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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Government Jobs Not Rebounding As In Past Recessions

The graph below depicts the rebound in government jobs over the past four recessions.  This time it is different.  Government jobs aren’t returning.  The present financial crisis and austerity budgets at the state level have given governors the green light to radically reduce public sector employment levels in unprecedented ways.  This not only hurts our economy, it damages the ability of state and local governments to serve the needs of its citizens.
 In a prior post I presented original data on state employment data showing the national trend in state austerity budgets.  The private sector job growth has already rebounded to pre-recession levels, but has not caught up to where it should be by now. In contrast, government austerity budgets are keeping public sector employment depressed and below pre-recession levels.  The graph above and the following article add to this information. State governors should be helping to lead us out of this recession and at the least preserving jobs.]

Public-sector austerity in one graph

Posted by  at 03:35 PM ET, 06/11/2012

On Friday, I ran some numbers on public-sector employment:  Since Obama was elected, the public sector has lost about 600,000 jobs. If you put those jobs back, the unemployment rate would be 7.8 percent. [SNIP]

Today, Ben Polak, chairman of the economics department at Yale University, and Peter K. Schott, professor of economics at the Yale School of Management, widen the lens, with similar results: There is something historically different about this recession and its aftermath: in the past, local government employment has been almost recession-proof. This time it’s not.  [SNIP] Go to like to read the rest of Ezra Klein’s article.  Thank you.

Clearing the Air – We’ve Made Progress in Fighting Pollution

Government regulation is so demonized today in part because it is a victim of its own success.  Who needs air pollution standards when skies are blue and the air smells sweet?  Aren’t federal government regulations just a drag on the economy?  As progress is made in cleaning up the air we breath, push back to dismantle the regulations that have been working becomes greater sometimes.  The same powers of industry that created unbearable air quality in the past are pressuring Congress today to ease up on clean air emissions standards.  We must hold the line and, in fact, move forward with improved standards.

Below are some picture that tell a story all by themselves, followed by a reminder that the relatively clean air and water we enjoy today was a hard fought bipartisan victory thanks, in part, to Richard Nixon.
This post began with the following note  from a friend:  My Urban Policy studies lead me to these websites.  My favorite is Planetizen.  If you are at all interested in how the commonwealth works, give these a look.
Anyway, here’s a look at Pittsburgh before government regulation of industrial pollution.  This is what unfettered capitalism will do.  The Republicans of today would have us believe that regulation is the devil.  Shall we go back to theEden that was America?

What Pittsburgh Looked Like When It Decided It Had a Pollution Problem

by Mark Barnes – June 5, 2012
 

In 1941, influenced by a similar policy introduced in St. Louis four years earlier, the city of Pittsburgh passed a law designed to reduce coal production in pursuit of cleaner air. Not willing to cripple such an important part of the local economy, it promised to clean the air by using treated local coal. The new policy ended up not being fully enacted until after World War II.

While the idea was a small step in the right direction, other factors ultimately helped improvePittsburgh’s notorious air quality. Natural gas was piped into the city. Regional railroad companies switched from coal to diesel locomotives. And, ultimately, the collapse of the iron and steel production industries in the 1980s led to rapidly improved air quality leading into the 21st century.  Control of coal smoke made it possible to clean soot-covered buildings and to re-plant hillsides, helping provide the city a look it could hardly envision in the depths of its industrial heyday.

Below, a look at downtown Pittsburgh between 1940 and 1945, courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh’s Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection: [note: Only a small selection from website appear here.  Go to the website to see all the photographs.]
 

 

Remarks on Signing the Clean Air Amendments of 1970.
December 31, 1970

[excerpt]

The year 1970 has been a year of great progress in this field. In February, you will recall that I submitted the most comprehensive message on the environment ever proposed by a President of the United States. During the year, there have been some administrative actions, some legislative actions.

Time, however, has been required for the Congress to consider the proposals of the administration and, finally, to agree on the legislation that will be sent to the President for signature.

This is the most important piece of legislation, in my opinion, dealing with the problem of clean air that we have this year and the most important in our history.
It provides, as you know, for provisions dealing with fuel emissions and also for air quality standards, and it provides for ‘the additional enforcement procedures which are absolutely important in this particular area.

How did this come about? It came about by the President proposing. It came about by a bipartisan effort represented by the Senators and Congressmen, who are here today, in acting. Senator Randolph, Senator Cooper, and Congressman Springer represent both parties and both Houses of the Congress. [snip]

And if, as we sign this bill in this room, we can look back and say, in the Roosevelt Room on the last day of 1970, we signed a historic piece of legislation that put us far down the road toward a goal that Theodore Roosevelt, 70 years ago, spoke eloquently about: a goal of clean air, clean water, and open spaces for the future generations of America.

