Monday, November 29, 2010

Never Fails...

Went to the bathroom after my previous post (lower GI). I hate 2010.

Then, as I was expressing my feelings for driver conflicts and audio levels, UPS shows up. At 1849. Those guys must have had a really bad day, the first Monday after Turkey Day.

Guy was very polite and efficient as I signed for my Icom cloning software and cables. Universal Radio and UPS delivers, again.

Then, it stopped raining. Scruffy got his walk.

Now, off to Petco for doggie food, and Dierbergs or Shop And Spend for groceries.

I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing....

I'll never order four dinners again. Too. Much. Made me sick, what a surprise. I did it to myself again. Scruffy was happy, though.

Lost two hours of my life watching "Starship Troopers". ARRRGH! I think Heinlein's punishment in Hell is to watch the movie continuously. The movie's so-called humor is lame, and the militarism uber alles comes direct from RAH himself.

And, Neil Patrick Harris as a Nazi Psychic Oberst (Colonel). BLEAH! Not even seeing Dina Meyer topless can make up for this movie.

Nasty grey, cold, rainy day today. Perhaps it was just as well I was sick after all. Staying home seems to have saved me from the horrors my friends reported trying to get to Seth's game tonight. Not to mention rush hour.

Struggling with Ham Radio Deluxe. It seems I have a classic driver problem on my hands with the USB interface with the IC 7200. Not enough audio modulation on transmit. HRD recognizes the radio, and receives very well; it simply transmits a near dead carrier. This has occurred on two different computers, with two different sound cards. The USB audio codec installs fine. Well, it was free... :)

I bought study guides for my General class exam, after this experience. Voice contact has no driver issues with my Heil Pro-Set headset.

Enough of the old guys should die off to give us access to all privileges from 20 meters and higher frequencies, in the next decade. A turning generational marker was when the Morse requirement was dropped in 2007. That marked the *very* end of GI influence. When the Silent cohort dies off (over the next decade), expect 17, 15, 12, and 10 meters to be thrown wide open. There are not enough active hams, and the HF sandbox will have to be shared with us 50+ year old "kids". When the early part of the Viet Nam Boom cohort dies off (1946-1955), we might get 40 meters. They were the last of the hardcore Morse guys, and also, the old lids. We need new lids. :)

Losing 220,440 and higher to commercial users will be the starting gun. The government will need the money. One need only to listen to the dead air on most 220/440 repeaters to confirm this. 2 and 6 meters look safe, and we might see an expansion on 6, when the NAB gives up the ghost on VHF DTV nightmares. Additionally, if the broadcasters have to give up spectrum to wireless, expect the smashing of ham ops above 220 to be assured.

Few new, young members of Congress are hams. But, they all want smartphones. Guess which wins.

Barry Goldwater is an SK now. So is old ham radio. The American Legion/VFW bar that was HF will have to deal with the future, and that means letting us appliance operators on. The old boys won't have, or get, a choice.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

4 Turkey Dinners From Ms. Sheri's!

And, I've eaten two of them. Tasty. With a green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes and pies. Had to stop eating. Too tempting. I'm full.

Scruffy got turkey, but does not like the sleeted-over ground outside.

AT@T has a free holiday weekend of their premium tier on,so I'm not bored. Too much content, but not worth what I'm paying. Seeing channel numbers of 1000+ simply freaks me out, and I'm getting sore fingers from channel changing. Only bad thing about U-Verse so far is not being able to permanently delete all the unwanted channels. There is, of course, a favorite channel list, but it's quite tedious to run through.

The new radio and antenna continue to perform well. Getting good signals out of Europe, Western Asia, and South America. This radio has an excellent RX.

Had a few lonely holiday moments yesterday evening. Napped well into the day today, due to the sleet. Scruffy frustrated, but is now *very* well fed. Nice and warm and safe here, plus food. Life is much better as a dog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Home Sick Today

Woke up with a sore throat, headache, congestion, and GI problems today.

Scruffy is happy. He's got Daddy all day long, today. Daddy's not so happy about the lost time.

I tried getting rid of my land line. AT&T must really want to retain landline customers, because my monthly bill went down $17/month, and they gave me 6 months free premium movie channels on U-Verse.

As a result, I'm watching all those highly regarded cable TV series. The one I'm impressed with is "The Tudors". Mon Dieu, what a ruthless time in history. The actors are superb, and the production values and writing are excellent. And, the producers are virtually guaranteed to keep making money, on future sales, and syndication.

