November 19th, 2010
By Charles Krauthammer / The Washington Post
Friday, November 19, 2010
Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who's ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube - where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a "flotation device" - has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.
Who cares that the crazed steward got arrested, pleaded guilty to sundry charges, and probably was a rude, unpleasant SOB to begin with? Bonnie and Clyde were psychopaths, yet what child of the '60s did not fall in love with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?
And now three months later, the newest airport hero arrives. His genius was not innovation in getting out, but deconstructing the entire process of getting in. John Tyner, cleverly armed with an iPhone to give YouTube immortality to the encounter, took exception to the TSA guard about to give him the benefit of Homeland Security's newest brainstorm - the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett's, warning the agent not to "touch my junk."
Not quite the 18th-century elegance of "Don't Tread on Me," but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.
Don't touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don't touch my junk, Obamacare - get out of my doctor's examining room, I'm wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don't touch my junk, Google - Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don't touch my junk, you airport security goon - my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I'm a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?
In "Up in the Air," that ironic take on the cramped freneticism of airport life, George Clooney explains why he always follows Asians in the security line:
"They pack light, travel efficiently, and they got a thing for slip-on shoes, God love 'em."
"I'm like my mother. I stereotype. It's faster."
That riff is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives - when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone.
The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn't need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning "I rely on God," killing all on board.
But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.
The junk man's revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.
But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?
This time you have gone too far, Big Bro'. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don't touch my junk.
November 19th, 2010
'Hacker, Mr. Poo, arrested after cracking Federal Reserve'
A federal grand jury has indicted a Malaysian citizen for allegedly hacking into a computer network at the Federal Reserve Bank and stealing more than 400,000 credit and debit card numbers. Federal prosecutors also allege Lin Mun Poo, 32, made a career of compromising systems at financial institutions, major corporations and defense contractors.
They say he sold or traded the information he found. Also according to the Justice Department, "in approximately August 2010, he hacked into the computer system of a Department of Defense contractor that provides systems management for military transport and other military operations, potentially compromising highly sensitive military logistics information." Poo was arrested when he traveled to the U.S. in October. If convicted of the most serious charges, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
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November 19th, 2010
November 19th, 2010
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke took his defense of the U.S. central bank’s monetary stimulus abroad, saying it will aid the world economy, and implicitly criticized China for keeping its currency weak.
The best way to underpin the dollar and support the global recovery “is through policies that lead to a resumption of robust growth in a context of price stability in the United States,” Bernanke said in a speech in Frankfurt today. Countries that undervalue their currencies may eventually inhibit growth around the world and risk financial instability at home, he said.
The Fed chief is confronting criticism from officials in countries including China and Brazil who say the Nov. 3 decision to buy $600 billion in Treasury securities has weakened the dollar and contributed to flows of capital to emerging markets. The policy has also come under fire in the U.S., where critics including Republican members of Congress have said it risks fueling inflation and asset bubbles.
“Globally, both growth and trade are unbalanced,” Bernanke said, with economies growing at different rates. “Because a strong expansion in the emerging-market economies will ultimately depend on a recovery in the more advanced economies, this pattern of two-speed growth might very well be resolved in favor of slow growth for everyone if the recovery in the advanced economies falls short.”
As Bernanke spoke, the Chinese central bank said it will raise the reserve ratio requirement for the nation’s banks by 50 basis points from Nov. 29. The dollar fell to $1.3721 per euro at 11:50 a.m. in Frankfurt from $1.3634 yesterday.
While Bernanke didn’t identify China in his speech, he took aim at “large, systemically important countries with persistent current-account surpluses.” Bernanke’s comments come a week after leaders of the Group of 20 developed and emerging nations meeting in South Korea failed to agree on a remedy for trade and investment distortions. At the summit, President Barack Obama attacked China’s policy of undervaluing its currency.
Bernanke said the “sense of common purpose has waned” after officials around the world united to fight the financial crisis. “Tensions among nations over economic policies have emerged and intensified, potentially threatening our ability to find global solutions to global problems,” he said.
China has tied the yuan to the dollar to promote exports that helped produce the fastest gains in gross domestic product of any major economy. China, which surpassed Japan’s GDP to become world No. 2 in the second quarter, recorded 9.6 percent annual growth in the three months through September. It holds about $2.6 trillion in foreign reserves, the most in the world.
China’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment when asked for a response to Bernanke’s speech. A China central bank spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
After the speech, Bernanke spoke during a panel discussion and responded to audience questions, saying that the use of securities purchases for monetary policy affects asset prices “quite significantly.” He said he’s “quite skeptical” of the criticism that central bankers are “pushing on a string.”
At the same time, policy makers “don’t want to overpromise” on a program whose effects are “meaningful” yet “moderate,” he said on the panel with European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Brazil’s central bank president Henrique Meirelles.
It’s Bernanke’s first trip abroad since the Federal Open Market Committee made the decision, dubbed QE2 by economists and investors, to implement a second round of so-called quantitative easing. Bernanke said the term is “inappropriate” because it usually refers to policies that change the quantity of bank reserves, “a channel which seems relatively weak, at least in the U.S. context.”
