Feb 24, 2017
During a White House meeting with a group of manufacturing CEOs, President Trump casually described his administration’s border enforcement and deportation campaign as a “military operation,” which if true would be a violation of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act.
“We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate nobody has seen before,” said the president in video-recorded remarks. “And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation.”
The White House later issued a clarification saying that the president’s statement was intended to be metaphorical.
The domestic use of the U.S. military as a law enforcement agency is forbidden by the Third Amendment to the US Constitution, and by a post-Civil War statute commonly called the Posse Comitatus Act. On June 18, 1878, a federal appropriations bill was amended to include a one-paragraph rider forbidding the use of the U.S. Army “for the purpose of executing the laws” without specific authorization from Congress. This measure effectively ended the long post-war occupation of the reconquered southern states, and was intended to create a definitive segregation between the military and domestic law enforcement – a line that has often been ignored in practice.
Two decades ago, following the Oklahoma City Bombing, military planners at the elite Battle Command Training Program at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas discussed the possibility that “turbulence within the United States” would require the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Feb 24, 2017
Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and receive disability benefits for that condition. A similar or larger number of Americans receive workers’ compensation because they are no longer able to work to support themselves. Very few of them receive more than $100,000 a year tax-free after serving a prison term for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, that list might contain a single name – that of former Illinois Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Divorce records show that the 51-year-old Jackson “receives about $138,400 a year – more than he made as a freshman congressman in 1995,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “Most of that – about $100,000 – is workers’ compensation and tax-free…. The rest of Jackson’s benefits are Social Security Disability Insurance payments, some of which may be taxable.” The disability payments are provided to Jackson because of his bipolar disorder diagnosis.
“Whatever benefits Jesse Jackson Jr. has, he earned them, and as a matter of law, he’s entitled to them,” insists his attorney, Barry Schatz. “If the government thought he wasn’t entitled to them, they wouldn’t be paying them.”
Jackson spent 17 years in Congress before resigning while under investigation by the FBI. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to using $750,000 in campaign donations to pay for vacations, luxury goods, and personal expenses. At the time of his resignation, be was being paid $174,000 a year.
Feb 24, 2017
Women’s basketball standout Candice Wiggins brought her successful WNBA career to a premature end following eight seasons of what she described as constant abuse and harassment as a result of a pervasive culture of lesbianism in the professional sports league.
“It wasn’t like my dreams came true in the WNBA – it was quite the opposite,” Wiggins told the San Diego Tribune. “I wanted to play two more seasons of WNBA, but the experience didn’t lend itself to my mental state.” Like many other accomplished WNBA stars, she was understandably disappointed by the fact that the league wasn’t able to find a large audience. In addition, she continued, “I didn’t like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much, it was toxic for me – my spirit was being broken.”
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins told the paper “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they [the other players] could apply.” She claims to have faced constant bullying on top of the intense competition among players for prominence in a commercially marginal sports league.
Wiggins, who was a star at Stanford before her professional career, stood by her remarks following the predictable backlash.
Feb 24, 2017
Passengers on a Delta Airlines flight from San Francisco to New York City’s JFK International Airport were told that they would have to present their identification to agents of the Customs and Border Protection agency before being allowed to leave the plane.
Matt O’Rourke, a passenger on the flight, snapped a cell phone photograph of the ID inspection and told Rolling Stone magazine that a flight attendant had informed the travelers that “You’ll need to show your papers to agents waiting outside the door.”
The CBP has no constitutional or statutory authority to require identification from passengers on domestic flights. The agency claimed that it has been asked “to assist in locating an individual possibly aboard Delta flight 1583” who had been “ordered removed by an immigration judge,” which could have been done by examining the passenger manifest, rather than conducting an unlawful East German-style internal checkpoint.
For the past decade and a half, if not longer, the Border Patrol has operated checkpoints within 100 miles of the border, thereby creating a de facto “Constitution-free zone” that encompasses, by one estimate, two-thirds of the US population. The agency has apparently expanded that zone to include all commercial passenger service operating anywhere within the continental United States. Americans should take note of the fact that from the CBP’s perspective, their agents patrol a free-fire zone in which they can use lethal force at their discretion.
Two days ago, the Trump administration — inheriting a controversy from its predecessor — argued before the Supreme Court in defense of the proposition that a Border Patrol agent can, in effect, summarily execute someone who is outside the borders of the United States, because constitutional writ does not run beyond the border. That case involved the unlawful killing of a 15-year-old who was standing on the Mexican side of the border when he was shot in the face by the Border Patrol agent.
Two years ago, an appeals court in Texas threw out the victim’s lawsuit, claiming that constitutional protections didn’t apply to the victim because he was a non-citizen with few if any “voluntary” ties to the U.S.
Feb 24, 2017
Philadelphia’s tax on sodas and other sugary drinks is costing city residents their jobs. One of the largest beverage distributors in the city is planning to cut one-fifth of its workforce, and similar effects are being felt at grocery stores and convenience stores as well. Not surprisingly, residents of Philadelphia, rather than paying the soda surcharge, are simply driving beyond city limits to buy beverages that aren’t subject to the tax.
As is always the case when social engineering schemes lead to disaster, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is blaming those on the receiving end of the policy.
“I didn’t think it was possible for the soda industry to be any greedier,” pouted Kenney in a statement to a local reporter. “They are so committed to stopping this tax from spreading to other cities, that they are not only passing the tax they should be paying onto their customer[s], they are actually willing to threaten working men and women’s jobs rather than marginally reduce [sic] their seven figure bonuses.”
As the late Joseph Sobran pointed out, the word “greed” as defined by members of political class refers to a desire on the part of the productive to keep the money they have earned.
Mayor Kenney flung the same accusation at the owners of grocery stores and restaurants, accusing them of “price gouging” for increasing their prices to reflect the city’s beverage tax.
Kenney and his ruling clique expected to collect about $7.6 million a month from the tax, but in January the total was only $2.3 million.
Pennsylvania State Representative Stephen Bloom, seeking to dispel Mayor Kenney’s comprehensive ignorance, explained that “Economics is to politics as gravity is to jumping.”
Feb 24, 2017
The Arizona State Senate has approved a bill that would lead to felony racketeering charges for participants and organizers of protests that turn violent. Unlike the federal RICO statute and other state laws modeled after it, the Arizona measure would allow prosecutors to file charges against anybody involved in the protest, whether or not they commit an overt criminal act. That provision most likely would not survive constitutional scrutiny, as it lacks the element called mens rea, or criminal intent, necessary for conviction of an offense. The proposed law, Senate Bill 1142, would allow prosecutors to seize the personal assets of people convicted under the statute.
Supporters of the measure insist that it is necessary to protect property and public order against riots of the kind that have occurred recently in several cities. All 17 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill. All 13 Democrats in the chamber voted against it, insisting that laws against rioting, property destruction, and assault are more than adequate. Critics also contend that the tangible impact of the bill would be to chill freedom of speech and the exercise of the right to petition the government for redress.
State Senator Steve Farley of Tucson described the bill as “a total perversion of the RICO process” and predicted that it would lead to “major Constitutional issues.”
“I don’t think this is going to do anything but get us into more lawsuits,” Farley declared.
The measure has now been sent to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Feb 24, 2017
The release of a video showing an off-duty Los Angeles police officer firing a gun during a confrontation with a group of teenagers led to riots in Anaheim in which dozens were arrested, reports the Los Angeles Times. No injuries occurred during the incident, but the viral video clip “sparked a flurry of phone calls and emails to Anaheim police, who are investigating the officer’s actions,” the Times observes.
The confrontation on February 21 arose from what the Anaheim PD claims was an ongoing controversy between the officer and a group of juveniles who walk across his property without permission. After the off-duty officer cursed at a girl, one of her male companions rebuked his language. The officer responded by seizing the teenager, which constitutes a physical assault. He then swore at another male teenager as the first pleaded to be let go. Another teen rushed at the officer, shoving him over a row of bushes. A punch was thrown, and the officer reached into the waistband of his jeans for a gun. Seconds later a gunshot is heard.
Two teens were arrested – a thirteen-year-old on suspicion of battery and making criminal threats, and a 15-year-old on suspicion of assault and battery. The officer was not charged, nor has his name been released.
Feb 24, 2017
Undercover FBI informants sent to infiltrate last year’s protest occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, were authorized to break the law, FBI Special Agent Ronnie Walker admitted during a pre-trial hearing in Portland. At least nine FBI undercover assets were present during the protest, one of whom, Mark McConnell, was behind the wheel of the SUV carrying protest leader Ammon Bundy at the time of his arrest at a checkpoint set up by the FBI and the Oregon State Police.
Although Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Portland field office, claimed under oath that he had no “direct” knowledge of unlawful activity by informants during the standoff, Special Agent Ronnie Walker admitted that some informants had been given permission to engage in “otherwise unlawful activity” during their undercover mission.
Among the FBI assets on the site was Fabio Minoggio, who left the refuge on January 26, 2016 – just a few hours after protest spokesman LaVoy Finicum was killed by the FBI and Oregon State Police in an ambush on US Highway 395. At the time, Finicum, the Bundy brothers, and several other protesters were headed to a town hall meeting in the town of John Day.
While federal prosecutors have charged protesters with firearms-related offenses during the protests, Walker conceded that FBI assets were permitted to carry arms during the standoff, “in order to maintain credibility.” Minoggio was allowed to conduct training in firearms and hand-to-hand combat, and to organize security teams.
Feb 24, 2017
Unless a border wall is built, drug lords may eventually smuggle a nuclear weapon across the border in a bale of marijuana, suggested Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks in an interview on CNN.
“We used to make the point that if someone wanted to smuggle in a dangerous weapon – even a nuclear weapon – into America how would they do it?” stated Franks. “And the suggestion was made that we’ll simply hide it in a bale of marijuana.”
This was not the first time that Rep. Franks had made this suggestion. During a 2012 speech to the House of Representatives, Franks asked his colleagues to “imagine for a moment … the scenario of Hezbollah, one of Iran’s terrorist proxies, gaining possession of just two nuclear warheads and bringing them across the border into the United States, concealed, let’s say, in bales of marijuana, then transporting them into the heart of two different crowded, unnamed cities – then calling and telling the White House exactly when and where the first one will be detonated, and then following through sixty seconds later.”
Congressman Franks, who apparently aspires to become a successor to Tom Clancy, has not explained what tactical advantage would be gained by hiding a nuclear weapon inside a bale of contraband drugs that would be confiscated if it were found by law enforcement agents.
Feb 24, 2017
In response to an expanded US military presence in the South China Sea, the Communist Chinese People’s Liberation Army has carried out “counter-attack” drills, which potentially escalated tensions “at a time of great uncertainty in US-China bilateral relations,” reports the Daily Caller.
On February 18, a US Navy carrier battle group led by the USS Carl Vinson arrived in the South China Sea for what were described as “routine operations.” The carrier hosts more than 60 aircraft, and was accompanied by the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer. Beijing replied by deploying the missile destroyers Changsha and Haikou from the PLA’s Army-Navy South China Sea fleet.
Reacting to US military operations in the region, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Gen Shuang declared that "China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country's attempt to undermine China's sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight." Commercial fishing crews from the Philippines and several other neighboring countries can attest that China has been less than fastidious in respecting freedom of navigation and in pressing illegitimate territorial claims.
Feb 24, 2017
Johnny Chung, the Chinese-American businessman who served as a key conduit for illegal campaign donations to Bill and Hillary Clinton from the Communist regime in Beijing, “Secretly filmed a tell-all video as an `insurance policy’ – because he feared being murdered,” reports the London Daily Mail. The video was obtained by author David Wead as research for his forthcoming book “Game of Thorns,” which chronicles Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid “and the Chinese government’s long-running operation to buy political influence in Washington.”
In excerpts provided to the Daily Mail, Chung “described how he feared for his life after he publicly admitted to funneling money from Chinese officials to President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. Chung cooperated in a federal inquiry and was eventually sentenced to probation for campaign finance and tax violations.
“The reason Johnny asked me to do this interview with him was … as a type of `life insurance’ since he was very concerned about his safety,” explained Bob Abernethy, who helped record the video. “His concern about his safety was understandable, given that there had been three attempts on his life which required FBI protection.” Chung was also intimidated by the death of Ron Brown, Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, who perished in a plane crash after being “deeply involved in arranging – and selling seats on – Clinton administration trade missions to China,” Abernethy adds.
Feb 24, 2017
A regional court in a suburb of Manila issued an arrest warrant for Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic of the country’s increasingly authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte. Last August, De Lima, former head of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, inaugurated an official investigation into the wave of extrajudicial killings ordered by Duterte for the supposed purpose of combating the narcotics trade. One month later she was stripped of her appointment, and the inquiry was squelched.
In a speech last December, de Lima described Duterte’s bloody campaign as a “betrayal of public trust.”
“That constitutes high crimes because mass murders certainly fall into the category of high crimes,” she explained. “High crimes [are] a ground for impeachment under the constitution.”
Duterte has responded by accusing de Lima of being in league with narcotics traffickers – an accusation he has consistently lodged against any public figure who has criticized him.
The charges in the warrant that was filed against de Lima draw on allegations made by inmates in the national penitentiary, who claim to have bribed de Lima while she was justice minister in order to continue trafficking narcotics behind bars. Alex Padilla, de Lima’s attorney, dismisses those claims, protesting that “The court made this decision based on nothing.”
Feb 24, 2017
Defending the Trump administration’s welcome decision to rescind federal rules regarding so-called transgender bathrooms and locker rooms, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer invoked the reserved powers of the states under the Tenth Amendment.
“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” Spicer asserted. “All you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue.”
Two days later, however, Spicer took exactly the opposite position with respect to enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws. While saying that the administration would be tolerant of the use of medical marijuana, he insisted that “there’s still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of … when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”
There is no constitutional provision authorizing the federal government to criminalize the use or sale of any drug. The last attempt to carry out prohibition of that kind required a constitutional amendment, which took effect in 1920 and was repealed thirteen years later. No similar amendment was ever put in place authorizing the so-called war on drugs.
Feb 23, 2017
Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is among the most hawkish members of Congress, particularly with respect to Iran. According to the Daily Caller, Cotton “spearheaded the effort for President Donald Trump to select Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster for the post of national security advisor” following the forced resignation of Michael Flynn. Cotton, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, reportedly considered resigning in 2007 when McMaster was passed over for a promotion.
McMaster’s hawkish posture toward Russia helps explain Sen. Cotton’s enthusiasm for his appointment. Cotton’s views toward Moscow are closer to those of his colleague from Arizona, John McCain, than those of President Trump. In January, Cotton complained to Fox News that the Obama administration had “consistently looked the other way from Russia’s provocations and aggressions” and insisted that Washington needs to impose “a sense of new boundaries” on Russian President Putin.
