Saturday, December 10, 2016

Generation Zero Full Documentary | Citizens United

Interesting documentary produced by Steve Bannon, former Goldman Sachs executive and controversial advisor to Donald Trump.

Man punches a kangaroo in the face to rescue his dog

A group of hunters got together to help a young cancer sufferer (terminal diagnosis) with his last wish of catching a 100 kg (220 pound) wild boar with his dogs. One day while hunting one of the highly trained dogs was chasing some pigs by scent and collided with a big buck kangaroo that then held and wrestled the dog by its protective gear (boars have tusks like knives), the owner was horrified that his dog or the kangaroo would get hurt and run in to save both parties. You can see the dog trying to escape, wanting nothing to do with the kangaroo. The big buck kangaroo releases the dog when the owner gets close but then moves in to try and attack the human. A kangaroo kick to the guts could easily disembowel the owner easily , so he backs off a couple of times giving the kangaroo some space but he eventually changes the roo's mind with a punch to the snout, as it kept coming forward. The punch stops the roo and makes him think about the situation, giving the owner and the dog time to disengage from the big wild animal and leaving it to hop off and I suppose wonder about what just happened. We laughed at the absurdity of the situation and at how unfortunate it was for the dog and kangaroo. Our 6 foot 7 inch friend felt no malice to the kangaroo but had to step in and fix a bad situation before it got worse. Young Kailem unfortunately lost his brave battle with cancer two days ago, so this hunt is part of the treasured memories his family and friends have. Having a dog get tangled up with a roo was never our aim or intention and we were happy no animals were hurt in the incident." -Greg Bloom

Can Tiny Homes Solve Homelessness?

Despite Trump, Is the Clean Energy Future Inevitable?

Despite Trump, Is the Clean Energy Future Inevitable?

The momentum away from fossil fuels and toward renewables is 'undeniable and irresistible' assert activists.

EarthWindTurbineMopicDreamstimeMopic/DreamstimeNo matter who's running the government, America's "transition to a clean energy economy is irrevocably underway," the Natural Resources Defense Council asserted in its Accelerating into a Clean Energy Future report this week. Report co-author Ralph Cavanagh added, "The nationwide momentum for pollution-free energy is undeniable and irresistible because clean energy now costs less than dirty energy."
As if to confirm the Council's claim, the infotech giant Google announced this week by the end of next year, its global operations will be fueled 100 percent by electricity generated by renewable sources. ("The science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent global priority," the company's press release explained.) This does not mean that Google gets its electricity directly from solar panels on the roofs of its data centers or from wind turbines churning away on its corporate campuses. The company basically makes purchasing commitments to renewable projects that offset the conventionally generated electricity that it gets from local utilities.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with a business legally adopting measures that it thinks are in the best interests of its customers and shareholders. If the company is on the wrong track, those stakeholders will let Google's executives know through their purchasing and investment choices.
But if clean energy really does cost less than dirty energy, then what is there to resist? In that case, surely the invisible hand of the marketplace will make the transition to a clean-energy economy irrevocable. So can we all put aside our worries about catastrophic climate change?
Not so fast. You see, policies are needed.
Google notes that during "the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option." Yet even as proponents insist that clean energy now outcompetes fossil fuels, they nevertheless want to enhance their irrevocablabilty with a little help from the government. As Google obliquely puts it, "We believe the private sector, in partnership with policy leaders, must take bold steps."
What might that "partnership" look like? Google doesn't say, but you can get a sense of what might be required by reading From Risk to Return, a new report from the Risky Business Project. This group is supported by the media mogul Michael Bloomberg, the Bush-era treasury secretary Henry Paulsen, and the hedge fund manager and prominent Democratic Party donor Thomas Steyer. Its report presents four pathways toward restructuring America's energy infrastructure, with the goal of cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2050.
While the paper does not favor any of those four pathways—renewables, nuclear, carbon capture, and a mix—it focuses mostly on the costs and benefits of the fourth, which reduces emissions via a combination of renewables, nuclear, carbon emissions captured from fossil fuels, and the transformation of transportation toward reliance on electricity, hydrogen, and biofuels. By 2050, the report projects, the extra expenditures for building out low-carbon energy production and consumption infrastructure would be more than offset by fuel costs. The authors argue that clean energy is unfortunately not yet ready to compete head-on with fossil fuels.
"The private sector alone cannot solve the climate change problem," the Risky Business report concludes. "We know from our collective business and investment experience that the private sector will take action at the necessary speed and scale only if it is given a clear and consistent policy and regulatory framework." What sort of policies do they think are necessary? First and more foremost, they want government to put a price on carbon emissions. From their point of view, this would level the energy playing field. In addition, they rightly want to eliminate tax incentives for fossil fuel extraction, end subsidized flood insurance in high-risk areas, and lower regulatory and financing barriers to clean energy projects. Also, they want companies to disclose material climate-related risks; presumably this would include risks related to capricious public policy.
Speaking of capricious public policy, what is the Trump administration likely to do with regard to energy policy—and, in particular, to renewable energy subsidies? As it happens, Congress passed legislation just last year that gave a three-year extension to the 30 percent tax credit for solar investment, then will ramp it down incrementally until it reaches a permanent 10 percent level in 2022. The 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour wind power production credit remains through this year, and will subsequently begin dropping 20 percent each year through 2020. Republicans voted for these subsidies in exchange for Democratic votes in favor of lifting the 40-year ban on exports of crude oil produced in the U.S. Since these subsidies are already scheduled for a phase-out, it seems unlikely that the Trump administration will regard going after them as a high priority.
What about Ralph Cavanagh's claim that clean energy now costs less than dirty energy? Last year, the investment bank Lazard calculated that the levelized unsubsidized cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic electricity—levelizedmeans capital, fuel, and operation and maintenance are all taken into account—would range between $58 and $70 per megawatt-hour. For on-shore wind, it's $32 to $77. The cost of cheapest fossil fuel competitor, natural gas combined cycle generation, ranged between $52 and $78 per megawatt-hour. If Lazard is right, the clean energy transition does look irresistible. Who would want to resist cheaper energy?
On the other hand, the Energy Information Administration's somewhat higher estimates do not find that unsubsidized wind and solar will become cost competitive with cheap natural gas by 2022. Other research points out that increasing dependence on renewable energy means building back-up generation that can take over when clouds obscure the sun or wind dies down.
In any case, federal energy policy is not the only game in town. As the Natural Resources Defense Council report observes, one-fifth of Americans live in states that currently plan to get at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by around 2030. It will be interesting to see how such states fare economically against states without such mandates.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Facial Recognition? There's an App for That, and U.S. Law Enforcement Has Been Helping Private Companies Use It

