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21 Oct 19:41

Tuesday Humor?: 0.1% "Problems"

by Tyler Durden

Presented with no comment...



Source: The Burning Platform

20 Oct 04:47

Visualization: The Elements According to Relative Abundance (1970)

by David Pescovitz

An excellent graphic from 1970 by Santa Clara University chemistry professor William F. Sheehan (RIP). (via Clifford Pickover)

21 Oct 18:44

UK Government Would Like To Put Internet Trolls In Jail For Two Years

by Mike Masnick
The war on free speech continues. Andy Przybylski points us to the news that the UK's Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, is apparently really upset about internet trolls, and thinks they should be jailed for up to two years. He's pushing to extend an existing law -- which we've ridiculed in the past -- which allows for jailing trolls up to six months. Grayling thinks the threat of even longer sentences would suddenly make people nice online.
"These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media," Grayling said.

"That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence."
The article also quotes a lawyer claiming -- apparently with total seriousness -- "There is a public interest in having people put away for a long time. It is putting someone in fear of their life and fear of physical harm."

No one denies that trolls can be abusive and harassing -- to the point of seriously upsetting some people's lives. But putting people in jail for being assholes? That crosses over a line. Grayling also has an interesting definition of cruelty:
"This is a law to combat cruelty – and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message: if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years."
Of course, some people would argue that jailing people for two years for being jerks is actually pretty damn cruel as well. Perhaps the response should be to put Grayling in jail for his own cruelty...

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21 Oct 17:38

Sex, Spice, and Small-Town Texas Justice: The Purple Zone Raid

by Anthony L. Fisher

On the morning of May 7, 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched Project Synergy Phase II, a national "day of raids" in 29 states, with the goal of taking down purveyors of synthetic drugs who funnel their proceeds to Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.

DEA Raid on The Purple Zone

The Purple Zone, a smoke shop in Alpine, Texas, owned by 29-year-old Ilana Lipsen, was the target of one of these raids. This particular raid was so heavy handed and its aftermath so clumsily handled by law enforcement that it drew national attention as a symbol of police militarization and the vagaries of laws pertaining to drug "analogues." Analogues are chemicals that are not prohibited but are similar enough to controlled substances that they become illegal depending on who interprets the data.

Even worse, The Purple Zone and its owner may have been targeted because of the personal vendetta of a single prosecutor. 

A Safe Little Town, Filled With Cops

Alpine, Texas has a population of a little more than 5,000 residents. It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, more than 200 miles from El Paso, home to the nearest major airport, and 75 miles from Mexico. Because of the town's proximity to the border, it is classified as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which along with the relative isolation, makes it an attractive home to a great many in law enforcement, including members of federal agencies such the DEA and the Border Patrol. Sul Ross State University, the town's signature institution, hosts a law enforcement academy.

Alpine evokes the Texas libertarian ethos of a quiet, safe town where you can expect to be left alone. It's what draws both bohemian artists as well as culturally conservative folks. How one feels about Ilana Lipsen and The Purple Zone represents the schism between the two camps. 

"You either love me or you hate me," says Lipsen. "I've received anti-Semitic hate emails. I've been told to 'go back to Jew York.' I've had people come in my store and tell me it was 'fucked up" and that I was poisoning the youth of the town—even though I have a big sign that says '18 and Over' and I have an ID scanner. The bars here in Alpine don't have ID scanners, but I do!" 

Originally from Houston, Lipsen arrived in Alpine in 2003, when she enrolled at Sul Ross University to pursue her interest in Arabian horses by studying equine science. Though she would leave school before graduating, she still loved the wide-open spaces of Alpine and decided to make it her home, purchasing a ranch for her horses and going into business for herself. 

After antique furniture and pet supplies failed to keep her balance sheet in the black, she wracked her brain thinking about what was missing from the marketplace of this West Texas railroad town. The answer she came up with was sex toys and smoking accessories. And it worked. She called her store The Purple Zone, which thrives to this day thanks to a loyal, mostly college-aged consumer base interested in hookahs, vaporizing, and e-cigarattes.

Raids and Chemical Analogues

In March 2012, "10-12 men came in, SWAT team style" to the Purple Zone, Lipsen recalls. They told her she was not under arrest, but cuffed her and threw her in the back of a police van while they searched her store, seized personal property including computers, a cell phone, and hard drives. They also took numerous packets of what Lipsen sells as potpourri in the incense section of the store, adorned with the colorful brand names such as "Dr. Feelgood," "Scooby Snax" and "Bomb! Marley." 

Brewster County District Attorney Rod Ponton insists these items are "spice," or synthetic cannabanoids. But Lipsen notes, "You can buy these products online or in any gas station or smoke shop in Texas." She says that she throws out anyone who insinuates these products are used for anything other than making your house smell good. 

Eight months after the 2012 raid, police returned to arrest Lipsen and her mother, Rosa (who is not an owner or an employee of the store, but frequently visits to help clean the store and tend to her daughter's many pets) on felony charges of "possession and distribution of a controlled substance." 

Though the the Alpine PD and the DEA would make many undercover purchases at the Purple Zone over the next two years, lab tests turned up no controlled substances except for "MAN-2201," "XLR-11," and "PB-22," all of which were legal in Texas at the time of the raid. In fact, they would only become illegal in January 2013 when the federal government's Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, signed by President Obama in July 2012, went into effect. 

The DEA insists the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 affords them the power to prosecute possession of these substances because they are "similar to controlled substances." It is this enforcement of "analogues" that landed Lipsen with a felony indictment for products she believed to be legal. 

That wasn't just her opinion. Lipsen spends thousands of dollars having all the products she sells lab-tested for controlled substances and has the documentation to prove it. Prosecutor Ponton also knows how expensive drug testing can be. In March 2014, he went before the Brewster County Board of Commissioners, pleading for thousands of dollars of funds for additional testing on the seized potpourri packets but was refused out of hand.

Out of resources but intent on proving Ilana Lipsen's criminality, he would find a willing partner in the DEA, an agency without his office's budget limitations. 

The Project Synergy Phase II Raid

On the morning of Wednesday, May 7, 2014 Project Synergy Phase II came to Alpine. Led by the DEA and armed with a Brewster County search warrant (which Ponton had requested), officers from the Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, the Brewster County Sheriff's Office, and the Alpine PD broke down the front door of The Purple Zone with their weapons drawn, turned all the security cameras against the wall, and tore the place to pieces. 

All to raid a head shop.

Nicholas Branson, a geology student at Sul Ross University who rents an apartment from Lipsen in a neighboring house, returned from a trip into town to find agents searching his home. He pointed out that the two buildings had different addresses, both clearly marked. Branson told the Big Bend Courier, "When I told them this was my house, they said, 'Well, that's the price you pay for choosing to live where you live.'" When he asked to see a search warrant, he claims a rifle-bearing DEA agent replied, "What are you, a fucking lawyer?"

The agents seized all of Branson's hard drives, as well as a shotgun given to him by his grandfather. They also took what they called "suspected mushrooms," which he says is a bag of frankincense he kept with some of his geological collection. Still, as a college student, he's rightfully terrified at the prospect of a drug charge. Branson told the Big Bend Courier, "If I get indicted I lose my Pell grant, my scholarship money, my student loan money. If they charge me I will lose everything I have been working for the last five years." A warrant would eventually be issued, hours after the raid began.

After finding his home upended by body armor-clad agents of the state, Branson saw Lipsen's sister, Arielle, arguing with Leticia Carrillo, the Alpine PD's liaison with the PD. According to Ilana, Arielle told Carrillo they should be chasing cartels and human traffickers rather than harassing her sister. 

Then, a large male DEA agent told Arielle to stop raising her voice and leave the premises. Arielle replied "What are you going to do, shoot me?" The agent then put her under arrest. According to Branson and the Lipsens, after being thrown, Arielle's leg flew up and inadvertently struck the agent in the shin, after which the agent pinned her to the ground with the butt of his rifle. 

The DEA did not respond to our requests for comment, but Laila Rico, a representative from the DEA's El Paso office, told the Alpine Avalanche, "If you don't do what you're asked to do, that's what you're going to run into." Rico also says Arielle kicked the officer and was thrown to the ground in the process of being taken into custody. 

The store was searched for several hours, by which time Tom Cochran, owner of Big Bend Screen Printing and an acquaintance of Ilana Lipsen's, came to the scene and started taking photographs. 

Arielle Lipsen

Cochran posted his photos of the scene, as well as a rectangular-shaped injury on Arielle Lipsen's neck, to his Facebook page. The DEA called the injury on Arielle's neck "a scrape" and denied that it could have possibly come from the agent's rifle.

When it was all said and done, Arielle was indicted for assaulting a federal officer and Ilana was indicted for "receiving ammunition while under indictment," a federal charge so rarely enforced in a state with as many guns as Texas that Ilana's lawyer, a well-known Texas defense attorney, told me he had never heard of it. Lipsen says the ammunition in question was given to her by a friend, the box of which included a receipt dated after her state indictment following the 2012 raid.

As a Texas rancher, Lipsen has always owned firearms to protect her horses and other animals from predators. The cruelest irony of the ammunition indictment is that no products seized from the 2014 raid turned up any controlled substances or even analogues of controlled subtances; they were all herbs and tobacco alternatives. Had Lipsen not been under indictment for the questionable analogue charges from the 2012 raid, there would have been nothing to indict her for following the 2014 raid. 

