Does Pelosi Know If She Wants To Be House Speaker Again?

While Democrats hope to topple the Republican grip on the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2014 Presidential midterm elections, former majority leader (and current minority leader) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has indicated she isn’t interested in returning to a gavel position if her party regains control.

At least that’s what she told National Journal’s Ben Terris in a Q&A interview published last Thursday.

“No, that’s not my thing. I did that,” she said when asked whether she wanted the job again.

While that might come as a mild shock to Pelosi detractors who watched her tell Congress — following her own ascendance to the role in 2006 — that she was making history and breaking the “marble ceiling” for all women everywhere, what happened after last week’s interview went public is no shock at all.

National Journal became the target of a walkback effort from the Pelosi camp, which angrily disputed the publication’s stated wording of the question Terris had asked — “Do you want to be speaker again?” — as well as the way in which it may have influenced her response.

Pelosi’s office sent out an emailed press release in an effort to secure for the 73-year-old Congresswoman a seat at whatever table may be set by the 2014 elections:

“The Leader fully intends to be a Member of a Democratic Majority in the 114th Congress,” offered spokesman Drew Hammill. “The rest is up to her colleagues, as the Leader has long stated publicly.”

A day after the Q&A article posted, this addendum had appeared on the piece’s webpage:

UPDATE: 1:10 p.m., Friday, August 30

Speaker Pelosi’s office blasted a press release this afternoon contesting the wording of NJ’s question and asking for a correction. In fact, the recorded audio file supports the edited transcript above. Here is the question and answer, from the tape:

National Journal: Do you wish for the chance for the speaker position again?

Pelosi: No, that’s not my thing. I did that.

Obamacare’s Widening Gyre Of Inaccessibility For Low-Wage Workers

Few publications have voiced as much unfettered hatred for Obamacare as Investor’s Business Daily. While many conservative news sources have drawn direct connections between the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandates and their potential effects on the healthcare coverage marketplace, IBD has consistently gone a step further, sussing out some of the more subtle ways Obamacare could harm the broader economy.

The latest such report came last Friday, when IBD explained how the low-wage service industry is likely to continue an already-begun trend of paring back employee hours (an effort to dodge the ACA’s 30-hour insurance threshold) until the number of low-wage earners working part time makes the recession-era service economy, in hindsight, look like a veritable job fair.

IBD’s Jed Graham breaks down the Obamacare-scare phenomenon this way:

The White House and like-minded economists have disputed the notion that ObamaCare is having a meaningful impact on work hours by noting that the private-sector workweek has recovered pretty much back to where it was in 2007, before the economy tanked.

But that view from 40,000 feet overlooks what is happening in industries likely to feel the brunt of ObamaCare’s employment impact: those in which wages are modest and the ranks of the uninsured are high.

A more rigorous analysis of monthly industry data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a stark contrast between workers in low-wage industries and the rest of the private sector.

For the 30 million workers in industries where nonsupervisors average about $14.50 an hour or less, the workweek has been shrinking pretty steadily for the past 18 months, reversing a fledgling recovery in work hours.

As of June, these workers averaged 27.7 hours per week — only four minutes more than the record low hit in March 2009.

And preliminary data point to a further decline in the low-wage workweek in July, possibly to new depths. Sectorwide July data show the workweek shrank in both the leisure and hospitality and retail industries, among others. Those two industries alone account for nearly 75% of these 30 million low-wage jobs.

Things are still tough all over, right? Maybe so, but the trend that’s emerging in the low-wage, uninsured employment sector is particularly dire when compared with those who’ve been working longer hours in better-paying jobs. The workweek for those who’ve held jobs of more than 30 hours per week has remained relatively stable, with the number of hours and minutes worked in a typical week actually rising, slightly, above the pre-recession level.

But for the low-wage demographic, there exists an ever-widening feedback loop in which slashed worker hours leads to fewer people who can afford to opt in to insurance exchange coverage. That, in turn, shrinks the pool of paying participants in the State-run Obamacare health insurance exchanges, which means that the cost of each policy will necessarily have to rise.

“The trajectory of the low-wage workweek should be a concern, considering that many employers delayed hard decisions amid confusing regulations that were late in coming,” IBD states. “Further, employer penalties will keep pace with health insurance premiums, which reliably grow far faster than hourly wages for modest-skill workers. That means the employer mandate’s bite may become more painful over time.”

At some point, especially after subsidies have maxed out in 2015 (or 2016 or beyond, at the rate the delays keep coming), can individual customers — or the employers still trying to offer coverage plans to their full-time workers — afford it?

