H-1B visa holders, the “Big Enchiladas,” maybe heading south of the border

July 19, 2017

Healthcare for millions of hardworking Americans took a hit this week when the do-nothing Republicans failed to fulfill their seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare and finally solve the nation’s skyrocketing medical premiums.

While life in the nation’s capital represents “Easy Street,” the middleclass continues to be mired in rising costs, stagnate wages and dwindling good paying jobs.

According to an American Community Survey report, the tight employment market has only improved for maids, yes housekeepers. From 2007 to 2015 those employed in the housekeeping industry saw their paychecks rise 6.7 percent. Keep in mind that in 2007 maids earned just over $19,000 and now in 2015 they are making, on average a whopping $20,600. No offense to maids, it’s hard work, but it’s hardly the path to economic freedom Americans can build a career on.

Careers that many college-bound students look to are the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEMs.

If this is America’s future we are in big trouble according to Steven Camarota at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). “The whole idea that wage increases justify increased immigration to reduce or hold down future wage growth is highly questionable. After all, these occupations are often filled by the least-educated and poorest Americans — immigrants and natives alike. Allowing wages to increase can be seen as a positive development because it reduces social inequality and encourages work.”

Careers that many college-bound students look to are the STEMs. However, Camarota says reaching for the “STEMs” leaves some citizens at a competitive disadvantage as most tech firms advocate for increased competition from H-1B visas.

“[If we] assume that rising wages are a negative development that must be addressed by increased immigration, there is still no evidence in the wage data that workers are in short supply. So the stated reason for the increase in the H-2B program is unsupported by ACS wage data,” he explained.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, a product of US schools and colleges like Harvard, has taken his self-proclaimed political clout to Capitol Hill in an effort to pressure Congress on immigration reform, specifically H-1B visas.

“The future of our economy is a knowledge economy. And that means getting the most talented people into this country is the most important thing that we can do to make sure that the companies of tomorrow are founded here,” he told ABC News.

He also quipped, “Young people are just smarter,” something he later apologized for. However, Zuckerberg also recognizes the profitably of hiring H-1B visa holders over American kids. Critics call it the immigration lottery, as most foreign students will work twice the hours for half the pay as their US counterparts in order to gain legal status in America.

“I’m fundamentally an optimistic person, as an entrepreneur,” Zuckerberg says. “The vast majority of Americans want this to happen. People often talk about two parts of the issue. The high-skilled H1B visas for the high-tech companies and the full comprehensive immigration reform as if they are two different issues, but anyone who knows a dreamer knows that they’re not.”

Zuckerberg, along with tech giant Bill Gates would have Americans believe that there is a scarcity of high-skilled tech industry job applicants, however, 50 percent of STEM graduates will NOT find work in the high-tech sector.

Why? Nobel prized economist Milton Friedman said the US government is stocking Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and others with much cheaper H-1B visa holders. “There is no doubt that the H-1B program is a benefit to their employers, enabling them to get workers at a lower wage, and to that extent, it is a (government) subsidy.”

So where will the supposed-“good paying” jobs go? Maybe Mexico, no, really, Jalisco, Mexico Governor Abel Martínez Durán said, “Given the restriction and threat of President Trump to H-1B, Jalisco raised its hand. Listen, they are not wanted there, here [we] do… We want brilliant people here and if all those who go from India, Japan, China, Israel to the U.S. and Canada are almost half the developers of the main international firms, I say ‘come here,’ here they have everything and are three and a half hours away [flight from San Francisco].”

If they can dodge the bullets (Mexico is the second most violent country behind Syria), the governor said he would love to make Mexico the “Silicon Valley” of the south and encouraged H-1B holders worried about their future in America to migrate to Mexico.

In an interview with the Spanish outlet EFE, Martínez said, “Many companies are generating their developments in Guadalajara; they already have a base here.” Jalisco is also home to their version of “Hackathon,” a college competition that highlights a certain skill set the worldwide intelligence community is on the lookout for.

Back in the US, President Trump promised to end the overlooked H-1B visa subsidies and penned executive order “Putting American Workers First: USCIS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a press release: USCIS announced, “Multiple measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse. The H-1B visa program should help U.S. companies recruit highly skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country. Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged. Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programs is a priority for USCIS.”

Will America see its errors or will the next great tech migration head south of the border? Stay tuned!

Trump looks to gain momentum with “Kate’s Law”

July 11, 2017

After a surprisingly successful G20 Summit in Germany, President Trump will push the do-nothing Senate to pass “Kate’s Law” this week. The bill passed the House with bi-partisan support but has taken a second seat to the GOP’s unfavorable repeal/replace Obama healthcare legislation that continues to get pushed down the legislative agenda.

“Kate’s Law” was written after an illegal alien; Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez (a multiple count felon with six deportations) murdered Kate Steinle in San Francisco. The murder cut short the life of a 32-year-old woman and sparked nationwide condemnation when it was reported that the City by the Bay, considered a sanctuary city, released Lopez-Sanchez knowing he had an outstanding ICE detainer.

Passage of Kate’s law by the Senate will fulfill another campaign promise that President Trump made shortly after Steinle was murdered in 2015.

The Law also shares broad support with the American people. A new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 63 percent of likely voters favor the law that increases criminal penalties for illegal aliens who reenter the country unlawfully.

Meanwhile, on the southern border President Trump’s “winning strategy” continues with the number of illegal aliens crossing into the US illegally reporting well below stats under former President Obama.

According to government data released Friday from Customs and Border Protection, approximately 21,659 individuals were arrested in June of this year. The figure represents a 53 percent decrease, year-to-year.

That being said, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that some prosecutors are reducing or modifying charges filed against illegal aliens in an effort to keep them from being deported. The article says, “For noncitizens, minor crimes like shoplifting can result in deportation. But a growing number of district attorneys say they offer immigrants accused of crimes (favorable) plea deals to help them avoid that fate.”

So much for Lady Justice’s “blindfolded” view of the application of the rule of law, as it is a certainty legal residents are unlikely to get the same favored treatment.

