Monday, January 31, 2011

Texas school police ticketing students as young as 6

School police officers in Texas are doling out more tickets to children as young as 6, who under past disciplinary practices would have been sent to the principal's office instead, according to a report by a Texas nonprofit.

"Disrupting class, using profanity, misbehaving on a school bus, student fights, and truancy once meant a trip to the principal's office. Today, such misbehavior results in a Class C misdemeanor ticket and a trip to court for thousands of Texas students and their families each year," says the Appleseed Texas report (PDF). It examined data from 22 of the state's largest school districts and eight municipal courts.

Over six years, school police issued 1,000 tickets to elementary school children in 10 school districts.

The study found that where a child attends school -- not the severity of the allegation -- was the best indicator of whether the child would be ticketed instead of sent to the principal's office. Black students and special education students were overrepresented among those ticketed.

Most Texas schools have police officers, and that staffing is on the rise. The most common infractions earning misdemeanor tickets: disorderly conduct and leaving school without permission.

Appleseed recommends that Texas ban ticketing for children under 14.

Here's a graph from the report showing how increased police presence resulted in increased ticketing over time in five districts:

China restricts news, discussion of Egypt unrest

BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese censors are apparently blocking online discussion of unrest in Egypt and sanitising news reports about it in a sign of official unease that the uprising could fuel calls for reform at home.

Keyword searches on the unrest returned no results Monday on microblogs and the reader comment function on news reports about Egypt was disabled on major portals as China's pervasive censorship apparatus swung into full gear.

News coverage of the protests against the 30-year rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was limited to sparse accounts of the unrest that largely glossed over the underlying political factors and calls for democracy.

The coverage tended to emphasise the scenes of lawlessness in Cairo and the need to restore order. The main midday news on Monday did not include footage of the street protests, instead showing Mubarak meeting top officials.

China maintains a tight grip on its online and traditional media, actively blocking content seen as a potential challenge to the ruling legitimacy of the Communist Party.

China's leaders have faced mounting public discontent in recent years over a range of political hot-button issues including persistent reports of abusive government officials, dangerous environmental damage and now surging inflation.

China suppressed violent ethnic uprisings in Tibet and the mainly Muslim Xinjiang region of northwestern China in 2008 and 2009, while the Nobel Peace Prize won by dissident writer Liu Xiaobo in October also rattled Beijing.

Beijing's reaction to the Egypt situation recalls similar curbs put in place during the so-called "colour revolutions" in Eastern Europe a decade ago.

Stamping out such content has become more difficult, however, with the explosive growth of Twitter-like microblogging services.

China blocked Twitter in 2009 -- after barring other high-profile foreign Internet services such as YouTube and Facebook -- after authorities said social-networking services were being used to fan the Xinjiang violence.

However, several Chinese clones have since filled the void and drawn an enthusiastic following from the country's huge population of web users, the world's largest at 457 million.

Users have seized on the platform as a new avenue for mass expression in a tightly controlled media landscape, but controversial issues are still often blocked, either directly by the government or by providers hoping to avoid trouble from authorities.

Suport the troops....and another Forgotten War

The US is moving on from Afghanistan, but its troops are still dying there

US admiration for its soldiers may be deep and widespread, but interest in what they are doing is shallow and fleeting

Most of the stories told about Benjamin Moore, 23, at his funeral started in a bar and ended in a laugh. Invited to testify about his life from the pews, friend, relative, colleague and neighbour alike described a boisterous, gregarious, energetic young man they'd known in the small New Jersey town of Bordentown since he was born. "I'll love him 'til I go," his granny said. "If I could go today and bring him back, I would."

Grown men choked on their memories, under the gaze of swollen, reddened eyes, as they remembered a "snot-nosed kid" and a fidget who'd become a volunteer firefighter before enlisting in the military. Shortly before Benjamin left for Afghanistan, he sent a message to his cousin that began: "I'm about to go into another country where they hate me for everything I stand for." Now he was back in a flag-draped box, killed by roadside bomb with two other soldiers in Ghazni province.

The church was packed to capacity and at least a couple of hundred waited outside. The procession to the cemetery began with firetruck horns and was lined with well-wishers. He went under the ground with several military medals and the posthumous titles of chief of Hope Hose fire company and the "honorary mayor" of Bordentown.

There is a reverence for the military in the US on a scale rarely seen anywhere else in the west that transcends political affiliation and pervades popular culture. On aeroplanes the flight attendant will announce if there are soldiers on board to great applause. When I attended a recording of The Daily Show, John Stewart made a special point before the show of thanking the servicemen in the audience.

But while the admiration for those who serve and die may be deep and widespread, interest in what they are doing and why they are doing it is shallow and fleeting. During November's midterm elections it barely came up. In September just 3% thought Afghanistan was one of the most important problems facing the country. When Pew surveyed public interest in the war over an 18-week period last year, fewer than one in 10 said it was the top news story they were following in any given week, including the week Stanley McChrystal – the four-star general commanding troops in Afghanistan, was fired. The country, it seems has moved on. The trouble is the troops are still there.

"The burden for this war is being carried by such a small slither of society," explains Professor Christopher Gelpi, who specialises in public opinion and foreign policy at Duke University. "Unless you know someone in this war, live near an army base or know of someone who has died, then it is possible for the public to ignore it. People are very disconnected from it."

And when they do pay attention, they do not like what they see. Polls in December reveal that 63% oppose the war, 56% think it is going badly (with 21% believing it is going very badly), and 60% believing it was not worth fighting. Indeed opposition to the war is now on a par with Iraq.

This statistical data chimes with Gelpi's qualitative findings about people's attitudes towards the war. In a study he conducted in last spring, he found that people know very little about the war but "view it through the filter of Iraq". "Those who have made up their minds about Iraq," he concludes in the paper, The Two-Front Homefront, "appear to extrapolate these views to Afghanistan and are reluctant to attend to new information on the conflict."

But while that popular elision is understandable – no sooner had the war in Afghanistan been launched than the war in Iraq was being touted – it is problematic. Afghanistan is not Iraq. Indeed, in many ways, the lessons from Afghanistan are more profound, ingrained and urgent. Globally speaking, opposing the war in Iraq was not even remotely contentious. Significant majorities in almost every country, with the exception of the US, were against it. Before it was inept it was already illegal, and before it was illegal it was already illogical. It was wrong on its own terms, and its own terms were rooted in a lie.

But there were relatively few lies told in the selling of the Afghanistan war. This, remember, was the "smart war." Both George Bush's war and Barack Obama's war. A war supported by Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Susan Sontag. A "war of necessity", which had the backing of almost the entire political class on both sides of the Atlantic.

A war only a single national politician in the US dared oppose. In her speech to the House of Representatives on 14 September 2001, after which she received numerous death threats, Barbara Lee warned: "We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control … If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire … Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes."

This, in no small part, is why it has not become an electoral issue This was a bipartisan effort – and all the worse for it. When it was launched, many claimed parentage; in its failure, it is an orphan. "It's not become a political issue because the Republicans are more supportive of the war than Obama is," explains Gelpi. "So all he has to worry about is a rebellion from his left." The potential for such a rebellion certainly exists. But its likely potency, at this stage, remains suspect.

But to engage with what went wrong would demand a sharp reckoning with why so many thought it would was right to begin with. The country would have to interrogate its militaristic reflexes and proclivities, and face the fact that while there were few good or certain options after 9/11 (ranging from the diplomatic to containment) this was one of the worst – and the others were never seriously considered.

For as the principal retaliatory response to the terror attacks of 9/11, it has failed. It hasn't brought liberty, democracy or stability. It has killed untold thousands of civilians: untold because they are regarded as expendable. And not only has it not captured the perpetrators of the terror attack, there are far more acts of terrorism globally today than there were in 2001, in no small part because of the chaos wrought by the war on terror.

Back at the Trinity United Methodist church in Bordentown, the minister ended the service with the hymn Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin With Me.

Elsewhere in the country, small communities like this weep every week without respite as bodies from a global conflict return to become a local tragedy without, apparently, altering the national mood. Like a stone thrown into a pond the ripples go only so far and then fade away.

Back in 1971, during the Vietnam war, John Kerry famously testified before the Senate foreign relations committee. He put the question: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Forty years later, the answer appears to be that you simply stop paying attention to their deaths.

It seems American soldiers are not so much dying for their country, but because of it.

