Massive NSA Data Mining misses the Boston Marathon Bombers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2013

Week in Review

The Obama administration says they need to track and store the metadata from our phone calls to mine data that will help them catch terrorists.  They’ve been doing this for a long time.  Starting long before the Boston Marathon bombing.  Yet they couldn’t catch these terrorists before they acted.  Despite all of that data mining.  Which is pretty sad considering they come from a hotbed of Islamist activity.  Dagestan.  Which is near Chechnya.  Another hotbed of Islamist activity.  Which has been a thorn in the side of Russia ever since the fall of the Soviet Union.

And as if this wasn’t enough, and don’t you think it should be, the Russians said, “Hey, this guy Tamerlan Tsarnaev?  He’s probably a freaking terrorist.  You should watch this guy.  Before he kills someone in America.”  And the FBI said, “Thanks.  We’ll look into it.”  Which they did.  And found nothing.  Despite all of that data mining (see Sensenbrenner: Data Mining Missed Red Flags in Boston Bombing by Lauren Fox posted 6/10/2013 on US News & World Report).

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the author of the Patriot Act, says he thinks NSA’s dragnet data mining may have obscured clues that Boston Bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were planning to carry out a deadly attack…

Before a 2011 trip to Chechnya and Dagestan, a region from which Tamerlan sought asylum in the U.S., the Russians sent a notice to the FBI that the eldest Tsarnaev brother might have ties to radical groups in the region.

The FBI looked into it and said nothing suspicious materialized after an initial investigation. The FBI looked for things like “derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity and associations with other persons of interest,” the FBI said on its website. After that, the FBI did not continue looking at Tamerlan Tsarnaev because the Russian government did not respond to requests for more information and because, an FBI source told the New York Times in April, the agency didn’t have legal grounds to continue keeping track of Tamerlan.

No legal grounds to track Tamerlan?  But they have all the legal grounds to track all of our phone calls?  It just makes you wonder why they’re collecting all of that data.  And what they are using it for.  For Tamerlan Tsarnaev all but had a blinking neon sign on his head saying he was an Islamist terrorist who was here to kill Americans.  But they just couldn’t see this.  So if they’re not tracking terrorists with all of that data mining who are they tracking?  U.S. citizens?  To identify their political enemies?  Like the Tea Party.  So the appropriate actions can be taken?  Like those partisans in the IRS took against the Tea party?

It makes one wonder.

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The Policy Makers at the IRS are 95% Partisan and Don’t Need Orders before Taking Partisan Actions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2013

Week in Review

Did the IRS follow orders to harass Tea Party groups?  Is there a smoking gun?  Probably not.  Because there doesn’t have to be.  Not when the policy makers of this ‘nonpartisan agency’ clearly think just like President Obama (see Most IRS, government lawyers donated to Obama campaign by Ashe Schow posted 6/14/2013 on The Examiner).

It is not just IRS employees who donated to President Obama in 2012, but lawyers working for the federal tax agency as well. In fact, lawyers at the IRS (and in every other government agency) overwhelmingly donated to Obama during the last election…

…the lawyers for that particular federal agency donated to Obama by an astounding 20-to-1 ratio, according to Robert Anderson, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law…

…Lawyers are relevant because they are the ones taking the lead in writing regulations, litigating cases, and making delicate legal judgment calls in borderline cases…”

Of the IRS lawyers who made contributions, a whopping 95 percent gave to Obama. And if you think that’s a high percentage, 100 percent of the lawyers at the Department of Education, the United Nations and – no surprises here – the National Labor Relations Board (you know, the pro-union agency that sued Boeing) contributed to the Obama campaign.

So there you have it.  A nonpartisan agency that clearly is partisan.  Well, at least 95% of them are partisan.  Making a smoking gun irrelevant.  For the president didn’t have to give any order for the people who support him and his policies to know what to do.  Because the president delegates authority.  Like all presidents do.  They put in people that support his vision.  And then let them do their partisan work.  And for President Obama that holds true even at the nonpartisan IRS.

