Friday, May 31, 2013

The Sustainability Shoe Dilemma

A beautiful pair of sandals caught my eyes. The beading design on top in red, white, and black reminded me of an African motif I had seen on Nat Geo years ago. The flat shoe had an elegant zipper in the back, adding it a touch of modern and chic. I decided to try them on.

The box was rather interesting; it looked like a beige paper-wrapped package that arrived from Kenya, with embossed fake postage, stamped, Nairobi. The sender’s address in the upper left hand corner was the information that it contained a pair of sandals shipped from Kenya via Spain. A brown map of the world showed the red route that the “authentic Maasai design” sandals had traveled to make it into this beige box.

Touting that “another world is possible,” these intricate sandals were “ornamented in Kenya” and made in Spain. The box also told me that each sandal was “embroidered by a Maasai woman from Kenya in the shade of an acacia tree.”

“Each bead, which reflects the essence Maasai culture tradition and craft skills, has been placed with the spirit of hope and enthusiasm for a prosperous, sustainable future. Thank you for supporting this initiative.” Didn’t Native Americans use beading as well?

I became intrigued when I saw the word “sustainable.” The price seemed rather steep, $200, but they were very comfortable and flexible. I ordered a pair in my favorite design color, teal, and waited.

When my box arrived, I opened the package with anticipation and was instantly disappointed when the content revealed a different pair with the exquisite beaded design of the American flag. I love and respect our flag. I believe that it is sacrilegious to wear the flag on your feet. The flag is made to be flown and draped over the caskets of heroes, not to be used as a door mat, bathing suit, swim trunks, or shoe ornaments.

But I found a glossy inside talking about the story of this brand. This was no ordinary shoe. It was a project developed by the non-governmental organization (NGO) called ADCAM (Association for Development, Alternative Trade and Microcredit) which “specializes in empowering women in developing countries and focuses on establishing stable trade channels with developed nations.”

I was getting warm and fuzzy when the brochure said that when we, the often maligned and “greedy” capitalists, buy these expensive shoes, we are supporting the NGOs vision of “Corporate Social Responsibility,” collaborating with communities that need corporate social responsibility most, and we are pioneering the NGOs quest for developing fair trade.

Here I was, supporting the initiative of integrating United Nation’s desire of Sustainability with comfortable shoes and fashionable bags. Bingo! The Maasai preserved their traditions and lifestyles and I got the light and color of Africa for $200. How clever!

The brochure said, “The Maasai tribe is one of the most threatened on the planet according to the UN” and the international sales revenue from the shoes and bags “pays fair wages to support 1,600 families with stable source of income that allows them to obtain basic needs items such as food and medicines.”

If the 1,600 women received income from just nine pairs of sandals, it is $1,800, exceeding Kenya’s per capita income of $1,700 a year. According to the International Monetary Fund, Kenya is at number 154 out of 183 countries in per capita income. By now, if the shoes sold well, the Maasai families in the project and their tribe should be quite well off. They kept accounting and orders straight even though they do not have computers or technological literacy.

There is even an Ambassador of the Maasai Project for the 2013 collection, who apparently visited the women in Kenya and Tanzania who make the beading by hand. “The women shared with Olivia, their hopes and dreams for taking this project forward in a sustainable way and for making the beautiful sandals and bags available throughout the world.”

I am not sure how the project is moved forward in a sustainable way, but I wondered how much these women were paid in fair wages, what is their definition of a fair wage, and why is the Maasai tribe the most endangered in the world.

According to one site, eco-tourism prompted big government to create parks and reserves without the input and consent of the indigenous people.

The Maasai and other pastoral groups squeezed off their lands created their own NGOs in order to go to court to defend their land rights. Isn’t the government ultimately responsible for the social welfare of their people? Why do United Nations and NGOs step in to demand social responsibility from corporations and citizens of other countries?

The dilemma is that part of me applauds the idea of helping employ women in dire living conditions and poverty, but part of me is repulsed by the “sustainable eco-chic” label, the NGOs demanding social responsibility, the United Nations forcing Agenda 21 policies on developed countries, and, most of all, by the blatant disrespect for the American flag.

How much of the profit is actually shared with the Maasai women who do such tedious and labor intensive bead work? One magazine claims that “all profits from the sales of the Maasai Project are put towards the creation and further development of these community projects that support the Maasai Mara National Reserve in both Kenya and Tanzania.”

Ultimately, I venture to say, the women’s lives in Kenya will probably be less enriched than the coffers of the NGO and the Spanish brand that sells the sandals world-wide. 

It is glitz, glamor, and greed, carefully packaged in the brochure with tug-at-your-heart strings propaganda. A quote from Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, appears at the end of the glossy. “Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” What does this have to do with selling expensive sandals? Regretfully, I returned the shoes.