Space Tracking

DoD Awards Two Space Fence Design Contracts Defense Daily 01/28/2011
Author: Marina Malenic
Raytheon [RTN] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] have each received a $107 million contract for preliminary design of a next- generation tracking radar that will monitor objects in space.
Under the terms of the Air Force deal, the companies are expected to complete preliminary design, performance analysis and prototype evaluation of a new Space Fence by next summer. All phases of the program are expected to cost up to $3.5 billion, according to budget documents, so a follow-on production contract could be worth upward of $3 billion. The Air Force plans to bring the system to operational capability by 2015.
The contractors submitted proposals for the project in November. Company executives at the time hailed competitive prototyping early in the development as a way of minimizing performance risk (Defense Daily, Nov. 19, 2010).
The United States operates a worldwide network of ground radars for space tracking, but the country's ability to monitor objects orbiting over the Southern hemisphere is quite limited, according to experts. The legacy system is called the Air Force Space Surveillance System and comprises three Very High Frequency radar transmission sites and six receive sites spread across the southern United States. It has been in service since the early 1960s.
In recent years, the lower orbits around Earth have become much more congested, and events like the 2009 collision of an Iridium communications satellite with a Russian satellite have resulted in more "space junk" on orbit that can be hazardous to satellites. The Air Force wants the new Space Fence to increase the number of objects it can track in low Earth orbit from around 20,000 objects today to 200,000 or more.
The air service has been studying options for replacing the VHF system for the past four years. In 2009, it awarded $30 million contracts to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman [NOC] to conduct studies and prototyping.
Northrop Grumman's contract was terminated early last year after Congress cut $30 million from the program's funding in FY '10. According to the Air Force, the program manager had recommended continuing with the planned schedule by stopping funding for one of the three contractors rather than spreading the cut across all three, and delaying the program by six months or more.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Australian defense chiefs last fall signed a pact in Melbourne for cooperation on space situational awareness activities, which could include placing U.S. radars in Australia (Defense Daily, Nov. 19, 2010). The United States plans to deploy two or three radars as part of the Space Fence. While the legacy radar is located entirely inside the continental United States, the next-generation system will likely be located entirely outside the country. The goal is to increase coverage over the southern hemisphere.
In addition to Australia, the Pentagon is considering sites on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean. A final decision is expected this year.

Dallas Crime Stoppers chief indicted for defrauding program

Between February 2005 and May 2010, the conspirators allegedly collected at least $250,000 in cash rewards for bogus tips, the prosecutor said in a statement. No arrests, which would have been false, were ever made, Jacks said.

Credit card rates at record highs near 15%

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Interest rates are now hovering near record highs, at an average rate of 14.72%. And if your credit is bad enough, you could even end up with a rate as high as 59.9% APR.

That's because while the CARD Act helped crack down on certain fees and requires more disclosures, it didn't cap every credit card holder's worst enemy: interest rates.

Your new smartphone is already a dinosaur

Republican Congressman Proposes Tracking Freedom of Information Act Requests

Friday, January 28, 2011

Financial Crisis: The Greatest Hits;_ylt=AhhkSk0BAo.hdeKtKMjqr0q9F4l4;_ylu=X3oDMTNlYXFqb244BGFzc2V0Ay9zL2Zvb2wvMjAxMTAxMjgvYnNfZm9vbF9mb29sL3J4MTA5ODczBGNjb2RlA21wX2VjXzhfMTAEY3BvcwM5BHBvcwM5BHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcmllcwRzbGsDZmluYW5jaWFsY3Jp

We conclude this financial crisis was avoidable," says the official report from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, released yesterday. "The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire."

The committee's report, two years in the making, is a 623-page tome of everything you could ever want to know about the financial crisis. Most of it is dry repetition of standard stuff reported ad nauseum over the past three years: Housing prices went up. Banks were idiots. The bubble popped. Hell broke loose.

But a few quotes caught my attention. Hopefully they will catch yours, too.

On regulation: We do not accept the view that regulators lacked the power to protect the financial system. They had ample power in many arenas and they chose not to use it. To give just three examples: the Securities and Exchange Commission could have required more capital and halted risky practices at the big investment banks. It did not. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and other regulators could have clamped down on Citigroup's excesses in the run-up to the crisis. They did not. Policy makers and regulators could have stopped the runaway mortgage securitization train. They did not.

On trustworthy advice: More than 200,000 new mortgage brokers began their jobs during the boom, and some were less than honorable in their dealings with borrowers. According to an investigative news report published in 2008, between 2000 and 2007, at least 10,500 people with criminal records entered the field in Florida, for example, including 4,065 who had previously been convicted of such crimes as fraud, bank robbery, racketeering, and extortion.

On lobbying power to overturn regulations: From 1999 to 2008, the financial sector expended $2.7 billion in reported federal lobbying expenses; individuals and political action committees in the sector made more than $1 billion in campaign contributions. What troubled us was the extent to which the nation was deprived of the necessary strength and independence of the oversight necessary to safeguard financial stability.

Alan Greenspan on how to stop fraud: "If there is egregious fraud, if there is egregious practice, one doesn't need supervision and regulation, what one needs is law enforcement" [said Greenspan]. But the Federal Reserve would not use the legal system to rein in predatory lenders. From 2000 to the end of Greenspan's tenure in 2006 the Fed referred to the Justice Department only three institutions for fair lending violations related to mortgage.

Better late than never: The Fed did not begin routinely examining subprime subsidiaries until a pilot program in July 2007,under new chairman Ben Bernanke. The Fed did not issue new rules ... until July 2008, a year after the subprime market had shut down. These rules banned deceptive practices in a much broader category of "higher-priced mortgage loans"; moreover, they prohibited making those loans without regard to the borrower's ability to pay, and required companies to verify income and assets. The rules would not take effect until October 1, 2009 which was too little, too late.

On being caught off guard: Charles Prince, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., called the collapse in housing prices "wholly unanticipated." Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which until 2009 was the largest single shareholder of Moody's Corporation, told the Commission that "very, very few people could appreciate the bubble," which he called a "mass delusion" shared by "300 million Americans." Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., likened the financial crisis to a hurricane.

Ex-Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo on his contribution to society: "Countrywide was one of the greatest companies in the history of this country and probably made more difference to society, to the integrity of our society, than any company in the history of America."

Welcome to America: Consumers testified to being sold option ARM loans in their primary non-English language, only to be pressured to sign English-only documents with significantly worse terms. Some consumers testified to being unable to make even their initial payments because they had been lied to so completely by their brokers.

On the soundness of the mortgage market: The firm's analysis indicated that about $1 trillion of the loans made during the [2005-2007] period were fraudulent.

On self-control: As early as September 2004, Countrywide executives recognized that many of the loans they were originating could result in "catastrophic consequences." Less than a year later, they noted that certain high-risk loans they were making could result not only in foreclosures but also in "financial and reputational catastrophe" for the firm. But they did not stop.

The darlings that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM - News) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC - News) bought: Nearly one-quarter of all mortgages made in the first half of 2005 were interest-only loans. During the same year, 68% of option ARM loans originated by Countrywide and Washington Mutual had low- or no-documentation requirements.

Nope, nothing to see here: The value of the underlying assets for CDS outstanding worldwide grew from $6.4 trillion at the end of 2004 to a peak of $58.2 trillion at the end of 2007. A significant portion was apparently speculative or naked credit default swaps.

On Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS - News) riding the AIG (NYSE: AIG - News) bailout train: Goldman also produced documents to the FCIC that showed it received $3.4 billion from AIG related to credit default swaps on CDOs that were not part of Maiden Lane III. Of that $3.4 billion, $1.9 billion was received after, and thus made possible by, the federal bailout of AIG. And most -- $2.9 billion -- of the total was for proprietary trades (that is, trades made solely for Goldman's benefit rather than on behalf of a client) largely relating to Goldman's Abacus CDOs. Thus, unlike the $14 billion received from AIG on trades in which Goldman owed the money to its own counterparties, this $2.9 billion was retained by Goldman.

On the unflappable Citigroup (NYSE: C - News): The CEO of Citigroup told the Commission that a $40 billion position in highly rated mortgage securities would "not in any way have excited my attention," and the cohead of Citigroup's investment bank said he spent "a small fraction of 1%" of his time on those securities. In this instance, too big to fail meant too big to manage.

On confidence and stupidity: At the end of 2007, Bear Stearns had $11.8 billion in equity and $383.6 billion in liabilities and was borrowing as much as $70 billion in the overnight market. It was the equivalent of a small business with $50,000 in equity borrowing $1.6 million, with $296,750 of that due each and every day. One can't really ask "What were they thinking?" when it seems that too many of them were thinking alike.

On Fannie and Freddie acting better than the private market: While they generated substantial losses, delinquency rates for GSE loans were substantially lower than loans securitized by other financial firms. For example, data compiled by the Commission for a subset of borrowers with similar credit scores -- scores below 660 -- show that by the end of 2008, GSE mortgages were far less likely to be seriously delinquent than were non-GSE securitized mortgages: 6.2% versus 28.3%.

Lost housing wealth wasn't the biggest problem: Of the $17 trillion lost from 2007 to the first quarter of 2009 in household net wealth -- the difference between what households own and what they owe -- about $5.6 trillion was due to declining house prices, with much of the remainder due to the declining value of financial assets. As a point of reference, GDP in 2008 was $14.4 trillion.

On our neighbors to the north: Canada had strong home price increases followed by a modest and temporary decline in 2009. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland attributed Canada's experience to tighter lending standards than in the United States as well as regulatory and structural differences in the financial system.

Nope, no bubble here: In 2003, the average price was $155,000 for a new house in Bakersfield, at the southern end of California's agricultural center, the San Joaquin Valley. That jumped to almost $300,000 by June 2006.

The forgotten renters: Renters, who never bought into the madness, are also among the victims as lenders seize property after landlords default on loans. Renters can lose the roof over their heads as well as their security deposits. In Minneapolis, as many as 60% of buildings with foreclosures in 2006 and 2007 were renter-occupied.