After learning that she had been swept up in a terrorist-hunting, Obama administration dragnet, Lipsen was incredulous. She speculated that her Turkish ethnic background, her affection for Arabian horses, and the fact that she buys a lot of her electronic cigarettes from China made her suspicious to the feds. Still, as a Jewish woman and self-professed supporter of Israel, she hardly fit the profile of a financial supporter of Islamist terrorism. 

Lipsen suspects that the relentless harassment from law enforcement stems from an encounter dating back to when she first arrived in the town as an 18 year-old college freshman. 

"I was introduced by a mutual acquaintance to a man who had Arabian horses."

The man was Rod Ponton, then an attorney in private practice. 

"He had invited me to meet his horses at his house, and possibly work with them. I thought, 'Great! A job opportunity.'" She says that after sharing a bottle of wine with him, "one thing led to another and I was involved sexually with him."

Though Ponton offered to give his horses to her as a gift, Lipsen says she was "disgusted with herself" and declined to have any further involvement with Ponton or his horses after that. She claims to have seen Ponton drive slowly past her house "almost like he was stalking me." 

Drawing a line from her brief fling with the man now intent on putting her in prison, a man who in a 2013 court motion referred to her "singular incorrigibility" and accused her of "poisoning the youth of the town," Lipsen says, "That was so many years ago. I didn't think that not calling someone back would get me into all this trouble." 

The Optics of the Aftermath

Lipsen was set to sit in jail for months when her court-appointed attorney presented her with a most unusual bond document. As requested by U.S. Attorney Jay Miller, the federal magistrate on the case hand wrote additional conditions for her release:

"Will request Tom Cochran retract his blog on Facebook. Will provide a letter of apology to both local newspapers in Alpine, TX, advising DEA had a legitimate reason to execute a warrant at her business. Will advise newspaper A warrant was not executed at her business because she was Jewish, owned Arabian horses, is of Turkish decent or because she visited Chinese websites. Will advise media (KWest 9 news) that her sister, Arrielle Lipsen, was not beaten by agents carrying/using a M16 rifle, and her sister instigated/assaulted agents."

Ilana Lipsen bond document

Faced with the prospect of spending months in jail until her trial, Lipsen signed the written retraction, which the Brewster County Sheriff's Department promptly posted to its Facebook page with the message, "Due to the incredible amount of disinformation being spread through the internet we have decided to publish this letter. We hope this answers some of the questions citizens may have regarding the DEA and all law enforcement in Brewster County."

The Border Patrol's local union followed suit, adding that its members voted to boycott Tom Cochran's screen printing business. "We hope our brothers and sisters in law enforcement in the Big Bend area will join us in our stance against this business, owned by a purveyor of misinformation, and misleading photographs," read the union's statement.

For his part, Cochran says he was visited by Ponton, who called the photos "inaccurate" and implored him to take them down, to which Cochran says he replied: "They can't be inaccurate, they're photos." Cochran thinks what law enforcement really objects to is how ridiculous it looks for a tiny smokeshop to be stormed by a paramilitary force. "They looked like thugs. That's what they didn't like."

Bryon Garrison, editor of The Big Bend Courier, described the town's reaction to the raid this way: "Shock. Why is this being done? Who would be stupid enough to have illegal drugs when they've already been raided?" 

Ponton declined to be interviewed, saying he would not make any public statement about the case. An earlier press release from his office states that "assertions previously made in this matter by Ilana Lipsen or Tom Cochran are not true." He added that products previously seized from The Purple Zone "tested positive for 'Spice,' a derivative of methamphetamine." To add flourish, he offered this unverified anecdote:

"('Spice' has) caused numerous Big Bend area residents to have severe reactions, they have gone to the emergency room, one man hallucinated, stole a Ford Ranchero, then flipped it, killing himself. This illegal drug is worse than meth, similar to cocaine, meth or heroin." 

Ponton was not yet finished in his efforts to control the narrative of the case. Scot Erin Briggs, then a reporter for the Alpine Avalanche, wrote an article called "Long Arm of Law Reaches into New Territory," published eight days after the raid. The article includes quotes from the DEA, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson, and information provided by Ponton. It also includes detailed research into the legality of synthetic drugs and makes clear that the Lipsens have their side of the story and law enforcement has theirs. In other words, it is serious, inquiring journalism. Ponton was not pleased with the balance. 

According to Briggs, Ponton visited her at the Avalanche's office saying "I'm not here to threaten you." He added that local law enforcement did not appreciate the article and "we don't consider [the Lipsens] a credible source." He also scolded her for not grasping how bad "spice" is. Briggs offered to have Ponton write a letter to the editor, which she promised to publish. Ponton declined and told her that he had contacted the paper's owner. 

Shortly thereafter, Briggs says the paper's owner told her that while her facts were sound, "her tone was all wrong." The Avalanche, like all of its affiliated papers, runs a tag line that reads "Thank a veteran, member of armed services or law enforcement every day."

A followup article published with Briggs' byline, "Women Arraigned in Drug Raid Case," presented only law enforcement's side of the story. It featured a quote from the DEA's Laila Rico boasting "It was a good day for us" and using Lipsen's "apology" letter as evidence that "DEA acted professionally at all times." Rico hoped that the letter would receive "the same attention you gave (the Lipsens') misleading statements and that of the Facebook account of Tom Cochran." The sole quote from Ilana Lipsen was taken from the letter she was forced to sign under duress in order to secure her release from jail. 

Briggs says she barely had a hand in writing the followup article and asked that her byline be removed (it was not). After that, she says she had to run everything she wrote by the paper's owner and lawyer, a process so convoluted and frustrating that after three months she decided to leave her position as managing editor. 

But try as he might, Ponton could not control the narrative for long. After being initially published by the Big Bend Courier, and covered extensively by Reason's Brian Doherty, actor Wil Wheaton posted Lipsen's document to his Tumblr account. The bizarre conditions of her release gained national attention, including that of Washington Post free speech blogger and constitutional lawyer, Eugene Volokh, who wrote:

"This seems to me clearly unconstitutional: It's an order compelling speech, on threat of imprisonment, which would itself normally be a First Amendment violation; but on top of that, it was issued without a trial, and thus without any final factual findings supporting its validity. I'm aware that, once someone is convicted, courts have considerable latitude to impose speech restrictions as a condition of parole or probation, and might even be able to impose speech compulsions. But that is after someone's guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial. The defendant here hasn't been convicted of anything; she continues to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

And courts have held (quite rightly, I think) that the government has quite limited powers to restrict defendants' speech as a condition of bail. The proper purposes of bail conditions are to assure the defendant's presence at trial, to prevent the defendant from attacking witnesses or victims, and to prevent the defendant from committing further while released; any speech restrictions must therefore be tied to those purposes."

The Vagaries of Prosecuting the War on Drugs

The Purple Zone case is a microcosm for a number of things wrong with the prosecution of the war on drugs.

First, the arbitrary enforcement chemical analogues means that a person can be in possession of a product they believe to be perfectly legal, only to be charged with a felony depending on who is interpreting the chemical makeup of the substance.

As Lipsen points out, some of the packets seized by law enforcement can be found for sale in gas stations across Texas, as well as on the Internet. But in Alpine, "spice" carries a similar connotation to "bath salts," where unverified anecdotes of people doing crazy, violent things have led to unscientific pronouncements such as "worse than meth." Lipsen says, "People come into my store and ask 'Can I smoke this?' or 'Will this get me really high?' I tell them, 'You need to get out of my store.'"

Second, given how small a community Alpine is, and how well-acquainted law enforcement is with the store and its owner, there was no obvious justification for a militarized raid on The Purple Zone, to say nothing of the warrantless search of Nick Branson's apartment. With no reason to suspect an ambush or violent resistance, the agents came braced for battle and ransacked the premises until they were done.

"They came in and made this a violent situation when they didn't have to," says Tom Cochran. "That's why I took the pictures. We need to have a discussion about this. There's no need for a militarized raid on a smoke shop."

Third, when taking into account the bond conditions compelling an apology from Ilana Lispen, the Border Patrol union and Brewster County Sheriff's Office's publishing Lipsen's coerced letter (which may have been against DOJ guidelines), and Rod Ponton's strong-arming of the Alpine Avalanche's reporting, law enforcement's attempts to control the public's perception of the case can be generously described as ethically questionable.

Of her reporting on the raid, Scot Erin Briggs laments, "The job of a local paper is to get at the truth the best we can, not be the voice of those in power."

Finally, there is a problem with how easy it was for a local prosecutor to glom onto the DEA's resources. The warrant to search The Purple Zone came from the locals, yet the feds were in charge of the raid. Briggs reported speaking with a former Brewster County attorney who said it was "highly unusual for the federal government to cooperate on a warrant with the district attorney." As Briggs pointed out, "It seemed like a strange use of taxpayer funds to have a HIDTA task force as part of the raid. We have access to these funds because we are close to the border, [but] the funds were never intended to raid the local head shop."

The DEA was supposedly hunting for drug-dealing, money-laundering terrorist supporters, but instead appears to have been roped into one district attorney's personal crusade against a woman who jilted him years earlier.

