Is the nearly billion dollar Federal Air Marshal program still needed?

Armed Pilots Greatly Outnumber Better-Known Federal Air Marshals WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama’s budget ax is falling hard on a program that allows pilots to carry handguns in the cockpit as a last line of defense against terrorists. Obama’s proposed 2013 budget cuts in half funds for the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. The current budget of $25 million a year — which goes for such things as conducting background checks, training the pilots, and periodic gun proficiency tests and retraining, in addition to administrative costs — would be cut to $12 million. The thousands of armed pilots, who greatly outnumber the better-known federal air marshals, volunteer for the job, train at federal academies and are deputized to use their weapons in the cockpit. They call themselves the “single most cost-effective counter-terrorism measure” the government has taken. The federal government spends about $15 a flight for FFDOs, as armed pilots are called, compared to $3,000 per flight for federal air marshals, said Mike Karn, vice president of the Federal Flight Deck Officers Association. Those numbers are based on costs of the respective programs divided by the number of flights covered by armed pilots and air marshals. As recently as last March, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voiced support for the program, agreeing with Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minnesota, a former airline pilot and FFDO, that it was a vital part of the country’s layer defenses. But in the budget documents released Monday, administration officials said security measures put in place since 2001, such as locked cockpit doors and 100% screening of airline passengers, “have greatly lowered the chances of unauthorized cockpit access.” The proposed budget also cuts Federal Air Marshal Service funds almost 4%, to $927 million. It is unclear whether that cut will result in fewer air marshals. The number of air marshals is classified. The $36.5 million budget cut for the air marshals reflects “efficiencies and program changes that leverage other aviation security system enhancements, allowing for more efficient mission deployments focused on high-risk flights,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. A current flight deck officer, contact by CNN, called cuts to the FFDO program “very surprising.” “I think that this is just another example of essentially TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and DHS mismanaging a highly efficient program, that operates on cents on the dollar compared to (air marshals),” said the pilot, who spoke on condition that he not be named. The program prohibits pilots from identifying themselves as FFDOs for security reasons. The flight deck officer said he believes the cuts will result in fewer flights being covered by armed officers. “You’re cutting the feet off the (FFDO) program,” said Mark Weiss, a former pilot who served as deputy chairman of security for the Allied Pilots Association, the bargaining unit for American Airlines. “It’s extremely shortsighted.” Weiss, now with the Spectrum Group in Washington, said the government is sending a “very clear message” to armed pilots that they are not valued. “It’s probably (a message) that they’re very appreciative of hearing in terrorist camps around the world,” he added. Like the federal air marshal program, the FFDO program has been marred by occasional mishaps. An FFDO pilot was removed from the program, and his airline, after he accidentally discharged his gun in the cockpit. No one was injured.

Continue reading “Is the nearly billion dollar Federal Air Marshal program still needed?”

Obama signs National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order permitting peacetime martial law, a draft, and the procurement of private property

President Obama has signed an Executive Order (EO) which is unprecedented. It exceeds the recent admission from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dismissing the role of Congress in military actions. It exceeds the revelation in the National Defense Authorization Act which declares the U.S. homeland as part of the battlefield allowing American citizens to be indefinitely detained absent any charges being filed.  Why is this EO so heinous? Read it here for yourself.

It doesn’t even require the declaration of an emergency. It’s based upon national defense readiness, both in peacetime and during an emergency. It extends the powers of martial law at anytime the President sees fit. Martial law normally requires a breakdown of law and order. This President has determined he has the authority right now, today, to implement any measures he deems necessary to prepare the troops.

Sec. 102Policy.  The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.  The domestic industrial and technological base is the foundation for national defense preparedness.  The authorities provided in the Act shall be used to strengthen this base and to ensure it is capable of responding to the national defense needs of the United States.

He goes on further to declare that his Agency Heads have the authority to guarantee loans by private institutions (Sec. 301), and even to make the terms of the contracts (Sec. 301(b)). If that’s not enough, he has given the Agency Heads the authority to issue loans (Sec. 302). They are also authorized to stockpile materials in excess of requirements (Sec. 303(b)) and to issue subsidy payments for high cost items (Sec. 304).

