Saturday, September 8, 2012

FBI Implementing System To Rival Skynet

FBI Implementing System To Rival Skynet
Less than a week after the web was abuzz about Antisec's claim that the FBI is tracking more than 12 million Apple devices, RT is reporting that the FBI has begun installing a $1 billion facial recognition system throughout the country called Next Generation Identification:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document (.pdf) that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America.  
But that's not the most frightening part. NGI could become part of a much larger central system that would aggregate personally-identifiable information and correlate that information with the tracking data acquired by the FBI:
The FBI expects the NGI system to include as many as 14 million photographs by the time the project is in full swing in only two years, but the pace of technology and the new connections constantly created by law enforcement agencies could allow for a database that dwarfs that estimate. As RT reported earlier this week, the city of Los Angeles now considers photography in public space “suspicious,” and authorizes LAPD officers to file reports if they have reason to believe a suspect is up to no good. Those reports, which may not necessarily involve any arrests, crimes, charges or even interviews with the suspect, can then be filed, analyzed, stored and shared with federal and local agencies connected across the country to massive data fusion centers. Similarly, live video transmissions from thousands of surveillance cameras across the country are believed to be sent to the same fusion centers as part of TrapWire, a global eye-in-the-sky endeavor that RT first exposed earlier this year.
Carnegie Mellon University Professor Alessandro Acquisti expressed his disapproval of the inevitable creation of a central domestic spying system (.pdf) when testifying last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy:
The convergence of face recognition, online social networks and data mining has made it possible to use publicly available data and inexpensive technologies to produce sensitive inferences merely starting from an anonymous face.
This isn't America.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Charleston, SC: Lower Unemployment, Economically-Parasitic Employers

Charleston: Low Unemployment, Economically-Parasitic Employers
My hometown of Charleston, SC is a great place to visit and a great place to live. The local media love to boast about my town, and they've bragged ad nauseum during this economic depression about how the Charleston MSA has had a lower-than-average unemployment rate despite being located in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

But Charleston, like Washington, DC, has had a lower-than-average unemployment rate only because the area's largest employers suck money out of the productive economy. Take a look at the area's largest employers and notice the industries they represent:

1) Joint Base Charleston (government)
2) Medical University of South Carolina (government)
3) State of South Carolina (government)
4) Boeing (aeronautics: receives government contracts)
5) Charleston County School District (government)
6) Roper St. Francis Healthcare (healthcare)
7) Berkeley County School District (government)
8) Roper Hospital (healthcare)
9) College of Charleston (government)
10) Summerville Medical Center (healthcare)
Source: Charleston Regional Business Journal 2012 Book Of Lists

Only 4 of Charleston's 10 largest employers are private sector companies, and 3 of those 4 are hospitals, whose sole product, healthcare, is a net drain on the economy. The other private sector company, Boeing, is the nation's 2nd largest government contractor, although its plant in North Charleston does produce commercial aircraft. In other words, 9 of the 10 largest employers in Charleston represent the parasitic economy, and the other one, Boeing, represents the productive economy with an asterisk.

With Charleston's largest employers sucking money from the productive economy, is the town having a lower-than-average unemployment rate really something to brag about?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Refinance Activity Suggests Shift To Centrally-Planned Economy

Refinance Activity Suggests Shift To Centrally-Planned Economy
We live in the era of Big Government and increasing expectations from the government. Food stamp participation has doubled over the past 5 years, and nearly every uptick of consumer activity during this economic depression--whether it be car purchases or home purchases--has been a function of a federal stimulus program. Now it appears American homeowners have been conditioned to make refinance decisions based on the irrational expectation that the Fed will indefinitely keep interest rates historically low and continue to print piles of money to grease the mortgage market. Case in point: the number of refinances have dropped significantly during a 5 week period of nominally rising rates, as if homeowners have been conditioned to believe that Helicopter Ben will absolutely continue to crush rates down to their historic lows.

Refinance Activity Suggests Shift To Centrally-Planned Economy - chart

A rational borrower, of course, would look at the preceding chart and conclude that rates have bottomed; therefore, the time to refinance at near-historic lows is now. But look at the rapid fall of the top line of the chart. Refi applications have dropped like a rock during a period of time in which rates have risen a paltry 1/10 of 1%. This suggests that borrowers expect QE3 and a continuation of ZIRP, which may or may not happen. The take away from this? Like a Pavlovian dog, the American consumer has been conditioned to make major financial decisions not based upon the health of the private sector economy (as he had for more than 2 centuries), but rather based upon the actions of Washington and the nation's central bank. This paradigm shift is characteristic of consumer activity in a centrally-planned economy.

Update: Economic Policy Journal is reporting that Bernanke himself refinanced his mortgage last year. If that's not indicative that rates aren't going anywhere but up, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DNC's 4.5 Million Jobs Lie Worse Than CNN Admits

DNC's 4.5 Million Jobs Lie Worse Than CNN Admits
CNN Fact Check came to the conclusion that the claim repeated at the DNC that the Obama Administration has "created 4.5 million" jobs was false. According to CNN:
The figure of 4.5 million jobs is accurate if you look at the most favorable period and category for the administration. But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession.
CNN claims that there are 1 million fewer private sector jobs than there were at the beginning of the Obama presidency, but the 4.5 million jobs lie thrown around at the DNC is much worse than CNN admits.

In reality, there are 8 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were before the Great Recession, with 4 million more competitors in the job market than there were in 2007. There are 2 million more unemployed and 2 million more underemployed than the BLS reports, and the majority of jobs created during the Obama presidency have been low-wage, part-time "McJobs".

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Warning: Apple Devices Tracked By The FBI

Warning: Apple Devices Tracked By The FBIAntisec, a division of Anonymous, is claiming that the FBI is tracking some 12 million Apple iOS devices. From an Anonymous poster on Pastebin yesterday:
During the second week of March 2012, a Dell Vostro notebook, used by Supervisor Special Agent Christopher K. Stangl from FBI Regional Cyber Action Team and New York FBI Office Evidence Response Team was breached using the AtomicReferenceArray vulnerability on Java, during the shell session some files were downloaded from his Desktop folder one of them with the name of ”NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv” turned to be a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc. the personal details fields referring to people appears many times empty leaving the whole list incompleted on many parts. no other file on the same folder makes mention about this list or its purpose.
Antisec has leaked 1,000,001 of the allegedly tracked Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDIDs). (I suppose they chose the arbitrary number for the "lulz"). To find out if your device is one of them, follow the instructions here.

"Forward": 3 Times As Many Americans Enter Poverty Than Find Jobs

Obama sure can't run on his economic record. Unless he's solely courting the destitute, that is. With 47 million Americans living below the poverty level and just as many on food stamps, we're rapidly becoming America the Dependent. Here's the kicker: Last month, while only 64,000 Americans found jobs (most of which were part-time, low-wage McJobs), 174,000 got on food stamps for the first time! That's nearly 3 times as many! Moving forward indeed.

"Forward": 3 Times As Many Americans Enter Poverty Than Find Jobs