Nobody Can Fight the Government Forever

In September, Lipsen pled guilty to first-degree felony manufacture, delivery, and possession of a controlled substance. The substances in question were the chemicals found in packets from the 2012 raid, which were not illegal in Texas at the time.  In exchange for her plea, the charges against her mother were dropped, and all federal charges stemming from the 2014 raid against her and her sister were dismissed without prejudice.

The deal includes a deferred adjudication, meaning that the case goes away without a conviction if Lipsen stays out of trouble for 10 years. However, if she violates any of the terms of her probation, she could be subject to the "full range" of punishment, which could be anywhere from 5 years to life in prison.

Why would Lipsen plead guilty to selling controlled substances that were not, in fact, controlled substances at the time of her arrest? Perhaps to save her mother and sister from prison, perhaps to avoid prison, perhaps because her legal bills are in the tens of thousands and growing by the day. Perhaps because she just wants to move on with her life.  

Lipsen is selling The Purple Zone and moving back to Houston, where she will own open another store specializing in vaping accessories. Referring to Alpine, Ilana says, "I love this town. It's beautiful. I have a lot of friends here. But it's become toxic. I never wanted to aggravate anybody. I don't do this for fun. This isn't a hobby, this is how I support myself. This is how I live."

Pointing out the polarized opinions of Lipsen and The Purple Zone among the Alpine populace, Bryon Garrison of the Big Bend Courier says, "Any freedom-loving person needs to ask, could this happen to me, if I was unpopular? That shouldn't cause a bias, as far as your freedom is concerned."

He adds, "Nobody has the ability to fight the government for too long." 

Reason TV contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration's El Paso Bureau, the Alpine Police Department, the Brewster County Sheriff's Department, and the National Border Patrol Council Local 2509 for comment. In each case, calls and emails went unreturned. Management at the Alpine Avalanche offered no comment.

About 10 minutes.

Written and Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Camera by Todd Kranin. Additional camera by Fisher. Additional graphics by Meredith Bragg. 

Music: "Wet Socks" by Jahzzar (

Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to get automatic notifications when new material goes live. Scroll down for downloadable versions.

21 Oct 14:03

This app will help kids cheat on math tests

by Sonali Kohli

H/T Gpscruise

Don't bother; there's an app for that.

“Show your work” has long been the math teacher’s mantra. Making students write down each step of a math problem prevents them from merely flipping to the back of their textbook to source the correct answer. But there’s a new shortcut to math problems that gets around that constraint: a free app that solves a math problem and shows the user all the steps. All a student has to do is aim the camera toward the question.

The camera captures the equation, solves it, and the user has the option to look at the steps. The app, called PhotoMath, is free for iOS and Windows phones, and will likely be available on Android in early 2015, according to its website. On the one hand it’s a useful tool for students who need a nudge in the right direction. On the other hand, it isn’t a stretch to envision kids sneaking a phone into the classroom on test day, turning the app into a high-tech crib sheet.

The app uses text recognition technology to find the components of the expression, combined with a human-like problem solving capability, explained the company’s founder Jurica Cerovec at the TechCrunch Disrupt Europe event in London. The app can currently help students in solving relatively simple equations and fractions.

MicroBlink, the company behind the app, envisions it as a math aid for kids who don’t have access to a tutor or to individualized attention at schools, or for parents who need help advising their kids on math homework. A company spokesperson told Quartz its intention isn’t for the app to be used as a cheating device.

Eventually, MicroBlink wants to apply the technology to PDF scanning, online banking, and anything that needs to be read and analyzed. In the meantime, children without access to tutors or close classroom supervision will have an automated math aid—or an easy way to cut corners.

20 Oct 21:52

CIA Warned Obama that Funding Rebels Doesn’t Work … But Obama Decided to Fund Syrian Rebels ANYWAY For Cynical Political Gain

by George Washington

Painting by Anthony Freda.


We’ve pointed out for years that arming the Syrian and Libyan rebels to topple leaders we don’t like is a really stupid idea.

It turns out that the CIA agrees with us.

The New York Times reports:

The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba [to Syria].




An internal C.I.A. study has found that it rarely works.


The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.




The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition.




One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?” said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The C.I.A. report, he said, “was pretty dour in its conclusions.




Mr. Obama made a veiled reference to the C.I.A. study in an interview with The New Yorker published this year. Speaking about the dispute over whether he should have armed the rebels earlier, Mr. Obama told the magazine: “Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.”




Last month, Mr. Obama said he would redouble American efforts by having the Pentagon participate in arming and training rebel forces.

Dan Froomkin – an investigative journalist with the Washington Post, HuffPost and now First Look (and a Democrat) – slams Obama for deciding to arm Syrian rebels even after the CIA told him it wouldn’t work, in an article entitled “Obama Knew Arming Rebels Was Useless,  But Did It Anyway“:

He knew better, but he did it anyway.




Bush at least thought the war in Iraq would do some good.


He was incredibly wrong, mind you. He was both delusional — and actively manipulated by neocons like Dick Cheney (who believe the application of American power is always and inherently a good thing). He intentionally misled the public about his real reasons for going to war (the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were an excuse, not a reason; there were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction). His eventual goal was both unachievable (a sudden flowering of pro-Western democracy in the Middle East) and perverse (American control of Iraqi oil fields). His methods (firing all the Baathists; trying to install a corrupt puppet) were spectacularly misguided. Much of the rest of his presidency was consumed with sectarian warfare in Iraq and new lies to  cover up the old ones at home. And the end result was a massive human rights catastrophe, including torture of U.S. detainees, a refugee crisis, mass casualties, social disorder and – finally – the Islamic State.


Bush also certainly saw – and exploited — the political upside of being a war president.


But [at least Bush] didn’t let loose the dogs of war simply because his political operatives told him it would poll well.

In response to embarrassment caused by the revelation that Obama agreed to arm the Syrian rebels after the CIA warned him it wouldn’t do any good, the U.S. military is now saying they won’t work with the Syrian rebels.

Specifically, General Allen – the head of America’s anti-ISIS campaign – now says that the administration now has no plans to ever coordinate with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or any other of the existing rebel factions. He says they’ll only work with a new coalition of “moderate” rebels.

Sadly, there aren’t any moderate rebels in Syria (and see this).

Virtually all of the arms – and humanitarian aid – end up in the hands of the most brutal terrorists.


21 Oct 10:58

High-Level NSA Official Tied To Husband's Private Signals Intelligence Business, Has A Second Business That Owns A Plane

by Tim Cushing
Buzzfeed's Aram Roston has uncovered more evidence linking the NSA's SIGINT (signals intelligence) director to a number of private contractors known to do business with the US government -- perhaps even the agency itself.

Roston previously exposed the close ties between Teresa Shea's position and her husband James' employer, DRS Signal Solutions, a company focused on "SIGINT systems." Not only that, but business records indicated that James Shea apparently runs Telic Networks, another SIGINT-focused business operating out of their hometown (Ellicott City, Maryland).

Needless to say, neither Teresa Shea, her husband, her husband's employer, nor the NSA itself have offered anything in the way of comments on this suspicious-looking arrangement. The NSA did offer some boilerplate about "robust internal controls," but simultaneously stiff-armed Buzzfeed's request for Teresa Shea's financial disclosure statements, citing the National Security Act of 1959. (This citation is also agency boilerplate, or at least was until Jason Leopold challenged it with a lawsuit. This move forced former NSA head Keith Alexander's financial disclosure statements out of its hands. In light of this recent decision, it appears Shea's statements will be released as well.)

This all looked conflicted enough, but Roston has uncovered more suspicious-looking information.
Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot.

This company is called Oplnet LLC.

Teresa Shea, who has been at the NSA since 1984, is the company’s resident agent.

The company’s articles of organization, signed by Teresa Shea, show that the firm was established in 1999 primarily “to buy, sell, rent and lease office and electronic equipment and related goods and services.” An attorney who also signed the document, Alan Engel, said he couldn’t comment on client matters.
Roston and Buzzfeed were unable to come up with any hard evidence linking Teresa Shea's home business with federal contracts, but it did uncover a very interesting purchase.
Records show Oplnet does own a six-seat airplane, as well a condominium property with an assessed value of $275,000 in the resort town of Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Flight records for this aircraft show it has made a majority of its landings at three airports -- one of them being Ft. Meade, Maryland, home of the NSA. It is not uncommon for people who own their own planes to actually set up a company to own that plane for a variety of legal and tax reasons -- and it's possible that's what's happened here -- though it is notable that James Shea has a pilot's license, while Teresa does not.

Perhaps it's indicative of nothing at all, other than the overwhelming gravitational pull of the Beltway. But then, there's this timeline.

1984 - Teresa Shea joins the NSA as an engineer working in SIGINT issues.

1990 - James Shea sets up Sigtek, Inc., which goes on to receive "hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts with the federal government, according to a federal contracting database."

1999 - Teresa Shea registers Oplnet, using their home address.

2000 - James Shea sells Sigtek, Inc. for $20 million to a British firm, while remaining listed as President of the company.

2007 - James Shea sets up Telic Networks, his newest SIGINT-focused company. This too is "based" at the Sheas' shared home address.

