Monday, May 31, 2010

In Remembrance of Michael Allen Casp

My name, Michael Casp, is not an original. The original Michael Casp was born in Beaver, Pennsylvania. He played highschool football, and later college football for West Point. He was a team captain, and a leader.

Michael Casp joined the army, and rose to the rank of captain and joined the elite Army Rangers. He fought in Vietnam, and died when his helicopter was shot out of the sky.

His name is now engraved in the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. I have visited it and still have the rubbing we made somewhere. His name is also engraved on me, Michael Adam Casp, and even though I never met him, I will remember him always, as a beacon of duty, leadership, and love of country.

Today we honor all the fallen soldiers. Please do not forget their memories, or what they gave their lives to defend.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A "little-noticed" provision of the health care bill...

The media has a new favorite phrase.

"Tucked inside the huge health reform bill signed into law last week were many surprising and little-noticed provisions that will affect consumers in ways large and small."

"Deep within the massive health-care overhaul legislation, a few little-noticed provisions have quietly reignited one of the bitterest debates in medicine: how to balance the right of doctors, nurses and other workers to refuse to provide services on moral or religious grounds with the right of patients to get care."

"A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage."

"A little-noticed provision in the health reform bill will shed significant light on the payments drug and device companies make to doctors and teaching hospitals in California and the rest of the nation."

"A little-noticed provision in the new health care law may not only dramatically increase paperwork for small businesses, but also put them at a disadvantage against their larger competitors."

"In the manager's amendment Senate Leader Harry Reid added to the Senate health care bill, HR 3590, a little noticed provision allowed $7 billion in funding for Community Health Centers buried deep in Section 10503 of the 383-page amendment."

"Effective for plan years beginning after Sept. 23, 2010, health plans that cover dependent children must continue to cover adult kids until they turn age 26. This little-noticed new requirement is a sure way to increase health insurance costs, which is exactly what Obama-care was supposed to prevent."

"The Obama administration is trying to encourage people to buy annuities to ensure that they don't outlive their savings. But a little-noticed provision of the new health care reform law will slap a 3.8% tax on payouts from annuities purchased by high-income earners outside their workplace."

"A little noticed provision added over the weekend to the Senate health bill earmarked $500 million this year for a "cures acceleration program."

"Little-noticed (well, except by me) is the fact that Congress has repealed the anti-trust exemption for health insurance and that the reform plan sets up the basics of a federal infrastructure for insurance regulation. The federal government doesn’t just drop by and visit, they move in. Memo to state insurance regulators: the feds are outside, and they have a HUGE moving van.

"[Jeff] Masters, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is part of a growing number of Americans who are members of faith-based ``health sharing ministries'' where members directly pay for each others' medical bills. Members also pray for each other, and a ``get well'' card from a stranger isn't uncommon. National healthcare reform will force millions of Americans to buy insurance or face fines, but a little-noticed provision excludes people like Masters who belong to such groups."

"As well as these and other major job-killing provisions, two little-noticed tax changes would also affect employment."
The List continues, with links to the stories, here.

For some reason, I'm getting the impression that nobody actually read this huge, two thousand page bill, before passing it into federal law.

Maybe we should take the time to, I dunno... read bills before we pass them?

I though Pelosi was speaking rhetorically when she said "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." Turns out she was dead serious.

28 Percent of Voters are Fascistic Socialists

How else do you explain the fact that 28% of voters feel the country is moving in the right directions?

We have an ever-growing federal government that is asserting itself more and more into our economy, in addition to economic players asserting themselves more and more into our federal government. Our leaders also feel comfortable dictating moral values through income redistribution and draconian economic controls, not to mention maintaining influence over our mainstream news sources to suppress dissent. Oh, and we still have a global empire with two ongoing wars, while in the midst of an economic semi-depression brought on by unprecedented levels of debt.

It baffles me that anyone can think we are moving in the right direction, which is why today, I lost 28% of my hope for America.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Success in Iraq

It's surprising, but some good has come from our time in Iraq.