Fed officials are trying to make the case “it was probably a worthwhile gamble for the U.S. to try to print a little bit more money to stimulate the economy without triggering inflation,” former Fed economist David Cohen, now a director of Asia forecasting at Action Economics in Singapore, said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Nov. 5 he was “dumbfounded” at the Fed’s actions, which won’t aid growth and will instead contribute to imbalances by driving down the currency. U.S. monetary policy is creating “grave distortions” and causing “collateral effects” on faster-growing economies such as Brazil, Meirelles said in October.
Bernanke said that different economies “call for different policy settings.” In the U.S., inflation has slowed since the most recent recession began in December 2007, and “further disinflation could hinder the recovery,” he said.
“Insufficiently supportive policies in the advanced economies could undermine the recovery not only in those economies, but for the world as a whole,” he said.
America’s unemployment rate at 9.6 percent last month is currently “high and, given the slow pace of economic growth, likely to remain so for some time,” Bernanke said. He said that “we cannot rule out the possibility that unemployment might rise further in the near term, creating added risks for the recovery.”
The asset purchases will be used in a way that’s “measured and responsive to economic conditions,” Bernanke said. Fed officials are “unwaveringly committed to price stability” and don’t seek inflation higher than the level of “2 percent or a bit less” that most policy makers see as consistent with the Fed’s legislative mandate, he said.
Bernanke, 56, also appealed to human concerns to justify the Fed’s policy.
“On its current economic trajectory the United States runs the risk of seeing millions of workers unemployed or underemployed for many years,” he said. “As a society, we should find that outcome unacceptable.”
The former Princeton University economist devoted the majority of his speech to discussing global policy challenges and tensions.
China’s vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, said Nov. 5 “many countries are worried about the impact of the policy,” echoing concern across Asia over the risk of a flood of capital that causes asset bubbles. Economies from Taiwan to Indonesia and Brazil have taken steps to counter inflows of speculative money, and South Korea yesterday said it will back legislation restoring a tax on foreign investment in the nation’s bonds.
Bernanke used one of nine charts to show how countries including China and Taiwan are intervening to prevent or slow appreciation in their currencies. Allowing stronger currencies would help result in “more balanced and sustainable global economic growth,” Bernanke said.
Bernanke, a scholar of the Great Depression, drew a comparison between the current period and events leading to the 1930s economic disaster. The U.S. and France maintained “persistently undervalued” exchange rates by preventing inflows of gold from feeding into money supplies, which created deflationary pressures in other countries and helped bring on the Depression, Bernanke said.
“Although the parallels are certainly far from perfect, and I am certainly not predicting a new Depression, some of the lessons from that grim period are applicable today,” Bernanke said. “In particular, for large, systemically important countries with persistent current-account surpluses, the pursuit of export-led growth cannot ultimately succeed if the implications of that strategy for global growth and stability are not taken into account.”
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November 19th, 2010
In passages leaked from her forthcoming book America by Heart, Sarah Palin -- the erstwhile quitter governor of Alaska, who now, by all indications, fancies herself as President of the United States -- has taken another cheap shot at First Lady Michelle Obama.
In a passage on perceptions of racial inequality in the United States, Palin slams President Barack Obama, who, she asserts, "seems to believe" that "America -- at least America as it currently exists -- is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country."
And then she goes after Michelle Obama:
Certainly his wife expressed this view when she said during the 2008 campaign that she had never felt proud of her country until her husband started winning elections. In retrospect, I guess this shouldn't surprise us, since both of them spent almost two decades in the pews of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church listening to his rants against America and white people.
The passage -- coming on page 26 in a chapter entitled "We, the People" -- echoes remarks made by Palin on the eve of the midterm elections, at a rally in San Jose, California, at which point she mocked remarks made by Michelle Obama during the 2008 campaign: "You know, when I hear people say, or had said during the campaign that they've never been proud of America," Palin spat out. "Haven't they met anybody in uniform yet? I get tears in my eyes when I see that young man, that young woman, walking through the airport in uniform...you too... so proud to be American."
In fact, Michelle Obama's remarks were made (in Madison, Wisconsin, during the 2008 campaign) in a context of Americans being "unified around some basic common issues":
What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something--for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction, and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud.
Afterwards, the First Lady further clarified her remarks by noting that she was referencing the "record number" of young voters participating in the political process in the 2008 campaign:
For the first time in my lifetime, I am seeing people rolling up their sleeves in way that I haven't seen and really trying to figure this out, and that's the source of pride I was talking about.
The passages from Palin's latest book first appeared at Palingates, where several other pages from American by Heart have also been posted. Palin followed up her comments about Michelle Obama by throwing an elbow at U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, also focusing on racial overtones:
It also makes sense, then, that the man President Obama made his attorney general, Eric Holder, would call us a "nation of cowards" for failing to come to grips with what he described as the persistence of racism.CR Editor's Note:Dear Jeffrey: You need to subtract one letter and add two more to your name (Dunn) so that it more accurately portrays the deficiency which you are inefficiently concealing.....