Read more at the American Presidency Project:Richard Nixon: Remarks on Signing the Clean Air Amendments of 1970.

A Flat Tax Payroll Deduction Might Save Social Security

DATA DRIVEN POINT OF VIEW: Don’t be fooled.  Discussions about raising or lowering Federal Income Taxes has little to do with Social Security and Medicare, which are separately funded by payroll deductions.  Is there a funding crisis for Social Security and Medicare?  A long term problem, yes.  A crisis, no.  Can America continue to afford these programs given the number of baby boomer retirements?  The answer is yes, of course we can.  We are the wealthiest county on Earth.  Nations with far less wealthier already provide their citizens with much more generous benefits.  The reason we feel the funding punch is that the structure we’ve enacted to pay for federal insurance benefits is so regressive.

The table below makes obvious that wealthy Americans currently share almost none of the burden for Social Security and Medicare benefits.  The problem is that wealth is concentrated at the top of the income scale while payroll deductions are disproportionately collected from the bottom of the scale.  We can continue to raise the contribution rates but this only hurts those who earn the least.  We can keep raising the income cap but this only marginally increases the number of people pay into the system.

—  OR  —

We could institute a flat tax for Social Security and Medicare.  The table below shows what this might generate in premiums at the current 7.65% rate of payroll deductions.  This plan would clearly generate more revenue than needed for current benefits.  A flat payroll tax of significantly less than the current 7.65% would be all that is needed to fully fund Social Security and Medicare. It would reduce payroll taxes for the majority of Americans.

Payroll Taxes for Social Security and Medicare
Total Income from Wages
Amount Currently Deducted
Contribution As a % of Income
Contribution if deductions were based on a flat tax
$1,000
$77
7.65%
$77
This Segment Represents 57 million households
$10,000
$765
7.65%
$765
$50,000
$3,825
7.65%
$3,825
$100,000
$7,650
7.65%
$7,650
$500,000
$8,423
1.68%
$38,250
$1,000,000
$8,423
0.84%
$76,500
There are at least 100,000 household in this segment
$10,000,000
$8,423
0.084%
$765,000
$50,000,000
$8,423
0.017%
$3,825,000
$100,000,000
$8,423
0.0084%
$7,650,000
$500,000,000
$8,423
0.0017%
$38,250,000
$1,000,000,000
$8,423
0.00084%
$76,500,000
$10,000,000,000
$8,423
0.000084%
$765,000,000

This table assumes that income from wages for the wealthy are at least $110,100, which is the income cap for 2012, and assumes they are not self-employed. Income from investments are not subject to payroll deductions.  Employers pay an additional 7.65% in payroll taxes for their employees. The self employed also pay corresponding more in payroll taxes for their Social Security and Medicare benefits. Additional payroll deductions for unemployment and disability insurance may also apply in certain states and with certain individual.

These programs exist for everyone, and everyone should contribute according to their means. Those who are fortunate enough not to need the benefits still have a moral obligation to assure a minimal level of care to those less fortunate, and a social obligation to contributed to those who gave a lifetime of labor creating the fabulous wealth that the wealthy have accumulated.

Originally posted 14th June by 

Map Pinpoints Where Children Are Being Sexually Abused. Why Aren’t We INVESTIGATING?

The trial and conviction of former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky,  for child sexual abuse allowed many people to hear  for the first time the graph details that makes these crimes so repulsive.   Civil hearings on child sexual abuse cases usually take place in closed courtrooms for the protection of these young victims.  In this case, however, the victims are now adults, the trial was public and very high profile.  People paid attention and learned just how violent these child rapes are.   This made it  easy to see just how destructive these betrayals of a child’s trust are and why it scars children for life.

This may be a good point to consider the scope of the child sexual abuse problem.   Perhaps the information presented below will have greater resonance than when first posted a number of months ago.  Each red dot on the map below is a Sandusky type horror story for some innocent child in America.   So what are we going to do about it???

The map below shows the locations of hundreds of thousands of criminals trafficking in child abuse images… and the locations of many of their U.S. child victims. Produced by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, and based on investigations by Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) law enforcement task forces, it was introduced as evidence in U.S. House and Senate hearings in 2007-2008. The red dots represent unique computers seen by the ICACs trafficking in video and photos of very young children being raped. These images are often called “child pornography,” but they are actually crime scene recordings.

Map

Most of these children wait for a rescue that will never come. They are in extreme danger and law enforcement knows where they are. Investigators go home every night knowing there are thousands of children out there beyond their reach, because they have not been given the resources they need to rescue them.