2010 - Teresa Shea is promoted to Director of SIGINT. Nearly simultaneously, James Shea is named vice president of major SIGINT contractor DRS Signal Solutions.

Much of the Sheas' shared success hinges on SIGINT -- both the government's expansion of dragnet surveillance and simultaneous growth of SIGINT-focused contractors. Maybe there's nothing to this, but the silence from everyone involved seems to indicate there's at least the "appearance of impropriety," if not flat-out misconduct and abuse of power.

More will be known when (and always appended when dealing with the NSA, if) Shea's financial disclosure documents are released. At the very least, they'll at least confirm the information Buzzfeed has dug up and prevent the NSA from boilerplating this whole situation into non-existence. The NSA is taking a second look at Keith Alexander's post-NSA activities. If it's willing to go that far, it's willing to dig up dirt on lower-level officials. You can't be too careful in the intelligence business these days, not with the eyes of legislators, activists and a whole bunch of pissed-off Americans watching your every move.

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20 Oct 15:45

Pay Attention, Must DO!

by Marc

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have been a bit busy and was travelling for business last week. (more to follow on that) Hit me up in the comments if you have questions on below please.

Some of my friends (hi Rob) and my wife (hi honey) know that I’ve been obsessing over this a bit…actually a lot.

With apologies to both of you (and thank you for entertaining my madness), but I simply can’t believe how good this is and can’t stop thinking about it.

Every now and then you cook something and you simply say “holy shit, did I just make that??” Reluctantly, because its strange, I’m willing to proclaim that this is THE FINEST PIECE OF MEAT I HAVE EVER PREPARED IN MY LIFE. There, I said it! Do I have your attention now?

Let’s do this. So what is it you say? Here’s the recipe and background:

BO Ssam

Now here some tips from yours truly. Stick with kosher salt, DO NOT use regular salt. The basting is fun, but I don’t think necessary. You don’t need as much brown sugar at the end as suggested, just make sure you cover evenly where possible.

I actually concocted my own fermented bean chili paste.

I will just post some pics…get ready to drool!

Look at that nice bark…


It just can not get any simpler than this.

If you want…forget about most of the recipe.

Buy yourself a good quality pork shoulder. (Whole Foods has significantly better quality than the supermarket and it’s still very affordable at around $3.29 a pound.

For 2 pounds rub 1 table spoon salt and 1 table spoon sugar all over it, cover and in the fridge for 6 hours up to 24. Preheat your oven to 300 when you’re ready. Pour of the juices and put in a oven safe cooking dish in the oven. it will be ready when it falls apart. Baste with juices after an hour if you like…don’t think that is even necessary. When done remove from oven and turn oven to 500. Take 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and spread evenly over the top. Back in the oven and remove when it has the color YOU like.

BE HAPPY….and promise me you will try this :-)

17 Oct 01:00

Finally! A Practical Use for Chainsaws!

by Harvey

[Chainsaw vs. 5 Beers at once!] (Viewer #48,813)

UPDATE: The original video was deleted, but I found another version of the same video.

You can’t stop the signal…

UPDATE: OK, you CAN stop the signal… BUT… I found the original version of the video, so this one will actually work and stay around for a while.

Send to Kindle
18 Oct 11:37

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 164 of Ludwig von Mises‘s 1951 essay “Profit and Loss,” as reprinted in the 2008 Liberty Fund edition of Mises’s 1952 collection, Planning for Freedom:

All the arguments advanced in favor of income equalization within a country can with the same justification or lack of justification also be advanced in favor of world equalization.  An American worker has no better title to claim the savings of the American capitalist than has any foreigner.  That a man has earned profits by serving the consumers and has not entirely consumed his funds but ploughed back the greater part of them into industrial equipment does not give anybody a valid title to expropriate this capital for his own benefit.  But if one maintains the opinion to the contrary, there is certainly no reason to ascribe to anybody a better right to expropriate than to anybody else.  There is no reason to assert that only Americans have the right to expropriate other Americans.

17 Oct 18:02

LA Cops' Claim That All Cars Are Under Investigation Challenged in License Plate Camera Tussle

by J.D. Tuccille

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department refused to release data about what license plates police cameras had captured on the grounds that every single car seen is under investigation. All of them. And a judge bought that argument.

Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Southern California are looking to the California Court of Appeal for a dose of sanity (yes, that strikes me as a Hail Mary pass, too) and a ruling that the public has a right to know how many people's movements are being monitored by the police, whether deliberately or through incidental data gathering.

That information can hit the creepy level very quickly, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune discovered two years ago. After press inquiries, the police revealed a list of dates and places a reporter's car had been, and even the routes followed by the city's mayor.

I'm guessing it was that second point that spurred Minnesota legislation to limit access to license plate data, as well as how long it can be held.

Boston police stopped using license plate scanners entirely after they inadvertently data-dumped tracking information on 68,000 vehicles to the Boston Globe. The incident revealed that the cops weren't actually putting the data to good use (they kept recording the same stolen vehicles without following up) and were perhaps less than ideal stewards of sensitive material.

Who knows? Maybe LA cops are better than their colleagues elsewhere at using and protecting the information they gather on people's movements.


Patrick Hannaford noted yesterday that some police departments are getting squirrelly about revealing what license plate data they've gathered.

17 Oct 14:06

Man charged with trapping, eating raccoons in apartment complex...


Animal control was probably upset that he was cutting in on their business.

Man charged with trapping, eating raccoons in apartment complex...

(Second column, 11th story, link)

16 Oct 21:04

The Pompous Prognostications Of "Permanently High Plateau" Prophets

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

The talking heads will be rolled out on CNBC to assure the masses that all is well. The economy is strong. Corporate profits are awesome. The stock market will go higher. Op-eds will be written by Wall Street CEOs telling you it’s the best time to invest. Federal Reserve presidents will give speeches saying there are clear skies ahead. Obama will hold a press conference to tell you how many jobs he’s added and how low the budget deficit has gone.

We couldn’t possibly be entering phase two of our Greater Depression after a temporary lull provided by the $8 trillion pumped into the veins of Wall Street by the Fed and Obama. Could we?

1927-1933 Chart of Pompous Prognosticators
Colin J. Seymour



Chart locations are an approximate indication only

1. “We will not have any more crashes in our time.”
- John Maynard Keynes in 1927

2. “I cannot help but raise a dissenting voice to statements that we are living in a fool’s paradise, and that prosperity in this country must necessarily diminish and recede in the near future.”
- E. H. H. Simmons, President, New York Stock Exchange, January 12, 1928

“There will be no interruption of our permanent prosperity.”
- Myron E. Forbes, President, Pierce Arrow Motor Car Co., January 12, 1928

3. “No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time. In the domestic field there is tranquility and contentment…and the highest record of years of prosperity. In the foreign field there is peace, the goodwill which comes from mutual understanding.”
- Calvin Coolidge December 4, 1928

4. “There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash.”
- Irving Fisher, leading U.S. economist , New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929

5. “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months.”
- Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in economics, Oct. 17, 1929

“This crash is not going to have much effect on business.”
- Arthur Reynolds, Chairman of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago, October 24, 1929

“There will be no repetition of the break of yesterday… I have no fear of another comparable decline.”
- Arthur W. Loasby (President of the Equitable Trust Company), quoted in NYT, Friday, October 25, 1929

“We feel that fundamentally Wall Street is sound, and that for people who can afford to pay for them outright, good stocks are cheap at these prices.”
- Goodbody and Company market-letter quoted in The New York Times, Friday, October 25, 1929

6. “This is the time to buy stocks. This is the time to recall the words of the late J. P. Morgan… that any man who is bearish on America will go broke. Within a few days there is likely to be a bear panic rather than a bull panic. Many of the low prices as a result of this hysterical selling are not likely to be reached again in many years.”
- R. W. McNeel, market analyst, as quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929

“Buying of sound, seasoned issues now will not be regretted”
- E. A. Pearce market letter quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929

“Some pretty intelligent people are now buying stocks… Unless we are to have a panic — which no one seriously believes, stocks have hit bottom.”
- R. W. McNeal, financial analyst in October 1929

7. “The decline is in paper values, not in tangible goods and services…America is now in the eighth year of prosperity as commercially defined. The former great periods of prosperity in America averaged eleven years. On this basis we now have three more years to go before the tailspin.”
- Stuart Chase (American economist and author), NY Herald Tribune, November 1, 1929

“Hysteria has now disappeared from Wall Street.”
- The Times of London, November 2, 1929

“The Wall Street crash doesn’t mean that there will be any general or serious business depression… For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game… Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before.”
- Business Week, November 2, 1929

“…despite its severity, we believe that the slump in stock prices will prove an intermediate movement and not the precursor of a business depression such as would entail prolonged further liquidation…”
- Harvard Economic Society (HES), November 2, 1929

8. “… a serious depression seems improbable; [we expect] recovery of business next spring, with further improvement in the fall.”
- HES, November 10, 1929

“The end of the decline of the Stock Market will probably not be long, only a few more days at most.”
- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics at Yale University, November 14, 1929

“In most of the cities and towns of this country, this Wall Street panic will have no effect.”
- Paul Block (President of the Block newspaper chain), editorial, November 15, 1929