Section 308 is outrageous.

Sec. 308Government-Owned Equipment.  The head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense is delegated the authority of the President under section 303(e) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2093(e), to:

(a)  procure and install additional equipment, facilities, processes, or improvements to plants, factories, and other industrial facilities owned by the Federal Government and to procure and install Government owned equipment in plants, factories, or other industrial facilities owned by private persons;

(b)  provide for the modification or expansion of privately owned facilities, including the modification or improvement of production processes, when taking actions under sections 301, 302, or 303 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2091, 2092, 2093; and

(c)  sell or otherwise transfer equipment owned by the Federal Government and installed under section 303(e) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2093(e), to the owners of such plants, factories, or other industrial facilities.

The Federal Government has the authority to procure, install or modify private property. In peacetime. Who needs Martial Law?

Obama is also creating advisory boards such as the Defense Production Act Committee (DPAC) and the National Defense Executive Reserve (NDER). Not exciting enough for you yet? How about Section 601.

Sec. 601Secretary of Labor.  (a)  The Secretary of Labor, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the heads of other agencies, as deemed appropriate by the Secretary of Labor, shall:

(1)  collect and maintain data necessary to make a continuing appraisal of the Nation’s workforce needs for purposes of national defense;

(2)  upon request by the Director of Selective Service, and in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, assist the Director of Selective Service in development of policies regulating the induction and deferment of persons for duty in the armed services;

(3)  upon request from the head of an agency with authority under this order, consult with that agency with respect to:  (i) the effect of contemplated actions on labor demand and utilization; (ii) the relation of labor demand to materials and facilities requirements; and (iii) such other matters as will assist in making the exercise of priority and allocations functions consistent with effective utilization and distribution of labor;

(4)  upon request from the head of an agency with authority under this order:  (i) formulate plans, programs, and policies for meeting the labor requirements of actions to be taken for national defense purposes; and (ii) estimate training needs to help address national defense requirements and promote necessary and appropriate training programs; and

(5)  develop and implement an effective labor management relations policy to support the activities and programs under this order, with the cooperation of other agencies as deemed appropriate by the Secretary of Labor, including the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the National Mediation Board, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Did you read part 2 concerning the induction of persons for duty in the Armed Forces? That’s called a draft as far as I know. No, this doesn’t mean Obama has instituted a draft, but it says he can anytime he wants.

More importantly, this Executive Order establishes that the President doesn’t need Congress to declare war, or even for an emergency situation to be declared, in order to appropriate funding for national defense initiatives. He can work through the Treasury to fund any of it he determines necessary. Just as Panetta stated, Congress is irrelevant. The Constitution is irrelevant. And just who do you think is going to do anything about it to stop him?

Any of these provisions can be executed in peacetime. Our Constitution and the rule of law are dead.

You’ll see numerous stories coming out in the next days concerning this EO as being nothing more than an update and no reason for concern. How this makes an illegal power grab any more correct, I don’t know. Simply because it hasn’t been exercised doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned it even exists.

UPDATE – Just want to thank all the commenters calling for my execution merely for posting about a public document. Sorry you got lost in the spam filter. Remember, nobody held a gun to Obama’s head to update the EO. The reasoning that everybody else is doing it works for school children. The DHS has been around for years now if that’s your logic. Forget the left/right argument as well. Bush was a complete disaster on our liberty. How about Obama showing some real leadership and issuing an EO on how he will move to restore our liberty? Martial law EO’s can stay in his desk until such time as one becomes necessary when the Federal Government will take any and all steps it deems necessary anyway.

