Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Technology

The Privacy Pendulum is Swinging back Towards Freedom

With Apple’s announcement of its new iPhone 6 10 days ago also came the announcement of an upgrade of its operating software – the iOS 8 – that now makes it impossible for law enforcement to break the code and retrieve the phone’s private information, even if it has a search warrant. On its website, Apple said:

Keep Reading…

Luddites Foiled Again: low-cost Robots Making Workers more Efficient

This article was first published at the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 19, 2014:

Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus Fernandez got nervous when his company installed 21 new Universal Robots that were supposed to make his life easier and safer by helping him move parts in and out of its metal-cutting machines. At $20,000 apiece, the robots threatened to replace him altogether, or so he thought: “At first, I had doubts the robots could do what I did, moving the parts around, handling the parts.” But he timed himself against one of them and concluded: “I’m fast, but the robots are faster.” Fernandez accepted the new technology and now operates three of the so-called collaborative machines, reducing labor costs for his company while simultaneously increasing his take-home pay.

Fernandez’s boss, Gregg Panek, president of Panek Precision, Inc., a machine shop in Northbrook, Illinois, said one of the reasons for the improved efficiency is “because

Keep Reading…

Fracking Boom Continues to Set Records

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, September 17, 2014:

Logo of International Energy Agency

Logo of International Energy Agency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The explosion in production in the oil patch makes it nearly impossible to keep up. Economist Mark Perry is trying. On September 2, he reported that Texas crude oil production in June topped three million barrels per day, noting that, as a separate nation, Texas would be the world’s eighth largest oil producer. The very next day Perry reported that natural gas production from the Utica Shale formation has increased by a factor of seven in just two years, and it’s just getting started.

Less than two weeks later, Perry reported that

Keep Reading…

More Good News From the Oil Patch: Less Drilling, More Production

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, September 16, 2014:

A petroleum drilling rig capable of drilling t...

A petroleum drilling rig capable of drilling thousands of feet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t take long for naysayers at Newsweek magazine to declare that the fracking boom is at high risk of going bust. This followed an announcement from the Bank of America in July that the United States is now the world’s leading oil producer, ahead of both Saudi Arabia and Russia. In just the last five years, U.S. oil production has exploded from five million barrels a day to 11 million and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), that number will continue to climb for at least the next five years.

But what then? Newsweek posited: 

Keep Reading…

Proof That $15 Minimum Wage Hurts Those It’s Claimed to Help

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, September 8, 2014:

 

Obverse of United States one dollar bill, seri...

The city of SeaTac, which holds the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour starting January 1 for some businesses. Within weeks of the beginning of the SeaTac “experiment,” the impact of the passage of Proposition One had become evident. Despite the fact that the new law impacts only about 1,600 employees in this town of 27,000, major changes and shifts were already taking place in reaction to it.

For example, a customer using the Master Park Airport valet parking service at SeaTac will note an extra line on his bill for $.50 entitled

Keep Reading…

Why Aren’t Gas Prices Lower?

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, August 29, 2014:

 

English: Took image myself as an example of th...

With gasoline prices averaging, according to the AAA Motor Club, just $3.43 a gallon as of August 28, Clifford Krauss celebrated the “new American oil bonanza” in an article for the New York Times. Unfortunately, Krause is behind the times and only half right. The “new” American oil bonanza is not new, nor is it confined to oil. The first economical natural gas shale fracture was completed in 1998 by George Mitchell’s company, Mitchell Energy, using slick water fracturing. Since then, natural gas from shale has been the fastest growing contributor to total primary energy in the United States, with crude oil extraction from shale right behind.

Happily, Krause got the rest of it right when he noted that

Keep Reading…

Leahy Offers Weak Bill to Curb NSA Eavesdropping on Americans

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 30, 2014:

English: Official photo of Senator Patrick Lea...

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

On Tuesday, Senator Patrick Leahy (shown, D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced his version of the USA Freedom Act intended to strengthen a similar bill passed by the House last May. It’s scarcely an improvement and likely won’t be taken up before November, if at all in this congress.

