Shell Game at Fairgrounds?

At our last Midtown Republican Club meeting a week ago Tuesday, County Commissioner Steve Basar dropped by. He updated us on what he’s been doing and then gave an interesting warning.

Today, the issue he discussed was on the CA’s front page. It concerns the project to redevelop the Fairgrounds. There was a meeting of the Cooper Young Community Association last night to discuss the project with Robert Lipscomb, the Memphis Housing and Community Development director. Basar attended as did Wes Riddle, a lawyer who is “leading a new group that’s raised questions about the project.”

From the newspaper account Lipscomb faced some doubts in the standing room only crowd. The story says Lipscomb “sparred” with Basar, but they then conveniently failed to tell us about it. Probably Basar was upset that the project is going to take a lot of money; money the city of Memphis does not have to spare. Nor does Lipscomb have to go before the City Council or County Commission to go forward with this. That is worrying.

Basar did warn us about the project at our meeting. He said that $36 million has already been spent and $176 million is the price tag. “The world of Robert Lipscomb sounds like he’s running a shell game to me,” Basar said. He mentioned Lipscomb’s penchant for starting various projects around town. “He has to keep the old game going” by taking 20% to do with what he wants. These shenanigans continue to happen. Nobody know where the money comes from.”

Basar said it would be interesting to look into the firms who benefit from Lipscomb’s projects.

Channel 24 covered more of it here:

Notice how Lipscomb says it’s urgent that this be done. Why? This Fairgrounds effort needs close monitoring. Something’s up and it’s troubling.

NY on Course to Elect Communist Mayor

Not very many outlets are discussing Bill De Blasio, the Democrat who is running for New York City mayor. Know why? They don’t want to link Democrats/liberals to someone so blatantly a fan of Communism.

Today’s poll gives him a 50 point – yes, 50 point! – lead over his Republican opponent.

You wonder what’s wrong with New Yorkers. Do they have a death wish? Do they hate themselves? First they preferred Nanny Bloomberg, but he looks like Mary Poppins next to De Blasio.

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has put a spotlight on him and they don’t like what they see.

Most people know next to nothing, thanks to the overwhelming attention paid to his rival Anthony Weiner. But on the Glenn Beck Program Tuesday, Beck devoted a segment to revealing the past of a man who he said “makes Mayor Michael Bloomberg look like Sam Adams.”

Beck asked his audience not to take his word for it — all of the information in the segment below can be found in the New York Times.

The Times article, and Beck’s segment, begin with de Blasio’s history with the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.

The Times described a young de Blasio:

He spoke in long, meandering paragraphs, musing on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Karl Marx and Bob Marley…

Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

Mr. de Blasio, who studied Latin American politics at Columbia and was conversational in Spanish, grew to be an admirer of Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista party, thrusting himself into one of the most polarizing issues in American politics at the time. The Reagan administration denounced the Sandinistas as tyrannical and Communist, while their liberal backers argued that after years of dictatorship, they were building a free society with broad access to education, land and health care.

And De Blasio’s activism didn’t stop when he returned to the United States. According to the Times, he accepted a job as a political organizer at the Quixote Center in 1987, and “oversaw efforts to solicit and ship millions of dollars in food, clothing and supplies to Nicaragua.”

When he left the Quixote Center and joined the mayoral campaign of David N. Dinkins, de Blasio reportedly continued to “cause a stir” in his work for the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York.

The New York Times writes:

At a retreat later that year [1990], members of the network were asked to articulate their visions for society. One suggested a “real peace movement,” according to minutes of the meeting. “Rewards for altruism,” another said. Mr. de Blasio suggested “democratic socialism.”

In a recent interview, Mr. de Blasio said his views then — and now — represented a mix of admiration for European social democratic movements, Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal and liberation theology.

Mr. de Blasio remained supportive of the Sandinistas, often referred to by their acronym, F.S.L.N., even after they lost power. “People who had shallow party sympathies with the F.S.L.N. pretty much dropped everything when they lost,” said Jane Guskin, a fellow activist in the solidarity group. “Bill wasn’t like that.”

He has remained interested in Latin America — he even honeymooned in Cuba (in violation of a United States travel ban). To this day, he speaks admiringly of the Sandinistas’ campaign, noting advances in literacy and health care. “They had a youthful energy and idealism mixed with a human ability and practicality that was really inspirational,” he said.