The Kurds of the area known as the Kurdish Regional Government want to secure a free, democratic, and thriving Kurdistan. They are on their way to pulling it off. Personal safety here (where I am a guest of the KRG) is a given, so that most of the time, you forget you’re in Iraq. Parts of Erbil resemble Miami, Florida. There are rows of manicured palm trees, bustling retail strips, car dealerships, and everywhere the organized rubble of construction.

Other parts look more like the average Westerner’s conception of a Middle Eastern country: flat, dusty, and monochrome. In any case, the accomplishments go beyond the realm of the commercial or the aesthetic. The KRG is a free land. If you are an Iraqi Kurd, you don’t have to do what your leader orders. In fact, your leader does not order you to do anything. Nor do you have to do as your cleric says. In this corner of “the Muslim world,” liquor flows freely, journalists quote Tocqueville in conversation, and praise for Israel is easy to come by.

Praise for America is ubiquitous. The Kurdish foreign minister told my group matter-of-factly, “It was your men and women, in uniform who shed blood, who overthrew Saddam.” I heard a group of smart Kurdish students cite chapter and verse on American exceptionalism.

Iraq may still be unstable, but the Kurds to the north have carved themselves out a nice little civilization, one that we should not let fall to their more violent neighbors in our rush to extricate our military from their land.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Future of UI

[via Gizmodo]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stock Market: Reality (Finally) Sets In

I've been saying the stock market is grossly overpriced for quite some time now, but the market stayed bullish after government bailouts, stimulus, and plain irrational exuberence, despite our economy being in the toilet. But finally, reality has set in, and the Great Correction has begun.

In one month, the Dow has lost 1,190 points, or 10.6% of its value. That is a boatload of money evaporating, and I doubt we have seen the worst of it.

So there's your sunny optimism for the day.

[graph from Marketwatch]

Fiat Currency FAIL

The fate of every fiat currency is the same. The government in charge prints to much, usually to cover its own debts, and the money becomes worthless.

Fiat currency, like the US dollar, is not pegged to the value of any hard commodity like gold. Instead, the value comes from faith that the money is worth something. Eventually, governments abuse their ability to print money, and people lose faith, and no one will take your funny money anymore.

[via nick]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bernanke Admits Fed Caused Great Depression

In case anyone still had any doubts that the Federal Reserve helped create the Great Depression:

Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again.
-Ben Bernanke, November 8, 2002

It only took the Fed 70-odd years to admit to devastating the American economy. I wonder how long we'll have to wait to hear them admit it they did it again.

[via Glas]

Fannie and Freddie Still Bleeding

The financial disaster isn't over yet.

The government-sponsored enterprises [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac], now in conservatorship, have already cost the government about $145 billion.

And there's no limit to how much more they can ask for for the next two years!

Fannie Mae lost $11.5 billion in the first quarter while Freddie Mac lost more than $6.7 billion. After posting those massive losses, they asked for a combined additional sum of nearly $20 billion in government assistance.

"Are they losing money as a matter of policy or are they losing it as bad judgment?" asks Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who calls the Fannie and Freddie the elephant in the bailout room.

Baker and Fusion IQ's Barry Ritholtz are convinced the government is effectively sponsoring a backdoor bailout of the banks via the GSEs. "This is a conscious, willful decision," says Ritholtz, author of The Big Picture blog and Bailout Nation. "Fannie And Freddie act as a conduit for taking all this junk off the banks' balance sheets."

Banks made billions by creating, selling, and risk swapping trillions in bad mortgages, and now American taxpayers are on the hook for the worst of the losses, in addition to saving the bad banks with bailouts.

This is the greatest scam ever perpetrated.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lars Vilks: Certified Badass

We all remember Lars Vilks, the infamous "Swedish cartoonist" who drew the Muhammad cartoon that outraged Muslims everywhere.

Well, he's back, with a movie this time. As you can see from the video, the local Muslims came to the show for no other reason than to shut it down, which they succeeded in doing.

But they didn't stop there. Over the weekend, someone set fire to his house. Police have arrested two brothers, age 19 and 21, suspected of the fire.

The Public Option Lives

Remember when Obama and House Democrats said they were dropping the Public Option? Well, they lied.