Facial Recognition? There's an App for That, and U.S. Law Enforcement Has Been Helping Private Companies Use It

Soon shopping malls and theaters can run surveillance images through an app to access state, federal, and international law enforcement watch-lists.

ALFRED PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Alfred Pasieka/SPL/NewscomALFRED PASIEKA/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Alfred Pasieka/SPL/NewscomLas Vegas-based startup Biometrica Systems describes its business as "creating software and systems that link the physical to the digital" and vice versa, "with the intention of minimizing criminality" and "events that could lead to crime."
The company's encrypted Security & Surveillance Information Network (SSIN) is already used by law-enforcement and gaming, retail, and hospitality businesses to share real-time information about suspicious incidents and individuals. Now, the network's newest iteration will give clients "the ability to run facial recognition scans of any individual or group on their properties and match them against a law enforcement verified database of criminals numbering in the millions, including more than one million registered sex offenders"—all using a convenient mobile app. What could go wrong?
Initially focused on the casino and gaming sector, Biometrica has since expanded SSIN to serve "shopping centers, stores, malls, and movie theaters." In an explanation of Biometrica products, the company website notes that federal and state governments have been "seeing the upside of sharing data with private partners" and that has allowed Biometrica to "collect and amalgamate several different law enforcement watch-lists—local, federal, state, and international."
And this, in turn, has allowed Biometrica "to create a composite set of images of an individual and their known associates, and build a set of dynamic attributes to attach to the individual and/or group" to provide businesses with a more "holistic" way of conducting "threat identification and crime prevention."
In a show of spectacularly creepy bravado, Biometrica CEO Wyly Wade called the new SSIN "revolutionary," and not only for security and surveillance companies. "This might be the first time a private company has taken Department of Defense-developed Facial Recognition software… and attached that to mobile devices for private customer use," he said.
The facial-recognition app can also benefit "non-bank financial institutions," said Biometrica Chief Financial Officer Nigel White in a statement. "They have an imperative to fulfill Know Your Customer requirements on an everyday basis. Helping them have access to faces and backgrounders of known white-collar felons in the system, will support their KYC and Anti-Money Laundering obligations."

Could Donald Trump Cancel the Paris Climate Accord?