Cicadas Emergence 2013

A week ago, walking through the woods, I saw thousands of bore holes in the ground. Occasionally, the hard shells of bugs, stinky exoskeletons I had not seen before, were hanging from the trunks of nearby trees. I did not give it much thought but I was intrigued. What could it be?

I got my answer two days ago when I woke up to the deafening sound of a business fire alarm amplified to annoying levels, coming from the dense woods. Was someone walking and playing the soundtrack of a scary sci-fi movie? It was the chorus of male cicadas, invading the surrounding habitat and looking for mates.

Cicadas are in a hurry because they only live 4-6 weeks. They’ve been living underground attached to the roots of trees for the last 17 years, sucking on root sap, feeling any changes in the tree’s nutrients and hormones, waiting for the right moment to crawl out of the ground when soil reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

To attract females as far away as a mile, males vibrate white plates called tymbals on either side of their abdomen. The constant chirping sound coming from the forest resonates to deafening levels, measuring as high as 92 decibels.

Every seventeen years this harmless insect emerges in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. Cicada nymphs, dormant in the ground underneath miles of new pavement and construction that took place since 1996, are certainly out of luck.

Michael Raupp, Professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland, counted 6 cicadas bore holes per square foot in North Carolina, estimating a population of 150 million per square mile, roughly exceeding twice the human population on the East Coast.

These nymphs were hatched in 1996, long before we were able to share their pictures on social websites. They shed their exoskeletons after crawling from the ground and spend about three weeks as adults with red eyes, mating and laying eggs in tree branches. The newly hatched brood, expected to number 30 billion, will burrow into the ground for 17 years of adolescence, until 2030 to be exact. 

The winged insects can fly - several who were in my garage took off when I touched them. Scientists say that males can reproduce with as many females as possible but the females only mate once. Their sustenance during the 4-6 week period is the sap of trees. After their life cycle ends, corpses litter the ground, to the delight of the food chain.

Entomologists study the variables and boundaries of cicada emergence from the ground. Cicadas can be a protein-rich meal. I leave it up to Isa Betancourt, entomologist at Drexel University, who called the bugs “the shrimp of the land,” to enjoy this bizarre delicacy. I am not at all surprised that the University of Maryland established a group called “Cicadamaniacs” who has cobbled a cookbook with American sounding recipes incorporating cicadas as the main ingredient.







Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Casey the Teddy Bear

The FedEx guy dropped a large box on the front steps. His truck was at the end of the street before I retrieved it. It was relatively light in spite of its size. I left it by the door so Mimi could find it as soon as she returned.

My daughter opened it with excited anticipation – her hands were quickly tearing into the box. All she knew was that it contained something from her childhood that would make her happy. Inside, wrapped in tissue, was a large teddy bear dressed in green shorts and a farmer’s hat.  

Casey, she squealed in recognition. Casey the Bear was her toy at Grandma’s farm house when she was three years old. She smelled the familiar scent of the farm on the bear that had been stored in the attic for almost thirty years.

Grandpa passed away recently and Dad had been sorting through his possessions. He found Casey the Bear and memories flooded back.

Grandma Jean bought Casey for two-year-old Mimi long time ago. Jean passed away late the following year and Casey was forgotten. Mimi visited the farm sporadically as a teen.  A picture with my curly haired, blue-eyed toddler holding Casey in her arms was attached. Mimi, a miniature Snow-White beauty, was so much smaller than the bear that Casey appeared to occupy the entire photo.

Dad mailed Casey with a lovely note and more pictures from her rare visits to the farm.  Mimi wiped away a tear of sadness and joy, regret and closure, as she read the letter.

“Hi, Mimi!

Do you remember me, I’m Casey. Grandma Jean gave me to you when you were a little girl. I brought a picture along just in case you don’t remember.

I’ve been in a toy box for years. I am so glad to be out. A man, who said he was your father, rescued me. It has been so lonely in that box all these years and I have missed you.

No other little girls ever came to play with me. Where did you go? You were there one day then you never came back. Are you the same as in the picture? Will I recognize you?

Have you missed me, Mimi?

I am a little dusty and worn, but I am still just like I was all those years ago.

I was so glad when your father said he was going to make sure we were together again. I can hardly wait!

I will give you a BIG HUG when I see you.
Mimi closed her sparkling eyes briefly and hugged the teddy bear so tightly as if to recapture a moment of that precious time, long forgotten but missed, the carefree days of innocence and play.




Monday, May 27, 2013

Ten minute radio chat with Butler on Business on Smart Meters, May 23, 2013

Ten minute interview with Alan Butler on Smart Meters, May 23, 2013. I come on at the 40 minute mark.