Final words: As a nation, we set aggressive homeownership goals with the desire to extend credit to families previously denied access to the financial markets. Yet the government failed to ensure that the philosophy of opportunity was being matched by the practical realities on the ground. Witness again the failure of the Federal Reserve and other regulators to rein in irresponsible lending. Homeownership peaked in the spring of 2004 and then began to decline. From that point on, the talk of opportunity was tragically at odds with the reality of a financial disaster in the making.

You can read the rest of the report here. In the meantime, drop a thought or two in the comments section below.

Police: Florida boy drops loaded handgun inside pre-kindergarten class

(CNN) -- Florida police are trying to figure out how a 5-year-old boy came into possession of a loaded handgun that he dropped inside a pre-kindergarten class.

A female pre-kindergarten teacher at Moseley Elementary School in Palatka was giving a music lesson Tuesday morning when she noticed the small, .22-caliber handgun fall out of the boy's pocket, Assistant Police Chief James Griffith said. The firearm did not go off, and no one was hurt.

But the boy, along with the gun, were promptly brought to school administrators. They alerted school security and police at 9:25 a.m., having determined that there was no immediate danger to the school, which is in Palatka in northeastern Florida.

"The boy is both initially a suspect in this thing, but also a victim," said Griffith. "This is very rare."

The boy told authorities that he found the firearm inside the vehicle that he had come to school in -- one which Griffith said belonged to the youngster's stepfather. Neither the boy nor stepfather have been named, the assistant chief said, in order to protect the identity of the child, who is a minor.

Police say they have no indication that the boy made any threats or showed the weapon to anyone during his 30 to 45 minutes in school before the incident.

"There was nothing that transpired, as far as threats, showing the weapon off, anything like that," Griffith said. "At this point, we are trying to determine where the child got the gun from, and if any adult was negligent in allowing him to gain access (to it)."

The student was immediately suspended and barred from coming on school grounds pending the outcome of the investigation, while the state's Department of Children and Families is also looking into the case.

Putnam County Schools Superintendent Tom Townsend told CNN affiliate WJXT that the problem extends well beyond the youngster.

"This isn't the fault of the 5-year-old," Townsend said. "Someone is responsible for leaving a gun where a 5-year-old can access it, and that's a tragedy and it's inexcusable."

The police investigation could take "anywhere from weeks to months," the assistant chief said, while authorities look at evidence and conduct interviews. The boy's youth isn't much of a complicating factor, with Griffith saying that he "seems intelligent (and is) able to communicate well."

"You're trying to verify their version of what occurred," Griffith said of the child and others central to the case. "Do we have any witnesses to back up what they're saying, those types of things."

While authorities are investigating the case as a serious matter, they're also thankful that it did not turn out worse.

"That's what you always worry about, when a child gets their hand on a gun and its loaded," Griffith said. "The chances of an accidental discharge and someone getting shot by accident -- it's not good."

Egypt shows how easily Internet can be silenced

The move by Egyptian authorities to seal off the country almost entirely from the Internet shows how easily a state can isolate its people when telecoms providers are few and compliant.

In an attempt to stop the frenzied online spread of dissent against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, not only Facebook and Twitter but the entire Internet was shut down overnight, leaving some 20 million users stranded.

Hundreds of service providers offer connections in Egypt, but just four own the infrastructure — Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr.

Daniel Karrenberg, chief scientist at RIPE NCC, a European not-for-profit Internet infrastructure forum, says immature markets with few providers can achieve such shutdowns relatively easily.

"The more simple the topology is and the fewer Internet services providers there are, the easier it is for any government or the telco themselves to control access into any geographical area," he said.

"If you have a relatively diverse telecoms market and a very much meshed Internet topology then it's much more difficult to do than if you have the traditional telecoms structure of two decades ago and they control all the international connections.

"Obviously that creates a choke point," he said.

Despite the rapid transformation of the Web during its short history, and the unprecedented freedom of expression it has enabled, the Internet still has vulnerable points that can be exploited by governments or for commercial interests.

Cut off from the world
"Virtually all of Egypt's Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide," Jim Cowie, chief technology officer of U.S.-based Internet monitoring firm Renesys wrote on the company blog.

"Every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world."

Vodafone said in an e-mailed statement: "All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation, the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply."

A few large organizations with independent connections were able to stay connected to the Internet.

Cowie said on Friday he was investigating two apparent exceptions to the block: the Commercial International Bank of Egypt and the Stock Exchange.

Iran, Tunisia and most recently Syria have imposed Internet restrictions in attempts to quell opposition, but Egypt's is by far the most drastic move so far.

The closest precedent has been in China, which has more Internet users than any other country and also the strictest controls. It cut off Internet access to its Xinjiang region for almost a year after deadly ethnic unrest in 2009.

The world's biggest social network Facebook, and Twitter with its real-time mini-blog posts, have proved extraordinarily effective in gathering large numbers of people together and helping them to be nimble in dodging the authorities.

Lynn St Amour, president of the Internet Society, says they could have made revolutionaries of many who had not seen themselves as activists, thanks to the ease of signing up to groups or sending messages of support while sitting at home.

But the danger of depending on such services is that they can be blocked simply by targeting their IP addresses, since they are centralized on a single site — as witnessed in Iran and Tunisia.

"It's quite easy, as we've seen," St Amour told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In Tunisia, dissidents even found their Facebook pages taken over without their knowledge.

But when access to an entire site is blocked from outside, there is little that Facebook or Twitter can do — although users often find ways around the problem by using proxy servers.

"We try very hard to keep Facebook available wherever people want to access it," Dan Rose, who is responsible for Facebook's worldwide business development, said in London this week.

"We have outreach and relationships with governments all around the world. "We can only do what we can do."

The resilience of the Internet in any particular country also depends on the diversity of its international providers, the routes in an out of a country.

In 2008, Egypt suffered an 80 percent outage of Internet services when submarine cables in the Mediterranean linking Egypt to the rest of the world were accidentally cut.

On Friday, key fiber-optic cables that pass through Egypt as they link Europe to Asia appeared unaffected.

Renesys's Cowie contrasted a country such as Egypt with those that have highly dispersed international connections.

"In the United States you have every global carrier available to you, you have multiple cable landing points ... you have a country that effectively can't be taken off the Internet," he told Reuters.

'Company Men' captures agony of unemployment

As the reporter assigned to the employment crisis, I've happened upon Bobby Walker's story before. More times than I can count, actually.

At the outset of the movie "The Company Men," Walker earns a six-figure annual salary in a position as a mid-level corporate executive that pretty much defies definition.

He lives in a McMansion, drives a Porsche to and from his job with a Boston shipbuilder, runs up $600 dry cleaning bills, tees off at a private club, has two cute and suitably defiant kids and a knockout wife.

Oh, and he's a dead ringer for Ben Affleck.

Walker is in way over his head and, by about the 15-minute mark of "The Company Men," he's out of a job.

Opening next month in St. Louis, "The Company Men" marks the second time in a little over a year that Hollywood has cast unemployment as a vehicle of entertainment.

The first, heaven forbid we ever forget, featured George Clooney frequenting haunts familiar to all St. Louisans.

"Up in the Air" viewed the pain of unemployment largely through the prism of a corporate downsizing specialist.

"The Company Men," conversely, examines what transpires after an employee is handed the packet detailing the severance package and outplacement services.

John Wells, the movie's director, doesn't sugarcoat it.

"People feel like they have a communicable disease," Wells said in a recent telephone interview.

He should know.

Spurred by the indignities visited upon a laid-off family member, Wells began collecting anecdotes from other displaced workers frequenting online chat rooms and job search sites.

By the time "The Company Men" went into production, Wells found himself telling the composite story of hundreds if not thousands of jobless Americans.

"Hollywood tends to make movies about big tragedies," Wells said. "This is something that millions and millions of families are dealing with. It's tragedy with a small 't.'"

"The Company Men" does not lack the villain, the feel-good sentimentality, the morality tale, the gruff character with a heart of gold (a superb performance by Kevin Costner) and other requisite Hollywood contrivances.

Nor do the thousands of blue collar shipworkers who also lost their jobs get more than a fleeting mention.

Putting all that aside, Wells got it right. Agonizingly so.

Anyone who has suffered the humiliation of outplacement will involuntarily cringe at the spectacle of grown men and women chanting in unison a mantra straight from the Oprah playbook:


Without a doubt, though, the story line attached to Phil Woodward is the toughest to watch.

Played by Kansas City native and Mizzou graduate Chris Cooper, Woodward is the guy who scraped his way to the executive suites from the factory floor only to be handed a pink slip after reaching, as they say, a certain age.

On that score he gets no sympathy from the outplacement job counselor.

She advises Woodward to eliminate from his résumé the dates that draw attention to age, dye the gray from his hair, quit smoking and avoid references to his humble beginnings.

Then, for good measure, she gives the knife one last twist.

"I'm not your enemy, Phil," the counselor tells him. "You're 60. And you look like hell."

Woodward — minus the part about working his way up from a blue collar job — is the face of the jobless.

"The people really taking it in the neck from the economy are the older workers," Wells said.