Cassandra Sweet, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal explains the impact Donald Trump's presidency may have on the Paris Climate Accord.

Full program: President-elect Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of fossil fuels and rejection of the Paris climate deal is the earthshaking story of 2016. That surprise change is casting doubt on clean energy efforts across the board and sending climate-conscious people into a deep funk.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pension Wake up Call. Marinwood, are you listening?

From: The San Diego Union Tribune

Loyalton's pension default is a wake up call

Sick … a punch in the stomach. That’s how public retirees in Loyalton, California, are taking news that their town defaulted on its pension payments, resulting in the possibility of their retirement benefits being cut by as much as 60 percent, the majority of their hard-earned livelihood. 
Pension debt is not a new story — in fact, most of the country’s public pensions are significantly underfunded (state and local pensions across the U.S. have an estimated $5 trillion less than needed to cover promised benefits). But this time the largest pension plan in the nation, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), has thrown public employees overboard. And that has government workers and retirees across the country asking, could this happen to me? The answer is yes! If your city runs out of money and your pension plan is not fully funded, you will lose. The only question is how much.
Loyalton withdrew from CalPERS in 2013, upon the retirement of its last guaranteed pensioner. For council members, it just made sense — after all, the town had been fully paying its required annual contributions all along. But what it didn’t count on was the $1.6 million termination fee demanded by CalPERS to cover unfunded liabilities which CalPERS has allowed to grow for the last 17 years. The fee amounts to a whopping $320,000 per each of Loyalton’s five retirees, an amount that is impossible for the town to pay. And now CalPERS has put the retirees on notice that their monthly checks will be cut.
This is what happens when cities run out of money and their pension plans are underfunded. Municipalities in fiscal distress with huge pension debt are spread throughout the country, and, sadly, California is leading the charge. StocktonSan Bernardino and Vallejo were just the beginning — all forced into bankruptcy with massive pension obligations, causing retirees to lose their health care benefits. In DetroitMichiganCentral FallsRhode Island, and PritchardAlabama, retirees took hits to their health care and pension benefits.
State and local government retirement programs are trillions of dollars in debt, resulting in tremendous budget challenges for states and municipalities and it’s only getting worse. There is no doubt that spiraling pension debt is at crisis-level proportions and is the most significant financial issue facing state and local governments.
So how did we get here and what steps can policymakers take to clean up the mess? 
As retirement costs go up, and in most states they’ve doubled or tripled in the last decade, government leaders are simply not keeping up with the rising costs. Instead, they are creating enormous pension debt, which threatens not just taxpayers but also retirees. 
In California we’ve seen many years of systemic failure to properly fund the state’s public pension systems. CalPERS’ pension debt now totals around $170 billion. As a result, between 2003 and 2013, annual pension costs for California governments jumped from $6.4 billion to $17.5 billion, and are still rising. Because of the debt, Californians face a future of higher taxes and lower services, and retirees face insecurity and possible loss of their pension benefits.
The story is similar in many other states as well. Some local governments already face service delivery insolvency and bankruptcy. More will join them in the next recession, and public employees, retirees and residents will suffer unless there is significant and meaningful pension reform. 
Government leaders can start by fully funding their pensions. State and local governments have an obligation to ensure that their retirement plans are sustainable, fiscally sound and responsibly managed so that all retirees and employees get paid what they have earned. All workers deserve safe and secure futures and shouldn’t be held responsible for poor decision-making by policy leaders. 
Failure to fund pension obligations as they are incurred makes retirement security impossible. The widespread use of overly optimistic assumptions, like high rates of return on investments means that plans are systematically underfunding their obligations every year.
Let Loyalton be a wake-up call. Neither public employees nor taxpayers created the current pension crisis, and neither should be left holding the bag when the politicians who created the problem don’t make good on their promises.
Reed, former mayor of San Jose, is a board member of the Retirement Security Initiative, a national, bipartisan advocacy organization focused on protecting and ensuring the fairness and solvency of public sector retirement plans.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