The Tables Have Turned on "Useful Idiots"

Now that the tables have turned, the “useful idiots” appear wide awake and do not like the unlawful scrutiny and searches they’ve been subjected to without their knowledge – they feel duped.  Who can they blame?

According to the Washington Post, it is “the rise of the fourth branch.”  A large chart pictured the “imbalance of power;” at the top is the Executive that implements laws, below are the co-equals, the Legislative that makes laws and the Judicial that interprets laws. Underneath all, in a huge bubble, is the “Administrative state that makes, implements, and interprets its own rules without any accountability.” Featured prominently in this green bubble were the FCC and the EPA. (Jonathan Turley, “The Rise of the Fourth Branch,” Washington Post, May 26, 2013)

Jonathan Turley, considering the recent events, opined that “the 19th century Know-Nothing Party had returned to Washington. President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions in the State Department, or the Justice Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It was as if the government functioned by some hidden hand.” Turley defends the Executive  by saying,  “the suggestion that someone, even the president, is in control of today’s government may be an illusion.”

Unions, who were the main financial backers and supporters of Democrats and the unfortunately named The Affordable Care Act, thought themselves immune, they were too big to fit under the proverbial bus of Obamacare, with the rest of us, the “unwashed masses” living in a parallel universe. They were wrong.

To paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, who was in a terrible hurry to pass the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the night, Let us pass the law so you can see what’s in it. No more Cadillac plans, no special subsidies for Big Labor, nothing but reduced choices, higher premiums, rationing of care, and many other “unforeseen consequences” that the conservative opposition warned the public about constantly but such forewarnings fell on deaf ears.

The Affordable Care Act is so unaffordable, daunting, and potentially third-worldish that the mighty Congressmen, their staff, and Big Labor want exemptions, including the IRS union, the very people who are going to administer Obamacare and levy tax penalties for non-compliance on other people. Too bad Americans are not allowed to plead the Fifth when audited as the IRS’s Lois Lerner did when asked to testify.

It is hard to imagine how the federal government, with the efficiency of the post office and draconian empathy of the IRS, is going to enforce our collective health care efficiently and compassionately when they are running out of money to set up federal exchanges - the HHS Secretary is asking insurance CEOs for funds to establish health exchanges.  The infamous 15-member death panel is having difficulty finding conservatives to serve on this committee. Who wants to make life and death decisions, to tell people that their health care is being rationed when they need it most desperately?

AP reporters, whose rights to privacy were violated when their phones were tapped, are finally speaking out.  Fox News is outraged that their reporters are targeted. Could it be a little too late to put out the raging fire?

The liberal MSM, setting aside any decorum of objectivity held in the past, has been the overt propaganda arm of this administration, vilifying and marginalizing conservatives, Tea Party groups, veterans, and other like-minded Americans who did not like the excessive government intrusion into their lives, the IRS audits, denials of tax-exempt status, and firings, all because they exercised their freedom of speech and assembly.

Citizens did not speak out when Boston was under curfew without a declaration of Martial Law; people were marched out of their homes with their hands up like criminals, their houses searched without a warrant under the excuse that a 19-year old alleged bomber was on the loose. This fugitive was subsequently found hiding in a boat by a private citizen out for a smoke in his back yard.

Nobody defended Dr. Michael Savage, a prominent member of the press, when he was “banned from Britain” several years ago. The MSM was so silent, you could hear crickets chirping. His good name, reputation, excellent writing, outstanding career, and scholarship spanning decades were trampled by placing him in the same category with nefarious individuals and criminals, while the British press mocked his unrivaled and extraordinary talent as a “shock jock.” He was doing his job, reporting the truth as he saw it, exercising his freedom of speech. You may have disagreed with what he said, you may not have liked his style, his delivery, his abrasiveness, his directness - you had the choice to turn the dial and not listen to him, but you should have defended his right to speak.

Who is going to defend the “useful idiots?” I suppose they can hire expensive lawyers and plead the fifth like any other government employee. After all, nobody is held accountable anymore, we no longer have checks and balances, there is one party in power, and Congress does its bidding.

Money is printed ad infinitum via quantitative easing (QE), buying our own debt, and thus monetizing the deficit.  The low information voters are kept happy with generous welfare while the shrinking labor force, pensioners, and savers are paying the price. Much wealth has been lost and re-distributed from the producers to the slackers. Congress cannot stop spending just like a kid in a candy store.

