Unemployment and entitlements; an FBI hero

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View 750 Thursday, November 15, 2012

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Simple question.

The government only pays you UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ( which, of course, I have paid for) for a whopping 26 weeks. Where did you get this crazy idea that people can live off unemployment indefinitely, which underpins your assertion.

Maybe you should try to feed your family on 405 dollars a week for 6 months before you pretend that people are choosing this as a lifestyle. Explain to your hungry kid at dinner why there’s noting else to eat. Getting a job is easy compared to that.

I can only think I have not been clear. I don’t think I have ever said that one can live indefinitely off unemployment. When I was an undergraduate “the unemployment” was known as 26-26, meaning that it was $26 a week for 26 weeks. The benefits have been raised considerably, and the duration extended to 99 weeks for many cases, but is still short of infinite.

Men with families who stay home and try to support them are not likely to be tempted to turn down a job offer because they prefer unemployment. On the other hand, those who live on unemployment do tend to adopt a new lifestyle, and to discover the other entitlements and benefits available. Indeed, given the blitz of radio advertisements for the food stamp program in the weeks before the election, they don’t have to work hard to make that discovery.

As an aside, the Food Stamp advertisements in California were promoted as “Cal Fresh”, and they were ubiquitous until just before the election. I have not heard one since. None of the ads mentioned the words Food Stamps.

Not every person who goes through a long period of surviving unemployment adjusts to the point that continuing that life is preferable to continuing to look for jobs. How many do I don’t know. I’ve never been in that situation, and I don’t suppose very many of my readers ever have. I can tell you that there are plenty of jobs I would not take if it came down to that vs. a life on entitlements. Whether that would have appealed to me when I was younger I can’t tell you.

The people most critically affected by the economic crash are solid citizens, skilled workers who were solidly middle class until for one reason or another they were priced out of the labor market, and who have little capability of ever regaining the income and status they once had. Their companies could not compete, and the international economic policies protect keeping consumer prices lower (through non-tariffed imports) than job protection. That is yet another debate: clearly there are cased in which protective tariff to keep domestic industries alive have been successful; there are also cases in which protection produced terrible results and didn’t actually protect the jobs either. Lincoln’s observation that if he bought a shirt from New England he got the shirt and the money stayed in the United States where it could still be taxed doesn’t apply so much in these days of international corporations, but it is still something to keep in mind when designing economic policies. When I was young the South was solidly Democrat in part because the Democratic Party had a policy of “tariff for revenue only” as opposed to the Republican Party which favored protective tariff. That was long ago, and since that time industry has come to the South despite the enormous protective taxes on textile processing machinery, and the issue never arises any longer. The question of a rational policy that balances job stability against the higher consumer costs that come from protective tariff is worth discussion.

The problem is that no entitlement society can ever restore the lost jobs of the skilled workers whose industries have closed down. They will have to adjust to a new life style no matter what the government policy. Government and entitlements can’t make them middle class again. Government can employ some of them, but then they have to be paid for. And government can raise the level of what we call ‘poverty’ to something less intolerable – a large number of the people of the world would consider the US poverty level to be one of unattainable luxury. The question then is how long that can be continued: at present productivity levels it can’t be. Before we can give out enough goods to keep that level going we have to have those goods, either through manufacturing the goods or through providing goods and services to those who do make the stuff that we need.

In addition to stuff, there are essential services that must be provided. Health care is one of them. There is a limit on how many of those services are available. The remedy is to train more people to provide them. We’ve been through this before: is there a real limit to the number of medical professionals who can be supported at levels that will induce them to undergo the rigorous education and training required to bring them up to an acceptable level of service?

These are the kinds of problems that must be solved.

One solution is central planning. Five Year Plans. Guaranteed jobs. Employment stability. Schumpeter dealt with that a long time ago, in a book that used to be required reading for everyone who pretended to a university education. So have many others. Central planning tends to fail for lack of information. The computer revolution is said by some to have remedied that.

We have not seen many examples of successful central planning command economies. Perhaps in future? This time for sure? We will have some answers to that over the next four years.