WSJ continues, “The prosecutors, including at least six in jurisdictions on the East and West coasts, purposely avoid reaching plea agreements or sentences that might trigger a noncitizen’s (illegal alien) deportation or prevent his or her re-entry into the country. It is an arrangement that proponents say protects some noncitizen immigrants from the disproportionate consequences of minor convictions.” Critics like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions says this practice is unethical and treats legal residents and nonresidents contrarily. “These local prosecutors, who have significant discretion in how they charge crimes, say they are also promoting public safety by courting immigrant constituents’ trust.”

Of course, under the Rule of Law, all defendants are treated equally, but many sanctuary cities are openly interpreting federal law to suit their politics. Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “I saw what were, in my opinion, many miscarriages of justice.” His office has hired two immigration lawyers, at taxpayer’s expense, to rework policies to reduce the charges for those facing deportations for crimes like shoplifting.

Critics argue these are the policies that are responsible for making America less safe. Attorney General Sessions described his worries, “It troubles me that we’ve seen district attorneys openly brag about not charging cases appropriately under the laws of our country, so that provides an opportunity for individuals not to be convicted of a crime that might lead to deportation.”

Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch acknowledged that these policies are “dangerous and arguably unconstitutional.”

Adding insult to injury, President of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton said, “You don’t give people special treatment for prosecutorial decisions based on country of origin or immigration status. The logic here is American citizens might be prosecuted more harshly for the same crimes.”

With weekly headlines like: “Illegal Immigrant Isabel Martinez murdered her husband and four of five children; A repeatedly deported criminal alien from Mexico allegedly ran down three women with his car; Prosecutors in Wyoming charged a criminal alien from Peru with homicide and assault in connection with an alleged drunk-driving; An illegal alien is one of three teenagers who are accused of scalding a Georgia woman with hot water and raping her in front of her children;” it’s easy to see that middle America is fed up with Beltway politics.

In addition to those egregious crimes, many illegal immigrants act as drug mules to pay “coyotes” or cartels for safe passage into the US. Many of these illegal aliens are simply “seeking a better life,” but transnational crime syndicates are always looking to exploit vulnerable illegal border crossers to move drugs into America.

Unfortunately, those illicit drugs are eroding American communities. According to government data, the majority of the drugs enter the US through the southern border and wreak havoc in poorer neighborhoods. As a result, law enforcement is forced to prioritize what crimes are more important to protect communities.

Leading the charge to change that narrative is retired Marine General and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. The General ended his 45-year military career as Chief of Southern Command, a unit that combats the flow of illicit drugs from Central and South America. He worked alongside DEA, FBI and CIA in an effort to combat transnational drug cartels.

During his tenure as DHS Secretary, Kelly has worked quietly to implement President Trump’s priorities of protecting the homeland from terror attacks, eradicating drugs and yes, building that wall.

Last week, the General traveled to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto to discuss the violence and cartels.

In a statement Kelly said, “We are actively discussing how we can jointly combat illicit traffic across our shared border, such as illegal immigration coming north, and bulk cash and firearms flowing south. We are also examining how we will use technologies, data-sharing, joint training and harmonized business practices to improve trade and legal travel between our countries, making it faster, more efficient and more secure… Yesterday, I had the opportunity to travel to the southwest part of the country, to meet with General Cienfuegos and Admiral Soberon. There I had the chance to talk with the soldiers and Marines working to eradicate mountainous poppy fields. As a former general, it was good to be out talking with the troops. Particularly these troops, who put their lives on the line to stop the production and transfer of drugs that otherwise would make their way into the U.S. bringing the accompanying violence and death.”

The Secretary also pointed out that last year in America 60,000 Americans died of drug overdoses; that figure does not include the number of deaths south of the border who are involved in the deadly cartels’ trade. And that multi-billion dollar a year industry has propelled Mexico into the world’s second most dangerous country behind Syria.

“I acknowledged to my counterparts that America’s insatiable appetite for drugs is the cause of much of the turmoil on their side of the border.  I pledged to continue to work with our government – and anyone else who can help in this fight – to address drug demand reduction in the US,” Kelly concluded.

Illicit Drug business turns deadly for Americans

July 4, 2017

Last week, in San Diego, the US government seized its largest fentanyl bust in American history. According to authorities from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), agents nabbed nearly 100 pounds of the synthetic Fentanyl that is used to feed America’s ongoing illicit drug addiction.

“The opioid crisis the country is facing right now makes this indictment all the more important,” DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman said.  “44.14 kilograms of fentanyl represents more than 44 million fraudulent pills on the street which could be fatal for users.  These dealers are trafficking in death and DEA will continue to hunt them down.”

The steady increase in drug overdoses has compelled Congress to press for more drug rehabilitation programs across the country. While Congress’ concern is noted, the root cause of the Fentanyl problem—China, seems to be ignored.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission released a report assessing how “China’s illicit chemical production and inefficient US and international counternarcotic efforts created the stark increase in fentanyl-related deaths.”

“China is a global source of fentanyl and other illicit substances (like Ephedra) because the country’s vast chemical and pharmaceutical industries are (reportedly) weakly regulated and poorly monitored,” the report says. “Chinese law enforcement officials have struggled to adequately regulate thousands of chemical and pharmaceutical facilities operating legally and illegally in the country, leading to increased production and export of illicit chemicals and drugs.”

According to the DEA indictment, Jonathan Ibarra, Hector Fernando Garcia and Anna Baker were charged with possession of 44.14 kilograms of fentanyl with the intent to distribute after a month’s-long investigation.

According to a search warrant affidavit, “the defendants discussed the transportation of a then-unidentified controlled substance.  On November 30, 2016, Ibarra received instructions to have a female courier, later identified as Baker, transport the narcotics in three separate trips on consecutive days.”

Drug dealers allegedly use pure fentanyl powder to increase the potency of heroin as well as for the manufacture counterfeit opioid painkillers like oxycodone. However, most users do not know that fentanyl can be 50 times stronger than heroin. “Deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin and counterfeit pills are epidemic in the United States.  Just 2 milligrams is enough to kill an adult, and less depending on the tolerance of the user,” the DEA explained.

A long way from the US-Mexican border is the nation’s overdose capital– Ohio. The Drug Enforcement Agency said, “Ohio had 3,861 positive lab tests for fentanyl in 2015, more than any other state. Massachusetts had the second most with 2,556 and Pennsylvania had the third most with 897. Nationwide, US law enforcement agencies seized a record 368 pounds of fentanyl; yet, the drugs continue to pour into America unabated.

