Economic Indicators

Loading...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Americans and a General Lack of Preparing for Economic Collapse

 
 



Here is an eye opening article that a friend of mine sent me. Makes for some thoughful reading:

In the past few years, the job market has vastly improved and home prices have rebounded — yet Americans are becoming even more irresponsible when it comes to saving for emergencies - not to mention preparing for a economic collapse.

According to a survey of 1,000 adults released by Bankrate.com on Tuesday, nearly one in three (29%) American adults (that’s roughly 70 million) have no emergency savings at all — the highest percentage since Bankrate began doing this survey five years ago. What’s more, only 22% of Americans have at least six months of emergency savings (that’s what advisers recommend) — the lowest level since Bankrate began doing the survey.

These findings mirror others — all of which paint an abysmal picture of Americans’ ability to withstand an emergency. For example, a survey released in March by national nonprofit NeighborWorks America also found that roughly one third (34%) of Americans don’t have emergency savings.

I would think that is 34% of Americans don't have emergency savings then that percentage of people who don't have emergency provisions and the ability to survive prolonged periods of minimal food and lack of utilities is much greater.

Greg McBride, the chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, says these low savings reflect that households haven’t seen their incomes ramp up and thus “household budgets are tight.” Plus, he adds “people don’t pay themselves first — they wait until the end of the month to save what’s left over and then nothing is left over.”

Many advisers recommend that most Americans have at least six months worth of income in their emergency fund — and more if they have children or other dependents. To build this up, most recommend something to the effect to “start an automatic transfer to a savings account and set a task to revisit and increase the amount in a month.”

Additionally, American consumers ended 2014 with $57 billion in personal debt, a historic high. An average of $7,177 and remember this is only counting credit or revolving credit debt, not mortgages, or car payments.

And if families don't have any money to pay off their debt, they don't have any money to pay themselves (savings) then they certainly don't have any money to start preparing for a much different world,..a world where food is not commonly available,...where fuel prices have skyrocketed. Utilities are on and off, then not on at all.

I know a gentleman,..well hardly a gentleman, but nonetheless he took out his 401K plan, paying a giant penalty because he thought preparing for dark times was more important then preparing for retirement 20 years in the future. He bought several guns, much ammunition, common OTC medicines and medical supplies, silver bullion, extra canned goods and survival foods. He stocked case upon case of bottled water and also bought outdoor clothing and boots, sleeping bags and other camping type equipment. About the only purchase I did not agree with was a large gasoline generator. I told him a solar power system would have been more portable and not dependent upon gasoline which may be very scare in any economic or societal collapse.

Then he started paying himself and using what he saved every few months to buy more silver. As I told him, that was nice but he should consider also holding some cash on hand for emergency purchases for right before and right after the collapse is apparent when only cash is accepted and before cash is worthless. This period of time would be before silver and gold bullion and junk silver coins would be readily bartered or used in exchanges for goods and services.

Are you prepared?

Urban Man

Friday, May 22, 2015

7 Examples of Police State Technology that have arisen in 2014 to infringe on Our Rights



Things are not looking pretty for the land of the free.


The year 2014 has made it very clear that privacy is under threat, and the situation is not likely to improve. Mass surveillance – which became a national issue via the Edward Snowden leaks – is not subsiding or under reform; instead, is becoming more bold and complex with each passing day.

It would take several books to catalog the myriad ways in which the rights of The People have been casually infringed by various levels of government just in years since 9/11 and the introduction of the PATRIOT Act.

And not only are federal agencies like the NSA, Homeland Security and the FBI that are taking liberties with our… umm… liberties; it is local police, too. The rise of technology is rapidly fueling these agencies with data and “intelligence” with very little oversight and even less pause for reflection to use these powerful abilities wisely and yes, judiciously.

Here are just a few major areas where privacy is losing badly to surveillance technology in 2014. Not that anyone is paying attention, but they are worth reflecting upon soon – hopefully before it is too late to turn things back around:

1. Militarized Police and Weapons of War on American Streets:

True, this technology has been in use for several years now and has been demonstrated at protests such as those held outside of the G20 in Pittsburgh and, Toronto and other locales.