Another is the “German Economic Miracle” phenomenon: remove restrictions on work and employment, remove most economic regulations, invite people to be ingenious” if you can think of something to hire someone to do, and that person is willing to do it, then go ahead. Yes, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the core: unleash the engines of creativity. The result will be growth. Some of it will be brutal. It will be easy to find cases of exploitation’, greed, sadistic bosses, racial discrimination, sexual harassment: there will be good reasons to to impose restrictions and regulations. But for pure economic growth, unrestricted capitalism works.

Incidentally, the one restriction I would always impose on capitalism is size and market share. I would not allow monopolies and cartels. I would not allow the nation to have a Big Five banking system: it would be a lot more like “a not so big 100” along with a ferment of smaller local banks. The same would be true of many other industries: compete by providing more goods at lower prices, not by buying out your competitors. But that’s another story, and one I haven’t time to deal with just now.

What I do want to get across is that I don’t oppose the notion of unemployment insurance. I never took part in 26/26 but I had classmates who took it (and I think illegally continued their undergraduate studies). The notion of 26/26 was to bridge people’s transitions between jobs in a going economy. Inevitably over time the rates went up and the period was extended. That was hardly the main reason for the current depression, but it does contribute to its prolongation. But it can’t be continued forever.

And I think you may have underestimated the effect of entitlements on a coming generation which has not had the experience of supporting itself. Out in suburbia, where people marry and raise their children and send them to school, who show up to work on time and work hard, there is little incentive to live the life of On The Road, and great shame at being unemployed. Elsewhere those values are dying off.

If something cannot continue forever, it will stop.

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I also have this on the current situation:

Talk about Paradigm Shift… FBI agent in probe was a good guy made to look like a wacko

Dr. Pournelle,

Saw this in my news today (copyright, Seattle Times) and knew you would be interested in it. Someone was trying to ‘get’ the agent who bucked FBI bureaucracy and should be a hero. Shirtless photo incident totally presented to public out of context … as is seen after reading the facts in this story:

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2019684905_agent15m.html?prmid=4939

Mystery FBI agent in Petraeus scandal revealed

The FBI agent who started the email inquiry that eventually led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus is known for his work in Seattle leading the investigation into millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam.

By Mike Carter <http://search.nwsource.com/search?searchtype=cq&sort=date&from=ST&byline=Mike%20Carter>

Seattle Times staff reporter

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FBI Special Agent Fred Humphries once testified for the defense of would-be "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam. <http://seattletimes.com/ABPub/zoom/html/2019684906.html>

Enlarge this photo <http://seattletimes.com/ABPub/zoom/html/2019684906.html>

STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

FBI Special Agent Fred Humphries once testified for the defense of would-be "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam.

The FBI agent who initiated the investigation that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus has a history of bucking the system on principle, once testifying for the defense of convicted would-be "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam about Ressam’s harsh treatment by the agent’s colleagues after the 9/11 attacks.

Special Agent Fred Humphries was outspoken in opposing the FBI’s decision at the time to turn Ressam over to agents from New York after the attacks, and warned their tough tactics were undoing the cooperation Humphries had coaxed out of the al-Qaida-trained terrorist. Eventually, Ressam ceased cooperating, as Humphries predicted.

Humphries found himself sharply criticized within the bureau. He insisted he had done right and owed it to Ressam.

That same sense of right and duty may be what drove Humphries late last month to contact U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert when he concluded that the FBI was dragging its feet — possibly for political reasons — into an investigation into disturbing emails sent anonymously to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, according to sources familiar with the case.

That investigation eventually led agents to discover that the emails were written by Petraeus’ biographer and secret lover, Paula Broadwell.

Reichert, R-Auburn, took Humphries’ concerns to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who took the message to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Congressional leaders have since complained that they weren’t told about the probe until Petraeus resigned three days after the election.

Kelley, a family friend, first contacted Humphries about the emails, according to Humphries and news reports. Humphries referred Kelley’s complaint to the bureau’s cybercrime unit and was not directly involved in the investigation, according to the sources.

Humphries, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, acknowledged he sought out Reichert, through his former boss, retired Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Mandigo, but declined to elaborate.

But two sources said Humphries decided to go outside the bureau when his concerns about the progress of the investigation — which he believed involved national security — were met with an internal investigation into a shirtless photograph of Humphries found in Kelley’s email.