Facebook Adding Facial Recognition ‘For Privacy’

Facebook changed the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities portion of its user disclosure on Thursday in order to accommodate a novel use of its members’ personal information: using their profile pictures to help enrich the company’s facial recognition technology.

Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said the massive social media company will cull photos for the facial recognition technology in order to protect their privacy.

“Our goal is to facilitate tagging so that people know when there are photos of them on our service,” said Egan. “Can I say that we will never use facial recognition technology for any other purposes? Absolutely not. If we decided to use it in different ways we will continue to provide people transparency about that and we will continue to provide control.”

Facebook has also updated its disclosure to clarify its relationship with third parties in the sharing of user data. “We may enable access to public information that has been shared through our services, or allow service providers to access information so they can help us provide services,” the disclosure helpfully reveals.

Because users’ profile pictures are public, Facebook can use the photos to feed its controversial facial recognition technology, which, to date, has been limited to tagging photos to a user’s ID data so that they show up on public Facebook searches.

But, as Egan’s comments make clear, it’s a liquid playing field that Facebook reserves the right to change at any time.

Rush: Conservative Credibility Absent In Pop Culture – And That’s A Problem

How is it that conservatives dominate talk radio, nonfiction book sales and, in large measure, network news (largely because of the Fox News juggernaut) – yet can’t mount a successful National political campaign to place even a nominal conservative in the White House?

Rush Limbaugh observes that conservatives – especially real conservatives – have no credibility among consumers of more overtly entertainment-oriented mass media. Movies, music, scripted television, fiction writing – that sort of thing.

In short, conservatism’s first-sight glance isn’t cool.

It’s true that many people who gobble up the low-hanging fruit provided by the Miley Cyruses and Michael Bays of the world aren’t interested in the authentic “coolness” of living a life guided by rugged adherence to a conservative code. Personal discipline is tough and doesn’t pay instant dividends the way mindless consumption does. After all, it’s a lot easier to kick back with a pizza and cheer for (or against) Nick Saban’s well-oiled machine on Saturdays than to spend that same time cultivating a talent of your own; one that could allow you the chance to become a well-oiled machine in your own endeavors.

But not everything about conservatism is inherently incompatible with consumer culture. And there’s no reason why the too-often clumsy aesthetics attached to conservative media appearances (have you seen the fit of Rand Paul’s suits?) have to stick out with such conspicuous awkwardness. A good book isn’t harmed by having a beautiful cover, and that’s a message Limbaugh drives home:

How do elections happen the way they do? We own books; we own talk radio; we own cable news. Well, the answer is, we’re nowhere in the pop culture. We are nowhere in movies. We’re nowhere in television shows.  We are nowhere in music. Nowhere!

That’s a slight exaggeration. Somebody’s watching Duck Dynasty, and there are plenty of people out there who like Ted Nugent’s music. But Limbaugh’s general message is right on target.

 

Congress To Obama: Striking Syria Is Not Your Call

A Republican-led group of Congressmen from both political parties sent President Barack Obama a strong message about his Constitutional role Thursday, delivering a letter advising him there’s a Constitution that explicitly demarcates the boundaries separating Congress’ war powers and the President’s power to enact what Congress approves.

The letter, authored by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and delivered late Wednesday, had the support of 98 Republicans and 18 Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Here’s the full text of the letter, with a Hat Tip to political website Roll Call for transcribing it:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate — and the active engagement of Congress — prior to committing U.S. military assets.  Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.

Mr. President, in the case of military operations in Libya you stated that authorization from Congress was not required because our military was not engaged in “hostilities.”  In addition, an April 1, 2011, memorandum to you from your Office of Legal Counsel concluded:

“…President Obama could rely on his constitutional power to safeguard the national interest by directing the anticipated military operations in Libya—which were limited in their nature, scope, and duration—without prior congressional authorization.”

We view the precedent this opinion sets, where “national interest” is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional.  If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute “hostilities,” what does?

If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request.  We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.

Although most of the names undersigning the letter aren’t those of Congressional power players, they do reveal it isn’t only Republicans who are wary of the President’s Constitutional overreach. And the more bipartisan this pre-emptive caution against the President’s abuse of the separation of powers, the better. A true two-party stand against executive end-runs past Congress should quiet the inevitable chorus of hawks who will defend any war measure Obama takes by pointing backwards to George W. Bush’s equally unConstitutional Iraq experiment.