Unfortunately, the regular cost of the premium content would enable me to buy the DVD's instead. I did this with the Hornblower series, and have not regretted it. (A&E has sadly gone downhill since then) All the others eventually show up, in time, at the library. Online is possible, but I'm a cranky old reactionary who wants the physical media. Something about data loss, and limited drive space... :) It does put me behind my peers who keep in step with the latest popular culture. Fortunately, enough material gets leaked for me to cope, and decide what I want to buy. My own version of a-la-carte, cable/sat if you will. As for simply recording, then wiping, time-shifting never really works out well for me. If I don't have the time, I don't have the time to watch it later. Hence, permanent physical media. No one is willing to admit that there are limits on what one can keep up with, culturally.

No wonder advertisers hate my demo. We know what we want.

As we get even deeper into financial crisis, more, and younger demographics will be faced with the same problems. Disposable income is shrinking. You get three markets: Crap, Middlebrow OK, and stuff people will always pay money for.

Roger Ailes may not like this, but PBS and NPR may be the last terrestrial networks standing in time. Consumers of public content may grumble, but they will pay to play. The individual shows on the other networks may find it easier to cut out the middle part of distributing. Only sports and news will keep terrestrial broadcasting alive, and we are already seeing consolidation in the smaller markets, without major local sports.

Time to be sick again. 2010 sucks. It's definitely hurt my health. The loss of my last living parent is a point of no return, psychologically. I'm old, now.

This will not be a well regarded year for anyone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Weekend, Bad GI Tract. 15 NOV 2010

Many, many things were accomplished this weekend. The new front door and screen door were installed. This greatly enhances the security, energy efficiency, and appearance of the house.

I *found* my DVD's, VHS tapes, and soundtrack CD's, after moving a hundred tubs (averaging 35 lbs each). They were on the west wall of the north wing of the basement, on the bottom, of course. Choirs of angels were heard... :)

Scruffy got a trim. PETCO unfortunately put him at the end of the line, and it was four hours waiting. Not a happy doggie. Had to spend a lot of quality time to calm him. He is much prettier, of course...

The new Icom IC 7200 and G5RV continue to impress. Splendid radio. Excellent for shortwave listening as well. I bought a copy of the WRTV, and have been merrily logging new stations.

Bad news: They got the size of the back bedroom door wrong. This means another burnt vacation day. Worse, the front bedroom/entertainment center door will not accept a modern lock. It will have to go as well. Another day lost. Both doors will be solid oak, with deadbolts for security. Owning an older house has it's issues.

Had to miss my church meeting on Sunday. Wore myself out with the DVD search. That probably triggered the lower GI episode this morning. Snarl!

Ominously, my main PC is getting twitchy. An E-Machine, it has lasted three years. My $223.00 laptop, which I'm writing this on, is looking to be a wiser and wiser purchase everyday. It may well be the primary computer soon. Drive cages for IDE drives are getting rarer, but Micro Center stocks them. I've got two already (for 2 500 GB data drives), and a third, for the main drive in the PC may well be in the offing. This laptop is running exceptionally cool, compared with the new Dell's we have at work, costing five times as much. That 13 port USB hub looks pretty good, now...

I've given up again on the political board. Someone descended into a set of nasty personal attacks this weekend. Surprisingly, they were not on me, as I'm a joke. The midterms demonstrated that we will not be accomplishing any real progress until 2016, and perhaps until 2024 (the next two term presidential cycle). We will be at the mercy of "black swans". The economy will continue it's British-style fall. Quantitative easing is worse than useless, and will only postpone the agony of default. California municipals might be the next default, triggering the state and local debt default. Double-tax free isn't looking so well. State/local pensions may well follow, crushing the equity markets in which they are such large players (CALPERS).

If the Republican House begins a purge of federal employees, watch out. Many will cash out retirement plans, just to stay alive, just as so many private sector employees have been forced to do. Home foreclosures will almost certainly follow. To kill off one of the reliable sources of the Democratic party's base, they may well cripple the US. Note that I have not included the effects of lost services and regulation, or the ripple effect for government-related businesses. This is already happening at the local and state levels. (the speed traps are getting worse, not better...) This will not matter to the Republican base, if the Mad Hatters achieve the wet dream. After all, bad things only happen to other people, right?

Just got word this morning that Northrup Grumman is preparing to exit the shipbuilding business. That's right. They own the two largest military shipyards on the Gulf (which they will consolidate at Pascagoula), and Newport News. No more carriers. Northrup Grumman is expecting major cuts from the new House.

No wonder the Asians and Indians were laughing their asses off. Obama's trip was a long humiliation.