But Leahy was optimistic nonetheless, saying that his bill, if enacted, “would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since … the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago.” That was easy for this hard-left Democrat to say, as there has been no reform of the unconstitutional Patriot Act since it was passed. In fact, without revelations provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, even these modest “reforms” would never have been presented. Without Snowden, the NSA would have continued collecting every last piece of communications data it could and storing it for future reference at one or more of its vast collection facilities around the country. Since the bill was presented so late in this Congress, it is virtually certain no action will be taken on it.

The House bill that was passed back in May was so full of loopholes and modifications by last minute amendments as to make the effort essentially ludicrous. Although offered jointly in October 2013 by Leahy and his House counterpart, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin (the author of the Patriot Act), only the House bill ever saw the light of day. At the time, Sensenbrenner expressed great hopes for his bill:

Following 9/11, the USA Patriot Act … has helped keep Americans safe by ensuring information is shared among those responsible for defending our country and by enhancing the tools the intelligence community needs to identify and track terrorists.

But somewhere along the way, the balance between security and privacy was lost…. Washington must regain Americans’ trust in their government. The USA Freedom Act [I am offering] is an essential first step.

That first step was more like a stumble. Under the bill, according to The Guardian, “the government will still be able to collect phone data on Americans, pending a judge’s individualized order based on ‘reasonable articulable suspicion’ — the standard preferred by the NSA (National Security Agency) — of wrongdoing.” This is a far cry from the “probable cause” requirement demanded in the Fourth Amendment, but that’s only the beginning.

The bill purports to modify Section 715 of the Patriot Act while saying nothing about Section 702, which allows worldwide surveillance by the NSA. The bill allows for the continuous collection of Americans’ telephone records, according to the Open Technology Institute. Most grievously, the bill extended the Patriot Act until December of 2017.

Once the House passed its USA Freedom Act, 303 to 121, those opposed, including Republicans Darrell Issa, Ted Poe, and Raul Labrador and Democrat Zoe Lofgren expressed their disappointment with it. Said Lofgren, “[This] bill will actually not end bulk collection, regrettably.” It shifts collection responsibilities from the NSA to the telephone companies to which the NSA has virtually unlimited access, so it’s a cosmetic change only. The bill requires the NSA to get permission from the FISA Court, but FISA is not known for having a high regard for the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.

When Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) saw what the House had wrought, he said he was “gravely concerned that the changes that have been made to the House version of this bill have watered it down so far that it fails to protect Americans from suspicionless mass surveillance.”

Not surprisingly, the White House endorsed the watered-down version of the bill:

The Administration strongly supports … the USA Freedom Act…. The Administration applauds and appreciates the strong bipartisan effort that led to the formulation of this bill, which heeds the President’s call on this important issue.

The bill ensures our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the Nation, while further ensuring that individuals’ privacy is appropriately protected.

Especially grievous is the power that continues to be granted to the so-called FISA “court.” This is the secret court that first came to light when Edward Snowden in 2013 leaked a top-secret order issued by the court requiring a subsidiary of Verizon to provide a daily, on-going feed of all call detail records — including those for domestic calls — to the NSA. As Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School, explained,

The Administration and the intelligence community believe they can do whatever they want, regardless of the laws Congress passes, so long as they can convince one of the judges appointed to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to agree. This isn’t the rule of law. This is a coup d’etat.

Leahy’s bill allegedly will tighten up the House bill somewhat, creating a “special advocate” for liberty at the FISA courts, and limiting the NSA from vacuuming up data from an entire zip code or all the records from a communications service provider. It also declassifies some of those FISA court orders which have remained sealed and protected from public view. In its tentative support for Leahy’s new offering, Nadia Kayyall of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said,

The legislation may not completely end suspicionless surveillance … it allows the NSA to get a second set of records (a second “hop”) with an undefined “direct connection” to the first specific selection term.

Because the “direct connection” standard is vague, the government may seek to construe that phrase to mean less than reasonable suspicion.