Obama cries foul to WTO over China rare earth mineral exports showing his hypocrisy

The Keystone XL pipeline controversy has had the effect of clearly illustrating to the American people that the Obama ideology concerning green energy trumps economic fundamentals. This is not to say that the President doesn’t understand such basic principles of supply and demand, because he clearly does. It’s simply a matter of priorities. For example, just last June he reversed course on a policy decision and released 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s 700+ million barrel reserve supply in an effort to lower gas prices due to a tightening of market supply from the Libyan uprising. With Obama, ideology always trumps economic reality. He conducted the now infamous interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News in which he acknowledged the fact that lowering the capital gains tax rate results in increased overall revenue, yet his reason for supporting the increase anyway was out of a “sense of fairness”.

October of 2011 gave us another classic example of the hypocrisy concerning his publicized reason for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline project. His stated reason is inadequate time for the E.P.A. to conduct an environmental impact study. Apparently three years was inadequate. Yet last October, California based Molycorp received a drilling permit just two months after locating a new heavy rare earth deposit. From the story in the Atlantic.

In October 2011, Molycorp announced that they discovered a heavy rare earth deposit near their Mountain Pass facility and received permission to drill two months later. The heavy rare earths terbium, yttrium, and dysprosium are necessary for manufacturing wind turbines and solar cells, so the government has a particular interest in finding sources of those elements within the US.

Aha! The key phrase “necessary for manufacturing wind turbines and solar cells”. It fits the ideology. Wait, you say, this is only a single mine and not an international pipeline crossing thousands of miles with the potential for environmental disaster all along the way. But we find out in the article that the reason the Molycorp mine was shut down in 1998 was exactly one of those environmental disasters. So this mine already has a proven track record and not just the potential of a spill. Yet the Obama Administration still fast tracked the permit. Again, ideology trumps.

As I said earlier, Obama perfectly understands supply and demand theory. This is why he just filed a complaint, along with the EU and Japan, with the World Trade Organization to protest China’s actions concerning export policy on rare earth minerals. The Congressional Research Study released a report last September covering the rare earth elements global supply chain. Here is a quote on the U.S. policy.

U.S. mineral policy emphasizes developing domestic supplies of critical materials

and encourages the domestic private sector to produce and process those materials

There is no global shortage of rare earth mineral reserves. Far from it. The problem is extraction. In fact, rare earth minerals are a very misleading name. They should be called widely dispersed minerals as they are easily found in the earth’s crust, just not in concentrated deposits. In a somewhat ironic twist, they also play a role in petroleum fracking as Lanthanum is used in fluid catalytic cracking. The Dept. of Energy has released its updated report on Critical Materials Strategy, and the general tone is supply issues.

I bring all this up just to highlight more blatant Obama hypocrisy. Rare earth minerals are considered a national security objective just as oil is publicly stated to be. Yet actions speak louder than words. Obama won’t pursue domestic oil and gas production expansion on a scale that matches the proven reserve availability. Environmental issues are the excuse for slowdowns. However, rare earth mineral mining is extremely dirty and that’s OK because it’s required for his green agenda. It’s funny that China has stated the reason it is slowing rare earth mineral exports is for environmental safety issues, something Obama should certainly be able to get behind. But not if it stands in the way of his windmills, electric cars and solar power here at home. Pathetic.

Coal power generation use plunges to decades low usage

Coal fired power plants have seen their lowest percentage of U.S. power generation in nearly 34 years dropping below 40% for November and December of 2011. It was March of 1978 the last time it was this low.

Why is coal usage down? The low price for natural gas, of course. Natural gas prices in January, 2012 were hovering around 10 year lows.

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February unemployment rate unchanged – should we even pay attention?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) February, 2012 Employment Situation report is out. The “official” measure of the nation’s unemployment rate is unchanged at 8.3%. You can read it here. Now the blogosphere will delve into the numbers and issue their interpretations as to their meaning. We’ve witnessed the generally steady decline in the unemployment rate for months now and the statistics have revealed the reason for the drop has been those dropping out of the labor force and no longer counted rather than actual job creation.

The February 2012 report is different from the recent pattern. The January 2012 report showed that 1.177 million people were added to the “not in labor force” category. The February 2012 report shows a decrease of 310,000 in the same category. That’s quite a turnaround. Let’s look closer.