America has also seen an increase in “meth” use. “All of a sudden, it’s everywhere again,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel told NBC News.

Schimel ordered a study of meth use that saw a 250 percent increase since 2011, something that could surpass heroin. “We are entering another full blown epidemic with meth.”

Researchers of the “meth” study highlighted, “that meth addiction has always been a big problem in America. What’s changed, they said, is a switch to mass production in Mexico, an increase in potency and affordability, and deeper penetration by drug cartels into vulnerable communities.”

According to the US government, “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a schedule II prescription drug, and it is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash.”

Many physicians use Fentanyl lawfully to bring relief for patients with severe or significant injuries. Doctors commonly use an injection, transdermal patch, or sometimes lozenges. Nevertheless, cartel syndicates have seized on the opportunity to hook more Americans on drugs. The fentanyl and fentanyl analogs associated with the increased overdoses is most likely produced in surreptitious laboratories outside America.

A majority of the labs are in Mexico where the murder rate ranks America’s neighbor to the south as the second deadliest nation in the world behind Syria. The Mexican government released its latest monthly murder figures. In May 2017 there were 2,186 murders. This alarming number surpasses Mexico’s former high water mark in May 2011 when 2,131 people were murdered. So far in the first half of this year, 9,916 murders were committed.

The alarming rate of murders represents a 30 percent increase from 2016. Mexican authorities believe “the increase in heroin trafficking and turf battles over heroin production areas and smuggling corridors have contributed to the increase in homicides.”

Oftentimes DC politicos search for a solution by ensuring the problem fits a narrative so their donors can make money and garner more influence.

Those in law enforcement, like Border Patrol, have a different take on the current “war on drugs” phenomena.

“One has to wonder, why the broad governmental solutions to the opioid epidemic are focused on the pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists and doctors and never even mention the transnational criminal element bringing killer heroin and fentanyl to the illegal market in the United States through Sanctuary Cities and Cartel Hub Cities,” Zack Taylor a retired Arizona Border agent and Chairman of NAFBPO.org.

“Could it be that the trial lawyers association figured out they can’t litigate the transnational criminals? So, they are left with shaping and pursuing the case in the court of public opinion first before actually taking the case to court against the drug companies, pharmacists and doctors?  Think about that.”

Taylor logically concludes,  “The only thing certain, is that heroin and fentanyl are not available at Walgreens, CVS or Rite-Aid.”

For more drug cartel-related stories check out my archives:

http://kimberlydvorak.blogspot.com/2011/06/afghan-heroin-and-mexican-cartels-are.html

US payments to Taliban & Afghan warlords threaten American/NATO troops

Drug addiction in Afghanistan brings shame – especially for women

US payments to Taliban & Afghan warlords threaten American/NATO troops

Staying illegally the costs verses compassion

June 28, 2017

Oftentimes the cost of illegal immigration can be invisible, not readily obvious on the front pages of the newspapers, but a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) shed light on a cost that ensnares more than a million Americans- identity theft. The IRS Inspector General also revealed that the most common perpetrators of identity theft are illegal immigrants looking to get a job using a social security number that belongs to an American or legal resident.

Two significant findings in the IG report involve employment-related identity theft and that most taxpayers only realize they are victims when they get an IRS letter of discrepancy, and a bigger bill, long after tax season.

TIGTA conducted the audit “to evaluate the IRS’s Automated Under-Reporter (AUR) processes to identify and assist victims of identity theft. In July 2011, TIGTA reported that the IRS was in a unique position to identify cases of employment-related identity theft. TIGTA recommended that the IRS implement procedures to timely alert taxpayers when it becomes aware that their identity was stolen. However, in this review, TIGTA determined that taxpayers are still not notified.”

A statement from the IRS said its February 2011 to December 2015 audit identified nearly 1.1 million taxpayers were victims of employment-related identity theft. The growing problem prompted the IRS to start a pilot program to warn taxpayers they were potential victims of identity theft. However, TIGTA’s review of the pilot program found its program failed to fix the identity theft issue.

The art of identity theft leaves millions of Americans in financial peril that requires countless hours of legwork to recover lost money and repair their credit scores.

TIGTA also reported that the IRS still hasn’t established an effective process to ensure that it promptly sends the notices to alert taxpayers that their SSA earnings don’t match the electronic paperwork and that they are on the hook for taxes they do not owe.

“Employment-related identity theft can cause a significant burden to taxpayers, including the incorrect computation of taxes based on income they did not earn,” said Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

After the IRS studied the growing problem they recommended significant changes to its pilot program. TIGTA made four recommendations that the IRS partially agreed with and Uncle Sam said they would take corrective action for the 2017 tax season.

“The IRS tries to mark the files of the fraud victims when electronic filings are used. But the tax agency misses about half of the victims,” according to the Inspector General.

Further compounding the issue is the IRS’ issuance of 2.4 million Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers per year. Illegal immigrants often file tax returns to get a refund, however the IRS found the W-2 forms submitted highlight the valid Social Security numbers illegally given to an employer as an authorization to work. Keep in mind that legal visa holders pay $420 per year for the right to lawfully work in America.

In another twist it appears that many immigration attorneys are successfully reducing the crimes that illegal immigrants are committing in an effort to keep them from deportation.

According to a Los Angeles Times story, lawyers for Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, who was “detained by immigration officials after dropping off his daughter at school in Los Angeles.” The father was arrested for two decades-old misdemeanor convictions.

One of Avelica-Gonzalez’s attorneys, Steve Escovar, explained that his client was arrested for convictions for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) as well as receipt of stolen property. The attorney successfully pleaded to vacate Gonzalez’s receipt of stolen property by convincing a judge that his client obtained an auto registration tag not issued by the DMV because he could not legally obtain a driver’s license. This is another common form of identity theft. Even though legal residents in country would never get a similar break, the California judge settled Avelica-Gonzalez’s case as a registration violation to assist his appeal to avoid deportation.

As for his 2008 DUI case, another California judge settled the “matter” as a speeding exhibition. With DUI’s costing legal residents thousands of dollars and steep insurance rates for ten plus years, Mr. Gonzales reduction made him a lucky man.