But the events in Ferguson really allowed this brand of crowd control to come of age. This and other key protests have seemingly justified a massive police response for just about anything now… but… you know, the first amendment is still respected and all.

The Daily Sheeple reported:

Ferguson police have stocked up on less-lethal ammunition in the last few months including “hornets nest” CS sting grenades, which shoot out dozens of rubber bullets and a powdered chemical agent upon detonation, tear gas, riot gear, plastic handcuffs and the like in the lead up to the decision which is expected to come any time now. St Louis County police have spent $172,669 on this stuff just since August.
The Pentagon’s 1033 surplus program, which hands out everything from MRAP armored vehicles, to bullet proof vests, assault rifles, and other military weapons to domestic law enforcement agencies, is one of the major reasons that ordinary police departments, including those in small towns, are gearing up as for battle… and that includes Ferguson:

The Department of Defense Excess Property Program (1033 Program) is authorized under federal law and managed through the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) in Ft. Belvoir, Va. The 1033 Program provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety is the sponsoring state agency responsible for administration of the 1033 Program in Missouri.

2. Biometrics Comes of Age:

Fingerprints and iris scans are becoming normalized as identifiers on mobile phones, including the iPhone 5, computers and other platforms.

Increasingly, technology – including devices used by police – are utilizing other bodily features (in addition to fingerprints and eyes) to identify you, including ears, noses, heart rate (via electrocardiogram), blood vein matching, your scent or smell and even “butt biometrics” – no joke – which will allow smart car seats to identify the sitter based on their unique posture.

While these are surely being integrated into law enforcement devices, they are also becoming the mainstays of “wearables,” the new trendy technology that is collecting data on all of those using it to track health progress and etc.

Surveillance cameras have already been used to identify you by your walk for several years now, but advances have allowed technology to even identify the person wearing a camera, such as a police officer with a mounted body cam, by just 4 seconds of footage, revealing a ‘biometric fingerprint’ of the individual.

Of course, roadside blood draws have already entered the picture in law enforcement work, including numerous locales that have implemented mandatory policies during stops. This is sure to pick up. In Seattle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently conducted a paid, voluntary survey of drivers, who received up to $60 to give blood and breath samples at a roadside stop in effort to study how many people drive impaired.

3. Smart Phone Apps Know Everything About You:

Vocative published a long and unsettling list of apps for smart phones and other similar devices that all collect untold amounts of information about you every day.

Whether you realize it or not, permissions for apps routinely allow the collection and sharing of such information as your contact and address book, your text message, and audio recorded from your device’s microphone, your call log and much more.

Yes, this is really happening, so beware if you are using mobile apps including:

Anti-Virus Security, Viber, Facebook, 360 Security (Antivirus), Tango Messenger, WhatsApp Messenger, Skype, GO Launcher EX, WeChat, CM Security, Waze Social GPS Maps & Traffic, BBM, LINE Free Calls & Messages, Clean Master Phone Boost, BU Battery Saver, Google’s Chrome Browser, Twitter, Maps, Instagram, YouTube, Dolphin Browser, Castle Clash and Trivia Crack …and be sure to actually read over the privacy policy and Terms of Service before accepting or installing anything.

Considering that Angry Birds and Candy Crush were admittedly used to collect surveillance data for the NSA (also revealed in 2014), and law enforcement now regularly investigate persons of interest based upon social media posts and cell phone data, there is no telling how many of these apps may be drawing unwanted suspicion your way… whether you have anything to hide or not.

Need we remind you of all the telecom and internet firms who, according to the Edward Snowden leaks, shared data willingly with the NSA?

4. “StingRay” and “Dirtbox” Cell Phone Interceptors:
2014 is the year that much has come to light about the very secret and awfully quiet use of a data sweeping technology that has increasingly been used by agencies including the FBI, local law enforcement, and likely private, public and foreign intelligence agencies and even military units… though, due to extreme secrecy, it is just too difficult to know for sure.