“Financial storm definitely passed.”
- Bernard Baruch, cablegram to Winston Churchill, November 15, 1929

9. “I see nothing in the present situation that is either menacing or warrants pessimism… I have every confidence that there will be a revival of activity in the spring, and that during this coming year the country will make steady progress.”
- Andrew W. Mellon, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury December 31, 1929

“I am convinced that through these measures we have reestablished confidence.”
- Herbert Hoover, December 1929

“[1930 will be] a splendid employment year.”
- U.S. Dept. of Labor, New Year’s Forecast, December 1929

10. “For the immediate future, at least, the outlook (stocks) is bright.”
- Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in Economics, in early 1930

11. “…there are indications that the severest phase of the recession is over…”
- Harvard Economic Society (HES) Jan 18, 1930

12. “There is nothing in the situation to be disturbed about.”
- Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, Feb 1930

13. “The spring of 1930 marks the end of a period of grave concern… American business is steadily coming back to a normal level of prosperity.”
- Julius Barnes, head of Hoover’s National Business Survey Conference, Mar 16, 1930

“… the outlook continues favorable…”
- HES Mar 29, 1930

14. “… the outlook is favorable…”
- HES Apr 19, 1930

15. “While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst — and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us.”
- Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, May 1, 1930

“…by May or June the spring recovery forecast in our letters of last December and November should clearly be apparent…”
- HES May 17, 1930

“Gentleman, you have come sixty days too late. The depression is over.”
- Herbert Hoover, responding to a delegation requesting a public works program to help speed the recovery, June 1930

16. “… irregular and conflicting movements of business should soon give way to a sustained recovery…”
- HES June 28, 1930

17. “… the present depression has about spent its force…”
- HES, Aug 30, 1930

18. “We are now near the end of the declining phase of the depression.”
- HES Nov 15, 1930

19. “Stabilization at [present] levels is clearly possible.”
- HES Oct 31, 1931

20. “All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed… and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S.”
- President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

16 Oct 21:15

Dems Represent Wealthiest House Districts...

Dems Represent Wealthiest House Districts...

(Second column, 6th story, link)

16 Oct 16:08

How Does This Still Happen? Southern Oregon U. Students Not Allowed to Distribute Constitutions

by Robby Soave

SOUSouthern Oregon University administrators told students that they couldn't freely distribute copies of the Constitution out in the open, on public university property. Officials tried to usher the students indoors, to the preposterously unconstitutional "free speech zone" where political activity is deemed permissible.

The students, who wish to start a Students for Concealed Carry chapter at the university, recorded their interactions with various officials. The footage was published by Campus Reform. One telling exchange with an administrator who defended the free speech zone:

"Clearly there is a number of reasons why [the free speech zone] exists. I think we need to look at all those, good, bad, and indifferent. It's not just abut the free speech of students. When you open it up to free speech that means anyone, anywhere can come on and do that and that might create some other challenges for this campus that we are not prepared to manage."

My goodness, what is he afraid of? It's a public university: Anyone, anywhere should be able to walk onto the campus and express opinions!

The students wisely asserted their First Amendment right to canvass wherever they want. The administrators, on the other hand, seemingly made an effort not to address the fundamental free speech argument—and have decided not to take any disciplinary action against the students—which leads me to believe that they were well aware they would lose. Is the point of college merely to trick teenagers into thinking their rights are nonexistent?

A reminder: When colleges push this, the Foundation for Individual Rights eviscerates them.

Hat tip: Fox News

15 Oct 17:19

How ObamaCare's Victories Count Against It In Sissel v. HHS

by Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

Randy Barnett has an excellent post at the Volokh Conspiracy about his recent amicus brief requesting the D.C. Circuit grant en banc review of Sissel v. HHS. (Sound familiar?Sissel challenges the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s individual mandate – which the Supreme Court ruled could only be constitutional if imposed under Congress’ taxing power – on the grounds that this, ahem, tax originated in the Senate rather than the House, as the Constitution’s Origination Clause requires.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled against Sissel. The panel’s rationale was that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was not the sort of “Bill[] for raising revenue” that is subject to the Origination Clause, because the purpose of the PPACA is to expand health insurance coverage, not to raise revenue. Barnett explains why this reasoning is nutty. Under the Sissel panel’s ruling, no bills would ever be considered revenue measures because all revenue measures ultimately serve some other purpose.  The panel’s interpretation would therefore effectively write the Origination Clause out of the Constitution. Barnett argues instead that the courts must recognize the PPACA as a revenue measure subject to the Origination Clause because the Supreme Court held the taxing power is the only way Congress could have constitutionally enacted that law’s individual mandate.

A shorter way to describe Barnett’s argument is that he turns ObamaCare supporters’ own victory against them: “You say the individual mandate is constitutional only as a tax? Fine. Then it’s subject to the Origination Clause.”

Barnett again corners the D.C. Circuit with another sauce-for-the-gander argument on the procedural question of whether that court should grant en banc review of its panel decision in Sissel:

Of course, en banc review is rarely granted by the DC Circuit, but given that it recently granted the government’s motion for en banc review of the statutory interpretation case of Halbig v. Burwell presumably because of the importance of the ACA, the case for correcting a mistaken constitutional interpretation is even more important, especially as the panel’s reasoning has the effect of completely gutting the Origination Clause from the Constitution…

Or, the shorter version: “You guys think Halbig is worthy of en banc review? Fine. If the Sissel panel erred, the downside is even greater.”

We’ll see whether the D.C. Circuit thinks the Constitution is as worthy of its protection as ObamaCare.

(Cross-posted at my comment-friendly blog, Darwin’s Fool.)

15 Oct 19:52

5 US Bills Straight Out Of Atlas Shrugged

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Simon Black via Sovereign Man blog,

“John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains—and he withdrew his fire—until the day when men withdraw their vultures.”

Sick of the overbearing regulation, taxation, and entitlement mentality in society—in the book Atlas Shrugged, John Galt went to one entrepreneur after another to convince them that they just didn’t need to put up with it anymore.

They didn’t need to keep propping up a system that was trying to destroy them. Where’s the point in continuing to feed a parasitic system?

So one by one, these innovators and producers simply closed up shop, deciding to just “shrug” and abandon what they were providing thanklessly to the looters.

Today many companies are doing the same. They may not be abandoning their businesses altogether, but they are moving them out of the hands of the parasites by moving their tax bases abroad.

In Ayn Rand’s book, the Economic Planning Bureau dealt with this by legislating that no businesses could leave: “[a]ll the manufacturing establishments of the country, of any size and nature, were forbidden to move from their present locations, except when granted a special permission to do so.”

In real life today, we have a string of policies being proposed to similarly discourage companies from leaving, or failing that, to try to claw as much money as possible from them first.

First, take the H.R. 5278: No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act, which bars federal contracts for American companies that have gone overseas for tax purposes.

Then take the H.R. 5549: Pay What You Owe Before You Go Act, which seeks the seizure of unrepatriated corporate revenue.

Even the language used by these bill’s supporters is eerily similar to the novel, as politicians call for corporations to pay their “fair share” and bemoan that Americans have to “pick up the tax burden inverted companies shrug off.”

At the time, Rand might have thought that she was writing about an extreme, fictional society. But it seems that the Land of the Free is eager to exceed even her worst expectations.

When she wrote about the “Economic Emergency Law”, which forbade any discrimination “for any reason whatever against any person in any matter involving his livelihood”, she was likely thinking about criteria such as race, gender, and age.

She might have even considered they would try to prevent employers from making judgments based on a person’s ability, though I’m sure she would not have even imagined what politicians have actually come up with in the US.

Try the S. 1972/ H.R. 3972: Fair Employment Opportunity Act that proposed to prohibit discrimination according to a person’s history of unemployment.

Or even worse, the S. 1837: Equal Employment for All Act that would have prohibited employers from even looking at prospective employee’s credit ratings.

The literary similarities don’t just stop with corporations either. Compare the fictional Project Soybean, designed to “recondition” people’s dietary habits to the actual H.R. 4904: Vegetables Are Really Important Eating Tools for You (VARIETY).

Tell me, which one sounds more ludicrous to you?

With each new piece of legislation being proposed in the Land of the Free, Atlas Shrugged seems to be ever more prophetic.

While even the most terrifying elements of the book are coming true, so are the reactions.

People and companies are leaving, refusing the put up with the looting of their efforts any longer.

Despite politicians’ desperate attempts to stop it, Atlas is already shrugging.

15 Oct 16:22

Obama Administration Has Put Media Leakers In Jail For Nearly 50 Times As Long As All Other Administrations In History

by Mike Masnick
We've been among those who have pointed out that the "most transparent administration in history," the Obama administration, has prosecuted media leakers more than all other Presidents in history combined (eight prosecutions in this administration, compared to three total in all previous administrations). Gabe Rottman, over at the ACLU, decided to dig into another stat: how much time has the Obama administration been able to lock up media leakers in jail compared to all other administrations. The answer? The Obama administration has put folks who leaked info to the media in jail for 526 months as compared to 24 months for all other Presidents combined. Admittedly, 420 of those months went to Chelsea Manning, but even if you take that out, we're still talking 106 months for other leakers in cases from this one administration vs. 24 months for all other administrations.