The director pointed out that there was no shortage of explanations for the loss of a job during earlier periods of extended unemployment.

Job loss meant someone had opted to buy a new car out of high school instead of going to college or placed other priorities over career advancement once they entered the work force.

"But people now have done everything right," Wells said. "They got their degrees, they were team players."

Ultimately, for thousands of Phil Woodwards and Bobby Walkers, it didn't matter.

It doesn't rise to the level of spoiler alert to note that unemployment forces Walker to replace the Porsche with a battered Chevrolet and move from the McMansion back to the bedroom of his childhood home.

His pride wounded and seething with frustration, Walker at one point in the movie tells his wife why he needs to maintain appearances.

"I can't look like just another $%**#@! with a résumé," he explains.

To which she replies, "You are just another $*$#@!&*% with a résumé."

True. But amazingly, he remained a dead ringer for Ben Affleck.

Furor at Washington U. nixes Bristol Palin appearance

Furor at Washington U. nixes Bristol Palin appearance

UPDATED 8 a.m. with Palin's replacement on panel.

Anger over a decision to pay Bristol Palin several thousand dollars in student fees to talk to Washington University students about abstinence led to a decision Thursday night to nix Palin's appearance on a panel here next month.

Washington University's Student Health Advisory Committee had extended an invitation to Palin, a spokeswoman to prevent teen pregnancy, to speak on abstinence as part of the university's Student Sexual Responsibility Week.

But because of a growing controversy among undergraduates over the decision to pay for her talk with student-generated funds, the advisory committee and Palin decided Thursday night "that the message that they intended on sharing would be overshadowed by controversy," according to a university statement.

Scott Elman, president of the advisory committee, said the decision to halt Palin's appearance as a keynote speaker was "100 percent mutual" between Palin and the committee. Elman added that he was very disappointed that students weren't more open to having Palin speak.

Palin - the daughter of Sarah Palin, former GOP vice presidential candidate - became pregnant at 17 and is a single mom to a 2-year-old boy.

The university's Student Union Treasury earlier this week approved spending $20,000 to sponsor a panel featuring Palin. Student government sources said they were asked not to divulge Palin's fee. But Palin has signed on for speaking engagements with Single Source Speakers, and she reportedly will command between $15,000 and $30,000 per speech.

A Facebook petition to compel the school to nix Palin's appearance had hundreds of signatures Thursday evening. "It's not necessarily in opposition to the ideas that are being presented," explained Philip Thomas, the Washington U. student who initiated the petition."People are getting so angry because of the opposition to Palin's lack of expertise and the high cost she is charging," especially in light of budget cuts that have adversely affected other student activities, he said.

Palin had not signed a contract for the event.

The panel was to include representatives from the university's Catholic Student Center, Missouri Right To Life and Planned Parenthood. Now, instead of Palin, the panel will feature Dr. Katie Plax, head of adolescent medicine and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Plax is medical director of The SPOT, a teen health center at Washington University Medical Center.

Even babies understand power

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Revolutions In The Middle East?

The Mideast was conspicuously absent from President Barack Obama's State of the Union. He wisely concluded political forecasting in the Arab world has made astrology look respectable.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Brits Can Say Things Like This Out Loud...

Bank of England chief Mervyn King: standard of living to plunge at fastest rate since 1920s

Households face the most dramatic squeeze in living standards since the 1920s, the Governor of the Bank of England warned, as he reacted to the shock disclosure that the economy was shrinking again.

Families will see their disposable income eaten up as they “pay the inevitable price” for the financial crisis, Mervyn King warned.

With wages failing to keep pace with rising inflation, workers’ take- home pay will end the year worth the same as in 2005 — the most prolonged fall in living standards for more than 80 years, he claimed.

Mr King issued the warning in a speech in Newcastle upon Tyne after official figures showed that gross domestic product fell by 0.5 per cent during the final three months last year. The Government blamed the unexpected reduction — the first since the third quarter of 2009 — on the freezing weather that paralysed much of the country last month.

But there were fears that the country was poised to slip back into recession, defined as two successive quarters of negative growth. Economists said the situation was “an absolute disaster”.

The economic gloom deepened this morning as figures showed that mortgage lending by the major banks dived to an 11-and-a-half-year low during December.

Net lending, which strips out redemptions and repayments, fell to £880 million during the month, the lowest level since June 1999, according to the British Bankers' Association.

Labour has accused ministers of jeopardising recovery by pushing ahead with public spending cuts too quickly.

Mr King said he was unable to offer any imminent hope of a rise in interest rates in coming months because of the poor economic outlook. Savers and “those who behaved prudently” would be among the biggest losers in the squeeze, he admitted.

Disposable household income has been hit by sharp increases in the cost of food, fuel and tax, coupled with restricted wage rises for most workers. Last year, take-home pay fell by about 12 per cent, official figures showed, and the trend was expected to continue in 2011.

The governor warned that the Bank “neither can, nor should try to, prevent the squeeze in living standards”.

He said that the economic figures were a reminder that the recovery will be “choppy”. However, he said the biggest threat facing the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, was rising inflation.

The Bank is expected to use interest rates to keep inflation below two per cent, but the governor said inflation could rise “to somewhere between four per cent and five per cent over the next few months”.

He claimed that rising inflation had been caused largely by increases in global oil and commodity prices, and tax rises such as the increase in VAT introduced at the beginning of the year, which the Bank was powerless to control.

“In 2011, real wages are likely to be no higher than they were in 2005,” he said. “One has to go back to the 1920s to find a time when real wages fell over a period of six years.

“The squeeze on living standards is the inevitable price to pay for the financial crisis and subsequent rebalancing of the world and UK economies.”

Mr King insisted that the Monetary Policy Committee could not have increased interest rates from their current record low level to tackle the rise in inflation.

“If the MPC had raised the Bank Rate significantly, inflation might well have started to fall back this year, but only because the recovery would have been slower, unemployment higher and average earnings rising even more slowly than now,” he said.

“The erosion of living standards would have been even greater. The idea that the MPC could have preserved living standards, by preventing the rise in inflation without also pushing down earnings growth further, is wishful thinking.”

He added: “Monetary policy cannot be based on wishful thinking. So, unpleasant though it is, the Monetary Policy Committee neither can, nor should try to, prevent the squeeze in living standards, half of which is coming in the form of higher prices and half in earnings rising at a rate lower than normal.”

“The Bank of England cannot prevent the squeeze on real take-home pay that so many families are now beginning to realise is the legacy of the banking crisis and the need to rebalance our economy.”

The comments represented one of the governor’s starkest warnings yet. His claim that the banking crisis was behind the ongoing squeeze on living standards comes at a sensitive time, as banks prepare to announce multi-million pound bonuses for their executives.

Mr King expressed sympathy for savers and highlighted the failure of lenders to pass on cuts in interest rates. “I sympathise completely with savers and those who behaved prudently now find themselves among the biggest losers from this crisis,” he said. “But a return to economic stability from our fragile condition will require careful and well-judged steps looking beyond the next few months.”

Addressing the problems of borrowers, he added: “Households and small businesses with little housing equity may be unable to borrow at all or are able to borrow only in the unsecured market – where rates are much higher than before the crisis.”


Which iPhone Apps Are Tracking You?

I'll Miss The Muppet Level Alerts

DHS to end color-coded terror alert system

The Department of Homeland Security is ending its color-coded terror threat level system in April, as expected, CNN's National Security Contributor Fran Townsend has confirmed.

The system was established in 2002 to inform the public of the current risk of terrorist acts through a five-level, color-coded "Threat Condition" indicator. Today's terror threat level for the U.S. government is elevated, or yellow, and for all domestic and international flights, the U.S. threat level is high, or orange, according to DHS.

In its place, DHS will move to a system that focuses on specific threats in geographical areas. It will be called the National Terror Advisory System. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano will officially make the announcement tomorrow at a "State of America's Homeland Security" speech at George Washington University.

Utah lawmakers propose M1911 as official state gun

Elvis help us:

By JOSH LOFTIN, Associated Press Josh Loftin, Associated Press – Tue Jan 25, 9:33 pm ET

SALT LAKE CITY – State lawmakers are debating whether to designate a semiautomatic pistol as the official gun of Utah, despite protests from people who believe it's inappropriate because of recent mass shootings.

The bill to make the Browning M1911 the official gun breezed through a committee hearing this week and is scheduled to be debated by the full House as early as Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Carl Wimmer said the state should have the gun as one of its state symbols to honor John Browning, a Utah native who invented it in 1911.

"He invented a firearm that has defended American values and the traditions of this country for 100 years," Wimmer told the House Political Subdivisions Committee.

Utah has 24 state symbols recognizing the history, geography and culture of the state. They include a state cooking pot, a state tree, a state hymn and a state folk dance.

The committee approved the bill to add a state gun on a 9-2 vote.

Wimmer said the Browning M1911 is widely used by the military, police officers and private citizens, which is why he chose the pistol instead of another Browning gun.

Gun Violence Prevention Center board member Steve Gunn told The Associated Press honoring the M1911 is wrong because the people who opened fire in most recent U.S. mass shootings used semiautomatic pistols. That includes the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting in which six people were killed and 13 — including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — were wounded with a Glock pistol.

"It's an embarrassment to the state to have as a symbol that was used only a few weeks ago to kill innocent people," Gunn said.

Wimmer told the AP he had been planning the bill for about a year and the Arizona shooting did not change his mind.

"There is nothing about the actions of a madman to change the fact that firearms have been used throughout our history to defend American values and traditions," Wimmer said.

House Minority Leader David Litvak said while he opposes designating a state gun, the Arizona shooting did not give the debate any urgency.

"We need to be careful about using that tragedy to push a political position," the Democrat said.

He suggested the state honor Browning in a different way that focused on his many inventions, not just one of his guns.

Jennifer Seelig, who voted against the measure said she did not see the debate as pro- or anti-gun. Instead, it is about the message sent by the state having such a polarizing symbol, she said.

"It has a lot of deep-rooted, complex and complicated meanings on a wide spectrum, from defending life to taking it," said Seelig, also a Democrat.

Seelig said she supports gun rights and has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. But like Litvack, she would prefer to honor Browning in a different way.

Republican Rep. Stephen Sandstrom told the committee that recognizing the M1911 is an appropriate honor for Browning. Instead of the gun being blamed for killing people, it should be credited for saving lives on the battlefield, Sandstrom said.

"Tragic events happen because of bad people in this world. But handguns, and firearms in general, do not kill people," Sandstrom said. "We need to stop demonizing firearms."

Dying with debt: A dirty little retirement secret

Retired Americans are racking up credit-card debt like never before, be it for vacations or medical expenses, and a surprising number have no intention of paying it off before they die.

Nearly 40% of retired Americans said they've accumulated credit-card debt in their twilight years — and aren't worried about paying it off in their lifetime, according to a survey released by CESI Debt Solutions.

"At the end of the day, some people of a certain age say, 'It's too late in the game for me to do anything about it. I can't win. So I'm just going to stop playing the game,'" said Neil Ellington, executive vice president at CESI.

This may come as a surprise to younger generations who thought their parents, the so-called Greatest Generation, were more responsible than youngsters raised in an era of easy money, a culture of credit.

But remember that this is the generation that frowns upon talking about money — and certainly would be embarrassed by any potential money problems. Add in a recession that slashed many retirement accounts in half and that leaves a generation sinking deeper into debt, with a diminishing timeframe to do anything about it — and too much pride to talk about it.

"Most people are too scared to talk about their financial problems, especially in their 'Golden Years,'" Ellington said. "Retirement is supposed to be all about enjoying the time you've been saving up for, and the reality is that many people couldn't save enough," he said.

And yet, that didn't stop them from retiring.

More than half of those surveyed had saved less than $50,000 — and many of that group said they'd saved absolutely nothing — yet they retired anyway. Just 4% said they had delayed their retirement due to debt.

"They get to a certain age and they feel privileged," Ellington said. "They say, 'I'm going to go on that trip even though I have to put it on my credit card.'"

When you're young, you have time to pay off splurges like a trip to Hawaii, but for retirees, procrastination can lead to serious financial problems.

It's not just vacations and entertainment; one of the biggest sources of senior debt is medical expenses. More than 75% of the seniors surveyed said they went into debt for medical or funeral expenses.

Part of the reason they're not paying off their debts is they don't know where to start and they're too embarrassed to ask for help. But the financial crisis may have also played a role.

"Financial institutions haven't been perceived as the most friendly" and many people blame them for the recession, Ellington said. "They think, 'Hey, I'm not going to pay back these guys who ripped off America.'"

One of the biggest mistakes seniors make when it comes to credit cards is being late with a payment.

"That triggers a penalty APR that can exceed 30%, which can trap those seniors who can't pay their balances in full each month in a downward spiral of debt," said Ben Woolsey, the director of marketing and consumer research at

Another mistake they make is relying on debt-settlement companies when they get into trouble.

"It's much better to contact card companies directly to work out repayment plans or work with a non-profit debt-counseling service rather than a fee-based settlement company," Woolsey said.

And while many retirees who are being quietly buried under a mound of debt may think they're protecting their kids by not burdening them with their financial problems, if they don't pay off their debts before they die, it will eventually become their children's burden.

Whatever that parent owes will be deducted from his or her estate before that estate is divided among the children and other beneficiaries.

Imagine a scenario where the kids are bickering over who gets mom's house and, in the end, no one gets it because it had to be sold to pay off mom's credit-card debt.

"That is a very realistic scenario," Ellington said. "A lot of kids don't find out how much their parents are struggling until they pass away."

Unfortunately, this debt denial isn't exclusive to seniors: Among those surveyed who had not yet retired, 25% said they were carrying debt of $5,000 or more — yet more than half said they didn't plan to delay retiring because of debt.

And more than one in four said they weren't worried about paying off their debt in their lifetime.

"People think it will all just work out somehow," said Samir Kothari, co-founder of, a site that helps people lower their bills. "These things are not based on logic but on people being very optimistic about life — defying reality. I think that's what gets people into trouble."

Taking Charge of Your Debt

For those who carry a balance on their credit cards, BillShrink recommends PenFed's Promise Visa, which costs $20 as a one-time fee to join and charges annual percentage rates of 7% to 9%, or CapitalOne's Platinum Prestige card, a no-fee card with an annual-percentage rate of around 12%.

You might assume that most people have paid off their mortgage by the time they retire, but nearly a third of those surveyed said they were still carrying mortgage debt into retirement. BillShrink recommends the Wells Fargo Home Rebate card where your rewards dollars automatically go toward paying off your principal balance on your mortgage.

If you want to make sure your loved ones don't get into debt trouble, BillShrink suggests the Edward Jones Personal Card or Fidelity's Retirement Rewards Card, where your rewards dollars are directly deposited into an IRA, Roth IRA or 529 college-savings plan.

It's not just about choosing the right card, it's also important to lift the taboo on talking about money. It's not only important to talk about money with a spouse or partner, but also with your parents and your kids — before it's too late.

"Talking about money to the important people in your life forces you to come clean about the life you are living and … the way you manage your money," said Katie Dunsworth, one of the "Smart Cookies," a group of friends who formed a money group and now teach others how to take control of their money.

© 2010

Hello, Big Brother: Digital sensors are watching us

Odds are you will be monitored today — many times over.

Surveillance cameras at airports, subways, banks and other public venues are not the only devices tracking you. Inexpensive, ever-watchful digital sensors are now ubiquitous.

They are in laptop webcams, video-game motion sensors, smartphone cameras, utility meters, passports and employee ID cards. Step out your front door and you could be captured in a high-resolution photograph taken from the air or street by Google or Microsoft, as they update their respective mapping services. Drive down a city thoroughfare, cross a toll bridge, or park at certain shopping malls and your license plate will be recorded and time-stamped.

HELPFUL SENSORS: Some digital sensors help caregivers and marketers

Several developments have converged to push the monitoring of human activity far beyond what George Orwell imagined. Low-cost digital cameras, motion sensors and biometric readers are proliferating just as the cost of storing digital data is decreasing. The result: the explosion of sensor data collection and storage.

Over the next couple of years, the volume of data generated by digital sensors will surpass the flow of e-mails and social-network entries combined, predicts Stephen Brobst, chief technical officer at data analytics firm Teradata. "Sensors will touch nearly every aspect of our lives," he says.

Meanwhile, technology is rapidly being developed to efficiently mine this mushrooming trove of sensor data in novel ways. Affectiva, a Waltham, Mass., start-up, for instance, recently introduced biometric wristbands capable of monitoring tiny changes in sweat-gland activity to gauge emotional reactions. Therapists are using the wristbands with autistic children to better understand emotional outbreaks. Marketing consultants use the bands to pinpoint what pleases or frustrates shoppers.

At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel and Microsoft introduced a prototype of an in-store digital billboard that can memorize your face. The technology soon could be used in billboards capable of keeping track of the products you're interested in, much as depicted in the Tom Cruise sci-fi movie Minority Report.

"Computing and connectivity are going to transform retail," boasted Intel CEO Paul Otellini, as he unveiled the billboard during a speech at CES. "Your experience in every store will soon be customized to you."

Privacy worries

But before the blessings of pervasive monitoring can be fully realized, privacy concerns need to be addressed, says Chris Wolf, director of privacy and information management at Chicago law firm Hogan Lovells.

"What's new is the capacity for databases to share data and therefore to put together the pieces of a puzzle that can identify us in surprising ways — ways that really could be an invasion of privacy," Wolf says.

Some enterprising attorneys already have begun to use bridge tollbooth records to establish travel patterns of wayward spouses in divorce cases. And police looking to issue traffic citations now correlate photos, taken by cameras perched above busy intersections, with vehicle ownership records.

Ryan Calo, director of the Consumer Privacy Project at the Stanford (University) Center for Internet and Society, can imagine an escalation of troubling scenarios. Advertisers could customize pitches in sneakier ways. Or worse, data correlated from multiple sensors could be used to deny you a job, cut you off from insurance coverage or lower your credit status.

"You will constantly feel under observation," Calo says. "You'll never have those crucial moments of freedom from the feeling of scrutiny."

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation advocacy group, believes government agencies and corporations will find it difficult to resist tapping deeper into sensor data. "If there's money to be made or a mission to be accomplished by correlating this data, it's the height of skepticism to argue that it's never going to happen," he says.

Anthony Valenti, managing director of cyberforensics firm Stroz Friedberg, is one of those skeptics. Valenti, a former federal prosecutor, says government agencies are too fractured and corporations too timid to systematically profile individuals. "You can photograph me all you want," Valenti says. "The only people who should be really concerned are the bad guys."

Maybe so. But technologists and privacy advocates are watching closely for potential flash points, in particular a practice advocated by Google and Facebook called photo tagging.

Google and Facebook are using cutting-edge facial-recognition software to juice up their popular online photo-editing and sharing services, Google Picasa and Facebook Photo Albums.

Both technology giants encourage users to assign names to people in photos, referred to as tagging. Facial-recognition software then goes to work indexing facial features much the way a fingerprint expert takes note of swirls in a thumbprint.

Once an individual in a photo is tagged, the software then looks for similar facial features in untagged photos. This allows the user to quickly group photos in which the tagged person appears.

Google and Facebook say privacy is protected because photo tagging is designed strictly for use by individual consumers within their personal accounts.

Chilling effect

Still, by promoting photo tagging, the tech rivals are in something of an arms race to amass the largest possible caches of tagged photos, says Stephen Russell, founder and chairman of 3VR, maker of video facial-recognition software for security and commercial uses.

Once you are tagged in a photo, that photo could be used to search for matches across the entire Internet, or in private databases, including those fed by surveillance cameras. "They almost certainly have the technical capability to do it," Russell says.

Stanford privacy expert Calo worries that photo tagging could easily be extended to other uses, besides just grouping one's personal photos. The technology conceivably could enable a car dealer to take a photo of you as you step onto his car lot. The dealer could then quickly profile you on the Web, to gain an edge in making a sale.

Or a stranger in a mall or restaurant could photograph you, then go online to profile you. "People will be able to instantaneously find out about you," Calo says.

Wolf, the privacy attorney, says the right to move through public places anonymously could be at risk. "We don't have to tell everybody we pass on the street our name, phone number and address," Wolf says.

Losing the right to anonymity, he says, could "really have a chilling effect on where we go, with whom we meet and how we live our lives."

Google is well aware of rising privacy concerns. It has stepped carefully in introducing Goggles, a free online service that allows you to use a very mobile sensor — a smartphone camera — to photograph a landmark or a book jacket, then instantly navigate to Web pages carrying information about the object.

Notably, the search giant drew the line at letting Goggles users do something similar with snapshots of people. "There are some important transparency and consumer control issues we still need to think through before including this functionality," says Google spokesman Brian Richardson.

Still, in a world of pervasive sensors, troubling data correlations are cropping up in unanticipated ways. For instance, most consumers are ignorant about how smartphones equipped with GPS location finders routinely "geotag" photos and videos, embedding images with the longitude and latitude of the location shown in the image.

Last summer, industrial designer Adam Savage, co-host of the TV show MythBusters, used his iPhone to snap a photo of his Toyota Land Cruiser parked in front of his house, then posted it on Twitter. In doing so, Savage, in effect, publicly disclosed where he lives.

You could be supplying bad guys with useful intelligence by posting on social networks or photo-sharing sites smartphone images showing children playing on the lawn or expensive vehicles or valuable household items, says Jonathan Mayer, a research fellow at the Stanford Center. "There's so little transparency in what's going on," Mayer says. "We should be concerned about things like accidental social oversharing, purposeful but unwanted social sharing, government overreaching and security breaches."

Failure Is the Only Option. Again.

People are afraid of outbursts of violence, after the shootings in Tuscon, and elsewhere. They fear a large scale civil war.

I think they may be wrong.

Violence won't improve anything, it will simply add to the misery. Most Americans agree on this, I believe. What will change things is economic failure. The federal debt limit crisis coming up this spring may well be *the* crisis moment. Maybe.

We will be reduced to the state of an ordinary nation. Humiliating, but not fatal. How long this will take, and the emotional carnage wrought, is still unknown. Britain after WW 2, not Somalia or Afghanistan is the example (though the South/rural areas might be worse).

The Chinese are in for their own moment of comeuppance. They cannot create enough consumer demand with the great disparities in wealth between rural and urban populations. The Chinese are outsourcing to Thailand, et al, before employing their own citizens. This is not how you create a consumer society. India is a little, but not much, better off.

We will be competing against a huge labor pool, with diminishing economic and military power. No number of Glock's can fix this. Glock's cannot put out fires, or provide medical care, or provide the public services, and sense of community needed to address our own problems. We ourselves will have to do this, as part of our national 12 step program.

It will take one to two generations, minimum.

We Are Winning The Future!

On the same day as the State Of The Union Address, our non-profit organization is announcing layoffs, due to cuts in state and federal funding. The HR department is losing 1/3 of it's troops, and our department's announcement is Friday.

Students of history (and what's happening to Ireland right now) can tell you what's coming. The cutbacks in government spending will suppress aggregate demand, and flood the labor markets, creating a vicious cycle.

We still have a long way to go, until our society hits bottom, and admits failure.

Only then can the healing begin. The rest of us are just collateral damage, and there is nothing to be done. Even learning Chinese might be futile. I need a hibernation chamber for the next forty years. At least.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Postage Due

This is mild, compared to the collateral damage coming up.

We still need universal mail delivery.

Postal Service Eyes Closing Thousands of Post Offices

HOLMES MILL, Ky.—The U.S. Postal Service plays two roles in America: an agency that keeps rural areas linked to the rest of the nation, and one that loses a lot of money.

Now, with the red ink showing no sign of stopping, the postal service is hoping to ramp up a cost-cutting program that is already eliciting yelps of pain around the country. Beginning in March, the agency will start the process of closing as many as 2,000 post offices, on top of the 491 it said it would close starting at the end of last year. In addition, it is reviewing another 16,000—half of the nation's existing post offices—that are operating at a deficit, and lobbying Congress to allow it to change the law so it can close the most unprofitable among them. The law currently allows the postal service to close post offices only for maintenance problems, lease expirations or other reasons that don't include profitability.

The news is crushing in many remote communities where the post office is often the heart of the town and the closest link to the rest of the country. Shuttering them, critics say, also puts an enormous burden on people, particularly on the elderly, who find it difficult to travel out of town.

The postal service argues that its network of some 32,000 brick-and-mortar post offices, many built in the horse-and-buggy days, is outmoded in an era when people are more mobile, often pay bills online and text or email rather than put pen to paper. It also wants post offices to be profitable to help it overcome record $8.5 billion in losses in fiscal year 2010.

A disproportionate number of the thousands of post offices under review are in rural or smaller suburban areas, though the postal service declined to provide any estimate on how many beyond those slated to begin closure in March might ultimately close or which ones are being targeted. "We want to make the smartest decisions possible with the smallest impact on communities," Dean Granholm, vice president for delivery and post office operations, said in an interview. He said the agency is identifying locations that are operating at a deficit and looking "for the opportunity to start the process of closing."

In addition to reducing employees—it has cut staffing by a third since 1999— the postal service has sought for years to deal with financial woes by raising rates or cutting services, such as a proposal to drop Saturday delivery. It has also talked in the past about closing a much smaller number of post offices. But while closures have been "on the table" in the past, this push is the agency's most serious yet, Mr. Granholm said, and is drawing widespread interest from a cost-cutting Congress. Still, shutting down post offices is often politically unpopular: elected officials in several communities have already written the Postal Regulatory Commission protesting planned closures.

Eighty-three specific post offices were approved for closing during the three months ending Nov. 15, more closings than in any quarter in the agency's history, according to the postal service. In addition, 408 post offices where service has been suspended for various reasons won't reopen amid the fiscal crisis, Mr. Granholm said.

Some of those suspensions are being contested by the Postal Regulatory Commission, independent from the postal service and reporting to Congress, which is investigating whether the postal service has been illegally using reasons such as lease expirations to close small, underused branches. The agency has denied wrongdoing.

While paring down is a common survival tactic for organizations these days, efforts by the postal service to do so routinely raise alarms because many citizens see post offices as an essential public service. Postal service dates to the founding fathers, with Benjamin Franklin serving as the first U.S. postmaster general and the Constitution explicitly authorizing Congress to establish post offices. Critics in Washington argue the postal service should reduce what they say is too much spending on employee benefits before resorting to closures.

As closure notices go up, citizens are rallying around their post offices in Millville, W.V., Hamilton, Tenn., Prairie City, S.D., and elsewhere, fearing not only a loss of convenience but a death knell for their small towns.

"It ain't right doing this to our community," says Delmer Clark, a 70-year-old retired coal miner in Eastern Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains, in the no-stoplight town of Holmes Mill. The post office here is set to close next month after more than 100 years. About the size of a garage, it has long been a part of the town's identity, and the pending closing is fueling local suspicion that public officials don't care about them. The local school closed years ago and reliable cable, Internet and cellphone reception has yet to arrive, residents say. "When they close the post office, they probably won't even come up here anymore and clean the roads," says Mr. Clark.