Moreover, it emerged in 2014 that the FBI has been pressuring police departments to keep quiet about the use of StingRay, which it has also not been obtaining warrants before putting to use:

Not only are local police departments across the United States increasingly relying on so-called StingRay devices to conduct surveillance on cell phone users, but cops are being forced to keep quiet about the operations, new documents reveal.

Recent reports have indicated that law enforcement agencies from coast to coast have been turning to IMSI-catcher devices, like the StingRay sold by Florida’s Harris Corporation, to trick ordinary mobile phones into communicating device-specific International Mobile Subscriber Identity information to phony cell towers — a tactic that takes the approximate geolocation data of all the devices within range and records it for investigators. Recently, the Tallahassee Police Department in the state of Florida was found to have used their own “cell site simulator” at least 200 times to collect phone data without once asking for a warrant during a three-year span, and details about the use of StingRays by other law enforcement groups continue to emerge on the regular.

Although the majority of the December 2012 document is redacted, a paragraph from FBI special agent Laura Laughlin to Police of Chief Donald Ramsdell reveals that Tacoma officers were told they couldn’t discuss their use of IMSI-catchers with anyone… police in Tacoma were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation before they could begin conducting surveillance on cell users with a Harris-sold StingRay.

It further emerged in 2014 that the Justice Department was overseeing the use of small Cessna aircraft using “dirtbox” technology to collect cell phone data over major urban centers across the nation to pinpoint suspects while scooping up information from thousands of cell phone users. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal revealed:

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

5. Radar Sweeps of Residential Homes:

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals made a decision on the use of Doppler radar technology for use in the execution of an arrest warrant. 

The Washington Post considered:

The “grave” Fourth Amendment issues raised by use of a “Doppler radar device capable of detecting from outside the home the presence of human breathing and movement within”. But it is also fair to ask, who is watching the watchers for the use of this technology, anyway? Is this (and much more) being used frequently by authorities or private agencies to collect data in pursuit of investigations, including before the burden of “reasonable suspicion” has been met?
Is such a radar sweep a violation of the 4th Amendment and other rights if the police don’t already have “reasonable suspicion”? The possibilities are foggy… and a bit unnerving.

We don’t normally encounter this question because we normally understand the uses and limits of investigatory tools. If the officer looked through the window and didn’t see any other people, for example, we could intuitively factor that into the reasonable suspicion inquiry without having to think about burdens of proof. I’m less sure what we’re supposed to do when the government uses a suspicion-testing technological device with unknown capabilities. The opinion relies on the language from Buie that “the sweep lasts no longer than is necessary to dispel the reasonable suspicion of danger,” and thus asks whether there was evidence that the Doppler device “dispelled” the reasonable suspicion. But it’s not clear to me that this language from Buie applies here, as it was referring to evidence after reasonable suspicion was established and the entry was made rather than before.

But for the average person, the potential for abuse is pretty clear here. One commenter noted:

Use of this technology on a home is a search. The police don’t know what or who is in the house – they use this technology to survey (i.e. search) the house to determine information that they can’t ascertain without the home owner’s permission.

6. Pre-crime “Threat Assessment” Database:

The 9-1-1 emergency infrastructure now carries a real time “threat assessment” database known as “Beware,” that gives police and first responders a color-coded threat level, with green signifying no threat, yellow identifying a valid threat and red urging immediate caution. The catch? The threat assessment is not just based on the obvious stuff like prior arrests and criminal history, but also compiles billions of consumer records and, yes, social media. In fact, the majority of police now use social media in their investigations… the Beware database just makes it instant and universal.

