How well does Congress reflect the People it “serves”?

How well does Congress reflect the people it “serves” (“rules” might be a better word)? Not very well, it turns out. How else could lawyers make up 37% of the U.S. Congress, both now and in 1789? Not to pick on lawyers either…out of the 209 “businesspeople” in Congress, how many do you think are clerks, bakers, entrepreneurs, electricians, etc.? I’m guessing the answer is a big fat zero. So much for James Madison’s dream of the House of Representatives being a lower house for “the people.” Here’s more from Constitution Daily:

With that in mind, the staff of Constitution Daily compiled a comparison between the First U.S. Congress and the current one, looking at the occupational breakdown between their members. The results were, in some ways, predictable, but there were still a few surprises. (Who knew there was a comedian among their ranks?)…

Although the First Congress had a limited variety of professions, the general make up of both are relatively similar. As you can see, from the time the First Congress met, law has been a top profession; in both bodies, about 37 percent of the members are lawyers. It makes sense–the people writing the laws need to have a deep understanding of how the legal system works. But do lawyers make the best politicians?

(See the rest including the breakdown at Constitution Daily)

The End of the U.S. Postal Service?

And so Saturday mail comes to an end. Is anyone really that surprised? No competition = No reason to innovate or improve service. Where’s Lysander Spooner when you need him?

Here’s more on the U.S. Postal Service ending Saturday deliveries at Fox News:

The U.S. Postal Service plans to announce Wednesday that it will end Saturday mail delivery, in one of the most significant steps taken to date to cut costs at the struggling agency.

A source familiar with the decision confirmed the plan to Fox News.

Under the proposal, the Postal Service will continue to deliver packages six days a week. The plan, which is aimed at saving about $2 billion, would start to take effect in August.

(See the rest at Fox News)

Sandy Hook Conspiracy: Crisis Actors at Work?

Professional crisis actors…missing weapons…a second shooter…donation pages created before the massacre? Was there a Sandy Hook conspiracy?

Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, but the theories I’m hearing are needlessly complicated. It’s difficult to imagine so many people involved in such a wide-reaching scam. Why go to all that trouble? The FBI has a long history of luring crazies into fake terrorist plots. Taking a page out of their book, it would be far easier to rile up a local psychopath, turn him loose on the school, and then look the other way. Presto! Another “lone gunman” plot with few loose ends to tie up.

Still, if you’re interested in the professional crisis actors theory, here’s more from Fellowship of the Minds:

At issue is whether professional “crisis actors” are going beyond mere simulation of mass casualty events (what the Denver-based group VisionBox Crisis Actors say they do) to actually impersonate real-life people caught in the news of recent massacres, notably the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings that took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.

(See the rest at Fellowship of the Minds)

The Sound of a Nuclear Bomb?

On March 17, 1953, the U.S. military detonated an experimental nuclear weapons test. This test, part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, was designed to calm public fears about such weapons. The raw footage of this test was recently discovered. What does a nuclear weapons test sound like?

What was the Operation Upshot-Knothole Nuclear Weapons Test?

Operation Upshot Knothole was a series of 11 nuclear weapons tests conducted in Nevada during 1953. The March 17, 1953 test was called Annie. It was an “open shot” test, meaning reporters were allowed to view it. The purpose was to “calm public fears about weapon testing.”A secondary purpose was to study the effect of a nuclear blast on houses, cars, and bomb shelters. Researchers concluded people inside a car with open windows could survive if they were at least ten blocks from ground zero. They also decided a basement could protect people at 3,500 feet while the home itself could remain standing at 7,500 feet (assuming no flames).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

You’ve probably seen videos of nuclear weapons tests in the past. Most of those are dubbed, probably with stock footage, so the detonation and its resulting noise occur at the same time.However, the speed of light travels at 671 million miles per hour. The speed of sound is much slower, just 768 miles per hour. Thus, we would expect to see the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion well before we actually hear it.

The video below comes from the National Archives. It’s the raw footage of the 1953 Annie test and was filmed about 7 miles away from the detonation. The explosion takes place at 2:37. You can see the mushroom cloud starting at 2:42. The sound doesn’t appear until 3:09, a full 32 seconds after the initial white light.