Except China isn't laughing. With so many of their assets in dollars, any reduction in the US economy kills investments, strains the Chinese currency, and kills off US consumer demand. With all the internal troubles in China, this is kind of scary.

Bathroom time. Sorry.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pirates Use Captured Freighter To Attack Warship

Soon, they will be sinking the pirates first, then asking questions later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

While You Were Napping

35 miles out, in international waters.

The President is in India.

It's one week after the midterms.

Most of our Navy is elsewhere.

You decide.

Just Like Mummy...

BERKELEY – In the United States, the scent of decline is in the air. Imperial overreach, political polarization, and a costly financial crisis are weighing on the economy. Some pundits now worry that America is about to succumb to the “British disease.”

Doomed to slow growth, the US of today, like the exhausted Britain that emerged from World War II, will be forced to curtail its international commitments. This will create space for rising powers like China, but it will also expose the world to a period of heightened geopolitical uncertainty.

In thinking about these prospects, it is important to understand the nature of the British disease. It was not simply that America and Germany grew faster than Britain after 1870. After all, it is entirely natural for late-developing countries to grow rapidly, as is true of China today. The problem was Britain’s failure in the late nineteenth century to take its economy to the next level.

Britain was slow to move from the old industries of the first Industrial Revolution into modern sectors like electrical engineering, which impeded the adoption of mass-production methods. It also failed to adopt precision machinery that depended on electricity, which prevented it from producing machined components for use in assembling typewriters, cash registers, and motor vehicles. The same story can be told about other new industries like synthetic chemicals, dyestuffs, and telephony, in all of which Britain failed to establish a foothold.

The rise of new economic powers with lower costs made employment loss in old industries like textiles, iron and steel, and shipbuilding inevitable. But Britain’s signal failure was in not replacing these old nineteenth-century industries with new twentieth-century successors.

Is America doomed to the same fate? Answering this question requires understanding the reasons behind Britain’s lack of technological progressiveness. One popular explanation is a culture that denigrated industry and entrepreneurship. Over the long course of British modernization, the industrial classes were absorbed into the establishment. From the mid-nineteenth century, the best minds went into politics, not business. Enterprise managers promoted from the shop floor were, it is said, second rate.

Now we supposedly see a similar problem in the US. In the words of David Brooks of The New York Times: “After decades of affluence, the US has drifted away from the hardheaded practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place….America’s brightest minds have been abandoning industry and technical enterprise in favor of more prestigious but less productive fields like law, finance, consulting, and nonprofit activism.”

In fact, this supposed explanation for British decline has not stood the test of time. There is no systematic evidence that British managers were inferior. Indeed, expanding the pool of potential managers beyond the children of a firm’s founders had precisely the opposite effect. It allowed the cream to rise to the top.

In today’s America, too, it is hard to find evidence of this purported problem. Silicon Valley companies do not complain of a dearth of talented managers. There is no shortage of new MBAs establishing start-ups or even going to work for auto companies.

A second popular explanation for British decline focuses on the educational system. Oxford and Cambridge, established long before the industrial era, produced eminent philosophers and historians, but too few scientists and engineers. It is difficult, however, to see how this argument applies to the US, whose universities remain world leaders, attracting graduate students in science and engineering from around the world – many of whom remain in the country.

Still others explain British decline as a function of the financial system. British banks, having grown up in the early nineteenth century, when industry’s capital needs were modest, specialized in financing foreign trade rather than domestic investment, thereby starving industry of the capital needed to grow.

In fact, actual evidence of any such British bias in favor of foreign over domestic investment is weak. And, in any case, that history, too, is irrelevant to the US today, which is on the receiving, not the sending, end of foreign investment.

A final explanation for Britain’s failure to keep up makes economic policy the culprit. Britain failed to put in place an effective competition policy. In response to the collapse of demand in 1929, it erected high tariff walls. Sheltered from foreign competition, industry grew fat and lazy. After WWII, repeated shifts between Labour and Conservative governments led to stop-go policies that heightened uncertainty and created chronic financial problems.

Herein lies the most convincing explanation for British decline. The country failed to develop a coherent policy response to the financial crisis of the 1930’s. Its political parties, rather than working together to address pressing economic problems, remained at each other’s throats. The country turned inward. Its politics grew fractious, its policies erratic, and its finances increasingly unstable.

In short, Britain’s was a political, not an economic, failure. And that history, unfortunately, is all too pertinent to America’s fate.

Barry Eichengreen is Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.

Mad Hatters Get Trashy

A Valley community's decision to change the way trash is picked up provided further proof of how deeply the nation's anti-government, "tea party"-fueled sentiment is running.