“He needs to have a sense of boundaries and to know that costs are going to be imposed if he crosses those boundaries,” insisted Cotton. The senator had proposed a measure in the annual intelligence bill “that would enforce existing travel restrictions on Russian diplomats – by which I mean Russian spies who are traveling all around America without the proper approvals.” Cotton claimed that the Obama administration had pressured him to remove that provision from the bill “because it would be too provocative.”
This led Cotton to criticize Obama for being “weak on Russia” and for thwarting efforts from “Republicans and Democrats in Congress … to draw a firmer line.”
Feb 23, 2017
For the first time, a federal court has explicitly ruled that the Second Amendment does not protect the right of civilians to own firearms classified as “weapons of war.” In upholding Maryland’s ban on private sales and ownership of so-called assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decreed that they fell within the category of “weapons that are most useful in military service,” a phrase contained in the US Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller v. District of Columbia decision.
“Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage,” insisted the Fourth Circuit Court.
Many gun rights activists celebrated the 2008 Heller ruling without giving careful examination to the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s clear redefinition of the right to gun ownership as a limited, state-regulated privilege. Scalia wrote that “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home…. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” Scalia continued. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
A right that is subject to government-imposed limitations is not a right in any sense. There is overwhelming documentary evidence that the Framers of the Second Amendment intended for it to protect the right of the people – individually and in the aggregate – to retain the means to defend themselves against the government they had created.
Feb 23, 2017
The FBI announced the arrest of Missouri resident Robert Lorenzo Hester, Jr. on charges of offering material support to ISIS.
Hester, who was born in Missouri and converted to Islam following a brief and unsuccessful stint in the U.S. Army and now calls himself Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki, came to the attention of the FBI through a series of social media posts in which he condemned Washington’s foreign policy and what he viewed as the government’s consistent abuse of Muslims. Among his complaints were the Obama administration’s bombing of Yemen and – ironically – US and Israeli support for ISIS, which he did not recognize as representing authentic Islam. “A true Muslim,” Hester argued, “would never commit suicide bombing during Ramadan at the Prophet’s [mosque],” an incident that he took as demonstrating that ISIS was either apostate or a group controlled by enemies of his religion. Prior to being contacted by the FBI’s terrorism facilitator, Hester had considered moving to a Muslim country.
Last August, as documented in the federal criminal complaint, Hester was approached online by an FBI informant posing as a fellow Muslim who explored the depths of his grievances and carefully channeled them in the direction of prosecutable offenses. Over the next six months two FBI provocateurs guided Hester through the familiar ritual of radicalization, one of them threatening his family if he “talked about any plans” or otherwise defied the instructions of his handlers. Eventually he was told to obtain roofing nails and other materials for pipe bombs that were supposedly to be used in a series of attacks on President’s Day. He was arrested at a storage facility on February 17.
Feb 23, 2017
As the Trump administration continues preparations for construction of a wall to keep people from entering the country without official permission, an ever-growing number of US citizens are leaving the country in an effort to escape its increasingly onerous taxation, regulation, and enforcement agencies, reports financial adviser Mark Nestmann.
“2016 was another record-breaking year for the number of US citizens and its long-term residents expatriating, giving up their US citizenship and passport or green card,” Nestmann observes. The February 9 edition of the Federal Register documented that during the closing quarter of last year, 2,364 US citizens or long-term legal residents expatriated, bringing the total for 2016 to 5,409.
“That’s a 26 percent increase over 2015,” Nestmann emphasizes. “It’s more than 13 times as high was it was less than two decades ago” – and yet, he contends, this figure is “only the tip of the iceberg.”
The figures published in the Federal Register reflect only those expatriates who have filed IRS Form 8854, and “many former US citizens and green card holders don’t bother,” most likely “because the form requires that you certify whether or not you have been tax-compliant for the preceding five years. There are millions of Americans – especially those living outside the US – who aren’t.”
Feb 23, 2017
A letter signed by twelve House Democrats and one Republican urges President Trump to seek a formal declaration of war on the Islamic State prior to an expected escalation in the three-year-old military campaign. President Obama had invoked the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as his supposed authority to conduct the anti-ISIS campaign, and similar campaigns in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan.
“For too many years, Congress has ignored these ongoing wars,” declares the letter to President Trump. “Our brave service members face countless dangers for our nation and we owe it to them to act on an AUMF without delay.” The 2001 AUMF, the Representatives object, “has served as a blank check for war.”
It should be pointed out that even if a new AUMF were approved for ongoing military campaigns in the region, that measure would still fall short of the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.
The lone Republican to sign the letter, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, represents a district heavily populated by active-duty military personnel and their families. He was initially one of the most passionate supporters of the Iraq War, but his views changed largely as a result of long and in-depth conversations with constituents who were bearing the burdens of that conflict.
Both President Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have spoken favorably of a new war resolution.
California Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the lead author of the letter to Trump, was the only member of Congress to vote against the post-9/11 AUMF, insisting that a formal declaration of war was necessary.
Feb 23, 2017
The Sunni-dominated Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, a client state of Saudi Arabia and host to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is preparing a constitutional amendment that would “allow civilians to be tried in military courts, [thereby] further empowering its security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at a level unseen since its 2011 Arab Spring protests,” reports the Associated Press. The measure was approved by the Council of Representatives, the lower house of the country’s National Assembly. This measure comes a month after a royal decree restored the power of the kingdom’s domestic spy service, the National Security Agency, to make arrests of suspected subversives.
Although the government of Bahrain is controlled by Sunni Muslims loyal to the neighboring Saudi dynasty, the majority of its subjects are adherents of the Shi’ite sect of Islam. The 2011 uprising was violently suppressed by the Saudis with the tacit support of the Obama administration as part of a deal in which Riyadh engineered an Arab League resolution in support of the US-led war to overthrow Libyan ruler Muamar Qadaffi. Dissent continues to percolate in Bahrain, prompting both occasional militant attacks on military targets and violent official crack-downs. The most recent round of repression began last April, and has seen the exile or imprisonment of prominent activists and the banning of the main Shi’ite opposition group.
Feb 23, 2017
Sabrina de Sousa, a US citizen and former CIA operative, was taken into custody in Lisbon on February 20 in preparation for extradition to Italy, where she will serve a four-year prison sentence for kidnapping. The 61-year-old was one of 26 Americans convicted by an Italian court, in absentia, for the 2003 abduction of radical Islamic cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nas, also known as Abu Omar, who was bundled into a van on the streets of Milan and taken to Egypt to be tortured. This was one of dozens of similar incidents that took place during the CIA’s rendition program, which began under Bill Clinton and was dramatically expanded by George W. Bush.
Owing to unfathomably bad operational security by the CIA operatives, the abduction was monitored in real time by Italian police, who were able to track the squad’s movements through its use of cell phones. The Italian government had not given permission for the CIA to conduct the operation, nor had it even been given prior notice of it. The US government did not honor Italian extradition requests or cooperate in any way with the legal process that led to the trials and convictions. De Sousa was arrested by Portuguese officials on the basis of an arrest warrant issued through the European Union’s criminal justice system.
De Sousa, who was born in India and holds both US and Portuguese citizenship, was en route to visit her elderly mother in India when she was detained at the airport. It is expected that she will file another appeal through the Italian court system once she has been extradited to that country.
Feb 23, 2017
Abu Zubaydah, often described as a member of al-Qaeda’s inner circle, was subjected to lengthy sessions of torture at a CIA-run “black site” prison in Thailand.
“As the CIA’s video cameras rolled, security guards shackled Abu Zubaydah to a gurney and interrogators poured water over his mouth and nose until he began to suffocate,” narrates a report from Pro Publica, summarizing a recently published trove of previously classified CIA cables. “They slammed him against a wall, confined him for hours in a coffin-like box, and deprived him of sleep.”
In addition to being illegal, these torture methods “failed to elicit valuable intelligence not because he was holding back, but because he was not a member of al-Qaeda, and had no knowledge of any plots against the United States,” continues the Pro Publica account. After questions were raised about what had been done to Abu Zubaydah, “the chief of base began pushing to have the tapes destroyed. She accomplished her mission years later when she rose to a senior position at CIA headquarters and drafted an order to destroy the evidence, which was still locked in a CIA safe at the American embassy in Thailand.” Her supervisor signed an order to feed the 92 tapes into a shredder.
The woman who arranged that cover-up, Gina Haspel, has been selected by the Trump administration to serve as the CIA’s second-in-command.
Feb 23, 2017
Regarded by admirers and detractors alike as an eccentric libertarian entrepreneur, Pay Pal creator and billionaire Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel was one of Donald Trump’s most visible early supporters. Thiel and co-investors Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale helped create a key part of the electronic surveillance system over which Donald Trump now presides – Palantir Technologies, which was created in 2004 with start-up money provided through the CIA’s In-Q-Tel venture capital branch.
Palantir, which takes its name from a mystical surveillance object from Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories, has enjoyed at least $1.2 billion in federal contracts since 2009. Palantir’s Gotham system “is designed for the needs of intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security,” observes The Intercept. It works “by importing large reams of `structured’ data (like spreadsheets) and `unstructured’ data (like images) into one centralized database, where all of the information can be visualized and analyzed in one workspace…. [Its] chief appeal is that it’s not designed to do any single thing in particular, but is flexible and powerful enough to accommodate the requirements of any organization that needs to process large amounts of both personal and abstract data.”
Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden prove that “Palantir has helped expand and accelerate the NSA’s global spy network,” including the agency’s British equivalent, the GCHQ.
“Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners,” summarizes The Intercept.
Feb 23, 2017
Stamford, Connecticut residents Lexene Charles and Heather Lindsay are being fined $100 a day because they refuse to cover up a racial slur that was spray-painted on their garage door. According to Lindsay, this is just the most recent of several attacks of its kind, and the couple will not remove the offensive epithet until local authorities conduct a proper investigation.
Mr. Charles is black, and Lindsay is white. She told the New York Post that their home has been vandalized on previous occasions, and that her husband has been the subject of racial taunts by hostile neighbors. She maintains that the graffiti will remain until officials “do their job” and “not just cover it up and sweep it under the table as they have done in the past…. I’ve had it,” she declares.
Attorney Darnell Crosland complains that the police asked them to remove the offending word “and to just act normal, like nothing happened.”
Stamford police say that an investigation is ongoing, but no witnesses have been found. On February 7 the couple was given a blight citation, which carries a daily fine of $100. That citation claims that it “can be enforceable as a lien on your property.” The home is scheduled for a foreclosure trial in early March.
Feb 23, 2017
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has denied “qualified immunity” to a police officer who arrested an entirely innocent woman on spurious drug dealing charges, which resulted in her being incarcerated for 80 days. During that time, the victim, April Yvette Smith, lost her job. The officer responsible for this outrage remains safely employed, but he will not be allowed to take refuge in qualified immunity from Smith’s civil rights lawsuit.
Jason Munday, an Officer with the Lincolnton, North Carolina Police Department, gave sixty dollars to a confidential informant and told him to set up a drug deal. The informant, Rufus Lynch, bought a small quantity of narcotics from a woman he identified as April Smith. Neither of the recording devices given to Lynch operated correctly, so no firm identification of the suspected dealer was ever made. Munday browsed police databases in search of women named April Smith with previous drug offenses. He found three women with that name, one of whom lived in Lincoln County, albeit eleven miles from the address where the drug sale allegedly took place. Acting with the serene confidence of an official who considers himself immune to accountability, Munday arrested Smith – nine months after the controlled buy.
As the appeals court observed, “There is no evidence that [Munday and his partner] investigated Smith herself, or found any indication that Smith frequented the site of the drug sale that day, that month, or at all.”
Since It “would be unreasonable for any officer to view Munday’s dearth of evidence as sufficient to establish probable cause … qualified immunity does not apply” in this case, and Munday is individually liable for damages, concludes the court.
Feb 23, 2017
After months of equivocation on the subject, and owing in part to pressure from House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Trump administration has indicated that it will leave in place protections for so-called “dreamers” -- immigrants who entered the country illegally as children, according to administrative guidelines issued for the Department of Homeland Security on February 21. The directive instructs that all other illegal immigrants would be considered subject to immediate deportation.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly moved on the same day to implement a number of other immigration enforcement policies ordered by President Trump. This includes directing agency heads to hire thousands of additional officers, end so-called "catch-and-release" policies that had been in place over the two previous administrations, and to initiate preparatory work on construction of the much-discussed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
In a conference call with reporters, “a DHS official stressed that the directives would not affect Obama-era protections for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and others given a reprieve in 2014” through an Obama executive order, reported Fox News. But outside those exemptions, Kelly emphasized, DHS "no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement."
Feb 22, 2017
General H.R. McMaster, who was chosen by President Trump to serve as his National Security Advisor, has expressed decidedly hawkish views toward Russia. In a May 2016 speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, McMaster depicted an insurgent Moscow that was exploiting what he characterized as American complacency.
“Even though it may have been apparent, at least since 2008, that Russia was changing its geostrategic behavior and engaging in … probing at the far reaches of American power, our strategic response was to accelerate our withdrawal” of combat forces from Europe, complained McMaster. “And what we’re seeing now is we’ve awakened to … this threat from Russia, who is waging limited war for limited objectives – annexing Crimea, invading Ukraine, at zero cost, and consolidating gains over that territory.”
According to McMaster, “What is required is forward deterrence [and the ability ]to be able to ratchet up the cost at the frontier.”
General McMaster’s perspective on Russia has earned the approval of Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, a frequent critic of President Trump who is also a passionate advocate of a more confrontational posture toward Moscow.
“I give President Trump great credit” for selecting McMaster, declared McCain, who also expressed approval for the president’s other national security cabinet choices.
Feb 22, 2017
Elizabeth Restrepo, a convenience store clerk from South Carthage, Tennessee, was terrorized on several occasions by an armed male stranger who would torment her with vulgar remarks, and lewd comments about her anatomy. On one occasion he showed her a cell phone video of himself masturbating. At one point, Restrepo recalls, the unwanted visitor reached across the counter, grabbed her hair, and asked her to take a nude self-portrait.
Restrepo was desperate for help, but calling the police would pose a problem, since her tormentor, Frank Geisenhoffer, is a veteran officer with the South Carthage Police Department.
“Everything about Frank is scary, but it’s even more scary because he has a badge,” Restrepo told a local TV news investigative team. She eventually decided to make covert recordings of his visits so that when she filed a formal complaint it wouldn’t be the word of “an officer against a girl that just works at a convenience store.”