The dollar is devalued, interest rates are kept at near zero by the Fed, saving accounts pay pennies each month in interest, and people are losing wealth and purchasing power. Inflation is officially reported to be low. In reality, it is around 9 percent because the Fed bought so much of its own debt, there is too much money chasing too few goods in a very slow growing economy plagued by uncertainty and lacking sufficient investment and consumer confidence. Food and gas are no longer included in the basket of goods used to calculate inflation. The unbelievable excuse is that prices for food and gas are volatile.  Prices are actually manipulated and influenced by deliberately unwise energy policies, such as using corn for biofuel, speculating on commodities, compounding scarcities from lower-yield crops, and lack of rain.

There is tremendous uncertainty in the economy, acting like a drag on investment to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Business confidence and consumer confidence are quite low.  The Ginni index that reflects the poverty level in the country shows that people below the poverty line in America have become poorer every year of the current administration in spite of empty promises of “leveling the playing field” and creating non-existent “shovel -ready jobs.”

Do useful idiots understand the gravity of the situation, how close we are to economic disaster, once we hit $20 trillion in national debt, not counting unfunded liabilities? On some level, is it possible that we are all useful idiots?

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) said in a statement to Fox News last Friday, “The fact that the president and the vice president are hosting illegal immigrants in the White House while constricting citizen tours and refusing to meet with immigration officers says it all. The White House will not even grant ICE officers a low-level White House meeting but invites illegal immigrants into the Oval Office.”

MSM reported in scripted unison that the War on Terror is over, just “onesies” and “twosies” isolated cases, Al Qaeda was on the run and gone, Benghazi was just a nuisance story, it was long time ago, what difference does it make, and the IRS scandal was too much ado about nothing because nobody knew anything, it was just some rogue lowly employees. The spoon-fed talking points were identical on every cable news channel.

The “useful tool” obviously staged protest and rant by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink in support of closing Gitmo and releasing the remaining terrorists is another example of how this administration uses far lefties to promote its agenda and to change the discussion from serious scandals to theatrical, uninterrupted heckling by a single Code Pink member. It is a known fact that many of the released prisoners from Guantanamo Bay have gone back to the battlefield and have killed many Americans.

For the last five years “useful idiots” have extolled the virtues and fantastic accomplishments of the dream presidency with a Nobel Peace Prize under its belt for expanding the Afghanistan war and the use of drones. Now that the tables have turned on them, is MSM going to wake up from this surreal dream?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Do Americans Care?

The Smart Meter Cost

I devoted four chapters to Smart Meters in my book, “U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy,” showing the deleterious effects they have on humans in terms of health, privacy, fires, higher electricity costs, and how other states and countries have dealt with the forced installation.

Last time I wrote about U.N. Agenda 21 was on January 29 this year when the Smart Meter bill, SB 797, introduced in the Virginia Senate by Senator Thomas A. Garrett, was tabled indefinitely, a polite way of saying, the bill had no chance of passing.

This bill would have prohibited any utility company from installing an advanced metering system (Smart Meter) on private property or requiring the installation of one unless the customer requested it. If the utility had already installed a Smart Meter, they would have been required to replace it with an analog meter if the customer demanded it. If the customer refused the advanced meter (Smart Meter), the utility company would not have been allowed to charge a penalty or a higher rate.

Recently, Dominion Power in Virginia has changed its policy on Smart Meters somewhat.
“The Non-Communicating meters are Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or Smart Meters with both the two-way communications and data storage features disabled, the only recording features retained are the minimum needed for monthly billing. Because the Non-Communicating Meters’ remote communication abilities have been disabled, a Company representative will manually read the meter. For the Interim Non-Communicating Meter Option, the Company will not assess a separate charge to install and use a Non-Communicating Meter. The Company plans to propose a charge for the Non-Communicating Meter Option, which will be subject to approval by the State Corporation Commission of Virginia.”

Smart Meters are replacing globally the traditional meters for electricity, gas, and water.
They are installed in developed nations around the globe as part of the effort to replace the old patchwork grid with the Smart Grid. Why this intense rush to modernize? Smart Meters are supposed to save consumers money but, many disgruntled citizens filed a class-action law suit in California, claiming that their bills have increased many fold and consumption readings are inaccurate. It is arguable that the grid represents progress in delivery or that it improves the quality of life. During major storms, those on the smart grid lost power, while those on old patchwork systems with cables buried underground kept their power on.

The Smart Meter is a propaganda device to benefit utility companies, the electronic industry, and the global government. Sold as an electricity-, money-, and earth-saving device, smart meters cost hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies and utility companies money, costs that are passed on to hapless consumers in the form of higher energy prices. Utilities are monopolies and as such, the interests of consumers are not a priority. The cost of the new Smart Grid will be passed on to consumers as well.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the average consumer would save $80-$180 per year once the grid is completed. The Department of Energy claims 15% reduction in annual energy consumption in areas where smart meters were installed.