See The Ed Show Segment on this issue
Watch a Video Plea From Children
Go to Protect for More Detailed Information
Take Action
View my post on Child Fatality Risk Factors (Because child sexual abuse is not the only problem our children face every day)

Our Long-term Debt Will Be Fixed If Congress Does Nothing – But Don’t Count On that!

 According to the Congressional Budget Office information (see below), it appears that if the “do-nothing” Congress actually does nothing the nation’s long term debt outlook would significantly improve.  As it stands, temporary tax cuts are set to expire and automatic budget cuts already passed by Congress with bi-partisan support are set to take effect.  As a result of laws already on the books our long-term debt problem is about to be fixed.  But Congress will have none of this!  Nor should they!

Letting the temporary tax cuts expire will anger the Republican political activist, Grover Norquist, and cause him to hold congressional Republicans in violation of his Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”
Driconian automatic budget cuts are set to go into effect in January, 2013.  Those cuts aimed at the military will slow, but  still not reverse, the ever rising rate of our military spending.  Never mind that our military spending is already twice the combined military budgets of the industrial world, this slowing of military growth is completely unacceptable to conservative Republicans and many Democrats as well.  Cuts in the military are popular with the electorate  however.  But it is the rest of the automatic budget cuts that will bring extraordinary pain to many citizens.  It will be like preforming surgery with a chainsaw and would devastate much of what we have come to expect from our government.
Congress voted for these automatic budget cuts but never really meant it.  It was a game of fiscal chicken that parties agreed to play.  So here we are on the fiscal cliff about to balance the federal budget with a tax hike and a chainsaw.

The 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook: Infographic

june 5, 2012
The 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook Infographic
Posted 19th June by 

The Real Lesson of the “Fast and Furious” Scandal

Thanks to the great reporting of Katherine Eban at Fortune magazine we now know that the “Fast and Furious” scandal was largely manufactured for political gain.  The “Fast and Furious” operation by the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF) in Arizona was never designed to include the tactic of “gun walking”.  Gun walking is the practice of intentionally not ceasing illegally purchased firearms in order to follow the subsequent chain of possession back to higher level criminals.  It seems a few rogue ATF agents did engaged in an incident of this type on their own initiative, which does make it the AFT’s problem,  but the specific guns the ATF is accused of allowing to walk across the border, one of which was used to kill a border guard named Brian Terry, could not be ceased by the ATF because the Arizona federal Prosecutors decided these weapons were legally purchased. Federal prosecutors in Arizona were broadly interpreting Arizona’s gun laws which are among the weakest gun laws in the nation.

Ideological arguments over the Fast and Furious scandal aside, the real lesson in Eban’s piece is how our love affair with guns and our Second Amendment rights is reeking havoc in neighboring Mexico.  Every day an estimated 2,000 guns are purchased here that end up crossing the boarder into Mexico to arm the drug cartels.  Here is some background on the problems in Mexico:
 In Mexico, the “war on drugs” is quite literally a war
VALLECILLO, Mexico | Wed May 23, 2012 10:11am EDT
(Reuters) – Mexican government forces had bottled up a band of enemy fighters in this tiny village late last year, but feared they would escape into the dusty, rock-strewn hills. So more than 600 soldiers and federal police closed in from all directions with armored Humvees and helicopters.
The outlaws responded with a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault-rifle fire, tearing apart one federal police vehicle. For three days the fighting raged. In the end, according to military accounts of the battle, 22 members of the Zetas drug cartel, two police officers and a soldier were dead, and 20 Zetas were in custody. Dozens more escaped to fight another day. [SNIP]
Mexican and U.S. agents say the Zetas’ paramilitary tactics — based on small, roaming cells of armed operatives — and indiscriminate violence are the driving forces behind a recent escalation in Mexico’s drug war. That conflict, between government forces and the cartels and among the cartels themselves, has claimed about 55,000 lives in the past five years, including more than 3,000 police officers and soldiers.
  