Missouri Legislature Set To Nullify Federal Gun Laws

In what would be one of the most far-reaching peacetime attempts by a U.S. State to negate a Federal law that imposes restrictions exceeding those found in the Constitution, the Missouri State Legislature is expected to override a Governor’s veto and criminalize the enforcement of Federal gun laws throughout the State.

The Republican majority in the Legislature is being joined by a handful of Democrats in overriding Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 436 — also known as the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” — last month. Nixon had rejected the bill on the grounds that, predictably, it violates the Supremacy doctrine and also includes punitive provisions — such as allowing for citizens to sue reporters who connect them with gun ownership or to sue officers who attempt a Federal gun arrest — that violate the 1st Amendment.

Observers believe, though, that when the Legislature convenes on Sept. 11, both chambers will have the numbers necessary to override Nixon’s veto. In the original vote, the measure passed the House 116-38 and the Senate 26-6.

Legislative Democrats seem to favor the bill because it’s politically expedient to satisfy the will of people.

“Being a rural-area Democrat, if you don’t vote for any gun bill, it will kill you,” House Democrat Ben Harris told FOX News. “That’s what the Republicans want you to do is vote against it, because if you vote against it, they’ll send one mailer every week just blasting you about guns, and you’ll lose.”

In addition, some Democrats see a vote in favor of overriding the veto as a no-harm, no-foul proposition, since many feel that a subsequent court challenge would succeed in striking down the nullification law.

Part of the Federal-State battle is a principled conflict over government infringement on the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. But for many Republicans both in Missouri and nationwide, it’s about Federal encroachment on State powers generally, whether over gun rights, State voter-approved medical marijuana use or the nullification of Obamacare in some States.

A Montana law that sought a lesser measure of State control over unConstitutional Federal gun laws had been in effect since 2009. That law, the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, exempts from Federal regulation any gun (with exceptions for fully automatic guns and large-bore military firearms) that has remained in the State since the time of its in-State manufacture, dating back to October of 2009. But even though that law was worded specifically to comply with the Constitution’s interstate commerce provisions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down just last week.

Need A little Protection With That iPhone? Check Out The Knucklecase

There will always be situations in which packing heat for personal protection isn’t practical or convenient. There are times, too, when even ardent concealed carriers simply forgot to walk out the door with their firearm. And some people who aren’t comfortable toting a gun around everywhere still might like to have something in their hand, purse or pocket that gives them a slight advantage over would-be attackers.

For those people, there are already a lot of options – but now you can add the concept of encasing your iPhone in metal knuckles machined from a solid block of aluminum to that list.

knukkles

Meet the Knucklecase, an American-made product that promises to protect your iPhone while simultaneously adding a little strategic leverage to your personal protection plan.

We stumbled across the Knucklecase while perusing the internet, so we haven’t actually laid hands on one. But the Facebook comments indicate at least a few people are impressed.

For one thing, most people who fall into the iPhone demographic almost always have their phones on them – even if they’re just hopping out of their car in flip flops and a t-shirt to run into a convenience store or bank. That means Knucklecase owners can carry their protection with them everywhere they carry their phone, without even having to think about it when they leave the house.

For another thing, even though “brass knuckles” are widely regarded as an offensive weapon – one typically stored out of sight and out of mind until their owners are ready to use them in an attack – this device will, by default, often find itself in a phone owner’s hand and ready for defensive use.

The product is (so far) avoiding State-by-State legal grey areas by being sold as a novelty phone case, thought the company helpfully warns air travelers:

TSA loves Knucklecases!  They will hold you up and confiscate them at security so please check yours in.

For now, only iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 models can be outfitted with the Knucklecase. No word on whether an Android smartphone version is in the works.

Big Sis’ Long Goodbye Ends With Speech Urging ‘Common-Sense’ Immigration Reform

Outgoing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s long goodbye ended Tuesday with a farewell speech in which she urged Congress to pass some form of amnesty for the 11 million or so illegal aliens now living in the United States.

Napolitano said unilateral grants of amnesty, either through her own self-willed enforcement oversights or through President Barack Obama’s threat to bypass Congress, are no substitutes for legislation that would structure a systematic plan whereby illegal aliens could know what to expect as they walk a path toward U.S. citizenship.

In particular, Napolitano called on Congress to devise legislation that accommodates “dreamers” — the youngest generation of illegal aliens who, as children, entered the country with their parents. Dreamers know no life outside of the one they’ve lived inside the United States, despite remaining undocumented throughout their young lives and their ongoing status as illegal aliens.