The Times article also notes de Blasio’s distress with what he described as the “timidity” of the Democratic Party at the beginning of the Clinton era, writing that “he thought the government should be doing more to help low-income workers and maintain higher tax rates.”

At one of his last meetings with the Nicaragua Solidarity Network in 1991, the man reportedly “spoke of a need to understand and build alliances with Islam, predicting it would soon be a dominant force in politics.” He also expressed confidence that the liberal aims the group had worked for were “far from dead” around the world.

“Boy is he right about that,” Beck commented.

Beck continued: “How did all this happen? Sideshows…But what we should’ve really been asking is, what happens after the circus is over? The answer is Bill DeBlasio, a violent revolutionary taking over New York City.”

Here’s the link to the New York Times story:

Here’s the Beck piece:

Shame on Corker

The RightScoop nails this whiny sad excuse for a Tennessean as he embarrasses himself and us on the Senate floor.

This is the full exchange between Sen. Bob Corker and Sen. Ted Cruz where Corker suggests that Cruz and Lee are holding up the vote on the CR until tomorrow just so they can be on TV. But more than that Corker plays dumb on voting for cloture tomorrow, suggesting that a vote for cloture (ending debate) is a vote in support of the House CR.

But that’s completely dishonest because as soon as they vote to end debate on the House CR, Reid is going to propose an amendment to strip out the House language that defunds Obamacare and it can’t be filibustered. It will pass with a simple majority. Corker knows this but plays off the simple majority amendment process that Reid will invoke as something that’s been around for ages and nothing to be concerned about. But Cruz continues to point out to Corker that a vote for cloture tomorrow will indeed be a vote to give Harry Reid the power to fully fund Obamacare.

Also watch to the very end, just past Durbin’s little speech, and you’ll see Corker throw both Cruz and Lee completely under the bus, siding with Durbin. It’s disgusting.

Smart Meter Security Questioned

The TV show “America Now” actually raised a few questions about smart meters.

It seems innocent enough. It makes no noise.

Your utility meter just churns away at the side of your home, but the information it’s cranking out has computer science graduate students at the University of South Carolina talking.

“They’re not widely deployed, so we wanted to study what type of utility meters are deployed now,” said Wenyuan Xu with the USC Department of Computer Science. “Are they secure?”

Most are AMR or Automatic Meter Reading.

SCE&G uses more than 570,000. Their website claims it’s simple. Wirelessly, they send usage data to a truck riding through neighborhoods, using what they claim are secure radio frequencies.

How much data?

“They actually send out a consumption reading once every 30 seconds,” said Xu. “So that’s kind of a lot of data. If someone is peeking on you once every 30 seconds, I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that.”

Wanting to know more, students went to Google. They didn’t get far.

“How do they communicate? Is there any standard?” asked Xu. “It turns out they all use proprietary communications, protocol.”

Meaning the details are hidden. The students didn’t stop, eventually getting a meter and creating their own receiver.

“Let’s just go out, use our device and capture some packets and try to figure out what they mean,” said Xu.

That’s exactly what they did, hiding in bushes outside homes.

“One of my student’s neighbors was not happy about that,” said Xu. “[She] came and said, ‘What are you guys doing? I have kids that live here.'”

She should be concerned. In a short time, students captured “secure” information and moved on to another part of town.

“So we actually did set up an eavesdropper, or a sniffer, tried to find out how many meters we can receive,” said Xu. “So at one single spot we were able to receive almost 500 meter readings.”

They gathered information from several homes over a week, randomly picked one house, and easily learned details of the owners’ lifestyle.

“We found out that the owner has a job, because he left home at 9:00 a.m. every day, came back home at 6:30 p.m. and weekday consumption pattern is totally different from weekend consumption pattern,” said Xu.

Different enough to give any cunning thief a good idea of when to break in. They also could manipulate the numbers, inflating a neighbor’s bill.

“Maybe you can even tell the utility company, ‘Oh you owe me money, actually I supplied utility electricity to the power grid,'” said Xu.

Using a louder signal, they drowned out the signal coming from the meter.

“Our handheld meter was fooled by our system,” said Xu. “That was a little bit surprising to us.”

It’s easy if you’ve got a little bit of knowledge in computer science. Easy, because we discovered the utility companies aren’t protecting your personal information.

“The meters should have been designed that all the transmissions should have been encrypted,” said Xu. “No personal information should be sent out in plain text.”

Xu says it’s scary, but at the same time notes that any person who designs wireless systems should remember to encrypt everything.