“The audio is what makes this great. Put on some headphones and listen to it all the way through — it’s much more intimate than any other test film I’ve seen. You get a much better sense of what these things must have been like, on the ground, as an observer, than from your standard montage of blasts. Murmurs in anticipation; the slow countdown over a megaphone; the reaction at the flash of the bomb; and finally — a sharp bang, followed by a long, thundering growl. That’s the sound of the bomb.” ~ Alex Wellerstein, The Sound of the Bomb (1953)

Student Loans: Crisis…or Conspiracy?

Over the past few months, reports of a “student loan crisis” have erupted throughout the United States. But is this really a crisis? Or a student loan conspiracy of epic proportions?

The Student Loan Conspiracy?

We first visited the student loan issue back in October 2011. To put it simply, the high cost of college and a difficult job market has “created a generation of heavily indebted students with few means to pay back their loans.”

Now, we have some new information to kick around. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average student holds $23,300 in student loan debt. Breaking it down, about 43% of all students have loan balances less than $10,000. The rest owe more than $10,000. Amazingly enough, 27% of eligible payers “have past due balances.”

There are two pieces to this conspiracy. First, why is college so expensive? And second, why do so many people spend so much money pursuing college degrees? We talked a lot about the first question in October. So, we wanted to focus more on the second one this time around.

Why is College so Popular?

America’s intense pursuit of college degrees in a curious phenomenon. Not only are degrees ultra-expensive, but students appear to get poor value for their money. According to Richard Arum’s and Josipa Roksa’s book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, 36% of U.S. college students show “no significant gains in learning” after four years of college. Even worse, there seems to be a mismatch between the skills acquired in college and the skills required for navigating the real world.

So again, we must ask, how did we get into this situation? Why are high school graduates spending money they don’t have in order to obtain college degrees that do shockingly little to prepare them for the real world?

The answer, in our view, is Griggs v. Duke Power. During the 1950s, Duke Power restricted black people from working in all departments except for the low-paying Labor department. In 1955, they started requiring high school diplomas for certain positions.

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Duke Power ended its race-based hiring policies. Instead, it instituted IQ tests. At the time, black people were less likely to hold high school diplomas. They also performed worse on the IQ tests. Thus, they were selected for Duke Power positions at a far lower rate than white candidates.

I won’t go into the particulars here. But eventually, a man named Willie Griggs filed a class action lawsuit against Duke Power Company. The case made its way through the legal system. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled against Duke Power. In doing so, it prohibited the use of general IQ tests when screening applicants, regardless of whether there was an actual intent to discriminate. In order to pass muster, IQ tests were required to be a “reasonable measure of job performance.”

“…in 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling (Griggs v. Duke Power) saying that if companies use aptitude testing to screen potential employees, they must be prepared to show that their tests are precisely calibrated to the needs of the job. Otherwise, they will be guilty of employment discrimination if their tests screen out minority workers who might have been able to do the work. Rather than face discrimination suits by the federal government, most employers started using a less precise but legally safe method of screening applicants—college degrees.” ~ George C. Leef, Why on Earth Do We Have a Student Loan Crisis?

Griggs vs. Duke Power had far-reaching impact. It largely ended the practice of aptitude tests. But companies still needed a way to screen job applicants. So, they turned to college degrees, “even for jobs that could easily be learned by anyone with a decent high school education.” As a result, college enrollments (and student loans) exploded.

“In 1940, just 10% of high school graduates went to college. By 1970, that number was at 40%. And by the 1990s, it had risen to 70%. That’s because a college degree has become little more than a ‘signaling game.’ By attending college, students “signal” to potential employers that they’re smart, hard-working, and easily trained. The ability to send that signal to employers, which was once accomplished via aptitude tests, is the sole reason that most students attend college in the first place.” ~ David Meyer, The Student Loan Conspiracy?

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

General aptitude tests aren’t perfect. In fact, they’re heavily flawed. In Griggs vs. Duke Power, it was discovered that those who’d passed aptitude tests and held high school degrees performed their jobs at the same level as those who’d failed the tests and didn’t hold degrees.