There’s a piece by Herbert Meyer in The American Thinker creating a lot of buzz (see The Smoking Gun in Plain Sight by Herbert E. Meyer posted 6/3/2013 on American Thinker).  Getting a lot of traction on talk radio.  And in the conservative blogosphere.  Because it compares the IRS scandal—and President Obama—to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.  About as provocative as you can get these days.  Especially when you throw in the Holocaust.

Very few people are aware of this, but there is no document — not one — linking Adolf Hitler to the Holocaust.  Why not?  Because Hitler didn’t need to sign a document ordering the slaughter of six million Jews.  All he needed to do was to demonize his enemy in speeches at the Reichstag, on the radio, and from one end of Germany to the other — then hire thugs like Herman Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, and Josef Goebbels.  They knew what der Fuhrer wanted, and der Fuhrer knew he could trust his henchman to get the job done — no matter how, no matter what may be the law — and to not bother him with the gory details.

Reader, take a deep breath.  Nowhere in this essay will I suggest, or even imply, that President Obama plans the mass murder of his opponents the way Hitler murdered his.  That’s absurd.  I am merely pointing out that President Obama has been going about the business of demonizing his political enemies, and then hiring thugs to destroy them without regard to the law, in precisely the same way that Hitler and his fascists did it in Germany.  This isn’t an accusation; it’s an observation.

Look at the record: From the moment he took office in January 2009, President Obama has spoken before Congress, on television, and at countless rallies across the country describing his political opponents in terms we haven’t seen before in the United States.   Time and again he’s insisted that Republicans aren’t merely wrong, but evil…

His rhetoric heated up fast after the Tea Party movement gave the GOP enough oomph to win back the House of Representatives in 2010, and as the president geared up for the 2012 election.  He urged Latino voters to help him “punish our enemies and reward our friends.”  He told his supporters at one rally to think of voting for him as “an act of revenge.”

So there probably isn’t a smoking gun.  For when 95% of the policy-making people at the IRS are like-minded and in lockstep with the president they don’t need an order from the president (or from anyone in his administration) to act.  There may be someone who gave an order.  But when you’re that partisan you don’t wait for orders.  Because you want what your president wants.  And you know your president will approve of your actions.  No matter how legally questionable they may be.  As long as the president has plausible deniability.  And when you don’t sign any orders you have plausible deniability.

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Canadian Public Sector Workers average 18.2 Paid Sick Days a Year

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2013

Week in Review

Nations around the world are suffering financial crises due to the costs of their public sectors.  Which they pay for by taxing the private sector.  Even though people in the private sector don’t enjoy anywhere near the generous benefits the public sector enjoys (see Government to target public service’s sick days in next round of bargaining by BILL CURRY posted 6/10/2013 on The Globe and Mail).

The Conservative government is putting public-service unions on notice that sick days will be targeted in the next round of collective bargaining.

Treasury Board president Tony Clement said the government wants to move away from the current rules, where workers can use up to 15 paid sick days and five family days a year, in addition to vacation time.

The Minister stopped short of accusing public servants of abusing the system, but questioned why the federal absentee rate is higher than that of other governments and the private sector, where he said the average number of sick days is 6.7.

“Look, I think that the great majority of public servants are, when they take time off, they are sick. But there’s no question that the rate of sick leave, when you’re looking at 18.2 days as an average in a year, is well beyond not only private sector norms but other public-sector norms,” Mr. Clement said Monday at a news conference on Parliament Hill…

Union leaders also took issue with comparisons of public- and private-sector absenteeism, arguing the private sector does not document sick days in the same way as governments do…

“Mental illness, stress, anxiety, depression were not admitted to or acknowledged,” he said. “Cancer was much less treatable than it is today. So the workplace has changed dramatically in the past 40 years, but the disability management system has not. Employees are getting lost or forgotten in the system.”