Translation: The NSA, under Leahy’s new stronger, tighter, more restrictive language, may continue to do whatever it pleases in collecting and storing for later use all private communications from Americans.

Leahy’s bill will probably never see the light of day in this congress and will have to be reintroduced in the next session if anything is to be done to rein in the NSA’s collection of data. In the meantime, the NSA’s vacuuming of innocent Americans’ private communication continues unabated.

 

 

Gas Prices Ease as U.S. Oil Production Soars

This article was first published by TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, July 7, 2014: 

English: $4.06 Gas Prices, Lewiston, Maine, Cu...

Despite predictions to the contrary, the price of gas over the July 4 weekend dropped by two cents per gallon, confounding seers who were looking at gas approaching $4 a gallon. Those prognosticators were guilty of “straight-line thinking in a curvilinear world” — meaning that since gas this year was 20 cents a gallon more than a year ago, they believed it would continue to go up steadily for the foreseeable future.

With political disruptions in Iraq and Syria seriously reducing their contributions to the world’s oil supplies, one would think that prices would have to go straight up.

One would be wrong.

On July 4, Bank of America reported that U.S. production of crude oil (along with the liquids separated from natural gas) “surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels [per day] in the first quarter.” Francisco Blanch, BofA’s head of commodities research, told Bloomberg,

The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil. The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery [from the Great Recession].

If the U.S. didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.

The nearly exponential growth in oil production, thanks to the free market’s invention and development of fracking technology, has put the United States firmly on the path of energy independence. As we become energy independent, disruptions in the supply chain from the Middle East will matter less and less.

Texas and North Dakota — which Professor Mark Perry calls “Saudi Texas” and “Saudi Dakota” respectively — are now producing almost half of all U.S. oil, and would rank as the fifth largest oil producing country as a separate nation. The growth in production is astonishing, according to Perry:

A decade ago the combined conventional crude oil production in the states of Texas and North Dakota … represented less than 21% of total U.S. crude oil output.

By 2008, the combined crude oil output in the two states … were producing one-third of all U.S. crude oil.

In eight out of the last nine months, their combined share exceeded 47% of all U.S. oil.

Perry predicts that it will exceed 50 percent sometime before the end of the year. And that prediction could come back to embarrass him, if the International Energy Agency (IEA) is correct. The IEA is estimating that total U.S. crude oil production (currently at 8.4 million bpd) will continue to soar, exceeding 13 million barrels per day in less than five years. That 50-percent increase in oil production would mean that the United States could be producing nearly 80 percent of its domestic needs for energy, closing in on energy independence.

In the very short run, gas prices will remain higher than they should be, thanks to the disruptions of supply in the Middle East, but with the continuing success of fracking making shale oil deposits now available with current technology, prices may reasonably be expected to decline further over time. Blanch admitted as much to Bloomberg:

The shale production story [in the United States] is bigger than Iraqi production, but it hasn’t made the impact on prices you would expect.

Typically such a large energy [production] growth should bring prices lower but in fact we’re not seeing that because the whole geopolitical situation outside the U.S. is dreadful.

Those involved in capitalizing on the fracking revolution, however, are taking a much longer view. The annual investment in oil and gas development and production hit a record $200 billion this year, one-fifth “of the country’s total private fixed-structure spending for the first time,” said Blanch.

The explosion in the oil patch is doing much to offset the otherwise nearly stagnant economy. In the last 10 years, direct jobs in the patch have almost doubled, while “indirect” jobs that support the industry have almost tripled in that same time period. As Professor Perry noted: “No other sector … has added as many jobs for American workers or made as much of an overall economic contribution to the US economy as the oil and gas sector.”

Citizens often don’t know how well they have it here. At present the average cost of gasoline is $3.69 a gallon for regular. In Norway it’s an astounding $9.79 a gallon, while in Germany it’s $8.50, and in England a gallon of petrol is $8.25.