So, why don’t employers just create new aptitude tests that are “reasonably related” to individual jobs? The biggest reason is the threat of lawsuits. Even a well-crafted aptitude test could backfire in this respect. It’s far easier to just use college degrees as a screening mechanism and avoid the lawsuit risk altogether.

And that’s unfortunate. Aptitude tests hold significant advantages over college degrees. They’re cheap, quick, and can be tailored to fit individual jobs. College degrees are ultra-expensive, ultra time-consuming, and ultra-unfocused. So unfocused in fact, that the 1971 ruling should have invalidated college education screening as well.

“Recall that the problem in Griggs was that the specified requirements for job applicants were not clearly and directly related to the actual demands of the work. If challenged, could employers who have set the college degree as a requirement show that it has anything at all to do with the ‘business necessity’ of the employer or are ‘job-related’? That is very doubtful. Employers have grown to rely upon a new credential that is imperfect and probably rules out many qualified candidates. If the EEOC and the courts were to scrutinize the college degree requirement, they might well conclude that it has a ‘disparate impact.'” ~ Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder, Griggs v. Duke Power: Implications for College Credentialing

The Student Loan Conspiracy isn’t a deliberate one. But the unintended consequences of Griggs vs. Duke Power have been highly destructive all the same. Many people waste years of their lives and accumulate thousands of dollars in student loan debt just to be eligible for basic jobs.

Companies will always need a way to screen potential employees. We here at Guerrilla Explorer don’t favor aptitude tests or anything else for that matter. We just think companies should be allowed to screen in whatever fashion they choose rather than fearing discrimination lawsuits. Without that lawsuit risk, however, we think many employers would switch to specifically-designed aptitude tests. Perhaps then, the Student Loan Crisis would finally come to an end.

The Mysterious Space Plane?

On March 5, 2011, the U.S. Air Force launched the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle into low Earth orbit. After more than a year in space, it’s finally returning to Earth. But what was it doing up there in the first place?

What is the X-37B Space Plane?

The current X-37B mission is scheduled to end in mid-June. It’s the second of at least three such missions. The first one took flight on April 22, 2010 and landed December 3, 2010. A third mission is expected to launch later this Fall.

We don’t know much about the X-37B. We know it generates power via a solar panel. We also know its payload bay is roughly the size of a pickup truck bed. We know it contains new technologies which are being tested. But its exact purpose and the nature of its payload remain a mystery. In fact, no one outside the Air Force seems to know what it’s doing in space. But hey, at least we know it’s been a success.

“Although I can’t talk about mission specifics, suffice it to say this mission has been a spectacular success.” ~ General William Shelton, Commander of Air Force Space Command

So, there’s that. Anyway, numerous conspiracy theories regarding the X-37B’s true purpose have arisen to fill the void. Here’s just a few of them:

  1. Space Bomber: This would seem like the most logical choice. However, the X-37B is an orbital vehicle, not a suborbital one. And shifting orbital planes apparently requires a great deal of thrust and thus, fuel. Then again, the X-37B has been floating around for over a year so this might not be such a big deal.
  2. Spy Plane: In January, an article in Spaceflight magazine claimed the X-37B was secretly spying on China’s Tiangong 1 space laboratory. However, this has been widely criticized. They only cross orbits in two places. So, if the X-37B is spying on Tiangong, it’s pretty limited. At the same time, some conceptual artwork of the space plane shows a small telescope. And the X-37B’s orbit takes it over numerous countries in the Middle East. So, a spy plane seems like a decent possibility.
  3. Testing Spy Satellites: This is an offshoot of the “Spy Plane” theory. It’s bolstered by the fact that the X-37B passes over the same region every four days, a pattern suggesting “U.S. imaging reconnaissance satellites.”
  4. Anti-Satellite Technology: According to Bill Sweetman, editor-in-chief of Aviation Week’s Defense Technology International, the X-37B might include “more than one way to put an enemy satellite out of orbit.” He specifically mentions the possibility of spraying an enemy satellite with black paint, and thus causing it to overheat.
  5. Space Experiments: Perhaps the X-37B is just an experimental vehicle, testing materials to see how they operate when exposed to space.