“Variable pricing” and “differentiated pricing” schemes will be adopted, based on “off-peak” hours when power demands are lower. When power demand is higher, customers will find themselves voluntarily and involuntarily sweltering or freezing, as power will be cut off from a remote location in order to reduce the high cost of additional power generation and storage that utilities would incur.

Rob States, engineer and expert, explained that changing power use from peak to off-peak would only save $40 per year, yet a Smart Meter installation cost $500. Adopting “differentiated pricing” schemes would only save customers money after 12 years when the Smart Meter is paid off.

The Public Utilities in Nevada told a newspaper that “Smart Meters would only slow the rate of increase of energy prices paid by consumers.”

Because Smart Meters operate like a cell phone, they can connect to any type of wireless devices with a built-in Wi-Fi capacity such as washing machines, computers, ovens, TVs, stereos, gym equipment, medical devices, or any other appliance. Such an interactive system is called HAN (Home-Area Network). It is conceivable that in the next five years all new appliances could have RF capability.

A HAN can be connected to a home energy management system that can program anything to turn on or turn off based on total energy consumption and pricing schemes. GE, at the forefront of this helpful technology/invasion of privacy/spying/snooping developed Nucleus for its Brillion line of appliances that can be connected to a HAN.

Utilities can sell your home’s data to a third party and any potential hackers can capture the same with a hand-held device in the race for profits or other nefarious uses. The “complex skilled labor” needed to secure the Smart Grid from hackers and staying ahead will cost additional tens of billions of dollars, passed on to consumers in higher electric bills.

Adding insult to injury, FCC, a non-medical organization set limits of acceptable RF exposure back in 1992 and has not modified them since then in spite of the medical research developed in the last ten years alone.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) was approved by Congress on December 18, 2007 and signed into law the next day. Title XIII in EISA gave full power to the Department of Energy to legislate, advise, administer, and support the modernization of our country’s electrical grid. By 2010, $16 billion had been spent worldwide to install smart meters. In the next twenty years, it is estimated that $2 trillion will be spent worldwide on smart grid technology. Our government has subsidized utilities so far with at least $10 billion to interface power plants, substations, transformers, transmission lines, and home wiring. The Obama administration provided $1 billion in matching funds in the 2009 stimulus bill. More than twenty million smart meters have been installed in the U.S. so far.

Utilities are more than eager to install smart meters because they become the recipients of Smart Grid grants and generous tax breaks. Additionally, the digital meters will no longer require meter readers, saving labor and transportation costs.

Three entities have jurisdiction over the Smart Grid - the Department of Energy, the Federal Communications Commission, and state public utility commissions.  None of these three groups was tasked with privacy, security, and hacking issues.

“According to George W. Arnold, the National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are over twenty different organizations currently working on developing acceptable technological standards for Smart Grid applications.” Grids all over the world will eventually be interfaced. Homeland Security and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have also introduced bills to centralize policy management with their departments. (Smart Meters Report)

Health issues associated with Smart Meters include chest pain, headaches, migraines, insomnia, sleep disruption, vertigo, fainting, memory loss, lack of concentration, chronic fatigue, nausea, anxiety, tinnitus, skin tingling, heavy breathing, hypersensitivity, and hot skin.

According to the Smart Meters Report, the visual equivalent of Smart Meters is strobe lights which can cause seizures at pulse rates above ten per second, a rate frequently surpassed by Smart Meters. Strobe lights can be turned off while Smart Meters transmit non-stop 24/7.

Utility customers with Smart Meters have become lab rats in an ongoing medical experiment.

On August 31, 2007, The Bioinitiative Report: A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic Fields was published.  Breast cancer, leukemia, other cancers, neurological disorders, immune system dysfunction, DNA modification, electrical heart palpitation were associated with RF. The World Health Organization classified RF emissions in 2011 as a Class 2B carcinogen.

A conference of international experts gathered in Seletun, Norway to discuss the biological effects of ELF and RF on humans from wireless communications and electric power technology.  Seven scientists published the “Seletun Scientific Statement” in the medical journal, Reviews on Environmental Health in 2010, supporting the findings of the Bioinitiative Report, calling on global defense from EMF pollution.

How expensive and accurate are the old meters? The general manager for a rural electric co-op covering five counties explained to me that contract meter readers on foot get paid approximately 80 cents to read an old, traditional meter, for a total of $10 per year. And they are using their own cars and gas. We can assume less cost in urban areas due to the proximity of meters. “Electromechanical meters installed in the late 1940s are still functioning and are accurate. Most have zero maintenance. Power companies are selling electromechanical meters for $2 each, which are nearly new, because they are surplus equipment to the power companies switching to smart meters.”