Napolitano criticized Congress for failing to tackle what she called “common-sense immigration enforcement priorities,” which, she said, would devote enforcement resources to “criminals, national security and public safety threats” instead of the deportation of workaday illegal aliens.

“Congress had a chance to give these so-called dreamers a way to stay in our country through the Dream Act, but unfortunately, that legislation failed to garner the 60 votes needed for cloture, falling just five votes short, despite strong bipartisan support,” Napolitano said.

The Dream (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act was proposed in a very different political climate, coming early in George W. Bush’s first term and only a month before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Napolitano’s remarks referred to a 2007 Senate iteration of the bill, which fell short of defeating a filibuster by a 52-44 cloture vote.

Napolitano defended DHS’ handling of illegal immigration during her tenure, saying Congressional gridlock on immigration reform had justified her liberal interpretation of her own powers as DHS Secretary and had freed her to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” under the Obama Administration to stop the ticking clock counting down the length of time “dreamers” can remain in the United States.

Napolitano, a former Arizona Governor, will take up her new position as the president of the University of California system next week. To her yet-unnamed DHS successor, she advised “a large bottle of Advil.”

Harvard Study Finds Violent Crime Rises As Gun Ownership Falls

Harvard University has released a study on whether it’s possible to discern patterns of cause and effect between gun ownership and the incidence of violent crime.

Study authors Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser did find such a relationship: an inverse one.

The study, called “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” compares data on “intentional” deaths in European countries with American data, and finds that in locations where gun control proliferates, the murder rate goes up.

The murder rate in Russia, where handguns are banned, was 20.52 per 100,000 people in 2002. But in Finland, where gun ownership stands near 40 percent of the population, there were only 1.98 murders per 100,000 residents during the same period.

Russia’s present murder rate of 30.6 deaths per 100,000 also dwarfs the 7.8 per 100,000 murder rate in the U.S.

From the study:

[T]he burden of proof rests on the proponents of the more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death mantra, especially since they argue public policy ought to be based on that mantra. To bear that burden would at the very least require showing that a large number of nations with more guns have more death and that nations that have imposed stringent gun controls have achieved substantial reductions in criminal violence (or suicide). But those correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared across the world.

Is America Listening To The Wrong Clown?

 

You’d think that, after all the needless hoopla over his innocent pantomime of President Barack Obama earlier this month at the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association finals, entertainer Tuffy Gessling – who’s been barred from ever taking part in the event again – would be a sad clown. But you’d be wrong.

Gessling spoke with CBS affiliate KCTV-5 in Kansas City Monday, offering a dose of rationality in the same mainstream media forum that has spent the past two weeks manipulating emotionally volatile racist detractors into an indignant frenzy. He said he’s received both support and scorn, but just wants everyone to step back and realize we live in a pretty great Nation – one that’s safe and comfortable enough to allow idle citizens the leisure to view trifles like his clown act as a five-alarm cultural fire.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TxPXElyC7c

 

“I actually think that a lot of people have lost their ability to laugh,” said Gessling, who’s been the target of anonymous threats to his life and property. “Look at the country as a whole, there is a lot more to be mad at than a rodeo clown at a rodeo trying to make somebody laugh.”

The intrepid reporters at KCTV asked Gessling which political party he identified with, hoping to reveal a motive for his harmless (and time-honored) politically-flavored stunt.

“I am a rodeo clown,” he responded. “I didn’t do this to do any hating on anyone. I did this to be funny. I did it to be a joke… I didn’t think anything more of it than what we’ve done 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago, when we’ve done it with Bush, Clinton and Ronald Reagan.”

By now you know what Gessling is supposedly guilty of: donning a mask of President Barack Obama’s face and allowing himself to be the slapstick target of a charging bull – complete with fanfare from the public address announcer and a second rodeo clown.

The racist allegations baffle Gessler, who said politicians have always provided a reliable stream of clown fodder. Gessler said he wasn’t seeing the President’s color when he and his clown friends skewered him – he just saw the man who’d been elected to the highest political office in the land.

“I never did anything because of anybody’s race. I don’t care what color somebody is. If they’re blue, white, green, polka dotted, striped … it doesn’t bother me one bit,” he said.

In fact, Gessling said he respects the office of the Presidency and would view any encounter with the real President Obama as an honor.

“If President Obama turns out [at one of my performances], I would be honored to shake his hand,” he said.

Government Sells Your Private Data To Marketing Companies

Why pay taxes when the government can use you – and your personal information – as a cash cow?

By selling data about individuals to marketing companies – and who has more data on people than the government? – the state can profit handsomely. And government doesn’t need to inform you about what’s going on, nor does it need your permission.