The truth is the public option is alive and well, residing in Section 1334, pages 97-100, of the new health care law. That section gives the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — which presently manages the federal civil service — new responsibilities: establishing and running two entirely new government health insurance programs to compete directly with private insurance companies in every state with coverage for people outside of government.

Quoting the new law, former OPM director Donald Devine notes that it makes the OPM boss a health care czar, with power to set “‘profit margin premiums and other such terms and conditions of coverage as are in the interest of enrollees in such plans.’ That’s open-ended. You can do anything.” Dan Blair, another former OPM director, calls the new program “nothing but a placeholder for the public option.” Indeed, the OPM head is also given the authority to “appoint as many employees” as needed to run the program, and to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to establish and administer it.

One has to wonder if this bill would have passed if they had been honest about what was in it.

I wonder what we'll find out next.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Space Tourism Not Far Off

The private space race adds a new entrant, the bargain basement Space Adventures. For a mere $102,000, half the price of a trip on SpaceShipTwo, you can blast off 62 miles into the sky in a real rocket.

The project is a partnership between Space Adventures and reusable rocket powered vehicle manufacturer Armadillo Aerospace.

[via Gizmodo]

Friday, May 14, 2010

Knock Knock You're Dead

CATO has put together a Google Map featuring botched SWAT raids across the country. Check it!

[via Glas]

Facebook Asserts its Power

Facebook has limitless potential, and it began asserting its power recently on national television.

Last Saturday, Betty White appeared on Saturday Night Live, to the great pleasure of her fans. And why were they so pleased? Because they were the reason she was picked to host.

Months ago, fans of Betty White started a "Betty White to Host SNL" page on Facebook. The page quickly grew to half a million supporters, and SNL's executive produce Lorne Michaels took notice.

A few weeks later, Betty White hosts SNL and garnered the highest Nielson ratings in years.

Facebook power is only beginning to grow. As people realize the power of a collective voice, and as corporations and institutions realize the wisdom and profitability of listening to that voice, the power of the masses, channeled through Facebook, will only increase.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chisel of Precedent, Hammer of Fear

Post-game analysis of the Times Square Bomber's failed plot continues, and our leaders are falling over each other to remove what's left of our civil liberties.

On the chopping block today is the 5th Amendment, or specifically, Miranda rights, i.e. the right of US citizen terror suspects to be informed of their rights to remain silent and to an attorney.

Officials claim that this right interferes with public safety, and that terror suspects should be interrogated prior to being informed that they do not have to say anything that would incriminate themselves.

I know those who support suspending Miranda rights mean well. They simply want to learn more intelligence about the terror organizations that suspected terrorists belong to, in order to stop them and protect the American people. I get that.

But this cannot be done. Suspending an un-convicted suspect's rights is unconstitutional and wrong, no matter what you think he has done. This is what America is about, this is why it was founded, so that no man can be denied his rights, including the right to due process and 5th amendment protection.

Some defense hawks believe that people like me are blowing this out of proportion, that a change in Miranda rights requirements hardly makes us a police state.

To this I reply that a police state does not occur overnight. Our police state is occurring by the slow-but-steady chipping away of our liberties, one tiny bit at a time, because we are afraid. This fear is the impetus for giving away our liberties.

This hammer of fear strikes our liberty, but it does not destroy it immediately. It is with the fine chisel of legal precedent that the hammer strikes at our liberty. A new definition of liberty is defined, the chisel of precedent is set, and the hammer of fear strikes, etching out a new shape from our block of liberty.

The piece that is chipped off may be small, and it may be so small that some never notice that it is gone. But the hammer and chisel are not finished. As soon as a terrorist scares more people, the chisel is reset and the fresh fear energizes the hammer yet again. Another chip falls to the floor.

This is the point of terrorism. It is not just to kill innocents, but rather to make the survivors live in fear. Fear that permeates our laws and our agencies, fear that suppresses our freedoms. Fear that changes the way we live. That is the point of terrorism.

In his first inaugural address, FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." These are the words we must heed, or, as he knew then, our fear will destroy us.

