Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Perplexing immigration issues and some clarity on global warming

Come to the USA

If you’re thinkin’ about illegal immigration,
Be careful when you’re choosin’ the nation
‘Cause breakin’ the law in some countries is frowned upon.
Imagine that.

Sneak into China and they’ll call you a spy
And ship you to Mongolia till you die.
And in Sudan they’ll hang you and the camel you rode in on.

Yeah, and don’t go ahikin’ and enter Iran,
Or you might never be heard from again.
And in Mexico, you might face a firing squad.

Yeah, and forget all about going to North Korea.
That’s a great example of a bad idea,
So when it comes down to it, there’s only one option you got.

Yeah come to the USA.
There's no penalty to pay
Should you get caught illegally immigratin

Those lyrics from Ray Stevens' "Come to the USA" YouTube video illustrate the stark difference in how some countries view people who sneak across their borders, compared to the USA. 

The US now has 11-to-20 million immigrants that illegally crossed our borders or over-stayed their visas, and the US Congress, in an attempt to reward those illegal immigrants, is now debating various measures under the guise of "immigration reform" which could easily be even more destructive and costly than the Affordable Care Act.

There is little agreement among our Senators and Representatives about what to do. Ideas being floated range from plain amnesty to plans to convert illegals to legal status and create a path to citizenship, and most pay a bit of lip service to securing the borders. Since they take such a friendly approach to people who are here illegally, these measures are viewed as a form of amnesty, and amnesty failed miserably in 1986. Any act that gives illegals an advantage over the 4 million people waiting in line who entered legally isn’t fair.

An exhaustive study by the Heritage Foundation has found that after amnesty, current illegal immigrants would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and services but pay only about $3 trillion in taxes over their lifetimes, leaving a deficit of $6.3 trillion that would be paid for by another big increase in government debt or by raising taxes on those who still pay taxes.

Further, some of the people who have entered illegally are criminals, and perhaps a few terrorists in the mix, and we have to continue rooting out the bad among those millions and secure the border to prevent others like them from sneaking in.

Our government has acted stupidly and negligently over the years allowing national security to suffer by failing to secure the borders. That has to stop now, before any measure to legalize illegals proceeds.

More Inconvenient Truth

Dr. Roy Spencer has serious climate credentials dating back to 1981 that involve research at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and award-winning climate studies for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. His research has been entirely supported by the U.S. government through NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy.

He has produced a graph based upon 73 separate climate change prediction models that shows the full high/low range of those predictions of increasing global temperatures from 1979 through 2024, as well as the median prediction of those models. These datasets show predictions of global temperatures rising as much as 2 degrees Celsius (C) over that period, and about 1.5 degrees C by 2012.

These predictions shouldn’t surprise anyone; they are the similar to the dozens, hundreds or thousands of news stories of impending global catastrophe if drastic steps are not taken immediately to stop man’s upward pressure on global temperatures. And certainly if these models are accurate and we refuse to take steps to control greenhouse gas emissions, we will be negligent.

“And now,” as the great commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “for the rest of the story.”

Dr. Spencer uses the same graph to show the results of actual temperature observations from balloons and satellites from 1979 through 2012. These observations use actual measurements of temperatures that occasionally show cooling periods or static results, but most of which over the last decade show increases in temperature.

Most important, however, is that even in the years from 2003 through 2012 when the warming trend has been the most consistent, the actual rise in temperature is only .2 degrees C, well below the predicted level of .6 to .8 degrees, and a mere fraction of the highest of the range of predicted increases of 1.3 to 1.5 degrees C.

In explaining this dramatic difference between prediction and reality, Dr. Spencer notes that “to many politicians and the public, the term [global warming] carries the implication that mankind is responsible for that warming. … [M]y group’s government-funded research … suggests global warming is mostly natural, and that the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol pollution.”

He goes on to say that, “Believe it or not, very little research has ever been funded to search for natural mechanisms of warming … it has simply been assumed that global warming is manmade.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Data mining breeches our Founder’s concept of liberty and privacy

Collecting data from phone calls of Verizon customers is one thing. Collecting email information on millions of Americans is something else. Both of these activities stir concern and break the bounds of constitutionality, but the invasion of privacy is far greater in the collection of email data.

Phone call data consists of phone numbers, dates and call duration, but not the conversation itself. Email data, on the other hand, not only has email addresses and date information, but the actual message as well, which often includes names and attached text and media files.

The potential for misbehavior is enormous, particularly with email data, given the nature of the information available to prying eyes. Some comfort may be taken from the idea that intelligence personnel who use this information are not susceptible to political influences unlike, say, Internal Revenue Service workers. That does not relieve the concern for our privacy, however.

Hardly anyone doesn't want to the government to find plotting terrorists or discover terrorist plans before they are acted upon, even if it involves tapping phones, capturing emails or other covert measures. But the routine collection of massive amounts of data in the hopes of finding a couple of useful pieces of information is over-the-top and unjustified. Its use has increased since the practice was first introduced after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and has increased exponentially under the Obama administration, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The way it is supposed to work is that when the government has reason to believe that one or more individuals – like let’s say Irv Huffington or Ahmed Ali-Yahoo – may be planning an attack, it goes to court to seek an order allowing it to tap their phone or take whatever actions it proposes to do. It doesn't simply start collecting the records of millions of people hoping to find the Huffington or Ali-Yahoo needle among millions of data bits in the haystack.

Here's what the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution says: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

That language is precise and unambiguous. It does not allow judges to give anyone, or anyone to just take the information of millions of Americans in the hope of finding something hidden away among huge collections of data.