USC shared what they found with the utilities.

“We talked with utility companies,” said Xu. “They’re aware of the issue. We hope they can fix the problems soon.”

A statement received from one company read:

“We realize that information security is top of mind with a lot of folks here in South Carolina these days. I can assure you there is no risk whatsoever of the personal information of our customers – names, addresses, social security numbers, etc. – being compromised through our use of automated meter reading technology.”

When we raised questions about gaining access and being able to tell that no one was home, they had this to say:

“It might also suggest that someone simply turned off the TV and the computer and is quietly nestled up reading a book or a magazine.”

Students know it could be costly for utility companies to fix systems already installed either with new meters or by changing the system’s software or firmware, they but worry without encryption that information could be compromised.

In the US alone, 1,000 private and public utility companies have or are implementing AMR systems. They say it improves the quality of work, making them more efficient.

Going Negative

“Well, the endgame is a total collapse, but from a higher diving board. The Fed will continue to print and if the stock market goes down 10%, they will print even more. And they don’t know anything else to do. And quite frankly, they have boxed themselves into a corner where they are now kind of desperate.”

– Mark Faber, Bloomberg TV

We hit new highs on the stock market yesterday with the announcement that Ben Bernancke will continue pumping money, i.e. printing more dollars for an unlimited time. As an American, you can’t help but worry that this is not a good thing. Obviously investment expert Mark Faber worries, too.

Will Bernancke’s successor be any better?

Doesn’t look like it if it is Janet Yellin and she is favored right now. Faber has this scary info to share:

“She will make Mr. Bernanke look like a hawk. She, in 2010, said if could vote for negative interest rates, in other words, you would have a deposit with the bank of $100,000 at the beginning of the year and at the end, you would only get $95,000 back, that she would be voting for that. And that basically her view will be to keep interest rates in real terms, in other words, inflation-adjusted.

The idea of negative interest rates is outrageous, but yes, it has been talked about for awhile, particularly by Ms. Yellin.

David Kotok at explains:

Negative interest rates are the ultimate in market distortions. They employ only a stick and no carrot. Their use tends to progress from disincentive through penalty to punishment.

There is only a limited history of the use of negative interest rates. Many decades ago, Switzerland discouraged incoming Swiss-franc deposits by imposing a negative interest rate on balances placed with Swiss banks. In other words, a person deposited money in the bank, and the bank charged the depositor for the privilege of keeping it there.

During the financial crisis in the US, the Bank of New York imposed a negative interest rate – a penalty – on deposits over $50 million. The bank essentially told customers to remove their money.

The money GPS adds:

Scary stuff, but not unthinkable in the Obama era.

Government Gone Wild

Honestly, the Founders would not recognize this nation. They would think we live in tyranny. How much more could the government intrude in our lives? From these stories over the weekend, it looks like they’re just getting started. Nothing is too small to escape their regulation obsession.

For instance, in Pittsburgh, some residents can be – and are – fined for parking in their own driveway:

Then, there is New York, where the government wants to regulate dinner parties!
From CBS 2

As you sit down to dinner, this story illustrates eating out like you have never experienced before. We are talking about super-secret, illegal dining experiences hosted in homes.

CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner went undercover to see firsthand how this underground world works.

It may look like a dinner party, but it’s really an underground supper club.

The diners are a mix of New Yorkers and tourists. CBS 2’s undercover cameras captured one experience — eight people who didn’t know each other eating a meal in a stranger’s home.

That hostess, Naama Shafi, writes about food but is not a chef. Leitner found her through a website, which connects amateur foodies and professional chefs in 20 different countries with people who want unique dining experiences.

Clandestine dinner parties like the one Leitner attended have become more common in New York City. And insiders told Leitner they are completely unregulated.

But some critics have concerns about these unregulated dinner parties.

“It definitely falls into a gray area,” said Leon Lubarsky, owner of Letter Grade Consulting.

Lubarsky’s staff of retired New York City health inspectors advises restaurants on health regulations.

When asked if the underground restaurants should be regulated, Lubarsky told Leitner, “Yes, they should be regulated by the same system that regulates every restaurant in New York City.”

If this doesn’t cement the idea that we’re becoming a third world country, I don’t know what would. They do this in Cuba because of government control there. Now it’s happening in Manhattan.

Want to bet this would not apply to any Democrats who want to throw a fund raising dinner party for a candidate in New York? Wouldn’t that be “unregulated?” Guess it’s OK then.