Avelica-Gonzalez wrote a letter last week saying he deserves to stay with his family in America. “I wouldn’t be able to live without my family in another place.”

While most people can sympathize with a father/husband being separated from his family, that fact remains that everyday Americans and legal residents are arrested and taken to prison when they commit a crime.

According to another Treasury Inspector General report affecting taxpayers, the IG reports that each year the IRS also “pays billions of dollars in ‘child tax credits’ to illegal aliens. The child tax credit, provided by section 24 of the Internal Revenue Code, is a credit against a taxpayer’s federal income tax liability of $1,000 for each of the taxpayer’s children. The credit is reduced for taxpayers whose income exceeds a specified amount.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 (PRWOA) specifically states that illegal immigrants are “NOT (emphasis added) eligible for any Federal public benefits. It is a compelling government interest to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits.”

The term Federal public benefit is defined broadly and includes “any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States.”

When legal beagles try to define what exactly the IRS regulation means, oftentimes beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Nevertheless, it appears that the IRS has taken a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to ITINs and Earned Income Child Credit abuse.

In the meantime, as Congress prepares for another vacation, the US debt clock closes in on $20 trillion, leaving taxpayers with an un-payable tab.

 

 

 

The real challenge is immigrant literacy

June 28, 2017

A new study from the Center for Immigration Studies found an alarming number of second generation of immigrants are failing to grasp the English language. “To measure the English ability of immigrants in the United States, researchers often rely on the opinion of the immigrants themselves. For example, the Census Bureau asks foreign-language speakers, ‘How well [do you] speak English?’ and gives them four choices: ‘very well, well, not well, or not at all.”

The study found that the answers are subjective, “as speaking English ‘well’ might mean anything from basic comprehension to near fluency. For objective data, this report turns to a direct test of English literacy administered by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The results raise concerns about the magnitude and persistence of low English ability among immigrants.”

Specifically:

  • 41 percent of immigrants score at or below the lowest level of English literacy — a level variously described as “below basic” or “functional illiteracy”.
  • The average immigrant scores at the 21st percentile of the native score distribution.
  • Hispanic immigrants struggle the most with English literacy. Their average score falls at the 8th percentile, and 63 percent are below basic.
  • For Hispanic immigrants, self-reported English-speaking ability overstates actual literacy. The average literacy score of Hispanic immigrants who self-report that they speak English “very well” or “well” falls at the 18th percentile, and 44 percent are below basic.
  • Even long-time residents struggle with English literacy. Immigrants who first arrived in the United States more than 15 years ago score at the 20th percentile, and 43 percent are below basic.
  • Literacy difficulties brought by low-skill immigrants persist beyond the immigrant generation. The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic. In addition, just 5 percent of second generation Hispanics have “elite” literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall.
  • Consistent with prior analysis of the PIAAC English literacy test, immigrants score substantially lower than native speakers. Specifically, immigrants perform at the 21st percentile of the native score distribution, and 41 percent of immigrants score low enough to be described as below basic or functionally illiterate. With a 63 percent rate of below basic literacy, Hispanic immigrants struggle with English more than non-Hispanic immigrants, who have a below basic rate of 23 percent.
  • This report reveals that Hispanic immigrants’ self-assessed English-speaking ability overestimates their English literacy. Hispanic immigrants who speak English “very well” score 0.42 SDs below the native average, placing them at the 33rd percentile. Therefore, researchers should be wary of citing self-assessments as an indication of English ability among Hispanic immigrants. By contrast, non-Hispanic immigrants who say they speak English “very well” perform much closer to natives on the literacy test.

This report also demonstrated that immigrant literacy skills really make a difference matter for future generations. While the literacy test scores of the second generation usually rises to keep pace with American students, US-born Hispanics are lagging well behind American children.

As a result, the expansion of  low-skill immigrant workers into the US will only exacerbate the multi-generational skills deficit, including the socioeconomic challenges that face a highly technological economy.

The decay of America

June 21, 2017

“School’s out for summer (♫♫)” and many folks will be packing-up their family cars and take to America’s highways to visit national parks as well as relatives. Unfortunately, as many crisscross the nation they will bear witness to a sobering image of abandoned storefronts and infrastructure in serious disrepair.

So how exactly did America get to this point? Well, lots of government mismanagement of tax money contributed to the county’s slow decay as well as the growing gap between rich and poor.

The nation’s richest communities like Silicon Valley, Beverly Hills, New York and Washington DC have witnessed an economic explosion, while rural America has struggled to keep up with inflation, let alone save for the future. According to the Economic Innovation Group, the Distressed Communities Index report; “Most American communities are not distressed, but they are far from flourishing. The Zip codes mere miles apart occupy vastly different planes of community well-being and few people are truly mobile between them. It is little surprise that many Americans feel they have been left behind.”

The report uses zip codes as economic indicators to disseminate poverty rates as well as employment trends. Silicon Valley gurus Sean Parker and Ron Conway, who spend their days investing in promising tech startups, spearheaded the Economic Innovation Group.

The study highlights the dwindling middle class and the creation of two Americas: “one prosperous group of communities where vacant houses, poverty and those without a high school diploma are nearly non-existent, and another swatch of communities where more than a quarter of residents live in poverty. More than 50 million Americans live in distressed communities, where nearly a quarter of residents lack a high school diploma, and employment opportunities have dropped by nearly 7 percent. In the most distressed city in the country, Camden, NJ, the city’s median income is 36.4 percent that of the rest of the state. Other cities topping the distressed list are Detroit, Cleveland, and Flint, Michigan.”

The so-called free trade deals, like the dying Trans-Pacific Partnership, provides more protection to large corporations and their financial assets while trashing average working Americans’ wages.

Contributing to the nation’s downfall is America’s foray into globalization. For example, most large corporation’s CEOs have long believed that free trade would benefit the struggling middle class—it hasn’t. Nevertheless, the CEOs were asked at the World Economic Forum in Davos if they still believed globalization was good for all Americans, surprisingly, they revealed they were skeptical. CNBC said in an article “only 38 percent of the public believed globalization has had a largely positive impact on improving the movement of capital, people, goods and information. Public discontent has the potential to erode trust, which is needed for long-term sustainable performance. The real challenge here though, isn’t just one of how CEOs navigate, it’s about the need for CEOs to have a deeper, two-way relationship with stakeholders, customers, employees, and the public.”