A decision by the Fountain Hills Town Council to hire a single trash hauler and begin a curbside recycling program has been met with angry protests from residents who accuse town leaders of overstepping their bounds and taking a leap toward socialism.

Some even likened it to "Obamacare" for garbage, calling it "trashcare."

An Arizona website affiliated with the Alexandria, Va.,-based Campaign for Liberty,, features an intimidating, cigar-chomping man standing in front of the town's famous fountain next to a story about the issue.

And last week, a flier was circulated around Fountain Hills with an ominous icon and the phrase, "The Hills Will Have Eyes," and that claimed the "Fountain Hills Green Police" checked residents' garbage and recyclables, and as a result, "you are wanted for questioning."

On Thursday, a divided council approved a five-year contract with Allied Waste Services to be the single hauler and begin a recycling program. Residents currently can choose among five haulers and the town has no curbside recycling.

That single issue generated a nearly five-hour public hearing and council debate that went past midnight.

Fountain Hills Mayor Jay Schlum believes the angry reaction, which also included e-mails to the mayor and council, was fueled by this year's election.

"I don't think people would have been as on edge had it not been following one of the more volatile elections we've had in our country's history, at least as far as I've been around," he said. "But that doesn't mean what they brought up isn't valid or anything. It just added more heat to those arguments."

Peter Bardow, an opponent, said the issue isn't about politics, but about taking away his and other residents' right to choose their own trash hauler. "I feel like you're forcing homeowners-association regulation and homeowners-association enforcement on me," he said.

Fountain Hills is home to two tea-party groups - Fountain Hills Tea Party and Fountain Hills Tea Party Patriots.

Many opponents were energized by this week's election in which Republicans made significant gains in congressional and state races. They related the local proposal to what they see as increasing government control under President Barack Obama's administration.

The Fountain Hills Tea Party posted this announcement on its website in advance of Thursday's meeting: "7 people will decide who will provide your trash collection services and take away your ability to choose that on your own. If you don't like government telling you what to do, show up at the meeting and voice your opposition. If it's not broken, don't let government try to fix it."

The Fountain Hills Tea Party and Arizona Campaign for Liberty could not be reached for further comment. Schlum believes the continuing weakness in the economy played a role in the opposition.

"There are a lot of things that contribute to where people are coming from," he said. "These days you've got to respect that, and at the same time there's personal responsibility and you want to make sure people aren't being threatening or hostile, or you hope that's not the case."

Councilwoman Ginny Dickey, who also supported the measure, said she felt that her motivations were especially questioned because she is the only Democratic council member and worked for seven years at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

"It seems counterintuitive, but in order for this proposal to pass, I believe I had to downplay the benefits of recycling," she said. "When ideology prevents rational discussion of a really pretty mundane topic, trash, there is no perspective. Everything is suspect, which paralyzes us."

Hal, the Speed Camera

Speed cameras have dubious legality in many places here in the States, but over in Europe they're an ugly fact of life. Now they're getting smarter, and the first is going into deployment in Finland. It's called ASSET, the Advanced Safety and Driver Support for Essential Road Transport, which confusingly abbreviates to ASDSERT and is the product of £7 million in government funding and years of development. Each of the £50,000 (about $80,000) cameras can naturally tell just how fast you're going and, if you're speeding, take a picture of you and your license plate number. That's just the beginning. It can also look up the status of your insurance, tell if you're wearing a seatbelt, and ding you for tailgating, all while sitting alone on the side of the road, relying on a wireless data connection and an internal generator to be totally self-sufficient. Whether or not this is scary depends largely on your propensity for speed, but know that the things will be getting built into police cars soon and will shortly be heading over here to our big, wide American highways

Pennsylvania Paranoia

Innocent Citizens Have Nothing Fear:

Pennsylvania made national news in September for all the wrong reasons.

The Patriot-News reported that Pennsylvania’s Office of Homeland Security had been tracking groups engaged in lawful, peaceful protests, including groups opposed to natural gas drilling, peace activists and gay rights groups. An embarrassed Gov. Ed Rendell, who said that he had been unaware of the program until he read the newspaper, issued an immediate order to halt it.

It turns out the homeland security office or its private consultant were doing more than just monitoring law-abiding citizens.

They were comparing environmental activists to Al-Qaeda.

They were tracking down protesters and grilling their parents.

They were seeking a network of citizen spies to combat the security threats they saw in virtually any legal political activity.

And they were feeding their suspicions not only to law enforcement, but to dozens of private businesses from natural gas drillers to The Hershey Co.