The victim’s protests eventually led to a disciplinary hearing, after which Geisenhoffer was suspended for two weeks without pay and put on administrative probation for a year. As of February 20, Geisenhoffer remains employed by the department.
Feb 22, 2017
Two years ago, former Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Chief Leonard Campanello, seeking to address a growing problem of heroin addiction, invited people struggling with addiction to come to the station, hand over their heroin, and then be set free to seek treatment – without being arrested or charged. Since that time, the Gloucester PD has recorded 530 cases in which drug users have sought help through what has come to be known as the “Angel” program – and some of them have traveled significant distances to do so.
Steve Lenikoski, the first to seek help, was “a heroin addict living in his car in San Jose, California when he read about the fledgling program on social media,” recalls the Boston Globe. “Soon, he was headed east, still high on heroin. A stranger from Danvers picked him up at Logan Airport and gave him a ride to the Gloucester station, where he arrived at 3:30 a.m.on a rainy and foggy night. The police then drove him to Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, where he waited until short-term space became available in a nearby detox facility. Longer treatment followed in California.”
Following the Glouster PD’s example, 200 agencies in 28 states have introduced similar programs. John Rosenthal, a Boston-area developer who supports the Angel program, explains that it “puts police in the lifesaving business instead of the spin-drying business of arresting and releasing. We estimate that approximately 10,000 people have been placed into treatment” through similar initiatives across the country.
Chief Campanello was forced out of his position last October after allegedly lying to city investigators probing complaints against him. It’s not yet clear that impact, if any, the scandal will have on the program he initiated.
Feb 22, 2017
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has condemned Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg for announcing that as of March 1her office would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana charges. This decision was prompted, in part, by the urgent need to deal with an overcrowded county jail, and it reflects the prosecutor’s view that her office should focus on more serious crimes. According to Ogg, Harris County has spent a quarter-billion dollars over the past decade to lock up people arrested for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana, and she believes the taxpayers are entitled to a break – or, at least, that their money should be spent on prosecuting violent criminals, such as burglars and rapists.
Unreceptive to the logic of Ogg’s position, Patrick insists that “he does not believe that law enforcement has the discretion to choose what laws to enforce and what laws to ignore,” explained his press secretary, Alejandro Garcia. The Lt. Governor complained that the policy would turn the jurisdiction into a “sanctuary county” for low-level drug offenders.
Where the Texas Lt. Governor wants to crack down on a county in his own state, Idaho’s Republican Governor Butch Otter has asked President Trump to crack down on states with more liberal marijuana laws. In a recent letter to the president, Otter asked that the Federal government take action against neighboring states like Oregon and Washington, which have decriminalized pot. He also complained about Obama’s decision to de-emphasize enforcement of federal laws against marijuana.
“In that respect, Idaho is a virtual island of compliance, and we are paying the price,” Otter complained.
Feb 22, 2017
Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is reportedly in the pool of candidates for an appointment to fill one of two vacancies in the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. That New Orleans-based appellate court covers federal districts in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The fact that Willet’s name is in the list publicized by Legal Times is a heartening development for libertarian constitutional analyst Damon Root.
A concurring opinion written by Willett in the 2015 case Patel v. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is “effectively a call to judicial arms in defense of economic liberty,” Root observes. The case struck down a regulatory requirement that people who offered a non-invasive cosmetic procedure called eyebrow threading obtain an occupational license.
“This case is fundamentally about the American Dream and the unalienable human right to pursue happiness without curtsying to government on bended knee,” wrote Judge Willett. “It is about whether government can connive with rent-seeking factions to ration liberty unrestrained, and whether judges must submissively uphold even the most risible encroachments.”
Another potential nominee is former Texas solicitor general James Ho, who is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ho would be an interesting choice, given that he “is best known in legal circles for a 2006 law review article defending the constitutionality of birthright citizenship for the US born-children of undocumented immigrant parents,” writes Root, pointing out that his position “is directly at odds with the stated views of Donald Trump.”
Feb 22, 2017
Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin has proposed a bill bearing the contrived and unwieldy title Build Up Illegal Line Defenses With Assets Lawfully Lifted – or BUILD WALL -- Act of 2017. The measure would expand the use of asset forfeiture to confiscate money that would be used to erect a border barricade.
“As the national conversation on immigration continues to heat up, Republican lawmakers are working to find solutions that will protect our border while be conscientious of taxpayers’ money,” states the Congressman, who proffers his bill as a solution. If enacted, it would “require the US Attorney General to provide a detailed report on the amount of annual profits brought into the United States by Mexican drug cartels, as well as a study of how the Department of Justice can increase assets seized from such cartels.”
By targeting supposed “profits” from the drug market, the legislation would be focusing efforts on co-opting drug trafficking, rather than preventing or deterring it. The well-established logic of federal bureaucracy would inevitably require that all drug-related confiscations carried out anywhere in the country would be justified as an effort to comply with that mandate. The TechDirt news site points out that “the reality is that the billions the cartels make from drug sales are safely back in Mexico and … out of the reach of US law enforcement. That leaves everyone on this side of the border, who can now be viewed as unwilling donors to the cause.”
Feb 22, 2017
Over the past year, the Los Angeles Police Department has arrested hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers in sting operations. This project was funded through a 20-cent tax on cab fares for the purpose of cracking down on so-called “bandit cabs” – including services that are not licensed by the city and do not run meters.
Unlike either licensed or unlicensed taxi services, drivers for Uber and Lyft arrange for fares through smart-phone apps, rather than responding to “street hails.”
“Here’s how the stings go down,” reports the Orange County Register. “Posing as ordinary pedestrians, undercover officers wave down cars with Uber logos. The drivers who stop typically think the person either needs help or can download the app on the spot. If drivers pull over, officers tell them they don’t have the Uber app but offer to pay in cash. Drivers who accept the fare are then met almost immediately by squad cars and handcuffs.”
More than 240 Uber and Lyft drivers were arrested in these entrapment operations during 2016, and the department’s entrapment scheme has continued into the present year. As the Register observes, “The rise in arrests just so happens to coincide with plummeting demand for traditional taxis. In just three years, the number of taxi rides has plunged by almost a third. Drops were even starker in Hollywood and downtown LA, where the number of trips fell by 44 percent.”
Feb 22, 2017
Every presidential administration since FDR has used accounting legerdemain in composing a federal budget. Accordingly, Wall Street Journal economics analyst Nick Timiraos was not breaking new ground in reporting that the Trump administration is preparing to use unrealistic projections of economic growth in order to minimize the impact of its spending and tax policies on the deficit.
However, no previous administration has urged its supporters to dismiss all media criticism as “fake news,” or invoked the principle of “alternate facts” to defend claims that can’t be reconciled with the objective record. When President Trump unveils his budget projections, predicts Stan Collender of Forbes magazine, most credible independent economists “either will disagree with Trump outright, or to be diplomatic, will say that what the White House is assuming is in the extreme upper range of what’s acceptable.”
During his campaign, Trump promised significant tax cuts, dramatic increases in military spending, and a $1 trillion infrastructure program – will also claiming that he will be able to balance the budget.
The problem, Collender continues, is that unless Trump “issues an executive order repealing the laws of economics and budgeting or Congress rejects most of his tax and spending agenda, the federal deficit and debt will both be much higher than Trump will be forecasting.”
This suggests that the Trump administration and Republican congressional leadership will take refuge in accounting tricks while sending forth spokesmen to denounce critical coverage as “fake news.” That tactic may be popular with Trump’s most devoted constituency, but it won’t do anything to protect them from the economic consequences of continued federal profligacy.
Feb 22, 2017
A significant gulf appears to have opened between Vice President Mike Pence and chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon regarding Washington’s relationship with the European Union.
“The president did ask me to come here to Brussels, to the home of the European Union, and deliver an additional message,” Pence stated during a joint press conference with European Council President Donald Tusk. “So today it’s my privilege, on behalf of President Trump, to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union.”
“Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values, and above all, the same purpose – to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy, and the rule of law” Pence continued.
A week earlier, however, White House Strategist Bannon “met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message,” reported Reuters, citing multiple unnamed sources briefed about the meeting. According to that account, Bannon described the EU as a “flawed construct” and indicated that the administration favors “conducting relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.”
A White House official confirmed that the meeting took place, but insisted that Bannon and the German diplomat “only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick `hello.’” The German government declined to comment on the meeting, describing it as confidential.
Feb 22, 2017
Former acting US Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by President Trump after she instructed Justice Department attorneys not to defend his controversial travel ban executive order. She insisted that the order contained serious constitutional flaws, an assessment that is debatable, but defensible. Howard Root, former CEO of Vascular Solutions, Inc., can testify that Yates was not consistently scrupulous about constitutional protections.
Root recently retired at age 56 from the company, which he started 20 years ago, in order to “avoid the risk of being criminally prosecuted under the federal government’s `responsible corporate officer’ doctrine for a second time,” he writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column. Following a false and malicious claim from a disgruntled former employee, Root’s company, which manufactures FDA-approved kits used to treat varicose veins, was targeted by the Justice Department for a campaign of legal persecution in which more than 100 employees were threatened with criminal charges. The company had to hire 121 lawyers at a cost of $125 million. The case went to trial a year ago and ended four days later with an acquittal on all charges. One juror told Root that “what the federal government did to you, your company and your employees is nothing short of criminal.”
The federal prosecutors who targeted Root followed “their marching orders, detailed in a five-page Justice Department memo written in 2015 by then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates,” he recalls. They were ordered to “focus on individual wrongdoing from the very beginning” of every corporate investigation, and to use all of the tactics at their disposal to recover “as much money as possible” in settlements extorted from companies thus targeted.
Sally Yates is gone, concludes Root, and “Now it’s time to tear up the Yates Memo.”
Feb 22, 2017
Decades ago, long before being appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan had a reputation as a devoted academic defender of the free market and the gold standard.
“The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit,” wrote Greenspan in his 1966 essay “Gold and Economic Freedom.” Under a gold standard, “government deficit spending … is severely limited,” he explained. After being appointed Fed chief by Bill Clinton, Greenspan pursued policies directly opposed to the principles he once professed, unleashing monetary inflation that fueled two disastrous speculative investment bubbles – the so-called Tech Bubble, which burst in 2000, and the housing and mortgage bubble, the collapse of which in 2008 nearly destroyed the global economy.
Now well into his tenth decade of life, Greenspan appears to have circled back to his earlier views. In an interview with the World Gold Council, Greenspan warns that “The Eurozone isn’t working” and said that “I view gold as the primary global currency.”
“The European Central Bank has greater problems than the Federal Reserve,” Greenspan insists. “And I have grave concerns about the future of the euro itself.” This is why, in his view, “Investment in gold now is insurance.”
Feb 22, 2017
Employees at West Virginia’s Marshall University were targeted for “heterosexual privilege” indoctrination as part of the school’s “Safe Space” training for faculty and staff. The advertised purpose of this exercise is for campus employees to experience the “isolation” suffered by sexual minorities, and to promote a more “inclusive” environment. In practice, the program is yet another variant on the familiar tactic of collectivist gaslighting – a term that refers to a systematic effort to deprive people of their bearings on reality.
The perspective that informs the indoctrination sessions, summarized a local news report, is that “heterosexual white men in America have an advantage and may appear insensitive to culturally diverse students.”
“Our society is geared toward traditional heterosexual roles and relationships, and as a result, there are certain `privileges’ that heterosexuals in traditional relationships are afforded that they may take for granted that others in the LGBTQ community may not have,” declared Morgan Conley, a mental health specialist for the university. Employees dragooned into participating in the event were put through a series of exercises, one of which was called “Privilege for Sale.” Employees were separated into groups and handed a list of the supposed privileges mentioned by Conley, and then asked to select, as a group, which of the privileges they would keep if they were limited to a few of them.
Among those purported privileges was the ability to use a gender-specific restroom without being criticized or otherwise having difficulty.
Not surprisingly, Marshall University – once renowned for its resilient football team – is now famous for being a LBGTQ-friendly campus.
Feb 21, 2017
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has assembled a roster of roughly 300 deputies who have a history of serious misconduct – including domestic violence, theft, bribery, and brutality – who would have serious credibility issues if called on to testify in court. He has offered to provide those names to prosecutors for entry on the Brady List – a database of corrupt officers whose personal background must be provided to the defense during criminal trials.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs “has taken the department to court,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The union contends that the so-called Police Officers Bill of Rights, a California statute that protects the professional privileges of law enforcement officers, forbids the disclosure of negative information from an officer’s personnel file. An appeals court agreed with the union, granting it a temporary injunction.
“California has some of the strictest protections on law enforcement officer records in the country,” notes the LA Times. “Discipline hearings, personnel files and even the names of officers accused in internal affairs investigations are secret. Prosecutors – and defense attorneys – require a special court order to glean even basic information from an officer’s personnel file.”
Assistant LA County Sheriff Todd Rogers insists that the department has “a clear constitutional obligation” to disclose the names of deputies whose history would create credibility issues. The sheriff sent the deputies written warning last October that their files contained evidence of “moral turpitude,” including such crimes as evidence tampering, obstructing investigations, falsifying records, and using unreasonable force.
Feb 21, 2017
In recent years, pressure has mounted on police departments to issue body cameras to their patrol officers as a way of making objective records of their encounters with criminal suspects and other citizens. This push for transparency quickly inspired push-back in many jurisdictions in the form of laws and administrative policies intended to limit public access to bodycam video.
The Arizona-based Taser Company, which has built a profitable niche in providing police departments with its signature portable electro-shock device, has emerged as an industry leader in body-mounted cameras, and it has announced an initiative to combine bodycams with an artificial intelligence-enhanced surveillance capability.
Taser has acquired two AI-focused firms called Dextro and Fossil, from which it is developing an in-house artificial intelligence division that “will develop AI-powered tech specifically aimed at law enforcement, using automation and machine learning algorithms to let cops search for people and objects in video footage captured by on-body camera systems,” reports the tech news service Vocativ. This suggests that “body-worn cameras, which are already being used by police departments in many major cities, could soon become powerful surveillance tools” that could be used to identify people “both retroactively and in real time.”
Feb 21, 2017
Alt-Right celebrity troll Milo Yiannopoulos, who was chosen to offer the keynote address during this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, offered what appeared to be a defense of pederasty on social media. Following publication of the video-recorded comments, CPAC retracted its invitation.
Yiannopoulos, more commonly called Milo, spoke approvingly of what he described as “relationships between younger boys and older men – the sort of `coming of age’ relationship – those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents.”
The man with whom Yiannopoulos was conversing commented that what was being described “sounds like Catholic priest molestation to me.”