Even worse, the co-founder of the technology said it flags “offensive speech” in its threat assessment… you don’t even have to make an online threat to be considered a threat, you just have be considered “offensive”! And who decides that, anyway? Not you. You aren’t even allowed to know what has been entered in your privately-held records:

Your local police department is likely using numerous tools and applications that might determine how you get treated during a routine traffic stop, or in response to your neighbor’s call about loud music. One such application, Beware, has been sold to police departments since 2012. It can be accessed on any Internet-enabled device, including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, while responders are in route to, or at the location of a call.

This app explores billions of records in social media postings, commercial and public databases for law enforcement needs, churning out “risk profiles” in real time.

‘Beware’ algorithm assigns a score and “threat rating” to a person — green, yellow or red – and sends that rating to a requesting officer. Worst of all, this information is not made available to the very person whose “threat rating” is being appraised. You have no ability to dispute being wrongly designated a high risk potential offender.

And it stands to reason that this concerning database is going to be used against more than just serious criminals. The potential for abuse and use against gun owners and those exercising political speech, including offensive or less than-responsible online rhetoric, is perhaps inevitable and unavoidable with this system, which has been in use for now for several years.

What’s worse? So-called “predictive policing” is just in its infancy… there are multiple platforms still finding a market, and their invasive capabilities are sure to grow in magnitude as the years go on. A federally-mandated network called FirstNet is being constructed, “using federal funding, are set to begin building a $7-billion nationwide first-responder wireless network” that will incorporate these emergency powers into every agency and locale across the country.

7. License Plate Scanning and Traffic Monitoring:

There are already issues for gun owners in Maryland, where concealed carry permits issued by other states are not recognized. Traffic cops there recently pulled over a licensed gun owner in good legal standing from Florida to search his vehicle for a specific firearm – his Kel-Tec .38 semi-automatic handgun – while he and his family were traveling through the state. As it turned out, the gun was locked in a safe at home in Florida, and the incident ended in a traffic warning for speeding. But what prompted the preemptive search, and how did police know this man was a concealed carry?

Likely the stop-and-search was the result of police work involving routine license scanning, traffic monitoring and database threat assessment using software like Beware, which has already been used in some 38 million emergency calls across the country.

Only a few days ago, the mainstream rehashed the fact that the EZ Pass and other toll road transponders are not just used for collecting toll information, but are used for traffic surveillance and police investigations as well.

Forbes’ privacy advocate Kashmir Hill wrote about an electronics tinkerer who “did an analysis of the many ways his car could be tracked and stumbled upon something rather interesting: his E-ZPass, which he obtained for the purpose of paying tolls, was being used to track his car in unexpected places, far away from any toll booths.“

Police subsequently copped to the use of this device in surveillance and tracking activities:

It’s part of Midtown in Motion, an initiative to feed information from lots of sensors into New York’s traffic management center. A spokesperson for the New York Department of Transportation, Scott Gastel, says the E-Z Pass readers are on highways across the city, and on streets in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and have been in use for years. The city uses the data from the readers to provide real-time traffic information, as for this tool… Notably, the fact that E-ZPasses will be used as a tracking device outside of toll payment, is not disclosed anywhere that I could see in the terms and conditions.

They are also used by toll companies themselves, as USA Today disclosed:

Warning to motorists: Don’t speed in the toll lanes. E-Z Pass is watching. Several states, including New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania, say they monitor speeds through the fast pass toll lanes and will suspend your E-Z Pass for multiple speeding violations.Years ago, a hacker explained how the California DOT and law enforcement were able to use toll transponders as an active homing beacon capable of zeroing in on a suspect or monitoring the total flow of traffic over a given period of time:

Each radio frequency id (RFID) transponder sends a unique identification code to scanners positioned at toll booths. A tolling authority computer matches this ID code with credit card and other payment information to collect the toll… [Even] an inexpensive RFID scanner [can be used] to read the ID code of any vehicle remotely, essentially turning the transponder into a homing beacon with a maximum range of about 100 yards.

“You can use it for tracking,” Lawson said. “Once you’ve seen the car, you can pick it out in a crowd.”