According to an investigative report by CBS Denver, that’s exactly what government – at every level – is doing.

The report interviewed a local businessman who’d begun suspecting that the deluge of well-targeted marketing material inundating his mailbox seemed to come from a source that must be highly informed about his preferences, habits and even recent major events in his life.

He was right: the Colorado Secretary of State’s office was selling his data. A spokesperson for the office confirmed that business owners’ information can be sold to private third-party marketing outfits for anywhere from $200 to $12,000 a pop. And the practice is still young and ripe for enrichment: the Secretary of State only made $59,000 from such sales last year.

“It feels like a betrayal,” said business owner Eric Meer, “Because our government is supposed to protect us, not to sell our information and profit from us.”

In addition to information about people who run their own businesses, the Secretary of State’s office in Colorado also sold voter registration information to marketing companies. Like the business data, the office claims that sale was a cost-recovery operation intended only to help defray the office’s costs of associated with database management.

(As an aside, how hard can it really be to go through the supposedly controversial voter verification process when people you don’t even know can tell you if you’re a registered voter?)

On the local level, Denver’s city clerk’s office sells homeowners’ data in cases involving foreclosures, refinancings or direct home sales. And it doesn’t stop there:

Do you ever notice a surge of confusing mail after refinancing, a foreclosure, or buying a house? The Denver Clerk and Recorder made $32,000 last year selling home sale data.

It happens in college, too. The University of Colorado Boulder buys names from the SAT for 33 cents each and names from the ACT for 34 cents each for recruiting purposes. CU sells student information to private meal plans and storage companies for $15,000 a year.

Even death is for sale. The Social Security Administration sells a “Master Death Index” for $7,500 each. The result – an onslaught of letters to surviving family members asking to purchase a home.

While it’s possible for people to limit phone contact from telemarketers by opting onto “do not call” lists, opponents of government data mining for profit have faced strong opposition from the Direct Marketing Association in mounting similar efforts to establish a “do not mail” list.

And, even if such a list ever comes into existence, the root of the problem – boundless government that answers not to citizens but to profit-motivated third parties – will remain.

Student Safety Cited In L.A.-Area School District’s Hiring Of Social Media Watchdog

Citing the importance of kids’ safety, the Glendale, California Unified School District has hired a third-party social media monitoring service to begin combing through the online postings of 13,000 high school students who attend eight middle and high schools.

According to CBS Los Angeles, the district has hired local company Geo Listening, a self-described “social network monitoring service,” to raise the alarm whenever it comes across postings that, by its own metrics, might indicate a student is heading toward trouble.

The company has agreed to turn over any telltale information to school administrators. It earns $40,500 a year through its agreement with the school district.

“The whole purpose is student safety,” said Superintendent Richard Sheehan. “Basically, it just monitors for keywords where, if a student is considering harming themselves; harming someone else.”

According to Sheehan, during the program’s test period last year, school officials were alerted to a possible student suicide attempt and were able to avert it.

A parent and student quoted in the news report each said they didn’t mind the scrutiny or the new intrusion on the student’s privacy – even if kids’ inner thoughts are now open to a layer of meaning-laden interpretation most carefree teenagers never consider.

Geo Listening CEO Chris Frydrych said his company monitors only public social media postings, and that the service is effective in helping to prevent bullying, self-abuse, drug abuse, vandalism and truancy.

U.S. Dominates Volume Of Government Requests For Facebook User Info Worldwide

Facebook has released a tally sheet enumerating how many times governments have requested information on individual users over the first six months of 2013. In all, there have been more than 25,000 requests from national governments worldwide – and, as you might have guessed, the U.S. is at the front of the pack.

The release, dubbed the “Global Government Requests Report,” not only shows the frequency with which Facebook is approached by governments requesting information, but the number of times Facebook has complied.

Facebook honored 79 percent of the estimated 12,000 U.S. government requests it received in an effort to gain information on an estimated 20,000 individual users.

As Adi Robertson of tech website The Verge explains, the nature of the requests range from trifling to significant.

The table lists anything made by any government branch, from standard law enforcement to more covert activities, and it includes requests for all kinds of information. That means we’re looking at everything from a police subpoena asking for a burglar’s account email address to a secret court order for the IP address of a protestor.

… These numbers appear to have risen slightly from Facebook’s estimates in 2012. Unlike all other country data, the US numbers can’t even be reported exactly. The gag orders associated with FBI national security letters and FISA court requests make it difficult to talk about many orders at all, and Facebook was only allowed to start mentioning them in ranges in June.