It once again has to make you wonder why the Obama Administration is so focused on punishing anyone who leaks information to the media (even as it likes to "unofficially" leak information all the time). In the end, I keep going back to the speculation I heard from Daniel Ellsberg nearly four years ago (which is also where I first heard the stat about the number of Obama prosecutions against leakers -- at that time, it was just five prosecutions, rather than eight).

Ellsberg's theory was that while President Bush abused the power of the Presidency in the surveillance realm, he was actually proud of it. And while people were upset about secrets leaking, they didn't find it embarrassing. President Obama, on the other hand, came into office claiming to be different -- arguing against those kinds of abuses and promising changes and protections for civil rights. Instead, it appears that the process started under President Bush continued and expanded under President Obama and -- Ellsberg speculated years ago -- the President is somewhat embarrassed by this, leading him and his administration to react negatively to the leaks. Not because of any legitimate security concern, but to try to silence those who seek to reveal that the administration and the President have not come close to living up to their ideals but rather went the other way entirely.

Putting those who leaked info to the media in jail for 526 months -- nearly 44 years -- says a lot about the way the administration truly views whistleblowing, and it's not a saying anything good.

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15 Oct 16:30

Obama cancels fundraising trip...



15 Oct 14:00

You Ought to Have a Look: The Best of the Science Blogs, with an Emphasis on Climate Change

by Patrick J. Michaels, Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

You Ought to Have a Look is a recurring feature from the Cato’s Center for the Study of Science that briefly highlights a few interesting blog posts from around the web that are comments on subject areas we are currently emphasizing. Climate change issues currently top the list. Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary. This is the first installment of You Ought to Have a Look

We start off with the estimable Judith Curry, former chairwoman of the highly regarded School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology (aka “Georgia Tech”).  Her musings, published every few days on her blog “Climate Etc.” have a wide following amongst climate geeks (like us), while oftentimes her postings should be of interest to a wider, more general audience. 

Judith scored big last week with an excellent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In her subsequent blog post “My WSJ op-ed: Global warming statistical meltdown,” she takes you through the version that appeared in print as well as some of the earlier drafts of it highlighting lessons she learned along the way. The article focuses on her recent blockbuster publication in which she and co-researcher Nic Lewis peg the earth’s climate sensitivity—how much warming will occur as a result of a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide—at a value about one-half that which is produced by the collection of “state-of-the-art” climate models used by the UN and the Obama Administration to underpin their calls to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from the production of energy.

And nearly every Friday, she posts her “Week in Review” where she highlights things that have recently caught her eye or events that she was involved in. In the current issue, she describes her recent travels which included a trip to Ohio’s Oberlin College where she “debated” me (PJM).  As she describes it:

The debate went fine, we each had 10 minutes to make opening statements on the science, and then an additional 10 minutes to discuss broader implications. I used my time to discuss the values issues and decision making under deep uncertainties. PJM discussed the increasingly perverse incentives in academia and government funded science, see [link] for some of his recent writing on this topic. He definitely makes some valid points.

Next, you might want to check out the witty Matt Briggs (“Statistician to the Stars”) post on “Don’t Say ‘Hiatus’” in which he takes us (and virtually everyone else) to task for using the terms “pause” and/or “hiatus” to refer to the past 18 years or so of no statistically significant overall change in the earth’s average surface temperature. Briggs’ main point is that since climate change models are so bad (unskillful), there is no reason for a priori expectations of the temperature behavior one way or the other. In other words, a “pause” from what?

Be aware that Briggs is a very twisty writer, often leading the reader down a path that takes a sharp turn further down his somewhat detailed essays. But there is always some gem to find at the end!

Briggs is an interesting character.  He is associated with Cornell, where he teaches on advanced statistics course.  He was an editor of Journal of Climate, the American Meteorological Society’s flagship climate journal, but he quit after getting tired of the terrible manuscripts that were sent in (and often published).

It’s hard not to like Matt’s style, and you will be seeing a lot of his work highlighted here.

Finally, our friend Roy Spencer’s wide ranging (usually on things atmospheric, but sometimes otherwise) has an interesting article pointing out that size matters when it comes to climate change. In his post “Climate Change: A Meaningless Artifact of Technology?,” Roy notes that if you can’t distinguish the signal of climate change from the noise of natural variability (or even if you can, if it is exceedingly tiny), then there is really nothing worth getting worked up about. Roy worries:

“This seems to be the fate of our advanced society — we must find increasingly obscure things to fret over as we solve our major problems…hunger, disease, water-borne illness, infant mortality. But with real problems now appearing – renewed terrorist threats, Ebola — I fear we are straining gnats as we swallow camels.”

In a case of good timing, Roy followed-up that post with one illustrating a prime example of all this from Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently said something along the lines of “Life as you know it on Earth ends if climate change skeptics are wrong.”  In his post “Life as You Know It Will End if John Kerry is Wrong…OR Right,” Roy demonstrates that, given the catastrophically high cost of converting even half of our fossil-fuel based energy to renewables, most of us will be living in poverty if Kerry’s solutions are implemented. Roy includes a video in which he and other energy policy experts discuss how the premature push toward renewable energy on a large scale will increase human suffering. It is well worth watching.

Stay tuned to our You Ought to Have a Look series for more blog highlights like these in the days ahead!

15 Oct 12:44

Supreme Court Declines to Review Another Important Case

by Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

It’s not just high-profile culture-war issues like same-sex marriage and the right to bear arms that the Supreme Court is avoiding like the plague. On issues ranging from federalism to property rights to criminal law, the justices increasingly decline to hear any case they don’t absolutely have to – no matter how important the issues presented – especially if there’s a threat of an irreconcilable split. Such is the brave new world of John Roberts’s minimalism/unanimity.

The latest such example came yesterday morning, in a criminal procedure case called Jones v. United States, in which Cato filed an amicus brief that I previously blogged about. The issue here is whether, pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, a judge can base a sentence on facts that the jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt. (The Court ruled in a 2000 case called Apprendi v. New Jersey that judges can’t enhance sentences beyond statutory maximums based on facts, other than prior convictions, not decided by the jury – but in Jones the sentences in question, while seemingly harsh and unreasonable, were still within the sentencing guidelines.)

While normally we don’t know what the justices are thinking when they deny a cert petition, or even how the vote went (four votes are needed to grant), but in the Jones denial, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a rare dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here’s the salient bit:

The Sixth Amendment, together with the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, “requires that each element of a crime” be either admitted by the defendant, or “proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.” Any fact that increases the penalty to which a defendant is exposed constitutes an element of a crime, and “must be found by a jury, not a judge.” We have held that a substantively unreasonable penalty is illegal and must be set aside. It unavoidably follows that any fact necessary to prevent a sentence from being substantively unreasonable—thereby exposing the defendant to the longer sentence—is an element that must be either admitted by the defendant or found by the jury. It may not be found by a judge. [emphasis original; internal citations omitted.]

And so the petitioners came one vote short. The three dissenters may seem like an unusual grouping, but actually these justices are often together on issues relating criminal defendants’ jury-trial rights. (It’s sort of the left/right versus the center, or the principled versus the pragmatic.) They were in the Apprendi majority, for example, as well as in the majority for the case that struck down the mandatory nature of the sentencing guidelines, United States v. Booker (2005), and recent cases involving the right to confront witnesses against you. Alas, they were joined in those cases by Justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter, who have since been replaced by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, respectively. It’s not a big surprise that Kagan seems to have joined the “prgamatic” bloc for these purposes, but Sotomayor’s vote is disappointing. Some commentators point to her background as a prosecutor to explain such deference, but Justice Sotomayor is one of the most pro-defendant votes on Fourth Amendment and habeas corpus cases.

In any event, whatever the reason for the lack of a crucial fourth vote to grant, this was another opportunity lost by the Court, another responsibility shirked. For more commentary, see here, here, here, and here.

14 Oct 20:01

Requiring YouTubers To Give Positive Reviews For Access To Games Can't Work As A Long Term Strategy

by Timothy Geigner

We've written before about the recent trend among video game publishers in trading access for YouTube personalities to their games and positive coverage. Nintendo had been the most notable example of this to date, but they certainly aren't alone. This most recent example concerns Warner Bros.' Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and the deals the publisher struck with YouTubers, which are far more restrictive than those we've seen previously.

"Videos will promote positive sentiment about the game. Videos must not show bugs or glitches that may exist. Maximize awareness for the Shadow of Mordor video game during the 'Week of Vengeance' through gameplay content, key brand messaging, and information and talent usage on Twitch channels. Persuade viewers to purchase game, catch the attention of casual and core gamers who already know and love Middle-earth. Requirements involve one livestream, one YouTube video, and one Facebook post/tweet in support of the videos. Videos will have a strong verbal call to action, a clickable link in the description box for the viewer to go to the game's website to learn more about the game [and] to learn how to register and play the game. Twitch stream videos will have five calls to action. Videos will be of sufficient length to feature gameplay and build excitement."