From December 2011 to January 2012, we added 284,000 non-farm payroll employees, had 1.177 million drop out of the labor force and the unemployment rate dropped from 8.5% to 8.3%. From January 2012 to February 2012, we added 227,000 non-farm payroll employees, had 310,000 fewer people drop out of the labor force and the unemployment rate stayed the same. Hmmm. We created 57,000 less new non-farm payroll employees than the month before. We had a swing in the “not in labor force” category of 1.487 million people. Yet the rate was unchanged. Confusing?

BLS methodology always is. Here’s some further confusion. The BLS Establishment survey shows an increase of the civilian non-institutional population of 3.584 million. What is this statistic? From the BLS.

The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces

To be clear, this is not the overall population increase of the country, only the people included above. Now, you can’t get monthly revisions to the actual population numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, so the BLS institutes a model in its methodology to estimate these numbers. For a comparison, consider the Federal Reserve of St. Louis (FRED). Take a look at this chart of their estimate of the TOTAL population of the country, not just those of working age. If you’ll scroll down, you can see their source is also the U.S. Census Bureau. If you look to the left of the chart, you can see the recent month-by-month changes.

I looked at their data and saw an increase of the total U.S. population from December of 2010 at 310,760,000 people to December of 2011 at 313,020,000. The difference is 2.26 million people. How can this be? The BLS and FRED both use U.S. Census Bureau numbers, yet the BLS says the civilian non-institutional population alone expanded by 3.54 million in the last year and FRED says the entire population increased 2.26 million. A difference of 1.28 million people. In summary, the BLS says the population is expanding much faster based upon their methodology than other Federal entities utilizing the same source data.

What to take away from this? The same thing I say over and over. The data is unreliable regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. BLS methodology uses modeling and surveys extensively to issue reports that determines policy and, in some cases, elections. That’s a serious concern. Anyone should be able to extract numbers from these reports to put their candidate or party in a positive light. The end result is invalidating the BLS entirely.

Stunning revelation from Def. Sec. Panetta states that Congress is absolutely irrelevant in military actions of the U.S.

OK, I lied. It’s not stunning at all, it’s expected. But it did knock Sen. Jeff Sessions-AL off his feet. Panetta specifically stated that the President has any authority necessary under the Constitution to defend this country, no Congressional involvement necessary. He also made clear that in situations requiring a coalition of nations, the administration will seek approval of an international entity, be it the U.N. or NATO for example, before they MAY seek Congressional approval. Congress, you’ve been punk’d! What are you going to do about your standing as a mere bystander in the defense of our country as defined in the Constitution? Every member of Congress should be calling for an emergency session immediately to address this flagrant violation of the Constitution and the separation of powers.

Auto sales, auto bailouts, auto financing – nothing is at is seems

Researching the murky world of auto bailouts requires a few ground rules at the outset. Recipients of bailouts like to think of a bailout as a grant or giveaway program. In other words, any type of loan is not a bailout since the recipient was obligated to pay it back. On the other hand, absent a rescue loan, those same recipients claim that liquidation would be the result. A credit line, or loan, that would stave off liquidation would certainly seem to qualify as bailing someone out, wouldn’t it? With that in mind, we can look at the credit arms of the Big 3 (now the Big 2 since Fiat owns Chrysler).

As I’ll illustrate further along, Ford Motor Credit exercised multiple loan programs during the financial crisis. Ford Motor Co. likes to claim the company took no public bailout money and has leveraged that claim quite successfully in a public relations ad blitz into increased sales and a very visible division between them and their competitors. Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, is a private company and obtaining records is difficult. They have left a trail, however, and you can draw some viable conclusions accordingly.

In both cases, the public perception is strikingly different from reality. The amount of credit utilized, the sources, and the reasons behind it are not at all what you see on the nightly news. Nor what you hear from the rank and file if you live in the heart of the auto industry as I do. Let’s see if we can clear up some misconceptions.

