Homeland Security tries to go fishing in journalist’s cellphones — she calls their bluff!

Maria Abi-Habib

Borders are arbitrary, human-made constructs. Sure, the lines on a map seem almost pre-ordained, but they change within lifetimes, and get redefined by governments in all sorts of weird little ways. Maria Abi-Habib, a journalist who reports on the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, found out just how arbitrary borders can be. Flying from Beirut to a wedding in Los Angeles, she writes that she was pulled aside by agents of the Department of Homeland Security, who screened her for an extra hour and then demanded access to her cellphones.

❝ “[The agent] handed me a DHS document, a photo of which I’ve attached. It basically says the U.S. government has the right to seize my phones and my rights as a U.S. citizen (or citizen of the world) go out the window. This law applies at any point of entry into the U.S., whether naval, air or land and extends for 100 miles into the US from the border or formal points of entry. So, all of NY city for instance. If they forgot to ask you at JFK airport for your phones, but you’re having a drink in Manhattan the next day, you technically fall under this authority. And because they are acting under the pretense to protect the US from terrorism, you have to give it up.

“So I called their bluff.

“You’ll have to call The Wall Street Journal’s lawyers, as those phones are the property of WSJ,” I told her, calmly.

Abi-Habib’s full post is worth reading, especially for the section on technology at the end. In Abi-Habib’s case, she was able to get through without divulging her contacts or any information on her phone thanks to the threat of legal action from a major newspaper. Her advice for securing phones is to use encryption as a baseline, but that anything truly sensitive should be transferred to paper and secured physically, then deleted from the phone.

I hope there aren’t many folks out there who remain gullible enough to think “Homeland Security” has an interest in protecting the rights of ordinary citizens. Remember, these creeps – whichever alphabet flavor, DHS, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. – all think they’re above the law and you.

Don’t blame Health Law for high part-time employment – because Republicans are lying

Don’t blame the health law for high levels of part-time employment. In fact, using the law’s definitions, part-time work isn’t increasing at all as a share of employment…

Nearly 8 million American were working part-time in September because they couldn’t find full-time work. Overall, 27 million people — nearly a fifth of all employees — are working part-time, well above historical norms.

Many critics of the Obama administration have pointed the finger for the prevalence of part-time jobs at the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law better known to some as “Obamacare.” The law’s so-called “employer mandate” requires most midsize and larger companies to offer health insurance to their full-time employees. That, critics argue, provides companies with an incentive to hire part-timers instead…

But a closer look at the data provides little evidence for the notion that the health law is driving a shift to part-time work…

First of all, over a longer time frame, part-time work has actually been falling as a share of employment in recent years. Before the recession, about 17% of employed Americans worked 35 hours or less, the standard Labor Department definition of “part time.” During the recession, that figure rose, briefly hitting 20%. It’s been trending down since then, but only slowly, hitting 19% in September.

If the health law were driving employers to cut employees’ hours, the most vulnerable workers would likely be those working just above the 30-hour cutoff. That means the data would show a decline in those working 30 to 34 hours and an increase in those working less than 30 hours.

That isn’t what’s happening. The share of part-timers who say they usually work between 30 and 34 hours at their main job has been roughly flat over the past three years, at about 28%. (September data aren’t yet available.) If anything, it’s actually risen in the past year, though the change has been minor. The share working just under 30 hours has indeed risen somewhat, but the share working under 25 hours has fallen—suggesting that employers are giving part-timers more hours, rather than cutting full-timers’ hours back.

Other data tell a similar story. Average weekly hours—a measure that comes from companies, rather than workers themselves—have been flat for the past year, and are near their highest level since the recession. Restaurants, one of the sectors most often cited as likely to shift to part-timers, haven’t cut workers’ hours over the past year.

None of this, of course, means that employers won’t cut workers’ hours in the future…But there’s little evidence they’ve done so yet.

Editing this down to fit on the blog for commentary was a trip. The WSJ crew has never been noted for smiling over good news for American workers. Now that Rupert Murdoch owns the paper, the swing to the Right has only increased.

So, if you compare my copy to the original linked to above – you’ll see I’ve cut away the conservative crystal ball add-ons. Every time there’s a good news paragraph the WSJ plugs in an extra sentence or two to say – “this can all come crashing down and bad news might return”. Fracking hilarious if it wasn’t just repetitious ideology.

Meanwhile, if your stomach can take it don’t mute the sound when CNN or your local TV channel puts up the required clips of Tea Party know-nothings or Republican “leaders” saying exactly the opposite of the labor statistics. You’ll hear what you’re supposed to believe in – along with the Easter Bunny.

Wall Street Journal says Egypt needs a Pinochet – heartwarming to hear financial flunkies endorse murder, rape and torture!