As you’ll see on the Facebook press release page, the U.S. is indeed the only country whose numbers are mere estimates; all others are presented with single-digit precision.

Facebook Presence, Habits Could Affect Your Creditworthiness

As social media continues to supplant real living for more people who’ve embraced technology’s offer of an always-on existence, real-world repercussions of laying one’s persona before the public often come along in unexpected ways.

One side effect of America’s turn toward technocracy is the fact that the rest of the digital world is slowly beginning to view a person’s online presence (or lack thereof) as an indicator of his creditworthiness.

The relatively new phenomenon of lenders using Facebook to reach an up-front decision about whether you’re likely to pay back a loan is, for now, confined to that segment of would-be borrowers who lack established credit but who remain highly engaged in social media.

According to a CNN Money report, people who’ve left no footprint with FICO and other credit scoring analysts are increasingly being scrutinized by companies that use Facebook to determine, based on individuals’ social associations and online interests, whether they represent a safe credit risk.

How does it work? Companies like Lenddo find out whether you’re Facebook friends with others who have previously taken out a loan from the company, which bills its business model as “credit based on trust.” If one or more of your Facebook friends hasn’t been timely with loan repayments, it lowers your chances of getting a loan from Lenddo. But if your associates have been timely, your chances of approval increase.

“It turns out humans are really good at knowing who is trustworthy and reliable in their community,” Lenddo CEO Jeff Stewart told CNN Money. “What’s new is that we’re now able to measure through massive computing power.”

It’s not just a person’s Facebook habits that can make or break the technocracy’s judgment of their financial trustworthiness. Small-business cash-advance outfits like Kabbage augment an applicant’s traditional credit score with information mined from Big Data, including applicants’ payment histories through online exchanges like PayPal and eBay.

Most of the companies that have so far turned to the Internet to assess individuals’ credit risks aren’t operating extensively in the United States. But just as the Internet has insinuated itself into many employers’ hiring practices, online-based credit “checks” that examine a person’s habits, preferences and associations are expected to become more common.

The practice is still too new to forecast the fates of those Internet users who have no plans to join Facebook or establish a history of online commerce by buying things off Amazon or eBay. But precedent suggests that those who choose to live free from the tether of technology-based social relationships and financial transactions could face undue burdens as their world comes into contact with that of the majority — a majority that grows increasingly contented with swapping virtual life for real life.

New Jersey AG’s Report: State Troopers Don’t Follow Own Rules

The office of acting New Jersey Attorney General John Jay Hoffman released a new report last month revealing that too many highway patrol officers in the Garden State break the department’s own rules, using excessive force during routine traffic stops, using motorists’ race as a determinant when bringing out police dogs and improperly searching vehicles.

The report, which covered the first six months of 2012, notes that the State police break rules at a “troubling” rate and doesn’t do enough self-monitoring to catch their repeated occurrence or to correct the officers responsible. Out of 155 cases the police self-reviewed during early 2012, they failed to identify such mistakes nearly one-third of the time.

An independent police expert who helped the Federal government monitor the New Jersey State Police during the execution of a recently ended consent decree said the new report is “disturbing.”

“By the time you reach 30 percent, that’s getting pretty serious,” Samuel Walker told The Star-Ledger.

The most recent in the Federally mandated series of periodic reports was released in July by the New Jersey Office of Law Enforcement Professional Standards (OLEP). OLEP is an internal division that was set up to monitor the State following the department’s 2009 exit from the Federal consent order, which had set Federal watchdogs to ensure the department had curbed its practice of racially profiling black on the New Jersey Turnpike by singling them out for “routine” traffic stops.

In addition to finding the State Police had used excessive force in a number of stops — an allegation the police themselves deny — the report also found that Troopers seemed to be deploying police dogs on a disproportionate number of black motorists.

“White drivers made up 48 percent of all stops, yet only 30 percent of motor vehicle stops with canine deployments,” according to the report. “Black drivers made up 39 percent of all stops and 61 percent of canine deployments.”

The findings also indicate troopers did not advise all suspects of their Miranda rights and often failed to activate their patrol cars’ dashboard cameras and microphones during traffic stops. The Feds now require dashboard recording of New Jersey State Police as a means of self-monitoring, a required condition of the lifting of the consent decree.

Want To Make Sure Your Spouse Doesn’t Cheat? Work For The NSA

Despite a recent report that paints employees as low-morale victims of a media-fueled cavalcade of spy scandals, working for the National Security Agency (NSA) undoubtedly comes with some unique perks.