“And you know what?” replied Yiannopoulos. “I’m grateful for Father Michael,” an otherwise unnamed Catholic priest who supposedly served as a sexual tutor. He later claimed that as a 14-year-old he had been the aggressor in that illicit sexual relationship. He also emphasized that homosexual liaisons between adults and teenagers are not pedophilia, because that term only applies to the exploitation of children before they reach puberty. Milo was explicitly defending pederasty, which are sexual encounters between adults and post-pubertal but underage minors.
In a Facebook post he revised the story about his alleged encounter with a Catholic priest, insisting that it was a joke referring to “clerical sexual abuse committed against me when I was a teen.” He also insisted that treating the subject in an “edgy” way is his “prerogative” because of his “victim” status – a tactic, interestingly, often used by the feminist agitators and campus leftists whom Milo has frequently derided.
Feb 21, 2017
The use of performance-enhancing substances, such as testosterone or testosterone precursors, such as androstenedione, is banned by most professional sports leagues and amateur athletic associations. In the State of Texas, possession of steroids is a Class A misdemeanor, and every school and school district in the state is required to publish a notice that it is against the law to use human growth hormones for the purpose of body building or enhancing athletic performance.
That statute contains an exception allowing the use of testosterone and other growth hormones for a “valid medical purpose” – and, predictably, this includes prescribing testosterone to psychologically troubled girls who “identify” as boys. Among that number is 17-year-old Mack Beggs, a biological female who recently won the girls 110-pound Class 6A Region II wrestling meet because her opponent, Madeline Rocha, forfeited the match rather than compete against a steroid-enhanced opponent.
Nancy Beggs, the self-identified transgender wrestler’s grandmother and guardian, accuses her critics of displaying “bias, hatred and ignorance” by refusing to wrestle against a competitor whose use of an illegal performance-enhancing substance is depicted as part of a “transition” from female to male.
Feb 21, 2017
Despite welcome indications that he would reconsider Washington’s interventionist foreign policy and avoid new misadventures in nation-building, President Trump appears ready to stage a large-scale invasion of Syria, writes former Congressman and two-time Republican presidential contender Ron Paul.
Approaching the president’s 30-day deadline for the Pentagon to devise a plan to defeat ISIS it appears that “the military is going to present Trump with a plan to do a whole lot more of what we’ve been doing and somehow expect different results,” by urging significant combat deployments to both Syria and Iraq, Dr. Paul observes. This would represent a significant escalation in both countries, and actually undermine the current Syrian cease-fire, in which Russia and Iran are actually working to resolve the conflict. Trump is also suggesting a major nation-building enterprise within Syria itself.
“In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up `safe zones’ in Syria and would make the Gulf states pay for them,” points out Dr. Paul. Among the significant problems with this proposal – even assuming that Syrian President Assad and his government would consent – is the fact that the same Gulf States “are the major backers of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria – as the president’s own recently-resigned National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, revealed in a 2015 interview. Unless these safe zones are being set up to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS safe, it doesn’t make any sense to involve the Gulf States.”
Solving the ISIS problem, Dr. Paul concludes, “must involve a whole lot less US activity in the Middle East, not a whole lot more.”
Feb 21, 2017
Omar Abdel-Rahman, commonly known as the Blind Sheik, died on February 18 at the age of 78 in the Federal Correction Complex in Butner, North Carolina. Abdel-Rahman, who fled from Egypt in 1990 and established a network emanating from a New Jersey mosque, was convicted of conspiracy in the February 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center. Six people died in that attack, which involved using a bomb-laden Ryder truck to destroy the foundation of one tower, which was intended to topple it against the other tower in what had been planned to be a mass casualty incident.
Not noted in most press accounts of Abdel-Rahman’s passing was the fact that he became a CIA asset in 1987, in which capacity he recruited mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan. He remained on the CIA’s payroll following the Red Army’s departure in January 1989. Despite being on the State Department’s terrorism watch list, the Sheik was issued a visa at the US consulate in Khartoum, Sudan by a CIA operative. After relocating to New Jersey he was welcomed into a terrorist cell that included at least two other US government assets – Mahmoud Abouhalima and former Special Forces Captain Ali A. Mohamed, who had also helped train Afghan jihadists. Mohammed was employed as an FBI informant, as was another member of the same cell, an Egyptian intelligence agent named Emad Salem.
In the months leading up to the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Salem gave repeated, precise warnings to his FBI handlers, which he had the foresight to document through covert recordings. Following the bombing, Salem rebuked his FBI associates.
“You saw this bomb [go] off … and you know that we could avoid that,” Salem chastised Special Agent John Anticev. “You get paid, guys, to prevent things like this from happening.”
Feb 21, 2017
Students and faculty alike at Harrison County, Pennsylvania’s Penn-Trafford High School are celebrating the end of Michelle Obama’s School Lunch guidelines, which had imposed strict limits on calories, fat, sugar, salt, and practically anything else that makes food palatable – or, where government-grade food products are concerned, tolerable.
“In previous years when they headed to lunch, Penn-Trafford High School students had to wait in longer lines for fewer choices, and the district’s food-service program was losing money,” observes the Pittsburgh Tribune. “This year, administrators chose to have the high school opt out of the National School Lunch Program, and they are on a pace to be back in the black, budget-wise.”
By casting off the Obama-era regulatory yoke, the school is now set up like a food court, with a wide variety of selections that are both healthy and appetizing.
“You get to choose what you want instead of being sort of funneled in and only having one choice,” explains student Chase Zavarella. “I think everyone is happier with the new selection.”
During the Obama reign, students would rebel against the bland but supposedly healthy fare, which would end up filling garbage cans while the hungry students themselves would fill their bellies with junk food. District Business Manager Brett Lago points out that Michelle Obama’s regimented approach ignored the fact that students have differing nutritional needs – and that by the time they reach high school they are capable of making good choices for themselves.
Feb 21, 2017
Donald Trump presides over a federal government that is unified under Republican control – but the conservative movement itself is showing evidence of a growing schism. Trump’s populist appeal has provoked the predictable opposition from globalist-minded neoconservatives, who are visibly frantic over the prospect of being evicted from power. His style of governance – and the antics of many of his followers within the Alternative, or “Alt-Right” – has also prompted push-back from other elements of the conservative movement, as well. Those schisms were made visible this week in anticipation of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
“Once upon a time speakers like Ronald Reagan and Jim Buckley gave important speeches at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference,” declared David Boaz of the libertarian Cato Institute. “This weekend CPAC and the American Conservative Union announced that Steve Bannon and Milo will take the podium that once hosted Reagan. CPAC should now be known as CARPAC, the Conservative/Alt-Right Political Action Conference.”
Robby Soave of Reason magazine, who has documented the antics of the campus-based radical left, perceives a kinship between the PC left and at least some elements of Alt-Right.
“The modern conservative coalition isn't a set of beliefs, it's a cult of personality around Donald Trump and Trump-esque figures,” Soave opines. “It doesn't matter whether they hold conservative views. It doesn't even matter if they're Republicans. To be a right-wing hero in today's right-wing bubble, all you have to do is bash the left and say Make America Great Again.”
Rod Dreher of the American Conservative grimly tells fellow religious and social conservatives that “there is no room for us in movement conservatism — at least not if our principles and self-respect matter to us.”
Feb 21, 2017
President Donald Trump has chosen retired Lt. General H.R. McMaster, a career Army officer and strategist, to serve as his new National Security Adviser. Trump also announced that neo-conservative John Bolton, who had been interviewed for that post and had previously been considered for appointment as deputy Secretary of State, “will serve the administration in an unspecified capacity,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Widely regarded as one of the leading intellectuals in the US military, McMaster headed the Army Capabilities Integration Center, Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He earned a great deal of notoriety from his 1997 book “Dereliction of Duty,” which offered a detailed critique of military leadership during the Vietnam War.
“I think it’s important in particular to understand your most recent experiences as an army, because a lot of times people say, `Gosh, the military, they’re always ready to fight the last war,’” McMaster said in a recent interview. “But actually the opposite is the case,” he continued. “The problems you have in the next war are oftentimes because you studied your last war only superficially – didn’t study it enough really to learn the lessons.”
McMaster has focused on revising military doctrine to deal with long-term counterinsurgency warfare.
Feb 21, 2017
An attorney representing San Diego entrepreneur James Slatic, owner of the Med-West medical marijuana clinic, has filed a legal notice demanding the return of money seized from Slatic and his family following a January 2016 police raid on his legally operated facility. The joint task force raid followed a tip from an anonymous source that Med-West was supposedly using an illegal solvent to extract THC from marijuana.
Clad in body armor and carrying drawn guns, police confiscated the company’s equipment, products, and more than $300,000 in cash at the Med-West warehouse. Over the next several days police froze the personal bank accounts of Slatic, his wife, and two stepdaughters, claiming that the money constituted proceeds of an “illegal marijuana extraction” enterprise.
Because these acts of larceny were carried out in the name of civil asset forfeiture, no criminal charges were filed against any of the victims. The warrant targeting the bank accounts was issued on February 2, 2016, and Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo informed Judge Jay Bloom that the State of California had a year to begin formal forfeiture proceedings. Wesley Hottot, an attorney for the public interest litigation group called the Institute for Justice, filed a demand for the return of the stolen bank funds. Tanya Sierra, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, insists that the statute of limitations didn’t begin to run until June7 of last year, because on that date Judge Bloom signed an order to transfer the accounts to the DA.
Hottot points out that under California state law, the statute of limitations begins at the time of seizure, but that the DA’s office “is forcing us to litigate for the money’s return,” rather than obeying the law.
Feb 21, 2017
Government policy is not the most dangerous threat to freedom of speech in contemporary America, writes attorney David French. “Government entities that censor or silence citizens on the basis of their political, cultural, or religious viewpoint almost always lose in court,” French maintains. “With some exceptions, the First Amendment remains robust. Yet the culture of free speech is eroding away, rapidly.”
Political polarization and what French describes as the tendency of people to “cocoon” themselves in the company of like-minded associates on social media and elsewhere have combined “to create an atmosphere in which private citizens are increasingly weaponizing their expression – using their social and economic power not to engage in debate, but to silence dissent.”
“Corporate bullying, social-media shaming, and relentless peer pressure combine to place a high cost on any departure from the mandated norms,” French observes. Even in the section of rural Tennessee where he resides, French reports that he has “friends who are afraid to post about their religious views online or express disagreements during mandatory corporate-diversity seminars, lest they lose their jobs. One side speaks freely. The other side speaks not at all.”
Now that politically correct conformity has metastasized into the marrow of American society, he concludes, “There is no government solution to this problem.”
Feb 21, 2017
The son of the late Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar has published a memoir claiming that his father was a CIA asset before being killed by Columbian police in a 1993 shoot-out.
Sebastian Marroquin, who was born Juan Pablo Escobar, now lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His new book “In Fraganti: What My Father Never Told Me,” describes growing up in a household where his father was not at all reticent about describing the family business, and piles of drugs were routinely displayed in front of him.
“In my book, I tell the story of my father working for the CIA selling cocaine to finance the fight against Communism in Central America,” Marroquin explained in a recent television interview.
“The business of drug trafficking is very different from what we imagine,” he elaborated. “What the CIA did was buy the [officials who] brought the drugs into their country.” In that scheme the elder Escobar had “direct relations with the CIA … the person who sold the most drugs to the CIA was Pablo Escobar,” his son insists.
The entire purpose of drug prohibition, from Marroquin’s perspective, is to create a controlled market that would accentuate the illicit profits harvested by Deep State agencies.
“Drug prohibition is a great business for those who close off all the points of entry,” he emphasizes. “I believe that prohibition is the best propaganda.”
Feb 20, 2017
Last year, US District Judge Reed O’Connor imposed a temporary injunction against the Obama administration’s administrative redefinition of the Title IX anti-discrimination law by substituting the term “gender” for “sex.” If it had been implemented, that arbitrary bureaucratic action would have required educational institutions to submit to the whims of self-designated transgender people by allowing biological males who identify as females to have access to rest rooms, locker rooms, and similar facilities reserved for psychologically well-adjusted females, and vice versa. Judge O’Connor sensibly ruled that Title IX “is not ambiguous” in defining sex as “the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at birth.”
In October, the Obama administration appealed the injunction and, in a separate legal filing, sought to preserve the gains made by the gender revolution by requesting that Judge O’Connor limit the ruling to 13 states that had initially appealed the directive. O’Connor ruled against the Obama administration, insisting that “A nationwide injunction is necessary because the alleged violation extends nationwide.”
Although a hearing on the injunction had been scheduled for February 14, the Trump administration filed a motion asking to withdraw from the previous administration’s motion. This happened shortly after Jeff Sessions was sworn in as US Attorney General.
Next month, the US Supreme Court is expected to take up a case in which a psychologically troubled female high school student from Virginia has demanded to use the men’s restroom – in spite of the fact that the school district had given her access to what amounts to a private restroom of her own.
Feb 20, 2017
Wisconsin residents who want to purchase Kerrygold Irish butter have to smuggle it in from out of state – and face potential fines or jail terms for violating an obscure 1970 statute requiring all butter sold in the Badger State to be tested by a panel of experts and assigned a letter grade for quality.
The state law “spends pages detailing the steps needed to sell butter, and the 32 different quality points on which it needs to be judged,” explains Milwaukee’s NBC affiliate TMJ4 News. “Violating the butter law can result in fines upward of $1,000, or jail terms of six months.”
Lisa Miller, marketing director for Oruna North America, the Irish dairy co-op that sells Kerrygold butter in every state except Wisconsin, says that the company “had no idea selling Kerrygold in Wisconsin was illegal until the state began contacting distributors about the law.”
Jean Smith, who enjoyed Kerrygold butter before the crack-down, quite reasonably suspects that the purpose of the law is corporate protectionism, rather than consumer safety.
“I feel suspicious,” Smith declares. “Who are you really trying to protect here? Are you protecting the consumers, [or] are you protecting Wisconsin dairies?’
Neither the state agency enforcing the statute, nor representatives of the Dairy Business Association, was willing to answer that question when it put to them by TMJ4 News.
Feb 20, 2017
Tennessee resident Laurie Wheeler has studied horse massage therapy for the past seven years. She has been certified twice in equine massage by a specialized school in Indiana, and last year obtained a license to practice massage therapy on humans. She had planned to start a clinic offering massage therapy for humans and horses – until an anonymous complaint was made to the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
Last April, “Wheeler received a letter from the board explaining that she wouldn’t be allowed to give horse massages in Tennessee without being licensed as a veterinarian – a process that would require years of additional, expensive schooling,” reports Reason magazine. “If she ignored the board’s letter and continued to practice, even if she gave massages for free rather than as a business … she could face fines of up to $500 and could be sent to jail for as much as six months for committing a class B misdemeanor.”