The widening gap reveals an absurd concentration of wealth with just eight men possessing the equivalent of half the poorest world’s population. According to Euronews, the men include: “founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, business magnate and founder of Inditex Amancio Ortega, investor Warren Buffett, telecoms magnate Carlos Slim, founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos, Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Oracle Larry Ellison and Michael Bloomberg, the founder and CEO of Bloomberg LP.”

It’s hard to overlook the common denominator of the greatest redistribution of wealth of all time, politicians. The concentration of political power in the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC, is run by a few corporate and financially privileged and well-connected individuals who exert their influence over the economy.

The book Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the few says, “this transformation has amounted to a pre-distribution upward. Intellectual property rights—patents, trademarks and copyrights—have been enlarged and extended, for example, creating windfalls for pharmaceutical companies. Americans now pay the highest pharmaceutical costs of any advanced nation.”

While the great American heist has broken the spirit of the workers, the permanent bureaucratic class has quietly changed antitrust policies for corporations with noteworthy market power, like big food enterprises, cable companies, large airlines as well as Wall Street banks. “As a result, Americans pay more for broadband Internet, food, airline tickets and banking services than the citizens of any other advanced nation. Bankruptcy laws have been loosened for large corporations—airlines, automobile manufacturers, tax laws have special loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private-equity funds, special favors for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income-tax rates on the highest incomes and reduced estate taxes on great wealth,” the books author reports.

“The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from just over half in 1979 to under 35 percent today. Labor unions have been eviscerated. Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker, backed by a strong union, earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars. Now America’s largest employer is Wal-Mart, and the typical entry-level Wal-Mart worker, without a union, earns about $9 an hour,” Robert Reich explained.

One would think that Reich, a huge Democrat supporter, would have been thrilled by a Trump presidency – he wasn’t, even though President Trump won the hearts of the GOP and former blue dog Democrats with his “forgotten men and women” speech.

“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capitol has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” Trump said.

“Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country,” he continued.

“Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capitol, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes — starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment: It belongs to you.”

“We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own… We’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. … The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.”

The media and Left went nuts, claiming the President spoke in dark angry tones. But he just repeated what he heard and saw during the campaign. The folks are angry and mad. After another trek across the country, this reporter knows exactly what President Trump meant, the little guy has been forgotten, the rich have gotten richer, and the middle class has dwindled. Until politics returns to individual districts across the country, no amount of biblical words will restore the “greatness” of America.

Stay tuned for a video of the new America!

Comatose mystifies the Senate

June 14, 2017

In a highly anticipated Senate Intelligence hearing the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) James Comey made all kinds of headlines and a startling admission, that he was a leaker of confidential information during the ongoing Russia investigation.

The Chairman of the Committee, Richard Burr, candidly asked Director Comey, “did the President at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 US elections?”

“Not to my understanding, no,” Comey said.

Burr then asked; “Did any individual working for this administration, including the Justice Department, ask you to stop the Russian investigation?”

Again Comey replied “No.”

Once the testimony was finished President Trump’s personal attorney Mark Kasowitz wasted no time in rebuking the former director’s statements. “Comey admitted there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference.”

He continued: “Contrary to numerous false press accounts leading up to today’s hearing, Mr. Comey has now finally confirmed publicly what he repeatedly told President Trump privately, that is that the president was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference. It is now established that the president was not being investigated for colluding with or attempting to obstruct any investigation. As the committee pointed out today, these important facts for the country to know are virtually the only facts that have not been leaked during the course of these events. As he said, the president feels completely vindicated and is eager to continue moving forward with his agenda, with the business of this country and with this public cloud removed.”

Perhaps one of the underreported story lines was Comey’s orchestration of leaks designed to ensure a special counsel was appointed to investigate the president.

Kasowitz criticized the former director for “unauthorized leaks of his private conversations with Trump in a retaliatory effort” to ensure a special counsel was assigned to handle the Russian interference probe. “We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether these leaks should be investigated.”

Comey’s alleged private memos appeared in a New York Times article on May 16th. The memos in question, highlighted meetings and phone calls between the president and the director. However, conveniently or mysteriously, the memos have disappeared. The Senate panel has instructed the former director to provide the government documents to preserve the archives.

It didn’t take long for President Trump to call Comey’s disclosure of their private conversations ‘cowardly.’

He tweeted: “I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very “cowardly!’”

The former FBI Director confirmed at the Senate Intelligence hearing that he personally leaked the memos. According to Fox News, he disclosed that he used his Columbia University friend to leak the government memos to the press.

It was Senator Susan Collins’ (R-MA) questioning that led to the bombshell news. She asked Comey “if he had shared his confidential writings with anyone outside the FBI or the Department of Justice.”

Comey candidly replied: “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter—I thought that might prompt the appointment of special counsel.”

Comey got his wish, as the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to be the special counsel a few days after the NYT story broke. Critics argue that anytime you install a former prosecutor, you are looking for trouble. On a Sunday talk show one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said the President “would not rule out firing the special counsel,” if warranted.

Of course, that statement set off Trump’s critics and led to many misrepresentations of the account of the president’s true intentions.

It appears that it was all the director’s 2016 shenanigans that led to his firing. Nevertheless, Comey claimed at the hearing that Trump fired him because he didn’t like the trajectory of his investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election cycle.

“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,” Comey testified to the Senate. “That is a very big deal, and not just because it involves me.”

On top of that Comey accused the administration of spreading “lies, plain and simple.” He continued to allege Trump “chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by claiming the bureau was in disorder under his leadership.”

The bottom line for Comey was his distrust of the president he was tasked to serve.

“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document. I knew there might come a day when I might need a record of what happened not only to defend myself but to protect the FBI.”

But are there any wrong doings by President Trump?

Prominent Democrat legal beagle Alan Dershowitz says no. The president’s “statement may provide political ammunition to Trump opponents, but unless they are willing to stretch Comey’s words and take Trump’s out of context, and unless they are prepared to abandon important constitutional principles and civil liberties that protect us all, they should not be searching for ways to expand already elastic criminal statutes and shrink enduring constitutional safeguards in a dangerous and futile effort to criminalize political disagreements.”