One of the great side effects of digital omniscience is the ability to find out if your husband, wife, boyfriend or mistress is cheating on you. Monday’s online news editions were filled with reports indicating that’s exactly what some NSA staffers have done.

“Staff working at the National Security Agency — the eavesdropping unit that was revealed to have spied on millions of people — have used the technology to spy on their lovers,” states The Telegraph. “The employees even had a code name for the practice — ‘Love-int’ — meaning the gathering of intelligence on their partners.”

“Spy agencies often refer to their various types of intelligence collection with the suffix of ‘INT,’ such as ‘SIGINT’ for collecting signals intelligence, or communications; and ‘HUMINT’ for human intelligence, or spying,” reported The Wall Street Journal. “The ‘LOVEINT’ examples constitute most episodes of willful misconduct by NSA employees, officials said.”

The story comes only a week after an internal NSA inquiry disclosed the agency had broken the law thousands of times in the last year by spying on people who weren’t suspected of any crimes and who hadn’t been targeted by a search warrant.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she had been told the love-interest spying was limited to only a few instances and involved significant others who weren’t actually in the U.S. at the time the surveillance supposedly was carried out. Of course, all of this self-disclosure is coming straight from NSA officials — a reporting procedure that’s supposed to qualify as “Congressional oversight.”

“Clearly, any case of noncompliance is unacceptable, but these small numbers of cases do not change my view that NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” said Feinstein. “When errors are identified, they are reported and corrected.”

The Senator places great confidence in the self-policing resolve of an agency whose larger abuses were never self-reported. Would any of these “errors” be identified even now if it weren’t for the conscience (we’re told) of a lone whistle-blower and the freedom of a foreign press to tell his story?

Obama Prepares Syria Strike Over War-Weary Americans’ Objections

It looks like President Barack Obama is getting ready to retaliate against Syria for crossing his “red line” on the use of weapons of mass destruction – but a new Reuters poll shows that almost nobody wants the U.S. to get involved in yet another inscrutable war in the Middle East.

The poll surveyed Americans’ opinions on whether U.S. should intervene in the Syrian conflict – regardless of whether President Bashar al-Assad violated basic human rights by using chemical weapons against civilians. It found that 60 percent of Americans are opposed to any intervention in Syria, while only 9 percent believe the U.S. should get involved. Even when asked whether it could be proved that chemical weapons have been used against civilians in Syria, only 25 percent of those polled said the U.S. would be justified in intervening.

Many who offered comments along with their poll responses justified their opposition by saying the U.S. can’t effectively police the world and that it’s not a job that President Obama, like his Presidential forebears, should assume.

Ahead of any possible military action against Assad, Obama’s critics are sharpening their knives against the President’s possible capitulation to the same second-term modus operandi of predecessors, who mired the U.S. in Middle Eastern conflict on the pretense of righting moral atrocities.

“In many ways, President Barack Obama has rehabilitated the presidency of George W. Bush in ways which the conservative president’s supporters never could,” writes Mediaite’s Noah Rothman. “This is especially true in relation to the conduct of the global war on terror; an area of public policy in which Obama arguably had the broadest public mandate to govern in ways radically dissimilar to his predecessor.”

In other words, President Obama has come full circle from his promise of “change,” and will stand amongst the Bushes when history remembers his role in extending America’s enforcement ambitions in the Middle East at the run of the 21st Century.

Bill Before Congress Would Tax Handguns Sales At 20 Percent; Ammo At 50 Percent

Two Democratic Congressmen are sponsoring a House bill that seeks to place a Federal tax on the sale handguns and ammunition.

House Bill 3018, sponsored by Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), would amend current Internal Revenue Code to assess a 20 percent tax on “pistols” and “revolvers” and a 50 percent tax on “shells and cartridges.”

The bill, titled the “Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act of 2013,” aims to reduce the incidence of violent shootings by dissuading gun buyers from purchasing so doggone much ammunition and, to a lesser extent, the guns that shoot it, all while stockpiling additional tax revenues for use at the Feds’ discretion.

Pascrell has said he believes the tax is “a long time coming” and that Federal revenues raised from the tax increase could subsidize police departments across the country.

Congressman Pascrell estimates the tax hike on guns would amount to additional $600 million in Federal revenues each year.

Glad We Won The Revolutionary War? You’re An Extremist, According To The U.S. Department Of Defense

Late last week, government accountability nonprofit Judicial Watch obtained training materials from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), used by the Air Force to train soldiers how to identify extremist ideologies and hate groups.