THE RIVER OF IRON: Gun Trafficking Into Mexico
Mexican government officials estimate that some 2,000 weapons purchased in the U.S. are smuggled into Mexico every day.  Guns flow into the hands of the powerful drug cartels of Mexico while cocaine and other drugs flow back across the border to ravage yet another generation of vulnerable young Americans. These well armed cartels operate like insurgency groups effectively challenging the Mexican governments power to enforce law and order.  The cartels are terrorizing and slaughtering the country’s law abiding citizens.  The corrupting influence of guns, drugs and money threatens to destabilize the whole country.
While gun sales are legal and gun ownership is constitutionally protected in the United States, gun sales are prohibited in Mexico.  This makes the problem at the U.S., Mexican border particularly acute.  Furthermore, organizations such as the NRA aggressively oppose any attempt to regulate gun sales in the U.S.  This may suggest why there are currently no federal statutes outlawing firearms trafficking.  It is left to the states to pass such laws.
The U.S. Southern border states have an especially “pro-gun” outlook.  The Phoenix area alone has 853 federally licensed firearms dealers.  Any customers 18 years old or older who can pass a criminal background check may legally buy as many weapons as they like.  There is no waiting periods and no gun permit is required.  Some dealers offer discounts for multiple gun purchases, while others voluntarily restrict customers to one weapon per day.  While gun buyers must certify in writing, in Arizona, that the guns they buy are for personal use, they may change their mind and resell their guns at any time, even in the parking lot of the gun store.  Arizona laws against gun trafficking carry relatively mild sentences and are hard to prosecute.  Because of the weak laws and strong pro-gun attitudes in Arizona, federal prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute those accursed of buying guns on behalf of criminals, and federal prosecutors in Arizona don’t consider huge gun purchases or there quick to a third party to be specific evidence of criminal intent.  This makes the interdiction of illegal gun sales to the Mexican cartels almost impossible in Arizona.  There is no federal gun trafficking law to guid or prod the state laws prohibiting the sale of guns to criminals.

 The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal

June 27, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

The article begins:

FORTUNE — In the annals of impossible assignments, Dave Voth’s ranked high. In 2009 the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives promoted Voth to lead Phoenix Group VII, one of seven new ATF groups along the Southwest border tasked with stopping guns from being trafficked into Mexico’s vicious drug war.

PLEASE READ IT:  http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/27/fast-and-furious-truth/

Arizona’s “Papers Please” Supreme Court Ruling – An Abridged Syllabus

The Supreme Court struck down some but not all parts of SB1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law. What follows is an abridged syllabus to help make the ruling more readable.  It is re-posted here as a reference site for the day that these issues resurface during the anticipated immigration debate to come. You can read the unabridged opinion here.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES 
Syllabus [Abridged]
ARIZONA ET AL. v. UNITED STATES 
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR 
THE NINTH CIRCUIT 
No. 11–182. Argued April 25, 2012—Decided June 25, 2012

An Arizona statute known as S. B. 1070 was enacted in 2010 to address pressing issues related to the large number of unlawful aliens in the State. The United States sought to enjoin the law as preempted.  The District Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing four of its provisions from taking effect.

  • Section 3 makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor;
  • Section 5(C) makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State;
  • Section 6 authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person “the officer has probable cause to believe . . . has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States”; and
  • Section 2(B) requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the United States had established a likelihood of success on its preemption claims.

Held:

1.  The Federal Government’s broad, undoubted power over immigration and alien status rests, in part, on its constitutional power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and on its inherent sovereign power to control and conduct foreign relations,  Federal governance is extensive and complex. 
Among other things,

  • federal law specifies categories of aliens who are ineligible to be  admitted to the United States,
  • requires aliens to register with the Federal Government and to carry proof of status,
  •  imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers, and
  • specifies which aliens may be removed and the procedures for doing so, removal is a civil matter, and one of its principal features

2  ARIZONA v. UNITED STATES is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials, who must decide whether to pursue removal at all.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for identifying, apprehending, and removing illegal aliens.  It also operates the Law Enforcement Support Center, which provides immigration status information to federal, state, and local officials around the clock.

3.  The Supremacy Clause gives Congress the power to preempt state law. 
A statute may contain an express preemption provision, but state law must also give way to federal law in at least two other circumstances.  First, States are precluded from regulating conduct in a field that Congress has determined must be regulated by its exclusive governance.  Intent can be inferred from a framework of regulation “so pervasive . . . that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it” or where a “federal interest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject.”  Second, state laws are preempted when they conflict with federal law, including when they stand “as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.”  (a) Section 3 intrudes on the field of alien registration, a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate.  In Hines, a state alien-registration program was struck down on the ground that Congress intended its “complete” federal registration plan to be a “single integrated and all-embracing system.”   That scheme did not allow the States to “curtail or complement” federal law or “enforce additional  or auxiliary regulations.”   The federal registration framework remains comprehensive.  Because Congress has occupied the field, even complementary state regulation is impermissible.