Throwing more water on the media firestorm, both prominent Democrat attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Jonathan Turley pushed away any illegality by the president thus far. They firmly disputed cable news commentators’ ongoing narrative that the president is guilty of obstruction and colluded with the Russians.

Turley stated: “Former FBI Director James Comey likely knew he would not be allowed to publicize his leaked memos. Comey indirectly leaked memos – about conversations with President Trump – to Columbia Law Professor Daniel Richman, who sent them to the press on his behalf. Richman could not be found at his Brooklyn Heights, NY home and has ‘gone into hiding,’” according to Turley’s New York Post account. “People are treating [the memos] like it’s a diary entry. He wrote this on an FBI computer about a pending sensitive investigation.”

With all the partisan rhetoric flying one of Trump’s former bitter competitors Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked Comey, “You ever wonder why, of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks?”

Comey answered: “I don’t know, I find matters that are briefed to the Gang of Eight are pretty tightly held, in my experience.” (Something the former director should have learned).

Taking to Twitter, Dershowitz tweeted: “There’s No Evidence of Obstruction, and Inventing Crimes is Dangerous.” In an op/ed, he warned of the consequences of the political witch-hunt tactics used by both political parties. “All Americans who care about the Constitution and civil liberties must join together to protest efforts to expand existing criminal law to get political opponents. Today it is Trump. Yesterday it was Clinton. Tomorrow it could be you.”

 

Qatar – financier of terror – expelled from GCC by the Saudis

June 7, 2017

Qatar’s split personality – home to US combat operations against ISIS AND financial hub for the financing of terrorism – suffered a devastating setback today when Saudi Arabia (KSA) ordered the expulsion of Qatar from the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC).

Showing solidarity with KSA, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Yemen’s Saudi-backed regime broke diplomatic relations and commercial ties with Qatar. The now-five-member GCC is reportedly pressuring its members to stop financing terrorism at the request of President Trump.

The banishment of Qatar makes for an awkward relationship for the US. The US military’s largest Persian Gulf base is located in Qatar and it’s home to the US-led air campaign against ISIS.

Despite the stunning move by the Saudis, spokesman, Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway stated, “We have no plans to change our posture in Qatar. We encourage all our partners in the region to reduce tensions and work towards common solutions that enable regional security.”

Navy Captain Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesman said: “I will only tell you that we have, with regard to our bases there, continued presence in our operations.” He said the Defense Department is keeping an eye on Qatar and “would encourage all of the parties involved to work together. We hope for a quick resolution and we have no intention of altering our current operations, not only in Qatar but anywhere in the [Gulf Cooperation Council]. That includes important bases we have around the region, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain,” he concluded.

The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered his diplomatic resolve from Sydney Australia suggesting it (Qatar’s expulsion from GCC) would not interfere with America’s effort to defeat ISIS. “We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences. If there’s any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] remain united.”

Secretary of Defense (ret.) Marine General James Mattis added, “All of those parties you mentioned have been quite unified in the fight against terrorism and the fight against Daesh, ISIS, and have expressed that most recently in the summit in Riyadh.”

The news of Qatar’s expulsion sent shockwaves. According to the Saudi state news, KSA decided to “exercise of its sovereign right guaranteed by international law and the protection of national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.”

Another statement released by the Kingdom accused Qatar of “harboring a multitude of terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to create instability in the region.” After all land air and sea contacts were severed with Qatar KSA “urged all brotherly countries and companies to do the same.”

Following suit on Monday was Egypt who said it severed ties with Qatar because they supported terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar seemed dumbfounded by the news. Its foreign ministry spokesperson said, “It regretted the measures by the Arab nations. The measures are unjustified and are based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact.” The regime said the decision would “not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents. The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of its [Qatar’s] sovereignty as a state.”

An advisor to Qatar, Andreas Krieg, also an assistant professor of defense studies at King’s College London said, “This is a major escalation and I don’t think there is an easy way out of it. The Qataris have been hosting so-called outlaws for a long time and I don’t see them turning around and saying tomorrow: ‘Hamas, out! Muslim Brotherhood, out!’ You can’t kick them out overnight.”

Saudi Arabia claims Qatar has been “financing, adopting and sheltering extremists.” The Emirate nation allegedly has ties to designated terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS.

Hedging their bets, two member nations staying out of the GCC fray, Oman and Kuwait said they haven’t broken ties with Qatar and are hoping for a quick solution.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, called for all Middle East nations to discuss the issues and resolve the dispute. “We see the stability in the Gulf region as our own unity and solidarity. Countries may, of course, have some issues, but dialogue must continue under every circumstance for problems to be resolved peacefully. We are saddened by the current picture and will give any support for its normalization.”

KSA’s sudden axing of Qatar, the only other Salafis Sunni nation, appears to be related to President Trump’s meeting with Saudi King Salman. On Tuesday the President tweeted; “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” In another tweet, he said; “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding … extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

While not commenting further, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did say that the president’s tweets are considered official statements and that his boss will continue to use Twitter because it is the way this president can talk directly to his 110 million social media followers.

Meanwhile, not one to let Trump do all the tweeting, the deputy chief of staff to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Hamid Aboutalebi tweeted regarding Yemen: “The era of cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders … is not a way to resolve crisis … As I said before, aggression and occupation will have no result but instability.”

But the real winner here is President Trump. The businessman turned politician understands the “art of the deal” and realized a way to stem the tide in the Middle East was to break up alliances and focus on the money. The next move rests with the Qatar regime. Will it stick with the insurgents or seek other alliances?

The real paradox here is that Qatar has been a major purchaser of US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and was considered a player in the isolation of Iran militarily, diplomatically, and economically. Qatar and KSA are major purchasers of billions of dollars worth of US weapons through FMS, yet their direct support of ISIS, a terrorist group, means Qatar and KSA meet the definition of state sponsors of terrorism and should be banned from participation in the FMS program. Nevertheless, the end user certificates and export licenses are routinely approved by the State and Defense Departments, including an $11 billion sale to Qatar. (The Pentagon has refused multiple efforts to release the end-user agreements to this reporter as requested under FOIA.)