Of course, the X-37B could also be something else entirely, something completely outside the realms of our imagination. There’s just no way to be sure. So, for now, all we can do is continue to speculate as to the X-37B’s true purpose…as well as why it requires such intense secrecy.

The Hunt for Bin Laden’s Corpse: Part III

Did Osama Bin Laden die in Pakistan? Was his corpse stuffed into a rubber-lined canvas body bag, weighed down with lead, and then buried in the North Arabian Sea? Or was he secretly transported back to the United States?

Where is Osama Bin Laden’s Corpse?

Back in June 2011, treasure hunter Bill Warren was attempting to raise $400,000 to locate and excavate Bin Laden’s body, which the U.S. government claimed had been buried at sea. We’ve been skeptical about his chances…highly skeptical.

“Warren plans to use side-scanning radar to locate the body bag. The problem with his strategy is obvious. The Arabian Sea is gigantic and side-scanning sonar is a slow, tedious process. Finding a corpse in it is like finding a needle in a haystack…a haystack that measures 1.5 million square miles.

Perhaps even more problematic are the limitations of side-scanning sonar. Even shipwrecks, with their hard edges and solid structures, are difficult to discern from the natural underwater landscape. Distinguishing something as small and with as little acoustic resonance as a corpse is next to impossible, even when taking into account two-hundred pounds of lead in the body bag. And the deeper the corpse lies, the harder it will prove to find.” ~ David Meyer, The Hunt for Bin Laden’s Corpse

Warren recently resurfaced for an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. And he claims to have struck pay dirt.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Unfortunately, we’re still skeptical. Warren has had little luck soliciting donations on his website, apparently raking in just $15 from a single donor. So, it seems probable he’s just trying to drum up some attention to fund his hunt.

We also find it hard to believe Bin Laden was buried at sea in the first place. That story never made much sense. It seems far more likely he was secretly transported back to the United States. But, we’re holding out hope for Warren. Maybe he really will find the body and put an end to all the crazy Bin Laden conspiracy theories…

But we wouldn’t count on it.

Who Killed off all the Buffalo?

Once upon a time, the American buffalo roamed North America in large numbers, perhaps as many as 10-70 million. But by the mid-1880s, its once-vast numbers had been reduced to just a few hundred. Who killed the buffalo? And why?

The Rise of the Buffalo?

Interestingly enough, the rise of the American buffalo may have coincided with the fall of the Native American tribes. According to this theory, put forth by Charles Mann, the Native Americans originally created grasslands for the buffalo population and heavily regulated their activities.

“Hernando De Soto’s expedition staggered through the Southeast for four years in the early 16th century and saw hordes of people but apparently did not see a single bison.” ~ Charles Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

When the Europeans first arrived in the New World, they inadvertently brought along diseases with them. Native Americans died off in massive numbers and buffalo herds found themselves free. They began to roam and quickly spread across the land, eventually becoming the most dominant large animal in what is now the United States.

Who Killed the Buffalo?

So, that helps explain the spread of the buffalo. But what about the fall? Well, it appears there are a few culprits here…the Native Americans themselves, commercial hunters, and the U.S. Army.

Native Americans, contrary to popular opinion, were not quite the “noble savages” they are often portrayed to be in modern culture. They hunted buffalo in large numbers, even going so far as to herd them into makeshift chutes and stampede them over cliffs (this took place at the well-named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta, Canada along with many others). The Comanche alone killed more than 280,000 buffalo a year.

“They were killing more than 280,000 bison a year – the maximum loss the herds could sustain without imploding – and at the very time the great drought of 1845-50 was exacerbating the situation.” ~ Frank McLynn, Review of The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hämäläinen

At the same time, commercial hunters sought the buffalo out with relentless ferocity. These hunters were primarily concerned with gathering skins and would often leave rotting carcasses behind. This was a classic example of the Tragedy of the Commons.