Pp. 8–11. (b) Section 5(C)’s criminal penalty stands as an obstacle to the federal regulatory system.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), a comprehensive framework for “combating the employment of illegal aliens,”  makes it illegal for employers to knowingly hire, recruit, refer, or continue to employ unauthorized workers, and requires employers to verify prospective employees’ employment authorization status.  It imposes criminal and civil penalties on employers, but only civil penalties on aliens who seek, or engage in, unauthorized employment.

IRCA’s express preemption provision, though silent about whether additional penalties may be imposed against employees, “does not bar the ordinary working of conflict pre-emption principles” or impose a “special burden” making it more difficult to establish the preemption of laws falling outside the clause.  The correct instruction to draw from the text, structure, and history of IRCA is that Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees.  [emphasis mine] It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose.
(c) By authorizing state and local officers to make warrantless arrests of certain aliens suspected of being removable, Section 6 also creates an obstacle to federal law.  As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States. [emphasis mine]

The federal scheme instructs when it is appropriate to arrest an alien during the removal
process. The Attorney General in some circumstances will issue a warrant for trained federal immigration officers to execute.  If no federal warrant has been issued, these officers have more limited authority.    They  may  arrest  an  alien  for being “in the United States in violation of any [immigration] law or regulation,” for example, but only where the alien “is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.”  Section 6 attempts to provide state officers with even greater arrest authority, which they could exercise with no instruction from the Federal Government.  This is not the system Congress created.  Federal law specifies limited circumstances in which state officers may perform an immigration officer’s functions. This includes instances where the Attorney General has granted that authority in a formal agreement with a state or local government.

Although federal law permits state officers to “cooperate with the Attorney General in the identification, apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States, this does not encompass the unilateral decision to detain authorized by Section 6.

4. It was improper to enjoin Section 2(B) before the state courts had an
opportunity to construe it and without some showing that Section 2(B)’s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives. 
(a) The state provision has three limitations:

  • A detainee is presumed not to be an illegal alien if he or she provides a valid Arizona driver’s license or similar identification;
  • officers may not consider race, color, or national origin “except to the extent permitted by the United States [and] Arizona Constitution[s]”; and
  • Section 2(B) must be “implemented in a manner consistent with federal law regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.”

(b) This Court finds unpersuasive the argument that, even with those limits, Section  2(B) must be held preempted at this stage.

  1. The mandatory nature of the status checks does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme.  Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system.  In fact, Congress has encouraged the sharing of information about possible immigration violations.  The federal scheme thus leaves room for a policy requiring state officials to contact ICE as a routine matter.
  2. It is not clear at this stage and on this record that Section 2(B), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status.  This would raise constitutional concerns.  And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision.  But Section §2(B) could be read to avoid these concerns.  If the law only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision would likely survive preemption—at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives.  Without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume  Section 2(B) will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law.

This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.  Pp. 22–24. 641 F. 3d 339, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined.  SCALIA, J.,
THOMAS, J., and ALITO, J., filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. KAGAN, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of
the case.

The Truth About the ATF Scandal Please…

The venerable New Jersey Star Ledger newspaper printed an editorial on June 30, 2012, in which it repeated as fact a purely partisan narrative known as the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” scandal.  Here below is my full response:

Letter to the Editor:
In your editorial, “Boys Behaving Badly“, you didn’t do your homework. Thanks to investigative journalism by Katherine Eban at Fortune magazine we now know the “Fast and Furious” scandal is mostly fiction. This local ATF operation didn’t involve allowing illegally purchased guns to stray beyond the point of sale.  It may be true that one disgruntled ATF agent lost six handguns during his own rogue operation, but this wasn’t sanctioned. Eric Holder apparently didn’t know about this incident when he initially wrote to Congress causing him to provide some misinformation.

As for the 2000 high powered weapons supposedly lost by the ATF, (as per Republican Congressman, Darrell Issa) virtually all of them were legally purchased according to Arizona’s federal prosecutors. This includes the gun later used to kill a U.S. border guard.

The hard truth is that Federal prosecutors broadly interpret Arizona’s gun laws, which are already the weakest in the nation. In Arizona, an unemployed 18 year old with no criminal record can walk into a gun shop, buy fourteen AK-47 assault rifles, certify they are for personal use, change his mind after walking out of the store and then legally sell them to anyone in the parking lot.  It’s as if the gun laws in Arizona were designed for gun traffickers.  Frustrated ATF agents believed the weapons in question were going to criminals but were over ruled.  It is the system that allowed these guns to walk, not the AFT.

Meanwhile, 55,000 Mexican citizens have been killed in the last five years in the battle among drug cartels and Mexican police. It is estimate that 2000 weapons a day cross our Southern border into Mexico and there’s little the AFT can do about it.
I doubt Eric Holder criminally withheld documents from Congress, but the facts about this haven’t filtered out yet. The whole scandal appears to be a political witch hunt. What has become clear, however, is that the guns needed to support Mexican drug cartels are flooding over the border every day while tons of their illegal product floods back here to destroy more American lives.