That is exactly what California’s 511 system does. Scanners placed throughout the highway network track the movement of motorists with toll transponders as a means of monitoring traffic flow. According to the California Department of Transportation, the system tracks individual ID codes, storing a movement history for each particular car in a database for 24 hours.

Additionally, both Homeland Security and the IRS were in the news this year regarding their use of data collected by both public and private agencies using license plate tracking systems:

The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

“It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise, and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government,” she said.
Fox News carried further details:

In June 2012, the IRS awarded Vigilant a $1,188 contract for “access to nationwide data,” according to federal procurement records compiled by the news agency. The contract ended in May 2013, according to the records.

“Especially with the IRS, I don’t know why these agencies are getting access to this kind of information,” Lynch said. “These systems treat every single person in an area as if they’re under investigation for a crime — that is not the way our criminal justice system was set up or the way things work in a democratic society.”

[Source: By Mac Salvo]

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Baltimore (and other) Riots - They Were Planned




[Urban Man's comments: As I was watching the riots in Baltimore, and said out loud that it would be a short period of time before other riots in other large inner cities started up, and I was right, I wondered just how much of this was orchestrated by some entity behind the scenes? And why?]

The over all control of the catalyst of these riots is a no brainer. I know that the people rioting were the dredges of our society and have an issue with mainstream Amercia because of their perceptions of injustice, but when the sames social media sights and personalities, not to mention key rioting words, were used in Baltimore, then in Washington D.C., then Philly and New York, the deduction that these were derived riots canot be swept away.

If you add the facts that there was black leadership in Baltimore (Mayor, Police Chief and Chief Prosecutor) and that there were no facts produced in the wrongful death claim, a rational person would get the idea that the death of one Mr. Drug Addict Career Criminal Freddy Gray.

I was pleased to see Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse post an article on the the Balitmore Riots and the unanswered questions:

12 unanswered questions about the Baltimore riots that they don’t want us to ask…

Why did the Baltimore riots seem like they were perfectly staged to be a television event? Images of police vehicles burning made for great television all over the planet, but why were there abandoned police vehicles sitting right in the middle of the riot zones without any police officers around them in the first place?

Why was the decision made ahead of time to set a curfew for Tuesday night and not for Monday night? And why are Baltimore police officers claiming that they were ordered to “stand down” and not intervene as dozens of shops, businesses and homes went up in flames? Yes, the anger over the death of Freddie Gray is very real.

Police brutality has been a major problem in Baltimore and much of the rest of the nation for many years. But could it be possible that the anger that the people of Baltimore are feeling is being channeled and manipulated for other purposes? The following are 12 unanswered questions about the Baltimore riots that they don’t want us to ask…

#1 Why are dozens of social media accounts that were linked to violence in Ferguson now trying to stir up violence in Baltimore?…

The data mining firm that found between 20 and 50 social media accounts in Baltimore linked to the violence in Ferguson, Mo. is now reporting a spike in message traffic in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, with “protesters” trying to get rides to Baltimore for Tuesday night.

The firm, which asked to remain anonymous because it does government work, said some of the suspect social media accounts in Baltimore are sending messages to incite violence. While it is possible to spoof an account, to make it look like someone is one place and really is in another, that does not fully explain the high numbers.

#2 Who was behind the aggressive social media campaign to organize a “purge” that would start at the Mondawmin Mall at precisely 3 PM on Monday afternoon?…

The spark that ignited Monday’s pandemonium probably started with high school students on social media, who were discussing a “purge” — a reference to a film in which laws are suspended.

Many people knew “very early on” that there was “a lot of energy behind this purge movement,” Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby told CNN on Tuesday. “It was a metaphor for, ‘Let’s go out and make trouble.'”

#3 Even though authorities had “credible intelligence” that gangs would be specifically targeting police officers on Monday, why weren’t they more prepared? On Tuesday, the captain of the Baltimore police tried to make us believe that they weren’t prepared because they were only anticipating a confrontation with “high schoolers”…

Police Capt. John Kowalczyk said the relatively light initial police presence was because authorities were preparing for a protest of high schoolers. A heavy police presence and automatic weapons would not have been appropriate, he said. Kowalczyk said police made more than 200 arrests — only 34 of them juveniles.

