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Fri, 03 Feb 2023
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TSA's New Scanner Technology Questioned

© Transportation Security Administration
In case you haven't heard, Congress wants the TSA to reduce staff and siphon costs. But members took issue Tuesday with a system that's supposed to do just that.

The TSA wants to purchase technology that automatically validates boarding passes and identifies fake documents. Administrators say the system, known in longhand as Credential Authentication Technology - Boarding Pass Scanning Systems, would add extra padding to the agency's risk-based security focus.

But it's not clear whether it would actually work.


Hypocrite: Barack Obama once a harsh critic of executive privilege

obama, bush
© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
As a Senator, Obama criticised Bush's repeated use of executive privilege.
While an Illinois Senator, Obama condemned George W Bush's repeated use of privilege power. Now he has used it himself

Barack Obama has asserted his power of executive privilege for the first time in his presidency. But before taking up residence in the White House, Obama, along with his fellow Democrats, was a vocal critic of George W Bush's use of the same tool.

In March 2007, Obama - then an Illinois senator - appeared on CNN's Larry King Show. "You know," he said, "There's been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place ... I think the American people deserve to know what was going on there."

Obama was criticizing Bush's repeated use of executive privilege throughout to prevent senior White House executives from testifying before Congress on the firing of senior federal attorneys. Democrats alleged the firings took place on political grounds.


Beyond the Politics of the Big Lie: The Education Deficit and the New Authoritarianism

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. -Martin Luther King Jr.

© Plutor
The American public is suffering from an education deficit. By this I mean it exhibits a growing inability to think critically, question authority, be reflective, weigh evidence, discriminate between reasoned arguments and opinions, listen across differences and engage the mutually informing relationship between private problems and broader public issues. This growing political and cultural illiteracy is not merely a problem of the individual, one that points to simple ignorance. It is a collective and social problem that goes to the heart of the increasing attack on democratic public spheres and supportive public institutions that promote analytical capacities, thoughtful exchange and a willingness to view knowledge as a resource for informed modes of individual and social agency. One of the major consequences of the current education deficit and the pervasive culture of illiteracy that sustains it is what I call the ideology of the big lie - which propagates the myth that the free-market system is the only mechanism to ensure human freedom and safeguard democracy.

The education deficit, along with declining levels of civic literacy, is also part of the American public's collective refusal to know - a focused resistance on the part of many members of society to deal with knowledge that challenges common sense, or to think reflectively about facts and truths that are unsettling in terms of how they disturb some of our most cherished beliefs, especially those that denounce the sins of big government, legitimize existing levels of economic insecurity, social inequality and reduced or minimal government intervention in the field of welfare legislation."(1) The decline of civility and civic literacy in American society is a political dilemma, the social production of which is traceable to a broader constellation of forces deeply rooted in the shifting nature of education and the varied cultural apparatuses that produce it, extending from the new digital technologies and online journals to the mainstream media of newspapers, magazines and television. Politics is now held hostage to what the late Raymond Williams called the "force of permanent education," a kind of public pedagogy spread through a plethora of teaching machines that are shaping how our most powerful ideas are formed.(2) For Williams, the concept of "permanent education" was a central political insight:
What it valuably stresses is the educational force of our whole social and cultural experience. It is therefore concerned, not only with continuing education, of a formal or informal kind, but with what the whole environment, its institutions and relationships, actively and profoundly teaches.... [Permanent education also refers to] the field in which our ideas of the world, of ourselves and of our possibilities, are most widely and often most powerfully formed and disseminated. To work for the recovery of control in this field is then, under any pressures, a priority. For who can doubt, looking at television or newspapers, or reading the women's magazines, that here, centrally, is teaching and teaching financed and distributed in a much larger way than is formal education.(3)

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Bernanke: Federal Reserve Expects 'Slow Progress' On Unemployment

© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks during a news conference on Wednesday in Washington, DC.
The Federal Reserve is ready to take further action - including the purchase of Treasury bonds - "to provide support for the economy," the Chairman of the Fed Ben Bernanke said during a press conference.

Bernanke also said that the members of the Federal Open Market Committee had "marked down" their outlooks on the economy.

Most expect there to be little change in the unemployment rate through the end of the year. The consensus, said Bernanke, is that the Fed expects "slow progress" on unemployment and most opinions are "weighted toward slower growth" on the GDP.

With that outlook - which didn't expect the unemployment rate to dip below 8 percent this year - the chairman was peppered with questions about whether the Federal Reserve's actions have been too timid.


House Committee Cites Attorney General Holder For Contempt in "Fast and Furious" gun-trafficking operation

© Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Attorney General Eric Holder during congressional testimony in 2011.
Acting along partisan lines, with a vote of 23 to 17, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted this afternoon to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Republicans, who control the committee, say Holder's Justice Department has not turned over all the documents that the committee needs to see as it probes the so-called Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation.

