The hidden cost of a fake ID

How about a driver’s license including your girlfriend

SARATOGA SPRINGS — It seemed like a harmless way to score some beer. But prosecutors say city teens who handed over their names, birth dates, pictures and signatures to a China-based company in exchange for sophisticated fake IDs are in for a lifetime of debt.

City police announced Tuesday the arrests of 14 teenagers, most of them Saratoga Springs High School students, who purchased phony IDs through the now-defunct website ID Chief.

Along with a money order for $75, police said, the teens wired personal information overseas to people in the business of stealing identities. In return, the kids got a driver’s license that officials say can fool border patrol and airport security, let alone Caroline Street bouncers.

ID Chief got a cache of personal info they immediately auctioned off to the highest bidder.

“As these kids get older and try to get jobs, try to be stockbrokers, or get a mortgage, or credit cards, they will find in 90 percent of the cases that they have thousands in credit card debt, that they will have several mortgages they have yet to pay, holds on their licenses to states they’ve never been to, Interpol holds, because they gave their information to a foreign Web-based company,” Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said. “All just to get a beer on Caroline Street…”

Catone said none of the students had any idea of the potentially devastating long-term ramifications of their purchases.

“They’re teenagers,” he said. “Mortgages and loans 10, 20 years from now are not what they’re thinking about.”

ID Chief was an international operation. The orders were placed through an address in China, and the money was wired to Indonesia. The IDs themselves were crafted in England.

There is no patch for stupid.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Volvo’s hybrid semi sets a land speed record

Volvo is taking its Mean Green hybrid truck on U.S. tour for a few months. One of the stops between Toronto Tuck World and the Volvo Ocean Race in Miami was Wendover, UT, to attempt a couple of record-breaking speed runs.

Mean Green uses a 16-cylinder engine that puts out 1,900-horsepower, tied to an electric motor that adds 200 hp and 885 pound-feet. With that package, the Swedish Viking Speed Records Team and pilot Boije Overbrink were aiming for 165 miles per hour in the flying kilometer. They didn’t quite make that lofty goal, but they did well enough to break not one, but two world records.

Americans predictably haven’t a clue what’s happening within their own borders. There are revolutionary developments – ranging from natural gas powerplants to hybrid technology – stoking semi trailers all along the interstate highways of America. One of the notable early adopters in fact was Wal-Mart.

This post is about Volvo’s effort; but, there are a number of American firms leading the way in energy-saving efforts. You just ain’t gonna see it on network TV snooze shows.

Sandra Day O’Connor expands fight to reverse our decline in civics

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court after 191 years, is crusading to reverse what she says is an alarming decline in America’s knowledge of democracy and announced an initiative Wednesday to educate children across the country.

Asserting that democracy is not inherited at birth but rather learned in school, O’Connor founded the educational nonprofit group iCivics in 2009 to secure America’s governance and prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders.

On Wednesday, O’Connor announced an expansion of that program to include the Boys & Girls Club of America, which has almost 4,000 clubs serving 4.1 million youngsters.

“Many states around the country are no longer teaching or requiring civics education for young people,” said O’Connor, 82. “When I went to school — and that was a long time ago, and I went to school in El Paso, Texas — we had civics almost every year, and in fact, I almost got tired of it.

“But the fact of the matter is that every young person needs to learn how our government works at the national level, at the state level, at the local level and how they can be part of it,” O’Connor said…

O’Connor cited an Annenberg Public Policy Center national survey showing that only one-third of Americans could name all three branches of the U.S. government…

Then she added: “Two-thirds of Americans can name a judge on ‘American Idol,’ and only 15% can name the chief justice of the United States,” who is John Roberts…

As I said the last time I addressed this question: “Justice O’Connor assumes that our political parties actually would welcome an informed citizenship. I can’t imagine why”. We have the added corruption, this year, of Republican and Blue Dog Democrat governors trying to keep citizens from voting.

Owner located — of Tsunami motorcycle that crossed the Pacific

We’re reaching that point in time when flotsam from the tsunami that crushed coastal Japan last year is showing up on the western shores of North America on a daily basis. This is one of the more interesting finds.

The Japanese owner of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was washed out to sea in the tsunami of March 2011 says its discovery on a remote beach on the West Coast of B.C. last week is a miracle.

The owner, Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29-year-old resident of the town of Yamamoto, in Miyagi Prefecture, was tracked down by a Harley-Davidson representative in Japan who saw the story, first reported by CBC News, in the media.

A company spokeperson told CBC News they are now hoping to pay for the return of the bike to Yokoyama and to see if they can restore it for him.

Yokoyama…said he lost his home and three family members in the tsunami and is now living in temporary accommodation. The motorcycle was being kept at his house in the back section of a cube van that he was using as a storage shed when the tsunami struck…

After it was washed out to sea in the tsunami in the makeshift storage container, the motorcycle apparently floated 5,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean. It was discovered by Peter Mark, a resident of B.C.’s Haida Gwaii, while he was exploring a remote beach on Graham Island.

The bike was rusty, particularly on the wheels and handlebars, but the logo on the fuel tank was unmistakable.

The motorcycle’s licence plate showed it was registered in Miyagi Prefecture, and writing on the container matched photos of a commonly used Japanese moving van. Mark also found a few golf clubs, tools and camping equipment in the container.

Poisonally, I think Harley-Davidson should return a well-restored bike to Yokoyama – and offer a replica model for sale as the HD Tsunami. I know a half-dozen bikers who would consider buying one.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Just say it — The Republicans are the problem

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.

It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges…

Continue reading

Flood insurance debate resumes as the Party of No waits for hurricane season

Why expect Congress to worry about your flood insurance?

Federal officials are putting fresh pressure on Congress to take action on the National Flood Insurance Program, whose authorization expires at the end of this month, one day before hurricane season begins.

The NFIP has been a political football in Washington for years, particularly because of the unsustainable debt load it took on in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is a broad push to reform the program and put it on a sound financial footing, but competing visions on that reform (including whether to forgive the program’s debts) have stalled legislation.

For now the program remains in business with repeated short-term extensions [which is what you get with today’s Republicans + Kool Aid Party], though in 2010 it was allowed to lapse for a few weeks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning of serious consequences if that happens again…

Federal law requires that homes in designated flood-risk areas have flood insurance before a mortgage can be completed. Because the NFIP is effectively the only flood insurance available in the United States, a lapse in the program means home sales cannot close in designated flood areas…

For now the debate appears to be focused on whether to move ahead with reform legislation pending in the U.S. Senate or to simply reauthorize the existing program.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, in an April 17 letter to congressional leaders, asked for a two-year reauthorization.

An insurance industry coalition…condemned that request last week…blah, blah, blah.

Are we supposed to believe that Congressional Republicans are motivated by concerns for homeowners who have only the NFIP to rely on for flood insurance? The Tea Party has to call the insurance companies for instructions on how to pee brew their tea. The same old dance of death for the simplest of actions on behalf of citizens.

Given their track record, the right-wing nutballs in Congress will probably want homeowners to give up their right to sue against eminent domain taking of their property – as compensation for being allowed to buy insurance.