The only thing that will keep the price of gas from continuing its two-year decline is government, either through restrictions on energy development or through increased taxation. At present about $2.37 of that $3.69 represents the cost of crude oil. Refining costs are about $.45 a gallon, while distribution, marketing costs, and profits (estimated to be between eight and 15 cents per gallon) cost another $.33 a gallon. Taxes (federal and state) take up the balance: $.42 a gallon. Federal excise taxes are $.184 cents a gallon, while state taxes average about $.24 cents a gallon. If gas continues to drop in response to the natural laws of supply and demand (greater supply means greater demand thanks to the lower price), the temptation to raise state and federal excise taxes will become overwhelming.

In Germany, for instance, half the cost of a gallon of gas is due to taxes. In Great Britain the tax take on a gallon of gas is more than 60 percent. In Sweden it’s even higher.

At present, however, the laws of supply and demand are providing an enormous advantage to American drivers compared to their counterparts abroad. And they continue to confound the experts predicting ever higher prices at the pump as well.

A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at www.LightFromTheRight.com, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at badelmann@thenewamerican.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Keep Reading…

Don’t Worry, Ms. Lerner: Your Emails Are Out There and Mr. Issa Will Find Them for You

 

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 20, 2014:

In early August 2011, when Lois Lerner, then the Director of the Exempt Organizations Unit for the IRS, discovered that her computer had crashed, she asked the internal IT people to help her out and restore her files. By Friday, August 5, she hadn’t heard back from them so she called Lillie Willburn, the IRS Field Director involved. Late Saturday evening she received this from Lillie:

Keep Reading…

Google buys Skybox for its Eye-in-the-Sky Technology

SKYBOX

SKYBOX (Photo credit: ✖ Daniel Rehn)

When Google announced on Tuesday that it would buy Skybox for $500 million, it explained that it was all about updating its Google maps application:

[Skybox’s] satellites will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery.

Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to improve Internet access and disaster relief – areas Google has long been interested in.

David Cowan, a partner in the venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners that has invested in Skybox, was only slightly more forthcoming:

Keep Reading…

Ride-Sharing Revolution Adding Thousands of new jobs Every Month

English: Yellow cabs in Manhattan. Nederlands:...

The ride-sharing revolution continues to accelerate, adding 20,000 new jobs every month, according to the head of Uber, the initiator of the revolution. Said Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick:

Just four years ago we set out to build a better option for people to move around cities: to make getting a ride safer, easier and affordable.

But Uber’s positive impact goes further. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs are using the platform to build their own small business, resulting in a huge job growth engine…

When economist Mark Perry’s plane arrived at Reagan National Airport late Tuesday night, May 27, it sat on the runway for another hour and a half waiting for a gate to open. When he finally deplaned at 12:30 a.m., he just wanted to get home and go to bed. But so did everyone else:

Keep Reading…

Review of “No Place to Hide” by Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald, the facilitator in bringing to light Edward Snowden’s staggering revelations over the NSA’s surveillance of Americans, titled his book from a comment made by Senator Frank Church back in 1975. As head of the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, Church said:

The United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables [them] to monitor the messages that go through the air…

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left. Such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.

There would be no place to hide.

Greenwald opens his book as if it were a John Grisham thriller,

Keep Reading…

Government cuts California oil Reserve Estimates by 96 Percent

English: Monterey Formation, Gaviota State Par...

Monterey Formation, Gaviota State Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A federal government agency reported on Tuesday that its previous estimate of the amount of recoverable oil from California deposits was way too optimistic. Its 2012 estimate that the Monterey formation contained 13.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil was cut to 600 million barrels, just 4 percent of its previous estimate. Adam Sieminski, head of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), said:

Keep Reading…

US Accuses China of Spying; China calls Charges Hypocritical

English: Members of a Chinese military honor g...

Members of a Chinese military honor guard march during a welcome ceremony for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace at the Ministry of Defense in Beijing, China. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday the U.S. Justice Department filed indictments against five Chinese military officers for hacking into the computer networks of six American companies to obtain trade secrets and other sensitive business information. Although China has been engaging in espionage against the United States since the end of the Second World War, this is the first time charges have been levied on nationals living on foreign soil.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference:

When a foreign nation uses military or intelligence resources and tools against an American executive or corporation to obtain trade secrets or sensitive business information for the benefit of its state-owned companies, we must say:

Enough is enough.