"Videos must include discussion of the Nemesis System. This really should take up the bulk of the focus, such as how different the orcs are, how vivid their personality and dialogue are, gathering intel and domination abilities, exploiting their strengths and weaknesses. Videos must include discussion of the action and combat that takes place within the game, such as brutal finishers, execution moves, and wraith powers. The company has final approval on the YouTube video… at least 48 hours before any video goes live."
Now, look, there's been a great deal of discussion as of late about the evils of the current gaming journalism scene, yet here's the shining example of corruption and nobody's up in arms. I can't quite figure that out. What these publishers are doing is creating a sub-section of the YouTuber ecosystem that will be first to market with reviews of gaming products but also in chorus with one another in heaping praise as a contractual obligation. Delightful. The Kotaku article says that this is an uncomfortable, systemic, and long-term problem. It isn't, and here's why: it can only work for a tiny period of time.

And that period of time is coming to an end. Now that these deals are coming into the light with more regular frequency, they are only serving to condition the public to one thing: not trusting positive reviews of games. It's the inevitable result of this sort of thing. If the gaming public knows that you have these deals, they'll almost certainly decide not to trust positive YouTuber reviews of games. The negative reviews, on the other hand, certainly will be trustworthy. So, in the end, gamers will only have negative reviews to base decisions on when it comes to the games they buy. That ain't no way to run an industry.

It's time the major publishers wised up to this sort of thing. Any short-term benefit is going to be far outweighed by the long-term distrust they're sowing.

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14 Oct 20:48

Fail To Show Up at Traffic Court? Risk Dying at Orleans Parish Prison

by Lauren Galik


The day after Oscar Fueselier was arrested and taken to Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), he was brain-dead, comatose, and handcuffed to a hospital bed. The 57-year-old Vietnam War vet with a history of mental health issues was being held in the jail for missing traffic court. His cellmate, 18-year-old Richard Jackson, was there on armed robbery charges. After complaining Fueslier smelled like urine, Jackson stomped on his head.

Fueselier was immediately taken to the jail’s hospital and held there for three days, brain-dead and unresponsive. On his third day in the hospital, the office of New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman released Fueselier from custody, and he was transferred to a hospice. One week later, Fueselier died, and the official cause of death was listed as lung cancer. Because he was released from custody before he died, Fueselier’s death was never investigated by the sheriff’s office, and an official autopsy was never conducted.

According to a new multi-part investigative series published by Louisiana’s Times-Picayune called “Dying at OPP,” Fueselier was one of seven inmates who were released from custody shortly before they died. Because their deaths occurred after they were released, they don’t appear on any official count of the jail’s inmate fatalities. This, the Times-Picayune reports, is “a practice that critics say is an intentional circumvention of the public reporting requirements for in-custody deaths.”

Beyond not officially reporting these seven deaths, Times-Picayune found that OPP failed to notify the families of several inmates who died while in custody. In some cases, families weren’t notified until days or weeks after their relative had died.

In one case, the wife of an inmate was told her husband had been released when she called every day for two weeks; he had actually been dead the entire time. He died two days after he was brought to OPP on charges of domestic battery. In another case, the father of an inmate wasn’t told that a guard had critically injured his son—who had been brought in two days earlier on charges of public drunkenness—until after he had been taken off life support. In a third case, the sister of an inmate was told she had been released when she had actually been declared brain dead, two days after being charged with biting a security officer. In all three cases, lawsuits have been filed alleging that mistreatment by OPP guards contributed to these inmates’ deaths. The sheriff’s office is fighting these claims.

Since 2006, a total of 44 inmates at OPP have died, including seven the sheriff’s office did not report. According to the Times-Picayune, OPP's inmate death rate exceeded state and national averages “in all but one year from 2006 to 2011.”

As one of the country’s most notoriously awful jails, abuse, negligence, and incompetence have run rampant at Orleans Parish Prison for years. Things have gotten so bad that the jail was put under a federal consent decree in 2013 to improve conditions for inmates. In his opinion, Federal Judge Lance Africk wrote that the decree “is the only way to overcome the years of stagnation that have permitted OPP to remain an indelible stain on the community, and it will ensure that OPP inmates are treated in a manner that does not offend contemporary notions of human decency.” (Emphasis mine)

The court ordered OPP to make several improvements, including reporting inmate deaths to a federal monitor who would then notify the U.S. Department of Justice. Despite these mandated changes, there are still no independent investigations after an inmate dies at the facility. Instead, New Orleans Parish sheriff deputies carry out inmate death investigations. 

For now, families of inmates who have died at OPP have little consolation. Five lawsuits in total have been brought against the New Orleans Sheriff’s Department over inmate deaths, but sheriff’s lawyers are fighting them all.

13 Oct 19:22

Americans Distrust Government Too Much to Answer Census Questions, So Let's Threaten 'Em, Says Official

by J.D. Tuccille

Among the problems the Census Bureau faces in getting Americans to answer questions, complained an official in a presentation last week, is that Americans consider nosy questions a threat to their privacy, especially when posed by a government they distrust. The solution? Favor the "stick" above "carrot" when mailing out questionnaires for the American Community Survey. Specifically, the official recommended emphasizing legal consequences for people who don't cough up desired data.

Tasha Boone, Assistant Division Chief for the American Community Survey, made her points on October 9 to the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, one of several Census Advisory Committees. That "perceptions of 'irrelevant' and 'unnecessary' questions raise concerns about privacy" and that "distrust of government is pervasive" were among several hurdles she noted to gathering information from the public.

Jst a thought, but a bit of self-awareness might be lacking in the preference she expressed, among three mail designs for the American Community Survey, for the existing one that threatens in bold, capital letters, "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW."

That should settle those privacy and trust issues.

But if Tasha Boone is unclear on the concept of unproductive approaches, she's correct that "distrust of government is pervasive."

When Gallup asks, "How much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington?" when it comes to handling domestic problems, 59 percent say "not very much" or "none at all"—an all-time high since the question was first asked in 1972. Fifty-five percent give the same answer with regard to international problems.

Likewise, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press finds near continous decline in public trust of government since the question was first asked—from 78 percent who trusted "the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time" in 1958 to 19 percent last year.

Abuse of powerWhy, to quote Tasha Boone, is it that "distrust of government is pervasive" in modern America? What took the shine off the governmental apple?

Well, when the Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey asked Americans earlier this year what they thought of their elected officials, respondents estimated that 70 percent of public officials abuse their power to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

So of course you'd want to surrender your personal and sensitive information to them. And threats of legal consequences will definitely allay concerns over abuse.


13 Oct 16:48

Soros to Host Funder for 'Independent' Kansas Senate Candidate...

Soros to Host Funder for 'Independent' Kansas Senate Candidate...

(First column, 6th story, link)
Related stories:
13 Oct 12:00

Testimonial: Paleo Fixed My Family

by Squatchy

Testimonial written by: Damien


Almost two years ago, I wrote to you the email below to express my gratitude for all the good things you brought into my life via your book and the Paleo Solution podcast. I was also very happy to receive few words from you afterward.

Once again, it is time for me to take the time and thank you for all the things you taught me and many other people during those two years via the podcasts the Paleo Solution, the Controversial Truth (and the apparitions you did on other shows – loved the Rogan one), I am still listening to them weekly. Let’s not forget the links and other interesting (or funny) things on your Facebook pages.

Two years ago I was living in Australia, and I was trying to convince my parents via Skype to give a shot at the Paleo diet for 3 weeks since my dad was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and my mom from insomnia. As you can imagine, asking a couple of French 50+ year old’s to stop eating bread just didn’t work out… But there’s a happy ending to that story.

After living abroad for 10 years, spending most of those 10 years in front of computers (for my studies and job), hearing about Paleo diets and cavemen and so on, I decided it was time for a change. So I thought about it long and hard (for the majority of a year) and decided to quit my job in IT for Investment banks and come back home to see how  the situation was here. It was bad.

My father’s RA had become way worse than when I left Europe 2 years ago. But of course no one would tell me over Skype. My mum had put on weight and my sister too after her 2nd child. Being 17kg heavier than she used to be, she started getting clinically depressed.

As soon as I came back, I started going to all my dad’s appointments with the doctors and the unemployment office – because of course, he’d lost his job in the meantime. His company went bankrupt, and having been a builder for almost 40 years, being 55 with RA, he won’t be able to find another job. Thank God this is happening in France. Even though I think things have been pretty sh*t for a long time in this country, the medical system is partly taking care of him financially.

The whole situation looked pretty bad but still, I managed to change the eating habits of those 3 people. The gatekeeper was my sister.

I asked her if she wanted me to create a diet and training program for her to lose weight. Her answer: “Yes, I need help. I don’t know what to do, and I hate running!” – “No problems, what about weightlifting? Just 3 sessions a week and a nice 30 minutes walk every day?” – “Err, I don’t want to look like you!” (Since starting Paleo and lifting weights twice per week as S&C for my Muay-Thai, I’d put on 7kg in 2 years) – “You’re a girl, not enough testosterone, don’t worry”. 12 weeks later she’s lost 6.5kg and has a pretty decent deadlift.

Seeing that my sister managed to survive on a meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and the occasional dark chocolate diet, seeing she didn’t feel the need or craving for bread and cheese – and maybe fed-up of hearing me begging him to try – my dad gave it a go.