The relevant state law says nothing about animal massage therapy, and that subject is not dealt with in any veterinary school curriculum. A state resident can castrate or inseminate a horse without being licensed, which are invasive or surgical procedures of the sort a veterinarian would perform.
Wheeler describes the board’s intervention as “a power trip. It just seems so completely absurd to me. It seems like there are boards across the US that do this, and there just needs to be some reform.”
Feb 20, 2017
Norma McCorvey, who died last Saturday at age 69, was the plaintiff listed as “Jane Roe” in the notorious 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that destroyed all legal protections for unborn children. She was once regarded as a feminist icon, not only for her role in legalizing abortion but for her long-time lesbian relationship and her direct involvement in the abortion industry. McCorvey was scorned and derided by the movement after she became a born-again Christian and an outspoken opponent of abortion.
McCorvey, who was an unwed borderline alcoholic employed at a gay bar in Dallas when she became pregnant for the third time in 1969, sought help from an activist attorney to obtain an abortion in Texas. At the time, six states had decriminalized the killing procedure, but she couldn’t afford to travel to any of them. McCorvey lied about becoming pregnant as a result of rape – a falsehood she admitted fourteen years later. By the time the ruling was handed down in January 1973, the child McCorvey had intended to kill was two and a half years old, having been given up for adoption.
She was employed at a Dallas abortuary in 1995 when the Christian activist group Operation Rescue moved in next door. She began visiting with them, and asking them to pray for her. Within a few months the group’s director baptized her -- and she became an outspoken advocate of the right to life.
McCorvey, who suffered from a heart condition, passed away at an assisted-living facility in Katy, Texas.
Feb 20, 2017
Retired General Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first choice to serve as national security adviser, was the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and an advocate for expanded surveillance of electronic communications. He should have known that his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kryslyak were being monitored by the National Security Agency – but he may not have anticipated that their contents would be leaked to the media in violation of federal law.
According to leaks to David Ignatius of Washington Post, the transcripts of those conversations reveal that despite his initial denials Flynn really did discuss sanctions with Russia before he was formally sworn in—a technical violation of the Logan Act that restricts civilian interference in foreign policy. Although a minor infraction, President Trump and Vice President Pence, who had publicly repeated Flynn’s original story, stood to be embarrassed by their overt claims supporting Flynn, and he had to resign to save face.
Many lawyers viewing the case are wondering why the leaks themselves aren’t raising more eyebrows. Glenn Greenwald, a civil liberties attorney and founder of The Intercept explains that the contents of those calls were “obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of [a] foreign government,” which in turn means that anyone who discloses them — or reports them to the public — is guilty of a felony under the [applicable] statute.”
Of immediate importance to President Trump is the fact that his own NSA is eavesdropping on his administration and illegally leaking damaging information thus obtained to the antagonistic press.
Feb 20, 2017
William Binney, the architect of the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance program, has become one of the most important whistleblowers regarding the agency’s illicit activities. He is deeply troubled by the fact that the NSA is not only monitoring the Trump administration, but is willing to break the law by disclosing potentially damaging information to the media.
In a recent interview with Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, the NSA whistleblower said that the recent leaks about Trump’s telephone conversation with the President of Australia and the details about his conversation with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto all originate from within the NSA.
Regarding the recent forced resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Binney said that if the NSA wasn’t behind the leaks, “they certainly had the data.… And there’s no oversight or attempted oversight by any of the committees or even the FISA court. So, any way you look at it, ultimately the NSA is responsible because they are doing the collection on everybody inside the United States.”
The Obama administration claimed that the NSA’s electronic eavesdropping dealt only with so-called metadata, which would not contain the content of phone calls, emails, text messages, and similar communications. The fact that they produced transcriptions of Flynn’s conversations demonstrates that this is not true, as Binney and other whistleblowers have long maintained. In his recent interview Binney referred to a 2008 report referencing two NSA whistleblowers who said they worked at the agency’s station in Fort Gordon, Georgia and were asked not only to monitor phone calls of U.S. citizens but also to transcribe them.
Feb 20, 2017
Donald Trump’s more impassioned detractors see in his administration the advent of American fascism, which they generally describe as a form of right-wing extremism. In its origins, however, fascism was kindred to Fabian Socialism, which allows nominal private property ownership but only under onerous government control. Prior to World War II, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist regime were widely admired by the American Left. As historians Charlotte Twight and John T. Flynn documented, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal was directly inspired by Benito Mussolini’s design for the corporate, or fascist, state.
To the extent that the US political system could be described as “fascist,” the problem originated long before the advent of President Trump.
Dr. Thomas Woods notes that “On social media people are saying things like, `Literal Nazis are in the White House.’” Such people apparently do not understand that “The Nazis actually believed specific things,” Woods continues, directing the reader to historian Thaddeus Russell’s inventory of the policies imposed on Germany by the National Socialist government:
*Opposition parties were banned;
*Government took control of major industries;
*There was ubiquitous state propaganda “promoting worship of Hitler and demanding the complete merger of individual identity with the nation-state”;
*Mass arrests of Communists, socialists, social democrats, homosexuals, prostitutes, alcoholics, juvenile delinquents, and the chronically unemployed;
*The creation of concentration camps for people thus targeted;
*Revocation of all civil rights, expulsion, incarceration, and ultimately genocide, of `racially inferior’ citizens, Gypsies, Slavs, and Jews;
*Conquest and colonization of territory said to belong to the “Aryan” race.
Whatever else can be said about the Trump administration, neither he nor any of his advisers can honestly be accused of pursuing anything remotely resembling the Nazi program.
Feb 20, 2017
The NY Times has reported that at least two battalions of a new nuclear-armed cruise missile have been deployed by Russia in violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. According to the Times, Moscow considers this deployment necessary because of increasingly antagonistic relations with neighboring countries.
Under the INF Treaty, the Times recounts, Russia and the United States reportedly destroyed 2,692 missiles in Eastern and Western Europe at the end of the Cold War: “The missiles the Russians destroyed included the SS-20. The Americans destroyed their Pershing II ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, which were based in Western Europe.”
But this selective rendering of history ignores documented instances of Russian cheating over the past two decades. In June of 2000, international affairs specialist Kenneth Timmerman reported that several batteries of the more advanced SS-23 missiles were not destroyed as the treaty had required, but were instead hidden deep in secret bunkers in Eastern Europe. Those missiles were finally discovered by Western intelligence analysts around the beginning of the year 2000, indicating a dangerous intent by the Russians to violate the treaty even before it had been signed.
“The Soviets secretly deployed the SS-23s in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria in 1986. In the event of war in Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, they would have given the Soviets a clear military advantage by allowing them to launch a surprise nuclear strike at the heart of NATO forces in Germany,” said Timmerman.
The missiles were quietly sent to be dismantled in Slovakia at US taxpayer expense. This is but one example of the Western media giving very little press to glaring examples of duplicity and cheating by the Russians with disarmament treaties. Geopolitical analyst Joel Skousen says that this also shows that Eastern governments were still acting as puppet regimes to Moscow by allowing the missiles to remain after the supposed fall of the Soviet Union—proving once again, Skousen says, that “the fall” was a carefully crafted deception.
Feb 20, 2017
Over the first month of the Trump administration, the First Family ran up $11.3 million in taxpayer-covered travel expenses, reports the London Independent. This includes three trips to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, to which he has referred as the “Winter White House” and the “Southern White House.” Those trips alone cost the federal treasury an estimated $10 million. By way of contrast the Obama family’s average annual travel expenses were $12.1 million.
A business trip by Eric Trump to Uganda, where he was promoting a Trump-branded condo tower, incurred hotel costs of nearly $90,000 for his Secret Service detail. Business visits by the Trump sons to the Dominican Republic and Dubai have incurred similar expenses for taxpayers.
Tom Fitton, president of the Judicial Watch public advocacy group, complains that “This is an expensive way to conduct business.” Through public records requests, Judicial Watch was able to document the Obama family’s extravagant travel costs – and Fitton believes that Trump’s business background should make him more sensible of the expenses involved in traveling.
“The unique thing about President Trump is that he knows what it costs to run a plane,” observes Fitton. “Going down [to Mar-a-Lago] ain’t free.”
During Barack Obama’s second term, Donald Trump frequently criticized his profligate travel habits.
“Obama’s motto: If I don’t go on tax payer funded vacations [and] constantly fundraise, then the terrorists win,” complained Trump in an August 25, 2014 post to Twitter. “President [Obama’s] vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars – unbelievable!” Trump protested in a separate tweet from January 2012.
Feb 20, 2017
The National Football League has enlisted in the gender revolution, threatening to ban the state of Texas from hosting future Super Bowls if its state legislature enacts a measure that would require government-operated facilities to retain sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms. Texas Senate Bill 6, which would apply to public schools, government buildings, and state-funded universities, would restrict access to intimate facilities on the basis of biological sex, rather than the individual’s subjective and self-defined “gender identity.”
“The NFL embraces inclusiveness,” lectured NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “We want all fans to feel welcomed at our events and NFL policies prohibit discrimination on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law [in Texas], that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”
Nothing in that bill would apply to privately owned businesses, and it specifically exempts “convention centers, stadiums, and entertainment venues.” This would mean that any self-identified transgender people attending NFL games would be free to use the restroom of his or her choice, assuming that this would be approved by the owner of the venue.
Republican State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, who sponsored the measure, points out that “under Senate Bill 6, all Texas teams will be able to set their own policies at the stadiums and arenas where they play and hold their events.”
This arrangement is not satisfactory to the NFL, and the gender revolutionaries it seeks to placate.
Feb 20, 2017
Last week it was announced that Russia was secretly deploying a new land-based cruise missile that violates the 1997 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) arms control treaty. This isn’t really new since past US administrations had weakly protested the missile when it was in its testing phase. Some analysts think the missile was conveniently brought up again at this time in order to make it more difficult for President Trump to join forces with Russia in Syria against ISIS.
According to the New York Times, “The ground-launched cruise missile at the center of American concerns is one that the Obama administration said in 2014 had been tested in violation of a 1987 treaty that bans American and Russian intermediate-range missiles based on land. The Obama administration had sought to persuade the Russians to correct the violation while the missile was still in the test phase. Instead, the Russians have moved ahead with the system, deploying a fully operational unit. Administration officials said the Russians now have two battalions of the prohibited cruise missile.”
The nuclear-weapon tipped cruise missile is mounted on mobile launchers that transport half a dozen such weapons anywhere on land and are thus extremely difficult to target by opposing nations.
Feb 20, 2017
The UK Daily Mail reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “will offer cash handouts worth millions of pounds for migrants to leave Germany in an effort to silence criticism of her ‘open-door’ border policy. In a highly-embarrassing U-turn over the ill-fated plan, which saw 1.2 million migrants flock to the country, Mrs. Merkel has now vowed to send many of them home. The German chancellor agreed [to] a package of measures to speed up the deportation process for an estimated 450,000 migrants who have been rejected [for] asylum.”
Merkel, writes geopolitical analyst Joel Skousen, has always been a crafty politician without clear principles: “She has gone from being a Communist in East Germany to the Prime Minister in a center-Right party, and cozies up to both Russia and the Western globalists.”
Skousen considers her more of a globalist now after risking her career to allow in over a million refugees last year with disastrous effects on Germany.
Feb 20, 2017
Samuel Girod, an Amish father of 12 from Bath County, Kentucky, has been incarcerated and now faces a 12-count federal indictment for the supposed crime of manufacturing a natural salve. He faces up to 68 years in federal prison.
Girod’s Chickweed salve is made from rosemary, beeswax, and olive oil. It has been used to treat a number of conditions, including some kinds of skin cancer. In 2013, an anonymous complaint to the state health department in Missouri led to an injunction from a federal judge forbidding Girod to continue manufacturing the product unless he submitted to FDA inspections and several other conditions.
Despite the fact that multiple tests had confirmed that Girod’s product contains no drugs, the FDA has insisted on classifying it as such. It should be recalled that the FDA has attempted to label walnuts as a drug, if they are packaged and marketed in a way that underscores their health benefits.
Suza Moody, a non-Amish neighbor of the Girod family, told WKYT News that “I can’t even figure out what he has done wrong.” Referring to his large family, which includes twenty-five grandchildren along with his twelve children, neighbor Sally Oh said, “They are just devastated. I mean, when they brought him out in handcuffs, it was just awful."
Feb 17, 2017
Tech consultant Quincy Larson teaches people how to encrypt their computers and digital devices to ward of hackers and other malicious intruders. However, as he points out, “all the security in the world can’t save you if someone has physical possession of your phone or laptop, and can intimidate you into giving up your password” – which is why he recently told his readers to leave those devices at home if they plan on traveling abroad.
Think about “all the apps you have on your phone,” Larson advises. “Email? Facebook? Dropbox? Your browser? Signal? The history of everything you’ve ever done – everything you’ve searched, and everything you’ve ever said to anyone – is right there in those apps.” Potentially incriminating materials laying around one’s home can’t generally be obtained by police unless they can contrive probable cause and get a warrant from a judge. No such protections exist for those who are returning to the country from abroad.
“What we’re seeing now is that anyone can be grabbed on their way through customs and forced to hand over the full contents of their digital life,” Larson warns. “Companies like Elcomsoft make `forensic software’ that can suck down all your photos, contacts – even passwords for your email and social media accounts – in a matter of minutes…. They can us these tools to permanently archive everything there is to know about you. All they need is your unlocked phone.”
Larson cites Cory Doctorow’s advice that “We should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium – it is dangerous, long-lasting and once it has leaked there’s no getting it back.”
Feb 17, 2017
In a February 16 address to officers of Russian’s FSB state security service, President Vladimir Putin criticized NATO for what he described as the alliance’s “newly declared official mission to deter Russia.” As a result, he warned, the international security situation “has not improved, but on the contrary, many existing threats have only become more serious.”
The advertised purpose of the NATO alliance was to contain the Soviet Union, and with the announced end of the Cold War more than a quarter-century ago, that rationale no longer existed. From Putin’s perspective, NATO’s most recent moves to counter what it describes as Russian aggression are the acts of an alliance seeking a pretext for its continued existence.
“This is the goal behind the expansion of this military bloc,” complained Putin. “It happened before, but now they have found a new justification which they believe to be serious. In fact, they are constantly provoking us, trying to drag us into a confrontation.”