On the other hand, the average life of a smart meter is about 10 years or less due to baking in the sun, exposure to the elements and to the overheating of the meter itself. The electronic displays are the most common part to fail. A laptop computer can read the count sometimes; otherwise the reading is estimated in order to preset it on the replaced meter. The cheapest smart meter cost $135 per unit, plus the installation cost of at least $30 per hour, a car, electrical training, equipment training and other materials, pension, and healthcare benefits.

How expensive is to read a smart meter? “It depends on the cost of the radios, data plans, computer data centers, and antennas. A smart meter can be read through a carrier signal sent up and down power lines. However, many of the power company’s very expensive capacitor banks will have to be replaced (hundred thousand each) to allow the carrier signals to go down the power lines.  Most smart meters will be read by a cell phone type radio built into the meter.”

Most recently, Stop Smart Meters UK gave a presentation to the British MP and the UK government made the announcement on May 10, 2013 that “smart meter installations throughout the country will be delayed by more than a year.”

Dr. Liz Evans explained the negative health effects and spoke about the existence of hundreds of studies showing "evidence of harm could be acute", including possible "chronic effects from long term exposure such as cancer, infertility, dementia, genetic damage, immune system dysfunction and damage to fetuses. IT systems engineer, Mike Mitcham, added newly uncovered information about the dangers of hacking vulnerabilities and privacy violations caused by the new meters installations.”

The global cabal has decided that we need the Smart Grid and the huge profits derived from the installation of Smart Meters, regardless of the economic, privacy, and health costs. The powerful environmentalists have an even more “compelling” excuse to cut off our electricity consumption – we must save the planet at all costs from human destruction brought on by the “evil” capitalism.

An extensive reading list, compiled by the Smart Meters Report, can be found at the following website on page 45.

Here are some links I picked: makingmore-money-and-the-citizens-of-maryland-paying-more-for-electricity-and-losing-their-privacy/


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Will Chained Consumer Price Index Punish the Taxpayers?

Leave it to government to try to reduce the budget deficit on the backs of elderly taxpayers. Bureaucrats have decided that the cost of living adjustments (COLAs) have been too generous and must be scaled back. COLAs are made yearly to offset the loss of purchasing power of money due to inflation.

Simply described, inflation refers to a sustained increase in the general price level. Inflation is calculated as an average since not all prices rise, some remain the same, and some even drop. Rapid inflation and currency depreciation can occur if money is overprinted (quantitative easing), by increasing the money stock without the backing of goods and services to justify the printing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates the unemployment rate and two types of inflation: The Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

The traditional measurement has been CPI for all consumers, by using a “basket of goods” which changes over time. The “basket of goods” used to calculate inflation include eight major categories with more than 200 groups:

-          food and beverage (cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, snacks, restaurant meals)

-          housing (rent, owners’ rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture, water and sewage fees)

-          apparel (men’s shirts and sweaters, women’s dresses, jewelry)

-          transportation (new cars, airline tickets, gas, car insurance, car tolls, auto registration fees)

-          medical care (prescription drugs, medical supplies, doctor’s services, eyeglasses, eye care, hospital services)

-          recreation (TV, cable, pets, pet products, sports equipment, admission tickets)

-          education and communication (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories)

-          other goods and services (tobacco, haircuts, personal services, funerals).

Sample goods in each category are chosen “using scientific statistical procedures.” For example, in the apple category, a 4.4 pound bag of golden delicious apples, U.S. extra fancy grade is used. As a consumer, I prefer Gala and Fuji apples.

Sales and excise taxes directly associated with the price of specific goods and services are also included in CPI calculations. Income, Social Security taxes, investments such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and life insurance are not included by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in CPI calculations.

Since inflation rate has been reported for January (1.6 %), February (2.0 %), and March (1.5 %), ( and prices in grocery stores and at the gas pump contradict the rosy picture, I am not convinced that food and gasoline prices are included in the CPI currently.

Generic CPI is important because it is a powerful policy control. CPI-W is used to calculate cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security retirement benefits. CPI-U is used to calculate “annual inflation adjustments to personal income tax brackets,” affecting outlays and revenues. Outlays are government-speak for spending.

Since 2002, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published a Chained Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) in order to report CPI “free of substitution bias.” Substitution is an economic term which refers to consumers who change their buying pattern as a direct result of changing relative prices. Consumers buy goods and services more when their prices increase slower over time. If prices rise sharply, consumers substitute those goods.