I pulled up the autoimmune protocol from your book and added some supplements like glucosamine, chrondotoin, etc. I asked him every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner how strong his joints pain were from 0 to 10 (once he told me that 10 meant he couldn’t walk). We started at an average of 8. Two weeks later, he’s around 3-4. It’s been a complete game changer for him. Where before he was relying only on what the doctors had said: “You can eat whatever you want, you have RA, food isn’t going to change anything, you have to live with it”. I was in the room when his doc said that (because I’d ask about food causing inflammation such as gluten and dairy) and I was fuming inside. But I didn’t say anything, after hearing how useless it was to argue with doctors.

At this point I had convinced 2 people out of 3. My dad was now thinking more about his diet and the pain “It’s painful today, oh yeah, we had some heavy cream with the fish at your uncle’s last night, I’ll avoid it next time” – I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. And my sister was losing bodyfat while getting stronger at the same time, she just wouldn’t stop smiling and laughing, all the opposite of when I came back. But my mum… she just wouldn’t try. I tried to talk to her, and she wouldn’t even consider it: “I NEED bread to get through the day”. So knowing her I waited.

And she took the bait. My dad had lost 2kg and my sister another dress size. Mum: “If I do your lifting thing, will I lose my belly fat? I just want to lose my belly fat.” – “Mum, 80% of the progress is the diet”. – “What’s the point of starting the diet? I’m going on holidays in 2 weeks.” – “Great, then, try it for 2 weeks, if you’re happy with those 2 weeks then we continue afterward, if you’re not, then you haven’t had bread and dairy for 2 weeks and you can have a feast on holidays. Deal?” – “Ok”. In 2 weeks, she lost 2 kg and slept like a baby: no more insomnia. She went on holidays for 12 days with my dad (during which I took care of the “farm”: rabbits, ducks, chicken and a huge garden) and they both came straight back to Paleo.

After 3 months on the lifestyle change, my dad’s RA pain has gone to 2 now. He’d started at 8. He doesn’t clench his hands anymore, doesn’t have cramps in his fingers either and almost doesn’t limp anymore (his right wrist and left foot have been deformed by the RA).

Right now I am thinking into getting him to lift weights twice a week. I’m looking around the internet to see if it is a wise thing or not due to his condition. I am aware that what I am doing now with Paleo and weightlifting sounds like “when the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” – and by being conscious of it I try I always ask myself if my approach is the right one – but he has lost 14kg in the last 5 years since the RA started. The guy was a builder, short and strong, you could say he used to look like one of the dwarves in the Lord of the Ring movies!

Anyway, hopefully I should be able to put some muscles back on him and also to get the RA pain down to 0 so he can slowly try to get off the antibiotics and Enbrel.

So that’s it. That’s the happy ending Robb, and it’s thanks to you. I used all your advice, all the experiences you shared with us, your greasy salesman pitch and so on. I had never been much of a family man, but now at the age of 29 I can finally enjoy spending time, sharing and teachings things to them. I can finally help them. We always used to fight with my sister and it was nasty, now we’re making up for this wasted time. My dad was never a big talker, now he opens up more because he sees I care about him and try harder than the doctors to “fix” him. And I can now spend some one on one time with my mum during our morning walks. I’m confident that one day my brother will give it a go too, and my nieces are having a better start in life now since my sister gives bacon and eggs to her 2 year old’s instead of cereals and biscuits for breakfast.

I know this whole story sounds a bit mental: “Paleo fixed my family”, but it kinda did. And I have to say it is thanks to you Robb. Like I said two years ago, “You are one of the few people I admire and consider a role model in this world.” And I still think so.

Many times you asked on the podcast why people where still listening to the show when you felt you had answered all the questions. It’s going to be weird again, but hearing your voice is comforting, because it feels like sh*t hits the fan everywhere, in every part of the world, it’s all doom and gloom but when I listen to the podcast it reminds me that there are few guys like you who haven’t given up on doing the right thing, doesn’t matter what, and it gives me hope. That’s what I think anyway.

Right, this is getting a bit long, and I don’t want to waste too much of your precious time. So thank you for all you do, thank you for the positive impact you had on me and my family.

I want to be like you when I grow up! Man… you look better at 42 than me at 29! Congratulations on your second child, you and Nicky have a great Wolf pack :) I wish you all the best, you deserve to be happy and have a great life Mr. Robb Wolf.

Much Love – but not gay Love! (You look great but I still prefer girls – petite, blond, blue/green eyes so you’re not my type, haha).

One last time: merci, sincérement.


Before : December 2011, 6 months before going Paleo, 77kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 bodyweight conditionning sessions per week.

Damien before : December 2011, 6 months before going Paleo, 77kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 bodyweight conditionning sessions per week.

After: March 2014, almost 2 years on the Paleo diet, 84kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 weightlifting sessions per week (following Robb & Greg's advices on the podcast to include some barbell traning).

Damien after: March 2014, almost 2 years on the Paleo diet, 84kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 weightlifting sessions per week (following Robb & Greg’s advices on the podcast to include some barbell traning).

10 Oct 19:17

Remember, Law and Order Folk: A Prison Sentence is a Very Serious Thing

by Brian Doherty

Reminder for those who like to pat themselves on the back for how much more civilized we are what with our modern prison-based penology over, say, a few hours in the public stockades, out of Florida, where inmate Latandra Ellington died this week in Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala.

This was a few weeks after warning her family that a guard had threatened to kill her, and 24 hours after her family had called the prison to warn them about the threats.

Her family's lawyers are seeking federal investigation, Flagerlive reports:

Benjamin Crump and Darryl Parks, lawyers representing Ellington’s aunt Algerene Jennings, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday that a private autopsy by a doctor hired by the family “revealed hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma consistent with kicking or punches to the lower abdomen.”

The state medical examiner contradicts that report, saying that 

 “that there was no identifiable trauma anywhere in the body,” [Department of Corrections Secretary Mike] Crews said. Toxicology reports have not yet been completed and a cause of death has not yet been determined, he said.

“At this point, that’s all we know. So right now what we have is conflicting information between the medical examiner and whoever this physician is or doctor is that the family decided to hire,” Crews said.

FreeThoughtProject reports that:

According to family members, Latandra may have been planning to speak out about rampant sexual abuse that the correctional officers at the prison have been inflicting on the inmates.

For what crime was Ellington segregated from decent society in a form of modern, sophisticated punishment that turned out to be a death sentence?

Fraud charges for filing fake tax returns.

I wrote on a similar theme in June, involving a woman who died in prison (at least not murdered) because of not paying fines for her kids being truant, and last July about a kid beaten in prison for making obvious ridiculous threats in the context of online gaming.

As I wrote then:

This is worth contemplating and thinking more about: being behind bars in America is a goddamn serious thing with goddamn serious consequences, and it's horrible to be used as a quick general interest problem-solving tool.

10 Oct 13:21

US destroys $500 million planes for 6 cent scrap...

US destroys $500 million planes for 6 cent scrap...

(First column, 6th story, link)

10 Oct 12:27

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from pages 27-28 of James Piereson’s 2014 monograph, The Inequality Hoax:

Piketty implies that reductions in taxes over the past three decades have allowed the rich to accumulate money while avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As income taxes and capital-gains taxes were reduced in the United States beginning in the 1980s, the share of federal taxes paid by “the rich” steadily went up.  From 1980 to 2010, as the top 1 percent increased their share of before-tax income from 9 percent to 15 percent, their share of the individual income tax soared from 17 percent to 39 percent of the total paid.  Their share of total federal taxes more than doubled during a period when the highest marginal tax rate was cut in half, from 70 percent to 35.5 percent.  The wealthy, in short, are already paying more than their fair share of taxes, and the growth in their wealth and incomes has had nothing to do with tax avoidance or deflecting the tax burden to the middle class.

09 Oct 17:22

60 People Locked In Building After 4 Suspected Ebola Cases Near Paris

by Tyler Durden

Following news of the death of a British man in Macedonia from Ebola, RTL reports that 60 people are locked inside a Department of Medical and Social Coordination (DASS) building in Cergy-Pontoise (on the northeast edge of Paris) following Ebola-like symptoms in 4 people.


INFO RTL - Les locaux de la DDASS à Cergy-Pontoise bouclés, un cas d'Ebola suspecté >

— RTL France (@RTLFrance) October 9, 2014



As RTL reports,

The premises of the DASS in Cergy-Pontoise (Val-d'Oise) is currently curly. Authorities suspect an Ebola case and locked sixty people.


An attending physician on the premises has been warning noting troubling symptoms in four people who had returned from Guinea.


Specific first aid arrived on the scene there for over an hour, a perimeter was set up and a crisis enabled prefecture.


Workforce of UAS equipped accordingly are expected on site a moment's notice.

As Le Figaro confirms,

A building of the DASS of Cergy -Pontoise , near Paris , was cordoned off tonight after the unrest in the premises of a person who may be from Guinea and features similar to those of Ebola like symptoms, a- was learned from sources.


The building, owned by the General Council , was completed " to carry out checks ," said the prefect of the Val- d'Oise , Jean -Luc Nevache . Besides the person who feels unwell a second person had flu-like symptoms , said Dr. Nevache , evoking a simple measure of "precaution" .


According to RTL , the authorities shut sixty in total. A security perimeter has been established .

  *  *

It appears the reach of this deadly disease is growing..


*  *  *

And then there's this...

BREAKING: British man suspected of contracting #Ebola dies in Macedonia - reports

— RT (@RT_com) October 9, 2014