#4 Where were the Baltimore police on Monday afternoon when the riots exploded? During the rioting, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that the “disappearance of the police for hours this afternoon is something that is going to haunt this city for decades”.

#5 Why are police officers in Baltimore claiming that they were instructed to “stand down” during the rioting on Monday afternoon?…

Police officers in Baltimore reportedly told journalists that they were ordered by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake not to stop looters during yesterday’s riots.

Rawlings-Blake, who waited 5 hours before even making a statement on the unrest, was already under intense critcism for saying that violent mobs were provided with “space” to “destroy” during riots which took place on Saturday.

One Baltimore shopkeeper said that he actually called the police 50 times asking for help and never got any assistance at all. Other business owners reported similar results. This is so similar to what we saw back during the Ferguson riots.

#6 Why was the decision made ahead of time to set a curfew on Tuesday night but not on Monday night?

#7 Why were so many police vehicles conveniently parked along the street in areas where the worst violence happened? After the destruction of a number of police vehicles on Saturday night, the Baltimore police had to know that they were prime targets. So why were there even more police vehicles available for rioters to destroy on Monday? And where were the cops that should have been protecting those vehicles?

#8 Why is an organization funded by George Soros stirring up emotions against the police in Baltimore?

#9 Why is CNN bringing on “commentators” that are promoting violence in Baltimore?…

Marc Lamont Hill, a Morehouse College professor and regular CNN commentator, embraced radical violence in the streets during an interview Monday on CNN.

“There shouldn’t be calm tonight,” Hill told CNN host Don Lemon as riots raged in the streets of Baltimore.

“Black people are dying in the streets. We’ve been dying in the streets for months, years, decades, centuries. I think there can be resistance to oppression.”

#10 Why did Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake initially tell reporters that a decision was made on Saturday to give “those who wished to destroy space to do that”?

#11 Why were rioters given hours to cause mayhem before a state of emergency was finally declared on Monday? Maryland Governor Larry Hogan seems to think that Mayor Rawlings-Blake waited far too long to declare a state of emergency. Just check out what he told one reporter…

I‘ve been in daily communication with the mayor and others in the city and our entire team has been involved from day one. Frankly, this was a Baltimore city situation. Baltimore city was in charge. When the mayor called me, which quite frankly we were glad that she finally did, instantly we signed the executive order. We already had our entire team prepared.

We were all in a command center and second floor of the state house in constant communication and we were trying to get in touch with the mayor for quite some time. She finally made that call and we immediately took action.

#12 Does the fact that the mayor of Baltimore has very close ties to the Obama administration have anything to do with how events unfolded during the riots? The following is from Infowars.com…

Rawlings-Blake was one of three mayors who provided broad input into President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which advocates the federalization of police departments across the country by forcing them to adhere to stricter federal requirements when they receive funding.

“The federal government can be a strong partner in our efforts in build better relationships between the police and community,” she said in written testimony before the task force.

That would explain her inaction to stop the rioting when it began: by allowing it to spiral out of control, the mayor and her friends at the Justice Dept. could use the unrest to justify the expansion of federal power into local law enforcement, which would also allow her to receive more funding.

And why did it take Barack Obama several days to publicly condemn the violence in Baltimore? Why didn’t he stand up and say something on Monday when the riots were at their peak?

Something doesn’t smell right about all of this. Much of the violence could have been prevented if things had been handled differently.

In the end, who is going to get hurt the most by all of this? It will be the African-American communities in the heart of Baltimore that are already suffering with extremely high levels of unemployment and poverty.

I wish that we could all just learn to come together and love one another. Over the past few days, I have seen a whole lot of “us vs. them” talk coming from all quarters. This kind of talk is only going to reinforce the cycle of mistrust and violence.

Sadly, I believe that this is just the beginning of what is coming to America.