Yes, we admit and acknowledge those illnesses more today than we used to.  And we do treat cancer more than we once did.  However, these illnesses do not affect the public sector differently than they affect the private sector.  So if the private sector is averaging 8.7 sick days there is no reason why the public sector should be averaging 18.2 sick days.  On top of 5 family days.  Holidays.  And vacation time.

One of the arguments for a single-payer health care system in the United States is that people will be healthier.  With access to health care doctors will catch disease early and stop it in its tracks.  Now either the Canadians are milking the system or a single-payer health care system doesn’t make people healthier.

If the organization a person works for can get by for a month (after you add together all that paid time off) without that person being there chances are that they can get by the other 11 months of the year without that person being there.  Which is why you don’t see 18.2 sick says in the private sector.  Because it’s too great a cost burden to pay people for not working.  As private sector employers can’t just raise their prices to cover this cost.  Whereas the government can raise taxes.  Or print money.

But there even is a limit for government, too.  As we can see by the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.  And the need to cut back on generous sick pay in Canada.  Higher taxes reduce economic activity.  Which reduces government revenues.  Which they make up with borrowing.  Until they suffer a sovereign debt crisis.  Like in the Eurozone.  Where a country is so deep in debt that no one wants to loan them anymore.  For it is unlikely that a nation so deep in debt will ever repay that debt.  Which is why these generous public sector benefits are simply not sustainable.  When you can no longer tax or borrow you have but one option left.  You have to cut costs.  And the public sector will have to live more like the private sector.  Less exalted and privileged.  As public servants should.

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Basement Medical Marijuana Growers are Depressing the Street Value of Illegal Marijuana

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2013

Week in Review

A common perception is that Canada cares more for her people than America cares for her people.  The Americans put profits before people.  While the Canadians put people before profits.  Which is why Canada has legalized medical marijuana while only a few states in America have.  Because it was something sick Canadians needed.  So because Canada cares for her people (unlike the United States) they made the enlightened decision to legalize medical marijuana.  And it’s worked out swimmingly (see Medical marijuana lets B.C. growers earn thousands on streets posted 6/14/2013 on CBC News).

A B.C. pot grower [Jack] says he and many others are making thousands of dollars every month growing licensed medical marijuana and selling it for illegal distribution on the streets, and there is little police can do to stop it…

Jack says he used to grow his pot illegally and sell it on the Prairies, but that was too risky, so he applied to Health Canada for a Personal Use Production licence.

He filled out a few forms and got a doctor to sign off on a medical condition. The whole process took a half hour he recalls…

But while he’s growing the pot legally, Jack still sells his marijuana to the same middle men he always has and that’s how large amounts of medicinal marijuana end up being sold illegally on the streets, police say…

“Serious organized crime has found a venue that buffers them from law enforcement. They are actively recruiting people to make applications for marijuana licences…

Meanwhile back in his basement, Jack says he actually misses the days when operations like his were illegal because lately so much so-called “legal weed” has spilled onto the street it’s driven down prices.

He used to get almost $3,000 a pound for his bud when he was growing illegally. Now it’s $1,700 pound and falling. Sometimes there’s so much medical marijuana out there he says some growers can’t unload their product.

“It’s going down the tubes because of all these licences. Three years ago you couldn’t have enough of this. Now I know people who have ten pounds from their last crop because they couldn’t sell it. ”

And so Jack pines for the good old days – when what he did was illegal but he made a lot more money doing it.

Imagine that.  Drug dealers lied to their government.  So they could grow marijuana legally in their basement.  So they could sell it illegally on the street.  Even organized crime has taken to recruiting people to become home-growers to feed their criminal networks.  Bet the Canadians didn’t see that coming.