Nothing new about a Murdoch newspaper endorsing a criminal

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial entitled “After the Coup in Cairo”. Its final paragraph contained these words:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took over power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

Presumably, this means that those who speak for the Wall Street Journal – the editorial was unsigned – think Egypt should think itself lucky if its ruling generals now preside over a 17-year reign of terror. I also take it the WSJ means us to associate two governments removed by generals – the one led by Salvador Allende in Chile and the one led by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Islamist, socialist … elected, legitimate … who cares?

Presumably, the WSJ thinks the Egyptians now have 17 years in which to think themselves lucky when any who dissent are tortured with electricity, raped, thrown from planes or – if they’re really lucky – just shot. That’s what happened in Chile after 1973, causing the deaths of between 1,000 and 3,000 people. Around 30,000 were tortured.

Such quibbles notwithstanding, I’m presuming the WSJ envisages that the Egyptian general or generals will then be allowed to retire, unmolested. Possibly to Wentworth, where the golf’s good. But if any molestation does occur, perhaps by some uppity human rights lawyer, they will receive further assistance from the governing classes of Britain and America. He or they will then retire and, unlike his or their victims, die a free man – or men – in bed.

Yup. A newspaper run by the same sort of pigs who say that “Mussolini made the trains run on time” or “Hitler provided full employment”.

Wrong like it’s their job to be wrong!

oilsoldiers

Things have not been going well of late for the ideologues who also wax economic regarding inflation, interest rates, austerity, etc. They’ve been wrong at every turn. Luskin, Ferguson, Bowyer, Laffer, Kudlow, the WSJ editorialists, and so on…

…I continue to be amazed that folks who can be so devastatingly wrong, for so long, on such a broad array of topics, can continue to hold sway…Interestingly, these same folks were stunningly wrong about a decade ago about when they banged the drum for war against Iraq. Overthrowing Saddam, of course, was a high priority for the neocons, and they needed to drum up broad support to get folks on board. What better lever to pull than to claim that oil prices would drop through the floor once Saddam was out of the picture and Iraqi oil flowed freely?

Here was the conservative line on what would happen to oil prices after we ousted Saddam…

Rand Corp (by recollection): Under a free market [ed. note: The author’s article was all about our liberation of Iraq], oil prices would probably fall to between $8 and $12 per barrel over the next 10 years — down dramatically from today’s price of about $25 per barrel…

Fortune: No one knows for sure which way things will go. But if you have to make a bet, the most likely scenario is that a year from now, with a new regime in Baghdad and long-dormant Iraqi wells finally pumping out crude, oil prices will be back in the mid-20s.

Heritage Foundation: An unencumbered flow of Iraqi oil would be likely to provide a more constant supply of oil to the global market, which would dampen price fluctuations, ensuring stable oil prices in the world market in a price range lower than the current $25 to $30 a barrel.

National Review: “…markets clearly expect lower prices. On the eve of hostilities, oil was selling for about $37 per barrel…But once it became clear that Iraq’s liberation was at hand, the price quickly dropped to about $28 per barrel, cutting our annual oil bill by $70 billion. With full Iraqi production, the price might drop to $20 per barrel or less, giving us the equivalent of an annual tax cut of about $120 billion per year…”

WSJ: Of course, the largest benefit–a more stable Mideast–is huge but unquantifiable. A second plus, lower oil prices, is somewhat more measurable…Postwar, with Iraqi production back in the pipeline and calmer markets, oil prices will fall even further. If they drop to an average in the low $20s, the U.S. economy will get a boost of $55 billion to $60 billion a year.

One more time, rightwing ideologues sent our troops halfway around the world to “bring freedom” – and deliver the profits from Iraq’s oil into the coffers of Wall Street.

They are wrong time after time. Not always as dramatically as in Bush’s invasion of Iraq. No matter. The professional liars in Congress will beat the war drums on command from the generals of finance every time they are called upon. Time for voters to shut them up.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

U.S. wasted $34 billion on contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq


The Temple of Doom under construction in Baghdad – US Embassy

The United States has wasted some $34 billion on service contracts with the private sector in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study being finalized for Congress…

The analysis by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, details of which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, offers the most complete look so far at the misuse of U.S. contracting funds in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than $200 billion has been doled out in the contracts and grants over nearly a decade.

It also gives the most complete picture of the magnitude of the U.S. contracting workforce in the two countries.

The source, who declined to be named, said more than 200,000 contractors have been on the U.S. payroll at times in Iraq and Afghanistan — outstripping the number of U.S. troops currently on the ground in those countries…

The tally of private sector contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan can be surprisingly difficult to obtain since many U.S. contractors are outsourced to subcontractors who depend on temporary labor, the source said.

The report blames a lack of oversight by federal agencies for misuse of funds and warns of further waste when the programs are transferred to Iraqi or Afghan control as the United States withdraws its troops.