If we allow fear to be our guide, we will be left with a nation that is not worthy of defending.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey BP: Get Your Shit Together

Your big hole is leaking 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. Your big dome that was supposed to cover the leak and suck out the oil got clogged with crystal formation. Now you're trying a smaller dome? Just get it done.

TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: Well, we are working this, as you know very aggressively in three ways, in the subsea to eliminate the leak, on the surface to contain the spill to the greatest extent possible in the area of the leak, and thirdly to defend the shoreline and prevent any oil from getting to the shore.

In terms of the subsea interventions, we are pursuing multiple occupy shuns in parallel. So we tried the large dome over the weekend. It wasn't successful. Too much hydrate formation, a consequence of there being much greater gas in the flow of hydrocarbons than we had anticipated.

So we are now moving to deploy over the next 72 hours, a smaller containment device, a so-called top hat, which is described like that because it looks like a top hat, put in the water, on the end of a piece of drill pipe to fit over the leak. We'll be doing that over the next 72 hours.

In parallel there are a series of other operations being planned on the blow-out preventer, most importantly the so-called top kill or junk shot whereby we would pump into the blowout preventer material to clog it up and stop the flow.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where the hydration is, isn't that ineffective because it blocks it? Is that why that's been ineffective? And why hasn't that effective in containing the leak?

HAYWARD: The issue is the quantity of gas and seawater in the large dome. That is a difficult combination. So, by moving to a smaller dome we'll have less seawater and, hopefully, a better chance of minimizing the hydrate formation and being able to get in sort of system to work.


VAN SUSTEREN: Let's say Plan A failed, the bigger dome, Plan B is the smaller dome, hoping less of a hydrate problem. In the horrible, awful event that Plan B doesn't work, what is Plan C?

HAYWARD: So Plan C is the so-called junk shot, top kill, where we connect two flexible hoses to the top of the blowout preventer and pump material to block up the blowout preventer.

Plan D is to remove what is called the riser with which is sitting above the blowout preventer and put in place another blowout preventer. There's a Plan E and a Plan F. So we are working through a whole series of options that are being developed and engineered in parallel and deploying them in time sequence.

I don't care if it takes till Plan Z, get it done, and get it done NOW.

In the mean time, I urge all Americans to boycott BP until this crisis is over.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Have a Perfect Quarter

Goldman Sachs made money on trades every single day this past quarter.

Goldman posted no less than $25 million in net trading revenue every day during the quarter, according to its 10-Q regulatory filing. For the first time in its history, it reported no net loss on any day.

“This is the first time we have reported zero trading loss days in a quarter,” Samuel Robinson, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, told Bloomberg via e-mail. “We believe it shows the strength of our customer franchise and risk management.”

Goldman Sachs 10-Q filing
The breakdown, on page 121 of the 10-Q, is as follows:

7 days at $25 million to $50 million
50 days at $50 million to $75 million
16 days at $75 million to $100 million
35 days at more than $100 million

Goldman's successes were matched by JPMorgan, who averaged $118 million PER DAY in the previous quarter.

At least we know our government's economic policies are working out for someone. But this kind of success doesn't come free. Since 1990, Goldman Sachs has given over $31 million to political candidates, with Democrats receiving the lion's share of the booty (64%). Obama leads the pack as the largest receiver of Goldman donations, with a little over $1 million.

Talk about a great investment by Goldman: $31 million donated over 20 years, and now they're making well over $31 million per day.

Now you know how to do it. You too can be successful in America, all it takes is $31 million to buy senators, congressmen, and a president or two.

It's really a bargain, when you think about it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Evolution of Thought

The following are four quotes from founding father Thomas Jefferson on the nation's credit and the wisdom of borrowing money.