Then we have Chicago where the government there wants an even greater monitoring of energy than they have now. (Pro smart meter people: Do you see where these meters are taking us?)

From the Blaze:

Building managers in Chicago are complaining they will be put through “public shaming” after the city council voted to require them to publicly disclose their energy use in the city’s bid to cut it by 30 percent by 2020, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Beginning next year, Chicago buildings will submit annual reports regarding their energy efficiency and could be compared to their peers.

Only buildings larger than 50,000 square feet will be required to report data to a program the Tribune compared to TurboTax run through the EPA, called Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn’t see a problem with this.

“Do you check the mileage before you purchase a car? Do you check the energy-efficiency of a utility before you purchase it? Do you do comparative? What is wrong with providing people information?” Emanuel said, according to the Tribune.

Sure, there’s absolutely no problem with a dictatorial government forcing their beliefs on citizens and private entities and publicly shaming them, which could cause a loss in revenue and customers all while publishing private data, which is none of Government’s business, and probably for the Cult Of Gore.

You’d think they had more important things to deal with in Chicago, like murders, crime and state bankruptcy, than looking into energy usage, wouldn’t you?

It goes to show you how very much the government wants absolute control of energy use for everyday Americans. Control that and you control behavior, commerce, business and transportation.

Corker Slams Obama

It’s about time, Bob.

Surprising and he’s not even up for reelection yet.

Gateway Pundit reports:

In a recent interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Senator Bob Corker is disappointed with the Obama Administration as a “diminished figure on Capitol Hill” and Obama is seen as “uncomfortable being Commander-in-Chief.” The Liberal media is beside itself and ready to blame the negative statements as limited to the GOP.

But not so fast. Someone may need to remind the media that MSNBC’s Liberal Richard Wolffe also notes Obama’s “embarrassing” and “muddled” handling of Syria. Or that Liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich feels Obama is close to impeachment. Or Liberal progressive Cornel West feels Obama is defined by “pretty words that hide ugly deeds.”

Here’s the recent Bob Corker interview (Hat Tip to Mediaite and ORYR):

Whose Property Is It Anyway?

I’ve never understood how government gets by with taxing you several times for the same thing. After all, once tried in a court of law you can’t be tried again for the same crime. Why is it legal to pile on taxes even after something is purchased?

If you are industrious and frugal enough to own your own home, you never really own it. Don’t pay your property taxes and the government will jump in and take your home. Doubt it? There was a story just yesterday on Drudge about the feds gobbling up houses delinquent on property tax for as little as $44.

It’s a burden particularly on the elderly. They struggle to finally pay the last payment on a home but it doesn’t stop there. They still have property taxes. The only reason the government gets away with it is because so few people own their homes anymore so the cost is hidden. So property taxes are every politician’s favorite revenue source. In our last assessment here in Memphis many people were happy that their taxes didn’t go up. Hold your enthusiasm: it’s just a temporary stopping place. They’ll figure out a way to raise it the next time. If the economy’s bad, they need the money and hike it. If the economy’s good, they want more money and hike it. Either way we lose.

Mr. Midtown Republican observed, after paying about an extra $1,000 on our property tax this year (no improvements made, no upgrade in the neighborhood to justify this) that when we bought the house the cost of taxes equaled two house payments. Today it is six. How can that be fair?

Memphis has the highest property taxes in the state of Tennessee, but it’s not just a problem here. In Pennsylvania, one man had a tactic he used to express his disgust. The Lehighvalleylive reports:

Fed up with having to pay $7,143 in school taxes for a district his children don’t attend, a Forks Township man paid that portion of his tax bill last week in single dollar bills.

Robert Fernandes, a father of three, moved to Forks Township a year ago from Warren County, seeking lower property taxes for a larger home that could also house his elderly parents. Fernandes commutes to work as an IT manager for a company in Bedminster Township, N.J., while his wife home-schools the children, ages 7, 4 and 1.

Fernandes says he got a great deal on a short sale when he bought his home, but his annual property taxes total nearly $10,000. Reached by phone Tuesday, Fernandes said he doesn’t want to pay $7,143 in school taxes.

“We don’t even use the public system, yet I am being forced to pay all this money into a public school system,” he said. “I don’t think that’s really either fair or just or even ethical.

“It would be the equivalent if McDonald’s were to force vegetarians to pay for their cheeseburgers.”

Here’s the video: