Editor’s Note – Recently, I had the great displeasure to fly across the country for a family event. The displeasure certainly was not with the event, rather, it was an abysmal airline experience.
It should never take over 24 hours from the time one leaves their home to arrive at their destination in 2015.
Of course, many have had similar experiences due to weather issues, mechanical issues, or a host of other reasons, but in this age of packed flights, tighter quarters, fees charged for everything, rude fellow travelers, and surly employees, the last thing we need is to know we are not at all safe.
During the same week when I crossed the country, the massive failure that is the TSA in detecting nefarious devices was revealed, and even more mind-boggling are the holes in our security communications at DHS between its own agencies.
Senator Ben Sasse R-Nebraska wrote about the first problem uncovered:
Last week, a classified inspector general investigation was leaked, delivering the shocking news that the Transportation Security Administration failed to stop weapons and explosives from passing airport checkpoints 96% of the time.
As a member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and — more important — as a dad who frequently flies with my kids and wife, I am appalled by this inexcusable national security lapse. But outrage is not enough.
Before they board another flight, the American people deserve the truth. Without giving our enemies specific technological or strategic information that would expose new vulnerabilities, President Obama has an obligation to declassify the inspector general’s investigation and to publicly release everything else the administration knows about TSA’s failures.
Here is what the public already knows: TSA failed to stop undercover individuals from smuggling weapons and explosives past checkpoints 67 times out of 70 attempts. Our families are only as safe as our weakest TSA checkpoint. After 9/11, it became inescapably clear that, although we have to be right every time, terrorists need to succeed only once. What happens when we are wrong 96% of the time?
Here is what keeps me up at night: The publicly available facts are disturbing, but the classified details are even worse. Millions of families will soon fly to summer vacations, but if moms knew what members of Congress have learned behind closed doors, they would march on Washington demanding an urgent, top-to-bottom reevaluation of airport security. (USA Today)
Then we learn today that the TSA was kept out of the loop regarding 73 airline employees with ties to terrorism that should have been on their no-fly list. The DHS does not trust the TSA, why should we?
Feeling safe and comfy in that tiny seat? Don’t complain, you may get kicked off as well and end up on that list.
TSA Fails to Identify 73 Employees With Links to Terrorism
A new Government Accountability Office report found that the Transportation Security Administration failed to identify 73 aviation employees with active clearance badges with links to terrorism.
The people, who were employed by major airlines, airport vendors and other employers, were not identified because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current inter-agency policies, the report said.
The agency’s “multi-layered process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism was generally effective. In addition to initially vetting every application for new credentials, TSA recurrently vetted aviation workers with access to secured areas of commercial airports every time the Consolidated Terrorist Watchlist was updated,” the report found.
“However, our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.”
Further, the thousands of records used to vet employees contained such incomplete or inaccurate data as lacking a full first name or missing social security numbers. TSA ran into particular problems in the vetting process when potential aviation employees has not committed crimes and were legal resident or citizens.
“Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system,” the report found.
The GAO recommended that TSA “request additional watchlist data, require that airports improve verification of applicants’ right to work, revoke credentials when the right to work expires, and improve the quality of vetting data.”
Editor’s Note – Once again, our government is catering to the most intolerant people on Earth. It has decided that this year, since Ramadan falls over the period of our Independence Day, July fourth, the US Embassy in Jakarta held its celebration a month early.
Since the Muslim world operates on a 354 day calendar, a cycle based on the moon, each year it backs up eleven days on our calendar. 2015 is also the year 1436 AH on the Hijra Calendar until October of this year. That calendar began in 622 AD.
Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar and begins with the hilal, the Arabic word for crescent or “new moon,” in the ninth month of each year.
But because the lunar cycle steadily moves backward compared to the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan falls earlier and earlier each year.
During the summer months, the days are much longer and hotter, making fasting more difficult. Late in the holy month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power.
This is the anniversary of the night on which Allah first revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad. While different traditions celebrate this night in the last 10 days of Ramadan, the 27th night is the most widely celebrated date, when the Koran says, “The grand night is better than a thousand months.”
Thank goodness this is not 1998, 1999, or 2000 or they would have had to postpone Christmas as well. In those three years, Ramadan coincided with December 25th. On second thought, though Christmas is a National Holiday, the likelihood that a Christmas party would be held in any government agency is remote at best.
What next, we have to change our calendar to suit the Muslim world? Tolerance of the intolerant. We wonder if they did the same thing last year because Ramadan began on June 29th; and then there is next year when it begins on June 7th.
US Embassy moves Fourth of July Celebration to June 4 ‘out of respect for Ramadan’
In a mind-boggling gesture of official US Government dhimmitude, the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia celebrated our sacred Independence Day holiday on June 4, so as to avoid any conflict with the month-long Ramadan celebration.
If you think any Islamic countries – there are 57 of them (not counting ISIS) that count themselves officially Islamic – will move their DC embassy’s celebration of Ramadan to accommodate our Independence holiday, I have some bridges to sell you.
“US Embassy celebrates 4th of July earlier out of respect for Ramadhan,” by Dylan Amirio
The United States Embassy enjoyed its annual 4th of July celebration on Thursday, June 4, one month early, in order to respect the upcoming Ramadhan month, which will begin on June 17 and last for one month.
US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake and US Ambassador to ASEAN Nina Hachigian presided over the festivities, which involved brass band renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Indonesian national anthem, Indonesia Raya.
Blake explained that the theme of the event leaned toward “green” development, which supported the US’ focus on building and promoting a green economy and more environmentally sustainable development.
He also praised Indonesia’s performance as a fully functioning democracy, aiming for further collaboration between the two countries in the years to come.
“The US will continue to support Indonesia in the future through its democratic achievements. Democracy is an American value which we have championed since [the country’s birth in] 1776,” Blake told the crowd during the festivities at his residence near Taman Suropati, Central Jakarta, on Thursday.
He added that moving the 4th of July celebrations to June 4 was one done out of respect for the upcoming Ramadhan month, which will last from June 17 to July 17.
The event also showcased a number of American products and businesses, including the Zero FX Electric Motorcycles, which Blake explained were an environmentally friendly vehicle used by the California Highway Patrol.
Officially, embassies are the national territory of the country being represented, not of the host country. So there is no need to accommodate local sensibilities in celebrating our most sacred national holiday. Perhaps the pipe dream of peddling electric motorcycles to one of the world’s biggest petroleum exporters that happens to have a pretty large conventional motorcycle industry of its own took precedence over our national dignity?
It is a bedrock of Islamic scripture that infidels must bow down in submission to Islam and Muslims, being tolerated so long as they endure humiliations and pay a special tax. Muslims have no obligations at all to infidels, which is why you will never see [any] counterpart to the submission just demonstrated by the US Embassy in Jakarta.
This is a moment of national dhimmitude and deep shame. I hope someone will ask Marie Harf to explain if any Muslim countries plan on moving their embassy’s Ramadan celebrations to accommodate our Independence Day. That would allow for some great Harfing.
Editor’s Note – The monthly jobs report is in and many are calling it an improvement while others are much more skeptical. Yes, there was a sizable gain in jobs, and the U1 rate stayed at 5.5%, but those are deceptive because of the numbers that underlie the broader picture.
Americans are finding jobs, but at a dismal rate when you look at history outside of recent recovery years prior to this one. Too many people are out of the work force but those numbers are also slightly lower.
Overall, it is still a lackluster recovery, and when one looks at the details and also includes the global picture, we are a long way away from a ship sailing right on its keel.
We caution optimism here because these better numbers are still quite small and other factors are not improving.
The 1st quarter GDP numbers were surprising as the economy retracted, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised and excused the “anomaly” and showed us a rosier picture to coincide with the more positive labor report.
But as usual, it is little solace to the millions not even in the labor force or those forced into part-time work – underemployment not even close to their potential.
With this news, the stock markets were weary that a positive change may forestall the much discussed rise in interest rates, maybe even into the election season.
The markets closed down today and showed a loss for the week. (Read more below.) The markets like certainty, and they are not getting it from Janet Yellin as the reports emerge like today.
Here is a compilation of these numbers, and a reminder that things in Europe are more uncertain and now it appears that the Greeks are seeking advice from Russia’s Putin.
Global uncertainty, and a detached stock market make for highly uncertain times and somewhat implausible numbers as Zero Hedge points out below as well:
92,986,000 Non-participants in the workforce:
The month of May saw 92,986,000 people not participating in the workforce, according to new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals. May’s total represented slight decline compared to last month’s record, which saw 93,194,000 people outside the workforce.
The BLS defines those not in the labor force as people ages 16 and older who are neither employed nor “made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.” The labor force participation rate came in at 62.9 percent, a slight uptick compared to April’s 62.8 percent. (Breitbart)
55,951,000 Women out of the workforce:
Mirroring the national numbers, the number of women outside the workforce experienced a slight decline in May, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In April, the number of women not in the workforce hit a record 56,167,000. Come May, that number declined to 55,951,000.
With the number of women out of the labor force decreasing, so the number of women in the civilian workforce increased from 73,267,000 in April to 73,577,000 in May. The workforce participation rate among women also experienced a slight uptick to 56.8 percent. (Breitbart)
6,652,000 More Americans Working Part-Time, but not by choice:
Another 72,000 workers were working part time last month because their hours were cut or they couldn’t find full-time work. The total number of involuntary part-time workers jumped to 6,652,000 in May, up from 6,580,000 in April, but well below the 7,268,000 in May 2014, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
According to BLS, involuntary part-time workers are “persons who indicated that they would like to work full time but were working part time (1 to 34 hours) because of an economic reason, such as their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time jobs.” (CNS News)
“The Job Numbers Literally Do Not Add Up” – Productivity:
Payroll Stats Become Even More Implausible – Since Q1 GDP was revised lower by almost 1% that meant estimates of productivity were going to be even more out of alignment than they were at the first release. Of course, in a less massaged environment productivity might have preserved some sense if there was less rigidity from the BLS on the employment side.
In other words, when “output” estimates were reduced (and they were, by more than GDP) it would make sense that everything would be revised downward in a more cohesive process. Instead, output was reduced significantly, by 1.4%, while total hours worked was marked down by all of 0.1%. As a result, productivity is revised from a nonsensical -1.9% to an even more skeptical -3.1%. (Zero Hedge)
Greek Crisis & Great Britain Threat to leave the EU:
Greece crisis live: PM tells parliament a debt deal can be done as stocks slide and Athens looks to Moscow. Greece will have to pay €1.6bn to the IMF and €1.5bn in pensions and wages by the end of the month. (Video from the UK Telegraph)
Greek Banks On Verge Of Total Collapse: Bank Run Surges “Massively” As Depositors Yank €700 Million Today Alone – While the Greek government believes it may have won the battle, if not the war with Europe, the reality is that every additional day in which Athens does not have a funding backstop, be it the ECB (or the BRIC bank), is a day which brings the local banking system to total collapse.
As a reminder, Greek banks already depends on the ECB for some €80.7 billion in Emergency Liquidity Assistance which was about 60% of total deposits in the Greek financial system as of April 30. In other words, they are woefully insolvent and only the day to day generosity of the ECB prevents a roughly 40% forced “bail in” deposit haircut a la Cyprus. (Read more here.)
The prospect that economic and diplomatic heavyweight Britain might leave the European Union within two years has pushed EU leaders to consider concessions to keep the country in the fold.
EU founding members like Germany and France are moving outside their comfort zones, surprisingly receptive to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for change ahead of a referendum that will allow citizens to vote on whether to stay or go before the end of 2017.
With Europe’s top priority the very real risk that Greece might fall out of the euro single currency, Cameron has found a surprisingly open ear in many capitals of the world’s biggest trading bloc.(Read more at AP)
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said in its third reading of the data Wednesday.
That was a sharp downward revision from the previous estimate that output fell at an annual rate of 1%. It also represented the fastest rate of decline since the recession, and was the largest drop recorded since the end of World War II that wasn’t part of a recession. (Read more at the Wall Street Journal)
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports today:
Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes — decreased at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.
The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, real GDP increased 0.2 percent. With the second estimate for the first quarter, imports increased more and private inventory investment increased less than previously estimated (for more information, see “Revisions” on page 3).
The decrease in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. (Read more here at the BLS)
U.S. Stocks Close Slightly Lower
Jobs report provides evidence to investors, traders that economy is lifting out of first-quarter slump
Stocks fell Friday as the strong May jobs report cemented expectations that the Fed will begin raising borrowing costs this fall, capping a volatile few days for stocks that leaves major benchmarks slightly lower for the week.
Traders and investors said the May jobs report offered evidence that the U.S. economy was pulling itself out of its first-quarter slump. While a firming economy is usually a good backdrop for stocks, investors say the hiring pickup keeps the Federal Reserve on track to start raising short-term interest rates as soon as September, potentially boosting borrowing costs for businesses and consumers alike.
Stocks spent the Friday session swinging between gains and losses before settling with a modest decline. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 56.12, or 0.3%, to 17849.46, bouncing back from an loss of as much as 83 points earlier in the session.
The S&P 500 index fell 3.01, or 0.1%, to 2092.83, while the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 9.33, or 0.2%, to 5068.46.
Stocks ended the week lower, after an early-week rally that petered out. The S&P 500 is down 0.7% for the week, while the Dow is down 0.9%.
Major stock benchmarks have pulled back in recent sessions from record highs reached just last month, weighed down by a cocktail of uneven economic data, murkiness over the Fed’s course of action and lofty valuations. The Dow is off 2.5% from its high reached May 19. The S&P 500 is down 1.8% from its May 21 high.
“For the economy, the bottom line is that [the jobs data] is a good number,” said Brent Schutte, senior investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management, which oversees $249 billion. But he added:
“To the extent that it brings people closer to believing that the Fed will raise rates in September, it will be near-term hit to the equity markets and the bond markets.”
The solid jobs report sparked sharper selloff in the bond market, lifting the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to an eight-month high of 2.402%, from 2.309% on Thursday. It is the highest closing level since Oct. 6. Bond prices fall as their yields rise.
For the week, the yield climbed by 0.305 percentage point, the biggest weekly rise since June 2013 when the bond market was rattled by the “taper tantrum,” or fears over reduced bond buying from the Fed.
The bond market has sold off since late April after a strong run-up in price over the past year. Many investors are recasting their portfolio as they believe the rise in bond yields reflect an improving economic and inflation outlook in the U.S. and the eurozone. (Read the rest here at the Wall Street Journal.)
Editor’s Note – Much is owed the men who sacrificed their all at Benghazi. This is especially the case concerning uncovering the truth in getting to the answers to the critical questions of the families of “THE BENGHAZI FOUR”. Is the GOP complicit, you decide! After all, why has it taken so long?
“They seek to hide and distract attention from their faction’s collaboration with key elements of the global infrastructure of terrorism (including, in connection with al-Qaida, the very forces responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.)”
In a post published on my blog in May 2013, I wrote about the Obama administration’s Benghazi cover-up: “They seek to hide and distract attention from their faction’s collaboration with key elements of the global infrastructure of terrorism (including, in connection with al-Qaida, the very forces responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.)”
I thought of this as I read Jerome Corsi’s report about the declassification of documents showing that the Obama administration aided the rise of ISIS. In the article Mr. Corsi quotes Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who observed:
“If the American people had known the truth – that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other top administration officials knew that the Benghazi attack was an al-Qaida terrorist attack from the get-go – and yet lied and covered this fact up – Mitt Romney might very well be president.
These documents also point to connection between the collapse in Libya and the ISIS war – and confirm that the U.S. knew remarkable details about the transfer of arms from Benghazi to Syrian jihadists.”
Fitton concludes by saying that the declassified documents “show that the Benghazi cover-up has continued for years and is only unraveling through our independent lawsuits.”
But back in 2013 when I wrote about the purpose of the Benghazi cover-up I also noted the incongruous reaction of key GOP leaders in Congress:
“Sen. John McCain cheerfully smiles upon Hilary Clinton despite the lies deployed at the behest of officials subject to her authority. Rep. Darrell Issa inscrutably declares that neither Obama nor Clinton are targets of the search for truth about the Obama administration’s decision to leave an American ambassador naked to our enemies.
This contributes to a ‘business as usual’ atmosphere in which it is supposed to be unthinkable to consider the possibility that the ambassador’s fate is a portent of the fate intended for the American people and our way of life.”
I’m sure that some of you assume that the nonchalance of the GOP’s leaders has a simple explanation: They were simply unaware of the Benghazi station’s role in shipping supplies to the anti-Assad jihadists in Syria.
My experience dealing with national security affairs makes that hard for me to believe.
To be sure, things may have deteriorated enormously since my government service during the Reagan years.
But given the obvious political repercussions, it makes sense to assume that Obama and Hillary Clinton would take steps to cover their political backsides by making sure a few key leaders in the U.S. House and Senate were brought into the loop.
After all, Saudi Arabia was probably a key player in the effort to supply the Sunni Muslims opposing Assad and his Shiite Iranian backers.
People such as those Rand Paul recently decried as “the hawks in my party” might very well have appreciated the cold-blooded nerve required for a policy of helping our enemies in al-Qaida destroy our enemies in Syria. (Just to be clear, I think Netanyahu got it right during his recent visit: Sometimes the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy.)
They might also have reveled in the thought that Obama and Clinton were the ones who would have to “take one for the team” (in this case the elitist faction interests they all serve) if and when the Benghazi cover story was blown.
Well, that cover is blown. The GOP’s habitually self-serving quisling leadership want us to accept the line that it was all Hillary Clinton’s fault. This despite the fact that the secretary serves at the pleasure of the person who occupies the Oval office.
Barack Obama bears the ultimate responsibility for the use or abuse of the U.S. government’s executive power. Barack Obama must have approved his secretary of state’s collaboration with America’s terrorist enemies.
Barack Obama must have signaled his assent to the years of stonewalling required to prevent the Benghazi cover-up from unraveling prematurely.
But what if the GOP leadership had deployed the impeachment process to launch a national inquest into what can be portrayed as traitorous policies, giving aid and comfort to enemies of the United States? Would the truth have come to light sooner?
Would it have come out in time to prevent ISIS thugs from murdering a multitude of innocent Christians, Yazidis and even fellow Muslims? Would it have come in time to keep ISIS from graduating out of the junior leagues (to which Obama snidely assigned them) to become a major threat that is now extending itself to reach within the borders of the United States?
Who knows? All we know for certain is that the GOP leadership steadfastly, adamantly refused to meet their constitutional responsibility. If their excuse is ignorance, why did they reject the most effective means to remedy their ignorance?
What if they did so precisely because key GOP leaders in Congress knew something of the U.S. government’s role in supplying arms to the anti-Syrian jihadists? What if they did so because, by laying off Obama and his cohorts, they were averting scrutiny from their own complicity?
Given this possibility, critical questions cry out for true answers: Were key congressional leaders briefed on the Benghazi operation? If so, what did they know and when did they know it? If so, is their guilty complicity still preventing an effective U.S. response to the regime of atrocious terrorism that now threatens to blight what’s left of decent order in a world now descending into a sinkhole of fanatical violence?
In last week’s column, I reacted against the view that effective oversight exists in the U.S. government to prevent NSA’s mass data collection activities from threatening the constitutional rights, privileges and immunities of people in the United States.
Is that the same “effective” oversight meant to assure that the U.S. government’s covert activities do not verge into atrocity and treason?
If oversight failed, with literally atrocious results, when it comes to the Obama faction’s scheme to arm our terrorist enemies, what reason have we to believe it is succeeding when it comes to upholding the constitutional provisions that secure liberty itself?
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