Internal e-mails from the Homeland Security office reveal a determined effort to recruit local people receiving its intelligence bulletins — municipal police chiefs, county sheriffs, local emergency management personnel — into its network of citizen spies.

The goal was to get those locals to start feeding information to the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, a private “intelligence” contractor working with the state’s Homeland Security office.

In an e-mail to ITRR in June, former OHS Director James Powers explains, “Thus far, we’ve pushed information to the customer and haven’t actually requested feedback regarding the sites/cities mentioned” in the bulletins.

“We’re not looking for them to dump everything on us that occurs in their jurisdiction,” he writes, “only that which relates to the critical infrastructure. In turn, we’ll provide it to you for the analysts to review and make further findings.”

However, the definition of “critical infrastructure” employed by Powers and ITRR was clearly very broad. The bulletins were, in fact, loaded with information about legal and peaceful activities by activist groups of all political persuasions.

ITRR’S contract expired in October and, following the revelations in September, Rendell ordered it not to be renewed. The governor declined to fire Powers, but Powers resigned a few weeks later.

State lawmakers held a single hearing on the tracking of these groups. Some want more answers.

And while the state’s contract with ITRR was not renewed, the programs continue.

ITRR continues to monitor law-abiding citizens for its corporate clients.

The Pennsylvania State Police is hiring five new analysts for its Criminal Intelligence Center to take over the role of identifying threats to critical infrastructure.

Using the State Police is “a better avenue,” said Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, whose own rallies were listed in the intelligence bulletins as a “moderate threat.”

“At the same time, as they move these operations in-house, they need to ensure checks and balances are in place,” he said.

‘Shades of Al-Qaeda’

From the very first page of the very first bulletin published by Homeland Security, ITRR focused not on groups with a clear terrorist agenda such as Islamists or Neo-Nazis, but on political activists.

The contractor argued that even though groups are non-violent, they can conduct “demonstrations and campaigns that can close down a facility and embarrass a company.”

Pennsylvania was ITRR’s only government client. The contractor made the lion’s share of its money serving private corporate clients.

Regular readers of the bulletins could easily begin to view activists as a threat. The bulletins freely mixed references to actual terrorist activity abroad with warnings about the non-violent, lawful activities of Pennsylvania citizens.

A July 30 bulletin that discusses “jihadist threats in France” quoting Al-Qaeda, also warns that natural gas drilling events “may draw unruly crowds.”

The bulletin warns of “flashpoints for confrontations over natural gas drilling” and provides a list of meetings “singled out by anti-drilling activists.” The list includes township supervisors meetings, county commissioners meetings and a possible Pennsylvania Forestry Association meeting in Mechanicsburg.

The bulletins also freely label activist groups to make them sound menacing — sometimes inconsistently.

The July 30 bulletin claims that “areas of significant drilling activity in Pennsylvania have also been the scene of eco-terrorist vandalism to drilling equipment.” It warns local law enforcement agencies to “remain aware of the potential for large, sometimes hostile confrontations between landowners, anti-drilling environmentalist militants and gas drilling employees.”

The very first bulletin mentions a planned training for anti-drilling activists in Ithaca, N.Y. by “The Ruckus Group” — actually the Ruckus Society, founded in 1995 by former Greenpeace activists.

That bulletin says “training provided by the Ruckus Group does not include violent tactics.” However, the next bulletin suddenly changes tack, calling the group a “non-profit entity providing training to anarchists in methods of destroying gas pipelines.”

“They’re not focused on illegal activity — they’re focused on people organizing, and clearly everybody’s in bed with the drilling industry,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for ACLU of Pennsylvania.

“It’s one thing for private industry to hire groups like ITRR to gather information, but for the government to get involved — you’ve got a nasty menage-a-trois going on here and the citizen activists are the ones getting fracked.”

How did the leaders at ITRR view legal political activity? In a May 3 e-mail sent to Powers, ITRR co-founder Mike Perelman writes:

“The Internet is an incredible force multiplier — example: I doubt that the Rainforest Action Network or the Ruckus Group number more than 25 people each. But they have incredible reach, sophistication, and influence on local groups.”

Perelman immediately followed with this description: “Shades of Al Qaeda!”

Powers was suspicious that political activism equaled drug dealing.

On Aug. 25, Powers e-mails Perelman saying, “Somewhere out there is a nexus between the drug traffickers and those criminals desiring to harm us — whether at the local level or organized, home-grown, splinter-cell would-be terrorists. Have our analysts uncovered any indication of drugs and all the protest group activities they’ve been reporting?”