Policy-makers believe this substitution effect protects consumers from the full effect of rising prices. Neither CPI-W nor CPI-U entirely accounts for substitution thus overstating “the impact of inflation on consumer well-being.” (Julie M. Whittaker, The Chained Consumer Price Index: What Is It and Would It Be Appropriate for Cost-of-Living Adjustments, May 8, 2013)

If I have to switch the quality and type of food I buy (substitute it) for a cheaper or different alternative, it does affect my standard of living. I have insulated myself from higher prices (inflation) but the quality of what I eat has gone down.

Accounting for consumer substitution, the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U) has increased less than CPI-U or CPI-W. Politicians argue that less cost of living adjustments (COLAs) should be made to various benefits.

To decrease the budget deficit, lawmakers recommended in reports such as the “2010 Simpson-Bowles” and the April 2013 President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, a government-wide replacement of the CPI-U and CPI-W with the Chained Consumer Price Index  (C-CPI-U) “when calculating automatic adjustments to inflation-indexed federal tax programs and individual tax provisions.”

Wage rates, pensions, interest payments on bonds, income taxes, and many other benefits would be indexed based on the Chained Consumer Price Index which would take into account the substitution effect.

Indexing Social Security benefits, federal and military pensions based on the Chained Consumer Price Index formula will decrease the population’s standard of living if prices increase at an above-average rate. The elderly spend more on health care and prices for such services have increased at an above-average rate. (CRS Report RL32293, Julie M. Whittaker, May 8, 2013, p. 14)

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has calculated that, if the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U) will be used:

-          Government revenues between FY2014 and FY2023 will increase by $123.7 billion from the indexation of tax code provisions.

-          The cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security benefits will result in a decline in outlays of $127.2 billion in the same time period.

-          The cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for federal and military pensions would decline in outlays of $37.5 billion in the same time period.

(Julia M. Whittaker, CRS Report RL32293, May 8, 2013, pp. 15-16)

Once again, switching formulas to the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U) and manipulating the math, the government out-of-control spenders win and the retirees, the elderly, the pensioners, and the saving taxpayers lose.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Boston Bomber Tamerlan's Burial in Virginia

Largely ignored by the MSM, a protest was held yesterday in Doswell, Virginia, outside the main entrance of the Al-Barzakh Cemetery. Caroline County residents were unpleasantly surprised that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the 26 year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, was buried there on Thursday.

A press conference was held by the Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force (VAST). Speaking for VAST, James Lafferty said that “No terrorist deserves burial in the same soil that so many brave Virginians and Americans died to protect. We are hopeful that the Caroline County Board of Supervisors will investigate and act to correct this matter.”

Local officials and community leaders oppose the burial, are shocked and offended, while out-of-state supporters of the burial vilify VAST as a bigoted and homophobic organization. The emotional opinions, insulting attacks, and the down- right ignorant comments were quite diverse.

-         It should not matter where a dead terrorist is buried as long as it is not in my own back yard.

-         There are more important problems to address in Caroline County than where a terrorist is buried. Spare the taxpayer dollars.

-         Isn’t he innocent until proven guilty? This reader is a real genius or perhaps has a short memory of the dead campus cop, the three dead, the 180 injured, and the fire-fight with the police.

-         Another reader accuses the Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force of “historical discrimination.” He labels VAST a version of KKK, a white supremacist movement of bigots and discriminators. I have no idea what “historical discrimination” has to do with a terrorist attack and a terrorist’s burial in a state that did not harbor him.

-         Another low information voter questions anybody’s sanity who thinks that Sharia Law is a legitimate threat to this country. Moving the body of a dead person will not change anything. He urges people to live their lives instead of worrying about the dead.

-         The most reasonable and rational commenter is a woman who reminds readers that Tamerlan, a Chechnyan, committed a terrible act, murdered and maimed so many innocent Americans because he hated America, America who fed him, housed him, educated him, and gave him shelter. He does not deserve to be buried in the same soil with the heroes who died to defend America. Furthermore, the residents of Caroline County were not asked to choose or vote whether they wanted a terrorist buried in their back yard or not.  Would his defenders have felt differently had it been their loved ones injured or dead in the blast? “Should we open our land to bury all who commit a terrorist act against us? Should we have buried Osama Bin Laden on our soil?”

-         A martyred Jihadist’s grave will bring into the country unwelcome visitors to his “shrine” in Caroline County.

-         Another reader opined that officials who approved the burial must have been bribed. “There should be laws preventing people from just burying people in Virginia.”

Let’s not forget the frightening crush, swooning, and love sickness of thousands of American brainwashed teens who are leading a social media movement to exonerate and free “Jahar,” the surviving 19 year-old suspect of the Boston bombing, the other Tsernaev brother.