"Though much an enemy to the system of borrowing, yet I feel strongly the necessity of preserving the power to borrow. Without this, we might be overwhelmed by another nation, merely by the force of its credit." --Thomas Jefferson to the Commissioners of the Treasury, 1788. ME 6:423

"I am anxious about everything which may affect our credit. My wish would be, to possess it in the highest degree, but to use it little. Were we without credit, we might be crushed by a nation of much inferior resources, but possessing higher credit." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1788. ME 6:453

"Though I am an enemy to the using our credit but under absolute necessity, yet the possessing a good credit I consider as indispensable in the present system of carrying on war. The existence of a nation having no credit is always precarious." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788. ME 6:455

"I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government; I mean an additional article taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing. I now deny their power of making paper money or anything else a legal tender. I know that to pay all proper expenses within the year would, in case of war, be hard on us. But not so hard as ten wars instead of one. For wars could be reduced in that proportion; besides that the State governments would be free to lend their credit in borrowing quotas." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798. ME 10:64

In 1788, Jefferson saw credit as a tool to be used sparingly in times of crisis, especially when other nations use their large credit lines against us to build armies and make war. He felt borrowing money was a necessary evil, and thought that a nation should work hard to preserve a good credit rating.

By 1798, his thoughts had evolved to the point where he no longer thought government could be trusted with the power to borrow. He realized that credit allowed government to run wild, and place its population in untenable situations, most importantly war. He felt so strongly that he wished for a constitutional amendment to strip the power to borrow from our federal government.

Jefferson foresaw what could happen to a nation who's government had access to credit. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been conducted totally on the national credit card. Thousands of American soldiers have lost their lives in these wars, and many more permanently injured. The cost of these wars has significantly expanded our national debt, placing our nation at the mercy of the financial system, which as we have all learned is a complete disaster.

If can learn anything from the current Greek debt crisis, as well as America's own experience, its that governments can and will borrow a nation past the breaking point. Whether it is done for social programs or to conduct senseless wars, government's national tendency is towards debt, which is passed on generation to generation, weakening our nation and our economy, and enslaving us all through our system of credit.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wall Street: ‘Machines just took over’ [Robot Apocalypse]

The war has expanded to the financial front, and the machines have come for our money.

No one was sure what happened, other than automated orders were activated by erroneous trades. One possibilility being investigated was that a trader accidentally placed an order to sell $16 billion, instead of $16 million, worth of futures, and that was enough to trigger widespread sell orders across the market.

"I think the machines just took over. There’s not a lot of human interaction,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group. "We’ve known that automated trading can run away from you, and I think that’s what we saw happen today.”

We gave the machines control of all our money, and now we're paying for it.

[via Cam]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Audit the Fed? Bernanke Says No

Ben Bernanke came out against pending legislation that would allow Congress greater oversight of the Federal Reserve.

"Such amendments, if enacted, would seriously threaten monetary policy independence, increase inflation fears and market interest rates, and damage economic stability and job creation," Mr. Bernanke wrote to Mr. Dodd.

By some reasoning that I do not understand, Mr. Bernanke believes the American people have no business knowing what goes on inside the institution that controls all of their money.

If I were Ben Bernanke, I wouldn't want people knowing what I was doing with their wealth either. Because once people found out that the Federal Reserve has been helping banks steal their wealth for the last century, they might get a little upset. Like, Greece upset.

Adam Carolla on Electric Cars

Adam Carolla turns his well-honed ire on electric cars and the stupider parts of the green energy movement.

[Gizmodo via Brian]

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The New Space Race Begins

A new company has thrown their hat into the space tourism ring: Dassault.

Following the trail of SpaceShipTwo, Dassault has been working on a new suborbital civilian spacecraft. Not to be confused with the Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport 20XX, the new aircraft could be a 11-ton vehicle derived from their VEHRA satellite launcher.

VEHRA and VSH—the name of the new civilian vehicle—are both air launched, and "based on the X-38 experimental lifting body from NASA, for which Dassault Aviation had defined the shape." While VEHRA will have heavy versions capable of putting a 7-ton payload in low orbit, VSH is only designed to bring tourists into the edge of space, flying at Mach 3.5.

The VSH is still very early in development, but by the time it flies, SpaceShipTwo should have already made its maiden voyage.

This could be the start of something big.

After Oil: The Methanol Economy

It's spilling into the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming rate. Our armed forces are in the Middle East fighting for it. We would all be toast without it.