“Because buffalo hides could be sold for as much as $3.50 each, an individual hunter would kill more than a hundred a day for as many days as he cared to hunt on the open plain.” ~ Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Culture of Violence in the American West: Myth versus Reality

And finally, we come to the last prominent killer of the buffalo…the U.S. Army. In 1865, General William Sherman, fresh out of the American Civil War, was put in charge of the Military Division of the Mississippi (later called the Military Division of the Missouri). He proceeded to launch a two and a half decade war against the Plains Indians, as a sort of under the table subsidy to the government-subsidized transcontinental railroad companies. Other generals, most prominently General Phillip Sheridan, received other commands with the same purpose.

The U.S. Army waged total war against the Native Americans, in search of what General Sherman referred to as the “final solution of the Indian problem.” Since the Native Americans depended on the buffalo for food, clothing, and other things, the U.S. Army targeted it for extinction.

“Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.” ~ General Sherman, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

By 1884, America’s buffalo population had been decimated. In fact, if it weren’t for the efforts of people like Pete Dupree and James “Scotty” Philip (aka The Man who Saved the Buffalo), it stands to reason they might’ve gone completely extinct.

Since then, the buffalo has undergone somewhat of a resurgence and its numbers have risen well above one hundred thousand. Most of these buffalo are privately owned with the notable exception of the Yellowstone Park bison herd. While its unlikely the buffalo will ever regain its former numbers, we can be thankful that it has recovered from near decimation at the hands of Native Americans, hunters, and the U.S. Army.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Man vs. Nature Coverage


Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

Nuclear Warheads…on American Streets?

Next time you’re on the highway, look out…you just might find yourself driving next to a truck bearing a nuclear warhead.

Nuclear Weapons…on American Streets?

Here’s more on nuclear weapons being carried on American streets from Mother Jones:

“Is that it?” My wife leans forward in the passenger seat of our sensible hatchback and points ahead to an 18-wheeler that’s hauling ass toward us on a low-country stretch of South Carolina’s Highway 125. We’ve been heading west from I-95 toward the Savannah River Site nuclear facility on the Georgia-South Carolina border, in search of nuke truckers. At first the mysterious big rig resembles a commercial gas tanker, but the cab is pristine-looking and there’s a simple blue-on-white license plate: US GOVERNMENT. It blows by too quickly to determine whether it’s part of the little-known US fleet tasked with transporting some of the most sensitive cargo in existence.

As you weave through interstate traffic, you’re unlikely to notice another plain-looking Peterbilt tractor-trailer rolling along in the right-hand lane. The government plates and array of antennas jutting from the cab’s roof would hardly register. You’d have no idea that inside the cab an armed federal agent operates a host of electronic countermeasures to keep outsiders from accessing his heavily armored cargo: a nuclear warhead with enough destructive power to level downtown San Francisco.

(See Mother Jones for more on nuclear weapons being transported over American streets)

The Kony 2012 Conspiracy?

A few weeks ago, Invisible Children launched its now-famous Kony 2012 video, which has garnered over 84 million hits on YouTube to date. But is there a sinister motive behind this video?

The Kony 2012 Conspiracy?

The stated purpose of the Kony 2012 video is to make Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerrilla leader, a household name for his war crimes against children. A worthy goal, it would appear at first blush. But new evidence suggests a darker conspiracy afoot, driven by powerful U.S. interests connected to Kony 2012. Apparently, these interests wish to gain control over Africa’s incredible wealth of natural resources. Here’s more on the Kony 2012 conspiracy from Global Research:

The hidden agenda in Uganda, Central Africa and the Horn of Africa is the conquest of oil and strategic mineral resources. Going after Joseph Kony and protecting Ugandan children is a cynical smokescreen, a pretext for a “humanitarian intervention” in a region where US sponsored “civil wars” (Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia) have in the course of the last 20 years resulted in more than eight million deaths:

“Through AFRICOM, the United States is seeking a foothold in the incredibly resource rich central African block in a further maneuver to aggregate regional hegemony over China. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s largest regions without an effectively functioning government. It contains vast deposits of diamonds, cobalt, copper, uranium, magnesium, and tin while producing over $1 billion in gold each year. It is entirely feasible that the US can considerably increase its presence in the DRC under the pretext of capturing Joseph Kony.” (Nile Bowie, Merchandising and Branding Support for US Military Intervention in Central Africa, Global research, March 14, 2012)

(See Global Research for more on the Kony 2012 conspiracy)