000 National Guard soldiers for border patrol. He was not asked why he hasn’t used his own authority as governor to call up the National Guard. Perry claimed, somewhat unclearly, that he had been asking the administration for help since 2010, without a response. He said, “ I have to believe that when you do not respond in any way, that you are either inept, or you have some ulterior motive of which you are functioning from.” Again he went unchallenged, as the segment ran out of time.

Is the Rio Grande Valley comparable Katrina to as a racial event?

After meeting with Gov. Perry in Texas on July 9, President Obama spoke affably to reporters, saying , “there’s nothing the governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to,” including the 1,000 National Guard troops, But the President’s emphasis was leaning, instead, on the Texas Congressional delegation to support his $3.7 billion emergency appropriation request. In Congress, House Republicans have reportedly hardened in opposition to the $3,7 billion bill, leaving the party in the position of simultaneously demanding that the border be secured and refusing to spend more money on securing the border.

For his part, Gov. Perry followed up on the meeting without noting any agreement with the President on anything. He did say that the President’s refusal to visit the Rio Grande Valley was “no different” from Pres. Bush’s response to Katrina. In response to Perry’s jibe, a White House representative offered patent nonsense, but in complete sentences:

I think it doesn’t make sense to compare this to a natural disaster. This is a humanitarian situation that we have been on top of from the very beginning. It involves the entire federal government, it involves our partners in Central America who have acknowledged that we all share a responsibility to make sure we stop this situation before it starts.

If the White House had been on top of the situation from the beginning, why has it gotten so bad (from the beginning)?  The beginning of just this phase was more than three years ago, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures. Those figures show that child refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador have both increased more than twelve-fold since 2010. The number of children from each country is now about as many as Mexican child refugees (whose numbers have been declining for more than a year, but still remain high). The most child refugees now come from Honduras, whose numbers have increased fifteen-fold since 2010. (The number of child refugees continues to climb: between October 2013 and June 2014, some 52,000 child refugees were taken into custody by the U.S., about 75% from the three Central American countries).

Despite the White House statement, it’s obvious that the humanitarian crisis does not involve “the entire federal government” in any meaningful way. Or if it does, what is the role of the Marines? Or the IRS? Or the ambassador to Iceland?

But the rest of the statement – “it involves our partners in Central America who have acknowledged that we all share a responsibility to make sure we stop this situation before it starts” ­– is perhaps as revealing as it is strange (since it’s already decades past the situation’s start).

What do El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have in common? 

Insofar as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are “our partners” rather than free and independent states, they are decidedly junior partners. Each of them shares borders with the other two. More than anything, they share more than a century of exploitation by Americans, both governmental and corporate. Since the 1950s, they have all suffered brutal, anti-democratic coups d’etats orchestrated or approved by the United States. They have all suffered especially brutal dictatorships supported by the United States for the benefit of a tiny elite that controls most of the wealth in each country. The United States has brutalized these countries for decades, has helped make them unlivable, and now pretends to wonder why people don’t want to live there.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras account for almost 75% of all the refugee children coming out of Central America.

These three countries also share the honor of having served in recent decades as American proxies in wars against their own people or their neighbors, or both. By way of illustration of what it means to be an American “ally,” the streams of children from these three countries are unmatched by other countries in the region. Almost no children are fleeing Nicaragua, a former American enemy (full of phantom threat and against whom the U.S. committed war crimes). On the contrary, Nicaragua is a host country for asylum seekers, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found in a study (“Children on the Run”) released in March 2014:

While the United States is receiving the majority of the new asylum claims, UNHCR has documented a 712% increase in the number of asylum applications from citizens of these three [El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras] countries in Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize, combined, from 2008 to 2013.

When the White House says there’s “a responsibility to make sure we stop this situation before it starts,” it’s time to start some White House soul-searching, not just about American military and corporate predation over decades, not just about trade agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA) that have hurt the poorest people in these poor countries, but especially about the Obama administration’s own deeply bloody role in what has happened in Honduras since 2009.

When it came to Honduras, America offered no hope and no change

Five years ago, Honduras had a democratically-elected government that was beginning to make reforms. Five years ago, most of the Honduran population of 8 million were safely staying home.

On June 28, 2009, Honduras suffered a military coup. Almost immediately, the Obama administration blessed the new dictatorship and soon set about lying to the American people in order to avoid enforcing American law that’s supposed to apply to any coup (later the administration did the same dishonest dance around the Egyptian coup).

The United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union all condemned the Honduran coup. On July 5, 2009, the OAS voted unanimously to suspend Honduras from membership (the suspension was lifted two years later). None of this affected unwavering U.S. support for the coup (which some people even argued was not a coup).

Less than a month later, the U.S. embassy cabled a report to Washington titled, “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” asserting that there was no doubt that the military coup was unconstitutional and the removal of the Honduran president was a “kidnapping” with no legal authority. The cable went to the White House and to the Secretary of state. No one in the Obama administration – not Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, no one – told the truth about Honduras. They kept this cable secret and they lied about it.

The embassy cable remained secret till November 28, 2010, when Wikileaks released it (as part of the release of 251,287 confidential State Department documents). Reported then by Just Foreign Policy, the cable had little impact.