Ford makes the claim that they didn’t receive any public bailout money at all. They did request a $9 billion dollar credit line from the Treasury.

Ford’s Request:
A “stand-by” line of credit in the amount of up to $9 billion
at Government borrowing rates, for a 10 year term, with TARP conditions,
to support our restructuring, including the acceleration of products
that consumers want and value.

Continue reading “Auto sales, auto bailouts, auto financing – nothing is at is seems”

Federal Reserve adding another nail to the coffin

The Federal Reserve is adamant about meeting its mandates so much so that it will utilize whatever statistics make it appear their policies are working. Ask anyone who exists in the real world and they will tell you that the ‘official’ inflation rate as reported each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through the consumer price index (CPI) is out of whack with what they are paying. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

Not to worry. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke agrees with you that the core CPI numbers are too unstable and unreliable. Forget the fact that core CPI excludes food and energy prices already, the result was still too high to justify the Fed’s actions. So Bernanke has switched to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) as a baseline for setting monetary policy. PCE is supposed to better reflect changes in people’s buying habits. Historically it runs about 1/3 lower than CPI.

I won’t bore you with all the technicalities involved with the methodology utilized in measuring inflation as you can find it all over the web. Suffice it to say that employing a statistical measure (PCE) that consistently runs 1/3 lower than the previously utilized measure (CPI) which is only a fifth of the real inflation rate as measured by the real feel pain in consumer’s wallets can not lead to anything good. The Fed has a dual mandate of price stability and full employment. Anyone following the unemployment numbers is aware of the fallacy of their measure as well. It only stands to reason that the Fed use artificially low measures of inflation to go along with the massive block of unemployed or underemployed Americans. It’s not at all unrealistic to take the ‘official’ unemployment and inflation numbers and multiply them by a factor of two or three, possibly even more, to get a true picture of our economy.

So why would the Fed engage in such destructive practices? The incessant flooding of the market with liquidity hasn’t seen the corresponding increase in velocity the Fed desires. Simply put, the money isn’t circulating throughout the economy, it’s sitting dormant. The Fed sees this as a problem. They respond to low velocity with further stimuli in a vicious circle of chasing increased economic activity. Economic activity is what fuels the measure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here we go with another misleading measure of the economy. High volumes of economic activity (money changing hands) drives a high GDP number. Along with the artificially manufactured low inflation and unemployment numbers, the Fed wants an artificially high GDP number. This is the broken window fallacy of Keynesians. Economic activity just for the sake of appearing productive doesn’t grow the economy. Only economic activity that increases wealth is productive.

Continue reading “Federal Reserve adding another nail to the coffin”

Gas station security guards for Detroit?

Yet another example of the failed progressive experiment in the city of Detroit.

After Wave Of Violence, Councilman Wants Gas Station Security

A standard, poorly thought out reaction to a symptom rather than addressing the cause. Crime is a result of the failure of Detroit. Placing a costly burden on business owners to act as a proxy police force is just that. The result will be less competition and fewer gas station retailers with-in the city who simply will refuse to absorb the cost.

Just amazing that a city with the highest per capita wealth and a population of 2 million in 1950 has now fallen to 700,000 and is the 2nd poorest city in the nation behind only Cleveland. Can you imagine a city of 700,000 residents that doesn’t have a single national chain grocery store? It’s true.

Violent crime is way up with the city seeing its 50th homicide already in 2012. That’s up 25% from last year.

The Detroit Public School system can claim the worst performing students in the nation. With that feather in their cap, what does the DPS system do? Hand out raises, of course.

The city has been embroiled in a debate as to whether or not to appoint an emergency manager to oversee its finances as the city faces a general fund budget shortfall of $9.5 million by May . They have a financial review team in place and it was told it must comply with the Open Meetings Act and hold deliberations in public. What did they immediately do? Create a sub-committee to hold private meetings as they are not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

Continue reading “Gas station security guards for Detroit?”