The report should also blame the corrupt fracking Congress that authorized the payments – for the whole war for that matter. And then throw in the sillyass voters who trundled most of the same boom-bedazzled chickenhawks back into office for George W’s second term.

If it wasn’t a secret ballot [I know, except Floriduh and Ohio] I’d fight for a law that requires everyone who voted for Bush the second time around to fork over double income taxes until the war is paid for.

Another useless GOP myth about government spending

It was the British economist John Maynard Keynes who famously wrote that ideas, “both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else.” Right now, I’m worried about the damage that might be done by one particularly wrong-headed idea: the notion that, in stark contrast to Keynes’s teaching, government spending destroys jobs.

No, that’s not a typo. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans regularly rail against “job-killing government spending.” Think about that for a minute. The claim is that employment actually declines when federal spending rises. Using the same illogic, employment should soar if we made massive cuts in public spending—as some are advocating right now…

It is easy, but irrelevant, to understand how someone might object to any particular item in the federal budget—whether it is the war in Afghanistan, ethanol subsidies, Social Security benefits, or building bridges to nowhere. But even building bridges to nowhere would create jobs, not destroy them, as the congressman from nowhere knows. To be sure, that is not a valid argument for building them…

For example, the large fiscal stimulus enacted in 2009 was not “paid for.” Yet it has been claimed that it created essentially no jobs. Really? With spending under the Recovery Act exceeding $600 billion (and tax cuts exceeding $200 billion), that would be quite a trick…In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the stimulus’s effect on employment in 2010 was at least 1.3 million net new jobs, and perhaps as many as 3.3 million…

Continue reading

Catholic University thinks rules keep students from booze and sex

Catholic University is bringing back single-sex dorms starting with next year’s freshman class. Why? To reduce binge drinking and hooking up, University President John Garvey said this week in The Wall Street Journal. The right place for a CU editorial for sure.

Garvey said studies show that students drink more, and have more sexual partners, when they live in co-ed dorms. His university’s job is to train students in the virtuous life, and certain virtues are best learned and practiced living apart.

He has good intentions, I’m sure, and some 18- and 19-year-old students will be attracted to single-sex living. But I’m not convinced he’ll achieve the results he seeks. Nothing in my 20 years of experience writing about young people suggests that reverting to the old days of male and female dorms will substantially reduce the frequency of drinking or casual sex.

Moreover, his explanation for the change has a let’s-protect-the-women ring to it that is decidedly out of step with the gender roles and expectations of today’s young women and young men…

Author Liz Funk, a New York resident in her 20s who was raised as a Roman Catholic, attended a co-ed college with co-ed dorms. She remembers, “Without the presence of guys, my friends and I had no problem throwing back three to eight drinks in a sitting. And on the occasions where accidents happened … it was always in an all-female context.” No doubt the same in many all-guy drinking bouts… The phrase, “I must have been drunk” comes to mind.

None of this is to say that Catholic University, like other schools, shouldn’t be talking to students about drinking, sex and having fun in a way that is consistent with the school’s values. Students flock to such discussions, depending on who leads them, and more schools — non-religious as well as religious — should offer them.

Garvey ignores what to me has been one contribution of co-ed dorms: the ease with which members of this generation relate to each other as friends, and the depth of their understanding of the opposite sex. I can’t help but believe those qualities will help sustain their intimate partnerships in the future.

This good Catholic official seems stuck into the same ignorance that afflicts his religion at root, its hierarchy, as a matter of course.

Ignore the realities of best practices grounded in modern knowledge – and you induce the same frustration, rejection and confrontation that continues to demolish all fundamentalist sects.

Fox Biz Network adds Wall Street Journal technology columnist

The Fox Business Network and The Wall Street Journal, two siblings in the News Corp. family, are contractually restricted in what resources they can share. But they have taken another step toward family unity by announcing that the personal technology columnist Walt Mossberg will be a regular contributor to the upstart cable channel.

The announcement makes Mossberg, who writes two columns for The Wall Street Journal, the most prominent person from the newspaper to contribute to the cable channel, created by News Corp. last October, about the same time that it was buying Dow Jones.

A 15-year contract that extends until 2012 between CNBC, the dominant business channel, and The Journal prevents many Journal reporters from appearing on Fox Business programs…

“As long as we stay away from branded, regularly scheduled segments of business news, we’re safe,” Kevin Magee, an executive vice president at Fox News, said in an interview. “Breaking news is fine and nonbusiness news is fine.”

It’s beginning to look as if Murdoch realize the “fair and balanced” crap act needs to be abandoned to grow to an all-encompassing market. You can’t count on selling sophisticated biz news to NASCAR reality junkies. And as business TV goes, FBN is a mediocrity.