But what will we do when we run out of oil?

Nobel prize winner in Chemistry George Olah has the solution: methanol.

Technology Review: Why methanol?

George Olah: Methanol in its own right is an excellent fuel. You can mix it into gasoline -- it's a much better fuel than ethanol. And we have developed a methanol fuel cell.

Methanol is a very simple chemical that can be made in a very efficient way. It is just one oxygen atom inserted into methane, the basal component of natural gas; but methanol is a liquid material which is easily stored, transported, and used.

TR: What's wrong with hydrogen fuel cells?

GO: Even today you could put a pump dispensing methanol at every gasoline station. You can dispense it very well without any [new] infrastructure. For hydrogen, there is no infrastructure. To establish a hydrogen infrastructure is an enormously costly and questionable thing. Hydrogen is a very volatile gas, and there is no way to store or handle it in any significant amount without going to high pressure.

TR: But methanol is a way of storing energy, not a source of energy like gasoline. Where will the energy come from?

GO: The beauty is we can take any source of energy. Whether it's from burning fossil fuels, from atomic plants, from wind, solar, or whatever. What we are saying is it makes a lot better sense, instead of trying to store and transport energy as very volatile hydrogen gas, to convert it into a convenient liquid. And there's a fringe benefit: you really mitigate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

TR: How do you make methanol?

GO: One approach is to produce methanol by converting still-existing huge reserves of natural gas, but in entirely different, new ways. Today, methanol is made exclusively from natural gas. Natural gas is incompletely burned, or converted, to synthesis gas, which can then be put together into methanol. Now we have developed ways to completely eliminate the use of synthesis gas.

The second approach involves carbon dioxide. We were co-inventors of the direct methanol fuel cell. This fuel cell uses methanol and produces CO2 and water. It occurred to us that maybe you could reverse the process. And, indeed, you can take carbon dioxide and water, and if you have electric power, you can chemically reduce it into methanol.

So the second leg of our methanol economy approach is to regenerate or recycle carbon dioxide initially from sources where it is present in high concentrations, like flue gases from a power plant burning natural gas. But eventually, and this won't come overnight, we could just take out carbon dioxide from air.
Dr. Olah makes a persuasive case. We can take energy from anywhere; hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, even coal and gas, and turn it into an easily transportable fuel.

Anyone who has accidently lit a gas can on fire can tell you that gasoline has TONS of energy stored inside. It's what makes it so useful as a fuel. But matching that level of energy without using petroleum is a very difficult problem.

Currently, electric and hybrid vehicles draw energy from heavy and expensive lithium-ion batteries. Despite their large mass, these batteries are still very limited in their storage capacity.

Methanol has the advantage of having enough energy that it can replace gasoline, and we can get it without digging into the ocean floor or dealing with unstable Middle Eastern nations.

It's certainly worth thinking about, as it's the best gas alternative I've come across.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sucks to be an Illegal Immigrant in Mexico

Mexico has its own problems with illegal immigration, though when dealing with it they employ methods quite different from the United States

The level of brutality Central American migrants face in Mexico was apparent Monday, when police conducting a raid for undocumented migrants near a rail yard outside Mexico City shot to death a local man, apparently because his dark skin and work clothes made officers think he was a migrant.

Virginia Sanchez, who lives near railroad tracks that carry Central Americans north to the U.S. border, said such shootings in Tultitlan are common.

"At night, you hear the gunshots, and it's the judiciales chasing the migrants," she said, referring to the state police. "It's not fair to kill these people. It's not fair in the United States and it's not fair here."

Undocumented Central American migrants complain much more about how they are treated by Mexican officials than about authorities on the U.S. side of the border, where migrants may resent being caught but often praise the professionalism of the agents scouring the desert for their trail.

"If you're carrying any money, they take it from you -- federal, state, local police, all of them," said Carlos Lopez, a 28-year-old farmhand from Guatemala who was crouching in a field near the tracks in Tultitlan, waiting to climb onto a northbound freight train.

Lopez said he had been shaken down repeatedly in 15 days of traveling through Mexico.

And you thought illegals in America had it rough.