Keep Reading…

Presidential Helicopter Upgrades to cost $20 Billion!

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-34D presidenti...

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-34D presidential helicopter (BuNo 147201) on the South Lawn of the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, May 12, 2014:

When Ike occupied the White House, he asked his staff about using a military helicopter to fly him to his summer home in Pennsylvania. A Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorse was selected as the aircraft of choice: no creature comforts, no air-conditioning, no toilet.

In 1958, the helicopter was upgraded, and then again in 1961. By 1978, the Marines and the Army were flying VH-3As, which were further upgraded in 1987. By 2000, even these upgrades were falling behind the technology curve, and by 2009 the White House helicopter stable included 11 VH-3Ds and eight VH-60Ns (the V stood for VIP).

The 9/11 attacks changed everything.

Keep Reading…

Defense Department Announces Latest Presidential Helicopter Contract

UTC Sikorsky logo

UTC Sikorsky logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t take long for the skeptics to scoff at the costs of the latest effort to upgrade the fleet of presidential helicopters announced by the Defense Department on Wednesday, May 7. They say the $1.2 billion contract awarded to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation will be just the beginning.

There are at least two reasons to be skeptical: the open-ended nature of the White House requirements and recent history. The Department of Defense outlined its requirements, stating that Marine Helicopter Squadron One which currently operates 19 presidential helicopters, must provide

 

Safe and timely transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state and others as directed by the White House Military Office.

In addition, each aircraft must be equipped with various self-defense features such as bullet-proof glass and body panels and specialized communications equipment that allows the president to maintain “critical command functions” while airborne. Each needs to be large enough to carry up to 14 passengers and several thousand pounds of baggage while being small enough to operate from the White House lawn.

Each must have a minimum range of 300 miles and carry a full complement of defensive countermeasures to thwart heat-seeking and radar-directed missiles and also be hardened against an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), either from an enemy or from the sun. It must be able to send and receive encrypted communications and hold secure teleconferences while in flight.

And each must have air-conditioning and a toilet.

Under the contract Sikorsky promises to deliver two prototypes by 2016, with another 21 fully operational aircraft six years later.

Several questions arise. First,

Keep Reading…

Supreme Court to hear Critical Fourth Amendment Appeals Tomorrow

Description unavailable

(Photo credit: Effnheimr)

David Leon Riley was driving through a residential area of San Diego in August of 2009 when he was stopped for having expired license tags on his car. A so-called routine search of his car turned up a couple of handguns whereupon he was arrested. The police took his smartphone and examined it down at the station house, discovering emails, text messages and videos implicating him in a gang-war drive-by shooting two weeks earlier. He was charged with and convicted of shooting at an occupied vehicle, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon along with other gang-related crimes and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Riley’s attorneys tried to have the evidence from his smartphone suppressed claiming that the police didn’t secure a search warrant first, without success. But

Keep Reading…

ICE Solicits then Withdraws Bid for National car tag Database

The pushback from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s request for bids to build a national database of all license plate data now being collected elsewhere across the country was immediate, and for the moment at least, effective: within a week the agency withdrew its request.

ICE said such a national data base would just make its job of tracking illegal immigrants easier, that it

Keep Reading…

Microstamping Does Work in Reducing Gun Sales in California

This article first appeared in The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, January 27th, 2014:

This from Smith & Wesson’s press release is most revealing. On Wednesday the gun maker explained why it would no longer be selling its semi-automatic pistols in California. Note particularly the second paragraph:

Keep Reading…

Gun makers stop selling guns in California thanks to the new microstamping law

Following Sturm, Ruger’s announcement last month that it would no longer be selling its semi-automatic handguns to California residents because of the state’s new microstamping law, Smith & Wesson announced on Wednesday, January 22, that it was following suit. From its press release, the company said:

Keep Reading…

Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.