In order to get permission to breech a citizen's privacy, the government must request permission by offering a compelling reason and support that assertion under oath, describing explicitly the place and persons under suspicion. Nowhere in the 4th Amendment is the term "fishing expedition" mentioned or implied, nor is there language allowing nosing around in the private lives of millions of citizens who empower the government because it makes things easier, and it does not depend upon what the meaning of "is" is.

The Founders viewed "general warrants," or dragnet searches such as we are witnessing today, as tyrannical. That view is not mitigated by the advent of terrorist acts that kill dozens, hundreds or thousands, nor by the amazing technological advances since the mid-18th century; general warrants still are tyrannical.

The United States has Constitution protections for a reason: because the Framers understood from first-hand experience how government can slither into impropriety, tyranny and oppression unless it is clearly and firmly prevented by statute from doing so. The U.S. Constitution was created not to limit what the people may do, but to limit what the government may do.

We are told, and many of us believe, that in order to be safe in these perilous times, we must give up much of our liberty and privacy for security, but Benjamin Franklin expressed this idea about that: Those who willingly give up liberty for security will have neither, and deserve neither.

It is a point of shame for the citizens of the United States that so many Americans have no functional knowledge of the principles upon which our nation was created or of the meaning or power of the US Constitution. That is a prime reason that so many on the political left are able to mis-think so many things with such great success. 

As a nation we have grown lazy and tone deaf as our government has grown to gargantuan proportions and ridiculous levels of expense, and burst through the top and sides of the constitutional box our much-smarter-than-we-are Founding Fathers built for it.

When they look out on the US landscape and see that some things that aren't working well, they think becoming more like left/liberal Europe is the answer, without even the suspicion that the reason things aren't working is because they have been trying for decades to become more like Europe and less like the United States of America, which under the US Constitution became the freest, most prosperous and most successful nation in human history, while liberal socialist and communist governmental models have always failed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Foolish big-government policies continue to impede economic recovery

Economic news continues to be slightly positive, with May's numbers a mixture of good and bad.

Unemployment ticked up one-tenth, from 7.5 percent to 7.6 percent and, oddly, that isn't as bad as it seems, because 420,000 people who had dropped out of the labor force thought that the environment had improved sufficiently to start looking for work again last month. Had those folks remained on the sidelines, the rate likely would have held at a too-high 7.5 percent. However, 101,000 of those new job-seekers didn't find work, pushing the unemployment rate up.

The influx of new job-seekers, however, moved the labor force participation rate from 63.3, a 34-year low, to 63.4.

New jobs totaled 175,000 last month, a little better than the 155,000 average of the last three months, but most were low-paying jobs that are not likely to increase consumer spending. And that number is well below the number needed monthly to make real progress in lowering the unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's calculator shows that more than 400,000 new jobs per month will be needed to get the unemployment rate down to the full-employment level of 5.0 percent in a year, and nearly 261,000 new jobs a month to hit 5.0 percent in two years.

Four years after the $1 trillion stimulus package that was supposed to generate a 5.1 percent jobless rate, we are still a long way from that number with unemployment 50 percent higher than that. And as long as consumer confidence remains low and business uncertainty remains high, unemployment will not change much.

Businesses that scaled back workers during the recession continue operating with fewer employees, uncertain of how their costs may increase through higher taxes and costs related to health care reform, and won't hire more workers until those uncertainties are put to rest, or until there is a surge in consumer demand. However, consumers also are nervous about spending in the current economic environment, and are waiting for stability.

Last Thursday's Labor Department numbers showed that non-farm productivity, defined as output per hour of all workers, rose at a 0.7 percent annual rate in January through March, reversing the trend in the last quarter of 2012, as the economy sputtered.

One explanation for the recent pickup is that businesses saw higher demand for products and services over the winter, and that typically leads to higher wages for workers, ultimately improving living standards. However, it might also mean that employers are getting more out of their current workforce and thus have no urgent need to hire, which does not improve the unemployment picture.

On the topic of health care reform, the public has never embraced the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, and is even less enamored of it today, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Rasmussen found that only 41percent of the 1,000 likely voters that participated now hold at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, while 54 percent view it unfavorably. A tiny 15 percent view Obamacare very favorably, while 40 percent have a very unfavorable view of the law.

A slightly better rating appears in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which shows that 49 percent of Americans say they believe the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea, while just 37 percent say it is a good idea. Like the Rasmussen poll, the NBC/WSJ poll had a substantial number of participants who strongly believe Obamacare is a very bad idea, at 43 percent.

These numbers reflect an increase in unpopularity since July 2012, when 44 percent of NBC/WSJ poll respondents called it a bad idea, while 40 percent called it a good one.

Some of the reasons for this unpopularity are that while the Affordable Care Act promised to lower premiums for families, regulators decided to impose a 3.5 percent surcharge on insurance plans sold through federally run exchanges. There also is a $63 fee for every person covered by employers, and a "premium tax" that will require insurers to pay more than $100 billion over the next decade. The Joint Committee on Taxation expects insurers to simply pass this tax onto individuals and small businesses, boosting premiums another 2.5 percent.

Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office said that 7 million people will likely lose their employer coverage thanks to Obamacare — nearly twice its previous estimate. The CBO said that number could be as high as 20 million.

And in December, state insurance commissioners warned Obama administration officials that the law's market regulations would likely cause "rate shocks," particularly for younger, healthier people forced by Obamacare to subsidize premiums for those who are older and sicker.

Combined with the other liberal policies that have caused the recovery to stall for four years, the unpopular federal takeover of health care deepens uncertainty for businesses and raises insurance and health costs for consumers. Then there is Obamacare's planned involvement of the IRS.

A stagnant recovery and pain and suffering are what happens when the narrow ideological dreams of the ruling elite take precedence over addressing the real needs of Americans.