Putin’s address also said that NATO countries are “continuing their efforts to interfere in our domestic affairs with the goal of destabilizing social and political order in Russia proper.” He also used the speech before Russia’s chief counter-intelligence agency to recount that “In the past year 53 foreign intelligence operatives and 386 agents of foreign intelligence services have been busted.”
Feb 17, 2017
Bergen County, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Roy McCready has found probable cause to charge Governor Chris Christie with official misconduct for his alleged role in what has become known as the “Bridgegate” scandal, the New York Post reported.
Two former gubernatorial aides were convicted of a scheme to close approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge in 2013 as retaliation against a mayor who had refused to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. Judge McCready cited their federal trial testimony in his ruling against the governor.
Christie, a former federal prosecutor and Republican presidential candidate, was considered as a potential running mate for Donald Trump during the 2016 election, then appointed to head the transition team following Trump’s victory. Concerns over potential legal fallout from the scandal led President Trump to decide against appointing Christie to a post in his administration.
Brian Murray, a spokesman for Governor Christie, insisted that the ruling was devoid of merit and accused Judge McCready of “violating the law, pure and simple.”
“This concocted claim was investigated for three months by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, which summarily dismissed it, after concluding that the very same evidence relied upon again by this judge was utter nonsense,” declared Murrary.
Feb 17, 2017
The Washington State Supreme Court has unanimously ruled against Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist who had declined to provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding because of her moral beliefs. Her attorneys have indicated that they will appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.
Stutzman has never been accused of discriminating against homosexual customers. She had made and sold floral arrangements to the same couple on many occasions. In this case she is being punished solely because of her unwillingness to profit from participation in a burlesque of a marriage ceremony, and by doing so violate her personal moral convictions.
Robert Ingersoll, who sued Stutzman along with his partner Curt Freed, had professed to be her friend and often collaborated with her in making bouquets. As she told Ingersoll that she couldn’t design the flowers for the ceremony, Stutzman recommended a competitor, and according to the facts reviewed by the court that meeting ended with the two of them embracing. Obviously, the supposed victims had a change of heart.
“I’ve never questioned Rob’s and Curt Freed’s right to live out their beliefs,” Stutzman wrote in a Seattle Times op-ed column. “And I wouldn’t have done anything to keep them from getting married, or even getting flowers…. I just couldn’t see a way clear in my heart to honor God and the talents He has given me by going against the word He has given us.”
Feb 17, 2017
Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, was given an opportunity to visit with President Trump as a guest of Florida Senator Marco Rubio. President Trump urged the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro to free Lopez immediately. This was in keeping with Trump’s campaign promises to support Venezuela’s oppressed people.
Lopez is a persecuted political dissident in a country whose economy – and whose very social infrastructure itself – are being destroyed by its unaccountable government. Rather than acknowledging the human plight of Tintori and her wrongfully imprisoned husband, left-leaning media figures mocked the dissident’s wife. But as Reason magazine’s Ed Krayewski points out, Trump’s embittered leftist critics weren’t the only political partisans to behave shamefully regarding developments in Venezuela.
“Trump supporters … this week celebrated the same socialist government Trump decries – because of its ban on CNN,” observed Krayewski. “Gateway Pundit, a peddler of fake news that nevertheless has acquired White House press credentials, reported the story under the headline `Venezuela Kicks CNN Out for Making Up fake News,’” and celebrated Maduro as “just the latest world leader to call them out for being downright dishonest.” The story that prompted Maduro to evict CNN was an accurate report about school food shortages.
Unfortunately, Reason concludes, “The ascendance of Trump has encouraged some on both sides to turn off their critical thinking skills.”
Feb 17, 2017
New York Family Court Judge Patricia Gallaher has ordered a drug-addicted prostitute not to get pregnant again until she can regain custody of her newborn son, who is the fourth child to have been taken from the woman because of parental neglect.
“The testimony in this case clearly established that the mother had little or no prenatal care, that the baby was born prematurely with a positive toxicology for illegal drugs, and that the mother admitted use of illegal drugs during her pregnancy,” wrote the judge, who went on the say that “This court has seen about a half-dozen seemingly `nice couples’ show up as respondents in neglect cases where both are addicted to heroin and literally throwing their lives away – and the lives of their children – in just this year.”
Insisting that this case is one “where the respondent neglectful mother should be using birth control,” Judge Gallaher ordered the state Department of Human Services to cover any contraceptive expenses. She also ordered the woman, identified as Brandy F., to submit to regular supervision, and warned that she would be incarcerated if she becomes pregnant.
“Having no more pregnancies should be ordered like the drug treatment, mental health treatment and parenting classes provisions which are boilerplate now,” insists Gallaher.
More than a decade ago, Gallaher served as a clerk to a judge who issued a very similar no-pregnancy order that was eventually overturned by an appeals court.
Feb 17, 2017
Liberal director Michael Moore apparently considers himself to be a walking Constitutional Convention – or so it would seem, given his creative depiction of the presidential order of succession, the process of impeachment, and other critical constitutional mechanisms.
“I and tens of millions of Americans demand that the weak and spineless Democrats bring Congress to a halt until investigative hearings are held and impeachment charges are filed” against Donald Trump for supposedly “colluding with the Russians to throw the election to him,” wrote Moore in a Facebook post. “Attorney General J. Breauregard Sessions must immediately appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate these potentially treasonous acts,” he continued, not explaining what role a special prosecutor would play in a congressional impeachment proceeding: If Articles of Impeachment are approved by the House, that body selects Congressmen to prosecute the case in the Senate.
“So-Called President Trump could save the country a lot of time, money and pain by stepping down tonight,” Moore insisted. Under Article II and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, this would make Mike Pence the US President – but Moore would find this to be unacceptable, as well.
“Somehow, our judicial system has to find a way to make restitution to this country. Pence can’t be president as he, too, was elected under this same fraud. The court has to rule either that the President is the winner of the popular vote or the election must be held over.”
That demand would require the abolition of the Electoral College, which cannot be done without amending the constitution. Nor is there a constitutional provision under which the 2016 election could be “held over.”
Moore does enjoy one advantage over other embittered Clinton supporters: He can produce a movie in the service of political wish-fulfillment in which Hillary wins, or Trump is driven from office.
Feb 17, 2017
Between 2007 and 2015, NYPD officers issued nearly one million spurious citations for trivial offenses such as disorderly conduct and drinking in public. This was done in order to meet quotas, which were often disguised through various euphemisms.
A ticket of that kind is called a “c summons,” and the officer who issues one is required to state the probable cause for believing that an offense took place. Those details were usually omitted by officers under the pressure of performance expectations, and this led to a class-action lawsuit. The lead plaintiff in the suit, Sharif Stinson, was cited for trespassing and disorderly conduct after leaving his aunt’s apartment in the Bronx. Both of the tickets were dismissed by a judge.
Earlier this year that class action suit was settled. The city – meaning the taxpayers who shoulder the financial burden of the city government – will pay a total of $75 million to victims of the bogus ticket scheme, each of whom will receive no more than $150. The NYPD continues to insist that it never imposed ticket quotas – but has agreed to issue official notices that quotas are not allowed.
Among the revelations brought about through the lawsuit was the disclosure of what the plaintiffs called a “stunning pattern” of evidence destruction regarding the ticket quotas – such as the deletion of nearly all of former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s emails toward the end of his tenure.
Feb 17, 2017
President Trump has repeatedly promised to destroy ISIS, and has ordered the Pentagon to devise a plan, before the end of February, to accomplish this. Strategists are reportedly giving serious consideration to a proposal that would require a sizeable deployment of US combat troops to fight on the ground alongside the Syrian army. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who was put in charge of devising a plan, has spoken of an “accelerated” ground campaign within Syria.
“Until now, only small teams made up largely of Special Operations forces have operated in Syria, providing training and assistance to anti-ISIS opposition groups on the ground,” observes CNN, without clarifying that several of those supposed opposition groups are actually allies of ISIS in the campaign to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. One official told CNN that “It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground for some period of time” once the plan has been approved by President Trump.
What the mission of those troops would be has yet to be defined. One objective of US policy would be to “reassure Turkey that Kurdish forces are not posing a threat to Ankara’s interests,” elaborates CNN. “It’s possible some troops would deploy first to Kuwait and then move into Syria.”
There is also a possibility that the plan would require President Trump to eliminate the ceiling on US combat troops deployed to Iraq, in order to give commanders in the region greater tactical flexibility in Syria. This would require the permission of the government in Baghdad.
Feb 17, 2017
The transparency group Wikileaks has published a previously classified 2012 CIA directive describing the Agency’s involvement in the 2012 presidential election in France. The spy agency’s program for meddling in the domestic election of an ally nation was laid out in three CIA tasking orders.
“All major French political parties were targeted for infiltration by the CIA’s human (`HUMINT’) and electronic (`SIGINT’) spies in the seven months leading up to France’s 2012 presidential election,” summarizes the group. “Named specifically as targets are the French Socialist Party (PS), the National Front (FN) and Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), together with current President Francois Hollande, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, current round-one presidential front-runner Marine Le Pen, and former presidential candidates Martine Aubry and Dominique Strauss-Khan.”
CIA operatives were directed to obtain the “Strategic Election Plans” for the UMP, to gather information about schisms or alliances within that party’s elite, and to seek a change in that party’s ideological mission. That last objective departs from routine espionage into the field of direct intervention in the domestic political affairs of another country.
Agency operatives were also directed “to discover Sarkozy’s private deliberations `on the other candidates’ as well as how he interacted with his advisors.”
This CIA operation ran for ten months, from November 21, 2011 to September 2012, several months after the end of that year’s French presidential election.
Feb 17, 2017
The I-95 highway corridor running through North Carolina is among the country’s most active narcotics smuggling conduits, and has been a fruitful location for asset forfeiture operations. As is always the case with prohibition enforcement, government-licensed highway robbery through forfeiture has been supplemented by extensive covert corruption, as drug syndicates recruit active-duty police to aid their operations.
A glimpse of that shadowy reality was provided by the arrest of more than a dozen law enforcement officers in the area as the result of an FBI sting operation. Thomas Walker, US Attorney for the Eastern District, reported that arrests in multiple locations had been carried out as part of an ongoing initiative called “Operation Rockfish.” Among the recently arrested suspects were eight current or former police officers, three correctional officers, two Virginia prison employees, and one 911 dispatcher from Virginia’s Northampton County. All of them are accused of using their positions to traffic heroin and cocaine.
In a February 15 arraignment hearing, a prosecutor claimed that all of the suspects “gave some sort of confession.” Unlike most similarly situated narcotics defendants who are not current or former police officers, nine of the defendants were granted bail.
“This crime is a breach of the public’s trust,” declared FBI Special Agent John Strong, saying that the arrested officers had used their positions “to line their own pockets.”
Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith described himself as “hurt and surprised … shocked and appalled” to learn that five of his deputies were among those arrested.
Feb 17, 2017
Spokane County, Washington Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has had a running feud with county residents he characterizes as “right-wing extremists.” During a July 2015 address to a county Republican group, Knezovich condemned what he called “right-wing militia and patriot groups” for disseminating what he characterized as irresponsible and inflammatory rumors about impending gun confiscation and other threats.
“It is sad how many people believe this stuff,” the sheriff insisted, telling Republican leaders that they “need to figure [out] what you’re going to do with this group of individuals that are giving you all a bad name.”
Focusing particularly on activists who pledged to defy federal gun regulations that are incompatible with the strict text of the Constitution, Knezovich complained that “We’ve become a nation of `We don’t have to.’ We don’t have to obey anything we don’t agree with.”
Ironically, it was Sheriff Knezovich who sang that refrain on February 11 when he was told to leave his personal firearm at the door of the Spokane Arena when he arrived to attend a charity event. The arena, which is operated by the Public Facilities District, has a strict policy forbidding guns on the premises.
“They disarmed me at the door and I’m on duty,” groused the sheriff in an interview with KHQ News. “I had to put my gun in the car.”
To Knezovich, this policy “was just a new level of insanity. On-duty police officers do not get disarmed.”
From the perspective of the men who wrote the American founding documents, free citizens don’t get disarmed, either.
Feb 16, 2017
Among the executive orders signed by President Trump in the first days of his administration was a directive instructing executive branch agencies to ease off on enforcement of the Obamacare individual mandate, which requires US citizens either to provide proof of insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty, which bears the Soviet-style description of “shared responsibility payment.” This requirement is found in line 61 of the standard tax form. Those who claimed an exemption were required to fill out a supplemental document called form 8965. Filers who declined to answer the self-incriminating question would have their returns rejected by the IRS.
Taxpayers who were once required to fill out line 61 on their tax returns will now have the option of leaving it blank.Reason magazine points out that “Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61. The IRS says it still maintains the option to follow up with those who elect not to indicate their coverage status, although it’s not clear what circumstances might trigger a follow-up.”
This change in policy, Reason insists, “is a direct result of the executive order President Donald Trump issued in January directing the government to provide relief from Obamacare to individuals and insurers, within the boundaries of the law.”
While that administrative decision doesn’t provide unqualified protection from IRS abuses, it does beat back one of the most notorious features of the Obamacare initiative.
Feb 16, 2017
Idaho Secretary of State Lawrence Denny has disclosed that Idaho is one of several states whose official election websites experienced unauthorized intrusions by the federal Department of Homeland Security during the 2016 election.
Following the election, Denny told the Idaho Falls Post-Register, “there was an interesting IP address that we found. That was our own Department of Homeland Security.” He was, understandably, frustrated that the federal agency had attempted to penetrate the state election website “without knowledge of why they would want to hack, and without telling us that they were trying to do penetration tests.” The discovery “really concerned me,” Denny explained, “and it concerned a number of other secretaries of state across the country.”
Like several other secretaries of state, Denny publicly opposed the Homeland Security Department’s decision to designate state election systems as “critical infrastructure” under federal supervision.
“We don’t know for sure what declaring elections as critical infrastructure means,” Denny complains.
Idaho’s Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst is concerned that the designation means that Washington is seeking to “nationalize elections.”
“If it’s to give states or counties access to expertise that the Department of Homeland Security has, that’s one thing,” comments Holt. “But if they’re just going to step in and do [the election] for you, that’s something else.”
Feb 16, 2017
Claims that dozens of Arab men in Frankfurt, Germany carried out a mass sexual assault against women during New Year’s celebrations are a “hoax,” police officials have determined.
The Bild newspaper reported on February 6 that a throng of at least 50 Arab men laid siege to restaurant patrons on Fressgass street, sexually molesting nearby women and stealing personal property. A 27-year-old woman identified only as “Irina A,” claimed to have been a victim, saying that the men “grabbed me under my skirt, between the legs and on my breast – everywhere.” The tabloid also quoted a chef named Jan Mai, who claimed to be a witness to the rampage. The alleged perpetrators were described as refugees who had been settled in Middle Hessia.