Thanks to the great reporting of Katherine Eban at Fortune magazine

Note: Many newspapers around the country are probably relying on Congressman Issa’s partisan narrative when reporting on this story.  His commentary has been around for months while the Eban report is just days old.  Even so, it is revealing how much journalists must depend on the messages politicians give them.  Enterprise journalism (or investigative journalism), is what we need to verify what politicians say.  This type of journalism is labor intensive and expensive.  Eban’s investigation took six months.  Corporate media outlets are profit driven, not truth driven enterprises.  Newspapers in particular are in financial trouble.  Readership and advertising sales are down.  I sometimes wonder if readership is down in part because newspapers no longer provide us with trusted, independently verified news?

A Billionaire to Regulate Billionaires at the SEC

A TALE OF TWO NORMS

Norm Champ -- Park Ave Farmer & Upstanding Young Man

Norman B. Champ Jr:  SEC Director and Welfare Prince

NORM AS DIRECTOR:

SEC Names Norm Champ as Director of Division of Investment Management

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2012-129
WashingtonD.C.July 5, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Norm Champ has been named Director of the agency’s Division of Investment Management.
Mr. Champ has been serving as Deputy Director of the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). He assumes his new duties on July 9 and succeeds Eileen Rominger, who is retiring.
The SEC’s Division of Investment Management protects investors and promotes capital formation through oversight and regulation of the nation’s multi-trillion dollar investment management industry. Prior to joining the SEC staff in 2010, Mr. Champ was general counsel for 10 years as well as a member of the executive committee and a partner at investment management firm Chilton Investment Company, a multi-national adviser to private funds and managed accounts.
“Norm has proven himself to be a natural leader and an expert at managing programs that bolster our financial markets and protect investors,” said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. “His breadth of experience and deep insight into so many aspects of the securities industry will well serve investors and the agency.”
Mr. Champ said, “I am honored to join the Division and continue to carry out the SEC’s missions of protecting investors and encouraging capital formation. I look forward to working with the Division’s talented and knowledgeable staff as we continue shaping the rules by which the asset management industry is governed.”
In OCIE, where he sits on the Executive and Operating Committees, Mr. Champ has served as the acting head of the broker-dealer, investment adviser/investment company and credit rating agency exam programs and as acting chief counsel. Mr. Champ led the creation of OCIE’s first Examination Manual.
During his SEC tenure, Mr. Champ has received the Chairman’s Award for Law and Policy for his role in OCIE’s implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Chairman’s Award for Labor-Management Relations for his role in the reorganization of OCIE.
“Norm has made a tremendous contribution to OCIE in the last 2½ years as a leader of the National Examination Program,” said Carlo di Florio, Director of OCIE.
Mr. Champ is a lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he has taught a course on private funds investment management law. Mr. Champ is currently teaching this course to 120 SEC colleagues.
Mr. Champ joined the SEC staff in January 2010 as the Associate Regional Director for Investment Adviser/Investment Company Examinations in the SEC’s New York Regional Office. He became Deputy Director of OCIE in June 2010. Prior to working at Chilton Investment Company, Mr. Champ was a lawyer at the firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell and spent two years as a law clerk for the Honorable Charles S. Haight, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. Champ received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1985. He received his master’s degree in 1986 from King’s College University of London, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He earned his juris doctor degree from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 1989.
NORM AS WELFARE PRINCE:
 
This article was first published in the New York Press.
… Most people know next to nothing about this $20 billion-a-year welfare for the rich program, probably because the billionaires want it that way. Why get the masses worked up? Best to let them think the $200 billion they spent from 1995 through 2006 went to friendly farmers with cute farmhouses, rather than to Chevron or Kenneth Lay. Better to let urban entrepreneurs call themselves backyard farmers and toil away for the locavore movement, than to realize that their rich neighbors are reaping actual “farm” subsidies.