McNellis: Let Them Commute

McNellis: Let Them Commute

“The rich are different from you and me.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Rich cities are different, too, but—like rich people—they have their own seemingly insoluble problems. It’s just that their problems are different. At first blush, less fortunate municipalities would beg for their issues. While every other city from Bangor to Burbank is scrabbling to improve its sputtering job growth, a handful of charmed towns should be embarrassed by their employment riches.
From 2012 to 2014, the San Francisco Bay Area created 382,500 jobs while providing only 68,200 new dwellings (homes and apartments). The forecast for 2015 is roughly another 4 new jobs for each new dwelling. Even if you consider economists’ predictions on a par with those of shamans, you know the dismal science is dead-on about supply and demand. The 2014 median house price in America was $206,800. In San Francisco, it was $1,006,600, five times more. Median apartment rents nationwide are $1,231 while San Francisco’s weigh in at $3,396.
Once upon a time, when everyone had to walk, the rich lived on the flat land in the center of town and the poor lived atop the surrounding hills. No one with a choice was willing to trudge up and down hills every day. Henry Ford changed that. Once upon a nearer time—say from after WWII through sometime in the ’80s—the rich lived in wooded suburbs and commuted to the center of town. Gridlock changed that. The rich now live within close proximity to where they work. In fact, the CEO theory of corporate headquarters has it that a company’s main office will be located within a 10-minute surface-street drive of the CEO’s residence.
265,000 workers commute into San Francisco every day from out of town, handing the city, by some measures, the second worst traffic in the country. With a $1,000,000 median home price, it’s not only shoe clerks who are enduring the Sisyphean commute; it’s anyone making less than three hundred thousand a year. But the irony is that the reverse commute*, that is, out of the city to Silicon Valley may be even worse. Why? Because those who can afford to live in San Francisco—the techies—work in the Valley.
If it’s not the Valley’s capital, Palo Alto is surely its epicenter, home to its best and brightest minds and arguably its worst side effects. At 3.01 jobs per dwelling, Palo Alto has an unparalleled jobs-housing imbalance (Manhattan’s stands at 2.67). What do 3 jobs for every residence get you? A median home price of $2,200,000 (eleven times the national median), apartment rents 10 percent higher than San Francisco’s and roads that turn into parking lots twice a day.
What’s shocking is that this imbalance is getting worse by the day. With office rents among the highest in the country, Palo Alto is in the midst of a land-grab where developers are converting every lot and shack in town to office space (a new low was achieved earlier this year when a laundromat in a crappy strip center was turned into start-up space). What isn’t shocking is that the gridlocked citizenry is up in arms, demanding a cessation to the run-away office development. Sadly, what also isn’t shocking is that no one—neither the lunatic fringe that opposes everything nor the thoughtful people elected to run the city—is connecting the woes from our choking jobs growth to our jobs-housing imbalance.
Why? Because as socially liberal as Palo Alto may be, new housing for anyone—from the working poor to the idle upper class—is political cyanide. Merely uttering the word density in public is enough to get a politician recalled. If truth were a commonplace at public hearings, the vociferous no-growth forces might, instead of hiding behind their threadbare concerns for public safety, simply declare, “Let them commute.”
Sadder still is that this is a very old story. The Palo Alto Weekly’s former editor-in-chief, Jay Thorwaldson, pointed out in an insightful piece last year that this issue has been bedeviling Palo Alto for forty years and, despite the periodic public Sturm und Drang, has only become much worse.
Is there a solution? Piece of cake: Take urban planning away from local officials; make it a regional decision. As long as land use is decided by neighborhood-elected city councils, nothing will change. Short of that real-world impossibility, a big step in the right direction would be to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), if ever so slightly. This well-intentioned legislation is, simply put, broken. Instead of being used to assure environmental compliance, it is relied upon as the final roadblock in the effort to defeat projects, regardless of their environmental quality. CEQA lawsuits contesting a city’s decision to allow a given development cost no-growth opponents virtually nothing to file and prosecute. They file these suits knowing that if a project can be delayed long enough, it will die or, at a minimum, be drastically cut back. If, as a prerequisite to filing their lawsuit, the opponents had to post a bond in a meaningful amount—say the actual cost of the project’s environmental studies—which they would forfeit in the event they were to lose their lawsuit, far fewer suits would be filed.
What Palo Alto’s raised-drawbridge crowd fails to realize is that ultimately they are condemning themselves to a life without family, without children and grandchildren. They may have a cracker box they bought for $90,000 that’s now worth $2,500,000, but their children—even their very bright, very hardworking children—will move away when it comes time to buy a home. How many young lawyers and doctors can save the half million you need for a down payment on a $2,200,000 house? And, unwilling to endure an hour and a half commute, they will move to Portland.
* “I have a reverse commute,” a very popular real estate lie in the 80’s, finally died out when even the criminally gullible began to scoff.
John E. McNellis is a Principal at McNellis Partners in Palo Alto, Calif.    [ Editor's Note: He is a developer asking for the suspension of democratic rights and the use of government power to enable him to make millions.  This is  despicable crony capitalism. }

Peter Coyote, the "Spirit of Marin" leaves for Sonoma County.