Speaking with the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, police officials said that “Interviews with the alleged witnesses, guests and employees led to major doubts [regarding] the version of events that had been presented. One of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time the [crimes] are said to have taken place,” the police explained.
Prior to publication of the Bild report, no sexual assaults had been reported. The department has unequivocally concluded that “Masses of refugees were not responsible for any sexual assaults in the Fressgass over New Year. The accusations are completely baseless.”
Prosecutors are considering whether to file charges against Mai and the unnamed 27-year-old woman. Bild’s Editor-in-Chief Julian Reichelt has apologized for publishing the inaccurate account, and the paper has expressed regrets “for the untruthful article and accusations made in it. This article in no way met the journalistic standards of Bild,” the paper insisted in a retraction published on its website.
Feb 16, 2017
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after being caught lying about the nature of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and the only reason the public was aware of Flynn’s lie “is because someone inside the US government violated the criminal law by leaking the contents of Flynn’s intercepted communications,” observes Glenn Greewald, a civil liberties attorney and founder of The Intercept.
“In the spectrum of crimes involving the leaking of classified information, publicly revealing the contents of SIGINT – signals intelligence – is one of the most serious felonies,” Greenwald elaborates. Officials who leak such information, and journalists who publish it, face prosecution that could lead to a ten-year prison sentence if they are convicted.
The “senior US official” who leaked the information about Flynn’s phone calls to Washington Post reporter David Ignatius “committed a serious felony,” he continues, as did the people identified by the Post as “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.”
So far, there has been no serious discussion of criminal charges against the officials responsible for the leak – and Greenwald, who has worked closely with whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, believes this is appropriate. In his view, “The officials leaking this information acted justifiably…. That’s because the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about a material matter – his conversations with Russian diplomats – and the public has an absolute right to know this.”
Greenwald is among those who believe that Flynn’s departure was engineered by elements within the intelligence community who are compulsively anti-Russian in their outlook, and that they used them to destroy one of their “primary adversaries in the Trump White House.” What matters most, he contends, “is not the motive of the leaker but the effects of the leak,” which in this case was “the exposure of high-level wrong-doing.”
Feb 16, 2017
In what will be a disappointment to moral traditionalists, and a relief to advocates of the gender revolution, the Trump administration “has decided to keep President Barack Obama’s top advocate for gay rights issues at the State Department,” reports Foreign Policy magazine. Randy Berry, who boasts the exotic title of Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons – at least, that’s his designation pending the discovery of new “genders” and protected sexual proclivities – will remain “in his role under the current administration,” a State Department spokesperson announced on February 13.
That position “was created during the Obama years to fight back against the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the globe,” Foreign Policy recalls. Shortly before leaving office, Obama named Berry deputy assistant secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which helps define US government policies at the United Nations. He will continue in both roles under Donald Trump.
A directive signed by Obama dictated that the State Department would use the leverage of foreign aid “to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons” and use multilateral agencies to “counter discrimination on the basis of LGBT status.”
The official policy of the Obama administration, observes Rod Dreher of the American Conservative, was to fight “traditional religious and cultural family values through official channels…. Does Donald Trump wish to continue funding America’s culture war mercenaries abroad?” asks Dreher, who ruefully concludes that “The signs do not look good.”
Feb 16, 2017
Tamara Crowchief, an Indian citizen of Canada, exclaimed “I hate white people!” as she attacked a woman named Lydia White outside a pub in Calgary last November. The victim lost a tooth in what was described as an unprovoked attack.
According to witness accounts, White was standing outside the pub talking to another person when Crowchief, apropos of nothing, walked up to her, yelled “I hate white people!” and punched her in the face.
“I still get angry when I think about it,” White said in a recent court hearing. “I don’t understand why this woman did this. I never did anything to her. Never even spoke with her.”
When police located Crowchief, she complained that “the white man was out to get her,” but didn’t explain what that had to do with an unprovoked attack on a white, female stranger.
Given that Crowchief herself described the crime as motivated by racial prejudice, the assault seems like one perfectly suited for penalty enhancement under Canada’s hate crimes statute. Provincial Court Judge Harry Van Harten, however, ruled that the unambiguous expression of intent on the part of the assailant doesn’t count as evidence.
“The offender said `I hate white people’ and threw a punch,” the judge explained during the sentencing hearing. “There is no evidence either way about what the offender meant…. I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that this offense was, even in part, motivated by racial bias.”
The judge, insisting that the six months served by Crowchief in pre-trial detention was a sufficient term of incarceration, gave her twelve months’ probation and ordered her to undergo psychological counseling.
Feb 16, 2017
In 1994, the late Rosa Parks, admired by many as an icon of the civil rights movement, was robbed and assaulted in her home in central Detroit. The 81-year-old woman, who was living on a fixed income, was compelled to move to a more expensive home – and she never paid rent for the next eleven years, because that expense was quietly paid by a benefactor named Mike Illitch.
Mr. Illitch was the founder of the Little Caesar’s pizza chain and owner of the Detroit Red Wings NHL franchise. When he read about what had happened to Parks, Illitch contacted US Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith, who was working with real estate developer Alfred Taubman to find a new home for her. Judge Keith was appointed executor on behalf of Parks to take care of her housing needs.
Following Illitch’s death on February 10, Judge Keith displayed a copy of a check for $2,000 the entrepreneur had written in 1994 to Riverfront Apartments on behalf of Rosa Parks.
“It’s important that people know what Mr. Mike Illitch did for Ms. Rosa Parks, because it’s symbolic of what he has always done for the people of our city,” Judge Keith told the Sports Business Daily. Illitch was “totally committed to Detroit,” the judge recalled. “He brought the Little Caesars corporate offices here. He saved the Fox Theater. He built Comerica Park, and he kept the hockey and baseball teams thriving here when times are tough.”
Following Illitch’s passing, Judge Keith and many other Detroit residents paid tribute to the businessman for countless other acts of private charity that had been done beyond the glare of publicity.
Feb 16, 2017
Two years ago, a Virginia teenager named Zachary became involved in a social media relationship with a 13-year-old girl who shared his interest in computers, videogames, and fantasy fiction. As is often the case for people of their age, their relationship – such as it was – proved to be entirely virtual in nature, and their online exchanges were not always appropriate.
Shortly after Zachary turned 18, his online pen pal sent him five self-portraits in which she was clad in underwear. Those photos were found by police investigators after the young girl, who had been subjected to involuntary psychiatric confinement amid her parents’ tumultuous divorce, told a counselor about sending them.
Despite the fact that he had never touched the girl who sent the unsolicited photos, Zachary was arrested and charged with twenty felonies, including “indecent liberties with a minor,” “using a computer to propose sex,” and production of child pornography – even though the pictures did not meet the legal definition of pornography. He was threatened with a possible maximum prison sentence of 350 years.
Like many others in similar straits, Zachary accepted a deal in which he pleaded guilty to two counts of “indecent liberties with a minor.” Despite the fact that he never met the girl in person, and two psychological evaluations found no evidence of violent or distorted views of sex, the teenager will be required to register as a violent sex offender for the rest of his life.
Reason magazine points out that the teenager, who has been imprisoned without trial for more than a year, had no previous criminal record apart from one count of distracted driving.
Feb 16, 2017
The likely collapse of California’s Oroville Dam summons memories of the 2005 post-Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans, although few people are sufficiently well-informed to recognize that that these natural disasters were made immeasurably worse by the politicized incompetence of the government agencies involved.
New Orleans survived the hurricane, recalls Ryan McMaken of the Mises Institute. The flood that devastated the city occurred because of “the failure of the levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers. In fact, incompetently built and poorly maintained government infrastructure was a major contributing factor in the severity and ultimate cost of the disaster.” The Oroville Dam was built by state officials in the 1960s as one of several projects that “offered huge risks and huge costs no private party could afford,” and its construction was rushed by state agencies without regard to future costs involved in its maintenance.
Twelve years ago, state and federal regulators were warned that the Oroville Dam was falling short of safety and maintenance standards, but no action was taken. Now more than 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate homes and properties that will be destroyed if the dam collapses.
If the dam fails, “how will the disaster be remembered?” asks McMaken. “Will future commentators admit the role of the California and federal governments in laying the groundwork for this disaster? Or will the cause of the likely-deadly Great Oroville Flood of 2017 simply be listed as `rain’?”
Another possibility is that the tragedy will be integrated into official propaganda about the need for more assertive government measures to combat the supposed threat of “climate change.”
Feb 15, 2017
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Adviser, was compelled to resign late in the evening on February 13 amid allegations of improper contacts with the Russian government during the transition period – and failure to make full disclosure of those contacts. Multiple press accounts claim that Vice President Pence engineered Flynn’s departure. For his part, President Trump complained that the “real” story is “why are there so many illegal leaks in Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal with North Korea?” asked Trump via Twitter.
In his resignation notice, Flynn insisted that the “fast pace of events” during the transition led him “inadvertently” to provide Pence and other administration officials with “incomplete information” regarding phone conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology,” Flynn declared.
Flynn has tardily admitted that he had discussed Washington’s sanctions against Russia during conversations with Kislyak, which would be forbidden under the Logan Act. Shortly before Flynn’s resignation, the Washington Post – citing multiple anonymous official sources – reported that White House counsel Don McGahn had been warned prior to the inauguration that Flynn may be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government because of discrepancies between what he had told Ambassador Kislyak and Vice President Pence about those conversations.
Feb 15, 2017
Retired Lt. General Keith Kellogg, who was selected to replace Michael Flynn as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, is a former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and veteran of the scandal-plagued Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority. At the time of his retirement from the Army in 2003, Kellogg was director of command, control and communications for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After leaving Iraq in 2005, Kellogg became an adviser to several military and intelligence contract firms that specialize in surveillance and high-tech warfare. He was an adviser to the homeland security division of the Oracle Corporation and vice president of strategic initiatives for Cubic Corporation, which provides technical support for the Pentagon. Of particular interest is Kellogg’s work as president of Abraxas, a specialized and secretive subsidiary of Cubic that was created by a clique of retired CIA operatives.
Five years ago, Abraxas received media attention for developing a surveillance system called TrapWire. According to classified materials released by WikiLeaks, TrapWire could be used to analyze images from surveillance cameras in order to identify potential terrorists.
For four years, Kellogg was a leading executive with CACI International, a contract agency that supplied interrogators who were implicated in the torture scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
Feb 15, 2017
Judge Leonie Brinkema of the US District Court for Eastern Virginia is the latest federal judge to issue a temporary injunction against President Trump’s travel ban executive order. Judge Brinkema, who presided over the trial in which so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted, acknowledged that the order reflects valid national security concerns, and that the president is allowed wide discretion in matters of both national security and foreign policy.
Her ruling found significant constitutional defects in the substance of the order, its implementation, and in the way it was defended by the administration. She also cited abundant statements by President Trump and key advisers in which they expressed an intention to impose what they called a “Muslim ban,” and alter immigration policy to favor Christian refugees from the Middle East. Both of those matters, Judge Brinkema contends, raise valid First Amendment and equal protection concerns.
As was the case with the recent ruling by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Brinkema underscored the fact that the Trump administration described presidential power over immigration as immune to judicial review – a position in conflict with a long line of judicial precedents and the text and structure of the Constitution. Although the president’s power in foreign policy is substantial, “Every presidential action must still comply with the limits set by Congress’ delegation of power and the constraints of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights,” she wrote. In a 2001 ruling “the Supreme Court … made it clear that even in the context of immigration law, congressional and executive power `is subject to important constitutional limitations,’” she observed.
In dealing with court challenges to the executive order, the administration may have prevailed quite easily if it had presented a defense for the policy, rather than simply demanding deference to it.
Feb 15, 2017
So-called sanctuary cities and counties for illegal immigrants may represent an unwise policy, but they are squarely in a tradition going back to 1798, in which a constitutional concept called “interposition” or “nullification” was employed by state and local governments to defy what were believed to be unconstitutional laws or edicts from the central government. Those claims were defended in detailed essays written by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who invoked the principles of un-enumerated rights and reserved state powers found in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
The same concept is now being embraced by counties in eastern Oregon that are acting to pre-empt state laws restricting firearms ownership. Following passage of the Oregon Firearms Safety Act in 2015, which purports to regulate gun transfers between private parties, four counties have adopted Second Amendment Preservation ordinances citing the authority of counties, municipalities, and cities to disregard laws that are manifestly unconstitutional. Coos County resident Rob Taylor explains that such ordinances create “sanctuary counties” for gun owners in “the same way Oregon has become a sanctuary state for immigration.”
Feb 15, 2017
The State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has denied an unusual legal motion called a King’s Bench petition from the City of Philadelphia, which has been sued over its proposed beverage tax. A King’s Bench petition is a direct appeal to the state Supreme Court, and Philadelphia insists that it needs an immediate ruling in order to avoid what it claims is significant harm that would result if the lawsuit proceeded through normal channels.
Last December, Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer dismissed a civil complaint filed by a group of food and beverage retailers and distributors insisting that the proposed surcharge on soft drinks is unlawful. That ruling was immediately challenged in court. This complicated matters for the city, which – in the familiar fashion of political bodies – had already spent the money it had planned to collect through the soda tax.
In its filing, the city recalled that it had already implemented an expanded pre-kindergarten program but that it depends on the “anticipated revenues” to be collected through the tax. It is also preparing a $500 million infrastructure program, but its “ability to afford bond financing for that initiative is premised on a final decision concerning the legal challenge” to the soda tax.
The ongoing legal challenge actually places the city’s fiscal stability in question, since “The money from the tax goes into the general fund, which is allocated however the city has chosen to allocate it,” explained the municipal government’s filing. The tax is expected to bring in $92 million annually.
Feb 15, 2017
Following the Supreme Court’s notorious Kelo ruling a decade ago, which allowed governments to use eminent domain seizures for the benefit of politically connected private concerns, the Indianapolis state legislature enacted reforms intended to prevent such naked property grabs. They underestimated the perverse ingenuity of their follow politicians – such as Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall, who is using the code enforcement system to drive property owners out of a neighborhood coveted by a private real estate interest called Neace Ventures.
The Institute for Justice, which has filed a lawsuit on behalf of property owners in the town’s Pleasant Ridge neighborhood, recounts that “City inspectors have begun issuing crippling fines for property code violations, including even trivial ones such as a torn screen, chipped paint or a downed tree limb. The fines accumulate at a rate of at least $50 per day, per violation, quickly leaving homeowners with thousands of dollars in fines and no way to pay.”