Now, farm subsidies weren’t always this criminal and, until fairly recently, had been doing what New Deal programs were designed to do: help the little guy. But the freemarket “reforms” of the Reagan-Clinton Era warped the welfare, redirecting farm subsidies from the have-nots to the have-mores, bankrupting all but the biggest farmers and depositing farm subsides into the bank accounts of the rich.
There’s no need to go to Iowa to see this welfare-for-the-rich in action. You can see it on the Upper East Side, where billionaire elites collect huge welfare checks from the government just for being rich, while a few blocks away, in one of the poorest, most ghettoized districts in the United States, the city’s black population is being purged from food stamp rolls for smoking some dope. Because, as Mayor Rudy Giuliani once wisely said, “As soon as they stop being dependent on the government, they’re moving in a much healthier direction.”
But brutal freemarket ideas don’t apply to members of Manhattan’s genteel farmer class, even billionaires like Norman B. Champ III, who received nearly a half-million dollars in welfare payments for poor farmers, despite the fact that he lives in a multimillion dollar co-op at 828 Park Avenue. From 1995 to 2006, he raked in a total of $405,807 in dairy, corn and soy subsidies via his stake in the Champ family’s dairy farm in Missouri, his home state. Handout-for-handout, even Reagan’s mythic Cadillac-driving Chicago welfare queen and her $150,000 welfare scam got nothing on Champ, who could buy a Lamborghini and still have money left over to reupholster his private jet.
Norman B. Champ III, 47, was born into a wealthy, upper-crust Missouri family and lived a privileged life (the Champs had a Missouri village named after them in their honor: the Village of Champ). He graduated summa cum laude fromPrinceton University, went to England for a masters in war studies from King’s College and earned a law degree—cum laude, of course—from Harvard, after which he finally settled down at Chilton Investment Company, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. He had added three titles to his name—Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer—by the time the markets crashed. He lost no time jumping ship to a cushy government job with the Securities and Exchange Commission, coming on board in January 2010 to start a new life as a financial regulator at the SEC’s New York Inspections and Examinations Division. He now leads a team of 100 hardworking investigators in a crusade to crack down on the shady dealings of his hedge-fund buddies.
An upper-crust billionaire type who lives in one of the nation’s wealthiest ZIP codes and collects welfare meant for struggling farmers? Whatta champ!
He might not be what most of us expect a welfare queen to look like, but that’s only because we have been duped by the whole poverty thing, convinced that the crumbs we throw the needy are a huge burden on our budget. So we look for any way to cut them off. For those who want to observe a real subsidy queen in his natural habitat, there’s no better place than Park Avenue. I am not trying to be ironic here. The people are literally welfare queens: They live where queens live and take money from the poor like queens do.

Over Population is Key to Understanding Our World

Over population is the elephant in the room than nobody talks about. Take most any crisis we face today, shrink it by 3 or 4 billion people and the problem goes away. Global population has doubled, and just about doubled again in my lifetime. It has fundamentally altered everything.  It’s been estimated that there are as many people alive today as have ever lived before.  Given our reproductive success as a species, it is easy to forget that population constrain is an unavoidable force of nature.  Every species that ever was or ever will be is brought into natures balance. This WILL happen to humans with or without our planning. If we don’t take responsibility for a sustainable world the natural consequence could include human extinction. Natural consequences are seldom humane.  Our intelligence has made us successful up till now, but if we don’t apply our ability to reason on this problem we won’t look so smart in the future. (selected reading below)

In the time it takes you to read this post there will be 2,000 more people in the world.

Graph of human population from 10,000 BC – 2,000 AD showing the unprecedented population growth since the 19th century

HERE IS A WORLD POPULATION CLOCK

Work to curb world overpopulation must begin now

Published July 11, 2012
http://www.theolympian.com/2012/07/11/2169964/work-to-curb-world-overpopulation.html

Tuesday morning, the world’s population stood at 7,025,367,636. Some believe that’s already a billion more than the planet can ultimately sustain, but the number is growing annually by 80 million people.

At that rate – about 9,100 new people per hour – the world population increases by roughly the size of Thurston County [Washington State] every day.
This morning, in London, on World Population Day, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation brought world leaders together to kick off a $4 billion fundraising campaign to provide contraceptives for 120 million women who do not have access to birth control, all of them in the poorest countries.  [snip]

SPRING 2009

One thing all humans on this planet need to survive is resources. Resources like food and water are bare essentials for life. The countries that are experiencing the highest growth rates are all developing countries, with the exception of the United States. This countries lack the technology that other developed countries have and therefore things we consider basic they have never used. We watch our televisions everyday while they may have never seen a TV before. They also lack the basics that we take for granted like indoor plumbing. Some countries water supply is the same as their sewage. India has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and the Ganges River shows their lack of resources available to the people of India. The Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.  It supports over 400 million people with a population density of 1,000 people per square mile. India is an example of developing country that has a rise in its population growth rate. It cannot support its population now, many of the people in India are forced to bathe in the Ganges because they have no access to any other water source. If this population continues to grow the river will continue to get more and more polluted making it unsafe for the millions of people that rely on it. This is not the only place in the world that the larger populations are supported by limited resources. Along with the people in India relying on the Ganges over three fifths of people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, one third have no access to clean water, and a quarter lack adequate housing.   [snip]