Perelman responds, “I don’t think we’ll see much organized drug activity from the anarchist/eco groups. Not because they’re clean, but because they’re paranoid. They know they’re always one step away from ‘police repression.’¤”

He adds that ITRR had not been looking for connections with the drug world, but, “We could try and tease out some information if we started with a couple PA trafficker names to track and cross reference through our database and live communications.”

Coffee and donuts

In August, as the time drew near for ITRR’s contract renewal, Powers shifted the planning for a network of citizen informants into high gear. He sent a long e-mail to his “ITRR Colleagues” entitled “The Missing Piece — Input from the Field.”

Powers tells ITRR, “We are extremely pleased with the product ITRR has developed/delivered thus far — a superb job by all involved — whoever they are!”

He goes on to say, “The piece that we still miss, however — and have no ability or authority to fix — is the input from the ground-level stakeholders here in PA.”

Powers had told all recipients of the bulletins that their input would be “valuable” to ITRR.

“I am not pleased with what I have received from the field,” he writes, “but I know it’s neither a result of your efforts nor caused by personality/Southern drawl. We’ll continue to attempt to cultivate these relationships and trust in order to facilitate the flow of information from these groups to the (Tactical Action Monitoring Center in Jerusalem) via this office. Consider this another task for the person you wish to add to the upcoming contract.”

Despite the initial reluctance of local authorities, Powers would not give up on the idea.

“Hopefully I can use my CIP Advisory Group to provide you some internal, security-related data that may be of interest,” he writes. “I feel there is valuable, untapped information out there that may be of use to your analysts/researchers.”

He got prompt responses from ITRR’s Pennsylvania case worker Erik Miller as well as both founders of ITRR, Mike Perelman and Aaron Richman.

Perelman, who had been discussing the issue with Powers for at least a month, compliments Powers for being “ahead of the curve.”

“I can picture a person in your office arranging county by county (brief) training sessions that would educate people on intelligence, the cycle, their role, etc.,” writes Perelman. “Every time you and I have met people in the field, it has resulted in ground-up information sharing.”

Miller agrees, and adds, “I see the problem from a social-interaction perspective. Perhaps people are reluctant to share sensitive information with an unknown email account. On the other hand, by meeting with people, looking them in the eye, shaking their hand; that I think is the beginning to better information flow.”

Richman writes: “We should be able to outreach to the various sectors, bring them in for coffee and donuts and present them with a presentation that explains their role in the intel cycle. We explain to them what the adversary may be doing to ‘use’ the specific sector. Not just to target the (critical infrastructure), but how the adversary plans, trains, recruits .... We would give them a business card with a number to call, an email to send for anything that is not an emergency and meets the ‘shopping list’ of suspicious indicators and warning signs that we submitted to them.”

Guilt by inclusion

At a state Senate hearing, Powers testified, “We never targeted groups. We never targeted individuals.”

But they did.

One young man is listed by name in a Homeland Security bulletin — part of a two-page analysis of how terrorists make maps of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras.

“Like career criminals, terrorists of all kinds often carry out pre-operational surveillance to determine, among many other things, the location and number of CCTV surveillance cameras in their target location,” the bulletin says.

It reviews the case of a “suspected anarchist terrorist” with such a map killed in Greece, and describes other “anarchist” CCTV mapping activities in the U.S., Canada and Britain. Noting that much of the mapping is done through Freedom of Information requests, the bulletin then highlights a Pennsylvania example:

“Pennsylvania Revolution — a website self-described as ‘inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, personal liberty and the constitution of the commonwealth and of the United States.’”

The bulletin explains that since August 2009, the Pennsylvania Revolution website has been attempting to map all the known CCTV cameras in Pennsylvania and already lists the location of over 400, including Lancaster City and PennDOT traffic cameras.

The bulletin then identifies the owner of the site: Scott Davis.

Davis, a 28-year-old resident of Lower Paxton Twp., is a conservative organizer. He is a tea party activist and former state coordinator for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. He is also a systems engineer in the information technology department of The Patriot-News.

He never guessed that mapping the publicly-available locations of CCTV cameras would brand him a potential terrorist.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a terrorist,” he said. “In my research in the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, I believe the country has turned for the worse — and this is proof.”

Davis fears his association in the bulletin with violent terrorism could be used against him in any number of ways — future job employment, local police scrutiny, in court.

“Until it happens, you don’t know what the outcome would be,” he said.

He said his first concern was his 2-year-old daughter, and noted that corporations — including health care companies — were on the client list for the bulletins.