Furthermore, Qatar, KSA, and Kuwait are listed as Tier 2WL (Watch List) and Tier 3 under US anti-trafficking in humans reports, which require a waiver by then President (Obama) stating the sale is in furtherance of national security interests. To the outside world, the US ostensibly appears to be violating its own anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking laws to provide sophisticated weapons systems to these human rights violators.

If this all seems off kilter, then you understand the Middle East. The US diplomatically moves to isolate Qatar from its natural allies in the GCC in an effort to stem the funding of terrorism, while it operates combat missions against Qatar’s beneficiary, ISIS. Politics do indeed make for strange bedfellows.

Oil and Gas sabotage Trump’s solution for Palestine

May 23, 2017

Oftentimes, Presidential economics drive policy and Mr. Trump’s first overseas trip symbolizes his concerns about terrorism and the creation of US jobs, jobs, jobs. But his much-heralded goal of achieving what has eluded his eight predecessors, a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, is doomed even before its starts. It seems economics has trumped politics, and, a peaceful solution, despite the expected promises of money and security, is not even remotely possible.

If it involves the Middle East, it involves oil, and Palestinian statehood is no exception. Despite the Oslo Accords requirements, Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in the exploration, development, and sale of oil and gas from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Occupied Territories is non-existent despite the discovery and exploitation of billions of dollars worth of oil and gas.

The annexation of the Golan Heights of Syria, which Israel seized and has continuously occupied since 1967, signaled a final rejection by “Bebe” Netanyahu of any commitment of Israel to a settlement with the Palestinians. Despite the affirmations on both sides and the eternal optimism of the Americans that all are working toward a solution, it is just rhetoric to cash-in on American promises of aid.

Why such pessimism? Because it is no surprise that a Noa fields spokesperson announced the discovery of approximately trillions cubic meters of natural gas reserves in the newly annexed territory. This projection of known reserves could place Israel in the top ten of countries with gas/oil reserves.

The Israelis previously canceled the joint exploration operations for oil and gas fields in the West Bank boundaries (Israel has continued independently – despite Oslo prohibitions) claiming that putting large sums of money into the hands of the Palestinians would merely feed additional terrorism.

Furthermore, the announcement several years ago of the Leviathan Basin gas finds estimated 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas could lead Israel to an energy sufficient status and a net exporter of gas and probably oil.

The Israelis have contracted with Jordan and Egypt to build pipelines for direct export and are in negotiations with the EU for the development of an underwater gas line to service Europe via Cyprus.

While all this energy news is a big plus for Israel, there is one, little distraction – namely the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank. The EU precedent to limit or bar the importation to the EU of Israeli produced fruits and vegetables from the occupied territories could jeopardize the EU gas contracts.

There are reports circulating that the mineral and fishing grounds off Gaza have enriched the Israelis at the expense of the Palestinians. The latest energy discovery has created differing territorial claims by Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine. At the heart of the natural gas discoveries is Israel’s self-imposed naval blockade off the coast of the Gaza Strip, which has essentially denied the Palestinians’ access to their natural gas reserves as well as coveted fishing operations.

According to a May 2017 report by Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, research results and analysis highlight that Noble (NYSE: NBL) Energy’s gas exploration and extraction undertakings in the Mediterranean could be linked to some human rights abuses in the Palestinian and Lebanon territories.

The Gaza Marine fields have also been estimated to contain about 1 trillion cubic feet of reserves. But Israel has long claimed the expansion of that field, while under Hamas’ control, is considered an “existential threat” therefore the Israeli militarily has blocked its development.

The Levantine Basin stretches some 200 miles into the Mediterranean Sea and goes through the heart of what the US Energy Information Administration claim holds six times more natural gas than regional countries.

By definition, the Law of the Sea specifically says coastal states have a right to 200 miles of maritime territory. Nevertheless, due to the concave shape of the Eastern Mediterranean, each country within that territory must negotiation and compromise, a process many Palestinian people feel they have been left out of the discussions.

Recently, James Stocker, a professor of International affairs at Trinity Washington University, claimed the Palestinian people may have a case at an international tribunal. “The point is that there is this whole space off Israel and Palestine and it hasn’t properly been divided yet. So we don’t actually know what the boundaries are. By failing to make a claim, Palestinians may be forfeiting their rights to their lawful territory and the natural resources within,” Stocker said. “If you aren’t making claims about the boundaries of these zones, if you are not making claims to these resources, then, in effect, you don’t have a right to them. Unless you claim that they are yours, other countries can claim them and say, ‘Well, no one else claimed this so, of course, we took it’,” he concluded.

On top of that, Farsnews reported that Israel has already signed a $4 billion agreement to sell the European Union oil/gas extracted from Palestinian shores.

The pipeline is expected to transfer gas from the occupied Palestinian coastline to the EU. It will pass through Cyprus, Greece, and Italy and is expected to rival the Russia/Turkey pipeline into Southern Europe.

The Israeli-EU deal could also adversely affect Lebanon by drilling into its Law of the Sea protected oil/gas territories.

A US Geological Survey estimated in 2010 that the Levant Basin comprises “a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas.” If these estimates are correct, it means the Eastern Mediterranean is amongst the world’s top producers of natural gas. The recovery of the gas/oil in the north side of the Levant Basin would put the Syrian port of Tartus in play. The corridor route flows along the coastlines of Lebanon, Israel, as well as the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile back 2015, Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of Genie Energy and a US oil company, jointly announced they found vast oil/gas reserves under the Golan Heights. Genie’s principal geologist in Israel, Yuval Bartov said he believed the basin had the “potential of billions of barrels.”

“The Israeli energy and water ministry has licensed Afek to drill 10 experimental wells over three years in a 400-square kilometer area, about a third of the Golan’s total territory,” according to the Middle East Eye news agency.

At the time Afek claimed its discoveries could make Israel energy independent. However, the company did not include the Palestinian government in its assessments. But a report concluded that the discovery could turn Israel into an oil/gas exporter, something that Palestine says amounts to theft from its countrymen.

The issue pre-dates the Trump administration.