"It will hurt us real bad," says Esther Sizemore, a 62-year-old retired school-bus driver. Not owning a computer, and aching from hip arthritis that makes driving significant distances difficult, Ms. Sizemore drives down the street to the post office to mail her handmade quilts, trade news with friends and pick up packages, since she does her shopping by catalog. She also feels her mail is safer using a post office box; mail thefts have been a problem in the area, says Deputy Winston Yeary, of the Harlan County Sheriff's Department.

The Holmes Mill post office is closing in a consolidation set to claim more than 30 small Kentucky post offices this year, according to local postal officials. It's in the red, costing the postal service $12,748 in fiscal year 2010, according to the agency.

Residents will still have home delivery, and can use the post office and maintain P.O. boxes in the next town, but some locals fear the drive: The 12-mile roundtrip is on a winding mountain road bordering a steep drop-off to the river and named "Coal Miner's Highway" for the coal trucks that take much of the road.

Some lawmakers say closing post offices is the wrong answer. Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) says the agency should instead cut waste in its ranks. Although the postal service has cut its work force through attrition in recent years, it is still weighed down by overly generous employee benefits, she says.

Postal workers pay "significantly" lower premiums for their health and life insurance plans than other government employees because of union agreements, according to a September study sponsored by the Office of Inspector General. The report said the postal service could save $700 million this year alone by asking employees to pay more. The report, however, also said the postal service's contribution into employee benefits has started to decline, and that more reductions are planned as a result of recent union agreements.

"One of my frustrations is that the first approach the post office seems to take is to reduce service…when instead it needs to tackle a benefit structure that is too expensive, and it needs to look for ways to stay in business and deal with the digital age," says Sen. Collins.

Communities that lose post offices will still get deliveries, either at homes or at clusters of mailboxes set up in town, and there are multiple options for getting postal services, including stamps by mail, said Mr. Granholm of the postal service. Also, he says, many rural dwellers already travel to nearby cities for groceries and other services. "Why can't they go there for the post office?" he says.

Under U.S. law, mail delivery is a "basic and fundamental" government function meant to "bind the nation together" by providing service to "all communities" at a reasonable price. The nation's philosophy of universal postal service has resulted in stamp prices that are among the lowest in the industrial world and post offices from the far reaches of Alaska to easternmost Maine. Yet more than half lose money and "are located in areas where people no longer live, work or shop," U.S. Postmaster Patrick Donahoe testified to the Senate in December.

Legislation filed in Congress and supported by Mr. Donahoe would make it easier for the postal service to close the thousands of unprofitable post offices.

A bill introduced by Sen. Thomas Carper (D., Del.) would repeal wording in U.S. law that says "no small post office shall be closed solely for operating at a deficit." Currently, the postal service must cite other reasons—in addition to finances—such as unsafe conditions or a retiring postmaster.

Mr. Carper says it isn't his intent to reduce access to service, and says the postal service could explore moving more postal counters into existing retail establishments, like banks or supermarkets. "Allowing the postal service the ability to close offices that fail to cover their costs is a huge step toward our future viability," Mr. Donahoe said.

While government owned, the postal service is an independent agency supported primarily by postage fees, though it's allowed to—and does—borrow from federal coffers. Mail traffic, particularly the more lucrative first-class mail, peaked in 2006 at 213 billion pieces, then fell 20% by 2010. The recession contributed to the drop. But a digital revolution is also at play, and with fewer people sending letters, mail volume could fall further to 150 billion pieces, an unprecedented decline, in the next 10 years, according to a September study sponsored by the Office of Inspector General.

Along with shifting consumer behavior, the agency is saddled with billions in unusually burdensome retiree health costs, the inspector general said. Historically, the postal service, which employs 532,800 workers, paid for retiree health benefits when they came due. But postal reform law passed by Congress in 2006 mandated the agency to plan ahead by pre-funding retiree health benefits at around $5 billion a year for 10 years starting in 2007. "No other federal agency or private sector companies have a similar burden," Mr. Donahoe testified.

Both Sens. Collins and Carper have introduced legislation addressing retiree-health funding.

The pre-funding obligation contributed heavily to recent record losses, and has forced the postal service to borrow from the federal government to meet shortfalls, he said. The agency now owes the U.S. Treasury $12 billion, and said it expects to max out its statutory $15 billion line of credit by the year's end.

In towns losing post offices, some citizens believe they are paying for mismanagement at the agency. "From what I understand, the upper crust in the post office gets plenty of money, but they can take away what we have," says Ruby VanDenBerg, who is 86, and lives in Prairie City, S.D., a ranching community of more than 100 farms. The post office officially closed on Dec. 30 after 102 years. Ms. VanDenBerg now drives 40 miles to a post office.

The Prairie City post office cost $19,000 a year after revenue, says the postal service, which blamed "safety deficiencies" for the closing. Residents say the problem was a faulty furnace, and say they offered to make repairs themselves but were ignored. They have appealed the closing with the Postal Regulatory Commission; their case is under review.

Prairie City postal clerks kept a pot of coffee brewing and posted birth and death notices. "That was the gathering place for people to come in the mornings, have a cup of coffee or a can of pop, and visit, but we don't have that no more," says Daniel Beckman, a recently widowed farmer. "All that's left in the town now is just a church; it's totally depressing."

The closing also crimped an informal local method for delivering medicine to isolated corners of the prairie, rural doctors and pharmacists wrote to the commission.

The area's only major hospital and pharmacy is in Hettinger, N.D., 40 miles away and over the state line from Prairie City. Before, when an elderly person or farmer in Prairie City quickly needed medication, a pharmacist in Hettinger would rush prescriptions to the Hettinger post office, catching the mail carrier who each day traveled to the Prairie City post office.

The closing eliminated that direct route, and now Prairie City mail is sorted and delivered on a rural route out of Bison, S.D., delaying the delivery of medicine from Hettinger by two or three days, says Dr. Brian Willoughby, of West River Health Services in Hettinger.

"When they cut these services, there are multiple spinoff consequences for these older people out there in the middle of nowhere, but the bureaucrats sort of forget about that," he says.

My Higher Power At Work- Defect Removal!

Ahhhh, freedom at last.

My Higher Power has removed one of my defects: I've been banned from the political board.

One of my adversaries dumped on one of the other posters, who has a non-treatable medical condition. The debate was over healthcare, of course, and my adversary basically condemned the other poster to an ice floe. "Are there no poorhouses"? "Decrease the surplus population!" That was the attitude my adversary took.

Needless to say, my adversary is to the right of Ayn Rand. My IFF showed "hostile". Fox 1! Hit! Took it in the snoot.

Unfortunately, the webmaster has the ultimate Golden BB. No need to ask who, or why.

And so, yet another one of my obsessions dies. No need anymore to inform the board of what I've discovered in the way of intel, and I no longer need to be co-dependent in trying to "fix" them.

Now, I can be properly ignored, as yet another looney with a blog. Huzzah!

Any members of the board who wish to contact me are free to do so, or post on my (moderated) blog. Only one place needed now to post my discoveries and ravings. No need to post twice, anymore.

I'll be trying to review any data that may not have been posted here, that is still on the board, in the way of news articles, etc. No need to re-live the flamewars.

Dr. Who Bad Girl, thou art gone!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Failure Is The Only Option

Civility is a tree with deep roots, and without the roots, it can’t last. So what are those roots? They are failure, sin, weakness and ignorance.

Every sensible person involved in politics and public life knows that their work is laced with failure. Every column, every speech, every piece of legislation and every executive decision has its own humiliating shortcomings. There are always arguments you should have made better, implications you should have anticipated, other points of view you should have taken on board.

Moreover, even if you are at your best, your efforts will still be laced with failure. The truth is fragmentary and it’s impossible to capture all of it. There are competing goods that can never be fully reconciled. The world is more complicated than any human intelligence can comprehend.

But every sensible person in public life also feels redeemed by others. You may write a mediocre column or make a mediocre speech or propose a mediocre piece of legislation, but others argue with you, correct you and introduce elements you never thought of. Each of these efforts may also be flawed, but together, if the system is working well, they move things gradually forward.

Each individual step may be imbalanced, but in succession they make the social organism better.

As a result, every sensible person feels a sense of gratitude for this process. We all get to live lives better than we deserve because our individual shortcomings are transmuted into communal improvement. We find meaning — and can only find meaning — in the role we play in that larger social enterprise.

So this is where civility comes from — from a sense of personal modesty and from the ensuing gratitude for the political process. Civility is the natural state for people who know how limited their own individual powers are and know, too, that they need the conversation. They are useless without the conversation.

The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves. The nation’s founders had a modest but realistic opinion of themselves and of the voters. They erected all sorts of institutional and social restraints to protect Americans from themselves. They admired George Washington because of the way he kept himself in check.

But over the past few decades, people have lost a sense of their own sinfulness. Children are raised amid a chorus of applause. Politics has become less about institutional restraint and more about giving voters whatever they want at that second. Joe DiMaggio didn’t ostentatiously admire his own home runs, but now athletes routinely celebrate themselves as part of the self-branding process.

So, of course, you get narcissists who believe they or members of their party possess direct access to the truth. Of course you get people who prefer monologue to dialogue. Of course you get people who detest politics because it frustrates their ability to get 100 percent of what they want. Of course you get people who gravitate toward the like-minded and loathe their political opponents. They feel no need for balance and correction.