“What Powers doesn’t get is that simply being named in a bulletin that discusses terrorist activity and that’s put out by an agency with ‘Homeland Security’ in the name, tarnishes the people people being discussed, even if nothing bad is said about them,” said Walczak of the ACLU. “It’s really guilt by inclusion.”

“I consider it defamation of character,” said Davis. “I’ve never broken the law aside from a few speeding tickets.”

Ironically, just a month after the CCTV bulletin is issued, Perelman grouses to Powers that “those damned cameras are everywhere.” He is referring to an assassination carried out by Israeli intelligence agents in Dubai; they were photographed by CCTV cameras just before they electrocuted and suffocated a Hamas leader.

‘A form of harassment’

Although Scott Davis did not experience retribution as a result of being named by Homeland Security, it appears that another young man did.

Alex Lotorto, a 23-year-old living in Pittsburgh sent an email to friends just before 7 p.m. on June 1, asking them to meet him that night on the Carnegie Mellon campus. He hoped to organize a demonstration as President Obama visited the school the next day.

Three hours later, Perelman sent Powers a copy of the message, with Lotorto’s name and cell phone number. Powers immediately forwarded it to a host of law enforcement contacts in Pittsburgh and at the FBI.

On the opposite side of the state, Lotorto’s 57-year-old mother, Alexandria, opened the door of her Pike County home to find two State Police officers demanding to know the whereabouts of her son.

“They said Pittsburgh police commanded them to find out where this Alex Lotorto was right now,” she explained.

“I said, ‘He’s in Pittsburgh .... and he’s probably trying to get President Obama’s attention by holding up a sign. That’s what he does. He’s been doing it for years.”

“My son is a very passionate young man,” said Lotorto. She described Alex as a gifted student and a former choir boy with “a strong sense of fairness.”

Lotorto said the officers were young and “very aggressive” at first.

“They were behaving as if they only had minutes to find him .... like he was on the grassy knoll,” she said.

They told her when someone threatens the President, they have to act quickly. That upset Lotorto, who was recuperating from quadruple by-pass surgery.

She said she told the officers her son was “holding a sign, and that’s every American’s right.”

“Alex is 25 percent Lebanese because of me,” she said. “That doesn’t make him an Arab threat. He doesn’t know anything about the culture and he hates the food .... His father and I are good citizens. Good Christians.”

Lotorto told the officers, “This is a form of harassment.”

But she also invited them into her home, sat them down and talked with them for 20 minutes or so. She said, in the end, they called Pittsburgh in her presence and told officials there to lay off the kid.

Her son sees it a bit differently. He thinks the police were sent to his mother as a way of putting pressure on him. “They know I live (in Pittsburgh) .... Why would they go to Mom’s house?” he asked.

Lotorto acknowledges that he calls himself an anarchist, but adds he has never been in a group that planned any violence.

“I believe in people power more than government or corporations,” he said, “but it has come to the point where anyone who actively takes a position that challenges power .... you’re a terrorist.”

His mother — who says she once protested the war in Vietnam — is proud of him, despite some of the “crazy” things he’s done.

“We try to reason with him,” she said. “When you’re in your 20s, you know it all, and your parents are kind of dumb .... but I wish more of our youth were as passionate as he is. There’d be some changes in how things are.

“I’m disgusted they’re spending money following Alex when there are all these creeps blowing things up,” she said.

Mike German, a former FBI agent who quit to work for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the government is wasting time and money following the activities of Americans who are breaking no laws.

“After 9-11 there was an erosion of the rules and guidelines that were built to protect Americans’ privacies, because there was this mistaken idea that it was the rules that made it hard for the FBI to find the bad guys,” he said. “But what we’re finding is that when you take away the rules, then what happens is that innocent people get spied on.”

The U.S. Department of Justice recently released a report critical of the FBI spying on law-abiding citizens, including in Pittsburgh.

“When you look at all these cases it’s a complete waste of resources,” said German. “These rules weren’t designed just for privacy; they also were for keeping these agencies focused on their mission.

“It was the erosion of these rules that opened the door to this kind of political spying,” he said. “The agents targeted these groups because they didn’t like them.”

‘Absolutely no sense’

Information funneled to ITRR would have done more than alert state law enforcement. ITRR’s primary business was supplying “intelligence” to corporations.

The company refuses to name its clients, saying only that they range from “Fortune 100 companies to small security companies.”

The contractor says its products are used by the power industry, companies with international maritime assets, companies owning parts of America’s critical infrastructure, organizations supporting missionaries in the field, the pharmaceutical industry, and organizations tasked with security for international sports events.