Saddled with fines that would result in the loss of their homes and other properties, the owners are approached by Neace Ventures, which offers to buy them for a fraction of their fair market value – and once the transaction is completed, the city government waives the existing fines in exchange for promising to demolish the properties. So far more than 140 property owners in Pleasant Ridge have been forced to sell by this corrupt municipal combine.
“The city’s ultimate goal is oust the current residents, bulldoze their homes and build a fancy new subdivision for much wealthier people,” summarizes Jeff Rowes, Senior Attorney for the Institute for Justice.
Feb 15, 2017
The town of New Miami, Ohio will be compelled to pay back more than $3 million it extorted from drivers through an unconstitutional red light camera racket. Judge Michael A. Oster, Jr. of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas ruled that the robo-ticket operation run by a corporate vendor called Optotraffic systematically deprived drivers of due process protections. The company would issue letters demanding payment of $180 from each targeted driver who had been photographed passing through a section of the town, which occupies less than a square mile on US Highway 127.
“If the government has created an unconstitutional law/ordinance that has taken people’s money without affording them the necessary due process protections, should not justice demand, and the law require, restitution of that money to the people?” asked Judge Oster in his ruling. “Once the complexities of the law are analyzed, the answer is simple: Yes.”
Like other political cliques caught in acts of institutionalized corruption, the New Miami city government protracted the legal proceedings for as long as it could, insisting that it was immune to liability under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” Judge Oster wasn’t persuaded.
“Ohio law is clear that the reimbursement of monies collected pursuant to an unconstitutional enactment or invalid rule is equitable relief, not monetary damages, and is consequently not barred by sovereign immunity,” the judge observed. Accordingly, “No later than thirty days after the filing of this order, plaintiff is to file with the court an affidavit evincing monies paid under the invalidated ordinance, along with an Excel spreadsheet, so that the court can set the proper amount of restitution/refund as determined under the laws of equity.”
Feb 15, 2017
Twelve federal employees, including baggage screeners employed by the Transportation Security Administration, havebeen indicted on charges that could lead to life imprisonment for using their taxpayer-funded jobs to smuggle more than 100 million dollars’ worth of cocaine from Puerto Rico’s Luis Munoz Main International Airport into the continental United States. It is estimated that as much as 20 tons of cocaine was covertly imported by the smuggling ring over the last 18 years.
As summarized by AOL News, investigators believe that “A baggage handler in the ring picked up cocaine-filled suitcases at check-in counters and put them into TSA X-Ray machines that another suspect cleared.” The handler would then deliver the contraband to specially designated planes without being stopped by police or K-9 units. Up to five smugglers were used in each flight, each of them carrying up to 33 pounds of cocaine during the trip.
Six current and former TSA screening officers have been indicted as a result of the investigation. An Airport Aviation Services worker who was a baggage handler and ramp employee has been charged with making payments to TSA employees to advance the scheme. Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, describes the arrests as a vindication of the “AirTAT Initiative … whose mission is to ensure that our airports are not used in the drug traffickers’ illicit businesses.”
This could also be seen as the most recent periodic reminder of the endemic corruption of the TSA, and the entire federal airport security apparatus. More than a decade and a half ago, former Customs inspector Diane Klieman discovered a smuggling ring that had been provided with secure keys allowing them to bypass Customs inspection. When she raised the issue with her supervisor, Kleiman was fired. She later discovered that the personnel involved in the smuggling ring were connected to a CIA affiliate called Evergreen.
Feb 15, 2017
While police unions are ecstatic over President Trump’s recent executive order calling for expanded federal support for local law enforcement, the directive was given a more critical reception by a group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. The libertarian-leaning group, which consists of more than 175 police officers and prosecutors, has been critical of the so-called war on drugs and what it perceives as an over-reliance on incarceration for non-violent offenses.
“We need not use arrest, conviction and prison as the default for every broken law,” wrote Ronal W. Serpas, a former police chief in Nashville and New Orleans, and former Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown in a report released last week. “For many nonviolent and first-time offenders, prison is not only unnecessary from a public safety standpoint, it also endangers our communities.”
Echoing the rhetoric of leading police unions, President Trump has described the country as being in the throes of a dangerous upsurge in violent crime. Serpas and Brown dispute that assessment, noting that the crime rate today is half of what it was in 1991.
“Dangerous, violent offenders should be behind bars,” they acknowledge, while insisting that “incarceration is not necessarily the best tool to put non-violent offenders back on the road to productive, law-abiding lives.” Too often, the current system creates “a perpetual cycle of catch-and-release that only diverts law enforcement resources from battling more serious threats to society.”
Rather than vigorously supporting the current system, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should “take leadership roles in the ongoing cross-partisan efforts to reform our justice system,” the group maintains.
Feb 15, 2017
During the first year of the Obama administration, invocations of the Tenth Amendment and the reserved powers of the states by Tea Party activists provoked some left-leaning commentators to accuse them of “sedition.” With Donald Trump now occupying the Oval Office, those roles have been reversed, with erstwhile Tea Party agitators championing centralized executive power, and the Left taking up the “states’ rights” refrain. This is most visible in California, which declared itself “the vanguard of the resistance” even prior to Trump’s inauguration.
“With a Democratic supermajority, the country’s largest immigrant population, and Governor Jerry Brown’s landmark policies on climate change, the state was gearing up for a battle against the Trump administration,” recalls the New Republic. “To that end, the California legislature hired Eric Holder, an attorney general under President Barack Obama, to represent the state in legal fights to come.” The state government and many municipalities are enacting measures intended to nullify federal policies regarding immigration and the environment.
“In a twist of history,” continues the New Republic, “California’s leftist leaders are now embracing state’s rights, decrying Washington as a threat to a local way of life. San Francisco’s lawsuit [against the Trump administration], for example, takes a page from Reagan’s playbook, accusing Trump of `striking at the heart of federalism.’ Brown has warned members of the new administration to `keep their hands off,’ while state Senate President Kevin de Leon is vowing `to protect the values of the people of California.’”
“Could a political strategy, devised long ago by California conservatives, be harnessed to defend the state’s progressive values?” asks the publication. A related question would be: Will California long survive the social and economic costs of those “progressive” values?
Feb 15, 2017
The departure of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn removes one of the most bellicose opponents of Iran from President Trump’s cabinet. Another one, retired General James Mattis, remains firmly ensconced as Secretary of Defense, and he is joined by Chief White House Strategist Stephen Bannon, who is perhaps the president’s closest confidante. President Trump himself has repeatedly said that he favors a more confrontational posture toward Tehran. He has also repeatedly promised to crush ISIS. Veteran foreign affairs correspondent Patrick Cockburn says that those objectives may prove to be irreconcilable.
Mattis and the now-departed Flynn have been guilty of “threat inflation when it comes to Iran, though without providing any evidence for its terrorist actions, just as their [Bush-era] predecessors inflated the threat supposedly posed by Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD and fictional support for al-Qaeda,” writes Cockburn. “This is all good news for ISIS, though it has so many enemies committed to its defeat that a switch in US policy may be too late to do it a lot of good,” continues Cockburn. “But its main enemies on the ground are the Iraqi and Syrian armies, whose governments are backed by Iran, and the Syrian Kurds who fear that the US may soon give them less support in order to appease Turkey.”
Over the next year or two, “when previous policies conceived under Obama have run their course, Trump may well feel that he has to show how much tougher and more effective he is than his predecessor,” which may result in military action against Iran, Cockburn predicts. This would be a great boon to ISIS, assuming the group can survive until then.
Feb 15, 2017
Leftist critics of Donald Trump who describe him as a reality-averse warmonger suffer from a convenient form of amnesia, writes Luciana Bohne in the progressive journal CounterPunch.
“Before Trump emerged from the electoral swamp the winner, everything already had been the contrary of everything,” she observes, rebuking liberals who claim that Trump is engaged in an Orwellian reengineering of reality. “The liberation of 100,000 civilians in Aleppo in December 2016 by the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian allies from four years of Western-backed terror, they called a `war crime.’ The separation of Crimeans from Ukraine by popular referendum … joining Russia, they called `Russian aggression.’”
Many of the same commentators who deride Trump as a “fascist” and demand that his administration not be “normalized” in the media were mute during Obama’s “reign of illegal wars, regime changes, ubiquitous sanctions, and terror proxy armies,” she continues. All of this was “studiously ignored or fictionalized by the scribbler-courtiers in the media, the punditry, think-tanks, foundations, and officialdom.”
The real danger represented by the Trump administration, from Bohne’s perspective, is not that he will represent a radical departure from existing norms, but rather that his administration will pursue continuity with the policies of his predecessors. “Long-standing objectives appear to be shared,” she concludes. “What seems to be the bone of contention is the method of dominating American public opinion.”
Feb 14, 2017
Amid warnings of the impending collapse of the Oroville Dam in northern California, nearly 200,000 people were urged to evacuate their homes by the Butte County Sheriff’s Department. The evacuation notice included Oroville and Thermalito, as well as Gridley, Biggs, Loma Rica in Butte County, as well as Hallwood, Marysville, and Oliverhurst in Yuba County. The warnings were issued because of concerns that erosion could bring about the failure of the dam’s emergency spillway.
According to the San Jose Mercury-News, over a decade ago federal and state officials and administrators from several state water agencies “rejected concerns that the massive earthen spillway at Orville Dam … could erode during heavy winter rains and cause a catastrophe.” So severely under-maintained had the dam become that several environmental groups – including Friends of the River, the Sierra Club, and the South Yuba Citizens League – filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urging that the spillway “be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside.”
The lawsuit said that the dam, which was built in 1968, “did not meet modern safety standards” because in the event of severe flooding, “fast-rising water would overwhelm the main concrete spillway,” eventually leading to a contingency called “loss of crest control.” This would pose an acute threat to the lives and property of people residing in the floodplain downstream from the dam.
Feb 14, 2017
Asked about the legal controversy precipitated by President Trump’s executive order on immigration, White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller offered a reply that was widely perceived as an expression of unalloyed authoritarianism.
President Trump’s order was enjoined by a Bush-appointed US District Judge in Seattle, and that injunction was upheld, pending further appeal, by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Miller declared that this episode “has been an important reminder to all Americans [that] we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many cases [the] Supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country,” he insisted.
While the administration is frustrated by the legal setback, Miller continued, “The end result of this … is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our county are very substantial and will not be questioned.”
It was this claim that the president’s decisions are not subject to review by any branch of government that actually prompted the Ninth Circuit Court to uphold the injunction against the executive order. The Ninth Circuit Court’s opinion acknowledged that under the existing statute, the president can exercise a great deal of discretion. Under existing precedents, however, “courts can and do review constitutional challenges to the substance and implementation of immigration policy.”
Rather than providing evidence that the order was imperative in order to prevent irreversible harm to the country, the Trump administration took the position that “the President’s decisions about immigration policy … are unreviewable,” observed the ruling. “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure” of our constitutional system, the court asserted.
Feb 14, 2017
Over the past year and a half, the FBI has employed “a secret scoring system to judge the likelihood that someone will carry out a violent attack,” reports The Intercept. This involves a classified 48-question survey entitled “Indicators of Mobilization to Violence,” a copy of which was obtained by that publication. The document is used by FBI Special Agents to evaluate subjects of an investigation by assigning points “based on factors like religious observance, travel history, financial transactions, and physical appearance”
While many of the questions are obviously relevant in determining whether a targeted individual harbors terrorist intent, some of them are innocuous, such as the use of encryption or efforts to conceal internet browsing habits – questions that assume the FBI investigator would have covert access to the subject’s personal computer or other digital devices. Other supposed indicators include an interest in previous bombings – which could demonstrate civic-mindedness, not criminal intent – or participation in “activities that simulate military or operational environments,” such as paintball, laser tag, shooting ranges, or even camping trips.
Other criteria are entirely subjective, such as questions about whether the subject holds “a belief or ideology that supports the use of violence” or whether he has “become more extreme in [his] beliefs.”
Beyond civil liberties concerns, the survey demonstrates that the FBI is “grasping at straws to try to figure out what the factors involved in radicalization are,” comments Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School. “They are so individualized,” contends Dr. Greenberg. “ How much will algorithms really tell us about the threat?”
Feb 14, 2017
One significant problem with the Trump administration’s approach to border security, argues legal analyst Bruce Fein, is a severe disjunction between official rhetoric about an all-encompassing terrorist threat, and the casual behavior of the president himself. As a veteran of the Nixon and Reagan administrations, Fein has seen how presidents behave when the country faces genuine peril, and President Trump, in his view, appears to be “figuratively fiddling while Rome burns.”
“President Trump has bugled daily since his Executive Order banning travel to the United States by nationals of seven Muslim nations more than two weeks ago that without the ban we would be massacred by foreign terrorists,” wrote Fein on February 13. ”His [executive order] has been blocked for about 10 days by federal court rulings, and immigrants and refugees from the seven Muslim nations have been streaming over our borders. According to President Trump, this state of affairs means another … murderous abomination is imminent. Yet the President is dawdling over his Executive Order. He is not racing to the Supreme Court for review. He is not racing for an en banc review by the Ninth Circuit. He is not rewriting the [order] per the guidelines provided by the Ninth Circuit to purge it of constitutional infirmities. He is simply yelping that the judges are dumber than dumb high school students, which is a very unconvincing legal argument.”
If the president is serious about the threats he describes, Fein urges, he should address them immediately. “A person who shouts that an emergency is upon us and then gallops off to play golf or dance the polka is not to be believed,” Fein concludes.
Feb 14, 2017
In keeping with the unofficial but universally observed government mandate to obstruct human progress and cultivate misery, the Arizona State Government’s Board of Cosmetology is investigating a complaint against a cosmetology student who has been giving free haircuts to the homeless.
Juan Carlos Montesdeoca, who had been studying at a local Regency Beauty school until it closed last September, has been homeless himself, and when he learned that people living in a nearby park hadn’t had haircuts for several months he decided to offer his services to them for free. His deeds were observed by someone who, acting with the anonymous malice upon which every police state depends, filed a complaint with the Cosmetology Board.
Donna Aune, executive director of the Board, declined to answer media inquiries about the matter, taking refuge in the familiar bureaucratic dodge that she couldn’t comment about an “active investigation.” She cited a section of Arizona’s state code dictating that “A person shall not perform or attempt to perform cosmetology without a license or practice in any place other than a licensed salon” – a provision that, if applied with the Pharisaical rigor Aune appears to favor, would make it a crime for a mother to cut her own child’s hair at home.
As a result of offering free haircuts without receiving government authorization, Motesdeoca points out, the board that presumes to grant such favors “can suspend [me] even before I even try to get a license.”