Under the Obama administration, the territorial dispute essentially indicated “(if) the US recognized Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan, it would likely clear the way for Israel to plunder any economically viable reserves located there. Netanyahu appears to have long harbored an interest in tapping the Golan’s potential for oil.”

Natural gas reserves were first discovered off the coast of the Gaza Strip in 1999. At the time, the Palestinian Authority awarded a 25-year exploration license to British Gas Group, to drill offshore of the Gaza Strip. In 2000, the Brits drilled two wells, Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. The original discovery of natural gas reserves estimated that approximately 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas were waiting to be extracted and sold to nearby countries.

Plus, a 2016 UN Special Rapporteur said: “Israel, the Occupying Power, effectively controls the economic and social development of the Palestinian territory […]. Measures that amount to violations of the right to development include the blockade of Gaza and the ensuing collapse of its economy, […] exploitation and appropriation of Palestinian natural resources, the regime of formal economic dependency, unilateral control over Palestine’s external borders, the encumbering of personal and business mobility, restrictions on the use of agricultural lands, limitations on Palestinian fishery.”

While there is a dearth of news on the evolving oil and gas exploration of the Levant, there can be no doubt that Israel has seized the momentum in exploiting this mineral wealth, which means the likelihood of Mr. Trump being able to negotiate any solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute is DOA. There is no likelihood Israel will grant concessions to the Palestinians that will render them eventual claimants for the oil and gas wealth the Israelis are enjoying.

Net neutrality –not so neutral

May 10, 2017

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) defines “Network neutrality—(as) the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services—is a principle that must be upheld to protect the future of our open Internet. It’s a principle that’s faced many threats over the years, such as ISPs forging packets to tamper with certain kinds of traffic or slowing down or even outright blocking protocols or applications.”

Watch News Segment Here

The neutrality of the Internet is a principle that’s faced many threats over the years, lately, there have been many big Internet providers trying to interfere with certain kinds of traffic, slowing down the speed or outright blocking content they do not like. But under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules all consumers require equal access to lawful content of their choice, and the FCC was supposed to ensure there were no gatekeepers deciding Internet content.

However, last week Congress passed a bill allowing Internet providers to gather personal information of its customers and to sell it to interested third parties. Simply put, the cable companies can now sell your personal information, like shopping or viewing habits, and they collect more revenue!

So is the government playing favorites?

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) believes in the free market economy and wrote an OPED for the Daily Signal saying Americans want to watch, listen, and play any video whenever they want, wherever they want, and for as long as they want. And customers don’t want to pay a fortune for the privilege to do so.

“For most of the history of the Internet, companies have been free to find innovative new ways to meet America’s insatiable demand for data. But progressive activists have never been comfortable with the unregulated nature of the Internet. They have always wanted government bureaucrats to have more control over how the Internet is managed. After President Barack Obama installed like-minded progressives on the FCC, the Commissioners realized those progressive dreams when they introduced the agency’s first “net neutrality” regulations, called the Open Internet Order of 2010,” Lee concluded.

Last week, President Trump’s new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai publicized that his staff would begin the process of repealing the 2015 Open Internet Order. “Going forward, we cannot stick with regulations from the Great Depression meant to micromanage Ma Bell.”

“Instead, we need rules that focus on growth and infrastructure investment, rules that expand high-speed internet access everywhere and give Americans more online choice, faster speeds and more innovation,” he explained.

For the moment, Pai’s decision to save the Internet from innovation-killing government regulations doesn’t mean a future administration could not change the Internet rules to suit their needs.

That is why Senator Lee introduced the ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Act’—“a bill that would nullify the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order and prohibit the FCC from issuing a similar rule in the future. Congress should be the one setting telecommunications policy, not federal bureaucrats, and I look forward to engaging in this debate in the months ahead.”

Tech giant Oracle said in a statement: “Given these technical and economic realities, we applaud your leadership [over the FCC] in considering restoration of the ‘information services’ classification to broadband Internet access service.”

While partisanship keeps cable ratings high, Lee suggested there is a simple bipartisan fix. “Congress could easily pass a bipartisan law to make net neutrality permanent and put enforceable rules in place for good. Support for this approach is building on the left and right and FCC Chairman Pai has indicated it may provide the simplest path forward.”

Internet and privacy watchdog group EFF has been an outspoken critic for Internet issues and the unnecessary collection of metadata, LPR (License Plate Readers) readers as well as customer information that is sold to third parties for profit. The co-founder of Apple as well as EFF, Steve Wozniak, said the FCC was simply “squashing the little guy.”

Watchdogs explained that with the 2010 rules the FCC attempted to fight the new threats by introducing a new set of Open Internet rules. However, their efforts contained many legal and practical holes. By 2014, a legal challenge from Verizon overturned many rules and fired-up the FCC to draft new rules that will better serve consumers.

Lastly in a letter to the FCC: EFF said: “the goal of the FCC is to effectively hand over the future of the Internet to the cable and telephone industry and abandon its duty to protect the public interest, we ask that you oppose such a plan.”

Once public comments were requested, millions of consumers weighed in with their concerns and demanded the FCC ensure that net neutrality was done right. Many of the respondents asked the FCC to issue rules that would hold up in court.

After intense public activism, the FCC finally created rules that EFF supports “in part because, in addition to the bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of Internet traffic, they include strict ‘forbearance’ restrictions on what the FCC can do without holding another rulemaking.”

“There’s no silver bullet for net neutrality. The FCC order plays a role by forbidding ISPs from meddling with traffic in certain ways. But transparency is also a key (factor): ISPs must be open about how traffic is managed over their networks in order for both users and the FCC to know when there’s a problem. Local governments can also play a crucial role by supporting competitive municipal and community networks. When users can vote with their feet, service providers have a strong incentive not to act in non-neutral ways,” EFF said in a statement online. “We want the Internet to live up to its promise, (of) fostering innovation, creativity, and freedom. We don’t want regulations that will turn ISPs into gatekeepers, making special deals with a few companies and inhibiting new competition, innovation and expression.”

But an approach that censors, prioritizes content, and favors one class of users over another is not only unworkable as a practical and legal matter; it would be devastating for Internet freedom, economic opportunity, and innovation. We wouldn’t put the fox in the hen house… or would we?