The World’s New Numbers

by Martin Walker

“Here lies Europe, overwhelmed by Muslim immigrants and emptied of native-born Europeans,” goes the standard pundit line, but neither the immigrants nor the Europeans are playing their assigned roles.
Something dramatic has happened to the world’s birthrates. Defying predictions of demographic decline, northern Europeans have started having more babies. Britain and France are now projecting steady population growth through the middle of the century. In North America, the trends are similar. In 2050, according to United Nations projections, it is possible that nearly as many babies will be born in the United States as in China. Indeed, the population of the world’s current demographic colossus will be shrinking. And China is but one particularly sharp example of a widespread fall in birthrates that is occurring across most of the developing world, including much of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The one glaring exception to this trend is sub-Saharan Africa, which by the end of this century may be home to one-third of the human race.
The human habit is simply to project current trends into the future. Demographic realities are seldom kind to the predictions that result. The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and larger, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.
In 1998, the UN’s “best guess” for 2050 was that there would be 8.9 billion humans on the planet. Two years later, the figure was revised to 9.3 billion—in effect, adding two Brazils to the world. The number subsequently fell and rose again. Modest changes in birthrates can have bigger consequences over a couple of generations: The recent rise in U.S. and European birthrates is among the developments factored into the UN’s latest “middle” projection that world population in 2050 will be just over 9.1 billion.
In a society in which an average woman bears 2.1 children in her lifetime—what’s called “replacement-level” fertility—the population remains stable. When demographers make tiny adjustments to estimates of future fertility rates, population projections can fluctuate wildly. Plausible scenarios for the next 40 years show world population shrinking to eight billion or growing to 10.5 billion. A recent UN projection rather daringly assumes a decline of the global fertility rate to 2.02 by 2050, and eventually to 1.85, with total world population starting to decrease by the end of this century.
Despite their many uncertainties, demographic projections have become an essential tool. Governments, international agencies, and private corporations depend on them in planning strategy and making long-term investments. They seek to estimate such things as the number of pensioners, the cost of health care, and the size of the labor force many years into the future. But the detailed statistical work of demographers tends to seep out to the general public in crude form, and sensationalist headlines soon become common wisdom.
 [snip]  Go to Full text PDF available here.

OVERPOPULATION: A KEY FACTOR IN SPECIES EXTINCTION

The world’s human population doubled from 1 to 2 billion between 1800 and 1930, and then doubled again by 1975. At the end of October 2011, it surpassed 7 billion. This staggering increase and the massive consumption it drives are overwhelming the planet’s finite resources. We’ve already witnessed the devastating effects of overpopulation on biodiversity: Species abundant in North America two centuries ago — from the woodland bison of West Virginia and Arizona’s Merriam’s elk to the Rocky Mountain grasshopper and Puerto Rico’s Culebra parrot — have been wiped out by growing human numbers.

As the world’s population grows unsustainably, so do its unyielding demands for water, land, trees and fossil fuels — all of which come at a steep price for already endangered plants and animals. Most biologists agree we’re in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event; species are disappearing about 1,000 times faster than is typical of the planet’s history. This time, though, it isn’t because of geologic or cosmic forces but unsustainable human population growth.

Today’s global human population is over 7 billion. Every day, the planet sees a net gain of roughly 250,000 people. If the pace continues, we’ll be on course to reach 8 billion by 2020 and 9 billion by 2050.

By any ecological measure, Homo sapiens sapiens has exceeded its sustainable population size. Just a single human waste product — greenhouse gas — has drastically altered the chemistry of the planet’s atmosphere and oceans, causing global warming and ocean acidification.

In the United States, which has the world’s third largest population after China and India, the fertility rate peaked in 2007 at its highest level since 1971 before dropping off slightly due to the recent economic recession. At 2.1 children per woman, the U.S. fertility rate remains the highest among developed nations, which average around 1.6. The current U.S. population exceeds 300 million and is projected to grow 50 percent by 2050.

The mission of the Center for Biological Diversity is to stop the planetary extinction crisis wiping out rare plants and animals around the world. Explosive, unsustainable human population growth is an essential root cause of this crisis.

We can reduce our own population to an ecologically sustainable level in a number of ways, including the empowerment of women, education of all people, universal access to birth control and a societal commitment to ensuring that all species are given a chance to live and thrive. All of these steps will decrease human poverty and overcrowding, raise our standard of living and sustain the lives of plants, animals and ecosystems everywhere.