National Blogtalk Radio Feature, May 10, 2013
45 minutes, the economy, events, this day in history with Silvio Canto Jr. of Dallas

Unemployed after College

When I was in college, advisors told us the truth whether we had a chance of finding a job in a certain field, given the market at that time, before we declared a major. Nobody promised us a six figure salary upon receiving a college diploma or a fancy title.

Advisors carefully studied the market and we signed a document which clearly stated that we understood, based on statistics and job trends, that a job might or might not be available to us after four years of study. There was no guarantee of success and nobody demanded instant financial equality without effort or merit, we had to work hard.

The university organized job fairs every week and prospective employers sent representatives to campus to make a first contact interview with interested students. We scanned each week the list of companies and positions available.

I remember interviewing with a particular branch of government who needed translators with a business background. I did not get very far since I answered honestly that I could not betray my basic core beliefs if asked to do so.

When I came to the university from my country, officials looked at my transcript and did not give me credit for courses such as Philosophy of Socialism, Scientific Socialism, Socialist Economy, and Dialectical Materialism. They told me flatly that they were just communist propaganda. Funny how today, if I had had the same courses, not only would I have been given credit, I probably would have been congratulated for having taken those classes and hired by a government branch staffed heavily with people who believe in socialism.

College costs have exploded and, in order to attract more students, advisors entice students with the false promise of a six-figure job, knowing that the unemployment rate is very high among college graduates. Almost 25% are either unemployment or underemployed.

Students on campuses around the nation demand re-distribution of wealth but never question the ever-escalating tuition and the fat salaries of college administrators and of “desirable” and in-demand professors, the money makers who bring in research grants. The darlings of the conference circuit around the world, they also write the liberal textbooks for the rest of the country.

Hillsdale College students made a video in which they asked students at a major university how they felt about distributing a few points of their high GPA to students who were doing poorly and were in danger of not graduating. As it was expected, those performing poorly were in total agreement with the idea. Those at the top refused on the basis that they earned the GPA and it is ridiculous to give anything to those who did not work hard. One solitaire die-hard Marxist student agreed to give up points to someone who had a low GPA. Not surprisingly, You Tube removed the video under the excuse, “This video has been removed because its content violated the You Tube’s Terms of Service.” Really?

The EKU chapter for Young Americans for Liberty gave out fliers to those attending graduation ceremonies at Eastern Kentucky University on May 11, 2013. “Good luck finding your first job. Only 47 percent of you will be able to find a job in your preferred field, so I hope you’re still on good terms with your parents.”

College graduates with strange liberal majors have little chance of finding a job, they are practically unemployable. Graduates with $100,000 plus in tuition debt, who found themselves on the outskirts of a bad economy, were prompted by our President, in a recent speech at Ohio State, to seek their fortune in politics. An ever-expanding government may become the largest employer in some areas.

The value of a college degree has diminished considerably because the number of graduates has increased, the quality of graduates has decreased, and graduation standards have deteriorated as a result of watering down the curriculum. McDonald’s advertised recently a cashier’s job with a college degree.

No work experience and a worthless degree in a heavily unemployed, stagnant economy is a formula for disaster. What is a college graduate to do? The answer is simple, teach. Good teachers with an excellent grasp of a solid major are always in high demand. There is a little inconvenient problem though, no matter how many degrees or experience in a field of expertise, prospects must have a teaching license issued by the State Department of Education. How hard can that be? There are many terrible teachers out there who do have a license and scant knowledge. On the other hand, I have met fantastic teachers who were not certified to teach in K-12.

One of my students who recently pursued certification in Virginia (each state has its own standards and type of tests) was surprised how worthless his degrees seemed upon taking the standardized test for teachers. Did it really measure anything? Did he really learn anything from it? Would he become a better classroom teacher after taking the two required tests? His answer to all of these questions was NO.

After imprinting the veins on both hands, taking his picture, locking up personal belongings, subjecting him to a metal detector, providing no breaks for the four-hour test (minutes were counted against the test taker if he chose to take a bathroom break), the “jail” effect was overwhelming. The security I.D. checks felt like prison yet voters are not required to show proof of  I.D. to vote and scream discrimination if asked to provide an I.D. Just recently Virginia barely passed the voter I.D. law.

Holder of three college degrees in Arts and Sciences and teaching experience at the college level, he now awaits the standardized test results. The questions he had to answer on the test bore no resemblance to what he learned in school. When he passes, he must take more College of Education courses and student-teach for nine months under the supervision of a “seasoned” College of Education professor.

Not taking into account the cost of these additional classes and his time, he may have to substitute before he actually finds a teaching job in a public school or volunteer for Teach for America. He may choose to train as an International Baccalaureate World School teacher, helping to “fundamentally transform” American students into “global citizens” who study no American history but learn how to better change society into a “social justice” paradise.