Turns out it’s wise to leave the DoD out of the loop if you happen to think the American Revolution was a good idea. Colonial revolutionaries and Confederate secessionists are just two historical examples of “ideological extremism” described in the training documents.

One worldview that’s hateful to the DoD is that of the patriots who earned America’s independence from Great Britain. On page 43 of the training booklet, soldiers learn this:

As noted, an ideology is a set of political beliefs about the nature of people and society. People who are committed to an ideology seek not only to persuade but to recruit others to their belief. In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.

The educational material on offer refers repeatedly to nationalists, rednecks, skinheads, anarchists, “religion,” environmentalists, supremacists and separatists and offers examples of each. But when it comes to offering examples of religious extremism, guess what’s absent? Islamist terror activities against Americans. Here’s the only occurrence of the word “Islam” in the entire 133-page document:

Sudan Holocaust – Since 1983, the Northern fundamentalist Muslim government of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, has been waging war against the mostly Christian South. The northern government has been killing, displacing, and enslaving the African Christians. Over 1.9 million civilians have died, and over 4 million have been forced to flee their homes. The victims are Christians, moderate Muslims, and African traditionalists who refuse to accept the Sudan government’s policies of Arab control and conformity to Islamic rules and laws. The extremist ideologies of supremacy, nationalism, and religion apply to this event.

Published by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute earlier this year, the document is rife with information mined from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which evidently have earned the DoD’s veneration when it comes to objectivity. The SPLC and ADL data stands alongside data provided by the FBI and the DoD itself to inform students about how many hate groups there are in the United States, what constitutes “hate speech,” and which world views are hateful (one of the SPLC’s special prerogatives).

Incomes Have Fallen Farther During ‘Recovery’ Than During Actual Recession

Americans’ actual household incomes have fallen more than twice as far during the post-recession “recovery” of the past four years than they fell during the recession itself.

That’s the conclusion of Maryland-based Sentier Research, a data-analysis company led by former Census Bureau officials. Analyzing the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, Sentier estimated that Americans’ median household annual income has cumulatively fallen by an inflation-adjusted 4.4 percent during the recovery period from June 2009 to June 2013. During the recession period, median income fell by 1.8 percent.

In real money, that means an American household is now, on average, bringing in about $2,400 per year less today than when the economic recovery started.

Released Wednesday, the report finds that annual median household income, which stands at $52,098, reached a low point in August of 2011. The current number remains 6.1 percent beneath where it stood in December of 2007 and 7.2 percent beneath inflation-adjusted median income in January of 2000.

To no one’s surprise, it’s the middle class that’s felt the biggest squeeze. As Michael A. Fletcher noted last week in The Washington Post:

Median income, which economists view as a key marker for the well-being of the middle class, is lagging across education levels and racial groups, the report said. Analysts said the report also reflects the increasing economic polarization apparent in other data.

… So far in the current recovery, median incomes are defying efforts by Americans to improve their workforce skills, according to the report, compiled by analyzing data from the Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey. Income is down even though the number of households headed by people who report having a college degree is up sharply since the end of the recession, according to the report.

Importantly, these income tallies include government payouts such as unemployment compensation and cash welfare, an indicator that “[President Barack] Obama’s method of funneling ever-more money and power to Washington, and then selectively divvying some of it back out, clearly isn’t working for the typical American family,” as the Weekly Standard observed. It clearly isn’t working for black households either, which have cumulatively experienced a 10.9 percent drop in their median annual incomes since Obama’s “recovery” began.

Missouri State Senator Resorts To F-Bombing Twitterverse Over Knee-Jerk Stance On Obama Rodeo Clown

The Honorable Jamilah Nasheed, Missouri’s State Senator representing District 5, was among the far-left lawmakers and pundits outraged in the extreme by last week’s silly little dustup involving a rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair and a cartoonish mask of President Barack Obama.

So she wrote a column about it, bemoaning the fact that “racism in America in this twenty-first century remains ever alive and well.”

Sensible people who cared enough to countenance Nasheed’s piece, which went on to suggest the State eliminate “institutional racism” by requiring that a percentage of its contracts be awarded to minority vendors, caller her out on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

So the Honorable Senator shot back, telling a Twitter detractor who goes by “Just_a_Texan” to “keep laughing f*cking idiot and YEAH the Senator said it!!!!”

We put an asterisk in the F-word; Senator Nasheed didn’t.

By Friday morning, the post had been removed, but not in time for web users everywhere to preserve it via screen capture:

screencap