The coup – and the continued degradation of Honduran governance – had the quiet, bi-partisan support of American power. The United States has dirty hands throughout the hemisphere, dirty hands that are equally at home in strangling democratic governments or children’s futures.

The obvious horrors of Honduras, the crime and personal suffering, are well-documented anecdotally in mainstream media, almost always without critical context. The Honduran government commits and allows atrocities, as is well known, but they continue to receive tens of millions of American tax dollars to support their crimes.

Some critical context for Honduras has come from reporter Dawn Marie Paley for years. In February 2014, Toward Freedom ran a trenchant Paley piece, “War on the Poor in Honduras,” in which she vividly describes the fear, violence, danger and extortion (“war tax”) of daily life for most Hondurans. She observes that:

The biggest shops, US fast food chains and grocery stores, are the only ones who seem to get away without paying the so called “war tax” to gangs.

Critical context also comes from history professor Dana Frank on her Huffington Post blog. She describes some of the deep corruption among Honduran politicians, police, prosecutors, and judges, which even the U.S. State Dept. acknowledges:

 

Among the most serious human rights problems were corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system leading to widespread impunity; unlawful and arbitrary killings by security forces, organized criminal  elements, and others; and harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions.

In response to his country’s police corruption, Honduran President Hernandez has increased the country’s militarization, as Frank reports:

Not only does the regular military now patrol residential neighborhoods, airports, and prisons, but Hernández’s new 5,000-strong military police force is fanning out across the country. 

On May 13, the new military police surrounded, tear gassed, brutally beat up, and forcibly ejected from the main hall of congress all 36 congress members of the center-left opposition party LIBRE. 

Ultimately the surge of child refugees into other countries has less to do with gangs and extortion, or with rape and murder, or even with poverty and political repression, than it has to do with the American role in the world – the American power that promotes and profits from all these horrors, and expects gratitude in return.

This is what the United States government has become, and it is despicable.  

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

 

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All your data are belong to us, says Obama, screw the 4th Amendment

fourthamendment

President Hopey Changiness is becoming downright Orwellian. The Obama Administration is now claiming data stored anywhere in the world by a company with operations in the US must be turned over if a warrant is issued. Even usually NSA-friendly tech companies, the ones who have cheerfully been in bed with the US government for years find that to be appalling. So far, the usual lackey judges have sided with the Obama Administration, no big surprise there. The Fourth Amendment has been routed around by Obots citing a Reagan era piece of nastiness that says that digital records aren’t protected by that annoying pesky Fourth Amendment.

Microsoft said the decision has wide-ranging, global implications. “Congress has not authorized the issuance of warrants that reach outside US territory,” Microsoft’s attorneys wrote. “The government cannot seek and a court cannot issue a warrant allowing federal agents to break down the doors of Microsoft’s Dublin facility.”

The Redmond, Washington-based company said its consumer trust is low in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. It told the US judge presiding over the case that “[t]he government’s position in this case further erodes that trust and will ultimately erode the leadership of US technologies in the global market.”

No word yet from “Do No Evil” and the rest of the Silicon Valley contingent on whether they will fight against having the Constitution shredded.

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Helpless giant and its exceptional decline

Cole_Thomas_The_Course_of_Empire_Destruction_1836

We are in the early stages of what soon will be obvious to most Americans. Our empire is in decline and it’s irreversible. Despite being the biggest military power on the planet, we continually lose at the conflicts we often provoke. All the hooting and hollering about how Exceptional the US is won’t change that. Our internal politics may well get even uglier as the various snarling factions blame the others for this collapse of empire. Externally, many nations, especially the BRICS, are already planning and working towards a world where the US and the dollar just isn’t particularly important.

All of this includes NSA, which despite its blustering just isn’t very good at what it does. They collect massive amounts of data yet say they have no coherent way to access it in a timely manner.

Ask yourself: who benefits from military spending, the war machine, and the internal surveillance state? The elites don’t much care if the US wins or loses, only if they profit

Helpless Giant: How Imperial US Elites Tied America Down All by Themselves

Recent history is clear: [the US] military has proven incapable of winning its wars against minor (and minority) insurgencies globally, just as Washington, for all its firepower, military and economic, has had a remarkably difficult time imposing its desires just about anywhere on the planet. Though it may still look like a superpower and though the power of its national security state may still be growing, Washington seems to have lost the ability to translate that power into anything resembling success.

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Truck drivers could become obsolete, due to autonomous trucks

Mercedes-Benz-Future-Truck-2025

Mercedes Benz has successfully tested an autonomous truck on the autobahn and plans to mass-market them by 2025. Improved fuel efficiency is predicted as well as getting rid of all those pesky truck drivers who have to eat and sleep. Truckers will become “transport managers”, sitting around consoles directing trucks. I’m guessing, sooner or later, one transport manager will replace 10-20 truck drivers, so that means lots of unemployment coming for those in and supporting the trucking industry.

I remain unconvinced that autonomous vehicles will be safe or able to respond rapidly and correctly to fast-changing emergency situations like black ice, tornadoes, accidents, etc. Commercial airplanes have two pilots. There’s a reason for that, the 0.00001% of the time when you need someone who really knows what they are doing. I doubt a computer driven vehicle will ever be able to handle such crises.

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