Beneath all the other things that have contributed to polarization and the loss of civility, the most important is this: The roots of modesty have been carved away.

President Obama’s speech in Tucson was a good step, but there will have to be a bipartisan project like comprehensive tax reform to get people conversing again. Most of all, there will have to be a return to modesty.

In a famous passage, Reinhold Niebuhr put it best: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. ... Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

NASA: Storms blast antimatter into space

If you find thunderstorms scary, here's one more thing to think about: Scientists say some big boomers create antimatter.

Certain lightning flashes produce terrestrial gamma ray flashes, which indicate the presence of antimatter, said Michael Briggs, a member of the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor team at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The team works with NASA's space-based Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Strong electrical fields near the top of a storm blast electrons upward a NASA article explains. When they're deflected by air molecules, the electrons emit gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light.

Some gamma rays pass near the nuclei of atoms and are transformed into electrons and positrons, or antimatter, and shoot off into space, the article says. When the positrons smack into electrons on the orbiting Fermi, they change back to gamma rays, providing evidence of their existence.

The Alabama team has detected gamma rays with energies of 511,000 electron volts, a signal indicating an electron has met its antimatter counterpart, a positron.

"These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams," said Briggs, who presented the findings this week during the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Washington.

Why does antimatter matter? Physicists believe that the interaction of matter and antimatter produces pure energy with zero waste - energy that one day could be harnessed and put to use.

Congress And Guns

Yes, the political climate's been worse, and can get worse from here...

When Congress Was Armed And Dangerous

THE announcement that Representatives Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Jason Chaffetz of Utah are planning to wear guns in their home districts has surprised many, but in fact the United States has had armed congressmen before. In the rough-and-tumble Congress of the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, politicians regularly wore weapons on the House and Senate floors, and sometimes used them.

During one 1836 melee in the House, a witness observed representatives with “pistols in hand.” In a committee hearing that same year, one House member became so enraged at the testimony of a witness that he reached for his gun; when the terrified witness refused to return, he was brought before the House on a charge of contempt.

Perhaps most dramatic of all, during a debate in 1850, Senator Henry Foote of Mississippi pulled a pistol on Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. (Someone eventually took it from his hand.) Foote had decided in advance that if he felt threatened, he would grab his gun and run for the aisle in the hope that stray shots wouldn’t hit bystanders.

Most famously, in 1856, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina caned Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the Senate floor so brutally that Sumner had to be virtually carried from the chamber — and did not retake his seat for three years. Clearly, wielded with brute force, a cane could be a potent weapon.

By the 1850s, violence was common in Washington. Not long after Sumner’s caning, a magazine told the story of a Michigan judge who traveled by train to the nation’s capital: “As he entered the main hall of the depot, he saw a man engaged in caning another ferociously, all over the room. ‘When I saw this,’ says the judge, ‘I knew I was in Washington.’”

In Congress, violence was often deployed strategically. Representatives and senators who were willing to back up their words with their weapons had an advantage, particularly in the debate over slavery. Generally speaking, Northerners were least likely to be armed, and thus most likely to back down. Congressional bullies pressed their advantage, using threats and violence to steer debate, silence opposition and influence votes.

In 1842, Representative Thomas Arnold of Tennessee, a member of the Whig Party, learned the hard way that these bullies meant business. After he reprimanded a pro-slavery member of his own party, two Southern Democrats stalked toward him, at least one of whom was armed with a bowie knife — a 6- to 12-inch blade often worn strapped to the back. Calling Arnold a “damned coward,” his angry colleagues threatened to cut his throat “from ear to ear.” But Arnold wasn’t a man to back down. Ten years earlier, he had subdued an armed assassin on the Capitol steps.

As alarming as these outbursts were, until the 1840s, reporters played them down, in part to avoid becoming embroiled in fights themselves. (A good many reporters received beatings from outraged congressmen; one nearly had his finger bitten off.) So Americans knew relatively little of congressional violence.

That changed with the arrival of the telegraph. Congressmen suddenly had to confront the threat — or temptation — of “instant” nationwide publicity. As Senator John Parker Hale of New Hampshire reminded his colleagues within minutes of the Foote-Benton clash, reports were “already traveling with lightning speed over the telegraph wires to the remotest borders of the Republic.” He added, “It is not impossible that even now it may have been rumored in the city of St. Louis that several senators are dead and weltering in their blood on the floor of the Senate.”

Violence was news, and news could spawn violence. Something had to be done, but what? To many, the answer was obvious: watch your words. As one onlooker wrote to the speaker of the House shortly after Sumner’s caning, “gentlemen” who took part in the debate over slavery should “scrupulously avoid the utterance of unnecessarily harsh language.” There was no other way to prevent the “almost murderous feeling” that could lead to “demonstrations upon the floor, which in the present state of excitement, would almost certainly lead to a general melee and perhaps a dozen deaths in the twinkling of an eye.”

Unfortunately, such admonitions had little effect. The violence in Congress continued to build until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Today, in the wake of an episode of violence against a member of Congress, we’re again lamenting the state of political rhetoric, now spread faster than ever via Twitter, Web sites, text messaging and e-mail. Once again, politicians are considering bearing arms — not to use against one another, but potentially against an angry public.

And once again we’re reminded that words matter. Communication is the heart and soul of American democratic governance, but there hasn’t been much fruitful discourse of late — among members of Congress, between the people and their representatives or in the public sphere. We need to get better at communicating not only quickly, but civilly.

Joanne B. Freeman, a professor of history at Yale, is at work on a book about violence in Congress.

SEC starved for reform funds

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Securities and Exchange Commission is so cash-strapped that it has delayed key parts of the financial reform bill passed last year by Congress -- and is curtailing some of its normal operations.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law gave the SEC lots of new responsibilities, including the regulation of complex derivatives and asset-backed securities. And it expected Congress to pay for it -- projecting that SEC funding would need to double to about $2.25 billion by 2015.
But Congress has so far failed to pony up any of the money.As a result, the agency has delayed the creation of five key offices mandated by Dodd-Frank, including a new office of women and minority inclusion and a whistle blower office. Those responsibilities are being spread among existing staff.
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Currently, the agency is diverting money from other activities to fund its implementation of Dodd-Frank, which has led to a strain on normal operations.
"Operating under [the current budget] is already forcing the agency to delay or cut back enforcement and market oversight efforts," SEC spokesman John Nester said in a statement to CNNMoney. "The longer we operate under significant budgetary restrictions, the greater the impact."
Already, the SEC has been forced to postpone depositions in some enforcement cases.
SEC staff often travel to perform inspections of financial firms -- but now the agency's travel restrictions are limiting on-site visits. Investigations are now limited to locations near SEC regional offices, Nester said.
The agency has also capped the number of expert witnesses it hires. Fewer expert witnesses makes it harder for the SEC to prosecute cases that require a high level of expertise.
"The lack of funding means they [the SEC] cannot carry out their responsibilities," said Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat whose name the legislation bears. "It's in nobody's interest -- except people who want to screw around."
Last year, SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro testified that the Wall Street reform bill would require hiring 800 new staffers. That hasn't happened. In fact, the agency has had trouble hiring even one.
The funding woes have spread to non Dodd-Frank matters.
After last year's "flash crash" -- in which the Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points before recovering -- the SEC sought to hire five experts on the complex trading algorithm that was suspected to have triggered the crash.
The agency posted the jobs online, and received more than 1,000 applications. But due to a lack of funding, the positions couldn't be filled for months. The agency was finally able to make its first hire in just the last few weeks, Nester said.
"The SEC has always been pretty lean in terms of staffing," said Bruce Carton, a former counsel with the SEC's Division of Enforcement who now edits a website called Securities Docket. "I've worked in a big firm, and certainly the SEC has less support and technology. There is just no money."
The SEC's funding trouble is nothing new. The agency has struggled in recent years to keep up with ever-more complex markets, and has not made the technological investments required to keep up with sophisticated investors.
"While the markets were growing exponentially in size and complexity during the last several years, the SEC's workforce actually decreased and its technology fell further behind," Schapiro testified last year.
The agency is required to lay out a bevy of proposals over how the law will be implemented over the next few months. But spending levels are locked in until March, when the so-called continuing resolution the government is operating under expires.
At that point, SEC funding might become part of the larger fight over the massive budget deficit. Democrats are hoping to authorize more funding, while Republicans -- some of whom would like to repeal the legislation -- will be looking for places to slash spending.
The chief objection of Republicans is that the law's regulations are too heavy handed, and will stymie economic growth as the nation climbs out of recession.
Rep. Spencer Bachus, the Alabama Republican who now chairs the House Financial Services Committee, warned in November that an overly strict interpretation of the legislation will spark a "mass exodus" of clients from U.S. banks to their competitors abroad.
If Republicans are able to roll back some -- or all -- of the legislation, it would be a major blow to the Obama administration, which counts the law as one of its signature victories.
Frank says Democrats will defend the legislation, and push for full funding.
"I have to say I'm skeptical that the GOP and Tea Party want to go before their constituents and say they defunded the regulation of derivatives," he said.