Peter Coyote will be doing a talk and book signing at the Commonweal Retreat Center in Bolinas on Sunday, July 19. Photo courtesy of Peter Coyote

Yes, I am moving to Sonoma County. I’ve had it with Mill Valley. It’s become so crowded, so much traffic, and so little responsibility has been devoted to the carrying capacity of the area. 

By Steve Heilig
Peter Coyote was once voted “Marin’s favorite celebrity” by Pacific Sun readers, although he probably wasn’t too excited about that. But there’s no denying his fame. He has appeared in more than 140 films and television shows, and narrated more than 100 projects, including documentaries by the likes of Ken Burns, PBS, National Geographic and more, as well as the Olympic opening ceremonies and many commercials and audiobooks. He’s co-hosted the Academy Awards telecast and much more. But he has always seemed to be something of a reluctant star, even as he undeniably enjoyed some of the trappings of celebrity.
Born as Robert Peter Cohon in 1941 in New York City to an investment banker father, he grew up in affluence where, “I don’t remember anybody being happy.” After elite private schooling, then Iowa’s Grinnell College and a taste of student anti-war activism that resulted in Coyote and his fellow protesters being invited to the White House, he heeded the musical, literary, chemical, political, spiritual and other callings of the early 1960s and came west. After a pot bust and a name change via peyote and a shaman, he became a central figure in the San Francisco hippie or “freak” counterculture, centered in the Haight-Ashbury, both as a budding actor with the radical San Francisco Mime Troupe and as a co-founder of the anarchic collective called the Diggers.
That loose collective, beyond giving out free food and staging all manner of events, “had taken as its collective task the rethinking and recreation of our national culture,” as he wrote in his widely-praised first autobiographical book, 1998’s Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle. Such intentions were not unique to the Diggers, he wrote, as “my generation was struggling openly with problems of racism, grossly inequitable distribution of goods and services, dishonorable foreign policies, and the war in Vietnam.” But by the end of the ’60s, when the Diggers’ lofty goals seemed out of reach and they morphed into the broader Free Family, Coyote migrated into rural West Marin for an experiment with communal living in Olema—an experience that, as recounted in his first book, was, if anything, more anarchic than the Haight.
In the 1970s, after serving as Chair of the California Arts Council during Jerry Brown’s first term as governor, struggles with various addictions and the problem of how to best forge a life after the collapse of so much ’60s idealism and activism, Coyote found a path in acting that eventually brought him fame and relative fortune. After the Olema commune melted away, he returned to San Francisco for a time, primarily to study Zen Buddhism at the San Francisco Zen Center, but has been a Mill Valley resident and family man for more than three decades. His devotion to Buddhism has continued, and he has recently been ordained a priest and teacher—again, seemingly with some ambivalence about those formal roles.
His new, second book has the enigmatic title, The Rainman’s Third Cure: An Irregular Education. While his first memoir delved mostly into the fabled ’60s, this one goes back further, to Coyote’s childhood and upbringing and its lasting impact on his trajectory and struggles. His writing, which has earned him a Pushcart Prize (a prestigious award that honors small presses and authors) in the past, is vivid and compelling, and what is most striking about the book is how revealing Coyote has become about his troubled family and lifelong efforts to come to grips with who he is and who he really wants to be. In some ways, as with so many men, his new book’s story is far from being just a celebrity tell-all, but more a way of making peace with his own “lifetime of unremitting struggle,” especially with his powerful, sometimes scary, distant-yet-ultimately-loving parents, and his “simple luck not to have died.”
We had a long lunch in Sausalito, after Coyote had finished his daily hours of guitar practice and probably, meditation. He admired my dog and noted that after many years, he finally feels ready to get one of his own. He retains his renowned charisma, focused intelligence and yes, movie-star looks, all leavened now by age, spiritual study and discipline. But as revealed here, even that equanimity is not enough to keep him in a rapidly changing Marin, and he is finally fleeing northward, albeit not too far. As for the “Rainman” and his “Third Cure,” well, those interested will just have to read his book—after all, he relates here that producing it was “like crapping a porcupine.”
*   *   *   *   *
So, why another book from you? You covered a lot of ground in your previous one …
Yeah, and especially why another memoir in particular, right? Well, when I looked back at my early life more recently, I realized I had been operating under a world view that was not exactly accurate—I thought there were just two options—a world of love or a world of power—and the trick was to somehow get the mix right. Love without power is flaccid; power without love is brutal. I had all these mentors who have taught me about the world, taught me about navigating the realms of love and power, and from a conventional point of view I’d say I did alright—it’s not an exaggeration to say that for a time I was an international movie star, maybe not of the first magnitude, but my film A Man in Love did open the 40th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. But it was wanting.
Luckily, I had grown up in the household of a very rich man, in which I don’t remember anybody being happy. So that liberated me from being attached to the idea that true wealth was going to be material in nature. At about age 29, I met Gary Snyder, and he was such an exemplar of an integrated life that I was floored. I couldn’t figure out at first what the trick was, how he linked his family life, his political life, his artistic life, his fame, his family life—all of it, until I realized that Buddhism and Buddhist practice was at the core.
Did you start involvement with Buddhism soon after meeting Snyder?
Not immediately, but maybe five years after I met Gary I began courting a woman who was living at Zen Center, whom I subsequently married, and I began formal Buddhist practice. And I didn’t really stick to it diligently for a long time, you know. I was building a career—I didn’t get my Screen Actors Guild union card until I was 39—and I had a daughter to get through school, and we had to save for college, then we had a son. Also, I had chosen a wife who did not want to live in the back of a truck, so I put a lot of energy into earning a living even though it didn’t engage me all that much.
Do you mean that you really weren’t that into acting?
It was never my greatest gift. I’m a much better writer than I am an actor. I might have been a better actor had I had time to really study, but I started late and couldn’t take a year off to go to England, which I would have liked to do. So in some ways, when I was performing, I always felt a little naked and exposed. I came to understand that because of my childhood I had been really traumatized when I was little and that the way I learned to survive was by cutting off my feelings, and learning to see things in a clear observational, unemotional way. It helped me then, but it’s an impediment to being an actor because it often took me a long time to figure out exactly what I was feeling—and knowing what you are feeling is a prerequisite for a great actor. You don’t actually have to be smart, but you can’t act unless

How Long Before This Tool to Censor Images from Terrorists Gets Misused?

How Long Before This Tool to Censor Images from Terrorists Gets Misused?

Amid European calls for speech crackdown, social media companies introduce tool for easier deletions.

Scott Shackford|Dec. 6, 2016 3:15 pm

Imagine China/Newscom 

Four major tech and social media companies—Twitter, YouTube, Google, and Facebook—are combining to censor the internet! But they're doing it for a good cause (and because of government pressure), they say. We're going to have to see what actually comes of it.

The four companies announced that they're working together on a tool that will help them prevent imagery or content produced by terrorists from spreading online. Google in Europe explains:

Starting today, we commit to the creation of a shared industry database of "hashes" — unique digital "fingerprints" — for violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images that we have removed from our services. By sharing this information with each other, we may use the shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on our respective hosted consumer platforms. We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.
Our companies will begin sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services — content most likely to violate all of our respective companies' content policies. Participating companies can add hashes of terrorist images or videos that are identified on one of our platforms to the database. Other participating companies can then use those hashes to identify such content on their services, review against their respective policies and definitions, and remove matching content as appropriate.

As we continue to collaborate and share best practices, each company will independently determine what image and video hashes to contribute to the shared database. No personally identifiable information will be shared, and matching content will not be automatically removed. Each company will continue to apply its own policies and definitions of terrorist content when deciding whether to remove content when a match to a shared hash is found. And each company will continue to apply its practice of transparency and review for any government requests, as well as retain its own appeal process for removal decisions and grievances. As part of this collaboration, we will all focus on how to involve additional companies in the future.

To start with the obvious response: There's nothing inherently wrong or inappropriate about the companies working together and censoring violent content or declining to host it on their platforms.

Ultimately, though, how this tool gets used is what matters. Once a tool can be used to censor, en masse, a violent photo from some terrorist of the Islamic State, that tool can be used to censor anything in similar broad strokes. Recall that Facebook recently had an odd little controversy when it temporarily censored a well-known, historically significant photo from the Vietnam War because it contained nudity.

Leaders in European countries, where they don't have nearly the level of commitment to free speech when people say things that those in power deem to be bigotry or hate speech, are pushing social media platforms to engage in wider forms of censorship of content.

As Andrea O'Sullivan noted earlier today, social media companies are beginning to embrace a "gatekeeper" mentalityafter previously marketing themselves as free-wheeling communication platforms. Will they resist the pressure to use this technology to censor other forms of content at the request of governments?

Never is a Long Time

Why California is wrong to defend sanctuary cities

Why California is wrong to defend sanctuary cities

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee speaks at City Hall on Nov. 14 to reaffirm the commitment to being a sanctuary city against deportations. Jeff Chiu Associated Press


Special to the Bee

Forget #Calexit. We don’t need to wait until 2018 for a silly vote. California has all but decided to secede from the union.

How else to interpret our officials’ lawless course in the coming fight with the Trump administration over illegal immigration?

Randy Pench

They’ve laid down their markers. They’ve drawn their lines. Gov. Jerry Brown: “We will protect the precious rights of our people.”

Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg: “We are going to make it very clear that Sacramento will continue to be a sanctuary city.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf: “I like to compare this to conscientious objector status. We are not going to use our resources to enforce what we believe are unjust immigration laws.”

University of California President Janet Napolitano: “All members of our community have the right to work, study, and live safely and without fear at all UC locations.”

This week, Napolitano joined Cal State University chancellor Timothy White and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor-designate of California Community Colleges, in a joint letter to the president-elect, urging him to leave alone an estimated 74,000 undocumented immigrants enrolled in one of the three systems.

“These sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants are as American as any other child across the nation,” they wrote. These students “should be able to pursue their dream of higher education without fear of being arrested, deported or rounded up for just trying to learn.”

First, they aren’t children. Second, they aren’t at risk of arrest and deportation “for just trying to learn.” They’re at risk of arrest and deportation for being in the country illegally.

Contrary to Steinberg, Schaaf and others, immigration is not a civil rights issue. Or a “resistance” issue (to borrow a loaded term appearing in news stories with disturbing regularity).

It’s a sovereignty issue.

“Sovereignty,” “citizenship” and “assimilation” seem like quaint concepts in an era of “prosecutorial discretion” and “executive action” undertaken by a president and an administration entirely unafraid to wield their pens and phones. But they are at the heart of the immigration question.

Over the past decade, California has sought deliberately to blur the lines between citizen and non-citizen, between green card holder and “unauthorized immigrant.” Illegal immigrants may obtain driver’s licenses. They may receive in-state college tuition and now may hold professional licenses. Some cities let non-citizens vote in municipal elections.

Eliminating the distinction between citizen and non-citizen, between legal and illegal immigrant, undermines social cohesion and the rule of law.

Our officials know it, too.

For anyone who cared to notice, Trump has walked back some of his more incendiary rhetoric on immigration. But on the question of deporting criminal aliens, Trump has not wavered: cities that do not cooperate could lose federal funding. All of it.

According to the New York Times, Oakland stands to lose as much as $140 million in federal money for homeless shelters, meals for the elderly and low-income preschool programs, while Los Angeles could lose upwards of $500 million of its $9 billion budget.

Understandably, local law enforcement officials find themselves in a bind. “I depend on [undocumented immigrants] to be witnesses to crime, I depend on them to report crime, I depend on them to support the police department,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told an interviewer last month. “And none of that is as likely to happen if we become an arm of immigration enforcement.”

Which is exactly what you would expect to happen when you look the other way for decades. But that isn’t what the law says. That isn’t how a properly functioning immigration and naturalization system is supposed to work. And it isn’t fair to American citizens.

Our immigration system needs an overhaul. But states and cities don’t get to make immigration policy. California will pay dearly for its lawless stance.
Editor's Note: We favor immigration reform, not the creation of a "quasi legal citizen" for immigrants which subjects them to all sorts of abuse by government and the private sector.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

‘Sanctuary California’ Faces Bankruptcy if Trump Withholds Federal Funds

‘Sanctuary California’ Faces Bankruptcy if Trump Withholds Federal Funds

by CHRISS W. STREET 26 Nov 2016Newport Beach, CA

Although Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warnedPresident-elect Trump that defunding Sanctuary Cities would cause “social, economic and security problems,” Sanctuary California could face bankruptcy if the Trump administration follows through on threats to pull billions in federal funding.

There are 300 “Sanctuary Cities” and counties around the United States that have policies in place blocking local law enforcement from complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests for immigration holds.

An ICE detainer is a written request for a local jail or other law enforcement agency to detain an individual for an additional 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) after his or her release date, in order to provide ICE agents extra time to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody for removal purposes.

The Department of Justice’s Inspector General (IG) issued a memorandum in August that advised that sanctuary city practices violate federal law. The IG finding empowers Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), if confirmed as U.S. Attorney General, to strip sanctuary cities — including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — of certain federal law enforcement grants. He can also seek court orders to strip federal grants from any government entities refusing to comply with U.S. laws.

Sessions applauded the finding: “Now, the law and the American people demand that this Administration cease its acquiescence in this illegality. The Obama Administration must immediately take action to withhold significant federal law enforcement funding for these offending jurisdictions.”

Mayor Garcetti and other big city Democrat mayors have defiantly said after Trump’s election that despite the federal government providing an average of 25 percent of state and local government general revenues, they still will not comply with ICE holds.

The reason local government can afford to flout the incoming Trump administration without much fear,is that 95 percent of the $620 billion in federal intergovernmental transfers are block-granted directly to states, who then make transfers to their cities and counties. Direct federal block grants to local government amount to only about $30 billion, and half of that is untouchable as public health and Homeland Security funds.

But there are four Democrat-controlled “Sanctuary States” that are also defying federal law by refusing to honor ICE detainer requests for immigration holds. Connecticut, New Mexico, and Colorado receive relatively small amounts of federal dollars due to low population. But the State of California, with the largest population, is the top receiver of federal funds in the nation.

Of California’s $252.5 billion in total estimated government spending for fiscal year 2015, the federal government provided $93.6 billion, or 37 percent. That works out to a stunning $6,451 for every man, woman and child in the state.

The breakdown of California’s federal funding, by department, includes: 52 percent for Health and Human Services (Medicaid); an average of 25 percent of all state and local government’ general revenues for Labor and Workforce Development, 14 percent for Education; 6 percent for Transportation; 2 percent for Legislative, Judicial and Executive; and 1 percent for General Government, which includes Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, Corrections and Rehabilitation, State and Consumer Services.

Breitbart News reported in May that Moody’s Global Credit Research fiscal stress-tests found that California was already the least prepared large state to weather the next recession. The credit rating service followed up in August with a warning to municipal bondholders that the plummeting financial condition of many California counties, cities, school districts and other agencies would soon result in large numbers of municipal bankruptcy filings.

The only time in the last 40 years California that suffered a 3.7 percent or more of GDP decline was the 4.4 percent plunge in 2009 during the Great Recession. Given the state’s precarious financial condition, any cut-off of federal funds by the Trump Administration could bankrupt California and many of the state’s local government entities.

New threat to Marin Farmers: Cow Fart Regulations

California's New Cow Fart Regulations Totally Stink

New law aims to reduce bovine flatulance, but will the cows obey?

Eric Boehm|Nov. 30, 2016 11:48 am

Caro / Frank Sorge/NewscomLivestock are responsible for roughly 15 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, but if you think getting people to stop driving their cars or using electricity is a difficult task, good luck preventing cows from farting.

California is going to try.

"This bill curbs these dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change," said Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement when he signed the bill in September, against the wishes of the state's farmers.

The law won't stop cows from farting, of course, because cows are notoriously disrespectful of human-passed laws. Instead, it will make life more difficult for dairy farmers in California.

Dairy farms will be required to reduce methane emissions to 40 percent below their 2013 levels by 2030. The state will spend $50 million help offset the cost of so-called "dairy digesters," which are intended to capture methane spewed from cows and convert it into electricity. After that, the state's Air Resources Board will have the authority to set whatever regulations they deem necessary to reach the stated goal.

Cow farts—or "bovine entric fermentation" if you want to sound smart—pump a lot of methane into the environment. A single cow can produce up to 130 gallons of methane in a single day (even that's not as bad as what dinosaur fartscould do), and methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Even if California were to find a way to stop cows from farting—or, more likely, if it were to regulate all its dairy farms out of existence—there would be a miniscule impact on global methane levels. California isn't even the leading producer of agricultural methane in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

On a global scale, the tiny microbes that grow on the roots of rice plants produce 30 percent of all agricultural methaneon Earth.

California's not the first to target cows in an effort to rein-in global warming. Some ethical vegetarian groups have allied with global warming activists to call for reducing the number of cows in Africa.

The attack on dairy cows is part of a broader effort to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Doing that means giving a lot more power ot the state's Air Resources Board, which now finds itself in the business of regulating what comes out of bovine buttocks. According to an Associated Press report this week, the board is hoping California's proposal will be a model for other states to follow.