Humphries, 47, confirmed the photograph exists and was sent to Kelley and dozens of other friends and acquaintances in the fall of 2010, shortly after Humphries had transferred to the Tampa office from Guantánamo Bay, where he had been an FBI liaison to the CIA at the detention facility there.

Indeed, among his friends and associates, Humphries was known to send dumb-joke emails in which the punch line was provided by opening an attached photo.

A Seattle Times reporter was among those who received an email containing an attachment of the shirtless photo. The subject line read: "Which one is Fred?"

The snapshot shows Humphries — bald, muscular and shirtless — standing between a pair of headless but equally buff and bullet-ridden target dummies on a shooting range.

The joke — over which was the dummy — has now backfired in ways he couldn’t have imagined on Sept. 9, 2010, when it was first sent.

Mandigo confirmed he received a copy of the photo as well and described it as "joking." The photo was sent from a joint personal email account shared by Humphries’ wife. Humphries said that, at one point, his supervisor posted the picture on an FBI bulletin board as a joke and that his wife, a teacher, has a framed copy.

Humphries joined the FBI after serving as an Army infantry and intelligence officer, leaving with the rank of captain. He had been with the FBI for just two years when he was made the case agent in the Ressam investigation, involving a 1999 plan to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.

The trial judge in the Ressam case, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, praised Humphries’ efforts and integrity repeatedly.

In Tampa, he and his wife also dipped into the party circuit that featured CENTCOM brass. In an October 2008 email to friends and acquaintances, including a Seattle Times reporter, he said they had just had "a phenomenal evening at a private residence on Davis Island with MG Jay Hood (former commander at GTMO; now Chief of Staff, CENTCOM) and General Petraeus. Also in attendance, Former Governor Bob Martinez, Mayors, who’s who in Tampa and the State of Florida."

The email referred to the two generals as "great leaders."

The New York Times quotes Humphries’ attorney, Lawrence Berger from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, as saying that the Humphries and Kelleys socialized, and that was part of the reason Jill Kelley went to him about the troubling emails.

He also described the shirtless photo as being "sent years before Ms. Kelley contacted him about this, and it was sent as part of a larger context of what I could call social relations in which the families would exchange numerous photos of each other," Berger said.

In May 2010, while an agent in the Tampa field office, Humphries shot and killed a disturbed, knife-wielding man outside the gate of MacDill Air Force Base, where Humphries was training with SWAT and special-forces soldiers.

In an email to the Seattle Times reporter several months later, Humphries described the incident.

"I had 4 seconds, that seemed like 40, to go through my mental checks," he recalled. With cars and civilians around, he waited "’till he was five feet from me before firing two rounds … after repeatedly warning him.

"I worried it was a FT Hood scenario," he said, referring to the shooting spree in 2009 at the Texas Army base that left 13 dead and dozens wounded. "I didn’t even have time to put on my ballistic vest. Crazy world."

The shooting was deemed justified. Locally, Humphries is remembered as a driven and dedicated counterterrorism agent whose first big case was Ressam, during which he wound up traveling nearly 300,000 miles. Ressam is serving a 37-year sentence.

Humphries also was a key agent in the investigation into James Ujaama, a Seattle man who tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

Andrew Hamilton, a King County senior deputy prosecutor and former federal prosecutor in the Ressam case, said of Humphries on Wednesday, "I can honestly say he was one of the finest agents I have ever worked with." He said "one of the reasons" Ressam cooperated with federal investigators "is the way he was treated by Fred Humphries."

"I think Fred was very caring, he was honest and very professional," Hamilton said of the agent’s dealings with Ressam. "Let me just say this, Fred never got tired," Hamilton added. "He would work until the job was done."

[emphasis added] I put this up for information.

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Missiles rain on Tel Aviv. Israel is calling up the reserves. They do not do this lightly.

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U.F.O. seen over Denver Colorado Skies:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qxlMzKIEUY&feature=player_embedded

This guy records UFO’s over Denver between Noon and 1pm a couple of times a week. He tells a TV station. They send out a cameraman and a reporter. THEY get the UFO’s on video. NORAD claims no air activity for those times.

Well! Fancy that!

Ed

It appears to be repeatable.

http://www.businessinsider.com/fox-ufo-flying-above-denver-2012-11

Someone will eventually explain it I suppose. Still, very interesting.

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http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/carroll/lewis/snark/ An attractive nuisance.

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