And they want to know more about why the Justice Department initially told a senator that it had not pursued such an operation.

Now, The Associated Press writes, the contempt citation will go to the full House for a vote - "although House leaders are not required to call it up for a vote. They could instead use the threat of that to pressure for renewed negotiations. Historically, at some point Congress and president negotiate agreements, because both sides want to avoid a court battle that could narrow either the reach of executive privilege or Congress' subpoena power."

Update at 4:35 p.m. ET.: House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, said the House will schedule a vote on the matter next week.


[Ticker] Too much austerity led to Nazism, says Austrian banker

© imactuallyhappy
"The single-minded concentration on austerity policy (in 1920-30) led to mass unemployment, a breakdown of democratic systems and... to the catastrophe of Nazism," Austrian central bank chief Ewald Nowotny said in comments confirmed by his office on Wednesday. The remarks were initially made at an event on Monday in Vienna.

Comment: We have been witnessing the signs of increasing fascism for some time.


Fed extends Operation Twist, says hiring has slowed

Confronted with a stumbling U.S. recovery and a financial crisis in Europe, the Federal Reserve decided Wednesday that it would extend a program known as "Operation Twist" aimed at pushing down long-term interest rates and boosting the economy.

The Fed said in a statement that while the economy has been expanding modestly throughout the year, growth in employment has slowed recently and unemployment remains elevated.

The Fed expects economic growth to continue to grow moderately over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually. "Consequently, the Committee anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only slowly toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its dual mandate," the statement said.

The Fed voted to keep interest rates unchanged at historic lows.

Comment: The illusion of Economy is the Economy of Illusion. -Unknown

Bizarro Earth

G5+1 Not Interested in Reaching Understanding with Iran

© Unknown
United Nations Seal
A senior Iranian legislator blasted the world powers for their two-sided policies against Iran, and said the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) is not seriously trying to find a common point with Tehran.

"The goal of Russia's negotiations was that the two groups reach a common point, but it seems that the (the G5+1's) negotiating team is not so interested in reaching a common point," member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told FNA on Wednesday.

"The negotiations between Iran and the G5+1 in Russia showed that the group uses the tactic of double-standard practice against Iran's nuclear policies," he said, and reiterated "This tactic is evidently on their agenda."

Naqavi Hosseini reiterated that the world powers want to protract the time of the negotiations so that they can justify imposition of fresh sanctions against Iran.

His remarks followed two days of hectic negotiations between Iran and the G5+1 in the Russian capital on Monday and Tuesday.

Comment: It's unfortunate to see the continued deterioration of talks as Iran is further bastardized by the Western World. Iran has attempted to prove that it has no military nuclear ambitions. Sadly, world leaders are not interested in what is going on with the poor, while creating more war and destitution globally.


Prepare for Lehmans re-run, Bank official warns

Banks and traders must prepare for a devastating market seizure as governments grapple with the escalating economic crisis in Europe, a Bank of England policymaker has warned.
© PA

The Bank has prepared emergency liquidity arrangements to prevent a re-run of the last credit crunch.

Cheap and ready access to the liquid assets that oil the financial markets are under threat from both state-imposed capital controls and flagging confidence in the euro, Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank's Financial Policy Committee, told the Global Alternative Investment Management conference in Monaco.

Without easy access to liquidity, markets could seize in a re-run of the credit crunch after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, he warned.

"Those of you who traded asset backed securities in 2008 can testify to the speed with which liquidity can disappear," he said. "Yet despite these examples, many continue to assume that ... 'liquidity' is free and will be freely available.

"Short-selling bans in Europe and bond purchase penalties in Brazil are a foretaste of the future. I recommend that you send your best and your brightest to the library to research state intervention in the post war period. It could come in handy. For like clean air and water, market liquidity is no longer limitless and no longer free."

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Why Doesn't The Stock Market Reflect The Imminent Global Depression?

© WikiMedia Commons
We seem to be heading towards an economic downturn equivalent to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

This isn't a secret. The synthesis below is derived from: Lawrence Summers, Nouriel Roubini, Simon Johnson, Niall Ferguson, and Paul Krugman to name just a few. This crisis is not happening quickly.

It's more of a slow-motion train wreck - Greece's crisis started in 2009. But that leaves a puzzle - why is the American stock market not reacting to obvious warning signs?

Greece and Spain already have unemployment rates exceeding 20 percent. If that isn't a depression, what is?

Greece is in very deep trouble. Spain (the Euro's fourth largest economy) just needed a $125 billion bank bailout. The weaker economies (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) face severe credit crunches as local banks lose deposits (withdrawn because of credit concerns and fear of forced devaluations following a Euro exit).