Note the economic lesson here.  Illegal substances are typically low in supply.  Because people can get arrested for supplying them.  Because few people want to risk getting arrested this low supply creates a high demand.  As there are more drug users than the current growers and traffickers of marijuana can supply.  Which would normally bring more suppliers into the marijuana economy.  But not when it’s illegal.  But make it legal and look what happens.  There is an explosion in supply.  Great for the drug user as prices fall.  But bad for the drug dealer as their drugs are worth less and bring in les revenue.

This is what happened during the Roaring Twenties in the United States.  As European farmers left the farm to fight in World War I American farmers stepped in to meet that unfilled demand.  And mechanized their farms to increase their output.  To cash in on that high demand.  But after the war soldiers became farmers again.  And those export markets for American farmers disappeared.  Just as their farms were never producing more with less thanks to their costly mechanization.  As crop prices fell it was good for hungry people as it prevented famine.  But it was bad for farmers.  Who couldn’t service their debt for all of that mechanization they financed.  And began to default en masse.  Causing bank failures in farming communities.  That spread to city banks.  Leading to the great bank runs of the Great Depression.

Interesting what growing pot can teach you.

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Canadian Doctors don’t want to Prescribe Medical Marijuana and Pharmacists don’t want to Dispense It

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2013

Week in Review

Americans love Canada when it comes to health care.  And drugs.  Because in Canada they have single-payer health care.  And medical marijuana.  However, while they do have medical marijuana the drug is still illegal unless you have a medical condition.  And a prescription.  Something simpler said than done (see Need medical marijuana? You’ll have to get it by mail by The Canadian Press posted 6/10/2013 on CBC News).

Pharmacists and physicians alike questioned the lack of research into medical marijuana.

In December, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Anna Reid, described the proposed marijuana rules as “akin to asking doctors to write prescriptions while blindfolded.”

She said the government was dumping the responsibility for medical marijuana onto doctors.

“Not only does prescribing drugs that haven’t been clinically tested fly in the face of medical training and ethics, but marijuana’s potential benefits and adverse effects have not been rigorously tested…”

“There is little information available on safety, effectiveness, dosage, drug interactions or long-term health risks,” the association said in its letter to Health Canada.

“Pharmacists, physicians and nurse practitioners need evidence-based information to support safe and effective prescribing and dispensing of (medical marijuana).”

The association said it didn’t know how many pharmacies would be willing to participate a revamped system.

“While the distribution process would be regulated, there remains the concern with pharmacists dispensing a product that does not have adequate safety and effectiveness evidence. In addition, the potential security risks to pharmacies due to robberies would need to be considered.”

Apparently marijuana is not everything some would have you believe it is.  While it takes years of studies and clinical trials to bring a new drug onto the market this hasn’t happened with medical marijuana.  They say it has medicinal benefits but unlike EVERY OTHER DRUG brought to market there are no studies showing this.  Which is why doctors don’t want to write prescriptions for it.  For what will they write?  Smoke two-thirds of a joint twice daily?  Take three bong hits daily?  What will people do with the other third of that joint?  Or with the bong after three hits?  Snuff them out and through away the unused portion?  Yeah, like a pot smoker would do that.

Is it medicine?  Well, if it is it is the first one ever that people really want to take.  And look forward to their medicine time.  Which kind of tells us it’s not medicine.  People want it to get high.  Yes, some may actually ameliorate their medical symptoms by using it but the vast majority of people just want to get high.  Which is why pharmacists don’t want to dispense it.  Because having a large quantity of it in their pharmacies will only attract the criminal element.  Who will want to break in and steal it.  So they can sell it to those who want to get high.

At best it’s like taking a shot of bourbon every night for medicinal purposes.  No doctor will want to prescribe that.  Because there are a whole lot of bad things that can follow by having a drink every night.   Especially if someone is on medication that shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol.  For which there is a lot of medical research available.  And if there was medical research available on medical marijuana it could very well be just as dangerous in the long run.  Even if people only consume it for medicinal purposes.

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