When the scandal first broke, ITRR released selections from its past bulletins that were redacted “to protect client privacy.” Comparing those to the full reports reveals that ITRR considered Monsanto, Koch Industries and Massey Energy among its clients.

Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security Office distributed its bulletins to private businesses as well. Among the more than 2,000 email addresses of potential recipients disclosed during a Senate investigation was a list of 733 contacts considered to be the “Pennsylvania Intelligence Community.”

That category included email addresses for people at The Hershey Co., Gannett Fleming, Bayer, Dennis McGee and Associates, Highmark, Tyco Electronics, Harsco Corp., PSECU, Eastman Chemical, and Rite Aid.

There was a separate category of 42 contacts for the “Marcellus Shale Community.” Most of them are county emergency management contacts, but some at the Marcellus Shale Coalition (a trade group), individual drilling companies and a lobbying firm.

Whether Powers considered the business benefits of ITRR’s “intelligence,” he had become convinced that the information in the bulletins was critical to law enforcement. Powers spent the summer refashioning the bulletins — editing them heavily — to make them more “user friendly” to people “in the field.”

In an interview the day before Rendell read about the program in The Patriot-News and halted it, Powers was clearly proud of that effort.

Comparing himself to the Tommy Lee Jones’ character in the film “The Fugitive,” Powers said, “I don’t care” which side of the issue someone is on — or if they’re innocent. “My concern is public safety.”

There are several emails from local law enforcement officials thanking Powers, telling him they liked to know what was happening in their backyards and appreciated that someone in Harrisburg was paying attention.

Being prepared for protests was a good thing in their minds, and in Powers’ — regardless of whether or not there was an actual terrorist threat.

Powers stuck by that argument after the program was revealed.

“I wrote (the bulletins) and tailored (them) for the guy on the ground who has a three-person police force, and a volunteer fire force and a mayor who serves in two other capacities as well,” Powers testified during the Senate hearing. “It was not about terrorism. It was about all hazard situational awareness. Nobody ever called these groups terrorists or threats.”

“None of that makes any sense to me at all,” Senator Kim Ward, a Republican from Westmoreland County, told Powers. “That we would go monitor private citizens and private groups and they’re not a threat to us .... it’s just for awareness.

“It makes absolutely no sense, and it does make me think, ‘Where are we living?’ "

Consumer Debt Payoff Continues

At this rate, only twenty more years to pay it back down...

NEW YORK ( -- Americans have paid off nearly $1 trillion in debt over the past two years, although the pace of repayment has slowed, according to a regional Federal Reserve report released Monday.

Total consumer debt was $11.6 trillion as of Sept. 30; down 7.4%, or $922 billion, from the peak reached in the third quarter of 2008, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Consumer indebtedness fell another 0.3% in the third quarter, after a 3.3% decline in the prior quarter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Part Of Why I Ditched My Sprint EVO

Go Segway! Right into Lake Michigan...

Personal scooter ends up in Lake Michigan
October 30, 2010 6:38 PM | No Comments

A Segway rider fell into Lake Michigan near the Field Museum this afternoon, but was able to get out of the water on his own.

Chicago police could not say this evening how he ended up in the water, but said the Segway personal scooter eventually was recovered from the lake.

The Chicago police Marine Unit responded to the incident about 4 p.m., but rescue efforts were unnecessary.

--Staff report

Post From The Laptop!

This laptop is a lovely thing. (Mon Dieu, I said that?). My little network is even better. I am so glad I had the house wired.

I may buy another cheap box to serve as music server, and one more as radio system controller.

Win 7 takes some getting used to. It seems to be stable, so far. Good OJT for when my employer migrates from XP. It does boot fairly fast.

The battery life is fairly limited on this bargain laptop. I'm shocked. Perhaps 2 hrs, max. Far better than fumbling around on my Sprint EVO. And the laptop is CHEAPER than the smartphone, and has greater capabilities. No data plan, beyond the DSL, too.

The 15+" screen is an eyesaver, compared to the smartphone. The only things missing are the phone, GPS, the little sensors, and the cool little apps. I've migrated my Kindle Reader. I miss the Tricorder...

Sitting here on the TV couch, typing, is quite relaxing. I'm feeling much more relaxed, than at my PC, at war with the world.

A backup computer has been needed for some time. I never thought I would *ever* buy a laptop as that backup.

My ITouch still serves well for basic e-mail, and music, and will continue as the mobile data device. I'm glad I separated the phone function out. My Samsung phone runs days without recharging. The EVO and IPad last little longer than the laptop on battery life. If you're going to be using that much processor power, it might as well be for a full function computer, for the battery expenditure.